Take Your Life Seriously
In order to love living your life, you need to take your life seriously, not just sometimes, but all the time. This is not a grim thing; this is a happy thing. It means truly caring for yourself by thinking about the kind of person you want to be, the kinds of things you want to do, and the kind of life you want to live. It means going after the things that are truly important and exciting to you for your life. The following exerpt from my upcoming book, This Is Your Life: No Apology Needed, gives you an overview of how you can improve your life by taking it seriously.
Taking your life seriously applies to all your decisions in life: from what you put in your mouth to what you put on your To-Do List, from how you spend each day to what kind of work you do, and from where you live to whom you associate with.
How many of you have known women who married without giving marriage much thought, or had children without giving children much thought? How many of you have known women who didn’t like the work they do, but did nothing to find more fulfilling work? Perhaps you have been one of those women. As a young adult, I enjoyed learning how people chose their field of work. One woman said, “Why are you so serious about life? Just have fun!” Another woman said, “Oh, I didn’t chose to do this; I just fell into it.” It struck me that caring about their own lives was not a top priority, even though the consequences left them feeling anywhere from just “so-so” to empty, unexcited and unfulfilled.
What Does It Mean To Not Take Your Own Life Seriously?
Not taking your own life seriously means acting without thinking about the consequences of your actions. It means not thinking about the impact of something on your life before you choose to act on it. It means not caring enough about your life to figure out what kind of a person you want to be, what kinds of things you want most to do, and what kinds of relationships you want to have.
When I was coaching American Army wives in Germany, one of the wives was in tears at the end of my final session. She told me that she had gotten married to “get away” from her parents and then had her baby because “it was the thing to do.” She said that I had opened her eyes to so many other options for her life and she was devastated that she had tied herself down to marriage and motherhood without exploring other paths she could have taken. She felt that she had “sentenced” herself to being a wife and mother before either she or her partner knew what kind of people they wanted to be or what they wanted out of their lives. And she feared she would never be free to live the kind of life she really wanted.
This young wife and mother acted without thinking about the consequences of her actions. She got married for the wrong reasons: to escape her parents. She had her baby for the wrong reasons: because everyone else was doing it. She ended up getting herself into a worse situation than she was in before.
When you are young it is crucial to observe people you admire, to explore your options and to think about how you want your life to be. Having role models, visualizing how you want to be as a person, and exploring what you want to do during your life sets the stage for your future happiness and success. If you act according to your feelings of the moment, or because you think “it’s the thing to do,” you can miss all kinds of opportunities to live your life to the fullest.
This is not to say that you can’t learn from your mistakes at any age and then go after the kind of life you want. But when you fail to take your life seriously when you are young, it puts unnecessary obstacles in your way and makes the going more difficult.
Failure To Take Your Decision About Marriage Seriously
Failure to consider marriage seriously can bring you a lifetime of misery. Getting married to get away from your parents, or to make you feel secure and loved, or because it’s the thing to do can put you in a relationship that makes your life worse. Several of the women in my survey put themselves into marriages that threatened their very lives, as well as the lives of their children.
Marriage is a life-altering event. Most of us just assume that when we grow up we will get married and have children. Some women consider it their duty. Marriage is part of most cultures, ours included. Most of us don’t even ask ourselves what we truly want for our lives. Or if we choose to marry, we don’t think about what kind of person we want to live with. We take the easy way out: we go with the flow of our emotions or other people’s say-so.
Failure To Take Your Decision About Children Seriously
According to a 2002 State Center for Health Statistics study, about 45% of pregnancies in North Carolina are unplanned (Charlotte Observer, June 26, 2007). When couples have children without thinking about the consequences ahead of time, they’re in for a terrific shock. Raising children is an all-encompassing goal in itself. When parents don’t conscientiously choose child-rearing as one of their major goals, having children can be an enormous obstacle in going after their goals. Instead of delighting in their children, they can feel frustration and resentment. This can be heartbreaking for both men and women, as well as their children. I am thinking of my friends Alex and Sylvia.
Alex and Sylvia fell in love through their mutual love for music. They created a nightclub act: he played piano and she sang. My husband and I used to dance to their music every Saturday night. They were wonderful together and they were happy, except for one thing.
Sylvia wanted children and Alex did not. He was a serious musician whose passion was to compose and play music. After seven years of marriage, Alex gave in and agreed to have children. When the children came, he could no longer concentrate on his music. Much as he adored his children, he was miserable.
Alex finally moved out of their home and rented an apartment so he could concentrate on writing scores for orchestras all over the country. With the money he earned he continued to support his family and he took charge of the children on weekends, but he was mostly unavailable during the week. This led to a divorce and the end of their nightclub act. Sylvia spent long years searching for a new romance and Alex stayed single.
The decision about having children is quite possibly the highest-impact decision you will ever make for your life. If you choose to have children, you are choosing one of the most important and demanding jobs on earth: the job of raising a “brand new” human being. This is at the very least an eighteen-year commitment, which is an enormous decision to make before you know who you are and how you want to live, not to mention how you want to raise your child. It’s a decision to think long and hard about.
Taking Your Life Seriously
A happy, healthy, fulfilling life doesn’t happen automatically. You must want to make it happen and you must do what it takes to make it happen. But taking your life seriously does not mean not having any fun or being grim. It means putting careful thought into your choices so that you can create a life you can enjoy:
- It means discovering and doing the things nature requires in order to survive and thrive.
- It means deciding what you want to do in your life, and then actually doing it.
- It means deciding what kinds of relationships you want, seeking out people who would enhance your life, and then developing those relationships.
- It means deciding whether or not you want to marry, and what kind of relationship you want with your spouse.
- It means deciding whether or not you want children, and honoring your decision.
In other words, taking your life seriously means not only looking before you leap, but also:
- Understanding before you leap
- Evaluating before you leap
- Planning before you leap
- Making a conscious decision before you leap
This is the most reliable way to get from where you are to where you want to be. This entire blog is dedicated to helping you understand and evaluate and plan before you make any more leaps.
Making My Decision About Having Children
I remember my own struggle over whether to have children. As a very young girl, I dreamed of having forty-four children: twenty-two boys and twenty-two girls! I was the oldest of four children and as a teenager I loved babysitting regularly for families of up to six children.
As I became aware of other interests and possible careers, I began to question my childhood dream of having children. When I was sixteen, I asked my parents if they thought raising children was essential to having a fulfilling life. My father said that raising us four kids was the happiest, most fulfilling part of his life. I don’t remember my mother saying anything.
This didn’t surprise me. I observed that in most families child-rearing was a full-time, daily maintenance routine for the mother: shopping, meals, cleaning, discipline, doctors, homework, and chauffeuring. Working mothers were always “on call” for their children; in an emergency, it was the mother’s work that was interrupted, not the father’s.
Fathers typically viewed child-rearing as an extra, part-time job, and were more involved with sharing fun times and weekend recreational activities, while mothers viewed child-rearing as a full-time responsibility, with all the daily routines and maintenance. I decided that if I had children, my husband and I would share both the maintenance and the fun.
This didn’t sit well with the men I dated; they all wanted professional full-time careers. I was willing to take on half the responsibility, but I had other goals which I wouldn’t be able to pursue if I had the major responsibility for child-rearing. I knew that I would regret having children under those circumstances, which would not be fair to them, or to me.
So the little girl who wanted to have twenty-two boys and twenty-two girls, and even studied child development in college, decided not to have children!
Regretting Your Decisions
Women ask me if I have ever regretted my decision. My answer is always, “No.” I admit there were times when the biological clock was ticking that I reconsidered, but each time, I came up with the same conclusion. In my late thirties, however, I chose to become the stepmother of a nine-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, and was still able to pursue my other goals.
I learned that for the woman who conscientiously chooses to raise children, having children could be the most satisfying and rewarding experience of her life. But for the woman who has children without considering the ramifications of that decision, it can be the most life-draining, goal-crippling experience of her life.
Even women who choose to have children sometimes find it hard to keep perspective. One mother formed a “Save Me From My Children” support group. Every time one of the moms got exasperated, she would call one of the other moms to regain her composure. This group of women chose to have children, loved their children, and took their child-rearing seriously. But they recognized that they needed outside support for getting through tough times, so that they wouldn’t take their frustration out on their children.
The Danger Of Not Taking Your Life Seriously
When you are too lazy to take your life seriously, or if you allow other people to make you think that it’s “too selfish” to take your life seriously, you get into big trouble. Not taking your life seriously can whittle away your longevity and quality of life. You settle for less and live a helter-skelter life. You eat the wrong things, you fail to distinguish low priority “To Do’s” from high-priority “To-Do’s,” and you accept unfulfilling work and unfulfilling relationships.
When you treat your own life as “no big deal,” or when you refuse to consider how you want your life to be, you end up with consequences and responsibilities that can make you miserable. You betray the life you once envisioned for yourself and you resign yourself to whatever happens. You create a life full of anxiety and regret, and you apologize for living.
Take Your Life Seriously By Taking Your Recipe For Living Seriously
You can avoid the mistake of not taking your life seriously by making sure that your Recipe For Living enables you to take your life seriously. My 8-Step Reclaiming Your Life CD program shows you how to uncover your current Recipe For Living, and revise it so you can treat yourself with the careful consideration that living a healthy, fulfilling life requires.