Ever had a near death experience?
I don’t mean a flat-line, CPR saved you and you were met by angels who led you toward the light kind of NDE; I mean a moment when you knew you were going to die. A moment that called into question every choice you have ever made and caused you to want to live differently from that point on.
It’s good to have a wake-up call of sorts, to remind us of why we are here and to ask ourselves whether we are headed in the direction we intended.
Life throws lots of choices our way. Sometimes in the frenzy we grab whichever one is easiest at the time. But when you think you are going to die, the life you actually intended to live becomes very clear to you.
You may find that you are living someone else life – not your own. Perhaps your choices were based on what would make a parent or partner happy. Maybe they were the most convenient at the time, or worse, maybe those choices had more to do with not making waves than with answering your life’s calling.
It is entirely possible to come to the end of your life and wonder how you could have lived so thoughtlessly. It is just as possible to live a life that matters – from the heart – in ways that echo the very song of the soul.
How do you know if you are heading in the right direction?
If you have based your worth on experiences that built a resume but not a life, most days you may feel you are living somebody else’s definition of success. If in spite of all your outward accomplishments you have a persistent, underlying sense of regret, this is often a sign of heart draining, soul sucking choices.
In contrast, to live from the heart is to let our soul lead us. It is to ask very different questions.
Questions like – What will my legacy be? Will the world be any different because I lived? Does my life matter? And with the questions, to heed the wise words of others who have let their soul be their life compass.
Here are 5 examples:
1. Focus on Small Things
The passion to make great changes in our world is commendable, but it is our small, often unnoticed actions that truly make a difference in the world. Mother Teresa said it best when she stated—
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
2. Change Your Yardstick
Every life has value and purpose. If we are here to heal and change each other, then living from your heart requires measuring achievement by how well you live and love each day; it defines success as bravely facing tomorrow in spite of the heartbreak of today. Because when you live from a heart that has been reborn, your life is based on soul work, not just a paycheck. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician who worked with the dying wrote in her bestseller Kitchen Table Wisdom –
“Every one of us matters. And we have the ability to befriend and strengthen the life in one another; to heal and change the world, one heart at a time.”
3. Risk Being Hurt
Don’t let fear guide your actions or choices. Instead of holding back, allow yourself to be vulnerable. Being “sensitive” is not a weakness but a strength, for it is empathy that enables our life’s most genuine experiences, authentic interactions and fulfilling relationships.
4. Live for Impact
Soulful living starts with the heart, even if it takes a more time and you may not always see the results. Productivity really doesn’t matter if what we do isn’t effective and work cannot be considered valuable if it does not make an impact. Living a life of value has very little to do with getting things done. Ask anyone who is dying. Yes, it is risky to care, but nothing withers the soul like indifference. A prayer is just words if we don’t live it, and our actions are a testimony to what we believe in. Sister Helen Prejean, the nun who wrote Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, once said –
“I saw the suffering and I let myself feel it…I saw the injustice and let myself do something about it. I changed from being a nun who prayed for a suffering world to a nun with my sleeves rolled up, living my prayer…So I keep watching what I do to see what I actually believe.”
5. Change Your Words
Sometimes simply asking ourselves, “Have I spoken the words that matter today?” Words like, I love you. Thank You. I’m Sorry. Forgive me. In the end, that’s all that’s really left to say, and what we will regret not saying when, not if, we run out of time.
6. Let Life Change You
A big part of becoming who we were made to be, a soul choice, is making peace with what is, while being open to what will be. To be alive is to be exposed. It can hurt and it won’t always be fair. But the way we choose to respond to the hurt and unfairness will determine who we ultimately become. Martin Luther King Jr. knew the truth of this choice when he said –
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Our life may take several drafts and revisions to get it just right. Life can be messy, but if the end result is something beautiful, then the mess will be worth it.
There is no formal training in how to live a life well-loved. But a wise heart is a willing heart, for it knows that there are no guarantees of tomorrow, and that to live big and wide and love recklessly is — in the end — the only kind of life that will matter.
Featured photo credit: PhotoPin.com via flickr.com