The Drift of Life

By Chris Chittenden

Many of us have dreams about how our life will be. We look forward to a time when we will have achieved certain aspirations. Yet when we look back on our life, how many of us are living exactly as we thought we would be? My guess would be not many.

As human beings, we spend most of our time just living life. We wake up every morning, deal with what the day brings and go to sleep at night. Often we will get a sense of time passing and ask questions like "Where has the year gone?", but we quickly get back to living life and do not dwell on such questions. Living life as it comes does not mean that we do not get any sense of accomplishment from life, far from it. If we live our life this way, we will end up somewhere, however it will most likely not be where we thought we should be. We live in a "drift of life" where we go where life takes us.

However, living in the drift of life may mean that we do not necessarily achieve all that we want. Yet if we want to achieve, we can. Human beings have a distinct advantage over other animals on this planet because of the way we use language. This is not to say that other animals are not able to communicate with each other or have a language for doing so. What we are saying is that it is the way in which we use language that sets us apart. The difference is that we can use language to create our future. We can talk about how this could be and as a result actively design a future for ourselves. Yet many of us tend not to do this. Rather we get caught in the drift of life and go where it takes us.

Why does this happen? The major reason is "busyness". We are just too busy to take time out to reflect on our life, what we want out of it and how we can achieve our goals. Even when we stop and ask the question, that is often all we do, then we get back to doing. This is one of the key reasons that people engage coaches. Having a coach provides you with the space in which to reflect on where you are, design the way you would like things to be and then put plans into action to achieve your goals. Sounds easy and, if that was all there was to it, it would be easy. However, life is never that straightforward. Masterful coaches know there is more to people moving forward than just having a plan and saying this is what you will do. They know that there are many aspects of who we are that will see us hold onto the way we are and how we already do things, leaving us unable to achieve what we would like. Masterful coaches help us to bring forth a new way of being so that we can achieve what we want. They not only help us design our future, they help us design ourselves.

Designing our life and taking the actions we feel we need to take to achieve our design still does not mean we will get all that we want in life. The unexpected will still come along and take us places we never thought we would end up. However by regularly engaging in conversations where we reflect on our life, what we want and how we want to achieve our goals, we are much more likely to end up with a full, rich and satisfying life.

To see how you are in the drift of life, try this exercise.

Think back to where you were and what you were doing five years ago. Do you remember, what your hopes and aspirations were at that time. Use these areas of life, that we define as the "domains of human concern", as a framework for your thoughts - work, family, close relationships, community, play, body, money, the world, learning and education, service to others and spirituality.

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and write down your past goals on the left hand side. Now on the right hand side, write down where you are in the context of those goals. When you have finished, spend some time reflecting on the differences. You might like to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I not achieved something that I still really want to achieve? If so, what is it about me that has stopped me doing this?
  2. Have I achieved things that I would not of dreamed I could achieve five years ago? If so, what is it about me that made that possible?

Doing this exercise might not redesign your life, but it will give you a frame of reference for conversations to begin the process. You might want to talk about it with those who are close to you or you may even want to engage a coach. Either way it is a start to doing things differently.

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© 2000 Chris Chittenden