We’ve all heard stories of people lost at sea, left to the mercy of the currents. While there’s a remote chance you’d end up on an inhabited tropical island, do you want to take that chance? Drifting might be OK for a day trip on a river in a state park, but it makes a very poor life strategy. Drifting won’t get you the life you want.
But most of us end up drifting in many ways. You may have invested intentionally in education and skills to keep advancing in your career. But what about your physical health, marriage, mental/emotional wellbeing, and spiritual resilience? Have you found yourself drifting in those important areas?
The alternative to drifting isn’t complicated, but it’s not necessarily easy. To make it as simple as possible, let me suggest some 21st century time travel.
Your Five-Year Time Capsule
Did you ever wish you could have a talk with your younger self? You’d have a lot of wisdom to share. You can’t have that talk, but you can have a talk with the self you are now.
Imagine yourself five years (or three or ten) in the future. Go into your mental time capsule, fast-forward a few years, wake up and look around. You’ll be five years older than you are now. There will be things about the future you can’t imagine now, but imagine the you that you want to be then.
Focus on the areas of life you can do something about. (Research proves that focusing on the choices you do have leads to much greater wellbeing.) What would you like your physical health to be like? Would you like to be more physically fit, lose some weight, have more energy?
Or what about your mental/emotional wellbeing? Perhaps you’d want to be a more grateful, positive, resilient person, less bound to old hang-ups and habits, more able to be present with yourself, others, and God.
Then there’s your marriage or closest personal relationships. How connected do you want to be? What would you like to be true about your marriage? How many close friends do you want? What kinds of experiences with people do you hope to be engaging in?
And the core of who you are, your spiritual life, the part of you that connects with God; what do you want to be true of that part of you? Perhaps you would want to sense that you have been following just where God was leading you. Or for others to say of you, “That person has been with Jesus!”
Changing Your Trajectory
Once you’ve done your time travel, check the trajectory of your life now. Is what you’re doing now likely to get you where you want to go, to the life you want?
If you’re old enough you may remember the NASA missions to the moon. The trajectory of the launch had to be just right; being “off” by just a tiny fraction could mean ending up in some dark corner of the galaxy rather than at their intended target.
A very small change in the trajectory of your life now will make big differences in the future. Being clear about where you want to go helps you set your direction now. Yes, all kinds of detours and challenges will come along the way. But drifting won’t get you where you want to go; setting your trajectory now will make it much more likely that you will.
And it doesn’t have to be big changes. Repeating a 1% error over time dramatically compounds to get you seriously off track. Conversely, changing your trajectory 1%, 5%, today makes an enormous difference in where you end up tomorrow.
Your 5% Change
You already know a lot of things you could be doing differently. What 1%, 5%, 10% change can you make today, that you can then keep up?
In your physical health, you may not be able to run a marathon today, or even a 5K. But you can:
- Buy a pair of walking shoes and take a 15 minute walk after dinner each night
- Exchange one processed food for a less processed alternative each week until 70% of your diet is unprocessed food
- Turn off the TV 1 hour earlier at night and get to bed at a regular time
For better mental/emotional wellbeing, you can:
- Start a gratitude journal – writing down something to be grateful for each day
- Make an appointment with a therapist (if you need to deal with some old stuff)
- Put a hard limit on your time on social media
If you want closer relationships, you can:
- Have a talk with your spouse about what you want your marriage to become
- Join a small group (ANY group – therapy, self-help, Bible study, walking, whatever)
- Practice active listening once every day
For a more resilient spiritual life, you might:
- Download the Bible app and do a daily Bible reading plan
- Daily journal a prayer to God
- Schedule a 1-day spiritual retreat
- Consider whose life with God you want to emulate, and schedule a monthly conversation with them (either by phone or in person)
Remember it’s not about controlling what you can’t control; life will happen. It’s about making the choices you do have, and doing so consistently. That will change your trajectory.
Is This Playing God?
You could approach this as trying to play God, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. God has given you executive authority over your life – not absolute, but real authority. You get to make choices, real choices. Over and over in Scripture God shows Himself as wanting to partner with humans in doing good things in the world, including you becoming the you He created you to be.
Whatever age you are now, you’ll be five years older five years from now regardless of what you do in the meantime. Wouldn’t it be great to be a lot closer to the future you hope for than if you continued drifting?
Decide what 5% change you are going to make today, this week. And then do it.
Your Turn: In what area of your life have you been drifting? What 5% change are you going to make starting now to have the life you want tomorrow? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- Drifting won’t get you the life you want. Making a small change in your trajectory now will make a huge change in where you end up tomorrow. Tweet that.
Is Midlife Too Late to Change Trajectory?
As a woman in midlife it may be tempting to believe it’s too late to make an effective change. But that’s not true. You can stop being a victim – to your hormones or anything else – and choose to become the navigator of your life starting now.
Join me in the Navigating Midlife online course, and discover how this season can become the best season of your life.