Carrie Brooks is a professional life coach and author, who lives in Greenwich. This week, she talks to Weekender readers about finding joy and living proactively.

What do you want from life?

Big question you may ask and how on earth could anyone begin to answer it?
A good place to start would be to imagine that you are 80 years old and looking back over your long life, what would you want this life to look like? This simple exercise introduces you to the idea of thinking ‘bigger picture’. Most of us spend our time dealing with what is going on in our lives at the present moment and barely stop to take a step back and honestly look at the life we are creating for ourselves. It’s a bit like being in a forest with the trees all so close that you can’t see clearly, neither the pathway you’re on nor the ones leading off into the distance. The secret here is to soar like a bird above the forest, looking down and observe the pathways with a newfound clarity. This is bigger picture thinking, which is the secret to discovering what you really want from life.

The first step towards figuring out what we want from life is to understand that we have a choice as to whether we want to live a reactive or a proactive life. What is the difference you may well ask? Well, a reactive life is one that most people are currently living. It’s one where you are pushed and pulled around by people and situations, always responding and reacting to what is going on. Visually I see this as the silver ball on a pinball table that is propelled from one flipper to the next; we are always in motion, not making choices but simple reacting to what is going on around us. Now being proactive is about thinking bigger picture, as I mentioned earlier, and making decisions about how you want your life to be, essentially taking charge. As a coach I have witnessed the positive and profound effect that switching your thinking, from reactive to proactive, has on people’s lives, enabling a person to start creating the life they want as opposed to the life that is simply happening to them.

When it comes to figuring out what you really want, the secret lies in rediscovering what makes your heart sing. What I mean by this is what inspires you? What excites you? What can you spend hours doing but in actuality you’ve lost all track of time because you are so absorbed by it? So much of our focus today is on what we are meant to be or should be doing, that we forget about all the ‘good stuff’ that life has to offer. When was the last time that you did something purely for the sheer enjoyment of it? When did you last feel really good?

All the latest research had proven that taking time out to pursue inspirational and life affirming enjoyment is crucial to our psychological and emotional wellbeing. However in our busy lives it’s the one thing that gets pushed aside and not given the important consideration it is due. What I recommend to my coaching clients is to schedule in one thing a week that brings you joy. The reason I insist that my clients schedule it in, is precisely because otherwise it’s the one thing that will always be squeezed out and ultimately not happen. Have you noticed how good we are at scheduling in all our obligations, work, family, other people’s social events, so where is that precious time set aside for us? If you don’t prioritise it, it will never happen. One thing I can promise you is the payback you get from ensuring that you do the ‘good stuff’ is enormous, having a positive effect on your quality of life, happiness levels and you will generally find yourself so much better equipped to deal with life’s challenges!

The question here is what do you believe is a successful life? Is it professional success, personal success, as in family and relationships, or quality of life? Or potentially all three? When people are asked what they most want from life the most popular answer is ‘to be happy’ yet how many of us actually prioritise feeling good? How about making the choice to become proactive and make time for the ‘good stuff’ as the first step towards creating a much deserved, fulfilling life for yourself. If not now, then when?

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