Life tends to build into bigger goals and expectations as time goes by, but what if we begin to live life in chapters? See what happens.
If there’s anything I learned from spending 10 years living fluidly in different places around the world, it was how much more life feels alive when you live life in chapters rather than as a whole.
We too often think life is this long upward curve leading towards constant progress, but this mountain-top view of life does us a disservice as it can stop us from being adaptable and accepting that we can change the direction of our life at any time we choose.
Let’s consider it this way. Let’s say you have 100 years on this planet (that’s being generous). Well, how many of those years will it take until we realise that no matter what we do in life we are all building towards the same ending as everyone else?!
It’s really not what we lead towards that count in life, but what we do along the journey. We all know this, but we seldom live by this principle. How many items have you really achieved off your bucket list? If you are wondering why we often don’t do as much as we dreamed we did then the answer is actually pretty clear.
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Why Life Goals Can Feel Like Such A Huge, Difficult Task
We look at life in a way that makes it feel like it’s a constant upward struggle, where we feel we had to achieve everything all at the same time, or where we don’t just allow ourselves to be grateful for something we had at one point but have now decided to let it go and pursue something different.
Instead, we just build up pressure on ourselves thinking we need to have this, and this, and this achieved by this point, and if we haven’t done one of those things we may consider ourselves a failure and just add more weight to ourselves by keeping that unfinished goal by our side whilst then trying to achieve other things we feel we should do by a next certain age (or before a certain deadline).
This is often because we have been taught to constantly climb ladders, and to amass wealth over time, and to slowly pay off a mortgage until we finally own something at the end of years and years of labour. We also learned to judged ourselves to others from a young age in a need to fit in and find validation in who we are, and this need often never really left us as we chase more societal milestones throughout life.
What ends up happening is we become less and less adaptable to change, to seeing things a different way, and to making our own chapters to our own story in our own way. We don’t explore our own storylines, and we certainly don’t allow ourselves to build different characters throughout the story.
Our focus simply isn’t directed towards one specific goal when we live towards a constantly growing aim, and one which we aren’t even directly in control of.
The pressure is immense when you live that way, because if you don’t succeed then you are constantly playing catch up in your own mind from then on.
It’s like how people become worried when they are about to hit a certain milestone, especially with age such as turning 21, 30, 40 etc. Then they hit it and not long after that anticipated worry subsides, at least for a bit until they fear the next milestone with even bigger expectations.
It’s what’s known as imagined or illogical fear. The reason it cripples us is because it feels like a constantly growing balloon that is becoming bigger and more insurmountable each passing year, rather than more freeing each year.
This is not a healthy or realistic way to live life, yet so many of us do so because we haven’t been ‘allowed’ to think of living life in chapters, ones that end. Even if we achieve more and learn more through life (which we do) it can feel like there’s never really a cut-off point to just check in and move on.
So, let’s change that.
Why We Need To Live Life In Chapters Instead
Let’s say you have 1 year to achieve something you really want or need to in life. With this mindset, instead of working away every day to no apparent end, you can set your own rulebook, and you can break that down to more manageable chunks too.
Let’s say that you give yourself a year to become financially independent. You may think that’s not possible, but usually, that’s because your mind is also focused on thinking it has to maintain everything else its done, or everything else it still wants to do alongside that goal.
Live life in chapters and you are suddenly allowed to reinvent yourself, a lot. It allows us to seek out very different goals, and to be happy to move on to other goals in life rather than think we just have to keep amounting towards this final CV of life.
To avoid the feeling of overwhelming goal building some just cancel out goals altogether. To those who proudly say ‘I’ve got 40 years of experience doing so and so’, what that really means is that they’ve become so used to doing the same thing they simply don’t know how to do any different. It’s not really a bible to live by either, because it passes by other potential goals just to keep safe in the familiar.
Life can be a lot more flexible AND lead to more goals achievements than that when you live life in chapters.
With a 90-day to one-year mindset, you aren’t saying you are a failure if you don’t live your aims within that timeframe, but you are saying that you’ll allow your life to be lived in a different way for that time, in alignment with a goal.
Adjusting Our Mindset To Live Life In Chapters Instead
Now it’s important NOT to think of this like new year’s resolutions. They don’t stick. They are a conformed societal mantra that holds no real relevance to us individually. It just feels like we have to do them because others are also feeling like they have to. That mentality never helps you set or achieve your own goals.
Instead, your mind needs to learn to be adaptable to a different goal and way of living and thinking from the last goal it had.
There’s two really good ways to motivate your mind to think in this manner.
Think of some really old people who are bordering 100 but who are kicking arse, making their limited time left count, and checking off bucket lists. They have no banked future fears. They aren’t overly conservative anymore about having to have this or that set up in life, worrying their way up these milestone ladders.
We need to take a leaf out of their book because if we think we are too old or restricted to change now then what about them? If they can make life count at that age then we can too.
The other way to motivate you into action is to consider how nothing you do really matters when you are dead anyway, or to consider this year your last. This might shock or scare a few people, but it does really work as it just puts life into perspective and so also takes away so many little and irrelevant fears or excuses we may have lined up in our minds that are designed to protect us, but also that stifle action. It wipes the slate clean so to speak as our fears feel meaningless all of a sudden.
Of course, our reality might be a lot different. We might have many years left. Our goals aren’t usually to just go and have fun and blow all your savings, but the mindset change is the key.
To live life in chapters is essentially therapy, as it forces our mind to be free of too many built-up worries, assumptions, and weights of expectations. It helps us be more present in the moment, and it forces immediate action that helps reframe our mind instantly, rather than to set life goals that feel more like a permanent judgment of ourselves.
You see, habits can be built easier when we don’t overbear ourselves with such a long timeframe. If we think we have to set a habit so we continue it throughout the rest of our life then all we do is take up more and more of our mind’s potential capacity for original and fresh thought, because it’s spending so much time regulating ourselves towards ensuring we are repeating certain habits each day.
Even if habits got easier over time, there’s still only a certain amount of things we can do in a day, so if we don’t dismiss some old goals or habits, and instead think we have to constantly keep them going, then we are simply going to run out of steam at some point, AND be living most of our life in an autopilot-like state of mind. Say goodbye to adaptability, and hello to mundane repetitiveness.
This is essentially bubble living, and it might feel familiar and therefore comfortable, but it’s really a silent killer. It’s why people become more afraid of change as they age, but it gets worse.
When our mind isn’t challenged to change then we become dormant, and a lot more potential diseases can set in. Dementia is a lot more likely in people who don’t challenge themselves to break routines than in those who challenge their minds to do different puzzles each day.
Living life in smaller chapters is not only more enjoyable but it’s beneficial for our long-term health.
ACTION: How Do We Live Life In Chapters Of 90-Days To A Year?
STEP 1) Choose a temporary timeframe
Firstly, we need to ensure we are thinking of timeframes as temporary, as something we can freely just say goodbye to once we have done it.
It’s much easier to give something new or different a go when we accept it as a challenge rather than a permanent change (that’s why it’s best to break down goals to 90 days, even if they are for a year).
STEP 2) Set out your challenge
Choose something that you actually want to do. Maybe you want to earn a certain amount of money. You may want to hike around 10 different places. Or maybe you want to find a new hobby. Whatever it is, commit to it for 90-days to a year.
STEP 3) Make a Vision Board
Make a habit of bringing your goal to your mind every day. The simple power of focusing on something specific and tangible makes it happen. Create affirmations you can visually see each day and tell yourself you will do it. Don’t worry about whether it fits into a bigger life plan or not.
STEP 4) Take instant action on it straight away
Give no time for fear or judgment to build, or to worry about other things in life you also think you have to do. Set this goal into action straight away by doing something directly towards it right now. e.g. if you are wanting to hike around 10 places in 90 days, then set up a small hike to get started. Find a local place, find out what you need for it, how long it will take, how to get there, and then go as soon as you can.
STEP 5) Take small wins
Enjoy the small wins, rather than think it’s only done once it’s fully complete. Nothing is ever really fully complete so get what you need out of it, challenge yourself, and let the judgment of yourself (or from others) go. Don’t quit if you feel you can do more, but also don’t just keep going for the sake of approval.
STEP 6) Let it go once it’s done
Free yourself to move on to another challenge, or an upgraded level of this goal. Just don’t think you constantly have to improve all the time. Let this chapter go and free room to explore other things. Keep going with this simple method and you’ll soon build an adaptable mindset that embraces new challenges and change and will achieve so much more through life than if you adopted the usual life goals approach most others do.