I recently got this question, more or less, from a young person:
I feel like I’m standing on the sidelines, watching other people live their lives. How do I live my life?
The question resonates with me, because I asked it of myself many, many times. By the time I was in my late thirties, it had nearly eaten me alive.
Each day I got up, went to work, provided for my family. Each evening I came home, took my kids to Boy Scouts or soccer practice, had some supper, then put them to bed and sat on the couch next to my wife watching TV.
It was the life I had learned to expect. I was making good money, loved my wife and kids like crazy. It was supposed to be enough.
And it felt completely hollow to me. It wasn’t enough.
I wanted to matter. I wanted people outside my family to know my name, wanted to know their lives were better because I had helped them.
But I had no idea how to get there. Other than wishing, and hoping, and pecking away at one novel after another–novels I never managed to submit or publish, even after they were finished.
I didn’t understand something basic. I thought if I kept doing the same thing day after day, the world would eventually change itself to suit me. I didn’t understand that, in order to change the world, in order to matter, I needed to start by changing myself.
But I didn’t have to change everything at once. I only had to take one step at a time.
The first was to decide what it meant to matter, and figure out one step I could take to toward that goal.
I decided I wanted to be a great novelist, and determined I would self-publish my next book, whatever I thought about it. I would put it out there, then figure out what to change next.
That book should have taken me about six months to write. It took three years. But I finished it, and I sent it to some trusted friends for critique, and I sent it to Amazon. It’s out there now.
Then I started this blog. It’s helping me to figure out my next step.
I’ve finally realized how to change my life, how to create the life I want. It’s by taking one step at a time.
Some of the steps are comfortable. Some are frightening. Some are terrifying. But each one moves me closer to what I want, and makes it clearer exactly how I can matter.
In the end, I thing that’s the real answer to how to get off the sidelines and live your life. You have to decide what game you want to play–then you have to start playing. One step at a time.
That’s how we change the world. One step at a time.