When I was 17, I left Ireland and got on a boat to the UK to study psychology. I kept a diary from this time (which I still have to this day – see photo above). It wasn’t a diary of what I did, but of quotations, sayings, things people said to me, lines from songs or poems that I found inspiring or meant something to me (in the days before inspirational quotes were popping up all over social media and you really had to work to find your quotations!).
One of my favourite entries was “Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it” – told to me by my friend Trevor during a road trip round Ireland. To this day, it remains one of my favourite ever quotes.
It’s at the heart of who I am, what makes me tick and how I try to live my life. More importantly, it’s at the very essence of the work I do.
Living my best life
Ever since I can remember I’ve been about living my best life. I’ve never been afraid of hard work or challenges, but what does fill me with dread is the idea of just going through the motions, of just existing. Like I’m not really LIVING my life.
As the Whitney song lyric goes “To taste the sweet, I’d face the pain”. I’m okay with the tough parts of life if it means I can have the highs. The special moments. The memories. The feeling, even as you experience something, that “In this moment there is life and food for future years” (Wordsworth).
I recently did a 12 hour hike over 6 mountains in blistering heat in the West of Ireland. Was it tough? Yes – very. Did it push me to my limit mentally? Yes – because we took a wrong route and ended up climbing up an incredibly steep, dangerous and scary side of one of the mountains (and I have a real fear of heights!). Did I feel like I’d been run over by a bulldozer the next day? Yes. But I also totally and utterly loved it and felt fully alive and present, exhilarated and proud of myself.
But life not being a dress rehearsal is not all about the highs of life or challenging yourself! It’s also about an inner sense of knowing that you’re living life in a way that is meaningful for you. Or that you’re on the path you’re meant to be on.
Living YOUR best life
I absolutely LOVE other people living the life they really want to live. Nothing makes me happier than someone doing what they’ve always wanted to do. Or making a change to live life in a way that’s right for them (and not just what they feel they “ought” or “should” do, or what’s expected of them).
This is how I’ve always been as a person. So much so that I literally can’t help it. It oozes out my pores. I’m like this with everyone – friends, family, colleagues, clients, people I randomly meet. From the guy who decided to finally commit to his girlfriend after sitting beside me on a plane (if you’re reading this – I hope she said yes!), to the kid I met in a pool that I helped to believe he COULD swim (his parents couldn’t swim and he assumed he wouldn’t be able to), to the many many clients I’ve worked with who’ve changed their lives for the better.
I am all about people living their best life – whatever that looks like for them.
Waking up to life
When we get a wake-up call in life like a serious health scare or the illness or death of a friend or loved one, we often re-evaluate our life. We may start appreciating things more. Or realise we need to make some changes in the way we are living our lives.
Rather than wait until something externally provides this catalyst or perspective, when you think about life not being a dress rehearsal – REALLY think about it – what comes to mind for you?
Are you living your life in line with your values or is there a mismatch between what’s truly important to you and how you’re spending your time or energy?
Are you doing work that is meaningful to you?
Do you have enough time for all the important parts of your life? Including things you do just for fun, because they bring you joy or make you feel truly alive?
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t got round to it yet?
Have you been steadily working through your bucket list?
If you lived each day with a really palpable sense of life not being a dress rehearsal – of us only having one go at this thing called life – what would you change? What would you stop doing or wasting time on?
And what one thing could you do NOW – today, right this very minute to live a little life in a way that’s truly right for you?
For me, a heatwave in Ireland is a rare and precious thing, so I’m going to stop writing this now and go and enjoy some time in the sun.
This is it.