I was thrilled this past week to have my company, Caresmart Seniors Consulting, named as one of the finalists in the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce 28th Annual Business Excellence Awards. As our name was announced, I felt a rush of surprise, excitement and a humbleness all at the same time. I suppose the recognition felt especially sweet as a budding entrepreneur that had started a business at the age of sixty-one. Having made a decision five years ago to leave my secure job and jump off a very high cliff into the vast unknown was more of a leap than I had imagined. Standing with many others at the Chamber event last week and hearing my company name being called, felt like I had for a moment come to land softly on the ground.
Going where life leads you is really about making choices. We all try so hard to make the right decisions in life. I loved reading William Bridges book called “The Way of Transition” which he wrote after his wife of many years passed away. Having been the guru on change for a good part of his life, this event led him into unknown territory that made him question many of the platitudes he had written and talked about over his career. His journey into finding love again in his life and allowing himself to feel truly happy, led him into discovering things about himself that he had never had the courage to explore before. He wrote in this book that, “Decisions are made on the basis of evidence and logic, but choices are always an act of will. Many important activities go better on the basis of decisions, but living itself is made up of choices. Decisions start with outside data, on the basis of which the decider tries to evaluate the pluses and minuses and come up with a plan of action. Decisions can be made by anyone, and everyone (using the same inputs and logic) will come up with the similar conclusions. But choices are unique and idiosyncratic. That makes them human. They start with (and express) who we are. Decisions have many possible forms, but choices have only two: yes and no.”
Making a choice to start a business that would be a creation moulded from my passions and beliefs was a big risk. I saw the looks on the faces of many people I knew wondering why on earth I was doing this “at my age”. But the people who knew me well, my close friends and family, cheered me on. They trusted that I was making a choice for myself that took courage and just enough craziness to take the leap, both of which they seemed to have the faith that I possessed even though I sometimes questioned it. With decisions it seems you are able to assess how much of a risk you are taking. However, with choices it doesn’t seem you can weigh the odds in the same way. Bridges says that “When you choose, there is just whatever path you do take and the life that that choice creates for you.” As I cared for my mum during her last year of life, I listened to her relay to me that it this not something she felt she had allowed for herself over her lifetime and I do believe she regretted it immensely.
I admit that I, as I am sure may be the case for many of you, like to be able to figure out things in advance. If I don’t, I can feel overwhelmed with a feeling that I am being irresponsible. In developing my business, I have to step out of this belief and allow a surge of wind to come beneath me, lifting me up like I have the wings of an eagle and let myself soar out towards the horizon and into the blueness of the sky. Commitment it appears is a key ingredient to feeling like you can fly and with it comes a freedom that is worth every moment of doubt and every feeling of uncertainty that I have experienced after making a choice to follow my dreams.
“I began to have an idea of my life, not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know.” Johanna Field
These past five years of transition have been ones where many deep inner shifts have taken place for me. Over these past few days as I take in this bit of recognition for my efforts, it has given me the opportunity to look back and see the footprints on the path my choice has taken me on. Wow, so much has happened, so many events I had never anticipated and so much development at a time in life when you think you are supposed to shift down into first gear, not up into fourth. The ancient Greek aphorism, Know Thyself, describes what we are here to do. Our choices make that possible and perhaps it is even more relevant as we enter our sixties, our seventies, our eighties and our nineties. Going where life leads you takes trusting and accepting that whatever life lays along the path has been prepared for you. Discovering the meaning and the message of each happening is the challenge. So resist the urge to hurry up and figure things out. Slow down, center yourself and wait watchfully. The answers will come without effort and striving, the path will unfold without you having to get out the big shovel if you just let it happen. The Japanese use a quiet time (or time-out) as part of their spiritual tradition to focus oneself before tackling a new or a difficult situation. They do this, not to “meditate” on their own problems, but to surrender themselves to the source of life, whose fluidity relieves a problem of its complexity and allows one to exercise his/her own power in perfect liberty. Agnes de Mille said it perfectly, “Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how. The moment you know, you begin to die a little.” So go ahead, start living.