If you were the curator of your life – what art pieces would you choose to have on it? Are these the ones you have today? Are you curating your own life? I have often wondered about this, committed that I did not have to suffer from a heart attack at age 40 to change my life. Or go through a pandemic, if I had considered that possibility. I sought to put my values on paper and to identify short and long-term goals. I became more intentional about my free time, more selective about what I took on. Most days, I thought I had it figured out. And then I heard this question a few weeks back and wondered. Have I?
Curating your health
If we got to choose, we would most likely choose to have perfect health. But in the absence of choosing the outcome, we all like to believe we would prioritize our health, physical and mental. Whilst I have certainly shifted in that direction, I think my big growth in this area comes from the lack of attention it used to get. Law of small numbers. I am coming from such a low base of taking care of my physical health, that the route up looks steep and distant.
Would my 80-year old self, depleted by years of poor sleep and on and off exercise be happy? Most likely not so much. And you could argue I have the power of choosing, and that there should be nothing more important than health. So why do so many of us still not make it an absolute priority? Yesterday evening, as I tried to stay on the sofa at the end of a long day, Little Girl C reminded me:
But Mummy, you said you were going to try and go on your elliptical every day that you could!
No need to guess, I did. More out of commitment and a reminder from an 8-year-old than anything else.
Curating your work
Work is one of the most consuming parts of our lives. For a common mortal, it will take the majority of our awake time, during more years in our lives than we care to imagine. Even more, as life expectancy increases and public finances are deteriorating. And whilst many may not get to choose what work they do, many of us still can, and don’t always choose to choose, DARE to choose.
Yes, I said dare. Because indeed for many lucky ones the situation is one that gives security and security comes above satisfaction. And it is hard to say where security is enough, as the more you make the more it is hard to say what you can live without.
For the first years of my corporate life, I supported friends that chose to leave jobs in moments of great anxiety, and as time went by, these conversations have been reduced. Changing in your 20s with no commitments is easier than changing in your 30s with children or family requirements. The next stage will be some sort of mid-life crisis. We call it a crisis because only those that are “in the wrong” do it. Because we want to be in the right by not approaching that subject.
Whilst I have had mixed feelings as of late, mostly on the back of a strenuous workload, I have mostly made choices of work that allowed me to stay on a path of satisfaction – even when the choices were riskier or looked like steps out of a high powered career. In fairness, in the last 6 months, I accumulated an above the average amount of days where I feel less good about the outcome of my day-to-day. With a cold head I know I am on the right journey. But it makes me wonder about the triggers someone needs to get out. Society isn’t really made for people to make the jump. It’s too risky. Moreover,
So get back on the wheel when you are done with your thinking.
Curating your friends
One would think that if someone is in your friend category, they should already be curated. But let’s face it, is that really the case? For the sake of argument let’s use the expanded friends’ definition. There is a peak stage in life where we accumulate a variety of friends from all walks of life – high school, tennis club, university, studies abroad, first job, eventually even our partners’ friends. To give a few examples. It is all fun, and it can even be mixed at different times. Social events are large and crowded (we did not know much about a pandemic back then). And that sounds like the measure of success. The more the merrier.
As children get into our lives, we try and keep up, but eventually lose some of the weaker connections. We blame it on time. Then, we have to make space for a whole other group – school parents. I still remember how overwhelmed I was about that. And the more schools, the more friends. At some point, you realize you are seeing some of your good friends once a quarter if you are lucky, spending time between children’s birthday parties and work events.
It is likely you were there in February 2020. And then the pandemic hit. It removed us of all possibility, and it gave us a whole new possibility. Blank sheet of paper, choosing to connect with those that mattered the most, those we missed the most. And as the lockdown eases, our heart yearns for those we have a deep connection with. Where do we go from here? Who will you curate back into your life?
Curating your time
Time is my most precious asset. You can’t borrow it, you can’t grow it, you can’t change it. What is used is used, what is gone is gone. Whilst it is a scary concept, it is also a simple concept. Take it or leave it. It is rare to find someone that struggles with it, that does not find themselves in the constant:
“I wish I had more time”
In recent years, I have attracted more time in my life, at least short-term time. What do I mean by this? I have curated friends, curated work, curated hobbies, curated my home. Whilst people questioned “how can you do all this?”, I found myself doing more than before and feeling lighter about my choices. I finally understood the concept of time. It has nothing to do with time, just with priorities. No, I did not stop struggling with it, it is a permanent optimization process.
And I do admit, that process has been bothering me as of late. A constant need to optimize and the sustainability of it all. If I was to curate my schedule without limitations, would it really look like that? The truth is life does not come without limitations. But some of them are self-imposed. So, when you look at your schedule next week, take a hard look and challenge it:
You may find there is quite a bit you have control over.
Daring to live
I am most definitely still in Brene Brown mode. As I finished “Daring Greatly” I dived straight into her Netflix documentary to continue my immersion into what I am daring to do, and what I am not so much. And it brought me back to the concept of curating my life. As lockdown eases and anxiety increases with time pressures everywhere, what will life look like? More importantly
Take a moment
Before you go and curate the heck out of your life, let me stop you for a moment. Whilst curating your life is important, you don’t have to do it all in one go and with one vision. We are expected to have close to a 100-year-life. So curating is more about daring to think of the different stages we want to create, and how they look now and in the future. It is not a single collection exhibition. Through life, we will be given multiple choices (if we are lucky) to take twists and turns. And very few decisions are “for the rest of our lives“, except if we are talking about masterpieces.
So when you feel overwhelmed, use this question to help you clear the air, think of what you want to dare doing or not, and whether it fits the stage of your long-single-precious life.
And in the meantime, tell me: are you going to be back on the wheel by the summer, or are you going to be curating your life?