I’ve started to notice a phenomenon that I call the B+ life.
In the B+ life, things are good but not great. All the right life elements are in place: good job, good friends, people you love. The checklist items are checked.
The problem is, something feels off. Life feels like it is happening in black and white, rather than in full color. Something in you keeps asking, “Is this all there is?”
The first B+ life I noticed was mine. I had a job that I enjoyed, a great marriage, a lovely home, and wonderful friends. I had good health and good relationships with family. But I had a subtle, very uncomfortable sense that I was not living my right life.
I don’t think of the alternative to the B+ life as an A+ one, because that implies perfection, or life as a test to ace, which is really the opposite of what I’m talking about. I think of the alternative to the B+ life as a life that you know you will conclude with a sense of, “Yes, I was really here. I really did it. I lived, I experienced, I created, I had impact.” It’s a life that is regularly move-you-to-tears poignant, that feels graced with joy.
You could say I’ve spent the past couple of years facing fears and leaving B+, and now, part of my work is helping other people do the same.
If you know that your life – or a part of your life – is hanging out in the grays of B+, here’s what you can do to bring it back into full color:
Forge A Unique Path: Leaving B+ means leaving the herd. The life that will bring you huge meaning and fulfillment probably doesn’t look like the life your buddies or family members are leading.What really brings you joy? What matters most to you? What are your loves and longings?
Do Your Right Work: Your right work is the work you feel called to do, the contribution you feel called to make. I don’t know anyone who is feeling thrilled and jazzed about life who is not also focused on a making a particular, inspired contribution to the world. Your real work can happen through your job, or outside of it.
Reclaim Your Joys. In leaving my B+ life, I came to terms with the fact that the things I really loved when I was five were, for the most part, the things that were going to make me happy as an adult. It’s almost laughably simple. Then we make it complicated. Those things you loved years ago matter. Reclaim them.
Lean Into the Questions: Usually, leaving B+ (or B- or C- etc.) lives comes with uncomfortable and unanswered questions about what we want, what the future will hold, and how to make change in the midst of our responsibilities. As much as you can, see the questions as sources of meaning in themselves—rather than as obstacles to get over. When we see them this way, answers have a soft, welcoming place in which to emerge.
Let Fear Be Your Companion: Doing all of this will evoke fear. In fact it can often feel like lighting a fear bonfire underneath your booty.
There is no going after our right life without doing lots of things that will scare the heck out of us. I’ve come to think of it like this: I’m driving along the road of my life, and fear is the annoying guy leaning out of the minivan in the lane next to me, every step of the way. He’s not in my car, and he’s not in my way. He’s just there, my distracting travelling companion.
I’ve also learned that it is possible to develop fear callouses, a kind of beneficial accustomed-ness to fear. We can get in the habit of feeling afraid every day and still making the phone call, telling the difficult truth, taking the risk. Our little egos get bopped around all the time as things work out well or not. We recover and, good news: the recovery time gets shorter and shorter as we keep choosing action alongside the fear.
Create your unique path. Do your real work. Reclaim your joys. Lean into the questions, and let fear be your travelling companion. There really is something on the other side of the B+ life. It’s beautiful, and much more fun. It is waiting for you.