[this piece was originally published in the Huffington Post]
The first B plus 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, uncomfortable sense that I was not living my right life. I kept having a troubling thought — that at the end of my life, I’d feel I had been more loyal to fear than to my dreams.
But on the other hand, I reasoned, things seemed so good. I had so many blessings in my life. What was my problem?
My problem was the problem of the B+ life.
In a 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.
But 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 B+ life is an epidemic.
What’s the alternative? I wouldn’t call it an A+ life, because an A+ connotes perfection, as if life is a test to ace. The alternative to a B+ life has nothing to do with perfection — it’s all about risk, trying, messiness and imperfect action.
It’s the 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.
It about swinging for the fences and being the real you and risking and doing it all fully.
If you are living in the grays of B plus here’s how you can bring your life back into full color:
1. Leave the Herd. The life that will bring you huge meaning and fulfillment most likely doesn’t look like the life your buddies or family members or neighbors are leading. Find out: what really brings you joy? What matters most to you? What are your loves and longings? They will be unique. They won’t necessarily be popular. But there’s no substitute for living a life full of them.
2. Answer the Call. We all get assignments in life, callings about the work we are meant to do, the small or large ways we are meant to heal the brokenness in the world. B+ happens when we don’t honor and respect those callings. Take your callings seriously. Give them time and energy. They point you toward work (work that can happen through your job or outside of it) that will bring you inexpressible fulfillment.
3. Reclaim Your Long Lost 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 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.
4. Lean Into the Questions: The process of leaving B+ brings up uncomfortable questions. Is your marriage working? Is your lifestyle aligned with who you really are? Do you need to move, change careers? How will you set those new not-so-welcome boundaries with the people you care about? As much as you can, see these difficult questions as sources of meaning in themselves—rather than as obstacles to get over so you can get on with the living. Grappling with these questions, finding your own answers to them, and gathering the courage to act on those answers is part of the journey of a rich life- it’s not a step on the way to it.
5. Let Fear Be Your Companion: Doing all of this – leaning into the questions, reclaiming long lost joys, leaving the herd and answering your callings – will evoke fear. In fact it will feel like lighting a fear bonfire underneath your little booty.
The truth is, there is no going after an exciting, vivid, life without doing lots of things that 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 traveling companion.
Leaving B+ requires developing fear callouses, an accustomed-ness to fear. You can get in the habit of feeling afraid every day and still making the phone call, telling the difficult truth, taking the risk. Yes, your little ego will bopped around all the time as things work out well or not. You will recover. You will learn to lovingly help yourself recover too.
Leave the herd. Answer the call. Reclaim long lost joys. Lean into the questions, and let fear be your traveling 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.
photo credit: Melanie Magdalena