|  Coaching   |  Does Life Happen To Us?

Does Life Happen To Us?

I had a chat with a friend that got my mind ticking around whether we determine the life we live, or if life just happens to us. What do you think?

I often hear people say things like: Life is hectic, work is so pressurized, I am so stressed. I understand that work and life often dump massive demands on our lives. However, I often get the sense that the underlying message in these comments suggests that we have no agency in influencing the kind of life we are living. Life just happens TO us. We live with chronic stress, poor health and poor relationships because we feel like we have no other option.

But is that really the case? Surely, we can make choices that would lead us towards the kind of life we want to live? Don’t get me wrong – I realize there are external influences that can radically impact our quality of life (like Covid, economic downturns, seasonal busyness in a specific sector). I also realize that we are living in very tough times where jobs are scarce. However, on the whole, I think that, to a greater degree than we realize, we have the agency to choose the kind of life we live.

After a recent burnout, my friend made a big move out of Johannesburg (South Africa) to a slower life. He has made a radical decision not to let life just happen to him, but to holistically choose a life that is less stressful, more life-giving and ultimately more sustainable. That is courage! That is wisdom.

I guess the key question is: “What type of life do I want to be living?”. Or said another way, we need to really dig deep to discover what really matters to us. What we value. And those values should become our decision-making framework that inform everything from major career decisions to daily habits. But one of the challenges is that values are not always immediately apparent to us. They are often assumptions, or subconscious beliefs, that already drive how we think, feel and behave. As a result, we need to enter into a journey of self-discovery to figure out what really matters to us.

A conversation with a life coach can be super helpful in this process, and there are also a number of online exercises you can find and do. But here are a few tips and tools to help you start.

1. Do a time audit. Track your time usage over the course of two weeks in 15 minutes intervals. It takes a bit of effort and discipline, but the result is that you have a great picture of where you are currently spending your time. The adage is that we can see what matters to us by considering what we spend our time (and effort and money) on. Once you have the data from two weeks, then pull it into categories and consider how the allocation to those elements makes you feel. Does spending time in the proportions that you are fill you with energy and fulfillment, or does it make you feel down and drained.

2. Ask a friend. Outside perspective is super helpful and often people close to us are able to give valuable perspectives. Ask someone you trust this question: “From what you see in my life, what would you say matters most to me?”.

3. Think about the ‘later’. Franklin Covey says we should always begin with the end in mind. That is a way of expressing the concept of values. Ask yourself “What do I want to be increasingly true for me and my life, for the rest of my life?” Essentially you are digging deep into what you want to see in your life in 10, 20 or 30 years time.

4. Just do something. There is no point in doing this introspective work as a mental exercise only. If you get clear on your values, then you need to evaluate your life against those convictions. What habits do you need to Start, or Stop, or Continue, to help you move towards the life you really want? Are there any bold and courageous steps you need to consider that will help you move towards that grand horizon for your life? What are the next steps you need to take? 

Are you clear about what really matters to you? What choices are you making now that are determining your current reality?


Brad is an optimistic leader and coach who loves helping teams and individuals take positive steps towards maximising their true potential.

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