I love “aha!” moments, especially the kind that make you look at your life from a whole different perspective. I had a number of these recently while reading a book: Five Wishes by Gay Hendricks (New World Library, 2007). It’s the story of a chance encounter Hendricks had years ago that led him to ask himself a series of defining questions and, ultimately, to begin consciously creating the reality he was longing for.
I learned about the book from a short companion film I’d stumbled across online (you can see a clip of the movie at www.5wishesbook.com), and I was immediately intrigued by the simple but provocative premise of the Five Wishes approach. In super-short form, it goes like this:
- Imagine looking back on your life from your deathbed and identifying the important things that might have kept your experience in this lifetime from being a complete, totally satisfying success.
- Next, translate each major regret (“I wish I had experienced A or accomplished B or not screwed up C”) into a positive, powerful, present-tense statement — a statement that would be true, assuming you had created successes in the areas you currently feel lacking. For example: “My life is a total success because I have experienced A, or I am enjoying B, or I have come to understand C.”
- Once you have articulated each area of desire, ask yourself why that goal or experience is so important to you. And finally, assuming it really is important, take ownership: Commit yourself fully to making these life-affirming wishes a reality by supporting them with your decisions and actions — starting today.
I’ll confess that I squirmed more than a little while working through this process. The crystallizing deathbed factor put some serious kick and urgency into the question of what really deserves my energy and focus. The soul searching “why is this important to me?” inquiry immediately connected each of my wishes to a set of core, personal values. And the translation of the would-be regrets and wishes into direct, present-moment statements challenged me to take full ownership of them, right here and now.
No tiptoeing around it, says Hendricks. Either you’re willing to take this on, or you’re not. Better to know the answer now than to flail around for years giving it a half-hearted try and then complaining about the results.
I was reading Five Wishes while we were working on this “Challenge Yourself” issue of Experience Life, and I was struck several times by the fact that most of us challenge ourselves all the time, but not necessarily in the areas that really matter most to our lasting happiness, and not necessarily in a focused enough way that we get any real satisfaction from our efforts.
It’s important, I realized, that we find ways to challenge ourselves to stay fully conscious about where our energy is going on a daily basis. Because, in the absence of those reminders, it’s easy to get depleted, distracted, lost — and to let the best parts of our lives just pass us by.
There’s a great phrase that Hendricks offers up as a sort of Power-of-Now mantra: “No show, no glow,” he says. In other words, it’s only by showing up fully for what’s going on in our lives right here and now — and for the choices and commitments that we’ve decided are important to us — that we get to collect on the glowy, energizing, feel-good satisfaction that makes life worthwhile.
In that spirit, we’ve put together an issue full of opportunities to focus on challenges and stretches of all kinds — from finding your physical edge to expanding your life skills, from reconsidering your daily habits to reconfirming your guiding priorities. We hope you enjoy this issue and that, whatever your wishes are, some of what you learn here will inspire you to take the show-and-glow approach to claiming them, one day at a time.
Speaking of learning and growing, I invite those of you who are interested in experiencing some major “aha!”s about weight loss to check out a weekend workshop I’m co-presenting with UltraMetabolism author and functional-medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman at the Omega Institute in upstate New York this October. Learn more at experiencelife.com/ultrasmart-weight-loss.