Edit Your Life

by Stephen Mills on July 17, 2009

Dream Life

Last week I read an article on positively present that contained this statement by Dani:

“The past may be gone and the future might be uncertain, but we have the power to choose our now. We can edit out what we don’t need in our lives and we can start doing that right now.”

That has been a theme lately on this blog.  For a great way to learn what to edit out, you want to look into are you free now?

One of the problems with editing your life and cutting things out, is that it is so easy to rationalize and justify all your current actions.  They must be necessary right?  We couldn’t possibly stop doing something because the world would then come to an end.  Somebody is going to shriek in fear at your selfishness; the selfishness you show by refusing to cater to their selfishness any longer.

We are creatures of habit and you have a giant rolling stone of momentum to overcome if you are to stop doing something you have been doing.  I fight it all the time.

A Zero-based Life

In order to break free of this prison of habit, try starting from scratch.  If you want to know what you really want and what is really important to you then don’t start from where you are, start from zero.

Imagine you are no longer in your current life.  It is totally gone.  Imagine your dream life, your ideal life.  Do not automatically include anything from your current life in your new dream life.  If you could do anything you wanted to do what would it be?  What kind of relationships would you have?  Where would you live?  What would you do for fun?  What would you do for a living?  What would you do to give back?  What would you do for growth?  What would you do?

Don’t let any current restrictions restrain you.  Don’t assume current limiting factors like your income.  This is an exercise in what you want, not what you have.  Take your time.  Play with this a while until it really gels for you.  It’s best if you write it down.  You can’t keep it all in your head without it getting lost and mixed up with your current routine.

When you are doing all this be totally honest.  Don’t put something in your dream life that you think should be there.  Only put in what you want to be there.  Don’t get caught up in what society, your parents, your friends, your family, or anyone else thinks you should do.  They are not you.  You are not them.

As I write this, the TV is on (darn family) and the All American Rejects are singing “Gives You Hell” on the Today show.  The beginning of that song fits right into this theme:

I wake up every evening with a big smile on my face
And it never feels out of place
And you’re probably still working a 9 to 5 pace
I wonder how bad that tastes

Your Current Life

You should know how you spend your time now and what you are doing with your life.  Once again a good technique is to use the methods described in Where Are You Now? Whatever technique you use, list out how you spend your time (your life) now.  You should end up with a written description of your current life.

The Edit

Now whatever exists in your current life that doesn’t exist in your dream life you can cross off your current life list.  I know that sounds simplistic and drastic but do it anyway.  That tells you what you should edit out.  Just because you don’t know exactly what or how you are going to do something else, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start the process.  Bold action is required.  The first step is crossing out what you know know you no longer want.  You may end up with a list that has everything crossed off.  That’s ok.  It just means you have a fantastic upside in your life potential.

Next simply start editing out (stop doing) what is no longer on your list.  I’m not suggesting you edit everything out today as that is probably not possible.  I haven’t done that either.  If you have a family depending upon you (spouse and children, not leeching friends or relatives), don’t walk out of your job today and hope something you love will pay the bills.  You have to do this in a smart way for things like that.

But I guarantee you that you are doing things that you can cut out immediately, a lot of things.  Whatever you cut out can be replaced by something else; something better.  If you don’t take bold action, you will just keep your current routine and nothing is ever going to change.  You will always find and justification for what you are doing as somehow necessary.  If it wasn’t in your dream life, it is not only not necessary to your life, it is keeping you from living your true life.

“The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – and never knowing.”  — David Viscott

Your Choice

It is time to make a choice.  Are you going to read this stuff and say “Yeah that’s great.  I agree and I’m going to do something about it.” and then do nothing?  Is that what normally happens with you?  I know it’s easy do do that, but then why are you bothering to read and think about this?  For entertainment?  It’s time for action.

Will some of the changes be difficult?  Yes.  Will some people get angry at you or be disappointed?  Yes.  Will there be a price to pay for some of them?  Yes.  If you don’t make those changes will you lay on your deathbed and wish you had?  Yes.  Too late.

Are some of the changes going to be easy?  Yes.  You can just stop wasting time trying to satisfy and make others happy.  It’s futile.  People who truly care about you, are happy when you are happy.  You make others happy when you both are doing something for your mutual benefit.  Do what makes you happy.  Those things are easy, at least for me.

I’m going to end with the same quote I ended my last article with.  To me it says it all.

“For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!” – John Greenleaf Whittier


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{ 3 trackbacks }

The Power of Less – Setting Limits — The Rat Race Trap
July 25, 2009 at 10:10 am
Sunday Siesta – July 19th | Change your thoughts
November 12, 2010 at 10:56 am
February 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Vin - NaturalBias July 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

This sounds very similar to figuring out what an “ideal day” would be like. I think this is great advice because once you have a clear picture of the changes you want to make, you will start making subconscious decisions that will support the transition.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Are You Being Fooled by Zero Calorie Sodas? =-.


Positively Present July 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I feel honored to have been mentioned in this post! I’m so glad that you got something out of what I wrote and I love how you’ve built on the concept of editing our lives. This is a wonderful post on how it’s possible to edit our lives to make them better. It’s not always easy, but it IS possible. Again, thanks for the mention and for sharing these great ideas. 🙂
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..7 ways to celebrate summer =-.


Oscar - freestyle mind July 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I like that exercise and also love the song. I see often people complaining about the past, but the power is now. All we have is now.
.-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..Are you superstitous? =-.


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills July 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Hey Stephen, man can I relate to A Zero-based Life. When I was 21 I left everything from my prison of habit, and started over from scratch. With an old Jeep and a tent and $1000 I moved to the mountains of Oregon to discover who I was without the anything familiar as a reference.

My only way to tell time was an old watch that I kept in the glove box of my Jeep. My running water was a creek, and my bathtub was a wild river. I started from scratch and it was a remarkable journey.

This article outlines some very important steps to true self-discovery. Good stuff.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Friday with Friends – July 17 =-.


Suzanne July 18, 2009 at 12:08 am

Read this right when I needed to read it…love it when that happens! The questions you posed about creating the new life were terrific. I could feel myself wanting to answer them as I was reading. 🙂
.-= Suzanne´s last blog ..Taking Care of Your Home is TCOY =-.


Stephen Mills July 18, 2009 at 7:41 am

@Vin, I think you are right about the ideal day thing, but I have to admit I haven’t really ever done that. I want an ideal life! Thanks for commenting.

@Dani, your article inspired me! Thanks.

@Oscar, you are right. Now Power!

@Jonathan, you are my hero! Thanks for stopping by.

@Suzanne, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting us know.


Diggy - Upgradereality.com July 18, 2009 at 8:23 am

I love this post:)

But you know, so many of us personal development bloggers write about these kind of things, and so many people read it and agree, but I’d guess the majority of the people never do anything about their current situations.

Somehow it would be cool to set up some sort of bootcamp, where likeminded people who want to change their current situations all pool their resources (intelligence, skills, ideas) and work together to achieve the lifestyles they all want.

Thats what I’m working on:)

Have a great weekend Stephen! 🙂
.-= Diggy – Upgradereality.com´s last blog ..The point of life – My version =-.


Dr. Annette Colby July 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

Hi Stephen,

Like Jonathan Wells above, I have been willing to set out into life and begin again. Twice I was determined to give it all up, to leave my possessions and security behind to discover who I was. The first time was when I was 18 years old. I headed out from my birthplace of upstate NY and moved to Arlingon, Texas. With absolutely no real life-skills, only a tiny amount of money, a boxful of clothes, no car, and a high-school education I headed out into the world. I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult, but I learned that no matter what I would always survive. I never lived under a bridge, never went hungry, and discovered I could trust myself. It is through experience that we move beyond our fears and limitations.

Thanks for an inspiring article about moving beyond our habits and discovering our true selves. Well-done!
.-= Dr. Annette Colby´s last blog ..Giving Yourself Permission To Feel Better =-.


Patricia July 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

Very nice post and timely for me. I am going on a three week walking tour which I believe will help me let go of all my “parenting habits”, “cooking habits”, yard work habits that I just run on without thinking. Already today as the apples start to fall in the orchard and I worry about making applesauce, and drying them while I am gone, I find myself letting go – celebrating right now. I am going to call a neighbor girl to see if she will come and “toss” the apples into the compost so that my husband will not have to do that, as in the heat of the day they fill with yellow jackets and he is fatally allergic…that is something to worry about not whether or not this year I am wasting a food source that we will need to feed our family. I give lots away – so I let those folks know they can come by and make claim themselves. I will not be delivering the goods.
Good write up – thank you for sharing.
I think we spend about 15% of our live accumulating and about 75% of our lives learning how to let go.
.-= Patricia´s last blog ..Part III: Agenda for a Real-Wealth Economy =-.


alex - unleash reality July 18, 2009 at 11:20 am

Hey Stephen!!

awwwwsome idea for a post.

in my list of “posts to write” is the title “stop trying to edit the past” 🙂

man… i’d def switch up the wording a lil.

very subtle… but i think the idea of actively editing out not living in the past is just gonna cause more mind litter. it’s just more trying to control your experience which will make you live in your head, not in the now.

rather let go of wanting to edit your experience by living in the past.

instead of editing the editing, if that makes any sense 🙂

like, instead of “simply start editing out” rather, “simply stop editing in”. we’re editing IN the rubbish and distractions and mind stuff, so editing it in and then editing it out duddn’t make sense. just stop wanting to put it there in the first place 🙂

“prison of habit” – like the way you put that 🙂

…and the “imagine” thought experiment. usually read those kinds of things but don’t actually do the thinking. did it this time. and it made me feel really great.

stripping back. ya know. completely letting go.

good friend of mine – glen in fact – asked me what the one thing i’d want to do before i die is – tough question… my answer, “completely let go” 😀


really awwwsome post stephen, got me super excited and thinking.

stumbled and tweeted.

keep well mate
alex – unleash reality
.-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Hate Me or Love Me: How to Do What You Want, Feel Great & Live More =-.


George Serradinho July 19, 2009 at 4:17 am

This is an excellent article, I was stuck to my screen until the very end. I have done some of your suggestions of cutting out what is not required or holding me back and it has made a huge difference. I started a new hobby and having more fun now than I have had in a while.

I know there are still a few things that could be scratched off, and they will eventually be. I’m just taking my time and doing it step by step.
.-= George Serradinho´s last blog ..Need to know more Twitter Lingo? =-.


Stephen Mills July 19, 2009 at 4:34 am

@Diggy, there’s lots of talk but not a lot of action. That would be cool! Thanks for stopping by.

@Annette, you and Jonathan are my heroes! Thanks for commenting.

@Patricia, excellent! Good luck and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

@alex, it does make sense. But unlike you 20 year-olds, some of us older folk have had time to accumulate a lot more default activities around jobs, family, friends, obligations, and commitments that isn’t just being edited in. It’s already there by momentum and has to be surgically removed! Thanks for stopping by to share your always stimulating thoughts!

@George, I’m with you on that. Done some, have a lot more to go. Thanks for commenting.


zencontrol.net July 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

good one… I fully agree with the following statement:

“One of the problems with editing your life and cutting things out, is that it is so easy to rationalize and justify all your current actions.”
.-= zencontrol.net´s last blog ..Give Positive Energy to a Relationship – 10 Mantras For Happy Married Life or Relationship =-.


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