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How Would You Show Up If Your Life Depended on It?

Lessons learned from a life-threatening diagnosis.

Have you ever wondered who you could be or what you could achieve if your life depended on it?

In 2016, I found myself facing my mortality. Out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening and ultra-rare blood disease. In a phone call, I went from feeling the healthiest I’d ever been to a ticking time bomb.

The experience of believing I was going to die has changed my life. It’s taught me — and continues to teach me  — how fragile and unpredictable life can be.

I’m forever grateful for that wake-up call because it’s inspired me to create the life I want.

Why do we do it  —  why do we hold back?

It’s funny isn’t it, how we hold back; we wait and we play it small, almost like we’re building up for it in the next life  — as if we’re going to get a second run at this. When this is it. This is our one and only life.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” 

Steve Jobs

Out of the darkness

The photo above was taken last week. This is me having the treatment I’ll need for the rest of my life. I’ll be honest with you, I used to dread it. Now, I look forward to it. I even call it my “superwoman juice.” The ultimate reframe.

As time goes on

It’s easy to forget the closeness of our mortality. It’s even easy to forget that the “juice” going into my body in that photo is keeping me alive.

So in an effort to remind myself why my diagnosis has changed how I show up and, more importantly, with the hope they might spark something for you, I wanted to share three reflections:

1. It takes a moment for everything to change

From the microexpression of concern on a doctor’s face, to a phone call or a funny feeling that stops us in our tracks, life can change in a single moment.

Don’t forget this; harness it. If life can change for the worse in a moment, it can change for the better too. Our days, weeks, and lives are made up of moments. Seize them  —  act, do, share, hug.

Trust yourself and your instincts. We have flashes of inspiration for a reason. Follow that inner compass to change your life, moment by moment.

2. Be with the people you’re with

What a gift it is to spend time with a living, breathing human. When you’re with someone, be with them fully. Offer them the gift of your undivided attention.

Listen to them deeply. Tune into their words, their tone and their body language. Feel what they’re saying with and in between their words.

Look them in the eyes. Smile. And study them… but not too much. Be so present it feels new and even a little uncomfortable… for you, not them. 😉

Don’t rush. Our devices can wait  —  that text, email, or social media comment will be there when we’re finished. That moment with that human will not.

3. Create a life full of experiences

Make it your mission to collect stories to share and memories to look back on. Don’t shy away from the ups and downs. What fun is a flat rollercoaster.

Don’t try to skip steps. What’s a good a story without a beginning, middle, and end. Enjoy each chapter you’re in — it’s happening for a reason; and remember, you’re the author.

Don’t hide from failure. You can handle it. In fact, you can handle more than you know. Stretch yourself. Don’t sit on the sidelines, only to regret never having the courage to join the game.

“Honestly, I don’t know anything more dangerous than standing on the outside of our lives, looking in and wondering what it would be like if we showed up; if we really risked and did some of the things that we wanted to do?”

Brené Brown

You know that feeling when you hear a quote and it shifts something inside of you? That’s what happened when I heard Brené’s words from The Power of Vulnerability.

Deep down, we know life is fragile

So — in Brené’s words — why do we risk standing on the outside, looking in, wondering what it would be like if we showed up?

It’s time to take risks, do the things we really want to do and show up like our lives depend on it.

You’ve got this  —  and I’m right beside you.

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This was originally published on jessratcliffe.com/blog.


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