The following includes an excerpt from my new book, Life to the Fullest: A Story About Finding Your Purpose and Following Your Heart…
Jim Valvano once said, “Life changes when you least expect it to. The future is uncertain. So, seize this day, seize this moment, and make the most of it.”
I love this quote for two reasons.
First, it’s a reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one and we must enjoy the present moment; we must make the most out of every day.
Secondly, it forces one to define exactly what it means to “make the most” out of life. It forces us all to ask ourselves, “What do I want out of life? What are the most important things to me? What does living life to the fullest look like to me?”
As we begin a new year and set new goals for the months ahead, it’s a great time to do some self-evaluation and ask yourself three important questions.
What is your biggest goal for the year ahead?
What does the “best version of you” look like and what are you doing to make that vision a reality?
What does living “life to the fullest” mean to you?
These are questions that we all need to stop and ask ourselves from time to time. They help us to reevaluate our goals, clarify what we really want out of life, and prioritize the things that are most important to us.
For years now, I’ve wanted to write a book about finding your purpose and living life to the fullest, but I wanted to make sure I explored these topics from the perspective of someone whose life’s purpose didn’t make him or her a household name. After all, not all of us are called to be movie stars or CEOs of billion-dollar corporations.
When we’re told to “dream big” and “live life to the fullest,” it’s easy to picture the jet-setting entrepreneurs, billionaire business icons, and world-famous athletes living a life of nonstop excitement and fame. And it’s true, most of those people got to where they are by following their heart and doing what they love to do.
However, it’s also true that following your heart and living your purpose may look a lot different. In fact, some of us would find that type of lifestyle quite unappealing.
One man’s biggest dream might very well be to run a Fortune 500 company and buy a penthouse apartment in New York City. But another man’s biggest dream might be a simpler lifestyle running a small family business in a close-knit community.
One man’s idea of life to the fullest may mean trotting around the globe with one new adventure after another. But another man’s idea of life to the fullest means a quieter life where weekly Sunday dinners with his family make him feel more fulfilled than anything else.
One man’s dream may be to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated and coach a famous NFL team. Another man’s dream life may be coaching a high school team in a small Midwestern town.
My point is not that one of the above examples is right and the other is wrong. It’s simply that your purpose—following your heart—will be unique to you. Your biggest dream will not look like everyone else’s and you can’t let others dictate what your calling should be.
Despite what you may see on TV, purpose doesn’t always correlate with fame. Living life to the fullest doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up on the cover of magazines and traveling the world nine months out of the year.
All around you, in everyday life, there are people who are living their purpose. They’re the exception and not the norm, but you notice them when you see them. They‘re joyful at work, they take pride in what they do, they’re driven to constantly learn and improve, and they seem so…alive, so…happy.
I’m thinking of the teachers who go above and beyond to make a difference in their students’ lives, the family doctors who take a personal interest in the lives of their patients, the firefighters who believe it’s their calling to save other people’s lives, the soldiers who risk everything for their country, and the stay-at-home parents who lovingly and gladly sacrifice other personal desires to raise happy, successful, and respectful children.
These are people who have chosen to follow their heart and live their true purpose, even though they’ve never received fame and accolades for doing so.
I wanted to write a book about following your heart and living your purpose, but I wanted it to be applicable to everyone—not just those who are called to careers that can make them famous.
With this in mind, the main character in Life to the Fullest is John Callahan, a man in his mid-fifties who has spent his life following his heart.
His life’s dream was to follow in his father’s footsteps as a high school football coach and he’s lived that dream for the past three decades. But that dream is now being crushed. Just days before a state championship game, John receives news that his beloved school located in the heart of the “Rust Belt” is declaring bankruptcy and will be shutting down for good at the end of the year.
Everything John has worked his whole life for—his team, his community, his pension—is being taken away from him.
John finds himself angry at his long-deceased father for advising him to always follow his heart. He’s angry at himself for being not taking “better” opportunities when they came along.
In a story that pays homage to the holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, John receives a miraculous visit from his father on the eve of his team’s final game. John is given the opportunity to revisit past moments in his life and he’s offered the chance to see how his life would’ve turned out differently if he had chased more “practical” opportunities.
In the end, John sees the pros and cons of both life trajectories firsthand and must decide on the best path going forward.
This is a story about fathers and sons.
It’s a story about faith, family, and community.
Most of all, it’s a story about having the courage to follow your heart and live your true purpose—whatever that may be.