published Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Tabi Upton: Being alive, no regrets

My parents are at it again.

They were on the lookout for a new adventure and, sure enough, they've found one. After a whirlwind interview and observation weekend at an international boarding school last month, they have accepted the position of house parents there. They aren't exactly sure how much energy they'll need each day to deal with high-spirited, often homesick teenagers, but they're willing to give it a try. They are great examples of people who live life to the fullest, without regrets.

Living an exciting life takes effort and courage. My best friend loves to travel and has utilized creative avenues to do so, finding journalism, religious and educational grants to help pave the way. Once, when I couldn't locate her by cell phone for several days, I contacted her family, feeling a little worried. They tracked her down in Iceland. Iceland!?

I remembered that she'd mentioned wanting to visit the country while she was on a stopover from a trip to Europe. I had no idea she'd actually made plans to make it happen.

The key to living life this way has to do with one's mindset. One must choose it. I've spoken to more people than I care to remember who are afraid to venture outside the familiar. Even though they find their lives strangely unsatisfying, they prefer convention over the new, the mundane over the exciting, the familiar over a mindboggling experience.

But if you're looking to spread your wings even in just small ways, here are five ways to begin:

• Find out what makes you come alive and start doing it. This can be service to others, travel, creative pursuits, almost anything. Mind-altering substances aren't needed when one gets a high from living out the things he or she feels born to do.

• Take initiative. One of the most surprising discoveries I have made about adulthood is that the things I dream about won't happen unless I leave the house and put forth some effort.

• Accept the fact that sadness and setbacks are as much a part of life as joyful moments. Many people get stuck when tragedy strikes. Deep in their subconscious mind they knew pain existed but didn't think it would happen to them. When we understand that death, pain and heartache come with the territory of living, then pain, though devastating, won't last quite as long.

• Be optimistic. This means that, even when feeling down, expect to feel up again eventually. When you are able to find meaning and lessons to learn in the difficult moments of life, the journey deepens.

• Minimize the meaning of failure. Every time we take a risk, we look the possibility of failure in the eyes and put up a fight. If he wins one round, we take him for another. Finally, we build up the mental muscles to win.

Remember, those who seem to smile the most are often those who have chosen to live freely, with a sense of wide-eyed openness to the world and its possibilities. This can be done in small, everyday ways as well.

It can be the act of driving through a new neighborhood to find out what's there, taking an enrichment class just because it's interesting or making friends with a new type of person just to broaden oneself and reach out to another. The key is the sense of excitement and fulfillment one is after.

Tabi Upton is a therapist and freelance writer. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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