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Stop Living by Default


Podcast Transcript

We either live with intention or exist by default. ~Kristin Armstrong

There are two definitions of default.

The first is “a failure to meet your obligations” . . . say, to default on a loan. You were given something with the understanding you would so something in return, but you don’t do it.

The second definition is “A pre-selected option or response which is specified by the user or programmer.” For example, a computer automatically fills in a blank with an established answer unless you tell it do something else. Or you purchase a device and certain settings are already programed in unless you go in a manually change them.

To my way of thinking, living by default is a combination of both of these definitions and sadly many people live their whole life this way.

In today’s podcast we’re gonna talk about how to live more purposely and less on default. We’re gonna explore the answer to the question asked by poet laureate “What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life?”

Stepping Up

We are each given a life. Okay, you may believe we’re plopped down here with no real purpose or you may believe it’s far more magical than that. Either way, we’re born. We show up.

Somehow, we open our eyes and now we are a living, breathing human with working thumbs and maybe a working mind.

Now what? There’s perhaps a million or ga-billion answers to this question depending on who you are.

Some think their job is to chase success, make a lot of money and collect things. Others think it is to be good and raise children to be good too. Others believe it’s to make beautiful art. Others to save souls, or plant flowers, or design robotic arms or make the best sourdough bread. Really, it could be any or all of these.

But sadly, most people must confess they don’t do any of these things. They never identify what it is they really want to do. The thing that would make their life juicy and vibrant. Instead, they get up, go to work, make a buck, throw together dinner, pay a bill, watch The Bachelor, go to bed and get up and do it all over again.

Is this you? Are you living in what I call the “velvet rut?” If so, what keeps you doing the same thing over and over? What keeps you from declaring that you want things to be different. Or what keeps you making promises to yourself about changing and meanwhile staying in the same place year after year? What keeps you stuck in this deliciously, well-furnished, uncomfortable place?

I think every excuse . . . okay, “reason” if you must . . . can be boiled down to this one thing—Fear.

Dealing with Fear

I love this quote by JK Rowling: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

Fear has got us all by the short hairs, as the saying goes.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of “different.” Fear of looking foolish. Fear of hurting, or disappointing or losing people. Fear of rejection. Fear of being held to a higher standard.

Fear! Fear keeps us playing safe. Keeps us in the same place. Keeps us not coloring outside the lines or dreaming big or questioning the status quo. Fear keeps us afraid and stuck.

But Cheri, “I’m not afraid!” I swear I’m not!”

Here’s the thing. Fear doesn’t always sound like fear.

Our reasons for staying in a default mode can seem quite reasonable. We can find all kinds of sound reasons for staying right where we are. For deferring our happiness until later. For thinking small or just going through the motions.

For example, we can call it fate and turn over all the power to something or someone outside of us and let life unfold.

Or we can keep telling ourselves we will do IT later.

Or we can tell our self our dreams are too big or above our station or to farfetched or childish, blah blah blah. that life we really want is not available to us.

To me, the saddest way fear shows up is we lie to ourself (and others) about being happy when we are anything but!

All of these are faces of fear. FEAR FEAR FEAR!

How do we stop this? I don’t think it’s that hard really. In fact, I think it’s rather simple, although it maybe not so easy.

I have a few suggestions. The first suggestions come from looking at default from the first definition I spoke of earlier. Looking at default as reneging on a promise.

To tackle fear, you do with your life what you would do if you were given a loan from a bank. You make a plan and pay it back.

To me, the saddest way fear shows up is we lie to our self (and others) about being happy when we are anything but! You get the picture. Are you gonna squander it and not use those things? I believe (and you may as well) that we are given these things to be of service to the world. To my way of thinking, healthy people want to leave the world a better place when they exit. To do this you pay the loan back by using those gifts in the service of making the world better. From the smallest thing like picking up a gum wrapper that is on the ground to volunteering in a hospital in New Guinea and all places in between. If you’re a musician, MAKE MUSIC. An Artist, MAKE ART. A kind person BE KIND. Whittler, THEN WHITTLE. A cook, then bake and share. That’s using what you have been given and NOT defaulting. Get it.

Another way to stop living on default comes the second definition I shared with you earlier. Default is a pre-selected set of options or choices set at the factory. Remember that one? To look at us through this lens means we each were born into a culture or community or family that gave use certain ideas by default. We have personality and genetic makeups and intelligences that we were born with. It’s both Nature and Nurture that has shaped who we are right now.

Can these default setting be changed? Many of them can, yes! Are those default settings working for you? I’d say many aren’t’. This is the bulk of the work I do as a coach—helping people actively change their thoughts and the subsequent feelings and behaviors they have about themselves, about money, about success, about their worthiness, about their energy level. You name it. Changing one’s default settings means taking a look at what you’re doing on “auto-pilot” or with little energy and asking yourself, “Is this working for me?” “Do I want to think or do this?”

If the answer is NO, then you’ve got to go in and change the default settings. Again, like before, this sounds simple—and it is but it’s isn’t always easy. This can take a lot of work and intention, but it can be done! I’m living proof of that!

Like I said earlier, the bulk of my coaching is using a variety of tools to help people discover their pre-programmed or conditioned default setting and create a plan to shift those settings.

So, are you defaulting on the gifts you were given? Are you living a life other people programmed you to live? Are you stuck in a velvet rut of the familiar meanwhile dreaming of a different, more pleasing life?

If so . . . congratulations! You know what you need to do! And I’m here to help if you need me.

What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

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