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A Life Review: Who Are You Becoming?

By Kaye Olsson, I Start Wondering Columnist

I recently read an interview with Jane Fonda who, at 85, has continued to evolve and said she feels completely different now than when she was 20. She credits this to a sense of curiosity that led her to ask lots of questions, read many books, and seek the positive in every situation.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

She also stated that when she turned 60, she realized she was heading into her “final act” and did not want to reach the end with regrets. So, she decided to do some deep research by performing a “life review,” which involved studying who she was in the past and reflecting on who she wanted to become in the future. Fonda stated, "It totally changed the way I thought about myself and about how I wanted to live the last third of my life. And I realized the importance of being intentional about how we go through life."

A Life Review

What a fascinating idea! The beginning of a new year seems like an appropriate time to reflect and perform our own sort of life review. This is a prime opportunity to examine aspects of our lives that are working, and other aspects that perhaps we’d like to change.

A life review doesn’t mean the typical new year’s resolutions. Instead, we should really take stock of our hearts and minds, and what we are allowing into them. As we, too, approach our own final act, how often do we think about the person we are becoming?

Just as past influences have led us to where we are now, our current thoughts, attitudes, and habits will shape who we become in the future. In order to be formed into the person we want to be, it’s important to start confronting and understanding our authentic self: the place where spirit, thoughts, and feelings all converge.

While it’s easy to focus simply on behavior modification, I’d suggest going deeper and treating the source below the surface. Instead of a “to-do” list, how about creating a “to-be” list? Do this by asking yourself the following two questions to reveal the type of person you are becoming: How are you spending your resources? And what are you listening to?

Question 1: How Are You Spending Your Resources?

It’s the small habits. What occupies your time? Where do you devote your energy and attention? How do you spend your money? I encourage you to take a hard look at your resources and where you want them to go. See if there is alignment.

To do this, take a mental picture of what you believe you love the most. Whatever you love the most forms who you are and dictates who you are becoming. Do you like what you see? Is there a good match between your stated values and the way you are spending your resources?

For example, one of my values is to enjoy a good quality of life as I age by maintaining a healthy body. However, when I recently examined my levels of daily movement versus my screen time, there was a fairly large disconnect—I spend far too much time sitting. And I noticed that if I don’t make exercise a priority early in the day, it just doesn’t happen.

These observations tell me I need to do a better job of budgeting my time and making room for those healthy activities that actually match my expressed values. I need to mindfully make some changes to better align my values with reality.

Making Changes

Changing habits can be hard but this quote attributed to Steve Jobs often helps me put things in perspective:

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

“…I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

We are all given a finite number of resources so it’s up to us to invest them wisely based on what we’ve determined is truly important. Where we spend our resources has a powerful influence over who we are becoming.

Question 2: What Are You Listening To?

We are constantly bombarded with internal and external messages, and it’s up to us to decide which ones to allow in. Similar to the cliche “You are what you eat,” we become what we think.

Thoughts become ideas, ideas become attitudes--and these attitudes influence our actions. Our words and actions shape our character, which eventually becomes our destiny. So, it’s vital that we carefully choose what we listen to in order to nourish ourselves with healthy thoughts.

External Messages

I have a few friends and family members who are constantly tuned in to television, radio, and social media that feature sensationalized negative messages. It has been heartbreaking to witness these kinds, of loving people gradually transform into fearful, angry individuals. They have allowed their minds to become filled with external information that has had a tremendous influence on their attitudes.

Internal Messages

In the same way, our thoughts can be shaped by our own internal dialogue as well. These inner dialogues can be damaging and create deep hurt--or be positive and bolster our self-image.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

How much we allow this voice to rule the day will determine the way we live it out. Are we treating ourselves with compassion and confidence? Or do we pepper ourselves with a constant barrage of negative self-talk and comparisons with others? Our internal messaging influences how we see ourselves and the surrounding world.

What do you listen to most? Do you feel it is healthy? The images and ideas that capture your imagination play an important role in who you are from the inside out. Make sure they are the right things for you because they will determine who you become.

A Fresh New Start

As another new year unfolds, I’d like to challenge us all to review where we are and where we want to be. Let’s take time to release the past and look toward the fresh, open spaces within ourselves. Fill them with curiosity, laughter, and self-love. There are wonderful adventures awaiting us, and we are equipped to enjoy them with the wisdom that comes from our experience.

Let go of those old fears and comparisons. Draw energy from the excitement of who you hope to become in this next chapter. Reset, restart, and refocus as many times as you need to. It’s your choice—you can either write the ending or the new beginning of your own story.

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1 Comment

Dorian Martin
Dorian Martin
Jan 21, 2023

Thank you, Kaye, for sharing the concept of a life review. While trying to align values, thoughts, behaviors, words, and actions is really important, it can easily be an area that we neglect. I personally continue to find places in my own life where I'm out of alignment--and I'm trying to mindfully take steps to address these issues. It's not always easy, but it IS definitely worthwhile--and this process is helping me feel like I'm living a more integrated, worthwhile, authentic and fulfilled life. In doing so, I've also learned that it's important to first tap my own inner wisdom instead of looking for answers outside myself. In a world saturated with social media, 24/7 news channels and lots of…

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