I firmly believe that everyone has two lives. The second one starts when you realize you only have one life to live.
My dad’s second life started in 1998 when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 prostate cancer. I remember sitting in my dorm at James Madison University playing drinking games with my friends when I received an unexpected call from my mom. When she told me of dad’s diagnosis, I froze and felt like time stood still.
Always a loving, protective mom, she tried to sugarcoat it. But there wasn’t enough sugar in the world to make this diagnosis sweet. It turned out that the cancer diagnosis too late — chemo-therapy, surgery, and radiation would not slow the spread. His only option was to be a lab rat and test different experimental treatments to kill his cancer.
Immediately, I started looking for a bus ticket to rush home and be at my father’s side. He jumped on the phone and said, “No!” “You need to be focused on school,” he insisted. “I will still be here when you come home on your next break.” I reluctantly agreed and did what he wanted; I threw myself into my studies.
The silver lining: Dad’s cancer diagnosis jumpstarted his 2nd life.
Like clockwork, he traveled to John Hopkins every three months for regular infusions of trial treatments. Those sessions bought him the time necessary to live his second life — what he called his “best life.” Miraculously, they bought him another 15 years before his cancer returned. He lived an additional two years thanks to the improved cocktail of chemo that had developed.
What did he do during those 17 years? First, he retired from his “good Government job” so he wouldn’t be tied to a 9-5 job. It gave him time during the day to do as he pleased. He traveled around the country. He visited extended family. He coached his granddaughters in basketball from the sidelines. He saw his only grandson grow up and play baseball and basketball like him. He went to NBA, NFL, and MLB professional games. He played slots at the casino. He ate greasy foods. He grew a garden. He celebrated his kid’s various accomplishments. And, he walked his daughter down the aisle.
The family was the most important thing to my dad, and spending time with his family was his vision of happiness and living. So when we found ourselves surrounding my dad in his room shortly after we found out that he only had weeks to live, he radiated happiness. We were all doom and gloom as my dad was smiling, laughing, and singing old-time gospel songs.
I was so confused. Why is he happy? Honestly, I was angry with him. Shouldn’t he be sad that he is soon leaving us on Earth — without him?
That’s when he spoke the words that made me start living my second life.
“Don’t be sad,” he said. “I’m ready. I’ve lived a full life and have no regrets. I took risks and did it all. My only wish is that you will say the same when you get to this point in your life. Take risks, do what makes you happy, don’t have any regrets, and live every day as if it was your last.”
My takeaway and your takeaway should be this: It’s never too late. My dad was 50-years-old when he started his 2nd life. I was 36-years-old when I started my 2nd life. The important part is realizing that you only have one life and making the conscious decision to start living your 2nd life.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Once you say, “Houston, we have a problem,” you can get serious about what your hopes and dreams out of life are. Then you can start building the roadmaps necessary to achieve those hopes and dreams.
Are you ready to start living your 2nd life?
Before you answer, I want you to answer these three questions:
- Are you someone that believes the idea that “you only live once” is a cliché?
- Do you have a bucket list? If not, why haven’t you started making one?
- Which circumstances in your life are holding you back from freely living? Is it money? Is it an abusive relationship? Is it your self-doubt and self-esteem?
Exercise: Creating Your Bucket List of 10 Big Goals
Please: Try hard not to let any barriers stop you from writing it down as a goal on your bucket list. Later you will learn ways to identify obstacles and brainstorm ways to overcome those obstacles. What do I mean by “SMART” goals? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
For example: A SMART goal would be, “by this time next year, I want to write a memoir.”
Here’s why it’s SMART:
- The goal is specific and clear on what I want to do.
- The goal is measurable because I can measure my success by writing all of the book chapters.
- The goal is achievable as it requires setting aside time — regularly — to write each chapter of the book within a year.
- The goal is realistic because I have set a timeframe that is possible in my current daily schedule.
- The goal is timely as I have bounded it to happen in a year. If I did not stipulate a time, it would be left open-ended and less likely to be achieved.
Once you have a list of at least 10 SMART goals on your bucket list, you need to do the following:
- Group the goals with a deadline to achieve them from start to finish
- short-term: less than one month
- mid-term: 1-12 months
- long-term: 1-3 years
- Determine which goals can be simultaneous or in a sequence.
- Then, order the goals from 1 to 10 based on what you want to achieve first.
- Enter your goals into the Bucket List module of the Start Before Your Ready app (coming soon)
- Enter the estimated start and end times for each goal (you can always revise the dates along your journey).
Stay tuned for more!
Angela Mitchell, CEO, and CASE Management Consulting president, based in Washington, DC.
A multi-million, 8(a) Certified, Minority Woman-owned Small Business founded in 2016, CASE delivers secure, high-quality web-based process automation tools and knowledge management solutions. CASE guides an organization through change, focusing on business processes and technology. “Our mission is to provide leaders with real data to make better business decisions,” Angela says.
Angela is also the co-founder and director of Kids Code Too — a non-profit organization focused on building computer science confidence in elementary students (3-8th grades) from underserved communities. Kids Code Too teaches students to build computers, utilize the computers to learn to code, and teach other kids to do the same.