“We're here for such a short period of time. Live like you're already dead, man. Have a good time. Do your best. Let it all come ripping right through you.” ~Jeff Bridges
Yesterday, a Chinese exchange student we hosted two years ago texted to let me know her mother would like to invite my family to visit them in Nanjing—and she would pay for our plane tickets and let us stay at their vacation home.
Of course I told everyone I know (I mean, China! C'mon!) and they all said, “You're so lucky!” And it's true…we are lucky.
However, there's more to our luck than, well, luck. Receiving amazing opportunities is a function not of waiting around and wishing for good things to happen, but of going out and living life to the fullest so good things can't help but come to you.
The China trip is one example: Since 1997 we've hosted fourteen exchange students for periods of time lasting from one month to the whole school year.
Our friends and relatives have always thought we were nuts to take on the inconvenience and expense. (No, you don't get reimbursed for hosting.) But we consider hosting foreign exchange students to be part of our civic duty, a lot of fun, and a good learning opportunity for our now seven-year-old son.
Our kid has lived with students who hail from all over the globe—from South Korea to Ukraine to France—since he was one month old.
So is this free trip luck, or a natural outcome of hosting fourteen foreign teenagers over the years?
Another example: We entertain a lot, including holding weekly board game nights for ten to twelve gamers in our home. We've gone to great efforts to host these game nights—including managing a Meetup Group, supplying drinks, juggling our son's bedtime routine on game night, and even having our garage converted into a board game room.
We've become good friends with one family we met through this group, and for my birthday last week they offered to pay for tango lessons for my husband and me.
Tango! I would never have thought of learning tango if we had not met these people and if they had not offered to get us lessons. Even though we expected nothing from our game group but some fun gaming, we have a new opportunity to do something fun and exciting that will stretch our limits—in a good way.
I started thinking about this more and more, and the concept holds: The more you do, the more opportunities open to you.
“Do More WHAT?”
Doing more means different things to different people, but at its core it's about stretching, learning, expanding, and experiencing new things.
For some, that might mean helping at the soup kitchen or learning a new language, while for others it might mean starting a meditation practice or forming a book club. It doesn't matter, as long as what you do is one or more of the following (the more the better!):
- A learning experience
- Something you're passionate about
- Helpful to others
- Requiring effort on your part
Traveling, training for an athletic event, learning a new skill, volunteering, joining a new team at work, entertaining, writing, creating, launching…it's all fair game. Just don't fall into the trap of simply ramping up the intensity or frequency of the same-old-same-old if it's not what lights your fire; try something new.
“How Does It Work?”
I can't say for sure, but I can theorize. My feeling is that when you make an effort to try new things and expand your life experience, the universe—or heck, even your friends—see that you're open and ready for more awesome opportunities, and they rush to make those opportunities happen.
After all, who would you invite to join you at a class at the local clown college, or to co-launch a business—the friend who's ready for anything, who you've seen taking part in all kinds of events, competitions, and activities? Or the friend who shrinks from new experiences and who sticks to the same routine year in and year out?
“This All Sounds Expensive.”
It can be if you want it to, but it doesn't have to be. Volunteering is free. You can start a new business or volunteer organization with a WordPress website for nothing. Starting a book club, dinner group, or running group on Meetup.com costs only about $13 per month, and you can charge dues to make up for it. Training for a 5k or fitness competition for free.
These (and many other activities) will create bonding experiences, memories, and opportunities to do even more—all without breaking the bank.
“But Wait…Isn't This the Opposite of Non-Attachment?”
As a reader of this blog, you're probably interested in concepts like being present and accepting what is. If you're making efforts to experience more, create more, and do more, doesn't that mean you're grasping, attaching, obsessing about the future, and generally not being satisfied with your current self?
It could mean that, but there's a way to experience more and create new opportunities without falling prey to attaching: Go after everything you've ever wanted to experience and create—but enjoy the journey while you do it and try not to attach to the outcome.
Work to improve your PR for that weightlifting competition, but don't freak out over how you'll perform at crunch-time. Write that book, but expect and accept rejection.
Even if all your plans go awry, you still have the memories, and the results of your hard work. Write a novel and you have a novel. Pump iron for a competition and you'll be stronger. It's the doing that matters, not the results.
Want to open yourself up to positive, amazing opportunities today? Think of something you've always wanted to do—whether it's taking drum lessons, completing a sprint-distance triathlon, or hosting a gigantic family reunion—and take the first step toward that goal right now, before your “logical” mind steps in and tells you all the reasons it's not possible.
Once you do that, please post your experiences in the comments below. Here's to great experiences!
Happy traveler image via Shutterstock