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While vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, I had an inspiring conversation with a stranger who had recently lost his wife to cancer. With tears in my eyes, I hugged him and shared my recent experience with death and offered him my sincere condolences. I also shared our experience with a different kind of loss, and the story behind the name of our blog, Follow Your Detour. He seemed a little comforted in hearing someone else’s unexpected life struggles, but I don’t think he knows that I was the one who was most impacted by our talk.

As we wrapped up our conversation, I told him to keep “following his detour” and that’s when he gave me his own piece of advice…

He told me to “live my dash”.

When I gave him a confused look he explained, “at the end of your life, you’ll have the year that you were born and the year that you died…so in the meantime, how are you going to live the dash that’s in between those years?”

I could hardly speak this was so powerful. I had never heard this phrase before, though now I know that it comes from a popular poem written by Linda Ellis. However, it’s been something that’s been on my mind A TON the past few days and I had to write about it.

So stop and ask yourself

How Am I Living My “Dash”?

When we first started Follow Your Detour, we were in a tough place in life. First, we experienced the death of my only brother, who we were both extremely close to. Then, we experienced the death of a lifelong dream and our idea of how our life was going to be came crashing down.

We had to completely change our perspective, but these experiences with loss helped us realize just how precious life is. It’s short, it’s unpredictable, and it’s not easy. But it’s up to YOU to make it beautiful. We’ve read tons of books, met inspirational people who have shared their stories of turning tragedy into success, and have chosen to fill our lives with positivity.

I’ve spent the past few days really reflecting on this idea of “living your dash” and asking myself if I am truly doing it. If I were to die tomorrow, would I be satisfied with how I’ve spent my “dash”? And I am so proud to say that I am. I am taking chances that I never thought I would be capable of, I am slowly but surely taking steps to create a life that I love, I finally know what it feels like to believe in myself and go after goals and dreams I never even knew I had, and I am genuinely happy despite some of the struggles that I’ve had to face recently. When I came to this realization, I couldn’t help but want to share it with others. So I hope the following information inspires you to follow your detour, live your dash…or whatever you want to call it!

How to Live Your Dash

Have Less Regrets

I’ve always loved the quote “in the end, you’ll only regret the chances you didn’t take”. Typically, regrets are those opportunities we miss. But, maybe you regret missing a certain event, quitting a job, ending a relationship, or just not making the most of a situation you were in. While you can’t go back in time and fix those things, you can learn and grow from them and avoid making similar mistakes.

I also believe that everything happens for a reason. So although you may have some regrets, there’s probably a reason you chose the alternative. However, next time you’re faced with a tough decision, ask yourself if you think you’ll regret it later. It’s also important not to get hung up on past regrets. Give yourself some grace and let go of those mistakes or regrets, otherwise its difficult to move forward.

Do More of What You Love

do more of what you love

What do you enjoy doing? What makes you feel the most “alive”. Is it traveling? Being with family? A hobby? It doesn’t matter what it is. If its what fills you with joy, you’re meant to do it. Make time for it. Stop making excuses as to why you don’t. Stop letting work or other obligations take priority over your happiness. And don’t wait for tomorrow. Start doing more of it NOW!

Live Selflessly

While chasing YOUR dreams, doing what YOU love, etc don’t forget about others along the way. In fact, its been proven that helping others increases your happiness. It’s not uncommon for the giver to feel greater pleasure than the receiver (get your mind out of the gutter). Doing good makes you feel good, its not rocket science. You don’t have to commit your life to missions work in Africa to be a good person. Offer a helping hand, do small acts of kindness, volunteer regularly, donate, truly listen to others without placing judgment, be a good friend and family member. Think about what you hope people will say about you at your funeral and start being that person.

Pursue Your Dream Life and Greatest Aspirations

Ask yourself these 2 questions:

1. If you could have any life (regardless of any obstacles that you may have to overcome), what would it look like?

Close your eyes and visualize your dream life. Where are you? What are you doing with your time? Who is with you? Or maybe, think of someone you know who is living that dream life. The most important part of living your dash is truly knowing what you want your life to look like.

2. What are your greatest goals that you want to accomplish?

What are some accomplishments that came up while you were picturing what you want your dream life to look like? Throughout life, we have many dreams and aspirations. Sometimes they change, sometimes we accomplish one and then create new ones.

I watched a recent episode of Dr. Oz, where he interviewed an intensive care doctor who completed the largest scientific study of near death experiences. In studying a variety of individuals who were near death or had experienced death, he found that their number one regret was not pursuing their dreams and aspirations.

live your dash

We’ve all heard the advice, “life like you’re dying” but why don’t we actually do it? Why does it take an actual near death experience for some of us to truly start living? Here are some steps that have helped us in this pursuit of creating the life of our dreams.

Step 1: Identify it.

There is so much power in giving a name to a dream. Write down your answers to all the questions above. I think it’s funny how hard it can be to simply answer the question “what is your dream in life?”.
If a genie appeared to you and granted you a wish…what would it be? Well, guess what? Most of our dreams are completely doable without a genie. This step is extremely important because if you haven’t clearly identified your dreams in life, how will you ever achieve them?

Step 2: Take action.

Once your dream is clear, then you can start putting it out into the universe. Make a vision board, talk about your dreams, post words or photos that represent your dream life around your house, etc. Then ask yourself, what are some steps I can take to start making my dream life a reality? How can I start accomplishing my greatest aspirations?

It took us surprisingly a long time to identify what we really want in life. But once we did, it completely changed how we were living. Our dream is to create a career that is location independent, meaning we earn money no matter where we are in the world. Our first action was Dan finding his remote job, which has allowed us the freedom to travel full-time.

Now, we want to start earning a passive stream of income, which is income you make with little involvement (aka making money while sitting on a beach sipping margaritas). We also dream that we can use said career and income to help others and spend more of our time doing selfless travel. So we’ve began taking steps to make that dream a reality. We’re working on monetizing our blog and exploring other ways of making income online. We’ve taken courses, we’re talking to and learning from people who have accomplished our dream, and are doing something (even small steps) every day to achieve it.

Stop Letting Fear Control You

don't let fear control you

What is stopping you from creating the dream life you just envisioned? Typically its filled with reasons why “you can’t” achieve that life. But “cant’s” are usually just fears in disguise. Many times our greatest fear is what other people think of us. Or we’re worried we will fail. We often place limitations on ourselves that don’t even exist.  Here are some tips:

Worry less about what other people think of you. In fact, usually how you think people will react is not even accurate. And besides, you can’t control what people are going to think. So why worry about something you have zero control over? Its YOUR life, nobody else’s. Do what makes YOU happy, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact others in your life.

Believe in yourself. You CAN do and be whatever you want. Stop being jealous of people you wish to be like and start living more like them. You’re unique and have something to offer the world that no one else can. Instead of being intimidated by others, befriend them and learn from them. Be your biggest fan and don’t rely on others to build you up. You are allowed to love yourself, tell yourself how awesome you are, and compliment yourself.

Be Positive. Learn to block out negative thoughts you have about your abilities or lack thereof. Instead of assuming and fearing that you’re going to fail, why not imagine yourself actually succeeding. Have faith. Don’t let other’s instill fears in you either, because even those who love you, will unintentionally knock you down at times.

You absolutely cannot achieve your dreams without overcoming your fears, believing in yourself, and truly having faith that it could (and will!) happen.

You can do this!

Keep in mind that creating the life you want will not happen overnight. It is a constant struggle for us. We have to work at doing these things. But we try everyday to set aside time to mentally check in with ourselves and to frequently “feed our soul” with positivity. One of the ways we do this is by reading inspirational books and listening to inspirational podcasts. If you’re interested in living your dash to the fullest, we wrote a list of our favorite books in the post, 6 Books That Will Inspire You to Change Your Life that are excellent resources to help you get started and stay motivated. They are all great, but these 2 in particular are filled with really good, practical strategies that relate to “living your dash”.

Note: these are affiliate links. Should you click on these links and purchase a product, we will earn a small commission (at no cost to you).

Lindsay McKenzie

Lindsay is a proud Colorado native who loves Jesus, her family (especially her 3 nieces and 5 nephews), and of course, adventures with her husband Dan and their 2 dogs. She's a simple kind of girl. All it takes to make her happy is a cold beer, some country music, a sunset, and maybe a fishing pole!

All posts by Lindsay McKenzie

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