A FRIEND POSTED THE ABOVE THOUGHT on Facebook. Because of what’s shown in the photo, and the sign-off at the bottom, and my nomadic lifestyle, my first thought was, “This is about paring down your material possessions.”

But then I realized, no, it’s about everything in your life. How you spend your time, who you spend it with, what you feed your mind, what you feed your body, what you prioritize, your financial decisions, your location, your relationships… everything.

What is the life you’re trying to create?

Throughout my teens people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, what I wanted to do with my life. I had only vague answers. Become independent of my parents… direct my own life… make an adequate living… have friends… find someone who loves me… avoid unpleasant things… have a little fun…

Maybe you were the same way. For so many people life is only about doing all the required stuff, satisfying other people’s demands, then, if you’re lucky, getting a little bit of the life you actually want.

But vague goals lead to vague results — or to the opposite of what we hoped. We can’t tell whether the things in our life support or obstruct the life we want to build if we don’t have a somewhat clear picture of that life.

Acting versus reacting

Back when I was in counseling I told my therapist I felt like I lived on a rock in the middle of a river and that I survived by grabbing what useful things I could as they floated by, all the while hoping I wouldn’t get flooded out or swept off by debris.

“What would you do,” he asked, “if you could get off the rock.”

I had no idea. I had no vision. I had no goal other than to make it through each day.

Road or roadblock?

After my therapist’s insightful question I started imagining various goals and making loose preliminary plans. Once I knew — with a peaceful but invigorating certainty — what I wanted to do I realized my life was cluttered with a lot of things, ideas, habits, and people that were a hinderance rather than a help. They didn’t fit the life I wanted. They had to go, no matter how much it hurt me — and them.

One certainty I discovered after decluttering my life: even if it doesn’t help reach my intended goal it at least makes life a whole lot easier.