Staying Awake, Alive & In The Moment, Even in Times of Uncertainty

Three very memorable lessons from my morning (reading and mediation) ritual today.
Live Like This
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Act, speak, write and create as if it were your very last day. Your last moment here. Create from the heart as if you are expressing yourself for the last time. Like this is it. Make it all matter.
Listen: Tara Brach Accessing Innate Wisdom
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Let Go of The Controls
Stay open to the impermanence of life. To all of the change that is happening around you. To the fact that everything is constantly evolving.
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Discipline yourself to wake up out of the trance-like “thought” and come into your senses, awake and aware of this moment right now. Stay in touch with your aliveness. Open up to the space between your thoughts. Inhabit the pause, the silence between your monkey mind chatter.  Learn to tolerate the groundlessness & uncertainty of life. Let it all happen, even in times of maddening uncertainty.
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Stay Amazed and Astonished
Life is nothing short of a miracle. This is something to remember when you are busy managing the mundane. Never forget the miracle of being alive right now.
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Self-Abandonment, Sitting with Painful Emotions & Some Damn Good reasons for Building Self-Trust

I was seeking the truth about why my words contradicted my actions.  Why my good intentions were backfiring.  Why I would say “I want to achieve this and I want to achieve that” all day long- but I never really met my goals head on. I got some half-assed results.  Whether it was ” I will never let anyone treat me like that again,” as I jumped into bed with my ex or “I’m not eating another piece of fattening bread again,” as I smeared a slab of butter on the dinner roll.  Contradicting myself all the time.  Oh to be human.

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I would set myself up each day for success, at least in in my mind, but by dinner time, I was right back where I started, sometimes even worse off.  Self-sabotage.  Overpromising too many people, including myself and underdelivering and setting myself up for failure.

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It came to the point where I just couldn’t trust myself at all any more. I’d say things to myself like  “I’ll start saving money soon,”  as I continued to rack up my credit cards at my favorite boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

I’m working on building my trust back. Honestly, how can you trust anyone else if you don’t trust yourself?

Read: 21 Signs You Don’t Trust Yourself

Pains

Trusting yourself is what builds confidence. On the other hand, NOT trusting yourself, because you are lying to yourself, is what leads to self doubt and ultimately painful emotions. And you know how we don’t like to feel those.

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“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

Trusting Only The Good Parts of Ourselves

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Personally, I have found that self-trust starts with self-forgiveness and taking the time to understand why we are so self-deceptive. I took sometime to think back on all the terrible, selfish and thoughtless things I have done to myself and to others throughout my life.  Then I read the list. God that was hard. Then I waited a day and thought about more bad things that I did and added to the list. Oh, to take a good look into the guiltiness of it all. It was so damn painful. The crazy thing is – I would write down something I remembered that I did that hurt someone and then I WOULD MAKE AN EXCUSE FOR WHY I DID IT. Really??

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The point I am trying to make here is that we can’t just trust some parts of of ourselves. Like the good parts with the good emotions. We have to trust our whole entire being. The good, the bad and the ugly.  This starts by not abandoning yourself.  You abandon yourself every time you don’t allow yourself to be completely honest, feel badly and sit with some of the pain and sadness you have brought to your own life.  Don’t dwell there, just become more aware.

“Self trust is the essence of heroism.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units — because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Overcoming The Fear of Not Being Good Enough

It usually happens when I declare I am going to learn something new.  Like right now, I am learning how to film
and edit with Adobe Premiere Pro. Hours can go by and I don’t even know what happened. I am so involved in the process. Struggling through learning something new on After Effects, I look up and it’s 11 pm. My Fitbit app telling me it’s time to get some rest.  I like this kind of work. The work I can get lost in.
I use to worry about whether something new that I am trying (like video)  is “good enough”?  I wondered if I seemed really amateur (of course I am, I just started).  I realize that while I may suck now I won’t always stay at this level. Especially if I commit myself to practicing every day.
Yesterday’s challenge was filming one of my favorite places at the very start of my favorite season, summer.
I came up with some strategies to get over my fear of not being good enough because. . .
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 I can’t think of anything more frightening than a boring life.
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Stop rushing. Give yourself more time. Lot’s of it. Getting good takes time. Be more thoughtful with everything. Take out a notebook or your phone notes and list everything you have to do in order to produce good work. What do you need to learn? practice? – including what you must read and watch before you can begin. Create a strategy to be good enough.
Never compare what you do, create, write, film, edit to ANYONE ELSE’S WORK
Good enough compared to what? Doesn’t matter. You are just starting out. If you are going to compare your work, compare it to the newcomers, the just starting, the first timers.
Get inspired by learning from the BEST work. Watch the greats, read the bestsellers, listen to award-winning talks. Ignite your enthusiasm and raise your standards by looking for great mentors and creators. Don’t compare, but learn. Decipher their best techniques and use them in your work.
Start. Do a very little thing. Pick up the camera, dust off the sewing machine, buy a good pen and notebook and just do one small project, something you can do.
The grass is greener where it’s watered. Nurture your work. Train and practice something daily. Learn something daily. Don’t know what to learn? Don’t know what you need? Ask a question and Google it. Read more than one answer. Watch more than one tutorial.
Look at children’s artwork. Remember that we all start out sucky. Cute but really sucky. Be prepared to suck at first. That’s okay.
Only show people your work when you are absolutely ready. Don’t show off your first draft or your second. Go back and revise it until you are super confident that that is your best version so far.
Don’t try to do the hard stuff first. Do the easy stuff first. Make it easy to start. Don’t climb the mountain, take a short hike. Do it every day. Write one paragraph, paint one stroke, sketch one prototype.
Review your past accomplishments, some things you are really proud of because that work will remind you of what you can do when you put your mind to it.  What was your process there? Did you put in a lot of time? effort? energy?
Remove all negative energy – including people from your life. The cranky, the crazy, the ignorant, the complainers, the whiners and the naysayers. Drop em like their hot. Don’t let them violate your psychic space.
Do not seek approval, even your own. Just do the work. Struggle through it. Get a headache, drink more coffee, open up ten tabs, watch the video tutorial again. Save the link. It’s okay. Then take a break.
When you start procrastinating, call yourself out. Don’t let the laundry, your kids, the beautiful sunshiney day outside tempt you to stop. You are in training. Stay focused and disciplined. That’s how your work gets better. A little bit every day.
Don’t forget feedback. Especially good feedback, from the pros and those also giving it their all. Feedback will have you feeling like your actually working on your new project. You are all in.
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I am curious, what are you working on? How have you dealt with the “Am I good enough?” concern.  Comment below.

Making Sense of it All & Finding the Answers We Seek

If I dig deep enough – all the way to the very core of my inquiry, a big part of my quest is about making sense of it all.

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Searching for the answers I seek, I have a difficult time understanding that not everything in life is logical.  Most of it is a mystery and yes, it is with a great sense of gratitude that I respect that there are miracles happening every single moment of my life.  However, I am also hardwired to remain cynical about the magic and skeptical about letting go and giving into the mystery of life unfolding as it should be. Letting go of not being able to control more of my life.

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Most of life actually is quite chaotic and a huge mystery.  Our desire to apply logic only fools us and typically it is for self-preservation. Read: Five Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think

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and most of what I try to control, including people I love, only holds me back from opening my heart to something bigger, stronger and more fearless that I can ever be.

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The Expensive Cost of Feeling Safe & Secure

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.   – Agnes de Mille.

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I have always felt very uncomfortable the moment I began to feel even slightly comfortable.  Some of my dearest friends have called me out on this. They say I have “commitment issues”. Maybe. Who knows. I just like the momentum of daring, trying, risking – smartly. Exposing myself and my mind to something new.

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Today’s post is a passage taken from week seven “Recovering a Sense of Connection” from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The passage below resonated with me. Why? Because I fool myself daily because while I think I am taking risks, I am not taking big enough risks. The type that will catapult me to the next level of living adventurously.  Here we go. Let me know if this rings true with you as well.

We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining. The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action. This brings us squarely to risk. Most of us are practiced at talking ourselves out of risk. We are skilled speculators on the probable pain of self-exposure.

I’ll look like an idiot,” we say, conjuring images of our first acting class, our first hobbled short story, our terrible drawings. Part of the game here is lining up the masters and measuring our baby steps against their perfected craft. We don’t compare our student films to George Luca’s student films. Instead, we compare them to Star Wars.

We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel stifled, smothered, despairing, bored. But yes, we do feel safe. And safety is a very expensive illusion.

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In order to risk, we must jettison our accepted limits. We must break through “I can’t because. . .” Because I am too old; too broke; too shy; too proud? Self-defended? Timorous?

Protect your magic

Usually when we say we can’t do something, what we mean is that we won’t do something unless we can guarantee that we’ll do it perfectly.

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Turning Your Worries into Wonder

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Today let me carve out time – time out of my busy schedule to nurture my soul. To do the real living. Not just the busy work.

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Let me not rush into another day without taking moments for myself. Time to meditate, move and to feel my wild heart beating.

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Let me remember to acknowledge that this day is another chance to create something valuable for the world.

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Let me take all of my worries and turn them into wonder, so I may creatively transform my concerns into care.  When I worry about having enough money, energy, health or friends, may I learn how to generate new ways of seeing my problems and new ideas to design a life that heals myself and others.  Today I will strive to see and to know that nothing lies beyond my capabilities if it is a must.

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I know that I will sometimes fail, but failure offers insights that are invaluable to my growth.

How to use fear before it uses you  – Anthony Robbins

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Today let me generate new, fresh ideas to solve my problems and to create something better, something brand new.  Ideas that are useful, helpful and brilliant that will help not only me, but others who are trying to make their way in this world while becoming better versions of themselves.  I must remember, no ideas is so big that I can not take the first step.

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Idea Machine by James Altucher

Becoming better starts with taking care of me. Nurturing my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

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10 Ways I Can Nurture Myself Today

  1. Set reminders on my smartphone to stop during the day to stand up and stretch.
  2. Forgive someone who has caused me pain.
  3. Listen to an inspiring podcast from Tara Brach.
  4. Remember to eat a light, low-carb, healthy lunch.
  5. Stay thankful for everything I already have.
  6. Go for a long walk when the rain lets up.
  7. Call my husband and laugh for five minutes on the phone.
  8. Pray a little each hour while asking for guidance and humility.
  9. Take care of a nagging problem. Deal with it head on.
  10. Discover new music while having dinner.

Oh to be Anti-fragile to be a part of Things that Gain from Disorder

Each day I remember to nurture and care for myself, I get one step closer to becoming a stronger version of myself than yesterday. Some nurturing things will work better than others. It really is a matter of trial and error and protecting myself from getting stuck, transforming when necessary but keeping a sense of broad freedom and opportunism.

Experimenting with new ways of living by trial and error = freedom.

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Reclaiming my Personal Power

The black swan is a graceful reminder to move from any position where you feel powerless and at the mercy of external forces; it is time to reclaim your personal power.

Cherish My Unlovable Parts. Turn them around. Realize how many of my bad thoughts and actions can really be useful.

  • Obsessive worrying demonstrates that I actually care.
  • When channeled correctly, my panic-like anxiety is like a fiery ball of glorious energy.
  • My anger and frustration is simply a hidden desire to make life better.
  • My apparent laziness and constant shortcutting is really a search for a more efficient and productive way to create.
  • Wanting to do it all while feeling confused in simply my inner child looking for guidance while letting the world know, I want to contribute.
  • The resentment and rage I sometimes have can be directed into a forceful power of purpose.

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How to Get One Percent Better Every Day

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.  -Viktor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning
Realize that Difficulty & Pain is Inevitable & Important
The path of life can be rough and uncertain and sometimes frighteningly dark. Nothing should really surprise us, in reality, all of us at any time, no matter how strong or lucky we think we may be, are susceptible to unwanted pain and problems.
Your Attitude is Everything
Not enough money to pay the rent, a loved one dying from a terminal illness or the ending of what was once a deep and loving relationship.  These are all painful moments that we will experience. The secret to growing through the painfully tough times in life lies in your ability to stay focused on a strong belief in yourself and your creator. Your attitude towards whatever life throws your way is everything. The only thing constant is change and while your circumstances evolve, use every ounce of energy you have to grow stronger through it all. Ten Simple Habits to Grow a Positive Attitude.
Learning from Pain is a Damn Good Strategy
Everything that occurs in our lives – the good, the bad, the easy, the difficult -is usable and workable and is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as a means for waking up and strengthening our core beliefs and values.
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Difficult People Build Patience
Give up trying to control others, especially those who cause you frustration and harm. They are in your life to help you build patience. You can’t change them, but you can become a more tolerant person from being around them. Remember, you can only control your own thoughts and reactions, no one else’s.
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Don’t Make it Harder Than it Has to Be
See problems for what they are, not bigger than they are. Do not forecast more gloom and doom in your life or you will make a tough situation harder than it has to be. When something bad happens to us we want it to be over quickly and we feel extremely vulnerable. We imagine what worse can happen? What bigger problem is headed our way? Is this the start of a bigger collapse? Accept your reality for what it is right now and remember it is a moment in time that will pass. It really will. Know that everything in the universe, including your problems and challenges, are transforming the world and you.
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It is all meant to be. Practice what Tara Brach calls Radical Acceptance. Move with the transformation, feel the pain, breathe deeply into it and let it help you grow for the better.
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Don’t Try to Predict the Outcome
Soothe your mind by moving and meditating and staying right here, right now in the moment, even if it is painful. You don’t need to suffer so hard, take one step and a time and don’t think too far ahead.  Bring your ruminating and obsessing thoughts that are stuck in the past or worried about the future back to the here and now.
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Everyone Has Something or Someone to Appreciate
Awaken each day by recognizing what good you do have in your life. You always have something to work with. It might be a beautiful day for a long morning stroll or a steamy cup of strong dark coffee or a new soft-covered Moleskin notebook to write in or maybe a good friend to see, sit and chill with. Recognize and acknowledge that these gifts are right here in front of you.
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Use Your Silence to Explain Yourself
When situations are really rough, there may be nothing you can do to change the current moment. Sometimes doing nothing is precisely what you should be doing to help the situation. Some problems must work themselves out organically, in their own time, by people and actions you do not have to handle.  You aren’t suppose to fix everything.
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Watch your words. You must think before you speak. Try to say fewer and fewer words throughout the day. Make it a challenge. Bite your lip. Sometimes we speak because we are nervous. We can’t stand the silence, it’s just too awkward. Words can drown out the pain, but they don’t.
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Nervous words are never really useful. Think before you speak, not every thought is meant to be shared and sometimes words are just noise and nervous energy that add to the pain.
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What You Do Really Does Matter
We might struggle with our significance, but what you do with your day really matters. You get to decide what you do with your day. From what you eat to what you wear to who you call and where you decide to show up. Ever minute is a decision that you get to make. Smart decisions start with a clear mind.
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Keep your mind clear and free from obsessive worry and concern. This can be done by simply focusing on your current moment. This moment right now. Just sit or stand for a second and realize where you are. I know, it’s not easy. We walk around worried while writing a scary script over our painful reality. Our brain’s non-stop problem-solving can be mind bursting. We continue to make up additional problems that may never occur. Isn’t it ridiculous how preoccupied we are most of the time?  The trick is to stop. Pick anything in your environment. Look it at as if it is the first time you have ever observed it. Stay here in this moment. Here is where your mind will be clear and free.
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Watch What Drives You Mad
Watch what moves you. What triggers you. Examine your heart as you respond to others. What feels like a big chore and what truly excites you? If you don’t like some of the things or people or places that trigger anger, rage, pain, sadness or frustration in you, you have an option to walk away. Not to go there.  Perhaps taking the crowded train during rush hour makes you panic, concerned or nervous? You can choose to walk, share a car or ride a bike to work. If you look in the mirror and only see the chubby parts, the stomach you wish was flat, the legs that you want to look slim and tone – then you have a choice. You can start right now. Choose to count your calories, move more instead of sitting and make a plan to lose the extra weight.
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It’s Better to Be Kind than Right
No one ever remembers if you are right, but they certainly remember if you are kind. You have an opportunity every moment to be kind. To be kind is to be soft, sympathetic, compassionate and loving. Kindness – a listening ear, the touching of a hand, a warm embrace, a sympathetic glance. These little moments of kindness can smooth out even the toughest wrinkles of life. Sometimes they feel genuine, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter.
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Put Yourself Under the Microscope
Be painfully aware of the why behind everything you do. Why you rush in the morning? Does all the nervous rushing make you feel energized and in control? Like you are doing more? What are you avoiding by rushing? Why do you check Facebook throughout the day? Does it give your mind a rest from all the hard thinking? Is your job fulfilling enough? Do you secretly wish you were somewhere else? Does feeling jealous of others make you feel awake and alive?  Is your life that boring?  Why do you obsess over whether your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on you? Have you been completely honest with them? with yourself?
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Full Speed Ahead
Place yourself where you want to be. Don’t stay in the same place because it feels comfortable or because it is easy. You can’t grow while staying comfortably numb. Open up to the idea of exploring new spaces and environments to inspire you. Make new choices about where to eat, new bookstores to visit, new trails and parks to walk and hike. A new career to replace the shitty job you have. Placing yourself in new places that will open your mind to a bigger life and new opportunities. It starts with a small step, a simple self-seeking search into your heart and a strong, positive attitude.

The Best Gift You Can Give

The best gift you can give anyone is your full and true presence.

Distractions are everywhere, and who has the time for anyone, really?

I resolve from this moment forward to make more time for truer communication with those I love. This is what makes life more memorable.

Generous Listening

Inspired by Becoming Wise

I’m thinking about how important it is to listen generously. How to compassionately communicate and hear another’s soul, even through the most difficult conversations.

To listen with an awakened heart & mind. To listen openly, without trying immediately to fix the problem at hand or impulsively come up with an answer right now.

To drop the agenda.

I’m thinking about how improved my relationships would be if I just follow the emotion of the moment, if I let the conversation flow.

What if I tolerated more of them and watched my timing of words?  What if I made room for the difficult to pour out, for the pain to set itself free?  Dissipate.

How would the conversation go if I were more flexible with my speech? If I softened my tone? If I held out my arms?

What if I let the conversation move where it will, if I gave up control?

Imagine if I released myself of judging everything to not a single word. How would it look if I decided to just observe it all as if I had never heard it before. What would I see?  If I listened less guardedly.

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Healing Words

The next opportunity I have for a true conversation I will include words of kindness. I will believe that I am exactly what is needed to help heal the situation.  Everything needs a measure of healing, don’t you think?

I vow to not let  differences define what is possible between us. I can argue with your opinion, but not your experience.

I will try, yes I will try very hard, to understand why you are behaving the way you are behaving. Perhaps you are in pain. What can I say or do to help you soothe it away?

I won’t look with anger, but I will try to find the good in you, even during your worst of rage.

A More Courageous Conversation

Even more importantly, I will open up my vulnerable parts to keep the conversation real. It may feel raw, uneasy and probably very uncomfortable, but that is where we grow. I will admit my weaknesses and recognize that what I have done so far has gotten me here, not where I want to be.

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Feature Photo – Artist: Egon Schiele

Dismiss What Insults Your Soul

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“Life requires of man spiritual elasticity, so that he may temper his efforts to the chances that are offered.”

Viktor E. Frankl

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“Change is essential for survival. All life forms must adapt to their fluctuating circumstances. All form of life result from the process of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance. The universe is in a constant state of chaos. We each have chaos implanted into our bones. Nature wires all of us for change.”

Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

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“One of the most remarkable of man’s characteristics is his capacity for becoming used to conditions of almost any kind, whether good or bad, both in the self and in the environment, and once he has become used to such conditions they seem to him both right and natural. This capacity is a boon when it enables him to adapt himself to conditions which are desirable, but it may prove a great danger when the conditions are undesirable. When his sensory appreciation is untrustworthy, it is possible for him to become so familiar with seriously harmful conditions of misuse of himself that these malconditions will feel right and comfortable.”

F. Matthias Alexander, The Use of the Self

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“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.”

Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do

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“There’s no such thing as a mistake, really. It’s just an opportunity to do something else.”

Ralph Steadman

 

A snake doesn’t mourn when it is time to shed it’s skin.

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Featured Illustration – Walt Whitman

 

 

Adding More Life to Our Years

 In my playbook, every day is Thanksgiving and I bet a lot of you reading this feel the same way. As we remain grateful this holiday, let’s take a moment to consider how fleeting life really is. . .memento mori.

memento-moriA Life That Matters 

(A Non Religious Funeral Reading)

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived.
At the end, whether you were beautiful or brilliant, male or female, even your skin colour won’t matter.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched,empowered or encouraged others.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

– Unknown

Adding More Life to Our Years

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How do you add more life to your years? How do we know if we are living to the max, giving the most we can give?  Do we just go by feeling? Do we continue to list and review our accomplishments? Add more to our resume? Create a bucket list of things we want to do sometime in the future?

What can we do right now to add more life to the moment in front of us?

We might listen to our heart more. Perhaps address the “psychic” pain of every day life and make adjustments to our day. Change what we don’t like about our living.

Perhaps we stop saying yes out of habit or obligation and start to consider what we really want to contribute during our lifetime. Volunteer maybe? Start a blog perhaps? Train for the marathon? Save up for the excursion?

Or better yet, maybe we wake the hell up. We stop sleep walking through life. No more numbing the brain with another glass of wine after dinner or taking the same route to work each morning. Perhaps we establish a healthy morning ritual to renew our sense of aliveness.

Could it be we create a new purpose. Develop a mantra to make people smile. Yeah, maybe that’s a purpose in life. smile

 How about we begin to take on more of life. . . .
  • Tackle the world’s bigger problems. Become an agent for change.
  • Learn something new, every day.  There are so many free ways to learn.
  • Do something selfless, make things easier for someone else.
  • Or maybe only respond to things that make us say Hell Yes! and say no to the rest.
Inspired by Derek Sivers and this post here