“When you understand yourself, you’re able to navigate the world,”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
Oh but where to begin. One idea. How about getting a bit curious about you. Instead of wondering why others aren’t liking your most recent Instagram post, spend just a little time learning more about what’s going on inside your head.
- What am I good at?
- What am I so-so at?
- What am I bad at?
- What makes me tired?
- What is the most important thing in my life?
- Who are the most important people in my life?
- How much sleep do I need?
- What stresses me out?
- What relaxes me?
- What’s my definition of success?
- What type of worker am I?
- How do I want others to see me?
- What makes me sad?
- What makes me happy?
- What makes me angry?
- What type of person do I want to be?
- What type of friend do I want to be?
- What do I think about myself?
- What things do I value in life?
- What makes me afraid?
These questions remind me of The Proust Questionnaire. The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.
So, what helps in the process of opening yourself up to yourself? How about getting out there and interacting with the world. However, one must proceed with caution. First we must remove all the emotional blocks and drop all the baggage. The grudges, the resentment and the anger that holds us back from really connecting. It begins with forgiving those that have hurt us.
Forgiveness is like a breath of fresh air, a lighting of the load you’ve been carrying, a softening of the heart, a soothing of the mind and a releasing of the soul. Compassion follows forgiveness because you have genuinely felt your own pain and getting close to your pain is an excruciatingly freeing experience. This is how we grow to understand ourselves and appreciate others. This is how we begin to truly build relationships.
We connect through truly understanding the human condition. With forgiveness and compassion we have the capacity to feel each others pain and with the right intentions and words, we can help each other release that pain and open up our hearts.
I truly believe we are here together for a reason – I mean we work together, we live together, we suffer together, we smile together and we experience each and every moment together. How could we possibly be so in our own heads?
Our growth expands the closer we get, the great and kinder the connections we make as we move away from the false and painful fantasy of isolation. We are not meant to be alone all the time.
Feeling for our fellow, showing care and concern, warmth, love and tenderness. To be sympathetically conscious of each other. To hold space for one and another.
The emotional ability to picture ourselves with the same problems in a non-blaming, non-shaming manner. Reading: Pema Chodron “When Things Fall Apart”
On a side note: I am on my seventh day of receiving motivational text messages from a chat bot on Shine Text. It’s a fun way to start the day. Kind of motivating. Check it out – daily shine.
A 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.
Adding More Life to Our Years
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.
- 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.
What are Keystone Habits?
Habits are what we do every day. Habits can help us grow or hold us back. Some habits are more important than others — they have the power to transform our lives.
Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produce a number of positive outcomes.
Getting enough restful sleep every night is a keystone habit. It will help you face the next day with energy, help you be more productive and think more clearly.
Exercising everyday is a keystone habit. Walking and working out will give you strength, keep off unhealthy pounds and boost serotonin to the brain, a chemical that will keep you serene.
Saving some money for the future is a keystone habit. Socking away a few bucks will keep each week will have you feeling more secure about that unpredictable rainy day ahead.
Read more about keystone habits in The Power of Habit.
Keeping Calm, A Crucial Keystone Habit
Chances are if you are reading this, you are to some degree stressed out. Focusing on managing our emotions while nurturing a peaceful mind is imperative to navigating the chaos of every day living.
The Multitude of Benefits that Come from Keeping Calm
- Keeping a cool head, remaining calm, no matter what situation arises is key to retaining common sense and gaining others’ respect.
- Managing our emotions in times of stress helps us maintain control over our lives.
- Standing composed while all around you is flipping out in a chaotic crisis helps keep your thoughts collected.
- A calm mind will bring about peaceful contentment.
- No matter what is happening, remaining calm will give you a sense of confidence.
- A peaceful and clear head will keep your vision for the future clear. Calm begets clarity.
- Staying calm during the biggest of battles will help you appear less crazy than your colleagues.
- Your concentration increases with each calm breath you take.
- Your worries become lighter and your state-of-mind more carefree.
- The thoughts that you have and words that you speak are less crass and more compassionate.
- Life is easier when we move with through challenges creatively in a calm way.
- We become more proactive and less reactive.
- We become kinder and less cruel when we are calm and take more thoughtful calculated risks instead of impulsively moving in every direction.
Okay, My Ideas on How to Stay Calm
Know that things are bound to go wrong today. They just are. Ain’t no getting around it. Someone will piss you off, drive you crazy, make you angry, but on the other hand, something good will happen today too. Guaranteed. Life is peppered with a bit of both.
Redefine what stress means to you. A dropped cell call? A cracked laptop screen? The wrong dressing on your salad? What does life-threatening stress look like to you? Define what a real threat looks like. Categorize what constitutes a real problem before you get hit with one. Everything else is easy.
Slow your speech and your gait. Seriously. Walk like a old wise spirit. No rushing, just simple, confident steps with your posture strong and your head held up high. Or sit still. Unless the house is burning down or someone is bleeding out, don’t react. Process the pain in the moment and then decide how you will react.
Put your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Remember what really matters. Remember how short life really is. Ask yourself, what is most important to you right now?
Smell your way to serenity. Use calming oils throughout the day. Inhale lavender, rosemary or geranium before you send that scathing email or make that frustrating phone call. Keep an oil by your desk or burn a soy-based scented candle in your home or office.
Take calming action. Take care of what is in your control. Don’t hesitate. Get what you can get done. Don’t know what to do first? Make a priority list and check it off. Realize that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.
Clear all the clutter from your life. Your home, your desk, your relationships. If it isn’t serving you well, get rid of it. If you are going through a crisis, keep everything in your life really, really simple.
Carve out moments of joyful time. Hack your happy chemicals. Slip away for a while, get lost in a book, go for a walk, ride your bike, safeguard your sanity.If you are in the midst of a long-standing stressful situation, like caregiving for the terminally ill, making your way through a divorce, trying to find your next job, take a moment to do what you enjoy. Lower your level of cortisol by doing something that makes you happy.
Ask yourself what is good about this? Even though this horrible thing is happening right now, what is good about it? Perhaps it is a problem that finally came to a head? Maybe it will finally move you in a new direction that you knew you were suppose to go? Perhaps this problem offers you an opportunity to try something new?
Slow down on the consumption of everything. This includes drugs, alcohol, food and caffeine. Purposefully chew more slowly. Talk more slowly. Walk more slowly. Slow down to a very soft and gentle pace. Rushing to nowhere will bring no good effect.
Watch a sad, sad movie and cry really fucking hard. Cry until your eyes sting with pain. A list of heartbreaking movies to get you going here.
Realize how short life really is. Check out the internet’s friendly reminder of how long you are going to live, aka the Death Clock.
Give up your mind. Listen to a guided meditation. Author of Radical Acceptance and mindful meditator, Tara Brach offers a free podcast.
Play with puppies or watch puppies. Check out these live puppy cams.
and. . .
Our motives are goal directed activities that energize and direct our behavior. Our motives support what we do, how we behave and what we put forth in the world.
Sometimes our motives are simply the presentation of how we hope the world perceives us.
Powerful . .
Intelligent . .
Foxy. . .
Strong. . .
Compassionate . . .
Sometimes though, we have to make choices. Choices between doing what we want to do and what we must do.
Doing the right thing may not necessarily match our goals. The right thing may be miles away from our true desires. It isn’t necessarily the thing that will make us happy, get us noticed, respected or appreciated.
When we remove our selfish motives and realign our priorities to match what is right before us that must be taken care of now, we are free to do the work that matters. The sometimes thankless work. The work that serves others.
It’s difficult when people are indifferent to our work and to our achievements. We do and do and do and get no damn respect. No appreciation, zero gratitude. We feel affronted.
Maybe it’s time to review why we do what we do and why we get upset when nobody notices.
The reward for doing the right thing is not recognition. The reward for doing the right thing is self-respect, a calm heart and a mind at rest.
When you let go and do what is right and give up all thoughts of acknowledgment, it’s actually quite liberating.
There is peace of mind that comes with doing the important work without applause.
I’m grateful for another chance. The opportunity to start from scratch. An opportunity to improve my attitude and behavior. This day is fresh, clean, unworn with emotional stains.
An opportunity to control my short temper, release my self-pity and remove envy of others.
I can help those right in front of me that need my help.
I am given this day as an opportunity to finish projects and work that has been nagging to be done.
Perhaps I will start something new that I’ve been wanting to try.
Maybe I’ll apologize, sympathize, empathize with others.
What are your grateful for right now? How will you use this day?
Six strategies to help you avoid making rookie mistakes in all aspects of your life.
Pre-promoting what you are going to do. Setting expectations too high.
Strategy. Stay hush. Keep it chill. Launch slowly. Surprise and delight. Be subtle.
Giving into the temptation of being the flavor of the week.
Strategy. Know your essence and stick to it.
Calling yourself an expert.
Strategy. Know how to hit the headwinds. There is a fine line between saying who you are and being arrogant about it. Aim to serve humbly.
Being lost self-imposed anxiety. Self-absorbed.
Strategy. Examine your true intentions. Are you driven by selfish needs and desires? Or are you asking yourself, how can I add more value to this moment? Choose service over greed.
Becoming overly distracted by every new shiny object.
Strategy. Stay focused on your what is important and what you are going to accomplish to win.
Taking too many aggressive shortcuts, life hacks.
Strategy. Some things were made to simmer. Long lasting change is a daily habit.
Last night I closed my eyes before falling to sleep and made a decision. I want every day to feel more exciting and adventurous.
Or in other words. . . .
A common song sung to a great melody is another way to find beauty. – The Art of Writing, Lu Chi’s Wen Fu.
So, today showed up again. In all it’s predictable glory. The same usual sunrise, just slightly different.
Another clean and clear slate of a day to paint on. To set things right, to improve and to create a new. Another breath, another moment proceeding another moment. This day was made for adventuring.
Today I have made a decision to expect more from myself and more from this day.
Every moment today will be held accountable to demonstrate the wisdom I need right now.
I will look for evidence that the people around me really do care.
I become more conscious of the choices I make today.
This process begins with turning worry into wonder. Anxiety into action.
My improved life comes from making conscious choices while making a commitment to change the way I see the ordinary wonders of the world.
How to Make An Ordinary Day an Adventure
Ask a stranger a question.
Don’t plan out every minute. Leave a little room for spontaneity.
Travel home on a different route tonight.
Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Experiment. Create something. Anything. Get into maker mode.
“No Bone” that’s what was written in black Sharpie marker on the bandages wrapped around her head. The trauma team wheeled my daughter past the waiting room so quickly I had to look twice and then again. No bone? what does that mean? Did they remove her skull?
It was an icy, sleeting, snowing, stormy day. The accident was bad. Ariel was brought to Nassau County Trauma Center and put on life support immediately. By the time we got to the hospital she was out of surgery. The removed her part of her skull to relieve the pressure.
One severe acquired brain injury, a terrifying time through her coma, two major head surgeries, four months at Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Traumatic Brain Injury center and two and a half years of rehabilitation later. It’s now been nine years since the accident.
How do we get through times like these?
We gather strength as we go.
Yes life can be hard. But we stay strong and in the moment.
We see clearly and act correctly.