A Different Way

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Have you ever caught yourself doing something the same way and then asked yourself: 1) Why am I so predictable? or 2) Why not try this differently?

There are many explanations for our conditioned behavior and/or actions, among them: We think, act and create in certain ways because that is likely how we were taught or told; Maybe it seems a more convenient or efficient manner in which to produce a desired outcome or; There exists the possibility that we’ve simply not given ourselves permission to explore or invoke an alternative.

Here is a personal example. I am a ‘night owl.’ I have been seemingly forever. I get much accomplished when other people are winding down their day or perhaps, even asleep. It’s my productive time.

Not long ago I gave pause and considered, could I be just as effective, more creative, maybe an even better problem solver were I to try being a morning lark? And guess what?

downloadTo those of you who can relate to this – one way or the other – you probably understand the challenge in pulling a 180 here and shifting your lifestyle to the early morning or late night hours. This could be brutal!

Yet not every one of us is this adventurous or willing to introduce subtle (or radical) change into our routine. You may be one of those people who enjoy being a creature of habit or living the status quo. And that’s fine.

However, if the prospect of different (and possibly pleasing or beneficial) results intrigue you, then why not step outside of your certain comfort zone?

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Who says you have to plant a kiss squarely? Consider modifying that tried and true recipe. Be open to finding new ways to drive to a regular haven. Act on those crazy ideas you get when showering. Seek a destination that differs from where you always travel.

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Three simple suggestions, for your consideration, if you desire different results:

  1. Follow your heart for a change, even if your mind thinks otherwise.
  2. View something boring or monotonous as an opportunity to mix things up.
  3. Be comfortable dispelling or dismissing boundaries. Invite your inner rebel to act, respond, or be different. Shed your old thinking and welcome a new, distinctive mind-set.

Why not?

A Meaningful Life Trumps

“Life is not infinite, but its potential is. Embrace every second and you’ll triumph over compunction.” ~ Eric Tonningsen

It took years, but I finally figured it out. When you’re not happy, unfulfilled, or not living a meaningful life — you ought to (I really wanted to type must) make a change. If you remain a slave to cultural expectations, and the trappings of money, power, status and/or perceived success, you’ve left a void in your life. I told myself, “If you’re truly unhappy with your job, move on.” “Find a way to pursue your passion and your mission in life.”

So I left a world in which I prostituted myself to shareholders, made good money, traveled the world and had whatever I wanted. What was missing was meaning and significance. And I knew this for some time.

I’m not saying quit your job; you may love your job.  But are you happy? Essentially we are when we get what we want. But when our happiness outweighs the meaning in our lives, something’s disproportionate. I believe happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult affairs are avoided.

When I decided to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown it was terrifying and exhilarating; surreal and at times, indescribable. Suddenly, I was accountable to myself. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t that highly confident being. Yet I knew I was heading in the right direction.

Days after I left the traditional workforce, I came across this Joseph Campbell quote. It has guided and inspired me since. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” To which I have personally added, “…and what you can still be.”

If you are contemplating a major life shift; how you might contribute in more meaningful ways and; how living a life of greater significance might change you — here are three anchoring thoughts as you explore your potential and how realizing it could be beautifully fulfilling.

  1. Figure out what defines you. You’ve dreamed most of your life. You have a vision for ‘what could be.’ It/they can still be achieved. Personally, I have a lot of life left and plans to effect change. Sure, everything won’t work out just as I’ve planned. But I can focus on being ready for whatever opportunities (and challenges) come my way. Dreams and visions can define us, even if they don’t turn out exactly as we hoped.
  2. Question whose approval you are seeking. Like it or not, we’re all sometimes guilty of relying on others opinions to feed our feelings and self-worth. While approval and compliments from others can feel great, seeking them all the time can be unhealthy. They can turn into self-fulfilling cycles of negative feelings. When you start on a self-discovery journey and pursue what you want to do, you take ownership of your life and begin to realize that it matters what you think about you.
  3. You have a right to pursue your passions. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that pursuing your passion is impractical. Passion is what brings meaning and value to your life. The quality of your life experience is directly affected by the pursuit of your passion(s). Don’t allow your passions to drift into the “maybe someday” file. Life is too short to settle for anything less than passionate.

Acting Too Quickly

“A man who sees action in inaction and inaction in action has understanding among men and discipline in all action he performs.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

On occasion, I have been known to take a contrarian viewpoint. I will challenge the status quo and frequently seek uniquely different ways of accomplishing and achieving. Credit my innate curiosity and exploratory nature. It’s simply part of how I process. 🙂

Such is the case with me and action, the latter a meaningful part of existence. Action clearly serves a purpose and can gently inspire, as well as actively incite us. Generally, people are encouraged to take decisive action. And often, too quickly. It’s people less inclined to impulsive action who keep a comfortable grip on the action reins.

Acting too quickly can be the cause of many problems. Having been impatient for a good chunk of my life, I know this well. A lot of personal mistakes result from a combination of exuberance and an eagerness to please – to get the job done. Many of us have experienced moving too quickly without taking time for adequate, even thorough, consideration. And then wondered about the outcome.

I have been surprised to find how many times situations will resolve themselves if they are allowed to. I have also been discouraged at how complex some situations have become when I took action quickly to bring something to a resolution before truly understanding what the problem or goal was in the first place.

And then there are those people who will choose inaction simply because it allows them to stay in their comfort zone, to do only what they’re familiar with, even if it oddly yields desired results. But the comfort zone is equivalent to a safe, relatively unproductive state.

We know that a clear vision, flexible plan, and realistic schedule will take you a long way towards successful achievement. But without action, visions are unlikely to materialize. Thoughtful action is prudent. And while some people may argue ‘time is money,’ it is important to assess the need for expedited action.

“Measure twice, cut once” is an old craftsman’s saying. It’s a good idea for life in general. Restated for action, we could say “think twice, act once.” Because premature action can be much more damaging than a measured approach to most any situation.

Consider your actions as carefully as you do your valuables.

Comfort Zones

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” ~ Max DePree

Those who knew me then, would say I was a relatively shy child. Even today, I am comfortable tagging myself as an introvert. A little insecurity is not a bad thing for a young person trying to find their grounding in the world. Yet overcoming initial insecurity makes one more self-confident and prepared to step out of their comfort zone. At least it did for me.

Animals in the wild have their comfort zones. A bear will return to its lair to lick its wounds or sleep the winter away. But it cannot survive for long without stepping outside its comfort zone. Unfortunately, most of us survive quite well living entirely inside our cocoons. Our lives, our habits, our thinking gets into a rut.

In an early 2012 survey of 5,000+ people, it was found that males have a larger comfort zone than females, but when broken down by ‘comfort zone types’ it’s clear that while men have a larger ‘professional comfort zone,’ women have a larger ‘lifestyle comfort zone.’

At one time, comfort zones served a purpose in our lives. But staying in that space does little to enable the growth most want to achieve now. Parting ways with your comfort zone and stepping into the world of personal expansion can present opportunities that will, in time, assist in refining your purpose. Starting small and choosing to shift beyond your limited comfort zones often exposes you to new experiences, opinions and interests.

It has been said that any challenge falls into one of three ‘zones’ – our comfort zone, our growth zone, and our panic zone. An unwillingness to move out of a panic or comfort zone and into a growth zone, is often indicative of a resistance to change. If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself, here are three suggestions:

  1. Understand the truth about your habits. They represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully. That’s how habits grow and why they feel useful. To shift from what is less than ideal in your life, you need to give up on your tightly held habits and try new ways of thinking and acting. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas.
  2. Do something weird. One obvious way to leave your comfort zone, even if temporarily, is to do something new. But a more interesting option might be to do something weird. When you choose something new you may choose something that aligns with your personality and thus, comfort. This can be limiting. Instead, choose something that is out of character for you. Something that isn’t you and the people close to you wouldn’t think that you would do.
  3. Get a partner. There are some things that aren’t meant to be done alone. It’s amazing to see how much fun it is to explore and create with an ally alongside. And since you’re no longer alone in your adventure, you can feel safe as you step into a ‘growth zone.’ Find a partner. Make it happen.

The Notion of Optimism (Part II)

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

To a recent post on Optimism, here, for your consideration, are a few suggestions to guide you through uncertainty and to nurture optimism:

  • Do something you love. There is always something that makes you laugh, smile and feel instantly happy. It could be a book, movie, person, place or even the endorphins released after an intense workout. Focusing on what you love helps keep your optimism alive. The more time you spend doing things that produce positive emotions, the more optimistic you’ll be. Pretty simple, eh?
  • Explore new places. Leaving your comfort zone forces you to feel, learn and have new experiences. Visiting a nearby city or local park are destinations that don’t require a lot of time or money. By changing your routine you create opportunities for your mind to explore new sights and sounds. See and think fresh scenes.
  • Express gratitude. How frequently do we hear this? Yet, how often do we create time to be thankful? Write a list of things, people, beliefs, accomplishments for which you are grateful. Acknowledge all that is going right! Volunteer. Doing things for others brings a pleasing sense of fulfillment.

  • Focus on what you can control. And accept that fact that there are instances and circumstances in which you yield no control. For example, there’s nothing you can do about the financial markets. However, you can control your personal finances. This includes limiting spending and increasing your savings. Decide and admit what’s really essential. (Hint: it’s okay to let go.)
  • Know the signs that stress is affecting you. I learned this one the hard way. There can be significant health consequences to ignoring the symptoms of stress. Pay close attention to changes in your physical, emotional and mental states, and see a health care professional if you’re experiencing any telltale signs.
  • Limit your exposure to negative news. This point cannot be de-emphasized. Don’t bury your head in the sand yet don’t subject yourself to negative media 24/7. Unless you choose to. Consider changing your reading and/or viewing habits. Watching a comedy or listening to music instead can have surprisingly soothing and positive effects.
  • Look for the positive. When you’re in a less than fortunate situation, make an effort to be optimistic. Yes, it does take some work. Try to be mindful and make a conscious choice to act the way you’d like to feel. Sustaining a positive outlook will help you realize that change – for the better – does happen.

It’s a fact that intentional action(s) can banish (or measurably mitigate) negative emotions. So dream about your success. Don’t hesitate to try something new, even in challenging times. Find what’s best in life, for you, and live it accordingly.