When Life Calls

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“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When Death Calls was the title of her last Saturday presentation. An expert in the field of planning for death and subsequent life celebrations, she shared some statistics that gave me pause – one of which is that slightly more than 70 percent of Americans do no planning specific to their own or other family members demise. Most leave the matter unaddressed simply assuming others will take care of things. And that can be an unfair burden.

Thinking later about her message, I acknowledged this as a serious topic, one truly worth talking about and planning for.

Then my mind pivoted.

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Are you prepared for when life calls? Not necessarily for death (though it warrants attention) but for how you find meaning and significance in your remaining years?

Many people simply go through the motions, allowing life to determine outcomes rather than each of us having a measurable say in what’s next. Yes, there is tremendous satisfaction, often fulfillment, in going with flow – just as there can be in letting go and lessening the need or desire to control. However, I’m talking about how you can proactively determine the extent to which you want to be engaged with your life; what is important to you.

Without doubt, planning for and making life decisions can be made more helpful when one has a sense of and comfort with their financial plans and security. They’re definitely interwoven.

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Yet when and as life calls, I invite you to ask yourself…

  • How often do I deliberately pause to consider what really matters to me? Deliberately?
  • What is it that can make me a better person?
  • How clear am I on who I want to be in “x” years?
  • What causes are worthy of my active involvement?
  • What have I missed?
  • What stirs my soul?
  • How can I give back?

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Embracing this as a process and creating time to intentionally plan, what unfolds could be renewed clarity about what to do When Life Calls (as well as when death calls).

For your consideration, three thoughts as you explore this theme:

  1. Create space. Don’t cram your life with too many things to do. Give yourself room and permission to enjoy each experience. Give yourself space to find your joy.
  2. Spend time with loved ones. If you want to know how to live an even more meaningful life, spend more time with the people you love. Quality relationships truly matter.
  3. Think “aloha.” This Hawaiian term does not simply mean hello or goodbye but in the truest sense stands for “the process of passing a blessing from one person to another.”

Credit: Light at the end of the tunnel / iStock by Getty Images photo ID 35839548

Our Well-Being

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“Life is an attempt to change a piece of a dream-world into reality.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

British Airways recently released data from two somewhat sad studies, which revealed two of the biggest regrets of 2,000 U.S. baby boomers – that they worked too much and didn’t travel enough. Not much new there!

Some of the study’s findings:

  • 17 percent of male respondents said that working too much was their biggest regret
  • 22 percent of women said not traveling enough was their biggest regret
  • 26 percent of respondents said losing contact with friends was their biggest regret

Regrets. Need they be? Are we able to make choices in the physical, social and emotional areas of our lives that can influence our well-being? Of course we can.

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In another survey of over 2 million Americans, Gallup-Healthways’ found that poor financial management can actually cause obesity (not just a correlation). Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, says that the key to greater well-being is to have money but not to want it too much. Not surprisingly, there are strategies people of all ages can use to relieve financial stress and thereby lose weight and live longer. (See suggestion at post’s end).

One physical area of our lives that significantly affects our well-being is the workplace and what we do to earn a living. According to Claremont University psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it’s best to find a job that challenges us to an optimal level – one that’s neither so hard that we give up nor so easy that we get bored. Finding a job that engages your natural talents and gives you constant feedback is sure to contribute to your well-being. You know this, right?

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Two years ago I posted (here) about existing or thriving. I suspect you would agree that a thriving life is vital to our well-being.  If you are interested in optimizing (or perhaps, simply adding positively to) your life and thus your well-being, following are three considerations:

  1. Embrace a sense of safety. Research shows the biggest deterrent to physical activity for some people is perceived danger. You want the outside environment to draw you out, not nudge you in.
  2. Make it a lifelong and relentless habit to exercise serious caution when it comes to anyone who or anything that wants to touch your money or your welfare.
  3. Grow a garden. Several studies have shown that gardening lowers stress hormones. Hoeing, planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting all include regular, low-intensity, range-of-motion exercise.

And while you’re at it, create time to play. Get a passport or just reintroduce yourself to life’s simple pleasures.

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Being in “The Zone”

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” ~ Chuang Tzu

I intentionally chose this photo. It is the one place, a single activity, in which I can find myself in “the zone.”  According to Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, being in the zone or in “flow” is a single-minded immersion and represents the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. It is when emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.

Many of us have been in the zone. And describing how it feels there is unique to each individual. Some people can get ‘there’ easily; they have conditioned themselves and know what it takes to experience a feeling of spontaneous joy while performing a task, although being in the zone is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity, not even oneself or one’s emotions.

Being in the zone is often associated with peak performance, commonly practiced by serious athletes, writers, and musicians. But it can align with gardening and painting just as easily. In this state of completely focused motivation, one can side step the chaos, the busyness, the rat race of everyday life. And simply be, accepting whatever you are doing.

People find themselves in the zone when in the presence of nature, meditating, or at willful solitude. We often think we need a structured vacation or a getaway to be able to focus on one task. Not so.

If the prospect of getting into the zone appeals to you, here are four steps that can help to pave the way:

  1. Choose a singular task. To get the most out of your mind you need to concentrate all your attention on exactly one thing and one thing only. It ought to be something that you are truly interested in, your most important task at the moment.
  2. It’s important to have energy. If you’re barely maintaining consciousness due to a late night of cocktails or a restless night of sleep, getting into the zone is going to be difficult.
  3. Find the right environment. Figure out the setting(s) that facilitate your flow, be it a crowded coffee shop or a quiet library, and work in them whenever possible. An uncrowded swimming pool works well. 🙂
  4. Emotions are key. Being in the zone requires finding the feelings that allow your subconscious to take over. Music can help activate these emotions. Find songs or artists that put you in the right mood and block out distractions.

 

This One Can Be Tough

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.” ~ Arnold Glasgow

The noun impatience is defined, in part, as: “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance in a negative way.” Its opposite, patience, is something many of us strive to practice; an attribute to be cultivated. And boy can it be challenging.

Most of us (even animals!) are inclined to favor short-term rewards over long-term rewards. This helps to explain the adage, patience is a virtue. Over simplified, patience can be illustrated in three simple, progressive steps: Persistence. Acceptance. Serenity or calmness. Yet it is hard to practice.

When we are patient and able to pause and observe without reacting, we begin to see a situation (or the world) more fully and clearly. We become aware of when to move forward and when to be still. Patience allows us to act more mindfully and wisely. And it keeps our anger turned off! Like any skill, it must be practiced and it helps to have simple ways to show us how to improve. For your consideration, here are three:

  1. Take only inspired action. If you find yourself in frustration, desperately trying to force some kind of action to bring about your result, you are pushing too hard. Stop it. Go back to meditation and wait for an insight or a strong desire to do something. Don’t force it. Flow with it. Remember, if it is not fun, you are doing it wrong.
  2. Get a slow pet. You can always get a turtle and watch it every night and admire its patient way of life. Watching a turtle or snail can lull you into a meditative state of mind and you will be able to learn and likely appreciate the power of patience.
  3. Remember what is important. Some times we tend to get upset over little things. In the long run, these things tend not to matter, but in the heat of the moment, we might forget this. Stop yourself, and try to get things in perspective.

Transitions

“Look at every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” ~ Tom Stoppard

We all go through transitions. Some we initiate and others present as they are intended. They can be pronounced or they can be subtle. Transitions, however, are as constant as change because every major change includes a transition period with transitional experiences. Often we resist this transitional period and accompanying experiences just as we resist change. We want to be at the new spot, the changed behavior, or the result we sought to attain. While we want the change we desire, could we be missing the most valuable part of the experience, the transition?

There are times, for some, when changes take place simultaneously. This scenario can be stressful. Even one change can be significant. Think about events is which you were measurably involved. Were they exciting? Were they draining? How much stress did you feel? I worked with a client who was building a new home, launching a new business, having a new website developed, involved in a child’s wedding, and shifting into pre-retirement mode (as traditionally defined by age). He had a lot on his plate!

These events were overlapping and very time, energy and space intensive. However, four strategies made the difficult easier, the challenges less frustrating, and his enjoyment more joyful.

  1. In change, especially big change, let flow show you the way through the transition. We are so conditioned to make plans and take action that when big changes occur or are anticipated, we take the planning and actions to an even more intense level. When you relinquish total control and allow some of the decisions to sit, flow will show you the way. When flow guides you, the creative spark needed or the right person to do something always appears and right on time.
  2. It is easy to focus on the end of the transition, but the process determines success. No matter where we think something will end up as a result of change, the process will guide us to success if we trust it. When you focus on what could go wrong, you divert the direction of your intended outcome. Ignore the naysayers and keep focusing on and trusting what you want.
  3. Looking ahead to what could be and looking back at what has been, only keeps you from looking at the present. Change and transitions are ripe for the games of the ego-mind. Remember the ego operates almost entirely in the past (where you have been and why) and the future (where you could be and why that is better than the past). When you choose now from the possibilities in front of you, the transition will be smooth without a beginning or an end, yet it will take you exactly to the experiences you want, by presenting them over and over now. All choices are made now.
  4. All transitions are personal and even with the best intentions, other people’s  opinions, suggestions, and advice is just that – other people’s. I often find that change is tough for people because they are waiting for permission or advice on whether they should or how they should change. (Here’s a post that addresses “shoulds.”) This continues during the transition, if we trust the opinions, suggestions, and advice of others more than what we know is best intended for us and by us.

If you are making changes and going through transitions, I wish you the best for navigating them not only successfully but also effectively. Transitions make life interesting while expanding your possibilities and potential. Let it all flow, be in the process, be present, and take it all personally. You will be rewarded!

Simplifying Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Another personal preference disclosed: I am a big fan of simplicity. I’ll opt for an easy versus a complex solution any time. It’s interesting to observe people who choose difficult paths when easier one’s exist, if not abound. They become easily frustrated.

To me, it seems the easier you make things the better the results you get. This is especially true when it comes to change. When you make changes easier, the change is simpler, clearer and better managed. Unfortunately, society tells us that anything worth having has to be hard, complicated, and require sacrifices of time and energy. I consider this to be a myth. The opposite is true. Anything worth having is attainable by making it easier.

Defined, change is the desired transformation of a feeling, experience, or interaction. It is not a process, thing, or achievement. The transformation begins when clarity is obtained about what is desired.

Here are four strategies that make the transformation and what is desired more easily possible:

  1. Adopt a new view. See that what you want is not only possible but deserved by you (it is). When you think about it, talk about, and make choices for it, always keep the focus on the new feeling, experience, and interaction.
  2. Give up being a victim. If you believe things are happening to you or people are preventing you from having what you desire, you fail to see the range of possible choices you have, especially the ones different than the ones you have been choosing. Blaming and complaining only delay transformation, they cannot create it.
  3. See barriers as opportunities. Difficulty and especially frustration in getting what you want, is an opportunity to choose a new path, find a different way, or use a different resource. The message is basically, “not this way.” Accept and look for a different way.
  4. Take responsibility. What you desire can be yours, in time and when the situation is ready. When you take responsibility for your focus, choices, and especially your thoughts and feelings, you can be confident that at the right time and place you will have what you want. Let your desires flow toward you and change will occur with little effort or concerted action on your part.

Whatever you want more or less of in your life begins the process of change. Even with subtle shifts. You only have to make it easier by changing your view of it, giving up victimization, dispelling the “I can’t belief,” clearly seeing opportunities, and taking responsibility. As easy as it sounds, it is just that easy to do, because you choose to make it easier.

A simple yet poignant mantra for your consideration: “Let it be easy.”