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

The Thrill of Inclusion

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“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Being included may not always be thrilling. Yet most of us, I suspect, appreciate being invited and involved.

Basically, inclusive refers to the extent to which we welcome a broad range of backgrounds and interests, taking into account issues of language, ethnicity and culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status and disability (or as a wise blogger taught me, ‘diffability’).

A colleague directs diversity and inclusion programs for a large, global business. I recently heard him speak about the proactive measures his company is taking to integrate and enrich diversity and inclusion, worldwide. What he shared, even though it was specific to the workplace, prompted me to reflect on how we consciously and unconsciously, include and exclude.

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How often do you go out of your way to include people? How frequently (even after-the-fact) do you realize you inadvertently omitted or forget to invite others? Perhaps our knee-jerk response is ‘I always invite others,’ until we see or are reminded of an unintentional exclusion. It happens. Yet it need not happen.

Inclusion connects us to innovation and happiness. It’s true! It invites and allows us to make better decisions about the future when all voices are heard – especially younger and elderly voices.

Embracing diversity can bridge cross-cultural divides. Just think of the last time(s) you found yourself in a different cultural setting. Were you open to experiencing all of the newness or were you inclined to stay within your comfortable cocoon? Did you encourage others to share unique aspects of their lives and thinking or were you too tethered to your own beliefs and norms?

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Take potlucks; potlucks are cool. And they’re making a comeback. The act of gathering with others to eat homemade food has health benefits. Merely inviting a diverse group of people to get together, to enjoy one another’s concoctions and to have a good time can be an amazing way to foster connections and build relationships. Simply because people were included.

Most of us know how to be inclusive and to create more positive environments. What helps to foster inclusivity is when our actions are intentional. If you are interested in simple inclusion starters, here are three for your consideration:

  1. When you have the chance, introduce people. Find that shy individual at a social or networking event and introduce them to someone they don’t know. Invite others into a conversation.
  2. Become a mentor, even if informally. Consider the wide variety of people you interact with, then make an effort to help another person to more openly understand and communicate with others. Think: encouraging action.
  3. Simply smile. People are put to ease at this simple facial cue. Building a rapport with someone, discovering more about them and listening to what they have to say builds trust and inclusiveness. The thrill of a smile can go a long way. 🙂

How You View You

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“Your whole life is a message. Every act is an act of self-definition. Everything you think, say and do sends a message about you.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Most of us, I believe, have at least one or two facets of ourselves that we spend considerable time nurturing. They’re often challenging efforts in conjunction with personal growth and development. The other day someone asked what one thing matters most to me? And I couldn’t immediately answer the question. My first reaction was to cite one of my key values but something deep inside said, “you’re warm but it’s not that.” I sought time and promised I’d soon get back to her with an answer.

I’m glad I didn’t rush simply for the sake of proffering an answer. When I later created space to reflect on the question, my mind was all over the map. I began to write:

  • being happy
  • life purpose certainty
  • knowledge
  • fulfilling relationships
  • smiling
  • compassion for others
  • love
  • accepting defeat
  • family
  • to keep breathing
  • learning
  • being passionate
  • mindfulness
  • time
  • being empathetic
  • health
  • life itself
  • curiosity
  • and much more

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It was when contemplating the ‘much more’ that I discovered what matters most to me: A positive self-view. For me, having a positive self-view (others might see this as self-regard or self-concept) means accepting myself for who I am and what I believe in. It means having the courage necessary to make my own decisions and to live life the way that’s right for me.

Absent a positive self-view we tend to compare ourselves to others, feel insecure about ourselves and are too sensitive to the opinions of others (though I admit to being a highly sensitive person). We also make choices based on other people’s expectations rather than what truly feels right for us.

I’ve lived much of my life with a diminished self-view. Sure I’ve been cocky and confident but there were plenty of times when I was concerned about other people’s judgment. Like many people, I’ve come a long way but I’m still working on learning to love myself, unconditionally. And, for me, this is challenging work. 🙂

If a strong(er) positive self-view matters to you, here are three considerations:

  1. Accept imperfections. Perfection is a lofty intention yet you need not start or end there. You’ve heard it before but make doing your best is an admirable goal. Focus on what you have achieved/accomplished and how you can draw on same going forward. Bypass what wasn’t done or ought to have been done differently. And laugh at yourself instead of criticizing.
  2. Be optimistic. Always believe in yourself. Being an optimist doesn’t mean always seeing the brighter side of life. It means to view your surroundings whereby you can maximize your gifts and strengths and minimize your hesitations and weaknesses.
  3. Forgive and forget. Your past can control you if you don’t control it. If you can, forgive past wrongs and move on. If you have a hard time forgiving or forgetting, consider talking through your emotions with a good friend or counselor, but try not to dwell. Allow freedom and new choices to frame your future.

And here’s my invitation: When you view you, what one thing matters most?

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The Art of Discourse

“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

~ James Nathan Miller

I attended a social function last weekend; a mid-afternoon mix of people I knew and others who I’d yet to meet. I’m often aware at such functions, not critically aware, simply as a participant who listens and watches, just as much as I engage. Remember, this was a social gathering. 🙂

I am a “connector.” I enjoy bringing unknown parties together. Sometimes these random introductions click and other times they fizzle. I’ve developed an interest in watching and trying to understand why some new couplings/groupings flourish and others wane. What I’ve gleaned (this may be unsurprising to some) is that there are gifted conversationalists and there are those who have yet to learn the art of effective and engaging conversation.

We know that conversation is a great way to share our everyday stories. It often greases the ‘connection’ skid. Think about some of the most important moments in your life and about the relationships you have. The foundation of nearly all of these is conversations. When we are learning about one another, we are listening and enjoying simple moments together.

Some people are conversation naturals. Others may think they are good at conversing. Most recognize that taking one’s turn in a conversation (think weaving in a tidbit here and there) and thinking before you speak (beware of foot-in-mouth), are generally accepted and encouraged etiquette. Yet there are other practices that can help one become an even more appreciated communicator. For your consideration, these three:

  • Come to an occasion with topics in mind. En route to an event, think about the (known and unknown) people who will/may be in attendance. Brainstorm stories you can share and questions you can ask. Think, too, about things that may interest those you meet for the first time. Be prepared to ask them about the unique aspects of their locale. Consider asking those who do not know others better for some background information.

  • Try to ask open-ended questions; questions that cannot be answered with “yes or no.” Asking someone if they enjoyed the show calls for a “yes or no” response. Asking what they thought about the performers requires more thought. Be ready to contribute to the conversation.
  • Exercise courtesy. Remove and turn-off all electronic devices. How can you have a meaningful conversation when you allow yourself to be distracted by a       technological instrument? If you have to stay connected put your phone on           vibrate and if you must take an important call, excuse yourself from the                 conversation. A lack of consideration is simply rude. Agreed?

Live Your Epic Life

                          Byron Davis“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

~ R. Buckminster Fuller

A former American record holder (swimming), an Ironman Triathlete, a career coach and founder of the epic life project, Byron Davis has a gift for helping people get unstuck and to transform their passions into lives and careers they love. Byron is the author of “RePurposed: The Art of Winning Through Letting Your Obstacles Lead the Way.”

He is also a friend and was my guest on last week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show. A sought-after conference speaker, Byron is entertaining to watch and easy to understand. He helps audiences reverse limiting beliefs on the spot and teaches them to use the simple power of personal narratives to quickly establish new habits and activate their God-gifted potential.

In an amazing one-hour conversation Byron shared thoughts on how fear holds people back; his interesting concept on time; why accountability is important for each of us and; how both relationships and systems are essential for moving forward. He also talked about the role storytelling plays in becoming more self-aware and for fulfilling one’s desires and ambitions, as well as why we find some lessons/teachings difficult to receive.

If you’re interested in listening and learning more, here’s a link to the show podcast. Byron is a high energy guy, who has studied human behavior and potential for years. He can be contacted through his web site or here.

Three Useful Views

Dr. Eliseo "Cheo" Torres

“Cheo” Torres

       Dale Burch

Dale Burch

     Ken Solin

Ken Solin

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Guests on the last three Awakening to Awareness radio programs shared their insights and expertise in three different areas… from three qualified perspectives.

Dr. Eliseo “Cheo” Torres is Vice President for Student Affairs and Professor with the University of New Mexico’s College of Education. He is also a globally recognized expert in Curanderismo or Mexican Folk Healing. Cheo teaches and lectures worldwide on this ancient art and practice, one which Western Medicine is gradually accepting and adopting into Integrative Medicine solutions.

Dale Burch is a self-made business success. She is a graduate of the University of Leningrad (USSR) where she studied Russian language. As an entrepreneur, she started, grew, and sold three different businesses. Terminally diagnosed with cancer and soon thereafter divorced, she profoundly altered her life views and ways of living.  23 years post-diagnosis, she is grounded, opinionated, and thriving.

Ken Solin is a dating expert who has written about boomer sex, dating, and relationships for AARP, Huffington Post, Maria Shriver and Boomeron for a decade. He helps boomer men and women create authentic relationships. With 30 million single boomers, Ken shares why boomer women are perfect dates for boomer men; the importance for men to develop emotional dialogue skills; and why it’s critical for boomer men to become comfortable expressing their passions and feelings – not simply their thoughts.

These brief recaps don’t begin to cover the stories each guest shared. If you’re interested in learning more, podcasts can be downloaded and listened to at your convenience here or via iTunes, here.

Friendships & Relationships

                    Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

This past weekend, I was honored to bear witness to the binding of two lives. Their love for each other and their incredible zest for life is priceless. And for we who shared in their celebration, it was an equally memorable blessing.

In the bliss of their day, I reflected on three simple considerations:

  1. Value the people who are there. Sometimes we get so caught up looking for romantic love that we forget to appreciate the friends and family who are always there, offering their support. At least I did. You might be thinking that friendships aren’t the same as romantic affection, and I understand. But we don’t attract romantic love into our lives by focusing on what’s missing. We attract potential partners by radiating love. Take inventory of all the people who care. There are likely more than you realize.
  2. Have a sense of humor, some fun, and a bit of distraction in your life. You can’t spend all your free time “working” on your relationship – don’t make it a hobby. Discuss what you like to do, where you’d like to go, and how you’d both like to have fun. Then go do it. 🙂
  3. Listen and respond. This seems so simple, yet the act of listening with undivided attention is one of the things that sustains friendships and relationships. Just be with the one you love. Ask questions. Show genuine interest. When people fail to respond to each other’s bids for emotional connection, the results can be disastrous. Explore the value in positive exchanges.

My two cents, unsolicited.

The Range of Your Expression

                        Kyle Zimmerman

Kyle Zimmerman

“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” ~ Alfred Stieglitz

This week’s guest on the Awakening to Awareness radio show, a segment titled “Scale Your Light,” was acclaimed photographer, Kyle Zimmerman.

Kyle developed her photography career shooting fashion and advertising in San Francisco, Milan, Madrid and Athens. She returned to her native New Mexico in 1999 to make a difference in family and business portraiture… celebrating realness and people’s “range of expression.”

In an engaging interview, Kyle elaborates on her desire to impact her community, the importance of looking into oneself, and helping individuals manifest what they want to be – through her photographer’s lens. We talked about connections and how they yield substantive relationships. Kyle also shared views on why people are self-critical of photographs and how she helps them to see and appreciate the genuine beauty within their unique image.

If you’re interested in listening to the show, click here for the podcast.

Social Media for Boomers

“Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” ~ Brian Sollis

Put away that cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair. This according to Brian Profitt in his ReadWriteWeb article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology.”

In August, 2013 the Pew Research Center on Retirement released a report with some fascinating statistics on social media among Americans 50 and older:

  • 60% of people in the 50-64 year age group, which is most of the boomer population, are now on at least one social media site.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media site for this age group.
  • Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is two hours more per week than those who are between 16 and 34.

My guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show was Carol McManus, America’s LinkedIn Lady. A self-described ‘recovering corporate executive,’ Carol left the comfort of the corporate cocoon (in 2007) after 26 years and reinvented herself as a coach, consultant and leadership trainer. In a few short years, her speaking and consulting requests shifted to social media because everyone wanted to know how she did what she did and how they could replicate her success for their own business.

                            Carol McManus

Carol McManus

On the show, Carol made it clear that this generational cohort was not heading “out to pasture” and that they are increasingly making use of social media for multiple purposes. She highlighted Facebook and LinkedIn as the two platforms most likely used by boomers and told listeners why. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the account of choice for those interested in connecting or reconnecting and rekindling relationships. And LinkedIn for business connections. Carol talked about online privacy, managing your own social media, stepping into one’s technology fears and why to avoid Twitter.

It was an enlightening and informative interview. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here or on the Awakening to Awareness show page by clicking here.

Even Better than Success

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

According to the American Heart Association, the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings. In a presentation, author Gregg Levoy noted that this is when many people are going back to work they don’t like, work that doesn’t match their spirits, work that will literally break their hearts. Yet they are driven.

In a recent AgeWave/Harris Interactive survey, results uncovered a renewed focus on what’s important across multiple generations and an optimistic outlook on the possibilities for retirees’ new roles in American life. I recognize this blog is read by a global audience, yet these findings may hold true in other countries.

  1. A majority of respondents (58%) said that loving family and relationships are at the heart of what is held most dearly today – twice as important as being wealthy (33%) and twenty times more important than wielding power and influence (3%).
  2. Three-quarters of all respondents think the U.S. would benefit if retirees were more involved in contributing their valuable skills and experience to our communities.

People want more. They want to contribute more. Yet many are frustrated, disappointed, and needy. And unfortunately, they focus on what is missing or lacking in their lives, careers, or relationships. Getting what they believe they need or want rarely fulfills their sense of lack and longing. And often, they just continue their wanting to something else.

While desired by many, perhaps success isn’t the best thing to aim for. It’s a tricky target because it has so many meanings. How do you define success? Fame? Fortune? Everyone sees it differently. However, there is one thing possibly better than success — and that is significance.

Many people make the mistake of aiming for classic success. Once acquired, they may go on to lead a full and happy life. But success isn’t what allows your conscience to rest easy and it won’t satisfy your hunger for the feeling of accomplishment that significance will. The difference between the two is the application and the effect on those around you.

A successful person may achieve many things but significance is about relationships and significant people serve others. Here are five (of many) characteristics which are consistently practiced by a significant person. How embedded are these traits in you?

  • Intently listens
  • Empathy
  • Heightened awareness
  • Positive persuasion
  • Foresight

To live a life of increased significance, consider these three challenges:

  1. Embrace the idea of delayed gratification now. Don’t live for the credit of what you’ve done. Think legacy potential.
  2. Be open to letting go of your comfortable lifestyle or mindset to achieve something greater. (Thus, the opening Campbell quote; one of my favorites.)
  3. This sacrifice is ongoing. You have to believe it and trust that you will reap rewards in due time.