Wasting, Existing or Thriving

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Have you ever had this opening remark directed at you? It’s a stunning statement yet for some people, it may apply or have applied. It’s certainly not complimentary and it could be a life changer, if accurate and intended. But let’s shift from wasting time and life.

Enter existing. Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before. That’s okay, and comfortable for some (many?), until you’ve gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life. Existing can be synonymous with an endless status quo, idyllic, anchored, indifferent, stale, slogging away.

Simply existing is really kind of sad. Dodo kind of sad. While penguins and ostriches are flightless, penguins can swim and an ostrich can run fast. The dodo simply became extinct when a predator was introduced. While we cannot fly, most of us can do things that are exciting, invigorating, like swimming or running.

Have you watched your kids go off to college, only to realize you missed their childhoods? Time wasted? Sure we have jobs, chores and others things we don’t necessarily enjoy, but a large part of living is focusing on the enjoyable; actively engaging. It has been proven that if you focus on that which makes you miserable, you’re not going to live fully. And many will acknowledge that simply existing can be miserable. Still, if existing is to what you aspire, then who is anyone else to encourage you otherwise?

But if you want to truly live life, to thrive, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from a mundane existence and embrace life. Truly living involves spending time doing things that inspire you. Even if you only sing briefly in the shower, if that’s what you truly love to do, enjoy yourself and live it. You don’t need a recording contract or groupies, simply enjoy the experience.

If you’d like a couple of reminders for how to thrive, here are four:

  1. Learn to be 100% responsible for your life. Admit/own your ‘mistakes’ (aka learning opportunities) and learn from them. Trust that something better will happen because of them and thus, allow you to live both more aware and at choice.
  2. Thriving is important because you are a person of great value. You are worthy of the best life has to offer.
  3. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, concerned about what might go wrong. Be bold. Invite some risk. Quit your job and start your own business (plan it out first!). Ask out that person to whom you’ve been attracted to for some time. What have you got to lose?
  4. And this one might get me in trouble… Turn off the TV. How many hours do you waste (see, we’ve come full circle to waste) in front of that screen? Lessen your attraction (addiction?) to it and find other things to do, things that will stretch or challenge you. Consider actions that will nourish your thriving.

Proving You to Who?

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo

I’ve previously acknowledged once being a Type-A, competitively driven, high achiever. It was part of my (younger) professional evolution. Many of us lived this and many still do. We are always becoming more. Who you are today is a result of the decisions you made yesterday. We are always in a state of creation. We decide and then we decide again, and the direction is always toward expansion. It is our human nature to expand.

It is years of evolution and social influences that have pitted us against our peers. I cut my career teeth on Wall Street. For ten years, I thrived in a dog-eat-dog environment. In the years since, gratefully, I have realized that the needs and desires that inspire us to compete with ourselves, are much more personal and more complex than those of competing against peers.

We awaken. A need to eclipse our earlier efforts – to confirm that we have grown as individuals – can motivate us to reach new heights of accomplishment. We find we can use our past achievements as a foundation from which we step into the unknown. Yet, if this drive to compete with our former selves is the result of low self-worth, even heaps of praise can be discouraging. Examining how we compete with ourselves opens us to new challenges that can often enhance our world.

There are plenty of reasons we try to surpass ourselves. Ambitious in our quest for growth, we strive to meet our own notions. We don’t seek external wins and losses to define our sense of self-worth. Instead, we become our own judges, monitoring our progress toward who we aspire to become; careful that our efforts are not to meet or exceed others standards.

If you believe that it’s not all about competing against others, here are three considerations to help you realize how it can be about taking pride in your progress (and thus, your growth) at any pace:

  1. You don’t have to have a dream (gasp!). If you have something that you’ve always dreamed of, go for it! After all, it’s something to do with your time. And if it’s a big enough one, it may take you most of your life to achieve it. But if you don’t have a dream, that’s okay. Instead, be passionate in your pursuit of short-term goals. Work with pride on whatever is the task at hand. And when you finish with that, focus on your next goal. Just make sure they’re your goals.
  2. Realize that you cannot always win. No matter what you do you can pretty much always find someone else that has more than you or is better at something than you. Is that really tough to accept? Does it always have to be a competition with others?
  3. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing with their block of stone. The statue that they are creating is one of their own intentions. How well you are doing with your block of stone is your business.

Winning isn’t everything. Being you is.

Own It. Name It. Change It.

“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A very small percentage of a person’s psychological makeup (say 2% of their total set of personal traits/perceptions/preferences/habits) can undermine the other 98% of their makeup that is healthy and positive. I find this astounding yet not surprising. We see it all the time. It gives credence to the adage, One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.

I have a friend who, for years, nurtured her inner victim. She perpetually felt unworthy, a failure, a waste of space. The truth was, she was bright, humorous, physically attractive and professionally successful. It was as though she needed this “woe is me” crutch to draw attention away from all she had going for her. To this day I don’t know why she chose to be this way.

She finally dug herself out of that trench. It turns out that all she really wanted was to feel valued. Despite her positive attributes and achievements, she didn’t feel as though she was, somehow, contributing to the world’s betterment.

She finally realized that she was the one doubting her self-worth; that feeling worthless was an excuse for not doing as well in an area that mattered to her. In an epiphany (her word, not mine) she grasped that to feel worthwhile, she had to work at changing – like everyone else – and not give up on herself.

So what’s her mantra these days? That each of us needs to acknowledge that we’re capable of adding value to society, including our self. As adults, there really are no excuses for saying things like “I’m worthless, lazy or pathetic” because each of us have a choice to not be any negative thing.

If worthlessness is your negative trait and you want to untether yourself from being not good enough, try these shifts:

  1. Be willing to be free. By now your unworthiness is probably a friend of sorts. Imagine that this identity disappears. It’s gone! Things would look very differently to you, wouldn’t they? Have the courage to step into the unknown and be free of what’s anchoring you.
  2. Risk rejection. If you don’t want to be burdened by unworthiness, put yourself out there. Be your whole authentic self; no airs, no masks, no “I’m not”… People will be drawn to you and you’ll revel in knowing that they appreciate you for who you really are.
  3. Challenge your beliefs about yourself. Get personal with your self-critical thoughts (I can’t, Others think, I’ll never, …). Then admit that these thoughts just aren’t the truth. Recognize that they play in your mind over and over, doing nothing more than limiting you. Ask yourself, what purpose are they serving? Then, send them away!

Remember, 98% of your psychological makeup could well be positive and healthy. Why hold on to a bad apple?

Treating Yourself Well

“The price tag you put on yourself decides your worth. Underestimating yourself will cost you dearly.” ~Apoorve Dubey

Being honest here. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today. Then I saw the above photo.  Disclosure: While I love Italian food, it has a close rival in fresh seafood. And at the top of that list are: 1) Buckets of steamers and cold beers and; 2) Baja Fish Tacos with good tequila. It doesn’t even matter where they’re being ingested, though on a dock or at a beach certainly enhances the atmosphere.

So my frequent readers are wondering, where is he going with this one? Stay with me; there’s a message here.

Most of us work hard. Some of us, really hard. It’s our choice. Yet what many of us don’t channel comparable time and/or energy into is rewarding ourselves – for our achievements, our successes or the courage we tapped to step out of a comfort zone and to stretch ourselves.

When we work hard, we sometimes beat ourselves up. While it certainly isn’t the intention, pressures and stress tend us in that direction. For some, it can derail forward momentum. For others, it can be oddly energizing. For most, however, it just saps energy.

If/when you find yourself in this setting, take a look at the language you use when you think about yourself and compare it to the way you talk to everyone else. If there’s a disconnect, try to treat yourself in a kinder, gentler way. We’re often kind to everybody else but we beat ourselves up. We lose sight of genuine progress or how close we are to goal attainment. Don’t beat others up but do find a way to get off your own back.

Despite adhering to strict budgets, onerous diets and nail-biting deadlines, we still hesitate to give ourselves pats on the back. But here’s an eye-opening truth: Even prisoners are rewarded for good behavior. Rewarding yourself is rejuvenating, inspiring and as necessary as tequila with fish tacos.

If you’ve been spread thin lately, your much-deserved reward is likely overdue. Give your diligence proper recognition and reward yourself. Lavish praise on yourself. Spend some time and money on yourself.

You know you deserve it!