Tag Archives: self-control

Be the Exception to Be Exceptional

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking: Cain,  Susan: 9780307352156: Amazon.com: Books

In the book Quiet, Susan Cain masterfully discusses the implications of our societal shift from a “Culture of Character” to a “Culture of Personality” as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Her use of the term ‘culture’ is particularly powerful to me. Personally, I have always been aware of negative societal shifts and thought of them as very old issues that, once set into motion, became like a genie that could not be put back in the bottle.

Ultimately, collectively, we cannot turn back the clock to kinder times. We must find our way individually among the hedgerows of our current labyrinth.

The single, most tragic consequence of our cultural shift of focus from character to personality is the loss of true individuality. In a world so focused on persona, self-editing—in multiple forms—rules the day. Who are we if we haven’t been defined by others?

What would happen if we defined ourselves? What if we decided what we should think or feel, or what should really be important to us?

Here’s a challenge:

STOP BEHAVING AS THOUGH LIFE IS A SOLO PERFORMANCE

Influencers, social media, falling in line with the majority in thoughts and feelings…all are toxic to true individualism, but why should we care?

I mean, it does feel better to be part of the group, and what’s wrong with beautiful people leading (apparently) beautiful lives, or aspiring to be like them?

It’s true, it doesn’t feel great to be outside of popular opinion. It’s tough to stand up for what we think if what we think doesn’t align well with the majority. We risk being outcast. If there’s one thing a culture of personality seems to communicate best it’s that we all need to just fall in line. If you try to march to a different drum, it better be preordained acceptable. Image is everything, even at the expense of your personal happiness and fulfillment.

The things that ‘matter’ have become increasingly shallow and meaningless.

My husband and I recently spent time in Costa Rica for our 30th wedding anniversary. We descended over 500 steps to arrive at the most amazing waterfall. My first thought? Shed the clothes (yes, I had a suit underneath) and jump in! As I enjoyed the briskness of the water and looked around feeling incredibly grateful to be a brief part of the awesome power of a 700 meter waterfall, I noticed a young woman nearby on the bank. Hard not to, she was quite beautiful, wearing a very pink bikini, and holding a selfie stick. Unfortunately, she was too self-involved to notice she was hoarding the only point of easy access to the waterfall, even as people were forced to navigate a series of rough volcanic boulders around her to gain access to the water. She never acknowledged a soul, including her boyfriend who kept prompting her to come into the water with him. I’m certain she got what she came down 500 steps to get, and it’s true she was the most physically stunning human being at the waterfall that day. But she never got in the water. In fact, she never seemed to offer a second glance at the awesome waterfall that served as her selfie backdrop. Personality in this case was overly managed, while character needed a lot of work.

SAD.

Wholly manufactured lives and experiences are a commodity that is both bought and sold in our culture of personality. It doesn’t matter that pink bikini didn’t get in the water, only that her image carries the perception that she did (the perception being that she really enjoyed it in a way ‘average’ people are incapable of). In a culture of personality, buyer’s remorse comes in the form of an increasingly detached personal identity, closely followed by an increasing dissatisfaction with life in general, a life that consistently fails to live up to unrealistic, fabricated ideals.

A culture of personality doesn’t care about you. Fabricated images and experiences aren’t intended to make you feel better about yourself as an ‘as-is’ individual. On the contrary, they intend to prompt feelings of inadequacy that will lead you to buy-or-try whatever is being sold, something that’s ‘better than you’. The amusing but sad truth is, not even the person peddling that garbage is that thing. They are performers and a liars, most often for their own financial gain or vain image promotion.

Because image is everything.

Even though we cannot put the genie back in the bottle, there is a remedy at the individual level. Be kind to yourself and stop swallowing the personality pill. Find happiness in the ways that suit you, not others. Celebrate those aspects of ‘you’ that make you special and set you apart. Cherish and value your own thoughts and opinions. Have you ever found yourself in fundamental opposition to a group opinion, but kept silent for fear of ridicule? Stop it. Why should we be a world of clones? Why boast the merits of individualism if we aren’t willing to allow individual attitudes, expressions, or beliefs?

And if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum: if you are that person on your cellphone at the stoplight that is now green, stop it. Stop being ignorant and inconsiderate of all the people behind you waiting to make the light. If you are the person sizing everyone up who walks through the door, stop it. You should ask yourself why outer appearances mean more to you than inner character. Look past your own nose. In short: consider others. You aren’t the only person on the planet.

No matter what culture we live in, our thoughts, ambitions, and actions constantly collide with other souls and we should be cognizant of the fact. If we are kinder to ourselves we won’t find the need to change who we are or manufacture an image to please others. Likewise, if we are kinder to others we instantly make the world a better place for them. Character is what truly matters. Don’t buy the hype, put the selfie stick down and step away.

Be the Exception to be Exceptional.

Seeking the Profound

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We are seekers.

When I was younger, the idea of ‘finding myself’ was appealing. Taken literally, it’s a ridiculous statement. Find myself? I can answer that one: I’m here, writing these words. And you, Dear Reader, are where you are, reading them (and hopefully enjoying them?). But ‘finding myself’ isn’t a statement regarding physicality. And, although its use is often dripping with undue romanticism, its merit is its intention to communicate a base desire. Specifically, the desire to intimately connect what it means to be and become.

We are living beings encapsulated in the complexity of being and becoming.

We know who we are. To be is current, and immediately relevant. Not static per se, but less unknown, more identifiable. In contrast, becoming is completely unknown to us, occurring in some abstract future impacted by constant change, choice, and consequence. Still, we want to manage it. We like our control. But deep down, we innately know it cannot be managed because we recognize life involves the persistent convergence of happenstance, action, and response that often lead us down roads we never knew existed.

Look back Dear Reader, could you have imagined today as little as five years ago? How about 10 years, or 20? Our past serves as evidence that plans rarely manifest as planned and we are, to large degree, the architects of our here-and-now, a today constructed from the choices (good and bad) of our past. Knowing these things and the unpredictability we face, we tenaciously seek the profound. This is what ‘find myself’ means: that we understand the profoundness of our moments. Seeking the profound is an exercise whereby we simultaneously identify the importance of wanting for, and seeking out, those things that will make the future an improvement on what we know and live now.

Change is the one true constant.

We know it, but we endeavor to set up our moments to be deeply meaningful. The tapestry of our life has enough hiccups in the fabric. We yearn for a deeper color, that one amazing, flawless design, that will move us (and maybe others) to a higher plain of existence. The problems arise when we don’t see the potential of our current circumstance to move us profoundly. I am guilty of this, Dear Reader. I’m betting I’m not alone in it.

The mistaken romantic notion of ‘finding myself’ is that it involves an exit strategy, or the shedding of one’s skin. But the circumstances that prompt us to seek the profound are rarely as simple as location. As Gus said to Lori in Lonesome Dove, “Life in San Fransisco is still just life”. Yearnings are mostly romantic, but the why behind the yearning should be scrutinized. Romanticism often leads us far off course into barren, dry soil searching for a movie ending. In other words, the profound has more substance and can be found right now, in the heart and mind, without ever leaving your seat. The profound can be something witnessed sure, but it can also be something realized from within, in a simple encounter, a conversation, a daydream. We should never deny the potential of any moment to be profound, otherwise we risk being unable to recognize the profound when it’s staring us in the face. Before we go packing that bag to set off on some great adventure that will end with a hollow sense of disappointment we should ponder why we feel the need for such abandon. Are we running away? How did the here-and-now lose its sense of profoundness? When was the last time we felt we touched it? Sometimes a deep dive dissection of our being is a valuable way to determine what our becoming should look like.

Let’s grab more of what’s truly profound and live our best life. Rock on beautiful beings…rock on.

Image cred goes to: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fquotefancy.com%2Fquote%2F1141218%2FCharles-Caleb-Colton-Mystery-is-not-profoundness&psig=AOvVaw3yq_GtyRl1mBfQeNxmsPx5&ust=1614709510764000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCJjC-Ovbj-8CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Own Your S***

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Personal responsibility & Hard Truths are essential for a good life…

GOOD LIFE /ɡo͝od/ /līf/

  1. A life enhanced by greater fulfillment, contentment, and happiness as the result of embracing one’s contribution(s) to their struggle and adversity in an effort to exercise personal growth.
  2. Do better, be better

Let’s start with a quick self-check:

Consistently makes mistakes. Check. Doesn’t know everything. Check. Levels unrealistic expectations on situations and others. Check. Intentionally avoids things out of fear. Check. Lies. Check. Subject to poor judgment. Check. Experiences shame. Check.

‘Welcome to the club’, as they say. Move along folks, nothing to see here. Turns out, we’re all human.

News flash: Not One Among Us is Perfect.

As if life isn’t complicated enough, each of us is burdened with our own special brand of baggage that influences how we feel, react, and see the world. Sadly we often fail to offer much compassion for the weight of our neighbor’s baggage as we practice stuffing our own ugly under the bed. Out of sight, out of mind. Truth? It’s still there…waiting…always.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to lighten the load is by exercising hard truths and taking personal responsibility for aspects of our lives that make us feel unhappy. Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, human beings are inclined toward comfort, and admitting the myriad of ways we orchestrate our own unhappiness is a tough order. It hurts to be brutally honest about the part we play, our missteps and mistaken choices. I get it…it’s uncomfortable.

We don’t want to feel bad. Our friends and family don’t want us to feel bad either and they’re always willing to let us off the hook because we all recognize that honesty is hard, and it doesn’t feel good to admit when we screw up.

Do it anyway.

Be courageous, exercise personal integrity, admit your choices and accept their consequences. Being brutally honest with oneself in the spirit of taking personal responsibility for our mistakes and failures (aka: owning our s***) is critical to our personal growth and happiness. Comfort breeds complacency. Noooo bueno. Complacency is the opposite of critical assessment. It is uncritical satisfaction. It’s a lie, and it isn’t lasting. Lie long enough and you’ll get real good at playing the blame game and playing the victim. It’s a bad, bad road that leads one to believe there is no freedom of choice, that the world and circumstance exercise complete agency over our lives. “Poor me, the world has it out for me. I didn’t want to do things this way, but I didn’t have a choice, and now my life sucks.”

Doesn’t sound like the kind of life I want to live. You?

While it is true there are external pressures that wield some power to negatively affect us, it is also true that our perceptions can provide us with the best course of action to combat negative spiraling. If we’re honest, we recognize and own our choices and their consequences, we learn from them, and we get on with things. We are not victims of circumstance. Complacency is a lived lie. Comfort cannot be a permanent state of being. Success and happiness are hard-won by doing the work, doing better, being better. Give yourself reasons to be proud of yourself. Get honest: who are you? what do you want, what work do you need to do to achieve it? Life can be stagnant or lived in a forward motion. It’s a choice.

Remember, Dear Reader: Lies enable complacency. Personal responsibility fuels forward motion. Another key point to remember is that you alone are responsible for your choices. It is not for others to help you fulfill or manage them. Your s***, YOU own it.

Own Your S*** and Rock On…

Please listen to your flight attendant….

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Before every plane ride, the cramped individuals of the cabin are always treated to the preflight safety instructions.  They’re always the same; the flight attendant walks us through what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.  If you’ve flown more than once, it’s more likely you will be fumbling with your tiny airplane pillow or an electronic device, rather than listening to this standard briefing.  But I’ve chosen it as a blog topic for good reason.  There is actually a really great bit of advice to be found, metaphorically, within the mundane instruction.

Included in preflight safety instructions is what to do if cabin pressure changes.  When cabin pressure changes on an airline, it triggers the emergency oxygen masks to drop from overhead each passenger.  The instructions given for what to do when the masks dropped always perplexed me when I was younger.  The flight attendant tells the passengers that they must ‘first secure their own mask, before placing a mask on their child’.

I always used to think that seemed a bit selfish.  I mean, isn’t the first instinct of a parent to run to the aid of their child, without regard for themselves?  That seems right…save the child first.

Then, I had children.  And now I see the wisdom in the words.  I think it’s natural, especially for women, to forget your own needs.  We get good at putting ourselves on the back burner for others.  Anything else seems selfish.  After all, taking time for yourself is frowned on, because the perception is that by making time for yourself, you are taking it away from someone else.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason the flight attendant insists on putting your mask on first is so you can take care of your child.  Without that mask, and the oxygen it provides, you will lose consciousness while trying to help your child.  The result is a child left without a parent to care for them, without protection, and in grave danger.  The metaphor is pretty powerful; if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot possibly hope to be present to truly provide the care those you love really need.

This week, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of drug overdose in his New York City apartment.  Alone.  On the bathroom floor.  I can think of few, more sadly preventable ways to die.  Police found 40 bags of heroine in his apartment, and he was found only because he failed to pick up his three young children as promised that day.  Please don’t interpret any anger on my part as being aimed at Mr. Hoffman.  I hate addiction, not the addicted.  Mr. Hoffman, a beautiful, talented human being, filled with the same potentiality for life that every human being possesses, chose in a moment of emptiness to believe the lie of addiction.  It is a lie which says that something other than living and being ever-present in your life is somehow better in a given moment.  It says there is no truth in human pain and suffering, nothing to be learned.  It insists pain simply be eradicated, even if only as a temporary reprieve.  But in truth, addiction is pain.  It is a thief that robs life and replaces it with more and more hollow emptiness.  Numbness replaces presence.  Game over…

Addiction allows us to play the victim.  It hides the ability and free will of the human spirit which empower all good practice and positive thought.  Addiction is the lie, because we are not victims to anything but our own minds.  We live our choices.  No one chooses to be an addict, but we do choose to do the things that set addiction in motion.  Life is a powerful experience that merits responsibility for identifying what is best and discerning what is good and right in our lives.  Life is precious and fragile…so respect the journey.

So please, listen to your flight attendant.  Take care of yourself first.  Feed yourself full to the top with good things, so you can be ready and able to be there for all those other human beings you love so much  🙂

*image provided by: http://williamtollefsonvalues.blogspot.com/2013/07/addiction-recovery-southwest-florida.html

Examine the Alternatives…

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The word ‘alternative’ has two wonderful synonyms:  ‘option’ and ‘choice’.

And of course, a synonym is defined as ‘a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language’.

So, ‘examine the alternatives’ simply means ‘consider all the options’ and ‘consider your choices’.

In every action or reaction, we should examine our alternatives.  The important key word in that statement is ‘examine’, because it should prompt one to contemplate what they are examining their options or choices for, but also why there is a need to examine them.Blog 18 Image

Do we make our choices blindly?  No.  Choices are made based on their perceived merit.  Merit should regard how our choices impact others through their potential to enhance and uplift life.  Trouble is, sometimes merit can stem from individual unhealthy needs or desires.  For example, if we choose to give our time and effort to another, but with the ultimate desire that our efforts be acknowledged somehow, say with simple appreciation (seems harmless enough…most people expect a little appreciation for doing good things).  But in such cases, we have given of ourselves with an expectation to receive.  Giving with the expectation to receive is not true giving…it is the result of a cost/benefit analysis conducted under the umbrella of a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality.

And we are all guilty of it…so no harsh judgments here…

However, it can become a dangerous process….a habitual viewpoint of the self as victim to the world and circumstance.  It is paramount to get real in the examination of our motivations.  Truth is health, and truth is not always easy.  Ask yourself (and be honest) about any hopes, desires, or expectations you might be attaching to your choices and why you really need them.  Are motivations borne from loneliness, envy, unhappiness, or anger?  If our options and choices are rooted in these motivations, there is serious work to be done…inside.  Eventually, once the hard work is done and truth is achieved, loving and giving comes simply and clearly from the desire only to love and give, without the expectation for anything else.

NOTE:  This endeavor is part of the perpetual classroom of life; a renewable ideal, a process and lesson which needs constant gardening to reveal its infinite ability to improve with every season  🙂

blog image courtesy of:  http://www.alternatives.org/impact.html

Love Letter to the World (A Wish)…

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I love it when you smile… when you look upon others without judgment, with a kind heart…

And I love the look on your face when you receive kindness from others…
I love it when you make your children your #1 priority in life and the way they, in turn, make the world a better place for others, because of your efforts…
I love it when you’re not selfish; because you recognize that being self-absorbed means you fail to see the potential in others or contribute to anyone besides yourself…
I love when you give without expectation of reciprocity or praise…
I love when you consider the needs of others above your own feelings; because you understand your feelings aren’t always the most important thing in the world…you understand others have needs that may outweigh your feelings, feelings which may actually be very self-serving…
I love that you know happiness comes from the inside, not outside, so you don’t spend time forcing others to do things just to ‘make you happy’…
I love that you fulfill yourself and strive to be a better person, not just because it makes you better, but because you know you are contributing something positive to the world through your existence…
I love that you never hurt people, lie, or try to make others feel guilty…
I love when you choose to lift people up, rather than gossip or look down your nose at them…
I love how you always endeavor to find the good in things…
I love the way you support the goals of others, rather than tear them down, even when they don’t agree with what you think…
I love your humility, work ethic, and honesty…especially during tough situations…
I love your generosity of spirit and your humanity…
But most of all, I love the way you love me back 🙂

Fear SUCKS…

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If we sit around waiting for ‘others to change’ or ‘things to change’, or ‘a sign’, the end result will be inactivity and regret. This type of personal dialogue shares a single commonality, fear. And fear is the absolute opposite of faith.
Fear on its own is not always a bad thing. Some fear is even helpful, such as pulling your hand back from a hot stove or avoiding a suspicious looking snake. But more importantly, fears are learned behaviors. Likely, we learned not to touch a hot stove by being burned, or not to mess with snakes because someone taught us they were dangerous. Through our natural aversion to pain, we learn to avoid things that hurt us, as well as those we believe possess the potential to hurt us. This is a key point, because anything learned has the potential to be unlearned. It is important to consider this when examining the difference between fear and faith, in relationship to action.
If we are afraid to make a decision (to act), it is because we know we cannot predict its outcome or consequence. They are ‘unknowns’. Now consider for a moment that fear of an unknown is irrational, because it possesses equal potential for good and bad. Therefore, it is irrational to fear what is not known, because that fear stems from a fabricated rationale, the result of our own construction.
When we are presented with something we haven’t previously encountered, we draw conclusions through comparison. In the case of fear, we draw conclusions based on comparing unknown things to things we know to be harmful or potentially harmful, thereby allowing the unknown to be relabeled as ‘known’, or the irrational, as ‘rational’. By this process, we ‘know’ and we can realize the ‘benefits’ of rationalization to justify our fear and inaction, so we don’t have to risk the unknown… the gamble… which works great…until we begin to regret. Regret follows fear-based inaction, because fear prevents us from living fully by imprisoning and paralyzing us from accepting possibility, potential, and growth to enter our lives. Fear is stagnating…it is death. Faith, in contrast, is informed, but willing. Alive with potentiality that opens us to all possibility by denying fear the power to compel irrational, unfounded decisions.
Fearful living does not prevent bad things from happening to us. We cannot absolutely control, predict, manipulate, or will things into being. Unfortunately, we keep trying, because every now and then we have some success with the predictions, our manipulations. Those little ‘successes’ only serve to support our delusions and lend credence to our belief that our fears are warranted. This in turn, prompts us to apply them to every other situation causing a similar fear response.
The good news is as previously stated; learned can be unlearned. A propensity to fear is not easily conquered, but absolutely possible. Past does not have to dictate future. Let every new, unknown situation present itself as a challenge…a curiosity…a chance to choose faithfulness over fear 🙂

The Best Kind of Panties….

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**“She made me angry…” ** “That ruined my day…” ** “I just can’t get past it…”**

Are any of these statements really true?  Do others possess the capability to make us something we don’t wish to be?  Is it true to say someone, or something else ruined our entire day?

No…statements like these are fundamentally untrue…

We control ourselves… This is a true statement.

Seriously consider the power of such a statement over the others listed above.  The conclusion states we have the last word about what kind of day we have and how we are ultimately going to feel.  We are the harbinger of our own misery or happiness.  We are the ‘keeper of the mood’.

We understand it, in theory.  In practice, it gains difficulty.  That guy that cut you off in traffic, the boss who ‘just doesn’t get it’, or the person who treats you poorly and ‘gets away with it’; each tests our mettle and seems to bring on us (from the outside) anger, frustration, and misery.

However, it is the expectations we place on outside influences that are the source of our own anger and disappointment.  We expect things to go a certain way, or expect to be treated right, or expect people to behave well.  And when things don’t go as expected, we get disappointed or angry.  This is absurd, since we lack control over anything but ourselves.    If we account for the sum total of individual expectation for 7+ billion people on the planet, it isn’t hard to see how anger and frustration is manufactured on a daily basis.

Consider the power of change.  It is possible to enact positive change in our life, and it is through the mere decision to do so.  That is power that does not bend to outside influence.  That is power which dwells inside, produced by sheer will.  Your thoughts run you…

The very position of your will inside means it is protected from outside forces which will against it.  We are each a sturdy vessel.  We are our very own harbor in a storm.  We are each a force…

And because we possess such control, we are not victims…

It is necessary to own our mood and outlook.  It is necessary to be responsible for what we put out in the world.  If we are having a bad day, it is because we are choosing to do so…and that’s completely on us.  We are not a victim of someone or something else; we are choosing to victimize ourselves. 

So don’t do it….Put on those big kid panties and get on with living  🙂

 

*Image courtesy of:  http://aubenoire.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/no-expectations2.jpg*