We live in our own small world(s). We see the same family, friends and co-workers on a regular basis. We watch the same news channels and TV shows most days. We travel on the same streets in a small part of the area we live in. We even think the same thoughts from day-to-day. I feel I live in two worlds…my family and home life and my life as a volunteer.
We see many new people in a given day, from the cashier at the grocery store to a neighbor who is walking their dog – but we don’t get to know them. Our “world” forms our perspective, values, life philosophy and opportunities. Are you on auto-pilot or is this done consciously?
My corporate life enabled me to see new parts of the world; I especially liked Asia. My retired life as a volunteer takes me into the world of poverty, recovery and hurt. I have learned that we are more alike than different. We have the same desires and aspirations.
Perspective change helps us grow. How do you do that? You change your “world” intentionally. You take time to talk to someone and ask a deeper question…then listen. You read on a divergent topic or change your routine to allow unexpected things to happen. You allow random opportunities to feel like adventure rather than a distraction. You seek to understand the worlds of another.
We each have a uniqueness and specialness to our lives. I am convinced that we are born with some (all?) of it and that it is even God-given. Knowing it is part of the purpose journey because there is power and energy from seeing life-long patterns. Specialness includes ways of thinking, talents, nationality and more. The “world” (parents, school, work, society) causes us to lose it because it doesn’t want us to be too “different”. The world doesn’t seem to like people who live outside of a framework…and so we conform (or get bullied). Specialness must be (re)discovered.
When we are very young there are less boundaries on behavior. But then we go to school and immediately we “must be quiet in class” or study specific topics in certain ways. Socialization starts with our parents but becomes more obvious in a big school system or at work. We conform and lose a little bit of ourselves, sometimes reluctantly and sometime unknowingly. As we progress through life we assume other life roles. Our company culture, society’s expectations for men and women and our religion are all working on us. What is the cost to our soul?
I presume that socialization is unstoppable and even necessary. When we are young we are not equipped to challenge these forces. As adults we can rediscover our uniqueness. Do you know and embrace your specialness? Can you think of the earliest time in your life when it first became evident?
The patterns of our life seem to get fixed and remain that way. We are on auto-pilot when we stay in the same job, eat at the same restaurants, sit in the same chair, watch the same TV shows. It’s comfortable. Rhythm and routine are important but it’s a fine line between comfort and no growth. The problem starts because we live unconsciously, on auto-pilot.
Do you know what you are thinking about in this very moment? Consciousness is stepping back from our mindless thoughts and operating at a higher level…simply being aware of our thoughts and our current circumstances. It is being mindful and fully present to the moment with all of our senses.
Are your thoughts in the past or the future? Are you intentionally single-tasking or multi-tasking? Did you somehow drive home from work and not recall the trip? These are the times our thoughts are less than focused, maybe unconscious to us in the moment. These circumstances happen but it doesn’t have to be that way, at least not all the time.
We must “choose to choose” rather than just be carried through the current of life. What are some new decisions or behaviors you might choose? Brainstorm first and allow yourself a moment to chart a new course. Pick one thing that takes you off auto-pilot. Consider slowing down or journaling or reading. Don’t keep doing the same things and expecting a different result.
Take one small (or big) step each day consistent with your SMART Goals and you will change your life. Align your goals with your Vision…heart, mind, body and soul. These steps form a process to live a life of potential. The image above shows an example.
Action must be preceded with ideas, choices and planning (and don’t minimize these). We only have a limited amount of time and should use it wisely. This “thinking” work focuses our action so that we execute well and allows us to do “right things right”. Action is directed to family, relationships, career, personal development, service and more. This helps us to become the best person we can be (and choose to be).
Your life plan deserves requires regular attention. Start by defining your ideal life (Vision). Review and update it weekly because we become what we think and believe. While the introspection is important, you can’t stop there. Action is the accomplishment of the goal-related tasks and this Action must be daily. It is the consistent accomplishment of Action items that builds confidence and self-worth.
It is too easy to waste time on the little things such as e-mail or house work. They are necessary but insufficient. We deserve downtime and fun too; these modes are necessary but still insufficient. Avoid procrastination and “eat that frog”. Don’t confuse busy-ness with productivity or progress. We have 24 hours per day and a little bit spent each day on purposeful Action will change your life.
Thoughts pop into our head all day long. Some come and go and others linger. Some make us happy and others accumulate into unnecessary stress. Thoughts get compared to beliefs and might turn into emotions. These emotions can work for us or against us…toward our vision and goals or away. It can unfold in seconds or linger for days. Let’s look at the process.
- Thoughts. A thought pops into our head. We are not fully mindful.
- Beliefs. These thoughts get compared to intrinsic beliefs. These beliefs are “truth” for us but not necessarily everyone else because we tell ourselves “stories”.
- Emotions. Emotions instantaneously emerge from these thoughts and beliefs. Some accumulate into unhealthy stress.
- Actions. Finally, we choose to react or respond. Reacting is what we do without thinking and sometimes gets us into trouble. It’s usually better to take a deep breath and respond with your mind engaged.
Here is an example. You agree to host the holiday dinner for the extended family for the first time. Your thoughts go to planning…what to buy and where to sit. You believe (hope, pray) that it is an event that should go without incident. You want to show you can do it with excellence. Emotions emerge as things go slightly wrong…a drink spilled or a casserole burned. You say something (the action) that you later regret.
Pause for a moment to check what you are thinking. Don’t judge it; just acknowledge it. This begins the journey of mindfulness.
Living to our potential includes elements of attitude and aptitude. Put together, they help us soar to new heights in our personal or work lives. It starts with choices: positive thoughts, supportive relationships and new skills and abilities.
Attitude emerges from our thoughts and belief systems. Ideally, it is the positive belief that you can do something and even the thought that you should do something rather than procrastinating. It is also the belief that others are trying their best too. It is the spark of motivation, often hidden from our conscious thought. It can be fueled by a clear personal Vision and related Goals. It can be lost in a moment of despair or crisis.
Aptitude is related to skills and abilities and includes ongoing growth-seeking learning and experiences. There is a desire to get better at something, even master it. You must choose where to focus growth. It may be in managing relationships, leadership or a technical skill. Let your passion guide you.
Both are important, but I have a belief bias that attitude is THE essential ingredient in life and career. Belief in yourself is powerful. Internally, it takes some significant experiences to develop this confidence and belief. Externally, it helps to receive encouragement from others, to have family, friends and managers that believe in you and make an “investment” in you.
Altitude is the outcome and up to you…up, down or flat. What new heights do you seek? Are you in touch with your attitude and aptitude?
There is something energizing about being a “senior”, that time of life beyond 60 years old. The kids have grown up and you may be an “empty nester”. You have accumulated incredible life skills. Your maturity and experience cause you to see life differently…with wisdom, patience and even a bit more humor.
Seniors are a valuable commodity to family and community. This talent and capacity must be nurtured individually and systemically. Individually, we must define a “retirement” in our own way. We must know that we are each priceless and not let our past be our only identity. Each of our 168 hours per week is lived uniquely, balancing time and attention choices across work, leisure, family and service. Do it deliberately by being clear on Purpose, Vision and Goals. Systemically, we need organizations to create meaningful roles that encourage use of all our talents and continue to develop them. Organizations also need to implement flexible schedules.
Express your creativity…in projects of any type. Keep learning and live to your full potential. Have courage to try new things. Form deeper or new relationships with family and friends. See the world and people with a new perspective. Remember the “good times” but provide future-focused leadership in your passion.
Choosing purposeful activities has been shown to enhance the quality and longevity of life. Our minds and bodies both need to be exercised to stay vibrant. Everybody deserves their day/week/month “on the beach” but I hope you also choose contribution and impact.