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?
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.
Affirmation (noun): the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed; emotional support or encouragement.
Like smiling, giving another person a positive affirmation is a simple yet significant gift. It goes something like this… I see this special talent/strength/value in you. It shows up in what you do and makes you a unique and wonderful person. The way you use this “specialness” is making a difference.
We all need affirmation at some time. People who are hurting regularly need it. All too often, they do not have caring people in their lives who nurture them. Strong positive words offer support and encouragement and they have a lasting effect. It’s a way to show we care and build a relationship.
Be specific; rather than saying “you are amazing”, try “your talent for cooking combined your ability to select food ingredients helps you bring people together in harmony over a special meal”. Emphasize behaviors and skills. An affirmation is an important mentoring skill. It is especially important because it helps another to “know themselves deeply”.
We Zapp when we give “positivity; we Sapp when we take away energy. Choose to say positive things to others 10x more than you criticize. It’s much more effective (and fun) in influencing behavior.
Affirmations can be personal as well (but is not my focus today). It’s the things we say or think to ourselves over and over. The idea is simply to change our beliefs.
Time management is an important skill but I’ve come to believe that attention management is the bigger opportunity (and challenge). We are blasted with attention options and choices all day long. We sometimes try multi-tasking but this is not effective in a human relationship. We need to be available attentively. How do we do this?
- Choose the relationships that are important and invest in them. Make time for the important people of our lives. Call rather than text, schedule a time for coffee, lunch or a beer or just drop by. Simply show up; this is how we demonstrate to them that they are important (rather than just thinking they are).
- Put away or turn off the distractions. Find a quiet place to be together. Turn off the TV or put away the cell phone. Find a babysitter for the kids.
- Suspend your own problems, just for a short while. Focus on the other person and look them in the eye. Choose empathy and love.
- Practice active listening. Focus on hearing the meaning of their words rather than the words themselves. Nod, paraphrase and ask questions to insure they know we heard their words and meaning.
Choose to intentionally single-task. Use your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your mind to think and your heart to feel. With all senses tuned-in we become focused at a new, deeper level. Be mindful of attention shifts and bring yourself back to your intended focus. Being available attentively requires practice.
We all have desires, dreams, hopes or wishes. Do you know yours? We need to satisfy three levels:
- Needs to survive. This includes food, clothing, shelter and transportation.
- Needs to thrive. This is the part about knowing yourself deeply, the things that need to be in place to live to your purpose and potential. I would add belonging and love to this list. The key word is need.
- Other wants. This is everything else and includes “stuff” like material possessions, promotions and experiences.
Going deeper on the need to thrive, I want to offer “heart, mind, body and soul” as a context. Said differently, what are your emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual needs? We each have a unique mix of needs to satisfy to thrive.
Here are some examples:
- Heart. Being in a relationship and knowing that you are loved for who you are. Having an emotional connection with a friend or person in need. Feeling empathy and compassion.
- Mind. Learning something new. Goal setting and accomplishment. Solving problems for yourself or others.
- Body. Taking care of yourself to avoid illness or eating well to maintain high energy.
- Soul. Having a relationship with God. Having some personal time to enjoy what you love without the demands of daily life. Silence and time to reflect.
Don’t just fill up your time with activities; learn to thrive. Take a few minutes and capture your needs to thrive on paper. When you truly understand them, set goals and act to achieve them.
When writing on the topic of mentoring I am usually focused on its importance in helping other people. This blog focuses on what it can do for each of us…not to be selfish but to embrace that service is a two-way street. It is one of those foundational, but higher-level, life skills that we can use every day in any relationship.
To be a good mentor, you must learn essential life skills:
- Active listening and asking powerful open-ended questions.
- Empathy, putting yourself in another’s situation.
- Encouragement, leading to persistence and resilience.
- Affirmations, helping another see something good in themselves.
- Visioning, seeing and planning a bold future.
- Goal setting and action planning, getting something important done every day.
Mentors see life as a process of development. It starts with an orientation toward serving and supporting someone else. It emerges from an emotion of care or love. If you are a mentor then you have a “heart to serve”. I’m sure you want to be good at it. Try going deeper and thinking of it as an accumulation of skills, each of which is important in its own way. Once you learn them you can apply them in everyday situations toward those you care about.
Mentoring is about inspiration, care and support of another but it transforms us too at many levels…heart, mind, body and soul. It is a skill worth mastering to improve our own capacity for purpose and knowing ourselves deeply. Consider taking on a formal mentoring role because “we grow as we serve”.
Why should you spend time discerning (uncovering, understanding, practicing) your Purpose? Why write a Purpose statement? I can think of several reasons:
- Purpose develops a deeper sense of worth. We know who we are deeply including values, strengths, beliefs and needs. This results in confidence because it’s less about “image”. We use this knowledge to pursue more aligned jobs and life roles.
- Purpose makes it easier to choose how we use our time, make decisions and allow people to enter our lives. We learn what is essential in life to thrive, be fulfilled and feel good about ourselves.
- Purpose deepens our connectedness to our Creator, creation and friends and family. Our relationships change.
- Purpose provides a buffer against “losses”. If we lose a job we know that “our job is not our life”. If we lose a life role, e.g. friend, we know that our many other life roles are being pursued.
Understanding the WHY of our lives is essential and worthwhile. Generally, why are you alive? Specifically, why did we pick this friend, this job, this place to live or this activity? Ultimately, choices are an expression of yourself and a reflection of heart, mind, body and soul needs.
More personally, this effort must be called a transformation. My pursuit of a purpose statement took over a year until the final words emerged. The “mining for gold” of my life is still in progress but continual discovery of new gold nuggets continues to thrill me.