Posts Tagged 'better life'

Crystal Palace

crystalpalace

It’s beautiful. Looks fantastic. A great ideal to hold on to.

Thanks to technology, (relative) peace and historic levels of prosperity, we’ve turned our lives into a type of crystal palace, a gleaming edifice that needs to be perfected and polished more than it is appreciated.

We waste energy whining over slight imperfections, while we’re simultaneously losing our ability to engage with situations that might not have outcomes shiny enough or risk-free enough to belong in the palace. By insulating ourselves from perceived risk we spend our days in a prison we’ve built for ourself.

Shiny, but hardly nurturing. And still fragile.

Growth is messy and seems dangerous. Life is messy and inherently somewhat dangerous. When we insist on a guarantee, an ever-increasing standard in everything we measure, and a Hollywood ending, we get none of those.

 

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Winning Combination

lighteningteampartnership

Tom Brady wasn’t a superstar in college. And nobody knew who (coach) Bill Belichick was before they got together. What about: Ben and Jerry. Warner Brothers, Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wasniak, Click and Clack. The Wright Brothers. Larry Page and Sergy Brin. The cast of Top Gear or Friends. Simon and Garfunkel. Rush.

All were (or are) great together. Winning combinations.

Here’s another kind of list:

  • Stephen Duffy (Duran Duran)
  • LaTavia Roberson/LeToya Luckett (Destiny’s Child)
  • Michael Dempsey (The Cure)
  • Dik Evans (U2)
  • David Marks (The Beach Boys)
  • Doug Sandom (The Who)

Do you recognize those names? They’ve pretty much been relegated to answers to trivia questions.

History is filled with great partnerships and teams. Groups of people who came together to do something special that the same individuals couldn’t have accomplished on their own. Their power together being greater than the sum of the parts.

Finding a winning combination is magic, like catching lightening in a bottle.

When you find a winning combination, I would encourage you to pursue it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same one your whole life. But it’s so important to see the power in the combo – the team. You can go to new heights, together.

Happiness, Part xx8, Other People

happinessothersrainumbrella

We’ve already explored happiness topics ranging from drugs to business. Perhaps the most vital, if obvious, piece has only been touched on up to now.

The Portuguese island of Madeira, known most for its excellent wine, is part of a volcanic archipelago that sits in the Atlantic Ocean far off the southwest coast of Portugal. It’s actually closer to northwest Africa, and loosely associated with the Canary Islands as a stopping point for transatlantic journeys.

One small island in the group has such steep cliffs jutting out of the ocean that it actually looks a bit like a cylinder. At the top is a several-acre plateau on which are grown the most prized grapes that go into Madeira wine. On this plateau lives only one large animal: an ox whose job is to plow the field. The only way to the top is a winding and narrow path. There is no way an ox could navigate the path, so when the ox dies, how is it replaced? A baby ox is carried on the back of a worker up the mountain, where it spends the next forty years plowing the field alone. If you are moved by this story, ask yourself why. One ox, alone, in a field on the plateau of a small rock island in the middle of the ocean.

Very little that is positive is solitary. When was the last time you laughed uproariously? The last time you felt indescribable joy? The last time you sensed profound meaning and purpose? The last time you felt enormously proud of an accomplishment? Even without knowing the particulars of these high points of your life, there is one thing I’ll bet they had in common: all of them took place around other people. Simply put, other people is the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.

Recent research on human evolution points to the importance of positive relationships. Studies of the big social brain, hive emotions, and group selection persuade me that positive relationships are a basic element of well-being.

It’s really pretty simple, except the catch is that nasty tendency we sometimes have to not want to be around people when things aren’t going well. It’s a downward spiral.

The other tricky aspect, is being around the right people. If you spend time with someone who brings you down or causes you stress, even if through no particular fault of his own, then at minimum you need others in your life who provide the type of companionship that makes the rest work. It turns out we’re pretty complicated socially, yet we produce anxiety and ultimately unhappiness because we don’t always set our lives up in a way that takes care of this truth, or honor and act on behalf of the changes we undergo throughout life. When someone connects and makes you feel good, pay attention, as it’s you trying to tell yourself something. Recognizing the importance of that is essential to not just happiness, but to fundamentally taking care of yourself.

 

Abundance and Safety

abundancefish

No question that for most people in the United States there is an abundance of almost everything needed to live a fruitful and interesting life. Clearly not smooth or easy across the board, but certainly miles better than things were for the average person a hundred years ago.

Amazingly, we still struggle with having what’s often referred to as an abundance mentality. We still separate, divide, protect, even hoard resources. We operate out of fear, or in a mindset to keep safe what we have while we sometimes want what others have (validating our fears).

Consider the story about the two shoe salesmen who went to Africa.

After a week, one man calls the manager and tells her, “I’m coming back home. There’s no hope here. Nobody here is wearing shoes, so there’s no one to sell to.” He boards the next flight home.

The second man calls and says, “You wouldn’t believe what I found here. There is so much opportunity. No one here is wearing shoes. I can sell to the whole country!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, and our perspective is often frustratingly biased towards a lack of abundance, and fear over what might be lost.

I have been referred to as a “risk taker” by a friend. Hrm. Really?! I’ve worked at the same company for 24 years (through five roles), and lived in the same area for that time. Sure, I drive sports cars fast, invest money in risky ventures, and go out on limbs in some other areas, but I wouldn’t characterize myself as a risk-taker at all. Well, maybe relative to this person I am, and that’s my point! I really just try to see that there is an abundance of opportunities available, so a little risk in places is a good practice. If I stumble, I can pick myself up. Otherwise life gets too stale.

Adventure may be dangerous, but routine is lethal. You deserve better. Put some danger in your life and live. Something really beautiful could happen.

The Specter of Dating

trainlights

It’s interesting how many people who are in long-term relationships bring up the foreboding idea of dating as one of their first, or even main, concerns about not being in those relationships any longer. And when they bring it up, most of us quickly agree.

Is dating really that bad, or is the fear more about feeling alone? Regardless it seems like a pretty lame rationalization for staying in a relationship. There may be good reasons, but why does this one come up so often? I submit that if this is one of the first things you think about then you need to take a step back and seriously evaluate what’s going on with you.

Choosing the option that sucks less is not the greatest recipe for a happy and fulfilled life. This thought process leads to the risky area of daring to believe you deserve to be happy, and can be happy. How is your self-esteem?

Nobody ever said being self-aware would be easy.

Comfort

marshmellows

We seek comfort. Not just the nice sofa kind, but the emotional kind. You can see it in people’s actions all the time. We avoid what produces a FEELING of discomfort and gravitate toward what soothes and keeps us feeling safe. Comfort in the short run can be overrated and too much of a driver of our actions, while comfort in the long run may be underrated and isn’t focused on enough. We should be disciplined and take care of our futures. Those are the basics.

So we have been taught in many ways that comfort in the short term is not that important, and maybe even immoral. Don’t cave to your wants and desires. Instead remain disciplined, do the hard work, and stay the course. It’s that classic dilemma of what actions must be taken now to produce the future one wants. We think we sacrifice now to set up the fate (**) we want.

We fight against our tendency to live in the now. Yet, so many self-help experts tell us we need to live in the now more.

It shows in religion, career, saving money or other resources. Sacrifices. It shows in living a less than full or ideal life in hopes that we’re not squandering the future.

However comfort, when we have it, isn’t fully appreciated. We routinely take perfectly adiquite situations and blow them up trying to get more of something (excitement) or something different. We are taught that this is reckless and unwise. No, it can be in certain contexts, but it isn’t inherently so. It is simply our nature – to strive and have an ambition that there is something more. When we program people too much in the discipline of being disciplined, sometimes we inadvertently squish the life out of them. We chip away at the human sense of adventure, and we end up with a society of people who live in fear, can’t create, lack initiative, circle the wagons, and don’t contribute much beyond (maybe) hard work. Nothing wrong with some good hard work, but when it becomes out of balance with the human spirit to “go for it” then we get stagnant, and things begin to go sideways. The real “specialness” of being human is lost, and we risk becoming drones toiling away to get through a life avoiding too much thinking about what we aren’t. All for the sake of trying to protect an unknown future.

But we don’t recognize that the long run eventually becomes the short run.  It’s going to blow up by the time we get there anyway.

There is a balance to be had. Save a little money. Spend some time learning and improving. Don’t forsake your body or mind, but for heaven’s sake, live a life. Force yourself (if necessary) to have a sense of adventure, or act like you do and it will come. Take risks. Blow things up. Start over. I’m not advocating being reckless. I am advocating some actions that could appear as reckless to those around you who want to play it safe. Maybe that play it safe person is you. Blow that up. It is not as audacious as you may think, because if you’re playing it safe (also a risk), it’s probably at least partially because of the almighty fear, which is you not giving you enough credit for being capable and able to figure out how to navigate through the storms you chase.

You can do it if you really want to. The question is, what do you really want? Comfort or happiness?

LettingGo

`(**) – Meant to write “future” there, but it came out as “fate.” I kinda’ like that.

Stuck

ManandWomaninCupEverything that happens to us is generated from something we did, something someone did to us, or just a chance occurrence. Regardless of which it is, the ball is in our court to act, or wait until someone or something changes things. We generally would prefer to take action, but sometimes we can’t see the way out. We are stuck, unable to move forward, or to move it off center. It happens to nearly all of us on occasion. We get stuck for a variety of reasons. Three that come to mind are:

  1. We can’t see the forest for the trees or just don’t see the problem for what it really is.
  2. It’s scary to change our current situation because it’s serving us in some way, or there is a fear of the unknown. What if the change makes things worse?
  3. We are in a double bind, which means we feel damned if we do or don’t.

To get unstuck, there are a several techniques to try. I think these are somewhat obvious, but seeing it in writing can help provide clarity.

  • Play out the fear of change all the way to the worst case scenario and then evaluate if it’s really all that bad or if there is anything good about it. If there is some good (this is the key), move towards it. Just try it and feel good about your courage to grow in the most positive direction possible. You will work the rest out.
  • Ask what the costs are if you stay stuck, and play it out to the worst case scenario. If nothing changes, who will be hurt and how bad can it get? You may be able to continue to be dissatisfied, though it’s not good for you, which probably means others are being negatively affected.
  • Ask yourself what someone who truly loves and wants the best for you would advise. Sometimes, we aren’t as compassionate with ourselves as we are with those we love. Hearing and trusting their voice in our head can be used as a guide for what to do. But be cautious. This can easily turn into you choosing what will make others happy. That’s not the point. And keep in mind…they are afraid, too. Not objective. You have to weigh the agenda of the source, but it is worth considering.
  • Look at how the current situation is serving your needs, even at low levels. Sometimes we settle for low level fulfillment instead of going for the thing that will really fill us up because it feels safer to stick with the devil you know instead of the one you don’t. Consider the positive benefits of raising your standards. I was once told that “it’s never a bad thing to raise your standards.” This goes for yourself and for who you’re with.
  • Ask yourself if you have a true commitment to growing. If you do, and you recognize that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying (inside), then consider what you’ll do to grow. Will you take a chance and try something new, even if its scary and there is no guarantee it will work out? Can you feel good about yourself for being brave enough to just try it and course correct later if need be? (Hint: Yes)
  • Consider that there is a life lesson in this situation, and determine what it is. Ask yourself if you are ready to learn it now, and if not, why. Are you hoping the Universe will take over and make the change for you? Not choosing is still a choice. And if you don’t make a change, something happens that’s not your choice and you have to deal with it anyway. Isn’t it better to make the choice on your own and feel like you have some semblance of control over the situation? When you don’t, you open yourself up to something happening that takes the control away from you, requiring you to put the pieces back together and move on with your life, the hard way. You also open yourself up to the problem repeating until you show up for it and “walk through the fire” by making the choices that are authentic to you.

As with many things in this blog, it’s easy to say. Easier to read and understand. Hard to do. Sometimes you have to push harder.



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