3 Questions to Help you Get Your Happiness On…

The Pursuit of Happiness….You Thought this Would be Easy?

capt underpants

What does happiness mean to you? Is it having everything you want or does happiness live inside of something else like good health, good relationships, or goodness itself?

Maybe it should be called the pursuit of goodness?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see an article or a book or news report about the pursuit of happiness. It’s an epidemic of global proportions that everyone wants to be happy. We all go about finding our own happiness levels in various ways, ways that are as unique as our fingerprints. There are so many books written about happiness because each author has found his/her own slice of the happiness equation and has something to say about it. I have in my library 11 books on this specific genre and I’m sure I am not done yet and this doesn’t include articles I have found on the internet that I have saved in a folder somewhere or the countless quotes that I use to inspire me every day from my wallpaper.

I, like you, want to be happy. In his book, Happier, author and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, doesn’t waste much time in his writing to pinpoint what happiness means and what we instinctually need in order to be happy (page 33, 36).

“I define happiness as the ‘overall experience of pleasure and meaning.’ To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrows, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.”

Following that statement he then asks you to make a list of things, from trivial to meaningful, of all the things that provide you pleasure.

Here is my list in no particular order: Good food, meaningful friendships, feeling completely loved and cherished, reading, learning new things, a good night’s sleep, cooking and baking great tasting foods for my family and friends, taking great photographs, writing, walking, cycling, vacationing, hugging, family time, not working outside my home.

I’m sure there are many more items I could add to this list but this is a good start I think. In this list there are items that just exist to add to my peace of mind and overall happiness but there are also a lot of items that are experiencing items. The things we do that add to our happiness mostly come from the experience that created the feeling of happiness. In that experience lays meaning. In the experience and meaning is the action of the pursuit.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire

I’d like to take a moment and focus on one of the items I listed. I mentioned not working outside of my home. I have always been a home body. I can’t remember a time in my whole life where I didn’t get great pleasure from being home. I love to take vacations and see new places and experience new things but it’s the pleasure of being able to come home that allows me the freedom of spirit to go out into the world and fulfill those other needs. My life energy comes from the strength I get from where I call home.

I am in between jobs right now and to be quite honest, even though I know I have to go out to work and I am actively seeking new employment I am thoroughly enjoying being home, working with my coaching clients, writing my blog posts, taking classes at night, and taking care of my family and my home. In the spaces between not working for someone else and doing what I love doing as a coach, I volunteer. Where I can’t give to my family financially I give to those in need spiritually and organically. Volunteering is very spiritual for me because it gives me a sense of significance; it is important to me and is priceless in terms of helping to define my own pursuit of happiness. I truly believe that happiness is contagious and if I am happy then I am without fail going to be able to affect the happiness level of someone else. As the Buddha says, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Author Tal Ben-Shahar writes:

“We should also remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted, reminds us to be grateful for all the large and small pleasures in our lives. Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure.”

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” –James 1:2

Not everything about my working from home is perfect and happy all the time. We are struggling financially and have to face some really tough decisions in the very near future. I am also quite lonely sometimes while the house is that quiet for so many hours. I think it is an impossibility to appreciate the things that help us feel happy without the struggles of what makes us feel unhappy. The happiness level we reset ourselves to helps determine how we know when we are more happy or less happy than most days. Author and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote in her book, The How of Happiness, that each of us is born with a happiness set point:

“It appears that each of us is born with a happiness set point, a characteristic potential for happiness throughout our lives. Although you may be temporarily ecstatic or miserable by what comes to pass, it seems that you can’t help eventually returning to your set point.”

“But just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed.”

I read a blog post recently in which the author writes about a course she took about miracles. She listed 3 miracles that we could practice every day but the one that really stood out for me was that “a miracle is a shift in perception.” I apply this idea to happiness.

Happiness is a shift in perception.

Getting truly, bitterly, vulnerably honest within ourselves is the first step toward happiness. By my truth of admitting how happy I feel working from home I am that much closer and in touch with all of the implications of that truth and of my happiness. If my perception of my own happiness is going to change for the better, here are some questions that will help get me there:

Are the things I am doing meaningful to me?

What is my mind telling me I should be doing differently with my time?

What is my heart telling me I must change?

What do I value most about myself and my life?

My children grew up hearing me constantly say to them to have patience and tolerance. It’s become such a repeated moniker that I now just say to them, “P & T honey, P & T.” This is a reminder and a reset of not only our perception of a situation but also of our heart because after all happiness lives and grows from the heart.

The other miracle that the author spoke about was to remember that infinite patience delivers immediate results. It sounds backwards but…. time becomes a non- issue.

For example, if you got a late start on your day it is not the fault of anyone you will come in contact with throughout your day.

Imagine this: you are at the grocery store and I don’t know about where you live but where I live our grocery store has 3 express check- out lanes as well as 6 self- check-out lanes. I don’t enjoy using self-check-out so I try to stay within the minimum grocery amount and use the express lane. Without fail each and every time I use the express lane I do not make it out the door in any express kind of way. I watch some of the longer regular grocery lanes and those larger orders in most cases are done long before I am even up to my turn. It is so easy to get frustrated and upset because if you are on express you truly are in some kind of hurry to get done quickly.

The next time this happens to you take a deep breath and remind yourself to have P & T and see how that works for you. Did it really matter that you were longer in the store than you wanted to be? How did time slip into oblivion because you decided to not let the long wait negatively affect you? Did you smile at the check-out employee even if you weren’t feeling a true smile? If so, how did that make the employee feel and how did you feel passing along that smile?

How we affect other people makes a great contribution to our happiness or unhappiness.

Hyrum W. Smith is not necessarily someone you might hear a lot about but he is a distinguished author, speaker and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Franklin Covey, Co., a global company specializing in helping organizations achieve results that require a change in human behavior through performance improvement. It may not sound very interesting to most of us but he has been quite successful in using his gift and wit and enthusiasm in the field of  perception and communications. This week I attended a live webinar about the idea of living happier. Mr. Smith was one of the speakers and gave me what I think is the most important 3 questions in determining each of our personal levels of happiness:

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

Is this something I have to do?  This is considered the lowest level of happiness. Feeling as if you have to do something puts you in a place of fear. If you are acting from a place of fear you have no chance of being or feeling happy unless fear is such an adrenaline rush that you thrive on its energy.

Is this something I ought to do? This is the medium or middle level of happiness. Feeling as if you ought to do something puts you in a place of duty. When you act out of a sense of duty you are more authentic to your happiness but there is still some fear residing inside. There is never anything wrong with doing the right thing so it’s not a bad place to be in action from.

Is this something I want to do?  This is the highest level of happiness. Feeling as if you want to do something puts you in a place of love. When you act from a place of love you are initiating happiness from within and spreading it outward with every move you make and every word you speak.

From my perspective of life being backward you would think that being happy was easy to achieve but in reality being happy is hard to achieve but it doesn’t have to be if we make a habit of pursuing happiness with perspective, patience, tolerance and heart. Let your life reflect your values in all that you do and happiness will not be hard to find and maintain.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Call to Action

Here are some small ways in which you can live happy today:

Send an encouraging, flattering or loving email to 5 people today, this minute, this week. The way they will feel after reading what you wrote will undoubtedly be passed along to everyone they come in contact with that day. You can change a life today by doing just that one thing.

Ask yourself, what went right today?

Keep a tally this week of all the times your actions fell into the 3 levels of happiness then figure out how you can move up the ladder to the highest level of happiness:

*What were your have to’s?

*What were your ought to’s?

*What were your want to’s?

Please share with me how this action agenda has helped you. I love to hear your feedback.

Story Time

Story Time

starfish

“What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.” –Mahatma Gandhi

There was a little boy walking the beach and he noticed many starfish scattered all along the shore line. They were all still alive but he knew that if they didn’t get back into the water soon they would all start to die. Carefully and gently he started to pick up each starfish and put them back into the water.

After quite a while an old man came walking along the beach and stopped to notice what the boy was doing. He watched him for a time and finally went up to the boy and asked, “There are millions of starfish throughout this vast ocean, why are you bothering to put those starfish back into the water? “

The boy did not answer at first and kept putting the starfish back into the water. Finally, he held one of the starfish in his hand and he said to the man, “I do it because it might matter to this one starfish.”

“You will always feel insignificant if you never do anything to change the world or another person’s life, other than your own.” Shannon L. Alder

The dictionary defines insignificance as littleness, of no consequence, null, inconsequential.

Each one of us has a unique human print and for that matter each living organism has a unique organism print. There is no one like us in the world and yet we all go through struggles of insignificance many times throughout our lives. We are like the starfish on that beach and at times we each want and need someone to care so much and help set us right again and give us the hope and the chance to feel acknowledged and significant.

We are made weak by moments in life that bring us low or in the case of our starfish that bring us to an unfamiliar shoreline out of our normal element.

It is written in the bible (Corinthians 2, 12:10), “For when I am weak, than am I strong.” For some of us when we are feeling insignificant we look deep within and try to find self-worth but what we find is that we are really in need of a helping hand. In our weakness we become humbled and in our unique way ask for help. In the asking and in the weakness of our feeling of insignificance is where our strength lies. The asking and the weakness is really hope and possibility desiring to flourish. Whether you ask for help from G-d, a trusted friend or colleague, a husband, a wife or a child the lowliness makes us stronger and more compassionate because once feelings and emotions become known they leave a footprint on our souls and in our hearts that won’t ever go away.

To the boy in this story those starfish were not insignificant or invisible or worthless. They were in need and could only ask for help in their unique way by being their brilliant starfish selves and G-d sent the one person who could recognize their beauty and uniqueness and give the starfish the acknowledgment they deserved; their significance.

Sure, some starfish might wash back up on shore not believing in their worthiness but most will seize their moment and live their life as only each one of them can.

“To realize that everything in the universe is connected is to both accept our insignificance and understand our importance in it.” Jeffrey Fry

This quote got me to thinking about the purpose of a starfish or Sea star. In doing a bit of research I learned that starfish protect a certain kind of other fish by eating algae and starfish are great at decomposition. Did you know that starfish can regenerate their arms? If they are under attack they can detach the arm being pulled at and escape their attacker. It would take about a year to regrow the entire arm length but they have the ability to do that miraculous thing. Could it be then that starfish are here not only to be beautiful and help keep our oceans clean but to provide research into regeneration of limbs? What a miracle that would be.

What are your unique attributes? What makes you significant? Here are a few ways to find out:

Define who you are: Write down all the things you know for sure about yourself. Get real and above all be honest, then test what you think you know by taking a personality test online. Personality tests are a great aid. Sites like Personality41Q  or Humanmetrics or Personalitypathways. Learn about yourself through samplings of sites like these and get a clear picture of who you are and who you want to be.

Learn as you grow: There are things you may know for sure about yourself and the values that you live by but always be open to learning more about who you are. Your significance to the world around you is that you can always try to improve as you grow. Who you are today is not completely going to be who you are in 10 years from now so allow for room to grow and learn and evolve. Try not to stay stuck in old ways of thinking and being.

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Aristotle

The past is the past: When you are ready, let what happened in the past live in the past. Your significance plays strong when you can let a painful or hurtful moment of your life have its day in the sun and then die away, never to live long enough to define you. Everyone has a past and everyone has a mountain of memories labeled “my history”. Try not to let your history repeat itself or define who you are growing to be.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

Comparison shopping is a no-no: Comparing yourself to someone else only hurts you every time. Your significance can’t be noticed if you are trying to be like someone else. Sure, you can like certain things about all kinds of people but putting those pieces together to create who you want to be, trying it on for size, that’s where it’s at.

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” Bill Gates

Treat others as you treat yourself: Your significance is in your authenticity, always and your authenticity is who G-d wanted you to be all along. Treat everyone and everything with the same respect you treat yourself. Use the same morals, values and ethics and your authenticity will shine.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.” Confucius, Sayings of Confucius

Dump and recycle days: Allow for some days to really stink. Not every day can be good but we can find a bit of good in every day. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t quite stick to your plan or value code. Know where you went wrong and make tomorrow a better day because of what you’ve learned.

“Yesterday was not your defining moment. The calendar moved forward; why not you?” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

For me the message is, you are one among many. Return to the world all that you are. Learn and acknowledge your uniqueness and significance. Be humbled when someone acknowledges you and notice how insignificance fades and your inner spirit is born anew.

“Tiny-perhaps.” Rovender kept his eyes fixed on the rings. “Insignificant-never, Eva Nine. No living thing is insignificant.” Tony DiTerlizzi, The Search for WondLa

Call To Action

At what times in your life have you felt insignificant?

Who helped you?

How are you humbled in weakness?

What is one thing you can do right now to start feeling your significance?

Image courtesy of bing.com/gambassa.com

6 Pathways toward Attracting your Dreams

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“She wasn’t where she had been. She wasn’t where she was going, but she was on her way.” Jodi Hills

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about visioning, vision statements, laws of attraction, positive energy, etc. It sounds good on paper and in conversations but does it really work and how can you make all that magic happen for your life?

An article appeared in the Business Insider in July of 2012 and writers Aimee Groth and Ashley Lutz interviewed Esther and Jerry Hicks, authors of the book, Law of Attraction: The basics of the Teachings of Abraham. In their article the writers listed ways in which you can attract more of the life you want. In a nutshell here is the list:

  1. You attract good or bad experiences based on your thoughts. In other words keep your thoughts as honest and pure as you can because even the bad stuff gets in.
  2. Thinking about something means you invite it in, even if you don’t want it.
  3. The more you focus on something, the more powerful it becomes. Don’t worry, be happy.
  4. It’s better to trust your emotions than over-think a decision. I talked about this in my post, Decisions, Decisions ( http://journeyoncoaching.com/2014/07/14/decisions-decisions-5-mindsets-toward-making-your-best-choice/).
  5. Make good things happen more quickly by thinking about them more. Jerry Hicks says, “When you give your attention to a subject and you feel only positive emotion about it, it will come very quickly into your experience.”
  6. You have to see things as you hope them to be, not as they are. The example here was that Michael Phelps would envision himself winning each swim race every night before he went to sleep.
  7. Devote time to powerful thinking. Spending time each day thinking and visioning your goals increases your chances for success.
  8. Everyone has the same chance at success. Success is not a limited resource.
  9. When disappointment shows up allow it in but do not allow it to make a home there.
  10. Avoid negative experiences if at all possible. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting experiences as much as you can. “Your attention to anything  has the power to draw it closer to you.”

While I was going through my coach training one of the hardest yet at times most impactful questions we were encouraged to keep in our arsenal was the question of what do you see for yourself or where do you want to be in 3, 5, or 10 years from now? It’s a hard question to answer for most but a great pathway toward a true vision for your life for some if not all of us.

A college student came to me for a few sessions wonderingif she was on the right path for her life. She said that she goes through this type of angst at the start of every school year because so much money is required in order for her to keep on her path toward her bachelor degree goal. Each year she wonders if the money is worth it because she has yet to sit in a classroom and not only find respect for the professors but to feel like she is learning anything of value for what she struggles to pay for this degree.

So the question came up in a session, “what do you see for yourself when these last 18 months are over?” There was no hesitation for her to answer and say that she wants to get her bachelor’s degree yet she kept on going with her thought process until I jumped in and stopped her. “Stop right there. Don’t think beyond the want. Let’s see what it will take to make the want possible.”  And so began her journey toward her vision of becoming a bachelor degree graduate. My client felt that her overwhelm was not only in finding the money each semester but also in the unknown of whether she could finish in 18 months or would she have to extend her education time line.

Visioning becomes easier when it’s broken into smaller pieces. If 3, 5, or 10 years is too much to manage then break it down into more doable pieces like 3, 5 or 10 months or even smaller pieces by measuring progress and achievements by weeks or days.

So, let’s start with a vision statement. A vision statement is a description of a desired outcome. The statement is filled with energy and determination. The statement creates a mental picture of your goal and would reflect the best possible outcome. A vision statement is letting go of all of your inhibitions and really stretching way outside of your comfort zone by imagining only the good that will come of your creativity in the end. The challenge is to go as far out of your normal way of thinking in order to get to where you want to be, in other words to open your eyes and see things as they could be.

So how do we begin to form a vision statement? Assuming you have already asked and answered the burning question of “what do I want” here are a few steps to help you get started:

According to Dr. Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D. and her book, Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams, “visionaries are asked to surrender and allow the dream or vision to materialize rather than to force it. Visioning emphasizes the heart’s desire, not what we ‘think’ we want or what we think is ‘possible’ or ‘practical’.”

  1. Describe your vision statement using “now” words. Use words as if your vision were really happening and you are working it every day. “In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.” –Victoria Moran
  2. Make it personal. Use emotion when talking about or describing your vision. How does it make you feel to talk about it or work toward the goal you envision? Do you get excited, overwhelmed, scared, or energized? Let all the emotions come as they may. In other words how passionate are you? Does what you describe inspire you to do more, go further? Do others feel compelled to listen and support you? “The saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there is nothing to make it last.” – Nicholas Sparks
  3. Stay in touch. Use describing words like colors, smells, sounds, shapes, activities, outcomes. Make the vision as detailed as possible. Make your vision as tangible to the listener as possible, even if the listener is only you. “When you work on the little things big things happen.” –Rodger Halston
  4. Let the journey take you away. Get lost in the flow of working toward your dreams. Don’t limit yourself to only what you see. Follow your heart but stay flexible so that when the road curves and twists and bends away from your original path you will be able to expand and hone your vision even further. It’s not so much how you start but that you start. The journey is in the details and the story is the journey. “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway
  5. Leave the inner critic at the door. Try not to let the “logical” part of you take control of the creative part of you. Think like a child who doesn’t know about limits and let the limitless you shine through. “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
  6. Say a prayer. The more energy and support you can bring to what you want the greater the likelihood of your vision coming true. “’Help’ is a prayer that is always answered.” – Anne Lamott

“The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. VISION will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to achieve excellence. Only VISION allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. VISION has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our VISION is what we become in life. ” Tony Dungy

Call To Action

What do you want? Start with something small and build from there. As you make each small want a reality you are building confidence and limitless possibilities toward the bigger visions of your life. Don’t hold back. Share your wants with me and remember I’m here to help in any way that I can.

Images by bing.com/futuresobright.com

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

A Mother’s Prayer

 

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“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

I know Ms. Gilbert said that as a personal incentive to create the life she wanted for herself but when I read it with a mother’s perspective it takes on a whole new meaning. As mom’s we must participate relentlessly in the manifestation of our own blessings, our blessings being our children. We will get it wrong a lot but we must continue to be relentless because our children need us to be so. However in our relentless pursuit of caring for our children we forget the one most important lesson, the one thing that sounds the most backward…

“But kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. Motherhood is the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs In Heaven

I need to remind myself of this nearly every day because my heart wants them to need me but in reality it’s a different kind of need that I truly want. It’s not a dependency need it’s a memory lane kind of need.

So how do we muster the strength to be relentless? In a word, love.

“Evil itself may be relentless. I will grant you that, but love is relentless too. Friendship is a relentless force. Family is a relentless force. Faith is a relentless force. The human spirit is relentless, and the human heart outlasts – and can defeat – even the most relentless force of all, which is time.” Dean Koontz, Relentless

I am relentlessly in pursuit of life meaning and life purpose and understanding free will and just what it means to be grateful and feel blessed. I was led to get in touch with my daughter’s co-worker today because she and I seemed to have similar life struggles that called to both of us for support. It was the best thing I did today. During our conversation she spoke of her struggles with her son and in the middle of her story I heard this, “…….a mother’s prayer……”. I knew what I wanted to do right then.

“The greatest heroes in life are those that never give up on someone. They stick it out and make it work. They sacrifice things in their life, in order to help others grow. They give up what they want because someone needs it more. They work hard and overcome adversity. They fail for a moment, but get back up on their feet to show others they don’t have to stay down. They show their loved ones that love is not “proved” by conformity. They teach others that having a voice is a sign of courage, and they will not stay silent to make people feel comfortable. They are fearless and will do whatever it takes to bring about the greatness in the ones they love because doing so brings them peace. Their name is—MOM.” Shannon L. Alder

Relentlessly I pray for my children. For their safety, for their good health in mind and body and spirit, for their good thoughts both for themselves and toward others but I know that their journey is individual and just as it has taken me all these years to learn and grow and discover and uncover layers of who I am and who I am yet to be so I must allow time to work its magic on them. My prayer then becomes one of asking that they be led to a path of self-discovery, self-sacrifice and self-awareness for their immeasurable blessings.

What does your prayer sound like?

Call to Action

There are no rules to this thing. Just let your heart speak. There is no special day or time of day, there are no special words to use because all prayers are heard and answered in the right space and time. Right where you are in the middle of the chaos and relentless pursuit of raising your good, free-thinking, loving family is the best and most right place to speak your prayer.

Share your mother’s prayer with me and it just may wind up in my new book.

I came across this beautiful poem/prayer that I have to share with you because it could be every mother’s prayer for her child/children any time of their lives:

“For Equilibrium, a Blessing:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore, May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance, May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth, May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in, So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said, May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames, May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough to hear in the depths the laughter of god.” John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

If you would like to explore more about personal growth in any direction, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

Remembering Self…

“They would think she was savoring the taste (blueberries, cinnamon, cream-excellent), but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory.”
Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

I remember times throughout motherhood when I just knew I was in a moment I wished could go on forever. I tried with all my might to hold on to each millisecond that was flowing by, like leaves falling from the trees on a brisk autumn day, wanting so badly to catch time and make it stop in its tracks so that I could savor and expand the absolute joy of being a mom, of seeing these precious gifts I was given flow and grow. All the while I knew that just like any other 24 hour day this too will come to an end and we would head forward toward another memory to be made and another day in which I would want to hold on forever.

The other day I was reflecting on just what it means to celebrate Memorial Day as my son leaves home and embarks on taking the reins of his life. I’m blessed and grateful that I am not remembering him through tragedy but I am remembering him nonetheless for how fast the time has come and gone from his conception to birth to twenty years later. I can’t help but wonder, did I teach enough, did I love enough, did I connect enough, was there joy enough, laughter enough, or support enough? How does a parent measure success as a parent?

“If that’s what joy is, connection, then to fully experience it requires something terrifying as well as exalting: opening oneself up to the possibility of loss.” – Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

The real question for me is what is loss? Is loss the history of time? Is loss missed opportunities? Is loss something had but now gone? If you have ever really, truly loved another human being then you have opened yourself up to the possibility of loss.  Sometimes I feel like I have lost the chance to influence my children differently than I already have; I feel like I have lost the chance to say the things I now know how to say; I feel like I have lost the chance to enjoy their youth more than I already did; I feel like I have lost the chance to connect with them deeper than I already have connected. I am feeling the loss of time.

Or have I lost the chance at all? Even if heaven forbid my children were taken from me and never to return was the chance to see them grow up ever really part of the package of being their parent in the first place or was I only meant to take their souls just so far and then let them go? Was I meant to teach them what I now know or was I meant to teach them what I did know at the moment I was their young mother? Have I really lost the chance to influence my children or will they be willing to hear all the lessons I have learned since being their young mother? Did I lose the chance to connect with my children deeper or is that still possible as they get older? It will still always be a battle for time.

The joy of connection with my children still exists if they want it to exist. It’s up to them now. The loss I feel can stay a loss if I don’t learn how to capitalize on the new order of the relationships.

I might have lost them before I was ready but then again, is a mother ever ready to let go of her children? We would be a case study in perfectionism, all of us, if we got ourselves mired in the reality of knowing that we only have this one moment right here, right now, to get “it” right and well in order to have our children grow up whole, happy, productive, contributing, sane human beings. Alas, thankfully, there is no such thing as perfect and somehow the children manage to grow up despite our imperfections. We each can only do the best we can with what we know right this moment and let love be our guide.

 “There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.” – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

He left. He took the reins of his life, like I taught him to do, and he left home. He was so comfortable and so well taken care of that he became lazy and unmotivated and passionless and complacent and entitled and he knew it and he felt it and he wanted to change it all. I didn’t teach him that, although maybe I did, by loving him and taking care of him when he was tired and feeding him when he was hungry and talking to him when he clearly needed a talking to and washed his clothes when he had nothing to wear that was clean and pointing out to him the life lessons he should pay attention to. It would seem that all of the love has empowered him to say through his act of leaving, “Mom, don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

Psychologist and Nobel laureate Dr. Daniel Kahneman has made the distinction of how we remember events that take place in our lives. He talks about the remembering self and the experiencing self. The experiencing self is the self that moves through the world and in theory should be more likely to control our daily life choices. For example, Dr. Kahneman points out that if you are going in to have a colonoscopy and the procedure lasts even 10 seconds longer than originally scheduled and ends with a bit of discomfort, it is the ending that the experiencing self will attach to not the overall painless, not so bad procedure in the immediate aftermath of the procedure. Given time and space the remembering self will kick in and the overall memory of the procedure will not be as bad as it was just following the experience.

However, it is the remembering self that plays a more influential role in our lives especially when making plans for our future. For example, even by choosing to create the reality of my son virtually saying he is ready to take on his own life I am employing my remembering self simply because this milestone and significant change is more vividly alive and emotional to my whole being than anything mundane that I would do during my daily life with frequency. There are painful moments leading up to my son leaving but my remembering self will only choose all the good points. The things we do over and over whether for good reason or habit we tend to take for granted. There is very little of the mundane that stands out as a worthwhile memory. It all just gets lumped together. Although I have said good-bye to my son a dozen times throughout his life I always knew, if all goes well, he would be coming home.  Not this time.

The emotional toll surrounding his leaving is heavy and my experiencing self will always be left with the pain of the last hug and the heartbreaking send- off BUT, I choose to employ my remembering self, long before it is a memory. My son’s happiness, which as a parent is always the highest aim for their child, is what is most important. To this end I can see that perhaps I actually did achieve parental success by somehow instilling in him a sense of wonder, and courage and curiosity and love that is strong enough to see him through life’s challenges whether those challenges are of his own doing or fate based.

My experiencing self is not very happy about the fact that he left but the story has not ended yet, it is still ongoing so right now my experiencing self is sad not to have him in my everyday but my remembering self has been working overtime thinking back to when he was born all the way through the hard times of his late teenage years. “We enshrine things in memory very differently from how we experience them in real time”, says Jennifer Senior.

So on this particular Memorial holiday I choose to employ my remembering self as this being when my son launched his life on his terms and started to become the man he wanted to be and at the same time launched his mom to take a good hard look at her own life and emulate her son by becoming the woman she always wanted to be.

To all those finding themselves in the unique and wonderful position of being in their remembering self I say remember on……

Image by Bing.com

Have a Little Faith

 

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.” –Paulo Coelho, Brida

We tend to free associate faith as being synonymous with God or religion but what about faith as an entity or power within ourselves?

What is faith, really? Faith is soul talk. Faith is the voice deep inside of your soul that tells you the truth and it is up to you to listen carefully and honestly to the soul talk; to trust that voice. Some might call it intuition.

What does it feel like to truly have faith?  For me, to truly have faith means to have freedom. To truly have faith means to know that what I am doing is born of a good heart with good intentions and whatever the outcome is, it was supposed to be that way. Faith means to have courage.

“Faith is the courage to live your life as if everything that happens does so for your highest good and learning. Like it or not.” –Dan Millman

How does a person go about living a faithful life? That’s a hard one but from what I’ve experienced to live a faithful life means to relinquish control of the outcome and to let go of doubt.

When I start to feel like I have to hold on tighter than normal to make sure things turn out the way I want the outcome to be, well, this is not necessarily the outcome that should be and it screams of my doubt that things will go well at all. That is when I know I should stop and breathe deeply and let go of my narrow perspective, my righteousness. I don’t have all the answers. I only know what I think would make me happy. My perception of happiness is not for certain. I can’t see the bigger picture because I am the one inside the picture. Let the universe, the hope my energy creates, make more clear what happiness looks like and to then shoulder my doubts. Since I can’t account for every nuance of true happiness I have to believe that those things I can’t account for are just what faith will reveal. Here is a short story to shed light on this idea:

My youngest son is almost finished with high school. He is 17 and has been ready to launch and take control of his life for quite some time. This past week as a matter of fact, he and I had a heated conversation about his ability to take control of his life. I am not seeing any evidence of him making good decisions and the result of his poor decision making has been resulting in unhappy consequences for him. I hold on tighter to try to control his environment and take a strong hand in taking away his opportunities to make bad decisions. It’s not a good thing for me to do but I have been doing it for 17 years so it’s hard to stop just like that.

He on the other hand sees the consequences, good or bad, of his actions as part of a larger learning experience and so he said to me, “Mom, I know you are there for me and I know you worry about me but I want to make my own decisions and learn from my own mistakes.” Well that shut me up really quick. How can I not hear that?

My faith in him as a human being has to be greater than my doubt in his abilities to meet the challenges he is choosing to face. My faith in him as a person coming out of my home and my teachings has to be the overall measuring stick. Of course he is going to make mistakes and bad judgment calls, of course he is going to fall and have to find the inner strength to stand back up again but my FAITH in him OVERALL is what will hopefully give him the courage to meet those challenges; knowing that someone that loves him desperately is not doubting him when it really counts. I have to let go of the outcome, I have to let go of his hand, I have to let go of seeing him as my baby boy and trust, without doubt, and be courageous within myself to let him go. My perception of his happiness is not his perception of his happiness. I don’t know for sure what his future looks like. I can only believe in his ability to stand up to adversity because for all these years I have been kind of shielding him and warning him away from the really bad adversities. That’s not good for him or me. He needs to know that no matter what happens, I am here for him; I am his home when he needs one to regroup in. Yeah, faith is a huge inner sanctum that starts in the soul and spreads outward.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell

The dictionary defines faith as a belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something such as a force or the universe or God, especially without logical proof. It could also be defined as

-Unquestioning belief or

-A non-physical dimension of life; the evidence of things not seen; a strong conviction, deep trust or reliance upon or loyalty to something or some feeling.

Faith is magic. When life is at its lowest point and all seems predictably lost faith says, “But maybe all is not lost. Maybe all you need to do is believe.” Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Glinda the good witch told Dorothy that she had the power to go home all along. All she had to do was believe and concentrate hard on what she really wanted. I think of faith just like that.

My purpose of this post is to explore, briefly, faith without religiousness attached to it. It’s not an easy thing to do so I ask you to please interject your personal awareness of faith where and when appropriate if it is something that comes from a religious point of view for you in order to maintain a continuity of the overall concept of faith.

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” –Alan Wilson Watts

Lately I feel as if I have existed in despair. I have been driven to my knees in humbleness and awe of people and circumstance. It felt like a natural response to the absence of faith. I have been humbled in despair and I have summoned the force within myself to stand back up and take one step forward while at the same time feeling a deep and soulful need to ask the universe or my inner energy for help. It was faith in that one step, faith that that one step was within me to take, that I was able to stand back up and move forward. The soul connection (http://journeyoncoaching.com/2014/03/02/4-powerful-ways-to-make-a-soul-connection/) I made recently along with all of life’s obstacles that seem to have inundated me all at one time, left me with this whirlwind of despair and also this unshakeable knowing that this too shall pass.

I love that cliché, “This too shall pass”. It is the ultimate snapshot of faith. Sure, I want this despair to pass yesterday and if I really had my way I would want to never feel this despair at all but here’s the amazing thing, I am more alive in this moment of despair than at any other time. I am super, hyper sensitive to EVERYTHING that is going on around me right now. I listen deeper, I see more curiously, I feel more sensitively and I speak more purposefully. I ask questions more directly to gain more meaning, perspective and understanding.

Questions constantly fill my brain like, why did I have to go through this experience at all? Why are so many situations in my life crashing down around me all at one time? What are the lessons I am supposed to be learning and when will I learn them?

“Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.” –William Newton Clark

And that’s just it; there is a lesson to be learned and I want desperately to learn it. I want to see beyond what is in front of me. I want to feel beyond my own self interpretation. By having faith in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason I am lulled into a calmer, purposeful plodding.

Sometimes, when I am really quiet, I just know without a doubt that the lesson may not necessarily be only for me but for the person involved in the situation that may have started my despair or for clients I have yet to meet. THAT is fantastic and hopeful! Sure, it’s an ugly feeling to be going through, this despair thing, but my heart needs to understand it and where my heart goes so goes my empathy, my awareness, and my spirit.

“Even when things don’t work out, they do.” –Anonymous

Faith asks you to let go. Faith says, “Do what you need to do so that you know you gave this all you have but then let go of the outcome.” Why is there a need to control everything in our lives? Having faith in myself means that the only real control I have, ever, is my attitude and ability to choose open-mindedness; in other words my ability to expand my perspective.

For sure there are some ways in which putting our faith toward something might be harmful. Recently a family friend told me a story of how a neighbor he had known for over 20 years had asked him to consider investing in a new start up business. Now, this neighbor had proven to be a reliable, friendly,  community minded person and so it was no real stretch for my friend to have had faith in this neighbor and his request because after all, my friend new this man for a very long time. My friend didn’t think twice about investing the money with his friend but within a couple of weeks of investing the money my friend found out that the neighbor took off with the money, not just what was given to him from my friend but from everyone that had invested, never to be heard from again.

So how do you trust your own faith?

My take away from that story is that my friend showed faith in his own judgment and in the neighbor he knew to be this kind, genuine person and that is where it stops. A good decision was made based on solid evidence. But faith means trusting without solid evidence.

The neighbor did not have faith that his financial struggle would get better. The neighbor showed no faith in himself or in knowing that his situation would pass through the difficult time and move fluidly toward a better time. You can only trust yourself and your judgment. Let the rest go. Faith asks you to believe more so on evidence not seen or proven so when our faith is shaken based on evidence seen and proven we want to run for the hills. That is when faith should be at its strongest. Live according to YOUR values and the goodness that exists within you. Bad things are going to happen no matter what so plant your feet in those values that you choose to help define who you are and what you stand for.

Everyone is going through something they feel is horrible. Faith can help make that bumpy, horrible time less overwhelming. Faith at times of despair is like reaching out a hand to a friend.

The story my friend told me has the possibility of not being a done deal. If this neighbor is alive and functioning the hope is that the neighbor is learning and just might someday apologize for his actions. It is our job to have faith that he will learn and grow and not hurt anyone else and we should stand ready to forgive because life is a risk we take every time we get out of bed in the morning. If we ask for forgiveness we should also be available to forgive, to have faith in another persons’ sincerity and integrity.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “We live by faith or we do not live at all. Either we venture or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage or we stay single. We prepare for a profession by faith or we give up before we start. By faith we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by mole hills.”

I just finished reading an incredible, thought provoking book called “The Noticer”, by Andy Andrews. Please read this book. It is a quick read because it is so captivating, so simple, and so impactful. The gist of the book is about perspective and how simply changing the angle from which we see and take things in can have a profound impact on our lives starting with taking back hope. (http://journeyoncoaching.com/2013/05/22/is-there-a-difference-between-a-hope-and-a-wish/)

Faith asks us to have hope.

“Hope meets you halfway on a bridge called faith.” –Bryant McGill

My perspective regarding faith has absolutely changed from a religious based thought to a personal life encompassing value. When I practice being present with faith I can feel myself open up like a flower in the morning sunrise. It takes lots of practice but the peace of mind and spirit I have discovered is worth making time for.

Call to Action

Share your story with me and my readers about how faith has proven to be a positive force in your life. We all need to hear positive, uplifting, out of the norm stories to help us cling to hope, possibilities and faith.

If you would like to explore more about personal growth or would like to learn how to activate your intentions toward more meaning and purpose for your life please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com

Images by bing.com

Hope springs eternal

hope 001

#25: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

 Emily Dickinson

How do you see hope in this photograph?

What seeds of hope have you released today?

How often does hope show up in your day, week, month?

What happens inside your body when you allow for hope? Where do you feel it?