How Can Life Get Better Than This

Key West

“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” Leo Babauta

Many of us are very conditioned to complain or vent our days’ events. Many of us are very conditioned to point out the problems, worries, stressors, heartaches and disappointments of our daily lives. How can it be so easy to say what is so wrong in our days instead of what is right?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she was telling me about all of the many ways she had realized how many of God’s blessings have been playing out in her life lately. What she really was struck by was that although she never thought to let God into her life as much as she has been this year she realized that God has been guiding her and blessing her with opportunities to make choices through events that have been designed to help her grow and become the person she is today. What was blaringly obvious to me was that she had made a perception shift in how she views life and the ways in which life plays out. . I don’t think she heard herself, when at the end of her story she said, “Lisa, how does life get better than this?” She asked the most beautiful question.

Boy oh boy did that stick with me. Indeed, how does life get better than this? This is a question with no answer. This is a question that is so subjective the answers either do not exist at all or are so endless as to travel into infinity. This question is so full of gratitude and hope that I started asking it every morning before my day gets started.

By bringing more hopeful questions out in the open, more hopeful events can have room to grow and develop and manifest. It’s a bit mindless to cast our cares into the ring of despair and complaints. Instead, why not give a great question a try?

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” Shannon L. Alder

There is a great book by author and scientist Warren Berger called A More Beautiful Question. It is in the asking and daring of questioning that life begins to grow and expand and become fun; dare I say hopeful. Having the courage to ask a question we are afraid to learn the answer to or own the part of the answer that only each of us can contribute to answering is scary but what else is life supposed to be? Scary isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Scary is challenging, scary is thrilling, scary leads to learning how not to be scared.

The yin and yang of a beautiful question can change perception and can change a heart from feeling scared to find the answer into a heart that is challenged and determined to find an answer. For example:

What if I start my day not knowing what to do? What does an open day look like and mean for me?

What if I fail in every way today? What can I learn if I fail today?

Why should I trust you? What can I trust about you?

How can I contribute to the world today? In what small way can my existence make a difference today?

Why do I have to work? Why do I do the work I do? What do I really want to do for work?

What is another way of looking at this? If I turn this over and over what might come of a new perspective?

What if I took my time through this? When I step back and take a better look, what do I see?

Why do I ask why? What can come from not asking why? What am I afraid to learn the answer to?

Why am I not happy? How can I be happy? What does happiness look like in this moment?

It’s in the way a question is asked that prompts answers to arrive. By turning around a day full of complaints and vents we can find the beauty and mystery and lessons that each day in the life of each of us has in its essence.

Many of us spend exhaustive amounts of time trying to find our purpose to our existence. What if our existence has the only purpose of whatever the day asks of us? For Paul Bennett of the company IDEO, Mr. Berger learned what sparks Mr. Bennett most of all, everyday….

“The question I constantly ask myself is ‘”How do I stay inspired?”’ For many of us, the beautiful question that calls to us is some variation of, ‘”How do we continually find inspiration so that we can inspire others?”’ There is no definitive answer to this question. It is constantly evolving and becoming something else.”

Mr. Berger puts it to the reader like this,

“When you find your beautiful question, stay with it. If it is a question worth pursuing, it will likely also be confounding, frustrating, and exhausting. If you find yourself stuck, follow the advice of Acumen’s Novogratz, “’Just try to get to the next question.’” Break your big question into smaller ones and work on those. Keep cycling through the why’s, what if’s, and how’s including your being stuck and get to the next question.”

For me it has become a survival mentality to break free of the atmosphere that surrounds me in negativity. This mindless complaining has challenged me to purposefully find a way to be as opposite as possible in the positive. I have noticed a great deal of physical changes and mental changes that have taken place within my soul due to asking a more beautiful question. Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Life gets better than this if I:

Love more sincerely

Listen with more presence

Express gratitude for my endless blessings

Eat to savor and not devour

Choose my words when I use my words

Admit I don’t know and then ask for help

Ask, “What is my next small step?”

Forgive with my whole heart

Let go

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

How can life get better than this?

In the Jewish faith there is a song called Dayanu that is sung during the Passover Seder and it starts off naming how grateful the people are for being delivered from slavery in Egypt. Then the song goes on to list how it would have been enough if the blessings ended there but God went on to provide food and water while thousands traveled for 40 years in the desert. Again, it would have been enough if God had stopped there but then HE provided even more miracles.

Songwriter and artist Kenny Chesney sings a song titled, Never wanted Nothing More in which he sings about how great life became when he got his first truck and how he couldn’t imagine ever wanting anything more than that. Then life took another great turn when he met his girlfriend and he couldn’t imagine wanting anything more and then it became great again when he got to spend time with her, etc.

The point being that in our everyday lives there is always something, one plain or ordinary thing that went right or well or happily that we can be thankful for. By asking the question the way my friend did it opened up space for more things to go right. All you have to do is sincerely ask the question. In the asking you become subconsciously disposed to seeking the answers. Your mind will try to see all the possibilities in finding the answer.

“How would your life be different if…You were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the day…You pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.” Steve Maraboli, The Power of One

My friend has presented me with a question that will never find an answer yet will allow for answers to be found every day. How, indeed, can life get better than this?

Call to Action

I dare you to NOT find one simple thing that goes right today, tomorrow or the next day.

Be grateful for that one right thing and build on it. How can life get better than that? Dare yourself to find something even better the next day.

What beautiful questions grow from seeing what was once too hard or too scary to see? Do not be afraid to count your blessings. Your happiness and gratitude are infectious and THAT is a great life purpose and makes for life being better than one minute ago.

 

The Difference Between a Scar and a Tattoo

 

 

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Out of the pain of growth comes beauty and uniqueness.

“Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” –Chris Cleave, Little Bee

How much of life have you survived so far?

Are any of the survival moments scars on your skin or on your heart or do you wear them proudly as a tattoo, a story your body doesn’t hesitate to tell?

One night at dinner my son brought home a friend from school. We had amazing food and amazing conversation and as it is when lots of boys get together we got to talking about injuries and scars. The boy stood up and said, “Oh have I got scars to show you.” For the next 20 minutes he proceeded to show us all of his scars, the ones that were allowable to show, and we were all riveted to hear the stories and see the proof. He smiled proudly through it all and he just as proudly knew that life wasn’t finished with him yet, that there would be a lot more scars to talk about as he got older.

Listening to the boy’s stories I couldn’t help but think what a busy, treacherous, boyish, adventurous life he had lived so far and I thought these weren’t scars he was showing us, these were proud tattoos of a life well lived; he was only 13 years old.

“Tattoos are a right of passage. They’re a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain – to endure it – but a need to actively embrace it. Because life is painful – beautiful but painful…….” Nicola Barker, The Yips

There are lessons we learn in school and there are lessons we learn in life. I’ve come to believe that when those 2 distinct paths cross, that is when we wear our story. When I become aware and present in my life moments I am, in a way, choosing the tattoos I want to brand who I am and who I want to be.

When something doesn’t go the way I want it to it is in the choices I make as to who I then become. When someone hurts me physically or emotionally I can choose to become and remain a victim of the hurt or I can grow from it and own it and wear it like a tattoo of honor or shame and either way I can then create teachable moments to share along my life’s journey. It’s hard though to step back in an emotional moment and realize that there is always a choice to make.

A Scar that Purposefully Became a Tattoo

My daughter faced this very crossroads when the person she considered her best friend did things that proved the girl wasn’t a good friend at all much less a best friend. It sent my daughter into a tail spin and for quite a few years my daughter tried to manipulate her mind to stop fighting a battle within herself to change the friend but rather to accept what was happening. To make a very long story short, the choice she made in the end was to find a way to accept the girl for who she was and to also accept herself for who she was becoming. Not an easy thing to do at all but with lots of patience and practice and self-love she has truly managed to step over to the other side of the pain and wear her lessons learned like a tattoo on her heart. She feels more empowered, more right minded and stronger within her heart than she has ever felt. I see it in her eyes and I hear it in her voice in the way she speaks. She believes what she is working through and how she is working through it and there is a whole bunch of reasons to respect her process. But the question is, how is she doing it? How is she accepting herself and the person that turned out to be nothing like the friend she thought she had? Here are some steps she took to get to where she is right now:

Seek help. The minute my daughter felt the disillusionment of the friendship she talked with me about it. She also casually talked with her other friends. She enlisted the people she felt most comfortable with and asked their opinion, asked their advice, and asked if they had ever been through something like this. She even confronted her friend in order to get a better understanding of where this friendship had gotten so off the rails.

By being vulnerable to the pain she allowed light to penetrate the cracks that were forming in her heart. The light acted like a laser tattooing her heart with the tools she would need for wisdom and compassion.

“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” Lori Goodwin

Listen. No matter what stories were being told to her she had enough respect for herself to just listen to what was being said and not said. She took a mental inventory of all the information and let it sit inside her heart for however long it needed to so she could pick and choose the points of information that fit her best.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Talk it out. There were 3 distinct times where my daughter met with the “best friend” and tried to let her know how she was feeling. It took a lot more than 3 times to get the friend to understand and to this day the understanding is still not completely there but forgiveness has taken root on both sides of the friendship and THAT means a positive change has happened. The part that is most important is in the trying to keep communication open and honest.

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”Shannon L. Alder

Take a step back. Step away from the situation long enough to allow the silence and the physical space to work it’s magic. Clarity has a chance to surface when distance is allowed in. Constantly working on the pain and the situation at hand can cause more pain and less clarity. Step back, breathe, take a time out and let the dust settle a bit.

“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.” Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories

Know when to let go. As painful as it has been for my daughter to admit, she had to get to a place in her heart where she realized it was more painful to deny who she is right now in her own growth toward adulthood than to compromise any more of who she has already become in order to save the friendship. She had to let go of what she wanted the relationship to be in order for the relationship to become what it was meant to become all along. Sometimes we can only see what we want to see instead of what is really right in front of us. Releasing control over the pain allows us to let go and let each person be who they are right now.

“Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go.”Lana Del Rey

Find gratitude. What was my daughter most grateful for in having this person as her friend in the first place? When she was able to truly list from her heart all the reasons she liked having this person in her life she was able to settle down the pain. People change; life changes us on the inside and the outside. Her friend’s life story isn’t pretty and unless you have walked in her shoes you cannot know the scars she wears and how deep they cut. Those scars have a chance to become tattoos of pride when her friend is ready to stop being a victim to the pain and the past. When my daughter came to understand her own gratitude toward the friendship the friendship had a chance at a new life and a new breath.

“Once you start recognizing the truth of your story, finish the story. It happened but you’re still here, you’re still capable, powerful, you’re not your circumstance. It happened and you made it through. You’re still fully equipped with every single tool you need to fulfill your purpose.”Steve Maraboli

In the end, the two friends are trying to re-invent their relationship and from my humble perspective it looks to be a beautiful tattoo rather than an ugly scar.

Call to Action

What lessons are you learning, experiencing, creating, in your life moments that will become a permanent part of who you are?

Will those lessons be a tattoo or a scar?

5 Ways to Find your Piece of Peace

 

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“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” Dalai Lama XIV

The dictionary defines the word peace first by 3 definitions relating to war:

  • A state in which there is no war or fighting
  • An agreement to end a war
  • A period of time when there is no war or fighting

The rest of the definitions are:

  • A state of tranquility or quiet
  • Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • Harmony in personal relations

No matter how we each define peace at any particular time of our lives it seems that harmony and tranquility are the overarching states of mind, body and soul that we all look to achieve.

When you hear the word peace what images come to mind for you? If I were to create a vision board of peace these are the images I would include:

Blue sky, meditation, smiles everywhere, calm, soft music with a saxophone, walking on the beach, hot chocolate and a great book, candlelight dinners, hugs, hearts and flowers, and helpfulness. I’m absolutely sure I can come up with more to add to this list of peaceful visions but then this would get ridiculous.

For me, a piece of peace comes from cherished family moments and time spent with my children. I’m made more and more aware of this sense of peace now that the kids are living their own lives between working and going to college and being with their friends. They just are not home as much as they used to be.

Everything I knew about peace while the kids were home all the time included sports games, practice schedules, carpooling, community participation, time marked by seasons and school breaks; in essence the very much anticipated “routine” of raising a family. My personal piece of peace was in the doing and the busyness of a blessed life.

It was organized chaos and I thrived on the craziness of it. Now life has become unreliable and un-routine and un-peaceful for me because I find it hard to define my role as a parent. My routine and boundaries have been narrowed considerably now that the children are taking over their own lives. I can’t get lost in the management of the family anymore. However, there is a new piece of peace I have found and I found it in a very unlikely place; within me.

While being the very active, very attentive parent I was and while burying myself in my children and the running of the business of our family, I always put my needs and wants dead last and did not spend any time getting to know me as I was getting older alongside my children getting older. I paid way more attention to their changes and who they were becoming but not to my own changes. Time has been a friend and an enemy all along but I’m finding that it is for the children’s benefit now for me to become active and attentive and in search of my own needs and wants. I have a piece of peace within my own soul that I never expected to find simply by changing my mindset along with the changing of their lives. These personal peaceful steps that I take for my own well-being will help them become more empowered adults by watching me be empowered outside of my role as their mom 24/7. I want that for them. I want to be a good role model, still.

So now I get a piece of peace when the house is quiet and I can coach a client as if the entire house is my office. I get a piece of peace when my day transitions from work to home responsibilities like cooking dinner while I play my favorite music and dance around the kitchen. I get a piece of peace when everyone is home but doing their own thing to catch up on their life’s responsibilities and we come together at odd intervals  in passing in the hallway or at dinner time. I get a piece of peace having an adult conversation with these people who, just a few short years ago, were nowhere near adulthood. I can peacefully enjoy their growing up process from a new perspective.

I often hear how my clients wish they could know a peaceful existence 24/7 but truly, what fun would that be? We need the bad to remind us of the sweetness of good, we need the downs to make the ups so much brighter and we need the chaos to help us really understand peace.

Where do you find your piece of peace during your day or week or month?

Turns out there are so many things a person can do to create their own piece(s) of peace:

As best you can stop worrying. Worry zaps necessary energy from peaceful thinking and peaceful actions. Worry makes drama and negatives more important than smiling and solutions. When you find yourself worrying about anything, stop right in that moment and ask yourself, “How will my worry change the way this situation is going?” “When has my worrying ever created a positive outcome?” Then take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the worry, trust that the universe is always spinning and changing and that what you think you know for sure at this most worrisome moment will not be like it is in another 15 minutes or 2 hours or one day.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom

Grab onto a piece of peace. What does your vision of peace look like, sound like, feel like, and taste like? Is it fear of the unknown that creates a feeling of having no peace? You can affect a more realistic outcome of peace if you first allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that come with living a life away from peace but then, when the storm of emotions calms down, come from a peaceful place within your heart and mind. Grab onto those resources within you that help you start to create a peaceful atmosphere. Get peaceful in just one area of your life right in the thick of things and you will be amazed at how regenerative and empowering it can be to let the fear come and then go.

“There is peace even in the storm” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Give up control. As human beings we want to always have the answers, we want to always be the go-to person, and we want to call the shots. Well, I hate to break it to you but in most cases the only control we ever truly have is the control we summon over our perspective and attitude. By giving up control around worrisome situations we are acknowledging that we don’t know everything and this allows for curiosity to be born. How can this drama be looked at differently? What do you know for sure right now? What suggestions might be helpful, especially ones that you haven’t thought of on your own?

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Viktor E. Frankl

Get going. Action is the most empowering of ways to combat the feeling of being out of control and being so far detached from peace. Take a walk to clear your head and to get those happy endorphins flowing. Meditate by doing deep breathing exercises or talking to God. Write in a journal to get the helpless feelings out or write a letter to the person or situation that is causing so much grief but don’t mail it. Clean the house or the garage or the car or the attic or the bathroom. This is my favorite “get going” exercise because tackling a room in the house that needs cleaning is an instant gratification boost; what was messy is not orderly and clean all in the same day plus it physically gets my body moving. Call a friend or clergy, a coach or your mom. Vent and release your worry to someone who can and wants to take the burden from you if only for a little while. My second favorite way to distance myself from worry and drama is to give to someone in need. I volunteer because I am always in the right place at the right time giving what I have to someone who will be most thankful for my existence. What is better than that to help create a sense of inner peace?

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”William James

Be kind to yourself. For every awful, demeaning, self-loathing thought you have about your part in a worrisome situation, instantly think of its opposite. For example I thought I was a horrible mom for not equipping my boys to handle their life’s drama with more courage and a better sense of self. For every ugly thought I had about myself I would think of all the ways in which my boys still loved me, still relied on me, still listened to what I had to offer, and still get up each day to face the next thing. It took me a long time to realize that I am not responsible for the habits they each create. God created us to have free will and in that we make decisions that will have consequences, good and bad. I can only say and do the best I can. It is up to each person to act according to the information they receive and are exposed to.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do right this minute to create a piece of peace for yourself?

Make a pact with yourself and decide:

If I feel myself start to worry then I will _____________________. Think of something that is calming and pleasant for you to experience. Having a game plan to immediately implement in times of high stress and worry helps your body be able to handle the chaotic moments with more resolve.

When do you notice yourself feeling stress, worry or not being at peace?