…than when I hear someone who has basic needs met in the ‘developed’ world say: “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is my life for now.”
What?!? THIS IS YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW! WHY ARE YOU RESIGNING YOURSELF? If anything please resign from thinking yourself into the terrible corner that you are finding yourself in because you have decided the story of your life is going to be one of sacrifice. What about your dreams, your desires, the thing that sparks passion deep inside you that you think died when you were in your twenties, before babies and bills and broken marriages were a reality? What about the things you thought you would do and the person you imagined you would be when you were ten years old? Why did your story change? Do you say to yourself “life got in the way”?. What does that mean? Why do you use that sort of language? Is that how your family talks or is that your best friend’s story or is your partner stuck in a rut so you feel you need to join him or her?
One of my entrepreneur idols, Bo Eason, recently delivered a podcast that speaks to the importance of surrounding ourselves with greatness; of looking closely at who and what is in our environment because it will determine the likelihood and rate at which we achieve excellence. He references how the sperm that made us beat out 300 million other sperm so WE WERE BORN IN A WINNING POSITION. Okay, so maybe you don’t see life in terms of win/ lose and perhaps you recognize that it is truly all about the journey and less about achieving anything. Either way, if you are irritable and discontent with your current life circumstances there is a problem and it is probably not in the cards that you were dealt. In fact, if you are living a middle to upper class life in the Western world, the root of the problem is your reaction and attitude toward your life. Those are the two things you have the most control over and they are also powerful tools you can use to change your environment, your thinking and even your life circumstance. You know this already. I know that even you are sick of hearing yourself tell the same boring story because I have been there. I’m not asking you to zip your lips and stuff the frustration away (I’ve done that too!), because if you tell me you are fine, what you are really saying is: “I don’t want to hear myself moan again but I am actually feeling effed-up, irritable, neurotic and emotional.”
There will be days like that. When you start to notice a pattern of self-destruction or you have become fed up with your story, I ask you to consider committing to a great shift. I ask you to contemplate your ideal life, without holding back. What does excellence look like to you? Start with one day. Let’s talk about your ideal day.
Resilience is one of those newish buzz words, and is used to describe organizations, individuals, nature, and even nations. The study of human resilience is one of my greatest interests, and was a primary motivator for moving to Rwanda in 2009. As devastating and horrific as genocide is – neighbors killing neighbors and husbands killing wives – and as much as my heart broke open when I learned of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, I am fascinated by what motivates the survivors to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. There was a time when I viewed Rwanda as the most resilient nation in the world, a place that we should study in order to emulate such strength and courage. What I have learned is that we do not know what we can handle until we are in the thick of it and it is then that our resilience shows its true colors. It is then that the mother lifts the car to save her crushed child. It is then that the stranded traveler drags his body through the dessert for days without food. It is in times of crisis that we are called to dig deep and to access that primal survival mechanism that keeps most of us from completely falling apart and giving up on life.
I look back on periods of my life and I am in awe of how I made it through. In fact I experienced the most growth following the greatest challenges. I was not always graceful and I do not wish for more darkness just so I can experience such continued growth. I do not believe that adversity in the form of genocide is something anyone should ever have to experience in order to recognize their own strength and resilience. You have heard it said that some people need to hit bottom before they can experience all the goodness that life has to offer. There is a gift in the bottom and it was described to me at a recent yoga workshop as the lotus which blossoms in muddy water. The murkier the water, the more beautiful the flower.
What is your bottom? What is your limit and how do you choose to test and build your personal resilience through the challenges of life? Things do not need to get harder before they get easier. If you bang your head against the wall once it is probably enough, and that is the message that you must try a different method. If you feel you are hanging by a thread then you might make that your bottom, and it is a perfect time to recreate your life story. What a gift. I know it sucks. I hit a bottom at age 28. I could have continued in a downward spiral. Things can always get worse if we have not yet faced a painful death. Someone told me I was in an elevator going down and at any time I could choose to get off. You can too and I guarantee your worst fears will not come true. You will not fall apart and you will take one step at a time to overcome whatever challenge it is you are facing. Through the adversity you will experience growth, a new sense of purpose and meaning, and the best outcome of all is the joy that follows.
Today is Day of the Dead (known in Mexico as Dia de Muertos), and many cultures around the world have similar traditions whereby the deceased are recognized and celebrated in many ways. At a DOTD party this evening I was remembering someone who passed recently. He played an important role in my life and continues to serve as a guide of sorts, inspiring me and motivating me in contrasting ways. Many of my best teachers are those people in my life who show me loud and clear what not to do, or they help me to see my own weaknesses and trigger points, leading me to do some deeper shadow work.
My primary work is to serve as a role model and guide for self and others, to live authentically and with passion. It has taken me over thirty years to remember who I am and to feel truly comfortable in my skin (most of the time!). I am eternally grateful to be mostly fulfilled and living a peaceful, passionate and even steady existence. It was not always so and over time I will continue to share personal insight with you – the stuff that made it possible for me to not only accept myself fully but to pursue the life of my dreams. When we settle for things, be it a bruised apple at the grocery store (“Aww it’s okay, I will buy it anyway, someone has to eat it…” you say), or a ho-hum marriage, we are calibrating our vibration to that of what I call the Settle Channel, or the frequency we will continue to pick up on, attract and transmit. What we are breeds more of the same.
I have come to feel deeply insulted by myself when I make choices that are not honoring the mind-body-soul that was provided to me for at least this lifetime. I want to speak up when I hear comments like “It sucks but it’s life…” or “I would love to ___ but I could never…” or “Life is crazy and busy and it’s all I can do to manage the basics..”. I get it. When you are in survival mode it is impossible to see the broader picture or to have the space and peace of mind to consider how to get from A to Z, i.e. how to achieve a dream that might feel so far away. On top of the everyday challenges of life, if addiction is part of the equation there are added complexities and it becomes very difficult to break the cycle. Many addicts (broadly speaking) are also dreamers and visionaries; often entrepreneurial and artistic; the high-functioning addict may be leading a successful organization or holding an important political position; they may seem happy and at ease much of the time, and you might think that their family life is to be admired.
My loved one whom I honor tonight, died in the most tragic way I can imagine. He did not remember who he was in this lifetime and he was stuck in the shadow. He had moments along the way and there was a flickering light within that sometimes blazed bright for others to see. Even he could feel it at times and would pound the pavement letting everyone know what his vision was and how he was going to be of service to others throughout the world. People wanted to be with him in those moments and they believed him, loved him, still remember him for that shining glory. If you are struggling to maintain that flickering light, or if you feel limited by your current existence, find a model and do what they do. Surround yourself with dreamers who have manifested a life without regret. Above all, treat yourself well and stop choosing the bruised apple!