The Life we Live

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

I stumbled across this quote while searching for inspiration one morning.

They are simple words put into a simple phrase, yet they hold a deep wisdom. The less is more philosophy is as old as time, and it is as relevant as ever. Here are some of the areas of life we can apply these words:

Possessions. This one is obvious, but it always needs to be addressed; because it takes practice, discipline, and self-control to be content with what we have. Also, it takes a level of maturity to be able to appreciate and be happy for someone else’s purchase or creation without feeling the need to have one for yourself too.

“If we are continually embracing contentment, we will find ourselves feeling inspiration rather than envy.”

Purpose.  Purpose, meaning, dreams, goals; these words are all associated with each other. I have a tendency to have my head in the clouds at times when I think about what I want to accomplish in life; and while it’s necessary to dream big, there is a balance with the here and now. I have been wracking my brain this past year trying to figure “what is my purpose in life”, and I ask myself this question each day. Then it hit me, perhaps the reason I could not find this epiphany I was looking for was because I was looking to far away from home… from that which I already have.

I work at a place with vast opportunity for impact, growth, and development… if I bring my best. I have a wife who has dreams that I play a part in, if only I begin to entertain those dreams as my own as well. I have two amazing daughters who are some of the most creative and inspiring humans I know; and they have been given to me. I have the privilege to pour love and encouragement into their lives, and guide them towards living an impactful life in this world.

Boom! Epiphany in the face.

“Greatness and purpose does not always lie in the unknown or uncharted territory.”

Craft. We each have a skill that we bring to the table, whether you know it or not.  Life expects something from us, and it expects nothing less than our best. Inside each of us, there are seeds of aptitude; a readiness to learn, develop, and create. We are born into this world with the greatest gift anyone could ask for…our minds. We come into this world with eyes full of wonder; and if we look at what we can bring to the world instead of tasking ourselves to master someone else’s craft, you may be surprised at what you are capable of.

Though we find ourselves moved deeply by a beautiful song, that doesn’t mean we have to be a musician. Because we are moved by the beauty of a painting, the thought put into each stroke of the brush; does not mean we have to be a painter. On the other hand, if you find yourself taking the reins at work, in your home, or even in planning a group hangout; perhaps you may have a natural tendency  to be a leader. If you find yourself deeply affected by stories of oppression, or people hurting; perhaps you have been gifted with a strong sense of empathy and compassion, both of which this world needs.

May we wake each day with eyes full of wonder, and a heart full of love. May we dream big, but start by looking at the life we are already living.

 

Awake

“I am awake…..and it’s 3:00 am.”

That is what I said to myself as I sat in the living room this morning.  I actually woke up at 1:00 AM, and just couldn’t fall back asleep. There are a few reasons I couldn’t sleep; an active train of thought, sore muscles, (potty break?), or maybe I was just supposed to be awake.

Whenever this happens to me, I wonder if there is something I am supposed to do; some specific reason that I woke in the middle of the night. Perhaps my mind is in a special place to create, or maybe a prayer needs to be spoken. In those twilight hours, these are the decisions I had to make:

Meditate myself to sleep? om, om, om..not going to sleep I guess.

Get frustrated? Well that doesn’t do anybody any good, and it doesn’t help you fall asleep.

Just lay there? My body was protesting that one.

Get out of bed? Okay, let’s try that.

So many good things in our lives start with that decision to get out of bed. A decision to begin, a choice to move. 

And there it is! A tid-bit of wisdom for my day. Though it is not much more than a simple phrase, it is something I can offer; and therefore it was worth getting out of bed.

 One of my favorite quotes about getting started is from J.R.R. Tolkien:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

 

 

Good Things

I have heard it said that “you can never have too much of a good thing”, and I believed that for a time. What I have found during the last year though is quite a different train of thought.

I discovered that too much good food can make me feel sick, and potentially pack on unnecessary and unwanted fat. Too much good coffee can keep me awake all night. Many clothes means more laundry, and it also means more closet or dresser space. Ultimately, I realized that I had been brought up in a culture of more. Seeking a good deal not to save money, but to have money left over for more stuff; and the more I bought, the more I wanted….truly a vicious cycle.

I remember being frustrated with life a couple of years ago. Some bad stuff happened, but I believe that just drew out and maximized the discontent that was already growing inside of me; and I was trying to hide it.

Life was good. Life was so good, yet I allowed comparisons, expectations, and regret to convince me that I had a right to be unhappy. I had become accustomed to instant gratification instead of long term gain. I resisted investing money, but jumped on a chance to buy another shirt, get a hotel, or go out to dinner. I needed to feel wanted and included by everyone in my life, so I laid unfair expectations on my friends and family. I wanted more…more of everything, and it was destroying who I was.

One of the events a couple years ago that brought me closer to rock bottom (figuratively) was the death of my dad. Diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of November 2015, he died January 4, 2016. He was a rock in my life, and I missed him (and still miss him) more than I thought I ever would. Later that year, I slipped off of a boulder while rock climbing, and landed face first. I lost two teeth, broke four more, and split open my chin and lip…literal rock bottom.

I had a month off of work after that accident. I couldn’t do much, talk much, or eat much; but I had plenty of time alone with my thoughts. That was not a place I wanted to be. I usually kept busy to handle sadness, anger, or disappointment; but now, I had to deal with it. I could no longer hide in a crowd, or behind a smile… literally.

Now let’s jump forward. 2016 ended much better than it started. I had sought out some counseling (at the request of my ever so patient, loving, and tolerant wife), and began to truly deal with who I was. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty; but it was good. I didn’t want to run away from my emotions any more, I wanted to understand why I was feeling the way I was, and get to the root of the issues. I began to declutter my life, which inevitably led me to find minimalism.

I found that less truly was more, and I removed a lot of stuff (both physical and emotional) from my life. I began to find it easier to focus on what mattered and accept who I was. I had to learn from mistakes instead of dwelling and covering them up. I had to look at each day as a gift, as a chance to live better than the day before.

My family and I have removed A LOT of stuff from our house, and we have developed a renewed appreciation for what we already have. We have tried to consume less, and have a level of mindfulness for what we do consume. We have a long way to go, but this is a journey not a destination. Since joining the “minimalist” movement, I have found a greater sense of purpose; and a greater sense of responsibility to share our story.

Perhaps “you can’t have too much of a good thing” is intended to transcend possessions or consumables altogether. Perhaps the intangible aspects of life such as friendship, mindfulness, focus, compassion, and the like are the intent of the phrase.

Let us bring much good to this world, and may we find enjoyment along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk at Dawn: Dreams to Pursue

A walk at dawn is pretty amazing.

There is a stillness, a quietness in the air. The stars make their final plea to be seen and gazed upon, and the chill reminds you that you are alive. 

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Today is a gift; another chance to create, another day to dream. As always, focus is needed; because there is a world of opportunity out there. We need focus, because each of us has apart to play in this world.

We cannot do everything, but each of us can do something.

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of content related to dreams and goals. We need to have our goals before us daily if we wish to achieve them. Whether big or small, it takes commitment and perseverance to see your dreams come true.  Our dreams must be pursued. We cannot let them be thrown out or forgotten; though they may take a lifetime to achieve.

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. I love that movie because George Bailey is a dreamer. He had grand ideas for travel and engineering, and doing anything but run the family business; but what happens? Life circumstances placed on him the responsibility of the family business, and he stepped up to the task. What he expected from life, was a little different that what life expected of him.

When he came to his existential decision point of throwing his life away, an angel appears and takes him on a journey through a world without him. He finds that all of the everyday decisions he had made in life, actually had an impact on so many of the lives around him. Life had thrown a curve ball, and he thought that he had struck out (sports analogies). Up to the point of despair, his dreams had kept him moving forward, pursuing a better world, and impacting lives around him.

A dream is a powerful force for momentum. 

In the end he realized that he truly had a wonderful life. I love the book by Dr. Seuss Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It inspires and reminds us that things may not always go our way, but we must press on.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you….

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are…  

As we move through each day, may we seek focus to define and seek our dreams daily. No matter what may come our way, we must stay true.

Here is some of the content that has inspired me:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl

It’s a Wonderful life

Lasso the Moon –Podcast by Brian Buffini

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss