“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain
restart or revive ; give fresh impetus to
the force or energy with which a body moves
OK, English lesson over. Let’s make some meaning.
I have no business telling you what to do.
I’m in the thick of things, too.
You need to do what’s right for your life.
The quality of your existence — or how you feel about the quality of your existence — matters to me.
Let’s pretend we’re at lunch and pretty much undistracted by anything except this persistent feeling that there’s got to be more.
Your life is, without question, a gift that keeps on giving. You matter. You have inherent worth as a being and as someone possessing unfathomable potential.
Our day-to-day stuff doesn’t always leave us feeling this way, though, does it?
Just recently, I was in an important work meeting. Even with a solid, shiny new values statement for our company, the discussion was all about numbers and compliance, forms and reputation. Hauntingly, it mirrored a recent jumpstart I’d made of my own goal setting in my writing career: numbers of articles to write, people to attract, contacts to make.
Ambition was everywhere. But where was the heart of the matter? Where did the reason-for-doing go?
Remember last Saturday? How you woke up to choices?
You could spring from bed and create some order in your universe.
You could sleep a whole lot longer.
You should bless the lives of the other living creatures in your home — cat, dog, kid, partner.
You could catch up on that (because there’s always something.)
You could get a jump start on next week.
You really should touch base with your mother (or dad or auntie or friend).
Or, you could run away.
Remember what you chose? And how you felt at the end of that day? Like, what do I have to show for a “day off”? Like, where could a person possibly get a week of Saturdays? Like, would that ever even be enough to cover all the bases?
“Your feelings and emotions are your strongest indicator if your life is moving in a purposeful direction or not, so listen closely to how you feel.”
― Rebecca Rosen, Awaken the Spirit Within: 10 Steps to Ignite Your Life and Fulfill Your Divine Purpose
Depending on how you’re feeling, you and I might be prime for a reboot, a revival, a restart on direction, energy, and trajectory.
We don’t need a revolution. I feel blessed, and you’ve got so much going for you already. What comes shortly is an overlay, like a crystal lens that magnifies the awesome, clarifies the fuzzy, and shoots diamond-rainbow-sparkles every time your light is on.
WHAT DO I KNOW?
I know, I know. I’m like the friend who knows everything and means well.
She says, “Listen, dearie, I’ve been there so many times I know it like my home town.”
I don’t know what drives your life. I don’t know what makes you wake up. I don’t know who fills your mind, what crushes you, or how hard your climb is without the added burden of making life meaningful.
But I do know this.
You’ve got only one for the present, and it’s just waiting to be your glory story, not “I came. I grew up. I did some hard things. I owned stuff. I made it to the finish line.”
So, here’s what I have to offer, and it comes in three easily digestible, absolutely delectable, proven-effective-by-millions truth cookies.
Numero Uno — Get Your Best Self On
“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
“Give time, give space to sprout your potential. Awaken the beauty of your heart — the beauty of your spirit. There are infinite possibilities.”
― Amit Ray, Nonviolence: The Transforming Power
“Your best self may well be your magnum opus, your greatest creation…but every masterpiece happens one brushstroke, one note, one inspiration at a time. It’s the culmination of small things, your repeated acts of conscious refinement, that reveal the glorious you, the one that is stunning joy and beauty.” (You know, the one that gives off diamond-rainbow-sparkles every time your light is on…because it will be ON?)
— Heather Burton, thinking of you 🙂
There are approximately 743 gazillion self-improvement books and blogs. Each I’ve encountered offers something useful. I would go so far as to say that visiting your local awesome bookstore or library and scanning the table of contents of fifty “find yourself” books will give you years’ worth of effective ideas for betterment. Invest in reading those that ring especially true to you. It’s like hiring a mentor.
The point is, make personal progress a thing you do every day, like brushing your hair. Read inspiring literature. Say the affirmations. Expand your thinking with great conversations. Take notes on inputs that teach you. Examine your thoughts. Sign up for courses and classes. Be a seeker and a grateful finder. Ask all the questions. Pursue answers as if the quality of your life depended on it. Nourish your body like a champion. Gain grace. Practise peace. Put gold in, and get gold out. Be self-honest. Accept healthy challenges. Stand up like a girl who knows who she is and knows what is right.
It’s all good, but we’ve just got to do it.
Here’s an exercise I advise. It’s based on the concept of “six word memoirs.”
- Write a whole-hearted, honest account of how you see yourself…the good, the bad, the wistful, the disheartened, the hopeful, the ashamed.
- Circle every adjective (describing word) you find in that description.
- For every adjective (and this will take serious time and reflection) write a six word sentence or phrase about it. Go deep. Be frank. Be wonderful. If it helps, separate them into two collections — How I Am and How I Would Like to Be. (You can try making these all affirmative…as if you are already there. Or not. I personally prefer the “how I am now” version.)
Here are examples from friends who’ve done this, followed by the adjective they started with. Note that they are each six-word sentences.
– I greet myself with a smile. (Cheerful.)
– Past pain is not my prison. (Determined to heal.)
– I strengthen by doing hard things. (Afraid to try new things.)
– Softness makes me a good hug. (I am quiet, shy and love people.)
– Finding space for self, I flourish. (I feel depleted.)
– Solitude allows me to find steadiness. (I feel overwhelmed by pleasing others.)
– Broken has made me discover wings. (Broken.)
– Addiction blocks my perception of light. (I am addicted to food.)
-I give from a deep well. (I have a lot to offer.)
- With kindness, the way you would counsel any other tender soul, brainstorm , collect, imagine, and otherwise find simple ways to develop daily practices that deepen and expand you in these areas.
Here are some possibilities, matched to the examples above:
-Send an upbeat note to someone each day.
-Schedule time daily to honour the assignments from my therapist.
-Create a “bucket-list” of medium hard things and do one each week.
-Hug when I feel the urge to hug.
-Spend 15 minutes alone before I go home, just to write what’s on my mind.
-Pray for strength to keep trying. Pray every single day. Let God be my wings for now.
-Work on a personal study of my past with food. How did I get here?
-Make a list of things I have to give. As part of my morning routine, plan one way to help someone using those abilities. Report in my journal at night.
As you can see, these aren’t all the steps to overnight transformation…but, let’s be honest, THEY ARE A STEP, OR TWO, OR THREE. Repeated regularly, especially every day, they will reveal and craft your best self. YOU will reveal and craft your best self.
And we will bask in your influence, sister.
Numero Dos — Shine Into Someone Else’s Darkness
“I’m starting to think this world is just a place for us to learn that we need each other more than we want to admit.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway
“What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?”
— George Eliot, who lived in a time when women writers could not, without difficulty, use their real names. Hers is Mary Anne Evans.
Need, needy, neediness.
Dark, darker, darkness.
As trite as it may sound, one thing great souls have always done is to “light” the world. They come into Earth-life like the rest of us — and sometimes in rougher circumstances than we’ll ever know — and rise up.
They lead movements or nations.
They tackle disease.
They alleviate poverty.
They free the captive.
They clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort those that mourn, create sanctuary, teach, lift, counsel, liberate, relieve, enlighten, heal.
In a recent presentation I attended, Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, talked about his work walking into the darkness of human trafficking to bring light to suffering and people to light. I later read this quote by him that has struck me to the core:
“It’s funny, because we all read history and we think, ‘Oh, I would … have risen up, I would have fought, I would have been an abolitionist,’ And I tell them, ‘No, you wouldn’t have. If you would have, you’d be doing that right now. You know trafficking exists, you’ve heard of it, but you don’t want to look.”
— Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad
No guilt trip intended, but the lesson I walk away with is this: LOOK. I may never be part of a sting operation, but I know suffering, and I know it exists right in my own modest circle of influence. The question is, how — with my unique self — will I respond to suffering? To need? To the darkness around me?
I — we — can start by seeing. Let our common humanity sharpen our vision and inform our response. We’re all people together. We get pain. We get fear. We get longing.
Right from our best self, we can respond with conviction, “Here I stand.” (Shout out to Martin Luther.)
Our purpose clear, we then walk into dark places and hold up a match or a candle or a lantern or a blazing torch and help someone out into safety, greater hope, a brighter existence, and a chance to experience life with more happiness.
That person may be a stranger. That person may be a neighbour. That person may be in our own family.
So, get your shine on and let it fly!
Numero Tres — Share What You’ve Learned
Here’s your endless beauty.
Here’s your eternal shine.
Here is a solved mystery of human existence.
What you leave in your wake is a measure of the meaning of your life.
I love this line from Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses:
I am a part of all that I have met…
And the “meeting” goes on forevermore, year upon year, time after time. Everyone who meets us will take something of us with them on their way just as we will be affected by them. In small ways or bigger ones, our decisions and purposes, our self, and our light are what our lives come to mean in the now and in history.
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon L. Alder
How do we impact others? How do we weave our lives with theirs to add strength and wisdom?
Simply, sharing. Share who you are, what you know, what you’ve learned.
Do it in writing.
Do it in song.
Do it in pictures, art, acting, work, building, planting, teaching, living.
Do it in your personal conduct, your conversations, your way of being with others.
Do it without thought of judgment or criticism or interest or resistance.
“Someone, someday will ask who I was. And someone, someday will answer by saying, “Well, look at what [she] did”. And what I hope I ‘did’ was to leave behind a really good answer.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
What you choose, do and become will likely sketch the purpose of life for everyone who meets and gets to know you, now or in the future. A careful reboot — getting clear on who you want your best self to be, looking for ways to shine your particular light, and sharing what you’ve learned — can make for a journey of epic proportions for you personally and an example of inestimable comfort and value for people who wonder things like how there could ever be enough Saturdays to feel like they’ve truly lived and accomplished what there is to do. Or where the heart of matters has gone. Or how to be truly happy.
Get your best self on.
Shine into someone’s dusk or dark.
Share what you’ve learned.
Now, let’s reboot.
Originally published at medium.com