Thursday, June 5, 2014

6/6/14—Defining Your Mission

Can you, in 25 words or less, articulate what your mission in life is? Have you ever put thought into it and boiled it down?

In one of my book ideas, Spiritual Self Employment, one of the things I advise self-employed people to do is to write a mission statement of what they want to get out of their job. For my copywriting job, it would be "to build relationships with appreciative clients in diverse industries and help promote their businesses in a way that challenges my skill, strategic knowledge and creativity."  

There have been a couple of times over the past 15 years when I've needed to revisit that mission statement in order to make tough, but healthy changes in my client list. What sometimes held me back is that the clients I was considering walking away from were my biggest ones. Having the mission statement helped, because it says nothing about money and everything about the things that build esteem, happiness and pride in my work. Therefore, staying in a situation that didn't challenge me or where my work wasn't appreciated would be counter to my mission, regardless of how much they paid me to do it. 

Fortunately, that's not a decision I've had to make in a very long time. All of my clients are long-term clients who show their appreciation for my contributions and who trust my input. I consider myself fortunate, but it's not about luck. It's about knowing what I want to accomplish and how I want to feel and not settling for less, combined with my ability to provide the kind of relationship and deliverables my clients want. The right match is made in the universe, not through chaos, but by design—by people knowing what they want and sticking to it. 

I think the biggest mistake professionals can make is to maybe have a rough idea of what they want to accomplish in their minds, but never write it down. In that scenario, they're only going to get a rough idea of what they want. Writing things down not only makes things official in the universe, it also gives you something to refer to when faced with choices. Keeping it concise forces you to really think about what's most important to you. Then when you're faced with a tough decision, simply pick up your mission statement and, all of a sudden, a tough decision becomes simple. Mission statements keep you focused on your objectives. Best of all, nobody ever has to see yours but you. 

But mission statements are not just a business tool. Recently I realized that while I have a clearly defined mission statement for my copywriting business and while I have a very succinct mission for my life—a "why am I here?" statement (which is "to move/touch people with my words")—I don't really have a defined mission for what I'd like to accomplish otherwise in life. I have a good idea of what my spiritual mission is, but it needs to be written/boiled down and clarified. When it comes to my personal life, I got nuthin'. Which is probably why my personal life is the least successful part of my life. :D

From parenthood to volunteerism and all the other things I've mentioned, we often move through life making decisions and adapting to circumstances without having a clearly defined umbrella under which to do it. And, honestly, there's nothing wrong with that if you don't mind getting wet from time to time. But a lot of the chaos and guessing we do along the way can be eliminated if we just take the time to sit down and define what we're doing it for and how we want to do it. 

I think my spirit self would be disappointed in my human self if I was down here 70-some years and never and never asked the question, "what do I really want from this human experience?" We spend our time here accumulating possessions and experiences, but how much of it really fuels our soul? And how will we ever know to fuel our souls if we never think to just sit down and ask?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

6/4/14—Finding Yourself on Facebook

I confess I spend a lot of time on Facebook. Most of the time it's a mindless thing. But more and more lately, I've become very mindful there. 

I'm sure many would laugh at the notion of Facebook being a powerful vehicle for personal and spiritual growth. But that's exactly what it's becoming for me. Sure, a lot of the time I'm just messing around there. But other times I'm testing. Stretching. Growing. 

Perhaps the biggest thing that has spurred spiritual and personal growth for me is something that happened over a year ago. I made a decision to step out of a particular Facebook drama and choose oneness over singling others live by the golden rule, rather than seek an eye for an eye. It was a very unpopular decision within a group of my friends. When I chose not to continue playing at that level, a number of people unfriended me and still more distanced themselves from me. 

I knew my choice was right for me, though. It was all WWJD and stuff...the kind of stuff I preach about and had better live by, in my estimation. But while many people like to talk about "Christ Consciousness" and forgiveness and turning the other cheek, they can't quit bring themselves to live that way. Because living that way is hard. It means letting go of the ego's need to be right or to be a victim. For me, this situation meant letting go of my need to be liked and accepted. And in letting that go, I kind of took a giant leap forward on my path. I won't lie. It wasn't easy to weather the coldness in people who once held warmth for me. And it's not like I'm suddenly a saint. But it has been one of the biggest "wins" for me on my spiritual and personal journeys. It was a giant leap in the direction I want to the direction of love, acceptance and forgiveness. 

That's a big thing. But each day I come across many smaller opportunities to stretch and grow on Facebook. Let's take, for example, Needy Nelly. She's always having a crisis, writing in all caps or using some other device to get you to feel sorry for her and/or give her attention. My normal thing would be to ignore her altogether, rolling my eyes at how needy she is. But she's an opportunity for me to have compassion and patience. When it comes down to brass tacks, everyone just wants to know they're noticed, heard and understood. That they matter. Nelly's going about it the wrong way, yes. But that doesn't mean I can't be gracious and give her some of the attention she seeks by offering, "That's awful. I hope it all works out for you. Let me know when it's resolved!" 

Really, how hard is that? How much skin is it off your back? If they try to continue to engage you, you can always either not reply or reiterate, "gosh, I hope it all works out to everyone's benefit." Of course, the key is not to do anything I'm talking about here in a fake way. The key is to stretch yourself to a place where you mean it...where you can love even Needy Nelly and wish her well. It benefits you. It benefits Nelly. And it creates love where consternation might have otherwise existed. 

Conversely, if you simply can't bear to give her the recognition she's so desperate for, then it's an opportunity to ask yourself why. What does she bring up in you? How are you like her? What is so important for you to hold on to that you can't set it aside long enough to give her what she so desperately needs? If you can't do it genuinely, what is standing in your way?

Another example is Dramatic Dan. He wants to create controversy and will say anything to make that happen. And darned if he doesn't always bait you into an argument that gets you all worked up. Dan is an opportunity to say nothing. Or to say your opinion without having to defend it. What doesn't serve you (unless you like this sort of thing) is to try to out-argue him. Nobody will ever out-argue Dan. And it doesn't serve anyone else in the thread for you to hop in and try to break up the situation, make nice or otherwise mediate. That just keeps the fuel flowing to the fire. 

So practice something that helps you grow, instead. Walk away and let the situation go. If you post your opinion, don't enflame Dan. Just post it and walk away. Or, better, use the "stop notifications" option. Don't get drawn into negativity. The first time it might be hard. I was always someone up for a good debate. But if you've observed enough drama and conflict, then you know the only way to win is to not participate. So don't participate. 

From Gotta Be A Naysayer Ned and Abused Dog Pics Annie to Judgmental Judy and Nancy Knows-It-All, Facebook is the perfect experimental landscape in which to stretch yourself and make different choices in ways that impact both your spiritual and personal growth. And it doesn't have to be about dealing with difficult people (though that's what I've focused on here.) It can also be about practicing kindness by maybe saying "Wow, that's an amazing picture" rather than just "liking" the photo and moving on. Or practicing patience by helping someone find the "stop notifications" option (it's a little carat or "v" in the upper right hand corner of every post that you can click on. You only have the "stop notifications" option if you've responded to a post. Otherwise, just remove the offensive post from your feed by clicking on the same carat.)

Whatever you need to work more on in your journey of personal and spiritual growth, you'll find a situation to help you grow on Facebook. In fact, you can test choices out online, see how they work, then roll the proper behaviors out in real life. Again, I'm not saying to be fake as much as I'm saying to learn to be genuinely kind and compassionate in situations that would normally vex you. 

Growth can be a passive thing. If you live long enough you'll grow. But if you really want to make to make progress, you have to work at it and challenge yourself to be more aligned with the person you want to be...the person you know you're capable of becoming. Facebook can be akin to junk food for the mind. But if you approach it mindfully and in spirit, it could become an endless font of fuel to take your personal journey to the next level. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

6/2/2014—Getting Into The Body

I tend to get all up in my head sometimes...thinking too hard, letting fears creep in, taking things too seriously. That's how I've been lately, in fact. I've been so "in my head" that I have a hard time thinking, if that makes any sense. By Friday of last week I was so depressed that I finally remembered an old way of mine to shake off the doldrums. 

I went for a long walk. 

I don't know why I always forget that if I drop the energy into my body, I can break the cycle. Sometimes it helps to just get good and physically tired....maybe even a little sore. So I followed through by doing some yard work this weekend. My patio was having things growing through the cracks, it still had leaves on it from fall, it was covered in was a mess. 

Although I could work a year of weekends on my back yard and still not have a showplace, the patio was the last big project on my list for spring. Cleaning the patio had many purposes. The first was clearing out the patio...haha. But then I mulched the leaves and used them to cover the ground under the hammock. It's perpetually muddy under there, so this will give me some traction for getting in and out of the best seat in the house. In addition to that, it tired me out and kept me from slipping back into my head. It's like pushing a reset button. 

Another thing physical thing I do that provides a lot of benefit is mowing. The violent shuddering of a lawn mower really shakes your entire body. And I find that when I mow, I can think about things that make me angry and get them off my chest. Sometimes I don't even know I'm angry about something until I get behind the mower! But the combination of thinking about an issue that frustrates me and the tremors of the mower brings the matter from the head to the body and out the the yard, I guess. :)

I suppose others can reset their crazy heads by reading or maybe crafting or something. But for me, something physical does it. I used to be pretty darned fit. I would power walk six days a week. With my long legs and practiced stride, I could do five miles in less than an hour. I didn't do it as much for mental benefit as I did it for physical benefit back then, but looking back I can remember that I didn't work so hard on being balanced back then. Doing all the physical activity did that for me. 

But when I fell off that wagon, I found other, more passive ways to get in balance—meditation, positive thought, self dialogue. That stuff works at shifting energy, too, but it keeps you in your head. And, as I've recently come to realize, it can actually serve as a detriment because the anger and other negative emotions I get out by tiring myself physically can remain below the surface, unattended to, when everything happens in your head. 

Anyway, the very things I avoid, put off and dread are often the things that give me great benefit. The patio was the last on my list for a reason—it was hard work. I'm always glad once I'm done taking a walk or doing physical labor, but I tend to torture myself with dread in the time leading it up to it...haha. I focus on the hard work instead of the benefit. So having this insight of the positive aspects of physical activity—beyond the physical benefits—is very good for me. It can help me re-language the way I see it. For someone who lives in their head, physical benefits are often not enough to make us want to get up and go. But having this positive, but tiring, experience that reminded me about the mental benefits of being in the body, is just what the doctor ordered.