As you walk away from your books and studies and move into the bright light of a new reality, your fears, anxieties and concerns will soon become distant friends. Time will quickly march on, and before you know it, you will be in the throws of ‘life and all it has to offer.’
It’s most important to take a moment and reflect on all that you have accomplished. It is amazing to think that four years ago you were just beginning this learning process. Hearty congratulations to you. Many steer clear of this path, or never finish what they have started. You have reason to be proud. Graduating is an incredible accomplishment.
As you graduate, you will undoubtedly receive advice from countless others: what to focus on, how to get a jump-start in your new career, who to connect with, and why this is all so essential to your happiness and success.
Taking all of this into consideration is wise, and yet, what must prevail is your sense of self. Above all else, staying true to who you are must drive your daily decisions; this is the rudder that will guide your sails. Without it, your success is merely an undertaking that consumes your time. Those of us before you had our dreams. We walked your path, trying to determine what was next, what we needed to focus on, and where we would go.
Today, you are not limited by geography, language or belief, as the world has opened before you. There are no limits to hold you back and thanks to technology, communication has no bounds. You will be managing new territory.
Your generation will be taxed with new decisions and challenges we can’t even dream of and it is my hope that insight from our collective experiences will help you in some small way. Your path is yet to be walked, your decisions and experiences are yours to decide, and yours to own.
Every generation works hard to leave things better for the next generation to follow. We paved the way for women in the workplace, for equality among races and for the awareness that we, as individuals, have choices and are more than mere workers, just making it through on a day-to-day basis.
We are here to live, love and enjoy each and every moment. This is often the hardest task of all, for things can get in the way. Keeping this on the horizon is the key, keeping this in your view is what can move you from the bad to the good.
Life with its complexity, pushed pace, and noise can be overwhelming. Watch for the robbers of time – the busy tasks that take you away from big goals, the distracters that do nothing more than offer quick pleasures that evaporate in minutes. Your habits, from daily actions to assumed thoughts, will guide you along. I’m taking the liberty of sharing a few concepts for you to rely on, all learned from pained experience and untold joy:
1. This too shall pass. When you are managing a struggle, eventually, it will end. It won’t feel that way while you are pushing through the angst filled moments, but it will stop. All problems eventually cease. Keep your faith, keep your wits, and above all else do something to nurture your soul when challenges come your way. We often let this go but it’s essential for keeping you moving while in the muck of it all. This is the beauty of life – things change and we survive. Know that it will end, you will learn, and you will grow, and you will continue on.
2. Love prevails. Even when madly in love, you will have differences to manage and tender feelings to navigate. There is no possible way two people can be together for an extended period of time, and not experience a difference of opinion. It’s how you handle the differences that are the real tests in a relationship. Manipulation, screaming and yelling have no place at the table; they are destructive tools and time is too short and life is too precious. Disagree as you will, but do so with respect and consideration. Love doesn’t leave because there are differences of opinion; love leaves because of disrespect and indifference.
3. You are responsible for you. No matter what we are left to manage, we are the stewards of our soul. It’s up to us to be our own cheerleader, to realize that the one thing we can control is ourselves. Not anyone else. Not other people that we want to change, not family we think are wrong, not coworkers who make bad decisions. Just us. It’s the same on both sides, we aren’t responsible for managing other people’s feelings, and they aren’t responsible for managing ours. Pay close attention and watch for the kings of destruction - denial, abuse and addiction. Treat yourself gently. Fill yourself with the good, with the positive, and with the thoughts that pull you forward. You are valuable.
4. Kindness prevails. The hidden gem in life is in offering kindness. All of us wake up every day, do the best we can with what we’ve got, and take it from there. The golden rule, ‘treat others the way you would want to be treated,’ includes being considerate, providing nice gestures, offering selfless kindness towards others and being generous with a smile. You will never go wrong by doing right. The secret trick to this, is that when you give, you receive. There is nothing as rewarding as doing something good for others, it gives you value, it gives you heart.
5. Enjoy the moment. Every day, with every breath, you are given a moment to enjoy, a chance to pause, take it all in, and look for the good you are seeking. These moments jumble together, sometimes they seem to overtake us as we fill a role or complete a task. And yet, the beauty in all of this is that we control our thoughts and our focus. To this day, I am surprised at how music, a good laugh, a friends hug, shared time, or the beauty of the day will ground me and remind me how wonderful and powerful these moments really are. One good moment will lead to another. Living with each day in mind will keep you centered - planning for the day to follow, will keep you calm - and letting go of the day completed, will keep worry away.
6. There is no ‘fair’ card in life. Sometimes things won’t be fair, sometimes they will. Demanding ‘fair’ is only for the victimized, for they give their power away and seek rewards from empty appearances and limiting beliefs. The only limits you will find are those that you give yourself. Obstacles are often lessons for us where we learn to innovate and create. You are not defined by what happens to you. As we change, things change, and focusing on ‘what you are due’ only creates a limit. Adopting a long term view will help navigate the days, as life rolls along it’s little path. Sometimes it’s bumpy, sometimes it’s smooth, and sometimes, it just is.
7. Be your own best friend. Like yourself for who you are, your inner voice must be supportive and lead you to happiness. Those that are small minded talk of others, judging and casting criticisms, fueling gossip and filling space with negative and damaging words. Focus your talk on ideas, places, and experiences. Ponder. Contemplate. Pay attention to your internal voice, your gut, or what I like to call your ‘Jiminy Cricket’. You have this tool for a reason; your gut often knows answers before you realize them. Life is a treasure and we have been designed with the greatest of gifts, from the ability to communicate, think and share, to the natural instincts of gut reaction, to the joy of experiencing love. Jump in with both feet while remembering to take care of you.
And finally, a small reminder that you will never be alone. For every moment, for the great times, for the frustrating days, you have family you came into, family you have created, and family yet to be. Lean into this collective group, as they walk arm in arm supporting each other, helping along the way. You may feel lonely at times, but you are not alone.
You are treasured and you are loved. You are embarking on a thrilling ride, take it all in, every last little second and enjoy it. Always, in all ways, have gratitude for where you are in the journey, for what you have done along the way, and for who you are inside your special soul. This is the cornerstone of your happiness. These thankful thoughts drive your perspective, create your daily view, and the moments you'll remember. Hold on tight, have fun and by all means, enjoy the ride.
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Life can be so much fun. There are people to meet, places to visit, and exciting relationships to enjoy. It’s wondrous when it all works, and it’s terrifying when it doesn’t. Things happen. Horrible, horrific, and wonderful things – and these things come every day - every day we are experiencing something new. Even with the best-laid plans, we can find ourselves in the heat of a moment we didn’t plan.
Our kids get in trouble. Our spouse gets laid off. We find out we have a medical issue to manage. Our pay gets reduced. Our house value goes in the tank. The knee jerk reaction is to let the stress of the moment and the energy of the situation take over. Like a big wave at the beach, we can get sucked in and be left gasping for air.
Developing tools and learning how to manage your perspective helps. Like a muscle, if you don’t use it, it becomes weak. But when you exercise it, it becomes strong. Understanding that we are in control of our thoughts changes our response, our energy, and the situation – because whatever we focus on, expands.
If faced with a choice when difficulties come your way, would you want to fall down and just give up? There are times, many I have endured myself, where it feels like everyone is against you and the world is falling on your shoulders. I get it, challenging times are hard. But the truth of it is, whether we realize it or not, we have the ability to move ourselves forward and move away from the angst of the day.
Years ago, I was faced with life changing events. I went through a tumultuous divorce and subsequently lost my first business, I endured an emergency surgery, my retriever broke her leg, and in the middle of one of our hottest summers, the air conditioner broke.
I was at my wits end. As I lay in my house, I pondered what had just happened to me. At the top of my game, I came tumbling down.
So I began to think about what I had left. It was then that I realized that I had my thoughts – I could control WHAT I thought about, HOW I thought about it and WHEN I thought about it or how much focus I gave it. It was then that I realized I had everything.
It sounds Pollyanna-ish and it should. When you get stuck, you need a life raft to pull you up and out. Controlling what I focused on was my life raft. Below is the simple formula I used then, and still use today.
1. Find the good. I promise you, it’s there. It might not be obvious or it might not be easy to think about, but there is always good. We are here, living during the best times in history (even despite the current wars, recession, etc).
Even for the situations that are just awful, even the times when you feel like you can’t move another step forward, there is good. Having loved ones in our lives, experiencing beautiful sunsets, enjoying a song that moves you to tears, knowing that our health is in good shape, are all things that are good. It might take you some time to find it, but it’s there.
2. Focus on what you want. This is so much easier said than done, but it’s a quick tool that can help move you forward. It’s very easy to look at what is in front of you, get upset, and feel badly. It’s harder to look at what is in front of you, decide that while it might be yucky, you are going to focus on where you are heading and the goals you have set for yourself. Whatever you focus on expands. Focus on the bad, and it’s everywhere. Focus on the good, and you feel better right away.
3. Have gratitude. I learned a tip years ago from a wise teacher who taught me to get out of bed in the morning and with each foot I put on the floor, say ‘Thank’ and ‘You’. It might feel silly but it starts your day with the awareness that every moment is a gift. When you find gratitude in your life, everything else is put into perspective. This very second, I am thankful I have the opportunity to write and connect with others.
Remember to be gentle with yourself. We are all just people, showing up every day, doing the best we can. Situations do not define you. YOU define you. Take these three very simple, yet very powerful steps and change your day. You’ll be glad that you did. And I’ll be grateful.
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