The Small Life

I’ve had a bunch of thoughts lately on how we talk to one another. Some people tell me I’m too defensive and I shouldn’t take things personally. Others try to motivate or inspire me by telling me that I’m not good enough. While it’s true that we each need to take time to process our thoughts before jumping to conclusions, I also think that personal matters are exactly that – they are personal. Heartfelt, intensely empathetic individuals such as myself, we feel everything very strongly. And while we can be taught ways to manage those emotions, I don’t see the need to stop feeling and/or expressing those emotions as long as the way we process them is constructive. 

Having said that, today’s thoughts come out of a place of intensely personal feelings as I navigate the world of both working for myself and alongside others. Over the years (especially since working with a cognitive behavioural therapist for 3yrs), I have been following many different positive psychology gurus, inspirational speakers/preachers, and I’ve pursued a few different modalities of thought in the process. Often words that were meant to have a motivational focus just didn’t sit well with me. 

I don’t believe that life coaches, motivational speakers, or positive psychology gurus have malicious intent. In fact, as their very focus is positivity it may seem a little “out of left field” for me to claim that their effects are quite the opposite. But please hear me out.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the following statements:

1. “Think big” http://blog.iqmatrix.com/habit-of-thinking-big

2. “Live bigger” https://www.amazon.ca/Dream-Big-Live-Bigger-Success-ebook/dp/B01DZ5K6VE

http://beyondmybluedoor.com/dont-live-small-lives/

3. “Success is just beyond the comfort zone.” https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/279569

Inspiration can be found in many places. For each of us as individuals it is found in different ways. Generally speaking, we know that introversion and extraversion are two very different personality types. Even for those who possess a bit of both, the needs associated with each personality type are undeniable. Extroverts are motivated, inspired and re-energized by other people, loud music, and large crowds. Introverts are the exact opposite – we need quiet times alone, a good book or article to read, and possibly some of our favourite chill tunes. This also applies to those of us battling mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, or cognitive challenges from PTSD, head injuries or other influences. 

That being said, it has come to my attention that the quiet and simple life of few material needs, disconnected from the busy-ness of society, and uninterested in the pursuit of “bigger and better” has somehow become equated with lesser value. The marketing messages of our world have bombarded our psyche and programmed our speech. Bigger and bolder are better.

However, if truth be told, some of us find strength in our safe places. We live quieter lives, with simpler and smaller goals and dreams. Some of us are content with less – less stuff and less connection to the outside world and the media’s frenzied pace and politics. And that’s okay.

If this is you, I want to encourage you today. You are worthy just as you are. If you are happy in the quiet, stay quiet. If you are happy staying close to home, then do so. If you are happy being less connected, then appreciate and enjoy that simplicity. 

Let us not become so focused on the pursuit of bigger and better that we lose focus on what is important. People should not be poked and prodded and belittled for thinking and feeling differently. Inspiration can come from small, gentle leading just as well as it can come from big, bold, drastic action. 

In a world increasingly promoting aggressiveness, I hope we can all learn to take a step back and remember that “bigger/louder/bolder” isn’t always better and “smaller/quiet/simple” is not worse. On this the very day we celebrate Martin Luther King, I hope we can focus more on love and kindness instead of judgment and aggression. ❤

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 

Motivation

Today is a great day for a short discussion on motivation: it’s rainy, my eyes are heavy from a couple late nights chatting with a friend, and my list of chores at home just keeps getting longer with every passing day. This is the perfect equation for staying in bed, going back to sleep, and avoiding the inevitable. Instead, however, I chose to focus on the positive energy from simply being alive. If I pay attention enough to my body, I can get a sense for what it needs. Yesterday I woke up at 8am and ended up going back to sleep for two more hours. This morning, despite a little waking grogginess, my brain is awake and alert. So I’ve chosen to focus that energy toward completing a handful of things. It feels good.

And now I allow myself a short break.

This is how my days go. I find I can focus for about an hour at a time before I need to take a break – So that’s what I do. I channel the energy and alertness and I focus on one task until it’s done. Slowly but surely I find myself working through my “to do” list and feeling a sense of accomplishment as I cross things off my mental checklist.

But what is it, you say, that drives me or motivates me to do these things? I guess you could say it’s the sense of accomplishment itself that motivates me. That and having a specific goal and time frame. Just like anything – whether it be weight-loss, cleaning the house, acquiring a new skill, or organizing ones’ finances – setting specific goals that are specific and measurable, realistic and attainable is key to seeing progress which then continues to motivate us toward further progress.

This week, for instance, I have planned to have company on Saturday evening. That means I have to have my list of chores complete in a certain number of days. Now, working around the other plans of the week is where breaking things down into smaller goals is helpful. Prioritizing these tasks and their importance is another extremely useful tool in the process. What is the most pressing task? First things first – take care of the necessary before the optional. In this way, you are almost forced to focus your energy on realistic and attainable tasks.

I don’t consciously analyze each of my choices in a day anymore. It just happens naturally that I break down my bigger goals (ie cleaning my house) into smaller more manageable tasks and then specifically plan them into my day. It is a little bit of extra work as planning and organizing itself takes energy. However, now as I go along I am consciously aware of my progress and specific accomplishments on a smaller scale which then further motivates me to work toward the larger goal. In the end it is all worth it.

And one of the most important things I do as a part of this process which helps fuel the motivation is I allow myself breaks or a change of tasks. I know my brain is more efficient in the first hour of focus. So by taking a short break after that first hour, I can assure that the next hour is just as effective. This way I never feel too tired which would impede my motivation. In other circumstances this may look like an extra rest say in the work-out schedule, or changing tasks at work to keep the brain fresh. For me this week it means waiting an extra day to get the dishes started. But I did get the kitty litter changed, myself fed and showered to start my day, AND I wrote a blog! I’m on a roll!! 🙂

Knowing our own needs in any given situation is the best thing we can do to help ourselves. Know when you need a break and allow for it. Know when you need to sleep and when you can push through the grogginess. And stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people, positive energy (upbeat music, motivational messages), and fill your mind with positive thoughts (acknowledge your accomplishments along the way, no matter how small, and remind yourself how great the end success will feel).

When your motivation comes from inside yourself, you take responsibility for your own success. And that’s exciting! You have the power in your hands – don’t let anyone tell you differently.

…this is my life…

The 3 P’s from Pastor Mark

Another crazy week…busy, focused, intense, exhausting. My mentoring partner teased this week that I was letting my blog-writing slip – and she’s right! But sometimes it’s just the way life goes. Survival is more of a priority “in the moment” than explaining my method of survival to the world. Lol

Today’s sermon at Church of The Rock was about the three “p’s” of living a life of faith: see from God’s perspective, allow for the expression of God’s power and be confident of His purpose for your life. I truly believe in this combination. Seeing the bigger picture helps prevent us from taking things personally and gives us daily motivation knowing we’re working toward a greater good. Allowing for the possibilities, avoiding putting God in a box, gives us access to a much greater power than we could ever know on our own. And along with both the perspective and possibilities comes the understanding and appreciation that this journey is actually a part of a much bigger purpose.

I truly believe that it is because of these three things that I have experienced such success in my journey. Because of them (perspective, power, and purpose) I can wake up every day being grateful – grateful for the journey itself, the people who are a part of it (both good and bad), and the destination to which it will bring me.

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Today’s inspiration comes from a video that my aunt posted on my Facebook recently.  As humans, we need reminders.  No matter what age we are or stage of life we’re in, sometimes it’s just good to hear a positive message again.  In the midst of an overwhelmingly emotional moment, or even in a moment void of all emotion, reminders such as this one can unleash a flood of encouragement, affirmation, and inspiration all at once – which is just what we needed (often without knowing it).

I have heard and read Rick Warren‘s messages before, and I’ve heard and read about Nick Vujicic before.  Yet hearing this message again today had a special impact on my soul.  Having been through and currently facing a lifetime of personal struggle, this message is incredibly refreshing.  Though I have been equipped with many helpful strategies, and encouraged by many wise and loving people in my life, some days amidst an overwhelmingly emotional moment or a moment of incredibly clear awareness of reality, messages of hope are all that’s left to cling to.  It’s not enough to cultivate gratitude in this moment, it’s not enough to be more in touch with “the fact of the matter”; what we sometimes need as physical, emotional, intellectual, and SPIRITUAL beings, is the blessing of HOPE that this is not all there is for us in life.

As a follower of Christ, and a genuine believer in a triune God, I know that there are better things to come.  I know that that knowing is what gives me my purpose.  The concept of hope is something that is not common in today’s world.  The promise of something better, a “happy ending”, and the answer to a world of questions…it’s found in a life lived for a purpose greater than oneself.  The pain and limitations of society are no match for what can be accomplished through the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I give God all the glory.  It is because of Him that I have made it to this moment today.  It is because of Him that I don’t just make it through each day, but love each moment.  And it is because of Him that I can already be grateful for whatever happens to me tomorrow.

…this is my life…

2 Important Principles for the New Year

In the eighties there was this super-groovy tune called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  It has been a long-time favourite of mine as it brings back fond memories of my childhood and still provides the same warm fuzzies that it did when it first came out.  How can you not smile and groove along when you hear Bobby McFerrin whistling away and singing in his fun island accent (with those cool sounding back-up singers)? 🙂

Well, my post today is a summary of some of my most recent thoughts – and there have been many! LOL – which, funny enough, this song more succinctly does.  At the end of the day, my reflections can be best summarized by the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy!”  And, as I exegete this little phrase, watch me take all the amusement out of it. 🙂

Firstly, I think it is already evident from my previous posts that since my injury I have been consumed with the concept of balance.  For me, that looks like a daily battle with honouring my “challenges” while striving to optimize every ounce of my capabilities.  For you, it may be as simple (or not so simple) as making time for both work and rest, efforts dedicated to both self and others.  Everywhere we look, we are faced with the idea of balancing two polar opposite entities – yin and yang, light and dark, positive and negative. So let’s look at how we can use a bit of effort and a bit of ease, to “not worry” but “be happy”.

As a part of my process of enlightenment, I have been blessed to encounter several “experts” in different fields who have contributed to my personal awareness and education – one of whom is my friend and boss who owns and runs his own gym and holistic health corporation.  Tommy teaches people to be resourceful, be a sponge in learning new things, but discerning in their application.  One of his common recommendations of late has been that each person should become his or her own experiment.  What that means is, each of us is responsible for observing and reflecting and interpreting the data for ourselves, then applying the appropriate adjustments and “solutions” as necessary for our situation.

Inspired by this piece of advice, I have more enthusiastically taken the initiative to begin the regimented task of creating change in my life – one step at a time.  Sometimes this endeavour is so big that it becomes overwhelming.  But with a focus on one item at a time, one DAY at a time, I am already seeing positive change.  Whether it be in my attitude, daily routines, or relationships, I have discovered the following two principles to be a key part of my establishing and maintaining the elusive state of “balance”.

Principle #1 – Don’t Worry.  This principle is ironic for a few reasons.  It is generally an empty exclamation used in situations that are clearly worrisome to some degree or another.  The phrase is set in a negative tone, warning not to do something of a negative nature, which in turn intends to emphasize the positive.

My interpretation and application: we can positively contribute to our life by avoiding the negative.  As I reflect on my life over the past year – my jobs, friendships, and personal “life stuff” – I can see in retrospect that so many problems could have been avoided (or altered) with the simple choice of NOT doing something.  For instance, I chose to eat something I shouldn’t have, engaged someone when I could have said nothing, or perseverated on a worrisome thought (about money) rather than immersing myself in a more positive investment of time (like writing a budget).  Overall, I think we can create more ease with a little effort in NOT emphasizing the negative of a given situation – and, so, increase the positive!

Principle #2 – Be Happy!  This principle is also a paradoxical balance of effort and ease.  The concept of “being” has the connotation of having no effort, yet in this context the speaker is giving instruction.  Ironically, we really cannot “instruct” another person how to “be” as that contradicts the essence of the word.  The phrase, however, has only the best intentions as it is usually used in the context of encouraging someone.

My interpretation and application:  due to the very personal nature of this phrase, I believe it is the responsibility of each of us as individuals to invest in our own happiness.  Contradictory to the passive nature of the verb “to BE”, I don’t think we should fall victim to living life with our emotions (or the seemingly natural state of “being”) when we were given brains to direct them.  So while my last point was more passive in recommendation, this point is more active.  I believe we need to actively participate in our lives more – as I mentioned Tommy recommending above.  Whether it be investing in time with friends, or allowing for quiet times of reflection to rest and recharge, we can choose!  Whether it be taking on a second job to pay the bills, or scaling back expenses to make the budget more manageable – it is within our power!  Whether it be sulking at home feeling sorry for oneself watching mindless t.v, or cleaning and organizing the house to achieve a sense of accomplishment – in the end, it’s up to us!

I speak from lots of experience, folks.  I am so grateful to sit here on this end – having struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, overwhelm and utter despair – now feeling a sense of relief and empowerment as I see for myself the difference I can make in my own life.  The balance is different for everyone, and it’s ever-changing, but let me tell you with certainty that the balance CAN be found and it’s up to us to honour it.  All it takes is a little effort…and a little ease.  Be good to yourself.

…this is my life…

“My Story”

Video

This is the “Reader’s Digest” Version of my story…I was asked to share it at the London Brain Injury Association Fundraiser Gala in February, 2011. Though I have moved on to bigger and better things as far as my job is concerned, the theme continues to be progress. One day at a time…

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  ― Wayne W. Dyer