Marcus Aurelius, last of the Five Good Emperors journaled relentlessly, reminding himself that you have power to control your reactions to the events in your life. Circumstances do not define you; your reactions to those circumstances do. “You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve,” he remarked. This evergreen advice speaks directly to our generation. We procrastinate and put off DECIDING what our PRIORITIES are, and then wonder why we never realize our dreams. We take ZERO action, preferring to complain about the small things. Silent, Imperfect action will get you closer to the goal. The Good Emperor puts this more plainly than I’ve ever read elsewhere, “If it’s endurable, endure it. Stop complaining.” More than simply not sweating the small stuff. Sort out what REALLY matters to you, create priorities, and then focus relentlessly on THOSE things. The small things should fall to the bottom of the list and be ignored. Forget about haters, copiers, unkind people, unfavorable circumstances, and GRIND… Every.F’n.Day. Check out Mel Robbins on YouTube. Start by searching “Why Motivation is Garbage”, and then read her book The 5 Second Rule (book). Or…Do nothing. It’s your life, if you choose it.
Watch this YouTube video and try not to be inspired.
I’m not affiliated with the Be Inspired team, but my goodness, this compilation of motivational speeches hits on so many levels. I’ve read and listened to a number of these speakers and thinkers and authors already, but as a cohesive whole, the sum is greater than the parts. Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, author of Extreme Ownership, says at 12:52 “Take Ownership! Take Extreme Ownership. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame any other person or any other thing. Get control of your ego. Take ownership of everything in your world. The good AND the bad. Take ownership of your mistakes, take ownership of your shortfalls, your problems, and the solutions that will get those problems solved. Take ownership of your mission, of your job, of your team, of your future, AND TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR LIFE!”
You have 5 seconds. If you don’t decide to do this HERE and NOW, your brain will make an excuse to keep you where you are, where it’s safe, where you don’t have to change. Fuck that. Take ownership, right now in a real tangible way.
Stop. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Let go.
Did you feel it? The space between those two breaths?
That quiet stillness was yours. You owned it.
Maybe the rest of your day was pure chaos, but you owned that moment. And guess what? You can do that at any time you choose.
Choose to do it more often. This is just the beginning…
Do you ever catch yourself getting mad at inanimate objects for NOT doing what you WANT them to do? You plant a flower, and you expect it will grow into the most Instagram-worthy version of itself, instantaneously, and with little-to-no more effort on your part.
We’ve become accustomed to instant gratification, and the monster gets worse and worse as we expect more and more. Seamless integration in coverage, touchless EVERYTHING in the bathroom, and on and on. Something isn’t working? Turn it off, then turn it back on, should be fixed just like that.
This is not a rant against modernity.
But we MUST realize that this digital, technical, modern life of ours has blurred our expectations when it comes to nature, to humanity, to relationships. and to life itself. We can not bring the same “get fixed quick” Turn it Off/On approach to the garden with any level of success.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander den Heijer
Too often we assume there is a problem with the flower, and we need to troubleshoot in order to fix it. In reality, we need to clear the air of the poison that is suffocating it. If anything, we need to check on the quality and strength of the connections (the roots, the leaves) Do they all have access to the levels of nutrients and care that they need in order to thrive? Do we actually feed the damn thing once in a while, and give it the life-sustaining drink of cool water it desperately needs? We need to talk to it, to offer it companionship…and then…give it some space to grow. We can’t will it to grow, stand watch and cheer it on “grow, grow, grow” because as well meaning as that seems, we’re creating a shadow and blocking the sun.
Nature has an incredible way of self-organizing, and optimizing. Watch a houseplant orient itself toward the sun over time, and stretch toward the open window as if for a breath of fresh air.
“But my plant isn’t doing what I want it to do,” you keep telling yourself. It’s smaller than I’d prefer, not the right shade of pink, or smells ‘funny.’ What do we do? Give up on the plant, toss it in the garbage, and try again? Modern, disposable, fast-food living practically DEMANDS we do that very thing, to make SPACE for the next iteration. Epictetus and his Stoic philosophy suggests that same as Heijer, above. The problem doesn’t live in the plant, but in our steadfast devotion to the way we BELIEVE nature should re-organize and bend to OUR wills.
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” -Epictetus
Like fixing a plane while flying it, there is an urgency and immediacy to fixing flowers. We care about these little, living things, and want to see them into a better future. This takes on long and short-term action. We must take steps now AND keep the end goal in mind.
The flower owes us nothing. Supremely intelligent nature keeps buds from blooming into poisonous atmospheres. Plants may need to adapt and re-grow and that re-growth takes time and patience. Fixing flowers is different than fixing the non-natural. Fixing flowers may actually just be fixing ourselves to the point that we can support their fragile, trusting sprouts again.
This has been about #moreThanJustFlowers, #moreThanAGreenThumb
If we are honest, sometimes things get dark. We are told to follow our hearts, to find our passion, our calling, but nobody tells us HOW to get to these things. It can feel like an endless search to get lucky, to find that four leaf clover in the vast clover field. Did you know it’s about 1 in 10,000? We search and we search for the thing we think we WANT, only to miss the thing we NEED right in front of us. Hidden in plain sight, it takes a sideways glance, or a music lyric, or maybe the intensity of an incredible workout to wake us out of our slumber, and show us reality for a second. Gasping for breath, panting, and struggling for air, you look down and you see something BETTER than you were after…you see life as it REALLY is…in all it’s beauty. In the darkness, when times are tough, you still get to choose. You always have a choice…a choice to see the good, to see what is right there in front of you, to choose to silently smile and accept that happiness is available to you right here, right now, no matter your circumstance. In Buddhism Plain and Simple, Steve Hagen likens this to a feast set out before us, complete with every delight you can imagine. You can partake NOW, or at any moment of your choosing, and yet we complain of our hunger. We thirst for the water, the wine, and the milk and honey…that are set right in front of us. We complain because it’s familiar, and it doesn’t make waves. Everyone else is doing it, and so we have solidarity. It’s counter-culture to SNAP people out of us it and say what Marcus Aurelius said, “If it is endurable, endure it. Stop complaining.” What’s more counter-culture is to say, in earnest, to “WAKE UP!” It’s not a magic pill, and it doesn’t last long…maybe a second or two, but when you see that tiny glimpse of something beautiful, it’s time to breathe deep, take it in, and own that moment. If you ever catch someone smiling silently, take note. They know what we are talking about here. You get to choose, so choose to see the good.
#silentSmile #ffw #freedomFromWish #ChooseTheGood
Every day is a good day for philosophy, especially the Classics, and the Stoics are the best of the lot.
Some days you are flying high and haven’t a care in the world. Those are good days for philosophy.
But, some days you aren’t. Some days you have your world turned on its head. On those days…you need a heavy dose of philosophy.
What is this philosophy, you ask?
People have been doing this life living thing for a while now. Somebody out there in the world, living or dead (if they wrote stuff down, or told stories) has a piece of wisdom to meet your need right now. If I can offer some incredibly empowering ‘friends’ to listen to, try Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Viktor Frankl. These guys are straight shooters and won’t sugar coat anything, but they might give you the nugget that saves your life. Tonight, I took some deep breaths, a long soak, and read some Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life” and pretty much wanted to plagiarize every word for you here. Read the book, it’s less than 100 pages and will absolutely change your life. That said, here’s some advice from the ages:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that is has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life, but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Just as when ample and princely wealth falls to a bad owner it is squandered to a moment, but wealth however modest, if entrusted to a good custodian, increases with use, so our lifetime extends amply if you managed it properly.”
He continues later:
You are living as if you are destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and over-flowing supply- though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. You will hear many people saying, ‘When I am fifty I shall retire into leisure; When I am sixty I shall give up public duties.’ And what guarantee do you have of a longer life?”
Later, this pearl:
“…They spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty, live immediately.”
Nothing is promised to you, nothing is owed. You have this moment, so do something with it so that when you are looking back on your days, you can count this as one of the moments that you did something.
PSA from my FitBit
If you have little ones, take them with you.
SHOW them how to live a healthier life.
Take them for a walk to the park rather than driving. Get some steps in
Your heart needs you to go first, make the effort, be the one that chooses to do something a little weird.
Make everyone standing around waiting for the elevator squint their eyes as you head for the stairs.
Take an extra minute or so to get your heart rate up because some day you may not be able to…you may not always be able to bound up the stairs like you can today.
Today you can, so please do.
Fitness is a series of small decisions. Life is about choices.
Take. The. Stairs.
Listen folks. I care about you, and I want you to live a better life. I want you to be free from the myriad diseases that accompany metabolic syndrome. I want you to have the energy and capacity to play with your kids, to run if a coyote sets his rabid eye on you one night. You have the power to change your life and it starts by making the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential changes in life. Today you can park a little further from the store, let the other guy have that spot he’s been circling for and you get a couple extra steps in. Your heart will thank you. Your kids will thank you. Future you will thank you.
Pilots get a unique perspective.
On dark and stormy days, pilots are not bound to the earth, destined to get dumped on, peppered with hail, struck by millions of volts of electric lightning. In Take10, the headspace meditation app has an incredible visualization that hits the nail on the head. They liken the mind to a clear blue sky. Storms of emotions and thoughts and struggles sometimes block out that blue sky, but it’s still there, above it all. At any moment, when we are going though our own struggles, we can REMEMBER that the clear, blue sky is available to us…in THIS moment! Pilots get a unique perspective because on stormy days they may be stuck flying through THICK layers of stormy clouds, but this doesn’t usually last forever. By adding some thrust and power, the pilot can climb his craft and crest above it all, eliminating the chop and bumps associated with the storms. That “ahh!” moment when you hit clear skies feels like a deep breath. It’s a GREAT day again when you see the sun, faithful that the clear blue skies were there all along. You might see BILLIONS of stars in the cockpit on a clear night above it all.
Why does this matter?
No matter how stormy your day is, the clear blue sky is always available to you.
Take a deep, purposeful, focused breath IN…hold it…and let it OUT. Beautiful.