A New Dawn

How can it be the New Year already?

How many folks are ready for the New Year?  How many of you have made resolutions for the New Year already? How many haven’t even begun to think about New Year’s resolutions?

Well you’re in the right place. New Years is a great time to reassess and recalibrate. And I have some thoughts about finding freedom and fulfillment in the New Year. Some simple steps.

Here’s the problem: 100 million people in this country feel frustrated and bored with their lives. That’s a third of the population; one out of every three folks. The fact is, most of us aren’t living the lives we once imagined we would live.

We like to think there’s time to sort it out, to get it right.  We like to think we’ll make time for what’s important in life next week, next year, when the kids are out of school, when we retire. We’ll get to those things “soon.” And the truth is, soon never comes.

A number of years ago, on a beautiful crystal clear late winter day, I was the first EMT in a car that had been hit head on at high speed. The driver was my friend Chris. His life ebbed away in my arms. Whenever folks ask me about my high altitude mountaineering, my ultra running, my blue water sailing, about risk. I think about Chris. Now, we all have a “Chris” in our lives – the sudden death of a loved one, a jarring moment when we are reminded of the brevity of it all. But then we go back to life as usual.

What if life could be different? What if we could have it the way we want it? What if we could – each day – enjoy fun freedom and fulfillment? It’s not impossible you know.

Three simple steps for an outrageously successful New Year

So let me share with you THREE simple suggestions as the New Year approaches.

And in order to help remember them during these last remaining crazy weeks of this year, I going to build these thoughts around the acronym EVE as in New Year’s Eve, as in the Eve of new beginnings.

Envision the life you want

So the first E stands for Envision.

All of us need a vision of where we are going.

Now, most of us have this vision early in our lives. We think about graduating from high school, going to college, maybe going on to graduate or professional school, getting a job, finding a partner or spouse, and finding a place to live.

And then, all of a sudden we’re whacked upside the head by this thing some call reality. Every day, waking up, having breakfast, going off to work, coming home, watching TV, and falling into bed at the end of the day, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. Soon we’re starting to feel like the guy in that old donut commercial or an extra in Bill Murray’s Ground Hog Day: the same thing over and over and over again.

And we ask: is that all there is? And it is – unless we have a vision of something more.

So the first task is to get clear on what you want.

We can’t hit a target we cannot see.  So we need a target and we have to see the target.

And it can’t be something vague like “I want to lose weight.” Or, “I want to get fit.” It needs to be clear and definite. And it needs a really good compelling reason why you want it. For example, “I want to lose 20 lbs. so I can fit into that tux or that dress for my daughters wedding on June 15:” “I want to start a running program so that I can do my first 5k on September 1.”

Maybe you’ve always wanted to start your masters or take up painting or write a book or maybe you want a new career. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of being a dancer.

Now’s the time to reclaim your dreams.  Envision your life just the way you want it.

Life what you value most

The V is for Values.

Our lives are much sweeter when we know what we value.

Here’s an exercise for you to try: pull out a piece of paper and on the left hand side, write the top five things you value; on the right hand side, write the top five things you spend your time on.

Now in the perfect world, there will be a one to one match. But most of us won’t find that.

Here’s the scoop. You can’t say you value family if you spend 80 hours a week in the office; you can’t say you value health and fitness if you never go to the gym.  You spend your time on what you value. And if that’s not true, then there are some adjustments that need to be made.

Life is much simpler when we are living out what we value. Decisions are easier. We’re less stressed.

Let me give you an example.  I value health and fitness right up at the top of my list. If I’m invited out to lunch or asked to schedule a business meeting on a day that I’m going to the gym to do weights, there’s no wrestling with the decision for me. No confusion. I value going to the gym over a lunch appointment.

When we get clear on what we value most, it’s much easier to draw boundaries in our lives; it’s much easier to say no to what’s not working; and yes to what’s working.

Engage with clear decisive action

The E is for Engage.

Get going. Take action.

Can you believe how fast this year has slipped by?

We think that to get to the lives we want, we need to shift universes, make massive changes, move, quit our jobs, leave our relationships.

The truth is that small consistent steps over time lead to magnificent results.

Think about one of those old hand pumps at a campground. You start pumping on the handle slowly and nothing happens; you keep pumping and still nothing happens; you pump some more and a small trickle of water may come out. Here’s the rub, a lot of folks stop there. There’s just a small trickle; it’s not worth the effort.  And, of course, if you stop, you’ve lost the prime; you’ve lost the benefit of all your efforts. BUT, if you just keep pumping a little longer, a huge torrent of water flows.

And so it is in taking steps toward the lives we want, toward our vision, toward our dream.

People ask me how I ran my 50-mile ultra marathon. I was never a distance runner – I took up distance running 3 years ago. When I think about running 50 miles, even as I write this today, it is nearly incomprehensible to me. How do you run 50 miles? One step, one mile at a time.

I worked on Journeys for just an hour a day… for a year. Small consistent steps over time… .

Rock this New Year

The message of Journeys: Live your dreams, live the life you want to live, live passionately, intentionally, joyfully. Before the clock runs out.

So as the EVE of the New Year approaches, get busy: Envision the life of your dreams; live what you Value most; and start out, Engage.  See what happens. The New Year is gonna rock.

 

Get your signed copy of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters. Click HERE!

 


 

To Turn Again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice.

T.S. Eliot

It’s dark. Really dark. And cold.

The sun, even when it comes up here in the northeast, skitters across the horizon. And disappears.

Yet, this week, we celebrate the light.

It is the turning point.

From the very earliest of times, before tribe or tradition, we have confronted the darkness with trepidation – the darkness of the night, the darkness of our souls – and railed against it. Through liturgy and ritual and celebration, we connected with the ancient rhythms of the earth to welcome light – and hope – back into the world.

For a fraction of a moment this week, the earth will stop – and shift on its axis – and turn again toward the sun.

It is the turning point.

In the busyness of our frantic, teched-out lives, we can miss this moment. It is easy to forget why we run around and string lights and light candles and wrap presents and gather together – and in the process end up empty and depleted and sad. It is easy to forget why we celebrate.

We celebrate the light. We celebrate in the deep knowing that the light always returns. We celebrate that the light always triumphs over the darkness.

Take a moment to stop this week. Reconnect with the ground – and with the Ground of All Being. Feel the earth turn back to the sun, back to the light.

It is the turning point.

Then decide.

What will you turn toward in the days and months ahead? What light will you discover in your life? What light will you shine in the lives of others?

Be that light.

And celebrate.

It is the turning point.

 

Order your copy of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters. Click HERE!

Take The Easy Way Out

I was out on the rock face at about 11,000′ enjoying the view. The climbing was fairly straightforward, and flowed easily, even though I didn’t know the way.

My climbing partner was 100 yards below me and to my left in a narrow cleft.  He was trying a different approach and it wasn’t going well. I could hear him grunt… and swear from time to time. And occasionally I’d hear the scatter of rockfall.

After nearly 45 minutes of struggle, my partner emerged below me, conceding at last that the route that I was on was the right one.

I’ve thought of this scene countless times over the years. Usually, when we’re trying too hard – whether in the mountains or in life – we’re off route.

The right way is not always without difficulty. But there is a natural flow and unfolding when we’re on the path we should be on.

“We are rather like whirlpools in the river of life,” writes Charlotte Joko Beck. “In flowing forward, a river or stream may hit rocks, branches, or irregularities in the ground, causing whirlpools to spring up spontaneously here and there. water entering one whirlpool quickly passes through and rejoins the river, eventually joining another whirlpool and moving on. Though for short periods it seems to be a distinguishable as a separate event, the water in the whirlpools is just the river itself.”

Suffering, Joko Beck suggests, arises when we pretend that we are not the river; or when we wall off and dam up our own small eddies.

I think suffering arises when we paddle up stream.

Years ago, I took my boys to Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Encircling the outside of the park is a “ride,” a gently flowing river. You sit in an inner tube – and float along.

I’m not very good at Blizzard Beach. I get antsy. I want to paddle. Maybe even change direction. If there were Blizzard Beach police, I might go to jail.

Many of us like to pretend we’re in control. That we own the river. That through cleverness and craft, we can navigate and forge the way. Maybe even force the way.

But constant paddling saps the spirit and tires the soul.

Dan Millman writes, “Surrender involves getting out of our own way and living in accord with a higher will, expressed as the wisdom of the heart.”

What if we didn’t have to struggle?

What if we could trust the river, surrendering to the Great Flow of our lives?

What if the easy way was The Way?

 

 

Get your copy of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters today!  Click HERE!

Mind Matters

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, youre right.

— Henry Ford

“It’s not my fault.”

Parents, how many times have you heard that one?

As a defense attorney, I’ve heard it countless times.

It’s a pervasive cry across our societal landscape; a pandemic failure of individual responsibility.

It’s easier to blame someone else for a problem than to brainstorm a solution. It’s easier to complain about politics than to get involved in the process. It’s easier to complain about economic inequality, than to innovate and risk.

“It’s not your fault,” wrote Linda Bacon in her 2008 book Health at Every Size explaining why diets fail.

Biology trumps will, she said. It’s the genes that make you fat. (And yes, those jeans probably don’t help.)

But I’ve got some bad news. Or maybe it’s good?

There’s “startling new research” that suggests an astounding proposition:

Will power matters. How we set our mind, how we think, actually affects outcome.

In their book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, reviewed this past week in The New York Times, Standford professors Greg Walton and Carol Dweck establish convincingly that those who believe in the strength of will are far more likely to overcome life’s challenges than those who believe that will power is a limited and exhaustible resource.

We actually have the capacity to will our way to success. If we believe we can, we much more likely will.

Now, of course, this is not exactly new.

Will has been around since man first roamed the Garden.

In every moment, we get to exercise our will. In every moment, we get to choose.

We can choose to be angry at the telemarketer; or grateful that we have a phone. We can choose to be frustrated by the line at the register; or grateful that we have the resources to shop. We can choose to be depressed about the economy; or grateful that we live in a free society.

To be sure, the exercise of will is not always easy.

I know this all too well: going out the door on a dark morning run in the rain; or going to the gym on a cold winter’s afternoon; or when I face an unpleasant battle in the courtroom.

I know too from my experiences in mountaineering and distance running that my body has the capacity to push far beyond what my mind thinks it’s capable of; that a failure of will is far more likely than a failure of strength.

Victor Frankl, in his shattering death camp memoir, reminds us though that even in the most desperate of circumstances, we have the power to choose how we will be.

Happiness is a choice, says Gretchen Rubin. And Joel Osteen reminds us of our our capacity – and our obligation – each day – to choose joy.

The exercise of will – our power to choose – is our greatest gift.

May we use it well.

 

Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters.  Click HERE to get your signed copy today!