Bad Weather and Dead Racoons

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.
Mark Twain

Some folks seem to be blessedly care-free. They never seem to worry. Many, though, find themselves anxious and unsettled on a regular basis.

There is certainly plenty to worry about in the world: Afghanistan, unemployment, a nuclear Iran, the price of gas, death, disease and hurricanes to name just a few popular topics.

A coaching client of mine recently shared with me her worry. Her young daughter had a run-in with Leukemia. Now in complete remission, the daughter radiates health and happiness. The likelihood that she’ll live to a ripe old age is extremely high. Yet, my client says, “I can’t stop worrying that it (the disease) will come back. I want to enjoy every moment of the day. But I don’t know how.”

She worries too about animals getting hit by cars. (Hey, who am I to judge. I have my own fairly random list.)

Of course, as a coach, and as a Professional (Certifiable) Worrier, I had some pithy thoughts to share with her on the topic of worry. Here’s what I said:

1. You were raised in a household of worriers. How has that worked out for them? What catastrophes has worry prevented?

2. Worry is a habit; like biting your nails. With just a bit of mindfulness and effort, a habit can be broken and re-programed. Break the habit.

3. Worry is a waste; there is absolutely no return on investment for the time; it yields no outcome; so you literally piss away the time. Do you like to piss away time?

4. The chances of something extraordinarily good happening in any moment are just as high (or low) as the chances of something extraordinarily bad. You can focus on either. Why not choose to focus on the good?

5. You usurp the province of the Divine when you believe that your worry somehow controls the outcome in the Universe. Do you really want that job too?

6. The shit that actually befalls you (or someone you love) is almost never the shit you worry about. Maybe you should worry about that as well?

7. Worry is a choice. You can choose to worry. Or not. Not is better.

Here’s the truth: You’re gonna die; your parents are gonna die; your kids are gonna die; there will be wars and famine; there will be dead racoons in the road; there will be ups and down in the economy; and really unpleasant weather.

Life is way short. Choose well. Focus on the good.

Live, laugh, love, celebrate.

Don’t waste a minute of it.

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This is an encore of a post first published on June 14, 2012

Doing It On Purpose

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

— T.S. Eliot

I spent years; decades even.

I conferred with priests and ministers.

I consulted with counselors and therapists.

I sought out spiritual directors and shamans and energy healers.

I even hired a high priced consultant.

I was looking for my “purpose.”

I’ve discovered that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve come across lots of folks in the course of my coaching practice lately who are searching for their “purpose.” Folks from all walks of life; between jobs; coming out of dissolving marriages (and in happy ones); looking for the next step (or the first one); weary of their professions (or just ready for a change); certain that there is something “more,” but without a clue as to what that “more” might be.

They’re searching for their purpose because, for many, finding it really does matter. Because living day to day with a sense of purpose is important. Because, ultimately, we all want to make a difference with our lives; we want to make an impact; we want to leave the world a better place.

Purpose is a sense of mission, a vocation, a calling; a grand arc. More than a job or a role, it’s a sense of wholeness that weaves the pieces of our lives together.

The act of searching, though, can become a distraction; an excuse; a reason not to get our hands dirty, to buckle down and do the work. Searching for our purpose sounds important. And if we’re doing something as important as searching for our purpose, like a Holy Grail, how could we possibly have time to find the job, get the degree, launch the product, write the book, paint the picture or compose the song? Those are things you do after you’ve found your purpose! I should know! I’ve engaged in my fair share of circle jerking purpose searching.

“So how do you find your purpose? people ask.

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t have to be rocket surgery.

What excites you? What lights you up? What quickens your heart? What draws you like a moth to a flame? Where do you lose yourself in time? What have you always wanted to do? What brings you joy? What would you do, even if you weren’t getting paid to do it?

Sometimes we think that “doing” our purpose has to be hard; or that working at our purpose will require toil and sacrifice. But just the opposite is true.

Ask yourself instead: what makes you happy, what’s fun? In fact, ask yourself what would be too much fun to do?  That likely will point you in the right direction of your purpose.

But, ultimately, remember this. We really don’t have the time to search for yetis or lost cities. The clock is running. And every second counts.

Just get busy. Purpose has a way of finding you.

Purpose is about discovering what has been within you all along.

It’s about loving deeply and serving freely; it’s about sharing the gifts that only you can share with the world.

Likely, your purpose is close at hand; right here; right now; right where you are. Doing the work you are doing in this very moment.

Don’t miss it.

Toss It In The River

I nearly missed it.

It had fallen to the bottom of the mail basket.

I fished out the tiny envelope.

It was addressed to me; blue ink; the forced cursive of a now unsteady hand.

I didn’t recognize the return address.

The note inside said: “Dear Mr. Hampton, I stumbled over your book Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters in my library. I so enjoyed it. It meant a lot to me. I’m 84 years old. Old people have dreams too, you know.”

I wept.

Just that afternoon, I had devolved once again into that self-loathing, that self-pity, that narcissistic hand-wringing that so many of us – writers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, creators – indulge in: what’s the point of doing the work; does anybody really care; is anybody really listening; does the message really matter; maybe the message is screwy; is the work important; am I doing it right; maybe I didn’t rehearse long enough; maybe I’ll make a mistake; maybe I should have practiced more; maybe I already made a mistake; maybe I don’t have enough experience to be doing this; do I have the right system; maybe no one notices anyway; maybe I didn’t get the launch right; maybe the marketing is off; maybe the work looks stupid; maybe I sound dumb. Yes, dumb, so let’s not do that anymore.

“God, give me a sign that the work matters,” I had silently prayed that afternoon.

“Old people have dreams too,” the Universe responded.

You see, the work we do – the work all of us do – truly does matter. And our job is just to shut up – and do it.

Of course, occasional – or frequent – self-flagellation may somehow assuage some of us. But really, all that is ultimately required of us is that we show up; every day; and do the work of our lives.

George Leonard, who was an Aikido Master and a grandfather of the Human Potential movement wrote, “the master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is one who is willing to try and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.” The master, said Leonard, shows up every day on the mat.

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way said, “I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard. Our only job, Cameron says, is to show up – and allow the work to move through us.

Tama Kieves in her wonderful new book Inspired & Unstoppable, says: The blank page teaches us to write. The stage teaches us to perform. Even surgeons have to learn on real-life patients with real life consequences.” “It doesn’t matter how you begin,” says Kieves. “Just jump in. Get moving.”

And stay moving, I say.

The problem with self-flagellation is that it often paralyzes us; stops us dead in our tracks; interrupts our momentum; stops the flow.

The world needs your gifts.

When we do our work – and put our work out in the great river of our lives – it takes on energy of its own. It impacts lives – and travels to distant shores – beyond our wildest imaginations.

Believe in your vision. Believe in your message. Believe in the music of your heart.

Get out of your own way; get out of your own head.

Show up. Do the work. Do it every day. Then toss it out into in the river of your life.

The Universe will take care of the rest.

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Be A Control Freak

OK, people, it’s done.

Summer’s over. The vacation’s behind you. No more lazy lunches.  No more casual Fridays.

It’s time to put away the Dockers… and the swimmies. It’s time to get back to it.

September’s here. Time to get busy; time to get serious.

No more leisure, no more playtime.

It’s time for work.

Uhhh, wait a minute: I object. I don’t want to give up playtime!

It is a busy time of year. But perhaps we can take some of summer with us?

In summer, it seems, time is more expansive; the rules more flexible; the boundaries softer.

And then September comes and – maybe it’s a holdover from going back to school – it seems like the time for fun is over.

We move back into our busy lives, our schedules chock full, shuttling around the kids, out to soccer games and swim practices, with evening meetings, volunteer activities and board commitments.

Many of my coaching clients feel like they’re moving back into the forest fire armed only with their squirt guns; their lives turned into an out-of-control carnival game of whack-a-mole. Reacting endlessly, and breathlessly, to the urgent.

Never really getting to what is really, truly the important in their lives.

And summer slips silently into the rear view mirror with perhaps some vague hope for respite and reprieve on some distant unencumbered weekend… or maybe in February on that “vacation… .”

There is a different way.

But it requires that you become a control freak.

That’s right, a control freak: someone who takes control of their lives!

No one else is gonna do it for you. You’ve gotta do it for yourself.

And this means that you need a bit of courage and audacity.

I know. I live it too. Bombarded by unceasing demands and expectations in every area of our lives. Inundated by inputs. Juggling multiple modalities of communication. Over committed and suffused with the anxiety of dropping the ball.

But here’s the truth: the in-box will always be full. None of us will ever get it all done. If you died tomorrow, you’d be replaced.

So why not pay attention to what truly matters?

People ask me how it is that I take so much time away traveling and adventuring. The answer: it’s a choice.

Last year, I took 13 weeks off. There were no disasters. No one missed me. The world went on.

And, damn, it was fun.

So here are some practices to consider before September gets too crazy:

  • Decide what really, really matters to you. Spend time on that. Get rid of the rest.
  • Get really good at saying no; if you find yourself saying you “should” do something, you probably shouldn’t.
  • Carve out time for yourself – every single day. No one else is going to do it for you.
  • Get up an hour early and enjoy the quiet. Use it to read and write and meditate and create.
  • Plan your weeks; and plan each day; actually schedule in the time for the things that matter most to you.
  • Turn off the TV at night and focus on the life you really want.

Here’s the scoop: at the end of our lives, no one is going to wish they spent more time in the office, billed more hours, sold more product, sat on more boards, went to more PTO meetings, or volunteered for more committees. It won’t matter whether you went to one more network group, whether your Facebook status was up to date, or whether you were well LinkedIn. What will matter will be the experiences you have had, the love you have shared, the lives you have touched.

What will matter will be whether you showed up in each and every moment to know the fullness and the joy of your life.

What will matter is whether you have lived without regret.

For that to happen, you’ll need to become a control freak.

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p.s. If you’re working on creating the work and the life you love, and would like some support and coaching, consider booking a complimentary breakthrough Strategy Session with me. We’ll get laser focused on you and figure out exactly what needs to happen to get you the results you want. Email me: walt@walthampton.com