A Life Well-Lived

1276 Relax and Succeed - Authenticity the courage to be yourselfA lot of the reason that people feel like they may not be doing the right thing in life is because they have pre-constructed the concept of success in their imagination and what they imagine isn’t an action, it’s a definition or result. While a healthy person is merely fascinated by what they’re doing, someone lost and uncertain will be trying to raise their value, status or power in some way, shape or form.

Since the media is a nearly unavoidable force in the raising of a child it is important to see a child’s actions as not only being based on the child’s caregivers, but also on other significant forces like media trends, which lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, like the formations of things like cultures of irreverence, or of uptalkers for example.

One of the other unintended consequences of media as a learning force is that children automatically and unknowingly come to see success as being linked to popularity or fame, hence “be famous,” has only recently been added as an answer to the question, what do you want to do with your life? (People used to say astronaut, or doctor or deep sea diver.)

1276 Relax and Succeed - Study hard what interests you mostThe truth is, fame and fortune are not at all what makes a good life. Richard Feynman won a Nobel Prize almost because he was a famous iconoclast, too dedicated to his own curiosity to ever get anywhere had it not been for the fluke that his curiosity primarily landed in one field (while he was well respected in many). But if his passions had not been in physics right while physics was literally exploding (he worked on the atomic bomb), his life may have been much less notable. Likewise, most truly great lives are not noticeable to anyone but the people living them, and those closest to them.

I was recently at the funeral of my parent’s neighbour. I’ve known her since I was three. As I sat in the pew at the church listening to the speakers, I was struck by how much I admired the woman, and almost precisely because she was so different from me. Since being teased relentlessly as a kid I’ve ignored other people’s views in favour of a set of guiding principles so, I’ve always liked my life and how I live it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate equally authentic lives that unfold in their own unique ways.

Whereas I am a quick thinking enthusiastic person who has generally held leadership positions and would be in that tiny group of people that takes action when others won’t, she was extremely gentle and appreciative; always a safe harbour for any and all troubled neighbourhood kids. I’ve travelled the world and had awesome jobs and worked in film and TV and made lots of money–my life looks like (or rather used to look like)–the kind of life people would want to have. Hers was much smaller, but it was equally a rich life and it was very well lived. I had fun in my other life, but I’m actually more like her now.

1276 Relax and Succeed - Don't change so people will like youJust as I had cared about the big exciting things I was doing, she was caring deeply about the smaller more intimate details of life. Where I might be inspiring or informative, she offered comfort and support. She earned the love of her family throughout her life. She was enthusiastic about her work while she was a worker, and as a homemaker she was one of those dream Moms who always has a warm smile and fresh homemade food. She was also a very dedicated and loving parent and stand-in parent to her own child and many others.

If someone asked me today; if you couldn’t live your life, which life would you live, I have generally answered I’m loving the life I have. But if you forced me to choose, a life entirely like hers seems, to me, as enjoyable and as profound as my own has been, and the change of pace would be educational I’m sure. What’s curious about this is that many of my students come to me wanting to be more like I was, and by the time we’re done they want to be more like themselves, which is often much more like my parent’s very successful neighbour with her very successful life.

She died wanting more. That can feel like it should be sad, but it’s really the opposite that’s sad; when they’ve gone past their desire for life the death feels more like a relief. But right up until the end she had a tomorrow to be excited about and, when she finally realised she wouldn’t get that, she became just as excited by what was next, smiling just before her death, uttering the words, “my parents…” It really doesn’t get more beautiful than that and I am glad such a wonderful woman got such a fitting end to a life very well lived.

Life is in the details. Don’t always look above you. Sometimes what you’re looking for is already around you, or even possibly something you previously left behind. But do not assume bigger is better. Better is whatever your nature leads you to. In that regard, may your life be as successful as hers.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Optimistic Nihilism

1272 Relax and Succeed - What is reality to youA lot of my students come to me with an issue or a problem. In most cases, their attraction to solving that issue will cause them to see most of the lessons through that lens. But every now and then I get a more philosophical student, who comes with a problem but quickly finds themselves, like me, fascinating by these very ideas themselves.

I recently worked with a gentleman who was having challenges activating his own life due to an honest sense of nihilism. The simple fact was, he had legitimately noticed a fact about reality but he didn’t see how it was possible to do much with that discovery and so it had trapped him rather than freed him. I recently ran into the video below and thought it was quite a good technical explanation of most of the process he did before he came to me, and it also includes a lot of what we focused on after we were working together.

It’s not all here of course, or I’d have just shown him this video, and even having done it personally, that doesn’t mean all of his problems are solved of course. It simply means that he no longer things they’re a problem to be fixed, but rather that they form the landscape he’s negotiating as he lives his life. In the end, it’s going to rain. The only question is; will that keep you from living your life, or are you prepared to get wet sometimes in your pursuit of meaningful experiences?

Are you prepared to be responsible for your own life? If you are, you are freed to have

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Bucket List

1238 Relax and Succeed - It is pleasant to have been to a placeMuch like the film The Princess Bride, I’ve haven’t yet ran into any people who disliked The Bucket List after seeing it. As with anything I’m sure they’re out there, but most people of all ages find that it has a stellar cast, a excellent script that is both funny and touching, and the final production all comes together quite tightly. It’s a very moving but highly enjoyable experience if you haven’t experienced its rewards yet.

While studios vy for our attention with giant, effects-filled extravaganzas, it’s always been humorous to me that these simple stories, generated by boring, elderly people, are the ones that sneak up on us and become beloved. It is fitting that The Bucket List is deceptive about its value, because it’s a great lesson regarding a common human mistake.

The film features Morgan Freeman as a very plain but dedicated family man who works as a mechanic, but who reads about the world with the hope of one day seeing its wonders. In contrast, his hospital roommate is played by Jack Nicholson, the extremely wealthy man who owns the hospital they’re in, and who can go anywhere and do anything, but his life is otherwise empty. Where one man’s life has depth, the other’s is shallow.

1238 Relax and Succeed - We must let go of the life we have plannedJack Nicholson is living the life we all believe we want. He has wealth, power, and the beautiful companions he surrounds himself with are easy to come by. But he’s dealing with a potentially fatal disease regardless, and all of his control of the hospital cannot help. Meanwhile Freeman feels like he’s dying with his dreams left inside of him, unlived. Nicholson has money, Freeman has dreams, and so despite the laments of Freeman’s wife and family, the two men set off together to tick off the items on their respective bucket lists.

Freeman’s wife is shocked he would leave his family considering his condition and potentially short time, but Freeman cannot escape the fact that he feels unfulfilled; that his life has been too small. In contrast, Nicholson appears totally fulfilled, but as the film progresses and the two men are away from home longer and longer, Nicholson begins to question the value of his life, as does Freeman. Where the rich man sees little, the poor man begins to recognise his wealth.

This is the nature of getting lost. It’s necessary in order to be found. People haven’t ruined their lives when they feel incomplete at 35 years old. They are on their way, first away from the relative peace and security of innocence, and eventually to boomerang our way back to what matters. We appreciate life when we are young and very old, but in the middle we’ll often get caught thinking too much and trying to achieve. The film lets us play out our dreams to their logical end, whereas we usually stop at the objects of our desires.

1238 Relax and Succeed - Fall in loveMoney, travel, achievement nor power can hope to bring us the peace, connection and value that comes from our relationships with those around us. As the old saying goes, they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. We all only have so much time. Sure, there’s things we want. But how many of us would trade the value already in our lives to get it?

Take some time today to really check in with your values. If you had six months to live and someone offered you the chance to jet off with no complications, no worries, and no financial strain, to experience all of your material greatest dreams, would you trade what you already have? Would you sacrifice that precious time by being away? For anything at all?

Too often we do as the Morgan Freeman character does; we live rich and full lives wishing for a rich and full life. Take the time. Look for what matters. And if we find it, we should be grateful that we began to realise that value long before our final departure.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

A Focus on Awakening

1223 Relax and Succeed - FocusIf all that you did this week was read all five blogs and do the small exercises in each one, you most certainly moved yourself closer to the most important goal we all face; understanding. The journey is taken in small steps. Becoming conscious isn’t difficult, but it does require us to very intentionally focus our attention on that development.

The video below is 5 minutes and 16 seconds long, with the spoken sections being something less than 5 minutes long. The video itself is of Alan Watts and it regards the fear of death and the idea of mortality. It’s a useful talk in that people fear death so much that they end up avoiding life, rather than diving deeply into life because one has fully pondered upon and accepted death.

Just as important as the subject of the talk is your ability to actually focus your attention for a mere 5 minutes. When you click “play” simply try to hear each and every word said by Watts. If your mind wanders, snap it back as quickly as possible. If your focus is good, you’ll have no trouble hearing every syllable. But if your mind wanders frequently, then working on that single skill will do more for your enjoyment of life than almost anything else. Because a truly rewarding life is always intentional on the part of the person living it.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Your Big Chance Is Now

You are born at the top of a wedge. That is the furthest from death you’ll ever be, but you immediately begin sliding downward. At first you enjoy it, like a child on a slide in a park. You run down hills, you love openly, your effortlessly glide your way down your path in life.

And then you reach a point where you begin to wonder where you’re supposed to go on this giant wedge of life. Left, right? Up, down? It’s a weird time, where you’ve surrendered the free-flowing sliding of your youth for a more conscious kind of sliding where you’re attempting to control your direction, but the incline and the steady slipperiness of the slope mean you’re often not getting where you’re trying to get.

Eventually you become aware that the wedge will not get less slippery, and that it must inevitably end, and so you start to take a little or a lot of time vainly trying to find a way to slow your descent. But since there is no way to do that, your only option is to either slide down gracefully or waste your opportunity by clinging so close to the edges of the wedge that you actually fall or jump off the side and vanish. But every other route down is equal.

As you begin to notice the wedge thinning, you begin to ask yourself what this wedge is made of. And eventually you figure out that it’s piles of experiences, and then you realise there will naturally be fewer of them every year and they can never be recovered. Meaning the only question is; how deep will you go today? You can lead a nervous, superficial life and barely leave the surface, or you can delve deep into yourself and your beliefs and you can find depth in even the most ordinary experiences.

No one knows how steep their wedge is. Some end abruptly while others stretch on for more than a century. So don’t ask how much longer your wedge reaches, focus on how deep it is where you are. Because stretching that wedge out to forever is meaningless unless you’re actually experiencing each day. And doing that won’t mean your times are perfect, but it does mean you will have stopped struggling through life.

As the Zen saying goes, Zen is not some kind of excitement, it is to focus on our everyday routine. We don’t need to bungee jump, experience world travel or have a baby, we can just actually slow down and taste our food, we can actually sit still and do nothing but actually listen to a song, or we can look at our friends as though we’ve never met them, or heard their voices before.

1187 Relax and Succeed - Spot the phoneWe can focus on virtually anything. To prove it to yourself, just try to find the phone in the picture of the carpet above. (I promise, there is one.) You’ll see how that once you begin to concentrate your consciousness, you can soon fill it with the act of your search, and in doing so you push out all other thinking and thereby impact your mood. Looking for the phone on the carpet is an action, thinking frustrated thoughts about not being able to find it, is ego. Any action feels better than any ego.

You’re on the incline. No one knows how far down it’s slope, but what we do know for sure is that the wedge under your feet is the wedge that’s available for living. So get deep now. Focus your consciousness more intentionally. And in doing so, increase your presence and your connections, because that is the only answer you’re looking for; the joy of a rewarding life.

Keep your head up and watch for depth. It’s always where you are, it’s always right underneath everything you’re doing, and it’s always yours to access. Start living the depth of your own life now.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.