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.

Sailing Through Life

The little boy settled onto the blanket, next to his father. They were on a steep rocky headland and they had a beautiful view of the entire ocean before them. The wind flicked a blond wisp into the boy’s eyes and he pushed it away. “Do you see her?”

“Not yet Simon. She’s still off over the horizon.”

“What’s a ‘horizon?'”

His father points out over the water. “You see it on the sea, and you can see it out in the country too when it’s really flat, or you’re really high up; and you can see it in life too.” He points out toward the ocean. “Auntie started sailing from another continent–another giant island like the one we live on–but we can’t see it because the world is curved. And if you were on one side of a giant ball you wouldn’t be able to see the other side would you Simon?”

“If I had a see-through ball I could.”

His father smiles. “That’s very clever. Yes. If it was see-through you could. But otherwise you couldn’t. And the Earth isn’t see-through, it’s covered in rock and water; so the line where we can’t see anymore, that line is the horizon and we can’t see your auntie until she comes over that line.”

Simon seems confused. “Then how does she know where to go?”

“Well, that’s a good question. She has a good boat, she’s well trained, she has courage and determination, and after that all she needs is a direction and her knowledge. That’s all life is. We’re never really sure where we’ll end up or how exactly we’ll get there. It’s just ability and effort. The rest is like the ocean. So put the best equipment you can put together, the best training you can find, and then add courage and a real desire to do it, and then apply yourself. That’s a good way to approach every part of life.”

This sounds like good news to Simon. He looks up at his father expectantly. “If she has that will she win?”

“Oh, that’s difficult to say. She’s the best sailor of all of us. She’s been winning regattas since we were kids but, like I said, sailing’s a bit like life Simon. You can be the best sailor in the world and still get wrecked on the rocks, and you can be terrible and end up fumbling your way through in record time.”

Simon’s brow furrows. “That’s not fair.”

“Yes. That would make sense. Fair’s an idea we get in our heads, but the ocean doesn’t have a head, so it can’t think fairness into existence. So my sister–your aunt–has to use her head to outsmart the sea. And maybe if she’s smart and lucky with the wind and the waves, maybe she’ll win. But we’ll be proud of her no matter what. It’s no easy thing crossing an ocean alone.”

“But you said someone terrible could win.”

“Well, that’s true, but it’s less likely. Especially in this race. But the world isn’t fair, it’s just made up of a bunch of systems. The way water and wind work, have systems. So if auntie can be smarter and use those systems to her advantage, she increases her chances of success. But if she’s lazy and unprepared and she runs into lots of things she has to guess about, then she’s less likely to be right about her answer and she’s less likely to win. So you can’t guarantee anything. But the reason your Mom and I want you to be a good student of life is because that makes you more capable, like auntie, and that increases your odds of winning races and being free. You just have to always remember that any of us can get smashed on the rocks too, so don’t be hard on yourself if that happens too. That happens to everyone.”

Simon backs away from the cliff a bit. “I don’t want to hit the rocks.”

His father looks at him but steps toward the cliff and points out at the ocean. “Oh, no one wants to hit rocks Simon. But people are tiny and look how big the sea is. Sometimes a person’s best still isn’t enough. But that’s okay too. That way we know how much we can survive. Once, your auntie wrecked in blue water and she had to sit on the hull for a day before she was rescued.”

“Was she scared?”

“Maybe sometimes. But she’s smart too, so she would have used her brain for figuring out smart things. I don’t think she would have wanted to give much time to fear. She survived that, and that helped her feel stronger, and that’s why she took on this race five years ago. She felt like she could handle it, and her first year she was in the top ten boats.”

Simon seems proud of his own connection to her. “Maybe auntie will take me sailing.”

“Well Simon, people tend to like it when you’re interested in the things they’re interested in. So I suspect she’ll take you. Maybe I could even come and help.”

“Okay. But you have to listen carefully. Because we live not on the ocean so you drive mostly. Auntie has trophies and stuff for boats. So we will be safer if you listen to her careful, okay?”

“Sure Simon. I promise I’ll be careful so that we can relax and have fun.”

“I can’t wait to sail!” he literally shakes with excitement.

“Good. That’s the feelings that gets you through the storms and that’s the same one that makes any day a good day.”

Simon smiles.

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.

Mental Health Opportunities

969 Relax and Succeed - I used to careThe medicalisation of mental health is the product of an industry. That being the case, it’s worth it to ask what the agenda of that industry is. I won’t pretend to be able to read the minds of drug company executives but I know they have the same problem that any executive in a publicly traded company has: your job and your pay and a large part of your family’s happiness is based on how well you either cut costs or increase profits. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?

A lot of people work in jobs where they’re already overtaxed by too few staff and old or malfunctioning equipment, so we’ve cut expenses about as much as we can. That leaves profits. If only we could have 15% more diseases every year….

A disease is a findable thing. A doctor can point to something and say; this is happening because a disease is impacting you in this particular way. A disease is its own entity seeking to do its own thing that is often contrary to the needs of its host. At the same time, with no disease present we know otherwise healthy muscles can atrophy and disappear if we just choose not to use them. They will appear diseased because they will shrink and contort but if we went to the gym and changed how we used them they could again be strong and flexible. So it goes with our emotions.

969 Relax and Succeed - If there are no ups and downsYou can feel an emotion and take a pill to rid yourself of it or; you can experience that emotion, become familiar with it and then master it. Some people never learned to juggle the ball of happiness by getting lots of chances to drop it. Some people never learned to juggle the knives of misfortune because they always closed their eyes and ran rather than face some early cuts. So when it comes to negative emotions we’ve either ran or tried to shut them down, but what if you coped instead? You remember that don’t you: coping?

I’ve written for years about the value of nature. I’ve written for years about the value of friends. I’ve written for years about the value of laughter and enjoyment. Meanwhile most people go buy something, or they go to their doctors and get mood pills or they go to a friend to get weed or some other socially acceptable medication, but hardly anyone copes. And every year it gets worse.

Bad things do not create a bad life. A bad attitude about things creates a bad life. Good things do not create a good life, a good attitude about things creates a good life. So what’s a good attitude? Turn it off! Give me my pill! Shut up! Go away! Nope. A good attitude is more like, wow, today was hard. Want to go swimming or biking tonight? How about if we visit the neighbours? They’re always so funny! Or how about a great meal?

969 Relax and Succeed - A good laugh and a long sleepThere you go right there. Want to know the difference between a happy family and a miserable one? That’s it: how you respond to the world. Happy people don’t have better lives they react better. They don’t dull themselves with a pill, they don’t smoke a big bowl and then sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep and they don’t sit and bitch and commiserate. They take action. They run somewhere, accomplish something or see someone.

Take all of the time you spent wasting life, wanting it to be better. Be honest: it’s a huge amount of your day for most even mildly unhappy people. Now what would your life look like if that time was spent exercising, or learning, watching comedies and seeing friends? Would your life still be so small and dull? Would it still seem overrun and rushed? Would you still have as many problems?

There are things we can do things about and things we can’t do much about. Start looking at your life for its opportunities. Rather than a pill take a walk. Rather than escapism connect with a friend. And rather than idleness choose movement. Your life is what you make of it. If it’s currently full of complaints and struggle then you built it that way. Start looking around for the invisible choices you’ve made and find better ones. Because you shouldn’t be surprised that you’d enjoy laughing with a good friend a lot more than bitching about a bad one.

Go create a good week with good choices. They’re not hard. They’re just not a habit–yet.

peace. s

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

Scott’s Favourite Friday Dose of 2014 #1

There have been amazing advancements in fields where experts on the beauty industry are merging with experts in the brain chemistry area and some of the experiments results will shock you. If this video doesn’t blow you away you don’t get it. You’re thinking about it too superficially, because these women changed their entire lives in an incredibly short period of time.

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Friday Dose of 2014 #1

peace. s

What Don’t You Know?

133 Relax and Succeed - My life is just a bunch of
What don’t you know? Throughout history science has pointed to absolute truths that were later proven false. The world is flat; no the world is round. There are no germs; yes there are germs. We are the only planet that could sustain life; no there are millions—even billions—of planets that could support life. And we can be certain that this trend of mystery will continue. Science is now poking holes in pretty solid ideas like space and time. If even science, with all of its peer-reviewed testing, is still regularly proven wrong here and there, what makes us  think what we believe is so right and certain?

In virtually every divorce I’ve encountered in my life and work, the person that got dumped was completely surprised. And I mean completely. The did not see it coming at all. Imagine that. They had failed to notice that their most intimate relationship was disintegrating right under their very feet. Maybe it’s time for a closer look at yours. If you were to take the temperature of each interaction, what percentage would be warm and inviting, versus cold and dismissive?

I’ve worked a lot in management and as a management trainer and it’s the same there. Most bosses imagine their career as a graph that steadily rises. Prominent universities have done studies on how managers will tell themselves narratives about how they must have gotten their jobs because they’re so good that they’ll start to think they can figure everything out on their own. They’ll start to think any disagreement is automatically wrong because it conflicts with their brilliance. And yet I’ve seen many of those managers taken down by the very staffs they disrespected.

133 Relax and Succeed - One moment of patience
Especially new managers will often forget that responsibility can flow the opposite direction. One business owner was met at his office door by an intervention strategist and told that his entire 70 person staff had called a meeting to inform him that his abusive behaviour either had to change immediately, or everyone would immediately quit and he would be sued by the group. Another manager was taken down by a group of brave employees going over his head to the boss’s boss. Only five went, but the other 45 backed up the stories the five told and the manager was fired.

I’ve seen parents who abused their kids in various ways. Financially, physically, emotionally. But kids grow up and change. And as they grow, they acquire new strengths. And before the surly parent even knows it, the child has left the adult’s life never to return. Sometimes the police are even called. This happens most with the strictest parents. As the Persians say, the harder you squeeze the watermelon seed, the farther it flies away from you. We cannot force others to live inside our reality.

How you think the world is, is not how it actually is. That’s how it is for only you. But you have the power to inflict your world-view on others, so you had better take into account the temperature of those dealings. Because if they are cold far more than they are warm, then whether you are a spouse, a boss, a parent, or even a government, you very well may be in for a very rude, abrupt and extremely painful awakening.

133 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to disrespect
Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya had their government’s fall for precisely the same reason that husbands leave wives, that children leave parents, and that top employees leave or have their bosses fired for. Humans are humans first and foremost. You can call them Libyan or you can call them wife or you can call them child or you can call them employee, but they remain human regardless.

If you’re removing the meaning from life in whatever way, understand that no human can survive in a situation where they are starved more than they are fed. And as they get hungrier and hungrier for reasonable treatment, they will first become depressed, but they will eventually become angry. And that anger will eventually spill over into action.

The question is, am I writing about you? And if I am, what is it that’s about to happen? Because I guarantee that today, tomorrow, and for every day thereafter, many people will get dumped. Many people will get fired. And many children will exit their parent’s lives forever. And almost no one will have seen it coming.

Take a fresh look at old things. Pay less attention to the details in your day, and pay more attention to the temperature of it. Because each thing you do is like a brick you lay in your life. The question is, are you building footpaths toward you, or are you building walls that will separate you? Because the bricks can do both. The difference will be what you choose. But it’s only an actual choice if you make it consciously.

I wish you every good fortune.

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.