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.

The Four Ways To Choose an Occupation

1232 Relax and Succeed - My philosophy isDid you choose your work, or did your work choose you? People often approach selecting their occupation in one of four ways:

  1. Early life experiences can lead people to choose an occupation by thinking about what might bring either status or the money that people try to use to buy status. Really these are efforts to belong and they are why many aren’t happy with their work. It’s not really done for them, it’s done for others, and so they often don’t work out and people end up in the sorts of unintentional jobs that no one plans to be in. These jobs can sometimes feature excitement or proximity to status or money, or prestige, or respect. These are the main motivations that most of us use, and yes, these are linked to our unhealthy egos and our desire to prove ourselves.
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  2. Early life experiences can point people toward seeking and planning for security and dependability in their work. These are those often dull jobs that many wonder why others do them, and yet they have a plodding regularity with a continuous team that can form a healthy rhythm. But they’ll get stifling if there isn’t excitement elsewhere in life. This is like my oldest brother, who was born right after WWII, and so it’s no surprise he would seek something secure and so he worked for the government, in a union, in a trade. Secure, secure, secure.
    1232 Relax and Succeed - You will never be admired
  3. Many people were not raised to plan much of their life, so they largely go with the flow, having the momentum and direction of their professional life dictated by their initial work experiences. If we’re not driven, this is the easiest least ego driven route, and it we’re paying attention, we’ll still find our way. My second oldest brother just loved cars, so he worked at a gas station where he pumped gas for a car salesman who gave him a job, which lead to a management job, and eventually him owning his own car dealerships and sponsoring his own race car. A lot of it was entirely accidental, but because he always tipped towards his nature it ended up fine.
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  4. The people everyone wants to be are the driven ones simply because the choice itself is so easy. Maybe they’re famous too, like an athlete or artist, but whether it’s that or they toil in obscurity, they’re obsessed, or passionate or even single minded. They don’t care about the price, they care about this other thing outside themselves; finding that scientific answer, creating that song, telling that story, engineering that amazing thing. These are often the most expensive lives, but they’re also often thrilling. This is like me going into film–storytelling really. As a matured I found that the form of storytelling wasn’t as important as the medium, but the desire to connect with others through stories has always had a strong pull in me, almost like I’m responding to me own person Force.

Group One is created by the human ego. It has the most thinking involved and is therefor the most agonizing. Just be yourself. If security makes you comfortable, then make other areas of your life exciting. The brother I have that lives the safe life has also travelled around the world and seen some of its most profound and exciting sites.

Or just pick anything and wait for your interest to reveal itself, as my brother with the car dealerships did. He was just following his interest in cars and now he has a very nice life.

And if you have a passion, then you’ll know because you’ll be paying the prices to pursue it, however crazy they look to others. Maybe that’s being in movies, or maybe that’s leaving everything behind for the sea.

It’s called an occupation. Don’t think about how other people will think about. You’re being occupied by it, not them. So make sure, however it looks to others, that it suits who you feel you really are.

Above is a very meditative video–it’s even in 4k if you’re looking at this on a good enough screen. It might help explain why seamen take what other people assume is often a boring or even dangerous job. It isn’t hard to see that it’s the sort of thing that could really attract a soul seeking peace. See if you can use it to slow your mind down. Breathe deeply. Enjoy.

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.

MoK: Humble Kindness

Today, in the first day of our final week in the March of Kindnesswe tune our awareness radar to those who might be inclined to feel “beneath” us. This isn’t to say you would act like you were above anyone; I’m talking about how they might feel. Employees can be nervous around bosses, kids often can’t recognise the respect a parent or teacher has for them, and street people know that many people will avoid even looking at them.

If you’re more senior in your company then think about what an example you set if you stop to help a lower level employee. You’re literally teaching them that continuing to care about coworkers is part of the job of being an executive. If you’re a teacher or parent, (and provided it’s rare), giving a kid a break on a general rule can actually develop a mutual respect that can be called upon later. And for street people, there’s times where the lack of human acknowledgement can be psychologically painful, so even a basic acknowledgement is extremely valuable.

Today, pay attention to your surroundings from the perspective of people fitting in. You’re looking for the chance to help someone feel included. Maybe it’s a senior who spends too much time alone and you let them in ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s a conversation you’re willing to have with a homeless person. Maybe it’s slowing down to kid-speed when you normally wouldn’t. The point is to help someone be seen through a kind interaction.

We all generally do kind things for those who we feel are important, or who are important to us personally. Well today is about doing something for people who can’t do anything for you. They might not be able to ever match your kindness to them, but that’s almost exactly what makes it especially worthwhile. If there’s no eventual gain in it for you, then the person on the receiving end really understands that the kindness was about them.

Most of us have trouble sensing our own advantages in life. It’s easy to take them for granted. But everyone who would trade places with us would recognise those advantages. That’s an indication of where they feel they’re at. The idea is to take some of that advantage and apply it to them. There’s a particularly nice feeling that goes with helping someone when you know that it’s unlikely that they’d ever be able to reciprocate.

Look at the world. Who would like to be you for a day? Take anyone who might feel that way and then spontaneously give to them. Maybe it’s a smile, a compliment, a conversation or even material assistance. But the idea is to make someone who might sometimes feel insignificant and actually help them feel like they are significant.

I’ve already had the world literally deliver my opportunity to me. Someone had to start their day by telling me they had screwed up really badly and that I would pay a price for their mistake. Whereas I may have allowed my disappointment and concern to be my reaction, instead I offered total humility.

I explained that I was not bothered by the price I would have to pay, and I told the offending person about a few times where I too had let others down. Those examples got the two of us on a more level footing and I could hear the relief in their voice. They had anticipated the person being angry, and instead they got connection. I was going to take blame that they knew really belonged to them.

They were relieved and surprised. The relief was thanks to the help, but the surprise came because they hadn’t anticipated that I would value them enough to bother to reach out to rescue them. It helped both of us start our day feeling good. I’m actually grateful to them for that opportunity. Now go find yours. It’s a particularly nice way to add someone kindness to someone else’s life.

Thank you everyone. Have a great day.

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.