Feeling Stuck

1250 Relax and Succeed - Tonight I dream tomorrow I doMany people today complain of being incapacitated by their choices and their search for inspiration, meaning and purpose. This discomfort arises not from being lost, but from being confused.

Without expansion and an increase in general understanding and wisdom, we would never grow. So clearly it is normal to start life lost, unsure of who you even want to be, or what you want to do. Even the small percentage of people who have a clear vision early in life will find that vision is time-limited by either fate or our own eventual lack of appreciation for something too common to be otherwise.

How we ‘find ourselves’ is we march forth, confused and uncertain. At the early stages we see some branches of our growth as disjointed from our primary aim, but as we age and wisdom grows we come to accept that the branches are the sources that feed the central truck of life and we find ourselves with fewer regrets.

1250 Relax and Succeed - If your life feels stuckLife we demand that we reinvent ourselves at least once every decade. Maybe it’s from healthy to cancer patient, maybe it’s from a parent of young adults to an empty nester, but whatever it is you will be lost at first as your brain attempts to adapt to its new role. We aren’t failing when we feel that, we’re just walking along blind, following a wall by feel. And where does this wall lead? Forward.

That’s the beautiful thing about life. As long as you’re moving forward you’re moving closer to your goal–even if you believe you’re going in the wrong direction. Because this isn’t about where you go, it’s about how much distance you cover. You can be Stephen Hawking and go to the far reaches of space in your wheelchair, or you can be a mother with four active, wonderful kids; both lives are full and therefore rich.

Free yourself of needing to figure it all out. Just move forward. It allows your mind to go quiet and the added awareness that results will do you far more good than all that thinking ever could 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.

Michelle’s Understanding

This is the second part of a post started yesterday.
Michelle was already busy working when Alex got into the office. Knowing she was having a freakout the day before, Alex had dropped by to see how she was today. “You’re in early!”

“As you know, there is too much to do.”

“I cancelled my yoga tonight. Thank goodness this only happens once in awhile.”

“Oh, hey, I tried your trick yesterday but it drove me crazy.”

“What drove you crazy?”

“Thinking about how this cohesive whole–this potentially amazing project–got reduced to little pieces by someone’s impatience.”

“Not impatience, aggressiveness. We don’t call an early bird impatient. He just wants the worm more.”

“Yes. She was a worm and she dug us right into the ground.”

Eee. Alex isn’t sure if clarification is a good idea. “Uh… in that analogy our boss is the bird, not the worm.”

“What. Ever. Can’t I just hate her?”

“Sure. I’ll save you some time. I’ll just put some poison in a bottle with her name on it.”

Michelle eyerolls. “It did not work. My thoughts were bouncing all over the place.”

“Okay, first off that’s not what I said I did. FedEx does not load a truck to go to the West End and then the North Side and then the South Side, and then back to the North Side and then back to the South SIde”

“Okay I get it.”

“Half their day is spent between where they really need to be. I didn’t mean spend all of your time between everything. Our fluid department was compressed by time and responsibility into a gas where all the molecules now have space between them. You just find the most important molecule and handle it. Then find the next most important and handle it. But yeah, bouncing between them and never actually settling in? That feels awful when I do it.”

“Well it felt awful yesterday.”

“At least that should keep you from doing it again today.” Michelle looks at her lamely. “Sorry.”

Michelle sits back in her chair and regards her friend. It’s a statement, not a question: “So instead of bouncing between all of these worries I pick the most important one and just deal with it.”

“That’s what I do, yes.”

“And that’ll make me feel better?”

“Why wouldn’t you  feel okay if you did that?”

“Because all of that stuff still needs to be done.”

“That’s just you drifting between different responsibilities with your thoughts. That’s the thing you said you wouldn’t do.”

“That’s it?”

Alex almost feels bad. As though she’s really let Michelle down. “Yeah.”

“So these responsibilities are just… ideas, and me thinking about one, then the other, then another–that is what I’m doing that you’re not? You’re just not drifting between the gaps? You’re just staying on your molecule? And then you go molecule to molecule. None of the worrying…” Michelle started to seem buoyed by the idea. “Hmmm.”

Alex looked like she’s about to say something, but when she looked at Michelle something subtle had changed. There was now a certainty to her, as though Michelle’s posture itself is some kind of highly balanced yoga movement. Her voice sounds less uncertain and more confident the longer her realisation lasted. It seemed that she has gotten what she wanted the day before. So Alex just stepped back and grabbed her briefcase. “Have a great day Michelle.”

Michelle looked up, looking entirely unperturbed. “Thanks Alex. You too. Why don’t you come over for dinner on next week, when this haze has all blown past?”

“That sounds good Michelle. That sounds really good.”

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 Life Unlived

When my father got sick we almost lost the house. I was just getting out of high school and I had never seen my parents to stressed. They’d never fought, now they were fighting all the time. I was too young to understand the tension of a mortgage back then, but with my brothers and sisters already moved out and living in different cities, it was up to me to help.

Unfortunately the only thing I knew that could make me money fast was to work with my brother’s friends. They dealt drugs and wasted it all on fancy cars and stupid stuff. I paid my Dad’s medical bills and my parents kept their house. Still, the money solved my problem but that’s not who my parents raised me to be and I always worried about the people buying the stuff, so to get away from that stress I took night school and eventually I got an engineering degree.

My eventual engineering job replaced the money I was making and we got my parent’s house paid off. Now I was free, but I didn’t know what to do. I’d been trained to be afraid that there’d never be enough money, or there’d always be too much work and that was was bad training for what would come next. That’s when I started talking to Scot and he pointed out that I’d always been responsible–in a whatever way that made sense at the time. That made me feel a bit better.

I had this invention. No big thing, but it was a good idea that could easily replace a good wage. I’d been laid off, so I had the time to develop it, but being laid off had a weird effect. My parent’s situation had taught me to be paranoid about money, so despite having a lot of savings I still worried about money all the time because no more was coming in. It wasn’t a healthy mental situation. And it was ironically keeping me from developing the idea.

Scott had been explaining to me how I’d been accidentally taught to process the world. I saw it as a place that was lacking, that was short, that my life needed work to come from others before it could be secure. I learned to over-process my fears and under-process my dreams. I spent far more time thinking about what could go wrong than what could go right.

Keep in mind during all of this that Scott kept pointing out that I’d done very well in school, and that even my ability to save for meaningful things was businesslike, and that the idea I’d developed was not only good, but the tons of research I’d done on it was not only excellent and thorough, but it represented more proof than most good ideas had to support them when they proceeded. He kept asking me what it was that was holding me back.

For a long time I listed what I thought was holding me back. What if it didn’t work? What if I made some fatal judgment error and ruined a good idea? What if there was a hidden pitfall I couldn’t predict? And what about all of the mistakes in life I’d already made? I had a huge list of fears but Scott just kept reminding me that they were all made of my own thinking. I thought he got what I meant until one day I had a huge revelation.

I was out walking. Okay, I was out procrastinating. If I wasn’t walking then I’d have to work on my idea, and if I did that then I was getting closer to a thing that scared me, so it did make a kind of sense that I was avoiding it. But avoiding it to do what? And that’s when it hit me.

It was so subtle I hope it even comes across now but, I realised that I was avoiding the pursuit of the idea so that I could instead think the fears that might possibly relate to the idea. For the first time I saw my thinking as an action–as what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was using my fears about being responsible to keep me from my responsibility to live.

My idea was good. The world would benefit from it. So who was I to keep it from the world because I was busy thinking thoughts that were irrelevant to everyone else? And why would I use the energy from my life to think those destructive thoughts when I could be using the same life energy to build that business?

The fact is, all of this worrying has been me failing. Even if I built the business and it bombed, I would have been done by now and I would have had the advantage of the experience and I would have felt like I accomplished more. Suddenly thinking appeared to me as the opposite of living.

Don’t be like me. Don’t avoid life. Because now that I can see through my thinking, I realise that like the walk, it’s a form of procrastination too. And it requires me to see myself as weak and ineffectual, as though I can’t pull this off. There’s no evidence I can’t do it. Just my fears. And those are no where but my consciousness. So now I hear myself think them and I get why they’re there, but they don’t stop me anymore.

I’ve come alive. I’ve stopped thinking about a timid life and I’ve started living a bold one and it turns out that boldness feels a lot calmer and more peaceful than all that worrying ever did. Listen to Scott. Trade your thinking for living. It makes all the difference in the world.

Sincerely, C

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 Controller

He had done it again. They had their work day planned out, but once again their boss had other plans for them to do something far less useful. Robyn was angry as she slammed the box down onto the pile. “Why does he do this every single day? He knows we have all of those filings that have to be ready for Monday. It’s like he wants us to fail. This stuff can wait.”

Bodhi set down her box neatly on the pile. “Do you have fun plans for the weekend?” she asked, smiling.

“Don’t change the subject. You’re always smiling, always happy. He does this to us every day! We would get twice as much done if we didn’t have a boss.” Bodhi just smiled in agreement. “Why do you just take this and never complain?”

Bodhi stopped and looked at Robyn inquisitively. “Would complaining change it?”

Her tone was so genuine it ruffled Robyn. “That’s the only power we have. Maybe if his life is miserable enough he’ll actually considering doing something the smart way.”

“Arent you just torturing yourself? And I also think his life is not short of misery.”

“Good.” Robyn moves another box, but she likes the idea of her boss suffering. “Wait–why?”

Bodhi catches her look and answers, “Have you seen his wife drop him off in the morning?”

“The hag that’s always yelling?”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Can you blame her? If he’s like this at home too it must drive her crazy.”

“I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg?”

You can see the wheels turning in Robyn’s head as she tries to figure out what Bodhi meant. “You mean, did she get bitchy because he’s an idiot, or did he become an idiot because she’s bitchy?” Bodhi nods. “What difference does it make? We still have an idiot for a boss either way.”

“My father was very controlling of my mother. It caused a lot of battles between her and my brothers and sisters.”

“But let me guess; you took it just fine.”

“I noticed that after being controlled so badly, my mother needed to exercise some control. Almost to–I don’t know–get her equilibrium back.”

“So you’re saying after your Dad was a jerk your mother over-compensated and she was a jerk too?”

“I think that’s how my brothers and sisters saw it, but they saw me as spoiled because my mother was better with me.”

“Were you the baby?”

“No. But I was the only one who let her regain her balance.”

“What do you mean?”

Bodhi thought for a moment. “It’s like Mr. Dillon. He begins his day by feeling attacked and belittled but reacting will only make things worse. Once his wife is gone, Mr. Dillon is like my mother–he needs to regain his balance.”

“So he abuses us to feel more in control? Is that what you’re saying? Great. So we have a ten year old for a boss.” She slams down her box into the pile.

Bodhi stops, causing Robyn to pause as well. Bodhi points to a stress crease in the box Robyn just slammed down. “More human than child. Mr. Dillon treats you badly and you treat this box badly and it gets these lines; these bends in the corner that make the box less stable when we stack them.”

“So?”

“But you feel better when you slam them down…?” She doesn’t sound judgmental when she says it.

“It helps me work out my frustrations to pretend the box is his face.” They both laugh.

“Could we be Mr. Dillon’s boxes?”

Robyn pauses and gives that a serious think. “Wait. So you’re saying that the way he treats us after his wife is the way I treat these boxes after I deal with him?”  Bodhi nods, wondering. “Well if he is, then he’s definitely putting some wrinkles into my corners too.”

Bodhi laughs as Robyn slams down another box. “No offense Robyn, but I think you put those on yourself.”

“Yeah, well it made me feel better.”

“That’s why I never mind doing things like this.”

“You don’t mind that he distracts us from important work to do stupid grunt tasks?”

“My brothers and sisters thought I was sucking up to my mother by always making her tea after my father left.”

“Weren’t you?”

“I was helping her return to balance so that she and I could begin our day in peace. My brothers and sisters would fight with her for the rest of the day.”

Robyn throws the last one on top. She seems unconvinced. “So you’re saying that the reason stacking this crap doesn’t bother you is because to you it’s not stacking boxes, it’s returning Mr. Dillon to equilibrium?”

Bodhi smiles. “I must meet people where I find them.” They walk together to the coffee room and each pours a fresh cup.

“Is that why you have fewer wrinkles than me even though I’m half your age?”

“No. That’s just because I’m Asian.” They laugh together. Bodhi looks at the clock. “Only half an hour. And now we have the rest of the day to get important things done.”

“Fine. I’ll trade a dumb half hour to have peace the rest of the day. But I still want to sneak a dating app onto Dillon’s phone. Maybe if he had a nicer wife we’d have a nicer boss.”

Bodhi smiles, accusing, “Aren’t those apps where you get your dates Robyn…?”

“Uh, yeah, fat chance. That is one grenade I’m not willing to jump on for my coworkers.”

Bodhi laughs. “Enjoy the rest of your day Robyn.”

Robyn smiles. “Thanks Bodhi. You too.”

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.

Something’s Gotta Give

971 Relax and Succeed - c'mon inner peaceWe’ve seen it reflected in elections and unrest around the world. We can see it in the fact that the world never really has bounced back from the economic card game that collapsed in 2008. Once people had maxed out their credit trying to survive the world hit a limit. With no more money available and no ability to work harder or longer, even in the richest countries there are a lot of scared people and frightened individuals create an angry and defensive society.

Added to the financial stress is time stress. Everyone’s rushed. Everyone’s phone now gives work access to them 24 hours a day and work will use that time if it can get it. Work isn’t human. Work is a creation of mankind. It is an animal that perpetually wants to be fed more and more every month, every day, every year. No sales manager ever told his team to sell less next month. If someone’s over 40 that’s really starting to add up to no personal life.

In the days where your landline waited at home while people were at work, people used to answer their phone maybe once or twice a day for a personal phone call. No texts. No instant messages. No collection of 20 messages at 10 different social media sites. No classes, just maybe the odd kid taking piano or in judo. Rather than organised sports most kids played pick-up neighbourhood games. Just remove all of those responsibilities from your week. That is a huge percentage of your day. And how much of that would you care about on your deathbed? None. You’d care if your kid was there by your side, you wouldn’t care whether or not they could play the piano.

971 Relax and Succeed - Dream more complain lessSo what did people used to do with all of that time and peace of mind? They used to pursue hobbies or took courses to expand themselves not to make more money. They didn’t need that money because they didn’t have to buy a microwave VHS Walkman CD juicer iPod monitor DVD gym membership X-Box Blu-Ray smartphone Occulus or 70% of the restaurant food now sold. They used to spend way more time with friends and family. Most people didn’t hire anyone else to build decks or fix a toilet or do basic work on their car. If they didn’t know how to do something they found a friend or neighbour who did and you know what? They had the time to help and they did and it was often very enjoyable time.

The challenge with the technological world is that it has created the image that we’re all connected when we’ve never been further apart and it’s not just grey-haired people that can feel that. I’ve taught college kids who were stressed by 25 that they couldn’t keep up with technology. Most people have given up by 35 or they’re stressed. So what’s it all for if we just want to surrender it later?

The pain tells us that it’s information. It’s not life going badly, it’s information about how life is going. Pain is like a gauge in your car. The thermostat isn’t overheating, it’s telling you that the car is. Pain isn’t you failing, it’s the universe telling you that what you’re doing isn’t working. The problem today is that a lot of people can’t figure out how to get enough time to eat or sleep let alone find a way to find some other path that can work for their life, so the problem isn’t the humans it’s the machine.

The machine distracts us from being human. Rather than looking at a face and hearing a voice we contort our hands into machine-shapes and type a message on a keyboard that appears on a two-dimensional screen in symbols that strip out the valuable human information that would be transmitted by having in a person’s eyes right in front of you. It’s shallow when what we seek is depth.

It can seem strange then that I might suggest giving as a solution but I don’t think I mean it in the way you might imagine. I know a lot of people would be almost angered by the thought: how is giving everything not enough!? But I’m not suggesting adding more giving, I’m suggesting that you alter where your giving goes. Only by reintegrating ourselves back into our communities can our communities reintegrate back into us. We must know our neighbour before we can do them favours, and if enough of us do that then we’re not doing each other favours, we’re cooperating on a larger goal to create a safe and healthy society. That’s how drops become a drink.

971 Relax and Succeed - It's not about havingWe’ve spent too much time being sold the singular, cool, proud, branded, I gotta be me; loaded with achievements and never needing help. That is not how humanity got here and it won’t be how it goes anywhere. You’re not broken if you’re tired and worn out. We accidentally built an inhuman world and you’re hardly alone. Even the so-called winners are often alcoholics and drug addicts to cope.

Start cutting the selfish in favour of the selfishly selfless. Rich and poor alike, we don’t need another app or another website or another tool of efficiency. What we need is some restful time where we’re connected to others, but that will not happen until you stop and do a serious assessment to figure out how your time can be better invested in your future happiness.

Set aside some time right now to do that this weekend. Look at a normal week and be brutally honest about where the time goes, even if it is frivolous. And then ask yourself where it could go? And if you ask long enough… I guarantee you’ll find something that’ll feel enriching and rewarding–something you’ll get excited about. I do hope you give yourself that time.

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.