Writing the Story of your Life - Module 2
The Traps Along The Way
The quest for a life's purpose is a noble cause, but the journey is not without its risks. For many, the journey ends even before it begins. The quickest way to kill your dreams is to place unnecessary pressure on yourself. Learn to take it easy! Change the way in which you view the path that has brought you to this point and time in your journey. Here are some "traps" that may trip you up along the way.
At Stories That Change The World, we truly believe that the purpose of our life has been flowing through our hearts and minds since birth. Purpose is something that is inherent, something that exists uniquely in each of us waiting to be "discovered". Purpose flows within us like a river, but the crazy busy life most of us lead blocks the flow of that purpose. The challenges we face, the wounds that cripple our hearts and the chaos of our days act like logs jamming up the river that is intended to flow freely. Life simply gets in the way. Our journey of purpose is impossible to navigate until we identify the things that are getting in the way of the life we so desperately want yet most often fail to realize. Once we discover the things that block the vital flow of purpose in our lives we can clear the way and allow the refreshing flow of purpose to run its wildly beautiful course. This module examines some common "traps" that keep us from stepping into the next chapter of our lives. If you are like most, life has taken a toll on your heart and dreams. The process of "unblocking" the flow of purpose in our lives is not simple nor is it easy, yet the outcome is worth the challenge that faces us on that journey.
What is stopping you? What limits have you self imposed on your life? It is important to take time to explore the ideas in this module. While each of our lives is unique, many of us face the same sorts of blockages in our lives. Be honest with yourself. Keep a journal close. Jot down the things that come to mind as you complete this module. To be able to move forward in a purposeful life you must clear out the garbage that keeps you from living an impactful life.
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away".
– Pablo Picasso
As we move through the arc of time, especially if you have discovered that first gray hair....and the dozen that follow quickly behind, you will likely feel as if the years (sometimes to many to admit!) that have passed you by feel wasted. The emotional "response" to wasted years is paralyzing. It is often couched in shame and even embarrassment. The whole "Would Have, Should Have.....If only I would had" nightmare of thoughts fill our minds, especially on days that seem to suck the life out of us. Usually these thoughts emerge when we are tired. Sometimes on the backside of some sort of disappointment and most often on the tail end of rejection. It may be the simplest of situations, but the accumulation of these "little" rejections snowball in time collapsing atop us in an avalanche of frustration, depression and self doubt.
To counteract this trap, Flip The Script! The years that have passed are NEVER WASTED. They are in actuality a proving ground of experience. While you may not be knee deep in that allusive purpose you imagine, the truth is this, the years that have gone by are RIPE WITH EXPERIENCE and are the building blocks of your future. You are who you are today because of where you have come from. You are a product of your life, every good thing and sometimes more importantly every bad thing has made you who you uniquely are. You may have been bruised, you may carry a wound and certainly some scares, but those are the medals of the battles you have fought and won!
Look back through time. Identify a few seasons of life that initially seem like a waste of time. Take a hard look at those times. Ignore the pain and look at the outcomes. Did you learn something? Do you have a new view of yourself or life? At the least, do you have an increased tolerance to hardship? Can you take one "square on the chin" and still remain standing? What positive outcomes are a result of these difficult times?
We often put successful people on a pedestal that is unrealistic and likely inaccurate. We see those that have made amazing contributions to the world and assume they are somehow "superhuman", some sort of genetic hybrids blessed by "perfect genes" , the reality of which we believe precludes our own potential......because in our self destructive mindsets......we "know the truth" about ourselves. We see behind the scenes and know the deepest and darkest secrets of our souls. We mistakenly believe that our humanity precludes us from greatness, when in reality it is our very humanity that sets the stage for a beautiful story! Time and again, as you here the stories of people who influence the world, their humanity and imperfections become obvious, and most often are central to their success. People who achieve greatness, achieve those things
PEOPLE WHO ACHIEVE GREATNESS,
ACHIEVE THOSE THINGS IN SPITE OF THEIR LIMITATIONS.
Often it was the very things that limited them, or that they lacked that created a catalyst for achievement. Often the hardships of life act as the motivation for success. The things that we worry will hold us back are often the same mechanisms for change used in other peoples lives. Instead of seeing the challenges or limitations we face in our lives as problems and often excuses we use to deny us our future, Flip the Script! Identify how the very things that haunt us can become the mechanisms that develop the story of our lives. Every great story is made up of the same sort of trajectory. At the beginning of every story is a hero, who often does not look like a hero and most certainly does not see themselves in that role. Soon after the story unfolds there is a problem or challenge that is faced. By the end of the story, the challenge is overcome, by the unlikely hero that realizes throughout the process that everything he/she needed was within themselves, lying dormant. Waiting to be REVEALED THROUGH HARDSHIP. This is not simply a fictional tale, but is in fact the story of our lives, it is also the story of your life, you just may not realize it yet. If no one has told you until now:
"You are the hero of your story. You have what it takes".
– The Story Team
What the vast majority of people fail to realize is that everyone who has become great, all who have achieved a level of success and those that have changed the world itself were not qualified for their futures. Few successful people realized what would lie ahead of them. And most would admit that they learned to succeed because of and in spite of the process itself. It was in the process. The ups and downs. The problems that had to be solved and the skills that had to be learned along they way that defined not just their personal journeys but their eventual achievements as well. There is a principle that exists few understand and even fewer trust in life.
The principle is this:
Your qualification happens during the process to your greatness, not before.
We will never be adequately prepared for the purpose of our lives beforehand. No matter your skill set, no mater your level of education and experience, It is not enough. And that is Ok. As a matter of fact, it is necessary and most often promotes an even greater story than could have occurred without the difficulties of the process. Most of us attempt to limit the resistance we face each day. But the truth is that our purpose is a direct result of the resistance we often attempt to subvert in our lives. To build muscles, resistance is necessary. The resistance of weights puts a world load on the muscles. The physiology below the surface reveals that the load actually produces tiny tears within the fabric of the muscle. These tears when healed create mass and greater capacity for the muscle to manage greater and greater levels of load.
It is in the process of being broken in life that we find our true strength. Periods of difficulty produce a result that enables us to move confidently into our future. It is the very process as well as the hardship that we encounter along the way that develops the greatness required for our purposes in life. If you wait until you are ready for your journey to purpose, you will never take the first step. Without the first step we are stuck. The process is not always easy, and each step may be excruciating, especially early on, but as we move forward, the journey qualifies even the most unqualified.
"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run".
– Henry David Thoreau
Think about the barriers that have kept you from moving into a new season of your life. Take a long hard look at them. Now try to peer "beneath the surface" and discover things that may bring out feelings of fear. The fear you find may be the true root cause of your hesitation and stalled momentum. Shine the light on those fears, are they really something to fear? Or do they seem less threatening once you come face to face with them?
Practice Flipping the Script! Look back over the years. Make a list of the difficulties you have encountered, difficult relationships, jobs, situations, environments, etc. Make a list of the things that you have learned through it all. Sometimes the only way for a difficult situation to make sense is to look backwards at it through the lens of time. How are you different today? Honestly evaluate if you could be who you are today without those situations. Could your challenges become a platform for your purpose?
The reality, or the perceived reality of Responsibility has a life of its own. Responsibility, is seldom mentioned in our daily vernacular using positive descriptors. Many times we describe our responsibilities using words such as, "an anchor chained to me", "a slowly tightening noose", or "shackles" and countless other equally depressing analogies. Responsibility is impossible to evade and a normal unavoidable part of growing up, yet most of our responsibilities turn from necessities into prisons, many of which are self imposed.
The challenge for most, is identifying what REAL conditions or limitations our responsibilities impose upon our lives. We frequently use responsibilities, such as jobs, children, etc as a very efficient way out. It often acts as our "free pass" when the journey begins to get uncomfortable, or simply when we don't want to engage in what is before us. Responsibility often "excuses" us of what our heart is desperate to begin.
Before you read the next sentence take a deep breath and let it out. Seriously......What I am about to suggest stings. Alot. Ready, here it goes......
Often we use our "supposed" responsibilities as excuses because we are AFRAID.
I said it. Take another deep breath and be honest with yourself. Fear is a powerful devil in our lives. It steals, kills and destroys us form the inside out. Fear is at work below the surface of our lives, often unnoticed yet no less potent. As a mater of fact, the insidious hidden nature of our fears are often a root to many of our dysfunctions and the walls of an invisible prison we hold the keys to. Fear is deadly. It is a cancer of the soul and aborts our purposes while still in their infancy stage, when our purpose is most vulnerable and susceptible to catastrophe. Fear strikes. Suffocating our hopes and dreams with the efficiency of a trained assassin.
Fear is lethal and persistent. It dogs us through the years tormenting us as adults as if we were still children terrified, curled up under the covers, with a closet full of monsters waiting patiently to devour us the moment our mother turns the lights off. Through many of our fears are seldom fully realized and often are likely never an actual threat. The potency and the destructive capacity of our fears is all to real, leaving a wake of destruction behind some people never recover from. Fear is responsible for a long list of damage in our lives. Fear results in stress, addiction, relational dysfunction, damaged self esteem, and a loss of peace. Daily and often nightly our minds can be filled full of the terrifying "What ifs" of life. Leaving us paralyzed and traumatized by an unseen yet insidious foe.
The most dangerous aspect of fear is not the emotions themselves, but what fear steals from us. Fear steals our future, our potential, and ultimately the purpose that has been implanted as a tiny seed in our chests, waiting for that perfect and mysterious moment when life emerges from the dark depths of our inner-selves. The danger is that when our seed of potential is planted in a dark soil of fear, the potential that exists does not survive the toxic onslaught. What results is a silent death. When that occurs it will often spread to all areas of our life. When our purpose dies, though we may still be physically present within the context of our lives, our hearts collapse and a dryness enters our spirits. Living in such a way is like being cursed, like a dead man walking. Alive but not living.
"We stopped checking for monsters under the bed, when we realized they were inside of us. "
– Stephen King
We must take a wide angle view of our day to day "requirements". Don't allow your responsibilities in life to become an excuse because of fear or uncertainty. Our journey is not easy, and sometimes steps in the right direction come with a cost. Allow yourself to see your responsibilities for what they are, not what they seem. Responsibilities in and of themselves are not bad, but they can become consuming most often in the context of time and perceptions. An old adage is this: Perception is reality. How we frame our lives and the things that must be required to maintain our lives can and does impact our life's purpose.
Lets be real! You have to do life. You have to get up brush your teeth, feed the kids, take out the dog and make a living. Those are non-negotiable. But don't permit them to become excuses that will block you from your life's purpose. Sometimes you have to lay certain things down. Give them up.
Now I am certainly not suggesting leaving your spouse or dumping your kids at your parents house to chase your passions, but you may have to rethink life. you may have to get super creative. There are hundreds of ways to live life. Just because your life has positioned itself in the manner it currently exists does not mean that it has to stay that way. I am not suggesting that these changes are easy, nor am I suggesting that they will not be painfully uncomfortable at first, but I am certain (and know from experience) that the end result is well worth the discomfort it may take to achieve what your heart longs for. Though the path to purpose is difficult and often painful, a life lived without purpose is not worth living. In fact it is worse than death itself.
If you were to Jump off the perverbial cliff and dive headfirst into your biggest dreams....."What terrifies you the most?". Is it fear of failure? Fear of financial collapse? Fear of loosing your significant other? Fear of uncertainty? Self doubt? Insecurity? Unfortunately, we often have lots of "monsters lurking under our beds", terrorizing our minds and gripping our hearts with the what if fears. Play this mental game. What if the worst case scenario happened. If you dive into a new future and you loose the things you have fought so long to preserve, what would life look like? It would hurt......I know. Beyond that. Would you still be alive? Could life suddenly work differently? Would the things that hold you back suddenly not be a prison anymore? Sometimes there is a cost to our dreams. Are you willing to pay that cost? Be honest. Be Brave.
(Use the space above for your answers/notes. NOTE: If you want to save your notes, copy and paste into a word document on your computer. Notes will not repopulate the next time you load the workshop page.)
Changing Our Identity - We are not our purpose
Who are you? The way you answer that question will shape the way you see not only yourself but can impact the development of your purpose. Lets start with this. You are not your job. You are not the role you play from day to day. You are not simply a parent or child or the position you hold in society. You are neither rich nor poor, educated or uneducated. Those are labels. Not you. Stop for a moment and think about that. You are more than what your business card says. You are more than your social media profile. Far more. Infinitely more!
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to limit ourselves with the very language we use in an attempt to explain who we are. It is natural, yet it is also subtlety problematic. The process of defining our lives by the tasks or roles we hold is a wire thin balance. If not cautiously approached we box ourselves into narrow lives with diminished futures, far from what they should and could be.
Even the search for purpose can entangle us in this delicate dilemma, forcing us into predefined definitions of ourselves, ultimately placing limits on the very future we are trying to create. The most important thing we can come to terms with in our search for purpose is the understanding that we are more than any one thing. We are more than our success. More than our failures. We are more than the season we find ourselves within. In reality we are more than time itself. Time is segments of our lives and disjointed experiences. It is only the accumulation of these moments that begin to reveal the growing mass of who we are and who we are becoming.
Use caution when attaching descriptors to yourself. While it is nearly impossible to navigate our lives without doing so, realize that the very identifiers we use may unintentionally limit our potential and may even steer our lives in directions contrary to our purpose. Since language is necessary and the use of descriptions of who we are and what we stand for are important, especially when developing partnerships and marketing our purpose to the world, the best advice is to use words intentionally.
"Words can inspire and words can destroy.
Choose yours well. ".
– Robin Sharma
Words have power. They have meaning. Use them wisely. Be intentional about the words you surround yourself with. Well placed words, used with laser precision can become mechanisms that enable you to enlarge your world, without limits. As you develop your purpose and create materials to share your vision with the world, use words with precision. Take time to develop materials and narratives that don't narrow your vision. Allow your purpose to define the language you use, not the other way around.
We are far more than the things we do and the words that we use to describe ourselves. Our worth is independent of our situation and far outpaces any single role we play. Our worth is most closely aligned with the inherent potential with ourselves. The untapped and unrealized potential within each human being should be the defining characteristic of our lives. That potential is nearly impossible to define, language falls short, while the experience of a life well lived eclipses any single label used to capture what may best be understood as eternal.
Identify words or phrases you commonly use to describe yourself. What do they say about you? Don't just think about what they say outwardly. Do they have a secondary meaning? Is there a deeper meaning or assumptions that are made? Think about how others view the same words and phrases. Do others define the words the same as you? How may others interpret the messages you use about yourself?
Practice the use of Intentional words. Ignore what you might have always thought or felt about yourself. Forget any self imposed limits you may have created. Take a moment to envision what you want, without limits, without conditions. Choose words that describe the vision you have. Get playful. Interchange words and see how each subtle change alters the message. If you would have used intentional phrases differently throughout your past, how may that have impacted your life differently?
(Use the space above for your answers/notes. NOTE: If you want to save your notes, copy and paste into a word document on your computer. Notes will not repopulate the next time you load the workshop page.)
The when I get ____________I will ____________(Trap)
Fill in the following blanks:
When I get _________________ I will donate money to a charitable cause.
When I get _________________ I will take a trip.
When ___________________ I will have the time to volunteer at the homeless shelter.
And the list goes on. The possibilities are endless. When I get a raise, when I get more time, when the kids are grown, when I finish school, when I downsize, once I retire.......etc. etc. etc.
Have you ever heard yourself say a phrase like this? Be honest. We all have. It sounds innocuous on the outside, but the core of such self talk is paralyzing to our life's purpose. This sort of thinking is the same thinking that ends a journey even before it gets started. It derails us by delaying a start that never actually begins. The phrases help us to feel as if we are moving towards our objective, but the words are empty and overtime self perpetuate the outcome. It is as if such thinking predicts our failure, if not, it certainly guarantees our failure.
To be fair, I realize that somethings are necessary to delay. Life is a constant balancing act. At no single point in our lives are we able to give 100 percent attention to everything simultaneously. It is impossible. In actuality, recent studies show it is impossible to multitask (though we attempt to do so all the time). Our brain can only fully focus on one thing at a time. All other things are secondary. Individuals that do attempt to multitask end up with poor completion rates. If they do finish things simultaneously, the quality of the results are inferior and seldom is there a time savings. And more importantly, detailed, highly skilled tasks are impossible to truly multitask.
The result is straightforward. Prioritizing is not only important in life but necessary. Given this reality, certain things are given preference at the expense of others. The process left unchecked results in certain tasks or priorities taking over vast areas of our life, especially our future development, simply because they are consuming priorities. When this happens we describe the process as consuming, and often feel life is "out of balance". The problem is many of the things that "take over our lives" are not important. Most often they are just dysfunctional roles and people who consume life without consideration of the cost they require to "maintain". These things (and people!) suck the life out of our day, but more importantly, they can easily derail our future.
"If today was the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today ".
– Steve Jobs
In the book, The One Thing, Gary Keller and Papasan, debunked the inaccurately assumed idea of work life balance. The idea of balance is, especially within the confines of equally important yet opposing responsibilities (ie. A job that requires travel vs. a newborn baby at home), simply an impossibility. At any given time, critically important things are either the center of focus or are being placed in a state of temporary flux, waiting in a seemingly state of suspended animation, like a ball hanging in mid air in a juggling act. The ball can only hang in the air for so long before gravity takes control. And so is the balancing act, or maybe more accurately the juggling act of our lives. It is normal and natural, but at the same time can become unchanged if we are not careful. The delays that we place into our lives can eventually become set and unmovable, especially when we craft the pious sounding excuses of "When I __________I will __________" All to commonly if we are not careful, we never get to fill in the blank, leaving important things undone, most often at the expense of our life's greatest purpose. What takes its place is monotony and tasks that seem urgent yet never fully get resolved. The rent no matter how many times gets paid, comes due again next month. No matter how many dishes you wash, more appear. And the proverbial hamster wheel continues.
The only way through the quicksand of the unending urgent tasks of day to day life, is to become intentional. When it comes to money, time and your future, your choices must be intentional and measured. If not, these rare resources are consumed without intent and before you realize it, life simply passes you by, disappearing, leaving you with good intentions and nothing more.
"An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance. When you get right down to it, intentional living is about living your best story"
– John C. Maxwell
Take a moment to honestly examine your life. Do you have your own [when I get ______ I will ______] statements? On the outside the statements seem benign but are often couched in the Holy Grail of "Responsibility". Are the statements you identified accurate? Do they truly require you to press pause and keep from moving forward? What if you re-framed things. Instead of life balance, what would things look like if you were to use a juggling metaphor. Assuming ALL THINGS ARE IMPORTANT, how can you organize your life to allow time each day for everything? Any movement is momentum. What would your life look like if you stopped delaying and started moving forward with tiny, incremental steps daily? Remember: You can move an entire mountain one shovel at a time. All it takes is persistence and time. Make a list of tiny shifts you can make in your day to add the important parts of a purposeful life. Where can you redeem "wasted time". What can you do everyday to move the needle on your dream?
(Use the space above for your answers/notes. NOTE: If you want to save your notes, copy and paste into a word document on your computer. Notes will not repopulate the next time you load the workshop page.)
The Principle of the Darkroom - The Invisible Purpose
Sometimes the most incredible things and the most enduring parts of life exist within the unseen corners of our day. Significance and value are inherent within us and often hidden, especially from others. The journey into a purposeful life often must go through periods of "darkness", seasons that linger like a "lifeless winter". Sometimes these periods breed a sense of hopelessness and discontent. What many do not realize is that these dark moments of life is where the beauty of our futures often are developed.
Life often begins in darkness. A newborn emerges after nine months encapsulated in the darkness of a womb, the beauty of a butterfly results from the enclosed chrysalis of the Caterpillar, a seed must be firmly pressed into the darkness of the soil, covered and left until the sudden emergence of life pushes out of the cold dark lifeless soil into the light. Our dreams are no different. We must often be taken into the dark seasons of life, into a process that is often shrouded in pain and loss, yet ultimately develops into a beautiful future, an image reflecting our past coupled with a bright vision of our future. This process is much like a darkroom. We are "developed", changed through the process.
A Darkroom Analogy
Before the advent of digital photography, even the most beautiful vibrant images were birthed in darkness. The eye of the photographer captured an image in an instant. Even the grandest panorama that the eye could imagine was exposed in a moment on a thin film within the dark body of the camera. Hidden. When the film strip was fully exposed the photographer took it back to a darkroom. A place specifically designed and absolutely necessary for the process. It was there in the darkness, A place void of light where what was not yet seen came to life. The process was delicate, complicated and unseen, yet vital to the development of the image to come. In the absence of light the film strip was carefully removed from the camera housing. The hope of what was to come was immersed in the dark process.
With a sudden calculated exposure to light a "negative" was created, and immediately plunged back into darkness. The negative was an opposite view of the image that was to emerge. It was a reversed reflection of what was slowly coming to life. The negative was then submerged into a serious of chemical baths timed perfectly one after the other. The developer would walk a delicate balance between under and over exposure, time was critical and the process required precision. The process would reveal the beauty of the photograph using darkness that eyes were unable to see but would eventually result in a beautiful image. The image reflected the moment that had been instantaneously captured from time, light standing still on paper, an entire panorama or the beauty of the human form now capable of being held in the palm of ones hand.
Life is Developed through Dark Places
This dark process today is often rare. Far to many people spend a great deal of their time exposing their lives (even the hidden places) online. Our social media feeds are filled full of fragmented overexposed moments. We fill our accounts with images of last nights dinner, selfies while we drive and fragments of our lives that are hollow. Most of us are longing for significance, for acceptance, for validation to convince ourselves that we are somehow enough. We cast our fragmented lives to the world like breadcrumbs hoping someone will trace them back to our hearts to find what truly lies behind the brightness of our glowing screens.
We are all looking for a voice and an audience that our voice will resonate with. We want to be significant. We want our lives to leave a mark. While this desire is by no means wrong, we have the entire dynamic confused. In reality backwards. Our significance does not come from others or external sources. It certainly is not derived from strangers online. Significance is independent of others and even our actions. Our significance is independent of our history, our accomplishments and the size of our bank accounts.
"You are significant because you exist. The spark of life and the untapped potential of your humanity is what makes you unique. It is why the world needs you. "
– The Story Team
The very fact that breath fills your lungs proves that you are here with a purpose, alive and poised to shape the world around you. The potential in our lives is immeasurable, no amount of "likes" can quantify our lives and certainly not our "worth". We often measure our life by the attention we garner online and with social media. While you may not directly realize you do so, the number of our "followers" and "friends" acts as a subtle status symbol and shapes our view of ourselves. But at the end of the day, none of those hundreds of "people" are sitting beside you. They are not there to hold you when you are broken or warm you when you are cold. In reality, they hardly exist, at least in any real and significant way. We look to our social media feeds for validation, proof that we are noticed, adding up the likes as if they will somehow accumulate into something real.
Even if no one ever notices you......you matter. Even if your idea or the dream that resides deep within your heart never "goes viral" you are more than enough! Our significance has little to do with an online presence. It is measured by the direct impact of our lives on those around us. A thousand "likes" are meaningless, but a single smile on the street corner can lift a broken spirit. Human connection (physical, face to face and in person) is powerful. The impact you can make today, right now for those within a single arms length is priceless.
As you encounter seasons of your life that are difficult, times shrouded in darkness and what looks like insignificance, remember the significance of the darkroom. Our greatest life comes out of darkness, seasons filled with uncertainty, pain and loss. It is these dark moments that take us through a process. They expose us to situations that reveal our true selves and allow the beauty of hardship to produce our purest dream.
"There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were "
– Hazrat Inayat Khan
Are you in a dark season? Regardless of the hardship, what are you learning? How is this experience changing you for the good? How can this season benefit your future? Once this season is over (All seasons come and go!) what can you carry into the next season that will be useful? What emotional, spiritual, or life skills tools are you adding to your toolbox?
Our minds are like radios. At any given moment thousands of stimuli surround us. Our minds use selective filtering to manage the barrage of things vying for our attention at any given point in time. Selective filtering acts like a tuner dial on a radio. As you spin the dial, individual frequencies are "tuned" into, maybe more importantly, all the other frequencies are blocked. As you drive along and listen to your favorite radio station you sometimes reach the edge of the signals reception. The music becomes garbled and unintelligible, sometimes a second station can be heard simultaneously. When that happens, what do you instinctively do? You adjust the dial. You tune into what you want and tune out what you don't. Our minds work the same way.
People have between 50, 000 to 70,000 identifiable thoughts per day. Approximately 35-48 thoughts per minute, nearly 1 every two seconds. Just like the airwaves, our minds are filled continually with thoughts each day. Our mind instinctively filters out the stimuli and thoughts with predetermined filters tuning into what is wanted or at least what has been defined as significant.
A challenge for many who are desperately trying to move into a new season of life is tuning into the right signals. We often get "stuck" in life. We tend to listen to the same old "music". Our thought habits become ingrained and dangerously subversive. While our present selves are a product of our pasts, our future selves are a product of our thoughts today! Everything about our lives is filtered through our mind. It is the genesis of our reality. Our consciousness, our identity and the way in which we view the world around us originates in our thoughts. Our thoughts define our reality and shape the way we interact with the world around us.
"If you can change your mind you can change your life "
– William James
The air is filled with Radio Waves. Our minds are no different. They are filled with thoughts, many of which are destructive and short circuit our growth in life. Many people who struggle with their thoughts and try to gain a foothold in their thinking make a faulty assumption. The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you can somehow delete negative thoughts from your mind. Many people attempt to fill their thoughts with positive affirmations attempting to "overpower" the incessant voices that haunt our thinking. We often become disillusioned and worn out with the unending battle of our minds, trying to "erase" the negative, discovering that regardless of our efforts, the lies in our minds still remain.
This is often enough to derail people. We find ourselves thinking "If I can't even manage my thoughts.....how can I manage my life?" Notice one thing from the previous statement, "we find ourselves thinking". It is a subtle statement yet deeply impact-full. Stay with me:
"It is our thinking about our thinking that is the root of our problem
Did you notice that? We think to ourselves that since we can't even control our own thinking that we somehow are incapable of more. That idea is both true and false. We are capable of more, but we do not step into it because we trip ourselves up before we can even start, like tying our shoes to the starting blocks before a big race, the gun goes off and boom! We are laying in the cinder dust flat on our faces unable to run the race we had prepared ourselves for.
Here is the key to our thinking.
Accept the fact that our minds are sometimes filled full of destructive thoughts and no matter how hard we try they just wont fully disappear. So what is the answer? Think like a radio. Tune in the thoughts you want and tune out the thoughts intended to destroy you. You have to decide what you want to believe. At any given time our minds are full of thoughts, many of them competing for our attention and many vying for our hearts. Be honest with yourself. At any given moment you are likely fighting a valiant battle in your mind. Most of us hear opposing voices simultaneously. One moment we are thinking......"I got this"......"I'm ready to take a leap and live the life I've always wanted" and immediately we hear things like "you'll never make it", "you can't afford it", "you'll fail like you did before", etc. etc. We are our greatest critic, our biggest enemy. It is the enemy of our minds that is the biggest threat to living a purposeful life.
What is the solution? .........Tune in life!
We have to choose life, not lies. Dreams not discouragement. Hope, not despair. Our perverbial cup is always either half full or half empty, our minds are no different. It boils down to a choice.....a shift of perspective. Accept that we will never be able to rid ourselves of the enemy within, but know that you do have the power to choose! You have the power to accept what you want. No one......including your own thoughts can steal your future unless you give them power to do so. You have final veto power over your life. Your voice, your authentic life is the only one that matters, regardless of your fears and regardless of your experience. Tune into what is most important, spin the dial of your thoughts past those that attempt to steal your future. Make a new mix-tape.....write a new "soundtrack for your soul"!
What is the soundtrack of your soul? Take a moment to listen to the "radio of your mind", listen to the voices in your head. What are they saying? Are they the only voices? "Spin the dial" and explore the other "stations". Many of us have been stuck in the same boring and destructive thinking for to many years. List the voices that you hear in your mind, both good and bad. With each, try to identify where it comes from, why do you think that way?
Now create a new "playlist". Write down the words, the ideas, the way you want to live purposefully. Ignore the negative thoughts that rush in even while you are making the list (it will happen). Dial them out. Focus on what YOU want. Ignore the fear. Ignore the emotions. As you create a fresh "new playlist of your soul" as you open up a new chapter of your life. Turn up the volume.....roll the windows down.....hit the road and live the life you have always wanted to live.....hit repeat and play the playlist of your new chapter!
Action Steps - Take the next step today!
Take a personal inventory. Take a walk through even the most difficult times of your past. List the traits, skills, and accomplishments that emerged even through hardship. Identify how these "tools" can be utilized to propel you into your life's purpose.
Make a hard decision. Sometimes moving forward has a cost. Sometimes we have to experience a temporary "pain" to achieve a long term goal. (it is always worth it!) Rip the bandage off today! Take the step, whatever it is. Have the hard conversation, tell the news, sign up for the class, cut up the credit card, quit the job! The most important thing is DO IT TODAY! If you delay you will wake up another year older and realize nothing has changed. Don't make that mistake again.
If you have not done so already, infuse your day with purpose. Even the smallest efforts consistently done will move you forward. Add 30 minutes to your day (better than that dump 30 minutes of empty/wasted time.....I promise it is there to dump!). Read a book. Write the notes. Make the call. Set up the meeting. Visit the organization. Take the trip. Add daily purpose to your life. Step by step, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, DO SOMETHING PURPOSEFUL!
If you still don't have clarity about your purpose. Explore the world. Go Help. Go Volunteer. In the process of doing you will bump into the specific purpose of your life. Sometimes it is surprisingly different than you imagined. Find the flow. Discover what works, what feels "right", then take that path. Push down it until it changes direction or opens up into a new and bright future. In doing we will find ourselves and discover the rhythm of our hearts.
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Module 2: Application
The journey into a purposeful life is not without difficulties. Often our greatest challenges come from within. Our thinking, the way in which we view our past and the way in which we see ourselves in the context of our dreams can easily dismantle our hopes. Our significance as a person is inherent. Regardless of others and most often in spite of them, our potential is not determined by anything external. Our potential is inherent and independent of all else. Our potential is the spark of life within ourselves and holds the key to our futures.
A purposeful life flows like a river, the challenge for each of us on this intentional journey is to unblock the debris that accumulates with the years. The fear that imprisons us, self doubt and self imposed responsibilities often begin to suffocate us. To move forward into a new chapter of life, you must face your "demons", the shadowy figures that nip at our heals attempting to trip us up as me take the most important step of our lives.
Don't let ideas like "wasted years" or "insignificance" block the vital flow of purpose in your life. Every experience teaches us. No time is ever wasted and nothing is insignificant. Choose well, learn to listen to the voices inside that speak life. Ignore all the other voices. Tune into your dream, dial into your heart and let the song of your soul reemerge from the darkness of your past. Learn to leverage experiences both good and bad. Trust the process.
As trials of life hit with hurricane force on the shores of your experience, face the force of the wind head on. Remember that these difficult times are building you, refining you, and defining a beautiful future that is uniquely yours. The places of our greatest pain most often become a platform for our purpose. Pain and loss does not steal your future, it positions you for a purpose and a future that is only possible because of the process. Without darkness the brilliance of light would never be revealed. Without hardship the potential of your future can never be realized.....embrace it!