Live Your Life Backwards – Words of Wisdom

live, backwards, too late, purpose, george elliot, fear,

live, backwards, too late, purpose, george elliot, fear, Author Robert Fulghum sits on his grave site every year.  Author Austin Kleon reads the obituaries regularly.  Morrie, from Tuesdays with Morrie, and Randy Pausch, from The Last Lecture, looked death in the face.  Nothing puts things in perspective like a brush with death.

The truth is, no one gets out alive.  We only have a limited amount of days to do stuff that matters.  And we aren’t told when the deadline is.  There’s no circled date on the calendar.

We’ve all heard stories of end-of-life regrets.  No one does everything they wanted to do.  Hindsight is 20/20.

But if that’s true, and everyone gets to the end of life with regrets, why don’t we start talking to that older version of ourselves?  The one laying on her death bed and thinking back on her life.  Wondering if she really made a difference.

Ask your dying self, What do I wish I had done?  What didn’t I do because I let fear stand in my way?  How could I have moved the needle if I had just tried?

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. – Jack London

Imagine the happiest, most fulfilled and humble version of your 90 year-old self.  What were the steps that she took to get to that place of fulfillment?

What was she doing at 80? At 70? In her 60’s.  What about her 50’s?  What was her focus in her 40’s?  Start living your life backwards by talking to those older versions of you.

You want to live a life that matters.  And not just a life that works for you, but a life that works for the people around you.  You want to make a difference.  Move the needle.  Do stuff that matters.

You’re a giving and loving human being, teeming with talent and desire and strength.

Don’t forget it.  Don’t hide it.  Don’t delay it so long that you forget to pick it back up again and get to the end of life with regrets.

Talk to your 90 year-old self. What is she telling you to go do?

GO DO IT!

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Silence Is So Accurate

silence, speak, words, positive, help, perspective

silence, speak, words, positive, help, perspectiveI’ve been incredibly ill for the last 10 days.  An awful cold/virus has run through our house with a vengeance.  I’m the last to get it so hopefully it’s on its way out for good now.  It was packed with an arsenal of chest congestion, fever, aches, cough, post nasal drip, and phlegm.  All sorts of grossness.  Very little sleep.

A few days into it, I lost my voice.  Losing one’s voice is an interesting and often frustrating phenomenon.  When the kids started fighting, I couldn’t raise my voice above theirs.  When I needed to be heard, all that came out was whispers and squeaks, which is very difficult to take seriously.

It took so much effort to get any kind of sound out, that most of the time it wasn’t worth trying.  My throat hurt from the constant coughing and trying to talk only aggravated it.  So, I found myself just being quiet.

I’m not much of a talker anyway.  Being an introvert, I take in exponentially more than I speak out.  But I realized when forced to be quiet, the spoken word is extremely powerful in my life.

Some things I discovered in silence.

1. Much of what we speak are canned responses to what someone else says. 

We say things like, “uh huh,” “yeah,” and  “oh, really?” A lot of polite feedback.  Not a lot of substance there.  Sometimes these responses can be taken as affirmation or agreement with the person instead of the recognition that they were heard.

2. Our first response is often triggered by our soft spots.  

When someone says something that you feel the need to respond to immediately, it’s often because it’s touched on something tender in your life.  Either a hurt, a passion, or a related experience.  Be careful.  Knee-jerk reactions are rarely accurate.

I was forced to hear things and couldn’t immediately respond with my take, my opinion, or my side.  Instead it had to sit and simmer in my subconscious.  I found the longer a thought sat with me, the more I could filter through it, accept ALL the good from it, and discard only the obsolete. I didn’t simply negate an entire thought because I disagreed with part of it.

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.

3. We want to hear ourselves.

Saying things out loud makes them permanent in our minds.  It also makes it permanent in space.  Once the sound waves leave your mouth, it travels until it’s heard or the energy is finally absorbed.  When they say you can’t take back the words you say, they’re right.  (Whoever They are.)

We feel like saying so, makes it so.  That if it’s said out loud, it must be true.  Now, we all know that’s not necessarily the case, but there is still power in the spoken word.  People read out loud to help them remember what they’ve read.  They speak positive words to boost their confidence.  They repeat things over and over to commit information to memory.

Not being able to speak positive things, made me feel very low sometimes.  Not being able to add something helpful to a conversation made me feel helpless.  We need to hear ourselves to feel significant.

4. We want others to hear us.

We connect with others through our words.  It sheds light on our thought processes that normally go undetected.  Words give clarity on points that are misunderstood.  We all crave to be understood.

Above all, it’s most frustrating to let others talk about you without being able to clarify.  Without words, you’re at the mercy of what someone else thinks and says.  Those who speak the loudest seem to be the ones who get heard.

Introverts deal with this a lot, regardless of having laryngitis.  We don’t always feel like everything needs to be talked about.  Least of all ourselves.   You don’t ask, we don’t tell.  We just live by the assumption that our character will be enough.  But sometimes, we just want to be asked.

Laryngitis has been a lesson for me and I wanted to share it with you.

  • Not everything you say is necessary or accurate.
  • Being quick to respond keeps you from gaining a true perspective.
  • The things you say leave a lasting impression somewhere with someone, even if it’s just you.
  • Not everything needs to be talked about.
  • Everyone should be given the chance to clarify.

What kind of frustrations have you had regarding words that were spoken?  When have you been unable to respond when you really wanted to and how did you feel about it?  Leave your comments here.

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Death to Normality

Normality, box, different, intelligent, imagination

Normality, box, different, intelligent, imaginationOkay, children.  This is a test.

Take out your number 2 pencil and listen carefully to instruction.  Read the question.  Consider all available options.  Fill in the circle next to the answer that best describes you…

I’m not knocking standardized tests (yes, I am), I’m just passionate about being different.  About dropping the charades and playing the real game of life.  It’s high time there was a revolution of creatives that stepped out of line and spoke up without raising their hand first.  Normal is for the people-pleasers, the average, and the timid.

The Cutting Edge of What?

The world is fraught with people standing in lines and jumping on bandwagons just so they can get the next gadget, the latest tool, and the coolest fashions. They think they’re on the cutting edge. And I suppose they are. But it’s not the cutting edge of innovation and creativity. The people who design new products are the creatives on the edge. The consumer may only be the first of millions to jump into the funnel to the new normal.  There’s nothing creative or different about that.

You know when you buy the latest iPhone or upgrade to the newest version of whatever, it’s going to be outdated in less than a year. Why? Because in about 3.2 seconds, every 3rd person in the world will also own one. The newness wears off and we’re soon scrambling to come up with the next “cutting edge” product to entice the “cool” people to buy.

You’re Not As Different As You Think

It amazes me how people feel like they’re being different and unique by coloring their hair, tattooing their bodies, or gauging their ears.  It’s a societal norm now.  It seems like if you want to be considered different, these are the three things you are allowed to choose from.  Don’t show up with your mind.  Don’t think outside the box.  Don’t speak intelligently of your ideas.  You may only use your body as a billboard and your technology as a membership card.  That’s it.

We trade one box for another.  It seems that if there isn’t a label that you can put your name next to and check the box that the only other option is another box marked “Other.”  One way or another, you’re expected to live in a box.

Who Decides the Answer?

Life isn’t multiple choice.  Because multiple choice tests don’t give you space to think.  It only makes you weigh out which answer is more right in accordance to the answers that someone else created.  What is it the people keeping score want you to say?  There is no space for individuality or creativity.

Life is an open ended book.  It’s not a test.  No one is keeping score.  It’s a choose-your-own-adventure, only YOU write it as you go.  If you want to be different, use your mind.  Don’t flash your cool gadgets or abuse your body.  Be a thinker, a visionary, a doer.  Do something that makes your heart proud no matter how others may size you up.

Do you want to be different?  Are you sick of trying to find the most acceptable answer?

Here’s an idea.  Be yourself.  Be okay with who you are.  There is only one you.

Don’t know who you are?

That’s normal.  We’re trained from kindergarten to sit in rows, obey commands, color inside the lines, and line up single-file.  I challenge you to allow yourself to think outside the lines.  To speak out of turn.  Run ahead of the pack and decorate your life with curlicues.  Your true passions will show up.  You won’t feel the need to follow someone else’s funnel or jump into a prefab box.

Normal is overrated.  It’s a trap that hinders creativity.  Don’t let it hold your mind captive anymore.  Let normalcy die and you’ll find out what it’s really like to be on the cutting edge of life.

How are you leaving normalcy behind?  What creative things are you doing that shake up the acceptable social norms?  There’s no right answer.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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A Tip From the First Creative

Creator, daily, create

Creator, daily, createI feel like I don’t have control or a firm grip on my creativity.  It’s like a jumbled mass of ideas in my head all the time, and getting it out in some sense of order is like forcing bread dough through a spaghetti strainer.  It’s work.

Creativity is one of those things that doesn’t seem to have a beginning or an end.  It just is.  It’s eternal.  I’m not sure why I never visited this thought before, but it’s the first principle we’re taught in the Bible.  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  It’s right there.  With God.  Before the beginning.

I’m finding comfort in this revelation of God’s example of creativity.  When He created the earth, it was formless and void.  Just a jumble mass with no purpose, no defining lines, and no life.  But then, He started the daily process of defining the boundaries, creating beauty with purpose and breathing life into His creation until it was finally finished.

We were also created.  In the image of God.  So we were created with creativity in us.  An eternal trait that sets us apart from all other living things.

You have the ability to take old idea and create new ideas from them.  You are not restricted by instinct or governed by nature.  You can create your own reality.  And if you don’t like it, you can change it.

I’m guilty of ignoring my creativity even though I’m constantly bumping up against it.  Often it’s easier to ignore it than to sit with it and try to order and make sense of it.

The problem is, it doesn’t go away.  This inner necessity to create.  And the longer I leave it alone, the bigger it becomes in my mind and the more discontented I feel.  It becomes a weight and feels like a straitjacket in my daily life.  I get restless and agitated.

The key is do something creative every day.  Because consistently moving forward, even in incremental steps creates momentum.  When you don’t make the effort to do something creative every day, instead of momentum you experience inertia.  It drags you down and makes it harder to get started again.

And one last tip from the first Creative.  Step back often and appreciate the good things you’ve created.  The story of creation in Genesis tells us that God said every day that his creation was good.

And finally, He rested with complete satisfaction in the finished product.  Enjoy your work on a regular basis and take a little break when you’ve completed something big to think of some new ideas.  Now go create something.

What do you do when you feel restless?  How often do you take time to appreciate your creative works?  Leave your comment here.

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Are You Stuck in Social Boxes?

Social, society, norms, introvert, thinking, homeschool, church, tradition,

Social, society, norms, introvert, thinking, homeschool, church, tradition,

Here’s Your Sign

As a society we categorize and package things to try to make sense of this messy world. We put things in compartments and boxes so they stack nicely and everything stays in line.

We do the same thing with people. We have labels for everyone.  Book worm.  Jock.  Social bug.  Hermit.  Bum.  Workaholic.  Sinner.  Saint.  We hand you the label and you have to wear it so everyone knows where you belong.

Be informed, not influenced

I have a personal disdain for boxes. It goes against my nature. It may be part of my introverted personality, but I refuse to go along with the crowd on the grounds of that’s what the crowd is doing.  My mind says, If everyone is doing it, BEWARE!  I want to make sure I’m still thinking freely on my own and not just following a crowd mentality.

So as a practice, I don’t go with the crowd. Instead, I gather information and so I can make an informed decision.  In doing so, I’ve found there are some crowds that I just don’t want to be associated with.  The acceptable behavior in some crowds is not acceptable behavior to me. Period.


Noisy, crowded boxes

Our society is built on the bias of extroversion.  It’s assumed that the team performs better than the individual.  We’re expected to pray together at church, work in group activities at school, and socialize on the weekends.  We’re told to go with the flow and follow the crowd because there’s safety in numbers and no man should be an island.  Don’t be an individual.  That’s weird.

Social boxes are overcrowded and noisy.  Introverts need space and quiet to think, pray, and solve problems. We are compelled to think differently, go a different direction, and do something creative.

If I don’t have a creative outlet, I wither.  I need something that’s my own. A place where I fit and belong and feel useful.  If I can’t find it, then I’ll create it myself.  My own box.  Only I’m won’t be in my box.  I’ll be standing on top of it.  Thinking without limits and sharing a message with the world.

If you’re a creative introvert, you know what it feels like to be a square peg in a round hole.  You just don’t fit.  You feel awkward and uncomfortable.  And people think you’re crazy and wonder what’s wrong with you for not joining in their fun.

Here are some things to keep in mind in this world of conformity.

  1. You were created to be unique.  There is no one else out there with your exact set of skills, dreams and passions.  That means you have something unique to offer.
  2. You will probably be misunderstood.  Just because you have the capacity to think deeply, doesn’t mean everyone else does.  Deepak Chopra said, It helps if you remember that everyone is doing their best from their level of consciousness.
  3. You can step back from the crowd.  Give yourself the space you need to think for yourself.  Innovative thinkers are innovative because they think differently than the crowd.
  4. Going against the crowd is liberating and uncomfortable.  It’s a little scary but it gives you the freedom and liberty to use your own judgment.
  5. You are not wrong.  There is nothing wrong with being different.  Don’t feel guilty or let someone else make you feel like you’re wrong for having a different perspective.
  6. Own it.  Be okay with being an individual.  Stand out from the crowd with confidence.

If you’re feeling stuck in a box that doesn’t fit who you are give yourself permission to break out of it.  You might get some funny looks, but you’ll have the freedom to make your own decisions apart from social persuasion.  You will have the liberty to be who you are supposed to be and give license to your creativity.

Great movements and paradigm shifts are always started with one person who has a different way of looking at things.  Go ahead, jump up on your box and be an individual.


What boxes are you finding yourself in?  Have you started building your own so that you can share your message with the world?  Share your “unboxing” experience with me in the comments.

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From Clutter to Compassion

From Clutter to CompassionIt hits me every spring.  The bug to clean out the stuff in my house and my life.  I start reading minimalism blogs and lusting after the pictures of peaceful living spaces.  Then I look around my house and see a whole lot of unnecessary junk.  I don’t know how we accumulate so much.

One such blog post I read talked about their journey to minimalism by removing the same number of things from their house as the number of the current year.  So in 2015, they will remove 2015 items from their house.  I’m always intrigued by such audacious challenges.

I mentioned the challenge out loud and my kids got this nervous look in their eyes.  They told me I was crazy, but I can see this being an extremely easy challenge to complete.  They know me.  I go on cleaning binges every few months.  Sometimes they help and other times they hide.  The verdict is still out on this one.

I cleaned out my closet and started weeding out my books.  I probably have close to 500 items pulled out already.  I figure if I can get my kids to go through their clothes and books, we can hit 2015 items in two days.

Having too much is overwhelming.  There’s too much to clean, organize and store.  It’s way to easy to make a mess and way too hard to pick it up.  We don’t live extravagantly by any means but we really have more than we can adequately appreciate.


Yesterday, I made a quick run to the store to pick up a few grocery items we had run out of.  Milk and cereal.  Staples in our house.  As an impulse buy, I picked up a large bag of M&Ms to share with the kids.

When we were leaving the parking lot, I saw a man with a cardboard sign standing at the traffic light.  His hair was gray and long and it mingled with his long beard.  I’ve never stopped to give money to beggars before, but I had $3 tucked in the door of my car.  The change from the $25 I had just spent on chocolate marshmallow cereal and M&Ms.

I recently read in the Bible where God told his people to be generous to the poor.  Not to deal harshly or be tightfisted with them.  God promised a blessing to those who gave freely to people in need.  (Deut. 15:7-11)

I rolled my window down as I pulled up next to the man.  I held out the bills to him.  He stepped off the curb to reach for the money and his eyes met mine.  He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was humbled and ashamed to be standing there.  There was sadness and long stories in those eyes.  All I could say was, “God bless you” before I drove through the intersection.

When I pulled up to the man at the traffic light, I had my blessing in mind.  But as I drove away, my mind was frantically challenging me.  What did this man think of me?  Here I was, driving my paid for car, leaving a store where I had just impulsed on M&Ms, handing him $3 and driving off to visit a friend to laugh and complain about our hard lives.

Of course, he didn’t know what I bought or where I was going, but I did.  He didn’t know that I had just been complaining about having too much, while everything he owned was in the knapsack at his feet.  I had worried aloud about the cost of groceries, yet I had enough money to buy candy.

I feel like my cleaning binge has just become a crusade.  I wish I had gotten that man’s name.  I’d name it after him.  I wish I had given him the M&Ms or bought him a meal.  His simple existence made my abundance look vulgar.  I wish I didn’t have so much useless stuff.

I’m getting rid of it.  All the useless, boxed up accumulations of trivial, meaningless junk.  I probably will never be a minimalist.  I love books too much to let them go.  But if I can empty out enough stuff from my life, maybe I’ll have more room in my heart.  Maybe I’ll fill it up with things that matter like compassion and love in action.

 

What experiences have you had that drastically changed your perspective and put you on a crusade of love and compassion?  Comment here.

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You’re a Liar.

truth, honesty, integrity, perfect, perfectionist, lies, liar,

truth, honesty, integrity, perfect, perfectionist, lies, liar, (Sometimes it feels like a fight to find authenticity in myself and in people around me.  I wonder how many masks I look at every day and how many masks I put on without realizing it.  Not knowing is increasingly frustrating.  Creative rant to follow.)

Truth.

That’s what I want.  I want honesty and integrity and transparency.  Tell me like it is, not how you think I want to hear it.  Don’t tell me it’s fine when I know it’s not.  And don’t skip over the problem like not seeing it makes it go away.

No one likes your shiny, perfect self.

In fact, it’s detestable.  You want people to think your life is perfect and everyone should be more like you.

I don’t want to be you.

I can see through the shiny exterior.  It’s like waxing a dirty floor.  You put on a perfect coating so no one can get close enough to scrub off the grime.  But all it does is make the gravel more pronounced.

I can see it a mile away. 

You have flaws like me.  You struggle like I do.  You have bad days, attitudes, and disappointments.  Life isn’t fair.  Not to you and not to me.

I want you to admit it.

I want you to admit it because then I could admit my life isn’t perfect either.  I’m not who you think I am.  I never say what I think.  I know how to smile and say It’s fine.

I hate the facade.

I’ll keep myself safely tucked away.  Hidden behind the veneer of politeness.  And when that runs out, sarcasm.  But you don’t know who I am.  I’m not polite and I’m not sarcastic.

I’m scared.

I’m scared because I don’t know who you are.  I’m scared I might go through life not really knowing anyone or being known.  Is there a safe place to tell the truth?  Everyone is looking.  Me, too.

I want to be known.

What do I know?  I know when someone is telling the truth and when someone is hiding.  You’re hiding.

And so am I.

It’s been nice… not knowing you.

 

The world deserves more truth.  The people you love deserve to know who you are.  What are you holding back that you’re just dying to release?  Who do you want to know better?  Tell your truth in the comments.

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