Over the years I have found that the best way for me to enter the day is to sit quietly with my coffee and simply be with the silence. This has not always been possible due to a career that has taken me on the road for over thirty years. Some of the individuals I traveled with loved to start their day by flicking on the TV so they could be informed about the latest happenings around the globe, or they would start chatting on the phone. After all they might be missing an announcement about the end of the world. I would try desperately not to have a rise in blood pressure, but it was very difficult. I desperately needed to give myself time to get ready for the day which was often filled with lots of talking, book signing and more travel, all of which can be very stressful. Yes, I believe in different strokes for different folks, but the latest greatest research on how we can navigate our lives without feeling crazy by the end of the day, states that getting your brain in the right zone starts by how you greet the day. I know this can be very difficult when you have kids and they begin their “woodpecker drills” as soon as they open their eyes. But it is possible to set your alarm to go off a few minutes early so you can lie awake in bed and allow your thoughts to focus on how grateful you are for what you have and not what you need to do. In fact I believe this could be a great lesson to teach your children. Today’s kids are suffering from stress overload. If you allow yourself to be led by the incessant inner chatter you will leave your house feeling like a whirling dervish and your body will be in a vigilant state ready to slay a dragon. There was a time when we could put things off and get away with it. But with the advent of e-mail, texting and cell phones, you are pretty much at the mercy of ASAP. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can’t hide from the technology that demands immediacy. Your only defense is to learn to create good mental habits that allow your brain to have mini-vacations from the cacophony of daily life. The ultimate irony is that productivity increases when we take time out to refresh ourselves. Lily Tomlin said it best” The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”.
Over the years I have read many a self-help book that advocated for being in the “now”. Although I feel there is great merit in acknowledging and celebrating every moment you have, I also feel that the past and it’s lessons both good and bad are incredibly meaningful. My career would not have been as successful if I did not have the plethora of stories I refer to about my grandmother, grandfather, and mother. I have many memories of both negative and positive experiences. Discovering how to use our pasts to guide and empower us can be tricky. Our culture has evolved into one that spends time looking for who is to blame for our inadequacies. Often times people spend years in therapy or going to workshops to try to discover who or what has made them unhappy. I am all for trying to heal trauma and unfortunate childhood experiences, but the art of reframing them into a model for resiliency is a far greater gift. Negative experiences can become templates for living with better understandings of who we are and what we can be. Unfortunately I feel it is much easier to use parents, siblings, spouses, or co-workers to corroborate reasons why we don’t live our lives to the fullest. We identify “them” as the culprits that have created our inadequacies, and as a result the storyline becomes our reality. I spent many hours being at odds with my mother and how she parented and who she choose as my stepfather. If only I had been aware of how I was wasting precious moments of my life discussing what essentially could not be changed. My saving grace became the work I chose. I became acutely aware of how the perceptions of my past clouded my judgment and how it often made me anxious. I can still fall into some of the “painful past” dialogue when I forget that I can use my past to reinforce how I deal with the present. I have often called this “ finding the bless in the mess”. It is rare to find someone who reached adulthood without having a person in their life that was not dealing with a full deck. In fact I have met some incredibly successful individuals that have survived families that make living in an insane asylum seem like a walk in the park. None of us is given the choice of who will be our family of origin. So it is up to us to learn to shape our lives in the most authenticate way possible, by recalling, reclaiming and recasting our experiences to help serve us not shame us.