Saturday, March 20, 2010

True North: Finding Your Center and Staying on Your Path

Ruminations on 40

So, I'm turning 40 this week.

I've never subscribed to the idea that I should live my life in a specific way, or that being a certain age necessarily predicts or prescribes any notable things, but I thought it would be fun to mark the occasion with some type of ritual. After some consideration, I decided a virtual time capsule would be interesting: a glimpse back into what life was like in March of 1970.

So, I went digging. Close your eyes, and let's travel back...

Musically, The Beatles were still together (well, for a few more weeks, at least). Floating through the air, you might hear “Let It Be,” John's “Instant Karma,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & the Family Stone. Jimi Hendrix released a live Band of Gypsys album. Miles Davis released “Bitches Brew”. Jerry Lewis, Don Ho, Roger Miller, Flip Wilson and Wayne Newton were playing Vegas. Woo hoo, what a time!

The cover of
GQ magazine noted the trends in men's fashion with a "garden of sartorial delights in psychedelic hues". If only the trend had continued, my friends!

The movie documentary "Woodstock" was released. See if you remember any of these other popular films from 1970: Airport, M*A*S*H, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Love Story, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Five Easy Pieces, and the Owl and the Pussycat.

How about cable TV? Hee Haw, the Beverly Hillbillies, Hawaii Five-O, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the Courtship of Eddie’s Father were all big hits.

In the news… well, the Vietnam War was still waging strong. The US lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. The US postal service was on strike and President Nixon ordered the National Guard & Reserves to start delivering the mail, which didn’t go so well. San Fran mayor Alioto proclaimed March 21 (the Spring Equinox) the very first Earth Day. Four days later, on March 25, the Concorde made its first Supersonic flight. And it was on this day that I arrived as well.

(As an interesting side note, the 25th of March is also the traditional Feast of the Annunciation, and when the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25, since according to Christian theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ. It was that way until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. But I digress...)

I've taken a moment this week to write down a few things (in no particular order) that I've managed to learn along my journey (of 40 trips around the sun) so far. Take what you will…

1. Age is only a number.
2. Don't trust your government. Or corporations. Trust yourself.
3. No one cares about your health as much as you do. Read and educate yourself, and get second opinions.
4. Exercise!
5. Don't eat junk food or fast food.
6. A good album, or a great book, will be a friend for life.
7. Be kind to the planet. Be kind in general.
8. Be nice to animals.
9. Don't sweat the small stuff. You'll drive yourself bazonkers.
10. Fall in love! Love and be loveable.
11. Be present. Be here now.
12. Be silly.
13. Stay in touch with your friends. Phone them every so often just to say "hi".
14. Don't be afraid of change or conflict. With both comes learning and growth.
15. Don't worry what others think. You don't have to prove anything to anyone else.
16. Age doesn't guarantee wisdom.
17. Never stop challenging yourself and trying new things.
18. Laugh every day.
19. Eat the batter left in the bowl when baking cookies.
20. Walk barefoot in the Summertime.
21. Run through rain showers even though you will get soaked.
22. Marvel at fireflies, seahorses, dragonflies, grasshoppers and cocoons. See the world with eyes of wonder.
23. Lie on the ground and stare up a clouds and stars. What do you see?
24. Do kartwheels in the backyard.
25. Watch Bugs Bunny.
26. Color and paint and make collages. See possibilities.
27. Handwrite letters to faraway friends.
28. Remember, this too shall pass.
29. Change your world by changing your thoughts.
30. Write poetry.
31. Sing songs! Sing loud! Sing strong!
32. Dance.
33. Cook! Invent new dishes, and name them after yourself. Use wine.
34. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not necessary, and not worth it.
35. Have no regrets. Know that you are who you are meant to be, where you are meant to be, and everything (yes, everything) in your life has led you to this moment.
36. Breathe.
37. Meditate.
38. Encourage children.
39. Follow your dreams. No matter what.
40. Be yourself. Always.



Thursday, March 11, 2010

True North: Finding Your Center and Staying on Your Path

My 3Ps: Positive thinking, Perseverance, and being Present

One of the things I keep being reminded of in life is that no matter what the situation, whether a job search, raising a child, a disagreement with another, an overwhelming project, a difficult goal or anything else you experience, you will benefit from these three things which I have termed the 3Ps: the power of your Positive thoughts, Persevering and being in the Present moment.

Those who know me and/or follow this blog might know that I'm in the midst of a career transition & job search; that I've been promoting our band, Inner Gypsy for several years; and that I'm a runner, training for a 15K race this Summer. In each of these endeavors, several times I have hit the proverbial "wall" - that place where you get so frustrated at your results that you slow down, check out, and/or feel like giving up. Life's tough, no doubt about it. But in each of these endeavors, the 3Ps have made a big difference for me on how I perceive and move forward with my challenges.

I'll illustrate these points using my career search. In the last six months, I have given serious consideration to my experience and talent in discerning the capacity of work I'd be best suited for at this stage of my life. I have applied to dozens of positions. I have been on several interviews; I have networked with my phone and rolodex and with my social media tools; I have reformatted and jazzed up my resume; and I have written countless cover letters and done research on myriad companies. In fact, as I write this, I am waiting to hear back from a company I really connected with and would like the opportunity to work for, to call me back with their choice (I am one of three finalists).

One might say that I am no closer to my goal than I was when I began, because I haven't been hired yet. There are folks out there on job boards and radio shows saying things like, "The economy is so bad, do whatever you can to get hired, it's every man (or woman) for himself", "Take whatever job you can get, be willing to compromise your standards and take less money", and even "You must be ready for any question they may ask you, no matter how odd."

This type of thinking promotes anxiety, and if you embrace it there is no amount of preparation or work you do which you will consider "enough". It's also not a healthy way to live.

Now, I'm not afraid of work, and believe me when I tell you, I put a lot of time and sincere effort into my job search. I have job-bots set up to email me whenever key words are posted in my geographic area; I research, write, apply, converse, convince, rehearse, network, call, practice, and keep a log of my activities. And sometimes when I speak with colleagues who are also in this transition, or who are fearful that the jobs they currently hold will soon end, they ask me how I can be so positive. The answer is twofold.

First, know that I'm not a Pollyanna who walks around with a smile on her face all the time, and I sure have my moments of doubt and fear, just like anyone. But, secondly and most importantly, I don't dwell there. I feel the feeling and move on, and so I perform each of the tasks I describe above simply to that task's end, as honestly and completely as I can. Then, I feel good about my efforts, continue to push forward and do the best I can.

Much of this attitude is the result of some recent personal work I have done in the area of being present in the moment. In this practice, we do not bring our past into the current moment, and we do not project the future into the present moment. We are simply present. This concept, while simple, has taken me a long time to assimilate into my reality. I have spent most of my life asking "What if", unable to stop myself from imagining what might be or dwelling on what might have been. But recently I have discovered that when I notice myself doing either of those things, I can simply refocus my attention on the present and all the anxiety slips away and I am able to just be. The more I practice it, the easier and more natural it becomes. And, I'm sure the people I spend time with appreciate the fact that I am present in the moment with them, and not off in another place in my head.

I also have lived long enough to know that often, when something occurs that seems like a real setback (for instance, getting turned down for a job), that it can actually turn out to be a positive occurrence (the company goes out of business, or you land a better offer elsewhere - both of these things have happened to me). Also, there is power in 'failure': we learn to ask for help, to consider alternatives, to adapt our thinking, to stop doing things that don't work!

If we don't push forward, we don't learn and grow. If I didn't continue running when I was tired, my legs ached and I was gasping for air, I wouldn't be able to now run as far and as fast as I can. This makes me healthier. If I didn't continue promoting my band, I wouldn't have the experience of all the people who approach me and say they enjoy our show and our songs, and that feels great! With perseverance comes achievement. With achieving difficult things comes confidence. With confidence comes a positive attitude. It's all connected.

Therefore, my advice is don't fret, my friends. Yes, the world is screwy and the economy isn't great and there are bad people out there doing bad things. So what? Worry doesn't get you anywhere. Positive thinking, on the other hand, does. It promotes self-confidence, it makes for a better experience, and it helps you connect and communicate with other like-minded individuals.

So, the next time you feel like giving up or giving in, take heart in the knowledge that the struggle you're going through has been experienced in some form or another by everyone. You're not alone, and if you keep moving, even slowly, in the direction of your dreams, you're making progress.

I leave you with a Norman Vincent Peale quote, "Lots of people limit their possibilities by giving up easily. Never tell yourself 'this is too much for me. It's no use. I can't go on.' If you do, you're licked, and by your own thinking too. Keep believing and keep on keeping on. "