Sun, 15 November 2020
"You shouldn't dream your film, you should make it!" —Steven Spielberg
To live actively requires we take action.
Seems simple enough, but if teaching my students as well as myself to refrain from using passive verbs versus active verbs in writing indicates anything, defaulting to the passive
What if we are defaulting in the same way in our everyday life and, even more largely, in our vision of how our journey will unfold?
A new-to-me podcast, Solo: The Single Person's Guide to a Remarkable Life, shared an insightful approach to living life which caught my attention immediately. What if we, instead of being the hero of our own lives, choose to be the director?
Think about it for a moment. When we look at a film from the point-of-view from the real world, the hero in the film/movie/novel/play merely follows the directions of the person behind the camera - the Greta Gerwigs (Oscar nominated director for Little Women), the Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winning director for The Hurt Locker), the Steven Spielbergs (Oscar winning director for Lincoln), the Amma Asantes (Mrs. America), the Jennifer Getzingers (Orange is the New Black and Mad Men), the Julie Delpys (2 Days in Paris), and the Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).
“Humble perseverance and the ability to observe and grow, in pursuit of making what you love and believe in. Really. THAT is the secret”. —Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman
To be the director of our lives assumes the responsibility of having a larger vision for the purpose of each scene, each chapter; however, within each moment, each interaction and revelation, the director knows fully how to craft a scene so as to bring forth a dedication to being present, fully engaged and intentionally clear and knowing about living fully.
Being a hero, in theory, is not a bad directive, but it neglects the reality of being a hero - whether saving themselves or another or an entire vast swath of others - the climatic drama of adversity is assumed. And then there is the tragic hero. No thank you.
This is not to say that we can direct ourselves to avoid all conflict and adversity. No. From such unwanted and unplanned pains, we grow, we learn, and we gain wisdom, clarity, and strength; however, if we only relegate ourselves to being the hero, we follow a script written by another and directed by someone else as well. While there have been directors who directed themselves, there is a reason why only one has done so and been able to capture an Oscar for both roles - Roberto Benigini in Life is Beautiful (1999), which also one for best Foreign Film as well. It's hard to see yourself clearly - your actions, facial expressions, energy on screen with another, etc..
But wait, if you direct your life, aren't you also the hero? Valid point, and an important one to make. Yes. You are in all actuality both the director and the hero, but again, the director decides who leaves a scene when, how the interactions with others will play out, which details must be included in a shot to further understanding for the audience, what remains out of the shot, the colors of the attire, where the scene is set, the background, the music, all of the details as well as the over-arching storyline (and while often the director is also the playwright or at the very least has some say in how the screenplay is depicted and can mold and tweak it to what would be best for the film, the director has the full reins of the production). What I am saying is we must not forget our primary job - to be the director of our one and only life.
Let's take a look at everyday and large over-arching choices and actions imperative for directing our lives well.
1.Who are you?
Taking the time to know yourself, unearth your talents, becoming honest about your weaknesses but refusing to let them halt the direction you wish to travel sits at the foundation of a well-lived life.
~Read this three-part series on How to Get To Know Yourself
2. Learn how to love well
Loving well is a skill. We do not know innately how to love another human being as doing so involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Models of love or what is purported as love surround us, but many are faulty and derive from a genesis rooted in control, insecurity and many other unhealthy constructs. To follow leads to pain. Knowing leads to peace. Know how to love, and life will blossom.
~One of my favorite books on love and being loving in a relationship inspired episode #128 - The Quest for a Soulmate: The Myth Hindering an Amazing Love Life
3. Understand the value of boundaries and understand they will evolve
Boundaries define us, as Henry Cloud reminds. Literally, the lines we put in our lives define what we will step forward and try and what we will not. Boundaries can limit us. Boundaries can protect us. Boundaries paradoxically can set us free.
Knowing how to set boundaries after we have discovered what our boundaries need to be for the chapter in our life we find ourselves gifts us with a powerful foundation. Without boundaries, the wind can take us where it will because we don't know what where we want to go and we certainly don't know how to head in the right direction.
On the flipside, rigidity when it comes to boundaries can be harmful if it prevents us from exploring what we are capable of sharing with the world. Ah, a tenuous dance which requires of each of us to do our own homework, not follow, because it is our heart, our life that will be set free when we find the sweet spot between the right boundaries and vulnerability. (Listen to episode #126 to discover the Powerful Couple that is Boundaries & Vulnerability.)
4. Learn the skill of effective nonviolent communication
For every director who wins praise from their cast and crew, there is a director who bullies, rants and whines. Effective communication, nonviolent communication, is a skill we must choose to learn if we want to have a fulfilling life and strong and healthy relationships with others.
To model said communication, observe someone who understands the components of nonviolent communication certainly helps us to acquire the skill, but we must take it one step further to understand why they are communicating as they are. We must again be the student for our lives to reach their fullest potential.
As I shared in episode #293, I highly recommend reading Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. I have read and will reread this book for understanding how to understand anger, understanding the four basic steps of clear, effective, empathetic communication, and how to honor my own journey, letting go of guilt, shame, anything the outside world wishes me to feel in order to stop me from traveling a path that brings joy.
Effective communication with ourselves and others is the way toward directing an award-winning life to continue with the analogy. To clearly convey and know what you wish to materialize, you need to be able to work with others being empathetic and aware along the way, not only of those who will walk with you or cross your path, but with yourself.
5. Understand and practice the fundamental physical components of you
To delve a bit deeper into the physical aspect of #1, knowing how your body, your mind, your temperament function and how they can function well will give you a roadmap of how to design the set of your life. It will also help you clearly understand what your boundaries need to be.
6. Be Brave
Living an active life, being the director of your own life demands of you to take action.
You cannot wait to see what someone else thinks, whether someone else approves, whether the prices will be this or that or another, at some point, you simply need to act.
Wait a second, you may be saying, didn't I say each of us is the director not the actor? Okay, perhaps a poor choice of words, but not really. Remember, you are the director of those actions. You decide when to take the first steps, when to set out and try something for the first time, when to let go, when to say yes, when to determine a certain chapter of your life has now concluded and you will be stepping into the next.
Being brave. A choice made by the director, and it is no act. Being brave takes raw courage after months, perhaps years of deliberating about when or if you should indeed do just that - be brave. Let me reassure you, being brave will set you free. In the meantime, you will quake, but you will not crumble if what you seek aligns with what you know to be true about yourself (remember #1).
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” —Helen Keller
The analogy of the director does not perfectly align with living our one and only life. After all, we are talking about a fictitious story capable of being enjoyed for generations. Our lives are anything but fictitious. No, we know our lives are all too real, but do we?
I ask this question because what if poet David Whyte correctly nailed it when he wrote "What if the world is holding its breath - waiting for you to take the place only you can fill?" Why aren't we filling it? Perhaps because we have chosen to follow someone else's script, and not direct our own. Perhaps because we have forgotten to write our own script and direct it as well. We can have chapters in our own lives, the one prior being necessary for the next, not less relevant or bad, simply vital to live the journey we are on, trusting the steps we need to take in a new direction.
Today, tap yourself, hire yourself, assign yourself purposely and intentionally as the director of your life, and I am confident, you will begin to see the positive and desired change which may have only been a dream previously.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life, episode #40
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #294
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Sun, 8 November 2020
"When we speak a language that denies us choice, we forget the life in ourselves for a robotlike mentality that disconnects us from our own core." —Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Two lives may look like one another, but one may indeed be fulfilling, while the other a life of disdain and pain.
Choosing to live as we do versus living a life out of an expectation, obligation, avoidance of guilt, approval, to avoid shame, or to gain money is to choose a life of integrity according to Marshall Rosenberg. When we choose a life of integrity, we discover the ability to tap into our essential and most sincere self, and enable ourselves to share with the world the gift and talent only we can give.
While sharing a list of actions to refrain from taking as to avoid the latter of the two options mentioned above would certainly simplify how to choose to live, there is no such universal list. Rather, the list of what we choose to do versus what we do out of a feeling of "have-to" will be unique to each of us.
How can we discern the difference? Rosenberg's determinating factor is if the sole motivating force for our actions comes from a place to "simply make life wonderful for others and ourselves" then we are choosing the life we are living. And the latter - making life wonderful for ourselves - is perhaps the most important. We must pay attention to our needs. Rosenberg writes "we cultivate self-compassion by consciously choosing in daily life to act only in service to our own needs and values rather than out of duty, for extrinsic rewards or to avoid guilt, shame and punishment".
Understanding fully and completely what our needs are is the homework we each must tend to in order to live a life everyday that we enjoy living. I highly recommend reading Rosenberg's book as he delineates clearly and in great detail the common societal pushback to his assertion about choosing how you live versus adhering to a life out of anything but choosing it.
The result of any action made void of choice is a deprivation of joy at the very least and resentment, detestation, misery, anger, and a loss of self and a denial to the world of the uniquenesss only we can share at the very worst.
We have been taught falsely and ironically selfishly by outside institutions of many sorts to believe choosing and valuing our needs is hedonistic, wrong and, self-absorbed. Primarily we have accepted such a purported claim because their "marketing department" is skilled in the ways of psychology as they tap into our perceived need to be accepted - approved. However, the needs Rosenberg writes about are fundamental to valuing ourselves, and thus living a life of integrity.
"In fact, when we do things solely in the spirit of enhancing life [for others AND ourselves], we will find others appreciating us. Their appreciation, however, is only a feedback mechanism confirming that our efforts had the intended effect. The recognition that we have chosen to use our power to serve life and have done so successfully brings us the genuine joy of celebrating ourselves in a way that approval from others can never offer."
When we seek to live a life of choice, we contribute positively to the world, and that means contributing positively to others' lives, and the cycle continues forward as others choose to tap into their unique gifts and talents that contribute positively without expectations, simply out of joy of living the life we have the opportunity to live each day.
At the core, we are seeking joy, thus contentment, and both can only be found within.
To live a life out of obligation, guilt, to avoid pain, to avoid shame, may be seen as a survival mechanism, but don't we want to thrive? When we permit ourselves the freedom to fully seek joy in living - to fulfill our unique needs, it becomes far easier to stop the judgment, comparison, blame, criticism, insults, put-down, and labels. Why? Because we recognize each of these negative and unhelpful behaviors are reactions to living a life void of choice.
When we take responsibility for our lives, we take on a weighty task of exploration of our feelings and needs. For so long and in so many cultures, current and past, American and endless others, feelings have been equated to weakness. But human beings have feelings and when we acknowledge them in ourselves, it is far easier to observe them and communicate healthily and helpfully with others to deepen understanding and to discover empathy.
Rosenberg shares it is empathy that is often the missing ingredient in frayed relationships - not only an empathy to acknowledge fully and entirely what others are feeling, but to refrain from being empathetic to ourselves. What do we each need? Why do we feel pained after a conversation with a loved one we are "supposed" to have a relationship with? Why do we feel hurt and disconnected when we go about tasks we thought we chose of our own free-will? Everyone around us applauded when we made said decision, but why doesn't it feel right within ourselves? Each of these and many more feelings are what each of us needs to explore to determine how to live a life we love living. Choice is at the heart of living with true contentment, not obligation, not duty, not to avoid guilt, not to avoid punishment. Choose you and let others choose for themselves as well. The journey forward of both individuals will be unknown, but when lived by choosing the path will be fulfilling and full of respect and true love for ourselves and for those we have set free to be who they truly have always been.
~Read Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
—New episode of The Hookup Plan (Plan Coeur), Season 2 - The Lockdown Plan, episode #7
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #293
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~Note: Some links shared today are affiliates in which upon purchase TSLL receives a small commission. Everything shared on TSLL blog is shared because I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Sun, 1 November 2020
Books about happiness ubiquitously fill the publishing world, but the fundamentals of happiness quite simply are just that, simple. We become overwhelmed, and then it becomes easier to fixate, and often superficially so, which expends our finite energy rather than focusing our attention on the core fundamentals and choices of what happiness requires to be deeply and sincerely felt.
When the directions are wrong you will never see materialize what you desire.
Stop the pursuit. This is something I’ve discussed on the blog before, but I think it is worth exploring again. This time, I am going to explore more concretely the fundamental components of experiences real happiness, and much more of it in our everydays. Let's get to the seven truths below.
1.Discover a tune that is melodic for you
If you enjoy living your life, your everyday life, happiness is the result. Continually, here on TSLL, I have shared that contentment is the feeling we can have at all times. Happiness cannot be infinite 24-hours a day. Happiness is an outcome. Contentment is a state or way of traveling. I had it entirely wrong when I was younger, doodling “Be Happy” on my high school peechee folder while daydreaming in class. You cannot be happy constantly, but you can be content along the way to happy.
2. Spend time doing tasks that enable you to lose track of time
Getting lost in a project, exploring a new [enter a place/area of curiosity], resting your mind and being in a healthy way, these will divert your attention naturally away from checking the clock. And when you are thinking about what’s next, you are present. And when you are engaged fully in the present moment, you have more chances of being happy.
3. Sharing time with loved ones to simply be in each others’ company.
Giving your life space to be together, even if in silence, can be incredibly peaceful, supportive and loving. A contentment shared is happiness reached.
4. Not having existential worries because consciously you know your health, finances and basic needs are tended to
Through the choices we make, we can build the sound and stable foundation that will enable us to feel content in our everydays. Everyone will make choices which align uniquely with their journey which is why outsiders may define the choices we make to usher in more happiness for ourselves as sacrifices. However, a choice is not a sacrifice if it brings you closer and eventually to a way of living that brings you peace and contentment. It is when we achieve contentment that more happy moments can be experienced and savored.
5. Refraining from thinking at any time “when I achieve [enter goal]” or when [enter aupposed life milestone], then I can be happy.
Focusing only on the outcome and forgetting about how we travel to arrive at the destination is a recipe for unhappiness. However, if the travel does not involve contentment, the outcome you seek is not as likely. Why? It is when you enjoy the journey, when you can be yourself along the way, that the outcome is relinquished, thereby not putting so much pressure on the outcome to hold all the goodness. It is when we expect or assume that we step out of being present along the way, hurting ourselves and others along the way, and thus tainting the outcome so it can never be a source of real happiness if ever it is reached.
6. Find peace in how you travel through life
How you speak and think of yourself, how you engage with others - communication with words, body language, etc. - contentment is felt in our mode of travel, and no matter life’s circumstances, it can be constant. Sleeping well and deep and long is a mode of travel as it allows you to wake up with a clear mind, acting from a place of calm, clarity and full awareness. Taking breaks when our mind needs it, ending the ‘work’ part of our day when we can no longer be productive, eating well and slowing down to savor it, slowing down and refraining from default patterns of speech, being fully aware and listening, then thinking well about what we have heard before responding - each of these ideas and practices of day-to-day living are modes/ways of traveling that cultivate contentment as we move through our days.
~Book to explore: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg
7. Letting go of others’ maps for our lives
Certainly a courageous decision. A decision which is exceedingly difficult during the first and second chapter of our journey, but with time and support, the journey becomes easier and far more rewarding than any other direction would or could have offered.
All of this is to say that the key to happiness is to discover and cultivate contentment in our everydays so that the happiness deepens and more frequently can be fully observed, savored and appreciated.
~Please do tune to the audio version as each point above is discussed in much more depth.
Check out TSLL's first two books which discover the idea of cultivating a life of contentment that is uniquely your own.
~Book #1 (2014): Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide
~Sunset in the Blue by Melody Gardot (October 2020)
Sponsors for Today's Episode:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #292
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify