Tag Archives: Family

Goals, Goals, Everywhere Goals: Aiming for a Bigger Life

“The moment you put a deadline on your dream, it becomes a goal.” –Harsha Bhogle, The Winning Way 

Hello friend,

I have never been much of a goal-setter. Don’t get me wrong; I have always been a dreamer and driven to do great things in my life. I have taken risks and made sacrifices in my attempt to leave my mark on the world. But I have done all that without setting many specific goals. I can’t say why exactly. It just didn’t feel like me. Maybe it’s because I don’t like to feel contained, and goals can sometimes feel like fences to me. I have typically preferred to trust my intuition on how much of something I need, where I need to push, and where to pull back.

But in the last few years, as I have continued to examine my life in my journal and in these letters to you, I have had this creeping sense of disappointment and regret as it has become increasingly clear that I have failed to live up to all of those dreams and ambitions. Eventually, I was bound to ask myself why, and I have been slowly allowing those questions in. I wondered if maybe it was because I haven’t pushed myself hard enough and consistently enough to make the big strides I imagine myself capable of. But why? After all, I had the dreams. I had the drive. I began to wonder if maybe I just didn’t have the right plan. Maybe I needed a new method.

Enter Oola.

A couple of months ago, my sister, who is into self-help/personal growth books and always has her eyes open for things that can help her and her business grow, treated me to a new book that she had been raving about. It was called Oola: Find Balance In An Unbalanced World. In it, the authors, Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl, write about the importance of living in a way that is balanced and growing in all the major areas of life, what they call “The Seven F’s of Oola”: Fitness, Finance, Family, Field (career), Faith, Friends, and Fun. In my old Life Coaching classes, this resembled what is commonly referred to as “The Wheel of Life”.

I am always on the lookout for tips on doing LIFE better, so I plowed through the meat of the book, taken in by the stories of these two guys and how the seven aspects played out in their lives. I knew they grew up in my neck of the woods and were of a similar age, so I also wanted to glean some insight into how they became successful and which tips I might borrow for my own life.

A couple of weeks ago, as I approached the very last section of the book, I was thinking I wasn’t getting much that was soul-stirring or deeply inspirational out of it. I was eager to be done with it, hoping to find something a bit more life-changing from my next read.

But in those last pages was a challenge that would change the entire experience for me. Well, at least I hope it will.

Whenever someone tells me they read my weekly letters or that they read my book, I always want to know if they do more than read it. Do they write their own journal entry about the questions raised? Do they engage someone in a conversation about it? Do they at least take some time to ponder the issue and how it intersects with their own life? I tend to think that the only way to get anything out of my writing is to truly engage with it: to ponder, to discuss, and hopefully to write about it. I definitely hope that my words will be more than just read. Speaking as the sensitive author, I don’t feel like my work can be fairly judged unless you have done the deep diving.

So there I was, beginning to judge the Oola book, when it turned the tables on me. It asked of me what I ask of my readers: to get out my pen and dive deep into the way these “Seven F’s” could change my life. The only catch: I had to set goals. And not just a few, but twenty-one: three for each of the seven areas on the Oola Wheel.

What a predicament! Of course, the idea of setting twenty-one goals–specific, measurable type of goals–was immediately off-putting to my personality, so I was inclined to reject the challenge outright. But. (Oh, the BUT!) But it seemed like my integrity was on the line. How could I defend my own writing’s quality from people who didn’t fully engage it if I wasn’t willing to fully engage this book? That wouldn’t be right. And the other, bigger BUT. But how can I keep rejecting goal-setting if my usual, comfortable method of just going with my gut hasn’t gotten me where I want to be in life?

The writing was on the wall. It was time to get out of my comfort zone. And so it came to pass that I took my pretty-but-somewhat-blurry dreams and gave them some definition, some real numbers, some deadlines.

I made goals. Twenty-one of them. Here they are:

FITNESS

  1. Get my weight to 203 by December 31, 2018. (That is somewhere from 5-7 stubborn pounds to lose.)
  2. Do a full yoga practice at least once per week.
  3. Add rowing to at least one cardio workout every week.

FINANCE

  1. Make more money than we spend each month.
  2. Get a higher paying job with benefits.
  3. Put $250 into a vacation fund every month.

FAMILY

  1. Have one Family Game Night/Family Movie Night per week.
  2. Have one devoted couple activity (game, TV show, whatever) per week.
  3. Take the epic Montana Road Trip by the end of 2020.

FIELD

  1. Get a “real job” involving writing as soon as possible.
  2. Spend time every week writing my next book.
  3. Join my wife full-time in her new business by January 1, 2020.

FAITH

  1. Meditate 15 minutes per day.
  2. Take a weekly nature walk practicing mindfulness and gratitude.
  3. Develop a nightly gratitude “prayer” or practice.

FRIENDS

  1. Connect with Johnny in person at least once every two months.
  2. Engage one new person in conversation each week.
  3. Re-connect with one different old friend by letter or phone call each month.

FUN

  1. Become a regular tennis player again–once a week–in the warmer seasons.
  2. Write my second book–spend devoted time every week.
  3. Practice the guitar at least three times per week for at least 15 minutes.

Of these twenty-one, the Oola guys recommend that while you can keep all of them and work toward them, it is helpful to pull out your top seven that would make the biggest impact on your life right now (it doesn’t have to be one from each area). I chose these seven:

  1. Make more money than we spend every month.
  2. Get a “real job” involving writing as soon as possible. (I also chose this as my “OolaOne”, the single thing that would make the biggest immediate impact.).
  3. Meditate 15 minutes per day.
  4. Write my second book, devoting time every week.
  5. Practice my guitar at least three times per week, at least 15 minutes each.
  6. Have one devoted couple activity each week.
  7. Re-connect with one different old friend by letter or phone each month.

There they are! It was a grind for me, I fully admit, but even my fluid mind is sitting here appreciating how concrete they all look in their tidy lists with all the details included. It definitely helped to use the popular goal-setting method called S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, Time-based), as that kept me from being vague and slippery. These definitely feel more like the opening quote: like dreams with deadlines. Goals.

Having just finished the exercise, I can tell that all of the specifics are very new to me and my usual processing. My inner world is trembling a bit, no doubt. My cheese has been moved. But I can also see how this will be really, really good for me. That is, it will be really good if I follow this up with the appropriate action steps, like daily To-Do Lists filled with items that work directly toward those goals. I am excited, both to start achieving these goals and just to see my world through a new set of lenses. I think I needed it. No, I’m sure I did. Now that I have some goals, I am charged up and ready for action. I’m off to get my Oola on!

How about you? How do you do with goal-setting in your life? Open up your journal and examine the role of goals in your world. Do you have specific goals in your life right now? What are they? Are they far away things–like an advanced degree or retirement–or something you will accomplish within the next year? How aware of your goals are you on a day-to-day basis? Do you use them to guide your behavior on a normal day, or are they just something you check in with once in a while to see if life is generally heading in the right direction? How specific and measurable do you get in your goal-setting? Do you have exact dates and numbers in mind so you can be certain as to when the goals are reached? Do you have someone in your life who holds you accountable for your goals, or do you count on your own discipline to get you there? Would an accountability partner help? How realistic are your goals? Do you have a strong chance of reaching them? Do you gain confidence when you reach a goal, no matter how small? Whether or not you currently have goals or are aware of how balanced and growing your life is, does the concept of setting multiple goals in each area of your life appeal to you? Have you ever done something like this? So, go ahead. What are three goals you can make for yourself in each of the seven areas: health & fitness, money, family, career, faith/spirituality, friends, and hobbies/fun? In which area are goals easiest for you to make? In which area are you most likely to achieve your stated goals? In which area are you most likely to fail? Is systematic goal-setting foreign to you? How does it feel now doing it? Does it make you more eager to make a plan to achieve them? If you had to choose one goal to pursue that would make the biggest impact on your life right now, which one would it be? Are you willing to commit to that? What small steps can you take today to move in that direction? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which goals can you set to move yourself in the direction of your best life?

Go get it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you today, please share it on social media. Let’s go after our dreams together!

P.S.S. My new book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering the Beauty That Is Your Truth, is available in paperback and ebook formats from many retailers. To get yours on Amazon, go to http://www.amazon.com/author/williamrutten Thank you for your support!

Grading Your Year: A Personal Report Card for 2017

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Hello friend,

The year 2017, as told through the screens on my phone, tablet, computer, and television, was just about the most absurd, infuriating, and demoralizing year imaginable. I had the feeling so often this year that, if we were being studied from afar by alien scientists, they would report that we are clearly devolving as a species, degenerating into a lower state of intellectual and moral being. I suppose there are plenty of “Year in Review” types of shows airing this week, but I don’t even dare to watch. I don’t much care to relive anything that people were talking about this year. It was pretty darn awful out there. I fear that if I admit to just how awful or try to delve into it, I will make for a most depressing companion at the New Year’s festivities. No, I think I will pass on assessing the great big world this year.

But how about my personal year in my little corner of the world?

That doesn’t seem nearly as depressing or daunting a task. After all, as I sit here in these final moments of the year, I still have a smile on my face and a mind eager enough to learn and grow from the lessons this year has provided. It helps, I know, that I process it every day in my journal, so I have some sense of how my report card will come out–I guess I can sense it was not all rainbows and butterflies, but I know it was one I would not trade, either–but I am open to being surprised by my assessment of the various aspects of my existence and how they were shaped by the events of 2017.

Hindsight has a way of casting a new light on things, dusting off some of the emotions and baggage of the moment and revealing its true essence and its value in the grand scheme of our lives. I think I am due for some of that clarity after what has been a most unusual year in the History of Me.

So, how did I do?

Well, maybe it is healthy to admit to a failure right from the start. I know I deserve an “F” in the Finances/Career departments. I was horrible at that from start to finish, truly. Starting the year out having just lost my job last Christmas was certainly a harbinger of things to come. I struggled to find my way all year into something that both paid the bills and met my family’s other needs. Though I have tried to maintain my general positivity and my big picture perspective through it all, I admit to falling into moments of shame, frustration, and disillusionment regarding my aspirations and failings on this front as the year passed. I have chastised myself for both my failings as a breadwinner and my weakness in allowing those failings too much control over my emotions. So, definitely an “F” here.

Another thing I did not do very well with is my Friendships. It is true that as an unsocial and introverted cat, this has never been my strong suit. So, it isn’t as though I had a very high standard from which to judge myself. However, I found myself thinking more and more as the year went on that this is an area I want to do better with: both in making new friends and in staying well-connected with my old friends. Truth: I didn’t do very well with either. I am most disappointed in myself for doing a poor job of keeping up with my best friends, letting too long pass between visits and calls. Maybe a “D” here. Not good.

Okay, this report card is not looking so good at this point! I must have done something well….

How about Family? Yes, the family stuff was quite good this year on the whole. Though I again did poorly with calling my siblings and parents, I made a bigger effort to travel to spend time with them. That was immensely rewarding, both for me and for the children. Speaking of the children, the one thing I think I do consistently well is fatherhood. That was the case this year; we have had a great time, and my relationship with each kid is strong and loving. I wish I could say I did as well as a spouse, but I consistently fail to live up to my expectations there. Still, I have had fun with my wife and have tried to be supportive while enjoying watching her grow and blossom in her new endeavors. All in all, a good score here (let’s say “B+”).

As for my Health, I am grateful to say that I would give that a “B”. There are reminders everywhere of how dramatically one’s quality of life diminishes when health problems arise, so I feel quite blessed that my issues this year have been small. I have had little nagging injuries that have kept me from some activities, but no injury has shut me down entirely. As a guy who needs to be active to remain sane, I will take that as a blessing.

Looking back, I realize that I did not do quite as well as usual with my Spirituality, which also dictates my Psychology. I seemed to be less mindful during the day, less aware of the beauty and wonder of the Divine all around me. With that, I was somewhat less grateful than normal, having fewer of those bowled-over-and-humbled-by-the-absolute-magnificence-of-the-Universe moments than I am accustomed to. I have long believed that Gratitude is the mother of Happiness, so maybe I was a bit less happy this year than my usual state of Bliss. I can make lots of excuses for this distraction from my spiritual home base–joblessness, financial strain, self-induced pressure to finish my book, etc.–but the fact is that it is under my control, and I did not live up to my high standards this year. I would say “B-“.

As someone who spent all of his school years as a “Straight-A” kind of guy, these grades for 2017 are not looking very good to me. There is a ton of room for improvement! And though I am definitely disappointed in myself on multiple fronts, there is something that sneaked into the picture late in the year that softens the blow and even puts a smile on my face.

Is there a spot on the report card for “Fulfilled a Lifelong Dream”? If so, I want to give myself an “A” there. While I had worked on it for years, it was only in this year when I truly devoted my focus to not just working on the book but finishing it. It had been my biggest goal when 2017 started, and I felt the weight of that as Autumn came. The clock ticked loudly every day, and fears and doubts screamed at equal volume. But I reminded myself that, coming into the year, the way I said I wanted to feel all year was BRAVE. On I went. Then, finally, it was done.

Of course, there was relief for being finally finished, and there was excitement about seeing my creation out in the world. But the best part was the feeling it gave me way down deep inside, in a place that I would venture to call my soul. I guess I would describe it as feeling “solid” there, like a deep confidence at having done something substantial toward my life purpose. My foundation was cemented. That is quite a feeling. I hope that you will feel it one day if you have not yet. It will change your world.

I know that this effort and its incalculable reward came at the cost of some of those low grades in the other categories. And though I certainly wish they weren’t so low–I like to have my cake and eat it, too–I have to admit that, in the end, doing the work of my soul and cementing a foundation piece of my purpose made all the sacrifices worth it.

2017 was obviously not the year in which I sparkled across the board. It was, however, the year that I built a lighthouse, one that will keep on shining, providing me with a guide during the many storms that the coming years are sure to bring. I am at peace with the sacrifice and grateful for the light. Bring on 2018!

How about you? How would you grade your 2017? Open up your journal and ponder all of the various aspects of your life over the last year. Even before you dissect each one, how do you feel, generally speaking, as you sit here at the end of your year? Satisfied? Relieved? Stressed? Elated? Indifferent? If you had to describe your year in a word, what would it be? Okay, now look at the different areas of your life and build your report card. You can just go category by category, or you can start with all the good or all the bad. How was 2017 for your job and career path? Closely related to that, how was it for your finances? Better or worse than your expectations? Why? Did it have more to do with things under your control or out of your control? Did you remember that you are in charge of your attitude no matter what the circumstances were? How well did you choose that attitude? Okay, how about your friendships? Were you as good a friend as you want to be? Where can you do better? How about family? How happy were you with your relatives this year? Did you strike the right balance of time with them: enough to deepen your bonds, not so much to drive yourself crazy? How was your health and fitness this year? Did your body hold you back from doing things that you wanted to do? What grade would you give your spiritual life this year? How about your psychological state? Were you grateful? Did you feel connected? How much awe did you experience? Okay, big picture: how does your report card look? Do your scores in those main categories make it seem like a good year, or not so much? Now consider this: was there something else–some bigger event or accomplishment–that overshadowed the main categories and colored your view of the year, either for the good or the bad? Perhaps it was a major personal achievement that brightens the rest–like me with my book–or perhaps it is something like the death of a loved one, which darkens the rest. Now that you have considered the categories and graded your year in each, what grade would you give the year as a whole? Was it twelve months that you would gladly relive, or are you eager to move on? Leave me a reply and let me know: How does your report card for 2017 look?

Make each moment count,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it. Let’s make LIFE together!

P.P.S. You can find my new book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at http://www.amazon.com/author/williamrutten and many of your other favorite booksellers, including barnesandnoble.com and iBooks.

The Happy Place: Where are your fondest memories?

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” –John Banville, The Sea

Hello friend,

Have you ever had that day when your whole system is simply flooded with memories? You know the day: when every turn of your head reveals yet another precious ghost from a golden time in your life. Have you had that day? I had it just last week.   I think I am still floating there.

My Dad’s birthday was coming, and it just happened to coincide with my kids having a couple of days off of school. So, my siblings and I decided to make the most and venture back to our hometown and the house where we all grew up to celebrate my old man and bask in that rare and precious gift that is time together.

After school on Wednesday, my kids and I loaded up the car and headed across the endless prairie, finally turning into the old cul-de-sac in the midnight hour. We awoke in the morning to the sun shining and the sound of my nieces and nephew playing. It was going to be that kind of a day.

Amidst the morning hum of excitement of all the little ones being together, my sister was the one who instigated the nostalgia-filled day by plopping down on the floor in the middle of the great room with several boxes of old pictures from our own childhood days, when we were the age that our kids are now. Of course, I was sucked in immediately.

The first thing that jumped out at me from the photos was all of the physical things—the changes to my house, my neighborhood, and the people in the photos.

I marveled at the vegetation! When we built the house when I was three, the neighborhood was new and bordered farmland. We had a big yard with a wide parkland behind it between us and the next “addition” of our neighborhood, with a series of ponds connected by a stream splitting the grassy expanse. We had so much space to play! One year we turned the parkland into a multi-hole golf course. The photos showed me why: it was so bare and treeless when I was a kid, both my yard and the park. The pond directly behind my backyard was wide open for us to swim or skate, depending upon the season. Now it is socked in with cattails and lined with trees on one side. Our long, flat yard was the home of most neighborhood games, and the football endzones were between two trees on one end (a bird bath and a tree at the other). Now those trees span the entire width, leaving no room to throw the ball through. Those photos brought it all back, though: the golf, the swimming, the skating, the daily games of football or Capture the Flag or Kick the Can, and the view across the park to my buddy Red’s house, just a quick run across the old red bridge that no longer exists. So many vivid images, so many smiles.

I had a good laugh at how my house—I still call it my house—has changed through the years of photos, too. The linoleum floor made to look like bricks in the kitchen. The spectacular red carpets and wallpaper (so much wallpaper!). The gold sofa that lived for generations in different rooms. The original microwave (which we saved and actually had to use on this trip when the modern one broke!).

Of course, all of the changes in the people and the blasts from the past kept a grin plastered across my face the entire time. There was “the ugly phase” that we all took a turn at, usually in early adolescence. There were the mullets, the wonky glasses, the splendidly awful fashion choices. We did it all!   And there were all of the old friends and cousins, most of whom I have not seen in decades but all whose photos made me smile and laugh. You know, like the shots of my birthday parties, where we would always have the challenge to eat all of our cake—angel food with raspberry sauce–and ice cream without hands.

I messaged a couple of the photos to a few of the old friends, but mostly I lamented that I have lost touch with almost everyone. Still, I was reminded of what a glorious childhood I had, filled with amazing friends and so much family. There in the house that I grew up in—the center of the Universe, it seemed as a kid—those photos had nostalgia coursing through my veins by mid-morning.

I got up from the photos to venture out to the yard to enjoy the children. They had already hooked up with the kids next door—nieces to the very kids I grew up with—and were playing kickball in the yard where I played so many neighborhood baseball games when I was their age. I grabbed my daughter and walked her over to show her the dry stream bed that I crossed every Summer day to get to the tennis courts that were always my happy place. I was a little emotional sharing the memory with her. How do you adequately convey to someone that they are walking right in the footprints of your happiness?

After lunch, we all walked on the road over to those tennis courts. On the way, my sister and I marveled at “the big hill” of our neighborhood, the one that was so big and daunting that we dreaded the thought of climbing it and usually ended up pushing our bikes up. It reminded me of the time when a neighbor kid and I sat sideways on our skateboards with our feet on the other guy’s board and rode down that hill in what I was sure would be the most dangerous feat of my lifetime. My sister and I laughed at how tame that little rise looks now. Perspective.

We arrived at the tennis courts, the site of so many memories and countless hours. Each Summer day, my brothers, neighbor boys, and I would cross the stream and play for hours and hours. I remember nights playing until it was so dark that we couldn’t see the ball until it almost hit us in the face. I thought of all the battles we had. I thought of old Mrs. Wade, who lived across from the courts, hanging out in her garden just in case anyone swore. I laughed at the thought of the Ovind boys, a couple of older, hockey-playing brothers from the other side of the neighborhood who would show up once in a while with their racquets and shout swear words and insults at each other all the way through their grudge match, drawing the ire of old Mrs. Wade. Ha!

I remember meeting another little kid from the other side of the neighborhood there one day. He had called me to arrange a match, and when he showed up, he had the fanciest racquets I had ever seen. I was in awe, as I had just graduated from my wooden racquet to my Mom’s metal one, and his were “boron” (the equivalent of gold, as far as I knew). He talked like he was a pro, too, since he played in real tournaments already. I was completely intimidated by his wealth and experience. Still, I kicked his butt, and he acted like a spoiled brat the whole time, throwing his racquets and screaming enough to get Mrs. Wade outside for a warning glare. I would never have believed that that same punk, about a dozen years later, would become my best friend for life. Life is so weird! Beautiful, but so very weird.

That tennis court is grown over with weeds now, and the neighborhood has built a playground on half of it. Still, the fences are there, and as I sat there on the bench looking out across the old court (and on to Mrs. Wade’s house—she is still there!), I was nearly overwhelmed by all that was flooding my heart and mind. How does a kid from frigid, windswept North Dakota find his home on a tennis court? Sitting there last week, I was so wildly grateful that I did. I was on the verge of tears, but for some reason I laughed instead. Happy tears.

Though it was late in Autumn, the day was unusually warm, giving me the rare gift of a flood of Summertime memories. I don’t get back to my hometown in the Summer anymore—usually just Christmas—so perhaps the avalanche of memories was due to a backlog of Summer images just waiting to be released. Whatever the case, I loved it.

We picked some apples at an old family friend’s house by the tennis courts, then walked home and played basketball in the cul-de-sac where I learned to ride a bike (and later broke my arm falling off a bike while trying a foolish trick).

It was still a balmy, glorious late afternoon when I escaped the crowd and set up my portable hammock in the corner of the backyard, hitched to the tree that marked a corner of the old endzone, the spot of my very first career dreams: the future John Stallworth or Lynn Swann for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As I lay there and tried to write in my journal, I kept being distracted by my surroundings. Literally everywhere I turned, a new wellspring of memories flooded my system. I could name who once lived in every house across the park, all the games I had played in the backyard, all the times I had thud-thudded across that old red bridge with my sleeping bag under my arm on the way to Red’s house for a sleepover.

Everything. I remembered it all.

“I have so many emotions swimming around inside of me,” I wrote that afternoon. “It feels that way, too, like my stomach is being used as a pool and the memories and emotions are literally swimming around in there. It is all a lot to process. It knocks me off-center a bit.”

I suppose it is good to be shaken in that way from time to time. As often as I dispense advice about being present and living in the moment, I realize that some of best present moments involve looking back at past moments and having a good belly laugh or a contented grin. Maybe even a good cry.

So I let myself swim. I admit: I am hopelessly nostalgic when the moment sneaks up on me. Often, the memories come to me unbidden, usually when something in a journal entry sparks a happy thought. What I learned last week, though, was that to get the full effect, to be truly flooded with the memory, I need to go to the source. I am just grateful I still have a room there!

How about you? Which places in your world spark the fondest memories? Open up your journal and wander through the settings of your life story. Which spots hold the most memories for you? Your childhood home? A grandparent’s house? Your school? A Summer camp or lake cabin? A park or sports field or theatre where you spent lots of time? A workplace? A vacation spot? A whole town? What about those places draws out so many memories? Is it just that you spent a lot of time there, or was it something special that you did there or the special people attached to the memories? Do your best memories come from the place you spent the most time? Who are the people in your favorite memories? Are they still in your life or just in your memory? How about the place itself? Is the place of your favorite memories a place that you can still return to? When was the last time you were there? When you are there, do the memories come flooding back to you in an overwhelming way? Do you try to take it all in and let it affect you? How nostalgic are you? How much effort do you make to visit places that hold good memories for you? Is there one place in particular that you have never been back to that you would most like to visit again simply for the rekindling of memories? Are you good at going places in your mind and feeling the full effect, or do you need to really be there to relive your best memories well? Leave me a reply and let me know: Where is the place of your favorite memories?

Light up the place where you are,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it. And share your memories. Tell your story. It is the best way I know to build bridges across difference.

The Best Day Of Summer

“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.” –Maya Angelou

Hello friend,

This week’s Back-To-School photos on Facebook marked the first sign of the end of my favorite season. Though I am always tickled to see all of those smiling faces looking so much older than the same photos last year, mostly I hate the accompanying thought that my precious days of Summer Bliss are almost gone.

But, since my kids don’t start until after Labor Day, I try to remain in denial. There are still a handful of “Summer things” I hope to do with them, and in my mind, there is still time to make it happen. Honestly, though, I can feel the tick-ticking of the Summer clock winding down and, with it, a rise in my panic level.

It is tough to keep the anxious thoughts at bay: Were we at the lake enough? Did we do enough new stuff? Did we see enough family? Have we had enough adventures? Did we get enough exercise? Have we done enough quintessentially Summer things, like swaying in the hammock or roasting marshmallows? Have we connected enough with Mother Nature? Have we connected enough with each other?  

But the question that intrudes most into my consciousness as my season closes is this: Did I often enough feel that combination of true Bliss and Gratitude that comes in those magical moments that cause me to note, with a smile plastered across my face, “THIS is what it’s all about!”?  

Luckily, just as the panic of that question was about to set in, I happened to stumble upon a WHOLE DAY like that last weekend, just in time to improve my grades on Summer’s report card. It is amazing how one day can transform a world!

We had driven to my sister’s family cabin late Thursday, arriving amidst a cold, howling wind in the black of a backwoods night. Hoping for a hot Summer weekend at the lake, prospects were not looking good when Friday remained dark and windy. I used the day to get my bearings, catch up with my sister, and find the most comfortable spots to read and write. It was good company and a treat to be by the water, but I longed to engage with it they way I can only do in warmth and sunshine. I was wanting.

Ah, but then Saturday came around, and I wanted no more.

I opened the bedroom door in the morning and was greeted by the most wonderful light. My sister’s cabin has wall-to-wall windows on the lake side, and that light was an almost overwhelming beauty each morning. Like stepping into a healing bath of Divine Grace. I was instantly happy and full of a Peace that would linger all the day through.

After an amazing breakfast of homemade waffles with vanilla pudding and raspberries on top—trust me, this little family recipe of my brother-in-law’s is a delight—I convinced my wife to go out on the double kayak with me. Not much of an outdoor adventurer or risk-taker by nature, my wife’s acceptance of such an invitation was a treat all by itself. And when we got out on the calm lake with nothing but blue sky above us and the pine trees towering over the little cabins on all horizons, I was blissfully in my element. They only allow motorized wakes on their lake between eleven and three, so the quiet of the morning only amplified the beauty and serenity of the scene. As we paddled around the perimeter of the little lake, I noticed my grin and the sense of abundance and contentment welling up inside me. I was already oozing gratitude.

By the time we returned from our kayak ride, the sun was just warm enough to call for a swim, and my son was waiting for me on the shore so we could go together. He did flips and tricks off my shoulders, alternating turns with his cousins jumping off me into the refreshing water. Soon it was eleven o’clock, and the kids were ready to tube. I watched and took pictures from the boat as they giggled their way around the lake at top speed. I remembered the bonds I made at their age playing with my own cousins at a different lake, and how fondly I still remember those days and those special people. I was so pleased to be passing on that priceless gift to my kids.

After lunch on the balcony overlooking the lake, I got to get back in the water to help my daughter learn how to waterski, which again brought back so many memories of my youth. Some technical difficulties caused us to abandon the job, but since I was already wet, I joined the kids on their next tube ride around the lake. Though I am probably “too old” for that sort of thing, the exhilaration of the speed—and the crash–was an unadulterated joy for my still-young heart.

Following tubing and the noise of all of the ski boats, I was relieved at the quiet of mid-afternoon. I grabbed a floaty from the boathouse and floated lazily as I watched the kids play Whiffle-ball on the beach. Then I hopped on a single kayak and paddled out to watch a little sailboat race in the middle of the lake. On such a small lake, with all of the boats parked in the middle watching the sails gliding smoothly across the water, it felt like a regular small-town gathering. So intimate and quaint. I felt completely at ease. No threats, no worries. Just peace.

Riding the serenity of my solo kayak voyage, I came ashore to find the kids eager to get back in the water. With quiet hours in full swing on the lake, they opted for “slow tubing,” a delightful little cruise around the lake, with the pontoon dragging the tube and a knee board on separate ropes. The kids dove off the tube and board at their whim and hung onto the rope as we chugged along at a snail’s pace. They were having an absolute blast as we chatted on the boat, and soon I was feeling like they were getting the better of the deal. Off came my shirt and sunglasses, and I dove in to join in the kid fun as the boat trolled on. It was fantastic—exhilarating and soothing all at once.

As we pulled into the dock, my kids asked me if I would take them out on the double kayak. Nothing would please me more, I was thinking. Off we went, and soon their cousins joined us in the middle on two kid kayaks. It was that time of day when the sun is sinking and everything is colored in the most beautiful light. There was water, the beauty of Mother Nature, and the magic of children. That is my kind of paradise!

We returned to the cabin for a sunset dinner on the veranda before strolling down to the fire pit by the beach to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Those marshmallows had been waiting too long on my Summer To-Do List, and they were heavenly!

That was all warm-up, though, for the grand finale: star-gazing! This may seem like nothing to you, but I can’t tell you how long it has been since I sat out under a clear sky at night away from the lights of a city. Years! I was absolutely mesmerized by the clarity and endlessness of it. Even better was seeing my kids get a big thrill at seeing the Big Dipper and North Star. We were thoroughly amazed by the magnificence of it all.

Though it was definitely bedtime for my body, my mind was on fire with wonder and gratitude. I hated to look away from the night sky. But as I said goodnight to the kids and lay my head down on my pillow, the visions left over in my mind from all I had basked in that day were enough to carry me smiling into dreamland.

From the moment I rose in the morning to the moment I drifted off to sleep, that day was one for the ages. There was no one thing that made it so. It definitely wasn’t some blockbuster event or moment. No, it was a million little things. It was all these perfect, can’t-stop-grinning moments in succession set in my kind of place with my kind of people. It was the small size of the lake, its restricted speed boat hours, and the resulting intimacy that made everything feel so quaint and low-key. It was the middle-of-nowhere sense of where we were, and the feeling of endless beautiful forest around us. Reinforcing that feeling was the fact that we had no cellular or Wifi service, so we were totally disconnected from the chaos and foolishness that defines America lately. It was certainly the water, which always woos me. It was the company: my wife and kids and my sister’s family, all who are very dear to me and don’t do much to push my many buttons. It was also clearly the atmosphere that my sister sets at her place, too: no set schedule or expectations for joining activities, easy meals, no obsession with neatness, just be kind and enjoy yourself. It was seeing the world of my wife and kids expand: new place, new activities, a new adventure. I always love being a part of that. It was nostalgia. And finally, it was that priceless and indescribable sense of enchantment I experience amidst certain settings or activities: the glassy water, the night sky, campfire, eating a roasted marshmallow right off the stick. These are things that fill me with the kind of tingles that I can only translate as a big thumbs-up from my soul, letting me know it is being taken care of.

Saturday felt like an entire day of those tingles. I think of it now, and this grin that cannot be wiped from my face tells me that it was surely my best day of the Summer.

How about you? What was your best day of the Summer? Open up your journal and your mind and walk yourself through those special moments. Which day was it? Does the exact date come immediately to mind? What was it about that day that makes it stand out from all the rest? Was it anchored by a big event (e.g. a concert, family reunion, vacation, or party) that defined the day, or was it quite unspectacular on the surface? Which people were involved in your best day? Are those people regulars in your list of favorite days from other seasons and years? Was it the people that made it the best day? Had you looked forward to that specific day for a long time, or did it sneak up on you like mine did? How early in the day did you know that you were a part of something special? How big of a role did the setting play? Was it a regular spot for you (e.g. your home) or somewhere new? Did food play a role? How about activity? Was it more about what you were doing or how you were feeling or being? How do you think the day rated for the other people who were involved in it? Was it fantastic for everyone, or maybe just an ordinary day for some? Did you talk about how contented or joyous you were at the time, or did you keep it to yourself? Could you create that same type of experience again, or was this a one-shot deal for which everything just fell into place perfectly? What is it about that day that you could put more of into your normal days? Does your best day make you smile just thinking about it? I hope so. Leave me a reply and let me know: What was your best day of the Summer?

Savor your moments,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please pass it on. Let’s celebrate our lives!

From Gripes to Grapes: Finding Your Way to THANKFUL

IMG_1667“Be thankful for every mountain, because it is the mountain top that will give you the best view of the world.” –Gugu Mona

Hello friend,

Last Sunday at my spiritual gathering, the minister explained that the collection for the day would go entirely to the refugee family that our congregation is sponsoring and who will be arriving in a couple of weeks. We were also collecting household goods—beds, sheets, lamps, cleaning supplies, etc.—to get them started on their new life in America. Well, one person in my row was paying attention to the minister.   So, when the basket was passed around, I pulled out my wallet and grabbed more than I usually do. My wife looked over, her eyes got big, and she whispered, “Whoa! Big spender!” I whispered back my defense: “It’s for the refugees.” An “Ahh” and a look of recognition appeared, followed by a nod of approval and a thumbs-up.   In that moment, I suddenly felt so grateful for something that usually has me either worrying or complaining: my bank account.

You see, as I alluded to in my letter to you a few weeks ago (see “How Much Is ENOUGH?”), I tend to be gripped by dread and insecurity each time I open my wallet. I hate spending money, and wish I had more of it so I wouldn’t be so obsessed by it (at least that’s how I explain away my worries and stinginess). So why was I suddenly feeling grateful for the money in my wallet and so willing to part with it?

Because I realized that I have a lot more of it than the entire refugee family has, and I actually have a bank account to fill my wallet up again when it goes empty. And in that moment, I realized that that was called good fortune.

In this time called Thanksgiving, I think I am usually like most people: I take a moment to give thanks for my family and friends, my health, clean water, a roof over my head, and warm food in my belly. Those thoughts humble me, and they connect me back to my Creator and what is really important in this world. I love Thanksgiving for just that reason: the humble reminder.

But as I thought about my sudden burst of gratitude concerning my old nemesis, money, something struck me about my usual Thanksgiving moment of gratitude: I am letting myself off easy.

Think about it. How about much work does it take to be grateful—on a day that we get to take off of work for the specific purpose of giving thanks for our blessings—for the things that are so obviously good in your life?

That’s why the money incident got my attention. Money is just not something I am used to being overwhelmed with gratitude for, or believing I have in such abundance that I should always be feeling grateful for. I really should, though, because I realize now that I do, indeed, have enough.

But I don’t always feel grateful. Instead, I worry. I gripe. I clamor for more. I get a little bitter. Those aren’t good feelings. I don’t want more of them.

I truly enjoyed the experience of feeling grateful for the money I have and that I could give some away. Of course, I am a big fan of an unexpected joy and a boost of gratitude. So, I started thinking of the other things I am most hung-up about in my little corner of the world. You know, the things I tend to complain about, fear, or be depressed by. These last couple of days, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can change those downers into things I can be grateful for. I’ve come up with a few ideas.

I am not a Winter person. I never have been. I don’t like the cold. I don’t like shoveling snow. I don’t like the consuming darkness. And I despise the inconvenience of putting on so many clothes before leaving the house. It’s just not me. I’m a Summer guy. So, as these cold, dark days have been descending upon me following a lovely Autumn, my tendency is to get the grumbles. Misery loves company, and there are people everywhere I go who are willing to complain about Winter if I give them a little nudge. But today, I am flipping the script. Today I am focusing on the fact that the cold, dark days of Winter are usually the time when I get my most and best writing done. Of course, I love that. So, come on, Winter! I am already grateful for you!

One nice thing about this process is that I am realizing that I don’t have a lot that I consistently complain about, no anchor in my life that always brings me down. I am grateful for that all by itself.

I have to admit, though, that I have been carrying around a weight of sadness since the election, and even in the months leading up to it, as I watched my country be revealed as a place I had been blindly hoping it was not. I confess to a silent resentment toward my many family members who voted for this person whose success translates into other members of my family and my friends living in greater fear for their physical safety and the potential loss of their civil rights. I have had a terrible time reconciling that. I don’t want to feel that anger toward these people that I love. So, today I am trying (with all my might) to let that resentment go. I am deciding to focus on the fact that they are otherwise loving, decent people who have always treated us, on a one-to-one basis, very kindly. I am grateful for that, and I will keep working hard to focus on that kindness.

On a less personal and more broad scale, I have been fairly devastated by what has felt like the loss of the country I thought I had been living in. Though I had been dispirited by the entire year-and-a-half Presidential campaign and its recurring themes of racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance, I was somehow still hopeful that my fellow countrymen would, when they and their consciences stepped into the voting booths together, make a bold and decisive stand against that brand of ignorance.

Of course, my optimism was shown to be shockingly misguided. My psyche has been ravaged as I have watched the ensuing expressions of hate in our schools and streets, as well as the celebrations by white nationalist and white supremacist groups about the election results and the Cabinet appointments that have followed. I have listened to my loved ones who aren’t straight, white, Christian, American-born males express their fears and share the bad experiences they have had due to their identities. I’ve been feeling so stupid because I believed something about my country that turned out to be untrue, and then I have felt sick about the truth. I have to be honest: as a guy who tries to practice and preach Gratitude and always searches for the silver lining, I have had a hard time finding it on this topic these last couple of weeks.

But then I was standing in my kitchen on Thursday evening, looking out over the Thanksgiving meal being enjoyed at my dining table and family room sofas by a small gathering of friends and family members. There was lots of laughter, but there were also interesting discussions about a wide range of topics, including faith and social issues. After listening to some specifics in the few small groups, I pulled my view back a bit further and saw something different, something that changed me.

Here in this one room in my home was a microcosm of the America I had believed in just a few weeks ago. There were white people, Christian people, straight people, able-bodied people, American-born people, and male people, of course. But there were also black people, multiracial people, Muslim people, nonreligious people, gay people, disabled people, immigrant people, and female people. They were just enjoying each other and strengthening the bonds of community and humanity by learning more about one another. It was a little, one-room Utopia.

So, despite all of the legitimate fear and worry that these people feel with the recent election results, and despite how down I have been about living in a country that voted for this fear by voting in the intolerance and bigotry that causes it, my table reminds me that I can still do something about it. That we can still do something about it. It may become more difficult in the next few years, and we may be doing a lot more comforting in our gatherings than we would like. But if we are intentional, and if we keep Love at the forefront, we will not be broken by this setback. The arc of the Universe inevitably bends forward, toward progress. It is not always linear, but the long course of history shows it to be steady. I am thankful that the people who gather at my table just as they are—as equals—will be the keepers of the flame, the ones insisting on progress despite formidable obstacles in our path. I am so, so thankful for that.

And I needed the reminder.

How about you? What are the things in your life that you usually complain about or that drag you down that you are willing to try to turn into things you can be grateful for? Open up your journal and peruse your pattern of thoughts. What do you complain about? Is it big stuff or small stuff? Is it worthy of your effort it takes to complain? What is the stuff that annoys you but that you hold your tongue about? What kinds of things really depress you or otherwise drag you down? Do your issues tend to be constant or recurring things—like money or Winter—or unique issues that come up once, like an election? Pick an issue. What can you do today to change your mind about that issue to the point that you are grateful for its existence? Try that question with progressively bigger hang-ups, going as deep as you can with each to come up with something positive about them that you can be thankful for. How hard is this for you? I think it is easier sometimes to imagine how you will see these “problems” twenty years from now, because from that point-of-view you might be able to see how these issues were actually blessings helping you get to where you need to go. But maybe not. Do you have anything that you absolutely cannot spin in a grateful direction? Is that due to a lack of imagination or effort on your part, or is it just so dark and bad that there is no lens from which to look at it and find something to be grateful for? Does this quest for gratitude make you feel better and help you to see light where you didn’t before? Is this a natural habit for you or something you need much more work to develop? Leave me a reply and let me know: Can you find your way to THANKFUL? 

You are a gift,

William

P.S. If today’s letter helped you to move toward an attitude of gratitude, or if something else resonated with you, please share it. Gratitude is worth spreading!

This Is NOT an Election Article!

dsc_0566“Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It’s a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.” –Sarah Dessen

Hello friend,

Imagine a group of college-age friends who grew up together. They are all figuring out what their path in life is. Nearly all of them, of course, are going the conventional routes: business, teaching, medicine, technology, trades, and the like. They want to be respectable, earning members of the workforce until they retire. Generally speaking, you would say they are a group of very stable people.

There are two outliers in their group, though. One friend has decided that she wants to follow her passion for the arts and become a painter. She’s not exactly sure how she will make it work financially, but she is a dreamer and has faith it will work out. The other friend has decided he is going to become an estate lawyer and make a fortune scamming old people out of their money. His goal is to make money, and he doesn’t care about the human cost.

How, then, does their stable group of friends react to these two who are straying from the conventional path?

As for the artist/dreamer, they are concerned for her but don’t dislike or distrust her for her decision. They dismiss her, in a way, as being too whimsical, not sensible enough, foolish for choosing the unstable path. They warn her about the starving artist lifestyle she is choosing, reminding her that she will be without health insurance or a 401K plan. The stable crew feels a little bad for their artist friend, even, as she “just doesn’t get it” and “lives in a fantasyland.” Her heart is in the right place, though, so they don’t dislike her. But they also don’t take her seriously and are relieved there aren’t lots more like her. She is a bit dangerous to their stability. Lovable, but dangerous.

The scamming lawyer, on the other hand, is now viewed by the friends as dangerous but unlovable. It is clear that his heart is not in the right place. A moral failing has entered the picture, and their sensibilities are offended by that. They are disappointed. They realize they can no longer trust him the way they thought they could. A wall has gone up in their relationship, one that is probably too steep to climb in order to build that relationship back to whole again.

The artist’s flaw, according to the group, is that she feels too much, she lets her heart guide her. The lawyer’s flaw is that he is heartless, callous. The artist can be forgiven for veering off the path of the rest of the group, but the lawyer cannot.

You are probably wondering why in the world I am having you think about these people. Well, lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about the individual people in my life, how I interact with each, and whether they seem more like someone who I want closer to me or someone who I need to distance myself from. I am oversensitive to just about everything, but especially to the prospect of spending time with people I think poorly of. I am repulsed by that and have left jobs and relationships because of it.

With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we have this magical way of reconnecting and staying in touch with so many more people than ever before. People from your past—high school and college friends, former colleagues—and even people whom you have never met in person. You can actually learn a lot about some of them. Sometimes more than you want to.

As you well know, it is political season. And while many of the people I know–whether intimately, in person, or online–tend to reveal little to nothing about their political views, there are certainly others who really put themselves out there for their candidate or cause. They reveal their positions on some topics that truly matter to me. That’s where it can get uncomfortable.

As I have watched other people’s interactions and tried to understand my own reactions to people on the other end of the political spectrum from me—I am quite liberal on just about all of the big topics—I see patterns emerging. So, I am developing my own pet theory on how a relationship between a liberal person and a conservative person plays out when their views are made known to the other. (Keep in mind that I am well aware that the people of the world hold a zillion varieties of viewpoints, and that the liberal and conservative in my theory are, by necessity, caricatured people that are to the far left and far right, respectively.) Check this out and be ready to help me tinker with my theory by sharing your personal pattern of reactions.

Remember the artist/dreamer of the friend group? Well, in my developing theory, the way the group viewed the artist is the way my conservative character views my liberal character. He (the conservative) sees her (the liberal’s) flaw as her “bleeding heart,” always thinking the government should help everyone and right wrongs. In his eyes, she is leading with her heart, which is foolish and impractical, because of course we can’t foot the bill for other people’s problems. Her insistence that we can is more annoying than anything. But at least her heart is in the right place, so he can’t despise her for that. He tolerates her.

To the liberal, on the other hand, the conservative is looked upon the way our friend group reacted to the scamming lawyer. She sees him as having abandoned his heart in favor of his pocketbook. His is a callous perspective, ignoring the plight of others and even basic human rights (I have been using universal health coverage in my ponderings, but we could use things like capital punishment, women’s health issues, LGBT rights, or the Syrian refugee crisis, too). He has taken moral issues and turned them instead into economic ones, ignoring hearts and souls in favor of financial calculations. This is incredibly disappointing—even hurtful—to the liberal. Her feelings are hurt by the seeming callousness of the conservative’s positions. Her sensibilities are offended. A trust has been broken. There is a “How could you?” in her reaction, as in, “How could you devalue human life this way?” The liberal does not want to believe someone’s heart could be so cold. It is a devastating realization. She is effectively done with him.

So, at the end of it, it looks as though the conservative would be more tolerant of the liberal than the liberal is of the conservative. The conservative sees the liberal as a failure of reason and practicality, whereas the liberal sees the conservative as a failure of character and conscience. Her failure is acceptable; his is not. He can continue with her in his life, just as the stable group of friends could keep the artist. The liberal, however, no longer feels any interest in fraternizing with the conservative, seeing him as the friend group sees the scamming lawyer: morally bankrupt. With the trust broken, for her, the relationship is as good as over.

So, that’s the theory at this point. Like I said, the positions are probably a bit extreme for most people. But I have to admit, the liberal side is mostly a projection of stuff coming up from my own heart in these situations. I recognized the feelings I was having in response to all of these political posts as well as my conversations with different people, and the theory emerged from me trying, mostly through my daily journal entries, to make sense of the feelings. I wanted some clarity, which is what journaling has always brought me.

This process has helped me to better understand my internal workings, as well as my evolving relationships with family members, friends, and online connections. I have to admit it is a bit disturbing to see the final product being a desire to end, or at least pull back from, a number of relationships that I had once enjoyed and valued, even if on a more superficial level. But I can’t fake it, either. As I mentioned early on, it is a weakness of mine that I am oversensitive. Another one is that I am stubborn. That combination makes me tough to hang with. If you break my trust, I don’t easily let it go. (And yes, I recognize the irony in the fact that despite seeing my political positions as more enlightened and compassionate than the other side, I am the one who ends up being more intolerant in the actual relationship. I guess personal boundaries come with a cost.)

I suppose I hope for other people’s sake that they can make peace with people who hold vastly different views more easily than I can, that they can either forgive or compartmentalize their politics. Maybe it is like my theory—the conservatives can do it better than the liberals can—or maybe it is only me. In any case, the theory-making helped me to know myself better. Even if the results have shaken me a bit, I am glad I took the dive.

How about you? How would you categorize your reactions to people whose views are starkly opposed to yours? It is probably helpful to start by locating yourself along the political spectrum. Are you fairly far in one direction overall, or pretty moderate? Is there one particular issue that you hold an extra-strong opinion about? Can disagreement on that issue trigger an emotional response from you? If you are on the conservative side of the spectrum, does my proposed theory resonate with you at all, i.e. do you find yourself being dismissive of liberals because their “bleeding hearts” make their proposals too impractical and expensive for your tastes, even if you tolerate them because they mean well? If that is not how you experience it, what is your reaction to someone you know who proposes a liberal idea? Do you find that the liberal ideas fail your test morally, or is it more logically or practically? If you are more left-leaning, does my theory resonate with you? Have you had the experience, in talking with conservatives about these issues, of being so dismayed—even hurt—by the callousness and lack of compassion in their positions to the point that you no longer wish to socialize with them? Have I gone too far in that side of the theory? Is your experience more like I described for the other side: it is frustrating that the conservative disagrees with you, but that has no bearing on how you rate their character and how much time you want to spend with them? If you are someone who is kind of in the middle on the issues—conservative on some, liberal on others—do you find yourself still leaning toward one side in terms of which friends you like or respect more, or is it also a pretty even mix? Is there something more morally upstanding about one side or the other? If you had to choose between spending your time with someone who is hopelessly impractical or someone who is immoral, who would you choose? Do you mostly try to avoid political discussions with people in your social groups so you aren’t forced to make these kinds of character evaluations and relationship changes? I think most of us do that at least some of the time, because let’s face it, it’s risky to wade into these waters. Is that an unhealthy denial, or is that simply a wise way to make life bearable in your little corner of the world? I am dying to know how you navigate this stuff! So please, leave me a reply and let me know: How do you handle your relationships with people who differ from you on important political issues? 

Claim your amazing self,

William

P.S. If today’s letter got you examining your relationships and how your political opinions shape your friend group and your tolerance for others, I hope you will share it. If you want these letters in your Inbox as soon as they are published, I invite you to sign up for the email.  Peace and Love, my friend.

Dear Future Me: a letter to myself 25 years from now

DSC_0550“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis

Hello friend,

Twenty-five years from now—if I am blessed to be here that long—I will be 68 years old. I can scarcely begin to imagine how much our world will have changed by then. What will our energy sources be? Will cars fly? Will polar bears be extinct? There are way too many questions to consider; I get dizzy just thinking about it. Twenty-five years ago, I had never even written in a journal; twenty-five years from now, I will probably have filled up 100 or more. In any case, I am guessing that the world I will be chronicling when I’m 68 will be vastly different than the one I write about these days.

But what about the chronicler? ME. How different will I be as I navigate that different world? Hmmm….that is a stumper. Theoretically, the bulk of the upheaval and “finding yourself” parts of life happen in your early adulthood: 20s, maybe some 30s. I’m 43 right now. Does that mean I am supposed to be in the settled, stagnant part, and that nothing very crazy happens after this? Just a bunch of “getting old”? I am not so sure about that theory, because it seems like I have a LOT left to do!

Whatever is ahead, and because I am basically a loner (and don’t really foresee that changing much), I thought that my 68-year-old self might appreciate a note from an old friend. ME, the 43-year-old version. So, here goes….

Dear Future Me,

I am glad you made it this far! As you well know, for much of your life, I was quite sure you would not. I had you pegged for the guy who dies young, leaving a lot of “What might have been…” thoughts behind. But here you are, alive and well. That is something to appreciate.

Look at your family! What truly extraordinary people you have been blessed to call your tribe. You completely lucked out with that wife of yours. She has done so much good in the world. I still don’t know how she puts up with you, but I am glad that she does. You better be, too! And your children have grown into such unique and authentic adults, giving their gifts to the world in ways that only they can. I know you believe that we all come to Earth with our personalities and our callings mostly determined, and that you take no credit for their successes and the class with which they handle them. However, I wish you would remind yourself once in a while that you played your part well, too, giving them the love, support, and guidance that allowed them to authentically take their leaps, knowing that you had already done what you could to soften the inevitable falls. If you have done one thing right on this journey, it is that. Knowing how hard on yourself you are about making enough of an impact during your short time on this planet, I hope you at least take some comfort in that contribution. You’ve been a good Dad. And yeah, they really are amazing.

Speaking of your impact and how you have tried to make it, I can sum it up this way: I am sorry, and I am proud of you. Like you, I really wish you would have been able to reach more people with your message and helped them to live their best and happiest lives. I am sorry for that, as I know how it pains you, and I know they would have benefited from hearing you. I hope you will continue your efforts for all the days that you live. The task is worthy of your time and effort. On the flipside of my sympathy, I truly am proud of your mission and how you have gone about living your purpose. You have, if nothing else, stayed on task these last 25 years. Just this morning, I was writing graduation cards to your niece and nephew, and my message to them was this: “If I have one piece of advice for you, it is to understand who you are and what makes your heart sing. Then just be unapologetically you, forever and always.” I am glad that, on the whole, you have stuck to your own advice. Of course, I know you have made some compromises to keep the bills paid and such, but in all these 25 years, you have never lost sight of your passion and your purpose. Remember that Life Purpose exercise you did way back when, when you decided that at your core, you were a catalyst for self-awareness and authenticity? If that is so, then you have done okay in living that purpose. I know that you wished for a bigger audience on a broader platform, but you haven’t stopped being yourself and delivering your message. And though I know your journey with this is not over and that you will keep fighting the good fight, even if you never sell another book or give another speech, I hope you will find some peace in having made the attempt. You have lived with the idea that “This is not a dress rehearsal,” and I hope you can see that as its own version of Success. So, as you hit the home stretch of the last 25 (or so) years of your journey with your message, I hope you can somehow balance the seemingly conflicting ideas of NEVER SETTLING for the amount of progress you have made and still APPRECIATING the difference you have made in people’s lives.

 I can safely say that the part of my vision of you at 68 that makes me feel the best—most relieved, frankly—is that you have remembered to be, above all else, grateful for the countless gifts that you have been blessed with. Your thoughts are centered around a theme of Gratitude, and that has undoubtedly been the thing that has kept you consistently happy for all of these years, no matter how the world has turned. In whatever years you have left, as perhaps some of your physical and mental gifts may leave you, it is my great hope you never lose that precious Gratitude.

 It surely has been a magnificent ride! Keep on marching your path to the beat of that drum that only your ears can hear. And remember to always reflect the Truth that you have known all along: Life is beautiful.  

Always,

43-Year-Old William

P.S. I almost forgot. It’s time to forgive yourself for getting old (and looking old). It’s part of the deal, so deal with it!

How about you? What would you like to say to Future You? Open up your journal and lay the groundwork for a very important letter. I think it would be easier to write a letter to Past You—maybe we will do that next week—because you know exactly what that life was. It seems the hardest part of this task is to come up with a reasonably clear feeling and visualization of what your life and worldview will be in 25 years. But I urge you: do that work! It is important. Making this visualization requires a blend of honesty and hopefulness about how you will navigate the next quarter-century: mentally, physically, spiritually. The habits of mind and body that you carry into that distant future day dictate the letter you are about to compose, so consider them fully. What is central in your life today—for example, your purpose, dreams, family—that you are certain will still have importance 25 years from now? How old will you be in 25 years? Where will you be in your career cycle then? How about your family cycle?   What will Future You want/need to hear from Present You? Encouragement? Consolation? Empathy? Congratulations? Instructions? Thanks? A kick in the butt? A reminder of what she has believed in and what her purpose was? A reminder of her value and who loves her? Permission to die? It could be any or all of the above, and so much more. I know I encourage you every time to write it down, but sometimes I mean it more than others. This exercise was very helpful for me. Emotional, too. It taught me some things I need to remember today and tomorrow, not just when I am 68. So, answer the questions above, of course, but then take that final, crucial step: WRITE THE LETTER! I won’t even ask you to leave me a reply this week (though I always appreciate it more than you can imagine). Instead, leave yourself one, and start it like this: “Dear Future Me…..”

Live your whole life,

William

P.S. If this letter and this exercise were good for you, I hope you will share them with your friends and family. It is about improving the quality of our lives, and to my mind, that should be a universal hope. Blessed be.

A Bridge Between Generations: The Beauty of Connecting Human Life

IMG_1325“What we pass on moves forward to future generations. Never let anything important slip through the cracks.” –Elizabeth B. Knaus

Hello friend,

My parents stopped by this week and spent an evening at my house on their way back from a Winter in the warmth. We hadn’t seen them since Christmas, so my kids were absolutely thrilled when they heard their Nana and Pop would be coming the next day to spend the night. They jumped off the school bus that afternoon demanding, “Where are they? How come they aren’t here yet?” When my parents finally arrived, a light and energy came over my kids and stayed until they left the next morning. I noticed it immediately and watched it with great fascination. It was like watching someone in love: a different aura swirling about. It was beautiful to see. Interestingly, it seemed to flow from both sides. The light in my parents’ eyes while talking and playing with their grandkids was brilliant. There was a genuine glow of delight there that sticks in my mind even now.

We went out for dinner at a restaurant that was raising money for my kids’ school that night, and the entertainment in watching them interact was nonstop and priceless. The shine of mischief and amusement in my old man’s eyes as he teased my 5-year-old son about the girls from his kindergarten class at the next table was a sight I won’t soon forget. And of course, my gullible-yet-animated son kept going right along with the act. “What the HECK?!?!” “Are you serious, Pop?” “I DON’T have a girlfriend!!!” On and on. I didn’t say a word, just watched their comedy act and giggled along, so grateful that they could form this wonderful bond and rapport despite seeing each other only a few times a year (and Pop not necessarily being the easiest guy to get chummy with).

It struck me how different this relationship was compared to the ones my kids share with my Mom, their Nana. That one is a much more tender bond, built with time, intimacy, and the deep care that characterizes my Mother’s relationships with her kids and grandkids. She is the one who will talk on the phone or Facetime with them, the one who might snuggle up to read them a bedtime book, the one who patiently teaches them to play a song on the piano. She gets right down and plays with them at their level. Both my son and daughter adore her and have that close bond that she magically engenders in each one of her grandkids. She would do anything for them, and they deeply love her for it.

As I watched these amusing and sincere interactions between the four of them through the evening, I realized that I was doing just that: watching. I was simply a spectator for this fantastic connection that was happening. I was just the conduit, the agent that brings these beautiful people together to spin their magical relationships across generations.

Here were these two boys and two girls, one pair born in an era without televisions and the other in the age of a zillion screens, blending beautifully. Two worlds united. I cannot begin to describe the delight in my heart that I got to be a fly on the wall for that experience. Even better, though, was the realization that I am the lucky connection between the two. In the thousands of years of my family’s lineage, I drew the assignment of linking these two generations—these four special people–together. What great fortune!

In the days that have passed since this visit, I have been pondering this luck of mine, as well as this role of connecting generations and sharing one with another. When you think about it, it may be the most basic and essential task we have as human beings. Evolutionarily, we are here to keep the species going. We don’t do that simply by reproducing—that is the easy part—but by actually using the lessons learned by previous generations to make a good life for the next generation. Of course, it is a delicious bonus, as I experienced this week, to literally bring the generation before us and the generation after us together, and I think it is important to find ways to do that more frequently in this world where the older generations tend to be cast off and disregarded like last season’s iPhone.

But bringing children and grandparents together is not the only way to fill our evolutionary role as links in the human chain. You don’t need to be someone’s parent—or to still have parents yourselves—to do that. We connect the generations—and connect the world—just by sharing ourselves wholly, by being a participating member of the human race. Whenever you share yourself, you give your worldview and your wisdom gained from a life here on Earth, a life that was brought to you by the generations that came before you. As long as you are engaging, you cannot help but pass on what your ancestors gave you. That gift will be passed on to the next generation, either directly from you or indirectly via the people you share your world with.

Of course, I highly encourage you to hook up with a different generation—whether older or younger—and swap some knowledge and some love. From my experience, that is completely reinvigorating. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have spent so many years of my career working at least part of the time with children of many ages. In theory, you are supposed to teach them, but really they end up teaching you, and delightfully so. Now, with my own kids, I am more keenly aware of the importance of passing down age-old wisdom on the living of this life. And, because of my own fascination with storytelling and chronicling our lives, I find myself always trying to connect their experiences with stories of their ancestors, even if it is just tales of my youth with my siblings.

It really stirs my heart the most, though, when I can find someone from the older generations who will share their stories and their accumulated wisdom with me. Even better when I can hear those stories in the company of my children, achieving the multigenerational exchange instantaneously. I have a very special uncle who is so wonderful about doing that when I bring my children by for our annual visit. Whenever we leave his house, I feel as though something beautiful and important has been passed down.

As part of my soul’s code, I have this unquenchable thirst to learn all that I am “supposed to” learn about the best, most authentic way to live this life. I need those previous generations for that. The other aspect of my soul’s code, though, is the unquenchable thirst to share all that I know about living your best, most authentic life with others. And whether it goes to them directly from me or from the other people I connect with—You, for example—I need the next generation to fulfill my mission.

So you see, it is hardwired in me—maybe in all of us—to link up with people from different eras. It is in my code to connect, both by learning and by teaching. It seems to be the only way that I can find fulfillment on this journey. And sometimes, like this week when my parents came to play with my kids, I get to witness magic happening. The old, the young, and me—we were all just One. Our little section of the chain was connected, and with it, I felt connected. It all just felt so right. Whenever I get that feeling, I think it is the Universe’s way of letting me know that I am on the right track. I find it telling that I often get that feeling when my family is all gathered together in multiple generations, and also when I am teaching. It seems that when I allow myself to be a part of this grand and beautiful chain that connects and transcends across time, all is right in my world.

How about you? What is your connection to the older and younger generations? Open up your journal and explore the ways that you connect the chain. Do you have more contact with people who are of the previous generation or the next generation? Is that by choice or by chance? Which generation do you prefer to spend time with? When you are with people of different generations, do you consciously seek out opportunities to either learn or teach? Which are you more comfortable with? Do you feel any sort of obligation to learn your family history in order to share it with future generations? Whether or not you have your own children or even want to have kids in the future, what level of pressure have you felt to have them in order to keep your family’s heritage going? Is that pressure from society, your family, or yourself? In a society that increasingly disregards the past—whether it is last year’s technology or the generation that invented it—how would you rate yourself on how well you value the people who paved your path? How do you show that evaluation? In what areas of your life could you seek out more and deeper connections with either the older or the younger generations? Is that a priority for you? Who are your role models? For whom are you a role model? How seriously do take that role? Do you feel a special kind of joy—like I do—when you connect your favorites from the different generations? Leave me a reply and let me know: What role do you play in linking the past with the future?

Be your best today,

William

P.S. If this made you take a new or different look at your role in the greater human experience, pass it on. Let’s celebrate our interconnectedness!

Presents vs. Presence: What is the Best Gift on Your List?

DSC_0405“Together is the best place to be.” —Words painted on the wall at my family’s cabin

Hello friend,

I LOVE Christmas presents! I know that, at this age, I am supposed to be embarrassed to admit that, but it is so true. Even as my hair gets more gray every year, that is one part of being a kid that has never left me. I still get downright squirrely the moment I wake up on Christmas morning, eager to skip the breakfast formalities and get right to the gifts. It is all I can do to keep from shoving everyone—my wife, kids, siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and my parents–down the stairs to their spots on the sofas and chairs so we can start distributing the mountains of gifts piled under and around the tree.

Christmas—and my giddiness about the presents—has always been this way at my house. I had a few friends growing up who got cool stuff at random times all through the year, and Christmas was no big deal to them. They got a few presents, just like any other week out shopping with their parents. Ho hum. We were NOT that family! My parents pinched pennies all year long—“Better ask for it for your birthday,and “Put it on your Christmas List were familiar refrainsbut they went all-out on those two special days. Tons of presents and a real effort to make it a special day. And it was!

My anticipation for Christmas was feverish. The day before was always a rollercoaster of emotions: a kind of ecstatic elation about its nearness mixed with the absolute torment of waiting. Like rabid dogs, my siblings and I would crawl through the piles around the tree and oh-so-carefully slide underneath it, squeezing and shaking each gift, guessing at the contents of each and, of course, making a tally of how many each kid was getting. Finally, in the evening, after hours of begging, we were allowed to open one present—ONE—always the one from my cousins. It was a momentary thrill, but hardly enough to assuage my wild urges to tear through the wrappings under the tree to see if my guesses were correct. I salivated over the thought of new toys. The frenzy in my mind made for a tough time getting to sleep on Christmas Eve, and from the moment I woke up on Christmas morning, I was like a maniac, just DYING to get to the presents.

The years have passed, and though the extremes of my torment and elation have been tamed a bit, I still get giddy in anticipation of diving into the presents. It is a unique delight to tear open that wrapping paper on Christmas morning to discover the new treats that will sparkle up my life in the coming year. I guess that is the one way that I am a classic American: I love more stuff! I often feel a bit guilty about how much I enjoy it. But, since the guilt hasn’t made the feeling go away, I have decided to claim it. I am a materialist. 

A funny thing has happened on the way to my middle adulthood, though. As much as I appreciate the spine-tingling anticipation and excitement for the presents, as the years pass by, I recognize more and more that what I mostly love is the time with my family. It is true that I have always loved it this way—indeed, I have never missed a Christmas at my childhood home with my family, even when I had to quit my job to be there—but only in recent years have I been so keenly aware of its value to me. It was always there, quietly wallpapering the scene of those Christmas Eve games and those wild Christmas morning gift-a-paloozas, but I couldn’t recognize it as such in my greedy haze. I feel it now, and I acknowledge and honor the feeling.

I guess I have come to the point where I can see that the real point of the holiday—or at least the thing I value the most (by far)—is the fellowship, the love for the people I am gathered with (and the ones in my heart) rather than all of the presents that seem to dominate the months of lead-up. Think about this, friend: we have a whole season of shopping and then a whole day of togetherness. I really wish that could be reversed.

I am so glad that I have come to this awareness, this realization, before it is too late. No one has died and left me wishing I had truly cherished the time we had. My family seems to be—knock on wood—in its prime. My parents and siblings are all healthy and enjoy spending time together. We look forward to our Christmas all year as that time to be together under one roof with no agenda. It is simply about being together. And it is the best.   I am beyond grateful for that.

What warms my heart even more, however, is that my kids love it just as much as I do. Their two favorite weeks of the year are the Christmas week with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and then, of course, their week at the family lake cabin in the Summer, where the very same crew is assembled. All year long they talk about how they can’t wait to go back to both places. Not coincidentally, those are my two favorite weeks, too. Birds of a feather, we surely are. I am grateful for everything about our life together. The very best part, though, is that it is just that: TOGETHER.

I guess that is why my grown-up self loves Christmas so much. It is the chance to reclaim with my family of origin what I get with my own little gang everyday: togetherness. The fact that I get them both simultaneously—and that my little birds also appreciate them so much—well, that makes the whole deal simply perfect. That togetherness, that presence, is all the gift I need. It is, indeed, a merry, happy, and most grateful Christmas for me!

How about you? What do you value most about the holidays? Open up your journal and think about what makes you giddy and what warms your heart. How excited do the presents make you? How has that changed as you have aged? Do you make a big Wish List? Is there anything you are on pins and needles about this year, something you are really hoping for? Overall, what is the level of importance placed on the “gift” aspect of the holidays in your family? Would you prefer it be more or less important? What about the “togetherness” part? Is the fellowship with your loved ones a big part of your holiday gatherings? How much do you look forward to the time? Is this the one time of the year you gather with these people? Do you do it out of tradition, obligation, pure desire, or some mix of those? Which one is the strongest factor? Has the togetherness aspect become more or less important as you have aged? If you had 100 percentage points to divide between them to show the value you place on Togetherness vs. Gifts, how many points would each get? Are there other things that deserve points on your scale, such as religion or food? Leave me a reply and let me know: What makes your holiday happiest? 

May your days be merry,

William

P.S. If this made you smile, cry, or wonder a little bit, feel free to share it with a friend who could use some of that today.  Namaste.

A Hermit or a Family Man: My Life of Extremes

DSC_1068“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” –Douglas Adams

Hello friend,

Have you ever had a moment when you wanted the life that was exactly the OPPOSITE of yours? Maybe you met someone who embodied everything you wish you were. Maybe you had a crisis moment when you realized for the first time that all of the decisions you have ever made were to please someone else, and you ended up feeling trapped by those decisions, living a life that seemed not at all your own. Maybe it was a promotion or job opportunity—maybe even a marriage proposal or pregnancy news—that you knew was supposed to feel like a dream come true but somehow felt like a nightmare instead. Maybe it was just an ordinary day when you looked in the mirror and finally admitted that none of your surroundings—your home, your career, even your people—are what you would choose them to be if you could start from scratch. You considered this body and this life you inhabit and thought, “No, this isn’t me at all. How did I get here?” It is a classic case of mistaken identity. And the identity is yours. But, which one is the mistake: the life you are living or the one you imagine you should be living, the opposite life? Sometimes I wonder….

When I was in my mid-to-late twenties, my parents gave me the most amazing gift. They allowed me to come home and just do the things I was passionate about. Even though I am sure they wondered what the heck had become of their once-promising son, and would he ever get his act together—I am afraid they are still wondering—they didn’t press. They didn’t demand that I pay rent or get a job or be out by the end of the year or any of that stuff. They simply allowed me to go through my process.

As it turned out, that was the period of my greatest and most lasting growth as a human being (see my post “The Year That Changed Everything” to understand more about this period). It was during that time that my spiritual overhaul was completed. I found a level of Bliss that I hadn’t known before, and its legacy has been uninterrupted happiness ever since. I was also reading at the pace of a book per week and filling up several pages in my journals every day, loading and unloading my mind at a breakneck pace. It was the most amazing time. Like a dream come true, really.

Interestingly, I spent most of that period alone. Sure, I lived in the same house as my parents, but I passed the days without much in the way of human interaction. Though I traveled frequently during this period, I very rarely left the house when I was in town. I wasn’t hiding from anyone; I simply preferred to be alone. God and my journal were my companions, and that seemed like plenty. Those who knew me teased me that I had become a hermit. I accepted the label; it did not offend me in the least. If you had offered me a furnished cabin in the mountains of Montana and enough money to sustain myself for life so that I could continue my reading and writing, with the two conditions being that I could never have a girlfriend/wife and never have children, I would have taken you up on it without a second thought. I had no interest in the wife or the kids. I loved kids and thoroughly enjoyed being an uncle, but I just didn’t want my own. Same with the wife. I had other fish to fry. I wanted to write books and change the world. Hermithood suited me just fine. I was downright blissful and couldn’t imagine a better way for me to live.

Then I met a girl.

Isn’t that how everyone’s story changes? That is definitely how mine changed. Even though I was deeply in love, for the first several months I was sure that she was making a huge mistake being with me, because I could not possibly be the one to be a husband and a father to her future kids. I felt guilty for allowing someone to fall in love with me. I didn’t want that burden. I wanted her to release me so as to not break her heart down the road when her biological clock was ticking and she finally had to accept that I was never going to be that guy. Because I wasn’t. Really. I mean it!

Fast forward fifteen years: “Hello. My name is William, and this is my wife and our two children.” I am exactly the guy who I was sure I could never be! Exactly! I live in suburbia and have a job and a mortgage. I spend every possible moment with my kids and keep strict boundaries around my time so as to be absolutely available to them. I am your basic husband and father. Not much more or less.

How the heck did that happen??? More importantly, how can I sit with that, knowing what I just told you about my years of hermithood and self-focused personal development? Am I a fraud now, or was I a fraud then? Is it possible that I was being authentic then and authentic now, that my Truth somehow changed over the years? Am I just in denial now because it would be too difficult to face the truth and my betrayal of who I really am? If this is a charade, can I pull it off for the next fifteen years or so until my kids are out of here, at which time I can resume my life of enrichment that was so rudely interrupted by Love? Am I the hermit, or am I the family man?

The truth is this: it’s complicated. I love this family life. I really do. My wife and kids mean everything to me. Fatherhood has brought a completely new meaning to my existence, and I am so honored and humbled to be called upon to perform the role for my two angels. They bless me in every moment, and I am thoroughly grateful. I can hardly imagine a world without them in it.

And yet, if you made me imagine it, I would picture that quiet cabin in Montana, with me—and only me—inside, hammering away at my latest book. Solitude. Hermithood. It is weird to think that I could go from this extreme of doting Daddy to complete solitude in one fell swoop. But honestly, I could. I have a few times done the thought experiment where I wonder what I would be doing if my wife and kids somehow magically disappeared from existence. Nothing gruesome or anything that would involve mourning their loss—it is just a thought experiment—but just what if they were not here? One of the big questions of the experiment is, obviously, “What would I be doing differently than I am now?” That question is probably left for a different post. It is the other big question of the experiment that is probably more relevant to today’s topic, and that is: “Since these guys are everything to me and so enriching, would I get married and/or have children AGAIN if they disappeared now?” 

The revealing answer is: Absolutely NOT. I wouldn’t. I feel like I have so many other things I want to do to follow my passions. Even though my heart is so full every day with my family, I could not be convinced to do it again. As truly happy and fulfilled as I feel in fatherhood, one pair is enough. One wife is enough. The itch has been scratched. I will pass on the second chance.

Does this make my current setup a fraud? Does admitting that I wouldn’t do it again somehow devalue my present life? I don’t think so. I think it is just an admission that I failed at doing every one of my passions at the same time. I went from one blissful and fulfilling existence directly into another very different but no less blissful and fulfilling existence. I think I can be blamed for not keeping my writing plans on track and for getting too far from Nature, but some of the rest is simply the way the Universe has its own plans for us despite our best intentions. I felt completely authentic before I met my wife and kids, and I definitely was not looking for them. I was open, though, open to what the Universe might put in front of me. In them, I have been treated to a life that is so indescribably beautiful, and I am deeply grateful for that. And yet, I don’t feel like it is a betrayal of them or our beautiful life to admit that I wouldn’t look for replacements if they were no longer with me. My hermithood was amazing, too, but in a totally different way.

So, as it turns out, Life is not so cut-and-dried. We are extraordinarily complex creatures, not cartoons that can be portrayed with a few brushstrokes that never change. Each of our paths is unique and meant to be traversed by our own guiding lights. In my case, it appears that I can be both fiercely solitary and incredibly family-centric in the same lifetime. I will be the best father and husband I can be, and I will try not to be at war with my solitary side. I will give myself these moments late at night in my basement, writing letters to you. They will have to suffice for now, because both my soul and my family call me to be here in the people world for them. I can only be me, in whatever form that takes. My Truth shall set me free.

How about you? What is your true state of being, and how does that mesh with your current lifestyle? Open up your journal and try to distill yourself to your purest form. What do you see? In your vision of The Real You, what kind of work do you do? Does your vision have a spouse? Children? What stirs the heart of your true self? How does that vision spend its time? Is it solitary or social? Now look at how you live your current, “real” life. In what ways is it different from your vision of your true essence? Are the differences merely window dressing—subtle things that don’t stray far from your vision—or is there a real, stark disparity between who you believe you are and the life you have constructed in this world? How far apart are you and your vision? Far enough apart to be alarmed at the disparity? Do you feel like a phony because of it? Do you think this exercise will cause you to make some real changes in your life in order to more closely align with your vision, to “right the ship,” so to speak? What would you start with? Are we really as complex as I am suggesting—able to be truly happy and fulfilled while living very different lives from what we thought was our essence—or am I in total denial? Can we really compartmentalize large aspects of our being for long periods without negative results? What part of your true nature are you keeping at arm’s length? Leave me a reply and let me know: How closely does your lifestyle reflect your true nature?

Be unapologetically you,

William