Monday, December 12, 2016

What Will You Leave?

I love my birthday. I love celebrating my birthday. Sometimes I do so with friends; sometimes I prefer it be a simple and quiet affair. (There must, however, always be cake!) The joke in my household is that once the December holiday season ends, I begin the countdown to my birthday which, by the way, falls on the 110th day of the calendar year. (111 day if it is a leap year.)

Let me state clearly, I do not mind getting older. I embrace it, truly. And truth be told, there was only one birthday that caused me pause . . . the year I turned 48. And I know why, too. Up until that age, I always felt I could double my age and see myself as still living. 40 = 80; 42 = 84; 45 = 90; 47 = 94. But when I doubled 48 . . .96 years old . . . suddenly that seemed to me to be much less probable. For reasons unbeknownst to me, 95 years old was my cut-off point.

In 2017, I will be 62 years old. In thinking about this age, I am once again feeling unsettled. Certainly, 62 is way past my doubling formula, so that doesn't come into play. Something else, something larger seems to be nagging me. At first I thought it was because my mom was 62 when she passed on. But that wasn't it. Then I thought about the friends who have passed this year. Young, vibrant, with so many years ahead of them. I zeroed in on my friend Dorsie Kovacs who died in October. She was 64. Yes. This had something to do with Dorsie. But it wasn't about her young age, 64 years; it was what she had done with those years, with her life.

Dorsie was a veterinarian and owned the Monson Small Animal Clinic. There is so much I could tell you about her, but I'll let these words from her obituary suffice. "She was a special soul whose spirit inspired everyone she met. Possibly the most positive person ever, she always saw the silver lining in every storm cloud that passed her way. Her employees often referred to her as 'Pollyanna,' to me she was 'Perpetually, Pathologically (in a good way), Perky.' Passionate about her life's work as the local veterinarian, she provided care and comfort to pets and their people alike."

My nagging thoughts were not specifically about Dorsie; it was about what Dorie left behind, her legacy.

Legacy is what you create during your life, what you leave behind when you are gone. "The legacy we leave is part of the ongoing foundations of life," wrote Jim Rohn. "Those who came before leave us the world we live in. Those who will come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part."

Looking back on my own life, I could clearly recognize the legacy-leavers who guided me my way. Most notably were my mom and maternal grandmother who instilled in me a passion for learning, for language, for living a compassionate life. I thought, too, of a few former teachers who challenged me to question, to not simply be satisfied with seemingly easy answers to life's perplexities.

I will be 62 in 129 days from my writing of this article. And so I must ask myself: what kind of legacy will I leave? What will be my contribution, my imprint on the future? In my work I touch a lot of lives -- from students to business people. What message am I leaving? What am I demonstrating by my actions? These are the questions I intend to keep in the forefront of my mind for all the remaining days (of which I hope are many) of my life.

"Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you," wrote Shannon Alder. What will be your legacy?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Challenging Ourselves

Saturday, September 17 was a long and exhausting day. Truthfully, the whole week leading up to that date had been long and exhausting. Adding to the grueling schedule was excruciating pain caused by two bone spurs in my right foot. All I wanted to do that Saturday was teach my 5-hour leadership class at Bay Path University, get home that afternoon, take 800mg of ibuprofen, eat a meal, and get off my foot. That's what I wanted to do.

However.... A few months prior to that day, my friend Dennis McCurdy told me he was having a firewalk in Brimfield on September 17. "I'd like you to come and say a few motivating words to the attendees," he said. Now, I love Dennis' firewalks. I've participated three times and I understand the power behind facing the challenge of walking on those 1400-degree coals.

"Sure," I told him. "I have class that day, but I'll come."
You Tube Video Firewalk 9-17-16
As dusk descended that Saturday evening, I dreaded the thought of having to stand on my feet again. The ibuprofen had barely touched the pain and I was down to walking, literally, on the ball of my foot. But I had told Dennis I would be there and so I limped to my car, drove to Brimfield, hobbled onto the field, and joined the 20+ people with the building of the firewalk pathway. We worked as a team, placing logs conically down a 20-foot pathway, after which we stuffed between the logs pieces of paper upon which we wrote a fear we wanted to conquer, a goal we wanted to attain. The wood was doused with a flammable liquid; flames shot into the air. It takes about two hours for the logs to reduce to red hot embers. During this time, we assembled under the tent and Dennis began his workshop. Thirty minutes passed, then 60, then 90 minutes. He must have forgot he wanted me to speak, I thought. Thank God, because the stabbing pain in my foot was so intense I could not even keep it on the ground. I felt unfocused and uninspired to motivate anyone to do anything. And then I heard my name. ".... she's a great, inspiring speaker...." In that split second I knew I had to deliver a specific message about challenging oneself to face and conquer the obstacles in front of us, whether it's 1400-degree coals or mind-numbing pain. (Click here or on the above image to hear a portion of that speech.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

10 Ways to Live a Flourishing Life

1. It starts with self-reflection . . . It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What does your self-portrait say about you?

2. Happiness is as much about what you don't want as what you do want. What’s on your “I Don’t Want . . .” List?

3. Once you free yourself of the illusion of who you want to be, the truth of who you are is crystal clear.

4. There is joy to be found in most any moment. You simply need to be willing to expand your vision and see it.

5. Insight fuels foresight. Open your mind to all the possibilities.

6. To learn something new today, reflect on what you did and what you thought about yesterday.

7. Direct Your Thinking . . . Set a goal today that is realistic. Focus your attention on the actions necessary to attain that goal.

8. Direct Your Thinking . . . Negative thoughts can be changed. Positive thoughts can be maintained.

9. Wake up every morning and begin each day with the desire and the decision to live joyfully.

10. And remember . . . While another’s belief in you may sustain you for a while, lasting strength comes only when you choose to believe in yourself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ambition, Achievement, Fulfillment

A few weeks back a colleague said to me, “I admire how ambitious you are.” Her words stopped me. 

“Ambitious? You see me as ambitious?” I was puzzled. I never thought of myself in that way, so I had to ponder what she meant by that. 

I turned to my internal dictionary and thesaurus — the one my grandmother had drilled into me as a child by insisting that I learn the list of spelling bee words she tore out of the Sunday paper each week. 

Ambitious: a go-getter, power-hungry, zealous. That’s not me. Determined. Hmm. Determined. Now that is me. I am determined, purposeful, motivated, and an enthusiastic learner. I am an achiever

This got me thinking about what is achievement? Achievement is the experience of accomplishment, of attaining the goals you set for yourself. While ambition is the chief driver of achievement, it seems to me they are variables in the equation that equals fulfillment. 

Fulfillment is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; it is the feeling of satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character. You may have all the success and money in the world, yet be internally bankrupt and feel that life has no meaning.

Fulfillment is accomplished by two things: continuous growth and continuous contribution beyond oneself. It comes from living a life of meaning, of significance. Achievement, however, is pleasure; achievement is of and in the moment.  

In my studies in strategic intervention, I learned that the strongest drive in human beings is the “drive for fulfillment, and that all human beings share this need to experience a life of meaning and purpose.” (Robbins-Madanes) Fulfillment can only be achieved when we focus our lives on the need to grow continuously, and the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way.

My desire to grow continuously and to contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way is fueled by an inner ambition to do so.  

Perhaps my colleague was right. I am ambitious.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The ABCs of Serenity Now

Here are my 26 ways to lead a more serene and happy life.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you practice serenity in your life.
~ Rita