On January 20, the man we elected as our President made some powerful proclamations about who we must be, as Americans, in order to rise above our current conditions and, in his words, “pursue our full measure of happiness.” (My non-American readers please include yourself in this discussion – last we checked, this is a global thing). [Note: everything in quotations is directly pulled from Barack Obama’s inaugural speech – in many cases, pronouns are modified for the intent to speak to the individual rather than to the country as a whole.]
As Obama reminded us in his inaugural address, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood…. a consequence of our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare for a new age.” Come again? The President of the United States is asking us to “prepare for a new age”? Sounds more like a musical from the late 60’s about some overly idealistic hippies ranting against “the Establishment”. And now it’s coming from the Establishment? Yes it is, and how exciting!
We tried greed and denial (our “collective failure”), why not try something new? And what better time when so much is crumbling from the business-as-usual approach? Aren’t we sick of ourselves yet? Just as it was our collective failure that got us where we are, it is our collective success that elected someone as “new age” as President Obama. Our ability and our willingness, as a country, to choose someone who is committed to peace and understanding and who is encouraging us to “seek a new way forward based on mutual respect” signifies that, somewhere, in each of us, we do want be a part of creating a better world, a better us.
But there is work to be done – it’s not enough to just want a better world, a better life, and then wait and see what happens – we have to BE a part of the solution in creating what we want. This is good news! Because, even though “there is work to be done” (I know, the “w” word – eek!) we are always given the opportunity, in every moment, to “lay a new foundation for growth”. Who doesn’t know the feeling of a job well done? Even better, who doesn’t know the feeling of a job poorly done? If I recount just any random memory of a job well done, however small, the experience was always much more fulfilling than all the jobs put together that lacked the spirit of doing my best.
President Obama is busy doing his part, how are you doing yours?
If you’re in need of some ideas, let’s go back to Obama for some helpful hints. On the 20th, he reminded us that, “in reaffirming our greatness…we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey…is not one of shortcuts or settling for less. It is not the path for the faint-hearted….Rather, it is the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things…who carry themselves up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”
Why, that sounds like a pep talk from an experienced Life Coach! And, he’s right; this path of making a difference in the world is not for everyone. There are no shortcuts to genuine happiness and true success so you have to decide whether you’re in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as a middle ground on this one. It’s like saying you’re on the field during a game and you’re “sort of” playing. Or a guitar player in a band and you’re “sort of” strumming. For your teammate’s or bandmate’s sake (and yours!), I hope that you’re in.
Who, in your life, is counting on you to be, and do, your absolute best? And, who can you currently count on to do their best? The faint-hearted ones? Those who are risk and conflict-avoidant? The ones who take shortcuts and settle for less? Those who expect others, and life, to give to them first before they give of themselves? We are being asked, by a great and courageous leader, to make some hard choices and decide who we are on this journey – will you be one of the courageous ones? If so, start by asking yourself, “In what areas of my life am I settling for less?”. Are you feeling lackluster in your job? Are you making excuses for maintaining the status quo in a stale relationship? Are you out of a job or relationship, and didn’t see it coming?
Are you overwhelmed by your TO-DO LIST? Do your friendships lack depth and a feeling of real connection? Do you cut corners when it comes to taking care of yourself? Are you putting off having fun and relaxation until you “get more done”? (Hey, if Obama can make time for romantic dinners and theater outings with his wife then so can you).
And then ask yourself the price you are paying for not doing and being your best, because there is a cost for everything we do that is not feeding our well-being. It’s like driving a car with shoddy alignment – you have to grip the steering wheel harder and harder in order to keep from going off the road. It doesn’t mean the car needs to be taken to the dump, it just needs a tune-up!
Some indicators of “poor alignment” are frequent feelings of anxiety, fear-based thinking, increased secrecy and isolation, worry, and perpetual lack of clarity. All of which, left to their own devices, will take up free rent space in your head and, unless given an “eviction notice”, will gladly squat there for as long as you allow and that is what will be driving your life choices and decisions, as well as just plain make you feel bad!
Just as there are costs for settling, there are immeasurable rewards for choosing greatness. Some signs that you are living a life that is authentic to your True Self and inspired by your dreams are: unexplainable joy for no “reason”, an openness to whatever life brings, an acceptance and compassionate understanding of yourself and others, perpetual curiosity, laughter, generosity, and an overall feeling of connectedness, inner peace, and sense of purpose. The road less traveled may be a “long and rugged one”, but what a journey if the riches are that of prosperity and freedom, of heart and mind? The other option is just as long and rugged, but its continual rewards are that of lingering self-doubt, feelings of disconnectedness, boredom, and persistent blaming.
And the real kicker is that, in order to cope with the barrage of sabotaging thoughts, we then return to the addictive patterns that got us into the stuck mindset in the first place; discovering, once again, that the relief is always short-lived, and ultimately followed by an even more vicious onslaught of greater emptiness, deeper confusion, and intense frustration. And on the cycle goes.
But wait, there is a way out! Here are three things you can do, right now, to kick-start your own personal Stimulus Plan:
First, make the decision that you want freedom from the bondage of your old ways of doing things. It’s the old, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you got.
Second, start noticing what you say to yourself when you would rather give up than stay focused on what’s important to having what you want. Some worn-out favorites I hear, and have tried out myself are, “What’s the use, it never works out”, “People will always let you down”, “It’s not realistic”, “The world doesn’t work that way”, “I’m too busy just getting by”, “I know, I know. I’ll do it later”.
Third, Instead of focusing on your “petty grievances” with others (and yourself) and habitually making “false promises” to yourself (and others), both of which result in a “sapping of confidence” that leaves you with “a nagging fear that you must lower your sights”, try something new and make the decision to re-connect with your Real Self – “reaffirm your enduring spirit” by committing to a process of self-discovery. The days of façades and self-deceit are numbered and will keep you from having what you really want.
This approach guarantees a deeper clarity of purpose, focus, sense of direction, and HAPPINESS.
Obama has firmly asserted that, “what the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them.” To those of you who are trying to hold on to wanting things to stay the same even though you weren’t too happy with the way they were anyway, the ground is feeling a little shaky right now and, if you want to be one of the beneficiaries of the “new age” then now is a fantastic time to get your own stimulus plan in action – so that when our economy strengthens, and it will, you want to be at the starting line, poised to hit the ground running. And, in the meanwhile, you can spend your time living your life joyfully and without regrets.
Do this for a week and email me what you notice. And, don’t forget to have FUN while doing it!
Make 2009 your best year ever – invest in YOU!