What Do We Know For Sure?

At the end of the show, Oprah asks her Master Class guests and many others, “What do you know for sure?”  It’s a profound question. What do any of us know for sure? We have a body of thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories of past actions. This collective pool that creates our existence is not always good for us or entirely bad for us. The thoughts, feelings and memories aren’t even accurate. They are convoluted with stories we tell ourselves. These stories, perceptions really, begin to develop the day we’re born based on the situation we were in at the time. The stories helped us get through life as a child but might not be serving us well now. And most of us don’t know we can update them. You can literally update your apps. Change your mind and change your life for the better.  Here is what I know for sure at this point….

  1. Honor your feelings. But invest in emotional fitness and make the quality of your feelings and emotions consistent with the best you- not the you that is “not good enough”- not the you that is the sum of all your past experiences. Not good enough is a lie we tell ourselves for various reasons. Let the present you be the sum of the past experiences that were good for your soul and the future experiences to which you are drawn for the resonance you feel with them. If you don’t feel a resonance, skip the action.
  2.  Balance concrete planning for the future with living in the present. You need to invest in the future so that if you live to be 95 (or older) you have money to live on but spend enough to experience the present in meaningful ways as you never know for sure  how many days you get on this planet. The meaningful ways you spend money in the present are based on shared experiences where you are connecting with others (this doesn’t need to cost a lot of money!) and contributing to a good even greater than your own (also doesn’t need to cost a lot of money!). The quality of the connection and contribution does not positively correlate with cash outflow. If you’re spending a lot, you may have missed the main idea of connecting and contributing in meaningful ways. Meaningful connection and contribution make you feel vibrant and fulfilled without the bitter aftertaste of buyer’s remorse.
  3. Have a plan but be open to experiences and allow yourself to change the plan as you go. It doesn’t mean you can’t make up your mind, that you’re a quitter or that you can’t finish what you start. Make sure when you are making your plan that you are looking for the resonance and not the chatter in your head that is based on other people’s ideas and expectations for you or your own expectations for yourself that are rooted in some negative past experiences. Make your plan about what you really want and need. You are making an action plan for your life not a safety plan with less than desirable “backup” alternatives in case you don’t get the life you really want. Just get the life you really want. You are already good enough.
  4. Work the plan like your life depends on it. Here’s the deal; your life depends on it. Don’t just work the plan a few days per year when you are panicked that another year has flown by and you haven’t worked the plan.  Don’t work the plan for your dreams someday. Work it today. Slow soul death is your alternative. You might as well eat donuts three times a day and maybe your body will give out so that you don’t have to experience the pain and depression from wondering “what if I had just gone for it?”
  5. Don’t worry. Worry is negative. It is the anticipation of problems or outcomes that, more often than not, don’t actually happen. And even if they do, worry has never solved a problem or changed an outcome. Ever. What worry does is drain your precious energy that would otherwise be used to live in the moment and maybe the problem never comes or to come up with an action plan for a solution if the problem actually manifests.  Worrying never helps you.
  6. Live in the moment. On December 28th the stores had started to put out their Valentine’s Day merchandise. The days immediately after Christmas are the days when I can enjoy Christmas and its meaning along with the beauty of the lights, the decorations and family without the hustle and bustle of preparations for the holiday. The last thing I want is to be thinking about the next holiday. I want to live in the present moment even if I am being hurried to the next event.
  7. Take time for those who are important to you. Don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t take time for those around you. If your daughter is home and out of her room, take time to be present with her and listen to what she has to say. If your son is talking to you, validate that what he is saying matters to you by stopping what you are doing. Don’t talk as you keep walking away busily doing whatever you’re doing. Make eye contact and actively listen not just nodding your head. Connect. If you absolutely can’t take time in that particular moment, make a date in the very near future to talk and explain why you can’t be there right at that moment. Then keep the date but know that the person may not be as forthcoming later. Stop what you are doing and listen in the moment unless you absolutely cannot. And hold back from giving in to bullshit reasons for postponing the conversation. If the reason you are delaying paying attention to someone wouldn’t actually matter if one of you were dying, it doesn’t matter now either.
  8. Set aside time every day to tune in to you. This is different than exercise time and different than simple relaxation. This can be meditation, yoga, sitting quietly with your feet in the dirt, taking a walk or something else. It’s where you are taking a pulse on your well-being. What’s working and not working. Where is the resonance and the lack of it? It’s great if you can journal this as human memory is not good. You will absolutely not remember the details a week later and you will not have a means to put together the big picture of you. This big picture is the basis for refining your action plan in #3 and #4 above.
  9. Health comes from the inside. It is well documented now that your thoughts and feelings have more power over your health than what you eat or whether you exercise. The placebo effect, where the brain acts on the results it expects from a drug or treatment in the absence of the drug or treatment, is an example of the brain’s dominant influence over the body. And if you improve the thoughts and feelings you are willing to hold, you are more likely to eat healthy and take better care of your body. No one ever loses weight permanently by dieting unless they also change the negative thoughts and emotions that go with limiting calories and exercising. And, you can be thin and fit and have a heart attack, stroke or a cancer diagnosis from prolonged stress and negative emotions.
  10. Be the happiest person you know. No one is happy every minute or every day. According to psychologist and happiness researcher Sonia Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, you control (at least) 40% of your own happiness. You can feel free to experiment with the tips and techniques she and other positive psychologists recommend and see if you get the same results. What’s the worst that happens- you do the work and only feel 20% happier? Maybe you’re the person who exceeds the average and becomes 60% happier! Happy people live longer and healthier lives. You may have to change your friends, limit time with certain family members and be prepared that some people may not want to hang out with you anymore. You will encounter people who are not down with your happy vibe. That’s ok. Let them go. New friends and acquaintances that share your happiness status will show up and take their place. Emotion contagion is a well-validated social phenomenon. If you smile, you are likely to get smiles in return. If you are happy, the mood of those around you is often lifted. Smiles and happy mood create chemical changes in the brain that create more positive feelings and emotions. Spread the sunshine.

We are not perfect individuals. No one is better than anyone else. We all have a purpose and a reason for being. The best we need to be is the fulfillment of that individual purpose. And, we are already good enough and everything we need is either with us currently or on its way showing up at exactly the right moment. Living your purpose is both the price and the reward for being here.

2 comments. Leave new

Lori Johnston
January 8, 2015 1:13 pm

Lisa, this really resonated with me. Instead of trying to make multiple resolutions for the new year I decided I would simply think positively about everything: work, family, life, etc. and that by doing so everything else will fall into place. I struggle with #5 which has shaped the past year for me. I’m looking forward to the weight of worry being lifted as I consciously shape my thoughts to the positive! Thanks for the post!!

Hi Lori, I’m so happy this post resonated with you. I know you will have an awesome 2015!

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