“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
– Thomas Edison
True, inspiring and motivational thoughts from one of the Gods of creativity and industry…and yet these words may leave us feeling a sense of weight and sweatshop enslavement.
We want to be busy in pursuit of productive endeavor, yes, but how do we transform the flavor of being busy to one of excitement and exploration vs. serious and heavy?
I’ve noticed in my own growth toward expanding coaching services, delivering transformational programs, and growing brand awareness that there’s rarely the old gaps in between activities or big plays.
Though not running a country or even a huge corporation, it causes one to wonder how to best keep playing big when being busy can start to wear on you.
For myself, I see that what’s needed is a transformation in my relationship to “busy”. So, when clients are double booked, there could be excitement at having seen a hole for an upleveled system to implement vs. the self-judgement of having “messed up.” When there’s an ad campaign that spent good money with no results, there can be a jubilant “Hooray!” because we’re finding out what doesn’t work first (like Edison) vs. the woe-is-me marketing-loser feeling.
Bringing the element of “play first” into the mix – where you only consider “learning experiences” vs. mistakes – is a good antidote to oppressed busy-ness. It provides the willingness to keep getting busier and playing fuller until things don’t work anymore…and learn and grow from the insights gained vs. pull back.
When production starts to stretch the current systems — we miss scheduled appointments, the ordering systems fail, longer hours are required to fill demand — these are all good news and opportunities to level-up, system-up, and play-up.
An attitude of gratitude for things starting to fall down on the job — vs. making ourselves or others wrong because things didn’t work “perfectly” — can support the “Bring it on!” thrill of growth.
Where can you joyously thank your breakdowns today for leading to your breakthroughs tomorrow?
Got a busy body?
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
– Bob Dylan
Happy Tuesday everyone! Or maybe not so happy?
Have you ever had one of those days when you just feel stuck? I’m sure you know the feeling, you feel stuck in your routine. You want to change things up, but you can’t. You’re so busy and you have work and a family to worry about. The last thing you have time for is adding something else to your list of responsibilities.
It’s because of thoughts like these that I give you today’s quote. Take a moment to read it:
It’s a pretty radical thought. To be completely free from your past decisions? To not be locked in by the choices you have made? It seems like a bit of a daydream. But what if I told you that it’s not a daydream and that you just need to be open to the possibilities?
Most people feel like they are stuck with the choices they made when they were younger. I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. Try thinking of the first half of your life as research and development for your second half of life. What have you learned about what you enjoy? What do you hate? What are you curious about? Take all of this knowledge and build yourself the future you desire.
It’s not too late, actually, you’re right on time! It’s time to create your future based on the knowledge you have gained in your first half of life. All that’s left is to take your first step!
If you are looking for some weekly inspiration to make your midlife experience completely radical, look no further! Today I’m launching a 10-week blog series titled, “Pro Tips for Winning Midlife”. Every Saturday morning I will be posting another “Pro Tip” for making your second half of life your best half.
So, with no further ado, here is Pro Tip #1:
How often have you heard that “it’s all downhill from here” or that “your best years are behind you”? These seem to be common phrases associated with aging, and (sadly) many people just choose to accept these phrases as truths.
Step beyond the traditional idea that your next half of life will simply be an extension, magnification or shrinkage from your first half. Think of your first half of life as an enabling mechanism for what really matters (your second half of life)! What if it’s in the second half where our purpose for being on the planet gets fulfilled?
You must believe that nothing before determines what is possible from here on out. We often say that you have yet to do what you came here to do, and it’s true! You just have to take the first step and accept it.
Come back next week for Pro Tip #2 and remember that your life can be radical!
My friend Bert’s book was titled, “The Free Bird Flies: Choosing Life After Loss”, and it was a chronicle of how she regained her balance after the accidental death of her 21-year-old son, Philip. I held it in my hand, thinking of the journey that she and I had shared as close friends for the past several years. The many small moments of laughter over something her children had said; the sounding-board conversations we had over a shared interest in business; and the deeper conversations of spirituality and the concepts that give meaning to life. She filled such a comfortable and valued place in my life, in the way that only friends who love you just as you are can do. We vibed on a profund level and I always looked forward to our daily phone calls.
“The most helpful thing that someone said to me after Phil’s death”, she said, “was that you don’t ever ‘get over’ your grief. You just learn to manage it.” I had some managing to learn, as Bert had just been diagnosed with an incurable neurological disease that had already stolen much of her ability to speak, and was very soon going to accompany her out of this lifetime.
I felt numb, overloaded with sadness. Bert was well-known in our community, and I got multiple calls on a daily basis from people who were just hearing the news and needed to talk. I did my best to listen as they poured out their shock and grief. We all wanted to connect with someone else who loved her like we did. I found my sadness growing, as if in some way, if I could just get sad enough, then all would be restored and Bert would once again be her regular funny self.
If I’m not paying attention in the morning, I sometimes overpour my cup of tea. It tops the rim and runs down the side of the cup, puddling at the base. On this particular day after the third such phone call, I felt like that cup of tea, my grief at the impending loss of my friend overflowing my heart and puddling at my feet. I knew that I felt that way because losing my friend was all I had been focusing on. It was the topic that took up all my available mental bandwidth. Understandable, but puddling nonetheless. I needed to shift my story, but wasn’t sure what to do.
“How else can I look at this?”, I asked myself as I settled in for a meditation. As I relaxed, I thought of all the friends of mine who had gone out of their way to do small acts of caring for me. A sweet text here and there. Delivery of food so I wouldn’t have to cook. A listening ear so I could unload what I was feeling. Long, comforting hugs from my sweetheart.
My eyes shot open. “Love! I am surrounded by love!” My heart grew, and made room for gratitude as I sent a mental blessing to each person who formed my network of support. I could feel my mood lift a bit – there was now a different emotion alongside my grief.
I didn’t know it at the time, but choosing to look for love and gratitude in the time of sadness forever changed my stance toward loss. In the two years that followed Bert’s death (or “transition”, as she liked to call it), I also lost two other close friends as well as my dad. While my grief was certainly there at those times, it was also accompanied by its new friend, gratitude. Making the choice to be grateful for all of the treasured experiences I had with each of these people who were so special to me acted as a salve for my aching heart. It gave a dimension and a richness to the grieving process that surprised me, and I learned that difficult things also come packaged with wonderful things. It’s our choice to look for them.
As we get older, losses big and small become woven into the fabric of our life experience and it doesn’t take a big loss like a death to make gratitude our daily companion. We have opportunities to focus on what we love every day, to learn to manage our losses instead of allowing them to define us. Choosing gratitude is a choice worth making.
“Oh… so you are an empty nester…” (sad face).
Well, no. Actually, I am a free bird!
That’s a choice I made when my daughters were both about to move away to college at the same time.
I’ve listened to friends lament on how empty their house feels with their kids in college: their childhood rooms vacant, the void in their life, unfulfilled expectations on children coming back to visit, returning phone calls, etc.
I realized this very clearly: I was NOT interested in living my prime years as if the best of life was behind me, nor burdening my kids with any expectations that somehow they were responsible for my joy, happiness, or fulfillment.
Eeeeeew! Not my cup of The Back Forty tea!
We’ve all heard “Let them fly” said as a consoling and empowering way to hold our children growing up and moving on. So, I say this to us: “Let US fly!!!”
Therefore, as my daughters spent a year designing their college career, I spent a year creating what my life will look like after they move out! Where do I want to live? What environment do I want to live in? What will I do that will be an expression of my passion and purpose in this next/best half of my life?
Two months after they moved out of our 14-year family home, I moved out too. Together, we had ALL set out on creating the next era of our life.
This Thanksgiving season, I am profoundly present to my deep gratitude for my daughters, our relationship, and the deep love and appreciation we hold for each other. I am immensely grateful for their opportunity to go to college and their freedom to build a life of their own design, unconstrained by external expectations and unencumbered by feelings that MY happiness or satisfaction depends on them.
Do I miss them? Of course!!! Do I delight in seeing them every chance I get? Absolutely!!! I cherish every moment I get to spend with them. Yet as part of giving my daughters the space to spread their wings and fly free, I created the same kind of freedom for myself and my own second half/best half of life. Just as they are creating their life and future, I am overjoyed that I get to create my Back Forty Future of my own design…with the zest an excitement of a twenty-year-old!
When my daughters return a phone call or text, and when they work out coming home from college to join our family for Thanksgiving dinner, it is a gift, a joy and a blessing – not an obligation or dutiful fulfillment of an expectation.
I am blessed. I am deeply grateful. And I have a kick-ass playful, passionate and purposeful Back Forty ahead of me! Rock on radically free birds!!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I hope that your day is full of family, friends, and good food. Enjoy this holiday and take a moment to be truly thankful for everything you have been given.
I’ll keep today’s post short and leave you with the following quote:
If you would like some more inspiration for this holiday, check out some of our previous posts!
“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
It’s amazing the amount of physical unconsciousness that can surround us in life…simply because of the wild card of “sentimentality” that we can often play.
I have to admit that I’m one who can fall into that trap, either by abdicating responsibility and claiming my upbringing as shaping me that way (mawkish “stuff” all over the house; Dad’s shed full of everything he “might need one day”) or my zodiac proclivity as a sentimental Leo. Yet, sooner rather than later in moving into midlife, I’m onto the seductive design of the trap and at least on the way to one day claiming “that gig is up!”
I can be grateful for both a partner coming into my life who leans toward the practical and dispassionate as well as a growing sense of what it will take to become a true Back Forty Freedom Flier.
Whether my mother encouraged me to hold onto items because I might want to “look at them when I get old” or my father was the garage and shed black-hole filler does not determine my Big Game Back Forty Future…if I get and remain conscious.
To live inside of the philosophy that “the best is yet to come and, babe, won’t it be fine” as well as the belief that “I have yet to do what I came here to do” means that my eyes, ears, environments, mind and heart must be forward-focused vs. rear-view-mirror fixed. Living in that paradigm requires being nimble, quick, light and bright…without the weight (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) of past, past, past globbing onto me at every turn.
I don’t need to watch 10 episodes of Hoarders or even to memorize and recite all passages of “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” in order to awaken my need for Back Forty above-the-surface oxygen. These tools may serve to initially inspire me, but the critical and necessary ocular redirect toward what is in front of me (in life, purpose, passion, play) vs. what has taken place behind me is the key action to take.
Dropping past-based ballast and replacing with future-focused environmental influences creates lightness and directional guidance. Exchanging the diploma for a dream board? Substituting an old picture with a graphic plan? Swapping a souvenir for a framed list of intentions? All are ways to detach from the lines so that our Back Forty Balloon can gain the altitude and attitude for a second half/best half impact.
“The true heart of organizing is about gaining your freedom.”
It’s bad, right? After all, the definition of crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. How could something dangerous or intensely difficult possibly be good?
What if I told you that a crisis can actually be a great thing and that you should be thankful for all of the crises in your life that you have endured?
Take a moment to read this quote:
Now, take some time to really think about it. All of the crises you have ever gone through have brought you where you stand today. Think about all of those crises as experiments used to learn new things about yourself and your life. What have you learned?
Maybe you learned about what you value in a life partner through a particularly nasty breakup. Or maybe you learned that a particular field of work just isn’t for you after losing a job that you were too scared to leave. Whatever crises you have gone through, I believe that they have all been for the best.
When you think about it, really think about it, would you take back any of those crises if you could? Would you take back the knowledge that you gained or the opportunities that your crises have brought you? I know that I wouldn’t.
So that is my challenge to you this week:
As Thanksgiving draws closer, thoughts of turkey and stuffing are beginning to fill our heads. For me, another dish that comes to mind is scalloped oysters.
As I was growing up, my parents made scalloped oysters every year for Thanksgiving. Imagine my surprise when I realized that oysters were not a standard dish at everyone’s Thanksgiving table.
So this year, I thought I would share my family’s tradition with all of you. Maybe I can even inspire you to bring something new to your family’s table this Thanksgiving!
Look through the recipe below:
“If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.”
Things are going to change. Jobs will be gained and lost. Loves will be embraced and released. Businesses will thrive and dissolve. Residences will be moved into and out of. Health, finances, plans, will go this way and then that.
Change is the thing we aren’t naturally programmed for because the internal, stay-safe, survival mechanisms are geared to kick in when “different” shows up.
Let’s say you usually spend all day in an office. Boom! Layoff, and you’re now home. Or you’ve been in a relationship for years. Boom! It breaks up. Or, yes, even those who haven’t been in a relationship for years…Boom! You’re in one!
We can go through the above scenarios for any aspect of life. The question is: how to adapt most effectively.
The first hurdle is the commitment to actually adapt. Many hold onto the old system, pattern, situation like a child attached at the hip to a parent on the first day of kindergarten. We’ve probably all read “Who Moved My Cheese?” and yet a commitment to embrace and adapt to change isn’t always our first reaction.
The second element is to understand and embrace agile. Agile is not only a descriptive of someone nimble and quick, but a term used in the world of software development where the focus is on quick adaptation based on short and regular reassessments of the situation and what is wanted and needed. But they get the product out NOW…not when it’s perfected.
There’s a lot of relevance to this concept for our own lives in The Back Forty. Guess what? Shift happens! And it tends to take on greater seeming impact and significance as we move into the second half of life.
Taking on the agile way in which those in the first half – the 18, 20, 25yr olds – simply play and learn and play and learn some more can support us who have “been around the block a few times” loosen up, commit to adapt, and by God even start to have fun with it!
Giving up the expectation that anyone or anything will stay the same or that, in adapting, we’ll “get it right the first time” allows us the patience to stay on the playing field…with an emphasis on “play“.
Try a new approach? Conduct an experiment? Design a new context within which to hold it all? Any of these can be forward-falling directions to take so as to flow with the shifting winds of life. And falling forward fast is what will get us doing what we came here to do…not waiting until everything is stable.
Where can you bring playful and agile adaptation to changing plans, people and places in your Back Forty world today?
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent.”