As we move through our lives, most of us are working to make our lives better: happier, healthier, and more meaningful. We may work on these elements consistently, or we may follow fads and have multiple false starts along the way. In the midst of our busy lives, it can be quite challenging to pay attention to what is needed to achieve our most basic goals in life. But without accomplishing these goals, we are considerably less likely to achieve our more lofty ones. How many of us pay attention to the foundation needed to work on those basic goals—the elemental pieces of a happier, healthier, more meaningful life? It’s not complicated—eat right and exercise, get plenty of sleep, keep your stress level down—but it is onerous. It takes discipline, proactivity, an open mind, and consistency. We have to be intentional about our foundations or they will not happen. Although everyone’s foundation may be slightly different, we all have basic requirements that include sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental/emotional health. Many would also add spirituality to this list. But whatever our foundation consists of, it’s important to be specific and intentional and follow through on our goals for each of these elements.
I am a liar.
I’ve been one my whole life. It hasn’t gotten me into trouble or hurt anyone, but I feel like it has hurt me. I probably don’t lie any more than most, but I’m uncomfortable with the amount of lying I do. Some of my lying is “good lying,” and some is bad. Some of my lying is adiaphorous (or so I tell myself), but I don’t think any lying sits squarely on the fence. Even if it isn’t harmful to others, it makes me more comfortable with lying. I mainly lie for convenience; it’s rarely malevolent. That doesn’t mean it’s not bad; it just means it’s not significantly harmful—or so I tell myself. Lots of my lies are lies of omission, and most of those lies are good lies; they spare someone’s feelings or make a process move along more quickly. They are instances when telling the truth would serve no useful purpose or would do harm. But some instances involve keeping secrets related to an inconvenient or embarrassing truth. Most of these secrets are harmless—or so I tell myself.
It’s possible to go through life without really putting your own stamp on what you do. You can go through the motions, do what is asked of you, check all the right boxes, but still not find an outlet that allows you to express yourself. It’s also true that you can live what appears to be an ordinary life, and through your personality and interaction, or your vision for the path forward, you can make it part of you, and in doing so, make your life a little less ordinary. This isn’t complicated, but it always involves a leap of faith—you have to take a chance and make yourself vulnerable. The risks that you take—the risk of failure, of opening yourself up to criticism or ridicule, of opening your heart and soul to the world—are all worth it, as the rewards are substantial. You’ll gain a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that could not have come as a result of less personal achievements. We are all here to share who we are—don’t lose out on putting your own stamp on the world.
We all have those days. Days when we wake up, get our coffee, sit down, and don’t feel like doing anything else. We begin to feel guilty, but inertia is fully in control. We may struggle with the battle between our need to do nothing and our responsibilities all day long. Why does this happen? It can happen because we had a terrible night’s sleep or because we drank too much the night before. It can happen because we’re upset about something and our emotions have immobilized us. It can also happen when we’ve been stressed or overwhelmed for an extended period of time and our bodies and psyches are shutting us down to reboot and recover. Whatever the reason, we should give this feeling the space it needs. We should consider why we feel like this and learn from it. On many, if not most, of the days when we feel like this, we should succumb to the feeling and go with it. We should veg out and give ourselves fully to going into standby mode. Our bodies and minds are often wiser than we are. When they speak so forcefully, we should listen.
What does it mean to be fully present when you’re with people?
When we’re with other people, our minds can wander, as they do during any other activities. But with people, there’s the added dimension of what the other person is thinking. It can be challenging to follow the dynamic of both minds and how they engage. In conversation, for example, some people are naturals, while for others, it can be a struggle. But being an easy conversationalist doesn’t always translate to being aware of and intentional about the dynamic between us and other people. A meaningful encounter with someone doesn’t even have to involve talking. When two people are completely present when they’re together, there’s a whole other level of engagement that can involve conversation, but it also involves body language, empathy, and mood. It can be incredibly meaningful.