Extremes. Man pulling curtain of darkness to reveal a new better world.

Extremes

Our world is made up of extremes.

Some extremes we experience may be very positive. Others may be the result of injustice or inequality. In the course of our lives, we have to navigate those extremes and understand their nature.

Some of our extremes are very pleasurable. For example, being out all day in the cold, and then sitting in front of a roaring fire pit. Feeling really hungry and eating a delicious meal. Exercising to complete physical exhaustion, followed by flopping onto a coach for a period of rest and stillness. Sleeping under a comforter in a pocket of warmth on a cold winter’s night.

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Tired woman head down with coffee.

Tired

I’m totally exhausted!

Between my busy schedule and my tendency toward insomnia, I know what it feels like to be tired. Everyone feels tired from time to time. Being tired is part of life, and it’s natural to be tired: it’s our bodies signaling to us when we need to get some rest.

Many of us have a healthy relationship with being tired. We might overdo it on occasion, we might burn the midnight oil, we may have long days at the end of which we stretch and yawn and head for the sweet relief of a pillow, a fluffy comforter, and a dark room.

But for some, being tired is a permanent state. They never ever get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is their new normal.

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Listen. Friends having a conversation.

Listen

On its surface, listening is not that hard. Someone is speaking, we hear and comprehend the words, and we gain an understanding of what he or she is conveying.

It’s that third bit where people often falter.

To really understand what a person is saying, we need to consider the context, the person’s background or history, and any emotional subtext. Also, we have to observe. Is the person’s speech rushed? Are they animated? Are they louder or higher-pitched that usual? For some, all of these things come naturally, but others barely hear the words, never mind consider the subtleties.

In interacting with other people, it can often be difficult to ascertain their points of view, their motives, or their agenda (if they have one). However, with an awareness of certain aspects of that person’s physical and emotional responses, it is much easier to know where they’re coming from. When speaking with someone, it can be revealing to pay close attention to what they’re doing with their arms or hands, the way they’re breathing, and any changes in the color of their face or the intensity of their eyes. It is often the case that these attributes can communicate more than words.

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Connections. Female friends having fun on the sea shore.

Connections

The connections we make to people throughout our lives are our doors into the world.

Depending on the nature of our connections, we can have many doors leading to interesting and exciting places, or we can have only a few doors, but all leading to places where we love to be and where we want to spend our time.

As we live our lives we will always interact with people. We make friends in school, we talk to neighbors, we work with people, and we develop relationships. Some of those relationships are perfunctory or just a matter of convenience; others are deep and long lasting.

Connections can be developed and maintained in an ad hoc way, or they can be based on our needs and desires. Do you find yourself spending time with people because of obligations or because these people make you happy? How we define our connections to people can help us get the most out of our relationships. And like any of the factors that define our lives, the more we understand our connections, the better we will be at making and maintaining those connections that are meaningful and helpful.

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Intentional. Woman shooting with the longbow.

Intentional

Do you lead an intentional life?

In your life, are you the pilot or a passenger?

When thinking about our lives, it can be helpful to think about what “intentional” means. For me, leading an intentional life is about choice—making our own decisions about what we do, think, and feel. It means charting a path for ourselves and navigating that path effectively.

Many people go through their lives engaging in only those experiences that pop up. Something comes across their path—a job, an experience, a friend—and those things become their life. They aren’t proactive in creating their lives—their lives just happen. Others only live the life that is expected of them. Expected by their parents, their teachers, or their circumstances. They do what is expected of them, not what would give them a sense of happiness or meaning according to their values and passions.

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