Finding Your Significance in the World

As a follow up to my post last week about finding value through comparison, here’s a question…

 

If all your talents and gifts were put on mute, and everything that previously made you feel successful or worthy of praise was put on hold, what would make you feel valuable?

 

Think about it for awhile and then go enjoy some Christmas cookies before Santa jacks them all. Merry Christmas.

“Fame” brings a definition of success

“There are some things success is not.

It’s not fame, it’s not money or power.

Success is….

Waking up in the morning, so excited about what you have to do that you literally fly out of the door.
It’s getting to work with people you love.
Success is connecting with the world and making people feel.
It’s finding a way to bind together people who have nothing in common but a dream.
It’s falling asleep at night knowing you did the best job you could.

Success is…
Joy…
and friendship…
and success is LOVE.”

OK I didn’t write any of that. It’s a speech from the movie “Fame” and I love it. I have to go work on my own definition of success now and I suggest you do the same.

What’s your definition?

 

Slowing the pace to enjoy the race

I recently realized that our values went awry somewhere along the way.
We moved to a little place a block away from the beach in the most fun, entertaining neighborhood that I’ve ever known. We then proceeded to unpack. Work. Unpack. Think about going to the beach. Unpack. Work. Think about inviting new friends over for dinner. Work. Work. Long to go swimming in the ocean. Work…. you get the picture.  We moved here for the lifestyle. Yet we are too busy trying to pay for the lifestyle to be able to enjoy it!

The solution (aside from becoming independently wealthy through passive income in the next month)…
… is to work on the discipline of rest. Like a sabbath. That’s right. A good old fashioned, Biblical sabbath. Everyone’s definition (i.e. life and death dogma) about this issue is different so let me explain what it means for my husband and I.  It means no appointments, no to- do list, and above all, no guilt for that. It’s a day of rest. Basically we will refuse to feel guilty for being unproductive and we will enjoy the gift of life.

“But I can’t take a day off, I’m too busy!”
And you will never not be too busy so you need to stop waiting for “someday” when you finally have time to rest and enjoy life and you need to start living NOW. We have a tendency to believe that productivity is next to godliness and we all too often ask  “can I fit this into my schedule?”, when really we need to be asking “SHOULD I fit this into my schedule?”. These are the things we’re taught and we live by, even if we hate it. And now this is what bosses, spouses, friends and any other person you come into contact with expects of you. You must reply to my text or email NOW, you must squeeze me in this week, you must work late… and the guilt piles on as we get further behind and feel even more pressure to perform.  It’s time to give up and realize that you will never get it all done no matter how hard you try and the “someday” where you have limitless amounts of time might not come until the last 5 years of your life (if ever) which means you will already have missed most of it! Taking stress pills, sleep meds, caffeine inhalers, while continuing to have chest pains, ulcers, and emotional breakdowns anyways is not a way to live. It’s not worth it. A day off every week is EXACTLY what we need! No matter how hard it is to come by! It’s amazing how prioritizing time for rest can rejuvenate you for the rest of the week to be even more productive. And it’s even more amazing to realize that you still get just as much done (or not done) as you did before you started taking a day of rest. Don’t waste your life just trying to make it through the stress while ignoring all the joys around you.

“But I can’t take a day off, I get too bored!”
Of course you’ll be bored, you’re going to sit down for a full minute straight! It’s sooo different from your day to day life! That’s not a reason to not take a day off, in fact it’s the very reason you need a day off… you’re incredibly unhealthy! Even if you are just a high energy person, you still need to take time off to do nothing. I read somewhere that it takes a full 5 days of doing nothing before you relax and adjust to the pace (so screw 7 day vacations by the way, unless you plan on it being one of those fun, action packed ones that leave you more exhausted than revitalized when you’re done).

“But… oh wait, I’m out of excuses”.
Right, so give it a shot. One full day off a week. Or even one day off every other week if you have to work your way up with this!  A day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. It could be spending time with others or by yourself (I know you can come up with a solution about what to do with the kids when a particular sabbath requires much needed alone time).  It’s one day with no performing, impressing, or pleasing on this day (doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!). No to- do lists, chores, or working on things you’ve been putting off.  It’s a day to sit back and be grateful while enjoying the fruits of your 6 day a week labor.

Start keeping a list of what you’re looking forward to doing (or NOT doing) on your next sabbath. That way when you have a few seconds to spare, you don’t panic because you don’t know what to do with them (you’ll get better at not panicking once you’ve had practice with this discipline of rest by the way). So when you find yourself hitting snooze on your alarm clock more than once, write down “sleep in” as what you’re going to do on your sabbath this week.

Here’s what I did on the first full day off I’d had in over a month and a half…

  • Read for 2 hours in the morning (not productive reading, just an Elizabeth Taylor biography that had more pictures than words- real brain food you know).
  • Went to Starbucks and got a tasty drink with REAL sugar in it!
  • Went to the beach with my husband (FINALLY took time to enjoy our surroundings!!).
  • Started cleaning out our side yard that I’ve been dying to fix up and make usable. Yes this was productive, but it wasn’t something I’ve been procrastinating on, it’s something I’ve been dying to have time to do and it was very relaxing!
  • Watched a movie (Grand Canyon from the 80’s. Really intense and interesting/weird movie!)  I have been DREAMING of watching a movie and I just haven’t had time!
  • Went to bed early. No working until 2 am on this day!

It was such a GREAT day and I couldn’t believe how positive I felt about my life for the rest of the week! Life felt enjoyable and I still somehow found the time to get the same amount of work done that week…. maybe because I was rested and ready to go for the next 6 days of work.

The Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

A Culture of Identity Chaos

This may be a statement full of youthful ignorance, but I really believe that my generation is facing something that hasn’t been an issue before (or at least it hasn’t been an issue during the lifespan of all our currently living relatives… who knows, maybe ancient Greece dealt with it or something).  Here’s the thing… back in the “olden” days of America, your world was pretty small (compared to today when you can live in the U.S. yet see and talk to people in India in real time, or even have colleagues who work alongside you from Malaysia!).  Long gone are the days when you chose between the 3 factories in your town, got a job there, bought a house nearby, and worked there until retirement because you knew your company would take care of you.  Maybe that’s why people call it the “simpler times”. Ever heard of a pension?  Some of my younger readers maybe haven’t because they are not reality anymore.  Now, we literally have every single choice in the world.  Many jobs enable you to live or move to anywhere in the world, force you to compete with the best of the best worldwide (rather than with only the people who live in your small town), or even enable you to have 2 or 3 jobs simultaneously because each requires just a few hours of computer time a day (so much for factoring in commuting time!).

Aside from the globalization of the workforce, the biggest change I’m talking about here is the fact that there is little incentive for a company to keep you on board for very long.

They can hire someone in another country to do it cheaper or better. And there is even less reason for a person to choose to remain at their current jobs because they too have world wide options and have no promise of a rewarding for dedicating their entire life to one company.

Not to mention in the olden days, your job really was a major part of who you were and what defined you. 

For example, my grandpa was the “telephone guy” and he climbed up telephone poles everyday for 25+ years of his life.  He owned a house in a certain neighborhood that was near his work, his friends were often co-workers, and his view of the world  was shaped by the world that surrounded him every day during those 25 + years.  It wasn’t until retirement that he was faced with choices about who he was and what he wanted to become.  He had his pension and he could’ve happily chilled for many years of his life, which I’m assuming he probably tried… only it didn’t last long because even to this day he can’t still still for more than 3 minutes at a time… and then big questions began.  (By the way, he eventually became a pilot and he loved it!)

So what does it mean when we have a culture who’s not nearly as limited in our geography, social network, or culture as we were in the past?

The question of your identity has an entire world of new options open to it!  I’m not even going to get into the fact that we have access to all the information, talents, entertainment, etc. etc. worldwide- because I’m sure you’ve heard enough “information overload” rants to last a lifetime- but that is a part of all this as well. Also take into account that the few parts of your identity that are still defined by your job are completely unstable because our jobs are in constant flux!  We as individuals in this culture, are in a constant state of reinventing ourselves. After all, I was a counseling student, then a photographer, and now a writer, right?! That’s not counting all the other non-career jobs I’ve had… and I’m not even 30 years old yet!  (I’ve heard it said that the average length of time an American stays at a job is 3-5 years and that fluctuates depending on the person’s age). The questions that my grandpa dealt with when he retired are now being faced by people about every 3 years!  How are we ever supposed to feel at rest or connected- either to ourselves or to a community- how will we ever really know ourselves when our entire skill set, knowledge base, and daily experiences and routines change every few years?  My grandpa knew the art of climbing telephone poles REALLY well.  What are you good at?  Have you ever worked at something long enough to even find out? Even if you found something you were good at and enjoyed, did you get bored because you knew there was something new and different waiting just around the corner for you?

Okay, okay I’m getting WAY ahead of myself.  I’m just trying to give you a taste of the overwhelming mix of factors go into our identity distress at this current point in time.  There are countless discussions and social commentaries that we could go on and on about the causes/effects, pros/cons, etc of this issue and I am by no means about to tackle them all right now!  However, you are always free to start up a discussion on this (or anything else related to extraordinary living) by posting questions for other readers to answer on the Rare Existence Facebook wall!

The bottom line is that we have no idea who we are, and yet we are constantly being forced to try and find out…. and this leads to crazy cases of identity confusion! 

And that can be VERY frustrating!  I’m pretty sure this is actually the very reason that this entire Rare Existence blog is here. I’ve had countless friends who have been hardcore struggling with these issues for the past few years and it has been killing me that I can’t just give them the answers.  This blog is here due to my desire to help them and people like them who just feel stuck in their lives, while facing an overwhelming world of possibilities, and have absolutely no idea where to go from here.  It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Having limitless choices, but feeling stuck?  That’s why it’s so freaking frustrating!  You feel like a moron, or at least slightly schizo in need of some serious counseling, when in reality I believe you are actually just another member of the masses.

Now that I think about it, I think there is a very good chance that many of you have been getting pretty annoyed as you’ve followed my blog so far.

I sit up here preaching, “change your life, do things differently!” etc., etc. and you are just sighing and saying “again?!  I have no idea who I am or what I want and you are asking me to reinvent my already undefined self AGAIN?!”  My only reply to that is an ever so tentative and slightly apologetic, “um, yes?” But don’t worry, I’m not just going to sit up on my soap box and expect you to figure out all by yourself how to do this.  The next few blogs are intended to help you sort through your identity chaos.  If you feel really secure and defined in your identity, first of all give me your secret, second of all don’t feel that this doesn’t apply to you because there’s a good chance it will apply the next time you choose or are forced to reinvent yourself.