I don’t pretend to know it all, but I do know this:
1) Humor helps me process good AND bad life events. A fabulous round of laughter smoothes the rough patches. I am happiest when I view life as an adventure to be experienced, not as a burden I must bear. I do this best when I don’t take myself so seriously. I appreciate anyone who can make me chuckle, and I cultivate relationships with people who value a sense of fun. Drama is something to be avoided. Consistently intense folk need not apply.
2) Almost everything that appears to be “bad” leads to improvement – if I look, and if I allow it. Yes, I know you’re shaking your head. How can I get excited about a flat tire, delayed flight, computer malfunction? I don’t. What I try to do is wonder where the pony is. You know the old joke, “under all this poop, there has to be a pony somewhere.” It’s tough, and again, I don’t always manage, but I do cultivate the ability to ask myself what good may come of the crappy things that happen.
3) New experiences help me remain “a life-long learner.” I often write lists on New Year’s Eve: Twenty-five new things I will try in the coming year. As a result, I’ve taken dance lessons, leased a horse for 6 months, invested in classic music CDs, visited three states in 12 months. My lists are decidedly shorter now – 2011 will be the year I publish an e-book and take on Social Media. I’ll keep you posted.
4) I am responsible. I know beyond any doubt that I am responsible for my behavior and the choices I make, and that my decisions – good and bad – helped form the person I am. I can’t blame anyone else for difficult outcomes. I choose the way I view opportunities, people and events, and these choices help determine the quality of my life. I can’t control things that happen or other people’s reactions, but I am in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing my own response – and that choice is ALWAYS mine.
5) I can repurpose everything I feel, experience and observe into my writing – and it’s cathartic. I assign parts of myself to my characters and explore how situations make (or made) me feel. I also give characters strengths I don’t have, and reap the great good fortune of experiencing how it feels to “own” that particular power. Too cool. I can also create (well disguised) characters who do stuff I’ve had done to me I didn’t like. Then, I can have them arrested, or beaten. Taken ill, maybe, or saddled with a really bad wife.
6) An established routine helps me incorporate good habits into my daily life. My list includes eating well, walking daily, and repeating affirmations, such as “I always attract exactly the right people and circumstances to help me quickly and effortlessly achieve all my goals and dreams.” I try to complete them at about the same time every day (affirmations every night and morning, walk at 9:00 a.m.), which some would find restrictive, but it works well for me. For instance, I couldn’t maintain the habit of daily journaling, so every Saturday morning since August, 2008 I’ve gotten up, made coffee, and written in my “appreciation journal” about the great things that happened the prior week. It helps me look for the positive throughout the day.
7) What I’m avoiding or putting off is most often exactly what I need to do to move forward. The conversations I don’t want to have, the patience I don’t want to summon, the approach I don’t want to take, the feelings I don’t want to acknowledge, the tasks I don’t want to begin: Whatever I’m sidestepping is usually a red flag. Once I confront and do it, I find it’s never as bad as I thought it would be. The benefits reach beyond the obvious. The truth is, when I began to complete challenging work projects first thing each morning, I developed better self-discipline overall and my life worked better. Sometimes I get a reward for my effort. Cookies!
8) Everyone has a story, and handling people and events with a measure of empathy and compassion is ALWAYS the best approach. I try to factor this in when I feel I’ve been slighted or I’m judging someone’s behavior. But even when I can’t, I know this is true. I have moments of clarity when I am fully present, when I can listen with compassion and love. My calm self tells me the angry grocery store clerk has unseen issues that will probably remain unknown to me, and she’s choosing an unfortunate way to cope. We all do it!
9) Although I am deeply flawed, the person I’ve become is the most satisfying accomplishment of my life. I am defective. Perfection remains below my sightline, out of reach. I struggle daily with countless faults and issues and I grasp at a semblance of balance that most often eludes me. And yet, this imperfect me-in-the-making is my biggest achievement. I have somehow managed to turn my incredible screwed-up self into a pretty good person, and I am deeply proud of the times when I catch a glimpse of the individual I aspire to be every moment.
10) It’s best to release disappointment and focus on what’s good. In fact, I have only two basic regrets: The way I’ve treated people on unfortunate occasions in the past, and selling the 356B Porsche I owned when I was 23. Not bad.
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