Category Archives: Well-being

When the “problem” is not the problem.

Have you noticed that your work, your relationships, your life would be so much better, so much happier, if the people around you would just pay attention, grow up, and do what they are supposed to do? I certainly have.

People should show more initiative. People should show more respect. They should listen more. They should realize that they are not the center of the universe. Others should understand they don’t know everything; there is always more to learn. Others should exercise more patience. People should see that I have needs, too. People should appreciate me more. They should recognize my contributions. They should appreciate what they have and stop acting as if I, and the whole rest of the world, owe them something. Others should work harder. Others should be more tolerant. People should exhibit more humility. People should give more instead of being so focused on getting more for themselves.

So, what’s the problem? Clearly, the problem lies with others…the people I have to live and work with. Why can’t they see that? It’s so freaking obvious. But they clearly can’t, or won’t.

Well then I guess it’s up to me. If I want to get to a happier place, I’m going to have to do something about all of this. So what do I do? Maybe I should just move on. I should find another job. I should change careers. I should start another company. I should find new friends. I should leave all of this mess behind.

Any of this sound or feel familiar to you? I’d be surprised if you said “No,” because it seems to happen to almost everyone at some point in their lives. For some of us it occurs again and again even after we’ve taken measures and made changes.

Here’s the pattern I’ve seen in myself and in those I’ve worked with who have found themselves in this situation. First, we enter into a new relationship, a new job, or we start a new company. It’s not all sunshine and roses but it’s energizing and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. Life is challenging but good!

Then, after four or five years, some of the excitement begins to fade, day-to-day stuff becomes routine and seems rather boring, irritants begin to surface. The bloom is off the rose.

After seven to ten years, you go on autopilot doing what you have to do to keep the peace…to keep your relationship together or hold on to your job because you need the money. The faults and foibles of those around your come into clearer focus and become increasingly annoying but what can you do? Life and work becomes a long, arduous slog.

By the time fifteen years have passed, you’re locked in. Behaviors and attitudes have become habits. Ego, money, and fear of change inhibit making any big, bold moves.  Life isn’t exactly what you’ve hoped for but it’s tolerable and you can still find ways to distract yourself enough to keep the dissatisfaction from getting out of hand. Or perhaps, if you can just hold on just a little longer, there’s a nice payoff coming. Life becomes a search for a series of entertaining activities designed to amuse you and keep you from having to deal with the “problem.”

Why does this pattern emerge so often? How does it happen?

In my experience, it happens when we gradually, and subconsciously, move from seeing problems as challenges to work on, and instead come to see them as issues that we simply don’t want to deal with anymore. Obstacles that once invigorated and motivated us become boring, distasteful, and mundane. We want to go back to the sunshine and roses phase but we don’t know how.

Is the “problem” becoming more clear to you? While others have their problems, others are not the problem. The real problem is the “shoulds” we place on others as well as the “shoulds” we place on ourselves.

So…where do we begin in our battle with the “shoulds?”

I’ve found the best place to start in trying to solve almost any “should” problem is with me. It’s wise to begin with a little self-examination. Are my statements, assumptions, or interpretations valid? What are the “shoulds” I’m invoking in the situation? Are the “shoulds” I’m placing on myself and others legitimate? Am I avoiding the real issues? Am I willing to have the frank and honest conversations required to get to a resolution? Am I settling? Am I simply afraid of taking action, of taking the risk required? Am I tolerating the situation because of ego and/or money? Am I looking for a real solutions or am I simply looking for an escape?

This is tough stuff. We have a high need for love, approval, significance, and acceptance…even if we won’t admit it. How we live, lead, and work is the way we seek love, approval, significance, and acceptance whether we are consciously aware of it or not…and whether it is working for us or not.

Most of us have a hard time working through our list of “shoulds” on our own. I hired a “coach” to help me through the process and it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Having been through it myself, it is much easier to recognize where others are in life and help them strip away the erroneous shoulds, focus on the real problem and find a breakthrough solution. Once you know the real issue(s), odds are great that with a little courage and persistence you will emerge victorious and once again find yourself living and leading on purpose…finding ways to collaborate, create, and contribute…to find love, approval, significance, and acceptance.

Start now. List the “shoulds” you assign to others, then list the “shoulds” you’ve taken on as your own. Examine them. Which, if any, are true? What are you going to do about them? Make decisions. Take action. Live your life, don’t let it just happen to you. Game on. Your move.

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and victory in the battle of the “shoulds.”

The life you live is the legacy your leave.

Money is like water. It can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love.

Money moving in the direction of our highest commitments nourishes the world and ourselves.

What you appreciate appreciates.

When you make a difference with what you have, it expands.

Collaboration creates prosperity.

True abundance flows from enough; never from more.

Money carries our intention. If we use it with integrity, then it carries integrity forward.

Know the flow — take responsibility for the way your money moves in the world.

Let your soul inform your money and your money express your soul.

Access your assets — not only money but also your own character and capabilities, your relationships and other non-money resources. — Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and that you make a difference with what you have.

The Great Discontent

There is plenty of discontent in the world today; that’s for sure. All you need do is turn on the TV news for a few minutes and you’ll see that discontent is a dominant force all around the globe. However, that’s not “the great discontent” we are talking about here.

The great discontent is that nagging feeling you have that who you are and what you are doing with your life is somehow off track…at least a little bit. It’s not that things are necessarily bad. It just seems like something is missing…that little spark of passion, of enthusiasm that makes you feel like what you are doing has meaning and is contributing to your personal fulfillment in some way. Or maybe it’s that all your efforts are being invested in someone else’s dream rather than your own.

Depending on the source, research suggests that only 30-40% of those working today are truly engaged in their work. This is not surprising since many people choose work because 1) it pays well, 2) parents directed their vocational choice, 3) power or prestige comes with the job, or 4) they just fell into a particular line of work by happenstance. For many, this means they have to park the interests they are most passionate about, and their creativity, at the door of their workplace everyday.

We are creative beings…all of us are creative in some way. You may be creative with words, tools, images (photos, painting, etc.), a certain type of craft, organizing people or things, new ways of performing work, designing interiors, planning events, buildings (construction, renovation, etc.), speaking and motivating, working with numbers (financial and otherwise)…the ways to be creative are endless. The secret to overcoming the great discontent is to discover your creative niche and find ways to express that creativity in your work.

I learn best from examples. Ike Edeani is a good example for us in this particular instance. His is the story of a young man who spent considerable time and money getting an education so he could be an architect.  Early on in his architecture career, he knew something was missing and started looking for other creative outlets. Ike’s story resonated with me and I believe it may resonate with you, too, if you are one of the 60-70% that are suffering from the great discontent. Ike’s story will reenergize you even if you are one of the lucky minority who has already found your creative path. You can read Ike’s story here.

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and discovery of your pathway out of the great discontent and into a life of creative contentment.

 

Am I doing the most I possibly can with my life?

Life is funny. Life is sad. Life is hard. Life is good. Life is unfair. Life is a blessing. Life is questions. Life is illumination. Life is regret. Life is anticipation. Life is solitary. Life is shared. Life is a roller coaster of highs and lows but each day life is a gift. Life is good!

I wish I had understood the rhythm of life much earlier in my own life. I spent far too much time fluctuating between mentally replaying mistakes I’d made and wishing for things I thought were out there for me someday. I understood very little of the “precious present.” I lived my life according to the gospel of the expectations of others. Little did I know that these revered others were, more often than not, just as clueless as I was.

So here I am…a man who has seen six decades come and go. The vicissitudes of life have shaped and molded me, admonished me and encouraged me, and have led me on a life-long vision quest…a journey of growth and self-discovery. The journey never ends and I’ve never known what awaited me around the next corner, but I can genuinely say the the last three years have yielded more self-understanding and clarity of life purpose than all the preceding years together. I have a peace and contentment, and a sense of gratitude that had been absent in my life. I can finally answer the question, “Who is Ronnie B?” And I have learned…and continue to learn…how to express who I am in my life and work. It’s a fabulous place to be, to use my wife’s favorite “f” word.

The key is to continually ask ourselves, “Am I doing the most I possibly can with my life?” Many times the answer will be “no” or “I’m not sure,” but it is the repeated asking that keeps on the path toward purpose and meaning. One of the stories of this search that has been most impactful to me is the story of Ann Linnea found in Gregg Levoy’s book, Callings, Finding and Following an Authentic Life. I read it again just today. Below is an excerpt that I hope will whet your appetite to begin your own journey of finding and following an authentic life.

Ann Linnea and a friend, Paul Treuer, regularly kayaked on Lake Superior for several years. One day Paul said, “I bet we could kayak around this whole lake.” Ann resisted at first but the seed of a dream with a purpose had been planted. From Levoy’s book…

“Lake Superior is an inland sea. It is the largest lake on the planet, more than 1,200 miles around, and one of the most volatile, capable of whipping itself into a frenzy of thirty-foot seas, and it is famous for its shipwrecks. It is also one of the coldest. For most of the year, the water temperature in in the mid-thirties…

“Kayaking around the lake would be the most dangerous thing she had ever done…

Ann said, “…I knew, vaguely, that I was approaching the end of some kind of life cycle, the life my parents lived, the life I thought I was raised to live: wife, mother, home, good citizen. I wondered, Is this the fullness of what I can be doing? I wanted to reset the course of my life, to come to clarity about what the gift is I’m supposed to return to the world, and I thought the trip could teach me. The question that I brought with me, and kept asking over and over, was ‘Am I doing the most I possibly can with my life?’

“My purpose was to find a purpose, to find the deepest courage in myself, to look for extraordinary growth, not just the ordinary, day-to-day growth, which is certainly valid, but it was the kind of incremental journeying my whole life had been about. I wanted to step outside of that, to really open the door wide, which is why I liked the symbolism of Lake Superior. It was so wide I couldn’t see across it, couldn’t see what was on the other side, and that was just the magnitude of change I was inviting. To grow beyond the expectations we’re raised with is a radical act, but one I felt was necessary to claiming my true self.

“…There weren’t many people who said, ‘Oh, that’s really a great idea.’ In fact, there were none. It was very tough being on the receiving end of not only  my own doubts, but everyone else’s. It’s really hard to stand in your own truth when everybody around you is telling you, ‘Why don’t you just keep things the way they are?’

“…Ann Linnea’s grueling rite of passage in the wilderness, a journey of more than 1,200 miles and sixty-five days, long stretches of which were spent entirely alone after she and Paul decided to take different routes, and the daily practices of keeping a journal, prayer, ritual, and asking for dreams enabled her to find the coordinates of her own center, to find her way back to her deepest courage, the courage to ‘live beyond a focus on safety and security,’ and to reset the course of her life.”

My journey has not included such a radical departure from daily life (at least not yet). Yours may or may not. Either way, we must not miss the journey. We must not settle for a life of simply doing what we were taught and meeting the expectations of others. We must do the work. We must question the gospel according to the expectations and teachings of others. We must explore and learn and find ways to be of help and service to others…to return our gift to the world…in ways that allow us to express our authentic self. It’s work, yes. But I can promise you it will be the most rewarding work you’ve ever done. My life purpose is to encourage you to begin your journey to finding and following an authentic life and to help you along the path.

There’s no time like the present. Start now. How? Get a copy of Levoy’s book. Read it. Mark it up. Absorb it. Start a journal. Spend time thinking and praying about your purpose and the answer to the questions, “Am I doing the most I possibly can with my life? What is the gift I am supposed to return to the world?” You won’t regret it.

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and that you constantly strive to do the most you possibly can with your life. We get one spin. Let’s make the most of it!