Be Present

For many of us, our lives are filled with routine, responsibilities, and obligations. Often, time is wasted worrying about future endeavors: How can I make more money? When will I find the right man/woman? So much so, we forget to acknowledge the present. When that happens, we often overlook what is really important to us. If you don’t leave time for reflection, relationships, and ultimately freedom to enjoy what you really value in life, unhappiness is bound to creep in and perhaps overtake you.

We tend to forget that life is fleeting and every minute we squander is time we will never get back.

I am not saying you can eliminate all of your daily routines and tasks. Even if given a million dollars, you would still have responsibilities and obligations that you don’t want. That’s part of life – nothing is perfect or guaranteed. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t use those responsibilities as an excuse not to pursue what really matters to you. We need to make time for things that really move us. As the song says, “take your passion and make it happen.”

For me, in the past, I wasted so much time worrying about what others thought of me, that much of my happiness was based on the actions of others or the lack thereof. This just goes to show how time can be wasted on worrying about insignificant things in your life, things that really have no affect on the bigger picture. However, when you let go of that way of living you eliminate much of the unnecessary worries and re-center your focus on more important things, essentially improving your life.

Philosopher and poet, Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Take The Spotlight Off Gossip

Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. —Socrates

I have to remind myself constantly that gossip is inevitable. What I mean by that is there will always be people who talk about others. I’ve seen families, friends, and coworkers belittled and the divisive aftermath.

For me it started in school – 3rd grade from what I can recall. That was the age when we began to compare ourselves to others. I was talked about, even bullied for a time when particular aspects of my appearance weren’t viewed as acceptable in terms of society’s idea of physical beauty. For that reason, I didn’t enjoy school. It gave me an overwhelming sense of anxiety and self-doubt, that at times made it difficult to endure “normal” day-to-day social interactions. Yet, since I learned school was not something I could avoid permanently, I taught myself how fit in, how to be accepted, and ultimately  how to be liked.

By high school, I was able to go to school without misery. Instead of being considered an outcast or the subject of gossip, I became part of the gossip factory. I came to believe that participating in gossip made me normal. But in retrospect, I see that all I was doing was devaluing others who were different. Gossip is an indirect way to feel better about yourself, while putting others down.

I gossiped, partly as a defense mechanism, hoping I would then not be talked about negatively. I didn’t want to risk losing my recent acceptance into the “in crowd”. I thought it would be satisfying to be liked but all it made me was a phony or poser, who was in no way genuine. I associated with people who were deceiving and manipulative; none of whom I talk to today.

Over the years, I’ve labeled myself a victim; someone that had been mistreated. Believing this somehow made it seem that what I had done was ok…no big deal, everyone does it.

It’s said that sometimes after a traumatic accident people take stock of their life and often develop a different outlook. Well that’s how I would explain my experience. Shortly after my 22nd birthday life began to change for me. It was as if I was seeing myself from an alternative perspective, one that made me feel like an actor in a play. I had let the dramas in my life run the show. It’s time for me to stop feeling like a victim.

The energy that is invested in gossip can be used to focus on self-development instead. Now in time, I can maintain a good and humble spirit.

3 Truths About Love That Will Never Change

In our 20s most of us are hypocrites (and even assholes) at some point when it comes to love and relationships. We will tell anyone what not to do, and then turn around and do just that. Why? Because we are young, inexperienced, selfish, and love is unpredictable. Moreover, people are flawed and sometimes make mistakes especially with matters of the heart. At this time most of us don’t even know ourselves let alone what we really want and need from others.

However, even with that being said there are 3 truths about love I have learned that will never change:

1.You must love yourself before you can truly love another.

As cliché as it may sound it’s the truth. It goes  along the same lines as, how can you expect others to respect you, if you don’t respect yourself? I mean, if you want to get technical, you can still love another even if you hate yourself, but that love is shallow and not pure; and when there is no depth to love, it will eventually shrink away. It is an unhealthy kind of love.

2.To get love, you have to give love.

Let’s take a metaphorical approach for this one. The Dead Sea, it takes everything the Jordan River gives yet in turns gives nothing. So it is said for that reason to be “dead.” If that is so, then if, you are only receiving, and not giving love, then you are also dead (in terms of love). The whole point of a real relationship is for there to be mutual and reciprocal love and that can only work when two people are equally benefitting from the relationship.

3.Love is the reason we are all here.

Every value, principle, and belief has at it’s root love.

Reflection Exercise

As I walk into the chapel, white roses, poppies, and sunflowers fill the room. The smell is entrancing and instantly takes me back to my mother’s garden. The vividly colored stained glass windows are open and the warmth of the sun glistens on everyone’s skin. A full orchestra plays music and you can distinguish the various instruments. The lively beats bounce off the walls, the sound echoes throughout the halls and can be heard outside. It’s breathtaking!

In the midst of what would normally be heartache, there is an overwhelming sense of joy. It is a celebration of life rather than a loss of one. There are tears, but they are only bittersweet. I watch as loved ones greet each other with warm embraces and soft words of condolence.

As I find my seat, a man in his mid-thirties begins to walk up where the casket is front and center. Everyone becomes silent as he speaks. The music softens to a faint melody in the background. He talks of a woman – a woman he describes as a beautiful and complete individual.

He speaks of a time after his addiction when he had lost all faith in people. His faith was rekindled in her. “She possessed noble qualities, that of which embodied her bold character,” he says.

Three more speakers follow after him. They all have unique stories with similar traits. Each describe in loving details her kind and compassionate personality. The woman’s brother ends the ceremony recalling “she saw the good in people, even when they could not see it in themselves. Her love was abundant and unconditional. She did not judge for she believed herself to be no better than any other. She did not hate for she knew it would only consume the heart. Instead she forgave so that her heart remained open and welcoming. Her wisdom came with age. Her knowledge earned from her ever-growing curiosity of the world. She lived a life that was her own. To be in her presence, was to feel her love, and it made you feel more alive.”

I watch everyone as they line up to view the open casket to pay their respects. I know I should do the same, so I quickly get in line. Soon it is my turn. I walk up to the casket and look down to see a beautiful stranger, but what I see couldn’t be real – for the stranger lying there is me.

I invite you to attend your own funeral. How would you like to be remembered? This is a popular reflection exercise. While it may seem morbid, it unconsciously allows you to get in touch with your deepest values, as life takes on a different perspective. You are left to examine the life you’re currently living.

Value Life

Over the last few years my definition of success has changed. Also my past desire to succeed dwindled at times. It wasn’t until I realized that being a person of principle, or having good character, was more important to me that I found my true definition of success.

Throughout history, countless stories have been told of individuals who were touted as successful, but how many of them were truly authentic?

My childhood would not have been the same without the creative mind of Walt Disney. His ideas were reportedly rejected over 300 times, and a newspaper editor fired him for his lack of creativity and “imagination.”

The University of Bern rejected Albert Einstein, described by a former schoolteacher as “mentally slow,” for his Ph.D dissertation, calling it “irrelevant and fanciful.” He of course went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for the photoelectric effect. Not to mention his theory on relativity corrected the deficiencies for Newton’s physics. Even today the word “Einstein” is synonymous for genius.

Charles Darwin, one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century, wrote in his autobiography: “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.” His astute observations on biological changes in nature, outlined in “On the Origin of the Species,” fundamentally changed the world of science by identifying the evolutionary process of natural selection. While Darwin’s views on evolution still cause controversy today among some religious people, it’s hard to deny his contribution to evolutionary biology.

I think Einstein got it right when he said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

The Relationship Failure Of The Digital Age

Texting, Tinder, and Technology

 Living in the digital age has permanently changed the way we communicate with one another. Advances in technology have availed us to a variety of electronic means of communication that do not require face-to-face interaction. From texting to snapchat, these “shortcuts” are intended to make life easier. But they also have a down side that often causes confusion, unhappiness, and stress. Part of the appeal to these alternative forms of communication is that there is less human interaction with one another; making the beginning of a relationship feel less intense. For instance, pressure of rejection is lessened because you are not forced to actually confront the other person.

Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, authors of It’s Just a F***cking Date, explain how the “continual morphing that has come with the advances in communication technology and social networking has turned dating into a blur of booty calls, ambiguous hanging out and ‘window-shopping’…”

Case in point – you need go no further than your friendly and convenient app store to meet people. Tinder, a mobile matchmaking app akin to “window shopping,” matches couples based on their attractiveness to each other. All that is required is a link to your Facebook profile photo (photo only!). It allows you to set your own geographic radius to find a match. Although, take caution in using this app, you never know who is really behind the picture.

Based on my relationship experiences, electronic communication sucks. Two things about it that really bother me. First, people are now making assumptions of who you are based simply on your photos rather than actually getting to know you. The second is simple, yet seems to be overlooked, text messages lack tone, voice inflection, and facial expressions making it easy to take things the wrong way.

While it seems more comfortable and convenient to communicate with friends via electronic messaging, it is actually a less effective way to establish a meaningful relationship. Conversations are shortchanged when you rely on texting, because you miss the emotional complexity that takes place in a face-to-face interaction.

Ultimately, you reap what you sow here. You can’t depend on electronic communication to sow the seeds of your relationship. It’s then doomed from the start.

Set Goals And Achieve Them

 I am a little late on the “New Year’s resolution,” le sigh. But it’s never too late to make a change. Inspired by author Laura Lippman, who every New Year’s picks just one word as her resolution for the coming year, I decided to do the same.

I wanted a word that would have impact; one that would compel me to make changes in my life. For changes to occur, however, I would first have to let go of certain fears that have kept me from being the person that I really am. So my word for 2015 became “fearless.” In other words, to live a life “free from fear.” Obviously you can’t completely rid yourself of fear; it is a natural behavior response. Also, for me, being fearless doesn’t mean you are not afraid of anything. It means not letting fear control your life.

In the past years my decisions were made in a confined state of fear. So afraid of being hurt I suppressed my feelings and held back my emotions to protect myself. I made it difficult for someone to like or love me, as they were tested at every corner. As you can imagine this limited my potential relationships and caused me to make bad impressions and push people away, inevitably hurting them. I have begun to realize that vulnerability is not a negative trait, and that I can take my fears and anxieties and turn them into strengths. It’s a liberating feeling to realize you aren’t that voice in your head.

I’m now trying not only to become aware of that fear but also to accept and move forward in spite of it. Loving myself has allowed me to love others. Learning what love is not has helped me to learn more about what love is. Instead of testing people in my life, I now try to grant them access allowing me to trust them.

Last, and most important, I believe that being fearless is the foundation of having courage, which Aristotle believed was “the greatest quality of the mind.” And as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly put it, “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” which means at the point of highest reality.

Now I wish to live a life where my actions are not influenced by my fears. If you aren’t happy with the life you’re living I hope you have the courage to change it.