– originally published on September 15, 2017 – on Medium.com
What age do you think most effectively represents the term ‘middle-aged’? I would have to say…40! As I get closer to this age (I still have about 2 and a half years to go), I’m really starting to consider the fact that I’m closing in on the completion of the first half of my life. While that may sound heavy…maybe daunting, I hold a very optimistic perspective surrounding this time. And I remain so grateful for what I’ve found in the first 40 (37 to be precise).
However, as I’ve heard many people say things like ‘age is just a number’ and ‘you’re only as old as you feel’, I actually prefer taking a very realistic approach to reflection of the years, and acknowledge that 40 is huge…monumental! We can’t deny the fact that 40 remains a touchstone in time, and that it forces us to check our barometer to gauge what we’ve done with the first half of our life…and how we’ve set ourselves up for the 2nd.
So where does that leave me? Well…so many thoughts. I have been told so much that ‘life is short’. I can identify with that in a sense. On the other hand, it seems like I’ve already lived a lifetime up to this moment…and it feels great knowing I have another waiting for me. I’m not ignorant to the fact that tragedy or poor health can strike at any moment, but I only let that drive me to saturate my moments more so…and then soak them up with love, appreciation, gratitude, and reflection.
…it seems like I’ve already lived a lifetime up to this moment…and it feels great knowing I have another waiting for me.
I feel so fortunate for what I’ve done and seen thus far, yet, there are more items on my list. There are things I haven’t done…probably due to fear or prioritization or laziness…and I will not stand at 40 and regret those things. I don’t want to be saying, ‘I wish I tried…I didn’t think I could…I probably should’…you fill in the rest. Some of those items are public and may be shared, while others will remain more intrinsic, simply being worked out in my own mind. Whatever they may be, I’m using this moment to declare my dedication to starting on them. I can’t really judge my success on whether some are completed…but feel good about at least ‘trying’ or ‘starting’. Don’t get my wrong…I know the power of closing (and actually wrote this piece on it), but that’s not what I’m going for here. I’m more looking to try things that have been on my mind, and that I hope to still be enjoying even far into the second half of my life.
One area that I need to improve on is my documentation…or my record keeping of experiences. I wish I had pictures of certain times in my past…and I wish I started writing earlier. Well technology has certainly helped with this, and will allow me to effectively track my #roadto40. I’m going to be looking for a lot of feedback along the way, and will be reaching out to others during this project…in hopes to gain some insight. I also urge you to ‘try’ as much as possible and document your process somewhere. Please send me your thoughts and ideas along the way.
‘your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision’
There are times in our life when we have to make a decision. We find ourselves standing at a crossroads with options in front of us. A typical crossroads would determine that we would have three options or choices. Picture driving up to an actual intersection of roads. It’s best to think of west. The desert, tumbleweed, cacti, cactuses? Both are accepted. This setting just feels more serene and secluded. And it’s just cool. No one is there to witness your decision. It is just you and this place and the road you choose. You can take a left, go straight, or take a right…3 choices. Maybe a good way to use this analogy would be to match up each choice of road with an answer to the question, ‘should I do this?’ Of course ‘this’ can fit whatever situation you may have in your life. With 3 choices of roads, road 1 is YES! Road 2 is NO! Road 3 is OTHER or MAYBE SO.
I think whenever we are asking ourselves ‘should I do this’, it’s usually because we already have a hunch that we want to do it. ‘Go with your gut’, ‘follow your instincts’, ‘lead with your heart’, are all phrases that tell us we already know the answer. Yes is the answer. We know what we’d like to do, and deep down we know what we desire. However, before we commit ourselves to road 1, we are faced with obstacles like fear and insecurity that will ostensibly reveal that this decision was a bad choice. That’s terrible and very sad. I think everyone needs more of road 1 in their life. Be more of a ‘yes man’, and stop turning everything down. Embrace change and moving forward. Covet growth and the learning process, especially when you find yourself on the edge of comfort. Many of us talk about our passions and what we truly want to be doing. We describe it to others. We visualize it in vivid detail. We think about how it will all play out in the future. But then we don’t act. This is why some psychologists have found that we shouldn’t actually talk about our goals. By speaking about them, and receiving feedback from others, we actually feel a sense of accomplishment and we lose the passion, the edge, the motivation we once had. This has happened to me many times. It’s hard because we want to share our passion with others. We want to bounce ideas. Maybe we should just share the tip of the iceberg…or bounce one small ball to someone. Don’t spill it before acting on it. When is the best time to start acting on your passions? Right now. Immediately. The clock is ticking.
Being a ‘yes man’ and taking road 1 on your decisions can bring you places you never dreamed of. However, there are often times when we have to say ‘no’. Maybe you’re just done spending time with a certain person…maybe your schedule is full…maybe you’re just wiped out from being the challenges of parenting. All these are totally justifiable. I’ve learned that ‘no’ doesn’t have to be negative. If we communicate to others our feelings and/or reasons along with our ‘no’, we should be comfortable and content in our position to turn something down. Withing my business, I now notice myself saying ‘no’ more often. I always try to say ‘yes’ and take road 1 when people have requests. But for a variety of reasons, sometimes I turn things down. In the past, I felt guilty or insecure about this. But that doesn’t hold any weight. I tell myself that if I can’t commit wholeheartedly to this decision, it won’t work out for either party. Therefore, taking Road 2 can be understood as the best decision for all involved. Road 2 shouldn’t be as worn and trodden as road 1, but don’t be afraid to lay new tracks when warranted.
Sometimes we can’t commit to a yes or no right now. We aren’t ready to. I actually use road 3 often. I’m not so great at deciding on things right away. I like to ruminate on the idea for a while…sleep on it in a sense. I have come to realize that spontaneity is powerful and rewarding, and have started implementing that more in my day to day. However, on some big decisions, I still hold value in deliberate consideration, weighing pros and cons over time and as I think of them, and documenting thoughts in a journal, before making a final choice. While mulling over an idea for a couple of days, an important variable will often arise that easily determines the outcome for me. It’s like a subtle, ‘did you consider this?’ And I will know right then and there whether it’s road 1 or 2 that I’m taking. Road 3 seems to be a loop around that brings you back to the same intersection later on. It allows some soul searching, some road tripping, and a few pit stops to get your bearings and reassess your current location/situation.
Maybe you have to let some time pass before you become close with that special someone. Perhaps you’re waiting for them to work something out on their end.
You may need to save some money up, or line up your budget differently first.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed and need to put a decision on the back burner until you feel more centered.
Whatever it may be, we all have reasons to take road 3 at certain crossroads. As I spoke of in the Road 2 section…be confident and content with your choice to wait on the decision. It’s not a ‘non-decision’…it’s a decision to wait, and lock in to something when you are totally ready to do so. With the quick pace of our lives, I’m often telling Matilda, ‘let’s go, make a decision quickly!’ But I try to catch myself…thinking, ‘wait…she can have all the time she wants to make a decision’ (within reason!). I believe it will strengthen the ground she stands on, and empower her ability to make wise and timely decisions for the rest of her life.
Be aware of your surroundings when you come to a crossroads. Simply pay attention to your emotions and the physical changes taking place. Take a breath before accelerating down the next road. Remember, each and every even small decision will set your life onto a different path…possibly a different plane. So choose wisely! I wish you the best in your decision making!
Music: Kaleo is a band that started in Iceland. That might contribute to their unique sound. I often forget about them for a while, and then hear them on the radio. The sound is always intriguing…and since I don’t own any of their music, I always go home and put on some of their live stuff. Matilda and I caught them live at the Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival last year. They rock! Give this song a listen!
‘good morning to you, fair and gracious daughter’ – Shakespeare
The morning is a part of the day when we’re usually following routines and habits that have been ingrained over a long period of time. When this occurs, we can easily just breeze through tasks, attempting to get up and go quickly. The significance of time and place can go unrecognized, and we can set ourselves on a course that reflects that lack of investment. I think often about ‘investing’ in ourselves as individuals. It can be within our diet or health, experiences we have, or simply by reading. The beginning of the day though, is such a fitting time to invest, as we can set ourselves off on a path filled with great returns.
At the 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven advised students to make their bed upon waking, and to do it well. You can be proud of completing this simple task, and it can be a reflection of the work you do further on throughout your day. Click here for the speech. The make-your-bed advice starts at about 4:40.
I usually can’t make my bed right after waking…because Matilda and my dog Jackson are still sleeping there. But I do appreciate the idea, and I come back a little later in the morning to complete this. It also reveals to me that we are all very different in how we do things at home…so there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to mornings. Some enjoy coffee while others take tea. We can all find our own habits that lead us to a successful day, and employ them upon waking.
Here are some ideas that have been working for me:
You Snooze You Lose – I’ve battle with the snooze button for years, and whenever I press it, I feel guilty, like I’m losing, and that I’m not supposed to be doing it. Instead of smashing that snooze, I turn the alarm off and take a deep, cleansing, mindful breath. It’s like a soft signal to the rest of my body that I’m going to get up now. I also feel and think
about appreciation during that breath. I might be considering how fortunate I am to get another day, or cherishing the fact that Matilda and I will somehow grow today, or simply smiling and coveting the first moment that is only mine…this breath is all happiness, all love. Part of my ability to find this happiness, is the fact that I really love my mornings now. So I’m looking forward to getting downstairs and starting with my day. It used to be grumpiness and negativity and why so early and 10 more minutes. It took some searching and practice to get to where I am now, but I’m actually surprised at how making a few small changes has led to such an awesome awakening.
Early Bird Gets the Worm – Wake up earlier. It’s that simple. This is somewhat related to not smashing the snoozer button, but it’s also about just setting an earlier wake time goal. Sleeping a little bit longer and then waking up to rush through tasks mindlessly, leaves you feeling chaotic…and success within whatever you do will be fleeting. It’s similar to driving fast. You’re more stressed, under more pressure, and not being mindful of all of your moves. I’m currently waking at 4:45am, and I’m working toward 4:30am. For a while, I would sleep as long as I possible could, and hope that Matilda would also sleep late…waking when she would get up. But I found that I could rise early, and have about an hour to just invest in myself. I can’t stress enough how beneficial this has been. Waking up early, and feeling that you’re up before most others can give you a sense of accomplishment, regardless of what you actually accomplish. You’re already ahead!
The Elixir of Life – Before you go straight to the coffee pot, hydrate yourself a little. You’re body has gone without food or water since bedtime. Don’t immediately take in coffee, which is a diuretic. Gulp down a half glass of water or so. Similar to the deep breath I take upon waking, I like to think of this bit of water as another signal to my body to start up again…also as a lubricant to all of the systems in the body…or a swell to the river that delivers nutrients throughout. Then I go to the coffee. I make and set up my coffee maker the night before, and have it brew at the same time as my alarm clock will go off. That way, it’s one more sound to help wake me, and I can actually smell the coffee from my bedroom…which is just the best! Sometimes between the water and coffee, I take a shot of what I call the Elixir of Life. A tumbler glass is best for this. Squeeze the juice from half of an organic lemon in. Add a spoon full of honey (from your zip code is best…or from your own bees!). Then add cinnamon. This drink has many benefits. I’m not sure what any of those benefits are, other than the fact that it is ‘invigorating’. By the way, when did you last do something that was truly invigorating?
Breathe – Find some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice that works best for you. I have a large window that faces east…and that faces a large corn field, allowing me to take in a far off horizon. It feels great to sit on the floor near this window, with the sun on my face. Depending on the time of year, and when I actually decide to sit, I can be present during a sunrise. It feels like the sun strengthens me for the day. I haven’t done the research on this either, but I know some that struggle with depression can be prescribed more sun. I think it raises levels of serotonin. Whatever it does, it feels good. I spend 10-15 minutes just focusing on my breath here. I have two analogies for meditation. One, is that it is like doing a cleanse on the mind. It removes cancerous deposits, distractions, junk, filler, useless stuff, and allows all systems to function in harmony. My other analogy is more techy. Meditation is like a disc clean up and defragmentation of the mind. That works right?
Lead and Paper – Write in a journal. There are many methods for this that can be helpful. I’ve been simply writing the date and then a few sentences about how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about. I also use it to wish happiness on someone else for the day (See a previous post here for more on this). You never know…you might be the one I’m wishing for! Then I write down 2 or 3 things I want to get done or focus on that day. I took this from Leo Babauta. He calls them M.I.T’s, or Most Important Tasks. By connecting these M.I.T.’s to goals that you have, you’ll make sure to complete objectives along your journey. Use a real pencil. Find some extraordinary stationary (can those two words go together?). And just write.
Move – Run, do yoga, pushups and situps, cleans and presses, handstands, ride your bike. Find something fun that get’s your juices flowing. When training or exercising in the early morning, a great motivating factor is the feeling that you’ve completed a workout and showered before anyone is even awake. Do it!
Cold – I’ve taken hot hot showers for almost all of my life. From time to time, I would cool it off at the end just a bit. This winter though, I came to love COLD showers. I don’t mean a little cool. I call it 9 o’clocking because my shower control is at it’s absolute coldest when it’s in the 9 o’clock position. If you haven’t tried this…you have to. Shower as you would regularly, but about halfway through, shift your faucet to about half cold – half hot. This will feel pretty cold. But that’s nothing. When you’re all rinsed of soap and conditioner, turn your faucet to the absolute coldest setting. Just commit to it. You’ll thank me later. Put your head directly under the water and start there. Once your head is almost frozen, make sure your entire body gets sprayed with the icy stuff. No joke, the first time I tried this, I laughed out loud uncontrollably. After doing this? You’ll feel like a beast, and that there is nothing you can’t do that day. And…it will be the second invigorating thing you’ll have done before other’s have started their day!
Try some of these and comment on your experience below! And by the way, thanks so much for reading this far!
Music: The band Amber Run put their instruments down for this great collaboration with the London Contemporary Voices choral group. It’s majestic. Click here for it!
‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare
What kind of story are you telling? What type of narrative streams through you? We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through. And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see. Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.
The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself. When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts? Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts? “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night. In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought. You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day. If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?
For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful. I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things. I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?
My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day. I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me. And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day. Writing this sounds depressing. But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’. I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control. I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.
I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone. For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear. Tony Robbins talks a lot about these. The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car. Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy! I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us. Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________ think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term. Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’. ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’ Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told. Ultimately, the tale is up to you.
I used to drive like an idiot. It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose. I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible. It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late. These days I drive slow. I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush. And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never. It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them. A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts. And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.
Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch. And it can take a lot of practice. A lot of changing habits. And a bunch of self-reflection. You may not love what you see! But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.
There are many ways to start drafting that story. One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation. Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says ‘Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad. And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.
How to we start though, and how do we practice often? Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for. 2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate. Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed. 3. Wish happiness on others. Simply choose a person. This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by. Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today. Do that for 3 people every day. 4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them. Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something. If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them! These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute. And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.
Movie: Stranger than Fiction. Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role. He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post! I have the movie if you want to borrow it. And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries! Joking…unless you have some.