“We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” Lao Tzu
Sometimes it’s easy to let life situations shape us. I NEED to work this job. I HAVE TO do this for someone else. I MUST get this done. Our to-do lists drive us to work harder, smarter, faster. We multi-task and focus on ever-increasing efficiencies to get more done.
Each of us is given the same 525,600 minutes a year, and we all can decide how we want to live them, how we want to fill our “pot” of life.
We all have work that must be done, and I’m not suggesting that you walk away from your responsibilities. But what would happen if you complemented those responsibilities – or better yet, COMBINED those responsibilities – with your passions?
Ask yourself these eight questions to help you shape your life.
1. What are five things I am grateful for at this moment?
Write them down! Start a gratitude journal. Or offer your thanks to those you love, your Higher Power or the neighborhood. Study after study has shown that being grateful for what IS (even some of the bad things) leads to more happiness and peace.
2. What do I really WANT to do?
Deadlines, projects, staying late… there is always more work do to. Take a step back and think about what is essential to your job – and what you do because you think it is important to someone else. Do you need to stay late because one of your employees has a task that needs to be done after closing time? Do you need to worry about making the perfect meal every day for your kids because some blog tells you about the ideal child-friendly diet (yep, every kid will eagerly eat KALE – I don’t think so!). Pick what feeds your soul,and let go of the things you do because you think someone else will notice.
3. What can I do for others?
Giving yourself to others can change your perspective. I started mentoring an amazing 20-something woman who has faced more in her life than I could ever imagine – and she’s taught me so much. While I thought I would be teaching and guiding her, she actually became my teacher!
4. What can I do for fun?
Go dance, sing and find your joy! My amazing cousin learned to dance in her 70s and when I talk to her about dancing, I see a joy and love of life that inspires me! I love to cook, while my husband loves to learn about and raise bees. We all have some passion that may have nothing to do with our careers, families or friends. That’s fantastic because it allows us to meet new people and experience life in a new way!
5. What if I let go of judgment?
In training to be a coach, I met this woman who – truth be told – intimidated me with how smart and funny she was and how she could facilitate conversations with ease. I was awestruck only slightly scared of her! As I got to know her and let go of my judgment, I saw this beautiful soul… a person I call a friend. She now inspires me with her courage, vulnerability and imagination!
At the same training, I saw someone I thought might not be able to teach me anything. Lo and behold, she taught me amazing things when I let go of my judgment!
6. How can I cherish all the opinions in the world?
Each day, our world becomes more polarized – right and wrong, my way or the highway, it’s black and white. What if we spent more time exploring the gray of our world instead of the black and white? I don’t agree with that person’s view on X, but I appreciate how they do Y. Each of us is unique, and each person can teach us something!
7. How can I see labels for what they are?
Labels are merely words that each of us puts our own meaning to – and we often have completely different meanings for the same words. I worked with a guy who hunted and was a staunch supporter of gun rights. I wanted gun control. When we sat down, we realized that we both wanted the same thing – responsible gun ownership – we just had different words for it.
8. What if I smiled more?
It sounds silly, but smiling actually changes your brain chemistry, and makes you happier! Smiling also changes how other people see you, making you more attractive to them. Best of all, smiling is contagious. Each time you smile at a person, you make it more likely that they will smile back, giving both of you another hit of all those great happiness chemicals!