Archive | June, 2012

I am SOMEBODY! And yet I’m nobody….

14 Jun

Before you email, rush in to save me, and assume I must be experiencing a mid-30’s existential crisis (my birthday is in August and thankfully, I’ll only be 34), think first about your automatic need to reassure me, relieve me of the doubt it appears I’m feeling, and to halt the Kori Crazy-Talk.

What’s that about?!

At some point it seems most of us decided that we’re not supposed to feel helpless, lost, confused, even unimportant, miniscule, tiny. Meaningless….

“Okay, okay already!!”

Yet we do. We feel this stuff. We feel it a lot.

So many of us are walking around like zombies asking “Why?”

“Where is God if I feel so empty, so miserable?”

“What is there in this life for me?”

But what do you do when you notice this questioning, this longing?

You probably push, you scream, and then you hide.

You cover your face, you put on a mask, you go grab the alcohol, you go stuff your face with food you don’t taste, or you pop the pills “you saved for a rainy day…”

Fraud.

Before you get mad at me for being negative and pessimistic, consider how true my statements are and then realize that you just don’t want to hear the truth.

Pedaling this morning on the recumbent bike I noticed halfway through my workout a frenzied surge of energy. Punching the “mode” button a few times to navigate to the “speed”  indicator, sure enough it was registering almost 15 mph faster and at a higher resistance! I had just taken a look again at the photos I’d taken earlier. (As you know I’m preparing for a contest and as it gets closer I am in touch daily with my coach to ensure I’m on the right track). I saw the muscle striations. I saw the full, hard, roundness of my quads and shoulders. I looked crisp. And I got a surge of adrenaline as I imagined standing on the stage in my new suit next to the other competitors, out-posing them, flexing with precision, and hearing nothing but “WIN, WIN, WIN” in my head. I texted my coach- Let’s DO THIS!!

In the next instant I went through a wave of  sinister laughing bouncing from the edges of my skull to  hearing, “you do realize that you’re one in millions of people on the planet…a speck…a nobody…”

I was struck by the profundity of dichotomous emotion. From elated to vacuous, I came full circle and was abrasively reminded of life’s ebb and flow. How tumultuous the depth of emotion we can experience may feel, and yet how fleeting those emotions can be. And what gets an individual to the point which he can face his vulnerability, his raw, wounded,  incomprehensible, and unacceptable self?

“The sun will shine again, huh?” a client said definitively but with the quick upturned tone familiar when a question is asked. Over the phone I could see the tiny lines in the corners of her mouth as she smiled softly.We were discussing my experience this morning and how the circumstances of her life over the last month had registered similar notes.

And another who is wrestling with the grief he is traversing after his father died, said to me, “I’m not sure how long this process is supposed to last, but I know I need to be moving on with my life.” His statement demonstrating his misinformed belief that he could only do one or the other and that the grief needed to have a finite stopping point. I pointed out that he had been laughing a minute earlier and inquired of whether his choice to work with me wasn’t a good enough indicator of his effort toward “moving on.” His father’s death was obviously bringing up uncomfortable emotions, a sense of something missing, a “void” he called it, and as many deaths do, a sense of his own impermanence.

We’re like rivers really. Always flowing. We feel. We feel deeply. And we can acknowledge the importance of those feelings, or we can live like prisoners behind them, giving them the power to cage us and be the guides through the narrow channels of life that offer far less excruciatingly beautiful glimpses of transformative confidence and  daunting frigidity. But we must also realize that they are not all we are.

As somebody I make a difference, I have meaning, I am important, I am connected to the greater good.

As nobody I can recognize my insignificance and the futility which exists in trying so hard to be what I’m not, and in turn expect to reach the depths of both and honor their presence.

Even as I prepare to click “publish” to share this with the world I question 1. ) how my goal of winning a competition is worth getting excited over and more importantly, how superficial an example to  use to demonstrate the power of emotion; and 2.) how self-doubt could lead me to second-guess whether this blog is even worth sharing. Who am I to believe I can touch someone’s life merely by exposing my ineptitudes and the insights I’ve come about as a pilgrim of my personal journey? But then I recall the people I am drawn to most auspiciously– those who relish in life’s fragility, who are wise because they recognize and embrace their flaws, and who sprinkle their wisdom gained from truly living, in the most humble and yet personally rewarding of ways.

As I send this into cyberspace I breathe and hope that it will touch others.

And if it doesn’t, I remind myself that I’m still okay.

Reflect & Move from Hapless to Happy

10 Jun

Like glass, a pristine  mountain lake can shimmer with unadulterated calmness. Toss a pebble into its silent surface, and the ripples radiate from the point of impact. The waves loom large where the water was disrupted but dissipate as the distance extends. The space between each swell grows until the lake achieves its smooth, velvet texture once again.

This is you. Your life. But do you see it? Do you notice it? Do you reflect?

I know far too many people who are going through the motions of their lives. They go through the day to day, they work, they come home, they sit in front of the TV, they go to bed, and they start the process all over again the following morning. These are the same people who complain about being bored and uninspired and wonder what they are doing here. “What’s the point?” they may ask. They lack purpose, meaning, drive, and importantly, experience.

If this is you, and you are in that lost, confused, and depressed place of wondering “is there more?”, it’s time to reflect.

It’s time to look in the mirror, see the glassy stare, and then crack it. (Figuratively!)

If you want to change– if you want happiness–you have to throw a pebble into the pond.

You have to make waves, you have to act, and you have to do it with consciousness.

You must be deliberate, create opportunities for stepping out of your comfort zone, push past where you want to stop, and demand more from yourself than you think you’re capable of.

This isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult if you’re unaccustomed to it. Scary even.

Think of the people who you know that demonstrate a sense of aliveness, an authenticity of spirit, a richness and depth of soul. Are their lives “easy”? Do they coast? Things handed to them without devotion to effort?  They may APPEAR to “have it easy”, but this is often not the case. That appearance is often due to the choices they make in their approach to life, in essence, how they perceive their circumstances. I’m betting the people you know who appear most happy are the most busy, most involved, most engaged, least bored, and most accomplished individuals in your circle. I’m also betting that they are the most joyful, despite AND BECAUSE OF their penchant focus on goal-driven behavior and toil toward improvement.

I use happy and joyful synonymously. I want to make sure you understand, however, that they are not the same as pleasure.  Here’s an example: I may not experience pleasure in the discomfort of dieting to get to 5% body fat for my competition. I don’t particularly like being hungry a lot of the time. I don’t relish in the participation of hypoglycemic cardio. The physical discomfort of the preparatory aspects of bodybuilding can be grueling. HOWEVER, I enjoy the mental and physical challenge it requires. I enjoy pushing myself past what I know others would crumble trying to do. I enjoy the assessment and strategy involved in the process and increasing my ability to tolerate pain.

Enjoyment and happiness comes from consciousness. It is a direct result of paying attention to the minutiae and taking an active role in deciding how to view it. Take two guys working in a factory. They are both assembly line workers. The job itself is repetitive. For eight hours they are engaged in the same movements, watching the same belt, the same parts, and standing in the same spot. One of the men wonders if there will ever be something more. He goes home each night and falls asleep in front of the tv with an empty six pack next to him. The other man, however, sets time goals for himself. He has exceeded productivity goals and acquired the praise of his superiors. He has signed up for some community college classes and will be taking those in the evening after work as he wants to advance in the company. He works hard. The schedule is demanding. But he feels confident and happy.

The second man….he didn’t just ASK. He moved to ACT. And he had to reflect in order to move forward.

So how do you go from hapless to happy? How do you enjoy life more? Turns out that research has teased out 8 factors found among individuals who express life happiness and enjoyment. Ready to begin taking control? My previous blog conveyed the importance of not expecting happiness to just happen. You must make an effort, which means not just letting your experiences be those that occur unattended to, but diving into what appears to be the most mundane of tasks.

Enjoyable experiences most often include the following:

1.  Tasks are appoached that we have a chance at completing (aka: realistic goals are set)

2. Concentration (we’re paying attention, not trying to multitask)

3. Clear goals are set, which aids in concentration (succinct, unambiguous, time-limited)

4. Immediate feedback is provided (can only happen when a goal is clear-cut and achievable)

5. The everyday toils and frustrations of life are removed (you must practice filtering them out) to be absorbed and involved in the task

6. The task allows for a sense of control to be obtained

7. Self-consciousness is removed (yet your sense of self grows stronger once the experience is over!)

8. Time disappears.

Ever lose yourself in an experience and wonder where the time went? That sense of flow and unencumbered productivity embodies the above principles, whether you realized it or not! But now that you know, you can create more of these opportunities!

Now go look in the  mirror! And that happiness? GO GET IT!

Don’t Worry…..Be Happy! Really?

7 Jun

In 1988 Bobby McFerrin sang this feel-good, toe-tapping a capella song that rose to the top of the billboard charts and stayed there for two weeks. Not a surprise when it seems happiness is one area that most people claim to have a difficult time finding.  Happiness appears to be an enigma.

What is it? How do you get it? Where does it come from?

Studies of happiness (also known as well-being, flourishing, thriving, positivity, emotional vitality, life satisfaction, to name a few) typically measure the state biologically, with brain imaging and hormonal levels, or through self-report measures that assess the frequency of positive or negative thoughts we experience, feelings we have, or memories of positive or negative thoughts within a given time frame. It seems such an ambiguous concept– each of us would define happiness differently.

Regardless, happiness impacts all aspects of our lives, and it’s related closely to optimism.

Think about how you IN GENERAL perceive the world. Some people I know, when asked how they see the world, would say, “It’s a dog eat dog world” conveying a perception of everyone being out for themselves and life really being about survival of the fittest. On the other hand, I am fortunate to know many individuals who rarely have a negative thing to say, perceiving the world “as my oyster…” In stark contrast to each other, studies have demonstrated that individuals who operate with a pessimistic worldview live shorter lives and have a significantly higher risk of disease and other illnesses. Older adults ages 52-79 who were followed over a 5-year period were monitored for their feelings and showed that those expressing greater happiness were 35% less at risk of death within 5 years.  More compelling, and likely not surprising, is the higher likelihood of more substantial income, higher work quality and productivity, more satisfying relationships, increased physical activity, lower stress, greater social support, and less pain found among those who express greater well-being.

But happiness is a mindset. Happiness does not just happen. You build it brick by brick through intentional effort. While we all have a happiness set point (just like our metabolic set point), we CAN function above or below that set point. In fact, 40% of our happiness is in our control.Wait! Before you start thinking “WHAT?! That’s it?!” (if you did, this is a great example of your tendency to view things in a glass half empty or full manner!), imagine a pie chart. 50% is genetic; 40% is personally controlled (how you think, perceive, and view your circumstances); and 10% is environmental. You can compare this again to your metabolism. 50% is genetic. We may have a higher propensity for obesity, but does that mean we will be obese? I know plenty of individuals who have obese parents who are very fit and healthy. But guess what, it takes effort. So too, does happiness.

Ironically, the more you go searching for happiness, the more elusive it can become. Think about when you’ve felt most at peace and fulfilled. It’s not typically when you’re complacent, have nothing to do, or are just going through the motions. Nope. Would you agree that you notice you feel most happy when you’ve striven hard for something, when you’re accomplished a goal, when you’ve demanded a lot of yourself? I know this is the case for me. But you’re missing the boat if you’re only focusing on the outcome. The happiness is derived through the cultivation process– the growth that occurs between the setting of the goal and the meeting of it. Because think about this– how often do you meet a goal and then just take the time to relish in it? More often than not you’re asking, “Okay, now what?” You are so ready to move on, there is a lack of appreciation taken for what just went into your adventure!

I titled this blog the way I did because it’s antithetical to happiness. Without some worry, toil, or frustration, happiness remains an enigma. Without the discomfort, the focus on growth and learning, the recognition that “this is tough!” or that you are being significantly challenged, happiness often remains a pipe dream. You’ve heard the old adage, “There must be dark in order for you to appreciate the light.” Same thing. Goal frustration has even been researched and shown to be highly advantageous to creating commitment and striving toward achievement. The kicker with this– it depends on the support and other measures you have in place for staying consistent and true to what you’ve deemed important. Again we’re back to the necessary component of deliberate and intentional action. You must pay attention to what you’re doing and live less on automatic pilot if you want to be happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Ask yourself now what you notice about people in your life who seem genuinely happy. I consider myself one of these people. I’m rarely in a “bad mood.” It’s not worth it to me to wallow in self-pity, live in regret, or stew in negativity. I’m never bored– how do people get bored?!  There are always things to do, people to see, lives to impact, and self-growth and knowledge to glean!

So a few take-aways about happiness…what can you do and BE now to practice being happy? Because it’s not going to come from money, it’s not going to come from food, it won’t come from sex, drugs, or rock and roll. You must work to create meaning and purpose in your life to fully LIVE.

1. Stop living in the past (unless you are going to use it for good, for change, for growth, regret is not an asset).

2. Understand that adversity is inevitable AND beneficial. We often create it ourselves for the very reasons we’re talking about here. Think about how often you’re frustrated. You don’t have to be! But when you’re complacent you’re not exactly happy either!:)

3. Happy people feel in control of their lives. They recognize that who they are and what they feel, how they perceive the world is most about their internal dialogue. Sure, outside circumstances you can not often control, but you CAN control your thoughts about them.

4. Happy people  enjoy what they’re doing even if it’s difficult. They embody a growth mindset. This means that they see adversity as a challenge as opposed to failure.

5. Resilience is seen among happy people. They take whatever comes their way in stride. They’ve become adept at looking at things more objectively so as not to get swept away by emotion and thought. I’ve said it many times, but our feelings and thoughts often lie to us. We have to learn how to filter them.

Happy people worry. They do. And then they assess what aspects of their worry they can have an influence on. You can do the same to begin living a more fulfilled life.

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