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Life

Count Your Days, Count Your Blessings

A day is such a long time when you ponder the possibilities

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How many days have you been on this earth? How many total days do you get to live? 24,000? Perhaps 32,000? Whatever the total, for many people, it’s more than our counterparts of a generation ago. Indeed, in 1900 the median life span in the U.S. was 49 years old. By 2000 the median life span had reached 77. Today, it’s common for people to reach their late 70s, 80s, or even 90s.

A Precious Gift

Ever since the oceans first formed, the tides have been rising and falling. Think of it, there have been eons of sunrises and sunsets since the earth first formed out of congealed gases. Your time on earth is a minute fraction of that. What’s more, the earth is home to tens of thousands of species, many of which have still not been identified and classified.

No matter how many days you have on this earth, it’s vital to appreciate each of them.When you awake each morning, opportunities await. A day is such a long time when you ponder the possibilities:

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In one single minute or less you can throw water on your face, dry off, stretch intently, engage in a mini meditation, have a big drink of water, close your eyes, take a quick walk, visualize a pleasant scene, check for messages, look at photos, sit up or stand up straight, write a thank-you note, yawn, straighten up your desk, review notes, change your seat, have a pleasant thought, or phone someone.

So Much More

In five to 45 minutes you can check for voicemail, texts, and email messages; catch the news on TV, radio, or the Internet; lay your head down for some quick rest, take a rigorous walk, balance your checkbook, water the plants, vacuum, straighten up the interior of your car, review what’s in the trunk of your car, have a brief meeting with staff members, jog, clean your bathroom, take a shower, and get dressed.

Also, deal with today’s mail, organize half of a filing cabinet drawer, take a nap, run a PC diagnostic program, download many large files, mentally rehearse a major presentation you’ll be giving, proofread a report, comfortably eat lunch, listen to several of your favorite songs.

In two to 24 hours you can watch a movie in the theater or at home, attend a local sporting event, spend quality time with someone else, read several chapters of a book, completely redo your file drawer, reorganize your closet with time to spare, clean your whole house, visit a good friend, attend religious worship, write a report from start to finish, or visit a park or other area of nature.

Your could take a considerable car trip, catch up on your sleep, enroll in a rigorous course, renew yourself at the spa, attend several movies, read one book or more, take a plane flight, renew your relationships with a friend from across town, clean most or all of your home, or fly to China.

To Optimize not Maximize

Your quest is to optimize, not maximize your day. You’re not trying to jam pack your time with activity. What would be the point? Having optimal days, means there is a balance. Some work perhaps, some leisure — enjoyment of your meals, time for a friend, time to reflect, and time to stretch or exercise, maybe vigorously.

A sense of the power of nature, the appreciation of higher forces, a sense of being reverent, respectful, all of these can go into the optimal day.

No matter how trying or exhausting, some days might be, invariably some good can be extracted from such days. If you are the type who is motivated by quotes and slogans – if they help to lift you when you’re down or rise you up further than you are –  the Internet provides infinite number of such resources. Songs, as well, can spur you on. If Don’t Worry be Happy works for you, play it. If What a Difference a Day Makes nourishes your soul, listen to it.

Movies can be uplifting as well. On any given day, you can watch inspiring movies. If Chariots of Fire or Silver Linings Playbook work for you, watch them. Poetry, light verse, stirring novels, and inspiring biographies can make a difference in your day. Access to written works has never been more available than it is today.

Take This Day and Love It

At some point in your day, will be time to drop back and punt. In other words, give yourself permission to relax – to simply be. Reverse the old axiom, “don’t just sit there do something,” to “don’t just do something, sit there.”

For however many hours there are left in this day, and however many days you have left on this earth, recognize that they are all gifts: Precious gifts, to be experienced, and enjoyed.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Faith

Unleash the Spirit Within

It doesn’t take considerable effort to engage in spiritual-type behavior that will benefit everyone

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You can practice being more spiritual in little ways that add up quickly to your being a more spiritual person. For example, there are relatively minor things you can do to start the process, although nothing is minor when it comes to acting spiritually. As an example, if you smile at someone, they tend to smile back. If you go out of your way to help someone, that person might in turn help another and so on.

Spirituality certainly does not have to be restricted to the confines of organized religion. Freed from the rules, restrictions, and impediments that organized religion may impose upon you, how and where might you be more spiritual in your life?

Each little action sets in motion the potential for greater good. So, as you proceed through six items below, do not discount the value of engaging in any of these. Each has the potential to add up to more.

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Spirituality While Driving

Researchers report that when people get in their cars, they think they’re in some type of invisible vehicle. No one sees them as they motor down the road. If you curse or scream, who’s to know? Obviously, you’re not invisible and the way you conduct yourself as a motorist potentially impacts other motorists, as well as pedestrians.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, fails to use their turn signal properly or otherwise engages in improper driving, practice maintaining your composure.

Don’t curse, scream, or honk your horn. If the other person is in view, look at them blankly, but not with disgust or anger, or a mocking smile.

Often, the other party knows what they did wrong. If not, venting your spleen is not likely to change their behavior.

If you travel frequently, say as part of your job, and often traverse high traffic arteries, chances are you’ll have an opportunity at least several times a week to practice engaging in small displays of spirituality. As a goal, why not establish for yourself one composed response per week?

Each time you can remain composed, you increase the probability that you will be more composed in other aspects of your life. Perhaps you’ll even be kinder to people in face-to-face encounters when they commit a transgression.

Comfort the Less Fortunate

As a small gesture of spirituality, what can you do for someone you see right on the street? It’s one thing to write a check to charity; it’s another to encounter someone who is in need and aid that person on the spot.

When you have shoes that you no longer wear, but are not necessarily in pieces, keep them in your trunk as you motor around town. Then, if you see a homeless person with less than sufficient footwear, and it looks like you might be roughly the same size, pull over.

Promptly get the shoes from your trunk, walk up to the person and say that you want them to accept the shoes. If he or she accepts, fine, bid them good day, and be on your way. If he or she chooses not to take them, that’s okay too.

Your goal in this area could be to give away each pair of shoes or other worthwhile item of clothing that you no longer want, perhaps on a monthly basis.

Participate in Group Action

If this is not for you, volunteer once a month to serve a meal at a local shelter for the homeless. If you’re a busy career type, perhaps serving dinner will work best for you. Whatever your preconceived notions about this may be, once you actually serve dinner to real live people, you’ll see that reality is different than you thought.

Perhaps you think that people would be reluctant to speak up for what they wanted. Or worse, they’d be groveling, and you would have to do your best to remain humble. Perhaps you feel like you’ll seem to be some kind of “goody-two-shoes,” dispensing dinners with an overly pleasant, “And how are you this evening? Here’s a nice dinner for you.”

Actually, none of the above usually happens. Person to person, you simply serve another, as if you were in partnership. More peas? Fewer carrots? It’s much more matter-of-fact than you might imagine. They’re appreciative but not groveling.

Note: Some people who show up at a shelter are well dressed. Perhaps they’re temporarily unemployed, or they had a financial emergency they were unprepared to handle.

The more often you serve others in this way, the easier it becomes to do it again. You start to get the notion that there are a lot more similarities between human beings than differences. The old axiom, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” is much more true than we all often acknowledge.

Look for the Good in Others

Is there a co-worker with whom you have had a nasty relationship? Is there something good about this co-worker that you can draw upon, so that you can get yourself to  say something nice to him/her at your next encounter?

Will Rogers, a political satirist, entertainer, and beloved figure in the first half of the twentieth century allegedly said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Many people have interpreted Will Rogers to have meant that he could find something admirable in everyone he met. So, too, can we all.

Is there a neighbor with whom you have had a continuing squabble? What would it do to your relationship if you sent your neighbor a card or a brief note that said something along the lines of, “I noticed how lovely your garden was the other day, and wanted to let you know that I appreciate the work you’ve done in maintaining it.”? Too syrupy, or, pardon the expression, too flowery? Guess again.

List five people at work or elsewhere in your life with whom you may not have a good relationship, but whom you can acknowledge. Next to each person’s name, write a dash and then what is good about them.

You’re going to be on Earth for a finite amount of time. Do you want to go through your life trading hostilities with people, never having the where-with-all to restore some semblance of civility to the relationship?

Listen More Closely

Human beings have a profound need to be heard. When you give others your full and complete attention, in essence, you’re telling them that you value them as a people. All activity and concerns in your life stop as the words and emotions of another person take on paramount importance.

Listening is one of people’s most underrated skills. Your ability to listen to another person, giving him or her your full and undivided attention, can be an act of spirituality, particularly if the other person needs someone to listen to him/her. In this rush-rush world, too often we want people to summarize everything they say.

Consider the people in your life who have mattered the most to you and, chances are, they were the people that listened to you best. Whether it was your parents, a brother or sister, a good friend, a relative, a teacher, a coach, a coworker, a mentor, or just somebody down the street, you tend to value those who value you by listening.

In Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, the young Siddhartha speaks about his most well-developed skills. He can listen, he can fast, and he can wait.

These talents don’t seem like much to the Western mind, but they’re handy if you want to increase the spirituality of your life. As a goal, why not to listen in earnest to one person per week in the workplace whom you would not have otherwise given such time and attention?

At home, give your significant other one good listening to per day, and I promise things will go better. Do the same with each child.

Judge Deeds, Not People

Judgment is a necessary and practical skill. It’s likely that you judge things, including others, all day long. After all, if you want to choose the colleges appropriate for you, friends that share similar values, and the professional, social, and civic groups that you will enjoy being a part of, you need to make some judgments.

We all judge one another, however, sometimes harshly. Everyone can learn from each other. It is so easy to fall into that game, as psychologist Carl Rogers articulated, of “mine is better than yours.” It is too convenient to conclude that people who walk, talk, or look differently than we do, must be vastly different, and by extension, inferior.

As you might have already concluded, it doesn’t take considerable effort to be spiritual and to engage in spiritual-type behavior that will benefit yourself, and benefit others. The opportunities are all around each of us, every day. All we have to do is be aware.

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Life

Life is Not Perpetually a Piece of Cake For Anyone

Everybody, nearly all the time, is facing an array of problems

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Everybody, everywhere, nearly all the time has a handful of significant problems. They could be related to relationships, health, career, finances, or unresolved traumas and dramas. Undoubtedly, millions of people are encountering some of the same problems that you are currently facing. Yet, it’s likely that everyone’s problems represent a distinct package – probably no one else, problem-for-problem, confront exactly what you face at any give moment.

Human Encounters

Often we are so steeped in our own problems that we fail to recognize that no one gets to skip along day-after-day without issues and challenges of vital personal concern. Everyone you meet is grappling with something.

The most successful, confident, and healthiest among us might be adept at conveying the image of a relatively problem-free life. Meanwhile, they are concerned about their issues as you are with yours.

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The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sometimes the battles of others are apparent to us; more often, such battles are not. Still they do exist.

Awareness and Balance

If you’ve ever attended a group therapy session, or a gathering where people focus on spirituality or self growth topics, then you know first-hand that others you meet have issues much like yours.

With the above in mind, we can choose to be a bit kinder in our encounters. The driver who cut you off in traffic, or the store clerk who is short with you, are exhibiting manifestations of their problems. Everyone is fighting a battle and some are fighting very hard battles. Our awareness of such allows us to stay better balanced, more empathetic, and ultimately more effective in the world.

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