Now that I am a mere two weeks away from entering my fourth decade of life, I feel I’ve “finally” arrived. I know that at times, I am a hypocrite and half of what I say is comprised of the same mantras I’ve repeated to myself for decades. However, these very “clichés” are of the stuff that keeps me believing, striving, hoping and happy. So I guess this means that whatever life philosophy I’ve adapted, if it is still working and keeping me (relatively) sane, someone somewhere may also benefit from what I’ve learned in the “School of Hard Knocks.”
Five years ago, my life began to unfold like a soap opera. I did not sign up for this and realized immediately that I had two choices: adapt and plow through, or shrivel up and perish. I chose the former. I had three tiny children at the time, and was pregnant with my fourth. They needed me to be strong. My husband needed me to hold it together. So I did. And I still am.
In a nutshell, here is what I’ve learned through “living:”
1. Leave your DISCOMFORT zone: If it makes you feel bad, elicits negative thoughts and behavior, eliminate it. Now. Take whatever action necessary to take this thing, activity, person, social group, job, or place out of your life’s equation---thereby, preserving your sanity.
2. Build a support group: Going through rough times? A divorce? Financial devastation? Re-connect with old friends and family. They deserve a chance to offer a hand, or a shoulder to cry on. Now is not the time to be proud. Life is a cycle; sometimes we’re up and other times, we’re down. Avoid retreating into your cave, only to emerge once again, “on top of your game.” You don’t know when that day will come. Life is unpredictable. Allow people to join you on your personal journey, albeit through the “shadows of uncertainty.”
3. Let go, but don’t settle: House burn down in a fire? Flood? Victims of theft? If you lost it and cannot get it back, forget it. Detach and move on. Focus on the down-to-the-bone priorities and appreciate them. Regroup. Don’t get stuck in a moment lamenting and obsessing over what is now ancient history. Know that you will get it all back and more, someday, through daily visualization and hard work. Trust in the natural ebb and flow of life’s cycles.
4. Healthy body, healthy mind: Ok, you feel like crap and want to hide from the world living off cigarettes, coffee and chocolate bars. You are not in the right state of mind to train for the Ironman, but a modicum amount of exercise coupled with relatively healthy eating will keep your senses sharp enough to respond and react in these desperate times. You need to take care of yourself if you’re going to come out of this OK.
5. Reinvent your trade, yourself, innovate: Lost your job and slim chance you’ll find another in your field? Have childhood passions you’d secretly love to re-discover? Now is the time. Take advantage of your predicament to learn something new. Online resources make it so easy, affordable and you don’t even need to leave the house. Change that negative chip in your head telling you “it’s too late” and “you’re too old.” Work hard, stay focused and go for it. No time? Throw back some caffeinated drinks, stay up late, and take charge of your future.
6. Stay open and on “stand-by”: Recognize the hidden opportunities disguised as “problems” that interrupt your life. Don’t be threatened by change. Even if it appears as negative at first, upon further unraveling and taking everything to its natural conclusion, something exceeding your expectations will eventually emerge. Invite this exciting element of surprise into your life. Be proactive and seek it out. Embrace spontaneity.
7. Give back: Sounds trite, I know, but this is huge. The gratitude-giving-back cycle keeps everything flowing smoothly. Remember how much it helped when someone extended a hand to you. Do the same for another. Commit to making it your responsibility. Most importantly, listen to your heart and instincts and allow them to drive your actions towards others---not “fear” masked as “logic.”
You can hear me talk about these concepts and my chaotic five years here: http://www.latalkradio.com/Dana.php
Just click onto January 11, 2011 show to hear my talk radio interview