Finding Purpose in Life

Ask yourself, “What do I believe my purpose is in this life?” When reading this question it is easy for our minds to go straight to work, and list all of the achievements and accomplishments we strive to attain in life. But, after taking a step back from those answers, we may encounter some falsehood in answering this seemingly simple question.

Is PURPOSE in life really to move up the ladder, build wealth, or buy a beach house? These are some examples of what some of us might set goals to have one day, but can we say with confidence they are our purpose? Consider the fact that our goals may not have anything to do with our purpose in life, perhaps.

If our purpose is NOT to attain nice things, go to cool places or have a house on the beach, what is purpose?

Personally, I identified my purpose(s) in life by following my will for meaning (as expressed by Victor Frankl in his novel, Man’s Search for Meaning), or a feeling that I contribution to a certain area in my life. I found much of this purpose had to do with my relationships with people and nothing to do with work or accomplishments at all at the end of the day.

I believe our society may have purpose and goals mixed up to be synonymous. As a result, our professions can truly distract us from our spirituality and understanding our real path in life. In pre-historic times, our lives were surrounded around maintaining existence, our purpose in life being the need to provide food for our family and keep them alive. Now, we take our existence for granted, and since we have less concern about survival, we embark on a search for some greater purpose to our lives through work and checking off goals. But, are we searching too far? Are we trying too hard? Is our true purpose found in our everyday existence after all?

Perhaps our life purpose is simply relieving another of their suffering by being a friend, giving love to another in a time of need, giving purpose to another, or serving as a positive figure in the life of a growing adolescent. Such examples are not necessarily sought, for these are all opportunities to pursue a purposeful life exist in our everyday lives in our experiences with friends, family, and loved ones. We are given opportunity for purpose no matter what our status, occupation or wealth. Dig deep into understanding yourself, and know purpose can be find in the simplest existence. Then ask yourself, “What is my purpose?”

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Think about a time in your life when you had interpreted someone’s “Yes.” (emphasis on the period) via text as he or she harboring frustration with you. You then begin to analyze this event and bring reason to why they are mad at you and assume they are irritated with something you said. But how much of that is the truth? Rather, this is the story we tell ourselves to bring a story line into a trigger event to help make sense of it. Yet, that IS all we are really doing, making up a story, and not even considering the truth in the situation.

Perhaps after confronting this friend regarding the text message, she does not even remember it because there was not emotion attached to the response at all. Meanwhile, you had suffered for days thinking constantly about this response which turned out to be a misinterpretation at the end of the day. Dr. Brene Brown speaks of how the brain actually rewards us for creating a storyline such as this to help to make sense of a situation whether it is a truthful storyline or not. As a result, however, we may be so committed to our story that we never end up finding the truth.

Brene Brown speaks about how these trigger moments, such as the “Yes.” text message response are opportunities for self-reflection. Our recognition of the tendency to craft a story in this moment is the sign to begin our self-reflection. To take the same example, once we are triggered by this text message and recognize our minds readiness to craft this entire story about our friend, we stop and reflect. Here, we are given the opportunity to figure out what about this response had triggered us?

The interesting thing is that we will always find that it everything to do with us, and nothing to do with the other person. The person on the sending end had no foul intention or malicious vengeance with a “Yes.” text response but because of our own inner insecurities and fear of rejection, we are sensitive to the short diction.

Since we are the creators of our reality, if we believe the story we tell ourselves all of the time, we may never give ourselves the opportunity to find truth or use this opportunity for self-reflection. By constantly believing the story we tell ourselves to be true, we can ruin various relationships in our lives. We may blame the actions of others for the way we are feeling or the failure of a relationship on the faults of another. How much truth is in these storylines? Are they merely just stories we tell ourselves?

Next time you feel the urge to develop a storyline in a trigger situation, recognize it as fiction and question what about YOU allowed for this to be a trigger event. You may find out more about yourself than you’d like to admit.

Uncovering the Fear of Losing Control and What to Do About It

I have been battling for a solution to my life-long irritation towards sounds, and recently, I have grown intolerable to the sound my co-worker makes in the cubicle next to mine. The sound of chewing, slurping and clanging on the bowl of cheerios has urged me to flee from the building while pulling the hairs out of my head. This is not a new irritation to me, for I had always been bothered with various sounds others make ever since I was a child, always prompting the same feeling of discomfort and need to run away. Now, I have forced myself to take a deeper look at what the root of this problem has been all of these years because it is beginning to make me have disdain for people I like and impedes my ability to focus.

What I found to be the deeper issue is, not my resentments towards my co-worker or the pitch of the clank on the bowl, but it is my fear of losing control (of my life). You may be asking yourself, “What the heck does that have to do with people making annoying sounds?” right? It does sound far-fetched but let me explain with a more obvious example. Why do we get so irritated and impatient when we are stuck in traffic? It is because things are not going our way, or as we planned. If it was up to us, we would never sit in traffic, and since we have no control over it, we are frustrated when we find ourselves idling on the parkway, sitting bumper to bumper. In applying this scenario to the one I am personal struggling with, I find that if it was up to me, there would be silence in all situation and everyone would have perfect food etiquette (like the one I would be so delusional to think I have ;P). Since this is a situation I do not have control over, this same impatience, irritation and need to change circumstance grows and grows as I continue to recognize how much I am losing control over the present. I urge you to think about the times you have felt irritated by something just as trivial, a fight you got into with your partner, or quitting something when things change and became more difficult. Did you ever consider these reactions to be your fear of losing control in some way? The fear of rejection and judgment can even be under the fear of losing control, for we cannot control what people think of us or if they will like us, so this worry and frustration causes us to act in ways we would not if we did not have this need for control.

Now that I know the irritation towards my co-workers cereal chewing, for example, is an indicator of my fear of losing control, what can I do to ease this burden? Can I stop him from eating cereal every day? Can I throw a blanket over my head in an attempt to block out the sound? OR, do I have to change something within myself? Since this is an external irritant, our only viable option in conquering this trigger long-term is to change something within ourselves.

My first step in conquering this irritant was identifying it as a trigger for my fear of losing control. Next, I began to breathe throughout the duration of this occurrence and focus solely on myself and the present moment. Then, I began to affirm that my co-worker is a good person and does not deserve the disdain I am feeling towards him, so I thought of him positively. Finally, understanding that I will NEVER have control over the actions, thoughts and feelings of other people has provided me with a peace which I can apply to other aspects of my life, from my fear of being judged and rejected to my fear of losing control.

Next time you are annoyed with someone or something, take a deeper look to find out if it is because you cannot control it. Instead of acting from a place of fear, recognize it as so and let it go with actions similar to those I took on my own. My co-worker’s cereal chopping is still a bit irritating but to a MUCH lower intensity, so I call that progress.

THE ONLY RESOLUTION YOU WILL EVER NEED TO SET FOR A NEW YEAR

Resolution: Improve my self-awareness.

I strongly believe this is the SOLE and ULTIMATE resolution to be set in replace of all those in the past and future New Year’s.

By committing to a journey towards improving self-awareness, all other life improvements will come as a byproduct. We all set new goals in the New Year to try to improve our self-esteem and make our lives feel richer, right? We begin to think about all that we are not doing, what we do not have and what we want, and formulate these goals based on all of these components. Some of the most popular New Year’s goals are eating healthier, getting more exercise, saving more money, getting more sleep, reading more, getting a new job, etc.

But, what if I told you that we really only needed to set one goal that would lead to the accomplishments of all those proceeding? Sounds good, right? It is easier said than done, but by committing to a journey toward improving self-awareness, we will develop the discipline to lose the weight we wanted because of our improvement in decision making and understanding ourselves, and will also be able to save more money as we become more aware of our priorities and what is truly important.

Perhaps defining self-awareness will assist you as you craft this single goal for the New Year. Self-awareness can be explained as recognizing our thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires, which will in turn allow us to make more reasoned decisions and choices. The constant improvement in this understanding will empower us to lead healthier and happier lives as we make more quality decisions and choices as a result. There are various ways to embark on the journey towards self-awareness. Please see below for four simple practices you can incorporate into everyday that will start you on this path, and take over the New Year!

  1. Meditation
    Through meditation, we allow ourselves a moment of silence, away from the noise in our everyday life. Here, we are able to observe what thoughts have been floating through our mind, and any emotion we are experiencing, prompted from those thoughts. In performing this practice, we are more aware of the various things that may trigger us in a negative or positive way. From here, we have the power to change our reactions to these thoughts and create a new association to them. As we routinely meditate throughout the week, we begin to discover the root of our emotions and are given the power to change them as we see fit. Such awareness will then become part of our everyday encounters, allowing us to manage various challenges and obstacles.
  2. Journaling
    Journaling is another amazing way to reflect on our thoughts and emotions. By putting this into practice, we can visually observe what we are thinking in our minds, and begin to analyze our reactions. Our thoughts are now real and live on paper, as if they have a life of their own. In our journal entry, we can ask ourselves questions like, “What did I do great today?” and “What can I improve on today?” These sort of questions will allow us to reflect on the whole day and revisit when we felt positive, uncomfortable, dissatisfied and/or proud. We can then understand the moments which had been associated with these emotions, and strive to improve our reactions in the more challenging or disappointing moments going forward.
  3. Reading
    Books allow for us to gain more insight into the lives and experiences of others, which we cannot experience ourselves. Reading expands our perspective beyond, assisting us in understanding others and even learning from them. As a result, we begin to empathize with stories, experiences and people who we did not even know existed. We become aware of other’s emotions and the events that lead to these emotions to rationally determine if we wish to be in a similar situation or not. Now, these books have influenced our own decision making and our ability to understand humanity and even a bit about our place in it. We can read specifically about self-awareness and other’s experiences on their own self-awareness journeys. Please visit Books to check out the novels under “Self-Improvement” for suggestions.
  4. Feedback
    This last step is most definitely the most daunting and vulnerable of all previous steps, and quite honestly, something I need to do more of, which is asking for feedback. Who is a better observe of you, you or other people? Of course, other people because otherwise people who chew gum loudly, talk with their mouth full and make conversation with you at the gym while you’re mid-set WOULD NOT BOTHER YOU if THEY knew it was annoying. So, if this is the case, this presents us with a new opportunity to better understand ourselves from other person’s perspective. Maybe we can do this after a big presentation at work, or during a mid-year appraisal review, or maybe more personally, opening ourselves up for feedback from our partner or friend about how we are doing in following through on commitments or listening to them when they tell us about their day. Outside feedback is necessary for us to make a change, because otherwise we may never be aware enough to change it. For example, my partner has pointed out my increase in volume while telling a story in restaurants, which I had not previously been aware of. Now, I look out for it and make the effort to catch myself if I feel the volume may be on the rise (Working on it).

In incorporating these four simple steps into our everyday lives this New Year, we are sure to be on our way to improving self-awareness and making us an overall better person this 2019!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

 

 

 

 

Not Accepting Every Thought as Fact

It is easy to lead with thought, right? Whenever we think something is a good idea, we are quick to jump at the opportunity before consideration. Whenever we think something is wrong, we are quick to avoid the instance. Thinking then leads to emotion, which is also a misleading determiner of action. Does leading with thought and emotion alone prove that the action is true? In other words, because you are frightened, should you then avoid? Because you are excited, should you then pursue?

These are hard questions to answer because we are often advised to go with our gut, but I would argue that gut is different from emotion, if you can believe it for a moment. The gut is admired to be an instinctual intuition, and I am not sure that can be equally categorized. I believe this gut feeling is more of a force or attraction we experience, while, I would categorize emotion as reaction or state of being.

Furthermore, many of us can fall into the routine of believing everything we have in our head, our doubts, our fears and our uncertainties, and accept them at truth. We might even argue with ourselves saying, “Well if this isn’t true, then why am I thinking it?” or “Since I’m thinking it, it must be true.” FALSE. We have more control over what we think than we realize. Thinking is simply a scattering of neurons in the brain, which actually have no meaning at all until we GIVE them meaning. Since this is the case, we can change the meaning of our thoughts and make the decision to accept them as fact or let them go. Oftentimes our days are rid with more negative thoughts than positive ones, unfortunately, so I would advise us to let them go.

Not accepting every thought as fact can reduce the worry in our days, understanding that we control what has meaning and what does not. We need to take control of the narrate we rehearse in our minds, and let go of the garbage that appears out of nowhere in our monkey brain. Today, take a moment to observe the thoughts flowing through your mind, and I urge you to objectively observe them as just thoughts alone and let them go.

Appreciation > Expectation

I previously wrote a post about freeing ourselves of expectation, which did not encourage having “low” expectation, but to rather have none at all. In this post I want to take a deeper dive into the dangers of having expectations and how it can sabotage our friendships, romantic relationships and work relationships. The appropriate word for this challenge is indeed, “sabotage,” because we place this danger upon OURSELVES with expectations.

The main danger of expectation is its capability of overlooking appreciation as a result, in all scenarios in life. For example, perhaps your significant other took out the garbage without you asking but left the bottles in the bin in the kitchen. You expected him or her to take BOTH the garbage and bottles out without you asking, so what does this typically lead to? This leads to the overlooking of what your significant other DID do and focus on what he or she did not do. Now, is this fair to your partner who thought he or she was helping out? I’m not sure that it is. Rather, if we were free from all expectation in this scenario, we might be more likely to see what our partner had done and appreciate him or her for doing the task at all.

Another example might be the expectation of getting something in return for doing a friend a favor. Your friend asks you to drive them to the airport often, asked for help on a new move or asks for a money loan. As a result, you are keeping score of these favors you are doing for this friend and expecting them to repay you for all the things you have done for them, and when they don’t return the favor, resentment builds.

The true destroyer at the end of the day is this resentment that has resulted from expectation over appreciation. Perhaps you can relate to a time when you had a friend or significant other who did things to show their appreciation of you but also omitted from doing other things that you had expected of them to further show their appreciation. It just wasn’t enough in your book. How did this relationship work out? Most likely, after continuing the cycle of expecting and not getting, while overlooking things to appreciate, resentment built and most likely tarnished this relationship till it could no longer be repaired.

So, now I ask you whether it was, in fact, them, who was the problem in the relationship for not having obeyed your expected (and often unexpressed) request, or was it you, overlooking what they did do any rather focused on what they did not? I encourage us to work on freeing ourselves of expectation or at least communicate our expectations to another. Conversely, focus on the good and appreciate what this other person HAS given you. Is it worth losing over expectation?

Building Up Leg Strength

Men and women both look for ways to build up their lower-body muscles. The muscles in our lower-body are our largest and as a result, require the greatest amount of energy to build. So, instead of using that extra needed energy on researching the best ways to build leg strength, I provided my own personal proven method below! Give it a try!

Throughout the years, I have experimented with various weight-lifting, body-weight and cardio training exercises to build up strength in the lower-body. Many different exercises have been successful for this task, but the combinations below have proven to be most effective for me and my goals.

For the purpose of building strength in the leg, glute, hamstring and overall lower-body, try the below supersets! These exercises are comprised of a short cardio exercise, followed by lower-body-targeted superset combinations.

 

Cardio:

1 Minute Sprints (*Critical to sprint, not jog)

Repeat x3

 

1st Weight Superset:

12 Rep Leg Press

12 Rep Deadlift

12 Rep Straight-legged deadlift

10 Deep Squat

Repeat x3

 

2nd Weight Superset:

12 Rep Quad Extension Machine (Both Feet 90o with Legs)

12 Rep Quad Extension Machine (Both Feet Turned Outward at 130o)

12 Rep Quad Extension Machine (Pointed Toes)

12 Rep Hamstring Curl Machine

Repeat x 3

 

Finished!!

Perform this exercise once per week with an increase of 5-10 lbs each week and notice your lower-body strength increase!

 

Practicing Detachment

Recently I began to better understand what Buddhists and philosophers, such as Alan Watts, have explained as detachment. The meaning of detachment is not being attached to a particular feeling or pleasure (Also my interpretive definition). Conversely, we are encouraged to accept our feelings and let them pass, without having to question or reason them. We are not attached. They are not us. They are simply a feeling in the present time and only in the present time. Thus, it will also soon pass.

As advocates of this practice suggest, being attached to a positive feeling or an indulgent pleasure, for example, can only lead to disappointment due to our desire to infinitely feel this elation. Think about how often our feelings change in just a day’s time. We are constantly experiencing the fluctuation, yet rather than accepting this as normal, we beat ourselves up over not maintaining ecstasy.

I would have to argue that life would be much easier if we could recognize, accept and let go of the need to feel good all of the time. I mean, it would put so much less pressure on ourselves if we can understand that feelings are not infinite, they are contrarily meant to last for only a short period of time.

If we can detach ourselves from this unrealistic expectation we set for feelings we can often not control, we can have peace, be free from worry and even better, free from thought. Perhaps some might argue this is “setting low expectations” for our lives, and maybe it does sound that way. But rather it is about not having expectation AT ALL. Being free from expectation, not to have them low or high, just to not have it at all.

Expectation is a product of perception, something we anticipate, try to predict and try to fabricate as a result of this attachment to a desire to feel satisfied. Let me ask you a few questions….

How many times did something or someone not meet your expectations? I’ll take a guess and say….

Hundred, thousands of times.

How many times DID something or someone meet your expectations? I would assume…

Far less often.

Were you more satisfied in the achievement of reaching an expectation or more disappointed by not meeting an expectation? I’ll take one last guess and say…

It felt much worse experiencing that disappointment than it felt good to meet expectation because of how much more intensely it is in our nature to remember a negative emotion greater than the positive.

With all of this being said…

What was the culprit of this feeling you so greatly tried to avoid all along?

Expectation and our attachment to the desire for it to be fulfilled.

Conclusion to this thought is, once again easier said than done, the practice of detaching from our feelings and pleasures allows us to just experience and move forward without judgment, thought or question.

The Power of Conversation

We all tend to underestimate the power of conversation. Conversation, though is sounds simple, is no easy task. It comes back to the concept of being vulnerable. Conversation whether it is in regards to a trivial matter as small as asking the waiter for more ketchup, or a more serious matter in discussing your emotions with your partner, in both cases we are setting ourselves up for rejection or potential conflict. As a result, many of us choose to avoid conversation all together. This is our comfort zone, being non-confrontational and closed-off in fear of being “difficult.”

However, something we underestimate is the immense progress and joy we can gain from conversation because, guess what, much of the time that rejection or conflict you fear NEVER HAPPENS. Or, at least it doesn’t happen as dramatically as you might have imagined.

Let’s take the simple example of asking the waiter for more ketchup. Now, if you are anything like me, though I do want more ketchup, I probably would hesitate to ask the waiter with the thought that I would be pestering him. Yes, I know…. Silly. What is the worst that can happen? He doesn’t get me ketchup? He thinks I am a bother? It is unlikely he would come back with a new bottle and hit me with it or something because I suppose that would be the unrealistic and utterly worst case scenario. Conversely, if the conversation was breached and request was asked… Guess what? You might just get what you were asking for no problem, no big deal. Doesn’t that feel better? You got your ketchup free of any injuries to report back home about.

Now, for two more serious examples illustrating the power of conversation we will talk about conversation in work and relationships.

First, let’s consider discussing a promotion with your manager. It is no doubt easier to come into work and perform your typically job day in and day out than to challenge your position and breach conversation with your manager to discuss promotional opportunities. It’s scary! I know. However, in not taking the chance to beginning conversation about opportunities, you will miss out on them. How would your manager ever know what you are interested in doing? What if they just thought you weren’t interested so that is the reason you have not been offered new positions? They are your manager, not a mind-reader afterall. Plus, worst case scenario, again, you will most likely go back to working in your current position, so it sounds like there is not much to lose (Unless your manager is a [Insert your explicit here]). Anyway, the conclusion is that conversations alone can open up opportunities you may not have realized were even there!

In the second scenario, let’s consider discussing a certain way you are feeling with your partner. This can be a feeling that is really not even about them but perhaps it is something difficult in your family that you are dealing with, something at work, something about your current circumstance that is causing you uneasiness, and ultimately, may be influencing your relationship to some degree. Of course, it is easy to get caught up in the thought, “Oh, he doesn’t want to hear about this. I can handle it on my own.” “Oh, I don’t want him to take the way I am feeling the wrong way, so I rather not say.” “Oh, he’s better off not knowing because then he will think I am CRAZY.” We all are. It’s ok. Yes, we will have all of these concerns about sharing out emotions with our partner, but the sad truth is that when things are left unsaid, no matter how minor the issue, it will metastasize until it is something that cannot be so easily repaired. It is sort of similar to that leaky roof you knew needed to be fixed two years ago when it was just a small hole, but now two years and three terrible snow storms later, the damage is more severe and is going to cost much more money than had you have gotten it repaired two years ago. Fix the leaky roof now!! NOW is the time when it is no big deal, it is fixable, manageable, LATER is when it might be too late and may find yourself paying a premium for it. One conversation. It may be all it takes. As a result, you may well find relief, joy and sheer happiness in this expression. You may feel as though a world has been lifted off of your shoulder. After all, that is what a partner is for. To be there for you. Let’s trust that.

Let’s not underestimate the power of conversation going forward. We do not know that we do not know. If you are questioning whether to have an important discussion with someone in your life today, have it! You will feel better that you did, regardless. Good luck!

10 Minute Workout!

Many have the misconception that we have to allot at least an hour for a workout or it’s just not worth it. This misconception leads to the belief that there is just not enough time to get in shape. Nonsense! Below is a workout that is part of my morning workout routine to get the day started. Many days it is the only workout I do. And guess what… I am able to do it right in my bedroom! No driving to the gym, waiting for the gym to open (it has happened more times than you would think) or getting changed into gym clothes if you don’t want to!

The workout below takes about 10 Minutes.

15 reps – Lunges

15 reps- Pushups

15 reps- Standing sidekicks (each legs)

15 reps- Squats

Repeat 3X

 

Have a good workout!

Share your results and comment below!