Tag Archives: social change

FINDING YOUR LIFE’S WORK EVERY DAY

Ruminating on how many times I see an article promising the reader relief from their boredom (as in ‘find your life’s work’), I realize there was a time that I too seemed dumbstruck with the overwhelming needs in the world. But then I reflected on the previous few decades and decided I was already ‘living my destiny’ and I became empowered then to simply stay the course. Understandably, not everyone is as old as me, but my point here is that you may already be fulfilling your destiny whether or not you’ve figured out how to make a living at it.

We seem to have raised our kids to expect fame and fortune when one finds that magic destiny although those of us who’ve been down the entrepreneurial path know it takes a large fortune to make a small one – riches usually aren’t at the end of that rainbow. So what’s up with all of this? Did my parents spend so much time thinking they were missing something? I wonder if this is another one of those 1st world problems…. we certainly have the luxury to do a bit more than scrape together enough food to eat for the day and find a dry safe place to sleep at night, unlike many in this world.

Another misconception is that anything worth doing requires a GREAT idea. But most successful people, no matter how you define success, have had many small ideas, most of which didn’t pan out or were downright failures. So isn’t it more important to keep supporting your causes until you’re to the point you can reinforce them a bit more? Do we really think, like in some movie, some super idea will come to us in a dream? Then we’ll wake up, act as we never have before and take the world by storm?

The secret may be you are already doing your life’s work. You just haven’t found freedom there.  And that may be because freedom still involves sadness and loneliness. Is it how we’re defining freedom that has us stumbling? There will still be good days and bad days. You will still complain about the love of your life. The children you adore will be annoying and you’ll forget to take the garbage to the curb. Without the mundane, we can never appreciate the exciting and without suffering, we can never appreciate ecstasy. If your life feels meaningless, go out there and work towards solutions. Feed the hungry and clothe the poor. I know from experience that it helps put things in perspective. Otherwise my friends, you will reflect on a life a inaction when you are my age and realize you already had the answers but didn’t realize it at the time.

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Becoming More Powerful

Wonder_WomanMost women in a patriarchal society have a difficult time accepting that they are indeed more powerful than they’ve allowed themselves to believe and that mastering personal power is a conscious choice. We have been conditioned since birth to do many things very well, but few of us are terribly challenged by society’s expectations. But the problem of mastering your power is not limited exclusively to women and both genders have equal opportunity to educate themselves with the latest research and begin to explore the full capacity of their potential.

Self-help literature has cited examples and techniques for decades but it’s only been in the last 25 years, with the explosion of brain science and the study of brain neuroplasticity, that there is measurable evidence that we really are in control of our own destinies. Ann Cuddy’s remarkable research at Harvard, presented to the world thru a wildly popular TedTalk Psychology of Power , began with the question “Can you fake it till you make it?” Her research indicates that power is not moderated by gender and that hormones – and thus enthusiasm, confidence, lack of awkwardness, and physical health – can change with body postures. You can actually become more powerful through physiological changes in your body simply by power posing!!! 

I know we all tend to be a bit lazy but this information is so incredibly radical that we really can’t afford to ignore it. Body language has previously been looked at with regard to what was being communicated, but Ms. Cuddy’s research looks at the psychology of power from the point of view of nonverbal behavior. So where we are in the pecking order informs our hormones!! Those at the top have higher testosterone and lower cortisol – more power and less stress! And the way we demonstrate power in our culture with expansive movements that cover space with expressions of joy and pride are shown to be hardwired in us being the same in both sighted and non-sighted individuals!

So we have been given a road map here for becoming your true self, the self you want to be. But instead of relying on your personal strength and trusting your instincts which can be really tough, you can become more powerful through physiological changes in your body. It then becomes self-reinforcing.

Full details about Ann’s TedTalk can be found here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en  and it’s also important to note that 80% of all yoga asana are power poses while all asana are self-nurturing.

So she asserts that

  • our bodies change our minds
  • our minds change our behavior
  • our behavior changes outcomes

So this leads me to ponder why any of us would not want to be an influencer. It brings us full circle to the culture in which we live. Not everyone can be  the alpha and since being the top of the heap changes you physiologically, reinforcement comes organically. We are all leading the life we want to be leading and if not, what is it you believe about yourself that’s getting in your way? Why are you negotiating your power and with whom? Being OK with the way things are right now (as some Buddhists might assert) doesn’t mean you can’t harness more power to be of service in more positive ways. Don’t kid yourself about what you want in order to protect a social order designed by others. If life was perfect here, we wouldn’t need you to step up but…. that’s not the case now, is it.

 

Not Fitting In

imagesSome of my earliest memories include wanting to ‘be like everyone else’. Like all children, I wanted to belong. Short of that, I simply wanted to be – be comfortable with who I was, be like the popular kids, and feel good about the way I looked. Even then, I wanted to be at peace. It seemed I was desperate to fit in. If only my clothes were cool, my parents were hip, my brothers were handsome, and our car wasn’t a station wagon. As I grew older, conforming to society’s standards just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me even though I continued to try.  Try as I might, I couldn’t believe everything I heard or keep up with the current fads. I couldn’t sit through hours of mass on Sunday when all they talked about was ‘him’. It wasn’t happening. I was the square peg and I wasn’t fitting into any round holes.

Ironically, our society pays lip service to being unique. Industry urges creative problem solvers to apply immediately.  Institutions of higher learning agree that they’re looking for ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. Fashionistas maintain they want to look original. Every focus group I’ve ever participated in encouraged fresh ideas. But where is all this outside the box thinking?  We say we want creative ideas but do we? Education simply recycles the same model used for years. Politicians are ousted and ridiculed for suggesting new approaches. In so many ways, we all want to hide behind ‘normal’ in order to not stick out and not draw attention to ourselves. It can be heart-breaking to feel alone. After all, it’s no guarantee that we’ll be a beautiful swan someday.

For many with social anxiety, I realize this is a painful and not just uncomfortable issue. We tend to over exaggerate how comfortable anyone is in social situations, especially amongst strangers. And we over analyze why we don’t fit in and how much others notice our discomfort. But I finally came to the conclusion, for myself anyway, that I was overthinking ‘what others thought’. images-1I’ve seen a few cartoons that remind me that most of the time, what I think is going on isn’t. Don’t believe everything your mind thinks is one of my favorite bumper stickers. Cliques and social groups will be everywhere, all your life. That high-school mentality is not one you want to allow yourself to get sucked into and whether you share the same interests or not, it’s OK to be unique. But if practice is something you think would improve your social skills, there are plenty of lonely people in the world – the sick, the disenfranchised, the homeless. I know every one of them would hang on your every word! So getting outside yourself might be a good start. In spite of the heartache this has undoubtably caused you, reaching out to others is never a bad idea!

For me, once I had children and had others to think of more than myself, I didn’t have time to dissect social situations or care too much about those that seemed to have everything. I can’t speak for those that do fit in. I know so few of them although my health club seems filled with them and my neighborhood suggests that their lives are a lot more beautiful than mine. I can only surmise however that their lives aren’t as simple as it sounds on paper. I worked for a woman who was perfect in all those ways – beautiful, wealthy, well-connected, smart, and popular in all social situations. She was also a neurotic, obsessive compulsive with passive aggressive tendencies who thought everyone was after her money. Those years taught me that we all create our own beautiful lives – or not. The grass only appears greener from the other side.

Now I am finally learning to embrace my distinctive qualities and hopefully have the courage to not only think outside the box but feel good about it as well. Now, as an older person, I realize I am hardly alone  AND that I don’t want to follow what society dictates as ‘normal’, hip, cool, and trend making. I know now that I never really wanted that anyway. I worried needlessly and pitied myself because what I thought I wanted. It was a waste of time, really.

 

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