Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moving to the City

I've decided to make some shifts in my life. The major one I'm working on is moving to the city.

Packing is always an interesting experience. Only by physically going through all your stuff and attempting to figure out how to transport it from location to location do you realize its real value. Some things you gladly find ways to transport. Others you realize are just slow accumulations of things you don't want to invest the time into dealing with.

While moving can be stressful and require a large amount of invested time and effort, I feel like it would be in people's best interest to move every two years. If you have a house and mortgage, maybe you shouldn't actually move but instead still pack up and then unpack all of your stuff.

This sounds absurd I'm sure. It takes a lot of time to move all the stuff around and when you unpacked it the first time you put mental energy into determining where and how you wanted it. The thing though, is over time it is easy to get stuck in a rut. If everything is always done the same, how can you really expect anything to change in your life?

Maybe you're happy with your life and don't want it to change. That's fine. But if you aren't happy, breaking up the routine and changing things around can potentially give you that boost to making life better.

Change can be difficult and often reverts back to old ways. Sometimes though, you can trigger a difference that makes all the effort worth it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life Area Effects

I've been noticing lately the combined effects of areas of my life. Say you break an individual down into the following areas:
Physical Health, Employment (Work / Job / Contribution), Financial, Relationships
Each of these elements contributes to some degree to their overall happiness level. Having a strong foundation and support structure in one area will help make up for deficiencies in others. As things change, it could topple over existing structures.

I wish I had a better grasp of this concept. Right now my work life has gone up and down, sometimes adding positive support, other times dropping the floor out from under me. My living situation is in flux as I prepare for a big move, so that has caused some stress. I've developed some good relationships that are adding to my life and providing some solid support.

It's hard to quantify and qualify all these influences and come up with any kind of model for actually objectifying how they impact my life. In order to do that I would need to spend some time clarifying the parameters and logging enough information to start creating definitions and logging real conclusions.

My current goal is to put together a program around this kind of foundation. I'm going to take my business coaching company and turn it into a life coaching company. I'll work with individuals to lay out specific life improvement goals and then design steps they take towards them as well as ways to measure them and record the results.

This is all in a very soft, formative stage at this point, but my interest has been in this kind of thing for a while. I feel like I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish with this approach than I had with the business coaching, so making this switch will be a step in the right direction. It's going to take a lot of time and focus though, so I've got a lot of things to take care of first.

I'll try to continue to update the process.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Life is a Mess

I had dinner with a friend last night and left with one primary feeling over everything else. My life is a mess.

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but I know at this point I've lost focus on all my goals and objectives for my life. So much so at this point that I don't even know where to begin to find out where I left off.

To be fair, I'm currently suffering from a Respiratory infection. The effects of this have been extreme fatigue and lack of memory along with a deep cough. As you can tell from my writing, I'm also having an increasingly hard time organizing and collecting my thoughts. I'm all over the place with pretty much everything that I do.

I had thought that I was doing well. I have a job that makes me a good amount of money, a place to live, a car. I have good friends and a large family. Most people would probably trade with me at any point. Knowing that doesn't help much since I feel so confused and lost.

I've gotten to the point know where there are just so many things to know and consider about every aspect of life that I've completely lost the ability to discern what is right or wrong. I feel like I have preferences for some things over others, but most of the time I am not conscious of my decision making process or cognoscente of the factors I'm using in making choices.

I feel very lost and purposeless.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Work Rollercoaster

So yesterday, at the end of the day, one of my coworkers gave me a public dressing down about creating work items in our system. Normally, this kind of thing really wouldn't bother me, but it really got to me this time, and has every time it has happened at this company. The reason for this is because I was doing exactly what I was told to do by my boss. When I tried to defend myself, she told me that my boss is wrong and not to do it anymore.

I've had a good number of jobs so far in my life. I worked at my parish office, as a lifeguard, for a few temp companies, at the dorm front desk, for a defense software company, at GameStop and now at this health IT company. This is the only place I've felt like I don't know what is expected of me, if I'm doing my job correctly.

I feel trapped in a dead end job. It's like an abusive relationship - I want to leave but I need it to pay the bills. I've been working here for two years and it's almost like I've done so many different things that I'm not good at anything.

At this point I'm really just lost. I've lost so much professional confidence that I don't know what to do.

Can anyone help me?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cardinal

Before I begin this story, a quick disclaimer. I don't know what you believe, this story is not about beliefs or trying to convince you to believe something you do not. This story is about a personal experience that meant something to me and I found worthy to share.

Three years ago, on June 1, 2006, my grandmother passed away. She was a sweet lady who firmly believed in killing with kindness and always supported her family in good times and bad. She loved animals, one particular one being cardinals, and hence had collected a good number of them. After she passed, it was decided that each grandchild would be given one to help remember her.

I never felt I needed a cardinal to remember my Grandmother, but I did decide that every time I saw a cardinal going forth from then on, it would mean that my Grandma was looking out for me like she had during some critical times in my life.

On Monday, June 1, 2009 I was scheduled to give my tenth speech for Toastmasters. Since the tenth speech is a landmark in which you are awarded your Competent Communicator award, I decided to invite my family and friends to come see it. This was a big mistake because it amplified my nervousness about giving the speech.

I had spent a lot of time writing, revising and reviewing my speech but for some reason I could not get it to stick in my mind. The night before I recorded myself saying each part of the speech and even set it to play back in a loop while I slept. Unfortunately, the only consequence of this was my having a dream in which I could not get an mp3 player I was listening to with my speech playing to stop, no matter how many times I hit pause.

Sleep deprived and a nervous wreck, I struggled through my normal routine and headed off to work. Almost on the verge of a panic attack, I pulled up to the stop sign at the end of my neighborhood and that's when it happened. Over the car flew a cardinal, ducking in to sight right in front of me. It hung in the air for a few moments and then glided off down the road.

A wave washed over me and I thought of my grandma. It was like she was saying not to worry, it would all turn out alright. And the panic inside of me released.

That night I gave my speech and it went even better than I expected. My family and friends enjoyed it. It was a great accomplishment for me and a night I won't soon forget.

But what sticks with me now is the memory of that cardinal flying overhead and the knowledge that even still, in those critical moments, my grandma is still looking over me.

The War Within - Toastmasters Speech #10

The War Within – Toastmasters Speech #10

There is no instruction manual for life. At times we all wish that there was some clear set path for what to do and what direction to follow. Maybe in the form of a voice booming out from the sky, telling us what is right for our life. But this could never work because life is not actually a journey, not a straight path towards a destination. Life is a battle, a constant struggle between two great forces.
Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and all my fellow warriors in this battle we call life.

Before I describe the two sides, I think all of us have already experienced them. Every day we face a multitude of choices. Most of these choices have become so routine that we make them in our subconscious. But it is not the individual smaller choices that really defines us, but rather the large choice of what direction in which we are moving our lives.

Growing up, I was always following the goal, “do well in school, take a hard major, get a safe, secure job”. I put the time and effort in to do well and graduate as quickly as I could. After graduation, I had lined up a good job and was ready to reap the rewards of my diligence and hard work. But when I started working, I realized something was wrong.

Looking at my life, everything read so well on paper. I had accomplished all my goals, avoided all the classic pitfalls, and had done all that should have been required for success. But stats and credentials on paper never seem to capture the whole picture. I had thought that the battle was over and I had won, but in reality, the internal struggle had just begun.

So what is this struggle? On one side, we have what we know in our core we want, what will validate us, what will give our lives the purpose that we desire. This is our essence, our driving force, our true motivation and the only real guide book that exists for our lives. It is unique to us and something that we can only determine on our own, by learning who we are and what makes us that way.

On the other side, we have the enemies fighting against us. They take many forms, like feelings such as fear, doubt, and uncertainty. External forces like peer pressure, a sense of keeping up with the Jones’, and society’s path for our lives. Even temptations like fame, fortune or power. One or all of these or others may influence us. They trick us into thinking we should try be a different person, follow someone else’s dream or think less of ourselves.

This can affect us in a wide variety of ways. We could spend time with the wrong crowd of people, who can influence us to think negatively or participate in destructive acts. We could work a job we hate just for the money and fear that we have no alternative ways to create income. We could stay in an abusive relationship because we feel that no one else would want us. Any or all of these things weigh on us since we know it is not what we want, but the fear is too great to move forward.

Our world celebrates the stories of great individuals that have come before, people who have a list of amazing accomplishments. The focus is always the end of the struggle, where they reach a level of success that makes an impact on the world. But a key element that is often brushed quickly aside is the deep price paid to walk the path to greatness. Often they were forced to let go of all they had, fall to the point where they had nothing left except their passion for what they wanted to define their lives. Once they had nothing left to lose, only then were they able to know with absolute certainty what was really important.

I cannot claim to know what you want, only you can know that. I do know that we all share this deep desire to be ourselves, to know our purpose and to leave our mark. It is not easy to do this. Often it is only the flames of conflict, the pounding force of loss, and the intimidating fear of confronting the unknown that inspires this personal growth.

How do we begin to change the tide in this battle? How do we take control of our life and take the right path? How do we really know what we want? By listening to ourselves. We all already have the right answer, we just have to start being true to it. It may not be easy, but we don’t have to do it all at once, we just have to take the first step.

So I encourage you to take that next step. Challenge the fear head on and push it back. Take the risk, pay the price and know that the battles may be difficult, but you will win the war within.