Yesterday I attended the funeral of the parent of a friend. It was a terribly sad occasion, but a happy gathering of people who came together to celebrate the life of a beloved father, husband, and friend of many. As each person shared their perspective, telling stories - often humorous, this man's life was honored for the many contributions he made to his family and his community, from having served in the military to coaching sports teams to serving on boards and in various civic positions.
During the nearly 3 hour service, his "day job" (a 30+ year career with one company, from which he retired with many accolades) was barely mentioned. In fact, the only way it came up was in reference to no matter what was going on at work, he never missed his sons' ball games or his wife's various activities.
As I listened intently to the beautiful remembrance of this man's life, a man I met on a few occasions but did not know well, it was clear what kind of person he was, and it was almost uncanny how closely his life reminded me of his son, my friend since college. A person whom I have greatly adored and admired over the years, from being the zany "team captain" of our friend group, a planner (and pranker) extraordinaire, to then marry and become a terrific husband to his wife and later an amazing father to his children. Yes, my friend has certainly lived up to the shining example his father set before him, and it occurred to me that these same words would likely be spoken at his funeral (in let's hope 50+ years from now).
It also occurred to me that if you asked me what he does for a living I could only offer "sales or something?" as my answer. This person, whom I have known for nearly 20 years and who I have looked up to, and been inspired by, even assisted me in choosing my major in college (funny story), does something for a living that I can't really put my finger on.
I can assure you it's not because he's not successful. I would be willing to bet that this person, like his late father, has racked up the accolades and has probably garnered lots of plaques and mentions in the company newsletter. But I don't know about any of it, because that doesn't come up in conversation. You see, friends often answer "How's work?" with "Great!" and then move on to the next, more meaningful topic like, family, or friends, or in this case, who the Saints recently drafted.
It's not to say that doing your best in all aspects of life, including your career, should not be a goal. It's not to say that being successful at the office doesn't lead to opportunities to support charitable organizations and contribute to the community at large. Certainly the more you are respected and celebrated in your professional career the more influence you can have toward promoting and supporting causes you care about. But remember, as you take business calls during family time and postpone vacations to meet deadlines, who will be standing at the podium at your memorial service. Will it be your friends and family, remembering how dedicated you were to making the world around you a better place, or your boss, recalling what a dedicated employee you were?
Chances are, the sacrifices you make in your personal life to advance in your professional life will not be remembered by those that sign your paycheck, and your resume will not be read at your funeral. Spend your time where it matters, and be mindful that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
"I never saw a dollar bill cry at anyone's funeral." - J. Lincoln Fenn
"We see things as we are, not as they are." That phrase at first seems confusing, but read over a few times the message comes clearly into focus. While I'll admit that it sounds very "yoga speak," if we really think about it, it's not altogether a new concept. We're all familiar with the Rorschach test - a test that analyzes a subject's perception of ink blots to determine various aspects of their personality.
While it's safe to say our experiences can influence our perceptions - i.e. a person raised on a farm may see a cow where someone from the city may interpret that same shape as a cloud - it's also true that our perspective can be changed through suggestion. For instance, if I tell you to look for "animal shapes" while looking at the ink blots, then you may likely come to the conclusion that what you see is a cow as well, despite not having any personal connection to farm animals.
This ability to consciously shape a thought or conjure a feeling is not uncommon. Most people would agree that music can influence your mood, whether you want to have a good cry and turn to Adele, or you want to make doing the laundry more fun so you put on your favorite Pandora station. The same can be done with your thoughts. If you are already feeling down, it's hard not to go down the path of thinking how bad things can be. I personally can make a self pity list that would have even the most optimistic person agreeing with me how terrible my life is.
But if you use this power for good instead of evil, a lot can come from it. It has to be a conscious effort, but even after my Pity, Party of One I can turn around and make a list of how great I have it, especially when I consider how lucky I am to have won the geographic lottery to be born in a place where not only do I have access to clean water and basic necessities, but I can pretty much do or be anything I want- even if that means teaching yoga for a living. (Who would have thought!?)
Quick story: I was driving recently and it was sort of gloomy outside, I was feeling a little melancholy and had what's been called a "case of the Mondays" where instead of thinking about how nice it is to even have a car and be able to go anywhere I want or need to go, I was annoyed that my car has some sort of issue that needs to be seen to and I forgot my umbrella and what if it rains and I can't find a good place to park. My list of errands were less than glamorous anyway and I wanted to just curl up and take a nap and try again another day.
Suddenly, right in the middle of my first world angst fest, Ice Cube came on the radio proclaiming "It Was A Good Day" and instantly, without having a chance to second guess myself I began to bob my head in agreement. Today Actually Is a Good Day.
If you think about it, any day that you wake up feeling healthy and strong and have the freedom to determine for yourself how to spend your time, is by definition a good day. Immediately I felt happy and alert, and ready to tackle my to do list. But what changed? In that moment, the circumstances were the same, only my outlook was different.
You may have heard of the concept of "speaking something into existence." For instance, while driving through a crowded parking lot saying aloud "I just know my perfect spot is waiting for me" and then magically one appears. Or walking into a meeting saying, "I am going to knock their socks off!" and then giving a really great presentation.
A lot of people subscribe to the theory that if you accept something as true you can influence its manifestation. While it's not likely that you can say "I'm going to find a pile of money!" and a pot of gold will magically appear, it is very likely that if you focus your thoughts around being successful you will create success. Another popular "yoga speak" phrase is "what you seek is what you see." Sounds silly, until you remember that Rorschach test...
Cut back to me in my car listening to Ice Cube. Besides just being a fun song with a catchy beat, It Was a Good Day made me think wow you know what, it's too early to call this a bad day - let's turn this ship around. I began mentally listing things I was thankful for - and as the list got longer I felt more positive. In turn, my day got better. While I could have had the same result without an old school rap song, hearing it certainly helped to kick start my attitude adjustment. Armed with this realization, I will try and remember next time I'm feeling frustrated or down that I have the absolute power to control my thoughts and those thoughts can shape my reality. Why spend time in negative thinking when it's so much more productive (and healthy!) to focus on the positive!
So when life has you down, stop letting the cycle of negative thoughts take over, and in the words of a recent meme, drink some coffee, put on some gangster rap and handle it. Namaste!