I used to say that no single event would define me. And then, about six or seven months ago, I decided to take a course on spirituality. I was looking at mindfulness meditation, spirituality, Bible study, and a less complicated life. A lot has changed in six months since I started that. Today I lean towards spirituality and often remember my upbringing. My view of adherence to a process is less strict, my view of people is more forgiving, and my opinion of myself is a bit humbler.
Early on, I went back into mindfulness meditation for this study. This was introduced to me several years ago and seemed like a perfect fit for my study. When I started meditation, I had a lot of trouble paying attention to even one breath without my mind going off into all kinds of directions. I found myself having thoughts about everything that happened during the day. Then I remembered the training I had where I had to think of three things. What three things did I hear, what three did I feel, and what three did I smell. I would go through that routine two or three times, trying to come up with different answers until my mind settled down, and I was no longer thinking about checkbooks, arguments, or whatever. It was pretty humbling to see how hard it was to pay attention as the thoughts came tumbling out. Once I got under control, things started to turn around. The experience of being overwhelmed by thoughts is hardly unique, I’m told. Most people who begin meditating will find this very thing to happen to them.
The first things I learned were, everyone likes to be right, we all want to be part of something and be recognized as a contributor, and we all want to have some control. Well, as far as being right, I now realize that there are often many ways to do the same thing. What we desire is to be recognized for our way being right. When it comes to contributing to a team or group, it is often a struggle to be the leader, not just being known as contributing. Now for the last item on my list, I realize that I often have no control. I may have contributed sometime during my life, but I had no control over open-heart surgery or being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
Meditation does not have to be formal with a private space on a schedule. I have learned through self-mastery training that when I get agitated, frustrated, mad, or just pissed off, it is time to slow down and calm down. Since I am the only person that can cause my reaction to events, I may as well do something about it. I will often put on headphones and listen to music. Sometimes it is as simple as a quick decision to back off and stop a confrontation. I often find a discussion starting about why it is better their way or my way. That is a clue to stop. I will often say, no big deal let’s get it done. If the other person insists on proving they are right, it happens, I say fine let’s do it your way. If this happens a lot, I realize that a confrontation will be hard to avoid, and I head to the headphones.
Several people have told me that this is just giving up. Always giving in, and you end up working on someone else’s dream, not yours. That is where defining a purpose comes in. Part of meditating is a focus on your purpose. What is it you want to accomplish? What do you want to be known for? As you look at what is causing your frustration, you are also looking at your path to success. Are you still on the path?
I once started to discuss how best to do a load of laundry. I thought that through and realized that this had nothing to do with my path. When you look at events, it is about much more than the immediate discussion. There is a bigger picture to consider. Does this fit into the picture? It is possible to have a few side trips, and you just have to prioritize your time. If you are not sure what your purpose is, consider this exercise. You are working in your garden when a phone call comes in, asking you to interrupt what you are doing. If you stopped what you were doing, who or what called?
This can go on for several layers.
- You are gardening, and your son calls.
- You stop and help him and your spouse calls
- You stop and the office calls
- You stop and go to work.
Something else can happen here; you get so many layers away from your primary purpose that you forget, and you are now off your path. This is a whole other area of discussion, so let’s get back to today’s interrupt.
The most complicated problem I have seen is when both people in the discussion believe they have the same goal, priority, and authority. You have now created a situation where both think they are the leader or at least in charge. Neither side wants to give in and potentially shown to be wrong or not in control. At this point, you must look closely at your big picture. Is this going to have a long term effect or is this a short-term bump in the road. My father would say, chose your battles. You must consider the impact on your path as well as the overall effect on the team that started this question. Some people have all kinds of issues, and it may be better for the team to surrender this battle. When the dust has settled, the team leader must decide what the impact was or could be. I have removed talented people from teams in my past so that the overall effectiveness of the team can be improved. Another great memory from the past is Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler. You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em, and Know when to walk away.
I had said that I now lean towards spirituality, and this belief system changes your focus. You become less focused on being right and more focused on pleasing a higher power. The team you want to be part of consists of your lifetime partner, your family, and your spiritual family. Your definition of success is much more focused on contribution than it is being right, rich, or powerful. As you become involved in local teams, at work, or home, you become focused on contribution instead of recognition. There will be people that take advantage of this view, and it is up to you to decide if you want to play their game. Again, chose your battles.
I think we sometimes overly complicate our life. We never figure out what we want out of life and every day try to please everyone. At some point in life, we figure out that time is short, and we have no path defined. Many of those people that we helped are grateful but are now on their path to success. That does not have to be an end-of-life discussion. It happens on the job often. I have talked with those left behind, and they are trying to figure out what happened.
Take some time and figure out why you are here. What are your values? What is your purpose? Become aware of the side trips and have a plan to get back on your path.