Category Archives: Lifestyle

Tips and ideas for better living.

Turning things upside-down

Flying Lesson
Photo “flying lesson” courtesy of Peter Shanks on Flickr

We’ve all asked ourselves the question “Why bother?” We all have a To Do list. We all wish that some things in life were different.

When you turn something on its head, you get a new perspective.

The things in your life you’d be happy to never change, a Not To Do List, an answer to the question Why not bother?

My partner works the midnight shift. When all of a sudden you are eating lunch at 3 in the morning, your body gets confused. It knows what 3 am is, and it knows what to do with lasagna. But it doesn’t know what to do with lasagna at 3 in the morning. My point is that you learn a lot of new things when you stay up all night, instead of all day.

If you turn a problem upside-down, it looks like a solution. An upside-down barrier is an opportunity. The only way to get good answers is to turn a good question upside-down and shake it until what you’re looking for falls out.

All of the valuable lessons came to you in the toughest times of your life. The experiences you wanted to run away from at the time are the same experiences you keep returning to today for your wisdom.

A frown is a smile upside-down. Yesterday it was awful, but today you are laughing about it. We turn the world over all the time. It’s how we learn, discover, and grow.

The most delicious meals you’ve eaten were fertilized with some of the most unappetizing stuff. That’s the reality of nature, and of life. You can fight reality, or understand and use it to your advantage.

Opposites are connected. You can turn darkness into light, bitterness into contentment, emptiness into fulfillment. How? But turning over misery to discover gratitude.

What do you do? Who are you? Keeping two sets of books.

Image “Vintage ledger paper tags” courtesy of Cutiepie Company

What do you do?

It’s the question most often asked at cocktail parties. “What do you do?” is an ice breaker, a cliché, a point of departure, or just something to say when you’re not sure what to say. It can also represent genuine curiosity.

Who are you?

It’s a big, and personal, question. That’s why we don’t ask it at cocktail parties. Rarely is the question Who are you? answered by what someone does.

– Who are you?
– I am Dentistry.

In a perfect world, What we do is Who we are, and Who we are is What we do. But we don’t live in that perfect world, so we keep two sets of books. In the day we do, in the evening we are.

We put our loves and priorities and hopes and passions—in short, our authentic selves—on a shelf, where they wait for us, until we return at the end of our shift.

A ledger of tasks, a ledger of love. Money and joy, productivity and meaning. What you do and Who you are.

Who are you? Ask, and tell. Keep one set of books. Start the revolution.

Things that don’t matter

Thirty years ago my university professor quoted a friend. “I’ll never forget this,” he said. “It’s one of the most wise things I’ve ever heard.”

Everything matters, and nothing matters.

In about 4.5 billion years, our galaxy will collide with another. They won’t actually touch—instead they’ll blend together. There’s a high chance our solar system will be ejected from this newly-merged galaxy, and will drift until it is absorbed, or destroyed, or otherwise transformed by an encounter with something else.

The good news is that our sun will have exhausted itself by then, and all of the inner planets, including Earth, will have been vaporized.

Does it matter?

The only difference between a weed and a plant is that you want one of them to die and the other to grow. Dandelions matter if you make dandelion wine.

Everyone has his own version of an emergency. We want the world to get out of our emergency’s way, and we’ll push past anyone else’s emergency to get where we’re going. An emergency is a weed, or a flower. It’s a matter of perspective.

Or it’s not.

The point is that I’ve had clients who for years have banged their heads on things that didn’t matter. They had their version of an emergency, and there they were, trying to solve riddles like How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Somehow it never occurred to them to ask “Does this really matter?”

Socrates once said that the way to overcome a fear was to fear something greater. If you have one big, overarching fear, you become a big-picture fearer. Your life gets some focus. You figure out what really truly matters, and what you most definitely want to see, and don’t want to see, happen in your life.

Problems are like friends. You have fewer than you realize. But, sure, go ahead and tell yourself you have a lot. Only, you probably don’t.

Identifying the problems that aren’t problems is a skill. Often there’s a problem behind the problem, and a problem behind that. A ten-layered onion is still only one onion. Sounds simple, but I’ve met the people who think they have ten onions.

That means 90% of their time is spent thinking about a layer of their problems and ignoring the core 10% where the one root problem is.

Maybe we should throw away our problems the way we clean out our closets. You don’t put on everything in there anyway.

How many comfortable pairs of jeans do you have? How many friends? How many problems? What really matters?