Each of us has opportunities to make observations of everyday life, and use them to help guide us through future chapters as we meander along our finite journey here. This article shares some of my observations of everyday life, with the thought that perhaps they may be of some benefit. These observations are in no particular order.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
What we think about expands in our life.
If we think the world around us is vile and corrupt, our reticular activating system will be on scan to increase our awareness of these things and bring more of that into our lives. If we think that humankind has the potential to be compassionate and caring, then our world will become more compassionate and caring. Being aware of our thoughts directly impacts what we bring into our lives.
Consider the source.
We are bombarded with millions of messages throughout our lifetime. Before deciding to read or view anything it is prudent to first look at the source. This is especially true of social media where opinion and bald-faced lies are often presented as ‘facts’. And, let’s not be duped by ‘alternative facts’. These are simply lies with a dubious label on them.
Put more arrows in your quiver.
As we earn financial compensation it is based on us providing either physical or mental outcomes that are of value to others. Our talents are like arrows in a quiver. The more arrows we have, the more targets at which we can shoot. And the more bullseyes we can hit. To remain relevant and marketable it is our responsibility to continually look for new arrows we can add to our quiver.
Something that is worth doing… is worth doing poorly for a while.
Developing new skills takes time, dedication and practice. When we set about to expand our capabilities, failure will be our partner in growth for a while. Failing at something initially helps us understand where we need to focus our efforts and attention in order to improve.
Think beyond immediate circumstances when making important decisions.
The decisions that we make in life are linked together, and the sum of those decisions creates our future. Life is like playing chess in that we need to think ahead in a series of related steps.
Career planning is a process where looking beyond our next step can be critical. For example, it took me 5 years of planning before I could successfully leave the newspaper industry.
When the time came to change industries, I had three job offers to consider. I took the career path that provided me with the largest number of opportunities to put more arrows in my quiver. It also came with an initial drop of 21% in income which I was happy to accept given the longer term growth potential of that option.
Corporate loyalty is a one way street.
We can become complacent in our careers and allow feelings of entitlement to keep into our lives. Businesses exist to generate a profit for their owners. While a corporation may take actions to encourage employee loyalty, this is a one way street. When business conditions change, semi-fixed costs like labour will be adjusted to fit the new business reality.
In the last part of my corporate career I had seven consecutive years of receiving a ‘top performer’ job evaluation. The company paid for an advanced educational degree for me, and I was on the Ord chart for a future promotion. When business conditions eroded dramatically none of that mattered at all. I was downsized and received a package. It was a simple business decision. I didn’t expect anything more from the organization as I knew I was always on a one way street.
Comparison with others is pointless.
It doesn’t matter how much money we make or how much material wealth we accumulate, there will always be someone who has more, and others who have less. These types of comparisons with others are pointless. All we need in our lives is enough.
Striving to be fashionable is inversely proportional with self-worth.
We can get caught up in marketing hype that tells us what we should own and how we are supposed to behave. We live in an age where items are replaced not out of necessity, but because they are no longer deemed to be fashionable by segments of society. This is the epitome of ‘other-worth’. When we are grounded by a strong sense of self-worth there is no need to chase fleeting fashion and the acceptance of others.
We can never get enough of things that we don’t need.
Many of us have holes inside us that we try to fill with material possessions. No matter how much stuff we try to cram into that void, it is never satiated. What we yearn for is to find meaning and purpose in our lives. That isn’t found in things or money.
Debt is a prison.
Instant gratification is sought by many. More and more debt can be accumulated through our compulsive consumption. Debt becomes a prison as we work harder and longer to pay for things that have not added any real value to our lives. We become slaves to a pay cheque.
Like other young twenty-something couples my wife and I had debt in the past. We experienced a life altering moment when we returned from a holiday to find that my income had been arbitrarily cut by over 30%. We went from having a surplus each month to living from pay cheque to pay cheque. It took me five months to move to a different company which alleviated the immediate income challenge.
But, that wasn’t enough. We wanted to ‘future proof’ ourselves. So, we set an aggressive 12 year goal to escape our debt prison… and we were successful in doing so. We’ve remained completely debt free ever since. Eliminating debt from life opens up all kinds of potential and options… and dramatically reduces stress.
How much we spend is far more important than how much we make.
It seems that Western culture revolves around making a lot of money… with the underlying thought that making more money will bring more happiness. Economic cycles teach us that we cannot control how much money that we make. Individual circumstance may include being downsized and being forced to change careers. Running our own business is no guarantee of a sustainable income either. Making a lot of money and spending all of it.. or even more than we earn… on things to impress others, puts us on a stressful, pointless path.
While we can’t control how much we make, we can control how much we spend. Keeping our expenditures well within our available income allows us to effectively plan for the future, set goals, and live our dreams. If asked, my wife and I would agree that we’ve had a very good life together and have had some wonderful experiences especially when it comes to international travel. We’ve enjoyed many ‘trips of a lifetime’.
In preparation for this article I did some research on average Canadian family incomes for the past 50 years or so. Then, I did something that I had never done before… I compared our family income each year to those average Canadian family income statistics. I discovered that in 69% of those years our family income was below the Canadian average.
We can change our life when we make different choices.
Every choice we make in life comes with outcomes and consequences. Unfortunately some folks do not understand the life altering power they have with the choices they make every day. If we want our lives to change, then we need to change by making better choices.
Create to experience joy.
Creating something with the sole purpose of making money becomes drudgery. When we create something to simply experience the joy that it produces, we are free to let our intuition and creativity flourish. I can remember writing my first book, Miller’s Bolt: A Modern Business Parable, back in 1993. I worked on it every night after commuting from my corporate job and spending time with my wife and children.
After seven weeks of getting about 2-3 hours of sleep per night, I had the first draft completed. I had no idea if the book would ever get published. That didn’t matter to me, as I had loved the creative challenge of writing it. As it turned out Miller’s Bolt was published in 1997 and it remains in print today. It has outlived the original company that put it in print.
Manage inputs carefully.
None of us is immune from messaging and stimuli that are all around us. Managing our inputs carefully goes a long way to keep us on track in terms of our goals and life mission. A simple way of doing this is to constantly ask ourselves if the input in front of us at any given moment is adding anything positive to our journey.
Managing inputs also involves being selective about sharing our dreams and goals with others. Many people around us are living lives of quiet desperation and dissatisfaction. As such they are often quick to criticize and tell us why we can’t accomplish something.
Self-discovery can be painful.
Being brutal with ourselves in terms of identifying and understanding our personal strengths and challenges is a cornerstone of self-development. Often self-discovery can be painful when we realize that we are still a project under construction… with many warts and imperfections still needing attention.
Personal potential is not found in a rear view mirror.
While it can be tempting to look back and relive, or celebrate past accomplishments, it does nothing to help keep us growing today. Our memories are convenient and changeable. We tend to unconsciously shift them to suit our current self-image. The past few years I’ve been finding it increasingly beneficial to let go of many memories so I can channel more of my energies into the present moment.
Be fully accountable to yourself.
At the end of the day all that really matters is if we follow through and do what we say we’re going to do. It is easy to find convenient excuses and blame others or circumstances for our shortcomings. Growth is accelerated when we hold ourselves accountable.
Be the leader of your life.
Abdicating your life to someone else is not living. Create some BAGs (big audacious goals) then grab hold of them to see where they lead. A purposeful life is full of challenge, compassion, and creativity. Make sure to align your goals with your values. This will help create a sense of balance and focus.
The Universe owes us nothing.
Each of us has been given the miracle of life. It is up to us to make the most of that gift. The Universe has done its part by giving us the opportunity that our life represents… and owes us nothing more.
What’s the worst that can happen?
When facing serious issues and related decisions we can bring things into focus by asking ourselves, “What’s the worst that can happen?” If we can accept that potential outcome we can move forward in a more self-assured way.
Many years ago I discovered that one of the people I reported through was doing some illegal things. Back then reporting such activities sometimes resulted in the bearer of the information being let go, and the perpetrator getting a slap on the wrist. After discussing things with my wife, I decided to bring the information forward to senior management as we were willing to accept the risk of me being let go. The worst didn’t happen to me, and the perpetrator suffered the consequences of their behaviour.
Millions of people would gladly trade places with us right now.
Regardless of our current situation there are millions of people around the world who would gladly trade places with us right now. We’d find millions more if we reviewed all of the obituaries that were published across the globe today.
Appreciate the power of sitting alone in a quiet room.
It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle bustle of modern living. It can cause us to become disconnected from the most important things. Sitting alone in a quiet room can help to focus our minds. Quiet our emotions. And, put us in touch with the miracle of life. Feeling our heart beat, and our lungs take in a breath of air.
When I woke up this morning I did the same thing I’ve done for many decades. I looked around the darkness in the bedroom, allowing my eyes to adjust. I listened to my wife breath. Then I took in a very deep breath to fully experience the start of a new day. Each morning I remind myself that I’m still here and have the gift of another day. It is my responsibility to make the most I can of this gift.
This is our final article for 2021 and we look forward to spending time with you again in 2022. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your comments and support.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced using my standard process. This is the 1,110 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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