Stuff that Works
"Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don't hang on the wall
Stuff that's real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall"
I love a good song lyric and Guy Clark was one of my favourite song writers. He had a way of just saying it like it is. And I love stuff that works; things I can count on like my puppy greeting me with amazing enthusiasm at the end of a long stressful work day or a cup of hot peppermint tea on a cold January night. I have a friend that I have known my whole life who can always make me laugh no matter how hurt, sad or angry I am at the world. Stuff that works.
What works for you?
Do you know what works for you? What keeps you centered? Have you created a space in your life for those people, places and things that connect with the core of who you are?
This is not as easy as it sounds. We spend so much time trying to figure out who others expect us to be or what our family, co-workers or friends think we should be doing that we ignore the person with the answer; ourselves. It's a new skill for many of us; learning to listen to and trust that inner voice. Yet that is what will lead us to exactly what will work for us.
Discovering what works for you is not just doing what you want or taking the easy road. It's a process of uncovering who you are; getting in touch with what you really believe or value and then taking action. Yes, action is required. In her book, Emotional Agility, Susan David talks about 'taking your values for a walk'. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines work as 'The transfer of energy from one object to another, especially in order to make the second object move in a certain direction.' Finding what works for us is not simply a mental or even emotional exercise. It requires intention and effort.
It often means letting go of the way you've always done things, moving outside your comfort zone and trying on different ideas. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable in the beginning especially if you begin to realize that who you are is not who others have expected you to be. The payoff, though, is that momentum is created as we begin to live out who we are at our core. There is an energy and ease that comes as we practice living in alignment with our core values and beliefs. In their book Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans talk about our 3 lives; the one we are living, the one we would live if what we did was taken away and the one we would live if money or image didn't matter. Many of us have constraints such as finances or other obligations so it's good to know that living in alignment with our values does not always require a career change or a move across the continent. Let me tell you about my friend Alice.
What worked for Alice?
'Alice' was 25, married with a little boy and a new career in Social Work. She loved working with people and was extremely good at it. As part of a new program, she had the opportunity to help design and implement new services that were ground-breaking in her city. It was an exciting time. One weekend, she registered for a personal development program that was available to her through her new job. The premise was that people working with others are most effective when they are self-aware and spend time on their own growth. Alice was grateful for the opportunity and took advantage. By the end of the weekend, she was feeling uncomfortable. Through the work that weekend, she had started to see a disconnect between what she was doing and where she really felt she needed to be. After about a week of wrestling with her thoughts and feelings, she told me what was going on. "I realized", she said, "..that what I really want is to be home, raising my son and baking cookies. But I feel guilty! A woman in today's day and age isn't supposed to want to be a homemaker."
Alice was in a situation where she had the option to choose. Her family would be fine on one income. Her husband was supportive of her career and they had extended family who were happy to watch her son while she was at work. She believed in the work she was doing and was amazed at the opportunities in front of her. Yet, the more she looked honestly inside, the more she knew that this is where she was supposed to be. It didn't seem logical but Alice resigned from her job. In the years that have come and gone, Alice has had two other children and raised them all as a 'stay at home' mom. She has lived out her commitment to others through volunteer work with the school and community associations. She has never regretted her decision.
It worked for Alice but because of the expectation for women that in order to be successful leaders, you need to have a career as well as maintain your family obligations, it was a hard decision. Another woman in her place might have made a totally different decision based on what worked for her. It's not the choice that matters. It's whether or not it is in line with what your inner voice is telling you.
What works for Me?
Stuff that works is not always just about your career or relationship. There's a big exciting interesting world out there and, in my experience the only thing that has ever held me back has been my own fear and self-imposed limitations. Once I knew what was really important to me there were still blockers keeping me from moving forward. Over the years I have found my Top Three Life Lessons. For me, they are 'Stuff that Works'.
These are actions or behaviours I have learned that, when practised, help me live an authentic life and keep me grounded. When I am incorporating these lessons into my life on a regular basis, I make better decisions, am more at peace and am able to deal with the twists and turns that life brings.
You Already Have Everything You Need
Whatever You Focus On Grows
Action Cures Fear
In the next three Blog Posts we will talk about each of these Life Lessons. These work for me. Maybe some of them will work for you or maybe reading about them will encourage you to come up with your own Top Three.
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