Wherever you are in life’s evolutionary cycle, you’ll eventually come to the same realization. The outward journey of seeking success and what you might call “happiness” is only temporarily fulfilling. Finding joy and meaning is an inner journey.
On this journey, you’ll discover a new state of being. You’ll know what it means to be Dancing on the River, which is a reflection of a life decision that you make to be happy and to enjoy life in this moment. You’ll discover that your enjoyment and appreciation of life is not dependent on what might happen in the future. It might take a while to come to this realization, but once you do, you’ll have the potential to awaken to a rich inner life that is more fulfilling than you can imagine. I say potential because it doesn’t happen overnight.
It is my hope that by integrating the following six insights and practices into your life this new consciousness will become your natural way of being.
1.How you start your day sets the tone for the day. If you start the day in a hurry it will be extremely difficult to slow down. Most of us rush out of the house in the morning trying to make an appointment or deadline. Underneath the concern that we won’t be able to get it all done is an underlying anxiety that won’t go away. You sometimes wish you had a magic wand that could make things better. Although there is no magic wand, there is a morning practice that can minimize much of that anxiety. After you wake up and before you do anything else, take 10-15 minutes for reflection. Perhaps you already have a meditation practice. If you don’t, just sit still in a quiet place and pay attention to your breath. I have also found that journaling is a great way to center yourself before you rush out into the day.
After meditation begin to focus on what you are grateful for. Perhaps there are only a few things that you can think of in the beginning, but once you make this a daily practice, you realize how blessed you are. By focusing on what you are grateful for, your focus shifts to what’s right in your life, rather than on what’s wrong. It’s an amazing practice, which has the power to transform your life.
2. Develop the practice of Curiosity. I didn’t realize how powerful of a concept this could be until I integrated it into my life. In fact if I write another book it will probably will be about the power of curiosity. Here’s what I suggest to get you going. In the morning, after expressing gratitude, reflect upon your day wondering about what the highlight of your day might be. By being curious as to what that is, you’ll create a positive expectation as the day progresses. No matter what is happening in your life, rather than worrying about the outcome, be curious as to how it is all going to unfold. By being curious, you’re also open to those pleasant surprises—those moments of grace that uplift your spirit. Remember that this is a practice and like most things, the more you practice the better you get at it.
3. Learn how to recognize and know your VOJ. The VOJ is that voice of judgment that drives you nuts. You know it. We all do. You would give anything to silence it even if just for a few minutes. The sooner that you can recognize your VOJ, which in coaching we call your gremlin, the sooner you can become free of its hypnotic spell that can last a lifetime if you don’t do anything about it. But the doing is a different type of doing. It’s just noticing. I have found that giving this voice a name has been effective in breaking the spell that it has over me. I call my VOJ, Ralph. This is a lifelong challenge so don’t be discouraged if you don’t notice anything immediately. The journey is never-ending.
4. Self-Acceptance is the next practice. Let’s be honest with ourselves. There are certain things we can’t change. We can’t change who are parents are. We can’t change our country of origin. We can’t change all of the injustices in the world, although we might try. But we do have the potential to change how we think about ourselves and how we think about the circumstances of our lives. Even though we are our own worst critics at times, our work is to accept those things that we don’t like about ourselves—that dark side often referred to as our “shadow.” You know what I’m talking about so I won’t go into detail. Once you accept those things about yourself that you don’t like or are embarrassed by, you feel lighter and freer. And isn’t that what it’s all about–becoming lighter.
5. Introduce positive self-talk into the conversation. Now that you are more familiar with those voices and patterns that have been running your life, it’s time to listen to a new voice that needs to be nurtured and cultivated. It’s a voice if honored and cultivated can change how you think about yourself. I call this voice your VIP. It’s the voice of Inspiration and Praise that we don’t listen to, or hear enough. That voice has become my inner champion. When I think that I shouldn’t have felt the way I did about something that happened, or that I shouldn’t have acted in a certain way, my VIP sends me a few words of encouragement by saying to me, “You’re doing great. You handled that well.” It takes conscious effort and resolve to cultivate your VIP. As you learn to trust and listen to it, how you feel about your life will begin to shift.
6. Make time for the jollies. So here we are again with another new phrase. No I haven’t lost my mind. All of us have faced challenges that at times seem overwhelming. Even in the midst of these challenges, there are many things that can give us joy. They might be little things that we have forgotten about. Don’t overlook them.
The Jollies is taking the time to do what gives you joy. So when I say make time for the jollies–I mean make time for what gives you joy, even if you still have loose ends in your life and your “to do” list is full. It took me a while to come the realization that there will always be “loose ends” and uncertainty. If you always wait for the perfect time to begin something new, you will never begin. The only perfect time is now.
So there you have it. As my good friend Lois said to me, “The journey might be challenging, but the scenery can be spectacular.” There’s only one thing left to do. Enjoy the journey.
Mark Susnow, is an executive and life coach, who inspires others to believe in themselves. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of, Dancing on the River:Navigating Life’s Changes.