A Life Filled with Purpose and Meaning Come from these 3 Things

 

How do we build lives of purpose and meaning? You and I have one life to live. There are no mulligans, do overs, or rewinds. Yesterday is gone and the only things that matter are in front of us. But most people leave their lives completely up to chance. They know very little about the most important principles that will help them live a purposeful, fulfilling life.

We don’t mean to live this way. We just don’t know what else to do. Sadly, I have lived this way for years. We don’t know how to be intentional about our lives and we don’t know what to focus on. Our default is a life ‘up for grabs’ to the highest bidder. So what’s the highest bidder? photo_lighthouse copy

Pain, busyness, and reactive living.

For some, just the thought of stopping to take an honest look is painful. We are disappointed with ourselves and we don’t like what we see. It reminds us of wasted time. Time we wanted to spend with those we love most, time doing the things that were in our heart but we neglected. We all get trapped in the disappointment of past failures and choose the path of avoidance. It’s just easier.

Our lives are filled with constant activity. We are overwhelmed by the swirl of must do’s, schedules, and phone calls. Our brains feel completely scrambled so we ignore our deeper needs and hope that somehow, they will just work themselves out.

The urgent clouds our mind so we run to our distractions.

We’ve all been there so don’t lose hope. I have GREAT NEWS for you. All of this has a remedy. Choosing to make a shift in 3 key areas will have profound impact in your life. You can a person that no longer leaves their life to chance and live for the moments and activities that define what is most important.

Missing first steps

Get this clearly in your mind: every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. The real question is, “Are you saying yes to what matters most?” Pain and regret come from saying yes to what doesn’t matter.

I will make you this promise: YOUR BEST IS YET TO COME. So let’s start making the changes that create the kind of life you really want to live. The first thing you have to focus on are your values.

Let me help you as much as I can in a blog post. When I do one on one coaching with clients, I take them through this process I’m about to share a with you. (more…)

Who You Are Is More Important than What You Do

 

Who are you? Many of us struggle to answer that simple question. The immediate response most give is to describe their job. “I’m an accountant,” “I work in the sales division of my company,” “I am a coach.” But that’s not the question. What we do is not who we are and it’s normal for people to get the two confused.

It takes time and commitment to do the deep work of really knowing who we are.

To become someone others believe in and in order to live with integrity, you must know the deeply held beliefs that drive you. What are the values, ideals and standards that make up the essence of who you are inside? When these things become clear, you will have the courage to live them. photo_man_suitandtie copy

Performance Driven vs. Principle Driven

A person who is performance driven is focused on results. It’s all about what they do and what they accomplish. How well they do on a task speaks to them about their value. For example, If I excel on a project (or for kids, if I excel at sports, school, music etc.), then everyone loves me and I get all kinds of positive attention. If I fail, or don’t do well, then it seems like others don’t value me as much. The internal message is that I am only as good as how I perform. People only care about me when I’m a winner so I become addicted to activity.

People in this category typically complain that their lives are out of balance, they don’t have time for anything and they are burned out. Their relationships are shallow and fractured. There is little margin for personal reflection and spiritual awareness and they cope by withdrawing or staying excessively busy and distracted. I know this type of person well because this is my propensity and it’s exactly where I found myself a few years ago. It was miserable.

I learned to value myself by results and performance as a child. Many of the messages we’ve come to believe get handed down to us from our childhood. Whether our caretakers knew it or not, they taught us how to value ourselves and those internal messages took deep root.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Plato

The truth is that we are all driven by results on some level. But how results affect a person who is centered on their principles (who I am) is much different. Results are simply what they do, it doesn’t define who they are.

When you are principle centered you have a deep sense of gratitude about your life and your gifts. Therefore you steward those gifts in the best way you can and you see them through your values (which you can learn more about here.) They shape you they don’t define you. Who you are is more important than what you do.
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Stop Short Changing Yourself and Create a Meaningful Life

5 things to do that make life beautiful

I’m wondering if you’re like many people I speak with who don’t have the kind of life they really want? What does it take to create a meaningful life? How do you focus on doing things that are important and meaningful to you?

According to a recent survey, only 33% of Americans feel happy, content and satisfied. I’m sure results are similar in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

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People feel trapped inside jobs they don’t like, too much time is spent on things they don’t care about, they aren’t living for what matters most, and they have almost lost hope that it will ever be any different. In short, they’ve thrown in the towel and have come to terms with being a ‘spoke in the wheel.’

Have you ever felt this way? First, I understand those thoughts can seem very real. But they are what I call, “victim speak.” Saying these kinds of words over and over is what gives negativity power in your life and makes you feel discouraged and hopeless. Victim speak occurs whenever you believe that someone or something is responsible for your unhappy state of affairs. For example, “I’m stuck in this awful job because I can’t get anyone else to hire me,” or, “I can never get ahead because I can barely bring in enough money to pay my bills,” “I can’t succeed because of the bad economy.”

There’s only 1 way to defeat this kind of negativity. Take your power back! Whenever you allow these thoughts into your mind, you give them power over your life and circumstances. Power to control what you think and who you are becoming. Taking your power back is acknowledging that although you may feel this way now, your have the power to reject those statements and do something IN THE PRESENT to create a more meaningful life. The kind of life that matters most to you.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from the most successful people I know on how to create change NOW and have more meaning in your life:

(1) Cast a HUGE vision for your life and do 1 thing everyday that gets you closer to it. (more…)

4 Things I’ve Learned Without a CAR for 1 Year

IMG_1619 copy2As a family we did one of the craziest things on the planet 1 year ago. We moved our family to Barcelona, Spain. It’s truly been the greatest adventure of our lives! Because we chose to live in the center of the city, we also decided to depend solely on public transportation. That means no car after 20 years of marriage!
Now, let me assure you this has its ups and downs. There were a number of reasons we decided to do this. One, we had a limited amount of money and we didn’t want to spend it on a car. So, survival! We had no idea how long we would be here and this seemed like the right thing to do.

Two, we live right in the center of the city. Parking is a nightmare and so is driving. This is an old city so there are a ton of one-way streets everywhere you go. We chose simplicity over convenience.

Now, by no means am I saying you should give up your car. And, I’m not writing a book about, “Being free from the tyranny of driving and car payments.” I just thought it would interest you to know what we’ve learned and how this has changed us. In the process, maybe the things we’ve learned could make a difference in your life too.

  1. Your Health Gets WAY Better

In the U.S. I barely walked anywhere. We drove our cars (5 of them) from the garage to work, practice, and life. We always looked for the nearest parking spot at Coscto and Walmart. We were trying to cut out walking every chance we could get!

Without a car, we average 6-7 miles of walking per day. What a perk! I’m in the best shape of my life thanks to not having a car. I’ll obviously need a car again, but walking is one new habit I will take with me wherever I live.

  1. It’s A Good Thing to Depend on Others

 I am fiercely independent by nature. I’ve had to be while growing up an only child from a broken home who lived in a new town almost every year. As an adult I learned that depending on people is risky. They will let you down, stab you in the back, lie, cheat and steal. I’m guilty of doing that to others in my weakness as well.

All these reasons lead me to believe that you cannot really rely on other people. Until you don’t have a car. In a foreign land where we had very few relationships, we were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

You know what I learned? There are many people who are more than willing to go out of their way to help when you ask. They are gracious and loving and that realization has changed me. It’s shown me that it’s ok to ask for help. In fact we need to ask for help sometimes because we need each other. No one is an island.

  1. Your Connection with Your Family Deepens

Without a car, our family has had more time together. We take public transport and walk the kids to their practices. Yes, sometimes this takes 40 minutes one way, but we have had some of the best interactions and conversations we’ve had in years. IMG_8678 copy

There is no replacement for quality time with the people you love. We’ve learned to slow down, enjoy being with each other and we’ve made the most of our very long walks together.

  1. You Have More Peace

I don’t think I’d realized what a nut I’d become. Getting in my car to rush to this thing, talking on the phone the whole way there, and stressed out about my car payments. And then there was trying to sell cars that cost me money to get rid of. Ugh!

I was caught in the consumerism that raised me and I was steeped in the stress it brought to my life. I was disconnected. I wasn’t engaged as I should have been with my friends and family and I was shriveling up on the inside. I was becoming less of myself not more of who I wanted to be.

Getting rid of some ‘stuff,’ including my cars, has helped me re-center my life on what really matters. I’m able to enjoy the blessings God has brought to me and fall in love again with the people who are around me.

Not having a car this past year hasn’t been a burden, it’s been a gift. I’ve learned to live for the people and the values that really matter and I think I’ve added a few extra years to my life!

Most of you have cars, and you should! But perhaps you can apply some of these lessons in your life, right where it is. My hope is that you will take a deep breath, be fully engaged and completely present in the lives of those you love and care about, and you will be free to live for the things that matter most to you deep inside. You really can discover new freedoms when you do unconventional things.

 

 

 

Your Character Matters More than Your Success

 

This post is not a, “How to,” it’s a, “How to Be.” What’s happening inside of you, your character, is more important than anything else you can pursue. Success doesn’t matter if you put your character on the back burner. The news is filled with stories of leaders who have ‘gained the world’ but have failed miserably in that department. photo_family_beach copy

Here’s an example of what I mean. Many people on the internet are looking for legitimate ways to “change their lives,” and that’s a noble pursuit. What do you typically see? People writing about, “How to Make More Money,” “How to Build Bigger Email Lists,” or “How to Have the Job of Your Dreams as a Writer,” etc.

I’m not at all criticizing those programs. There are many great ones out there. But they are missing something very critical to a successful life and it’s this: It’s not what you do, or what you accumulate that matters, It’s who you are becoming.

It doesn’t matter if I have all of the money and influence in the world if I’m not living for the things that matter most to me. If I’m not becoming a better person, a better father, a better husband and more inspirational leader, my pursuits will eventually turn up empty. I’ve failed in these areas before in my life and it was painful.

The Internal vs. the External

As I’ve coached a number of CEO’s over the years, many find themselves internally bankrupt. They’ve achieved high levels of success but when they climbed to the top, there was nothing there. They lived their lives for EXTERNAL things (money, fame, power, control) and did little to focus on the INTERNAL things, (purpose, meaning, values, vision). It’s a common mistake on the road to success.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Please listen carefully to me, the way to achieve REAL success in life, is to spend serious time building your character and crafting what’s on the inside.

An externally driven person focuses on ego and the things that need to be acquired to satiate their ego. It’s all about what they can do to get their needs met. Whether they like it or not, these leaders often see others as a means to an end.  (more…)

Your Life Doesn’t Belong to You. Get it Back.

 

All our lives we are told what we can’t do and what we have to do. It’s time to focus on what you can do and what you want to do. I’m not talking about a hedonistic life that is ‘all about me.’ I’m talking about living the kind of life that is most who you are. A life that is aligned by your values – the things that are most important to you. photo_man_sad_beard copy

But we are slaves to the system. Our lives don’t look the way we want them to. Many of us have jobs we don’t care about. We are over our heads in debt with stuff that doesn’t satisfy, and we would be doing something different if we could. If others could look inside of our heads they would see that we are dissatisfied, often unhappy, stressed, frustrated, even angry.

And yet life continues to pass by.

A Harvard Business report said that job satisfaction was at a 23 year low. Young adults are refusing to grow up with 32.1% still living with their parents. Antidepressant use has surged almost 400 percent in the last 10 years and a report that just came out on August 4th said, People living in the U.S. are less happy than before the recession.

So who is in control?

“Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? ~ T. S. Eliot

Now, most people will say there are external reasons for this: not enough money, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, we are stressed and leaning on games and gadgets, we are tired, we are scared, the world is an unsafe place, etc. And while these things may be true, I’m going to call B.S. on these reasons being responsible for our unhappiness and ultra-low satisfaction with life.

There’s only 1 primary reason people are feeling this way.

We are unhappy because we are not living for the things that deeply matter to us. We know it deep down inside and it haunts us. We aren’t living for our values and we don’t know what to do about it. In other words, these issues are internal not external.

Prospect Theory, formulated by Psychologists Daniel Kahneman of Princeton and Amos Tversky of Standford, proves that we make decisions mostly out of emotional and social pressures. These decisions are often flawed because we are rarely emotionally healthy and the decision is mostly about what we want in the short-term.  (more…)

You Can’t Change Because You Won’t Change

If you’re dreams are dying it could be because you don’t understand the power of what I’m about to tell you. What are the 5 most important things in your life? Family? Spirituality? Hope? Success? Integrity? Chances are you aren’t clear about what the 5 things are and even if you did, your behavior is proving they aren’t important to you. You know you need to change but you won’t. It’s true, you can’t change because you won’t change. You’re part of the 95% of people who have joined the ‘cult of average club.’ They are good people, nice people, but they are people who leave the most important things in their lives on the table. photo_life_man_son copy

One reason is that people don’t have a clue about the underlying forces that drive their behavior.  Most people refer to these as ‘values’ and they are some of the most important things to get clear in your life if you want to live a life filled with rhythm and purpose. Otherwise, you will regularly feel stressed, frustrated, and purposeless.

What’s happened to every single one of us, is that we have allowed certain behaviors to be implanted into our lives that aren’t important to us. Why? Because they’ve worked for us at one time. We may have derived a short-term pleasure from the behavior or we may have received certain accolades and attention for those behaviors. So we do them again and again, until they formed a habit. Here’s the problem, once they don’t work for us anymore, we  are still stuck in those behaviors because they have become automatic. They are fixed in our lives as a habit.

Here’s what Charles Duhigg says about it, author of the book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. “A behavior becomes a habit, as it becomes automatic, it moves into the basal ganglia, which is one of the oldest structures in our brain and it’s near the center of our skull. And when things happen in the basal ganglia, it doesn’t feel like thought. That’s why a habit feels automatic, is because it’s happening in this part of your brain that for all intents and purposes, from what we think of as thinking, is completely exempt from that process.”

In other words, once a habit is formed, we often don’t even realize it’s there anymore. We still get the short-term reward for the habit, but it can often cause discouragement and anxiety in our life because it’s not really what we want to be doing.

I believe in the power of programming new habits so much, I radically changed my life. I knew that I was too locked into old patterns and desperately needed a change and a fresh start. So we got rid of everything in our lives, sold the cars, got out of debt, left what was familiar and moved to Barcelona, Spain.

It’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself and my family in the last 10 years and this decision is going to completely change the course of our lives. I’m sold out to the vision and so are my wife and kids. Every one of them will tell you, even in spite of the hard days, it’s been one of the most powerful things they’ve ever done. Now, you don’t have to move overseas, but you are going to have to do something radical in your life to get to where you want to go. Here’s why.

How Can I Change?

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Making Meaning Out of Your Mess – 4 Things I Learned While Shipwrecked

How do you find meaning in the mess?

What do you do when life doesn’t go quite according to plan? After years of hard work and tedious effort, you reach a place you never thought you would be – tired, burned out, and unhappy.

That’s what happened to me.

The good news is that this is one of the greatest places in life to find yourself. I know it’s counter intuitive but it is true.

Why? Because it is the place to rebuild and resurrect. What I mean is this: when you come to the end of yourself all of your defenses and pretences are down. There’s not much left to protect. Somewhere deep inside, you’ve resolved that you must change because life isn’t going according to plan. You must transform into the real you that’s been hidden.photo_man_water_rainbow_copy

You become like the mythological Phoenix who has come to an end of itself and is ready to be reborn. There is nowhere else to go but to turn inward and to God – it’s a perfect time to rediscover your passions and the things that matter most. You are finally in a place where you have the courage to blow up the old wineskins of your life that use to work for you and make way for something beautiful and new. Something amazing rises from those ashes.

The psychological notion of this is the ‘death of the ego.’ Richard Rohr says, that we live out of our egos the first half of our lives and spend the second half learning to live without fear and pursue the things that really matter to us. Or, “When you get your, ‘Who am I?’, question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions tend to take care of themselves, as he writes in his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Are We Going About Life the Wrong Way?

The idea is that we spend much of the beginning of our lives trying to find ‘containers’ that help to answer critical questions we face in life. Who am I? Do I matter? How can I support myself? Who will go with me?

In this ‘first half of life,’ we spend most of our time doing our best to answer these questions and then placing boundaries around them because they have become our identity. We get stuck.

This was similar to my predicament. I absolutely loved what I did. What I didn’t realize is that too much of my identity was wrapped up in it. Tom the author, Tom the speaker, Tom the orphan advocate and justice guy. None of these things are wrong by any means, I had just allowed myself to put too much stock in them. And the truth was, I really didn’t want to be some of them. Traveling all over the place was conflicting with the time I needed to spend with my wife and family. I ignored those signs and the issues got bigger. I was trying to protect containers, not what was inside of them.

Whatever identity I had was actually good and it was true. But now its not because my life has changed, the seasons have changed and what stands in front of me has changed. I had to dig deep and find the courage to walk a road that I didn’t know and that would only be made by walking. (more…)

Creating a Life You Won’t Regret

How to always live with meaning and purpose

What is most important to you in life? After years have passed, will you have lived for what really mattered? Sadly, many people will ask these questions too late because they weren’t internally driven and they didn’t take the time to create a life they really wanted.  Our society has become one gigantic scare tactic against what really matters. And it can squeeze your true self and your true purpose right out the window. I am going to tell you how to make a very important personal change so you can live a life with no regrets. Making this change changed my life.

Everyone tells you what you have to do to be successful. You have to go to college when you graduate. You have to get a good paying job at a respectable company. You have to make friends with important people to catapult your career. You have to be popular and get tons of likes on Facebook. The list is endless. 
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The problem comes when we focus on what we “have to” do according to what other sources have said, and we lose track of the things that genuinely matter to us. We are no longer living our dreams, but someone else’s.

Are you Living the Life You Want?

All of these, “have to’s,” start to spin ridiculously out of control and most people find themselves doing things they don’t like with a life they really don’t want to be living. That’s why so many people are unhappy. In fact, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work, according to a new report by the Conference Board, the New York-based nonprofit research group.

Yet, the path to happiness and fulfillment lies in our hands. According University of California PhD researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.”

But many won’t do what it takes to change. They choose ‘things’ over people – stuff over what’s really important. According to another research team who recently published their findings online in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable. In other words, the more we get, the less fulfillment there is in our lives.

This is why living your values are so critical to your personal happiness and fulfillment. I spoke about this in some detail in this article and want to drill deeper into how it looks. I asked my readers what would help them from these posts and they said, “more examples,” so here it goes.

Creating a Successful Life on Your Terms

I went through a really amazing values discovery session with Jo Bell, one of my mentors. She helped me uncover the five values that were at the heart of every decision I made – they define who I am. They are: (1) Faith/spirituality, (2) Family, (3) Hope, (4) Freedom, and (5) Vulnerability.

These are so deeply engrained in me that I could sit down with you and talk about each of them for hours. I can define them for you and explain them in detail. We all have at least 5 values. If we start making decisions and living a life against those values, all kinds of turmoil will break out. Let me explain.

I experienced an incredibly painful time in my life a few years ago when my life became misaligned with my values. I was the CEO of an international non-profit that helped widows and orphans. It was amazing work that I really loved. But all of the travel began to adversely affect me and caused my family to suffer – and it caused me to suffer. I wasn’t myself. I became angry and irritable and when I was home, I just couldn’t relax and enjoy life. (more…)

Lacking Purpose and Motivation? You Don’t Know Your Values.

Values. After 20 years of executive coaching and being the CEO of a multi-million dollar non-profit, I am convinced of this truth: Most people struggle to achieve their life’s purpose – and lack motivation to do so – because they do not live their values. In fact most people don’t even know their values. This happened to me and it led to a severe case of burnout.

If I asked you to name the 5 most important values that direct every decision you make, could you do it? In other words – could you tell me, without hesitation, why you do what you do? If you can’t, you are not alone. photo_catholic_church_oldman copy

Whether you know it or not, you are directing your life by a specific set of values. But they may not be the values you want. Why? Because most of us adopt the values of our parents and the dominant values of our society. The values you internalized as a child remain with you through adulthood, according to Jim Taylor, PhD in this Psychology Today article.

This is true because many of our values were shaped before the age of 5. As a 5 year old child, you are incredibly vulnerable. You are learning about the world and you are receiving information about right and wrong, fear and safety, and a host of other important issues about life. You can’t even filter this information. What you see and experience shapes your values Those who grow up in abusive homes adopt different values than those raised in a more stable environment.

How about society? What do they teach us to value? Turn on the TV or open your internet browser. Sex, money, fame and body image. Those pursuits don’t seem to get people very far down the road towards their life’s purpose and what’s really important.

What about the values of our children and this generation? A recent research study reveals that one of their key values is materialism and money, but they are not very motivated to work for it. So, give me the money while I sit on my butt. You can read about it here. I’m not a child psychologist, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Could this be one of the reasons so many millennials are moving back in with their parents according to this Wall Street Journal article?

Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. — Parker Palmer

My son has recently been struggling with his purpose in life. He has spent a lot of time in his life focused around a certain sports activity – and he has been incredibly successful. He’s loved it and it has brought him a lot of joy. But lately, he has found himself losing his vision and passion for it. (more…)