The 2020 pandemic is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect and reset our course. The first two sections of the Reset article series focused on reflection. The reason we begin with reflection is to embrace reality. We discussed how living in denial of the reality of our lives will only result in regret. To live a meaningful and fulfilling life requires that we accept our current situation, identify our preferred situation, determine our next action to begin progressing toward the vision of our better future, and evaluate our progress. These are the four steps to running your race instead of the rat race that society has programmed us to pursue.
Accept your current reality and be grateful that you have a choice to decide your future. Accepting reality requires reflection. In previous articles, we covered strategies for reflecting that included journaling, meditation, walking outside, and exercise. Try to avoid casting judgment on yourself. Judging during reflection will create resistance and resentment toward yourself and others. Remember that we have no control over what happens to us, but we have 100% control over our response. The goal of reflection is to assess how you arrived at your current situation.
Questions to consider:
-What are the events in my life that have led me to my current situation or circumstances?
-What are the major decisions that I have made in life that have resulted in my current situation?
-Who has been a positive influence in my life?
-Who has negatively impacted my life?
Grab a journal or notebook and answer these questions with as much detail as possible. Remember to avoid judging the outcome and focus on connecting the dots that have resulted in your current situation.
If you are content with your life, congratulations. You are among a fortunate few. Discontentment, despite all the privileges afforded first-world citizens, is the norm in most societies. We clamber for what others have and envy those who appear to have it all. If you are content, I still encourage you to reflect and celebrate your life. I would also challenge you to find the next level. Contentment is fleeting in a world of striving and stress. How can you (the content one) ensure that your contentment remains? The contented must stand guard and stay vigilant at protecting the mind, body, and soul. What is contentment? Contentment is not complacency. Contentment is joy and satisfaction with our possessions and who we are as a person. People that are content do not stop growing or improving. They stop comparing and judging. Contentment is not possible when we are living with jealousy and envy. It has nothing to do with the outside world and everything to do with the inside world. We often mistake complacency as a component of contentment, but the two words have nothing in common. Complacent=lazy. Content=peace within.
The path to contentment started with reflection and accepting responsibility for your current situation (your life). In step 2, we will identify our more ideal future state. We visualize the end of our lives to determine the impact we desire to make while we are alive. Visualizing the end allows us the opportunity to identify how our current habits, values, and mindsets will affect our results. Let’s begin by imagining our funeral. Your spouse stands up to say a few words about you – What will she say? Next, your children take the podium to reflect on your impact from their perspective – What will they say? One by one, family, friends, and coworkers stand to reflect on the difference you made in their lives – What are they saying? Is what they are saying filling your heart with joy or regret?
The funeral exercise is a powerful tool for helping us identify how we want to show up in our relationships. Relationships are the foundation of a meaningful and fulfilled life. Meaningful relationships make life worth living. Consider some of the more miserable people you have experienced in your life, did they have deep relationships? Imagine the following scenario: You have money, cars, homes, and notoriety. You have worked hard and been unyielding in the pursuit of your vision of success. However, you have no people with which to share all that you have because your focus was on attainment versus creation. Your relationships were superficial because your trust was in short supply. You viewed love as a weakness or a condition rather than an experience. Can you imagine? Having it all and being alone? The sad situation is that many have little and no relationships.
Narcissism is a disease that blinds people, making it impossible for them to share in the success of others. The more significant challenge of narcissism is that it is blind to itself. The narcissist never sees others because they only see themselves through others. They are all that matters, and their needs trump the needs of others. Everything is about them. If you are married to a narcissist, everything you do is about your spouse to your spouse. They are unable to view relationships and circumstances objectively. Being around a narcissist is a bizarre experience because they only experience their version of reality (zero objectivity). The bottom line, if you are struggling with relationships, it could be because you are making the relationship about you and never actually seeing the other person. The only cure for narcissism that I am aware of is a near-death experience or extreme loneliness and depression. Either of these conditions can put the importance of relationships front and center. I am sorry to say that if you are a narcissist, it is unlikely you will ever wake up to your condition. Your mind is so absorbed with itself that it is incapable of objectively observing how you show up in your relationships. Everyone in your life is inferior. Only your thoughts matter. You want relationships, but only if they serve your needs.
I am a recovering narcissist. Everything in my life was about me. Arrogant and egotistical, I didn't care what you thought because I had it all figured out. My relationships were there to serve me, and that is what mattered. Then I did the eulogy exercise that was part of the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I asked myself the questions and wrote my answers. I wept because, during the writing of my eulogy, I realized that I was not living in congruence with how I desired to be remembered. I woke up to reality and was appalled with what I observed. When it is all said and done, our lives will be the sum total of the impact we made on others. Those left behind will not celebrate all that we have accumulated or the monuments we erected. They will focus on how we showed up in their lives. Success and impact are not mutually exclusive. If done correctly, these two will multiply your influence.