“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence”
Norman Vincent Peale
Is your life a stressful hot mess right now?
If the answer is yes you are not alone.
Our modern lives are so fast paced, pressurized and over scheduled that few people cope elegantly.
I often hear people talk about gaining work-life balance. Really there is no work or play or study. Just life in disguise and so you have to enjoy all of your moments whether they are labelled work, play or education.
Starting today I urge you to commit to four simple habit changes that can dramatically improve the quality of your experience.
Number one – don’t live in your inbox
Your email and phone messages should not run your life. You are the scheduler of your life not some external person. If you react to every email and text the instant it lands you are giving control of your life to a remote person. It’s like you are voluntarily becoming the TV in the corner and their device is the remote that turns you on and flips your channels! Turn off notifications and program 1-3 times a day that you will check your messages. This puts you in charge of the information rather than letting the notifications shape every moment of wakefulness.
Change Two – find the fun or the funny side of every experience
The things that grind on us tend to do so because of the mental lens we cast over them.
Years ago I took a leaf out of the famous Farside cartoonist Gary Larsen’s life and never looked back.
Gary worked in a boring lab job.
To add some humour he began writing one single stanza cartoon per week and posting it on the noticeboard.
After a few years a colleague bundled his cartoons up and pitched a book deal to a publisher.
The publisher loved Gary’s work and signed Gary into a two or three book deal. This resulted in him having to scale from one cartoon per week to two per day seven days per week. He stressed because his initial reaction was that he wouldn’t be able to come up with enough ideas, but then he started searching for the funny in life and he found boat loads.
He later reminisced that the lab job was actually a very comical place to work. He commented that it was originally a boring job for him because his focus was on the mundane and dull elements of his work.
The moral for me is no matter where I am, who I’m with or what we are doing I am looking for the funny side. This is a simple game changer that you can action right away.
Three – Schedule free time
Take glimpse at your month. Pick one thing on your calendar, preferably reoccurring, and cancel it permanently. Don’t sweat it if it’s something for your kids like their piano, soccer, karate or elocution lesson. Pick one that is least important to you, to them, and that creates the biggest hassle in your life and dump it. In place leave a gaping nothing in your calendar. No programmed meeting or activity. When the time rolls around do whatever you think will make the greatest positive impact on and your families wellbeing and happiness and do it.
Repeat this process over a couple of months until your life regains a sereneness that it mas missing when your event calendar was chocka.
Fourth (and finally) – gain distance from mind, body and worldly phenomenon
This is going to take a bit more focus than the other three, but I figure if you’ve read this far you are up for some crunch peanut butter.
First relax on purpose.
David Cain calls this ‘becoming a good passenger’. The theme here is to find some space between your mind, your body, the events that happen, and the observer that watches the experience play out.
Bringing awareness to this concept makes it part of your focus and by doing so you can gradually gain a sense of separation between you and the experience that is happening to you.
It’s like watching a TV show. At times you may feel invested. Something might happen to a character on the screen and you cry.
This is mostly how we live.
Other times you watch with distance and are able to maintain the separation from you and the drama played out on the screen.
Seek out the second experience where you watch the drama dispassionately.
It’s not hard to experience life in this way, but I’m not sure I’ve described it succinctly.
It’s like being able to see your body, it’s interactions with the world and the phenomenon that arise as something you are observing from a hiding place rather than as the involved agent actively engaged in as a participant.
If you can pivot your experience in this direction doors open and deep understanding is accessible.
Fundamental to this way of being is an unearthly stillness or a reassuring calmness that life is all okay and that you have untapped capability to deal with whatever may arise.
If other parts of your life are being simplified, why not spring clean the weeds from your consciousness?