A friend of mine passed recently. He died suddenly, at age 58, just 2 weeks after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. In retrospect the signs had been there for months—stomach pains, extreme fatigue, appetite changes.
He lived in Scotland, and I knew him from years ago when I lived in the UK and we trained together in NLP, hypnosis, and Time-line Therapy, in California. Those were heady days when we were both launching our respective careers in coaching and writing.
We kept in touch and spoke on Facebook Messenger regularly, comparing notes and motivating each other with suggestions and ideas. He had struggled in the past year to get productive, but his health kept interfering. He had been on a rollercoaster of ups and downs.
His death came as a shock. He had so many plans and ideas and creative projects waiting to spring to life. I tried to makes some sense of it, gain some perspective on his passing. My emotions were all over the place and I needed a coping mechanism.
I looked back over the last year and asked myself: when was he happiest during that time, and why?
For some reason this question seemed important. Urgent, almost.
It wasn’t hard to recall. Our conversations always started with, How was your week? When he had been ‘up’ and full of life it was always down to a certain activity.
Following his morning ritual.
His ritual would be to get up at a reasonably early hour, and spend his first hour or so reading something inspirational, journaling, writing his goals for the day, meditating, and exercising. He was a big fan of Hal Elrod and his Miracle Morning prescription for a productive and fulfilling day.
When he was ‘down’, he typically didn’t do any of that. He would lie around in bed until late, crawl out of bed, and rush to his office in a blur of grogginess and disarray.
But here’s the key; if he could make himself do his ritual even on his down days, the effects were tremendous. He had to force himself, but it was always worth it.
His ritual set him up for the day.
Why was this ritual so impactful? How and why did it make his day go better and make him joyful? Simply this; he was in control. The day was not controlling him; he was controlling the day, to the best of his ability. When he felt in control, he was more confident, centered, and productive. It provided an anchor. He frequently said that if he could perform his ritual in the morning, then no matter what else he did, the day hadn’t been lost, and if he didn’t do his ritual, then he struggled to make the day work.
Can you relate? Do you have a morning ritual?
There are few rules to follow. Wake up the same time every day at a reasonably early hour. Do not hit the internet, listen to radio or read emails until you have finished your ritual. It’s your choice what to do but it should be inspirational, centering, motivating. Examples are reading, meditating, exercising, journaling, goal setting.
Since my friend’s passing I have tightened up my morning ritual and made it more organized and automatic, and the positive results have been noticeable; more in control, more balanced, happier with myself.
His death made me even more aware that every day is an opportunity to develop and be of some use, somewhere, to someone. I don’t want to waste my time if I can help it. If a morning ritual can assist that, then I’m all in.
His is one of many self-help books available to encourage you. Let me know how you get on.
PS: If you would like help creating and sticking to a morning ritual, I may be your gal. You can contact me via email for a coaching session and we can get started. I’m into no-fuss, relaxed, affordable coaching, either online or here in San Miguel de Allende.
I was at the beach the other day watching a glorious sunset. Breathtaking.
The waves were gently breaking against the rocks on the beach, the water was aquamarine, there were fluffy clouds in the sky catching the pink light, and flocks of birds were flying somewhere, who knows, to sleep?
A few pelicans were still fishing and would swoop and crash dramatically into the water whenever they saw prey.
Sounds sublime, huh? And yet there I sat, melancholy, and not knowing why.
Then if occurred to me. I was feeling that I ought to be feeling all kinds of spiritual and uplifting emotions. That I was connected, enlightened, with some sort of witchy incantation to the setting sun on my lips. Or standing in some sort of yogic posture with a shamanic fire burning luminously, bidding farewell to the fading day.
No, instead, I was feeling irritated and a bit restless, and annoyed with myself for wasting this beautiful moment. That I ought to be feeling or doing something different.
Ought to. Ought. Roll it around in your head. Is that word ever welcome?
The other day a client was bemoaning the fact that she felt overwhelmed by everything she had to do and it spoilt her joy and wellbeing. She worked on her business from home and had a million ideas and responsibilities that needed to be acted on.
Ever been there?
I remarked that yes, we can be overpowered with too many things to do all at once. And too many things all at once frequently means whatever we are doing, we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing one of the other many things we need to do. We never feel we are doing what we should be doing and the result is frustration about not being good enough, or organized enough, somehow.
On the same beach holiday mentioned above, I was enjoying an afternoon alone on the balcony of our hotel room, reading my kindle, enjoying creative thoughts and making notes. Then suddenly my internal voice pitched up yapping ‘you ought to be down on the beach enjoying it while you’re here! You shouldn’t be doing this stuff when you’re in this lovely setting!’ Dang. There it was again.
Ought, ought, ought. That word trying to wriggle in and spoil my peace of mind. Telling me I’m never doing the right thing—there’s always a million other things that are better, more productive, good for me. Anything but this, Sunshine!
But I caught it this time. Drop kicked it over the balcony and into the sand.
Start noticing if the word ‘ought’ comes into your thinking. It does with me, often. I’m now noticing when I feel I ought to be cleaning the kitchen when I’m sitting on the veranda. Or I ought to be thinking about lunch when I’m working on this blog. Or I ought to be taking the dogs out for a walk instead of whatever I’m doing (now that’s probably true!).
Don’t talk to me about the treadmill. I always ought to be on that.
I’m dropping that word. Or at least taking note when it rears its ugly head. Banishing it. I invite you to join me in this experiment.
Just say no to any oughts that creep in.
Instead, give yourself permission to focus on whatever you’re doing and rebelliously give it your complete attention. Sit and bask in the sunset just for the beauty of it and lounge on the veranda with a book for as long as you like and feel good about it. Have a glass of iced tea and thumb your nose at even the slightest notion that there’s anything better to do.
The irony is you’ll become more productive, more focused, feel more peaceful and able to enjoy whatever you’re doing.
The other day I was fooling around on YouTube, wasting time as usual, looking for something to entertain and distract me from doing anything productive. I frequently find subjects (sometimes bizarre!), that hold my interest for a period of time before I move on to something new.
Lately I had been intrigued by a plethora of videos on van life. All about people of no fixed abode who live in vans—mobile homes, RVs (recreational vehicles), motorhomes, campervans, even converted school buses. Minimalist, nomadic, traveling and on the move all the time, sleeping in national parks, Walmart parking lots, or simply parked on residential streets.
Don’t get me wrong; it does not appeal to me at all, but I’m fascinated by the idea of living that way—so different from my own stable lifestyle. They have communities, tribes. They keep in touch with each other, make videos, and meet up in designated areas. They are always on the move. Many work online and spend a lot of time in Starbucks making money on their computers.
Van lifers take great pride in the fewness of their belongings, are well organized, clean, and Spartan. They value independence and a sense of freedom. They are their own bosses and no one dictates how they spend their time.
But it’s hard! And you have to be constantly cleaning, tidying, looking for places to stop and camp for the night, vigilant about potential dangers most of us don’t ever consider. Pros and cons, in other words.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose….”
A Young Man Tells His Tale of Van Life
This particular day I came across a video made by a young man in the US, in his 30s, who had sold up everything and taken to the road with his small home. He loved it.
And his story about why he had chosen this life was interesting. (I would love to share the link, but I’m sorry I lost it and can’t seem to find it.)
This is his story. Years before, his father, whom he loved deeply, had been planning for a long time to get out on the road and live his life free and independent in a van. He had spent his working life at a job that earned his keep and fed the family, but wasn’t his joy or passion. He longed to retire, hit the road and really start living his life. He had his pension, his wife had died years earlier, and the kids were grown and settled. It was his time.
He sold his home, bought his dream RV, and set out in the direction of Yosemite. The mountains! Nature! Freedom!
A few months into his journey he dropped dead of a heart attack. Gone. His stunned and grieving son decided to live the life his father had missed. He didn’t want to wait until he was 65 to live his dream. What was he waiting for?
So he took the little RV and made it his home.
At first he found it hard and missed the stability of normal life but after a while embraced his Inner Gypsy and settled in to his new transient lifestyle. He made friends. Wonderful friends. He developed a thriving online business. He began to love his life passionately. His parting words on the video really struck me; he said what really made it all worthwhile was that despite being tough and challenging, at the end of the day he could look back with satisfaction and feel it was ‘a day well spent’.
Wow. A day well spent. Those words hit me like a Mack truck. Aren’t we all looking for this? Don’t days well spentturn into weeks, and months, and years, and finally, a life well spent? Isn’t this what it’s all about?
It seems like the search for purpose and meaning really boils down to these few words—wanting to feel your time is well spent. And while striking to see in a young man, it usually becomes more important as we get older, retire, kids leave home, and we begin to be aware that our time on this planet is limited. We simply want to feel we are spending it in the best way possible.
Do you feel you are spending your time well? Is what you are doing satisfying? Fulfilling a purpose? Meaningful, interesting, and challenging?
If not, what are you waiting for?
(Excerpt from my soon to be published book on finding life purpose, called Follow the Trail of Your Spirit—The Search for Purpose by Margaret Nash.)
If you find the questions in this article challenging you may like some personal life coachingon finding your best life and how to insure it’s well spent.