It’s funny though. I wasn’t always so appreciative of everything the world has to offer. “Alive, awake, aware and in awe” became my catch-phrase only after spending half a lifetime doing the exact opposite. It’s not that I was sleepwalking through life. Quite the contrary. In fact, at the rate I was going, I wasn’t even close to walking… I was an arrow hurtlingthrough space, heading in the entirely wrong direction and speeding toward disaster. Life was a complete blur.
At age 35, I was materialistic, opportunistic, success-driven, and a prime candidate for early burnout. A risk-taker to the extreme, I worked hard, partied harder, and nearly lost all that was dear to me in pursuit of The Ideal Life.
And that was the ironic thing. At the time, I was so eager to have it all, do it all, and be it all… that almost I failed to notice that “the ideal life” was already right there in my grasp.
Often, I catch a glimpe of my former self in young people of today. Forever striving and constantly in motion, they seem in relentless pursuit of bigger, better, faster, more.
Do you have children in their twenties and thirties who are just beginning to make a go of it on their own? Do you find it challenging to keep them riveted on the here and now? Are things like Sunday dinners, holidays and family cookouts always on-the-run or absentee affairs? Phone calls short, sweet and fraught with interruption?
If you are a young person just striking out in the professional world, you probably have your own ideas about what success means to you and how you plan to go about achieving it. And as one who has always embraced the “work-hard-and-live-well” ethic, I applaud your effort.
But remember that success and “the good life” come with their own set of problems, which most of us actively choose to ignore because we’re so taken with our crusade. If you’re anything like I was, you’d do well to heed the warning signs of a life about to veer out of control. Stop and be observant of what’s happening around you. How do you feel from day to day? What are your conversations like? How about your relationships? Your sense of well-being?
Some suggestions for slowing down and living “alive, awake, aware and in awe:”
Remember that your family is the most important thing, with you through the best and worst of times. All other relationships are conditional. Work is necessary, but remember who you’re working for.
Recognize that “the good life” isn’t a someday goal. The quality of life that you’re working for is not something to be enjoyed later – it’s happening in the here-and-now. Every time you shortchange yourself of a full and vibrant experience “because I’ll get to it later”, you’re letting real happiness slip away.
Cherish your children while they’re young. Give them your best and educate their young, malleable minds. Offer them your time and attention before they’re at the age where they want nothing to do with you. Listen to what they have to say.
Go out and have real experiences. Much of the consumer world offers casino overload – which can be exciting in its own right. But consider putting off your next vacation – and instead of doing the all-inclusive Disney or Vegas whirlwind tour… just spend a week in ONE country or ONE scenic escape. Really make something meaningful of it – take the experience one moment at a time.
Get in touch with nature. Revel in the crunch of autumn leaves beneath your feet. Dip your hands into a cool, mountain stream and let the water flow through your fingers. Delight in this wondrous planet with the people who you love most.
Live to eat instead of eat to live. Sample the earth’s bounty. Have your meals seated at a table, with your family and friends, as often as you can. Instead of wolfing your food, slow down and really experience the tastes, aromas and textures of what you’re eating.
Treat your body well. Health is so important, without it everything that we work our whole lives for becomes completely pointless. Respect your body and make a real effort to fill it with nutritious things. Get out and move your muscles. When you can, walk instead of drive. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
Offer your attention. Instead of hurrying through your next call or email, slow down and give the person on the other end your full interest. Ignore the caller ID. Don’t be tempted to check email while they’re speaking. Everyone has a story. Someone else wants to tell theirs as much as you’d like to tell yours. Stop and listen; connecting with other people will make you feel better about life and the world.
Life is truly beautiful. Live it alive. Awake. Aware. In awe.
Is there any other way to be when you consider this glorious planet and gift that we’ve been given?