Do you feel like all you have ever known is struggle? Even though you know you are blessed, at the end of the day, you still feel like you are struggling–struggling to live peacefully with your spouse, to be consistent with your parenting, to encourage your children to get along, to stay on top of everything at work, to keep the house and yard in shape, to pay the bills, to make ends meet, to ever get ahead?
What if you woke up one morning and life no longer felt like such a challenge? What if all of the circumstances above remained the same but when combined, they no longer had the power to unravel you?
A couple of years ago, I had the honor to go through a 12 week program called What One Person Can Do. Grounded in loving kindness and personal responsibility this program allowed me to discover my value, the power that exists in each of us, and the ability I have to produce a joyful life of contribution and create an atmosphere where others are able to experience that same ability in their own lives. This program has been conducted with individuals and organizations ranging from school systems, Job Corps programs, the Maine State Prison System, YMCAs and corporations for 30 years by Bill Cumming and individuals who he has trained to do this work, known as conveners. I learned a great deal from that conversation, ended up going through the training to become a convener, and am pleased to share one of those life changing lessons with you.
One year ago, my father passed away from complications of Multiple Sclerosis. One month later, my husband and I separated.
I was blindsided. Although he continued to support us financially, for eight months I was a single mother to our five children. Because of the foundation that was laid through the What One Person Can Do conversation, I was able to walk through these painful circumstances with more equanimity than I would have otherwise been able to do. I still went through shock. I still cried on and off for a couple of months. I still made mistakes trying to readjust my life plan, but I survived. I took my life one day at a time. I did not get out in my future and let fear of the unknown take over.
Those of us raised in America, with televisions in our homes, have been taught that it is an outside in world. We have been taught that the right combination of the right possessions, the right job, and the right partner will make us happy. The truth is that happiness is ALWAYS an inside job. It is not our circumstances that make us happy or unhappy, but our thinking about our circumstances. Author Michael Neill says, “We think we are experiencing reality but what we are really experiencing is our thinking.”
So how do we get our thinking about our less than perfect circumstances to improve?
The answer is to develop a daily Self Care routine that includes visiting these four thoughts for a few minutes before you start each day.
1. Life is a gift. The only moment we have any guarantee of is this one.
2. We are ALL interconnected.
3. The ONLY thing I can control today is the way I CHOOSE to BE in the world.
4. Do the best you can and be gracious to yourself.
Self Care is a personal practice and you have to figure out what works for you, but the core ingredients are these four thoughts. Spend a few minutes thinking, meditating, or praying about them and then follow that time up by reading a couple of pages from one of these books that point back to the Self Care thoughts.
By making Self Care part of my daily routine, these simple but powerful thoughts changed the way I experienced my life. My life consisted of the same circumstances but my thinking about those events changed.
Thinking about the gift of each day, the brevity of life, helped me become more present in my life. One of my favorite quotes is by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. “The days are long but the years are short.” This life is speeding by and I want to be aware of and cherish each day and person I come in contact with.
Every person on this Earth is interconnected. Our actions each day have a ripple effect. One of the first life changing lessons I learned from Bill is that we don’t have to go out and look to make a difference in the world. We already are making a difference. Is it a positive one or a negative one?
I do not have the ability to control anyone (spouse or children included) or anything (broken appliances, vehicles, or the weather) but myself. Once I stopped trying, I experienced less stress, less worry, and more peace.
Learning to be gracious with myself, recognizing that I am doing the best I can each day, accepting those efforts, letting go of the mistakes or shortcomings, and trying again tomorrow has been great for me in conquering feelings of low self esteem and inferiority to others who appear to have the game of life down perfectly.
Yesterday a friend said, “Who wouldn’t want a family, a school, or a business with people in it who have mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation?” Those qualities happen to be the definition of equanimity.
You will still experience off days. They happen. By developing your own Self Care routine, most days you can be that person pointing the way to less stress and less struggle for those in your circle of influence.
Sarah Boucher happily encourages women to find their power daily at
I Am A Powerful Woman. Come join the conversation there. If you are interested in learning more about What One Person Can Do or one on one coaching, you can contact Sarah here.