“What are you currently reading?” “Have you read any good books lately?” These two common questions come up often during conversations asked by friends, colleagues or people you have just met. What you have read or are reading reveals a lot about who you are as a person. Reading also includes social media forums and news feeds, what you choose to comment on, share, recommend or post. What you are reading reflects your position as an industry leader, expert and thought leader.
If you can answer these questions with an immediate affirmative response, then you position yourself as someone who is interested in new perspectives, current trends or fresh ideas. Translation: You are an intriguing person. If you have nothing to offer, like the answer, “No” or “I’m not reading anything right now,” you may position yourself as someone who is not interested in much or does not remain current. Translation: You have nothing to offer.
One of my favorite books, discovered by accident at a local bookstore a few years ago, is Soul Pancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions by Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight Schrute on the TV show, The Office), along with Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina and Shabnam Mogharabi. I must admit, it was the title that grabbed my attention. Once I opened the book, I was hooked. Like the title promises, the questions are really big and deserve attention. Did I mention that the book is also on The New York Times Best Seller List? Visit the Soul Pancake website at http://soulpancake.com for more great reading, videos and interactive activities to keep the conversation going.
Reading can stretch your thinking, challenge you, open up your mind to unlimited possibilities. What, then, are you currently reading?
As my friend, Marty, prepared for her first trip to Africa recently, she expressed both excitement and a little anxiety. “What advice do you have for me?” she asked. My response required no thinking because it came from the heart. “Look up,” I said. You see, the night sky in Africa looks quite different than it does in Kansas City, where Marty lives.
I recalled two stand-out memories from my travels. The first was seeing the night sky of Bali in Indonesia’s Archipelago, with vast stars and constellations that I could only see there. The second was viewing the Milky Way while visiting Arizona. Since I live so close to the Great Lakes, the Milky Way is not visible from my home in Ohio.
I told Marty that her primary role as a traveler was that of observer, to be fully present in the moment and enjoy a more engaging sensory experience.
Leading an active, productive life, you may often find yourself immersed in work, errands, appointments and meetings, squeezing as many tasks into one day as is humanly possible. Yet, when you take the time to observe from every perspective — up, down and around, you will have a completely different experience because you are open to a deeper connection.
What is right in front of you that you are not seeing? What are you observing in your day? In your life? Are you taking the time to look up and see everything with fresh eyes?
Imagine getting away from everything that is familiar to you, allowing yourself to experience something new. In the process, you get to know yourself at a much deeper level. That, in essence, is what a retreat is designed to do.
Retreats come in every size and shape, offering a short or long stay, structured or unstructured, communal or private, religious or nondenominational. Your primary goal is reflection, either about your personal life or your professional life. Searching the internet, or following recommendations of friends or colleagues, you will find hundreds of retreat centers and spiritual centers around the world. Some include simple, rustic accommodations and ask for a freewill offering. Others feature more modern facilities, an organized plan and fee structure. Some retreats are self-directed; others are organized for you.
I enjoyed my first self-directed retreat five years ago and chose a private hermitage in a natural setting. For me, the term self-directed meant “Be open to see what each day brings.” I was fully present in each moment. My journal was my constant companion. I looked at every experience with fresh eyes and captured those thoughts on paper. Recently, I revisited that journal. As I read my words, I relived the experience.
If you are feeling unfocused, scattered in your thinking or overwhelmed, a retreat may be just what you need. Schedule regular time for yourself each year to go on a retreat to just be or to think, create and plan. When you plan a retreat, do it with an open mind and open heart. You will return home feeling rejuvenated and more focused.
When will you plan your next retreat?
Words define us. They shape our attitudes and beliefs. They express our perceptions. They also help to create our reality. Words can demonstrate strength or weakness. What words are you using? What are your words worth?
Imagine that you have been diagnosed with cancer and are sitting in a hospital room, ready to undergo your first chemotherapy session. You have decided that you want to face cancer with a positive attitude and humor in your heart. You sit in the chemo lounge chair and put on a red foam clown nose. It puts you in a better frame of mind for this new life experience. A nurse then comes over to you, with a smirk on her face, and says in a stern voice, “Why are you wearing a clown nose? Don’t you know you have cancer?”
What would you do? My colleague, Eddie, was seated in that chair in September, 1999. His response was, “Just because I have cancer doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have joy in my life!” Wow. I hope that nurse listened to Eddie’s words carefully because they offer us an important life lesson: Never give up. The nurse’s attitude didn’t sour Eddie’s outlook on life. The clown nose remained in place.
Many years have passed since his first chemotherapy session, and I am pleased to say that Eddie remains cancer-free. Now that’s a positive attitude. Eddie’s story reminds us that every day we can choose positive over negative. Which would you prefer to be? Like the nurse? Or like Eddie? The key is that you can choose to be positive. Put on your own red clown nose when you need it and step into the world with grace and dignity!
As a professional, you make important decisions often – some of them life changing. When you are struggling, your intuition provides a much-needed voice of reason. When you “feel” that something is right, you know you are making the best choice.
Yesterday, a touching story on the national news caught my attention. A group of World War II veterans, mostly aged in their 80s and 90s, traveled to Washington, D. C. to visit the World War II Memorial. When they arrived, a sign on the metal barricades indicated that – because of the government shutdown – the memorial was closed. These spirited veterans were disappointed, of course, for many knew that this might be their final trip to the memorial. Word traveled fast on Capitol Hill. A small group of concerned politicians decided to open the gates. They used their intuition, that voice inside that says “This is the right thing to do.” The Honor Flights, including nearly 150 veterans from Mississippi and Iowa, could now share memories with each other and pay homage to their fallen comrades. For once, I thought, government leaders got it right. They put the needs of others first. The swift decision required collaboration, and it worked.
The next time your gut screams out to you, “Do the right thing,” remember that your intuition knows best. It guides you through some of life’s toughest decisions. When you do the right thing, you will know it and feel it. And who knows? You could make someone’s day.