Thursday, November 17, 2011

Living With Urgency

Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. William Faulkner

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it. Pascal

One of the perks of knowing you are going to die is that you are forced to make decisions as to what you will do with your allotted time. I mean, if we were all Highlander-like and lived forever, what urgency is there in deciding which career path to take, what to do with our time and money, or whom to cherish until death-do-you-part? But Death is coming, so now what?

What will you value?

Who is important to you?

By what code will you live?

What is it that is worth doing, in the face of death?

What is it you would do, even if it meant risking death?

How will you prepare for death?

And if you believe in God, and that you will meet Him when you die, how does this shape and inform your answers to the above questions?
Those individuals who Get Death, who accept its inevitability, who know that death is coming for them, rarely procrastinate: if anything, they are almost impetuous in their decision making, as they live by the words of Christ, Work while it is day for when the night comes … no more time to work: no more time to work on self, on your relationships, or on your legacy.
The challenge when you are young is to overcome the arrogance of thinking (or at least behaving As If) “I am immortal.” Plenty of time to Become and to Do, right? Feels that way at 17 … not so much when you wake up at 50 and realize you have yet to either truly Become the individual you were meant to be or Do what you were created to. “How did this happen to me? How did I get here?” ” Simple. “Immortals” procrastinate.
I say that those individuals who Get Death behave accordingly … but that’s not really true. Some people grasp it intellectually but refuse to wrestle with it existentially. Some people think, “What the heck: there is no afterlife so eat drink and be merry!” Others see death and are crippled by despair. But all this changes when Death knocks on your door.
Have you ever known someone who knew that they only had so much more time to live? Think back on their behaviors, their choices, and their attitudes. With death just around the corner, what is of great significance becomes all-important, and what is not important is ignored. Expressions of love, making amends, setting things in order for those who will remain here, and finishing certain projects, these and other Important Things are embraced with heroic courage. Everything else is inconsequential.
Why is it that we wait until our impending death to live and love this way? And how many of us will know with certainty that death is only a year or a week away? We don’t. As far as we know, it is only a week away.

So. Now what?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Owning Your Power: Finding Your Voice

One of the ways you can spot someone who is owning his power is that he has his own voice.  (Yes, yes, I know this sentence is grammatically incorrect. However, it is psychologically correct, as “owning” denotes an ongoing process.) Your power will speak with your voice: no one else is controlling your mind and heart (your power) so no one else is controlling your voice.
People who deny their own power usually have allowed others to take up residency in their heads and hearts. “This is what you should/must feel; this is what you will think. Therefore, this is what you will communicate.” ACK Polly wants a cracker!
Finding your voice is a process. You will hear or see something in an individual or read it in a book and take it out for a spin. You will watch a co-worker or a friend you admire or one of your parents and what you see resonates as True For You: so you take it on as your own… and see if it fits or not. A little adjustment here, a little there and, Voila!, “It fits!”
When I first began speaking publicly, I sounded like any number of men whom I admired. The first year or two I “tried on” any number of people (we call this “modeling”) but after a while I developed my own voice. Or did I?
What took me much longer was to develop my own sense of self: my own beliefs and ideas and emotional responses.  I was raised in a world where my beliefs, ideas, ideals and emotions were dictated. I don’t mean that someone held a gun to my head. However, the cost of having the “wrong” beliefs and such was a severe lack of approval or even outright rejection. To be as gracious as possible, it is very difficult to develop your own voice in such an environment.
Parents, I think, often miss it here, in so far as they don’t allow their children to express their honest thoughts and emotions. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t help our children process their minds and hearts toward a more healthy way of being, only that if we cut the process off – if we do not allow them to own what they are presently experiencing – they begin searching, not for what is true for them in that moment, but only for what should be thought and felt. Right Then and There. What this produces are children who no longer seek to discover their own identities but seek to be whom and what someone else says they are supposed to be.
We all have known parents who, rather than rearing their children to be individuals, instead, mold and shape them to be “whom I should have been,” or into the incarnation of Dad or Mom. “I couldn’t be or do ‘x,’ so you will do this and be that person.” “I am ‘y” so you will be ‘y,’ as well.” Sure, we have beliefs and values that we hope and pray our children will adopt as their own, but this must be done with respect for their individuality.
Years ago I was counseling a man who was struggling to find his own voice. Now, he disagreed with me as to the nature of his struggles, rejecting my observation that he appeared to always want to say what others wanted to hear. During one of our sessions he mentioned that he kept a journal. I asked him if he would mind allowing me to read some of it, noting that he could decide what I read.
 The following week, I sat across from him and began reading what he had written. It only took me two pages to have a perfect example of what I was seeking to communicate.

Monte: You have edited this.

Client: Uhhh yeah. You think I want my wife or parents to know what I really think? … I can’t believe I just said that.

Monte: I can.

Finding your voice requires that you develop your own heart and mind. While you want the input and help of others, at the end of the day it is your heart, your mind, and your power. Frankly, I have now come to the place where I would rather be honestly wrong then parroting what is right but not presently real to me.
Toward developing your own heart and mind, ask yourself: What do I believe about God, Love, Truth, Goodness, Justice, Liberty, and Beauty?
Furthermore, and more to the point of finding your voice, what is the purpose or reason for your existence? We are not here to waste oxygen: we are here to make a difference. Subsequently, finding our voice will include finding our “message.” And how do you find your message?

Start with answering these two questions:

What do I believe gives my life purpose?

What is it that I most often do for others … or at least find myself desperately wanting to do for others?

Your answers will give you insights – they will point you in a specific direction.

For your personal power to be efficacious, it must have focus. One of the ways you will be able to tell just how focused your power is will be in the clarity of your communication regarding your heart and mind.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011