Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Find Your Strongest Life

At the end of last year, Marcus released his new book Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.

The book has inspired a lot of commentary, and we have fielded numerous questions related to creating a strong life. Below, we share our answers to a few of the most popular questions.

# How do I discover my purpose?
That word "discover" is a sneaky one, isn’t it? It implies that your purpose is there, intact, just waiting to be found like Fleming discovered penicillin. But your purpose or destiny is not something that is going to dawn on you one day in a Eureka-type moment. Let that go. Goals, dreams, and vision are important, but they do not provide the answer to living a fulfilled life.

The answer lies in your strengthening moments. You have to pay attention to the activities, instances and events in your life that fill you up. They teach you, guide you and sustain you. Like small flames, they can be fanned into bigger fires with a little attention. Your strongest life is built through a continuous practice of designing moment by moment.

Everyone has heard the old adage: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Are you actually registering your experience as you live your life or are you always looking into the rearview mirror pining over what happened, or staring off into the distance imagining what will happen—all the while missing out on what is actually happening?

Moments matter most. Build off of a few strong moments, follow the path they lay out for you, and trust your direction. They will not let you down.

# How do I balance it all?
Try typing the word "balancing" into your word processor. Nothing unusual there. Now try typing the word "imbalancing." Your computer doesn’t like that word, does it? You get those squiggly red lines underneath telling you that it’s not really a word. You won’t find it in the dictionary. Although we all know what it means to balance things intentionally, we don’t really understand the idea of intentionally imbalancing anything. We all need to start working on our imbalancing acts.

First, stop chasing that elusive balance. It doesn’t exist. Chasing it does not serve you. If anything, the pursuit of it is likely draining you. Think about the last time that you actually tried to physically balance on something. Didn’t it take massive amounts of effort, focus and skill to achieve a moment of balance before you lost it again? People who are leading happier, more fulfilling lives actually focus on intentionally imbalancing their lives towards the activities that make them feel stronger, more engaged, fulfilled and alive. They seek the moments that they know fill them up and they engineer their lives to experience more of those moments. They do not kowtow to anyone else’s vision for their lives. They choose confidently those experiences that will make them feel happier. They trust themselves.

Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us. The more weakening activities you pile onto your plate, no matter how simple they may seem to tackle, the more you will find your energy and focus being flushed away. The best way to cure stress is to become more conscious of the moment-to-moment experiences of your daily life and begin to make different strengthening choices.

Search your moments. Whenever you consider taking on a new responsibility or commitment, investigate and be certain that there are opportunities for strengthening moments within it.

If the commitment doesn’t offer you the chance for such moments, DO NOT TAKE IT ON. Do not take it because you are worried about letting someone else down or concerned about not doing enough. You do enough. You ARE enough. Accept yourself. You are at your best when you’re committed to activities that strengthen you. As you take more of these on, you’ll find yourself more energetic, focused, clear and happy. Stop prioritizing your goals and start prioritizing your moments.

# I have a lot of ideas, but never seem to follow through on them. I want to write a book, want to be a professional speaker, want to be super organized and have a super clean house. Why do I sabotage myself from going forward with these "dreams"?

It’s interesting how often the word "dream" comes up in our society when we talk about our hopes for the future. We talk about our dream jobs and about living the American dream, and we all think we understand what the word means. But different people mean vastly different things when they talk about dreams.

For some people, the word "dream" is synonymous with "goal"—it’s something they are working actively to achieve. For others, dreams remain mere fantasies, things they don’t believe they can achieve, and so they don’t even try. For such people, the appeal of having a dream is that it skips ahead to the accomplishment, rather than bogging down in the difficult details of the process. We dream of having a clean house—but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning? We don’t have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work.

And for that kind of dream, there is simply no solution except either to abandon it, or to turn it into a true goal. The only way to do that is to start doing what’s necessary to achieve it. Of course, it can be difficult to take that first step, and we can get bogged down in our weaknesses. But if you’re energized by your ideas and can’t find a way to channel that energy, that’s when you have to rely on your friends and colleagues and family members.

Often, if you’re having difficulty starting a project, it can be easier to collaborate or brainstorm with others to get the ball rolling. If you know someone with a knack for planning and organizing, ask if she’d mind sitting down with you to talk about some of your ideas. Involving others can also give you someone to be accountable to for making progress. Once you’re started down a path, ultimately it’s up to you to sustain the momentum.

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