Spring Cleaning

Reposted from Forward Walking
July 31st, 2014 by Daniel Adam Freeman

My wife and I are currently packing up our house getting ready to move. It is amazing how many things have accumulated in the closets and drawers of our lives. Every drawer we open and closet we clean out leads us say, “Where did that come from,” “I forgot we had this,” or, “I’ve been looking for that!” The clutter in our homes will grow to fill the space available.  It is the same in our lives.  If we don’t consciously choose what we will fill our lives with, they will fill themselves with whatever comes along, and whoever requests our time first.

Wherever there is space something — whether a possession, person, or commitment — will grow to fill it.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to choose the possessions, people, and commitments of our lives, rather than have them choose us? Whether doing some spring cleaning, packing for a move, or taking regular inventory, it is important to differentiate between what is necessary and important to the life we hope to lead, and what is not. We must discern between what we put there by choice, and what simply grew to fill the empty space we provided? In the next few paragraphs

I invite you to take a few minutes today and explore the hidden corners, closets, drawers, and recesses of your life. See what you find.  Why is it there? How did it get there? What is its purpose? How long has it been since you used it?

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Things & Possessions

Our possessions become a part of us, and we a part of them. We use our time, attention, money, space, and resources to care for, keep up, and protect them. Our possessions become an outward expression of who we are on the inside.

Take a look around you – are the outward possessions of your life an accurate depiction of the inner state of your heart? If what you see is not who you want to be then something needs to change. We choose our possessions based on what is, or is not, important to us, or what we consider relevant and true in our lives.

We fill our lives with things which reflect on the outside how we feel about ourselves on the inside. So what do the possessions of your life say about you? As you think about the things in your life, consider the following:

  • What purpose does it serve?
  • How did it come into my life? Was it a gift, an accident, or a conscious acquisition?
  • Why do I have it?
  • Do I protect it and cherish it, or is it merely filler?
  • What is its purpose?
  • What benefits does it provide?
  • What does it cost me to keep it, in terms of space, time, money, attention, or other resources?
  • What does it invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?
  • What image does it portray to others if I am honest with myself?
  • And finally, looking at the answers to these questions, do its benefits outweigh its costs? Is it worth the weight I am required to bear as a result?

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People & Associations

Great men throughout the ages have said that we become the average of the people we associate with the most – in terms of our perspectives on life, religious beliefs, political views, finances, personalities, and characters. Looking at who you associate with the most, and after exploring the questions below, please consider – who are your friends becoming – and is that who you want to become?

If the answers to this question lead you to question who you associate with on a regular basis then please seek new friends, or have a conversation with your current friends about who they want to be, and how they plan to get there. If their aspirations line up with who you hope to become in your life, then all you need do is continue to walk that road together. On the other hand, if you find yourself walking in different directions, seeking to become different people, then perhaps the time to part ways has arrived?

George Washington said, “Associate yourself with men of good reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  And an unknown author said the following, “Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”

As you think about the people you spend the most time with in your life ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do my friends and associations invite me to:

o   be better and become more, and to rise above who I have been, or to regress and forget the truths I have learned in my life, slipping back into mess from which I have escaped, or want to escape?

o   become more like myself, or more like them at the expense of my own identity?

o   instill, deepen, and expand more virtues in my life and character, or to let the vices, weaknesses, and addictions of life grow unchecked, or worse, to actively encourage them?

  • Who am I becoming by my association with them?
  • Who am I when I am with them?
  • Who am I after being with them?
  • Would their life be one I would choose to live? Is it a life I would want to live?
  • Are they a person I strive to emulate, or not?
  • And most importantly, what does my association with them invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?

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Commitments

No matter where we go, or what we do, commitments will fill our lives. Taking the kids to school, studying for a test, doing homework, going to work, filling our responsibilities at church, working around the house, or doing the laundry, are just a few of the things that we will be required to do. Many, if not all, of these commitments are beneficial in nature. But this is not always the case.

There are many commitments however that cost us more than they enrich us. These become the most time destructive bits of clutter in our lives. They rob us of our future and simultaneously replace something beautiful with something hollow and empty in the end. Perhaps they take too much time away from our families, and even when healthy place secondary priorities first in our lives, like an addiction to some hobby, like running marathons or triathlons, at the expense of your family. Or perhaps they shouldn’t even be a priority at all, doing nothing but take from your life while providing a temporary escape from issues that need to be addressed, and not ignored.

These are illustrated best by addictive and self-destructive behaviors of all kind; drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc… In light of this fact we must make sure that our commitments match our priorities.

In the words of Stephen Covey, “Do first things first, and second things never.” 

It is important that we clean out the commitments of our lives regularly so that they do not overwhelm us and leave us shattered, worn, and robbed in the end.

As you explore the commitments of your life ask yourself these questions:

  • What purpose does this commitment serve?
  • Does it move me closer to the person I wish to become and the life I wish to have or lead?
  • How did it come into my life? Did I choose it for myself, was it assigned me by another (like a boss or a spouse), or was it the result of not having spoken up, or saying yes or no?
  • What benefits come from fulfilling this commitment? What does it add to my life?
  • What does it truly cost me to keep it, in terms of space, time, money, or other resources? What is it costing me (emotional health, well-being, etc…)?
  • Does it deepen, or destroy, the all-important relationships between my family and myself?
  • Looking at the answers to these questions, do its benefits outweigh its costs? Is it worth the weight I will be required to bear? And will it make me stronger in the end?
  • And most importantly, what does this commitment invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?

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Conclusion

As you clean out the closets and drawers of your life – and re-evaluate where you stand, looking at how you got to where you are today, and where you’re headed from here forward – please share with us what you found?

Where is your life taking you? And isn’t it about time you had a say in where you’re headed?

Choose your possessions wisely, for they are but the outward expression of how you feel about yourself on the inside.

Choose your friends wisely, for you will become the average of the people you associate with the most.

Choose your commitments wisely for they become the soil from which you will grow, and strive, and reach into the future.

Whether or not the soil of your life is fertile depends, in large part, on what you choose to fill it with. Your choices, and where you choose to spend your time, will determine where you are headed, and who you are becoming. Who will you become, and what will you do?

Only you hold the answer… Isn’t it about time you did some spring cleaning today?

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The Key Ingredients of a Happy Life

Reposted from Forward Walking
December 5th, 2013 by Daniel Adam Freeman

For many years I misguidedly sought happiness where it didn’t exist. I didn’t understand the principles upon which it flowed. I did things that most people say are important or will make you happy (traveling the world, striving toward achievement, or taking on big and interesting projects), only to discover that happiness did not flow from these things as I had expected.

The experiences of my life have been spectacular, inspirational, fun, and enlightening, but in the end I was left feeling hollow inside. With that empty feeling following close behind, I moved from achievement to achievement and experience to experience—until one day I had a realization.

Something was missing in my life—something deeper than those experiences and achievements could ever provide.

I was only peaceful on the move—when I was traveling or doing something I could forget myself in. When I finally stopped running and was left alone, I discovered I was not peaceful at all. When I stopped moving, I recreated the problems and anxieties of my life again and again. There was a problem with how I sought peace. I had never solved my problems; I only ran from them for a short time.

It is what I discovered as I ran—investing my time in distraction and achievement—that I wish to share with you today:

There were a couple of things missing from my life (at least in their true forms). I’d sought these things through the channels commonly touted as the roadways to success and happiness, and discovered nothing close to what was promised in the end.

Serenity

I was not at peace with who I was. I felt lost and alone. I didn’t honestly know what I really stood for. Who was I? Where had I gone wrong? I was deeply troubled by these questions as I continued to move from one thing to another. But the answer came slowly. And when it did, it was simple.

First, I was missing true serenity—peace of mind, body, soul, and self.  

Additionally I felt that my life wasn’t significant to anyone but me. I felt that my life itself didn’t truly matter. What had I accomplished or contributed in the world? What could I possibly contribute? Without the achievements of my life to give it meaning, who was I? I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what I felt was expected of me by society at large. How could I ever measure up to what society said I had to be in order to be happy?

I didn’t feel that my life held any true significance other than what I had created through the hollow, albeit interesting, achievements of my life up to that point. 

These are the two things we seek in life as we mature and grow: significance and serenity. These are the key ingredients of a happy life

We seek these things through many avenues. No matter which avenue we choose in pursuing them, we must beware that we don’t simply replace significance and serenity with the hollow substitutes of the world (materialism, achievement for achievement’s sake, running away from anxiety, an addiction to the new, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, etc).

I invite you to reevaluate the definitions that you have for these things in your own life, and see if a different perspective can help you to discover them in greater abundance as it did for me.

For me:

Serenity is the experience of peace in mind, body, soul, and self. It is knowing who I am and what I stand for as an individual. It is a sense of self-worth that no longer seeks its meaning through the acceptance of others. It is the literal experience of happiness in daily life—no matter what misfortunes might come.

significance

Significance is the ability to be in positive relationships with those around us. Being serene and at peace with ourselves is a necessary step in the right direction toward significance. Once we are comfortable with who we are and what we stand for, we can begin to be of service to others—those of our families, homes, and communities. As we serve others we will discover truesignificance in our lives. It is the people in our lives that make us significant—not the achievements that the world praises.

In my travels, I met a man who, before I met him, had achieved success as the world defines it. He had 5 homes around the world, and spent several months each year sailing, fishing, and scuba diving wherever he wanted. However, as he reflected upon his own life, he referred to himself as a jerk who yelled all the time. He had heart problems and a failing marriage. He had all the money he could ever want, but he wasn’t happy or peaceful. Not even close.

Finally, this man had a talk with his wife. The two decided that something big had to change if they were going to save their marriage. The man sold his all of his businesses and retired, committing to spend more time with his wife.

I met him over 10 years after that decision. He said it had changed his life. Before that, he’d been looking for happiness the wrong way, thinking that his money and position could give him everything he wanted. He discovered that he’d been wrong.

Now he is at peace with himself and in a loving, significant relationship with his wife, whom he has affectionately given the title of ‘Egyptian Love Goddess’.

This man acquired significance and serenity in his own life after he discovered the true sources from which they flow.

Will you do the same?

Commitments of a Better Kind

Reposted from Forward Walking
October 29, 2013 by Daniel Adam Freeman

About a year ago, I began asking myself questions about commitment. I wondered why I was still single and what it really meant to be truly and wholly committed. Wasn’t there anyone out there who I could be truly happy with? What would it take for me to finally commit to a long-term relationship?

I believe that the answers I sought then have found me since, and they have been very interesting. These answers have shown me new things about myself—truths that I think are very important for all those still seeking to find that special someone of their own.

Over the course of the past year, I have realized that there are very few things to which I have fully committed myselfmind, body, and soul. However, the things I have committed myself to completely are things very important to me. These things are the back-drop of my entire life. They lie behind everything I have done and hope to ever do.

The three things in life that I have been continually committed to are:

  1. My Creator
  2. My family
  3. Continued learning, growth, and progression

When I first moved out into the world, away from my family, I discovered that I was lonely. I missed my family, and wanted to build one of my own. I also wanted to be deeply–and happily–in love. I wanted someone with whom I could share my life.

For over 10 years, I attempted to form lasting relationships. I sought to find someone with whom I could create the kind of relationship that would allow both of us to experience the type of joy I knew was possible. After all, I’d seen this type of love before in certain couples. It was beautiful, and I wanted to be a part of something like that.

Over the course of those 10 years, however, every relationship I formed reached a point where I knew in my heart that breaking it off was the right thing. As much as I wanted to be in love and experience the deep satisfaction that a truly fulfilling relationship could provide, I knew that these relationships were not–and could never be–the one I ultimately sought. In the end, I would always discover that I could not provide the life-long happiness that any of these young women sought, and neither could they create such happiness for me. With each relationship, I realized that the priorities and commitments of our lives just didn’t match up. As the realization came, time and time again, that I could not in good conscience foster the relationship any further, I began to wonder if it was even possible to find someone whose life could align with my own.

Because of the demise of these relationships, I have been told many times, over the years, that I had commitment issues. The thought made me discouraged. But I write today to share a truth that I discovered only recently—a truth that has given me great comfort:

I am an extremely committed individual. There are things in my life that I believe in deeply, and live to the fullest extent. Those things create the guide to which I pattern my entire life.

With this in mind, I would like to suggest that these types of commitments are what ultimately lead us to lasting relationships. In order to find someone who you can commit to spend the rest of your life with, you must first discover the things in life that you are already truly committed to.Only then can you go out and find the right person—someone whose commitments and goals match and compliment your own. Together, you and this person will then be able to reaffirm each other in your journeys. This matching commitment will allow you to grow in love and appreciation of one another more and more with each passing day.

I share this today to give hope to those (of all ages) who may be wondering if they will ever find someone with whom they can be truly happy. I promise that it can happen. I know this.

After all, it has finally happened for me.

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Take the time to discover where your priorities and the commitments of your life lie. Recognize them, and commit to live up to them no matter what happens. Never sacrifice them for anything as you continue your search for love and fulfillment. If you honor the commitments that lie within the sacred walls of your heart, you attract others who will respect and honor those same things. This will open the doors to the kind of relationships that bring true joy to your life.

And, as with all things that move us forward, do not give place in your heart for fear—the fear that you won’t find someone, that you will be alone, or that you have to sacrifice who you are to be happy. None of these things is true. You are magnificent just the way you are. Never settle prematurely or sacrifice what matters most in your life for a relationship that, deep down, you know can never make you truly happy.

Deeply loving relationships, that grow and deepen exponentially with time, DO exist. They are REAL, and they will find you when you are truly ready for them. If you wait for this type of relationship, patiently honoring the commitments of your heart in the meantime, it will find you. And when it does come, you will be prepared to commit to it, nourish it tenderly, and watch it blossom into something more wonderful than you could’ve imagined.

But first, you must ask yourself this question: What are you ALREADY truly and wholly committed to in life?