I was sitting with a client a few weeks ago — someone I have known for some time. He is a hard-working professional, husband, and father. He was reflecting on the holidays and the stress in his home due to the loss of a close and loved family member, and the lingering feelings from a previous few years of more loss than one expects in such a short amount of time. He talked about how hard he is trying to support his wife and be patient with his kids. He is under a great deal of pressure at work and carries a lot of responsibility. He walks through the door each night with the goal of being present, patient, and enjoying positive interaction. He reflects on how hard it is to consistently carry out this goal.
As my client reflects, so do I. I reflect on the challenges of the night before in my home with my family. I reflect on the challenges an hour earlier getting my youngest to school (she had a rough morning reminiscent of prior years). I reflect on my similar intentions as I walk through the door each night for quality time with my family after a long work day. Sometimes I walk into a happy home with people singing, dancing, and joking; sometimes I walk into arguing, fighting, and yelling; and other times I walk into a quiet home where everyone is engaged in some sort of screen and nobody notices I am home. Like my client, I too wonder why it is so hard to carry out my goal.
I briefly share my recent experiences with him to validate his. I talk about how hard it is to live intentionally even without the added stress of the impending loss in his family. He sits in silence and thinks. It is a comfortable and contemplative silence. I ask him what he wants to bring to his home; what is his intention? He responded, “Joy. I want to bring joy to my home.” He was resolute. It was clear to him. It was clear to me as he said it. He wanted to intentionally bring levity, happiness, and joy to his wife and kids. But why is it so hard?
Our lives are busy. Often too busy. Our kids are scheduled. Often too scheduled. With each day new technologies offer us more distractions. Too many distractions. Many are under a great deal of stress at work. Too much stress. Our kids get a lot of homework. Too much homework. The list goes on and on. So what can we do about it? Although our lives and world are often complex, I like to simplify things as much as possible. We can:
• Accept reality
• Make conscious choices
• Live intentionally and purposely
As my client and I reflect on these ideas, we realize they are easy to embrace in the confines of my office, yet often hard to carry out on a daily and moment-to-moment basis.
More and more these days I find myself thinking of that old saying, “Who said it would be easy?” I have come to realize that most things that are important and worth anything come with purpose, commitment, and hard work. Most people I know, and with whom I work, are able to accomplish the vast majority of goals they set out to achieve. The challenge I find and have observed, is deciding to apply that same tenacity to daily living. The challenge is to fully commit oneself to accepting reality, making conscious choices, and living with intention and purpose.
With the arrival of 2015 and the new year, we have a ritualistic and symbolic opportunity to commit to accomplishing something new. Some commit to exercising, losing weight, working less, taking risks, and saying “no” more. How about committing to accepting the reality in which you live and the circumstances you are given? How about making conscious choices every day about what you say and what you do? How about living with purpose and acting in a way that fits your values and intentions?
Nobody said this would be easy. Like most things, it takes practice and will come with more ease the more you do it. Think about what is important to you. Think about how you want to live in 2015. Make a commitment to yourself. Accept that some days will be easier to live with intention than others. Be kind to yourself.
My client is going to bring joy to his home. What will you do?