Matthew asked me for ear plugs the other day before heading into school. The strange thing is I actually had a whole package of them in my car, my sensitive ears like to be prepared, but it was full because I haven’t needed them in quite some time. I passed my noise sensitivity on to at least a couple of my children, and he is most definitely one of them. It’s turning out that this overly conscious sense of hearing reaches to other areas of my life. Maybe it comes with age, or getting more clear on our own goals, but I have an overwhelming urge to cut out the noise and keep things simple these days. Noise that used to create so much friction in my mind passes through quickly now. There is peace of mind and a braver response to my life when I choose to reflect, respond, or walk away from a thought or situation. The difference in being able to do that, or react too quickly, comes from a steady state of calm. Calm is clarifying. It’s taken me the better part of 40 years to learn how to chill out and access that zen feeling, my nervous system was on high alert for a long time. But it may have happened just in time to be able to teach my kids a few of the things I’ve learned about what does, and doesn’t matter in this life.
Being the creature of habit that I am, I find some concentrated wisdom in the Finding Mastery podcast that I listen to every week. This week’s was with Mick Fanning, a World Champion surfer who has survived a shark attack, on camera nonetheless, during a competition in South Africa. My favorite question in a great interview came at the end, when Dr. Mike went through a list of World Champion surfers, including Mick, and his friends like Kelly Slater and the late Andy Irons, and asked what made them the best. Mick’s answers to what made each of them rise to the peak of their sport ware different for each one of them, from more steady states of flow, competing at all costs, and accessing his inner underdog, each of these greats had a different mentality that equated championship skills. The answer was fascinating to me. .
We connect with others through our common experiences but it is our ability to recognize and hone our uniqueness that allows us to reach the greatest heights in whatever our pursuits are in this life. There isn’t one way to win or achieve success, but self awareness is always a cornerstone.
The biggest piece of the success puzzle for me is finding calm. The more often my mind can find stillness, the quicker it can reset from one of the crazy twists that life throws at me. There are a few rules of thumb that help keep life on the quieter, more peaceful track, even when one of the spokes on my wheel is out of whack.
Don’t give too much thought to what other people may think. The key word here is “may” because really we have no idea. Our own minds can get away from us, cooking up ideas, when really people are much more concerned with their own circumstances. But let’s say we are right, and someone is thinking the worst thing about us, stop and consider if an outside opinion, from someone that doesn’t have the benefit of knowing you or your story, should change your trajectory? Again, the better we understand ourselves, our motivations, and our goals, the easier it is to silence the noise and go with our own instincts. Judgment usually has far more to do the personal circumstances of the person judging, not the one being judged.
Don’t criticize other people. I work hard on this one because judgment seems to be a natural state for us as humans. But this rule is the flip side of the coin for not internalizing what other people think or say. Looking for, and pointing out the flaws in other people, takes energy away from our own journey so why spend time there? If I notice I’m hanging out in that place, I know now to ask myself if what I’m observing is trying to tell me something about my own life. It’s often an area of my own insecurity that I need to get a handle on.
Work on myself instead of trying to fix someone else. There is so much in this life that is outside of our control but if we don’t stop to identify that, it creates a lot of unnecessary noise. The filter I use for this also comes from Finding Mastery - there are only three things we can train - our mind, our body, and our craft- so these days I try to keep my efforts focused there and let other people make their own way. Real connection is never gained through controlling means, so this process has actually strengthened my relationships and cut out the noise created when we try to handle other peoples business for them.
Make sure my priorities and my actions match up. Getting clear about what we want out of our days is a very empowering process. Once we know that, looking at the way we spend our minutes is what makes our goals become reality. Besides parenting, writing, and exercise are my first two priorities in order to move my life forward and fulfill my potential…so I do them first. This also helps me see what to say yes and no too, a very valuable lesson in owning your own life story. There is so much noise that can distract us from our priorities if we let it…mindlessly scrolling social media, binge watching your favorite TV series, saying yes to things out of guilt rather than purpose, you know the drill. Prioritize your progress and then schedule your recovery time and things start falling into place.
Solitude and self awareness are uniquely connected and If we can string together moments of quiet, intuition has a chance to speak and the path becomes clear. When I feel the calm that comes from that experience, it’s as if time slows down and my mind and body are in tune to respond to any situation. These are the skills that have allowed me to stop using the ear plugs that Matthew still thinks he needs…so I guess I better keep teaching.