Posts Tagged ‘life’

A0ABF98D-33A9-4D3E-8813-B9131653DC66Life. Sometimes it really forces you to stop and observe what is going on in that moment. One of those moments happened tonight so I wrote a description:

“I am sitting here next to my Dad. Outside at night. My Mum died 6 months ago and Dad is heartbroken. He has cancer and is now looking forward to joining Mum soon. In the meantime, he sleeps in the chair next to me.”

This is not meant to be sad. It is part of life. It happens in every city in every country in every part of the world. Families say goodbye to grandparents and it is one of the ingredients that makes life worth living. That ingredient is that it doesn’t last forever.

As my mum used to say when things got tough, “This too shall pass“.

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Walking with my Dad tonight I found myself having to answer the most important question anyone ever asks.

“Why should I live?”

Dad is 80. He recently lost the love of his life – my Mum – after being with her for 62 years. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live. Plus he has an advancing form of Alzheimers. A triple whammy if you like.

Next Tuesday he is moving out of our family home to a one bedroom existence in an aged care facility.

So, knowing all this, on our walk tonight he shared that there really is nothing else to look forward to other than dying. But he did say that he wanted to help some old people by pushing them around in their wheelchairs.

My comment was something that has given my life purpose recently.

It is …to be of service to another.

To be helpful.

To give and to see the effect of your effort on the face of another.

It’s a pity that this only enters our brain after a trauma and we are forced to re look at our life purpose. Or to find a purpose if our life direction has vanished.

But is this just my opinion? There seems to be some research into happiness that we are all aware of and it has been happening right under our noses for many years. We are reminded of it regularly in the news and it becomes the topic of our conversations for a period of time, then we slide back to our normal day to day life.

The evidence that I mention is the suicide rate of movie and rock stars comparative to those involved in community work or altruism.

Think about it. Recently we have seen high profile suicides – Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain and Avicii to name a few famous ones. It seems to hit the young and old, the male and female. The ones we think that would have it all to live for.

We are wrong. Accumulation of fame and wealth is not all it’s cracked up to be.

A life of meaning seems to be the way. It provides us with a blanket of emotional security that ensures that we are safe in the knowledge that we matter. That we are worthwhile. That tomorrow we will be of value to another.

And that is a reason that I used on Dad. He agreed and we walked home with a new plan starting Tuesday.

Good on you Dad.

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Either I’m happy or I’m not.

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Well it’s not that easy. There aren’t two destinations on this treadmill. And either end of the spectrum isn’t desirable or possible.

I mean, if you wanted to be 100% happy – REALLY happy – and couldn’t be calm until you got there, you would be a mess.

Firstly, 100% happiness is a myth. The people you think are happy – film stars, the guy who dates the pretty girl you look at, the best sportsperson in your area of interest – these people wake up some mornings and don’t want to get out of bed. I’ve asked them. It’s a universal truth. 100% happiness, 24 hours a day, is a myth.

So what is real? What is acceptable? What should you shoot for?

Here are some markers to hit on your journey:

  • Do you have a job? This gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Even if you don’t like your job, you are involved in something (hopefully) bigger than you.
  • Do you have friends? I know people who are depressed probably don’t attract vital, lively friends but there is a way you can work on this. Join a club, be a person who is like the friends you want, do a course, the list goes on.
  • Do you have a drug or alcohol problem? If so, get off it straight away. Hard advice for those that are addicts and easy for those that aren’t but the point is that substance addiction is a slippery slope that leads to depression and suicide and neither of those is fun.
  • Are you in an intimate relationship? Happily married people are less stressed and live longer. Enough said.
  • Do you exercise? I don’t mean the gym. Although that is fine, I mean somehow you have to let off steam and give your body a reason to go to sleep at night.
  • Do you sleep 8 hours a night and do you wake up early? Fatigue is a huge marker for depression along with a routine which means getting up early at the same time every day.
  • Do you make your bed? Now it’s getting weird I hear you say. Yes, this is one of those small things that tells your brain that you have got your act together. Plus it’s easy and it’s at the start of the day.  At least if it is the worst day ever, you will go home to a bed that’s been made.
  • Do you read? Do you educate yourself? Reading and education mean it’s impossible to get dumber as you get older. This means you will understand yourself more easily and probably find out about other highly successful people that you admire who also struggled. You might even realise that someone else was more unhappy than you and ended up smiling.
  • Do you have an area of your life that has meaning? If not, you can start by looking at the most depressing thing in another person’s life and start working to alleviate their suffering. You will be amazed at the rewards you receive by serving the needs of another.

Finally, if you start doing these, you will find that meaning in life is a form of happiness and in the end, happiness – any percentage of it – isn’t that important if you have a higher purpose.

Oh, one more thing that I borrowed from AA. It’s the last step in their 12 step process. It’s to help another person on their road. But get going yourself first.

Start with the easiest one.

Then make a routine of it.

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We can’t control what our parents did. It’s in the past.

But we can control what we do. That’s in the present. Even though it may not change our current state, it has a direct bearing on our future state.

Remember, you are what you are because of what you did yesterday. It created you. So what you do now, will gradually have an effect on what you become. Even if you do nothing, that still has an effect.

So, one small act now, then repeated tomorrow, is all it takes to bring about huge changes. People in the future will say, “Yeah but you’re lucky”.

If only they knew.

Parenting

 

This exact question was asked as I finished a speech recently on depression and anxiety.
I had told the audience about how widespread depression is. That every day, six Australians take their own lives.
The Lucky Country question disturbed me as I didn’t really have an answer. I mean, if your life is threatened you will fight tooth and nail to survive. So, when our standard of living is so high and our safety assured, why do we feel empty?

The answer lies in a fascinating scientific study conducted in 1999 by Simons and Chabris. They found that when we focus on a given task we selectively delete other factors even when they are right in front of our face. To watch this, called the gorilla experiment, click here: https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo

But here comes the crunch. When we are focused on the things that make us comfortable, it is often at the expense of the things that will provide us with the most reward.
Our mission, or purpose in life, is invisible when we are comfortable.

Our job now is not to make ourselves uncomfortable to achieve something.
It is to clarify what matters most.

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My 6 World Vision kids keep me grounded.
They make me realise I am useful.
Each letter I open shows me I am valuable.
Each picture reminds me I make a difference.
I also advertise the difference I am making by telling my clients that they are making a difference every time they pay me.
Here is the last letter:
———————————————————
This is Amily Sun. She is one of six World Vision kids that we have in our martial arts school.
Firstly, please tell your kids that your family helps pay for her education and some medical supplies. Just by mentioning this and showing the photo, it will plant a seed that ensures everyone helps everyone else. It also reminds kids how lucky they are to live in the best corner of the best state of the best country in the world.
Now, I post this for a few reasons.
Mainly, I believe in altruism and want to show the young members of MRMA that that is what our duty is. I chose World Vision because we can put a face to our contribution. It hits home for us.
I could have chosen an organisation where more of the money goes direct to the person that needs it. (82% of World Vision fees go direct to the person in need.)
But everyone knows World Vision and the reporting process. Photos that are sent and personal notes mean there is a connection made. Your money doesn’t just seem to disappear into a black hole every month.
My second reason is a personal one.
I read a book about The Killing Fields. The author is the same age as me. When he was 15, Cambodia was embroiled in a war where huge numbers of people were slaughtered. The author’s teenage years were spent witnessing bloodshed that is the stuff of nightmares.
As I read the book, I realised that at the same time, I was in Years 10, 11 and 12.
At that age, my main focus was on doing the minimum amount of schoolwork, surfing, and the opposite sex. This realisation and subsequent embarrassment moved me to do something for those less fortunate. Maybe 40 years too late but I was unconsciously incompetent at the time.
I have told this story many times to the kids in the martial arts school in the hope that, by example, they will realise that it is their civic duty to do what they can.
I implore you to show your child the picture and explain how we are helping her.
Sean Allen
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So, that’s it.
Simple acts repeated add up.
Read that again. It works in all areas of life. Positive or negative.
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What I think happens in life and thereafter.

There is no supporting evidence for this. None. But I think this photo depicts what happens to us in our life and afterwards.

Firstly, the sign.
The concept that life ends when we die is a man-made concept. Take that away and the picture takes on a different meaning
In the foreground, the road and painted line shows the direction that has been mapped out for us. We may have painted the line or we might be following a line painted by others. It’s still a direction we follow. Life is reliable if we walk this way. No surprises.

The end of the painted line.
Notice that the line stops but the road continues. At some point in our lives we don’t need to follow a direction. We just know which side of the road is the safest and the direction we should be travelling in. It’s still a direction followed by most but we don’t need as many rules to guide us. We brush our teeth, save some money and have the weekend off without thinking about it. Admittedly, doing these things does save you some heartache later but really it’s your choice. There are consequences for everything. Even if you stop in the middle of the road there is a consequence.

The gravel.
The end of the road and start of the dirt shows our partial return to the way things should be as we age. We can start to connect with the natural way of life and appreciate the little things. Like being outside. Feeling the wind. Listening to our own thoughts. All these experiences becomes more comfortable as we realise that all things pass. We end up walking our own path regardless of others. The realisation that happiness and contentment is up to us makes it much easier to live.
The decisions we have made, passage we have taken, and where it has lead us finally shows what really matters. Material gain and credit for our performance loses its lustre. The knowledge that others are struggling now seems to drive us to a point where we are rewarded with a deep contentment that only service to another living being can give.

The sign.
It may be the latest theory to explain death but it really just shows a transition. In science, nothing disappears, it changes state. Ice melts and become water; water boils and becomes steam; the steam seems to disappear but really spreads out to become, well, everything.

Afterwards.
Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There is a continuation of us but as the picture shows, things change.
It seems to me there is a natural beauty thereafter. No roads, no directions, no hazards. Still in existence but a more natural one that allows us freedom that we haven’t experienced beforehand. Whether we continue into the trees or the sky is up to you. All we do is move forward into a new experience.

Right now, you are the sum of the experiences you have had in your life and the decisions you made about yourself afterward.

Actually, the decisions you made about yourself are more important than the event itself.

But first, a story.

Soon I am being interviewed in a podcast on iTunes. In the initial process, I sent in 10 stages of my life that had brought me to where I am now. I only had a few minutes so this was a good way, I thought, to give the interviewer a snapshot of me. They are mainly associated with martial arts business but it sort of morphed into a personal journey.

Here they are:

10 Sean

It was quite interesting to read so I shared it with some friends. One friend, a lady in her early 40’s sent in her stages of life.

They are:

Innocence

Breaking free

Falling in love

Discovering the world

Committing

Unconditionally falling in love

Juggling

Supporting

Breathing

Smiling

What would your 10 look like?

Remember that your emotions about any event in life depends on your perspective.

As I stood still for the picture to be taken in Washington DC, I remember thinking how Wash DC 2000realistic the statues were and I could imagine them walking. If I was older it may have moved me to tears. But the point is that the value is in the exercise of deciding what the ten stages of your life have been. Do you mention an experience as making a profound impact on you? Or do you mention a time period that shaped you? It can even be a decision that was made after an event.

Remember the process has value as it makes you judge how you reacted to an event.

In the comments section below post your ten and follow this blog to see every time more are added. Remember we will defend ourselves by saying, “But I am the result of more than 10!” Yes you are. But limiting us to 10 makes us prioritize the most important. Good exercise.

Go on, join in.

Last week I got a day’s work in a primary school teaching sport.
Grade fours.
At one stage I sat them down as they were making mistakes with a drill we were doing and I explained the meaning of a turnover and a turnaround.
A turnover is when the other team gets the ball and a turnaround is when a match turns around in favour of the other team.
Later on that day I explained the meaning of the Aussie rules “hospital kick.” A hospital kick is a kick that sits in mid-air and leaves the player standing underneath, waiting for the ball. Basically waiting to go to hospital.

Life lessons
A turnover is when you give power to someone else. A turnaround usually occurs after this. Knowing what you want from life helps. The only turnaround we should all be interested in is a positive turn around.
From bad to good.
A hospital kick in life is a decision made and action taken that ends with a bad result. The second you deliver a football you know it has turned into a hospital kick.
In life you know when you have made a bad decision. Life hospital kicks are inevitable but it becomes easier to recognise them after a while.

The intelligent player enjoys the game, never does a hospital kick, never experiences a turnover of control to anyone and consequently never experiences a turnaround.

Lessons all around us.

I recently submitted an article about the fact that my family had a brush with death in the early 1960s.
The article entitled, “The Personal Side Of A Serial Killer” can be found at infobarrel.com.
It follows the last hanging in Western Australia.
Eric Edgar Cooke was a serial killer who was not captured for many years as his killings were random and without motive. After a killing spree he would calmly walk back into his life of being a husband and father. His family and friends knew nothing of his other side.
In 1963 he stood at the foot of my grandmother’s bed, decided not to kill her or her sister then walked outside and shot a boarder sleeping on the verandah.
He then continued his slaughter nearby.
Having said this, I need to add that Eric Edgar Cooke was a psychopath and serial killer largely because of the violence inflicted on him as a child.
His story is sad and moving.
It may be the reason behind the maniac but not the excuse.
I say this because there comes a time that you have to stop wearing your past on your shoulder. As adults we have a choice as to whether we’re going to become an extension of the trauma that we have endured or walk a different path.
Take Billy Connolly for example. His upbringing is surely a recipe for disaster. If anyone has an excuse to be violent and seek retribution on the world, Billy does.
Not so. He made a choice to forge a new path.
As an adult we have a choice how we are going to end up.
Do we let the events of the past shape us or do we define ourselves?
I say ultimate control lies deep inside of me. Not in the hands of someone who hurt me years ago.