3 Questions to Save Your Life

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If we’re lucky, we’ll wake up to a new day tomorrow. A new year. Hell, a new decade! 2020 is here yall. Woo! It’s no longer a distant year in the future or a year referenced in some 80’s science fiction film. It’s real and it’s here. Ready or not.

I prefer the ready to the not.

While I don’t recommend New Year’s resolutions per se (who doesn’t want to be fitter, healthier, richer and more adventurous) I recommend we ask ourselves 3 questions instead. If 2020 is going to be the year of perfect vision, I believe these questions can help us see our life more clearly.

I first heard these questions while recording an episode for the podcast. Andrew and I had reached out to two of the wisest women we know to speak on matters of life and death. Linda and Shauna are experts on grief, death and dying and how to help people navigate these turbulent waters. Our conversation did not disappoint and I highly recommend you give it a careful listen.

At one point, Linda mentioned the 3 questions. These are THE questions Linda and her family have asked each other for decades in order to bring focus, clarity and to keep things real. I offer them to you as a way for you to look into 2020 and be more resolute. The beauty of these questions is they can be used in the moment, to plan a future moment or reflect on a moment gone by. Just change the tense in how you ask them. They are a mirror to our true selves. If we’re courageous enough to take a look.

What am I afraid of?

What would love do here?

What is the best possible thing that could happen?

As you contemplate where things are at in your life, may these questions bring you clarity, hope, and perhaps even provide an explanation for why you feel the way you do. We’ve never lived at a better time in history and despite what you might believe, life on earth has never been better. This is your time. Our time. And we haven’t a second to lose.

It turns out, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Happy New Year everyone.  Thanks for listening.

A Shocking Study

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In his excellent and thought-provoking book, ‘Stumbling on Happiness,’ Daniel Gilbert challenges our traditionally held beliefs on happiness. There are several key takeaways, not the least of which is, “anxiety is unhelpful because our brains are notoriously unreliable when it comes to predicting the future.” The experiences that we believe will bring us happiness, seldom do. But even more surprising, the experiences we dread and often try to avoid, fail to deliver the level of doom and gloom expected.

To illustrate his point, Gilbert references dozens of scientific studies -most of which go against conventional wisdom. One experiment, in particular, invited volunteers to receive three electric shocks. The fact that anyone signed up for this study is perhaps confirmation of the book’s central thesis. One group received moderate level shocks and the others received severe (painful) shocks. Upon completion, the participants were interviewed by psychologists. The participants who received the painful shocks were more grateful and appreciative of the experience than those who received less intense shocks. How is this possible? Gilbert explains, “if you managed to forgive your spouse (or anyone) for some egregious transgression but still find yourself miffed about the dent in the garage door or the trail of dirty socks on the staircase, then you have experienced this paradox.” It turns out, the answer lies in something called the Psychological Immune System.

We all have an immune system and its job is to fight off viruses so our body can run smoothly and stay safe from disease. It turns out, there is a psychological component to this. When we suffer a large scale attack on our psyche (Job loss, divorce, business failure, cancer diagnosis, bankruptcy etc.) our brain begins its job of protecting us by offering a more positive view of the experience. “That job wasn’t aligned with your values anyways. “He never really loved you for you who are etc.” This mental shift allows us to learn from the experience and most importantly, try again. While some might call this denial, others point to this as a key to resilience.

This particular immune system isn’t activated for every-day sadness, anger or anxiety but is reserved for those full-scale shocks to our psyche. Its primary concern is we don’t stay face down, in permanent rock bottom or experiencing night after night dark in our soul. We must eventually get up, dust ourselves off and continue to push through those obstacles.

It’s easy to feel anxious or angry, pre-suffering future shocks to our system. What this and many other studies have proven is although these shocks are inevitable, when they come, we have a built-in resilience to handle them. Upon realizing this, we can move forward with renewed confidence knowing we are stronger than we think. And perhaps, most importantly, we can enjoy the moment we are in.