Sunday, December 16, 2012

How 12-21-2012 Could Change Our Lives:

12-21-2012. This date has been on peoples’ minds recently and has naturally been getting much media exposure. The day is the reported last day of the ancient Mayan calendar and in combination with other Mayan beliefs, has led many to believe that something tremendous will affect us all. This cryptic day of ones and twos has led an innumerable amount of people around the world to believe that a series of transformative events – whether apocalyptic or Utopian – will occur in the form of celestial transitions, theological revelations, or a change in universal consciousness. Whatever the case may be, many are hopeful that something drastic will happen and it will undoubtedly be an exciting day.

I refuse to debunk it as a myth because, quiet frankly, anyone who claims to know what will or will not happen on a future date is arrogant and disillusioned. Uncertainty is a universal phenomenon and like many things in life, our future needs to just play out and requires patience. But there is overwhelming evidence that would lead one to think that this is just another pipe-dream that fuels the fires of hype and fright throughout the world.

I’m sure we all remember the Y2K scare in 2000 but that is just a drop of water in the ocean of end-of-days predictions and date setters. (I was originally going to write some examples but it became too exhaustive.) In short, there are over 250 historically documented doomsday dates, false messiahs and second comings, raptures, and miscalculations.

This outrageous number is embarrassing and it highlights how so many have grossly taken advantage of the natural human desire for liberation and connection. But many really believed their convictions. When they allowed their entire lives to revolve around one date – only to see it pass without monumental changes – they committed suicide or lost their sense of life’s purpose and direction. Much like what happens when you violently shake a snow-globe that has been untouched; their confident and settled beliefs soon turned chaotic and wreaked havoc on their minds.
Why are we so addicted to this phenomenon? It literally blows my mind and I can’t wrap my head around it.
Surely this is a universal infatuation. From the search for extra-terrestrial life on other planets, paranormal activity, and doomsday prophesies to conspiracy theories, espionage, and beautiful blood-sucking vampires that thrive at twilight, nothing gives life a surge of excitement quite like mystery, mysticism, folk-lore and the unknown. Could this just be another part of the trill of it all?

Perhaps, subconsciously, many of us want a revolution in our lives. Some drastic event that would change our daily routines, break down the barriers of human interaction and connection, and pave the way for something new. Something that would shake our realities and send humankind on a thrilling new tract.
Either way, I think 12-21-2012 and new years can be a great opportunity for us all. Like any day, it can be a bigger turning point in our lives than we could ever imagine.
Maybe we just need an opportunity to forgive or apologize or reconnect with a friend or family-member. Perhaps we need an excuse to be honest, ask questions, break fear, and take a stand. Maybe we need a reason to try something new, break a bad habit, or start that new exercise regimen. It could be that we’re waiting for the right moment to tell that special someone how we REALLY feel about them.

In that case, make today, the 21st, or New Years THAT day. If you knew you were going to die soon what would you want to say or do? It’s the biggest motivation. Also, a New Years resolution is a perfect opportunity to start something new or finally get it done. So, take a healthy risk! It will change the course of your life and pave the way for new and exciting moments that have never been experienced before.

Sometimes, you just need an excuse.

And who knows, maybe our lives really will change on 12-21-2012… ;D

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hi, I'm Human: We're All in This Together

There is a longstanding philosophical dialogue about how we identify with ourselves and who we are. Most times, if you meet someone new they will tell you their name, profession, and where they are from. 

It's no wonder that many people identify themselves this way. This small talk gives others a glimpse into our lives -where we are coming from and where we are going - without divulging too much personal information. While some believe it is an ethical imperative to not solely identify people by what they do for a living, the aforementioned practices are an accepted form of social etiquette. 

But there is a fine line between formalities and fallacies. 

My experiences in the professional world have shown me that many people are living a facade. Yes, we all fake it at times and many of us are damn good actors. Sometimes, we have to be. But I think that some people need a reminder that we are all human. 

I was recently assigned an article for the magazine I write for that will be featured in an upcoming issue on influential women in the workforce. The article is a profile on a woman who works for a government organization called FEMA which has recently merged with the United States Department of Homeland Security. As I did some research to write the paper, I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the past professional positions she held: 

Applicant Services Manager for the Maryland National Processing Service Center

Disaster Assistance Employee for the Department of the Interior’s South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

Special Assistant to the Acting Deputy Director of the Inter-Agency National Disaster Housing Task Force

“What does that even mean??” I asked myself rhetorically. 

After further research, I saw it all as a thought-out game. It was as if they are playing one big performance – like on Broadway - with acting and formalities. Characters that have funny names and hide behind masks and big words. It’s one big behemoth amount of business-like bull5#!7. 

Yes, I do understand the need for professionalism and intellectual formalities, and I mean no disrespect to the government agencies that provide for the people, but I try to find a balance so I don't get stuck playing "the game". 

We are emotional creatures. Show some life! Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people suppress there emotions because they think emotions are a sign of weakness. This is false and if used properly, our emotions can single-handedly be the greatest tool we can work with in our lives. 

Personally, I don’t think that we can afford to be too haughty. Many of the commodities that we enjoy in society are relatively new: the gadgets, the fashion, the media revolution, even basic liberties and forms of civility. Not too long ago women and blacks didn't have equal rights and in many places throughout the world they still don't. The terrors of the holocaust and other wars and genocides throughout the world can still be felt today and in parts of the world atrocious, barbaric, and simply unfair acts take place on a daily basis. The fact that I can type this up on a subway, sharing a train with women, Asians, Moslems, blacks, Europeans and countless others is nothing short of miraculous. 

I’m not minimizing our growth as a people but our history should put things into perspective.
Aside from the newfound glory we experience from our technological treasures and other freedoms, there are universal bonds that connect us all.

Many of us have experienced our fair share of teenage angst, love and loss, struggle and internal battle, pain and sensation, joy and laughter, self-doubt, and hard work. Uncertainty and the inability to predict the future is a universal phenomenon. Strangers can share a laugh. It’s part of the human experience – which we share. We all make mistakes. We are all somebody’s child. We have a heart in our chests! Why so serious? LIGHTEN UP.

There are 7 billion people in the world, yet we cannot even agree on how we all got here. Sure we may have managed to find work, meaning, love, and fun but we were all thrown into existence, many times having to figure it out by ourselves. Rarely do we stop and think that we are moving 1000 mph on earth (trip on that!) and that it comes full circle every 24 hours. We are small. Don't get-ego death but it is true.

As my good friend so eloquently put it:

"Everybody poops." 

So don't hesitate to let your guard down and truly connect with the people around you. We may have a lot more in common than you think.

Surely, we are all unique. But the people who truly understand their worth and are confident with who they REALLY are, don’t spend their energy playing pretend.

We are all part of the human race. Ideally, we can all find equilibrium and know when to put up our proverbial fences and when to let our guard down. How to not be too open and never be too closed. When to be professional and when to have personality.

Many thinkers have pleaded for the use of empathy and emotional intelligence in our interactions. These useful tools can strengthen ties that bind us together as emotional beings and pave the way for closer human connections that we all crave. 

We are all human. We are all growing. We are all in this thing together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What are you thinking about?

The mind can be a very tricky thing. At times it can be funny - other times it’s no laughing matter. On a personal note, I know that I need to take a balanced approach when dealing with my thoughts. Whether trusting my instincts, entertaining memories, or analyzing my stream of consciousness, I’ve found that, at times, I need to yield and not take my thoughts too seriously.

To a certain degree, if many of us placed our minds under a microscope - judging them according to medical textbooks – we’d end up in the loony bin:

Having trouble concentrating? You must have ADD

Feeling down? Clinical depression

Changes in mood? Bipolar disorder

Have a change of attitude? Schizophrenia

Dark thoughts?  Psychopath

Don’t care? Sociopath

Like things orderly? OCD

You may also have anger management issues, social phobias, substance abuse issues, and autism… If you inspect your mind for flaws you will find what you are looking for. Obviously, for most people, this is foolishness. We may have extraneous thoughts and emotions but we’re not crazy! (Okay, mental illnesses do exist in some people but only a diagnosis from a licensed professional can determine that.)

From a psychological standpoint, it is not always wise to suppress one’s thoughts or muffle their "inner voice". I have learned from personal experience that if you constantly try to shut off your mind you will one day be successful. This can be a terrifying experience! When you finally want your identity back you will find that it's not so easy to start the motor again and this can lead to dire consequences that will be manifested in your personal, social, and work life.

Our minds can be both our best friend and worst enemy. There are so many factors that can affect our thought-processes and sometimes we may feel that our thoughts just aren’t ours. However, if we want to enjoy the benefits of positivity, clarity, understanding, creativity, depth, and social finesse, we must learn to cope with the negativity, fear, doubt, low self-esteem, and occasional fog we all experience from time to time.

But is it safe to turn down our thoughts or at least ignore them?

An influential mentor of mine once told me that on some days he's so plagued by negative thoughts that he has a "no thinking day". Obviously, he doesn't just shut down because as a father, teacher, and international self-help guru he has responsibilities. But when he knows what needs to be done, yet is faced with his own venomous thoughts, he puts his mind on the back burner and focuses on action.

"Sometimes, you need to stop thinking and just do it. Once you entertain negative thoughts you can lose confidence, increase doubt, and even convince yourself not to do what you know needs to be done," he said. “DON’T THINK - JUST DO.”

The opposite is also true. Sometimes, in life, I know exactly what needs to be said or done but I’m faced with a combination of fear and lethargy (the two go hand in hand.) In a way, laziness is the worst trait to have. It’s a curse because I may KNOW exactly what needs to be done but laziness will prevent me from doing so.

This is the phenomenon of opposition. Many times, if it doesn’t come from outside influences it will come from within. But when you need to act, you may just have to ignore the resistance. Many people have the ability to do many great things – it just requires work. At times, you just need to do what you need to do regardless of how you feel, what your fear is telling you, or what others say.

And remember:

When the mind says go and the body says no just remember who's in charge!