Thursday, August 26, 2004

And The Livin' Is Easy

I've just returned from one of my favorite activities and places. That would be fishing in Northern Ontario. Now, up there, the livin’ really was easy. A typical day looked something like this:

4:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Coffee, fish, coffee, fish, coffee, clean fish, coffee, breakfast, coffee, nap.

3:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.: Beer, fish, beer, fish, beer, clean fish, beer, dinner, beer, campfire, beer, nap.

We experienced two great light phenomenon almost every night. One was the foxfire littering the ground around the cabin. Foxfire is a luminescent glow emitted by rotting wood. In the evenings the ground around the cabin glowed a faint green. And if we looked up, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) baptized the night sky with pulsing light.

In both cases, foxfire and the Northern Lights, the glow is caused by tiny invisible particles. Microscopic fungi that help decay rotting wood cause foxfire. The Northern Lights are invisible electrically charged particles, accelerated along the invisible magnetic field lines in the upper atmosphere, where they collide with invisible gas atoms, causing the atoms to give off light. All powered by what is called the invisible “solar wind.”

Isn't it amazing that things so infinitesimal can create such BIG deals!?

Anyway, it's August and I'm well into the heart of Livin’ Easy. So here's an article I wrote two years ago. I thought it was worth repeating.

August is the last big bash before school starts. And while I no longer return to school in September, this month still stirs contrary and wild notions in me. A need to rebel before it's too late. Discipline will begin all too soon.

Discipline, the thing we often initiate when we want to get more done, can, in fact, hinder progress. Letting go of discipline is a statement of faith in you. So as summer closes, try the month of August without discipline. Just trust yourself. It's only a month. It's okay. You can always go back. Here are some ideas. Pick two or three and go for it!

The Top Ten Ways to Live August

1. Get Selfish.
Get your needs met as quickly as possible so you have more time, energy and inclination to “be there” for the important people in your life. Over-discipline your own life and there's no room for the requests of others. If you don't have that room when someone you care about makes a request, you'll either say “yes” with resentment or “no” with guilt.

2. Quit Being Patient.
If you can't have something you want, merely move on to something else you want. Eventually timing will work for you and you can have all you want. But disciplined patience is a waste of your time.

3. Be Extraordinary Curious.
Curiosity is at the heart of everything I learn and know. When I try to be disciplined, I become less curious.

4. Quit Developing and Start Evolving.
Discipline can help you “develop” yourself but it does not work well if you want to “evolve.” Self-development may make you a better person (good) but personal evolution will make you more of who you are (great!).

5. Hang Out with “Bad” People.
Discipline tends to keep us in the company of like-minded people. Rigid discipline will keep me away from those who are most apt to push all my buttons and that's where I learn the most about myself.

6. Stop Tolerating.
Tolerations are the things we live with that remind us that our life is not quite right. They can be as small as the cabinet door that does not shut easily to as big as the actions of a person you live or work with. Think of tolerations as the things you carry around each day in your daypack. The cabinet toleration can weigh as little as an ounce. The relationship toleration may weigh as much as 10 pounds. But each toleration increases your load and slows you down. Discipline often encourages you to put up with the tolerations.

7. Integrate Everything.
Do you want to enjoy your work as much as your play? It's possible. But if you rigidly hold on to discipline as something that makes you strong, you are then also holding on to the idea that suffering is necessary. Perhaps you believe in “paying your dues” because you grew up with the notion that only hard work is rewarded and suffering in is required. That may have worked for our parents and grandparents, bless them. But more and more, we are making a great living doing exactly what we love.

8. Embrace Simplicity.
Let's say you've got five goals you want to attain in the next year. If you're disciplined, you've probably broken each of those five goals down into at least five strategies. That's 25 strategies. And each strategy has at least five daily action steps. How are you going to handle 125 action steps a day? The disciplined person will have daily action charts pasted all over the house and office. And, they're less apt to recognize when a goal has changed because they've invested so much in it. Now what's simple about that?

9. Follow the Path of Least Resistance.
Discipline creates resistance. But what we want today will change quickly because more options are opening up every day. If we don't reach our goals quickly, we'll be living a life of resistance and friction rather than celebrations and moving on.

10. Go for the Surprise!
Discipline does not hold much surprise. Get over yourself and allow the surprises to crop up daily. And when you do get surprised, allow it to be a mystery. Don't try to figure it out!