Does your life suck?

Does your life suck? Maybe your teen has suggested that their life sucks and somehow you are responsible.  When something sucks, it’s saps your energy and undermines the quality of your life. It makes you feel small and sabotage’s your joy. It’s a big wake up call. It’s an invitation to do something different – not more of the same.

If your life sucks; if the life you are living on the outside doesn’t match who you are on the inside or if you’re hurting and feel powerless – here’s your roadmap out. The following 10 reasons will help you find your way through. Enjoy and laugh as you go.

Reason 1 – you give your power away

You give your power away when you make someone or something outside of you more important than what is inside of you. If you do not value who or what you are, you will seek to borrow worth from the outer world.

The words ‘authority’ and ‘authentic’ derive from the same root word, which signifies that the route to genuine power is realness. Real power is not power over others; it is power to be yourself. Real power does not compete; it finds a way to synchronize.

Reason 2 – you expected it to suck

If you settle for less than what you really want, you will get exactly that. As children we are taught many erroneous, limiting and debilitating beliefs. Then, without testing these limits, we go on as if they were true.

Form opinions on what you feel and know rather than what you hear. If you approach life with the belief that it sucks, it stands little chance to be wonderful. If you approach it with the expectation that good can come to you, it will. Demonstrate your power to choose rather than settle.

Reason 3 – you get fooled by appearances

We have been programmed to think looking good is more important than feeling good. To what lengths will you go to look good rather than feel good? You will have to decide whether you are here to please the world or your spirit; others demands or your delights; prove yourself or be yourself. Looking good doesn’t always lead to feeling good. Feeling good always leads to looking good. But the real test of self-love is to feel good no matter how you look.

Reason 4 – you waste your energy on things that suck

The reason you’re not where you want to be is that you were doing things you do not want to do. Such as wasting your energy on: activities you don’t enjoy, attention to things of little importance, people you are with for the wrong reasons, goals that cause anxiety and disbelief of your talent(s). Rather then designating a specific situation as your goal, aim for how you want to feel about it.

Before you climb the ladder of success, be sure it is leaning against the right wall. While it is said that we can attain anything we set our mind to, make sure you set it to something you want.

Reason 5 – you keep trying to prove yourself

When you live or work to prove yourself to others, you will never reach your goal. The disease to please is a prevalent one. Ask yourself if your motivation comes from Joy or duty. Is this your idea of someone else’s, practice saying yes only if it matches your inner choice.

Forget about proving yourself, and just be your self. People who do not understand you will not settle for any proof, and people who appreciate you do not need any proof. Who and what you are is self-evident. Explaining, justifying and defending are emotional quicksand; the more you try, the deeper you get sucked in.

Reason 6 – you say yes when you mean no

If your lips say yes when your heart says no, you are driving with your foot on the gas and the break at the same time. Do not settle for halfhearted living – be total. Your yes must be total, so must your no.

If you sell yourself out to get approval, you will miss what you really want: authenticity, passion and aliveness. When you say no to what does not match your intentions, you’re saying yes to what you really want and are one step closer to it.

When you resist saying no because you do not want to reject someone or hurt their feelings you actually hurt them more. We diminish others by regarding them as weak, and we affirm their strength when we communicate to them honestly. Do not underestimate the power and importance of your honest no.

Reason 7 – you think you have to do it all yourself

If you examine your responsibilities closely, you’ll discover it is not the universe that has piled too much on your plate – it’s you. You’re trying to hard. Independence is good, but if you are drowning in responsibilities – you have assumed more than your share.

Loneliness springs from the belief you must do it all yourself. Nobody knows how, has the time or even wants to do everything. When you allow others to assist you, you bestow a great gift to them. Accepting support is a sign of strength and maturity. Receiving help does not mean you are defective; it means you are a real person.

Reason 8 – You try to fix other people

If you ever feel motivated to fix someone, save your time. Nothing is more annoying than someone who tries to change or coerce you to their way of thinking. Rather than trying to change them, upgrade your vision. Ironically, when you regard them as whole, you are in a perfect position to influence them toward positive change. When you regard others as empowered souls rather than broken toys, they are much more likely to stand on their own and be happy.

Reason 9 – you starve your soul

If your soul is malnourished, nothing works. When it’s well fed, you feel great; your health is radiant; you have energy and enthusiasm; your relationships bring you deep reward; and whatever you touch turns to success. Whenever you recognize that your spirit is withering, stop and do whatever it takes to renew yourself. Get outdoors, take a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, or take a vacation. Anything you do to feel better will shift everything else. You can have vast material wealth and be terribly hungry spiritually. Learning to feed your soul is one of the most important lessons of a lifetime.

Reason 10 – you forgot to enjoy the ride

Resisting the past is as much a distraction as resisting the future, and equally self-sabotaging. There are two ways to relate to the past that will benefit you: 1) appreciate it and, 2) learn from it. If you regret the past, you overlook the gifts it has bestowed upon you. If you see yourself as a victim, you deny your rule as a powerful creator. If you feel guilty and believe you should have done otherwise, you are being too hard on yourself. You learn to be yourself by having experiences. Yes, it is important to learn from your victories and mistakes; just don’t dwell on them. Give yourself some credit for the strides you have made rather then the ones you have missed.

No place is worth going if you miss your life along the way. Set your goals and strive to achieve them, but remember that the process is as important as the product.

When you are able to give thanks for everything that has happened, you are free. Resistance to what was diminishes what is. You’re not a victim – you are a powerful creator. Make the changes in your life that will get you the results you want. Along the way, you might even fall in love with yourself. As you unravel the knots in your life and reduce the size of your ‘but’, you will experience a new sense of freedom and exhilaration.

This article was excerpted from the book Why Your Life Sucks (2002) by Alan H. Cohen.

Parent with Purpose

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.01.18 PM Parent with PurposeIt is that time of year again, March Madness. It is full of excitement and is often an emotional roller coaster for players and fans around the country. It also reminds me of my own experiences playing college basketball many years ago. As I think back, I always feel like I could have had greater success if I had not been so distracted and had approached the game with a little more purpose. It might seem silly to feel some remorse or disappointment in myself after all of these years, but as I watch my kids leave home and go off to college, l can’t help but feel that same regret on some level.

As I think back to my basketball days or of my days parenting, I am reminded of how important it is to have a purpose. In college, I was probably more focused on dating and having fun. My lack of purpose led to less fulfilling accomplishments on the court. As a parent, it is also easy to lose sight of the higher purpose of our leadership in the home. It might be the work life, the carpool thing, or maybe the cultural noise (music, drugs, boyfriends, etc.) that keeps us distracted and disconnected from living out our core values.

At times parenting has felt like the days on the basketball court when all I was focused on was playing defense. There was an imbalance; I was not being assertive with offense because I wasn’t shooting the ball well. Parenting might feel that way to you sometimes as well – a very defensive focus. What with dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, movies, dress…I mean, it can really come at you! And we certainly need to protect our kids; after all, it is one of our primary roles. But it is also easy to begin to feel desperate, lacking confidence and unsure of what to do. Of course, you can’t win many basketball games if you only play defense.

The problem is that most parents have never identified what is at the heart of their purpose in Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.08.50 PM 300x245 Parent with Purposeparenting. As a result, that core purpose doesn’t impact their normal day-to-day lives. It is like we don’t have an offensive game plan and aren’t running any plays. We are just throwing the ball at the hoop and quickly running back to defend.

The key to any core purpose is that it is authentic. Imagine asking our teens to run a certain play on the court while we run around doing something completely different. It will not make sense to our families and our kids might actually quit, throwing the ball up in the air out of frustration.

I once worked with a father that wanted me to help his son quit smoking marijuana, which seems like a reasonable goal. The problem was that his purpose was hypocritical. He wanted his son to quit because he kept stealing the pot from the father’s stash. Hypocrisy creates battles as teens have a real sense of justice and will almost always engage in a fight for their right to live the lives they see modeled.

Many of us struggle to see the hypocrisy in our own lives. We value faith and hope that our kids follow us in our beliefs. So we surround them with like-minded people. We enroll our kids in Sunday school, youth group, and seek out positive religious influences. And these activities are really good. But really they are intended to just be a net. It is not the core – the core is the family. The net around it is the supporting structures that help us build an environment around our family that helps us get where we want to be as healthy families.

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.47.21 PM 150x150 Parent with PurposeStudies show that we do more harm than good when we go to church on a Sunday morning and live another way the rest of the week. Kids want authenticity. During adolescence, kids really step back from authority and evaluate the authenticity of the message. They want to see if our behavior matches our words and if it is really worth following these values into adulthood.

When you think about it really though, it’s not just that kids in this culture want authenticity. It’s God Himself that wants it. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. He wants us to come to Him in honesty.

As parents we should stop and think about this. If somebody went to our kids, and asked, “What matters most to your mom and dad?” would our kids have to think? What would be on the list they’d come up with? What do you think they are seeing around the house?

Examine these answers and ask yourself what you might need to do differently. Am I just going to acknowledge it and feel ashamed, guilty, and like a failure as a parent? Or, am I going to examine my game plan, establish a fresh purpose with input from my spouse, and begin to practically work that out in my relationships with my children? This new game plan can be established around the values of my family, around my schedule, around how I order my life, and it can begin to reflect a heart that really does love God, and is passing that heart on to my children.

 

So watch March Madness, notice the focus and purpose with which they play and enjoy a few  bracket busting games.