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Being Your Best

After some careful consideration, I determined that I couldn’t say what I said at the end of the Podcast any better, so I’m going to start this blog post with repeating those words and then adding action steps you can follow to help you create some amazing ripples this month. 

From the Podcast:

The title of the story, “Ripples,” gives a little hint about the takeaway idea I was aiming for here. It’s the idea that all of our choices in life, our actions, and in-actions, big and small, create ripples in our World that extend far beyond the moment; and usually far beyond what we might be able to see or imagine right now.

I think this is an important idea when it comes to thinking about whether or not to pursue that dream or to wait a little while. Whether to do the right thing or the easy thing. Whether or not to show love and kindness, or anything else but that.

One of the things I would often say to my students was that we are all changing the World, every day, whether we intend to or not. Regardless if we are trying to make changes to the World or not, we are affecting the World in one way or another. We often look back at history to the really major and significant people that made changes in this World. Yet, leaders needed people to follow along and to actually be brave to take action, and artists needed people to look, to listen, to read and care. If this Podcast makes it big in the future, it will, of course, be in part because I hopefully delivered some great content, but it will also only happen if people like you care enough to take further action and share it, review it, etc.… hmm hmm… ok, let me give a better example.

Martin Luther King Jr. made amazing speeches and helped organize and centralize the civil rights movement. I’m sure most of us out there see him as the leader of the Civil Rights movement or at the very least, one of the most important figures of the Civil Rights movement. And yet, we all know there were countless of other amazing people involved and who really made a difference. And furthermore, the whole movement would be nothing if there was no movement by everyone else. If everyone looked to MLK or someone else to solve the problem.

All the people who marched made their voices heard, black and white and everything in between and beyond, and consequently all the people who were too afraid to march; they all sent their ripples out into the world and eventually led us to make some significant changes in our Country and our World. Imagine if MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of 100 people instead of the thousands that gathered in Washington DC. I don’t think it would have been as impactful. And things like that start with someone deciding to march, and the ripple gets sent out, and another sees their courage and says, hell yea I’m in too. And so on until you have one of the most impactful moments in our country’s history. The ripples sent out from that day… wow.

And the point is, that we may sometimes feel like we need to do something really BIG to make a difference in our own lives, to make our dreams happen, or to change the World. We can feel like we need to get lucky somehow and for that amazing opportunity to pop up. But, the reality is much simpler. Much less glamorous. We just need to live every day as best as we can. And the ripples that those actions send forth and the energy that builds from those make those BIG differences that we’re looking for in our lives and in the World. The Civil Rights movement didn’t start on that day in Washington D.C., but it would never have happened if it weren’t for all of the tiny, small, courageous and brave actions that were taken before that.

So, take a page from Taylor’s book from Part 1 and focus this month on living presently. Living your best self in every moment. Instead of worrying about your future, take that moment to enjoy all that is amazing in your life. Instead of worrying about the state of the World, the Country, your Neighborhood, focus on being the change you want to see. Instead of worrying whether or not your dream will work out; whether or not you will be a success at what you’re doing; just focus on doing the best you can possibly do, every day. I promise you that the ripples sent out will collect and lead to something BIG.

Being Our Best Selves

ACTION # 1:  OF MICE AND MEN

The question you might have is, “how do I be my best self in every moment?” And the truth is, you won’t be. No one is perfect and neither are you. That’s where we start and it’s our first action step. It’s to stop beating yourself up and removing the negative self-talk that a lot of us tend to have when we fail at something or make a mistake. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That’s the quote the book title came from and it’s a great phrase to live by. It’s not that you should expect all your plans to fall apart. It’s that if they do, it’s no big deal. Things happen, and knowing that it’s ok for things to fall apart and it’s ok to fail can help you stop beating yourself up. This is all assuming that you will continue after the plans fall apart, or fix the mistake if you can, or not making that mistake again in the future. You just don’t have to talk down to yourself if they do.

ACTION #2:  DO AS BEN DID

This month, or maybe one week at a time, pick just one thing to change in your life. Maybe it’s your workout regimen. Maybe it’s focusing on certain relationships in your life. Or, maybe it’s being more dedicated to what you’re learning. Whatever it is, do as Benjamin Franklin did and just pick one thing at a time. Ben Franklin would keep a ledger of all his attributes and rank himself on his performance every week in the many areas. He would also pick one attribute at a time to focus extra attention on each week. If we try to be our best self in every way possible, we might find ourselves with too much to change. So, just pick one thing for now. What area of your life do you wish you could be better? Pick one thing, write it down (that’s important), and focus on it for a week. Then, the following week, continue with that area or attribute or pick a different one.

ACTION #3:  MANNERS MAKETH MAN

Manners. Well, no, I’m not going to really be talking about manners here, but the idea of having manners is a pretty good one. To have manners, in my mind, means to simply be aware and attentive to the people around you in your environment. So, let’s take this idea out of the restaurant and into everyday life. It becomes a very simple task of being kind to others. That is the easiest thing we can all do to be our best. If we have a focus to be kind to the strangers we meet, it will force you to be happier. When we are happy, we tend to be really kind to other people and want to spread that happiness. So, now we’re just reversing the formula. Be kind to others and you’ll find yourself being happier as a result. It’s like magic! Seriously, though, it works.

ACTION #4:  THE LAST SAMURAI

Well, first off, I LOVE this movie! Ok, now that’s out of the way… One of the things Tom Cruise’s character talks about in the movie is how the Samurai wake up every morning and dedicate themselves to whatever task they have to do and they aim for absolute perfection in all they do. From those training to fight to those doing laundry, or making a pot of tea. Everything is done with precision and with the goal of perfection. We can often get caught up with our to-do lists and getting things done that we forget about the pride of doing something with perfection. If you don’t love your job, or if you are not excited about the menial tasks or maybe the homework you have to complete for that class you don’t love, focus your mind on doing the work as best as you can no matter what. If you’re vacuuming the house as a part of your chores, do it really well. Move that couch and get behind it and get the corners. Forget about everything else and just be proud of the work you do.

ACTION #5:  DO WHAT YOU FEEL IS RIGHT

It is sometimes hard enough to be ourselves, let alone our best selves when everyone around us has their opinions and beliefs about what and who we should be. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:  “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” And it’s so true. It’s not easy sometimes, but the only way to be our best selves is to first be ourselves and to follow our hearts wherever they may lead us. Like Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He defies the wishes and beliefs of his teachers to go and save his friends. Yes, he does end up with a missing limb, but overall the action of following his heart made him his best self in the end.

I hope these suggestions help you out this month and beyond! I look forward to hearing about the steps you tried and if you have some of your own suggestions to add. Here’s to being our best!

Derek

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