Who’s in Control of Your Life?

A female coaching client shared with me that she feels her life seems to belong to someone else. She said, “Many times, I feel that I am ‘doing’ everything I don’t really want to do. I always wonder: Where did the time go? Who’s in control of my life?”

Welcome to the culture you (we) created! There’s only one enemy hovering silently in your life. What’s that, you ask? Time! Watch people. They are totally overwhelmed trying to control their work and personal schedules. Trapped in the domination of Enemy Number One, you can see them sulking and hear them huffing: “I’m sooooo busy! I have too much to do, and no time to do it (especially this time of the year)!”

Do you feel like your nose is always to the grindstone? What consumes your time? In an “O, Magazine” issue, Oprah wrote: “How you spend your time defines who you are. I try not to waste time-because I don’t want to waste myself”” Of that same notion, I recently heard a seventy-year-old woman say, “I don’t read books unless they heal my body, mind and spirit. Each day is too precious. I am conscious about whom I share time with and whether I will go to a movie or paint. Solitude is a key part of my day-that’s when I stop to meditate–I invite God into my life.” While this woman was conscious that being present to her actions and choices allowed her to acknowledge her spirit (as if it was her last day), we don’t have to wait for retirement to experience this. So, what will you do with your courage?

Slowing down could be the single most effective action to initiate your courage: it allows you to come from your “heart and spirit,” the origin of the word courage. What would happen if you stopped for ten minutes, right now? Spiritual teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., suggests that we stop for a moment all the doing and shift into the “being mode.” How? Don’t make one more phone call. Don’t sit and catch up on the business journals piling up on the floor by your reading chair. Don’t boot up to check if any new emails came in. Put the smart phone away! This stress management guru reminds us that when we “stop” we can be more present. Transformation in courage has to do with moving what you know to be true to a deeper level. Then, your life becomes more vivid and simpler.

Being comes from a peaceful place within, usually discovered when you undertake a contemplative journey. This is not so much an exercise of attention as intention–what I call the “Declaration of Courageous Intention” (DCI)–having the courage to declare that stopping in your life is important to stay present. Embracing “being,” you start to diminish setbacks and begin to insert ideas about how you are undermining your time each day. This requires a commitment to inviting peace into your life.

Eckhart Tolle, the author of Stillness Speaks, says we have created in our society a role at work called “nervous mind energy.” You’ve seen the way people gather (late) for the “critical” staff meeting: Everyone is hyper with jerky eye movements as if this is a key intrusion in their lives because they’re so busy. The next time you attend a meeting, suggest everyone stop for three minutes and compose their energy. You will notice a shift in the mood as the people become focused and centered; a different appreciation for listening will manifest and authenticity will start to lead the meeting.

No one sums this thought up better than the author of Peace Is Every Step, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich That Hanh: “When I allow my thoughts to be inspired before I speak, I give myself the opportunity to use words that uplift, encourage, and heal. I take a moment to become still within and think on divinely inspired thoughts before I speak and act. In so doing, I will not cause to regret my words and actions.”

It takes courage to shift your perception about the use of time.

Moral of the story: My Aunt Marilyn wrote: “Peace comes in minutes at a time, then hours, and finally, most of the time. After you become accustomed to it you will learn to call it back when you are not at peace.”


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