Category Archives: Paulo Coelho

The Secret to a Happy Life: A Life Manual

This picture came across my newsfeed yesterday. I’m sure it’s not new to many of you, but it was new to me.

I saw it, read it, and paused. And then I said, “Yes. That’s what I’ve done – that’s all I knew to do sometimes.”

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There were days of cursing, years of crying, and lots of fighting within myself sometimes. It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it often wasn’t pretty.

I battled depression, anxiety, loneliness, being overworked, underpaid, and in an isolating, often loveless, marriage. And I refused to let it get to me – so I stayed. Longer than I should have perhaps, but as long as I did. Until one day I left.

In my life, my short 44 years, I’ve seen and experienced a fair amount of tragedy, illness, and challenges – and when I fell down, I got up. Sometimes it’s almost instant, and sometimes it’s days or weeks, but eventually, I get up. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Paulo Coelho has a quote about the secret of life: Fall down seven times, get up eight. I think this is what resilience is. In the face of adversity, challenges, obstacles, tragedy, and illness, the secret to success – to living – is to get back up. Whether it’s 5 seconds, 5 hours, or 5 days later…. we get back up.

Sometimes we need support from others to help us find our feet again, but nobody stands for us, nobody can. All anyone can do is stand beside us and remind us that we have feet and legs, and if needed, they can demonstrate how it’s done.

In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to have people who stood patiently for years beside me as I stood, fell, stood, fell, and stood again. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts anyone can give us: their presence. I am grateful every day for those that continue to stand beside me, and allow me to stand beside them.

Perhaps, then, that’s the real secret to a happy life: To stand on our own, together.

Finding Your Reason Makes ALL the Difference

Toward the end of last year, I received the same advice (inspired message) from various sources, so I decided to take note. Sometimes, when the Universe is trying to tell you something and you aren’t hearing it, it wisely makes the decision to be repetitive until you take note.

Such was the case for me throughout much of November and December. What was the message?

Routine.

I needed to create routine in my life in order to be more in the flow, to be more inspired, and to accomplish all I have set out to do. And yet… routine? Really?

Previously I had subscribed to Paulo Coelho’s statement on routine:

“ If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.”

Coelho-routine quoteAnd yet.

And yet… here was this repeated message, being shared with me from various trusted sources (think: colleagues, friends, mentors, doctors). There was truth in what they were saying, and I knew it. Routine, for me, wouldn’t be lethal, but the lack of routine certainly was proving otherwise.

It was lethal to my productivity, my ideas, my stability, and hence my innovation and creativity. A lack of routine made it harder for me to achieve my personal wellness goals as well.

So, as the new year approached, I muddled through the holidays trying to establish the baby steps of a routine. After about 2-3 weeks of trying and not exactly succeeding, I took stock. What was I missing? That’s when it occurred to me:

I had never been taught how to design, create, and establish a routine.

Now, for those of you who seem to know how to do this, this may seem like a weird conundrum, but it’s true. Not knowing the basics of establishing routines makes it actually quite difficult to get started.

Of course, the Type A side of me had an internal dialogue akin to the Nike slogan “Just do it,” but that wasn’t enough. My reply, invariably went something like this:

Honestly, if you think I could “just do it,” don’t you think I would have DONE it, by now?

So, I had to start from scratch through trial and error.

As it turns out, and as I’m learning (it’s an ongoing process), it’s really hard to establish a routine if you’re not actually invested in the reasons why or the activities themselves.

Duh.

I can look back on decades of schooling and say with 100% certainty that if I wasn’t interested in the topic, it was like pulling taffy to get me to do any work (I did the minimum). This is how I am. I know it, I work with it, and I embrace it. Because the reverse is also true: When I’m invested in something, you can be sure I will be all in. I just needed to find the right reason.

So, how do I get invested in something that I don’t fully understand, that I was never taught how to do, and that felt daunting and overwhelming from the word “go?”

I want to say: “Here’s how! Here’s the magic answer. Now, go forth and change your lives with this magic wand I created and/or stumbled upon.”

But it’s simply not the truth.

The truth is, I don’t have the answer. However, I do know what not to do, and that’s actually proving to be more than enough.

I know not to use the four diversionary tools I mentioned in my book to rationalize, justify, generalize, or explain/judge my way into excuses. I know that if I’m making excuses to NOT engage in a new behavior (one that I actually want to do), it’s because I believe (wrongly) that I’m more comfortable in my current state than I will be if I try to do something else. And that’s the basis of all change, isn’t it?

The argument between the seeming comfort of the status quo and the unknown discomfort of doing something different often creates a cycle of inactivity. The problem is, both are subjective and unknown. And when something is unknown it often leads to feelings of fear. And fear, I know for certain, is NOT how I choose to live my life, nor is it an energy with which I wish to align. Boom! I had my reason.

Just as I teach my clients, when you drill down past the surface level of any problem, you can usually arrive at a baseline of energy or emotion. Typically, the choice is fear or hope (many say love, but at that deep baseline, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s actually hope). When we get down to that level, to the underlying energy behind our choices, we get to decide which energy is in alignment with who we are and our values. And, as it turns out, that awareness is often enough to propel ourselves forward into the unknown. In my case that meant doing something I was never taught, didn’t understand the value of, and had no investment in… until I did.