While in Mexico I had some time to reflect on lessons I learned this past year and I am sharing my 2021 Life Lessons Learned with you.
For the past three years, every morning, I have made time to start my day meditating. It has been an enlightening and invaluable experience. It is through this activity or non-activity that I really grasped the impact and importance of being grateful for all the abundance I have in life. One of the first things I am grateful for each day is that I woke up and I have the opportunity to live another day.
Because of the pandemic shutdown, I realized just how much I took for granted over my lifetime. Here are some examples: my life, electricity, fresh running drinkable water from my tap, shopping for food, hugs, clothes to wear, my mind, my home, my health, live music, eating in restaurants, toilet paper (LOL), travel, the internet. The list becomes quite long when I thought about it but you get the idea.
What I learned through this meditation process is that when I really focused on the appreciation that I feel for so many aspects of my life I actually became a more aware and thoughtful man, husband, friend, business person, human being. So every morning before I get out of bed and every night before I go to sleep I think and feel about three things in my life for which I am truly grateful.
One last big distinction for me was that the word gratitude seems a very cerebral notion. I didn’t feel as connected. By using another word combination like appreciate, feel thankful, or feel grateful I immediately get connected to the feeling and thus it was more powerful for me.
Be, Do, Have vs. Have, Do, Be!
In the past I have found within myself, and know of countless others, that have looked at life in the following way: When I HAVE this in my life, then I can DO these things, and then I will BE that way. I found that this is a typical western culture way of looking at life.
Living life through this model makes feelings a result of certain circumstances that are not always with in one’s control. The AHA moment came when I realized that my feelings are within my control and that they are a matter of choice, not a result. At any time I can choose to BE or feel happy, joyful, sad, angry etc.
Through my guided meditations I recognized the Be, Do, Have life model of being was so much more conducive to the way I wanted to live. So now I choose to BE happy, and DO the things I do, and HAVE a better life. I also feel more grateful for all the blessings I currently have and are attracting in my life.
After decades, I finally get the additional benefit from this way of being, which is that I am enjoying the journey and not waiting for the destination to feel satisfaction.
The Power of the Mind
Have you ever noticed that what you focus on seems to show up more and more? Have you ever had a bad thing happen and then you get upset and more negative things happen? Have you ever had a highly emotionally charged thought which has triggered sweating, heart beating faster, and elevated body temperature?
It can also be a positive situation like noticing when you think about something pleasant your body reacts with a warm fuzzy feeling and calm manner.
I bring these questions and thoughts up because we are energetic beings and thoughts are energy and they can have a large effect on the thinker and reality around us. Scientists have proven that thoughts are things and carry energy with them. I have found myself being far more aware of my thoughts and what I focus upon. I do this by waking up to the present observing what am I doing and am I thinking about, even if it is for a few seconds throughout my day. I have even set up timers to go off as reminders.
“Where thoughts go, energy flows, and results show” is a powerful quote from Tony Robbins stuck in my head but only in the last year did it really it really have a significant impact on my life.
The Value of Being Present
One of my biggest life lessons this year is about being in the present. As an analytic by nature I am always thinking about things and I have generally found that I mentally focused on the past or into the future. Now, that is a good thing when it comes to investment real estate, but is it not a great thing for actually living my life beyond the investment real estate focus.
We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. We can’t guarantee the future, but we can plan for our future. The only way I know that we can alter our future is through the steps or actions we take in the present. So the only thing guaranteed in our lives is the right now, the present moment. What I experienced over the years was that I was busy missing the current moments because I was either focused on the past or future. Sure, I caught the “sunsets” and such, but I didn’t really fully appreciate those unique moments.
One of my greatest teachers is our dog Zoso. He doesn’t go through all sorts of mental gymnastics considering things from the past or future to determine what he was going to do in any given moment. When he wants to do something he just does it.
Because of the pandemic I worked from home every day, which meant that I was with Zoso most days. While walking through our neighbourhood with Zoso, as he is sniffing everything, I started noticing wonderful little yet abundant examples provided by nature and people, such as the many little fairy and toy villages set up around tree trunks, subtle yet spectacular blooming flowers in peoples gardens, songs from different birds, the different smells of spring, summer, fall, or winter air, etc. There are so many examples of noteworthy things that would be missed but weren’t because I was aware in the present moment.
Adapt, Adjust, Evolve
From the pandemic, to poorly timed elections, to heat domes, wildfires, and floods, 2021 has been a very unique year for most people around the world and here in BC, I am sure it was one for the records. If 2021 has taught us anything is that we need to adapt, adjust, and evolve the way we think, act, and live. The points below won’t delve into the events of 2021 but I just provide context to why each point is a Life Lesson for me.
Just like in the early 1900’s when the Spanish flu killed millions, the world had to adapt to a new norm even if it was temporary. The COVID-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated that we must adapt to the new norms whether we like it or not. Some of the changes we have encountered as a result are travel and gathering restrictions, wearing masks, complete change in work environments, alterations in where we want to live, new ventilation requirements, medical discoveries and so on.
There have been difficult decisions made, right or wrong. Not all of the responses to the changes have been good, and should not be unexpected because change can be difficult. There has been a greater divisiveness due to opposing opinions over the decisions made, and how they were made, media narrative, lack of trusted information, concerns over individuals’ rights and so on. I am not here to say who is right and who is wrong, but what I do know from my years on this planet most humans like things to generally remain the same even though the world is changing.
I had to adapt to many things under this new pandemic environment such as working from home every day and not getting distracted, significantly less physical interaction with others, and simplifying my life. Strangely enough, when I did adapt, it became easier, and this was one of my best business years in a long time. Here are some of the initiatives that I can celebrate: launching my new website, providing monthly newsletters, jumping into the local residential real estate world with both feet, completing two real estate designations, completing, publishing, and launched my real estate book, and helping really amazing clients acquire excellent investment properties. I get a grin from ear to ear just thinking about it.
What has got us here; is not going to get us there in a changing world. Whether we believe climate change is real or not is not the point I am making here. What is key is that we need to open to adjust the way we are doing things and adjust our expectations of “how it should be”.
We only have one planet and so we must look at how we are conducting life between individuals, regions, and countries. What one does has a ripple effect around the globe. I don’t believe that there is ONE right answer but there will be a series or multitude of solutions and that really does begin with how we treat ourselves and others.
For example I know that on a personal level, my self-talk was less than loving for many years. I realized that I wouldn’t like to talk to my wife, my kids, or even Zoso that way so how is that acceptable to my internal dialogue. The challenge of not adjusting my self-talk is that I became less sensitive to how I spoke to others especially when I may be under stress. I determined that I needed to adjust my self-talk to be more encouraging, supportive, and celebratory. This all became easier when I adjusted my awareness, focus, and thinking. I learned that I do the best I can with what I have at the time. I also learned that I would much rather be happy then right, and that was only going to happen by adjusting my thinking. I can say from practicing kinder self-talk I feel better about myself and I am certainly open to other’s perspectives. This has made more harmony in my life and for that I feel incredibly grateful.
We like to think we are in control of most of our lives and for the most part that is true, however there are natural forces and circumstances far beyond our control. We can try and fight these forces, but evolution has taught us over and over again that the species that don’t evolve to the changing environment become extinct. I believe the way forward will involve adjusting not only physically to these new norms but we need to evolve in our thinking as well.
On a personal level, I realized that I needed to evolve how I was being and my thinking. I needed to consider impermanence as I experienced people in my circle of life passing on. Consideration of my future life goals and lifestyle for both Rosalia and me became more significant this past year. Focusing in what I do today while maintaining the future life goals and lifestyle impact of those decisions and actions is certainly an evolution in my approach to my life.