2014 Declaration

In a “moment,” I find myself alone on an empty hospital unit, Christmas Eve 2013. My body system insurgence, is uncontrollable and captures my life. Doctors, needles, tests, predictions, theories fill the day and night with no definitive understanding. While everyone was well-meaning, nothing was going to quickly or easily to give me my life back this holiday.

Throughout the day families filled the hallway in excitement pushing wheelchairs with individuals eager to get home to Christmas Eve celebrations. Being admitted just the day before with no clear understanding of what was wrong with my sick body, I decided with my doctor going home was not going to happen.   As time lapsed by, I became more down, sad, reflective and tired.

Somehow revived by spirit and declaration, I was convinced that 2014 was going to be different from 2013. “The moment,” challenged me to think about what needed to change regardless of the new cards being dealt.

Priorities, who I am, what I do, how I live, what I value would all need to change.

In the revived moment, my 2014 Declaration emerged:

  • Be healthy-health is definitely relative. How we define being personally healthy will be different for each of us. It really requires deciding what healthy means for us. Is healthy being completely free of illness or disease? In order to be healthy do we need be symptomless?  Learning to live with symptoms will be the new challenge for 2014.  This focus will emerge from experiences of individuals I have shared a life who are expert at this concept. Side-by-side for the past 26 years I have been a partner, therapist, friend, leader and administrator with individuals living with mental illness. The strength, power and perseverance of individuals living with mental illness is an inspiration. Challenged by an unyielding journey, many individuals with mental illness have figured out how to have a meaningful life. I am truly inspired by their experience. Achieve health in 2014.
  • Read-taking time to read each day is the goal. Read often, being sure to include written word that is entertaining not just educational. Read more in 2014.
  • Live life in the spirit of fun-the past has been filled with goals, ambitions, the drive to create the perfect life. Obtaining the right possessions, creating a family home, going through motions to establish an image of the perfect life, relationship and family. Is it possible while all this hard work was happening, living life got lost in the journey? This year will be about living life. Having fun, seeking a new course that provides opportunity to live in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Life life in 2014.
  • Create balance and meaningfulness-what is this people speak of-work/life balance? This will require great skill, lots of help as it is a foreign concept. Please send ideas asap.
  • Discover a new passion-it has happened, mid-life is fast approaching and life has grown routine and not rewarding.  A quest for a new passion is in order. What will this be? Today is a first, blogging on a Saturday morning has proven to be cathartic. Thank you Temanos. Blog more in 2014.
  • Educate-A great passion which is enjoyable and provides meaningfulness, is being able to share experience and educate others. Being able to educate others brings confidence and affection for the information being shared. This wonder enhances meaningfulness in life. Teach often in 2014.
  • Learn-“A day without learning is a day wasted, right?” Learn something new everyday. Learn by studying it, doing it then teaching it. Learn more in 2014.

On any journey an essential aspect will be finding balance, meaning and happiness.

In a study published in the Journal of Positive PsychologyJennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business, along with colleagues, found answers about life in how people spend their time and what experiences they cultivate.

“Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker,” Aaker said.

The researchers surveyed 397 people over a month-long period, examining whether people thought their lives were meaningful or happy, as well as their choices, beliefs and values. They found five key differences between meaningfulness and happiness:

1. Getting what you want and need

While satisfying desires was a reliable source of happiness, it had nothing to do with a sense of meaning. For example, healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning.

2. Past, present and future

Happiness is about the present, and meaning is about linking the past, present and future. When people spend time thinking about the future or past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives become. On the other hand, if people think about the here and now, they are happier.

3. Social life

Connections to other people are important both for meaning and happiness. But the nature of those relationships is how they differ. Deep relationships – such as family – increase meaning, while spending time with friends may increase happiness but had little effect on meaning. Time with loved ones involves hashing out problems or challenges, while time with friends may simply foster good feelings without much responsibility.

4. Struggles and stresses

Highly meaningful lives encounter lots of negative events and issues, which can result in unhappiness. Raising children can be joyful but it is also connected to high stress – thus meaningfulness – and not always happiness. While the lack of stress may make one happier – like when people retire and no longer have the pressure of work demands – meaningfulness drops.

5. Self and personal identity

If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself. A life of meaning is more deeply tied to a valued sense of self and one’s purpose in the larger context of life and community.

In this “moment” let 2014 begin.

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