In the past couple of months, I have heard of the deaths of a number of my high school classmates. And right after an attorney friend of mine retired from the practice of law, his wife died suddenly and unexpectedly. Our best laid plans can be side-tracked by catastrophic illness, or becoming a caregiver for aging parents or a spouse, or finding your children back at home because of crushing college debt, which made them unable to afford that apartment or qualify for that house (or maybe even a car loan).
Rather than being upset or depressed by these developments, I chose to be inspired. Life’s curve balls remind me that I need to act on my passions, take the trip, talk to the kids and my brother, and keep up on Facebook with my vast network of dear cousins (first, second, third, fourth . . .) all around the world.
Family is important. These are the folks who knew you growing up, who knew your parents, who have heard the whispered family secrets, and share the culture of the life and times you lead. And your family is not only the blood relations, but also your tribe made up of friends and co-workers whom you have gathered around you in your life.
I am Facebook friends with some of my high school classmates, although we did not remain in each other’s lives once we were off to college and other adventures in life. Still, it is good to be reminded of how young and hopeful we were, how the world was a much less frightening place in those days, and how we just knew we were going on to bigger and better things as we left high school.
Here are the life lessons –
Don’t postpone joy. – Celebrate absolutely every occasion, at work, at home, with your family, your friends, your customers, your clients. I had examples growing up of those who not only didn’t celebrate each other, but who actively denigrated and criticized each other. The end result was the negative energy boomeranged back on them, and they became increasingly isolated from their support systems as time went on. They ignored or threw away an opportunity to know love and solace and, yes, celebration in their lives, and ultimately paid the price in loneliness and disappointment. Don’t leave yourself facing a life-altering experience that destroys your dreams and leaves you with too many regrets for the things you never did.
We each have a choice. – You can choose a positive or negative approach to life. But, know that you will have to live with the results. And, ultimately, if you don’t make a conscious choice, the Universe will make it for you, and aside from feeling out of control, you probably won’t enjoy the end results.
I came of age with the women’s movement, and I am all about empowering women. I particularly enjoy complementing random unknown women on elevators for the shoes, outfits, hair color they wore. When they smile, I know that I helped make their day better. The unspoken message is: You made a really good choice. You know what works for you. In other words, you are a competent and special person.
Recently, I drove 1 and 1/2 hours and 80 miles south to teach a two-hour class for community association managers. I had to get up very early, and drive in rush hour traffic to get there for my 9:30 a.m. class after I talked them out of scheduling me at 8:30 a.m. If you know me, you know I am not a 5 a.m. riser, and I do not enjoy driving in stop and go rush hour traffic. On the way down there, I stressed about whether I would get there in time; and although I had brought my breakfast with me, I was too occupied with defensive driving to eat it in the car, so I stressed about that. I was relieved to get to my destination just before 9 a.m., knowing I would have time to eat before I had to teach.
When I arrived, I discovered the class before me had started late, and that more than 25 people had signed up for the two classes, but instead, about half of them ate the hot breakfast, and then left. I ended up with about a dozen people in my class (which was on the subject of Leadership) and started about 20 minutes later than advertised.
I chose positive. First, I had plenty of time to eat my breakfast, and listen to the well-crafted program on communication which was first on the schedule. Secondly, the people who were in the room really wanted to be there, and were attentive, interactive and very appreciative of the information and message I conveyed. A number of the students came up to tell me how much they enjoyed the program, and the evaluations were very complimentary.
I told the story to a vendor friend with whom I am putting together another education program, and she smiled at me and said “You are just so positive!” as if it were a rare trait. Maybe it is, but you can change that.
I smiled at her and said “Lemonade. . . “ (as in “when life hands you lemons.. . .)
Bullying is NOT okay. – Unfriend anyone whose negativity creates toxicity in your life. Associating and participating with negative, critical and unhappy people definitely rubs off on you. Not only does it create a miasma of bad energy within your mind, so you don’t do your best or see the good in your life; but it also hurts you physically, by sapping your body’s strength, leading to muscle weakness, and opening the door for illness. Gossiping may seem like fun at the beginning, but remember, when you are not there you and your life are fair game for that gossip circle.
Everything happens for a reason. – It has consistently been my experience that although my carefully crafted plans do not always come to fruition, the end result is even better than it would have been on the other path. The change may lead to a more creative solution or a more productive idea, or a better job, or a new and exciting relationship. Or you may have time to eat breakfast, having safely arrived at my destination, and there will be bacon!
Express your love and appreciation every day. – Tell the people you love that you love them. Tell them as often as possible. Thank everyone for a job well done, or for their hard work, or because, by being there, they support the company or the family and thereby add positive energy to the environment.
Many years ago, early on in my practice, the firm lawyers all got together for a session on how to maximize your billing and be productive during the work day. A senior partner advised all of us to devote ourselves to our work, and suggested to anyone who had children that there would be time for those children later in life. That philosophy didn’t work out so well for him – He ended up divorced and without a role in his children’s lives.
If anyone advises you to put your work life first in all things, walk, no run away from that relationship. It is definitely possible to find the work/life balance. Do it!
When you create positive energy in your interactions, you also create it within yourself. It radiates out and becomes a magnet for the people with whom you come in contact. You will be a better version of yourself every time you choose to do so. It’s up to you.
Be loving everyone.
Ellen Hirsch de Haan has over 30 years of experience practicing homeowners and community association law. She regularly teaches classes on the subject to further educate homeowners and property managers alike. Ask to join our email list to learn more by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.