Focusing on the Right Things: Deciding on a Life Well Lived

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A few months back I wrote about some of my perspective shifts and emptions that I was dealing with when I found out that my Uncle Don was dying of terminal cancer. On August 11th, cancer finally took him in the early early morning hours while he was asleep in his home in Portsmouth, NH.

Since hearing about his diagnosis and talking to him about his decision not to fight the aggressive spread of the cancer I have been working a ton, traveling a lot, and doing a great deal of internal analysis, work, and rebuilding through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) protocols and a whole lot of journaling. It has been quite a shift. All of these emotions, swirled with (or serving as the catalyst for) my mid-life “crisis”. There’s a lot of swirl also within my marriage which has taken its toll on me and I will go into those details a bit more on my friend Mohawk Matt’s Be the Reason Podcast on my 40th birthday.

I don’t think that my “crisis” is really an internal or existential challenge, but a means of detaching from my day-to-day grind to reach a point of almost radical clarity. Clarity for many parts of my life that I allowed to happen and take shape that put others’ needs, fears, and self-centered interests above my own. Here’s my bottom line: when you reach this level of clarity and acceptance of how the path you’ve been on has reached your current state, you then have an amazing choice – to redirect and adjust and live truer to yourself, or continue subordinating yourself to other people’s interests.

This isn’t about being a selfish dickhead, or a cocky jerk to people. What I have reached is a fascinating level of clarity that I have allowed myself to be run over time and again because I thought it was the right thing to do to protect a façade. What I don’t want to allow to happen going forward is anything fake/untrue/against my intrinsic motivations. Here’s another realization that I have had – when you are true to yourself, you bring out the true nature of others as well. You begin to see how people have been manipulating you, taking advantage of you, or disregarding you because of their own needs and issues. And that’s ok. It’s part of being human. Also, they will not respond well when you start putting yourself first, as their power to leverage you to meet their own needs is reduced. BOHICA – they’re going to resist, and fight, and gaslight, and cry. It is going to happen, but as I have found, you can stay strong and work through it and get past it, or get away from it to a better place.

Life is a journey filled with choices at every turn. Amidst the cacophony of societal expectations, the opinions of others, and our own fears, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters. I aim to remind us all of an important life lesson: There are only two people we should strive to impress – our 8-year-old self and our 80-year-old self[1]. I have worked through many sources to try and find my clarity as well as process what I have experienced, my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. Here are some resources that I have found extremely valuable:

Wisdom from Other Philosophers: Socrates, another great philosopher, once stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This statement underscores the importance of introspection and personal growth, rather than seeking validation from others. Socrates’ contemporary, Plato, also emphasized the importance of self-awareness, saying, “Know thyself.” I recommend you read many of the works of the ancient stoics. Their writings and perspectives are timeless assessments and perspectives on the fundamentals of the human experience. It is great realizing that technological advancement does not detract or enhance the core of the human being and experiences.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): I have been using DBT to help process my traumas and experiences from military deployments, childhood traumas, being the victim of infidelity, and other daily struggles. DBT is a form of psychotherapy that provides practical strategies for managing emotions, improving relationships, and reducing distress. It encourages mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. By practicing mindfulness, we can become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and actions, enabling us to live a life that aligns with our values, rather than one shaped by external influences. Emotional regulation allows us to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in our lives. Distress tolerance improves our ability to tolerate and survive crises and prevents us from making things worse. Interpersonal effectiveness helps us to express our needs and boundaries effectively, enabling us to build rewarding relationships[2].

Going back to the main point of this post –  focusing on impressing our 8-year-old and 80-year-old selves, we can ensure that we live a life filled with authenticity, purpose, and personal growth[1]. We can set those two personas as guardrails for how we evaluate our actions, decisions, and behaviors. This will combine the aspirational, forward-looking vision of the youth, with the pragmatic, yet contemplative perspective of age near death, when you look back and assess for regrets.

Remember, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Let’s strive for that accomplishment every day.

To thine own self, Full Send.


[1] The Only Two People You Need to Impress

[2] Stop Trying to Impress People

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