Sunday, February 17, 2013

Belonging – part 2 points 1, 2. 
Here are some fundamental tools that will help you define your place of belonging:

1.      1.  Be at peace with yourself
Inner strength is often seen as outward confidence. If you can’t find inner peace, you will never find external contentment. Whatever philosophy you subscribe to, the secret of finding inner peace is recognizing where you belong. Often being in the wrong place is a great stimulus for revealing where one should be. Some years ago, I sought work outside of my country due to months of being unemployed. The plan was to be re-united with my family when settled. Everything went fine. I found work, my wife sold the dog, car and accommodation and yet I felt like a fish out of water. Everything on the outside seemed right, but internally I was disfranchised. I had a house but no home, money but no meaning. I am acquainted with re-locating, so that wasn't the issue, it was having no sense of belonging. The inner compass was pointing south and after a few weeks, I returned to Auckland. Though that trip cost me thousands of dollars, it served as a lesson to me to this day. “Be at peace with yourself!”  

2. Take time to define the real you
Often it’s easier to define ones-self when one is older as the years lived, have a way empowering us in our choices. Building inner character is often defined in the way one is able to choose, despite external opposition or persuasion. I have noticed that as each generation enters the stadium of life, it brings with it an apparent inability to live void of external stimulus in daily life. This continual bombardment of the senses leaves little time for critical thinking or self evaluation. Without such, our lives are defined by the opinions of others. Mentored by lyrics and advertising moguls, we live out our life according to their cash fueled philosophy. Unfortunately, that philosophy changes like the wind and incessant fashion trends, leaving a young mind shaped. I believe one of the greatest abilities bestowed upon man, is one’s ability to think. Out of that ability comes one of mans greatest powers, the power to choose.

Without doubt, defining ones inner values and personal integrity will bare a cost that many decline to pay. Ultimately, paying the price will set your compass for life and assist you in navigating through the pending storms that life will bring. One can never truly enjoy the benefits of community if ones inner being is at conflict with one’s self. The English poet John Donne, penned such a perspective in his poem.

No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
There is a unfathomable divergence, between pride and assurance. We are besieged by a plethora of celebrities, idols and attitude a plenty. There is a growing absence of discretion, integrity, loyalty and truth. We have chosen as a society to live apart from the whole and imbibe the consequences as being inevitable.

We truly are living in an age (as the 70’s artists) Blue Mink put it:
“What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it's got
And keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee colored people by the score”

They are great lyrics and with an idealistic philosophy. Problem is, no amount of external change will affect the inward driving force that is man; unless we activate the ability to think and make some personal choices.

Consider this poem (often attributed to anon or other wrongly attributed authors)

The Guy in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgment upon, you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

 He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

 You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Belonging is not necessarily geographical

Belonging is not necessarily geographical.

I recall leaving the place of my birth as a young father and husband, to emigrate to the farthest point on the globe. With no friends to greet my arrival, no home or financial security, no real understanding of what lay ahead; I was searching for a place to truly belong. As the plane flew over the city I was to make my new home, I remember turning to my wife and saying “It just feels like I belong”. She too shared my sentiment and so it was.
I look back over that point in my life almost daily and can truly say, belonging is not confined to where you are, but where you should be.

We will never satisfy the outward yearning without fulfilling the inward purpose.

I believe life and the life lived, has a way of shaping our values system. Perspective shifts in a tragedy. Mortality has a significant influence on the choice of path we tread. One only needs to be exposed to an uncontrollable tragedy to gain further perspective on what counts in life. Visit the cancer ward or Accident and Emergency department to become an instant philosopher and adjudicator of life.  “Many of us know the cost of everything but the value of nothing” – Oscar Wilde.
When the chips are down, we rightly define the value of a day. It often takes hard times to correct the compass of our life.
I spent the early part of my life avoiding difficulties and challenges as one would avoid the bubonic plague, these days I am more philosophical about the lesson to be learned through it. We are born with an inbuilt compass for life, but also a free will that activates its use.  

“By building relations we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier”. Susan Lieberman

As a young boy of eleven, I recall going away from home to a camp with my local St Johns Ambulance Brigade Band, of which I was a member. It was horrible! Hundreds of kids running riot and living in tents like drowned rats as the rain never ceased to hose down. So wet were the conditions that the palettes upon the floors would begin to float during the night. I hated every moment of it (and all forms of camping to this day). After three days, I literally escaped by thumbing a lift and navigating the 80 mile trip home. Perhaps one the most tender moments in my life was arriving at the family home and on entry seeing my mum at the stove cooking the evening meal. The incredible smells and sense of warmth upon my face as I walked through the door will remain etched on my mind and with me all my life. I was home. I was where I belonged.
Gone were the negative experiences of the past few days and quite frankly it had little to do with geography although it did include it. As an eleven year old boy, my sense of belonging was connected to those whom I loved and whom loved me.

"Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging". Alexander Theroux

"The feeling of not belonging, of not being entirely worthy, of being sometimes hostage to your own sensibilities; Those things speak to me very personally". Anthony Minghella
Our identity is often intrinsically linked to performance and a sense of being. In the country of Wales (part of the United Kingdom), It was part of folk culture that what a person did as a job was reflected in the person’s name. Terms such as: Owen the coal, (coal merchant) Jones the meat, (butcher) Gareth the death (undertaker). A persons being was linked to their doing, and so it is today. Often ones worth is ascribed to what one possesses.
If one defines ones persona by external factors and worldly trappings, one is often exposed to continual redefinition as these things change. Change in itself is not a bad thing, (and in fact is the only constant we have in life) but in the context of this article, can serve to heighten our vulnerability, to the security found in belonging.
As a coach, I choose to use the balance model of coaching. Life is all about balance and one only needs to live life out of kilter to experience this principle first hand. If we allow external influences to define our inner values, we build our character on the shifting sands of change. Every generation brings with it, its re-defined culture and values system. In the 1920’S almost every male wore a hat in public and women rarely smoked. The community of the time regulated its culture. Today’s community too, is regulated by the change in public opinion, and unless one has personally defined one’s own set of values, one will be influenced to adopt or adapt to the culture of the day. It takes more courage to stand for something than it does to fall for anything.
Perhaps the single most empowering thought that has shaped my life and lifestyle to date has been the unwillingness to arrive at life’s end with regrets. Regret is a powerful force and a waste of precious energy and resourcefulness. Regret is pure negative energy and paralyzes us to live a life excluded from the possibilities of what could have been.

“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind”. C. S. Lewis
In part two of this blog I wills share some fundamental tools that will help you define your place of belonging.