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How will I know when I'm living My Big Life (MBL)? I'm using 5 words to guide me.






They aren't words that describe my character, and they aren't meant to. Kindness, compassion, good humor, integrity, patience, and the like are simply part of my value system. What these words do is identify the qualities I want to describe my experience of life.

Think of it this way--when faced with morally neutral choices, I ask myself:

What's the active choice?

  • think the opposite of coach potato (no offense Idaho)

What will help me be accomplished?

  • think expertise & completion

What affirms my sense of embodiment?

  • think mind, heart, body connections

What will help me live more expansively?

  • think new foods, ideas, experiences (especially across cultures)

What's downright gutsy?

  • think courage, determination & resilience

How about you? What five words would you like to describe the quality of your big life? Activity: Here's how I cam up with my words. You can use this as an activity to identify the qualities you would like to mark your life.

  1. Brainstorm all the words you can think of that you would like to describe you. Feel free to use a thesaurus to find synonyms.

  2. Identify those words that seem to have common ground with each other. Group them together.

  3. Reduce your list to 5 words (including their groupings).

  4. Consider different situations in your life, and look at your words. Do they help you describe how you'd like to be or what you'd like to do in that situation? If they don't, they may be too narrow. Test and retest words to try them on and see if they fit you, your life, and your aspirations. [Note: character qualities often seemed too narrow as I tested my words against the quality of life I wanted to live.]

  5. Select your 5 words and put them into action. Review them and remind yourself of those words regularly.

  6. Assess your words. Pay attention to how they fit or don't fit your life. Are they empowering you to make the choices you'd like? Do you find yourself celebrating when you see them in action? If so, then you're on the right track. If some words never seem to connect with your life, then consider what changes need to be the word or to your life.

I selected my words about five years ago. I only recently updated them with minor changes when I started the My Big Life initiative. I'd love to hear what you come up with and where you see evidence of your words in your life. Check in here in the comments or interact with me on social media!

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It hit me this spring.

After months of sleeping more than was good for me and accomplishing very little....

After years of depression, anxiety, loss, weight gain, and aspirations that had come and gone....

I had to face the personal and professional stagnation that I called my life. Feelings of

frustration (aka anger), disgust, and "fed up-ness" filled me as I considered the way I'd let life pass me by. My 58th birthday was coming. In another year, I would be 59 and then a year later I would be [dun dun DUN!] 60!! [You saw that coming, didn't you? You're smart like that.]

"ENOUGH!" I shouted to no one but myself. It was part cursing and part declaration. EnOUgH! Enough. enough. I was sick of not living up to my capacity. Something I couldn't identify had been holding me back. I was capable of so much more, but I'd fallen short of what was possible time and time again.

Over the weeks ahead, my anger and disgust were quietly replaced with hope, vision, and determination. What if I dug in and did the work necessary to find out what was holding me back? What if I determined to live a BIG LIFE?! What if I didn't quit this time? I I knew a few things: If my life was going to change, I would have to take a holistic approach. The mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life would each need to be honored or I wasn't going to get anywhere.

With more questions and answers, I stepped out to create My Big Life. I looked for professionals who could assist me. I contacted friends and family who could support me. I started to read books and listen to podcasts. I quickly felt overwhelmed and self-doubt threatened my resolve. I realized I was going to need to start very small and work on changes to my life bit by bit...habit by by day. So I did!

What started this spring was a new mission--one in which I reclaimed my life and determined to live it more fully, freely, and courageously. In the weeks and months to come, I'm going to write about my progress in this multi-faceted process. I hope you'll join me on this mission. I'll be glad for your company! (Who knows, maybe you'll even be inspired to live a bigger life yourself.)

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Have you looked at the world around you lately? Are you seeing what I'm seeing? I see a lot of pain. I see conflict, tension, and differences, that have turned into hostility, disdain, and ruptured relationships. What part of your life do you think of when you read those words:

  • conflict, tension, differences

  • hostility, disdain, and ruptured relationships?

Maybe your thoughts go to work relationships where tensions have flared up and divisions between factions in the team are widening. Maybe you think about a siblings with whom you have a complicated (at best) or contentious relationship. Maybe your thoughts went directly to the political and racial divisions in the United States (and you can't even believe I would wait to list it third in the paragraph)! In quieter moments, you might even recognize those words as descriptors of your relationship with yourself. I confess my inner thesaurus is energized by finding synonyms for "conflict," "tension," "differences," "division" and the resulting "hostility," "distain," and "ruptured relationships" (I hope that is simply evidence I like words!). As much as I want to keep those lists of words growing, I could just as easily write instead about the absence of peace in us and around us. Like you, I have experienced the absence of peace with coworkers, family, friends, and anonymous others on social media. Like you, my soul longs for peace, and I know how depleting it can be to live without it.

When I was completing my training as a coach, we read two books that address this human longing for peace: The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict and Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. The insights offered in these two books rang so true to me that I come back to them over and over again. They have shaped how I understand conflict and the resulting loss of peace. More than that, they have given me tools to work with to address conflict--tools which have helped me honor myself and others and then grow in peace! I have found them so transformative that I have designed a 5-week online group learning experience (aka interactive course) around the key ideas and tools in these books. Moreover, I am convinced that the focus of my work through Anderful Life needs to center on helping people grow in peace in all facets of their lives.

In my studies, I am learning that growing in peace requires growing in compassion for ourselves and others. Consider this insight from The Anatomy of Peace,

In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects....[when] we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them" (2015, p. 31).

I find myself asking whether I am really seeing others with my heart at peace. To answer "yes," I have to see the other person as someone with value, I have to honor their humanity (the good, the bad, the ugly), and recognize their inherent worth. Recognize the value in others, however, requires me to do the work necessary to see and honor my own humanity. I have to see myself for who I really am (the good, the bad, and the ugly in my own life) through a lens of compassion. When I see myself, warts and all as they say, but still can recognize my value, then I can extend that same compassion to others. I honor myself and honor others as human beings with inherent value--even if we're also mix of gifts and flaws. Nonviolent communication (aka NVC or Compassionate Communication) helps me understand who I am and take responsibility for my needs, feelings, and how I speak to others. It helps me extend compassion to myself and others. All of this strikes me as counter-intuitive. On some level, I want to believe that peace will come when other people change...when they wise up...when they start being nicer...when they _______ (fill in the blank). The problem is that I don't have any control over other people. None. Zero. Not a lick. If I'm waiting for others to change in order for me to find peace, I'm stuck. It's not going to happen. Instead, I'm choosing to look honestly at my own life to see how I can be a force for peace. I'm increasingly convinced that it comes by honoring my own humanity and the humanity of others, and then speaking from compassion and living from a heart at peace. [I'll say more about this in future blog posts.] Honor. Compassion. Peace. These are the things I want to mark my life, and they are the attributes I want YOU to experience in abundance. They are the driving force behind Anderful Life, and my reason for working as a life coach and offering the upcoming course: "honoring self. honoring others. growing in peace."

I don't believe conflict, division, derision, and ruptured relationships need to be the norm in our lives. We can develop the tools needed to live with hearts at peace and interact with ourselves and others from a place of honor and compassion. Join me, and my work through Anderful Life, to learn more and develop the tools to live a life marked by honor, compassion, and peace.

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