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“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius
Having never experienced a particular event, feeling or sensation, it can be hard to trust that attaining what we have marked as our goal as something other than difficult to achieve. After all, if it were easy, we would have experienced it by now. But what has lacked in the past is the proper recipe.
What I mean by the proper recipe is if we are trying to make mayonnaise (which requires few, but specific simple ingredients: 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cold water, and ¾ cup neutral oil such as safflower or canola), but if we pulled out a recipe for a vinaigrette (extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and black pepper), no matter how hard or long we whisked the ingredients, we will never make mayonnaise.
This seems obvious, but often in life we are using ingredients (whether it be particular people, misunderstood facts regarding science, neuroscience and biology or confusion when it comes to math) that cannot add up to what we desire no matter how hopeful we are. But when we do finally have the proper ingredients, in other words quality ingredients and stop trying to force an apple to become an orange, the results we desire materialize without involving much effort. And in that moment it seems almost miraculous as we’ve been thwarted for so long so often in our previous attempts.
Today I’ve made a list of eleven life skills I have found to be far easier than I had once thought. Perhaps you have a few others you would like to add. And if so, please do share in the comments.
On Sunday I made my first Niçoise salad, and of course, boiled eggs are a quintessential ingredient. Wanting a boiled egg in which the white was solid, but moist and the yolk was runny, I looked to Julia Child. On page 118 in her iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the recipe for an alternative to poached eggs (as I wanter to cook the eggs with the shell on) can be found. Put simply: bring water to boil, place eggs in the boiling water for six minutes, pour out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs for one minute. The perfect boiled egg for salads, breakfast or a mid-day snack. View my recipe for soft boiled eggs and soldiers here.
For years I thought something was wrong with me for not being able to mediate. I assumed, errantly, I had to be able to sit without thinking for endless amounts of minutes (20-30). I was wrong on two points: It’s not about stopping your thoughts, but recognizing when they wander and bringing your mind back to the present and longer doesn’t mean better. Five minutes is fine, simply observing and knowing your mind is wandering is a significant and successful mediation experience. Learn more about who to incorporate mediation into your daily routine (even if daily is a hope and the reality is a few days a week – the difference is quite positive on your overall quality of life.)
3. Asking clarifying questions
Just ask why. Most likely you are not the only person in the room who did not understand the allusion the speaker or teacher made. Ask for clarification. Don’t apologize for not knowing, simply ask what they were referring to. Confidence of a student and their sincerity to learn is revealed in asking for further understanding. Be a student of life and regularly ask questions, especially of people who are experts in their fields. Even if they do not know the answer, they would be the best persons to point you in the right direction. Often an expert takes for granted what the listener knows. It’s not a negative thing, it’s a reality when someone has been working with a particular idea or content for some time. Their perspective has shifted. So simply ask, and no doubt others in the room will appreciate your courage.
4. Letting go of what no longer supports the life you are building
Looking at the possibility of letting go of a way of life, a person, a job or anything that you have become accustomed to is a thorny prospect. But the actual letting go and moving forward is easy. It’s the decision of what to let go that takes time and careful examination. For when you finally let go, it cannot weigh you down and you begin to feel a lightness that you could never have known prior to letting go.
5. Welcoming love into your life
When we have been mistreated, taken advantage of or been around insecure individuals and errant assumptions about what love is (co-dependent, needy, clingy, formulaic, etc.), we can understandably be cautious about believing genuine love exists. Genuine or real love is something we discussed here and here in-depth, but the good news is that it does indeed exist, and when you’re ready and able to recognize it, even if you don’t believe it when you see it or experience it, welcoming it into your life is easy. Put down the armor, put down the cynical protections you’ve been using, stop the mishegas thinking and let yourself be loved. Just be you. Stop assuming the worst, stop thinking about anything that may thwart love’s growth, and when you do that, love walks in.
6. Broadening your vocabulary
Read. Read often. Read a little every day from any source that piques your interest. Look up one word a week that you run across and do not know. Listen to the diction being used in academic, political, historical films, newscasts and productions. Be curious and read and watch and look up what you do not understand. The more precise your vocabulary, the better able you are to effectively communicate and the more heightened your ability for emotional intelligence.
My favorite board game to play is backgammon. While I have always wanted to learn chess, I have yet to do so (of this feat I will accomplish at some point in my life, I am nothing but determined). But since I was a young girl, backgammon was the game my father and I would play, and we still do when I return home for holidays. It’s simple: move all of your checkers to your home base and remove them before the other player. Yes, there are other strategies and details to consider, but for a board game that looks fancy when it is displayed, it truly is quite simple. Discover the rules here.
8. Saving money for retirement
Set it and forget it. Set up an automatic pay reduction each month to be withdrawn from your paycheck. The sooner you do this is your career, the less you will pay no mind to the money that is not going into your checking account for the present moment.
9. Practicing self-compassion
The patient is you. And the attending is you as well. Treat yourself the way you already treat those you care about. The love you are able to give outwardly becomes strengthened when you have been giving the same compassion to yourself regularly. Learn more about self-compassion here in episode #122 of the podcast.
10. Improving your health and your skin
Yes, using particular moisturizers, sunscreen and oils do indeed make a difference, but the cheapest and simplest way to improve your health (ridding your body of toxins) and enable your skin to look radiant is to drink a glass of water before you go to bed and when you wake up. In between, make water your drink of choice. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
11. Staying healthy and trim
It’s less about your activity and more about the fuel you feed your body. However, physical exercise reduces stress and keeps the mind balanced. Back to the eating component: Eat a well balanced diet (knowledge of what you eat and what it does for your body is key), don’t deprive yourself, moderation. And as far as exercise, simply walk 5 times a week 20-40 minutes, add some weight bearing exercises two times a week (strength, pilates or yoga).
The take away I have discovered is often it is our approach that is thwarting the success, happiness and contentment we seek from materializing. And the problem is that we are not better informed on how to actually attain what we seek. Make sure that anything that is not working at the moment doesn’t actually have an easier solution. Are you using the proper ingredients? Do you have the right recipe or did the pages stick together and you, like Rachel in FRIENDS accidentally make a dessert truffle with ground beef? The right recipe can make all of the difference.
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