Strengths and Looking vs. Seeing: Why Seeing the World is Akin to Feeling Alive

SillhouetteLifeEDITJanuary 29, 2016

5 Ideas, 3 Questions, and an Action

Five Ideas

Looking and seeing are not the same thing, and it matters which one we do more of in our lives.

To look is to “direct your gaze in a specified direction”, while to see is to “discern visually”—that is, seeing requires something of our mind, while looking only necessitates our eyes.

We can look at our lives; we can look at the people in them; we can look at our actions; we can look at the world…but it isn’t until we can see these things that we are able to evaluate them, learn and grow from them, and truly value their existence.

It’s similar to the difference between being alive, which is biological, versus feeling alive, which, in addition to being biological, is also mental, emotional, spiritual, and social—one is a passive state, while the other is an activity.

It’s easy to fall into a rut of looking at the world and merely being alive in it; when we begin to name and affirm our qualities and put mental and physical actions behind them, we begin to see and feel our greatness.  We are each worth being seen.

Three Questions

In what areas of my life am I feeling truly alive?

Are there areas of my life where I am coasting, in a rut, or exhausted?

What is one action that I could take to see more of my life as opposed to just looking at it?

An Action

Desired Result: Practice Seeing vs. Looking

Concrete Action: To make this work you must do it right now—it only takes a second.  Without turning around and looking, describe in the greatest detail what, exactly, is behind you.  It might be that you are in a place you’ve been a million times (at home, at the office, in your parked car, or at the gym) or maybe you are in some place new.  Either way, how many details are you truly aware of—colors, scale, numbers of things, area, size?  It’s easy to float through places or to get so used to them that we don’t really see them any more.  (We might even do this with people.)  Now, turn around and see how you did.  As you do this part, note that you are likely to be truly seeing the space that you are in—truly taking it in with all its details and nuances and, perhaps, strangeness.  Imagine always seeing the world in this way.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

 Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen

Strengths and Changes

ChangesLifeEDITJanuary 27, 2016

*** Trying out a new format here—same message, same vision, only more concise and easier to read.  Let me know what you think. *** 

5 Ideas, 3 Questions, and an Action

Five Ideas

The more emphasis we place on growing in our strengths and discovering who we really are, the more rapidly we will change—focusing on anything else is less efficient and less productive in the pursuit of becoming who we want to be.

Our strengths are our basic operating system—the core—as we grow and change, they, too, develop with us.

Our strengths are hardwired, they do not go away; we can grow out of our challenges of character but not our strengths.

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” Victor Hugo  (Our strengths are the roots connecting us to our true self.)

And remember: Overnight success usually takes about twenty years, take small actions every day that add up.

Three Questions

Is it truly possible to stay the same or are we always changing no matter what?

What is one specific change that I would like to see in my life and why?

What is my personal definition of personal growth and what actions am I taking to remain present in this process? (ex. Am I happening to life, or is life happening to me?)

An Action

Desired Result: Implement Positive and Lasting Change

Concrete Action: Think Small

Write it out.  Do a five minute freewrite and get all the ideas on the page.  Then assess what the first five actions are.  Assess how many hours each one will take.  Divide them up into small daily actions and put them on your calendar.  It’s easy to desire broad abstractions, it’s an art to “think small”.  With big goals, it’s best to plan it out on a calendar because it demystifies the process and brings it down to earth.  Peck away at big goals in increments.  It can feel too daunting and impossible to start big goals all at once.  For example, split up the 100 hours of work into 300 individual twenty minute sessions.  Take a small action each day instead of a big action every once in a while.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen

Strengths and Concrete Actions

ChalkLifeEDITJanuary 25, 2016

A concrete object is anything that is tangible, material, and real to the senses. Things that can be touched, seen, heard, smelled, and tasted are generally concrete objects.

Concrete actions, then, are those activities that we can perform or observe that are definable and measurable, things that have a process and an intended result in the real world.

It boils down to doing as opposed to saying as well as intention. Saying that we will do something is not an action at all, much less a concrete one.

The fastest way to make positive and lasting change is to define the type of results we are after and then to consider which concrete actions will get us there.

The types of actions that we chose to take (or not to take) are general indicators of our strengths. Someone who is naturally deliberative will take time to weigh the options and make an informed decision because, for them, the value is in “measuring twice, cutting once.” Contrarily, an activator is likely to dive right in and fine tune along the way—here, the value being in exploration, forward movement, and getting things going with a motto that sounds like this, “Fire, fire, fire, aim…”

In all cases, the actions that we take are reflections of who we are. When we focus on our strengths, and make decisions based on them, we are likely to take actions that are in our best interests as thriving, seeking, and wonderful human beings.

Here are THREE concrete actions to try out at the start of your week:

Desired Result: Starting the Day More Energized

Concrete Action: Morning Routine.

It’s easy to set an alarm the night before and guestimate how long it will take to get out the door the next morning. Being more intentional about that a.m. time and having a plan in place can allow you to hit the snooze button less and start the day off with more energy. Start with a single action and then add on new ones as it becomes a habit.

Here are five morning actions to take for increased energy, mix and match:

  1. Before even getting out of bed, stretch for three minutes like a cat, just let your arms, legs, and back guide you.
  1. Do a “brain dump”. Take a sheet of paper and just jot down all the words, ideas, commitments, thoughts, fears, hopes, details, and logistics that are floating around in your head.
  1. Pour yourself a glass of water and spend five minutes drinking it. With each sip repeat a positive word to yourself, like: love, joy, peace, grace, hope, and/or healing.
  1. Look in the mirror and tell yourself a few things that you love about your life. I love my job. I love my kids. I love my partner. I love my energy-level. Repeat your own list a few times while making eye-contact with yourself in the mirror. Do this for a full minute. Set your timer if you must.
  1. Set an intention for the day and outline three actions you can take to achieve that goal. For example, if you say, “Today I will remain focused on what needs to get done at work and I will keep a positive attitude while I do so,” then the actions that you outline might be, “I will make a to-do list and prioritize it. I will meditate over my lunch break. I will schedule five minuets to peck away at a project that I have been putting off.”

 

Desired Result: Getting More Done

Concrete Action: Plan it.

Print off a weekly calendar here and consider all of the basic things that you do on an average day. This means wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, check email, feed animals, drive to work, work, lunch, sleep, etc. Estimate how long each will take

Populate the weekly calendar with this data first; these are the parts of your day that are non-negotiable.

Now, look at the blank spots—for some there will be many, for others

 

Desired Result: Being More Present

Concrete Action: Breathing Breaks

Set three alarms on your phone that will go off at various intervals during the day. Let’s say 10 am, 2 pm, and 7 pm, for example. When these alarms go off, no matter where you are or what you are doing, take 1 minute of slow, deep breaths. As you do this bring your awareness back to the present and take a look around with all of your senses. Try to notice a few new elements of the space that you are in, be it indoors, outdoors, with people, alone, in public, or in private.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen

 

Strengths and Personal Happiness (Pt. 2): Why Happiness Alone is a Moving Target

MysteryAndAweLifeEDITJanuary 22, 2016

5 Minute Read

(425 Words)

Saying that we want to be happy is like saying that we want to be wealthy or healthy or wise.

All admirable concepts, to be sure.

We can say it all day long, but until we put actions, intention, and energy behind it, happiness is just a word. And, words themselves are not things, they are representations of things. Symbols.

This is true in the same way that numbers are not things, in and of themselves. After all, we cannot touch, hold, or even see a literal one or a two. No. We can only see what is represented by these numbers, but not the numbers themselves (i.e. one glove, two hamsters, three slinkys).

Likewise, there is no such thing as an inch or a kilometer—they are ideas used to represent and measure real things, but we cannot hold an inch, literally, in our hand. We can only hold inches of things.

In exactly the same way, when we say we want “happiness”, what we are really saying is that we want a specific set of things and experiences, which we chose to represent with that word.

After all, we cannot, literally, touch happiness.

For this reason, it is absolutely essential to get clear about what we mean when we use words like happiness, health, and wealth. Because, if we do not define them they will remain amorphous, slippery, and impossible to identify. When that is the case, it is unlikely that we will ever feel like we’ve truly achieved these things.

More than that, no two people have the exact same definitions of the terms.

This is to say: We use the same words to address different ideas. Given that everyone wants to be happy, that can be a scary concept.

A dynamic like this makes it easy to get confused along the way. We might find ourselves chasing someone else’s happiness, or thinking that someone else’s path to fulfillment must also be our own.

We might think that because someone else has found the “secret” in one place, that we, too, must find it there.

But the secret is likely that the path to true happiness is found within our individual truths. These are the ideas and ideals that we live by and live for. They are the philosophies that we test in real-time by interacting with others and with the world. And our revelations from and evaluations of these experiences, little by little, form and reform our definitions of words like happiness and freedom and success.

When we are living from our strengths, we are living from places that we have clearly defined within ourselves. These are our qualities that we have refined the most, even when it was uncomfortable. Above all else, when we pay attention to them, they are the areas that we have the most pleasure in cultivating further.

Three Questions

What role do my strengths play in my life?

How proactive am I about going after what I want in life?

What holds me back from taking greater action? Specifically, what are the thoughts and messages that keep me from diving in?

5 Minute Action

Set the timer on your phone for five minutes.

Sit with your eyes closed and envision the perfect day.

Go through the day in as much detail as you can from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep (that is, if sleeping is a part of a perfect day).

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen

Strengths and Personal Happiness: Why Happiness Alone is a Moving Target

BeachWashLifeEDIT

January 20, 2016

5 Minute Read

(450 Words)

When we say that we want to be happy, we are wise to get clear about what we are signing up for exactly.

Saying to life that “we want to be happy” is like saying to the drive-thru window that “we want food”. Sure, we might get something out of the deal, but is that truly the best approach?

Obviously, not.

Getting specific about what we mean by happiness is the quickest way to determine what we can do to be proactive about achieving it.

For most of us, lasting happiness will not just happen to our lives. Instead, it will be the result of specific actions we’ve taken to position ourselves in situations that are fulfilling and meaningful. These actions will also generate positive forward momentum.

If we are too general about happiness, we risk setting ourselves up for dissatisfaction and frustration; because, how can we find something when we don’t know what it is?

We might adopt an attitude of “I’ll know it when I see it” and, sure, maybe we will find it that way. But, again, is that really the best approach?

Think of it like going to the grocery store without a list versus going there with one.

Without a list, we’re likely to make impulse decisions based on instant gratification. However, when we shop with a list, undoubtedly, we have given forethought to our actions and taken into consideration bigger pictures like our bank account, our health commitments, and our schedules.

Getting clear about what happiness looks like and putting it into concrete terms allows us to live our lives with a “shopping list”. This is because we have an idea of what we are looking for and we can strategize ways to achieve it. More than that, we know it when we find it and can, therefore, acknowledge its presence with gratitude.

Crucially, how one defines “happiness” is in a realm of its own, in that it is highly personal and nuanced. What is joy to one person is torture to another. Consider the bagpipes or skydiving or living in a tiny house.

So, as we pursue a greater sense of aliveness, we must be willing to part with others’ ideas of what “should” make us feel one way or another, and get honest about what we truly want. This is what’s called defining our personal happiness. And we can jumpstart this process by writing for five minutes a day about what we want from life.

Because our strengths are the best indicators of what our best self looks like, when we frame our thinking around their attributes, we are driving toward that greatness.

If happiness has a recipe, our strengths provide the ingredients. This is because happiness isn’t likely to be found in what we have, instead it will be found in who we are.

And, the more we are embodying who we are, the more likely we are to be curating our personal happiness.

Three Questions

What does society say that happiness should look like?

Is this my definition? If not, what is my definition?

What is one action that I could take to experience more of that in my daily life?

5 Minute Action

Write in response to the following question for five minuets without putting the pen down:

What is my most recent happiest memory?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen