Part 2 | The Nine Laws of Life

strengths-photo-14January 24, 2017

Law Two: There Will Be Mysteries

What is the difference between a mystery and something that we simply do not know?  We might say that unknowns are things that we have not yet learned, experienced, or grasped; while, mysteries are, by definition, that which cannot be fully understood or explained.  The world is full of both kinds.

With that said, this doesn’t mean that there is no reason or purpose for what is unknowable.  Instead, it just means that whatever is driving these mysteries is beyond our comprehension—and their value is not necessarily in understanding them, but rather in acknowledging that they need not be understood in order to be useful.

Think, for example, of the mysteries of sleep and dreaming—two things that most of us do every day.  We don’t need to “understand” either one of them in order to participate in them and experience their benefits.  After all, have we ever heard someone say, “I had this dream last night and it totally made sense?”

Probably not.  Still, we know that sleep is essential to life, and dreaming is an essential part of sleep.

In fact, it seems that the most essential part of what we experience in sleep is its mystery, and without it…it wouldn’t be sleep at all, it would be something else.

This is all a way of saying that if we were to remove the mystery from certain elements of our lives we would be, fundamentally, removing the entire thing from our lives.

And, getting clear about this Law of Life is important because it allows us to put our energy in places where it is better served, and it also allows us to ask better, more productive questions.  Questions that move us out of control and into acceptance and pro-activeness.

When we do this, we can stop asking, “What is this all about?”  And, we can begin asking, “How can I use this in my life, where is its value?”

Think about it, we don’t need to understand how our solar system came to be in order to navigate by its stars.  We need not know how an ocean works to swim in it and enjoy its waters.  We don’t have to uncover someone’s entire personal history to engage in a productive conversation with them.  Or, imagine if we said, “I am not going to go to sleep until I understand what sleep is.”  It sounds absurd, right?

Nevertheless, when we are in a tough spot in life we can still get caught in the trap of asking the philosophical question, “Why is this happening to me?” (which is likely unknowable) instead of “What is the lesson here?”

Accepting, up front, that there will be mysteries frees us from the exhausting effort of trying to eliminate what is unknowable from our lives and allows us to embrace it.  We can give ourselves permission to step into life’s mysteries.  Which, a lot of times, opens up an opportunity to make use of what is right there in front of us, even if we cannot explain it or how it got there.

Remember, we ourselves are still mysterious.  After all, we don’t even know (seemingly) big things like the exact number of cells that make up the human body.  It seems like such a thing should be quantifiable, right?  Especially with the technological advances we’ve all seen in our lifetime.  However, it’s not so much a question of technology, but rather one of definition.  That is, the scientific community is still asking, “Where, exactly, does the body begin and end, and which parts should and should not be counted?”  Do we include things like saliva, dead skin cells, gut bacteria, tears, hair, mineral deposits, water being stored in the body, and the ephemeral secretions of our glands?  Those qualities alone make up billions, if not trillions of cells and to include or exclude them skews the numbers.

So, a question we can all ask is this: If we cannot quantify, define, or even properly identify the very thing that keeps alive—a human body—how much can we hope to agree on when it comes to the universe at large, the meaning of life, or the sound of one hand clapping?

The value, after all, in such inquiry is not so much in the answer but in the mystery of it and in what is revealed about ourselves as we live with such unknowableness.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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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 Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 1 | The Nine Laws of Life

strengths-photo-14

January 11, 2017

Law One: Things Change

From the whirring atoms that make up our physical world to the synaptic structures of our brain activity—everything is moving.  Even stone changes over time.  The Grand Canyon wasn’t always there, neither was Ayers Rock.

If we are living our lives pretending that things don’t change, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.  It’s like trying to paddle a canoe with a tennis racket.  Sure, it might look like we are doing something, but it won’t get us anywhere.

So, the question becomes this: Things change, so what now?

We can start by accepting this fact.  When we acknowledge that everything—absolutely everything—is in constant motion and changing, then we can do something constructive with our time and energy.

Recognizing that the world we live in is always in flux matters because there are different types of change going on.  There is a difference between, say, evolution and decay.  One moves toward a greater wholeness and adaptability, while the other does the opposite.  In a way, evolution happens with an individual or idea, while decay seems to happen to something.

Or, take for example, the fact that there are big changes—ones with consequences, good or bad—and then there minute changes, those which go basically unnoticed.  Shaving your head vs. losing a single hair.

That being said, when it comes down to it, in our own lives, there are really only two types of changes in the world that matter.  We have intentional change, which is guided by our goals, thoughts, and conscious actions; and then we have all the rest…the stuff that others do, the stuff that nature does, and the stuff that is done by the cosmos.

For the latter, there isn’t really a whole lot that we can control about it.  However, we are not puppets that life pushes around.  And, we do have a say when it comes to the type of change that is intentional.

So, if denying that things change is not the answer, what is?

The solution, here, is acceptance; accepting that things change and that it is a Law of Life.  When we truly wrap our head around this idea, we no longer have to fixate on outcomes and/or live in fear of life happening to us.  Instead, we can focus on the journey and know that we, ourselves, can happen to life.

We can say, “Things change no matter what.  Okay.  So, how is it that I want them to change?  And what is an action that I can take to move my life in that direction?”

Basically, how can we embrace this Law of Life and use it to our advantage?

A quick exercise is this: First, set one goal.  Say, for example, we want to start waking up earlier.  Next, make two columns.  The first column is for “Things We Can Control” and the second column is for “Things We Cannot Control”.  Try it.  Here we see that there are many, many actions that we can take, which are in our control: setting five alarms, going to bed earlier, not drinking coffee after 5 pm, doing some meditation, and avoiding blue light in the hours before sleep.  These are all actions that we can implement because we have control over them.  In the other column…well, in a lot of cases, it turns out that there is not much to say.  That is, in this example, nearly all of the variables are within our control.  That doesn’t mean that this, or any, change is easy.  But it does mean that it is possible.  And, when that is the case, it becomes absolutely clear that we do indeed have agency in at least some of the change occurring around us.

Acknowledging that change is a Law of Life means that we can move with this quality of our reality instead of pushing against it.  It allows us to set some goals and direct our energy toward shifts that we desire.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

zach-profile

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 Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.