Living with purpose

It seems that we are happiest when we are living our lives with purpose. To some, that sounds incredibly obvious, but not to everyone. If you take a minute to look around you, many people are working toward the day when they have no purpose. That is their life plan. It would be my guess that if or when they get there, they will discover it is not as they had planned at all.

Purpose comes in all manner of shape and size. For some people, purpose is their job or their business, for some others it is their family, their children or their church. It could come in the shape of a task or a project or perhaps a journey. Without it though, people often feel lost or worse, some start to feel worthless. I see it all the time in people who have recently retired having worked with purpose all their lives. Suddenly they find themselves directionless, and often quite sad, maybe even depressed.

A task which brings me great joy is coaching coaches. Training them to be effective in their roles. One of the tasks I give them to do is work out their purpose. What drives them, what scares them, worries them and what brings them most joy. They find the task challenging but feedback tells me they also find this part of the training more useful than just about anything else they learn.

I have from time to time in my life lived without purpose and I have not enjoyed it one bit. Working a job that was meaningless to me, and not involved in anything else that gave me joy or a sense of fulfilment. Finding something that gives you purpose can be easier said then done though. By that I don’t mean something like your life’s purpose, not like “why am I here?” “who am I?” type purpose, though lets not rule that out entirely. I’m talking more about something smaller, more tangible, easier to grasp.

Having interviewed hundreds of people I am of the opinion that most people find some purpose as a by-product of their personal strengths. Is that too obvious? If someone is a super strong visualiser and a strong facilitator type, they get pleasure from and find purpose in visualising and helping others to do the same. If someone is good at building or wood-turning, they get a sense of purpose making things for other people. So what are your strengths? Do you know them? A lot of people have no idea, and some have a little bit of an idea without really knowing.

If you are feeling a bit lost, living your life without purpose, find someone capable of doing a strengths finder with you, or something similar. There are some free online versions which are worth doing but in my experience you are much better off seeking something a little more psychologically rigorous. Leadership trainers, or workplace councillors, or similar may be able to help.

Not the scarecrow

I have proof positive that I have a brain. I mean, I was always confident I actually had one, but there is something very reassuring about being able to see it in black and white. This picture was produced as part of an MRI I had earlier this week, which was part of a study into pain.

I volunteered to be a part of this great study as one of those “without chronic pain” which will help the clever scientists work out what the brain is actually doing to those poor people suffering chronic limb pain. Chronic pain is just so dreadful, so debilitating. I suffered a little nine years ago with nerve pain in my back, my leg and foot which resulted in surgery to relieve it. I was one of the lucky ones, pain-free the morning after surgery.

It is little wonder that so many people who suffer from chronic pain get themselves to a point where life is just too difficult and everything is completely coloured by their condition. Sensation discrimination is a little different for left-handers than right handers which is interesting. Lets face it, it’s all interesting isn’t it? We know so little about what pain actually is, and what the brain does in the process of convoluting those impulses, so it was really exciting to be a part of the study.

My amazingly strong bride can abseil down thirty storey buildings and walk the Kakoda Track, neither of which I could do, so it was cool to be able to do something she could not. Sticking your head into an MRI tunnel for thirty minutes is not for everyone. I am so glad we have brilliant researchers looking into this stuff. This sort of study will truly change lives.

 

Code words I should have understood

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My council has a little catch phrase they attach to all correspondence, you know the type “Serving our community” or the like. I suspect when they were creating it, they were conscious of the need to fit it on one line, and therefore it is in ant writing. So tiny, that when i first saw it, I simply wrote it off as nonsense. This one is a little word heavy and it fooled me so I thought I would share my stupidity with you. It reads “A vibrant united community with a sustainable economy. An area where rural character, community safety and lifestyle are preserved.”

Now clearly this is written in code! I should have seen this from the start. The economy is not sustainable, the council’s current single biggest focus is in raising the rates to incredible levels, reportedly somewhere between 70% and 100%, because it is currently not sustainable. With the empty shops in their main street, I can clearly see the economy is not thriving. This beautiful little town nestled in the hinterland could only be viewed as vibrant if you were the wee hermit in the mountains and came to town once a month to do your shopping. Sleepy would be a more apt description. I like sleepy, but lets call it for what it is.

It is the second sentence that should have sent the message to me. Anytime a council is preserving anything it is clearly code for resistance to change, slippery pole politics and any other nonsense they can speak of to reduce new thinking. Let alone the terms rural character and safety.  So if they can’t get you by citing preservation of lifestyle then surely safety and preservation of rural character are cover-all statements that are irrefutable arguments against everything.

New building is not going to work, new thinking, experimenting, new ideas, no, none of that is going to be possible under this catch-all. How dare you even suggest they might be restricting their own horizons, limiting their capacity for growth, stymying input, committing economic vandalism. How could you even suggest such a thing. Oh wait, that’s right, you’re from the city aren’t you.

People from the city wouldn’t understand. People from the city don’t know beauty, or quiet. People from the city don’t know what its like. Whatever it is. People from the city it would seem, are hell-bent on ruining everything. Out out damn spot.

You just have to know the code.

My first field day

I am getting excited. Our Development Application is very close to being finalised which means the end (or the beginning) is in sight. New driveways and new buildings are not too far away now. This weekend there is a field day local to our property. I have never been to one and I can’t wait.

Farm machinery, animals, people, dust and country air, are all just one more sleep away. The last six months have been an emotional roller-coaster watching the local council waft from one position to the next on every facet of this very modest construction. Rightly or wrongly they hold the view that no new building should be able to be seen in profile, which is difficult when we own what is effectively the top of a mountain.

Sadly my bride wont be coming along as she has some HUGE work commitments on the day and she doesn’t want to miss her football team playing the next day, so I’m travelling solo. I will let you know how it goes!

Be good at it, or stop doing it!

I am so glad I am sitting here writing. For that matter, I’m glad I am still breathing. I came so close to having it all end in a nasty accident today, it’s a gut wrenching struggle to recount it. Riding my scooter back from Sydney’s western suburbs I was in the right hand lane doing 80kms as the left lane was doing 60 or maybe even 50. I was in a line of traffic, having left enough room in front in case I needed to react quickly.

The car in the left lane, without indicator, decided he urgently needed to be in my lane. He didn’t give himself enough time to look, didn’t look into his mirror or turn his head. He just came out. No time to give him a polite toot, only time to hit the anchors and turn toward the concrete dividing wall. He saw me when my front tyre was 4 inches from his front door and swerved back left.

He put up his hand to indicate that he hadn’t seen me and was sorry. Of course he hadn’t seen me, he hadn’t bother looking!!!! Then, just as many car drivers do when they get yelled at, he got all indignant and decided to tailgate me for the next 5 kms. You just have to love that sort of pig ignorant behaviour. I honestly wanted to kick his car doors in and stomp on his head.

Now that I have calmed down and had a little think, I can now lift my spirit out off the motorway, and be thankful I am alive. For goodness sakes team, if you are driving on the road, drive well. Be good at it, or stop doing it.

Help I’m in a rut!!!

Getting in a rut is easy to do. You find yourself sitting on the lounge watching rubbish on TV or at the dining table eating boring food or worse still, catch yourself talking rubbish. It’s easy enough to do. Here are a few things you might want to consider doing to help jolt yourself out of that rut.

Listen to ‘Common at the Whitehouse’. Just type that into YouTube. This extraordinary performer will give you an insight into his world in a gentle explorative music genre. Just four songs performed at the Whitehouse in the last few weeks of the Obama’s term in the House. NPR recorded this.

NPR also do an amazing series of music samplers called Tiny Desk. I hope you have heard some of these. Depending where you up to in your music journey, you could try The Crossrhodes or go old school with The Blueman or Randy Newman (sublime four songs) or if western swing is more your thing try Lyle Lovett. Perhaps something pretty and intimate like the extraordinary  Laura Mvula will work for you. (The only person I have seen play a Rhodes electric piano and sing, standing up.)

The story behind this show is to take musicians and ask them to play in an office with very little technology. They just roll back a desk, throw a couple of microphones into the mix. Some artists cope wonderfully, others really struggle. Think about it for a moment. Imagine standing up at your workplace and belting out a couple of tunes. If you can’t find something on NPR Tiny Desk that speaks to you and lifts you out of the rut, you are not trying. The diversity is staggering. The depth and richness of the musical offering is unequalled.

If the visual is more your thing, you could try Omeletto a YouTube station that presents short films. There is some very disturbing stuff, it will jolt you out of your rut. I have deliberately stayed away from book here, I could list a hundred for you. But if you are a reader already, you are probably not in a rut.

A dinner guest gets me thinking

We have a guest coming for dinner tonight.  He is the nephew of a highly regarded friend of mine and we have not met him. Pretty much all I know about him is the family tie and that he is an opera singer. It is this last piece of information, scant though it is, which sent me down the path of pondering the things in the world that I just don’t get.

Quite clearly that could indeed be a long list, but before my coffee arrived at my table I had it down to three major items. I don’t get the hate that is part and parcel of every major non asian based religion. It seems to me that each of these religious groups for one reason or another breeds hate. I just don’t get it. On one hand they give lip service to love and acceptance while they perpetuate or even feed hatred of anyone who thinks differently or who worships differently. I don’t get that.

I don’t get opera. I am a music lover. I had a music radio show for more than a decade devoted to an array of music styles that embraced country, jazz, bluegrass, contemporary, choral, hiphop and singer songwriters. I grew up and have an appreciation for the clever ditties of Gilbert and Sullivan, that whacky English form of comic opera from the Victorian era that was clearly the precursor for the rock operas of the 1970’s. But I just don’t opera. Even the well-known, well-worn pieces like Puccini’s Nessun Dorma which instantly have me comparing this version with the last version I heard, which clearly was not the intention of the composer. I just don’t get opera.

I don’t get rollmops. Those vinegary vegetables wrapped in pickled herring, huddled together in glass jars. Even more gobsmackingly out of my world of understanding is the fact they are eaten at breakfast time in some baltic countries.

Thank goodness my coffee has arrived and I can put a halt to that nasty salivating thing my mouth does before throwing up. There you go, my world of things I don’t get.

My music my way

In my youth I played music in bands and I did a stint as a guitar playing singer-songwriter in pubs and cafes. I even did a short stint playing piano in bars. Back in those days I played music for two reasons. Firstly because I could, and that meant girls looked at me and the second reason was to entertain people and have girls look at me. Seeing a theme here?

I soon realised playing in bands, it didn’t help with my love life one little bit (the good-looking guitarist in the band got the girls) and always playing songs written by someone else and that everyone knew, really annoyed me. It seemed a little like an artist setting up an easel and copying a painting done by someone else. I got absolutely no satisfaction out of it unless I put my own slant on the song. Often when I did that though, listeners objected saying things like “thats not the way it goes”.

These days I play music for a completely different reason. I play where and when it suits me. In my backyard, by the riverside at dawn or to accompany the setting sun in the country. I play a style of music that deeply resonates with me. For the technically minded, I play a baritone Ukulele tuned to open A. Much in the style of the slack key guitarists of Hawaii, but in the baritone uke range. For the non technically minded, I play a gentle meditative rhythmic style of finger picking on a small stringed instrument. It is meant to provide a sonic backdrop to invite you to sit and think, to ponder, to give thanks. It is my church.

The melodies are simple and repetitive and songs often go for more than five minutes. This requires people to take time, to lower their intellectual kilobyte consumption rate which hopefully will help them to enter a state of gentle thought, of relaxation, something near to meditation.

I don’t play my music for anybody else though. I play for me. I’m happy to have people sit down and listen, happy to have people hang out and drift off to their quiet place, but equally I don’t mind if they don’t, and I most certainly don’t take requests.

Let me kiss you

Kissing is such an intimate gesture. I read an editorial comment the other day about the same-sex marriage debate that said something like “I’m happy for them to get married I just wish they wouldn’t kiss each other so much in public, its revolting” To some extent I agree with this, but perhaps not in the way you might think.

I don’t know how many heterosexual people have really given thought to their sexuality. I am being completely sincere about that, I genuinely have no idea. I am pretty clear about every gay person having given the matter real consideration, but I am unclear about how many straight people have given the matter their 100% attention. I mean to some extent, why would you? Your friends are straight, your parents are too, your teachers and neighbours are all straight, being gay is weird so why question any of it?

As I have discussed before, events in my youth and young adulthood caused me to pause and give real consideration to my sexuality. Girls were not attracted to me at all, at least not the ones I found attractive, and gay males thought I was fascinating. It was a weird place to be. Having given the subject lots of thought I came up with the following.

I don’t like men at all. I really like women. Which is why I have always had quite a few gay girl friends. Which immediately puts gay girls and I, on pretty much the same team. Men are whiskery and hairy and blokey. When I see two men kissing I can’t help thinking about all those prickly whiskers getting in the way of the moment. Clearly it doesn’t seem to bother them much.

I am not too crazy on girls kissing in public either though. I think it is because I think of a really passionate kiss as a really intimate expression. Unlike a lot of straight men, the whole lesbian sex thing does nothing for me at all. So, having said that men passionately kissing each other makes me think of whiskers and discomfort and girls kissing passionately just makes me think they should be doing that inside somewhere, my very favourite memory in my life was the day my now bride passionately kissed me in public.

That moment was so exciting, it was beyond any explanation I can offer, so now I have to recant my position on kissing in public don’t I.

I can’t hold that duplicitous stand. If it can’t wait, it cant wait. It’s as simple as that I guess.

Go away I’m on the phone

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I distinctly remember my mother saying this to me when I was young. I probably wanted to dob on my big sister for  some unspeakable evil she had committed or something, but my mother would cover the mouth piece and say “Go away, I’m on the phone”.

Of course those were the olden days when phones had cords and most homes had a chair in the hallway or somewhere allocated to sit and talk on the phone. Hasn’t that all changed!

Today though I had a similar experience as I rode my scooter to the post office. Meandering down the middle of the road was a woman on her phone, and she gestured to me to go around her. Now, if she had been crossing the road, I would have found that both unremarkable and easy to negotiate. However she was meandering, wandering down the road at an oblique angle, pushing a pram and attached to the pram was a little toddler, maybe three years old, completely oblivious to the danger her mother had placed her in.

A car would not have been able to pass at all.

Apparently though, because she was on the phone, she had right of way, or was more important or something. It steams me up as a rider when I see motorists on their phone, because I know for sure that next lane change will be without a signal, and in all likelihood just in front of me. But a woman with a child and a pram! Has the world gone absolutely and completely mad? Do people switch off their brain when the phone rings? I don’t know why it is happening but it is driving me nuts.

Honolulu has got it right. If you are crossing the road as a pedestrian, you cannot be on your phone. I have lost count of the number of idiots I have seen, chatting away on their phone, step out into traffic. As a scooter rider it is scary but in a car it is a fatality waiting to happen.

The usual whinges from the usual suspects about police being dragged away from real crime to monitor phone use at pedestrian crossings is no surprise. I believe it is a much better use of their time as opposed to time spent diverting traffic after someone has been hit, then visiting family etc.

So, let me the first to say it. You are not smart enough to be on your phone and walking. You are in someone’s way, perhaps putting yourself in danger and almost certainly being a bloody nuisance to the person walking behind you or trying to get past you. Get to your destination, then make a call, or if someone calls you, step aside, find somewhere out of the way and chat, or tell them you will call them back.