angelo-pantazis-woman swimming

Tyler’s days had become a marathon of meeting expectations, mile after metaphorical mile.

A 35-year-old financial advisor who’d recently left a large firm and hung up his own shingle, Tyler woke each morning to the expectation to find clients and serve them well. As the married father of two young daughters–one of whom had autism–there were the expectations to provide for his family and “give quality time” to each of the three people he loved more than anyone else in the world.

And beyond these expectations, there were the demands that Tyler placed upon himself. Stay healthy through a good diet and lots of exercise. Nurture a few friendships through regular coffees, lunches, or phone calls. Celebrate successes, and don’t be afraid to let yourself have a little fun.

More than anything, Tyler wanted to feel “balanced’ and “whole,” living a life of his choosing that still served others well, rather than constantly reacting and running based on what everyone else was expecting but neglecting his own needs.

It’s Up to You

“No one will give you ‘permission’ to live in the manner that’s optimal for you,” said Emily, a 28-year-old barista at the cafe in the office complex where Tyler leased a small office. Tyler nodded as Emily handed  him a cappuccino on a saucer. “It’s up to you to get clear about what ‘optimal’ looks like, start ‘practicing’ its related habits, and begin to develop new muscle memory until it’s truly become your life.”

“It seems like you’re doing that with your music, when you’re not here working,” Tyler said. “You’re going out and getting gigs, and not waiting for some talent scout to ‘discover’ you.”

“That’s right,” Emily said, smiling. “And I hope that you and your wife get a babysitter sometime soon and come see me play. You’ve been promising that for a while.”

“Message received, loud and clear,” Tyler said, and texted a reminder to himself to schedule that date night.

Stress, difficulties with work, health, finances, jobs, relationships–one or more of those dynamics will always be around to one degree or another. Tyler knew this. The perfect conditions will never arise, because there is no “perfection.” There is only the less exciting reality of iteration, or making quick adjustments based on what you’re learning. And getting a little better each day. Tyler knew all of this as well, but realized he wasn’t doing much about it without an extra “push” from someone like Emily.

“I start most early mornings with journaling, meditation, and a few minutes of yoga, followed by some song writing and a technology-free walk,” Emily said as she handed Tyler his receipt to sign. “All before work begins. These are the things I want to start each day with, because I enjoy them and recognize the cumulative joy, focus, and energy I derive from them.”

Emily added that it would be easy to sacrifice these small but important early morning behaviors at what she termed “the altar of urgency.”

“Because,” she said, “there’s always something ‘urgent’ to do. There’s always more you could produce, always problems you can devote all your waking hours toward solving.”

“It’s just a matter of the life you want, and the life you choose. And how closely those two align.”

Growing Your Strengths

I’m a Nashville-based writer, talent strategist, and certified executive coach. On this website, I primarily write stories featuring a diverse group of professionals whose examples of applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling will help you love your career and enhance your quality of life.

These characters face familiar pain points: nonstop change, accelerating economic and technological disruption, and the collective “noise” that grows louder each day. The impact, for these professionals and for many of us, has been confusion, distraction, and stress.

Until, however, each of these individuals chooses to do something new: practicing mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling habits, and growing them into strengths…strengths that respond to change rather than just react.

Strengths that you can develop as well.

Don’t settle for the confusion, distraction, and stress. You’re stronger than that, and capable of much more.

Choose to do something new. Today. Start with this post, check out my books, and join our learning community to receive exclusive content each month with timely guidance on applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling.

John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.
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