Pursue What Matters
Episode 244: Are you Awake to Life?
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you awake in your own life? Do you have things that excite you that scare you that bring you perspective, it’s time to wake up to all that life has for you?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:11
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So it is a new year is a good time to wake up. And maybe you feel like you’ve been hibernating? The Holidays certainly can do that. But I have a question for you today. Are you awake and ready to answer life’s call? So here’s what’s true. Life has something for you. Life has challenges, opportunities for growth and trials that will bring you to your knees, you certainly don’t need me to tell you that. But are you awake and ready to answer life’s call. So today, I have three things that I want to share with you that hopefully can help you to be awake. One, you must abandon numbing. In order to wake up to life, too many of us are sleep walking through our lives. Second, embracing perspective helps you learn life’s lessons. And third, you must be aware and mindful if you are to answer life’s call. So let’s jump right in with the first point which is you must abandon numbing in order to awake to life. So Brene Brown, great researcher, great author talks about two factors that help us overcome numbing. And I’ve done a podcast not too long ago on numbing, it was distress. And, you know, and detachment, right, which is all about numbing. And the two factors that she talks about our resilience and spirituality. Now that might surprise you. But let’s, let’s learn why. So when it comes to resilience, resilient people are problem solvers, they will keep working on a problem until it is solved, you have to be awake in order to solve a problem. So that willingness to stick to something. So these folks are willing to seek help, and recognize that they don’t have to figure out a problem all by themselves. This is one of the reasons we get stuck is because we believe we have to do it on our own. And so then we just resort to numbing behaviors when we get stuck. The other thing about resilient people is that they believe that there are things they can do to help themselves cope with difficult emotions. And they utilize social support. And they work proactively to build connections with others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:55
So these folks are actively building bridges to help themselves, whether that is problem solving, social support, and connection. And so these are important ways that we are awake in life. And then the second factor that brown talks about to help us overcome numbing is spirituality. So spirituality, which we don’t want to mistake for religion, they, you know, there can be overlap, but they’re separate terms. Spirituality is the belief in an interconnectedness greater than ourselves, that is based in love and compassion. And so spirituality has many faces, but ultimately, it allows us to cultivate hope. And it brings perspective and meaning to our lives. So it helps us to face the challenges of our lives. When we don’t feel like we can face the challenges of our life. What are our options to run or to stick our head in the sand, which is essentially what numbing behavior is. And so spirituality helps us to have confidence in our ability to do hard things, to cope well, and to overcome life’s challenges while growing. So in a very real way, resilience and spirituality help us to wake up so that we can answer life’s calls. And that’s primarily by helping us to abandon numbing as a way of life. And now let’s move to our second point. This is all about waking up and answering life’s call. And then this is that embracing perspective helps you learn life’s lessons.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:33
So you learn from the lessons of history, we have eons of human experience to learn from. And here’s what’s true about that. You are not smarter than others. I’m not smarter than others, you are not more enlightened than your forebears. So for each of us, we need to be humble and we need to be willing to learn from those who came before us. Right? Like if if we were to believe that the only form of learn Name that had any value is research or book learning, we are closing ourselves off to a world of learning because if you just think about it, those are have only been around a small period of time. But humans have been here for quite a while and there are so many lessons to learn. So understanding how others have answered life’s call can bring important and meaningful perspective for your own life. It helps you to understand that life is full of challenges, and that the heart is not meant to be engineered out of life, this understanding can be very helpful. I know for myself, when I look at the experiences of my forebears, I am so humbled, and I can see their lives have a lot of challenge. And I also can see the resilience I can see their happiness and their joy. But I think being a student of these, of these teachings, whether that was from family stories, or journals, my family, there were big writers. And so we have a lot of family journals, which I’m really grateful for.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:07
But reading those journals, has brought clarity and understanding that life is hard. And we we grow by virtue of how we respond to our challenges. And that it helps us to recognize that challenges help develop character and values, and that you need to have a moral foundation to get through these things. And it’s not a given that challenges will help you develop character values, it’s a choice, right, that we have to make. But, you know, for many of us, we are missing something when it comes to perspective, we don’t really know what it’s like to struggle as those of earlier generations did. Now, I recognize I need to be really careful when having this discussion, because I’m not saying that we should make life artificially more challenging. I mean, there are some people out there that do say that. But that’s not that’s not my message here. And I also want to be clear that I’m so very grateful for the gifts of my life. But when I consider the experiences of my forebears, like I mentioned or even my grandfather, to think of one among many in my family line didn’t when I think about things that he had to contend with, I recognize that I have absolutely no clue what it means to really struggle. And I think about my grandfather right to fear for your life to be in a foxhole. While hell is raining down on you. My grandfather was a young GI and World War Two and he learned to tolerate distress and panic and terror of death because he had no other choice. He had many very harrowing experiences. But one really stands out to me. And it was a day that he spent stuck in a foxhole, literally a foxhole for three hours on a beach, in Anzio as a young soldier during World War Two. While all hell was raining down on him, we all have foxholes that threaten to break us apart. And after climbing out of his own literal foxhole, my grandpa told me he had a few days of feeling quite jittery. That’s how he put it. But that his pals his brothers and arms, took him under their care. They loved him. And they ribbed him, they certainly teased him about his nervousness, he was agitated, he had a classic acute stress response. But they also watched out for him as his nerves calmed. They stuck with them, and they stayed near him. And that helped him to calm down and to know that he was safe. And safe. Safety was relative in that time, but that he was not alone, and that he would not be left alone.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:59
And this is what answering life’s calls looks like. This is what connection looks like. It’s not cool bravado. But it’s a recognition of the reality that you face, the work that you have before you and what’s required to lead. When I think about that experience with my grandfather, his buddies were leaders. They didn’t give up on my grandpa, and they didn’t give up on their mission. They had a job to do. And it did not matter. It did not matter that their beach had just been blown to hell. As soon as the fire ceased, they got back to work, they got back to rebuilding their position. And these are the moments that we get to choose how we will be shaped by our challenges.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:49
To continue with my grandfather, he before he ever got to Europe and World War Two, he had known something of sorrow and fear He had to bury his younger brother at a very, very young age and 10 months later, his father died. As his family struggled to cope during the Great Depression. In this moment with his father stuff his entire world was pulled out from under him. He lost his father, he had just lost his brother, he almost lost his sister. They lost their family home, and they had to start over with him as a very young boy, having to become the man of the house.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:34
I recognize that these are extreme examples of what it means to answer life’s call. So why do I share them? The reason I share them is because they learn perspective. And they can help each of us face our own challenges. Think about your own family. Think about the stories of people that inspire you, whether you know them or not. History has so much to teach us if we can be humble and open. And when we can recall the challenges of those who have gone before us. We can be strengthened in our own foxholes. We can be inspired and we can become an inspiration for others. You might not think that you are an inspiration for others, but you are your foxhole moments can inspire others growth. And it can be a really powerful experience. So now let’s move to the third point, which is you must be aware and mindful if you are to answer life’s call. And so what does that require, we need self awareness and we need mindfulness.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:42
Self awareness is key to understanding your own experience, and to then develop the skills to meet your needs, whether it be through specific coping skills, distress, tolerance skills, mindfulness skills, or a shift in perspective, in terms of how you approach life. Now, all of these skills I’ve talked a lot about on the podcast, and I’m going to be talking about them a lot more. So if you feel like oh, that’s fuzzy, I don’t know what that means. Stay tuned, I’m going to talk a lot about those things in the coming year. And also check out the recent series I did on curiosity for more information about self awareness. So that’s a little bit about self awareness. And then we also must be mindful. And so mindfulness is in in true fashion. The antidote to numbing. It is the mechanism for showing up and being present to your life. Mindfulness requires us to be absolutely alive and present without jumping to the past or the future, we need to be in the present moment, it is literally the only moment we have. Mindfulness requires us to call BS on our ego, right, we all have egos. And the ego is always trying to make a problem out of our present situation. Mindfulness is also the route to first developing awareness of your emotional state. And second, cultivating compassion for yourself. And three, learning to tolerate your emotions without numbing. So you see a theme here, right? In order to be awake, we have got to make a commitment not to numb.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:16
So mindfulness asks, what is happening now? How can I be a friend to the present moment? What is right action in this moment. And so again, mindfulness is not concerned with the past. Mindfulness is not worried about the future. Mindfulness recognizes that the only moment of power the only moment is this moment, and that our willingness to tolerate our emotions will provide us the skills we need to take right action, and take good care of ourselves for each moment that comes. So mindfulness is ultimately a call to responsibility. It calls us to awaken to our lives, and all that life demands of us and life absolutely makes demands of us. It says, Stop sleepwalking, stop numbing. Life is at your door, and it’s asking for your attention. So be here so that you can answer life’s call and live well. I really want you to think about that, as you think about the new year. We can’t hear life’s call over the television, we can’t see life’s call through our dense to do lists. We can’t feel life’s call through the fog of self medication. We can only hear Phil see and realize life’s call in quiet moments of stillness, when we are present to ourselves. To be present to ourselves is to be present to life. And so as we answer life’s call to wake up to all that is available to us, we recognize that yes, sometimes we are terrified. Sometimes we are ecstatic. But mostly we are very much skin tingling, awake, aware and alive.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:57
So I hope that that can can provide some reflection for you, as you consider the year ahead. So head on over to my website to check out the show notes for the resources on this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/244-awaketolife. Of course join me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith where I always have more resources. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai