Whatever

I remember, a decade or so ago, when the saying “whatever” became popular. I remember, actually, being quite offended by the saying “whatever”. To me, at that point in time, “whatever” expressed an apathy, a lack of caring, it expressed complacency and all that I stood against. “Whatever”, I feared, was the attitude of an entire generation, and I envisioned a whole segment of society that refused to participate in the political process, who wouldn’t vote or contribute to society in a meaningful manner.

As time passed, I found that my fears were, as usual, unfounded. One of the many reasons I’ve decided to just give up fear altogether. The “whatever” generation is actually quite astute and participatory, contribute wholly, and, in all truthfulness, are probably more serious and less apathetic than my own generation.

Of course, I think as I’ve aged chronologically, I’ve actually become younger in many respects. I find that I identify socially, politically, physically, emotionally, spiritually and attitudinally with the “whatever” generation more than my own. Most of the people I find I have the most in common with are about ten to fifteen years younger than me. This I cannot explain other than I am about ten or fifteen years behind my peers, career-wise, partially because I took a bit longer to graduate from college than most, and partially because I compromised my career for a number of years to work part time while my kids were in school (no regrets). But, most of my career peers are significantly younger than me. Between that, and my physical, mental and emotional activity level, energy and enthusiasm, I think I’ve found the fountain of youth and have digressed a bit age-wise.

For whatever reason, I totally identify with the “whatever” generation now. The person I was a decade ago is long gone and has been replaced with a much more spontaneous, wild, fun, active, outgoing, liberated and moderate, “whatever” kind of girl.

As a matter of fact, I’ve found, recently, in the past year or two, the phrase “whatever” has become a mainstay in my vocabulary. I would give my former self hives with the frequency of the use of the term “whatever”. “Whatever” has become my response to many, many, many things. Tonight, I was crossing a busy New York City street, at a crosswalk, with the appropriate green light. A town car came around the corner, right in front of me, causing me to have to stop and wait for him to cross my path so as not to be struck. Rather than becoming indignant or angry, I just shrugged and said “whatever”.  My daughter was with me; she is an English major and is intelligent in every imaginable respect, a delight to converse with. She and I discussed the use of the phrase “whatever”; did it still, in today’s common usage, represent apathy and complacency, or has it evolved, as a saying, into something else? Upon reflection we both agreed that the phrase has evolved to mean, “I agree to disagree”, that I don’t agree, but I am choosing my battles and choose not to pursue an argument on this particular point. I guess, in legal terms, it would mean to plead no contest. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to debate the point, I am willing to let it go.

In further reflection, I think I apply the phrase “whatever” to scenarios and situations beyond my control. I will admit, I am a bit of a control freak, I always have been, but I am recovering. In my effort to evolve into a more grounded, peaceful, happy person, I am learning that control must be relinquished in many areas in order to more effectively focus on others. My verbal acknowledgement of this fact is expressed as “whatever”. It is my white flag, waving in the face of my submission, my choice to not have to control over every aspect of my life and my surroundings. It is liberating to finally realize that I don’t have to be in control of everything, that I can’t possibly be in control of everything, that I can “go with the flow”. And, when the flow is going where I think it shouldn’t, I need to just let it go and adapt. So, whatever.

We just simply cannot possibly control everything in life we would like to. We can either drive ourselves crazy with frustration and unhappiness by trying, in vain, to do so, or we can learn to choose, to prioritize which things in life we can and should control, and which we should just let go of. We need to periodically reevaluate which things in life we choose to control, master and work towards, and which things can be left to follow a course not under our management. These become the “whatever’s” in our life. Once we identify and acknowledge those things we cannot or will not seek to control and let go, we have more energy and more impact on those things we can influence, on those things we choose to attempt to establish or maintain control over. It is one of the most liberating things we can do.

In m experience, and based on everything I’ve learned over the past several years, we can most effectively control a limited number of things; our personal attitude, our individual happiness, our individual health and fitness, and our suitability for a successful relationship. Everything else, and in particular, the attitude, happiness, health and fitness and suitability for a successful relationship of those around us, our significant others, our children, our friends, our parents, our acquaintances, are well beyond our control. To learn to say “whatever” and focus on ourselves is really, not just the best we can do, but the only thing we can do. Realizing this and then focusing on only those things we can influence, is really the most individually empowering action ever.

And so, I invite you, to just simply throw your hands up, smile a little, roll your eyes and exclaim “whatever!” The more attitude, the better.

Let Me Slip Into Something More Uncomfortable

Comfort, we think of this as a good thing, something we desire, something we seek. We look for comfort in clothes, shoes, beds, chairs, couches, cars, climate, friendships, relationships, our income and standard of living. I have a hard time thinking of a place we wouldn’t desire comfort. And, yet, comfort can be the enemy. I’ll explain.

There seems to be a fine line between comfortable and too comfortable, in life. When we are comfortable, everything is going well, or well enough. Often, once we’re comfortable, we slip into a state of “too comfortable”, which is stagnation, or even complacency. This is where we fall into a danger zone.

Complacency and stagnation imply a lack of concern, a staleness, an absence of movement. Yet, the world continues to move at a very rapid pace all around us. We may soon fall behind if we do not pay close attention. This can jeopardize our career, our fitness and health, and our relationships.

Career wise, think of the job skills and the technical skills that are necessary to be competitive now compared to ten years ago. Compared to twenty years ago. I know people who were “comfortable”, career wise, twenty years ago and became stagnant and complacent. As technology advanced, they clung to their comfortable ways, and in so doing, became less than competitive and unmarketable in their careers.

In our fitness and health realm, becoming comfortable can be very detrimental to our long-term health. While we are young and our metabolisms match our young, hearty and often unwise eating habits, all is well. As we become older and our metabolisms slow, we begin to accumulate extra pounds. Often, as our career and family interests and demands increase, our activity level decreases, yet our food intake does not, and the problem worsens. Soon, we are “too busy” with life to imagine how we’ll ever fit exercise and healthful food preparation into our schedules. We won’t, unless we make the effort. But, I have to ask this, if you don’t have time for fitness and healthful food preparation now, how in the world are you going to be able to manage illness or disease with your “too busy” schedule? That is often the consequence.

Comfort in relationships is also desirable, but once it becomes stagnation or complacency, the relationship is doomed to unhappiness or demise unless corrective measures are taken. Relationships, successful, enduring relationships, take as much effort and energy as an effective fitness program. Relationships involve two people, each of whom are growing and changing, learning and advancing, with time. It is important to always be focused on those changes and how they impact the relationship. It is important to allow the relationship to evolve along with the changes, the evolution of the parties involved. If a relationship is comfortable, stagnant, or complacent, and doesn’t evolve as the people do, it will suffer and become strained. A certain level of consciousness should be paid to your relationship, as much or more as you pay to your personal and career advances.

To grow, to change, to evolve, to advance, we need to get uncomfortable. Metaphorically speaking, and in reality, if we are sitting in our recliner every night, veg’ing out in from of the television, it is very hard to foster meaningful change. Heck, it’s hard just to stand up again. We will never accomplish anything greater by repeating the same, ordinary behavior over and over. To accomplish anything greater, we need to do something greater, and this is usually something that will be, at first, uncomfortable. One of my favorite home workout videos is Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown. She is quoted in one particularly tough section as “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

John Assaraf , author, lecturer and entrepreneur posted this on Facebook “I find that so many people nod their heads and say yes ‘I want this or that’ but when it comes down to really doing what it takes to do ‘this or that’ another part of their personality kicks in. It’s the ‘I’m too comfortable’ doing what I am doing right now part of their unconscious that kicks in and they allow their old comfortable self to rule and keep them away from the possibilities of a better future. To succeed beyond where you are, you must be willing to do what you aren’t comfortable doing for enough time so it becomes easy.”

I have shared some of my challenging experiences in the past, experiences where I had to get uncomfortable to progress in a direction that was necessary for me to go. In my current job, I teach groups of professionals how to use any of several accounting and auditing softwares. I must speak for eight hours at a time, standing, in front of an often unenthusiastic audience. I was never one for ANY kind of public speaking, I was once even shy speaking to professionals one on one. This job came to me at a time when my family was in great financial need. I took the job and overcame my limitation out of desperation in order to keep a roof over our head for a few more months. As you know, this job requires a great deal of air travel and when I took this job I was a very nervous flyer. I overcame that nervousness out of necessity. I have also told of my decision to begin running in an effort to overcome another self-imposed limitation I’ve harbored for many years. I became comfortable with running out a desire to challenge myself personally. We can change in any manner we seek by putting ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable, this fosters growth and evolution, builds self-confidence and self-esteem

I truly believe we can do anything, that we can overcome any self-imposed limitation we choose, but, to do so we must do that which makes us uncomfortable. We have to push ourselves to change and to evolve. An immovable object will not just begin moving without some force to dislodge it. We are often that immovable object. We are also the dislodging force if we desire it. Dislodge yourself from complacency and stagnation. Slip into something a little more uncomfortable.

I challenge you to slip into something a little more uncomfortable. Take a moment or two and figure out something, however minor, however major, you’d like to accomplish. Assign a timeframe to it. Let’s do this together! Tell me what you want to accomplish that makes you a little (or a lot) uncomfortable) and I’ll tell you what my new challenge is. Push-ups make me uncomfortable. I can do about one. I want to be able to do more. I remember a young lady in my son’s fifth grade class who could drop and do 100 push-ups. I want to be able to do THAT, but it’s very uncomfortable, for me! I know this is no major, life altering ability, but, to me, it is. I have always had inferior upper body strength, a limitation, perhaps even a self-imposed limitation. Just to prove that limitations, of any sort, can be overcome, I am going to work towards being able to do one hundred push-ups, non-stop, one year from now. We’ll round down to June 1st to make it easier to remember. By June 1, 2014, I will post a video of me doing 100 push-ups, non-stop. How uncomfortable! What’s your challenge?! Let’s all slip into something uncomfortable!