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Mountain Lake Contentment

Three days of solitude among the majestic mountains around Trout Lake, Colorado overwhelmed me with beauty -- quiet hiking trails complete with vistas that took my breath away leaving me silenced. The tranquility of the vast mountain lake captured my mind and all mindless chatter ceased. This is contentment. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish Scientist of the 1800s, tells us, “Contentment is the only real wealth.” Trout Lake contentment in the middle of real world chaos appears unattainable. All it takes is some powerful intention.

Choose Forgiveness

To cultivate contentment we need to be willing to forgive. I know this is not where you were expecting to start. Forgiveness is two-sided: letting go and moving forward. There is a releasing of the old and a creating anew. Grieve the hurt, the loss, the trauma. Let go of the blame. Honor the moment of loss. Acknowledge who you are becoming. Cut the ties to the past. Use our energy in new ways. Find compassion. Create new patterns. As we practice forgiveness, choosing to forgive ourselves becomes a priority. Nothing robs us of contentment more than choosing not to forgive. It’s a process that is well worth the effort.


Practice Gratitude

Often we find ourselves content until we compare ourselves to others. We see they have something we do not. They appear happier, healthier, more successful, more financially stable, more influential, more . . . Our minds begin to focus on what we don’t have compared to what (it appears) they do have. Immediately we are discontent. Cultivating a posture of gratitude restores contentment in the wake of comparison. Practicing gratitude re-focuses our mind on all the things in our world that are good.  

Use Goals, Don’t let Them Use You

Pushing ourselves to grow and develop requires us to set goals, expect more, and push beyond our current circumstances. This creates a tension between the idea of contentment and dreaming big. Letting our goals guide us but not hold us hostage is a key to contentment. Goals are simply targets. When I first tried archery in school, anytime I hit the target I celebrated (and so did everyone else). A bull’s eye was not necessary. Hitting the target was a significant accomplishment. Rather than using goals in a way that leave us discontent with ourselves and our world, using goals as a guide toward a great target will reduce the tension between dreaming big and choosing contentment.

Stepping into contentment requires intention on our part. It will take time and consistency, support and encouragement. As we choose forgiveness, practice gratitude and allow goals to simply guide us, we will see contentment begin to mushroom in our world. I still recommend Trout Lake and, at the same time, I know we can tap into the wealth of contentment without ever leaving town.

A Women Worth Knowing, Part 2

Rachel Carson, among the earliest female scientist, discovered she was designed to take scientific material and translate it into understandable writing that peaked the interest of the non-scientific mind.  Her early life is reviewed in A Women Worth Knowing, Part 1.  In 1937, Undersea, an article Carson wrote for Atlantic Monthly, drew lots of attention.  The editor wrote to her, “The findings of science you have illuminated in such a way as to fire the imagination of the layman.”

On the heels of this article, a publisher commissioned  Carson to write a book, Under the Sea -Wind.  It created quit a buzz. Scientific experts and literary critics loved it.  Weeks after publication, Japanese fighter planes bombed Pearl Harbor.  The nations’s attention turned to war.  All book sales slowed dramatically.  An excellent piece of science and literature lay unread — a true disappointment to Rachel.  A decade later in the summer of 1951, The Sea Around Us hit the bookstores.  The result: New York Times bestseller list for eighty-six weeks, thirty-two weeks at number one.  

After The Sea Around Us, a steady income from book royalties enabled Carson to resign from her job and start a new project.  Her responsibilities as chief caretaker and provider for her extended families never waned.  Only now, she navigates her own health issues.  Her new book released at the end of 1955, The Edge of the Sea, landed on the New York Times bestseller list for a season and brought her a couple of awards.  Despite the fame, Rachel’s household (consisted of her ailing mother, her niece, Marjorie, and Marjorie’s young son, Roger) took center stage.  Marjorie was hospitalized in January 1957 and died a few days later.  Rachel was now the guardian of a preschooler.  


The rumbling of controversies surrounding synthetic pesticides broke out across the nation and Rachel decided to focus her research in this direction.  By mid-1958, her mother and life-long encourager passed away.  Alone but propelled by the sense that her research on pesticide was to be her most important work, she concentrated on a connection between human exposure to pesticides and cancer incidences.  With the help of two assistants and a network of professionals, her research was gaining momentum. In Spring 1960, Carson wrestled with a number of serious medical conditions, chief among them — metastasizing cancer.  Radiation brought with it rheumatoid arthritis and temporary blindness.  She kept her health issues private, fearing her critics might question the objectivity of her work.

After extensive research, Carson knew that acute contact with DDT and other similar compounds caused potential fatal damage to major organs.  Her book Silent Spring, published in 1962, sounded the alarm.  Just before publication, Carson’s doctor uncovered that her cancer had spread.  The next round of radiation beat her up so much that she kept her public appearances to a minimum.  As her book and research broke, American’s were outraged to learn the dangers to which they’d been exposed.  Her work forced the government to do their own research.  Public outcry pushed for reform.  Carson was called to testify before Congressional committees.  April 14, 1963 she died at the age of 56 leaving the earth a better place.  

For the last decade of her life, Carson worked without the backing of an institution.  Even though she was reserved and soft-spoken, Carson intentionally spoke out on a huge controversial issue.  As she gave voice to her cause, she did more than identify critical problems and potential solutions, she pointed us to a path of awareness and action cautioning that we go with humility and wisdom.  

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
— Mother Teresa

The Pull of the Mundane

People feel stuck — want something more.  They even see a vague path to get there (wherever there is?) but something holds them tight to where they are.  

I recently changed my morning routine in order to grab three uninterrupted hours — moments to work on thought projects before the world awakes.  What a glorious idea!  Did I mention, I’m not a morning person? Day One of this new routine, I awoke at 5:00, did great work, went back to bed at 7:30.  I have never found morning warm and fuzzy.  The benefits that come from these hours of solitude are clear. I’ve already experienced great progress as a result of this change in my routine.  Unfortunately, my body begins to rebel loudly at about 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.  The rebellion is so intense that daily I consider going back to my former routine.  Why?  Why would I go back when I’m seeing good results?  Shockingly, it takes every ounce of strength to not go back.  


We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic. Our brain creates neural pathways from repetitive thoughts and behavior in order to make life easier.  Retraining our brain requires real work, work that is uncomfortable.  Psychologist tell us that our reaction to change starts with denial, moves to anger, crosses over to confusion, then dips into depression before it feels like a crisis.  After all that we then move into acceptance, followed by new confidence.  If there are that many stages before we arrive at acceptance, no wonder change only comes with intentionality.  I want the benefits of the change without disruption.  

While we are creatures of habit, we are also creatures of comfort.  It’s just plain uncomfortable to change something you’ve done for years.  Discomfort is typically a signal to retreat, go back, change course.  Like me, you may have to decide that you are willing to be uncomfortable to have the results that you want.  

What are you doing to get un-stuck?

Who's Responsible for This?

Super Tuesday is over.  Regardless of your party alignment or where your favorite candidate has landed, you are probably feeling a great deal of angst over the way this political season is shaking out.  We’ve never experienced anything quite like this before in American history.  

Many of us would like to suggest that all blaming, complaining, and name calling cease, because from where we sit, it is taking us no where. (I realize there is much more that should cease in the political race.  But, for now, let’s stick to that train of thought.)  Here’s what we are missing:  we blame, complain, name call regularly and that’s okay with us.  We even model it to our children.  Are you thinking right now, “I’ve never blamed anyone for any circumstance in my life.  I’ve never complained about anything.  My children have never heard me blame them or their teacher or their coach . . .”  Are you starting to see the picture?  The truth is if we want this kind of behavior to stop, then the buck stops here.  If we want integrity and good character to be front and center on our national stage than it needs to be front and center in our homes, our businesses, our civic clubs and our communities.  

You are 100% responsible for your life. 

Start acting like it today.  Give up all your excuses, all your victim stories, all the reasons why you can’t and why you haven’t and all your blaming of circumstances.  The myth is that the circumstance is equal to the outcome.  Here’s the problem, that equation is missing one piece, your reaction.  The equation is actually: the circumstance or event plus your reaction to it equals the outcome.  (E+R=O:  Event + Response = Outcome)    In my twenties, I responded repeatedly over the course of a decade to a difficult relationship with bitterness, negativity and anger.  With the help of a gifted mentor, I moved from poor responses to good responses.  The bad relationship didn’t change but the outcome changed completely — meaning I was no longer bitter because I began to respond differently.  If you want the outcome in your life to change, it is your response that must change.  You are not trapped by your circumstances but you can be trapped by your response to them.  From this point forward, choose to act as if you are 100% responsible for the outcomes in your life.  

If you don’t like the outcome you are getting, you can blame the event for your lack of results — the weather, the economy, the administration, the bosses’ attitude, lack of money.   Certainly these do exist, but if these were the deciding factors, how does anyone accomplish anything? Many people overcome these factors.  It is not the circumstance that is to blame.  You see we ignore truth, fail to learn new skills, waste time on the trivial, engage in gossip, eat unhealthy food, spend money we do not have, and then wonder why things aren’t working for us.

In the 1800s there was a man who experienced a business failure, the loss of his fiancé, a nervous breakdown, and was defeated a dozen times when he ran for public office.  Wouldn’t you say that the deck was stacked against him?  Eventually he was elected president and set in motion the freedom of American slaves.  Lincoln demonstrates that

it’s our response to the circumstances that changes the outcome.

In the wave following Super Tuesday, the best decision each of us can make is to change our responses to the way things are in our lives.  Change your thinking, your communication, your behavior.  We all have times when we get stuck in automatic or routine responses.  Like a reflex, we allow our minds to paint pictures of doom and gloom, or we respond to our children with disregard, or we react to our boss with disrespect.  Everything we think, say and do need to become intentional.  There is no time like the present!

What can you start responding differently to today?