Thursday, October 18, 2012

Flourishing: Minimum Hacks

First of all, I made myself a banana-brownie-sundae-split for lunch yesterday.  Kids away at school, score for me!  Sorry to my husband, whose share of the brownies I ate because he's on this diet and I wanted to 'help' him avoid temptation...

But in deeper news, I've been thinking a little bit about what the 'minimum effective dose' of flourishing is, so to speak.  Because despite the happy-shiny surface of most of the blogosphere, we of course are all mortals who are not yet finished, complete beings; and on top of that, we tend to encounter unexpected crises.  I tend to be that person who tries to do too much, to do the maximum possible allowed, and so recently I've been pondering a bit about where the real essentials of my me-ness come from.

Now, this is different than just coasting, and it's different than my post on lowered expectations -- it's more along the lines of a medical analogy, where you have a drug or therapy that works but you want to see what's the least you can do to still get the same results.  What are the hacks?  What are the redundancies?  Truthfully, I feel very distrustful of shortcuts, so that's not what these are.  But in the sense that I often overshoot the mark and likely make some others feel bad in the process, I wanted to look underneath all the daily mechanics at the real pith of flourishing.

So, here are my four essential 'hacks', or tips, or MEDs (minimum effective doses):

1. Get up early
This one has its detractors, but in my own experience, in conventional wisdom, in the scriptures, and in S.’s life in particular as a guinea pig for changing from a night person to a morning one (most of the time), I'd like to declare that it is effective, and possible! It's often the hinge on which all the other good experiences turn.

2. Pray
Or in other words, connect your own soul with divinity. I think that prayer has life-changing potential, and requires no particular equipment, skills, location, etc. I'll accept meditation in this category too. (See post from January...) Reading sacred words is great, so is connecting with others in service and worship, and those can all get you limbered up and aware of God and willing to connect with him. But I think it all comes back down to personal prayer.

3. Prepare your own food
As often as possible, be the one who directly provides what goes into your own body.  Sure, it can be hard and time-consuming, but it's the best single guideline to good physical health that I can think of. Forget specific diets and workouts for the moment, ignore fancy ingredients and calories -- just don't get all your food (which becomes yourself, your very self) from a box or a restaurant. Find a way to put a few things together to more consistently nourish yourself with your own hands.

4. Give the benefit of the doubt
Always assume, as much as possible, that someone's heart or intent is better than what shows. If there is any doubt (and there always is), let your responses and judgments veer towards the nicest side you can find. And then in the end, just let it go anyway.

Tied all together, I think these things become the habit of flourishing, and give you the tools to engage meaningfully with the world around you.

"You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul."
~Anna Quindlen

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