Protect Your Flame
A friend gently told me, “if you have trouble making yourself happy, make someone else happy.” The ability to be a beacon of light for someone else and believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves, is a purpose in and of itself. Help them become the person they dream about becoming. Mid-life used to be a crisis, now it’s a marathon.
I wrote this article not for me, but for we. As Bill Russell said,
“The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I'd made my teammates play.”
I was sitting in a coffee shop and next to me sat two younger women, in their early 20’s. Even though I was wearing my headphones, I could still hear their conversation during the brief silence between songs.
Beginning to feel the emptiness of their conversation, I kept wearing my headphones but turned off my music. I decided to listen, not judge, but listen. When you come to the realization that people are just trying to do the best they can with what they got, empathy arises. When you cease to do better, you cease to do good.
The resulting emptiness of the conversation was due to their underlying conversation theme of not having hope. Surviving, but not thriving. The overarching phrase of “what’s the point?”.
Why this coffee shop example relates to mental health is because the opposite of happiness is not sadness, it’s the absence of hope.
There are three things that cannot hide – the sun, the moon, and the truth. A truth is to not let your flame burn out. In the words of Joseph Campbell,
“As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will [discard their waste] on you.”
It’s okay to lose the day, the week, the month, the year, but not the lifetime or your purpose. Slip, but don’t fall. The meaningful life is more difficult than the fun life.
Mental health is the body’s operating system, iOS Infinity. Computers are binary, 01, but mental health exists along a continuum, and it is different from mental illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. One individual can have optimal mental health with a mental illness, and another individual can have poor mental health without a mental illness.
Before four tactics for how you can protect your flame are shared in this article, give yourself permission to thrive. Let yourself shine. I know this may sound silly, but for myself I need to constantly remind myself that as I walk around it is okay if others are staring. A smiling face and the presence of self-care is hard to miss, and better yet, a beacon of light is hard to miss. Self-care is an act of celebration you exist.
In a timeless poem, Marianne Williamson writes,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, it is that we are powerful beyond our control.”
It’s okay to get rich in intangible assets (such as health, connections, knowledge, adventure, and self-awareness). Once rich, recycle the assets in a way that is useful to others, then getting rich is useful x2. This is a positive feedback loop. Put your oxygen mask on first to go from linear to exponential.
The laws of success don’t work unless you do. Give yourself permission.
The following four tactics are for how you can protect your flame. Each morning, commit to:
Ownership – extreme ownership is liberating. What this means is stepping up to mistakes, the acceptance of going 51% while they go 49%, and saying ‘hello’ first.
Joy – realize that a desk is a dangerous place to see the world. Adventure doesn’t have to be costly, but rather, how you acknowledge the gratefulness of a walk in nature.
Connection – sometimes it takes a village, and kindness is your gateway to this. Remember, everyone sees everything differently.
Surprise - The worst scenario isn’t the unexpected, it’s the unexpected and losing yourself at the same time. Know what is within versus out of your control. As Ryan Holiday says,
“The most harmful dragon we chase is the one that makes us think we can change the things that are simply not ours to change.”
It is by committing to these four tactics that you can protect your flame and thus hope. Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. Hope is the foundational ingredient to do so. It’s not what you get, it’s who you become – that is what is within our control.
Focus on your character, and include helping others as one of your traits. The 20 year-old needs you. Commit.
Author: Nathan Kolar