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Honor Your Life
by Gary Null, Ph.D., with Vicki Riba Koestler

Do you honor your life? Many of us never even think in those terms. We may work day to day at jobs we abhor just to make enough money to survive. We focus on our problems, which, at times, appear to overwhelm usóill health, relationship issues, dissatisfaction at workóand lose sight of our higher purpose.

Itís important to take a periodic break from our daily routine to assess where we are and where we want to be in our life process. The following questions have been designed with that purpose in mind. They will give you the opportunity to step back from your situation so that you can become objective and anxiety-free. That will enable you to think about where you are in your journey and what your next steps should be.

Does fear motivate your decisions?

I grew up in a small town in West Virginia where the mindset was to put in your 30 years with the fire department, or the school system, or wherever your secure job was, and then retire. At 17, people were already talking about retirement. The assumption was that without a totally dependable job you would be insecure. In fact, most folks seemed to believe that only when you retired would you be fully secure!

This is a philosophy of life based on fear. If your choices are based on fear, where is the joy and spontaneity of life? Where is there room for appropriate risk-taking? How is it possible to wake up each day feeling that this is a wonderful life?

With fear as a big factor, life becomes controlled and predictable. If you canít control something, you donít do it. Think of the things in life that you have not experienced because you could not control the outcome. Think of a place you havenít visited that you would love to see. How that could expand your world! Think of the people you havenít spoken to because you were afraid of criticism. That fear may be due to a time in the past when someone expected perfection from you. Now, to feel a greater sense of security, you do only what you know you wonít fail at. And you try to please everyone so that no one can say youíre not a nice person. At the end of the day, when you have not done anything of importance to youóyou have not made time for meditation, for hobbies, or for quality reading thatís just for you, nor have you allowed yourself time for a leisurely dinner or an evening strollóyou have lived a day that does not honor your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental needs.

Every choice, then, is of paramount importance. Choose wisely to create a life that honors your essence. Focus on what you want to achieve. Begin by understanding who you are. Each person has his or her own unique energy. Some are creative, some are leaders, others work well behind the scenes to support a cause. Get in touch with who you are. Honor that.

When you set a goal for yourself ask yourself whether this is something you want to achieve or whether it is simply expected of you. Notice the difference. I do what I feel I need to doóshare, communicate, challenge. Iíve spent my life trying to honor my gift. Everyone has a gift. What is yours? Donít let fear stop you from using it in a positive way that honors who you are.

Are you enjoying life?

One way to determine whether or not you honor your life is to judge how you feel. Are you happy in your relationships? At work? By yourself? Lots of people spend eight or more hours working at jobs that bore them. Theyíre just putting in time. Nor are they happy in their relationships. They stay with a partner to keep from feeling alone rather than for the joy of experiencing life together.

As a result of their disenchantment, people either exhibit anger or they repress it, often channeling it into unhealthy habits like drugs, alcohol, gambling, overwork, or gossip. Others develop an unpleasant attitude. Theyíre sharp and sarcastic, quick to retort. Or they walk around trying to dominate their environment.

Consider the quality of your life. If your work honors you, you will look forward to waking up each morning to begin it, and each dayís energy will be well spent. When you are happy in your relationships, your heart will be warmer, your mind fuller, and your spirit more complete.

Have you deconstructed your friendships lately?

What constitutes friendship? The answer to that question is different for each individual, but itís important to ask it, and to be honest with yourself. Is a friend someone youíre going to actually see and do things with, or is it someone you will speak to occasionally on the phone? When you were growing up a friend was someone you spent time with, and generally a lot of time. Do you have that same dynamic with your friends now? Should you? You need to determine what you are looking for in a friendship and then take the time to ask yourself, "Who are my friends? What do they mean in my life? Do they meet my needs for friendship? And what am I to them? What are they getting from me?" Deconstruct your friendshipsói.e., determine what you needóand then reconstruct your friendships so that you can get what you want from them.

As a result, your life is going to change. For instance, you used to consider your bowling partner, Charlie, your friend, but now you realize that he was always putting people down. By deconstructing the relationship, you realize that he is not what you want in a friend anymore because you donít want to hear someone putting other people down. So you tear your friendship apart, analyze it, and then reel it back up. When you build back up thereís a whole lot less of what was there. Youíre not going to listen to racist statements any more, youíve decided. Youíre also excluding sexist statements. Youíre excluding gossipy statements, and so youíre going to have to go to Charlie and say, "Iíd still like you to be my friend, but I have changed. Iím not the same person that I was before. Hereís what Iíd like you to consider changing if you want to be my friend." Charlie will say either, "Iím not going to change for you," or, "You know something? No one ever told me that. Iím glad that you had the honesty to tell me something about myself that allowed me to see my blind spots. Thank you for caring enough to be that honest."

Youíve presented choices, and you donít know whatís going to happen. But if you now know what you need to have a whole and balanced friendship, then you have a responsibility to focus upon what you want, to put your energy into it and say, "This is what I need." Of course Charlie may use this opportunity to deconstruct the friendship as well. So he might come back and tell you things about you that have started to bother him. "Youíre sometimes arrogant," he may say. Or, "Every time we get together, youíre late. I feel like you think your time is more valuable than mine." If you can discuss all these issues with Charlie in an open way, youíll probably end up with a more meaningful friendship than if the two of you had just left everything status quo.

Are you process-oriented, or results-oriented?

Weíre a highly competitive society that likes only winners. So we have NBA champs, Super Bowl champs, and boxing champs. We even compete in our personal relationships. In fact, almost everything we do is a form of competition, and most of it is very unhealthy. All this competition is not meant to improve us. Itís not meant to help promote inner development. Itís just the way weíve been conditioned to act. We pride ourselves on beating people, and categorize others as being either winners or losers. The losers are sad and dejected, while the winners are wonderful. But this is all just a game. People shouldnít take it that seriously. As with baseball, in life youíll win one season and lose the next. Itís not all that significant. We just make it seem so.

Most of us deny the importance of process. In this fast-paced world, the end is all-important, as opposed to the means of getting there. Think of all the money made at the expense of other peopleís suffering. Look at junk bonds, at pesticides, at silicon breast implants, at the land mines that cause an injury every 10 seconds. We donít stop to think of the consequences of what we create; rather, we fast-forward in our minds to the results.

What if instead of being motivated just by what we have to gain, we were focused on the process of getting there? We would be less concerned about achievement and more centered on growing, learning, and being aware of each moment. The process of living would become as importantóand in some instances more importantóthan the goals achieved. That would improve the quality of our lives. We would be able, for example, to take a day off from work to spend time with our children, stead of working all hours, nonstop.

Ask yourself how much of your unhappiness is the result of being too focused on goals and results. Shift your focus to the process of life. Thatís where your energy should be. Then, no matter what you achieve, you will be able to accept it. Look at a marathon. No one in the crowd remembers anyoneís names other than those of the first one or two to cross the finish line. Yet everybody who finished the marathon, all 29,994 people, did it for the enjoyment of the process. They didnít have to win for the race to be worthwhile.

Similarly, losing weight is a process of learning to change habits and, therefore, feel better about yourself. So it doesnít make sense to beat yourself up for not losing the magical number of pounds you think you ought to lose. If youíre focused on the end result only, youíre going to try any drastic means to get thereódiet pills, fad diets, liposuction, stomach staplingóand never learn a thing. In fact, the all-too-common yo-yo phenomenon will result in your gaining everything back that youíve lost, plus more. So itís better to focus on the process of becoming healthy. Of course youíll have a goal and youíll want results, but that should not be your main concern. Rather, your focus should be on the process of feeling better each day. That way, every moment counts.

Do you take credit for your successes?

Iím a big believer in giving yourself credit for every single thing that you do. That means that 10, 20, or 30 times a day, take one second to stop and say, "Iím doing the right thing." And say, "Iím happy with myself."

When you become your own support system you donít rely on the approval of others. Thatís because you build inner confidence. A friend could make a negative remark, for example. Without the habit of self-encouragement you might feel bad about yourself or angry at the other person. But when you have given yourself approval all along, you donít take the negative comment to heart.

Are you realistic about goals?

There are a lot of options to choose from in the world; itís up to you to make the choices that are right for you. I recommend setting a daily goal to make better choices. Then set a weekly goal, and then one for the year. As weíve stressed, youíve got to keep your goals realistic; if you overreach youíll soon be self-sabotaging and ditching the whole effort. Also, remember that the journey is as important as the end point. That said, here are some hints for making your goals happen.

  • Prepare an outline of what you want to change and achieve. To make a goal realistic, youíve got to see it in black and white. I create boards and write down the projects I plan to complete. The boards keep me focused. That way I am more likely to achieve what I set out to do. Keeping focused will help you when resistance sets in. Whenever you go in a new direction, there is a part of you that says you shouldnít change. You may hear, "You canít change that. Thatís not right." Remember, you are making changes for you.
  • Do your homework. Itís one thing to know that you want to be out of a bad situation. Itís another to know how to go about doing it. Unless youíre prepared, you may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Donít be compulsive; prepare for change. Thatís an important part of mastering life. You wouldnít walk on stage to perform a piano concerto without years of preparation. Mastery takes time.

Someone recently complained to me, saying, "Gary, I donít want to live in Brooklyn anymore. My family lived there, my familyís family lived there, and everybody expects me to live there too. But I want to live in a place thatís not congested, not crime-ridden, not filled with prejudice. I want to get more out of life." This person was ready to just pick up and leave. I suggested doing some homework first: "Why donít you travel to different places on weekends? Stay within a reasonable traveling distance. Then take a four-day weekend each month and go someplace farther." The person did this, traveling throughout the United States, and finally settling in the beautiful town of Boulder, Colorado. That city supports this personís lifestyle with its health-minded orientation.

Another example is a schoolteacher I know from the Bronx who retired at 46. This man had always been enamored of the arts and languages. I suggested visiting Barcelona, Spain, and visiting Italy as well. I thought he should see what life was like in the Mediterranean. Now he lives in a beautiful home in Spain, and couldnít be happier. With his pension he is able to afford a villa, a cook, two gardeners, and a driver. Heís only 20 minutes from the capital, yet he has 31 acres of land, which includes an olive grove. He makes his own olive oil. He sent me a video telling me of everything going on and he said itís just heaven. He is able to grow his own flowers and make his own flower arrangements, which brings him great joy. When youíre from the Bronx you generally donít go out and hand-pick flower arrangements!

By the way, with these two examples I donít mean to put down New Yorkís outer boroughs. There are plenty of great, livable neighborhoods in them; the point here is that these two people were looking for a drastic change from what they had, and in order to successfully follow through on that they had to do their homework.

Do yours if youíre contemplating a similar change. Donít be impulsive. Donít just quit and take off. Prepare for a transition. Prepare yourself mentally, and then prepare the resources you will need to make that transition.

  • Prepare yourself mentally for the challenge. I was recently counseling a terminally ill person who was told that he was going to die because of liver cancer that had metastasized. His cancer is very advanced and he is taking pain medication for it. He asked me for a protocol to follow. I told him that the very first thing he should do is prepare himself mentally for the challenge so that every thought is on doing something positive. I advised him to not make the fear of the disease all-important in his life. Being overwhelmed takes up all of oneís energy. He needed to take back the energy to regain control of his life.

I could see that there was a sense of optimism and joy on his face after our talk. He had come to me with a slumped posture, but he left with a surge of energy. Thatís important. Each day we have to feel that our challenges are going to be supported by our passions.

  • Remember that passion is what drives you. Itís what keeps you going day in and day out. Look at Ralph Nader, Michael Jacobson, Sydney Wolf, or other people who have lived their lives in a committed way. Many thousands of people have daydreamed about being one of Naderís Raiders and making a difference, but they didnít have the passion to follow through for any length of time. They worked at a cause for a week and then stopped. Iíve had so many individuals come to my office to help me with projects or issues. Often they begin with great interest and enthusiasm, but a day or two later I wonít see them again. They have no passion.

Unfortunately, much of our life these days is filled up with junk, and we tolerate it. That weighs us down and buries our real passion. So you have to choose. Either put your energy into what is essential to you, or waste your time on nonessentials. When the nonessential has replaced the essential in your life, itís as if youíre at a meal but youíre perpetually eating the after-dinner mint and skipping the main course. All you get is a little taste in the mouth for two or three seconds.

How many doctors are living nonessential lives because they no longer believe they can cure anyone? How many teachers are living nonessential lives because they can no longer teach anyone? Many people are going through the motions every day to earn a salary, but they arenít making a difference. You look in their eyes, and you see coal dust where once there was a crystallized diamond. The spark is gone. We get burned out from leading nonessential lives. And then we think thatís all there is.

  • Begin with small changes. I donít believe in the big-change concept, at least not for most people. Many people think they are going to change suddenly, but that approach generally doesnít work. To realize this you have only to look at the 100 million overweight Americans who diet every day; yes, they do lose weight, but only to gain it back.

Now picture yourself losing weight on a small-lifestyle-change plan, rather than on a strict, artificial diet. Youíre not gaining it back, because you arenít dieting. Youíve uncluttered your life and you are not focused upon what is nonessential; your health is your number-one priority. Before, eating was important to you for all the wrong reasons. You ate for comfort, to feel good when life was stressful. Now, when you eat, you eat for the right reasons. Youíve made dietary changes involving juicing, taking nutritional supplements, and cleansing. Youíre certainly not starving yourself. What a difference there is in that approach! You are working on yourself, making all the small changes necessary for a healthy life, rather than expecting miracles. And itís working.

  • Accept that you cannot control all results. A major frustration most people have is their inability to control outcomes. What we can control is our ability to do the things we know how to do well. We therefore keep doing the same things over and over and over again. But that makes for a boring, tedious life. The idea is to do new things, even though you wonít succeed at first. Thatís how you learn. And attempting the new can create wonderful experiences for you.

Now Iím not saying that youíre going to like every new experience. What I am saying, though, is that you should not prejudge any experience based on your fear of not being able to control it. Do things simply for the joy of doing them. Youíll find that you enjoy certain new experiences, which you can then spend more time on. Otherwise life becomes boring. The average person follows the same routine constantly during his or her whole life. Most people could live the rest of their lives by pressing a button that says "repeat." I find that appalling, donít you?

  • Look at your gains even when the results are not what you wanted. Thereís a gain in everything. Accept that and realize that you can feel good about what you are doing even when you are not getting what you want from it. You can still feel good for having done it. To give an example, I was leading a national championship race recently and feeling really good. Then I developed cramps, and I couldnít work them out. I had the choice to either stop, as other athletes frequently do in such a situation, or just continue and enjoy the race. I chose the latter course. Even though I didnít achieve a personal best, I experienced joy in the process of racing. There was something to be gainedófinishing something that I had started and savoring the activity of it. Thatís how we have to look at life. We are not going to win at everything we do. But we can always benefit from the experience.
  • Be flexible. As I write this I am in the process of looking to purchase or rent an office space to create a holistic medical center because I counsel so many people who need quality medical care. I canít give them medical treatment; they have to search for doctors on their own. Often the doctors they find do not follow my suggestions. Sometimes their egos get in the way of true service, and they charge outrageous prices. So Iím trying to set up a center where truly holistic, humane practitioners can work.

Anyway, every time I find an office I begin to reformulate what I will do in that office depending upon various factors. For example, one space is 4000 square feet, while another one spans 6000. One is uptown while another is downtown. I am constantly reformulating ideas. Iíll probably see dozens of spaces before I find the right one. But if I donít keep myself flexible, I may pass one by that truly meets my needs. That will leave me feeling forever frustrated as I continually look for the "perfect" space.

Think long-term. Be patient in your journey. Thereís no stopwatch that you have to abide by. Give yourself time, hold to your higher ideals, and be flexible. Before choosing my ranch in Texas, I looked at hundreds of ranches throughout the United States. Brokers were constantly sending me videos. The process, from start to finish, took four years. Finally, I found land that I turned into a beautiful place. The same process was true for my ranch in Florida. I looked at numerous places; many of them looked good. But I wouldnít have been able to do as much with them as I was able to do with the one I finally chose. It took patience.

So be patient, be flexible, and reformulate your ideas. If one of your ideas doesnít work, rework it, modify it, mold it until itís usable. Sometimes weíre too rigid, and that works against us.

  • Stop focusing on your limitations. See your positive attributes. Donít accept your imperfections as limitations. All of us are imperfect. Look closely at anybody, and you will see his or her imperfections. We try our best to hide our imperfections. We use cosmetics. We use haircuts. We use clothes. We use language. We use everything we can. We use our mastery of something to hide the imperfections of what we have not mastered, but all of us are living embodiments of imperfection.

Thatís okay. There is no perfection in life. Thereís only process, and weíve all begun a process. If I donít blame myself or beat myself up for what Iím not, then I can accept what I am. And if I can accept what I am, then I can grow. If Iím always angry about what Iíve never achieved, then I will deny the virtue of what I am at this moment. And if I deny my basic virtue, then how in the world can I be complete or self-loving?

  • Never fear being introspective. If youíre introspective youíre going inside to resolve your conflict instead of outside. The only thing you can fear from that is meeting the real self and being angry that you didnít embrace that self long ago. Thatís where forgiveness comes in. Stop comparing yourself with others. People in this society tend to say, "At this age I should be this, and I should have that." You canít. You are who you are, and youíre at where youíre at, and thatís where youíve got to start the process. Donít look at someone else and say, "They must be happier, or better, smarter, or wiser." You donít know what anyone else says to himself with his own inner voice.

Iíve had the chance to counsel some very famous, powerful, and successful people. On the human level, not one of them has any more going on than anyone else. Take those people outside of their areas of expertise and power, and theyíre just like everybody else. Thatís one of the reasons celebrities want to be away from everyone who is, so-called, common. They donít want you to realize how close you are to them. They want to make you feel that theyíre uniqueówhen theyíre not.

Yes, thereís a lot of room between where you are now versus perfection. But donít overvalue perfection, and donít undervalue where you are. Youíve survived and learned a lot. Give yourself credit for that.

© Copyright Gary Null.  All Rights Reserved. 

Excerpted from Gary Null's Book, The Baby Boomerís Guide to Getting it Right the Second Time Around.

Gary Null, the popular Pacifica Network talk show host, is a consumer advocate, investigative reporter, environmentalist and nutrition educator who has written more than 60 books on health topics. He says that, "You must be empowered before you can be whole," and he empowers his listeners with life-changing facts that promote wellness.

Mr. Null has conducted over a hundred major investigations and has produced numerous documentaries in which he encourages his viewers to take charge of their lives and health. Among his dozens of videos are titles like "The Pain, Profit and Politics of AIDS," "Chronic Fatigue," "Diet for a Lifetime," and "Cancer: A Natural Approach." 

Gary Null lives the active, healthful life that he advocates. He regularly competes in races and marathons and has trained thousands of people in his "Natural Living Walking and Running Club" to do the same. 



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