Welcome to April 2011! What a month behind us. I have had so many people email me seeking advice on how to digest recent world events. The tragedy of Japan with the global catastrophe of the nuclear fallout, and the war in Iran - what is happening in the world? It's during times like this that many people start questioning the meaning of life and the purpose behind our existence.
What saddens me the most is that the current nuclear fallout was apparently the result of greed and profits, as officials wanted to save the costs of keeping normal safety regulations in place. Then we go to Libya and look at the blatant suppression of the people, yet those waging the war are apparently more interested in the oil. On top of it the media is focusing on Libya, rather the the long term effects of Japans nuclear fallout which is poisoning all the oceans world wide. C131 and radioactive iodine (most probably with plutonium) will be carried by currents and tides to all oceans of the world. This means that all living things in the sea will be affected. On top of this, the recent earthquake moved Japan's coast by 8 feet and moved the planet on it's axis by nearly 4 inches.
It is completely understandable that many people are becoming despondent and even predicting the end of the world. However, we do need to look at the bigger picture and realise that the world has gone through many natural disasters in it's history. However, it's the more recent and frequent man- made damage that is becoming alarming.
This brings me to this months topic. What does success and fulfilment really mean?
It definitely doesn't mean risking the safety of our planet for profits!
On a smaller scale, we can relate this global event to our lives. How often do we risk our health and happiness of our families for greed? Most people I know spend their lives trying to keep up with the Jones's, buy what the media sells them, and never have time for family and friends. Look at certain luxury car brands who are now advertising there vehicles under the banner of: this car will bring you happiness, inspire you and make your life complete! What a load of hogwash! Yet so many people believe this and fall into the rat race of believing that success and happiness is connected to materialism.
You see, part of the reason so many people are questioning the meaning of life right now is that they have seen the huge tragic losses suffered by the Japanese. Sadly they don't focus on the 'life' losses, but the materialistic losses. I have heard so many people this month talk about how devastated they would be if they lost their house, car and all possessions in a natural disaster. In fact, many have phoned their insurance companies to tried and add 'natural disaster' cover. How screwed up is that?
Not one person I have spoken to has stopped what they were doing and gone to their spouse and children and spent some quality time with them. Neither did they ever talk about what would happen if they lost a loved one. That's the thinking in the world today! How sad is that? Then they complain that they are questing the meaning of life and the point of it all. Maybe, just maybe, these same people should question their own attitude and re-analyse their priorities in life.
Yes, we do live in a global village and money has sadly become the driving force. But, and it's a huge but... money and materialism should never become your main focus. If anything, the lessons we should all learn from these global tragedies is that we need to spend more time with each other. Love and respect each other more, and create special moments.
Realistically, just think about it is honestly,if you were suddenly in a natural disaster, or a war stricken country, what would your priorities be? Packing your new laptop, or making sure that your child was safe? I think it's naive to just look at world events and think that it will never happen to you. Three months ago, who would ever have thought that the such a terrible disaster could happen in Japan?
I am definitely not being a doomsayer here, I am trying to make you think! If an earthquake did take out your home and you did mange to survive, what would your definition of success and happiness be then? Dare a suggest, your survival and the survival of your family. Having food to live and water to drink, plus shelter to stay warm.
That's about it really. But in today's world that is no longer good enough. We strive for every conceivable new materialistic gadget we can, and cannot, afford. Then we believe this will bring us happiness and success.
I need you to re-focus your priorities. Yes, it's 'nice to have' pretty things and the products of the modern world we live in. But they do not and never will define who you are as a person. Neither will they complete you as an individual and help you find inner meaning.
Here's something my wife and I did with our daughters after we saw the disaster in Japan. We all sat down together and firstly spoke about a 'disaster plan.' If an earthquake struck - how would we get out of the house? Where would we run to? How would we make sure that we would all meet up again if we were in different places in the city? As we spoke about this as a family, we all started realising that the worst thing that could happen is if we were separated and didn't know if the other person was alive. Do you have an action plan? This is not being negative, it's plain practical reality and being prepared.
Suddenly, we also all re-affirmed to each other how much we love each other and that nothing in the world is more important that being together. Then came the part in the discussion as to what would we take with us! We all decided we would each pack a small bag which contains a basic pocket knife, some water, some dried food, a medical kit and warm clothes, plus an old mobile phone (in case one could still get reception). I added one extra item to my bag... a folder with important documents, i.e. passport, birth certificates, health insurance, etc. Documents which say who we are. If you lose these and have no back-ups - you have lost your identity.
Interestingly enough none of us added our iPod, laptop, jewelry and other materialistic items. The focus was on basic survival and the importance of being together. A few days later we sat down again (remember my daughters are 12 & 14) and we spoke about what was important in life to each of us. The result... more time with each other and doing fun activities as a family. Going on walks, playing games, talking to each other and creating memories.
So, back to the definition of success and leading a fulfilling life. Yes, there are many 'nice to have' items in life, but could you be happy without them? If not, I suggest you do some serious internal soul searching and think about the importance of those you love in your life. I often tell my delegates that the society we live in today is a game. You need to play this game in an objective manner. Whether you win or lose, you play the game to the best of your abilities, but at the end of the day it is still a game. The more you play it, the better you get and the better the odds that you make enough money to be comfortable and enjoy the pleasure that the modern world brings. However, if you lose, can you pull yourself away from the game and still be happy? Happiness at home and within yourself is the only true definition of success. Because if you are happy there, then your attitude is right. When your attitude is right you extrude a different kind of energy around you. A positive energy. It is this positive energy that then attracts positivity towards you and enables you to play the 'game of life' successfully.
And finally, start becoming aware of our environment and look after nature. Don't leave a carbon footprint - leave a future world for our children.
We need to love more and we will find fulfilment. See what some youngsters between the age of 4 and 8 have to say about love.
'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.' Emily - age 8
'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.' Nikka - age 6 (We need a few million more Nikka's on this planet.)
'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' Tommy - age 6
'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my Daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' Cindy - age 8
'My Mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.' Clare - age 6
'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary Ann - age 4
'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' Lauren - age 4
'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it,you should say it a lot. People forget.' Jessica - age 8
The cherry on top was a four year old child whose next door neighbour was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."
Make it your goal this April - learn to love more and savour the simple pleasures of life.