Tomorrow will be Stephen’s Day
There is an annual ritual I observe each November 28th, the birthday of someone now in heaven who was exceptionally special to me. In his honor, I call it Stephen’s Day.
After Stephen died, I felt I needed to commemorate his birthday somehow, so I would always remember his approach to the ‘Imi ola life. I knew that keeping his spirit alive would make me better; it would keep me working on some of the things he had taught me to be grateful for during the time he blessed my days. Having his birthday fall at the end of November, a month I have traditionally associated with the diligent, focused practice of MAHALO (appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness) seemed to be an added affirmation of my decision.
Years of faithfully celebrating Stephen’s Day have passed, and my practiced affirmation has become quite the gift in my life, for indeed, living within Mahalo is living within thankfulness for each element which makes your life precious to you.
Kēia Manawa, ‘in this present time’
Stephen was someone who could focus on the present moment clearly and with perceptive intensity, able to see the every little thing existing in the here and now. In Hawai‘i we call this kēia manawa, living in moments which seize the day with both hands, and with heart, mind, gut and soul. Kēia lā is encouragement— today you own the day.
Stephen never looked behind him, he could easily let things go and leave the past behind. What was over was done and “pau” —finished, meaning complete enough to move on. I’m certain he would have chosen the value pairing of Ka lā hiki ola, the dawning of a new day, and ‘Imi ola, create your best possible life, as his mantra.
Yet Stephen was never in a rush to have tomorrow come, confident in his knowledge that a single day is never long enough for us mere humans to fully milk it of all its possibility. Stall not however; have no hesitation or doubt that we are here on this earth to try. And try he did; Stephen lived his too-short life in an energetic and joyous way that made everyone else feel lucky to be on earth with him.
That said, Stephen was not obsessive about whatever he chose to do; in fact, he had relaxing down to an art form. His was a life of contentment. When you live in MAHALO as Stephen did, you die with no regrets because you never feel you have missed anything. You have lived in thankfulness for each element that made your life so rich in the moment of experiencing it precisely when offered to you.
Type A Dailies
Stephen was my hero and mentor in kēia manawa living, yet the difference between us was clear: I was type A to his type B. (See Type A and Type B personality theory on Wikipedia).
Thus, this has become my annual November 28th ritual, a writing exercise explored after devoting the early morning hours to a beach walk for sunrise —the beach, or better yet, out on the water, was Stephen’s favorite place to be:
Each November 28th I rewrite a list called My Dailies. I start from scratch and letting my spirit’s intention do any remembering of carry-over necessities — it’s curation by memory, intention by longing. Analog goodness is part of it, as my Dailies will fill a simple handwritten list on a single page in my journal, where I’ll be sure to reread them until memory and habit-building kick in.
My intention: My Dailies is a listing of everything I would want to do each and every day as part of kēia manawa living, if I could possibly fit them all in.
This is not an exhaustive list of everything I actually complete each day, and I do not duplicate the business-of-life stuff on my calendar or within my family time unless I am creating some new habit. My Dailies are for those empty pockets of time to be found in each day as possible opportunities. Whenever those “what shall I do next?” or “how can I fill this found time?” questions pop into mind, for they invariably will, I look at my Dailies and can simply choose something.
My Dailies is not a To Do list, but a To Be Better list. It’s a list that can direct my attention on a daily basis to better train it, getting right-now attention to match up with desired Ho‘ohana intention, and with positive Hō‘imi actions.
Manifest your possibilities
From year to year my Dailies will change, as surely as life twists and turns.
Sometimes they are short, deliberately disciplined, and intensely focused. In other Novembers they ramble long and wander, making room for questions in the margins. Some years I wallow in detail with next-stepping in mind, and get crazily ambitious.
There seems to be some cosmic element at play, for when my beach walk is over, I already know the kind of year it will be for me, as soon to be framed in the writing itself. I do stick to my one-page-only rule, but frankly, I have never had a day where I did everything on the page, and I doubt I ever will. If you add up all the minutes, it probably isn’t even possible.
Here’s the rub: Without my Dailies, I probably wouldn’t accomplish half the things I do each day. I certainly would not manifest as many possibilities as I do, and I would miss opportunities I now see more clearly because they seem to somehow conspire with the universe swirling around me. Possibilities present themselves to me, seeping into my attentions and intention. It’s a great feeling of purely being more aware.
There is also no doubt that my Dailies have made my nights better. I’m a true morning person, rising earlier than the rest of the family and then steadily losing steam as the day wears on. If not for the choices of much better goodness captured in my listing, I’m far too likely to switch on the TV and succumb to a debilitating case of couch potato inertia. Thus, the quickies on my Dailies are usually shorts like, “Read more of___,” “Cook more of___,” “Craft more of___,” and similar hobby-ish pursuits.
Another fringe benefit has been that having my Dailies written in late November has completely replaced any desire to jump on the New Years resolution bandwagon: By January 1st I am well on my way within the new habits I have chosen to award my attentions to.
Living Mahalo day by day
I adamantly resist any urge I might have to get a jump on this, with November 28th held sacred for writing my Stephen’s Day Dailies for the year to come. So to give you a few examples, here are a dozen entries I’ve made in years’ past. You are sure to recognize a few of our Managing with Aloha influences, and will catch my value alignment intersections.
1 — Stretch and Exercise: Without good health the rest of this list doesn’t matter, and I know that my health affects my head space (the quality of my thinking). Developing some new fitness habit can be a significant learning for me; I’m not someone with a long-standing workout routine which doesn’t change, for that would quickly bore me. As simple as it sounds, the year I wrote in “Stretch and Exercise” was fabulous: I’d stand in place and stretch whenever I looked in my journal, a minute or so being all it took. Merely stretching is highly underrated!
2 — Daily 5 Minutes: D5Ming is already cemented into my life as a daily practice, however I’ll often include it in my Stephen’s Day Dailies with specificity for some particular intention with one of my family relationships, friendships, or work partnerships. I can clearly remember how 2009 was about triggering my thinking related to virtual opportunities as opposed to face-to-face ones during the Great Recession.
3 — Ho‘ohana Projects: Am I attending to my longer-term projects or not? You have to choose the right work/right project to begin with, and that is where the value of Ho‘ohana comes into play so beautifully. To ho‘ohana is to have resolve and determination, and to seek mastery with personal efforts of your own deliberate, thoughtful choice. Mastery is in the repetition of detail, and in writing my Dailies one of those previously neglected or forgotten details often occurs to me, seemingly saying, “Hey, pay attention to me now, okay?”
4 —Alaka‘i Betterment: Working some part of our Alaka‘i 24 has been an energy burst I constantly seek to continue sparking — I believe in working at being a better, and more interesting human! In past years, I would refer to our Alaka‘i 24 as the 12 Rules of Management and 12 Rules of Leadership: Better Person, Better Manager, Better Leader. Alaka‘i Batch 24.
5 — Connect to Sense of Place: Get outdoors and feel where you are. Appreciate it. This is about wherever I might be, and not just when home on Hawai‘i island. Having this on my list ensures I do not miss things like this sunset seen on the Hualalai coastline:
6 — Write to Goal/Write to Learn: Writing does so much for my overall sense of well-being. There is simply no denying it, and I would not want to! I have my morning pages, my blogging, my gratitude journal and commonplace book, our newsletter, my coaching and curriculum product design, my correspondence and preferred in-writing ways to reach out to others. There is so much that writing enables and influences for me, and pockets of time that my Dailies will fill are quicker hits.
7 — Slow down, Stop and Savor: This has been on my list for a few years, worded in different ways. In 2007 I wrote, “Believe in your biology and cherish your brain” and my study of Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind was an added influence in 2008, particularly with the elements of play, story, and design he speaks of. Having this on my Dailies often coaches me to slow down at some point because otherwise, I tend to work like a bull in a china shop. I need to stop whatever I am doing more frequently and mind-sweep, seeking to respect every thought, and write everything down. Get quiet, be still, capture and savor. Deliberate and decide using the current filters I might be favoring (like Pink’s and others).
8 — Listen as the way I Read: This has been my self-coaching to listen to a few book chapters or podcasts. By nature I am highly visual and kinesthetic, and so I’ve had a longstanding goal to learn of any auditory capacity I am not using.
9 — ‘Ōpala ‘ole: This means, take out the trash; rubbish be gone! The minimalism movement has been a welcome influence on me, and I have found that cleaning something or decluttering my physical surroundings is wonderfully liberating. Little by little works, being less chore and more break time filler, so this has been a great way to fill a 10 or 20-minute’s opportunity. Material freedom, and discovering how little I can make do with has been one of my fascinations for a while now, and the more virtual my business becomes, the more I find I am enjoying (and needing) the physical exertion of my ‘Ōpala ‘ole movements.
10 — Type A Ma‘alahi: The persuasion toward calm contentment (which we just talked about this past week). This prompting amounts to more in-the-moment reflection time, as inspired by kēia manawa. What complexity did the day reveal that I can streamline and make more simple? I truly want to stop any fluffery and continually add to my Stop Doing List, shedding the less important for the more meaningful. What “should-ing” or busywork did the day reveal, keeping me from true accomplishment? Why did I do it, and how can I stop it, particularly when it was draining my energies instead of boosting them? How can Less be More?
11 — Attention to Strong Living: Reflect at day’s end for more accurate Strength Statements: What made me feel strong? This one is the counterpart to Ma‘alahi addressing my weaknesses in my Hawaiian way (MWA Key 7), with a more studied practice of what Marcus Buckingham teaches within his strengths revolution about capitalizing on our strengths. One of his books, Find your Strongest Life, was written for women, and I had wanted to internalize it as soon as I had read it: Me first, then perhaps it will filter into my coaching. Counterintuitively, Buckingham advocates a deliberate imbalance in the tactics we employ when living a strong life, since “Attention amplifies everything.” I certainly agree with him there!
12 — Nānā i ke kumu: Look to your source. Reflect at day’s end for Spirit. This one will normally relate to my own #VYMTVYL and #AlohaIntentions value alignment practices. Did I live my signature story of my Aloha? Each and every year the writing of my Dailies reveals a Hawaiian value to me I know I need to recommit to, and as I write this, I suspect that Ho‘ohanohano will be of the utmost importance to me in 2017, possibly in a value pairing with Ka lā hiki ola or ‘Imi ola.
Curating one’s life in meaningful ways
Stephen died in 1977, and my first Dailies were written that same year. Since then, they’ve provided me with a kind of annual chronicle of what was important to me each year. For instance, the years my children were born are all about my learning to be a mother, first for one child, and then for two. The year came that I taught them both to do their own dailies; this was such a great way to stop them from saying, “Mom, I’m bored!” on those long summer days! As they did with Stephen’s death, my Dailies have pulled me out of several rough patches when I lost other people who had been so important in my life, like my dad.
What do you think about this exercise? Are you game for adding Stephen’s Day to your calendar sometime too?
Try it during one of your weekends: Your Dailies are essentially desirable fillers for pockets of time you begin to see as opportunities, and there is no right or wrong to what you come up with, those fillers of wants, mini goals, or self indulgences are completely up to you.
My Stephen’s Day practice of penning Dailies has been MAHALO in sweet action: Live within thankfulness for each element which makes your life precious to you, by committing your attentions to doing more of it. Focus your attentions on your energy boosters, and away from your energy drainers.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll bet you already know what can be on your Dailies for the coming year. Kēia manawa; live in that presence of mind.
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Sunday Mālama has been when I will share my off-the-workplace-highway scenic route kind of posts. Not as a normal weekly feature, but whenever they seem to be writing themselves.
You can access the Sunday Mālama archives via this category link, also residing with my site footnotes.