"PEAK: ALL CYLINDERS"


"PEAK: ALL CYLINDERS"

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

Gerontologist

I have given myself a gift today. This morning as I was getting up - I was thinking (as we all do in the early morning - as we are coming into the day) my question was: “What are my guiding principles that give order and direction to my life?” This wasn’t the first time I flirted with this question. - I have thought about this question for a longtime - but this time the question - from my inner voice was different - it was clear, simple and direct. You see, like many - we have continuous conversations with ourselves throughout the day - but especially when we first awake and when we drift off to sleep in our twilight periods. As I tell my clients: “no one talks to us more than we talk to ourselves....and we would never allow others to speak to us - in the critical and downplaying fashion that we typically speak to ourselves”. So, I think the other reason I was captured by this question this morning - is that it wasn’t in a critical tone - it was just a direct question: “What are my guiding principles that give order and direction to my life?”

As I began to think about that question - I was flooded by memories and experiences I have had - across my life - in attempting to become more organized, more insightful and more

productive. Part of my professional life, as an academic and practitioner, is reflected in my book collection in my home office - where it looks like a picture of a shelf in a Barnes and

Noble Self-Help aisle. The titles consist of both academic and theoretical writings - advocating historical: “schools of thought” - to current authors - positioning themselves as prophets of:

“instant-fixes”. In addition, across my professional career I have spent numerous times and hundreds of hours in engaging with my “Daily Planner” and even spent an inordinate amount of time - fixating on: “should I carry a small paper planner or a large paper planner?” And then the electronic revolution showed up and the question became more complex: “should I use a paper planner at all to guide my day?” That question became a three-ring circus in my head - going back and forth between moving over to an electronic calendar and then weeks later defaulting back to a paper planner and then

re-circling. (I noticed when I solely used an electronic calendar - once it was in”ether-space” - and I couldn’t look at on paper or turn the page to see it - for me, it didn’t exist. On the other hand, it was burdensome and unrealistic that I would always be in a position to have my paper planner with me and readily available - for example, at the gym.) Eventually, after much back and forth, I came to the realization - I could use both - but with separate functions. Today, the electronic calendar - I use just as that - as a portable calendar. And the paper planner (now centrally located on my desk) - I use as a planner (for projects and initiatives) and not as a daily calendar. It took me a long time to blend paper with electronics - but it is working - they compliment each other - by providing me the freedom of mobility (electronic calendar) and the comfort found in the written word (paper planner). Along with reflecting on the fact that I have always used some method of planning - either the day calendar or for the outlining of completion of projects. - other thoughts came to mind.

I began to think, across time, I have also attended seminars on time management and have read a variety of books and watched videos from the work of Stephen Covey with his incredible book: “ The 7-Habits of Highly Successful People” to the work of David Allen:“ Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Living” and his online GTD Community to the methods of the Pomodoro Time Management System to other authors and presenters on You-Tube and AudioBook Platforms . I always felt I learned something that added to my skills and interest. I also started to think, in addition, based on the nature of what I do for a profession - and who I am - as both teacher and practitioner - I draw upon the experiences and stories of others. In those roles, I talk and I listen. Today, I listened to myself.

Now back to the original question about: “What are my guiding principles that give order and direction to my life?” As I was continuing to think about that question - I started to jot down what are the things that matter to me? What’s important? What works for me? What doesn’t work for me? What is it that I need? What is it that I like? What is it that I know that works - for me. And what is it that I want?

As my thoughts continued to formulate - I started writing things down - first in a free-flowing manner where the words: productivity, affiliation, empathy, kindness surfaced. These indicators are important to me. And then I started to think - how best to remember these attributes? (I worked for State Government for years - we always loved acronyms and when I looked at the initial words - what surfaced was the word: “PEAK"


P - productivity; E - empathy; A - affiliation; K - kindness

As I started to think about these things, now encompassed in the word “PEAK”, I realized that some of these attributes - I have my name on - while others - I strive for.

Productivity. I like to be productive - my dance with the planners (both paper and electronic) have helped me to accomplish a number of things in my personal and professional life.

The word empathy - resonated with me - that’s what I do for a living - I listen to the stories of others and I try to help them reframe and to look for the positive and to look at what’s best for them. One of the things I tell my clients all the time is: “I'm not your hero – I can’t fix you and the reason I can’t fix you is - because you’re not broken…. we all have stuff".

As I began to think about the word: affiliation - I realize for me that also has my name all over it. I like being around people. I like working in groups and teams . On a personal level, I need people….I enjoy them. Yes, there are times that I enjoy downtime and alone time, as well. But if you ask me what posture do I like better - it’s definitely being in the midst of others.

And then the word kindness percolated to the surface. There’s enough evidence from

historical and current material both in the academic world and embedded within the religious /spiritual foundations - kindness matters….kindness really matters. And then I thought more about that word kindness - because it’s not just a sense of being kind to others that takes practice - but the one thing that takes even more practice - is being kind to yourself. In fact, you cannot be kind to others - unless you are kind to yourself. In line with this thinking - I added the symbol “my” to the word :

“Kindness-(my)” - (m=me; y=you) indicating I can’t try to be kind to you - if I’m not being kind to me - they go together.

As I thought about these words - and as I think about it - as I am now writing - all of these words take practice - whether it be: demonstrating productivity, showing empathy, seeking out affiliations or showing kindness. The beauty of the gift to me today - from me - was that by questioning: “What are my guiding principles that give order and direction to my life?” - this question really provided me with a structure or a framework - in which to work from…to think these things through.

As I continued to think about the guiding principles - night now being framed out by the

acronym: “PEAK “- I started to think, what is it that would motivate or provide “fuel and

energy” - to help me reach or embed these guiding principles into my daily life? What reservoir could I draw upon? Thereby, allowing me the opportunity to really live and achieve these principles on a regular basis - a daily basis. Once again drawing on my history of working for a bureaucracy that loved acronyms - the two words that came to me: “all cylinders”. So if I wanted to live: "PEAK" or be at my peak - I need it to be driven by all the cylinders. So I’m looking at the words: “all cylinders” I then started to think about what that really means or could represent that matters to me - that represent my life and experiences. So as I continued to think about “all cylinders” and how they would move me to a: “peak performance” - of aligning with guiding principles. These words and thoughts came to mind:

ALL CYLINDERS:

A = attitude. It’s always about attitude.

L = love. Who doesn’t love to be loved - and to be able to feel the sense of love for someone?

L = laughter. The soul of laughter - is the core of reaching out with a sense of happiness

and joy.

C = connections. "It is all about connections"....which ties into affiliation with family, friends community - or in this modern New World: “networks”.

Y = yes. A very very powerful word - and one if you can surround yourself with - everyone wins. (Thank-you, my friend Roger Monthie - for showing us all - how that works in the world of our

professions).

L = leisure. How important it is to always remember to relax.... to let go.... to step away....

to rejuvenate.... to renew.... to refresh.

I = introspection. Mindfulness....reflection.... meditation..... prayer....quiet breath....a moment in time.... (repeat)....a moment in time.

N = nutrition. The inner fuel that keeps the outer self moving forward. Out of fuel....out of

nutrition.... leads to: “out of wellness”.

D = discipline. Great ideas are nice.... but implementation always wins.

E = exercise. Importance of strength building.....leads one to new horizons.

R = research. Writing.... the exercise of the brain. As I tell my students:

“a professional in our field....is someone who is teaching....writing....and practicing".

S = simple. Very powerful one word.....that will help connect ideas of vision with the realities of: “making it happen”. Keep it as simple as possible.....

In summary, guiding principles for me are represented by the word :PEAK. In my world of: “PEAK” it’s the: “ALL CYLINDERS” that “fuel the day”. Hear me clearly, for me, every cylinder doesn’t have to be in constant motion or available - that would be an unrealistic belief. But what does matter though, is the presence of the overarching themes of: productivity, empathy, affiliation and kindness-(my) they provide to me a goal - that I can draw from to add to: motivation, drive, a direction and as a compass heading towards....purpose and meaning - they are now my guiding principles. I know that - I feel that.

Please note, this essay started with a simple thought.... It came together.... by those different cylinders that fuel: ”PEAK” - and one more thought - this was a true unity between paper and electronic means - to create and present an idea....a thought....a story. So, the question I asked myself in the “morning twilight”: “What are my guiding principles that give order and direction to my life?” - that question has now been answered - as I move into and through the “evening twilight”. I realize - I’m getting to know myself better - and what matters most to me. I also realize - I like what I see. In fact, it was a: “PEAK: All CYLINDERS”day!

And now I leave you with this thought, question, challenge. I found this exercise to be very thought provoking, helpful, useful and provided me with a sense of: “transparency of self”. I know we drive different cars, travel in different ways….and I know we live different lives - all powered by unique and individualized: “cylinders" of our life - guiding us to our PEAK. This is the beauty found in being an "individual" - with the common denominator of sharing the strength and wisdom with others who are also living the: “human condition”. My question to you now is: “What are the guiding principles that give order and direction to your life?” In exploring this question, I wish you: insight, focus and clarity - as you move from one “twilight" to the next....

October 25, 2020

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