Like pretty much every man born in the early part of the twentieth century, my grandfather spent some time doing his patriotic duty and served in the military. He was a mechanic in the United States Navy and spent his tour of duty aboard ships sailing in the waters around South America. Early on in his military career before he had gotten his “sea legs,” his vessel was sailing in choppy waters, and the motion of the ship had made him extremely “sea sick.” A veteran seaman saw how sick my grandfather was, and said to him, “You are looking a little green, sailor. Follow me, and I will make you feel better.” Thinking that this old salt was going to take him to the infirmary or something, my grandfather followed along. After descending numerous decks and winding their way through the labyrinth of hallways and corridors, they entered a storage room that was completely empty save for the supplies on the shelves. At this point, my grandfather started to think that this guy was playing a prank on the new guy, and he asked what was going on. The sailor said, “Just close your eyes and stand here for a few minutes, and I promise you will feel better.” Still somewhat skeptical, but desperately wanting to stop the constant, nauseated feeling he was experiencing, he closed his eyes. Much to his surprise, in less than 5 minutes his motion sickness was completely gone. He thanked the vet profusely and asked what was so special about this room. He smiled and replied, “We are in the exact center of the entire ship. In this one spot, all of the forces acting on the ship cancel each other out, and it feels just like dry land.” From that point on, any time my grandpa started to feel a little “sea sick,” he would merely make his way into the bowels of the ship, sit in this room, close his eyes, and “center himself.”
This story is a perfect example of how important it is to make sure you are centered in your life. Just like my grandfather had to find the physical center of mass of the ship to cure his motion sickness, you have to find and remain in touch with your mental and emotional center in order to live a happy, successful life. Your center is where your core values and beliefs are stored. It holds your personal mission statement and the rules by which you live your life. When you lose sight of your center and act in ways that are not in agreement with your core values, your mind picks up on this cognitive dissonance and creates negative feelings about your behavior. Only by stepping back and getting back in touch with your true beliefs, can you center yourself and rid your mind of these negative feelings, returning you to your happy, successful life.
I was reminded of how important it is to stay in touch with your center when I was in my second year at the University of Notre Dame. I had been there for a year, and I had a large social circle of friends. I have always been a “social floater” in that I can move between different social cliques depending on how I am feeling or what was going on, and that Fall I started hanging out with this one group of guys. They were your typical preppy, college guy types, that divided their time among binge drinking, video games, girls, and sleep. Even though I didn’t really endorse that lifestyle, when Friday rolled around I knew where to go to have a great night filled with girls, music, and beer. I hung out with these guys pretty much every weekend for 3 months, and it was a lot of fun. I started to realize however, that I was slowly but surely becoming more and more like these friends, and less and less like me. This realization caused a lot of mental anguish, guilt, and anxiety. My roommate at the time and close friend even told me that I was turning into the type of person I used to make fun of, and after thinking about this, I realized that I needed to make some changes.
Between trying to juggle school and work Monday through Friday, and wanting to have a good time letting loose on the weekend, I had completely lost sight of how important it is to take the time to center yourself. As a result of losing touch with my core values and beliefs, I had started to act in ways that I didn’t agree with which created the negative emotional feelings that were plaguing me. Thanks to my roommate bringing this to my attention, I knew what I had to do to get my life back on track. First, I had to get back in touch with my center by focusing on my core values and what is most important to me. I had to take stock of my life and remove or alter the behaviors that were not in agreement with my personal mission statement. I also had to limit the amount of time that I spent with people who acted in ways that I didn’t support. By making these changes in my life, and taking the time to each day to center myself, I quickly returned to my old self enjoying the life I loved.
At this point in my life, I take time every day to center myself by thinking about my mission statement and my core values to make sure that I am living my life in accordance with them. I actually do this every morning along with my meditation, and I have found that by starting my day this way, that I am much happier and productive. Even though it only takes a few minutes, the positive results it yields are enormous. If you have not taken the time to think about your own personal mission statement and what is most important to you in life, I beg you to take at least 30 minutes as soon as you finish reading this and do so. Make a list and write them down. In a few days, do the same thing, and then compare lists. Repeat this process for a few weeks and see what things appear the most often. These are the things that are most important to you. Finally, try to craft these ideas, values, and beliefs into a personal motto or mission statement by which you can live your life. Every morning all you have to do is take a few moments while you are in the shower or getting dressed, and center yourself by thinking about your mission statement and making sure you are acting in accordance with your beliefs. By doing this daily exercise, you will not only ensure that you don’t lose sight of your core values creating negative feelings about your actions, but you will also create a mental atmosphere that breeds happiness and success in everything you do.