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  • James McPartland

A Life Lesson on Awareness (Part 1)

"There are times in life when we need to pay close attention to the things that are occupying our thoughts. What we focus on in life will expand"

- James McPartland



I want to share something that happened to me recently...


I took my family here in Southern California on a staycation to a five-star property. Given the uncertainty of the world, I decided that a staycation was appropriate. My family is worth more than the investment, and they deserve it for the support they've given me and for what they've been through during the past 18 months.


So we went down to this beautiful beachfront property on a Thursday afternoon. We went to check-in, and were greeted by the “sales prevention unit”. (I mean, it certainly wasn't the welcome committee!)


Confused? Let me tell you why.


A beautiful, five-star property is probably a considerable investment for most of us. And since people were starting to venture back outside, they had bumped their prices up accordingly.


When we arrived, we discovered they had a series of promotions they released after we had booked our reservation… things like a free night (plus dinner), if you book a number of nights in advance as we had. These promotions were certainly designed to provide incentives to come and stay at their property.


It was a bit frustrating when we asked about the promotion and were given excuses like: "I'm sorry, the program sold out… The hotel is booked solid... We can't do this…. We can't do that… We can't move your room."


Let’s just say I learned a lot about what they couldn’t do. And I’m just going to be real here: I was a little grumpy.


I came to this 5-star property with the intention of creating a memorable experience for my family! And this situation was beginning to tweak my mindset to dwell only on what was wrong with the situation.


Over the course of the next 12 hours, I became increasingly aware that most lights were not on in the hotel rooms.


Really? This hotel is booked solid?


Every time I walked past the restaurant, I noticed it was also not very busy… and that other people were enjoying some of these “promotional” benefits, while our family was not.


More and more, I became focused and very aware of what was not working. Probably not a good idea.


Yet there’s something else I became aware of: I started to realize in the last day or so, I had come to abandon some of my daily rituals that, when practiced consistently, play a large role in helping to set my mindset for each day.


Let me tell you how I came to this additional awareness:


On this same trip, I promised my boys we would have a ”Boogie Board Championship of the World”. Now, for this championship, their mom would get to vote between the three of us… who would be the champion? Who rode the biggest wave? Who had the coolest ride? Mom would be the judge.


The boys began to pull me into the water. It was cold. I decided, “Okay, I’m going to get this championship over with.” I grabbed the boogie board and started to ride what quickly became a monster wave!


At least it seemed to be a monster wave….


The water caught the front of the board. Uh-oh….


Have you ever experienced being caught up in a wave, and the water pulls back, and all you see is sand? Well, in that next instant, sand was all I saw.


I went down, landed on my head. Twisted my neck, and my feet came over me. It was pretty painful!


Quickly assessing the damage, I wondered how bad it was. I thought I broke my arm. At first I thought there was water on my face… nope, that’s blood.


Definitely not the best way to start out this staycation. My wife runs to the lifeguard, and this young man comes racing forward, who seems to be more unbalanced than I am. (Turns out he’s 30 days into this job, go figure. I think I ended up calming him down:)


Let's just say I was starting this family vacation off on the wrong foot (or should I say the wrong head!). Internally evaluating the damage to my head, I thought to myself, “I should have had some stitches… No. I'm not letting this situation take away from my family.”


The whole experience gave me a chance to sit and think.


And that’s how I became aware (as I mentioned earlier), that I was focusing only on what was wrong with the present situation. I came to realize I had gotten away from some of my daily rituals that help to get me into the right mindset on a daily basis. I started thinking, “I'm okay. I don't need them.”


Boy, was I wrong.


A daily routine that helps with mindset might include meditation, journaling, or reading. For me, it's all of the above. On this staycation, I had skipped a few vital steps on the front and back ends of the last few days. Hence, I was triggered.


Now, most thoughts that come through our minds are disempowering. I lost some of my superpowers by not getting into the right mindset. That lack of awareness was then reinforced by not paying attention to the waves on the beach. I failed to notice how other people were boogie-boarding that day, and I had a cavalier attitude that I could just be one and done.


I was not fully present. So this experience gave me the chance to get present.


At the end of it all, I went to have some x-rays done and learned I had incurred muscle and nerve damage. Fortunately, I like to stay fit. The doctors say that was an attribution to the damage not being greater. (Or at least they made me feel that way.)


I was given medication, which I usually never take (for reasons that are not important… to each their own). But I share this to set us up for part two of this series on awareness (and part two of the lesson I needed to further learn, as I ended up breaking yet another one of my own rules-- this time around medication).


But that’s another part of the story that you’ll have to tune back in for next week:)


The lesson in a nutshell? What we focus on in life will expand.


I gave my power to the people at the front desk when things did not go my way.


I came to realize I was not in the present moment. I paid no attention to the needs of my family. I wanted to get the boogie board thing over with rather than enjoying a longer-term experience by being present in it. More than that, I tried to rush it.


This experience helped me understand that sometimes we need to slow down in life in order to go fast.


There are times in life when we need to be present and be more aware. To pay close attention to the things that are occupying our thoughts… to think about what we’ve been thinking about.


And while I was pretty sure I had learned this lesson, I think you can tell that the story isn’t over yet.


So, how about tuning in next week? I'll tell you what it took to make sure the lesson of awareness truly landed for me. At least, different from landing on my head :)


You won't want to miss this one. It was something even I didn't expect.


'Til next week, friends!