Are you ALIVE? 5 questions to check your pulse

Over the past 6 months, I have had the pleasure of connecting with a group of people who are fully ALIVE!  They show up with an energy that feels different from typical interactions.   I can feel it in their questions, their eye contact, how they seem to be brimming with energy.  And the smiles.  Their smiles light up the room.  The room is filled with laughter and tears and connections.  Deep connections that are from the inside out.  Connections where you don’t even know where they live, but you know more about their dreams than their families do. 

I’ve started thinking that I want to spend time with only people who feel this alive.  What would that feel like?  Every day to spend time with people who know how to deepen and forward – who can reflect the best things you know about yourself.  It almost sounds cult-like.* There is indeed a tightness of fit and an elitism to the group, but there is also an inviting warmth. 

You might be thinking – wait a minute.  Am I ALIVE?  Can I deepen and forward?  Do I have an inviting warmth?  For those of you wondering whether or not you are fully awake and alive, here are 5 questions to check your pulse. 

To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.
— William James


1.     Do you have a healthy dose of deep and/or positive emotion regularly?

This doesn’t mean you have to walk around grinning like an idiot or like Prozac Parker, but it means there are some feelings there every day.  It’s like that Jim Valvano speech.  “If you laugh you think and you cry, that’s a full day.”  You can decide how full and you can decide how healthy a dose.  But it’s got to be there.  You can’t be alive if you’re sleepwalking through life. 


2.     Are you able to get right here, right now?  Fully present and fully engaged upon call?

Ah the present moment.  I had this weird experience happen to me a few weeks ago.  I was biking with about 5 miles to go when I felt the overwhelming pressure of what’s been going on in my life.  Serious work frustration because a project wasn’t going well.  Worrying about my relationship with my 14-year-old daughter and how it’s getting more challenging to be a good Dad to her.  A list of “to-dos” a mile long for my coaching business.  The Pan Mass Challenge fundraising (yes, that’s the link to my donation page 😊).  And I completely lost awareness of what I was doing.  I was deep down a rabbit hole of stress.  And something in my body noticed and I screamed, “HERE! HERE! HERE!” as loud as I could.  Immediately I was back on the bike fully aware and present.  And right after then clouds opened up and a bright ray of sunshine hit me right between the eyes.  And I just started laughing.  Is that all there is to it?  Get here right now?  Was it a coincidence? I like to think it was some cosmic message. If you want, I can tel you about the next day when the homeless person came towards me speaking words of “wisdom” in a way that totally connected to the bike experience. But I digress. You can’t be alive if you can’t be fully present. 

3.     Do you have true connections to people that when you see them you think “Oh, goody – here they come!”

This is my dream.  Everyone I see, every day thinks, “Oh goody – here he comes” when they see me.  That would be perfection.  My kids, people at work, friends, family members – all getting that giddy grin at what they know will be an interesting interaction.  It’s not that I have to please everyone.  I just have to connect on a level that is beyond small talk.  We need to elevate to medium talk – Curb style.  What do they really care about?  What are their dreams?  Who are their heroes?  What do they long for?  Deep, focused attention.  Eye contact.  Listening.  You can’t be alive without true connections. 

4.     Are you able to be or do what matters to you?

This starts by knowing what matters to you.  People who have spent the time clarifying their values and thinking about what they want out of this one precious life seem to operate differently in the world.  Then once they know what they want, only a fraction put in place the process, effort and systems to get what they want.  And it’s not just about things here – it’s more experiences.  And it’s not about achievement only – it’s a state of BE balancing what they DO.  I guess Frank said it best?  It’s kind of about the Dream.  You can’t be alive if you are not being or doing what matters most to you. 

5.     Are you able to make progress or achieve what you want?

For a long time, I thought it was all about achievement.  I made to do lists.  I set goals.  I was out to accomplish.  I think it’s more than that.  And it certainly is about a balance of achievement vs. meaning, positive emotions, relationships, engagement, etc.  But the people I see who seem most awake have some creative tension between total satisfaction with who they are today and a burning desire to make progress.  It’s funny.  A lot of being alive is about balance.  It’s a verb.  Balancing is required.  If you aren’t progressing or achieving, it’s hard to be alive. 

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes


Martin Seligman initially wrote about happiness as he started to consider positive psychology as a way to study “well people.”  He’s since shifted to the concept of how to Flourish which outlines the PERMA model:

  • Positive Emotions – feeling good

  • Engagement – finding flow

  • Relationships – authentic connections

  • Meaning – purposeful existence

  • Achievement – a sense of accomplishment


Personally, I’m checking in with these questions to make sure I’m alive every day.  And sometimes I’m not.  But I use these as wake up calls to make sure I’m living the life I want.  My life.  There’s only one. 

So…Are you ALIVE?

*See the chapter in Built to Last for the difference between a cult and a “cult-like” culture.   

- Mike Sweeney, 

If you found this post valuable, please share it far and wide so others can benefit. If you want to wake up and feel more ALIVE every day, shoot me a note @ Maybe I can be the Dream Coach for you.