Category Archives: motivation

One Small Step for man… and Woman

Yesterday I had a session with someone I’ve known for quite some time.  I’ve watched her grow considerably from a few years ago.  I originally met her shortly after the dissolution of her first marriage.  She was young; the marriage had been brief.

She began working on her career, knowing all the while she also hoped to remarry at some point and have a family.  Her career has taken her to places near and far.  Yet, despite her attractiveness both physically and psychologically, she hasn’t met another suitable mate.   She understandably finds this disconcerting.  It’s not that she hasn’t put effort into it, because she has.  Although she has met people potential suitors along the way, none, seems to be suitable.  And in case you’re wondering, she is not being too picky.

I sat with her, wishing I could wave a magic wand and produce a perfect candidate, or at very least look into a crystal ball and tell her when it will happen.  Unfortunately, my wand is broken and my crystal ball is cloudy.  I also cannot resort to some text book prescription that will instruct her on exactly what to do to insure her desires will be fulfilled.

Sometimes there is luck and fate to contend with.

What I did do is ask her “If I could tell you without a doubt that, it’s not going to happen, what would you change in your life?”  I wasn’t attempting to be prophetic or pessimistic.  I was relieved by her answer, which was simply “Nothing”.  And I appreciated that she was certain about it.

I was relieved because it said to me that she wasn’t missing any of her life by waiting until it was “Right” in order to live it well.  She was instead, getting up every day and moving towards the things that she could control.  She had settled on living in a place that made her happy.  She had recently changed jobs to find work she felt more authentically aligned with.  While she would like a mate to join her world, she is no longer looking for one who will build it for her.  She is a smart girl in addition to being beautiful and charming.

Sunday I finally got around to seeing the movie Martian by Andy Weir.  I mentioned the book in a recent blog.  As I was leaving the theater, my friend mentioned to me that Weir had originally self -published the book as blog entries.  Intrigued I looked up more information to better understand the story.

Weir, a computer programmer always had an interest in writing, but took a job in programming to earn a living.  After reaching some financial independence he took time off to try his hand at writing.   According to an article in the Washington Post “His first efforts weren’t very good, as he freely admits. He couldn’t get an agent, much less a publisher. He decided that his childhood ambition of being a professional writer was unrealistic, and he went back to computer programming.”

But he kept writing.  He loved writing and it made him happy.  Eventually, he self-published it on Amazon and it was later picked up by Crown Publishing.  The rest was, as they say, “History”.

 

Many people give up on their dreams when they aren’t validated by the outside world quickly enough.  Weir obviously did not.  My client is continuing to do what makes her happy without any evidence that a book deal is in the works.    And others may wait for the life to feel “right” until after their dreams are sufficiently met by their own standards.  The ideal circumstance is to push towards living the life you want, while experiencing the one you actually have.  It is possible to dream of more and live in what it is currently.

Are there any paths you are waiting to take because someone or the world has not given you a clear map?  Are you living the life you enjoy even if nothing else changes?

Even the Experts Fall Down

Last night was the final showdown on America’s Got Talent. The little guy who scales the tall ladders is clearly not going to win. Last week he took a nasty tumble off of the high ladder. He was saved on the show,  I suspect somewhat out of curiosity and mostly out of sympathy. Even though he was given another a chance to perform last night, he had a very mediocre showing that can’t possibly win him the grand prize. He did his best, but it turns out he was taken to the hospital last week by ambulance after the show. He obviously sustained some injuries that made it far more difficult for him to perform anything strenuous or risky in his final performance. Unfortunately, that pretty much sealed his fate on the show. He may be a professional, but even professionals fall sometimes. And they fall not just in practice, but during peak performances as well.

I describe myself throughout my life as someone who had a few hard knocks along the way, bummed or sad from time to time, but never as one who was “officially depressed”. Until my second pregnancy that is. I pretty much spent 8 months throwing up daily and in general not having a good time despite the fact that, it took me nearly a year of trying to get pregnant with Andrew. I very much wanted a second child and was elated when it finally happened. It also occurred at a wonderful time in our marriage and while I was enjoying toddler years of my eldest child Alex. However, the pregnancy itself was pretty miserable. And over a few months I became clinically depressed. I found it difficult to do anything except get to work and get home. I had to force myself to find joy in Alex at the time, and often would sit and cry for no apparent reason just to get it out of my system. I remember once watching a movie, putting it on pause, taking a bath and crying in the bathtub and then returning to the movie as if I could finally concentrate.

I spoke with my doctor about it at the time and he suggested I try an anti-depressant. He gave me samples that I brought home but elected not to take. I had hoped to nurse Andrew and the antidepressants would have been a no no. I decided to try and get through the remainder of the pregnancy and then decide but I was certain if I continued to feel the way I did after delivery, I was going to take medication. Lucky for me my mood lifted almost immediately after his birth. I remember having a similar reaction but to a lesser contrast, after my first delivery so I was more relieved than surprised.

But this experience taught me first-hand the difference between I’m unhappy and clinical depression. Since that time, in fact I have gone on medication. It seems that my hormones have a mind of their own and don’t always play nicely in my body. Heading into menopause I again talked with my doctor about my less than optimal mood. I didn’t feel blue that time, but I sure was cranky. Very very cranky even though again, my life on the outside looked pretty good to me. And while I’ve tried a couple of times to wean off medication, I think I’ve finally accepted that my body no longer makes on its one whatever it is supposed to, in order for me to not bite the head off of an inefficient bank teller without the help of a little jolt of Celexa.

So I would say for the most part I’m a pro at this mood thing at least certainly in comparison to my non-medicated (or untrained as the metaphor goes) self. But that said I still have my moments. This past week I had my days. I found myself feeling uncharacteristically blue for a few days. I didn’t want to talk to anyone outside of work. I had little motivation to do anything and subsequently got little done. I didn’t want to hear the radio or a book on tape. Ironically, I had been listening to Dan Harris’s 10 percent happier when it hit. And I slept a lot which is very unusual for me. I scanned my life and feelings to see if there was anything unchecked that might be dragging me down. I considered several possibilities and tried to assess if there was something that I needed to attend to. While my life isn’t perfect, I just couldn’t settle on anything specific that felt particularly out of whack.

So I went with it. I let my husband know that I didn’t think anything was wrong but that I was on a mental time out. I slept more, cleared tasks from my calendar and just tried to be as gentle with myself as I could be. Last night I stayed up ridiculously late and predicted I would pay for it with an even lower mood today. But to my surprise, while I did wake up deprived of enough sleep, my mood has clearly lifted. I am myself today ready to tackle projects and be with people. Apparently somewhere along the way I fell down, but I took time to heal and I’m ready to perform at my best again.

I will fall again. It might not be next week or next month. Perhaps I will fall because of something besides my hormones not working well and I will have to heal by taking action other than just time. What I have learned along the way however is that, when depression grips people, no amount of picking oneself up by the bootstraps can wriggle it loose. It’s kind of like Thor’s hammer. It takes the right arm, not the strongest arm to break it free. (Sorry non Avenger’s fans).

For me, the right arm is self-nurturing and self-care. It means to not beat myself up or push myself to do more than I can during those times. It also means to work harder at finding joy wherever I can and having a well- stocked tool box to choose from. Tools like classical music when I can’t tolerate voices talking at me. It means beading small jewelry projects to have a place I can focus and get a quick sense of the ability to complete something. These are just two examples.

What is in your toolbox? How do you behave with yourself when you fall down? Are you too embarrassed to let yourself acknowledge the injury and get it the treatment it deserves?

Shhh I can hear you

Shhhh I can hear you.

My mother wore hearing aids. She got them when she was about 80. Her hair didn’t turn gray until about age 50. My hair started streaking at about 28. And my hearing started to slip a couple of years ago.

I was in good company. My sister doesn’t hear well,  nor does one of my brothers. But they are older than I am. A couple of years ago one of my nieces had to have surgery on an ear that she was having trouble hearing out of. And did I mention that I had an aunt and an uncle who were born deaf? There was no blasting of the jambox. I come by hearing problems honestly.

I was becoming painfully aware over the past year that I was often asking people to people to repeat themselves. “Darn mumblers”, I would tell myself. The TV had to be up extra loud to accommodate me. “Too much noise in the house”, I would say. I started to notice people who wore hearing aids. I wondered what it was like, trying to get used to the idea for some day when I would need them. You know, when I got older.

At Easter I sat with a group of women and noticed that I was really not hearing the conversation. I kind of checked out and smiled as if I was hearing, but just didn’t think what they were saying was important enough to chime in. Perhaps it might have been, if I had heard them.

And a few weeks ago, I realized in a session that not only had I not heard something someone had said, but I had just gone on as if I had. And an alarm bell started ringing in my head. I heard that: Loud and clear.

I went for a hearing test and came home wearing hearing aids the same day. The first thing I noticed is that I could hear. I could actually hear things I didn’t even realize I had missed. I had become so used to not hearing things, that I no longer knew they were there. The squeak of my shoe against the break pedal of the car. The rustling of a wrapper coming off of a piece of gum. The sound of my own chewing. Life is not incomplete if one can’t hear their own chewing, but there are other experiences of the same sound level that are awfully nice to be able to hear and I wasn’t aware of them until I got the aids.

The second thing I noticed as that… no one seemed to notice. No one began looking at me like I was either a Martian or in need of a handicap sticker for my car. I suspect if anyone who knows me was looking at me, it was only because they noticed for the first time in a long time that I wasn’t asking them to repeat themselves.

My husband is happy about the hearing aids because he no longer has to yell to me from upstairs, when I’m one room away from the kitchen that, the oven timer has been going off for 5 minutes. My kids are a little less thrilled because I’m now asking THEM to turn their electronics down a notch or 6. My youngest son asked me if I feel like an old person now. I told him I feel “older”, but I’m not quite ready to claim the title of old person. He said old people where hearing aids and glasses. I reminded him that sometimes young people do as well.

The only negative feeling I have at this point, is the regret that I didn’t do it sooner. I’ve been missing out on a lot of sound because my vanity got in the way. And the real irony is that once I put them on, the vanity piece disappeared as quickly as the speed of sound. It just didn’t matter.

Most people know the story of the boiling frog. It’s of course, the metaphor of how we often get injured by situations gradually because we fail either to notice changes as they occur, or fail to respond to them if we do notice. The latter is what I did with my need to hear better because I tried to compensate for my decreased ability to hear.

Are there any situations in your life where the water is getting hotter, or the sound is getting lower and you are not responding with the appropriate actions?   What are you willing to lose and what holds you back from taking care of what you need?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my dreams.

Welcome to my dreams

 

A lot of people tell me they don’t remember dreams.   Personally, I think it’s a cultivated skill. I have always found my dreams to be rather instructive throughout my life and I have had a handful of recurring ones. Today I’d like to share one of those with you.

I find myself in high school. Usually in this dream I return to a high school reminiscent of my own or the community college, but last night I was actually in my son’s high school. It feels overwhelming. The kids there are nice enough to me, but I can’t get with the schedule. I keep getting lost while trying to navigate the various buildings and I can’t remember where my locker is or which class to go to next. Finally, I look around and say “I’m not doing this anymore. I already have a Ph.D.” Specifically in last night’s dream I went to the office and spoke to the principal. She said “Sure, you can quit, but there are certain types of jobs you won’t be able to get without your high school diploma.” She described the jobs to me and none of them were things I would ever want to do, so I left and never went back.

Now in real life, I did finish high school. But I finished at the semester rather than the full year. And I had just told that story recently which, most likely prompted the activity in my sleep. At various points in life that dream has meant different things to me. But last night’s version is, I think, the result of my contemplating something for someone else. Actually, for three someone elses: 3 women I am currently seeing in my practice.

Here is a quick vignette:

D- a very successful woman in the business world. She can pretty much count on getting 90% of the jobs she interviews for. In her last position, she worked 70 hours a week, and had to replace 75% of the team she inherited in under a year. Her CEO recently joined her on a sales pitch to a customer that if awarded would have raised her team performance considerably. The day after the sales meeting, without any indication of the customer’s decision, D was unceremoniously let go. She was told “It wasn’t enough.”

S- Another superstar. For her last position, she was courted by the employer. They stole her away from a competing company by promising the moon. They didn’t even know where to put her in their organization they just knew they had to have her. She joined them. Two years later, they still didn’t know where to put her. She never had an opportunity to shine at anything, because it was never really clear what she was supposed to be doing. She often felt like she was overlapping with others in their responsibilities, and they didn’t seem all that thrilled about the intrusion. Finally, the director told her he had made a mistake and they were eliminating her position.

N- Worked in a major institution for 20 plus years. She was the darling of the team. She was thorough and reliable. Not only did N do a great job logistically, but she was deeply committed to the people she served. N was called in to human resources and terminated without warning. Their reason: they claim N did not clock out before going to lunch. N often worked long after she clocked out in the evening in order to get her job done. She would never have gone to lunch on company time.  She was never asked about the incident at the time it supposedly occurred or given a chance to prove her case.

I heard each of these stories in about a two week time span which helped link them together in my mind.

In her discussions about entering the “dark night of a spiritual journey”, Caroline Myss says that anything that stands in your way will be removed for you by the universe. I don’t know if that was the case for any of these women, but I do know that each of them had been unhappy in their jobs and was thinking of leaving, but neither was sure what their next step would be. One could argue that their unhappiness produced substandard work which prompted their terminations. I know that was not the case with any of them however, as they are all hard working women with considerable integrity.

I think my dream was my own minds processing that these stories. For me, they are examples of being in a role that isn’t really right, but doing it because you think you are supposed to fulfill someone else’s rules for you. My declaration that I had a Ph.D. to the other students was a way to say, “I’m not supposed to be here. I don’t have to do this.” And to seal it off, the principal tried to give me advice of the importance of staying, but it was advice from her framework not mine. When I identified that, I was free to leave.

These women became free to leave. I am confident that each will land on their feet, and become stronger and wiser in the process.   Are you hanging on to a role or relationship that you don’t belong in, but one that someone else thinks is a good idea for you? Are you willing to take yourself out of the position or do you have to wait to be asked to leave?

Is it time for you to lose wait?

NOTE to readers:     There was an issue with the captcha for new commenters- If you were not previously permitted to leave a comment, I believe this has been fixed.  I apologize for any inconvenience or frustration this may have caused!

Is it time for you to lose wait?

I know I’ve made a lot of typos lately, but the one above isn’t actually one of them.

I heard a story the other day about a guy I’ll call Fred who was estranged from his family for several years.   When Fred learned that his mother, in her late 80’s was on her death bed he tried to make the arrangements to visit her. The arrangements including getting time off of work, and creating travel plans. Unfortunately, Fred didn’t get everything worked out in time and he never saw his mother again.

A couple of years later Fred learned that one of his siblings had passed away from a sudden illness. The person telling me the story reported that Fred was once again devastated as he had been when his mother passed. Although he had not had any contact with his sibling in 30 years, he said he regretted not having spent more time getting to know him when they were kids. Despite these two occurrences, Fred remained distant from the remainder of his family.

Even without seeing Fred, I can tell that, he the kind of person with a lot of wait. Too much wait. Fred is waiting to do things he thinks are important, until the wait is over because the opportunity passes. He just sits around feeling sad that his wait has kept him from really enjoying life as he should.

Our wait is personal. We all carry it differently from each other. Some of us, like Fred wait to let people in our lives know they are important to us. Some wait to start a project, finish a project or develop our talents. Others wait to start their career, get an education or acquire skills. And still others of us wait to change behaviors that are setting us up for consequences we hope we will never have to face.

Would you be willing to start a wait reduction program? What area(s) in your life are you waiting to take action on? What are you waiting to discover about your passion and let yourself move forward on? What holds you back? Are you allowing yourself to fall victim to the rewards of short term behaviors that satisfy your urges long enough to help you postpone the longer term successes?

I’d love to hear your comments and stories!

Reflections from a cruise ship

Seriously, it IS a new topic, I promise.

So the other part of my vacation was a Disney Cruise. Before anyone starts to envy me, let me say I’m never going on another cruise with any of the men in my house. Turns out they aren’t fond of lying on a beach for all the daylight hours like I am- but enough complaining. Let’s get to the real stuff.

Disney cruises are cool for passengers because there is a low staff to guest ratio. They are pretty much there to spoil you. In short, they prevent you from having to do anything for yourself including use up any brain cells unnecessarily while in their care. However, there is limited space on a ship and that means to achieve everything they do, the crew works sometimes very long days. And very long weeks. And very long months.

The cruise director said that a passenger once asked him if the crew slept on board. Tongue in cheek he told her no, they are helicoptered off and on at the start and end of each day. But of course they sleep on board. When they sleep that is. Depending on their contract, the crew may remain on board for 2-8 months at a time, with the latter being more common. The following information is from the Disney employment site:

  • Agree to share a cabin with another crew member
  • Be able to work a seven-day, 70-84 hour week with limited time off

The workers come from all over the world.   They have to pay their own transportation to get to and from the boat. And with the handful of workers I informally surveyed, many repeat their contracts after going home to their native country and family for a month or two.

These working conditions would not fly (or cruise for that matter) in the U.S. At least not at the pay scale cruise workers receive. In fact, when someone works for a couple of weeks without a day off, we are generally appalled. One client recently told me of a woman he knew that had worked over 100 days without a single day off. As a man who had himself run his own business, he was amazed by what he felt was a rare work ethic. Yet, the people on the ship do it for months a time, willingly gratefully, and usually with a pleasant disposition.

But how about working conditions for our own military? I don’t have personal experience, but I suspect they too ,work long hours, days and months on end without time off. It’s not like a soldier in the middle of a mission, can say “ I’d like to take a personal day off next week for my son’s birthday.”

While I’m hoping to not sign up for a job that requires me to be alert and on my game 24/7 any time soon, I do think it’s worth dissecting this idea a little bit. What makes it possible for people to plunge in to these types of experiences and not feel totally abused, while others feel like they will fall apart if expected to work a little overtime?

Maybe it has to do with a mindset more than a temperament. Does someone from a third world country view the opportunity with gratitude that there is continued work, because it means continued financial support for their family back home? Does someone in the military value the opportunity to learn a skill or complete a mission without the interruption of other things that naturally occur in a more traditional job?

The reality is that we can do a great number of things both positively and negatively depending on our mindset. Marathon runners tell me they can complete a race because of their mental strength not their physical stamina. Anorexics can continue to push their bodies far beyond reasonable physical limits because of the image they hold in their minds eye. One is positive, the other negative, but they are alike in the sense that, it is the story held in the mind, not the body that determines an individual’s course.

Perhaps Henry Ford discovered this truth a long time ago when he said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”.   Is there anything that you think is impossible that could become possible if you change the story you currently hold?  I always appreciate your comments and insights.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any bad habits?

Do you have any bad habits?

Scientists estimate that roughly 40% of the actions people perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits. The good news is that habits can be changed if we understand how they work.

Habits are the result of neurological patterns that become “hard wired” in our brain. Once that wiring path is established, we no longer have to engage in thinking about a behavior. It comes naturally to us. Therefore, if we want to change a behavior, we have to do something to “interrupt” the existing circuit.

The circuit, if you will, consists of a couple of static variables. First is the trigger, second is the behavior and third is the reward. My husband often complains that our dog wakes him up in the morning to go outside. There is a trigger, perhaps one of us stirs or daylight breaks through the window. Snickers begins to bump our bed on Ben’s side of the bed as if it was the boat in Jaws and she is a circling shark. And then he goes into the kitchen, opens up the door, lets her outside and feeds her. And that is what we call a double reward. So it has become a habit.

The interesting observation for me in this circuit however, is that if Ben is out of town, I usually have to wake Snickers up. She will be in a deep peaceful sleep much past her usual wake up time. I often have to call her to get her to go outside, and if I don’t put down food (in the garage) she will jump back up the step to go back in the house without even having gone out to go to the bathroom. She has figured out there is no reward in that behavior, and thus ignores the trigger. My boat is safe from dangerous attack. Before you start to think my husband is just a wimpy pushover, I should confess that the kids have me much better trained to provide rewards.

I imagine if we were to look at brain scans of our dog (not something we do with any regularity), we would find a neuropathway (for those with a science background, forgive me if my grasp of this sciency stuff is childlike), that she has a circuit that gets tripped not only by the light coming in or a sound, but it must also have the information available that someone who cares (my husband) is also home and available. So, Ben being home is also a part of the trigger. She may see the same light of day, but the absence of Ben contributes to a fail in providing a strong enough trigger to motivate behavior.

What does this mean in human terms except that we can do it 7 times slower? Well, it means that if you don’t like a particular habit, you’ll need to examine both your triggers and your REWARDS. Habits don’t really go away in the sense that the brain doesn’t “lose or expunge” them, they just become more like abandoned roads. They still exist, but they become the road less traveled so to speak.

Most of us don’t like to give up our rewards. Even ones that stopped making sense to us along the way. Sometimes what started as a reward for one reason has now become a reward in the sense that it gives us a feeling of familiarity or continuity and so we continue to strive for that. So, any attempt to change a habit means to put triggers in place that will still provide a payoff for us. And, the payoff can’t be so far in the future that, its remoteness strips away our will to earn.

 

As is the case with nearly every blog I write, the key to making progress in habit change begins with mindfulness. Habits don’t change when we are rushed, unprepared, and unable to think clearly because we are depleted and or exhausted. Mindfulness means to start first with understanding what you are doing now, why you want to change, creating a plan with accountability and support and THEN implementing behavior.

Have you had any success in changing habits that you would like to share? What helped you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Well look what the cat dragged in….. I’m back!

I took a break from blogging but I am hopefully back to stay. I’m still working on some of the behind the scene changes so please bear with me while I continue to work out some of the bugs. However,  I absolutely welcome questions, comments or observations about changes.  Thank you so much for hanging with me throughout the year, and a special welcome to my new readers.  I am truly grateful for your time.

For starter, I’m uncertain of my timing. For now, I am committing to one entry per week. There may be more, but I hope not less. With that, I’d like to plunge in.

 

Happy New Year.

Even though today is January 7 and not January 1, today is New Year’s Day, meaning, today is the start of a year that is 1 year newer than the same Jan 7 of 2014. Tomorrow will be a new year starting one year ahead of January 8, 2014 and so on. This isn’t an attempt to be silly. I’m dead serious, so let me try to explain.

New Year’s Day is associated for many with New Year’s resolutions. In reality, these are usually not resolutions, or things one is resolved about, but rather New Year’s “wishes”. They are often things we wish would happen, hope will happen, would be happy if the desired action came about. But sadly, they are actions which, more often than not, fail to mature into consistent or lasting change. Some will fail within a week or two. Others may last a couple of months. A study from the University of Scranton found that only about 8% of the 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, actually achieve their goals. So, if by January 7 you have given up on your goals, you are clearly not alone.

There are two points I’d like to elaborate my thoughts on with regards to this topic.

First, If we drop the ball on January 7, or even February 7, why do we have to wait until January 1 of the following year to start again? As my opening paragraph suggests, every day is the start of a new year for us. We can choose to start fresh from where we are at any given moment. There is nothing more magical about 8:00 a.m. January 1 then there is about 8:00 a.m. on March 10th. The time to start is right now.   Start at the moment that you recognize you have the desire for a change in your life. Delaying until another time marking significance, is arbitrary and only means you are willing to live with the unwanted behavior a lot longer than you need to.

And that leads me to the second point.

There is a difference between resolutions and desires, wishes, hopes. A resolution to lose weight doesn’t mean starting a diet. A resolution to improve your relationships doesn’t mean scheduling a date night. A resolution to find a job you like is more than simply dusting off the old resume.

 

Here are some definitions for the word resolve:

Verb: to find a solution, to determine a course of action

Noun: Firm determination to do something.

 

If you want to achieve the goals above, chances are you have tried some of the solutions I listed above before New Year’s Day. Most likely, they weren’t met with lasting success, which is why they resurface year to year as a resolution for the next year ahead.

 

To make goals more than just a wish or desire, they require resolve. Resolve involves figuring out how you will get to the gym when you haven’t gone before. Resolve means finding ways to anticipate your pitfalls and have a “firm determination to do something” by having reliable support, structures and accountabilities in place to help you stay focused on your goals. Resolve means to search your heart and answer yourself truthfully about what has immobilized your efforts in the past towards these goals.

 

Resolutions are about what are you WILLING to make happen in your life. What are you willing to change, to give up, to work harder towards? Who or what are you willing to let go of in your life? What are you willing to stand up for, to be aware of and mostly to be vigilant about?

 

A posture of resolve takes thought and planning. It also takes dedication and perseverance. So, if you can’t get it all done by January 1, the good news is there are 364 other days in the year that you get to try again.

 

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback! Until next time… take good care!

Click

For an audio version of today’s post click on the link below:

In recent blogs I’ve introduced you to people achieving some amazing results through their perseverance. My hope is that their stories are inspiring. I realize however,  that sometimes people will see a story, such as these, and conclude, “But I can’t do anything that monumental.” They actually become less inspired, rather than more.

That’s incredibly unfortunate, because there is often something amazing in just showing up to a “regular” life every day. It takes work. It takes commitment.  And an uninspired conclusion comes from what I call “snapshot” thinking. It means to look at what you see in a single image and think that image, is the whole story.

When we look at a snapshot of a model it’s easy to conclude that the woman (or man) is beautiful and we can’t possibly compete. But what we fail to consider in snapshot thinking is that the person photographed, doesn’t actually look like the photograph either. The photo has probably been airbrushed to remove any imperfections. It has also been staged, and in our normal everyday lives, most of us don’t have stage hands.

The people I introduced you to in my blogs don’t have airbrushed lives.   It was their effort, and mostly their attitudes that made them so incredible. But what I presented to you was the snapshot version. It is the end result. I didn’t describe to you in detail, how many times they curled up in a ball and cried, got overwhelmed with fear or just plain failed in their quests. Maybe those moments lasted minutes or days at a time. But they kept at it. They got knocked down along the way, but they kept getting up (at least eventually).

Sometimes it’s harder than others to get up. It’s harder to keep going when the finish line appears so far in the distance.  Now I’d like to introduce you to a video that I find very inspiring as a source of motivation to help you get up when it seems too hard. It contains clips from movies, The Pursuit of Happiness and Rocky as well as a number of other historical events. This video is a great investment of six minutes that will hopefully, help you think realistically about the work you stage to get to success. Success defined by you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Climbing and Use Your Toes if You Have to.

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:

 

In my last post I shared the story of an amazing woman in history, Irena Sendler. Today I’d like to tell you about two more people; Jessica Cox and Sean Swarner, both are tremendous, but for very different reasons. Personally, I find stories that champion the human spirit of tenacity, to be incredibly inspirational, and hope you will as well.

Jessica Cox putting in her contact lenses

 

I’m including both a photo and a video of Jessica Cox, because you have to see her in action to appreciate the sense of what she has mastered. Born without arms, Jessica is the first armless person in aviation history to earn a pilot’s license. She lives a normal life, drives a car, plays a piano, puts on her own makeup, texts on her phone among many other day to day tasks. She even types on the keyboard of her computer at a rate of 25 words per minute.

 

Cox believes the way we think has a greater impact on our lives than does our physical constraints. Now 31 years old, Jessica has earned a degree in psychology at the University of Arizona and does public inspirational speaking around the globe, on what she calls, “thinking outside the shoe”. She credits her parents with teaching her from the start not to see herself as a victim, but rather as someone, who when confronted with an obstacle, uses determination to overcome what faces her.

Sean Swarner is my next source of inspiration. Several people have achieved the once thought impossible task of climbing Mt. Everest and Sean Swarner is among them. However, Swarner is not only the first cancer survivor to accomplish the feat, but he did so with only one fully functioning lung. He holds another record as the only known person in the world to have been diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and Askins Sarcoma, both deadly, yet seemingly unrelated cancers.

At age 13, Swarner was diagnosed with Hodgkin. His diagnosed occurred only because of a knee injury he suffered while playing sports. He underwent successful, yet brutal treatment which included, among other things, throwing up for 36 hours straight, gaining 60 lbs. and losing all of the hair on his body. Twenty months into remission, at a routine checkup, doctors discovered the presence of Askins Sarcoma. An even more aggressive cancer than Hodgkins, Askins presented, in the form of a golf ball size tumor in 16 year old Swarner’s lung.

Treatment for Askins ravished his body through 3 months of radiation, followed by 10 months of chemotherapy that left him emaciated with atrophied muscles. It was so toxic, that his doctors placed into a medically-induced coma during each of the five-day cycles. At one point, he was expected to live only days and was given his last rights. He attributes his remarkable feat of recovery to the love and prayers of his family, humor and modern medicine all working together. With regards to his own attitude he says:

“During both the day and night, I focused on feeling better and not letting any negative thoughts into my head. It’s amazing how mental being physical can be.”
After his recovery, Swarner said he felt an obligation to give other cancer patients hope for survival and uses his story as an example of what is possible. Because he believes nothing is impossible, he prepared for Everest, by first climbing Colorado elevations, filling his backpack with 100 pounds of rocks. His motto is “Keep climbing. Never give up.”

 

I hope you found these inspirational. Your mind is an amazing tool. Is yours working for you or against you to let you know what you can achieve?

 

 

 

Life in a Jar


 

 

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Life in a jar

We are in the midst of the Jewish High Holidays. I’m not Jewish, but have worked with many Jewish clients over the years who have taught me so much about their religion and beliefs. And while I don’t pretend to be remotely knowledgeable despite the patience many have exerted while trying to educate me, I have come to have a great appreciation for many of their teachings. And so, part of this post, is intended as an acknowledgment of these special times for those who celebrate.

The other day however, one of my clients sent me a story about an unsung hero during the holocaust. I generally don’t take things that float around the internet at face value, so I decided to do a little more research on this one and was very glad I did. The article was titled “Thank the lady plumber” about a polish female plumber who supposedly saved many children during the holocaust.

It turns out that there were 2 inaccuracies in the article. Irena Sendler was actually not a plumber. She was a catholic social worker. Sendler had to be granted special permission to go into the Warsaw ghettos. As the article stated however, she did in fact find many creative ways to smuggle children out, from duffle bags, to coffins. At times, she even sedated infants to keep them from crying while getting them to safety. She literally had to talk parents out of their children, in hopes that they might be saved.

The other inaccuracy is debatable, which is that, Sendler was denied the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. This can’t be categorically stated as Nobel Prize nominations, investigations and opinions are sealed for 50 years.

But pretty much everything else is dead on accurate. Sendler remained relatively unknown until a teacher in Kansas assigned his students with a year-long National History Day project. Originally two ninth graders and one 11th grader accepted the challenge. The project evolved into a play, and later a book and a movie called Life in a Jar. The three original students along with another who joined them and their teacher were fortunate enough to travel to Poland where they spent time with Irena Sendler. They also met Elzbieta Ficowska, a woman Irena had rescued at the age of 5 months and survived only because of Sendler’s heroism.

The glass jar refers to Sendler’s practice of putting information about each child she rescued in a jar, in hopes that they might later be reunited with their parents. She buried the jars in a friend’s yard and suffered physical brutalities by the Nazi’s when she refused to divulge their whereabouts. In all, the jars contained information about 2500 children. It is believed she saved an additional 500 children prior to the jars, bringing her estimated total closer to 3000 saved lives.

 

Sendler was just 29 when she began her mission. I personally can’t imagine the presence of mind she must have had, in order to muster the bravery needed, to follow through as she had. Katy Perry, Kiera Knightly, Ashley Tisdale and Scarlett Johannson are all 29. Their accomplishments and focus seem grotesquely un-relatable in comparison. And I’m not picking on these women, because frankly, when I was 29, 39 or even 49, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a fraction of the courage or tenacity to do what this woman did, nor do I still today.

Sendler died in 2008 at age 98 from pneumonia.   She didn’t seek fame for her work. In fact, she is quoted as saying “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

Perhaps another of her greatest achievements is her clarity of knowing the justification of her existence, without the need for an external award of proof to her or anyone else. Do you know yours?

 

 

 

 

Time to learn

 

 

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A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master: “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.” The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then ?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?” Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” — Author Unknown

 

I often think of this story when people tell me that they are working really hard at something and it doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough for them.

A young woman wants to find a mate and none seems available.

Another is eating well and exercising but is unable to lose weight.

A man is trying for a promotion that is taking too long while others in the organization seem to be moving ahead.

I recall how badly I wanted to have a second child and found it hard to get pregnant, yet every female under 17 seemed to be turning up with child whether she wanted to be or not.

It seems so unfair when we are working so hard for something that seems logical and possible and yet, it still doesn’t happen.

Or at least it doesn’t happen in the time frame that we have deemed reasonable. The dilemma in most cases is that, it is not our unilateral decision to deem what the right time or right amount of work parameters are actually supposed to be. There is a universe around us that has to also consider the needs, wants and expectations of a gazillion other people as well. What if that perfect mate is saying he is looking for someone exactly like us, but not for another 6 months because he has some other things to finish working on first? What if the conditions for us to have the promotion and succeed are not yet all in place?

The thought process of the western mind is cultivated in an environment in which 1+1=2. There is a specific sequence to follow and you get the prize. But eastern cultures cultivate a different mind-set. For them it is 1+1=3. I’m not talking about common core here. But the Easterners acknowledge that when you put two things together something additional happens by virtue of that union. The sum is greater than the whole of its parts. When you put a match and paper together, you don’t get paper and a match- you get fire.

I think there is great value to both eastern and western thinking and that wise people use some of both.   In the examples I mentioned, western thinking teaches us the value of hard work. But eastern thinking helps us to accept that there is more to consider than only our own definition of the way things should work. And that sometimes we need to let go of working so hard and allow time to follow its own course. Some things can’t be accomplished faster, just because it’s what we want.

 

The Safe Appeal of Disorder

 

 

 

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Let me state clearly at the start that this blog has zero to do with a political opinion. It is merely a political event that introduced me to a thought.

In the recent news stories about the conflict in Gaza, I heard a quote that really grabbed me. It comes from former prime minister of Israel Golda Meier.

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. I thought it was such a powerful quote. And it got me thinking about other areas in life that it might be useful. Of course my mind naturally wondered to my work and the conflicts I see for people I work with. So I changed it to this:

Until you love yourself more than you fear imperfection, disorder will remain.

You can quote me on that.

A person with an eating disorder will abuse themselves to any length in order to achieve a body that they believe will gain them acceptance or legitimacy. The result is reliance on a chaotic system of eating and exercise that not only precludes any other area of their life, but often results in malnutrition, injury, and even self-abuse.

A person who lacks confidence in their ability at work will ignore their personal boundaries and work themselves to oblivion at the expense of their personal life or personal self in fear of having that inadequacy exposed.

A person who ignores themselves to help others in order to win status is forced to function at the mercy of everyone else’s beck and call. It is easy to get caught up in chaos and frenzy only to realize that one has little to show for all of their efforts. They may find themselves in middle life feeling empty of anything to measure their life by, especially if the people they have served have outgrown the need for them.

A person may remain in an unhappy or even harmful relationship with another because they do not feel deserving of happiness or peace. As a result such a person may deny their needs on any level in order to tolerate remaining in the relationship because they fear they are unjustified in the eyes of others to ask for more.

So what does it mean to love oneself? And how does that eliminate disorder?

Loving oneself means to make decisions based on self care as a priority over decisions that lead to approval or acceptance from others if the actions required for either are in mutual conflict. So, if I have to decide to eat because I’m hungry, or not eat because I feel too fat and unacceptable to others, self love means to eat- but eat well and appropriately for the highest level of self care- drowning one’s self in a container of ice cream is not self care.

It means if I have to choose between going to bed when I’m exhausted or reading email from my boss because I’m trying to get promoted, it means go to bed. Sleep well and then be prepared to work to the best of my ability tomorrow.

I’m confident that I’m not sharing any new earth shattering news with anyone here. We all know these things. But we get afraid. And then we get busy. Out of our fear we fill our lives with a million things that we think, or at least hope will make us happy and fit in. And then those things fill our time and our psyche to such extremes that we are too saturated to even think about what is good for us, much less find the time to implement those strategies. But as Meier so eloquently brought to light- we always have a choice. And until we value one thing more than another, change will not occur.

 

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Think outside the box

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A few years ago Taco Bell scored a great pun with their marketing campaign of “think outside the bun”. It was a clever twist on thinking outside the box. Are you familiar with what thinking outside the box refers to?

If not, here’s at least part of the back story.

Gestalt theoriest’s credit the phrase to experiments led by Karl Dunker in 1945. Subjects were given a candle, a box, thumbtacks and matchsticks and then asked to figure out how to attach the candle to the wall in such a way as to avoid dripping. The findings led the researcher to conclude the concept of “functional fixedness” or a person’s inability to see an object as itself, free of the meaning it has in the greater scheme of things.   To learn more about this here is a link:

http://io9.com/the-experiment-that-led-to-the-concept-of-thinking-out-1463883774

 

Another argued origin of thinking outside the box is associated with the The 9 dot puzzle. While the puzzle first appeared in Sam Loyd’s 1914 Cyclopedia of Puzzles, many management consultants throughout the 60’s and 70’s takes responsibility for linking the puzzle to a strategy for problem solving.

It works like this:

Take a piece of paper, and draw dots three across and three down so you have a square made of 9 dots.

The goal is to use only 4 straight lines (no taking your pencil off the paper), and connect all 9 dots. You may want to pause and try this a few times before I give you the spoiler.

 

The paradigm set up by the 9 dots causes most people to look at a “box” that contains the dots. They generally try and approach the solution by staying within the confines of the “box”. But its not a requirement, and in fact, can’t be achieved unless you go or think outside the box. To see the solution, click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrlJHs6-tpo

Thinking inside the box or seeing something the way we are used to see it, (functional fixedness) is something we are all vulnerable to when we are faced with a problem. Our natural tendency is to try doing more of what we have done in the past. Sometimes it will work again. But very often it won’t. So we try and repeat it louder, faster, harder- still to no avail. Thinking outside the box means to leap into the area of what hasn’t been done before. But in order to get there, we have to become willing to see what we are looking at from a different angle or different lens.

In Dunkers experiments, people were only successful if they could use the box as fair game in their solution, rather than seeing the box as only something that held the contents of the other items. With the 9 dots solution, you have to be willing to draw lines that extend out beyond the boundaries of a box and see the space around the dots as fair game.

To solve problems in your own life you have to become willing to see yourself with a different set of eyes or labels than those you may be most familiar with.

Here is an example. I met with someone the other day who hopes to make a career change into sales. She has a marketing degree. She also worked her way through college as a server in a few restaurants. She said she gets interviews for sales jobs, but keeps getting beat out by people with more sales experience.

I suggested she wedge her foot in the door and begin talking about her sales experiencing rather than apologizing for the lack of it. She looked at me puzzled since she had just told me she didn’t have any.

So I pretended to be her in an interview and said the following as if speaking to a potential employer:

On paper it looks like I don’t have sales experience. But I can tell you that working as a server has given me a ton of sales experience. I have to begin selling the minute I walk up to a table. My attitude and demeanor have to convince the patrons that they want to invest in what is going to be a great experience for them. They may ask my opinion about menu items. I have to be knowledgeable about every item on the menu and have the ability to sell it honestly, whether or not it matches my own personal likes or dislikes. And then I have to try and convince them to buy more than they came in for. And I do it hour after hour.

My client looked at me surprised that it made so much sense to her. She had been seeing sales one way, and I went outside that box.

Do you need to look at your job, or your skills through a new lense?

How about a pathology or illness?

What about your financial state?

Could a significant relationship of yours shift by changing the paradigm through which you label it currently?

Drop me a comment, I’d love to hear your ideas and experiments.

Thanks for stopping by.  I ‘d love it if you pass this on to someone else and suggest they subscribe as well.

Justin Bieber gets religion?

 

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I heard recently that, Justin has reportedly found God, is doing bible study and trying to use that avenue to turn his life around. The skeptic in me thinks Justin is trying to turn his plummeting stardom and likability ratings around- but who am I to judge. And frankly, I hope the skeptic is wrong. Not because of a religious conviction, but because at the end of the day I do firmly believe that the path to change always begins with the decision to do so followed by a single step in a different direction.

This morning I received a text from an old client I haven’t seen in a while. He told me he had been thinking of coming in for a while. I said I was looking forward to seeing him and we set up an appointment. He said I shouldn’t be too excited, because he wasn’t feeling very proud of himself. I don’t know what we have ahead to work on. Frankly, it doesn’t change how I’m feeling. I’m fairly confident that regardless of what he has to present, the fact that he already has an internal feeling that he knows he is behaving in ways he doesn’t feel good about, and is willing to talk about this, is justification for my optimism.

I am often asked if I think people change. My answer is yes. And it’s based on more than the PolyAnna optimism I’ve been charged with at times. While many people don’t change, I believe more often than not, people are capable of change. However, it is unlikely to happen unless there is something more compelling to go towards, or something compelling enough to motivate them to move away from. What qualifies as compelling varies from person to person.

 

From the outside looking in, we tend to view the need for someone else to change as pretty straight forward. Woman beaten by husband- leave him. Husband using alcohol with poor health- Don’t drink. Wife disappearing in emaciation- just eat. Employee losing wife due to overworking- just set boundaries.

I think the important thing to remember is that people don’t develop problematic behaviors in a vacuum because they are attractive or fun. Behavior is meaningful. It serves a purpose. The woman may tolerate the beatings because she is financially or emotionally dependent. The husband may be using alcohol to self-medicate other issues. The emaciated woman may use her body as a way to set boundaries between herself and others that she has been unsuccessful doing any other way and so on. I do not offer these as excuses, but as explanations or as a small glimpse of what might lie under the surface that we do not see in others when we judge.

That said, dysfunctional or maladaptive behavior needs to be addressed. But change in my opinion is a process that occurs over time, not an event from a short term burst of enlightenment. People can have an “aha” moment, feel the heal, and seal it by singing a little Kumbaya during a group hug. But chances are when they return to the mundane routine of their everyday world, the very factors that led to their choice of behavior will still be waiting for them. Real change involves learning how to be different internally even though the environment hasn’t changed.

Change takes work. It requires introspection, objectivity and honesty. It also requires a willingness to tolerate the uneasiness of stepping out of your comfort zone while you wait for something better to grow in its place. It also requires a willingness to fail and start again, sometimes over and over again.

I think I’ll wrap this one up with a little humor with a joke that although corny, does make the point.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one- but the light bulb has to really really want to change.

 

I hope you’ll leave a comment and pass my blog on to someone else suggesting they subscribe!  Thanks for stopping by and Take care.

 

 

Purple Cows

 

 

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I’d rather be a purple cow

I like Seth Godin. He is a quirky guy with great ideas, which are also sometimes quirky. Recently, I watched a TED talk of his and he used the example of working to find a business that is a purple cow. His point was that when we drive down the road, we see a bunch of cows, no one ever says “Hey, a cow”. But if we drove down the road and saw a purple cow, that would stand out and we might say “Hey there is a purple cow!”

I think Seth Godin is a purple cow. He is bald and wears funny glasses, and his style makes him stand out in such a way that, usually causes me to notice him even before he speaks. But his speaking as a marketing guru is worth noting as well. Through a blog, podcasts and several published books, he coaches people in business to, break outside the status quo and do something no one else had done. Smart.

But as usual, it got my mind wandering. And it wandered to the nursery rhyme you might remember:

I never saw a purple cow

I hope I never see one

But if I saw a purple cow

I’d rather see than be one.

I love nursery rhymes and children’s books, and often find them to have some of the most sage wisdom.   But I actually inaccurately remembered this one the first time around. I transposed the last line to:

I’d rather be than see one.

And I’m sticking with it.

I don’t work with people every day to help them figure out how to develop a purple cow like Godin does. But as a therapist, I do often work with people who need to realize that I believe is their innate ability to be a purple cow, a green or horse, or whatever suits their fancy.

The dilemma for most people is that they too aren’t used to seeing purple cows and instead work to keep their color under wraps in order to fit in with all of the other cows.

In a recent blog (uniquely you) I talked about the importance of authenticity. If you are really a purple cow and you’ve made yourself brown or black, it’s hard to be authentic.

What is something you secretly always wished you had done? I’m not talking about the bucket list here. I’m talking about those things that you wanted to do, but felt you might not be good enough for. Or worse still, someone else thought you weren’t good enough?

How can you produce anything different if you keep your mind in the same small box that everyone else keeps theirs in? If you only play where the other cows play, eat the same food, rest at the same time, it’s hard to stand out.

To be a purple cow, means to think about what “I want” before seeing what everyone else is about to order. It doesn’t mean to become a narcissist and disregard everyone else’s wishes. It means simply to value your own separateness in conjunction with theirs.

To be a purple cow means not worrying who is looking at you, judging you. And it especially means to not worry about it even before you arrive somewhere by trying to anticipate their judgment. It means to wear what makes you feel fabulous.

Being a purple cow means to have your own feelings, rather than have them dictated by the group consensus.

Being a purple cow means to stand firm in your convictions.

Most of all, being a purple cow means to invest in the art of introspection to know yourself well enough to appreciate and value you.

Thanks for reading. I always appreciate your time and hope you’ll leave me a comment. If you like what you heard, please pass it on to someone else. Until next time. Take good care

Heroes

 

 

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I want to highlight and recommend a couple of books. These recommendations are not for the sake of reading a good book,  but for the importance of the message they deliver about the perseverance of the human spirit.

They are: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (Unbroken is under production as a movie due out 12/25/2014). A little less strong, buy yet still a good read is Crazy for the Storm- Norman Ollestad

Each of these books is based on true stories of survival.  But far more important than the harrowing experiences that these individuals had to endure and overcome is, the sense of gratitude and affirmation of life they developed from their experiences.

They are all interesting stories.  Each offers detailed accounts of what hardships the individual experienced and how they managed through their life threatening ordeal.  Each discusses their physical capabilities, their mental resources, the connection to family and loved ones, and most importantly, a spiritual component.  Each of these men is certainly heroic in the having conquering odds that would make most of us (or at least me), crawl into the fetal position and beg for it to be over with.  And yes, each of them has a more than fair share of brutal and stomach turning details to digest (no pun intended).

I had a professor who defined a hero in a less traditionally thought of way.  He said (paraphrased) that, a hero is one who has come to terms with bearing the flaws of his humanness.  He referred us to the example of the Greek Tragedies, particularly Oedipus the King.  Upon learning Oedipus had fulfilled the prophecy by unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother, she hung herself. In contrast, Oedipus continued to endure the pain of his knowledge by moving forward.    I realize this is a little deep and theoretical for a casual blog- but I wanted to provide some additional context for what follows.

We can look at Louis Zamperini (Unbroken) or Nando Parrado (Andes) and call them heroic because of their survival.  Most of us will never come close to what these men endured in their disaster.  But I found the real gem of these books to be how the men talked somewhat universally that, their greatest obstacle wasn’t getting out of a prison camp or climbing down a mountain.  It was their fight to find meaning in their own existence and whether or not it was a value worth fighting for.  Each ultimately had to keep stepping or breathing or whatever was required, in order to, prove their own essence had merit.  In both cases, it was largely dependent upon their willingness to see themselves as part of something larger, yet significant within that largeness.  These men had to come to realize that they mattered and it mattered if they kept going towards life.  They had to choose over and over both during their ordeal and even more so after they were safe, whether their next action was life affirming and preserving, or life rejecting or destroying.

The choices I have to make minute to minute or day to day or obviously not in the ballpark of what these men had.  That’s true for most of us, although certainly there are people walking around suffering from many afflictions and maladies, both mental and physical which are weighty and burdensome.  Sometimes no one else will ever know about those challenges.  However, when we don’t have circumstances so grave, we are more likely to interpret the ones we do have with the same type of scale.  For example, it’s a sunny day, everyone is getting along, a great item I want is on sale equals a good day

It’s rainy, I have a flat tire, I didn’t sleep well,  I’m late for work, I feel challenged equals a bad day- Those are the two poles that I judge between.  Yet, I suppose if I had cancer or a sick child, being late for work might be higher up the scale towards good day because the range has changed.

I hope what I want to say is coming through clearly, which is that, our individual challenges are less the focal point in determining our heroism. Our individual challenges are such largely because they come from our own lens. Easy and hard are relative terms not defined equally between people.  What is universal, however, is the need for each of us to have to choose to do what we feel is hard (when it leads to life affirmation) for the solely because we believe there is purpose in us doing so.  That something greater than just us benefits from us doing so.  That we accept that connection and the responsibility to the degree that, we are willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other to make it happen…. Even when it’s hard, painful, muddy, cold or any other number of conditions which apply.

Are you heroic?

Are you waiting for a set of conditions to pass in order to realize your significance?

How do you know that you don’t already?

And if you already do, I would love to hear what helped you to know that you are a hero.

 

If you liked what you read, please pass it on to someone else with the suggestion they subscribe.  Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Uniquely Yours

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Today I have another book recommendation for you.  It’s called “The Art of Being Unmistakable” by Srinvas Rao.

The book is currently only available as an E-book, and I purchased it through Kindle. It’s a short, but helpful little book.  I’m going to give you four excerpts to give you a sense of what the book has to offer, each followed with my own commentary. Please keep in mind that these are notes I highlighted out of context of course.  They aren’t sequential and go together only to the extent that they all come from the same book.

 

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

You have to go to another level, new energy, change the paradigm, maybe even do something that doesn’t make sense to find a solution.

Obsession with crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan leads to little other than therapy, midlife crises, and depression.

The boxes are determined from the outside rather than the inside. It’s unlikely the inside can feel authentic satisfaction by completing the checks. To use a food metaphor, it’s like having someone on the outside determine what they think YOU are hungry for. If you are past the age of 2, that’s only something you can determine accurately.

3Let’s say you want to be an artist of some sort and for the next 100 days you sit on your ass in front of the television.  Well that’s a completely different direction than the one your dream is pointing you in.  But if you have the habit of sketching, drawing, doodling something every single day and correcting your course just a tiny bit during each step along the way, you’ll eventually end up at your destination.

Check back to my earlier post called Do One Thing- every step towards your goal gets you closer. Some days you can walk further than others.

 

If you planted a tree, would it make any sense to keep digging up the roots to make sure it was growing?  You water it and have a bit of faith that it will grow.

Checking your bank account every day, your email every 10 seconds, waiting for the phone to ring are all examples of letting anxiety drive the process instead of expecting something to work. How might that energy be expended if you relied on faith instead?

 

So what is this book about?  Inspiration to become authentic.  It’s a dare to break the chains one might be living under, imposed by self, or other, or community kind of book. Rao suggests you instead charter a new path dictated by the need to be one’s self rather than by a picture of what the self should be.   The book is written by a blogger and quotes other bloggers.  This may be a little distracting if you aren’t or don’t want to become a blogger.  Ignore that.  The information is equally applicable to other careers and goals as well.  Its primary theme is cultivating your willingness to follow your own beat.

I keep a book on my bookshelf called “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance”. It’s a children’s book full of similar though simpler wisdom.  Basically, anyone can dance if they find the right music.  Rao’s book is an invitation to stop listening to familiar music and find something you genuinely like, even if no one else does.  Make it yours, so that everyone who hears the tune will remember it and associate it with you.

If you like today’s post, please pass it on to someone else and invite them to subscribe as well.  As always, I appreciate your time in reading and comments.

 

 

 

Butterflies are Free

For an audio version of todays post click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message and look for the sound icon.

 

 

 

I often say that you just never know when and where guidance will come from. But I never expected it to come from Ashton Kutcher. Well, actually Ashton was the messenger, but the real wisdom comes from Steve Jobs. Let me clarify.

A couple of months ago Ashton quoted a little piece from his movie in which he plays the role of Steve Jobs. So, Kutcher was accepting an award and he offered advice to his young audience he attributed to Steve Jobs.   By the way, The Jobs movie is surprisingly worth watching, but if you want the short cut version of Kutcher’s speech, this link will take you there.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT-jbMHbiwk

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

 

It prompts these kinds of thoughts for me.

How much depression is caused by the exhaustion of holding all of your potential locked inside? Or from trying to fit into a life that someone else decided the rules for?

How did the guy who decided to make a bunch of money picking up dog poop in other people’s yards deal with all the people that laughed at him when he came up with the idea?

Who stands to lose the most if you stop following all of the rules inside your head?

How would we be traveling today if Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers and others followed the status quo and did things the way they were familiar with? The ways people understood. The way people before them told them it was supposed to be.

What is the price you are willing to pay to color outside the lines and take a path or a project that no one else has thought of?

These are not questions to run through quickly. They require time to let you mull them around. But if you were willing to let yourself do something that doesn’t already exist, how might you change the world?

Changing the world doesn’t have to mean the whole world. It doesn’t mean your city, your neighborhood, or even your whole family. It just has to begin with you.

Have you heard of the Butterfly effect? I’m not talking about the movie, which ironically stars Ashton Kutcher. I am talking about a concept in chaos theory that took its name originally from a short story written in 1952 by Ray Bradbury. It’s called “A Sound of Thunder”. I won’t detail that story here because you can find it pretty easily online, or let me know if you can’t.   But the bottom line is that changing one small thing can have dramatic impact on much larger systems.

 

Translated it means making a change in the way you are “supposed to live as defined by others” to living in a way fueled by your own unleashed creativity can change things for years to come.

Admittedly, the world probably won’t be changed on its axis because you paint the walls in your house purple instead of white.

But someone one day, someone sounding crazy said “hey, I think we can talk to people all over the world instantaneously through electronic mediums. “ Another crazy sounding person said we could send a space ship to the moon.

Do you have some “crazy” ideas that you need to unleash?

So the next time you see a butterfly, remember it can change the world. And you are free to as well.

 

 

 

Not all who wander part 2

For an audio version of this post click here- if you are using a smart phone or tablet, you may need to click to the bottom and look for the little speaker symbol or link to mp3 file.

In the last post I illustrated and discussed thinking of yoga as a philosophy rather than an exercise. As a philosophy, it becomes a tool that is helpful to you both on and off the mat.

So as I said previously, I had a regular practice of yoga. In contrast, I did not practice meditation. In fact, in one way or another, people probably suggested meditation to me about a zillion or so times over 20 something years. I even tried it a time or two, but mostly found it boring and not useful unless I was purposefully trying to fall asleep. I even started leaving yoga classes before the relaxation meditation at the end began, because if I stayed, I almost always woke up in an empty room alone. Yes, if you are wondering, that IS a little embarrassing. Sure, the room was empty when I woke up, but every person who walked out saw me their snoring away.

So suffice it to say, I didn’t see much benefit in mediation for the most part. But despite my experiences, I decided to again give it a try. And I made the commitment that I would sit for 5 minutes and try to focus on something. I found a comfortable spot in the room, sat on a cushion to make it official and I lit a candle as my object of focus. And I set a timer so I wouldn’t keep thinking about the time. It sounded something like this in my brain:

Just look at the candle, be here right now.

Oh my gosh this is boring

Just look at the candle

Candle

Candle

Did I take those steaks out for dinner?

Back to the candle stay with the candle

My leg itches

Back to the candle,

Look, I’m looking at the candle.

Just look at the candle,

Oh I have to remember to return that email

Back to the candle.

Okay, I think you get the point. My oneness with the candle and only the candle added up to about 22.3 seconds if you add all the snippets together. And so initially I concluded it was once again not useful.

But then something interesting happened. One day I was walking into work and I heard my brain start to ruminate over and over about something unrelated to what I was doing. And I heard a voice within (the okay kind of voices) say “be right here, right now”. And suddenly in that little statement I realized I had moved meditation off the cushion and into a philosophy that could be used anywhere, anytime, just as I had previously learned to do with Yoga.

The usefulness of meditation, I learned had much less to do with the moments of candle oneness and reaching some state of transcendental nirvana. But instead, its benefit was in training my mind to notice when it had wondered and to call it back home where it was needed, i.e. the present moment.

The benefit to doing the candle staring thing is to have a place to come back to. You can choose whatever you want to stare at, as long as it’s not the TV or the road while you are driving if you are trying to meditate. And it will take more than 1, 2 or 3 tries before this starts to sink in so be patient and persistent. But this is the kind of practice that makes YOU the master of your thoughts rather than the other way around. It teaches you that thoughts can come and go, but you need not follow them to wherever they desire to lead you just because they appear in that moment to compete with what you were otherwise doing at the time.

So give it a try. Remember this because it will be on a future quiz: MEDITATION HELPS TO ACTIVATE YOUR PREFRONTAL CORTEX.

I’d love to know if the audio version is working for you!

 

 

 

not all who wander are lost- but some of us do need directions

For an audio version of this post click here. On smart phones, you may need to scroll to the end of your email message and look for the little sound icon and click on that. I would also appreciate any comments about how well (or not) the audio option is working.

 

 

I used to be a somewhat serious student of yoga. I realize that some of you who know me may find this hard to believe, but it’s actually true. One of the things I most appreciated about yoga was a lesson I learned not about a particular posture, but about the philosophy of yoga. Rather, that yoga IS in and of itself a philosophy.

When you put your body into some contorted posture, you are purposefully (with intention) causing your body to have stress or tension. You hold that tension to increase your awareness of the tension and notice the nuances of your muscles under that stress. (which if you’re out of shape like I am these days, doesn’t take long for that awareness to become front and center in your brain).

Once you have established that the only thing you can now think about is that your are experiencing that tension, the next step is to round up all of your internal resources to try and calm the tension. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE RELEASING THE POSTURE. At least not yet.

It means you use your focus and your breath in harmony to try and ease the tension. For example, you might try and inhale the image of a soothing light into the tension, and exhale away pain. Use whatever imagery or thoughts work for you keeping the goal of making your breath the power or the tool of your brain to ease your discomfort. Stay in the moment of what is happening in your body right now and deal with only that.

When either you’ve gone as far as you can, or you’ve had some success, release the posture. If you didn’t achieve your goal, try it again later, but try to go a little longer than you did before.

So that is what you do in Yoga on the mat.

But as a philosophy, you have to take the yoga off the mat and it works something like this:

I’m standing in a long line at the grocery store. Or let’s up the stakes a bit. I’m standing in a long line at Hobby Lobby. The tension is mounting. I’m thinking I need to get home, I have stuff to do. I fold my arms across my chest and jut my hip out to one side to indicate to all around me that I am not happy to be sitting in this line once again. My face shows frustration.

Time for yoga.

No it does not mean to drop my packages and go into a tree pose or a downward dog.

But what is happening in that moment is that I’ve left the line. I’m thinking about where I want to be next rather than where I am right now and what is happening as a result of where I am right now.

So to start yoga (philosophy) at this point, I first need to relax my body a little. Uncross the arms, stand up straight.

And then, just like above, I start using my breath to go in and heal any remaining tension. I focus on where I am right here right now.

The magic of focusing on your breath is this: You cannot think of two things simultaneously. When you are focused on the breath, you can’t think about tonight’s dinner or the clothes you left in the washer or how bad traffic is going to be. Those are “not here”. The breath is “here”.

Why is it important to be “here” over being “not here”. Because regardless of where your brain wanders, your body remains “here”. And if you don’t attend to it with the presence of your brain, you leave yourself at risk. It’s kind of like a headless man running around trying to find his way around a crowded room.

When you stay present with your mind, you keep your “head on” making it much easier to navigate which direction you are trying to go towards. You can address the obstacles that come into view in real time, rather than having to deal with the after effects caused by bumping into stuff you didn’t plan on. Think of it like this, You are walking in a room with awareness and you notice the rug is crumpled. Because of the awareness, you notice the crumple, and walk around it or bend down and straighten it out before passing. Without the awareness (because you are instead thinking about where you are ultimately going), you trip over the rug, fall and hit your head. Now you have to stop, prolonging your journey and attend to the bump on your head.

In the next blog I’ll extend this to meditation. And let me tease you by saying that I have always thought probably far worse and boring things about meditation than you might conjure up at its very mention. So try and keep an open mind and check back for Sunday’s post. I promise no caffeine will be necessary to keep you awake through it and you won’t be asked to sit on a small cushion for 3 hours chanting “om”

 

 

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle
– This blog is a little more for folks on the coaching side, although frankly I think its useful for anyone.
I’d like to introduce you to Simon Sinek. Simon is a human motivation author. His TED talk regarding the Golden Circle is one of the most watched TED talks to date. But before I go further, let me not assume everyone knows what a TED talk is.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a series of talks 15-30 minutes long that are available on the internet for anyone to watch. They come from diverse industries and disciplines. You can also access the free TED app on a smart phone and be notified when a new talk is posted.
So back to Simon and the Golden Circle. Simon takes you on a journey to understand the different motivations of individuals when they try to attain a goal. According to his theory, most people start with what they want to do and how they are going to do it, but can’t always articulate why. Sinek says that truly successful individuals/companies start with Why. He says people buy why you do something.  (Buying doesn’t simply mean a purchase, but also includes, getting on board with what you feel is important).

For me personally, I loved this concept because understanding WHY I am a therapist is pretty easy for me to think about. I’m curious about people and the processes we use. I love the stories and the meanings of the stories people use to navigate their lives. I believe my primary role as a therapist is to interpret those stories, sometimes to add in new context or change the timing. And ultimately to help my clients to feel like they are their own authors, have a sense of agency, rather than simply playing a role that someone else has written for them.

I’ll let Sinek convince you-  the link for that video is here: (Click on the words The golden circle).

The Golden Circle

Do One Thing

for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

Do One Thing

Today I have a challenge for you. To start with, I want you to think of an area in your life that you want to make some improvement in, or a goal you have that you hope to achieve. It can be big or small. Take a minute to think about that and write it down.

Got it?

Okay, let’s pretend that the item you chose was you want to get in better shape. Yes, I went for the easy one, but it could be get another job, be a better parent, increase your flexibility, start a foundation or a million other things.

Now I’m going to tell you a story.

When I was first learning to knit, I began by making a scarf. And I made enough scarves to warm the homeless in St. Louis. Everyone I knew got a scarf. I wanted to branch out, but I didn’t know how. Actually, I did know how, because regardless of what one is knitting, there are only 2 stitches- knit and purl. What changes the end product is the way you combine those two stiches and nothing more. But I didn’t realize that at the time.

So I went to the yarn store one day and I began conversing with the shop owner while I was completing my purchase of more yarn to make more scarves. I mentioned that I wanted to make a hat, had even purchased the supplies for a hat, but had not begun the project. She asked me why. I told her it was because I didn’t know how to read a pattern. She chuckled and gave me the following advice:

“That’s not how this works. You don’t have to know how to read a whole pattern. You just have to cast on {the first stitch} and do the first thing it tells you. After that, you do the next thing and so on. And if you get stuck, we’ll help you.”

You just never know where and when you will get the most guidance about life in general. Keeping your eyes and ears open for wisdom makes it a lot easier.

So, back to your goal.

You want to get in shape-

What is the first thing?

Is it making a plan, buying some shorts you can move in, or sneakers? Is it joining a gym? How about better defining the goal? I’d like to lose 10 lbs vs I’d like to be able to strengthen my back?

Once you have a clear idea of the goal- what is the FIRST thing you need to do? Or what is the first thing you are WILLING to do. Sometimes they aren’t the same thing.

Now that you have that first step- its time to cast on or begin.

And now for the challenge:

Commit to YOURSELF that you will do ONE THING towards that goal every day.

Knitting works like this. Rarely do you complete a project in one day. It’s a series of knitting stitches that cling together to make a row. Rows stack upon themselves to make a section. Sections add up to make a finished product.

Buying shorts, then tennis shoes, determining a route, scoping out the route, walking ¼ of the route, then ½ then ¾ and so on adds up.

You are free to do more than one thing each day. But commit to one. And when you execute that one- say it out loud. “I did _____ today. Yay me.

I’d love to know what you come up with. And I’d love to know how its going for you. You might even get a “yay you” on this blog.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu

The first step is you have to say that you can.

Will Smith

 

The Places that Scare you

for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

I had a boss when I was about 18 years old who gave me the following advice: The best thing that can ever happen to you is to get fired.

I can’t say I’ve had that joyful experience, but I certainly understand what it meant. Simply, that once you’ve been fired, and you survive that, you quit working in such a way as to “avoid firing” as your primary motivation and guide. Instead, you begin to work focused on what is the job about, how can you be good at it, how can you enjoy what you do and so on.

Fear is an insidious and debilitating worm. It crawls into places that we may not even know about and sits waiting to call out the shots with a megaphone. While this is of course indicative of other maladies as well, I’m going to use eating disorders as the metaphor to illustrate a point.

Ive had the experience more than once (or a hundred) times, where I’m working with someone who is terrified at the prospect of gaining weight. Perhaps they are already at the upper end of their comfort zone, or potentially even emaciated when this discussion occurs. I’ve learned its universal, regardless of one’s size because its about the fear, not the size. And the fear is always extremely heavy.

So I say “you need to gain some weight to get beyond this”.

The other person looks at me like I could not possibly be any more stupid or insensitive.

See here is the deal “I am not trying to get the person to “gain weight”. I’m letting the person know that their constant fear of what will happen IF/WHEN they gain weight has a death grip on them and it is filling every waking moment.. and for some a bit of their nocturnal dream world as well. And because of that death grip, they are not able to use their energy in other places of their lives. So when I say gain weight, what I’m really saying is go to the place that scares you and learn that you will and can live in that place- you might not enjoy it – but it won’t kill you- and you might find it isn’t nearly as scary as you thought it was-or even as terrible- but if you don’t like it, you can still change it- but not not because you’re terrified of it-

This is usually when the other person says “I’ll just stop thinking about it”. Bzzzz- wrong answer- here’s why- try this little experiment. If I ask you to not think of any four letter words for one minute- I’m pretty sure you will come up with a list of at least 20 in no time. It’s how our brain works- Tell us we can’t do something and the brain kicks into high gear going to work to figure out exactly how to do what we told it not to.

So if you tell yourself to stop thinking about it…. You’ll only think of it more. The way out is through, not around.

How do we get a kid to learn that they aren’t going to die by sleeping alone at night with the light off? Remember, from the child’s perspective its terrifying. We know otherwise. So we tell them the words but it isn’t until they actually sleep through the night, and wake up on the other side there is any measure of convincing that takes place.

Gaining weight in this scenario is about losing fear. It’s about telling the fear that it cannot continue to have a death grip on you.

What form does your death grip have? Money? A job? A relationship? How would you enter into the place that scares you? What might be possible in your life if you didn’t have that fear?

 

 

 

Deep Waters

for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

Deep Waters

As a kid, my family was always around water.  We had a boat and, a dilapidated shack of sorts on the Mississippi river.  We called the place, the Clubhouse, and it’s where we spent the bigger portion of our summers.  But the intriguing part of this tale is that neither of my parents could swim.

Despite his limitation, my father had no fear of the water.  He would drive the boat faster than he should have.  I especially remember how he would make sharp turns to create a wake for those of us swimming nearby.  The turns would cause the boat to careen in such a way, so close to the water that, it was as if, anything not buckled down, including the people, could roll out like marbles in an open bag.  Although it never happened, I can still see the fear and disdain in my mother’s face as she tried to admonish him from the shoreline.

My mother was a woman of great fear.  I don’t offer that with the same harsh judgment I once did, but rather as statement of understanding what better governed many of the choices she made in her life, both for herself and for her children.  Although she too, spent many hours in the water, it was a relationship precariously balanced between her love for it, and her fear.  Fear of water is not irrational, people do drown.  But my mother’s fear was more of a philosophy than a reaction.  Sometimes she sat near, other times venturing in with her life jacket, ski belt or more commonly, an inner tube.  We had a stockpile of used car and truck inner tubes inflated as flotation devices that anyone could use to just lounge about the water.  For my mother, they were literally her life preservers.

There were times over the years that she tried to become more engaged.  She took a lesson here or there to increase her confidence.  And sometimes it worked.  But then life turns would take her away from the water for a bit too long and she would forget what she knew.  Mostly, she forgot the confidence that her body was capable of keeping her afloat with just a little effort and a smidgen of skill.

One day when my mom was about 87 years old, she joined me and my boys in the pool at our home.  My youngest son was about 5 and still trying to get comfortable with swimming into the deep end of the pool without his water wings.  I was going back and forth from end to end alongside him trying to build both his confidence and endurance.  My mom watched on from the shallow end clinging to a noodle despite a depth of only about 3 feet.  After a bit, I tried gently at first and then more forcefully to get her to venture out into the deeper water.  Annoyed, she snapped back “I’ll do it later”.  And in a harsh frustrated and sarcastic tone I retorted “Mom! You’re 87 years old, just when do you think you’ll finally get around to this?

My mother died three years later.  If my memory is accurate, and believe me, these days people should question that before assuming it is, I think that day in our pool was the last time my mom was ever in the pool.  I started to write, “went swimming”, but I realized as I wrote the preceding line, she didn’t swim that day.  She got in a pool.  She stood in water.  But she did not swim.  She was too afraid to swim.  And in a very real way she, at least partially so, knew how to swim.

I just did a google search on the word fear.  137 million entries in .29 seconds.  It’s a pretty big deal fear is.

What are you waiting to do that you are afraid of?  What are you waiting to do that you don’t even know about yet, because the fear inside won’t even let you conceive of the idea of that something?

When you think about things you want to do, what comes up? What are the stories that your head tells you that you cannot do and why?  If I tell myself I want to be a world class ballerina, a myriad of stories are going to come forward.  Stories about how I’m too short, out of shape or too old to achieve a goal that requires training I should have begun 40 years ago.  These are not fear based nor are they judgments.  They are simply assessments of reality as it currently exists.

But if I say I wouldn’t want to dance because people would laugh at me, that instead is a story based on fear.  If I more cleverly try to disguise this by telling myself, I don’t want to dance because I don’t have time, then it’s a story born out of a seed of fear that is nurtured with the soil of convenience to help it grow.  The improbability of becoming a world class ballerina does not mean I could not take a ballet class.  It doesn’t mean I could not perform in a local recital.  It doesn’t mean I couldn’t dance at home.

Fortunately for me, I have zero interest in becoming a ballerina, world class or no class.  My fears lurk in other domains.  Where do yours lie?  Are you willing to pull them out, dust them off and have a thorough look at them?  Are you willing to schedule them far enough in the future to assure they will never confront you?

Take a look backwards at your life for a moment.  Look for the themes or patterns of events that may have been opportunities to get you started towards something that is important to you, that you have perhaps ignored.  In the story of my mother’s reluctance to swim, opportunity had presented itself many times over her lifetime.  How about you?  Has opportunity invited you to join in the fun but you have allowed fear to persuade you into thinking it was calling someone else?  Did you tell yourself it wasn’t the “right time” or circumstances?   What are you putting off “’til later on”?

Are you willing to just make a list of those things for now?  You don’t have to act on them.  But even making a list of them gives the universe a little hope that, you are still interested.  It says to not cross you off the list just yet.

In the next blog, we’ll get a little more personal.  So for today I’ll end today with a couple of quotes of inspiration.

 

There comes a moment in every life when the Universe presents you with an opportunity to rise to your potential. An open door that only requires the heart to walk through, seize it and hang on.
The choice is never simple. It’s never easy. It’s not supposed to be. But those who travel this path have always looked back and realized
that the test was always about the heart. …The rest is just practice.”
? Jaime Buckley, Prelude to a Hero

 

For if the talent or individuality is there, it should be expressed. If it doesn’t find its way out into the air, it can be turned inward and gnaw like the fox at the Spartan boy’s belly.’

— Shirley McLain

 

I’m no more a wonder than anyone. And that’s what makes the world magical. Every baby’s a seed of wonder – that gets watered or it doesn’t.”
? Dean Koontz, Relentless

 

 

Burning the boats part 3

Time to get practical.

This is the third and final part of my burning the boats post- at least in this phase.
1. Identify the treasure
2. Identify what is in the way of the treasure
3. Develop a commitment to get rid of what is in the way

But how do you actually do that?
So, let’s use my example of writing.
I know I want to write. Something that is publishable. That’s my treasure
What’s in the way of the treasure?
-anything I do instead of writing. Now of course I have responsibilities that have to be fulfilled. But, there are lots of other activities that I can spend time doing instead of using the time for writing. Any of those items could be considered obstacles for the treasure.
-fear could be an obstacle
Getting the idea?

Developing a commitment to get rid of what’s in the way:

I could
-make a writing schedule- agree to write 3 pages every day
-write every morning for one hour
-hire a writing coach
-submit an abstract that if accepted would make me required to finish the article
-commit to not participate in other activities unless my writing commitment was fulfilled for the day
-tell someone who would help me with accountability about a writing goal

Again, these are just some ideas to use as examples. Your boats are different than mine. By now, hopefully you are starting to take a look at things you may be thinking about doing, but haven’t gotten started. Today is a great day to take a risk!

Looking for dinghys

for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

 

Hopefully by now you’ve watched the video of Andy Andrews telling the Cortez story.  Actually, the version I most like of his telling is the one he does on his Audio CD.  The difference is that in that version, he talks about his own life of trying to make the leap towards a career in comedy and the ships he had to become willing to burn in order to fulfill his dream.

The CD is called “My Life So Far”.  I found it originally because of the story he tells about boys and baseball.  That track alone makes it worth the purchase.  But I digress, so let’s get back to boats for now.

I have often said that turning 40 was the age I learned to say F@#$!!K Y___.  I’m sorry to be so graphic, but here is what it means in the short version.  Give or take 1 year on either side of my 40th birthday I went from being married, single, remarried, a mother and a Ph.D.  It was a lot of transition, to say the least.  In addition to the chaos of change, however, some of those transitions were the mastery of areas in life i had previously held some measure of fear about.  Passing through them, afforded me a confidence to know that i was still standing and better off because of the risk.  Hence, i developed more of a “bring it on kind of mentality around that period of my life.  I burned boats and took the island.

I wish I could say that has stayed with me completely.  But it hasn’t.  I think becoming a mother has probably had the greatest impact on my going back into safer territory.  It’s one thing to take risks for yourself, another for people for whom you feel responsible for.  That said, it’s still a rationalization to some extent.  And I think that the reality is even when we burn boats and take our island, the story doesn’t end there.  We get comfortable on the island for a while, then get bored and decide to check out another island which, of course, means we build new boats.  And well, you know what happens next.

So burning the boats isn’t something we do once and we’re done.  Rather, it has to become part of an everyday review process to look at what are we holding on to.  Actually, it may be more accurate to say “what do we think we are holding on to that is actually holding on to us and keeping us pinned down?”

Sometimes the boats are easy to spot like a yacht.  These might be an addiction, a long held belief, a bad habit, the need to pursue some type of training, degree etc.  But other times, they might be little dinghy’s hidden on the shoreline behind some trees.  This might be something like keeping your own checking account in the marriage so you know you can “get out” if needed.  Orit could be maintaining a friendship outside the relationship to avoid intimacy within the relationship.  A dinghy is keeping yourself in debt to avoid achieving goals or spending inordinate amount of time doing things like facebook, pinterest, video games, or even TV rather than achieving something else that you have desire for.

I can see the comments lining up now? “I can’t have my own checking account if I’m married?”  Of course you can.  You can’t have your own checking account IF IT’S PART OF A MENTALITY, that you subscribe to about ways to create “exit doors”.  And, I certainly have friends that I tell things to that I don’t tell my husband.  Why? Because if he had to hear them, he would be bored, and far less tolerant than, my girlfriends are.  But there aren’t things that I would only tell girlfriends because I am not comfortable telling my husband.  I don’t share things with others to avoid the intimacy in the relationship.

That said, I still have my boats that need burning.  The writing in this blog is the process of lighting matches.  I’ve been doing a lot more writing lately.  (in case you haven’t noticed).  So far, it doesn’t seem like there is much of an audience.  It feels like there is wind blowing out my matches.  But for now, I still have quite a few matches stored.  I am hoping if I light enough of them and throw on a few sticks, I can turn it into the kind of inferno I need to burn the boats I’m aware I’m still storing.   So lend me a match— drop me a comment.