Tag Archives: taking risks

Freedom and modern day slavery

 

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Perhaps I’ll start again- time will tell.  I love to write in this blog, and yet a million other things call my attention away from doing so.  And that is part of what prompts this post.

Let me start before the actual content in saying that this is not in any way intended to be a political blog, and would appreciate there not be any comments of the same.  Politics is a very volatile subject these days and I prefer to keep that out of my therapeutic realm.  I also want to state clearly that my use of slave and its derivatives that follow are in no way intended as a comparison to historical slavery.

So today is the Fourth of July.  It’s our national celebration of our freedom from the British.  We have pool parties, eat good food, watch fireworks and socialize.  Perhaps we fly our flag and spend a few minutes thinking patriotic thoughts.  We celebrate what it means to be free.

But despite my own recent efforts with some points in the win column, I am aware of how easy  and prevalent it has become for us to enslave ourselves.  We become slaves to our jobs, our commitments, our homes, our families, cultural trends and while the list can go on, most of all, slaves to our fears.

Words that define slave:  owned by another, works excessively hard, forced to obey.  Certainly my assertion doesn’t meet that definition in the literal sense.  And yet, I see people every day (and sometimes myself) working very hard to meet the demands of someone or something that is not me.  An “other” be it a job one stays late to work at when they wish they were with their family.  A socially inspired trend that requires spending outside of one’s comfortable budget.  A body that is punished beyond reasonable limits in order to maintain a culturally identified ideal.

But unlike true slaves, we do this however unknowingly by choice.  We put ourselves in the small box like prisons of behaviors and repeat them day after day both because they are familiar and because they are so often unexamined.  This jail has no lock on the door, but we so often go years before we wander over and give it a tug and discover we could have walked out all along.

Fear is perhaps the most insidious of our masters.  It keeps us faithful and in check.  So often, our fears began a very long time ago and are tied to circumstances that no longer exist.  Yet our actions which support them continue to persist.

So today is Independence Day.  Brave people of long ago and soldiers still today die for our right to be free.  Are you brave enough to light a sparkler to begin your own emancipation today?  Here is a quote I recently came across:

One of the  most courageous decisions you’ll ever make

Is to finally let go

 of what is hurting your heart and soul

Bridgette Nicole

 

That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

No you didn’t fall of the email list.  I just didn’t do a blog last week.  I decided to try my hand at decorating sugar cookies instead.  Why?  Why not?  My son was performing in a cello recital and I wanted to bring some fun food.

I watched a video and thought, Hmmm this looks easy enough.  So I gave it a try.  Wow, was my experience a lot different than the one of the woman in the video.  My entire kitchen and my body were covered in flour, icing, icing dye, utensils.  It was a major mess.  As of this writing, I still haven’t mastered the skill but I haven’t given up.  I heard Mark Cuban say the other day that he spent 10 years becoming an overnight success.  So if and when I achieve cookies designs that are magazine worthy beautiful, I’m going to tell everyone it was easy. 

Years ago I used to give a lecture with a slide show that contained a slide of a young woman sitting on the back of a lawn chair at the beach.  I used to ask the audience if they wished they could look like the perfect model featured and many said yes.  Then I let them know the model on the magazine probably wished for that as well, because the photo had been digitally enhanced to make her look the way she was portrayed.

Despite knowing this, so many of us deplete ourselves by trying to achieve the look that we feel someone else has, even if we have no idea how authentic their success is or isn’t.  Is it any wonder that we are a nation functioning in large part due to antidepressants?  How can we foster happiness when we live in a perpetual state of feeling as if we are incapable of achieving what we believe others have, in a system that is basically rigged?

I’m not playing the victim card.  Anything but!  I’m playing the “use your critical thinking skills” card.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad idea to try and achieve a goal.  But the goal should be realistic and personal rather than as a way to mimic another that you hold in unrealistic esteem.  Even if that person has genuinely achieved a particular goal, you can’t possibly have all of the same predispositions and life conditioning experiences to achieve exactly what they have done.  And they aren’t you.  You have gifts that they can’t or won’t achieve.

So here is what really happened since I started this blog post.  The first batch of cookies looked really horrible.  Picture a kind of “Picasso” cello where none of the parts line up quite right.  And they didn’t taste very good.   So I gave it my best shot and made a second batch.  And they looked well, slightly less horrible, but they tasted really good.  So I took those to the recital.  They were to be eaten, not hung in a gallery and thus, I deemed them “good enough”. 

I’m still planning on taking a live class this weekend because I still want to learn.  But I don’t feel badly about not knowing how to decorate beautiful cookies.  I’ve had no practice, I’m not particularly artistic, and frankly, I have virtually no idea what I’m doing.  The woman in the video made beautiful cookies, but I’m going to guess that she wouldn’t make a good therapist.  And even if she would, I suspect there are still other gifts that I possess which she does not.

This week, instead of looking at something that someone else has that you don’t, try focusing in on your gifts.  This may require that you look at yourself a little differently than you do normally.  If you want to take a real risk in growth, tell someone else about something you do really well.  Celebrate yourself!  And if you need any decorated cookies to help you celebrate, call me.  I just can’t guarantee you’ll recognize them as what I say they are.

The young, the old and the truth

Last weekend we went to visit my father in law who is now in an assisted living facility.   Our son Andrew took along his cello and played a mini concert for the residents just before their lunch.  Now that my father in law has been living  there a few months, my sister in law Cristie has become a staple in their community as well.  She introduced us to all of the other residents, clearly knowing them each by name and story.

In Tuesday’s with Morrie, there is a point in which Morrie realizing his condition has deteriorated to the stage where he now needs help in the bathroom to wipe himself.  He says to Mitch that we come into the world needing help wiping and we go out the same way.  The only difference in between is that we have the illusion that we don’t need the help.  The point is we all need relationships including those where we are vulnerable.

Morrie’s wisdom came back to me again this weekend as I watched the residents.  While I’m a proud mother, I realize objectively that Andrew is not playing at the level that should have garnered the excitement and praise he received from the residents.  But like little children excited about someone dressed up in a dinosaur costume, the residents were delighted by Andrew’s performance.  And I don’t think it’s because they are losing their faculties and lost the ability to discern.  It’s because they are now not encumbered with all of the gazillion tasks that those of us in between childhood and aging call life.  We are focused on getting the dog to the vet, cleaning the house, mowing the grass, getting our nails done and working to support all of those privileges.  So often, we prioritize these tasks over relationship.  And more often, we complete them to show we are competent, and sufficient without the help of others.

Younger people see old people as a group different from themselves.  Older people see themselves as the same as they always were.  They know their bodies have aged and they may perhaps even feel a bit wiser, and possibly more content.  But they don’t see themselves as “old”.  More specifically, they include an identity of the young men or women who hung out with friends, danced at parties, liked a particular kind of music.  They reminisce about the things they once did not as something long ago forgotten, but as a part of themselves they still know, and more importantly part of themselves they still want to know. 

I watched the residents form into social groups over the course of the visit and remember similar observations from when my own mother was in a nursing home.  The women still group together in little clicks.  They talk about relationships, updating each other on who is who and what “who” is doing now.  The men are more likely to couple of in pairs or remain single.  They watch TV or read.  But if you look at the same gender distribution of a gathering of younger people, you would probably see similar patterns. 

A little later in the weekend Bens father asked my brother in law about a recent handy man project they had previously discussed.  My father in law wanted to know where his bucket of tools was so he could join right in.  The reality is that his bucket has been gone for some time; it was sold with his house.  But in his mind, he still sees himself as capable, ready to grab a screwdriver and do what he has always done when the need arose.  He wanted to put into motion the feeling he has in his mind’s eye.  He sees himself not as a man hanging out in a “home” until he dies.  He sees himself as productive, useful and resourceful and still important to his son in law.

Children make a picture with their hands and they too feel productive.  And most of the time, we encourage these feelings through our praise.  We hang the picture on our refrigerator and say good job. 

But in the middle of our lives we have the illusion that we have only so much time to “get it right or get it done”.  We rarely stop to recognize that we are the same as we were as children.   We need the same encouragement and permission to allow relationships to take precedence over accomplishment.   We ignore this fact out of fear that our significance will fade into old age where we will be relegated to the home of productive lives passed.  We defend against the fear that our vulnerability might be exposed.

Perhaps the alternative lies in seeing ourselves less as separate entities that shift from one stage to the next measured by our achievements and milestones.  Perhaps there is value in retaining the child and younger parts of ourselves in our current states.  Doing so would surely increase our vulnerabilities, but it would also afford us a proportionate amount of authenticity.

The Best Friend I Never Met

There is a somewhat obscure movie called About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson.  In the film Nicholson plays a recent widower who has to find a life and identity for himself, after a lifetime of being reasonably disengaged.  Prior to her death, he had predominantly relied on his wife to execute any responsibility of personality.

One night after his despondence began increasing, he finds himself up late watching TV and sees a commercial soliciting money for poor children in a third world country.  By donating one is assigned a specific child to begin correspondence with.  The remainder of the movie includes letters he sends to the child on the subject “About Schmidt”.   As he introduces himself presumably to give the child a sense of who is making a donation, he is simultaneously introducing himself as his own life is evolving.

Shortly after becoming pregnant with my first son, some form of communication came to us, I don’t remember exactly how it began.  It was from a friend named Maureen who had shared the same dorm floor with my husband in college.  Ben and Maureen stayed in contact loosely over the years, usually through a Christmas card.  But somehow, that particular communication introduced Maureen to me and we realized we had much in common.  We were both pregnant with our first child; I was due with Alex in January, she was due with Bella in April.  Maureen also had a Master’s degree in Social Work.

Over the years, we have exchanged many letters and emails.  I next had Andrew, she next had Sarah.  We shared tales of motherhood, challenges and joys of being older moms.  We talked about growing older, family changes, work and occasionally the state of the world.  We offered and still do offer mutual support and reminders of a shared history as we both traverse this stage of life.

But the irony as you’ve probably already guessed is that Maureen and I have never met.  It almost happened one time when we were going to be in Kansas City, but unfortunately our travels there were always short stays and already over packed with family obligations.  Somewhere along the line, however, Maureen and I have figured out that seeing each other across the table at Starbucks is not a requirement for us to have a meaningful friendship.  (I’m pretty sure she is reading this now with a bit of surprise).

I think this kind of a relationship is not necessarily common or easy to find.  Historically, I’ve often found it hard for me to stay connected with people I don’t see often.  Perhaps one of the things that makes this work more easily is that neither of us has expectations of the other.  If too much time passes between exchanges, one of us asks for something at that point and the other grants it, or at least lets us know when we can.  And regardless of how much time passes, we seem able to pick right back up in step and move from there.

I’m sharing this post as a way to think about how important it is to have support in one’s life and that it isn’t always necessary that it come from traditional sources.  Schmidt found writing to an unknown child when exploring his unfamiliar parts.  I write to someone I clearly think of as my friend, having never met.  The similarity in both cases is the willingness to share honestly and to give mutually. 

Perhaps the most important ingredient in finding support is the willingness to seek it out, or the willingness to accept it when offered.  Schmidt could  have changed the channel.  I could have acknowledged Maureen simply as Ben’s friend and let it drop there.

That type of willingness comes from a belief that you have something of value to share and/or a belief that you deserve to have your thoughts and feelings heard.  If you aren’t in that place yet, I encourage you to reach out anyway and let the response of another teach you that it’s so.  Perhaps just focusing on giving the gift to another will help you find it within in yourself.

And to Maureen- maybe someday… but until then- Thanks for 16 years.

 

Let the Wobbling Begin

Let the wobbling begin.

I’m going to attempt to create a visual experience for you.  Try and imagine yourself in this scene as you read along.

You are a toddler about 12 months old.  You are used to crawling around when you want to get to somewhere other than where you are.  Your view of the world is predominantly at ground level looking up at everyone.  While this has been fine for a while,  you now realize that others around you are doing things differently.  You also notice that your hands and knees are getting sore.

Everyone around you seems to be getting around on their feet instead of their hands and knees.  Hmmm you think, perhaps I can do this too.  You inch your way over to a table or chair and using all your might, you pull yourself to an upright position.  “There! You exclaim. “That wasn’t so hard.”

Full of confidence and wonder you lean towards the direction you want to go towards.  First your right foot, followed by your left and boom!  Down on your bottom you land.  It looked so easy when you watched others complete the operation, but it doesn’t seem easy now.

Of course you eventually learned to walk, but not without a few good drops to the bottom and perhaps your head as well.  It’s the natural evolution of learning to walk without the conscious processing that I describe above.  Yet, if we were conscious, I don’t think my description would be too far off base.  It might include varying degrees of excitement and fear depending on our nature and our success rates. And of course, there are many other milestone achievements of which we partake as developing children that have a similar structure.

I submit that, to some extent, we retain our childlike approach to change and development throughout the life span.  The differences however, include that 1) we are often more conscious and 2) we are often filled with judgment and fear, both of which, are founded on information we have collected over the years.  That information not even need be accurate, but it still influences our decision making capabilities.

In application, this means that if I had to learn to walk today, I might say to myself “No, I’d rather not, because I don’t want to risk falling.”   Or “I don’t think I’ll take up playing the piano because I don’t ever stick with things.”

Thinking about this topic reminds me of a quote I like very much:

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because the trust is not on the branch, but on its wings.  (author unknown).

Perhaps my argument is lost if your position is that you don’t trust your own wings.  But even the most confident will at times lose faith in our selves.  It is during those moments that we can trust that even our baby selves were once brave enough to take the risk towards change.  We can know that sometimes we have to fall a bit to make progress and our boo boos and ouchies will heal.  Wobbling is a sign of progress towards success rather than a prediction of our failure.

The baby in us has the desire for something more.  It remains focused on the goal rather than the limitations.  It is not necessary to recreate a state of unconsciousness to achieve this skill.  Because we now have the ability as adults to exercise choice and reason,  it is a matter of prioritizing the goal we want over indulging the fears, some of which are irrational, so that we might move towards the direction of our goals.  We need not employ denial or ignorance, but rather the confidence that we are strong enough to tolerate the necessary wobbling and sometimes falling as a means to our achievement.  And  to consider that wobbling isn’t a sign of our failure, but is evidence of our willingness to grow.

Limitless

There is a new show this year called Limitless.  The premise in case you haven’t seen it, is that an ordinary guy Brian Finch,  takes a pill (NZT) every day which allows him to access every single part of his brain.  This makes him the smartest man alive.  While the pill is active, Brian is capable of figuring out pretty much anything and absorbing endless amounts of information.  This ability makes him quite valuable to the FBI.  The pill does, however, wear off at the end of each day and also has some pretty grave side effects for Brian Finch.

I have a similar pill.  It’s called Google.  But it too, is not perfect or without its side effects.  I can quickly learn about events in history, medication interactions, even how to solve mathematical equations.  The latter is something I couldn’t do before Google with any other kind of aid.  Now I can find a recipe, learn how to wire a wall switch, and find out which movie stars have the highest IQ’s.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He thought the world was flat.  He and the rest of us were pleasantly surprised to find out it is not.  We didn’t understand the basic endocrinology systems of our bodies until the mid 1900’s. (Society for Endocrinology 1946).  And the calculator wasn’t invented until 1967.  We’ve come a long way in our understanding of how the world works.  Or rather, we believe things about the world and ourselves today that are very different than what we once believed.  But remember, that which we used to believe felt very much as TRUE to us then, as what we currently believe is true now.

We all function on individual systems of truth for things both big and small.  There are some assumptions we operate under because we always have.  We assume they are true because they are familiar or culturally accepted.  It doesn’t require much of our brain cells to operate within these because we are on auto pilot.  But there are others practices we will defend to our death.  We have deemed them true from our vantage point based on information available to us.  It is however, information obtained from only the limited availability of our brain’s capacity.

While our access to information is limited, information itself is not limited.  We can’t possibly acquire it all, which means, we always run the risk of having some part of our argument which, is indefensible. Today I hear a report that wine is bad for me.  Don’t drink wine.  That is true.  Tomorrow I hear a study that wine is good for me.  Drink the wine- that which is true has changed.

I’m not suggesting that we not adhere to truths or fight for them.  I’m merely suggesting that we consider the possibility that our truths are in fact, are just that—ours.  We come by them honestly enough, but so does another person whose truths are different than our own.  When we are compelled to try and change theirs, we expend enormous amounts of energy, often with little if any success to show for the expenditure.

I’m also suggesting that we take the same tactic with ourselves.  Engaging in patterns of behavior that leave us depleted or unfulfilled because we insist that a truth requires us to do so, may deserve a little dose of critical thinking.  Perhaps the information you once used to develop your stance has changed over time and your conclusion needs revisiting.

Statements (or commands) that begin with words such as I must, I should, It would be better if, may be fertile ground for challenging why you do what you do.  While many of these items may in fact, survive the scrutiny, it’s possible that some may not, making it a worthwhile exercise.

I’ll leave you today with a quote from Steve Jobs:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary,”

Please take a moment to leave me a comment- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Don’t spoil the ending… if there is one

Don’t spoil the ending… if there is one!

The other day my son Andrew was listening to the news as we drove along in the car. There was a story about stem cell research and Andrew commented that he hoped the endeavor was successful. I asked him why, because I wanted to know how much he understood. He said it would be cool to be able to grow a new arm if you lost one. Then he asked me if I thought it was a good idea. I told him that if I was the one missing the arm I would think it was a very good idea, but that I sometimes worry that, we are trying to take medical advances to a point of believing we can avoid death entirely. At some point we just have to let it go. No one will ever accuse me of sugar coating things for my kids.

I’ve been reading “The Martian” by Andy Wier. (Side note for anyone thinking of reading this, the first chapter is brutally dull unless you’re an astronaut, but if you’re not, read on it gets better.) I’m not going to spoil the ending because I’m not finished and don’t actually know how it ends. The premise is that a mission on Mars has to be quickly aborted due to a sand storm and one astronaut Mark Wadley, is left behind. The rest of the crew thought him dead but it turns out he is alive and has to figure out how to survive and get home. Calling a cab is not an option.

As the story unfolds, the whole world begins to join in the effort to bring Mark Wadley home safely. I have found myself rising and falling to the triumphs and failures along the way in these efforts as other book reviewers suggested would happen. And while I hope he makes it for a happy ending, there is another part of me that thinks “Wow, what happens if they spend 100 billion dollars bringing him home and find out he has terminal cancer or he gets hit by a car the next day. Will everyone still think it was worth it”?

Call me morbid. And again, if Mark Wadley was my husband or son, I ‘m sure at least part of me would want to be stand on the corner begging for money to fund the “bring him home” campaign. But Mark Wadley is a fictitious character. He is only brought to life on the silver screen when played by Matt Damon in the upcoming movie version. And so because of that, coupled with the fact that this is my blog, I get to philosophize over the deeper questions of how much is enough and how much is too much?

We are largely a Type A nation, believing we are capable of doing just about anything we put our minds to. There is plenty of evidence to suggest we are accurate. But we are also people who are burned out, insatiable and sometimes disillusioned by the realization of our achievements when they either fail to satisfy us or we can’t stop long enough to enjoy them because we are on to the next challenge.

I saw a T shirt the other day that said “I never finish anyth” I thought it was funny when I saw it, but now I’m thinking it might be profound. What if there are things we simply don’t finish because they are no longer worth finishing rather than chastising ourselves for failure? What if we let something go because we have had enough or simply because we are willing to recognize that all things have a season or a life cycle. What if we didn’t put in a heroic effort just because we know we could?

For years I wouldn’t allow myself to stop a book or a movie once I started. No matter how much the experience lacked satisfaction I hung in there hoping for an eventual payoff. Finally, I began to realize I was wasting a lot of life doing something that I didn’t benefit from, just because I could or thought I should.

I do not profess to know where the line is. I think it varies from person to person and depends on each situation. I do know that feeling perpetually exhausted is an indicator of when I’ve crossed the line too frequently.

Two other great movie scenes that exemplify this concept come to mind. The first is Forest Gump when Forest, after having run hundreds of miles across the country, just one day stops. He has had enough and it was something from inside of him, rather than outside that told him when to stop. The other is Regarding Henry. The character played by a disabled Harrison Ford, learns over time that he can no longer live the life he had before his disability and learns to say he has had enough of trying. He learns to say when it’s time to let go of what was and embrace his life for what it has become, limitations and all.

How about your movie? Are you perpetually exhausted and out of time because you’re giving it all, your all? Are there somethings that you might be willing to experiment with to not finish? I probably have more to say on this but

 

Houston, we have an opportunity!

Recently, a couple of sessions have reminded me of the old Apollo 13 movie with Tom Hanks.

The first involves a woman who was feeling the pressure to stay at work later in the evenings in order to get everything she felt needed to be done. She is a consciences worker, and wants to do the tasks necessary to get ahead in her career. She also has small children at home and would like to spend time with them in the evenings.

Another session involves a woman taking care of an elderly relative. When she signed up for this ominous task, the conditions were understood and seemingly manageable. However, unlike the marriage vows of “for better or worse”, her initial agreement did not include a set of variables that have since come in to play. Thus, she now finds herself trying to maintain her original agreement, but under a whole different criteria with far more rigorous constraints.

One of things that always intrigued me when I worked in residential treatment was this: people who had been starving, feeling unable to eat another bite would come into treatment and immediately comply with the nutrition set before them. People who said they couldn’t get through the day without binging came into treatment and the binging ceased. These examples also made me think about Apollo 13.

When Hanks uttered the infamous “Houston we have a problem!”, the ground team began their mission of finding a way to help repair the capsule and bring the crew down to safety. All of the engineers pulled out their slide rules to find a solution. and I remember asking my husband why they didn’t use calculators. He reminded me that the calculator had not yet been invented. While there were some solutions that were readily apparent to the ground team, these were quickly eliminated when they realized the needed supplies were not on board the spacecraft.

Finally, the team replicated all of the supplies that WERE available to the Apollo crew and began to find a solution that could implemented. Ultimately that is what happened and the rest is, of course, history.

So often, we get stuck on a problem because we insist on finding a solution that is dependent upon something that either hasn’t occurred or might never occur. In doing so, we prevent ourselves from moving forward until that variable occurs—meaning we don’t move forward.

Sometimes what we see as a problem is really an opportunity to see the capability we have to creatively look beyond our self-imposed limits and for us to do something differently from where we currently are. Again, this involves a spirit of willingness.

In the example above with eating disorder treatment, the patients who immediately changed their behavior became willing to do something different. Food didn’t instantly become tastier, the sense of fullness did not immediately dissipate. What changed is the elimination of an paradigm in which they felt they couldn’t do those things. The support around these individuals allowed them to sit with the same set of discomfort without feeling overwhelmed while they tried on new behaviors.

I suggested the woman who is missing her children consider looking at her job as having a mandatory, non-negotiable quitting time. Act as if the building will blow up at a certain time and you have to get out. That paradigm shift would encourage her to prioritize the most important tasks that have to get done and to let lesser ones go until the next day.

And the woman taking care of her relative will ultimately have to take stock of what “supplies” she currently has on board, rather than those she wishes she had to insure proper care for her elderly charge. It will mean acknowledging that the original mission has changed and she may no longer be adequately prepared for the new one with which, she has been presented.

None of these are easy solutions. Nor is continuing to beat one’s head against the wall stuck in the rut of the non-productive status quo. The difference however, is that the latter never changes. And in that sense true identification of the problem presents an opportunity for growth and change.

 

Can we talk about sex?

Can we talk about sex?

Yes we most certainly can but we often don’t.

Guys, think about this scenario: -your wife makes you a new dish for dinner and afterwards she asks “How did you like it?” She wants feedback because she wants to know whether she should make it again or change it anyway before she does. You say things like “Needs a little more spice” and “I like this part but not that part”, or “It was totally delicious.” Hopefully you used phrasing that was clear, helpful, complementary and thoughtful of the effort she put into cooking the meal. She, on the other hand, is hopefully receptive to hearing the feedback because she wants to please you. If so, she can take the information you provided into consideration and next time make the meal even more delicious and to your personal liking.

Gals now it’s your turn. Imagine this: You go to your hairdresser and she says what “What would you like?”   Now admittedly there are occasional times when you don’t know and might tell her to surprise you. But more often than not, you have the placement of every curl down to a science.   In fact, you may very well pick up the hairdresser’s tools and show her exactly how you want it done.

 

I have long fantasized about writing a book or at least book chapters with the following titles: the male version would be, You Can Have My Penis But Not My Heart and the woman’s would be, You Can Have My Vagina But Not My Heart.   These titles represent for me the idea that, so often people give up their bodies without really giving to the other, what’s in their heart about what happens to them in terms of emotional satisfaction. More specifically in this blog it refers to the unwillingness to give of one’s desires that will result in satisfaction.

Of course food and hair are not as intimate as sex. On the other hand, food and hair are not as intimate as sex. That wasn’t a typo. The argument is that we don’t want to “talk” about something so intimate… but then why are willing to DO something that is so intimate? It’s easier to talk about things that are less intimate because we may feel shy or even embarrassed or we don’t want to upset the other person. Yet, the idea is, if we are engaging with something so intimate, we should be doing that with someone with whom we feel safe and very close. These are the people we need to trust and believe will trust us, thereby making talking a very safe act.

If we are having intimate relations with someone we believe loves and cares about us, then why would we withhold information that would enable him or her to make that the best experience for us? Similarly, why would we not seek out information from them to increase our confidence insuring our efforts are as close as we can get to providing them with the best experience.

This week, how about taking a risk and starting a conversation or two about S-E-X.

 

 

 

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!

and More Spring Cleaning

In my last blog I talked about spring cleaning. Hopefully you had a chance to either get started, or at least think about things that you hold on to for perhaps less productive reasons than is useful. In that same vein, I’d like you to take this thought process a step further and think about the clutter more broadly. Cleaning out closets is useful in making more room, either to find stuff, or for different stuff. I’d like to propose that there are other ways that our lives can get significantly cluttered and could use attention. The two that come to mind most quickly for me (from personal and professional experience) are time wasters and unproductive relationships.

The easy bandwagon to jump on is electronic drains. Whether it’s a night lost to Facebook, Pinterest, others social networks, video games or merely web surfing, people can lose a lot of time and receive little if anything back for their time. But those are obvious. What is more subtle, yet equally if not more insidious, are the things we spend time on that, fail to add real value to our lives, and rather, suck away precious time. What makes these items harder to identify is that it usually isn’t the “task” that identifies it as a problem, but rather the way we feel about the task. For example, if I made pasta from scratch because I loved doing so, I was putting healthier options on my table, saving money, my family felt valued when I did so, or any one of these reasons, then it might be time consuming, but there is a payoff. If on the other hand, I made fresh pasta from scratch for my toddler, who was going to eat 3 bites, and my husband could care less about the quality difference, then I should question whether or not this was a good use of time and energy. I’m not sure this is the best example, but I’m pretty sure that we all engage in some pretty questionable activities, and often they have a smell of “perfectionism” to them.

The other category of relationships is something near and dear to my heart. I’ve noticed that a number of my relationships have changed over the past few years and it has largely been my own doing. I’m not feeling angry, but rather more willing to let people go then I once was. That at times, has also included some pretty terrific people. But at the end of the day I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that every day is limited by time, as is the entirety of my life. Out of that awareness, I accept the responsibility and the opportunity to make the most of what is available to me. So, terrific or not, I’m more willing to let people go in favor of spending the time with either other people or activities that are helping me to create the best experience of this thing I call my life.

Personally, I would tell you that if someone had said the paragraph above to me 10 years ago, I would have thought that person to be cold, friendless and void of the capacity to have meaningful relationships. So please, don’t think as a result of one reading, I would expect anyone to make such a radical change. It has been a work in progress and still continues for me. But that said, I find that the quality of relationships I do keep, continues to improve, because I come to them more available, more willing to honor the work of maintaining them. It’s because I know they are mutual, and with less resentment. In turn, I feel more rewarded and valued by the people in those relationships, as well.

I hope you’ll take another look at clutter in your life and see if there are mental closets that need a little combing through as well.

 

Click

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go ahead.. make your day

 

The stock market dropped 200 points this morning. On top of yesterday’s big drop. There is another identified Ebola patient in Dallas. Isis took another city this week, despite our efforts with air strikes.

Every other commercial on TV and radio is about the wrong doing of one politician versus another. And, I also saw my first Christmas shopping begins ad earlier today. Unless one considers shopping as an appropriate retail therapy for the woes listed above, the idea of starting to think about Christmas shopping now, does not put me in a mood of cheer and good tidings.

The world does at times seem to be tilting a little funny on its axis. What I mean is that, either a lot of news seems to converge at once, or perhaps there are times for reasons I can’t explain that, the intensity and proportion of bad news to good seems tipped in the direction of despair.

Unless.

Unless you decide to do something different.

You can decide to ignore it.

You can decide to pretend it isn’t true.

You can decide to argue about it.

You can decide to act out about it.

And you can also decide to fall back on some solid principles. Change what you can, live with what you can’t and understand how to tell the difference.

Ebola- If you work in a hospital in Dallas you have different decisions to make than if you currently work in a hospital in St. Louis or anywhere else. If you have Ebola, you certainly can’t decide to ignore it or pretend it isn’t true. But you can choose between believing your life is over, or that you are being punished by God. But you can also opt for putting all of your energy into healing your body, which includes a regiment of fostering hope.

If you’ve lost money in the stock market you can jump out of a window, but I wouldn’t advise you to do so. You can pull out all of your money and blame your advisor or spouse. Or, you can calmly review how and if, this change affects you over the long haul. Is it time to try another strategy? Or is this one to wait out?

Have you ever noticed what happens when a little kid loses a tooth? It can be a range of things. There is often fear because they haven’t experienced parts of their body falling off before and growing back. But as adults, we have and we know what to experience. Sometimes the child has some accompanying pain. That’s never fun. Hopefully, the child will mitigate that pain with a little excitement because they believe something magical will come, take their tooth and leave money behind in its place.

And eventually the hole in their mouth is replaced with a bigger, stronger more reliable tooth that they need to live in the world more easily. But if we told them that news prior to the loss, it may seem too difficult for the child to grasp. This is a metaphor of what happens to us as adults. We tend to hold on to our ideas of comfort, most likely out of familiarity and limited experience with the alternatives. But if we were promised something else down the road that seemed magical, maybe we might be more willing to go with the flow.

Unfortunately, I’m not a tooth fairy, 401K fairy, Ebola elimination fairy, or any other kind of fairy. But I would like to give you the reminder, that you have enormous power within you to choose what thought patterns you are willing to limit yourself with, or which you will use to promote yourself.

If you choose the latter strategy, what I can promise you is that you will create the world you live in, rather than allowing it to create, mold and limit you. The possibilities are nothing short of magical if you’re willing to take some risks

 

 

Leap of Faith

 

 

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There is a movie from 1992 called Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger. Martin plays a con man Jonas Nightengale, who poses as an evangelical preacher that goes from small town to town creating “miracles”. But what he actually does is use a crew, led by Winger to feed him information about the audience into a hidden ear piece so he can “appear” to know things about the people. Of course, everyone is impressed by his great capacity and gives him money. Then he moves on to the next town and repeats this scenario.

Jonas and his crew find themselves in the impoverished town of Rustwater Kansas after their travel bus breaks down. Jonas looks around and declares “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn but GOD!”   Among their many problems, the drought plagued town needs rain to survive. Jonas plans to run a show or two while he waits for repairs before being discovered.

Shortly into the movie however, he is intrigued by a young boy Boyd and the sister who cares for him. Boyd can walk only with crutches since an accident that killed his mother and father and left his legs dysfunctional. The sister warns Jonas to stay away from Boyd, explaining that once before a preacher tried to heal Boyd. When it failed, the preacher blamed the boy for not having enough faith. However, despite her cynicism, Boyd is mesmerized with Jonas and wants to be healed by him.

Jonas continues to prey upon the vulnerabilities of the towns people. Each time they suspect God has spoken to him on their behalf, they add money to his coffers. Boyd makes his way to the stage and seeks to be healed. Jonas tries to ignore his presence because he doesn’t want his cover blown. But Boyd actually begins to walk without his crutches and the crowd goes wild. They throw money at Jonas and shout one more miracle. They now want him to make it rain to benefit the town.

Jonas is angry, believing that Boyd was a bigger conman than even he presuming the boy faked his impediment. The next night the town gathers in a field to camp out waiting for the miracle of rain. Knowing he will be discovered as a fraud, Jonas slips off and hitches a ride on his own leaving his crew behind. Ironically, he isn’t very far out of town when the truck driver notices it has begun to rain. Jonas laughingly calls out “Thank You Jesus.

Okay, I ruined the movie for you I’m sorry. But I wanted to give you an illustration of something I think best illustrates a principle one of the classic theorists in psychology, Alfred Adler. He calls it the As IF principle.

Adler suggested that when we are trying to make a change, we need to behave as if the change has already taken place. For example, if you want to get promoted, wear the clothing of someone at the next level. If you want to improve your marriage, act as if it is already improved and treat the other person from that mindset. If you want to be more financially sound, live as if there is money around you and operate from confidence rather than fear or deprivation.

Please don’t confuse this as simple and easy. Actually, it is somewhat simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It requires clear goal setting, commitment to the goal, letting go of obstacles you may be holding on to (crutches), and the willingness to experience the discomfort of being in transition or even limbo between the self you have been, and the self you wish to be.

Even more than changes in behavior on the outside, acting as if, requires significant changes on the inside. It means to practice seeing yourself as successful. And, while many people have this desire, as the move suggests, it often requires a leap of faith.

While Martin is a clearly stated con man, Adler is not. However, in this exchange between Jonas and Boyd, Martin actually demonstrates in a crude way how Adler’s theory works:

 

Boyd: My sister says you’re a fake

Jonas, “Well maybe I am and maybe I’m not

If I get the job done, what’s the difference?

When we act as if, we begin projecting outward the image of us as having the capacity to live in the role where are seeking. Others, seeing us in that role begin to respond to us that way, which reinforces that confidence within us that we can handle the change. From that confidence, we continue to develop and strengthen the skills needed to make the change permanent and natural for us. Essentially what Jonas told Boyd is that whether or not it starts out as pure and legitimate, belief can make something become true.

 

Are there any areas that you could benefit from acting “as if”? How might you change if you took a leap of faith? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a Birdbrain

 

 

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The recent storms created a lot of fallen trees in my subdivision which is mostly wooded. In fact, one of my neighbors had a rather large tree fall across their driveway. It was a pain to remove, but it’s also one of the expectable hazards of living where we do. Trees get old; storms knock them down.

I’m not so much of a nature watcher, but I suspect when a big storm hits birds don’t hang out in the trees. I have to guess that if they do, they fly somewhere pretty quickly if they feel a tree starting to sway and tumble.

But on a regular day, I imagine birds hang out in the trees for the most part, unless trees are not prevalent. And it reminds me of a quote I like very much:

A Bird Sitting On A Tree Is Not Afraid Of The Branch Breaking Because His Trust Is Not On The Branch But On Its Wings .

I guess to be a bird means to have faith when it walks out on a branch that, it will either be fine or it will do something else. In contrast, as people, we tend to think in advance about the branch, look at it, research branches, finding out the statistics on how many branches will break per year and under what conditions, and then try and make a calculated guess of whether or not we should step out onto the branch. After that, we invest more time still discussing our findings about branch safety with others to try and validate our plan. Very often this results in either not going out on the branch at all, because we haven’t finished the analysis, or forgetting what we went there for by the time we arrive. Possibly, what we went out there for has already passed.

On the other hand, there are also some humans that will tromp on out to the branch before they learn to fly which doesn’t usually end well either. One could argue that real faith means not even worrying about the flying part- trust that God or the universe or whatever you subscribe to will simply take care of the falling bird.   And so when they inevitably fall, they use the bump on their head as justification that God doesn’t really care about them, or even that, there is no God.

Do we really want to live in a world where something other than us takes care of every single for us? While it sounds tempting in those moments that we feel overwhelmed, the truth is that we derive a vast amount of our satisfaction and esteem from mastering things. We learn from the struggles and to have them taken away from us leaves us without much purpose in living. Faith is to fill in the parts we don’t need to struggle with. Faith is the connective tissue between the parts we do, and the parts we don’t.

The parts we do are simply “our part”. It means to develop the strength, skills, resiliency and in some cases, patience and understanding. And probably a few other qualities that I’m forgetting at the moment. So in short, it’s not about developing how to anticipate everything and account in advance for every unknown. It’s about developing a plan A to try and get down the right path, and a plan B for when A doesn’t work out. Plan B isn’t just a more developed A. Plan B is a strategy about how to be okay when Plan A doesn’t get you where you wanted and accepting that you have to live with the way things are now, at least for now.  Another way of looking at his is that Plan A is your willpower and Plan B is your willingness.

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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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Which Way is North?

 

 

 

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This morning I had to run some errands before work. I tried to leave myself enough time. But I was day dreaming and I, unfortunately, took a wrong turn. I was actually on a familiar road, but that road had nothing in common with my first destination. However, since it was familiar, I drove pretty far down the path before I woke up and realized I had to turn around.

But turn around is what I did. It cost me enough time that I cut it close getting my tasks done while still arriving at work on time.

This is similar to the feeling I have when people tell me about their life not being on the right path. The dilemma is that, often they are afraid to turn around and take another direction. The road they are on may look familiar, so they stay, even when they know it won’t lead them to where they ultimately hope to go. They may stay the course because they feel safe knowing which twists and turns lie ahead. Another thing that keeps people stuck is the feeling that sometimes it may feel like it’s too late to turn around. They’ve lost too much time. So they concede to live the remainder of their life going where they don’t really want to go, rather than risk ending up some place else in between.

My first career illustrates this challenge. I fell into a line of work and then kept doing it because it fulfilled financial needs. I hated it, and knew my growth was pretty limited, but taking another path meant I had to get an education. For awhile, that seemed unsurmountable. I shudder now to think how miserable I would have remained, had I not turned around and gone in another direction. Now I love my job and have for 23 years.

When I contemplated a divorce in my first marriage I was scared of the unknown. I remember thinking what if I leave in hopes of something more and end up with everything less. I recall a friend who said to me , “It’s true, that if you leave, you might not get what you want. But if you stay, you guarantee that you won’t.” That advice helped me make the decision and I started down a new path.

Please be sure that as I describe these two major turning points in my own life, neither of them landed me on a shiny road made of gold with clear painted signs and beautiful flowers along the perimeters. Sometimes my car stalled, I got lost, it rained, sleeted and snowed on my journey. But each new day, the sun rose and I resumed my travel. I had to learn to remember that the sun is still present even when I can’t see it through the clouds.

One of the things that helps a traveler is having a good map. So often, we forget to ask ourselves at the start of our journey, where is it we really want to go. Many of us end up going where others suggest. Perhaps well meaning others, but in the end, no one can really know where each of us needs to go better than we will. It’s personal. The answer needs to come from within.

Another useful tool is the ability to stop and ask for directions. Though no two people will experience the same journey in an identical way, others can still help you seek out and recognize milestones.   They can let you know at least some of the pitfalls ahead to expect, or caution you about detours or construction. In non metaphor terms, this can mean someone with a lot of marriage experience teaching you that marriage happiness ebbs and flows. Another example is a career mentor who might tell you the pros and cons about a vocation with honesty.

But probably the most useful tool for a traveler is willingness . You have to be willing to stay awake at the wheel and not daydream like I did on my morning adventure. And in that state of attentiveness, be willing to ask yourself if you are going where you want. And if the answer is no, be willing to turn around, no matter how much time you have invested.  Because even if you don’t ultimately end up there, at least you’ll know that you were headed towards your happiness, rather than going further away.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this entry. I’d love to hear your comments and I hope you’ll pass it on.   Until net time- take good care.

 

Think outside the box

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to listen on a smartphone click to the end of the message and click on the sound icon

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.

Bad Hair

 

 

 

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I’m having a bad hair day. I pretty much have bad hair days through most of April and August because these are the months it rains a lot in St. Louis and the humidity makes my hair fat. And occasionally I have bad hair days at other times,  but I also have some really good hair days. Today isn’t one of them,  but I do know the difference.

I didn’t always though. When I was a kid I had this wild mound of super curly black hair. Actually it’s pretty much the same as I have now, just with no gray mixed in. I also didn’t have some of the great hair products I use now to keep my locks from oozing into the personal space of a person standing next to me.

Just about everyone I knew while I was growing up had silky straight blonde or light brown hair. But not me. So I felt like an odd duck. Okay I felt like an ugly duck. An ugly duck with bad untamable hair that had a mind of its own.

My mom, bless her heart, tried to do everything she could. I would lay my head on the ironing board while she tried to flatten it out. Not my head, just my hair. I can pick up the scent of singed hair a mile away. Over the years I tried every imaginable straightener on my own and professionally. I’ve spent a fortune on brushes, hair dryers, curling irons and OMG my retirement fund went entirely for creams, shampoos, conditioners, hot oil treatments and I can’t remember what else.

When I was about 4 my severely mentally retarded brother ran a wind up car through my hair. Cutting it out did not leave pretty results. Try picturing RoseAnn Rosannadanna with chopped out sections.

Along the way of my life, people would say “is it natural?” My answer was always “Who would pay to do this to themselves?” Others, (including my mother with baby fine poker straight hair) would say “oh you are so lucky”. I didn’t feel lucky.

But a few years ago,   I did what the popular movie Frozen says.   I “let it go”.   I let my curls be whatever they wanted to be for the most part plus or minus a little anti frizz stuff.

Ironically, or not so, it’s not that unusual when a stranger says to me, an adult, “I love your hair”.   And now I realize in fact that I AM lucky. My sister told me recently had left the house a couple times recently and realized once she was out and about haven forgotten to comb her hair. I can’t remember the last time I combed my hair. I don’t even own a hairbrush. I used to spend an hour a day blow drying my hair out. Now, my morning routine is pretty much limited to a 3 second glance in the mirror just to make sure no wild animals burrowed in during the night. We live on wooded acreage. It could happen.

Am I really writing an entire post about my hair? Nope. Stay tuned.

Recently, I received contact from a friend from about 30 years ago. Although we’re still trying to catch up on each other’s lives, one thing has become oddly apparent. Who she knew back then and who I knew her to be were two people that clearly did not exist. We both credited the other with possessing skills and strengths that were far from grounded in reality.

Perhaps we are simply blind or too inexperienced in our youth to see things of value properly. Maybe I will learn in 20 years that the things I think I see today are just as misguided. But what I now know is that my hair hasn’t changed much. I just have learned to see it from a very different lens. And similarly, the girl I was, back when my friend knew me, desperately wanted to live a life in which she could feel legitimate. The problem was that she took cues from everyone else to determine what that might/should be. It was only once I began to listen to my own voice somewhere along the way I created a life I recognized. I know today there are still people who see me as something they think I am, rather than who I really am. The difference is that i now understand it is their vision that is off, rather than whatever mask I have put forward.

I stopped wearing masks a long time ago. I found they messed up my hair.

Are there parts of yourself that you could appreciate in someone else, but fail to embrace within yourself?

Do people know you? Or do you let them know who you want them to see? Are you hiding your best attributes in fear that they won’t be good enough?

Do you try to mold parts of yourself into someone else or society’s criteria?

Are you judging yourself by a standard that is far more harsh than you would extend to another?

Is it okay to not be the same as everyone else? Or even the same as everyone expects you to be?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’d love to hear your comments. If you found this helpful, I hope you’ll pass it on to someone else.   Until next time, take good care.

Dont shoot purple cows

 

 

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Please don’t shoot the purple cows

I have to say my last post inspired ME. I hope it did you as well.

I started to think about what purple cows really look like and how would I recognize them if they were only a dim shade of lavender in the process of becoming deep purple.

My son Andrew likes to mix his ketchup and ranch dressing together for dipping French fries. I’ve criticized him for doing that in the past. It’s not normal.

I wonder if the mother of the kid who invented honey mustard was more flexible and said to her son “great idea… run with it”.

My son Alex is constantly creating large scale contraptions out of old junk. I often tell him to get the mess out of the way.

I wonder if Walt Disney’s mom told him to stop wasting so much time in his imaginary world. Or did she say,  “Wow those are such creative ideas. I bet millions of other kids would love your stories as well.”

My husband the inventor uses the microwave in increments like 33,  44 seconds rather than 30 or 40. He says it’s more efficient because it requires the hand to search for other keys.

I originally told him I thought that was the laziest thing I had ever heard. Then I realized (with much reaction from him) that this is the mindset behind process improvement in manufacturing something he knows a thing or two about. Significant manufacturing dollars are recouped with sometimes even microseconds of improvement in efficiency.

How does one become a purple cow? Some are born that way. And if they are lucky, they don’t have someone like me who talks them out of it before it flourishes and takes root.

But for those who aren’t born purple it looks a little differently. Someone asked me yesterday if you decide or become and then decide. My reply was “Once you decide, you have already become.” Let me explain.

If I take two clay pots of dirt and plant the seed for a daisy in one and a geranium in another and set them on the windowsill, anyone passing by will see only 2 clay pots with dirt in them. But at the point of deciding, and planting the seeds, they are in fact already a daisy and a geranium. They are uniquely different from each other, even though no one can see that yet. Each day as they start to make their way to the surface they take on more and more of the qualities that let’s others recognize them.

So once you plant yourself, you have made the decision to grow in a particular direction. You can water and nurture that growth and become either a vibrant daisy or a sickly one. So similarly, if you want to be a purple cow, or a purple daisy, you need first to decide what variety, plant, and then start growing. Unless of course, you are one of the lucky natural born purples. If that is the case, your work is largely the sum of not hiding your purple. And, it is a good idea to seek out and nurture other purple cows to preserve the species and protect them from extermination from people who don’t understand the benefits of purpleness, or that lavender can lead to purple.

Think about posting a metaphoric “no hunting purple cows” sign in your household or business environment. If they are wandering around, they may just be the person who comes up with the next great idea. And think about hanging one in your own brain. Eliminating the energy expenditure to mute yourself into the “normal” bubble, may just free up the creative energy you needed to accomplish something really important to you.

Thanks for reading. If you find this helpful, I hope you’ll pass it on to someone else and suggest they subscribe. If you aren’t a subscriber, please take a moment to enter your email so you won’t miss a post. Until next time take good 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

How to make people happy by disappointing them

 

 

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In another life I had a job very different from what I do now. I worked in the corporate office for a retail chain. Basically, once the buyer made a purchase of goods, my job was to allocate how much of that purchase went to each specific store.

Different types of commodities used different criteria for determining what, was an appropriate level of inventory to carry. If there was a new toy for the season, the goal was to have as much of it as possible on the shelves. The demand was high, and supply was usually low, so buyers tried to purchase as much as they could to keep product filling the shelves as quickly as it arrived.

In contrast, an item in health and beauty department only expected to be about 95% in stock. That means for every 100 customers who came in to purchase a bottle of aspirin, the store expected to only satisfy 95 of them, and willingly considered it a benefit rather than a problem, to disappoint 5 customers. I hope you weren’t one of them with a headache who left empty handed.

So why does a store deliberately want to disappoint its customers? 5 of them in this case? Because in order to maintain 100% in stock on the shelves, there has to be a constant flow of merchandise. Some has to be on order, more in transit to the warehouse, more sitting in the back stock room, and then finally enough to fill the shelves. That is an enormous amount of dollars tied up to carry enough inventory to ensure the 100% outcome, especially on items that, the store might only make small margins. Therefore, it’s too costly, to try and sell to 100% satisfaction.

I bet you all have the headache now because you didn’t come to my blog looking for an explanation of aspirin sales. But this strategy is quite applicable in everyday life.

Any mom’s out there who are trying to fill 100% of the needs of their family, only to become exhausted and “out of stock” to manage their own health issues?

Any employees out there who are giving 100% plus to their job, and then disappoint their kids or husband because they are depleted?

Any individuals out there who are giving 100% to some aspect of their self, perhaps their appearance and then find themselves “bankrupt” on another area of their lives like financial stability?

Sometimes the cost of delivering a flawless performance is simply not worth the price. Not too long ago Tom Hanks went public with the fact that, he is now a Type 2 diabetic. He attributed this development in part, to his having gained and lost, in some cases significant amounts of weight. For his role in Castaway he lost 60 lbs. and gained 30 for his role of the coach in A league of Their Own. Oscars apparently do not have a positive benefit on blood sugar.

So my aspirin selling company had figured out that it was better to tick some folks off but a bit, in order to satisfy the greater number of customers. Doing so allowed them to make a profit, and thus stay in business to fulfill far more purchasing needs than aspirin. People with headaches stayed loyal in other ways.

And the likelihood is that the people who only came to buy aspirin, were disappointed and left vowing never to return were probably not worth having as customers anyway.

Are there relationships that you are afraid if you let them down in some small way, the relationship would disappear? Maybe your “customers” are more loyal and resilient than you give them credit for. And if they aren’t, again, they may not be worth having because of what they are actually costing you.

Today is a great day to assess your inventory reserves and see where you may be spending too many energy dollars to keep them available to others.

 

I’d love to hear your comments, but you’ll need to go back to the website to post them. Here’s the link

http://www.drmaryphd.com/blog

 

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Til next time… Take care

 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

Falling Forward

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Although I identify myself as very spiritual, I am not a religious person. Nor am I even remotely biblically literate. However, over the course of my life I have attended a variety of churches and there are about 5 at best, sermons I can recall. I’d like to share a message that came from one of those. It’s not a religious message, but since I can’t give credit to the minister (since I don’t remember who it was), I at least wanted to be clear that this is not my original work. However, its something I’ve thought of many times and find useful. I hope you will too.

The story he told went something like this:

When I was studying to be a minister, I went to my mentor I asked him for advice about how to be a great minister. My mentor told me, “Remember this. When you fall on your face”….

At which point, the story teller interrupted his own story and said he was disheartened because his mentor had not said “if you fall on your face, but rather WHEN you fall on your face.”

And then he continued:

When you fall on your face, remember to fall forward. That way when you get up, you will be further ahead than when you went down.

 

I remember this story because I think its brilliant. The reality is that we all will fall on our face sooner or later. Some of us will fall down repeatedly. I am particularly prone to clumsiness. So learning to fall forward comes in pretty handy. It saves time.

Falling down, isn’t so bad. Sure, you can get a little bruised up. But it also gives you a different view point of yourself and the world. It can teach us humility, patience and even gratitude both from our ability to get back up, and for those who lend us a hand to assist. Falling down isn’t nearly as bad as being afraid to fall. – I’m going to say more about that soon.

What does falling forward look like? It means not considering yourself a complete failure when you fall. It means not telling yourself you are a jerk because you made a mistake. Falling forward means realizing that a little stumble doesn’t mean you start back over at square one. Even if you literally start back at square one, you do so with the knowledge that you were further ahead before and you can get back there again from memory. You don’t have to create the path all over again.

How do you feel about falling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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?

 

 

 

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.