I’ve been in an uncomfortable place these past few weeks and can’t quite get a handle on why. My life is in an in between place and I find myself distracted by unplanned and uncomfortable events. I also have this sense I’m in a place of questioning, and also that God or the universe has me on the threshold of something significant. I’m being forced to look at every aspect of my life and address what needs to be changed, and yet I’m not really certain what that change might look like. Maybe it is just as simple as looking at how I live, love or make decisions. Maybe this is something huge nudging me to take the next step.
Whenever I feel change looming around the corner, it seems to be accompanied outwardly with seemingly unrelated events. I recently turned 60. Those zero years are always a little harder to take, so aging has been on my mind. I’ve been offered a very interesting change in career path which is exciting and yet could bring some transitions into my life. One of those options could include moving from where I live…and I live in a place I love. My car broke down last month, twice. I’m facing the reality that this vehicle, which I’ve loved and which has been good to me, needs to be replaced with something newer and now, more reliable. I recently discovered a lump on my breast and am waiting for my appointment with my doctor to discover what process we need to pursue to find out just what is going on in my body. I’m in a new relationship, some six months along. We are very happy together, have a lot in common, communicate well together, see a future together and yet there is still so much to learn about each other. That unknown in relationship is always just a little unsettling.
I’m a gardener and a beekeeper. I sold my house last year and moved to a cute cottage home. My new home didn’t have a garden so once the weather warmed I created from the dirt and grassy weeds a charming little cottage garden to compliment my charming little cottage home. Being a beekeeper means I usually plant and garden for my bees. Flowers and veggies are mixed together, punctuated by two small crepe myrtle trees, flowering shrubs, a fountain and a wandering pathway. The bees are already happily investigating the garden I’ve planted for them and have found moisture for the hive in my little rock fountain, working their way back and forth to the hives, which are strong and thriving.
Working with bees and observing how they adapt to change makes me think about how we deal with transitions and adjustments in our own lives. When a bee hive is moved to a new location, the bees spend a day or two orienting to their new location. They hover about the hive, little by little expanding the space they fly as if to say, “Okay, if I go this far, there’s home and if I fly out a little further, home is still…right there.” Exactly how they orient is still unknown, but after that day or two of orienting, they are off exploring, foraging and harvesting the abundance of the garden and the flowers in the surrounding neighborhood. Bees will travel miles to find nectar and pollen if need be, and still know how to find their way back home.
So how does turning 60, major car repairs, a lump on my breast, a new relationship and maybe new work relate to bees? It’s not so much about the bees themselves. It’s about how they deal with change in their world. When their world changes, they re-orient, remind themselves where their home is related to the new situation and then get back to the business of living life.
How do we, in the midst of change, upheaval and new or different circumstances re-orient? How do we find our center, remind ourselves where we “live” related to all that is going on…then carry on with life and living? For me, meditation is a great tool for re-centering. Sometimes, when my mind is spinning and I can’t seem to quiet the chatter, I simply breathe slowly and focus on my breath. Deep breathing like this for several minutes is a simple way to calm, re-center and re-orient with who you are. I like to remind myself when life gets crazy that it is physically impossible to panic and breathe deeply at the same time. I take long walks, preferably in nature. Another thing I like to tell myself is that in a year, this will all be just a faded memory. Reminding myself that the situation is temporary helps put things in perspective.
The drama, the upsets, the bad news, the unexpected changes…they are simply… “stuff”. Stuff comes and goes. Stuff happened last year, and more and different stuff will happen again in the future. Stuff doesn’t make you. How you deal with stuff…or choose not to deal with stuff determines who you are. Become like the bees. Remind yourself where your “home” (your center) is and re-orient. Then get on with the business of living life.
So about that stuff I mentioned earlier…I was offered the job and accepted. It’s a great opportunity to impact the lives others on a broader scale. I’m getting a new car this weekend and a couple made me an offer on my soon-to-be former car. The lump turned out to be just a cyst which we will keep an eye on. The stuff happened and I’m still the same person…hopefully a little more centered and a little wiser about re-orienting in the midst of change.
How do we maintain motivation to diligently pursue the goals we set?
First of all let's talk about the difference between a resolution and a goal. A resolution is sort of like a hope; something "out there" we'd like to accomplish or have happen in our lives that may or may not be realistic..."I'd like to win the lottery"..."I'd like to lose 50 lbs in a month". A goal is a little different. Good goals, by definition, are concise, realistic, measurable, achievable and time-targeted... "I'm going to join Weight Watchers, attend weekly meetings, follow their plan, exercise and lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week until I reach my goal weight of 125lbs by September of 2013.
So, knowing this, I look at several areas in my life and write goals for each. Great! I feel good. I can do this!...today, and maybe tomorrow, but what about next week? What keeps me going? What motivates me to stick with this plan every day, maintaining consistency at a steady pace? How do I find inspiration to keep working towards these goals or is goal setting enough? What is inspiration anyway and where do I find it?
In my path of seeking understanding I think I'll start with the dictionary. Merriam Webster tells me the word inspire means to influence, move or guide, to infuse, draw forth or bring about...and the one that really made me stop and think...to breathe or blow into. So what are those things, events or people in my life that breathe life into me? What or who moves me to do better, to want to reach for my goals? Where have I been influenced in the past? Hmmm, this could be fun.
I know for me, I find great inspiration in nature. I live in the mountains and love just about any activity in the outdoors. So how does nature inspire me to reach for my goals? Maybe nature itself doesn't inspire me to push away that dish of ice cream I don't really need; but rewarding myself with a hike along a favorite trail with my dog, or a day skiing our local slopes after taking some specific steps towards my goals could be very influential.
There are people I'm fortunate enough to have in my life that inspire me and each for different reasons. My friend, Linda, is such a soul sister to me in so many ways. We think a lot alike and have many of the same goals. She, however, is much better at networking...and I don't mean in a business-like way, but her form of networking helps her business. Linda's manner of staying connected with people is so natural for her. She's such a good communicator and so sincere in her interactions that even her chickens and goats understand what she's saying...seriously, I've never seen anything like it. Linda inspires me.
One of my colleagues and friends, LeeAnn, also moves me to want to do better. She is a talented, intelligent and energetic individual. LeeAnn and I have a date to meet once a month to share our successes and discuss what works for each of us in our respective consulting businesses. While LeeAnn recently told me I inspire her, her constant striving to create new ways to help small business owners grow and connect inspire my desire to always find new ways to share my knowledge and passion for helping others.
And then there's Marc. He's my significant other. Aside from being my best friend and playmate, he regularly inspires me. Marc is always honest, moral and ethical. He is sensitive and caring, insightful and intelligent. Marc is as passionate about emotional intelligence as he is about feeding the world. Wow, I live with inspiration!
I guess my point is, I can write goals and day by day work to achieve them, hoping I make it. Without inspiration this just seems like an uphill trek. Discovering what or who inspires me gives me the motivation to be just as successful as the source of what breathes life into me. Then rewarding my successes, even the little ones, with a healthy and/or rewarding treat, such as a walk along a local lake, that's like stacking the deck in my favor.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you reward yourself along the way towards attaining your goals?
My goals are on paper and I've even scheduled time in my calendar to allow for some time for me to work towards accomplishing them. Yet, when things start getting hectic or my client's needs increase, the first thing I tend to do is sacrifice the time for myself to help others. When that happens more than once in a week I find myself getting a little cranky and out of sorts. How can I move forward if I'm not giving to myself?
Most of us are givers to some degree. Some give to others because they know no other way of getting by in the world. Certain religious traditions teach us to relinquish self for the benefit of others, but how healthy is that...really? Even Mother Teresa had goals. She founded a home for the dying and a home for lepers. She traveled the world campaigning for the poor, the sick and the down-trodden. While her work benefited others, she accomplished great things by realizing goals.
In the book, "Calling in the One" by Katherine Woodward Thomas, she says, "When we are authentic with ourselves by setting our limits, honoring our feelings, prioritizing our own well-being, and clearly defining our wants and needs, we identify the path we are on, making it much easier for the blessings of life to come to us." Henry Kissinger once said, 'If you don't know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.'
There's a term, 'Healthy Selfishness' which many folks haven't embraced. Rather, they prefer to play the role of the overburdened victim or the 'selfless giver'. These people generally have lives full of drama, much of it unhealthy. Healthy selfishness means taking time for you to learn, to grow, to center spiritually. This can include such activities as inspirational reading, exercise, meditation, journaling, yoga - I know someone who takes time to practice breathing, deep and full breaths. Ahhhhhh. (Did you know it is physically impossible to panic and breathe deeply at the same time?)
Sure, there are many of us who find great personal reward in helping others. But, if you don't take time for yourself, how can you fully be there for others? How do you experience healthy selfishness?
Most businesses go through the effort to draft a Mission Statement and every organization should have a mission, purpose or reason for being. What about us as individuals? Do we take the time to decide what our reason for being is?
By definition a mission statement is a brief paragraph that is easy to recite and that resonnates with the people working in and for an organization. It briefly describes the company's purpose in a way that encourages commitment, innovation and forward momentum. It guides the actions of the organization and implies an ethical framework in which company strategies are formulated. Generally a mission statement is known only to company employees, although many businesses publish their mission statement on the company website.
While ultimately seeking the company's justification for existing, a mission statement describes the purpose of an organization how the organization goes about fulfilling that purpose and what principles or beliefs guide that work. Good companies routinely review their mission statement to insure it is still relevant and revise it if it isn't.
As individuals we, too, should have a personal mission statement. We should actually state a purpose or reason for being. Writing something for ourselves that inspires us daily to move towards our goals can feel daunting, but there are steps which can make it easier to accomplish. Robert H. Schuller asks, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" With that mindset, ask yourself what it is you really love to do, are naturally good at and derive passion from. What natural talents or gifts do you have and when do you find yourself at your best or "in the zone". This is a start.
Vikor Frankl tells us, "We detect rather than invent our missions in life." If you feel you need more assistance in detecting your mission a new website, Summit Journey Coaching, provides free tools to help you create a mission statement and write your vision and goals. All of your information is private and you can return as often as you wish to update your progress.
I recently came across a mission statement for a company named Holstee that really inspired me. It can be dissected into so many valuable tidbits. The last line really sums it up for me: "Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion."
Among the many brilliant gems Albert Einstein shared, he also inspires us with this quote which applies not only to the science of physics, but also to the science of everyday life.
We can make plans, set goals and aspire to be better or accomplish more, but without action towards the direction of your goals they are just talk. Conrad Hilton said, "Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."
In my consulting work with folks looking to start a business I've seen this again and again and marvel at how well this works each time. First of all, people go through the process of developing on paper the detailed vision for their future business. This is a lot of work, but it's also part of a deep learning process. Then, they take a step towards their goal and the universe joins in to create opportunity. Sounds too easy, doesn't it?
I'm simplifying this and there's more to the story, but the basics are this: there are three key activities towards accomplishing goals. The first is planning. The second is implementing (that's the part where you move). The third is follow-up - and this will be the topic of another blog. Most people are good at doing two of the activities, but not the third. Some people are so stuck in some drama in their current life that they can't get past the planning -- or talking stage. (Have you ever met someone who talks and talks about what is going to happen, but has nothing to show for all that talk?) Other folks are stuck in unhealthy relationships or situations that they can't let go of. Recently, I came across a great quote from a guy named Dan Lehnberg: "To live the dream, you gotta lose the drama!" Life is sometimes like a vessel - you can fill it with only so much "stuff". If your vessel is full of unhealthy people, habits and relationships, you don't have room for the amazing success and happiness you really deserve. You've got to move out the junk so you can replace it with joy and achievement.
So back to my business start-up story (and I'll only tell you one)... I have a client who is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef. She's been working with me to develop a business plan to open a restaurant, but it just wasn't happening. As it turns out she's been going through an extended divorce settlement that has absorbed her life. Her ex was apparently just as absorbed for the past three years also. Finally, the time came for the settlement hearing. She was (coincidentally) at the crux of this situation and, at the same time, waiting to hear on a particular restaurant space she was hoping to rent. She also had some ideas around finding fulfillment in helping single moms by providing a life skill in food service. The universe couldn't support the energy of both situations which appeared to me to be moving in opposite directions... imagine a grasping, needy energy versus a giving, nurturing energy. After the first day of the settlement hearing she went home and cried for hours. The next day she walked into the courtroom and told her ex and his attorney that she wasn't going to fight any more. She would settle. She was done. He could have whatever he wanted.
The very next day the restaurant space became available at a very reasonable rental rate, new catering business opportunities showed up and she got a call from a person she met a few weeks prior who asked her if she would lead up a program doing...guess what???...teaching single moms food service skills to help them develop work-ready skills in the restaurant business.
She had been moving in the direction of her dreams, but then moved out stuck energy from her life, so that her dreams could manifest. She opened her business the following week.
So what does it take for the rest of us? As I tell my clients who are writing a business plan. It's like eating an elephant...you do it a bite at a time. Set your goals one at a time. Then move towards them...baby steps work, but constant and steady baby steps.
What is it in your life you want to move towards? Also, what do you want to move out of the way so your dreams can be realized?
Lately, my work schedule has been nothing short of crazy. Within the past month I've taken on fifteen, yes fifteen new clients. I'm booked solid two weeks in advance from 8am to 6pm. Every day when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, the first thing the little voice in my head asks is, "What is the absolutely most critical thing I need to do today for a client?" Crazy.
As human nature tends to be, I try to explain away my busyness to others, "Oh, my schedule is just crazy lately!" What's so funny, and interesting is that no one, not one single person feels for me. 100% of the time the response I get back is something like, "Yeah, I know what you mean. My life is insanely busy too." Of course, that little part of me (and you have it in you also) secretly becomes somewhat indignant and I find I have to resist the urge to reinforce just how busy I really am...which means obviously (to that little part of me) that my ego much more invested in my self-importance than the work I do or my own personal growth.
The other day I was talking to clients who are both out of work and looking to start a new business. I made my usual little "busy speech" and got the same reply, "Tell us!" she exclaimed, "Our life is nuts right now!" Wait a minute! They don't even have jobs! That part of me who wants so desperately to feel so exceptional was literally up in arms. Now that's really the crazy part!
First of all, no one forces me or any other individual to take on more than we can handle. I do it willingly. Admit it. You do to. How much my ego is involved is my responsibility. Maybe I volunteer to take on some task or responsibility for purely altrusistic reasons. Maybe I love the challenge or the variety or the social aspect of being involved in a new activity. Overall, though, that feeling of overwhelm is pretty relative and the level of responsibility each of us can handle is also individual to each person and personality type.
How each of us handles or deals with the sensation of overwhelm is idiosyncratic also. We are lucky to live in a culture where it is acceptable to "talk out" those anxious feelings that might come with having too much to do. Some people find that exercise or spending time outdoors in some physical activity fills the need for balance. Meditation can be very helpful and that can be as simple as spending five to ten minutes focusing on deep and slow breathing to center oneself again. Others find a change in pace that a hobby or personal activity provides as helpful. What we all need to be aware of and resist is the use of alcohol or drugs to unwind. In this case, a little can be fine, but more becomes highly counter-productive.
What I've discovered for myself is that I actually need to schedule my personal time, my down time. Assuming that it will occur on its own doesn't work for me. In other words, if it isn't on my schedule it doesn't exist.
These days when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, the first thing I do is spend a little time in meditation. It helps me center myself so I can face my busy day. Then, after I put coffee or tea on, I head out to do my workout routine. Exercise is a great stress reliever and, I find, a great way to begin my day. The other thing I do is devote time to daily conversation with my partner. He's my rock, supports my work and is my biggest fan...as I hope I am for him. Sharing a fun activity on the weekend with him has allowed me to put more focus on my work and clients during the week, which in some odd way, gives me a sense of more freedom. I also try to make Friday my office day so I can catch up on paperwork, review our project schedule with my assistant, get in some training or mentoring myself and touch base with colleagues.
The challenge of maintaing balance is always ongoing. Its pretty easy to sacrifice time to fit a client in. I find if I give up an hour on a Friday to a client, that one hour easily becomes three. Knowing this about myself, I try to avoid booking clients on a Friday unless it is absolutely necessary, which happens. Flexibility is part of balance.
Now, my next challenge is to let go of that ego thing which makes me want to feel so important for choosing to accept a full life!
Marianne Williamson wrote an amazing book called "Everyday Grace". One of the things she talks about is how people have this tendency to wait and hope for an angel or guidance from "out there" to help them along in life. She poses the question, "What if you were the angel you were waiting for?"
Wow, what a concept! Instead of waiting for something outside of yourself to "save" or "rescue" you, be the answer you are waiting for.
So why is that so difficult for us? I think part of it has to do with old voices in our heads that tell us we aren't good enough. If you think about it, that is allowing your past to run your life. Years ago, I heard this comment that really stuck with me. It went something like this: "Does the wake push the boat or does the motor push the boat?" (The wake is the trail of water pushed aside by the movement of a boat/vessel through water.) Of course, we all know the motor pushes the boat, but there are those of us who live our lives as though the wake or our past runs the show, controls how we live and feel and the story we tell about ourselves. Those of you who have been boating know that a wake at the wrong angle can capsize your craft!
I'll allow that visual to settle in with you while I continue this article.
A good many of us need to reframe the voice in our head. We need to believe in ourselves. As Albert Einstein said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Maybe you are like a fish and need to find your own pond rather than try to climb a tree.
The other thing we need to completely accept is that no one else believes 100% in you but...you! Chris Brogan, who I admire and follow, says it this way:
"Your significant other wants you to be happy, but he or she also has a boatload of challenges and problems and issues to work on, as well, so that can hamper the experience. Your boss doesn't want you to succeed. Your boss wants work to go very well. Your clients don't want you to succeed. Your clients want to be the hero in their own story, with your help. Yes, ultimately, most people want other people to do well, but accept that you own your success."
My youngest sister, who has six children, works full time and is completing her college degree. She just turned 50 and was bemoaning the fact that she will be 52 by the time she graduates. Her college mentor, obviously a very wise man, asked her, "So how old will you be if you don't get your degree?"
She believes in herself and wants to better her life, career and income. No one else is going to come along to do that for her. Life has this tendency to keep on rolling along. We have a choice. We can either wait for success, relationship, money, something better...or do something about it.
And yet, wanting and doing are two different things. How does one get started? While I personally like the Nike tagline, "Just do it!", action without a plan can quickly lead to frustration. Most of us don't know how to create an action plan based on goals. Maybe goals have been written down somewhere, only to be lost in a pile of papers.
Without this sounding like a sales pitch, I'd like to recommend a new website with lots of free tools for goal setting. It's called Summit Journey Coaching. It's free to sign up, your work is completely private and you are guided through the process of creating a personal vision, mission statement, goals and an action plan you can check off as you work towards your goals. You also have access to motivational videos to help you along your path. When, and if, you are ready, there are opportunities to hire a coach, but the founders of Summit Journey are passionate about sharing these free tools to help others and I appreciate that.
We do have an inner genuis and we are the angel we've been waiting for. Vikor Frankl, who wrote "Man's Search for Meaning", said, "We detect rather than invent our missions in life." This is an opportunity to get out of that tree and discover your pond.
So tell me, if you owned your own success what would that look like for you?
Remember several years ago when the book,“All I really need to know I learned from my dog” was popular?
The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about how routine gives us a sense of freedom (that will be the topic of another blog one day). MY friend said something about how children and dogs love their routine. It made me think. Since my children are grown, that opportunity is gone and grandchild haven't arrived yet. I do, however, have a dog!
My Australian Shepherd, Belle, definitely loves her daily routine because it means she has a job. Aussies are intelligent dogs who love to excel at their work.
I tend to wake up early and Belle gets up with me. After I put on coffee, Belle, who has been waiting patiently, approaches me for her brush-down. Then she gets fed and immediately goes outside to do her business, comes back inside and goes back to bed again. When I'm done with my morning meditation and journaling she's up and ready for the day. Once outside, she finds her ball and sets it just outside the glass bedroom door and sits behind it, patiently waiting for me to finish my coffee (or tea) and reading, and then prepare for my morning dip in the Jacuzzi. The look of anticipation on her face is contagious and sometimes makes me want to giggle. Day after day, she can hardly wait for signs that I'm ready for my morning soak.
I have hardly stepped into the hot water when she dutifully deposits the ball on the edge of the Jacuzzi for me to toss and her to retrieve. It's the highlight of her day. Toss and retrieve, toss and retrieve, until she can hardly catch her breath.
Because I live in the mountains, Belle doesn't get a walk every day during the winter months. When the weather is agreeable and I reach for the leash, she acts as though she can't believe her good fortune. It's the same with a new snack. Belle's honest expression of joy is a reminder of how small, spontaneous actions can be delightfully appreciated.
So, what have I learned from my dog? Find comfort in routine and delight in the spontaneous. Regular routines give us comfort in that we almost don’t have to think about our actions. Our minds are free to work on other creative endeavors or challenges.
After the coffee is on, I go downstairs to my little workout room. There, waiting for me next to my exercise bike are my athletic shoes and socks. I’ve learned if I leave them there I don’t have to dig through drawers in the dark of early morning. That little routine ensures peace in my morning as I approach my day.
Yesterday,a friend and I both agreed to take the day off, but were unsure what to do with our time together. The conversation turned towards a road I noticed on my way to an out-of-town meeting earlier in the week. We both had seen it before and decided to take a drive to discover where it led. What an adventure this turned out to be! We found not only another entrance to a local lake, but the river that led from its dam went through an almost deserted mid-1800’s town that had a stone mill which was still standing next to an old covered bridge. We also discovered a launch for a section of the river we could raft on, which surprised the both of us. Lunch that day was at a newly discovered restaurant on the river’s edge. We followed another road on our way back home which led us through rolling countryside bursting in fresh green of spring and newly blooming wildflowers. Truly that spontaneous drive delighted the both of us. We plan to go back for a long bicycle ride in the same area and want to get some friends together for a little raft trip this summer.
What a great lesson this is for me! Find comfort in the routine and delight in the spontaneous.
As I sit at my desk each morning, writing as a part of my daily routine, I can see Belle posed outside with her ball waiting. It must be hot tub time...Ahhhhh
A new year has recently begun and with that I've made a personal commitment to start this blog to share thoughts and lessons, insights and inspirations. I welcome your comments.
We've just wrapped up another hectic holiday season which this year brought more frenetic moments that I care to recall. On top of that I sold my house and moved during the holiday season so it felt especially busy and stressful trying to settle into a new home while attempting to make time to spend time with family and friends.
I welcome the new year because I've always enjoyed creating my goals for the next twelve months. Yesterday I felt I finally got most everything down on paper and it was daunting. My goodness, do I have a lot of goals! I don't think I want to remove any of them from my list and yet I found myself asking, "How do I stay centered enough to move forward on so many fronts successfully?" This morning I decided to meditate on the phrase, "Peace of Mind" to discover what came up for me.
The message was clear and meaningful. Maybe it was only meant for me...and maybe you can resonate with it as well. It was:
PEACE OF MIND STEMS FROM THE CONFIDENCE IN YOUR PERSONAL BELIEF SYSTEM ALONG WITH THE KNOWING THAT REGARDLESS OF THE "STUFF" THAT COMES YOUR WAY, YOU ARE LOVED AND SAFE. ALL IS ALWAYS WELL.
So tell me, if you were to edit this blog entry, what would peace of mind sound like for you?
Growing pains, life experiences that change us, philosophies, introspection and contemplation