Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Buy the ticket, take the ride

“Don’t stop running!”

 After signing my life away, having received just basic information upon payment, those three words were the only instructions I received from my Portuguese-speaking carioca—my pilot for the next 30 minutes.

We stood 20' from the edge of a cliff, nearly 1700' above sea level just south of Ipanema. The view couldn't have been more stunning. The drive up the mountain to the launch point couldn't have been more harrowing. And, it was my last day in Rio de Janeiro, my mom had recently died, and I was ready, no matter what happened. 

We belted ourselves into harnesses, then to the glider, and soon, after safety checks, we were ready. Of my group, I was the first. My brain hit auto-pilot: Whatever you do, don't stop running. (And breathe!)

When my friends first suggested this, I wanted to say no. Which meant I had to say yes. 

Today, when I think I can't do something, or I feel uncertain, or a little scared, I remember these words and think about Rio. To say yes, even if it scares me. 

As Hunter S. Thompson said, "Buy the ticket. Take the ride." Life would be a lot less interesting if you didn't take the ride at least some of the time. If we say "yes" often enough, even when our wobbly insides want us to say no, we build resilience. 

So don't stop. 

That's our option right now. While this ticket was foisted upon us--the cluster that is a pandemic, a recession, and political theatre--it's up to us how we get through it. We can choose to dig in, resist, and refuse to accept what is, or we can adapt, adopt, and change. I know that's not easy for everyone, as many are experiencing true hardship right now. However, with the resilience we've built, we can also help others. 

That flight over the white sandy beach and azure South Atlantic was extraordinary. We caught some thermals and glided through the air before gently landing on the beach. 

I know that not every landing is soft, but I do know they get easier with practice. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Uncharted waters: How to navigate uncertainty

We areall of usnavigating uncharted waters. 

None of us has previously experienced a pandemic, nor the havoc wrought by an unmanaged, exponential crisis. 

The US has a national election coming up, and many of us are figuratively crossing all appendages that we get real leadership. However, while new leadership may get the immediate crises under control, the real truth is that no matter what the outcome, the last four years have revealed our collective shadow side, and real change won't come from that proverbial top. It comes from usfrom the front line, the activists, the advocates, the beleaguered, the passionate, the concerned... and the privileged. 

What's a shadow side? 

Our shadow is largely hiddenoften from ourselves, almost always from others. It's not the part of us we're proud of. 

It's our unconscious bias, our judgments, resentments, and often our fears, it's that little voice that says things in our heads that most of us would never say out loud ("Did I really just think that? OMG!). It's the learned behavior or societal conditioning that makes us think less of ourselves, or less of others. Or that we're better than. It's our inner mean girl (or boy). Our shadow is in part why some of us love horror films, watching train wrecks (hopefully figurative), or watching our frenemies implode. (Read more about our shadow here.)

We all have a shadow side. This isn't bad; it's part of being human. Something we may find within that shadow, something I'm just learning about, is that most of us are somewhere on a continuum of racism. This doesn't make us bad people. But it's on us to be courageous and own itour shadow and our inherent racism, and challenge ourselves to unlearn and do different (as Maya Angelou said, when we know better, we do better). 

Calling myself racist is new for me, something I hadn't considered before. I've worked with people of color and from different ethnic backgrounds for much of my career. In my younger years, I dated boys or men of color. I befriended people who came from faraway placeseven when that faraway place wasn't literal but instead failed desegregation (the bussing experiment). My grandfather, even while using words we'd never use now, taught me acceptance. 

And, I have grown up in a racist system, benefited from racist policies and practices, inadvertently perpetuated racism, and stayed quiet when speaking up could have meant something.  

To fully grow and become wise, functioning humans, we must accept and embrace our shadow, and our isms. Make visible that which is invisible. And then, while simple but not easy, we can heal, forgive, let go, and move on. We stop holding ourselves back or thinking we're unworthy, or oppressing others for their differences. 

We become better versions of ourselves. Which is what we, collectively, need to do now. 

Over the last decade or so, we unearthed rampant white nationalism, vitriol, intolerancemindsets and behaviors based in fear of the unknown or of 'the other'. We have uncovered major defects in our various systems: 

  • the ever-growing gap between rich and poor in our economic system 
  • disproportionate spending in our healthcare system only to achieve outcomes far below all industrialized countries
  • inequitable education systems that fail our kids
  • food and environmental systems degraded for personal gain
  • to name just a few 
Now more than ever we see how all these systems and the policies defining them are intricately connected. Cracks in our systems have evolved into floodgates, and now everything's falling apart. 

This is probably a good thing, even though it doesn't feel like it.  

Cautious optimism

While things can fall apart very quickly, the upward spiral takes longer. Real, meaningful change happens slowly, often in increments. 

I am cautiously optimistic. Like MLK, I know the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." There are many good people doing really great work, if we only look. 

Here are some examples: 

  • The entire global scientific community has come together to find remedies and vaccines for the novel coronavirus; they anticipate having a vaccine in record time
  • Forces collided and the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and support from unusual allies; my employer just committed to becoming anti-racist, and many others are doing the same, recognizing the reality of systemic racism and micro-aggression in the workplace
  • People with big platforms (Joe Rogan, for one) are speaking out against factory farming
  • Scientists, doctors, and health professionals are showing up as heroes and garnering huge social media followings 
  • The world of work is changing for a lot of us, becoming more employee-centric, focused on employee experience

So, how to navigate all this... 

The times we're in are proving not for the faint of heart, because even the good requires our effort and support. But, as I continue to learn, we can do hard things (thanks to Glennon Doyle for that oft-repeated mantra and hashtag, #wecandohardthings). 

Now's the time to stay centered and focused on what matters most so when we emerge on the other side of this, we'll be better than we were before, smarter, more innovative, more capable, more empathetic, more resilient, contributing to a more equitable, sustainable world for all of us, not just some of us. 

Here's a list of steps to journal, map, or otherwise help you:  

  • Have a vision: What do you want our world or your life to look like, both personally and for people and planetit's OK if more peace in the world or within your insides is all you can come up with; it's a place to start
  • Plot a course: Have a plan, a goal, an aspiration, or a dream, and commit to it—even if it's just getting up every day, and showing up
  • Be willing to adjust: Change your direction, your thinking, or your actions when you have new information, and be willing to listen (really listen!) to ideas and opinions different from your own, knowing some have more experience or knowledge than you do (this doesn't make you less than
  • Pay attention: The winds continually shift and you may need to stand firm or change; your insides will know which 
  • Prepare for anything: Think through the possibilities and have a good idea of what you'll do and what you need to get through it, physically, mentally, or emotionally
  • Ask for help: While we can go through life single-handing it, we're better together and others can contribute in ways you don't know until you ask, or get out of the way
  • Know what's yours to do: We can't be all things to all people, so look for what you can do and know when it's someone else's turn to take the helm
  • Stay steady: Take regular, consistent steps, even if small, that move you closer to what you want to see, be, or do
  • Enjoy fair winds: Seek out the goodtake a break from the news, spend time in nature, breathe, move your body, and find joy in moments
"May you live in interesting times" feels rather relevant, as 2020 certainly has felt cursed at times. And, we get to be part of something that's so much bigger than we are, that hopefully will make the world a better place for future generations. 

Whether you're out there making change in the world around you, or working on small changes at home, it doesn't matter. It all counts. Being the best "you" that you can be has ripple effects that benefit everyone. 

Change happens when systems and people breakdown. Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs, and while in many ways, we're alone, together, none of us is really alone in this. We've got this. It's worth it. #wecandohardthings 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Being with what is

My mom, Anelda, around 1960. 
I have come to a place of peace in my life, despite circumstances. Or maybe because of circumstances. While our current reality is hard in many ways, it's not the hardest thing I've ever done.

I come to this place honestlythis place of peace and mindfulness, of relative comfort with uncertainty. Today I feel like writing a bit about my journey, because I'm sad today, and enjoying a tad bit of wallowingknowing this is a place to visit and not stay.

Today is Mother's Day. 

I write this today for anyone who's ever felt alone. For those whose mothers are gone, for those who didn't have a mother figure in their lives, or for those with no children of their own. For me, that's all of these. 

My mother left this mortal plane 20 years ago next week, on May 19. While she had been ill, she had been... not recovering, because it was far too late for that... but doing relatively well. So when I returned home from a morning run and got the call that she was gone, I felt like I'd run into a wall. Hard. Not yet, it's too soon. We were getting into a groove. She was doing so well... but she wasn't.

In hindsight, I am proud of my mother for living as long as she did, despite dying at 64, with the emotional pain that encompassed her life. The youngest of four children, she was the 'accident'unwantedsomething she felt throughout her life. When my aunt, her oldest sister, died at 48, my grandmother was inconsolable, and my mother was never the same. This was the last straw in that proverbial camel's back; my mother shut down any emotions she hadn't already closed off, and other than anger, she expressed very little from that point forward. 

Can you say abandonment issues? 

So at 9, I was on my own. Basic shelter, food, clothing, and physical safety were covered, but the rest was up to me. We moved in to care for my grandmother, but my grandmother was mean to both me and my mom when she wasn't feeling sorry for herself and doling out guilt. When she died three years later. I did a 180 from an obedient, thoughtful kid, to a rebellious, self-destructive teenager.  

My mom wasn't married, so I didn't have my dad's family, either. He died when I was two, and though he mentioned me in his will, his family had nothing to do with me until I was 22 or so and wrote to my uncle. Suddenly my aunt, his sister, was acceptingeven though she was certain I couldn't have been his when my mom got pregnant. My dad was the love of my mom's life, although I'm not sure that sentiment was returned. My uncle, his oldest brother, leaves me to believe otherwise, though he's never come out and said it. (By the way, today would also have been my father's birthday.)

My grandfather, Ben.
As a kid, I had a lot of family aroundno siblings, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, first cousins, cousins of cousins, and cousins once and twice removed. We had countless family gatherings, from holidays and harvests to many family funerals. But between my grandfather's death the year after my aunt, and my grandmother's stroke around the same time, the gatherings dwindled, and one by one, many from that extended family died or in some way went away.

Looking for love in all the wrong places

So starting in my tenth year, I had no real mother or parental figures. I found family in friends, and of course chose those who were on the same self-destructive path. I think back to the mothers of my friends... and it's frankly laughable, in a very sad way. We grew up during the time of latchkey kids, when parents were largely checked out anyway, and many of my friend's parents were pretty fucked up (hence my choice of friends), with rare exceptions. While I could say I was neglected and occasionally the unwitting victim of my mother's anger (sometimes deserved), I wasn't abused.

When I got married, now 30 years ago, I chose a man whose mother died before I met him, and she reportedly wasn't much of a mother. He also had a daughter, and he wasn't much of a father. I have no children of my own, and until I signed up for Big Sisters, had few children in my life. My attempt at step-parenting was flawed at best, although I believe I made a bit of a difference. However, while I craved family and connection, and looked for that outside myself, I didn't fare much better. We separated in May 1994. 

So I write this today for those who may feel alone. Know that I understand. I felt alone for much of my life. I was alone for much of my life. At some point, I even made sure I was alone, unconsciously pushing away anyone who got too close, afraid they'd leave. Let's just get this over with before it hurts too much. 

We are both always, and never, alone

Thankfully, I rarely feel alone now, and I know that I'm not, even when I feel like it. Occasionally, I have days like this. Yet I have learned to be here for myself, above all else. Because in the end, we're all we've got.  

I'm also fortunate to be with a man who has grown with mebeen willing to grow with me, even with a rocky (and long-distance) start. We, too, have an important date this month: 24 years together on May 18. This wasn't a given. A therapist once said our wounds recognized each other. I think the odds were against us bothto come together in a healthy, interdependent relationship was not expected nor even anticipated. And yet, I believe what we created over the last 10 of those years will endure, and that it's largely because we learned to care for ourselves that we can care for each other. 

We learn from our mothers, intentionally or not

Despite it all, I miss my mom. While we struggled for so long, we grew to appreciate each other in my adult years. While still emotionally closed, I see that she did what she could, and in her final years, after I moved home from Vancouver, we became fairly close. After all, it had always been just the two of us... we had weathered our share of loss and conflict. 

Growing up, I wanted a mother I could be proud of, and in hindsight, I am. Not for the reasons I initially desired, however. I'm proud because she found a way to survive despite her deep sense of unworthiness and pain, and she did her best. She taught me much, indirectly, and offered some words of wisdom that still serve me well, like trusting my instincts, even before I knew how to access them, and to use my better judgment. I also vicariously learned resilience and determination. 

I know my mom did the best she could with what she knew, and tried to do her best for me, even when she couldn't show up for herself. A therapist once asked if I was angry at her. I'm not, nor was I, once I learned to see... now, when I think of her, it's a mix of sadness, gratitude, and compassion.  

I loved my mother, and I believe she loved me to the degree she could. To honor her, on this day and on other significant dates, I take extra care, including giving myself grace. Because I know she wanted me to have a better life.

I write this today because we are each on a journey, and we do this alone. No matter who we have, or don't have, in our lives, we have to show up for ourselves. We are here to grow and learn, and it can be painful. But through it all, we come out better, stronger, more fully human. The more we accept and embrace ourselves and the path we're on, the easier it becomes to change our minds, our beliefs, our experience, and ultimately our lives. 

As my mother said so frequently, this too shall pass. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Making sense of challenging times

Borrowed from Instagram
Every afternoon, an alarm on my phone reminds me that 'everything is impermanent.' I set this alarm as a strategy to get through my workday at a job I haven't loved before we were asked by our governor to "stay home, stay safe". Now it seems almost prescient. 

Where we are at this moment in time is hard. And, as I heard my mom say more times than I wanted to, "this too shall pass." 

We cannot have pleasure without pain, nor joy without sadness. We can't know comfort without experiencing discomfort.  

And sometimes, we require a strong jolt to move out of complacency or apathy to embrace real, lasting, necessary change.

Transformation, ready or not

Over the last month, I have witnessed real transformation every day at work. I work for a very traditional, allopathic medical group—"western" medicine that isn't my go-to but I'm glad it's there when I need it.  

The change is nothing short of remarkable. In the two-plus years I've worked there, the organization has made numerous changes, but it needed to move faster to keep up with a rapidly evolving market. At the end of 2019, they set up an "acceleration office" to ideally usher in change more quickly. That work was just getting underway... 

And... virus. 

Practically overnight, my organization transitioned to nearly all virtual care, adopted new practices and systems, and relaxed outdated policies and adopted new ones. I, and all my coworkers, are busier than we've ever beenwith most of us working remotely. And this isn't true just in my organization, but throughout the healthcare industry overall. 

Opportunity and silver linings

In any way imaginable, everything just got very real. Personally and professionally, no matter where you are in life, what's most important is up for redefining, and our priorities are shifting in countless ways, collectively and individually. 

This might just be a transcendent wake-up call, a reset, a recalibration. At least, that's one way to look at it, and how I prefer to look at it. Not one to waste a crisis, I know from experience there is always something to be learned and gained and that transformation is afoot when things fall apart. This is how we grow, deeply, personally, culturally. 

Yes, I am profoundly troubled by the strife in the worldthe fear, the loss of life and livelihoodsand I'm keenly aware of the very real trauma created by this disease and the impact of the stringent measures required to quell it. 

Sadly, there will be casualties, much like war, and the most vulnerable among us will be most affected. This is heartbreaking on so many levels, because no one deserves to lose their life, or that of a loved one, when every waking moment may feel hard and life as we know it can't continue.  

But I have a deep sense that we need this. 

Our systems don't work

So much about our way of life has been unsustainable. Every one of our systems requires an overhaul to work better for people and the planet; right now, this is more evident than ever in our food, healthcare, and economic systems, as well as our environmental policies.

We now have an opportunity to do things differently and to notice how we rely on each other. We're a global economy, dependent on trade, shared knowledge, and combined resources. Darwin's reinterpreted survival theory requires that we adapt, cooperate, and collaborate, not compete. (Watch infectious disease expert Alanna Shaikh talk about global health here and what we must do now to avoid another major pandemic.)  

We are collectively learning we must also play the long game rather than opting for the short-term profits and wins we've become accustomed to. So much of our financial and political focus is based on short-term thinking, and only those who know the game and how to play it come out ahead, leaving so many behind. Here in the US, it's time to reinstate our social contract and leave the 'rugged individual' mythology behind. None of us can do it all alone.  

Resourcefulness = resilience

All that said, however... we must also plan to care for ourselves when disaster strikes, to ensure those who most need help are able to get it. 

Since the hoarding and stockpiling at the beginning of this pandemic indicate otherwise, we must individually prepare for disasters before they hit. Those of us who live in earthquake zones should have at minimum two-weeks of food, water, and god-forbid, toilet paper, among other necessities. And ideally, governments are learning that we must not rely on a just-in-time supply chain and instead keep back-up emergency supplies. Note to self for Clorox Wipes... 

If you haven't yet read The Unthinkable and The Gift of Fear, please make time for them. Both of these books give examples of why we must think about the impossible, while learning to trust our instincts. My partner, who works on container ships, watches disasters-at-sea videos; when I asked why, since I have no stomach for these, he said to imagine the impossible, because the impossible happens. 

Necessity = ingenuity and creativity 

Some of the bright spotsbecause there are always bright spots if you're paying attentionare the extraordinary creativity and ingenuity at play, and a lot of innovation, along with visible compassion, gratitude, and a real sense of connection, despite physical distance. 

People are helping others in ways we haven't seen in decades, from making masks and donating supplies, creating affinity groups online, finding new ways to fundraise, and re-imagining helpful services. Our front-line healthcare workers are heroes and she-roes, celebrated by balcony and front porch serenades. Musicians are performing live online, and local yoga studios and trainers are offering online classes almost any time of day. Restaurants and bars started new lines of business with take-out and delivery (and I don't mean to diminish how badly these and other services have been hit by this). Church services are broadcasting via Facebook Live, AA meetings and weddings are taking place on Zoom (along with plenty of virtual happy hours), and businesses previously hesitant to offer their staff remote work made it possible overnight. One of my favorite things so far is a Facebook group, View from my Window, where people from across the world post one (only one per person allowed) image from their window, as the (nearly) whole world shelters in place.  

The memes are some of the best ever, and all the late-night shows are broadcasting from home. I highly recommend finding and following people and things you love on Instagram, like The Daily "Social Distancing" Show, Trevor Noah's re-imagined home-based show.   

And finally, great resources are springing up all over for those who are struggling. One of my favorites so far is a support guide, chock full of awesome resources, compiled by author and web TV host Marie Forleo. You can find it here. And if you just want to hear a comforting voice, author Glennon Doyle is broadcasting "family meetings" on Instagram, sharing the challenges of being home with a spouse and bored kids. 

For us, not to us

While this may not be easy, ask yourself: Is this happening for me, or to me? When we ask ourselves this question (about this or any other thing that happens), it shifts our experience. We now have more control over our circumstances, with space to receive the insights we need to weather our storms and see opportunity, even as we grieve our losses.   

This pandemic, and the subsequent stay home measures, is challenging us like nothing else has, and we will all be changed as a result in ways big and small. I hope we all take time to assess, as we slowly come out the other side, what's worth keeping and what's better left behind. Right now is a great time to visualize the world you want to live in, to spend time in quiet reflection, and hold space for a better future. 

As Leonard Cohen sang, "there's a crack in everything; cracks are how the light gets in." Our cracks are showing us the changes we need to collectively thrive. 

I leave you with this quote from author and extraordinary human, Arundahti Roy: 
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it. 
That I write all this from relative comfort and privilege is not lost on me. And yet I also state it with conviction. Because I have learned we can do hard things. 

While most of us may not be in the high-risk category, we're all, perhaps unwittingly, part of a new, developing social contract, staying in and doing the right things for those we love. At the very least, I hope we hold onto this, and that on the other side, we're all a little kinder, more generous, more compassionate, and more mindful. We are all in this together.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The distance we travel... from who we were to who we are

Looking ahead or looking behind, or
just noticing the reflection...? 
During a recent online coaching program, the facilitator assigned our group some homework. Each of us was asked to record a live two-minute video, owning up to and sharing the "worst" thing we've ever done. 

When I heard it, I thought... really? The worst thing?? Holy crap. 

This prompted some unanticipated self-r
eflection and proved a not-so-easy exercise. 

Looking back over many years, there was a lot of bad behavior, particularly during my teen years. I know some things about teenage angst. That was this, but more. Far more. 

Transitioning from that goody-two-shoes I wrote about here, into a rebellious, self-destructive teen, I had no boundaries and I didn't care what most people thought. 

When I emerged from the fog of an abused, self-loathing teen and metamorphosed into a searching, seeking young adult, I found some discipline and principles. I had a few backslides, though... not to the same degree of unprincipled behavior, but to say I cared about myself enough to make good decisions and take care of myself would be untrue. 

Troubled years 

I spent so many of my early years looking for love in all the wrong places and trying to numb myself from pain, although unrecognized and undefined. I believed, I learned years later, that I didn't belong here. That I wasn't worthy of sticking around for. That few, if any, really cared. That life was hard, and if anything good came my way, I or something would screw it up so why try, why bother... So I didn't try, and I didn't bother. 

Hurt people hurt people, yes? The worst things I ever did, I did to myself, but there was definitely collateral damage along the way. And, truthfully, while I'm not proud of that behavior when I look back, it's because of who I was that I can be who I am today. 

Change is possible 

Somewhere along the way, there must have been leverage and inflection points, but I'm not sure I know what they were. Perhaps... A roommate who had a mental health breakdown and I unexpectedly moved home, and fast. A best friend lost to heroin addiction. A 'loser' boyfriend who dumped me unapologetically. An overnight stay in jail with female felons (thankfully, no charges). My introduction to metaphysics. A sociology professor who broadened my perspective. A job that piqued my curiosity and launched a career. A boyfriend north of the border... who by opening my eyes to a Commonwealth country, helped change my world view. 

How itand Iunfolded, I can't be sure, but to say that seems like another lifetime would be an understatement. Perhaps my formative learnings from my grandfather stuck in the deep recesses of my awareness. I know they're part of who I am today: someone whose top values are justice, integrity, and gratitude—his legacy, in part.  

But part of that rebellious teen lives on, tooI also value freedom, adventure (perhaps in part because of my astrological sign), authenticity, and autonomy. 

Looking ahead

There's no way I could have predicted when I was 20 who I would be at 30, nor at 30, who I'd be at 40, and so on. Whoever coined the phrase, "the days are long but the years are short" totally got it. Time starts to slip and memories play tricks, and it often feels like the time literally vaporized. 

With the onset of this new decade, I can't predict where I'll be in another 10 years, either. I have ideas of what I'd like my life to look likeanother exercise in the coaching program, but it's impossible to know what life lessons are ahead of me, and what I'll make them mean. 

It's a good exercise, though. Imagine where you'd like to be 10 years from now: who you'll have in your life, where you'll live, what work you'll do (or not), how much money you'll have, the places you'll go between now and then, the lifestyle you dream about.

When you have something to strive for, you're more likely to get to a place you want to go. That said, I can't say I had one until perhaps this last decade. I didn't know what was possible. 

Worst thing ever? 

So what was my worst thing? Nope, not saying... I chose a couple from a pretty long list, most of which I've made amends of some sort for, and done plenty of self-forgiveness around. 

I don't revisit my past much anymore. I'd rather have my energy focused on my vision. Still, sometimes it's good to look backif only to see how far we've come. The good news: we're never stuck. We can always become a better version of ourselves. We have the power to change. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Find meaning and purpose, not passion: tips to get started

This gull lives and breathes its meaning
and purpose..
For years we heard, 'follow your passion', which now more often sounds like bad advice (read this, or this).  

Sometimes we don't know our passions until we have a whole lot of experience behind us, and we discover what we're passionate about as we travel through life. 

Now we know it's about bringing passion to whatever we're doing, wherever we happen to be. 

After we meet our basic needs like shelter and safety, what we need most is meaning and purpose... whether through paid work, home and family life, or in community.  

If you're unsure about what brings your life meaning, here are some ideas to gain more clarity.  

Follow your curiosity

What makes you go huh...? Or hmmm...? What are you reading, listening to, or watching, and what is it about those things that appeal to you? What or who do you want to know more about? If you could take any class in school or elsewhere, or travel anywhere you'd like, what does that look like and why? Is there someone you admire or sometimes feel envious of? What is it about that person that prompts that response? 

Perhaps you're curious about brain science, like I am, but not willing or able to be a neuroscientist. What about this inspires or appeals to you? Notice that, and see if you can find other ways to explore and enjoy that interest. 

If you're curious, you may have a latent talent for something related... I'll never be a neuroscientist, but I love coaching and how the latest research in brain science applies to personal development and human potential. 

Notice where you spend your money

Our proverbial checkbooks or credit card statements are insightful; they document what we care about. What do you buy, who or what do you donate to, and what do you do to be entertained? Is how you spend your money aligned with your values? If not, why not? Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your spending
or your values. 

For example, if you care about the environment, what kind of food do you buy? Or are you addicted to fast fashion? (It's a thing, and not a good one, as it's a huge drain on resources and contributes to pollution.) Are you a mindless shopper, like I used to behealing old wounds in unsatisfactory ways? 

How does your lifestyle support your health, your dreams, your overall satisfaction? These are a big part of meaning and purpose. 

What makes you angry?   

I wrote a while ago about acquaintance Nathalie Molina Nino, who in her book Leapfrog wrote that we should forget about finding our passion and instead find something we want to punch. Those things that make us the angriest are great opportunities for potential work, budding (or serial) entrepreneurs, or providing volunteer opportunities. 

What makes us angry also tells us what we care about, which brings us closer to clarity and understanding of our meaning and purpose. 

Test the waters 

When we find meaning and purpose, we find our passions
often right where we are. Sometimes we're fascinated by something, but we've never done it before. Through doing, we build confidence, gain experience, get excited, and grow those passions. 

Maybe you'd love to own a bakery 
one day. Time vaporizes when you're in the kitchen, baking cookies, breads, or specialty desserts. Having a bakery may not be feasible now, but what can you do that gets you closer? Sell your stuff with a microbusiness, using the magic of technology on Next Door or Marketplace, or one of the many channels available now.  

The owner of wildly popular Seattle cafe Hot Cakes started selling that chocolate gooey goodness under a tent at farmers markets. Now she has two brick-and-mortar cafes, and recently opened two vegan ice cream shops. They run themselves while she travels and surfs. 

Small steps are better than no steps. 

Understand your motivation

Knowing why you want something can keep you motivated when you wonder if you're on the right track. If you can identify why your endeavor is importantask why 3, 5, 7 times until you feel you have your answer... you're more likely to stick with what you're doing when it gets hard and your end goal seems impossible.   

Simon Sinek's Start with Why is one of the most popular TEDTalks ever. And it makes sense... why you do something can make all the difference.

Start your side hustle

Given today's economics, a side hustle is a good idea, regardless. If you want to learn more, or get some ideas if you're unsure of your options, Portland's world-traveling Chris Guillebeau is your go-to resource. 

So as a colleague suggested, perhaps we should make 2020 the year of the side hustle. Want more meaning and purpose in your life? More passion? Pay attention to your focus: where focus goes, energy flows. 

What are you creating right now? 

Meaning and purpose have staying power, where sometimes passion fizzles. Find meaning and purpose, and you're on your way to a more satisfying, rewarding life.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Start 2020 with a strong foundation: 3 practices

Peace lily
On a recent stormy morning before work, I was guided by Sam Harris in his Waking Up meditation course in the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness. Each day, the 50-day course offers a different style or approach to meditation. Loving-kindness isn't new to me but it isn't something I use much... and then I had an a-ha moment.

Why NOT practice loving-kindness? Not as part of my morning meditation, but... Every. Single. Day. All. Day. When I'm out in the world, at work, in traffic, with friends... why not just wish everyone I encounter happiness, wellness, safety, and peace?

I typically start my year with gratitude—it's at the core of everything else—but this feels like it needs to be at the core, too. I want to make this a new habit.   

A quick note: My new year planning starts in late December (birthday/solstice weekend), but how I want my year to unfold, what I want to create, how I want to feel, and what intentions I'll set fall into place over about a month. It's OK to take time with this. It's your life!  

Here are three practices you can try, too. 

1) Loving-kindness

The loving-kindness practice, or 'metta meditation', starts with us: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at easeessentially putting on our own oxygen mask before we care for others.

But my new a-ha was... why not do this for others, at any time, in any circumstance? I do my
The traveling Buddha
in my garden
morning meditation and listen to an affirmation I recorded, so I already start my day with self-care. How would my day feel different if I adopted this mindset all day every day, every time I feel frustrated or defeated at work, or when I feel triggered by a situation? Just thinking about it, I feel calmer, more centered, and I have a sense that any feelings of anger or irritation would de-escalate.

This seems like a great way to smile more, too, which author and entrepreneur Dean Graziosi says decreases stress. A smile tells your subconscious you're happy, even if you weren't just a minute before. And if you radiate positivity, he says, you attract similar people into your life. Who knew smiling was a success habit, and who doesn't want more positive people and experiences in our lives?

What if I practiced loving-kindness with a smile on my face? How powerful would that be?

2) Forgiveness

To have any kind of peace, we must forgive others... and we must also forgive ourselves. Both of these acts benefit us in countless ways. And while we must forgive someone else for any harm they cause, two things: it doesn't mean we forget or condone, and we do this for ourselves as much if not more than we do it for them. 

This practice is an essential part of our healing and self-care tool-kit; it allows us to be free of the past, let go of suffering and resentments, and move toward the life we want with self-compassion.

It's often easier to forgive someone else and not see why self-forgiveness is important, especially for what we think. We've all hurt someone at some point, usually unintentionally, but who reading this hasn't experienced being your own worst enemy, flogging yourself far worse than anyone else would for indiscretions and mistakes? One critical step to changing this habit and moving on is forgiveness.

A daily forgiveness practice can be simple. I include mine in an affirmation I recorded that I listen to each morning and evening, but even just a statement to yourself in the mirror each day, or catching yourself beating yourself up, may be enough. And... perhaps combine it with your new loving-kindness practice... Just sayin'... You can also say or listen to the Hawaiian Ho'oponopono chant: I'm sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you. I can't explain it, but this has power. Listen to Carrie Grossman's version here

Without forgiveness, true peace-of-mind will always be elusive. Jack Kornfield has far better words than I do about the practice and its importance. If you haven't spent any time doing this work, I encourage you to read his book, The Art of Forgiveness, Loving-Kindness, and Peace, since it's not for the faint of heart if you're just beginning.

3) And yes, gratitude 

Anyone who's read anything on this blog knows that gratitude underpins everything else for me. I am nothing if not grateful for all of my life experiences, even the painful ones (of which I've had many), for everything I have, and for all that's yet to be.

This is the one practice I encourage everyone to adopt, as it immediately makes life better. Where focus goes, energy flows. However you do it... whether you jot a daily journal entry, send a message to a gratitude partner as I do, or put a note in your phone. Something to consider, if you don't use a journal for other types of writing: physically handwriting sends a message to your brain and further enhances neuroplasticity

When you acknowledge what you have, even if you don't have much, that feeling and awareness tells the universe or whatever energy you subscribe to that you're fulfilled, which allows you to attract more of what fulfills you. Just as a smile generates positivity and attracts positive people, a grateful heart draws in more of what you want.

A friend gave me some 'pocket affirmation' cards for my birthday. I wasn't feeling particularly grateful earlier today, so I pulled one. Here's my message: I am proud of myself. I take the time to celebrate how far I've come, even if I'm not yet where I want to be. This couldn't have been more fitting as I lamented my current work frustrations. Which is exactly what this recent Forbes article about gratitude speaks to... we just never know where we'll find our lessons. I'm not where I want to be, but I am extraordinarily grateful for where I am. As I have said many times, my life could have been so different, and more than likely not in a good way. 

There's wisdom everywhere if we're open to receiving it.

Why it matters 

Of course, there are goals to set and lists to make and tasks to start to get the year rolling along, but putting mindfulness practices like thesealong with meditation and/or journalingin place right out of that proverbial gate provides a solid foundation from which to achieve everything else that, after 365 days, will deem the year a success.

Gratitude and forgiveness are my foundation, but I'm eager to see how adding a loving-kindness practice will add to my dayand my year. 

I'll keep you posted. What I do know is the world needs more kindness, empathy, and compassion, and these further that ideal. As we embrace and embody these practices, we also attract those who share that desire, which then makes our own lives better, too.  

Outside of goal or resolution setting, do you have any practices you do consistently at the start of each year? What do you do that helps to ensure success?

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Be a better version of yourself in 2020

Just keep swimming... a phrase I
tell myself often, especially
when I want to give up (thanks to Dory
from Finding Nemo)
Are you exhausted or exhilarated as the new year begins? 

I and many others feel exhausted after numerous holiday gatherings and celebrations, an endless to-do list, and perhaps a little too much sugar, rich food, and a few too many special drinks. 

Yet we also start the new year full of hope, eager for change, bursting with enthusiasm for our newly set goals, resolutions, or intentions. It feels like a fresh start. And in some ways, it is. It's the time when most of us reflect, assess, rethink, revisit, and dream about the future we want to create, even though realistically, we can do this at any time of year we choose. 

Ease into the year, with intention

I like to ease my way into my new year. My intention this year is to be a better version of myself than I was last year and to put even better energy into the world. 

What did I learn, do, or experience that I want to take with me into this new year? What didn't I do that I want to recommit to or add? I've reflected on these for the last few weeks, a process which starts for me mid-December (my birthday), and continues through about mid-January (holiday wind-down, then time to think and be). 

A phrase that popped into my head recently, and continues to show up: take nothing for granted. I don't think I do, but for some reason, this has my attention in new and different ways. I'm not sure what it means for me yet, but I'll see how it evolves. 

A few other meaningful words, phrases, and thoughts I'm starting the year with: 
  • everything I want lives on the other side of fear
  • self-care is health-care
  • see problems as projects, or a puzzle to continually solve (this is what makes life interesting)
  • our shadow side has something to teach us; embrace it
  • don't believe everything I think 
Marie Forleo's book, Everything is Figure-out-able, is one of the 30+ books I've told myself I want to read year. I think I read 10 last year. That's a big commitment. Point being, everything IS figure-out-able—whether figuring out how to read 30+ books in a year, or achieving the intentions I've set for the year.  

Things to stop doing

In addition to the to-do list of goals and resolutions we set for 2020, sometimes it's important to evaluate what we need to stop doing, or do differently. The Broken Brain podcast (#87 in case it's no longer on top when you come across this) has a great list of things that hold us back—those things we do that trip us up, things we should stop doing, things we should think about differently. I found the points to be useful, so here's my editorial take on it: 
  1. Stop obsessing about what others think of you; it's none of your business and doesn't help you, you'll never be all things to all people, nor should you want to be
  2. Stop wasting time on social media; that's not to say don't use social media; it can be a great tooljust be mindful and use it wisely
  3. Don't think you need to or should do everything by yourself; ask for help or support from friends (I have a lot of room for improvement here)
  4. Don't blame anyone for your situation or circumstances; look within... whatever happened may not be your fault, but you're responsible for what you do next
  5. Don't let life just happen to you, be intentional: what do you really wanttoday, tomorrow, next year, when you're 90? Set an intention the night before about what you want the next day to look/feel like (this is something I want to be better at)
  6. Stop spending time with people who don't energize you, who drain you, or that you don't feel better about yourself when you're around them; many of our relationships are habitualized or obligatory... it's OK to say no and set boundaries, or just let go 
  7. Reflect on what you consume intellectually; what content are you engaging withbooks, film, news, online... do these make you better, inspire you, energize you, or do they give you anxiety, promote fear, or in some way make you feel less than
  8. Stop living by other people's expectations or ideas of what you should do and who you should be; the top regrets of the dying are not living an authentic life and not choosing to be happier
  9. Stop being hard on yourself, and give yourself some grace; perfect is the enemy of the good, and imperfect action, consistently, moves you forward
Don't let rain clouds stop you... behind
every cloud is sunshine and blue sky. 
So, what does 2020 look like for you? How can you be a better version of yourself? How can you keep on swimming, even when you don't feel like it, and take steps that move you in the direction you want to go? 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here.