Doing Deep Work

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“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking to compensate for a self love deficit. “ ~ Eartha Kitt

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A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.

Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.

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I am not a young male entering adulthood. And a vision quest is not what I will pursue. Yet, I am acutely aware of deeper trials that I need to and am choosing to resolve for myself.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.” “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” ~ Author unknown

Love Yourself More

There is more meaningful work for this warrior. It is time.

Encouragement Matters

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“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

I had an unanticipated visit from one of my nephews the past four days. He’s a beautifully grounded 22-year-old college senior. In one of our many conversations it became apparent that he is struggling with who he knows he is and where he sees himself heading versus what his parents want for him. Sound familiar?

I know of few people who don’t welcome and appreciate encouragement; even the most confident and accomplished. Encouragement for good matters, particularly in a world of overly opinionated, overly stimulated people. We are often quick to debate matters, but we need to be just as agile to encourage.

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Encouragement applies everywhere. We can find it in people who are:

  • seeking employment
  • questioning their faith
  • searching for love
  • dealing with family matters
  • lost
  • unwell
  • lacking confidence
  • personally challenged
  • depressed
  • venturing anew
  • daring themselves
  • beaten down

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It’s hard to find fleeting thoughts of encouragement as you watch what is going on in the world today, never mind within our own sphere of influence. If you’re like many people, you rarely hear praise about the things you do well. Positive observations are huge and learning to focus on the positive and giving people genuine feedback, strengthens relationships in ways you may have not imaged.

Discouragement often demoralizes. However, favorable words and actions embolden! If you are inspired to share your heart and talents, these three actions may be worth your time and consideration… and be equally well received:

  1. Praise ordinary accomplishments. Look for the little things that most people take for granted. Make it personal. Look the other person in the eye, pause, and share your words with real meaning.
  2. Ask for advice or confide in someone. This is akin to flattery. You know how you feel when others ask for your advice or confide in you about something personal and important to them. It can be uplifting! Didn’t that action make you want to help and do what you could to ensure their belief in you is well founded?
  3. Show appreciation. Watch for the slightest improvement in someone. Be specific. Tell the person exactly what it is that you appreciate about her or him. Is it their compassion, work ethic, the way they treat others? Maybe it’s someone’s weight loss, organization skills, or willingness to take on a challenging task.

With my nephew, I simply promised to listen and support as he explores and pursues his passions. I sense he appreciated that encouragement.

Do you know someone who can use your encouragement, now?

On A Verge

6046440678_d0b67a6518_m“We fear our intuitions because we fear the transformational power within our revelations.” ~ Carolyn Myss

It is documented that dogs have the ability to accurately sense five things: earthquakes, storms, illness, seizures and labor in pregnant women. Having read this I wonder whether dogs know they have these perceiving qualities?

Have you ever sensed you were/are on the verge of something big; something radically different or new? How did that sense make you feel? Invigorated, excited, hesitant, perhaps fearful? I pose these questions as I know I am on the verge of significant life changes. I sense this because I trust my intuition – that inner voice that just knows. This isn’t precognition, clairvoyance, psychic ability or impulse. It’s simply knowing that even in uncertainty, there is vision associated with a new direction and imminent change.

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Some people live for these moments. Others dread them. And there may be an indifferent lot as well. I’m one of the former. When my intuition strongly signals something, I know it’s right and the underlying choices often become strangely easy. It feels healthy; it feels good; it doesn’t feel like I’m forcing anything, there’s not a lot of conflict.

Of all the reasons for people to consider using their gut instincts to make big decisions, this may be the best: It frequently leads to choices and outcomes that are fulfilling; decisions that can improve the quality and trajectory of one’s life.

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If/when you feel you are on the verge of something life changing or perhaps less significant, here are three considerations that may help:

  1. Honor your intuition. Honoring your true self takes great courage. It may not be easy in the short-term to act on what you sense, but what price do you pay by not listening to it? Trust that nothing is revealed to you intuitively if it is not in your highest interest, even if that means making tough choices in your life. However intuition serves you, it is always in service of your well-being.
  2. Value time alone. As you travel the path of intuition, and leave behind aspects of yourself and life that no longer fit, you will need time to be with yourself to help stay grounded in your transition and transformation. Time alone will help to integrate new learning and provide guidance along your way. It will also support you to become comfortable without dependencies on other’s approval.
  3. Take in only what is nourishing. We frequently ignore our inner voice that is continuously providing guidance. We fear what it has to say. Listening to it might strengthen the courage for confrontation or challenge, or leave us with a sense of guilt for not doing so. It’s your voice! You have the ability to listen objectively and absorb what it’s saying compassionately.

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How You View You

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“Your whole life is a message. Every act is an act of self-definition. Everything you think, say and do sends a message about you.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Most of us, I believe, have at least one or two facets of ourselves that we spend considerable time nurturing. They’re often challenging efforts in conjunction with personal growth and development. The other day someone asked what one thing matters most to me? And I couldn’t immediately answer the question. My first reaction was to cite one of my key values but something deep inside said, “you’re warm but it’s not that.” I sought time and promised I’d soon get back to her with an answer.

I’m glad I didn’t rush simply for the sake of proffering an answer. When I later created space to reflect on the question, my mind was all over the map. I began to write:

  • being happy
  • life purpose certainty
  • knowledge
  • fulfilling relationships
  • smiling
  • compassion for others
  • love
  • accepting defeat
  • family
  • to keep breathing
  • learning
  • being passionate
  • mindfulness
  • time
  • being empathetic
  • health
  • life itself
  • curiosity
  • and much more

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It was when contemplating the ‘much more’ that I discovered what matters most to me: A positive self-view. For me, having a positive self-view (others might see this as self-regard or self-concept) means accepting myself for who I am and what I believe in. It means having the courage necessary to make my own decisions and to live life the way that’s right for me.

Absent a positive self-view we tend to compare ourselves to others, feel insecure about ourselves and are too sensitive to the opinions of others (though I admit to being a highly sensitive person). We also make choices based on other people’s expectations rather than what truly feels right for us.

I’ve lived much of my life with a diminished self-view. Sure I’ve been cocky and confident but there were plenty of times when I was concerned about other people’s judgment. Like many people, I’ve come a long way but I’m still working on learning to love myself, unconditionally. And, for me, this is challenging work. 🙂

If a strong(er) positive self-view matters to you, here are three considerations:

  1. Accept imperfections. Perfection is a lofty intention yet you need not start or end there. You’ve heard it before but make doing your best is an admirable goal. Focus on what you have achieved/accomplished and how you can draw on same going forward. Bypass what wasn’t done or ought to have been done differently. And laugh at yourself instead of criticizing.
  2. Be optimistic. Always believe in yourself. Being an optimist doesn’t mean always seeing the brighter side of life. It means to view your surroundings whereby you can maximize your gifts and strengths and minimize your hesitations and weaknesses.
  3. Forgive and forget. Your past can control you if you don’t control it. If you can, forgive past wrongs and move on. If you have a hard time forgiving or forgetting, consider talking through your emotions with a good friend or counselor, but try not to dwell. Allow freedom and new choices to frame your future.

And here’s my invitation: When you view you, what one thing matters most?

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You As Yoda

Lucasfilm, LucasArts & ILM

“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” ~ Richard Bach

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker discovers that he needs help on his journey to become a Jedi Knight. He recognizes that he cannot achieve his true potential without some guidance and training. He needs someone to provide direction and practical knowledge so he can acquire the understanding and skill to use The Force, the energy in the universe, wisely and effectively.

Yoda, who Luke meets on an isolated planet in the galaxy, initially appears to be an unlikely guide for such a momentous journey. Yet Yoda puts up with Luke’s initial insolence and arrogance, takes him under his pointed ears and manages to bring out the Knight that is within him. Yoda demonstrates, as the mentor to mentors, how to give support to a promising individual, how to offer challenges that permit one to learn and grow, and how to provide vision so that the “mentee” gains confidence and, eventually, independence.

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Have you ever been a Yoda to someone? Or perhaps, thought about being a Yoda? There are many ways to support someone who is exploring and willing to discover their true potential: there are teachers, trainers, coaches, guides, and obviously, mentors. These roles are not mutually exclusive.

So what makes a mentor unique? A mentor is an individual willing to become part of a supportive and diverse community of learners, open to sharing experiences, vulnerability, and expertise. A mentor is a person who models the need to continue learning as a life-long adventure. S/he is a person who has learned through success as well as challenge. A mentor realizes that respect is always an earned commodity. And a mentor accepts others in humanity.

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I have been blessed to have had several mentors; individuals who were as honored to support my growth (and at times arrogance), just as I was privileged to receive their tutelage. I’ve also been on the giving side of this relationship. As a mentor, I get to model the professional values and behaviors to those with and for whom I serve. It’s a win-win proposition.

There are many ways to be an effective mentor. If contributing in this capacity is something you might be good at and interested in, here are three ways to consider serving:

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  1. Guide and Counsel. You can serve as a confidant, sounding-board, or personal adviser to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.
  2. Share rather than teach. Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance and helps a mentee forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness, and diligence
  3. Follow-up. If you’re going to start the process, make sure to be consistent and follow-up. Make arrangements to meet for coffee, phone calls, etc., every couple of months or at a frequency that works for both schedules. Mentoring only works if you do!

Left Brain, Right Brain

“A creative idea will be defined simply as one that is both novel and useful (or influential) in a particular social setting.” ~ Alice Flaherty

We have many creative people in our world. Many, conveniently, blog among us. In the WordPress Reader I recently found a Chris Delatorre post. He’s a creative thinker and (if you’ll pardon the simple word) doer.

Being creative or artistic doesn’t mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world. Creative people simply use the right side of their brains more than the left. The enduring question with creativity has always been whether the defining factors come from nature or nurture. Everyone can learn to be creative to some degree, but new Cornell University research has revealed that the extent to which we’re born creative may be greater than previously thought.

As a hardwired ‘left brainer,’ I find some comfort in now knowing this. 🙂

In one of his posts, Chris writes that he believes science and art ought to make a home together. In this video, Max Cooper creatively depicts life coming into being, blooming and then vanishing. I’d be challenged enough to find the right words to express that, let alone create what he has visually.

Researchers have also confirmed that creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.

If exploring the right side of your corpus callosum is something that interests you, here are three easy enablers:

  1. Pause from business thinking. Or any kind of thinking that requires intense focus. While it might be challenging to step outside ‘business mode,’ the mind sometimes needs a rest from bottom-line thinking. Consider taking a mental vacation and indulge in something you’re passionate about. Then come back, refreshed, to the task(s) at hand. You may see things in a very different light. Being with beautiful things (art, nature, passions) creates connections that we often neglect to notice.
  2. Shut down your inner critical voice. Notice I said “critical.” Don’t think. Disable the part of your brain that observes what you’re doing. This is your ego, your sabotage, your self-consciousness. Be in the moment (I know, I say this often). Stop second-guessing everything you’re doing. It serves no purpose to be hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you are creative and that you’re doing what you’re doing not to impress anyone.
  3. Experiment and play with possibility. It’s easy to dismiss unusual or different solutions which you haven’t tried. People often think of all the possible ways that something won’t work. And they easily dismiss the idea of experimenting. We can’t foretell the future even though many would like to. Simply go forward into it in a creative and exciting new way.
Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Why Be Assertive?

“To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Over the past few days, I’ve observed some blatant passive-aggressive communication. A lot of “I’m okay; you’re not” behavior that focused on one-sided needs. There were visible instances of ‘attitude’ as well as self-serving and sarcastic expressions. Figuratively speaking, there were people who were being steamrolled and walked over. I wasn’t directly involved so I simply watched the interactions.

How do you cope in passive-aggressive situations? Do you bite your tongue? Do you take your displeasure out in other ways? Or do you use a little assertiveness?

Assertiveness has been described as a personality trait and social competency. It is expressing one’s thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way. Being assertive also means treating others fairly and with respect – while respecting yourself. Knowing when and how to assert yourself can be an asset in work and social settings. Yet many people don’t know how to be assertive – at least comfortably.

Assertiveness is also connected to self-esteem, communication style and values. Keep in mind that putting the needs of others ahead of your own does not make one unassertive. Take charity for example. Most of us want to be charitable, but charity is a choice to sacrifice your convenience, comfort or resources for the sake of someone else or the common good. Personally, I have no problem hanging up on telephone solicitors seeking money. That’s just me responding assertively to their emotional extortions.

Some people are naturally assertive. However, if you’re not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive. Being assertive can help you:

  • Improve communication
  • Create honest relationships
  • Earn respect from others
  • Understand and recognize your feelings
  • Create win-win outcomes

If you want to communicate in healthier and more effective ways, here are four tips to help you become more assertive:

  1. Use “I” statements. This lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. Consider saying “I disagree,” rather than “You’re wrong.”
  2. Do not assume to know someone’s motives. Just because someone is acting badly does not necessarily make him a bad person. Stick to the facts at hand.
  3. Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Although feelings of anger and frustration are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. Wait a bit if necessary and work on remaining calm. (This took me a long time to learn.) When you choose to speak, keep your voice even and firm.
  4. Do not get hung up on the outcome. You can only deliver the message. How it is received is up to the other person.

Be comfortable and confident, and be okay with sticking your neck out. 🙂

Antidotes for Inaction

 “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” ~ Richard Bach

For nearly a decade, the coaching field has been my playground. Not sports coaching (though I had the privilege of serving in that capacity, earlier in life) but personal and life coaching. To date, I have pretty much heard it all. And you have likely heard the echoes of my clients claims. In fact, I’d wager many of you have wrestled with some of the same challenges.

Coaching is unique to each individual. The client sets the agenda and determines the focus for our conversations and collaborative efforts. Over time, I’ve found that much of what each of us wants can be found in clarity about possibilities, choice, and self-belief.

Rather than dwell on limiting beliefs (because the common ones are known), what if we considered antidotes that can shift one’s mindset? That prefaced, let’s explore three…

1. People are accomplished at creating excuses for staying stuck. They comfortably default to being fearful of making mistakes, invoking an unwillingness to embrace the unknown, and expressing concerns about appearing “less than” to themselves and others. I’m sorry to break this to (the proverbial) you but that’s life — uncertainty, uncontrolled, and unlimited.

What to do: Stretch yourself out of your comfort zone (here’s a related post). Determine what an exciting and enriching life would be/is for you and accept the challenges involved to create and live that life. If you choose not to ‘go for it,’ then the inaction is yours. Disallow your ego to rule and ruin your dreams. You have a choice: stretch yourself or become comfortable with your status quo.

2. My financial resources aren’t enough. And for some people this is true. Yet for many, it’s simply a convenient excuse. Regrettably, people choose to live life in scarcity. I’ve posted about this, too. It’s an easier position to take than to access and use your trove of capabilities, skills, and personal gifts. In addition to fear, claims of financial scarcity are often what anchor people and prevent them from exploring and effecting change. Potentially exciting change!

What to do: Dispel the “I can’t” belief. Vanquish it! It’s more empowering to let it go than to hold onto a limiting belief. Understand that the more you allow yourself to take control, the more you tap into your ability to be of service and be compensated from what you enjoy and do naturally. Know this: each of us has something important to offer that others need, and will pay you well for.

3. What if I fail? Well who hasn’t? 🙂 Doubt is the bane of self-confidence. It drains us. Many people doubt outcomes before they have even launched an initiative. If something doesn’t work out, deal with it. You will become stronger, more confident and more capable than you were before you tried this new approach.

Self-belief is powerful. It’s intoxicating. When you see it, feel it, and know it, there is often no stopping people. This post sheds light on and explains the strength that abounds in confidence. And there’s nothing new or magical about choosing to take action. What action yields when coupled with self-belief can be transformational.

Why not push, now? Can you accept the notion that if you want something different in your life, there is no better time than now to take action and bring your desire into being?

The Price of Perfection

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” ~ Michael J. Fox

Just this evening I had a brief exchange with a friend who is writing a book. It is a deeply personal story that she has been writing for quite some time. And she’s done! But she struggles with something that many of us do and not just with writing – and that is, perfection. She keeps going back to the story and her words and her emotions… finding yet more to change in her quest for perfection.

Perfection has different meanings for each of us. What complicates our relationship with perfection is our denial of two very basic truths: 1) We are not perfect and; 2) We are not, ultimately, in control.

In some cases, I still aspire to perfection. It is almost as though I am hard-wired to do flawless work (though obviously, not with my blog posts). 🙂 When we make mistakes we often believe that we are not meeting our own or others’ expectations. And who wants to fall short? Yet, if life is about experimenting, experiencing, and learning, then to be imperfect is essential.

I have a close friend who, when it came to my perfectionist leanings, once told me to “Stop the insanity.” “Why are you doing this to yourself?” If you have ever been there or still have tendencies to perfect… and would like to change that, here are three considerations:

  • Practice the opposite. Be purposefully imperfect. See what happens. Arrive ten minutes late to work. Tell a lousy joke. Mismatch your socks. Laugh as you contemplate the possibility that imperfections are not only okay, they are life enhancing.
  • Disclose everything. There are few things more freeing than confession. Not necessarily to a priest but to a safe, trustworthy friend. Write down everything you’re afraid, ashamed, and embarrassed of, and read them to that person. You will likely be surprised when they look you in the eye and say, “I still love you.” This is a first step to discovering how imperfect you are without your armor.
  • Let go of your worries. By obsessing about the past, what happened, what we think we did wrong (or someone else did wrong), we are giving our power away. Be here, now, and focus on creating an imperfect (yet beautiful) life for yourself. Focus on reasonable, achievable possibilities, and practical/doable solutions.