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.

The Gift of Growth

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“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” ~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Growth happens. Whether we encourage and nurture it or it manifests organically.

It’s an unseasonably warm Sunday. The Christmas tree is still up (shame), I’m listening to soothing Chris Botti music and friends in the blogging community are on my mind. As relaxed as one can be, I realize that even in passive settings, awareness can grow.

Eleven months ago I had short-term clarity about what was next on my personal journey. And I shared some of those images in a post. While there were clearly interests to pursue, what wasn’t factored in was how unanticipated growth would parade her way into my new experiences… and what a lovely complement she became.

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Looking back, some of my growth was simply appreciating the wit, the wisdom and the insights of ordinary people, unplanned destinations and in allowing the intimacy of unfamiliarity to ooze into my being. I became more aware of other people, how they presented, the unique gifts they possess, and their openness to connection.

In a recent interview British actor Tom Hiddleston declared, “I suppose I am fascinated by the private vulnerability and the exterior of people.” “I think that’s an essential truth. I sort of quite like trying to find what makes people tick behind the construction of their identity.”

Similarly, Mr. Hiddleston’s intrigue mirrors what I have been exploring lately, by turning my attention inward as well as outward. For me, both seem meaningful facets of growth… considering personas and influence brought by others.

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Some of you may be interested in knowing how vision, vantage and vigor aligned and gave power to some of my warming experiences, outcomes and chance growth:

  • My speech Compassion as a Verb was well received by audiences throughout the Spring contest season. It earned third place at Toastmasters District finals. More importantly, it touched people, profoundly. That impact alone made the process worthwhile.
  • My book “Awakening to Awareness: Aligning Your Life With What Really Matters” was published in December.
  • I succeeded at regularly scheduling and reveling in solitude and spending more time in/with nature. This has done wonders for growth and grounding.
  • Self-teaching/learning Italian has seen slower than expected progress. Yet it continues, unhurried. La pazienza paga.
  • I have traveled more, both domestically (within the U.S. and overseas). And what a balm each of those trips has been.
  • The goal to find a worthy cause, one that would afford a volunteer opportunity presented. It is a global initiative that couples Professional Coaching (on a pro-bono basis) and not-for-profit organizations with the purpose of making a positive impact and supporting safer, healthier, happier and more productive global citizenry. Put simply, it is work that focuses on the betterment of the human condition and on uplifting the human spirit.

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But back to growth… and not so much mine as yours! If you are interested in heightening your awareness around growth, consider these simple actions:

  1. Have a truly deep conversation with someone. Listen! Appreciate what makes other people tick. And learn from them.
  2. Ask questions that encourage others to reveal who they are and where they want to go. They may inspire new growth in you.
  3. Create space where silence is honored. Be comfortable there, whether alone or together. Appreciate the inner stillness and the possibilities that emanate there.

Finding Your Way

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“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~ Anaïs Nin

First and foremost, Ron Chapman is a full-time, all-time student of life. This allows him to approach any discipline, principle or practice in a search for valuable ideas to incorporate into his life. It also presents continual challenge, an opportunity to shatter old perspectives and ideas which no longer serve well.

An integral part of the role of the student is to seek. And for this Ron has become an adventurer and wanderlust. Who knows what places, events or circumstances may hold for any one of us. Yet we must commit ourselves to such experiences.

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From a developmental point of view, Ron values a notion described by the American philosopher Ken Wilber as “transcend and include.” Essentially, this is to incorporate everything new in a way that allows you to elevate your practice in the world, no matter what form it may take.

More important is the need to use knowledge and experience for the benefit of others…to find a way to make a contribution that is larger and provides greater value.

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Ron Chapman

As this week’s guest on the Awakening to Awareness Radio Show, Ron discussed life transitions, what he’s learned from working through his, the concept of ‘metanoia,’ his work in the areas of healing and forgiveness and, the fact that – as boomers – vital years are not waning but beginning.

Ron talked about stepping out of comfort zones and “leaning into” / getting comfortable with discomfort as well as convincing ourselves that doing so can be in our best interests, as well as how this action can better prepare us to create breakthroughs and turn our lives into new directions. We get a sense of how Ron’s work and experience is transformational.

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The show’s podcast and Ron’s contact information is linked here.

Considering the Unconventional

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“It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived the right to think their own thoughts.” ~ Boris Yeltsin

Last week I attended a diverse professional group meeting. Being my first visit, I was invited to rise and tell a bit about myself to this relatively small (>40) group, some of whom I casually knew. I acknowledged that I am a practitioner of the unconventional; a fan, if you will, of unorthodox… defined by Dictionary.com as “not conforming to rules, traditions, or modes of conduct, as of doctrine, religion, or philosophy.”

I suggested they consider me not a rebel, but as someone who challenges stagnation in people and society by looking at areas in our lives most in need of repair or rejuvenation and then, deliberately, not doing what the conformist majority is doing. I am simply someone who encourages the use of information, imagination, and interpersonal skills to pursue life in creative ways — that defends choice yet, defies the herd.

Then there was silence. Followed by warm, welcoming applause. 🙂

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It has been said that the more often you do something the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it any other way. Roger von Oech says “We can break out of this ‘prison of familiarity’ by disrupting our habitual thought patterns. He suggests writing a love poem in the middle of the night. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Visit a junk yard. Take the slow way home. Such jolts to our routines will lead to new ideas.”

Learning happens in unconventional ways. Some of us prefer more traditional systems and methods, while others are open to exploring unorthodox ways in which to play, interact, learn, and grow. Rarely is there only one right or wrong way to do things — unless one is a staunch conformist.

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If you’re looking for unconventional ways of viewing what you’ve always been doing, simply use your imagination. Or you can consider any of these three ideas as starters:

  1. Work in the dark. If you’re feeling stifled, try working in a dimmer environment. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has shown that darkness and dim illumination promote creativity. Other experiments discovered that you can gain insight by simply priming yourself with the idea of darkness – even just describing an experience of being in the dark.
  2. Generate provocative statements and then use them to build new ideas. This allows people to explore the nature of perception and how it limits creativity and possibilities. Provocation challenges limitations and can serve as an alternative to judgment. It allows us to develop a provocative idea into something viable and realistic.
  3. Re-educate. Our future can be seen in the quality of our youngest generation yet the current models of building quality people seem to be falling short. New modalities such as green schooling, homeschooling and even un-schooling children offer hope for something different. With access to unlimited educational resources via the Internet, almost anyone can educate themselves in myriad fields, and so the re-education of individuals is an act of considerable non-conformity.

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Stepping Into the Unknown

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“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” ~ Barbara J. Winter

During my recent, brief blogging hiatus, I spent time reflecting on why I and others are often hesitant (if not outright frightened) when it comes to choosing action that requires us to step into the unknown. I know why I sometimes proceed cautiously and at other times, jump in headfirst. Each of us deals with our own blocks and how we break through them or allow them to hinder our growth.

I wondered how much time people actually dedicate to thinking about and addressing the unique rationale for why they cannot or will not step into the unknown. Or how for some, it’s simply a matter of ‘why not?’

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For those of you unfamiliar with BBC One, the U.K. based broadcaster produces some exquisite videos. I particularly enjoy their “Life Story” pieces. Unfortunately, BBC One prohibits some of their videos from being posted to YouTube in the U.S. Instead, I invite you to click this link and (in just two minutes) watch a newborn Barnacle Gosling experience its maiden flight, fearlessly!

My take, after having watched this clip, is if that little one can leap out of its nest and into a vast unknown, I can too! I may have a bumpy ride and end up a little dazed, but I’ll still land on something solid from which to grow forward.

2699398136_0041c8b9fe_mIf you won’t take action because you’re unsure of its outcome or you’re afraid of what might/could happen, consider these three perspectives:

  1. Next time you make a decision, make sure you are doing it because it is indeed a better choice for you, and not simply because it’s the nearest patch of safe ground. If your choice leads you through a period where you just don’t know what will happen, see if you can politely let uncertainty sit down with you. Despite its bad reputation, you never know what it might bring to the table.
  2. Inhale, exhale, and smile. In the end, not knowing can be scary, but liberating and profound. Think of yourself in the midst of a turbulent sea and you are afloat without knowing where anything will go. But this is always true, even of people who don’t admit it to themselves. Enjoy the ride. Look at the amazing place you’re in and acknowledge it. This path of not knowing, is the path of life itself.
  3. If you’re afraid of getting in trouble, remember you’re already in bigger trouble by not following your heart. If you listen to the voice of your fears, you’ll live an empty life. But if you listen to the voice of your heart, you’re likely to live a remarkable life. Cliche but… there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Dread du jour

3291312140_078c833b7d_m“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important.” ~ Ambrose Redmoon

I went online today to do some research. I figured mainstream news feeds might have the data I sought. What an ugly mistake. For readers unaware, I don’t watch television/cable, nor do I read newspapers or magazines. And my online experience today reaffirmed why I do not.

I quickly scanned several well-known sources and 37 out of 39 articles (yes, I counted) featured stories about doom and gloom. The ‘hit parade’ included headlines screaming about:

  • Ebola
  • terrorism
  • climate change
  • social injustices
  • illegal immigration
  • police brutality
  • political propaganda
  • economic demise
  • inadequate militaries
  • religious superiority
  • murders, deaths, out of control crime
  • extremists everything

Not a single positive, feel good or constructive story. Just fear and demise.

2137382661_7f43df918a_mBewildered, I asked myself, “Is this really what we have let ourselves become?” “Have we given in to those who fulminate?” “Are people really buying into the endless dread the media is stoking?”

Fear in any form is an impediment to the free flow of our existence and growth. It limits and restricts our ability to navigate our lives. Fear drains significant emotional energy that otherwise could be available to manifest our inalienable desires and intentions.

308920348_1c265895d9_mFEAR is an acronym in the English language for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Politicians, religious zealots, military decision-makers and greedy corporate leaders use fear simply to advance their agendas and fortunes.

I/you/we don’t have to ingest this daily dosing of fear. We have enough going on in our own lives to keep us challenged, to sustain our wellness, to fuel our dreams, and to fulfill our happiness goals. We’ve got possibilities and opportunities on which to focus and enjoy!

3001987805_14f8beee82_mCertain fears are valid and sometimes, fear can be useful. But not an endless onslaught. If you desire to reclaim some peace, assurance, and hope in your life, you can. For starters, consider these ideas when you feel overwhelmed by fear:

  1. Accept that you will be fearful. If you accept that you will have fear and it is a natural part of life, then you can move on and take action. Not everything needs to be an apocalypse. Fear will always be with us and when we recognize it we can endure it with courage. We will not get rid of fear but accepting it will make it that much easier to take the next positive step.
  2. Manage your sources of fear. When terrible things happen, there isn’t a reason to force yourself to participate. Watching endless repeats of violent newscasts or disasters will increase your fear greatly and for nothing in return other than awful images and worries. It often only makes you feel more helpless.
  3. What could I be doing instead? There is little use driving yourself crazy wondering “what if?” A lot of what you read/hear is fabricated anyway and out of your control. If you are powerless, focus instead on what you can control. Events that you have no influence on are a waste of your time; even though “the voices” want you to believe everything.

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How Easy is Change?

“It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” ~ Eric Fehrnstrom

Such a cool childhood toy. An unsung predecessor to the iPad. Reflecting on the Etch-A-Sketch, I found it an apt metaphor for transformation, for change, for rebirthing (in a non-psychotherapy context).

With an Etch-A-Sketch you simply created a drawing by turning the two knobs simultaneously. What you created on the screen could be emblematic of anything: your potential, your beliefs, your attitude or your best stick-figure persona. As you created, you evaluated your results. (Okay, maybe as a child you weren’t evaluating but you get the point). 🙂 And if you didn’t like the results, you just turned the screen upside down, gave it a shake, and started anew.

Looking at our lives, we want:

  • To feel
  • To learn
  • To grow
  • To stretch
  • To shift
  • To move through
  • To overcome
  • To embrace and trust our ability to transform, your self, your family, your community, perhaps, the world.

And you can. Often, it’s as easy as reviewing what you have created in your life. If you aren’t jazzed with what you’re facing, turn it upside down, shake things up a little, and move forward. Clean and fresh.

So how can you effect change, easily? Here are three starters for your consideration:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Most people around you won’t be honest with you. Human nature steers us away from conflict and hurting others feelings so it’s important to be able to identify your abilities and limitations and understand how others perceive you. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you adapt.
  2. Focus on what you can do. People fail because they immediately attach their attention to the negative. They do (though some of you may find this surprising)! Change your thinking and work the part of your plan you can. Do everything you can.
  3. Share yourself. Too often, we miss the value of sharing our feelings. We don’t want to be vulnerable so we hold back. In doing so, we deprive others of our experience, our learning and our humanity. When you share from your own experiences, you increase your empathy, you’re more approachable and you increase your relatability to others.

The moon changes effortlessly. Any reason you can’t too?

Work-Life Balance…Or?

“When you’re gone would you rather have your headstone say, ‘He never missed a meeting.’ Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.'” ~ Steve Blank

Cultures are often ripe with buzz words; expressions that are easily thrown into everyday discourse. In my work, one I hear frequently is work-life balance. It’s a noble (and I might add for some, necessary) pursuit, one which many people feel compelled to achieve. Yet what is that balance? Is it attainable? And is it important?

In an April 2013 TEDxPSU Talk, Speaker and Author Dan Thurmon advocates for an interesting alternative to work-life balance. I’ve inserted the video of his presentation below yet I thought it worthwhile to highlight some of the points he makes.

Mr. Thurmond believes it is okay to be “off balance.” In fact, he acknowledges that state of being as reality. Rather than striving for balance in our lives, he encourages functioning in an imbalanced world and instead, living “on purpose.” And by “on purpose” he means becoming more connected to what has meaning, learning new patterns, experimenting, exploring and experiencing. Thurmond believes we need to be “off balance” to learn and he gives some examples.

He further suggests we slow down and notice things. (Awareness!) He talks about the need to understand what matters most in our lives and what is personally purposeful to you.

Thurmond believes we never reach our full potential, that we are always growing. To continue learning and growing he challenges people to lean into their uncertainty (yes, that fear-filled space where many are hesitant to go). He believes people ought to do more to embrace opportunities and in the importance of being fully present.

He speaks a language I understand. I’d just not previously seen the merits of intentionally living “on purpose” as an alternative to expending energy trying to achieve and sustain (an elusive?) work-life balance. Besides, not everyone seeks the holy grail of work-life balance.

In my opinion, Thurmond’s perspectives are worthy of consideration. Following is his TEDxPSU Talk if you’re interested in learning more.

Appreciating Your Age

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

On my radio show this week, my guest spoke about Encore Careers and Lifelong Learning. As a University Professor who teaches graduate and doctoral students, as well as Baby Boomers and emerging seniors, he reinforced that aging is relative and often subject to one’s own limiting beliefs and feelings. While we are all aging, it doesn’t have the same meaning for each of us.

There are valuable insights to absorb and wonderful experiences to savor at each life stage. Every new decade and every new year brings with it wisdom, transformation, and growth, as well as ends and beginnings. Many people, though, believe that there is one age that eclipses the others. They expend energy trying to reach it and, once it has passed, trying to retain it.

But wishing to be younger or older is a denial of the joys that have been and the joys yet to be, as well as the beauty of your life in the present. Holding on to one age can make it difficult to appreciate each new milestone you reach. Taking pleasure in the delights of your age, whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, can help you see the magnificence and usefulness of the complex seasons of life.

Think about it… each new year brings the potential for exciting and unfamiliar experiences. In our 20s we can embrace the energy of youth and the learning process, knowing it’s okay to not have all the answers. As we move through our third decade, we grow more self-assured as the confusion of our young adulthood melts away. We can honor these years by putting aside our fears of aging and concentrating instead on solidifying our values and enjoying our growing emotional maturity.

In our 40s, we become conscious of the wisdom we have attained through life experience and are blessed with the ability to put it to good use. We are not afraid to explore unfamiliar territory or to change. In our 50s, we tend to have successfully navigated our midlife re-evaluations and have prioritized our lives. In the decades beyond, we discover a greater sense of freedom than we have ever known and can truly enjoy the memory of all we have seen and done.

Aging, however, is about much more than staying physically healthy – it’s about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life. Healthy aging means continually reinventing yourself, finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying socially active, and feeling connected to your community.

Here are three tips to keep in mind as you age:

  1.  Don’t fall for the myth that aging automatically means you’re not going to feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it doesn’t have to mean discomfort or disability. While not all illness and pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or significantly mitigated by eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself.
  2. Many aging adults don’t exercise. Yet exercise is vital for healthy aging. It helps you maintain your strength and agility, gives your mental health a boost, and can even diminish chronic pain. Regular exercise will help you stay physically and mentally healthy and improve your confidence.
  3. As you age, your life will change and you will lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. But this is not a time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it. If you’re not sure where to get started, try these suggestions: go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited; pick up a long-neglected hobby; take a class or join a club or; learn something new (an instrument, a foreign language, etc.).

Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to enjoy. Today is my niece and god-daughter’s birthday. Happy 21st, Grace!

The Joy of Being You

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” ~ Mark Twain

I had a client who, by any measure, possessed and achieved everything many people want. Yet he didn’t believe he was a good person; someone worthy of all with which he had been blessed. He had unbelievable expectations of himself and self-imposed standards that he (for many years) was unwilling to reconsider. He pretty much painted himself into a limited corner for growth. He wasn’t a good person or a bad person, he just held fast to some cumulative, personal decisions.

There are choices and actions that lead us in different directions, and it is through those choices and actions that we create our realities. Sometimes we choose or do something that takes us in the opposite direction of the reality we want to create for ourselves. When we do this we feel badly – uneasy, unhappy, unsure. We might go as far as to label ourselves “bad” when a situation like this arises. Instead of labeling ourselves, though, we could simply acknowledge that we made a choice that led us down a particular path, and then let it go, forgiving ourselves and preparing for our next opportunity to choose, and act, in ways that support our best intentions.

Many of us experienced childhoods in which the words good and bad were used as techniques to control us — you were good if you did what you were told and bad if you didn’t. Such discipline undermines a person’s ability to find their own moral center and to trust and be guided by their own inner self. It is important that we grow beyond what we learned and take responsibility for our choices in our own terms.

You are a human being with every right to be here, learning and exploring. To label yourself good, bad or otherwise is to think too small. What you are is a decision-maker and every moment provides you the opportunity to move in the direction of your higher self or in the direction of stagnation or degradation.

If you are interested in accepting and being yourself, here are three steps you can take:

  • Stop before you act. Whenever you are faced with the choice of living your true self in the outside world, or not, stop for a moment. Don’t act. Acknowledge your choices. Contemplate their consequences. Ask if the consequence of choosing YOU will be intolerable. And how it would feel to deny being yourself. Feel your answers. Then act.
  • Shift the focus back to you. The outer world is a reflection of what is going on within us because we project our own thoughts and feelings onto other people and events. We give it our own meaning. Remember, you can’t change other people, the past, or circumstances out of your control. All you can change is yourself. Shift the focus back onto yourself and realize you have to power to change your life.
  • Make little changes. As you discover little truths about yourself, make little changes. What you might think of as little can have a huge impact on your life. For instance, a slight shift in perspective can color how you choose to approach everything in your life. And that may be all you need to feel significantly happier. I’m not against bold or dramatic change. What’s important is to understand why you are making changes.

In the end, only you know the difference. If you find yourself going into self-judgment, try to stop yourself as soon as you can and come back to center. Know that you are not good or bad, you are simply you.