Patience Patients

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It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting. ~ Elizabeth Taylor

“The years.” How significant those two words. They reference a manner in which we score time. They are also an expanse that provides us space to assess and test ourselves.

This past Fall I took my mother on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise. We spent time in Rome both prior to and following beautiful seaborne excursions. While she is still amply able-bodied and of sharp mind, I wanted to share more time and experiences with her.

I also wanted to test my own patience.

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As do most children, I love my mother. She is responsible for countless aspects of my grounding, my growth and my character. She also tests my patience. 🙂

Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It is also the ability to control our emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with challenges. It comes from the Latin word pati which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. Needless to say, patience does not come easily for many of us.

In today’s world of instant everything, technology, and a readily available universe, we can obtain, experience, and consume practically anything we want – almost immediately. Some wonder, do we even need to be patient anymore?

Time with my mother helped me to better understand and appreciate how we wait alongside and accept others. As a grown man, I needed to reassure myself that I possessed and embraced this capacity. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In the spirit of this quote, planning and measured growth take time and taking time takes patience.

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Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual teacher and author once said, “Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.” It makes sense then that the more we can remain patient, the easier it gets. It’s a muscle we build over the years; a muscle I am still developing.

To those who acknowledge patience as a virtue, these three considerations may be worth your time and practice:

  1. Accept the reality of your humanity. You are going to need time, effort and energy to change and grow. There will be natural resistance to altering long-standing habitual ways of acting, reacting and believing. Simply give it time.
  2. Plan a day to make patience your goal for the entire day. Take your time and think about everything you do. At day’s end, reflect on all the ways you made conscious choices, got along better with others and actually understood what took place.
  3. Be patient with yourself. Keep this kindness reminder in mind when it comes to life. Things don’t always go as planned. You will do things you know you ought not have done. Don’t beat yourself up. Or give up.

Consider being a benefactor of patience.

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A Different Way

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Have you ever caught yourself doing something the same way and then asked yourself: 1) Why am I so predictable? or 2) Why not try this differently?

There are many explanations for our conditioned behavior and/or actions, among them: We think, act and create in certain ways because that is likely how we were taught or told; Maybe it seems a more convenient or efficient manner in which to produce a desired outcome or; There exists the possibility that we’ve simply not given ourselves permission to explore or invoke an alternative.

Here is a personal example. I am a ‘night owl.’ I have been seemingly forever. I get much accomplished when other people are winding down their day or perhaps, even asleep. It’s my productive time.

Not long ago I gave pause and considered, could I be just as effective, more creative, maybe an even better problem solver were I to try being a morning lark? And guess what?

downloadTo those of you who can relate to this – one way or the other – you probably understand the challenge in pulling a 180 here and shifting your lifestyle to the early morning or late night hours. This could be brutal!

Yet not every one of us is this adventurous or willing to introduce subtle (or radical) change into our routine. You may be one of those people who enjoy being a creature of habit or living the status quo. And that’s fine.

However, if the prospect of different (and possibly pleasing or beneficial) results intrigue you, then why not step outside of your certain comfort zone?

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Who says you have to plant a kiss squarely? Consider modifying that tried and true recipe. Be open to finding new ways to drive to a regular haven. Act on those crazy ideas you get when showering. Seek a destination that differs from where you always travel.

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Three simple suggestions, for your consideration, if you desire different results:

  1. Follow your heart for a change, even if your mind thinks otherwise.
  2. View something boring or monotonous as an opportunity to mix things up.
  3. Be comfortable dispelling or dismissing boundaries. Invite your inner rebel to act, respond, or be different. Shed your old thinking and welcome a new, distinctive mind-set.

Why not?

Asking More Questions

14367876694_13f49979ab_m“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I was blessed recently to share five days with one of my sisters and a nephew. She drove from Connecticut to Colorado Springs where she picked-up her son at school and then continued on to New Mexico for the Thanksgiving holiday. She would have flown but her son asked if she would mind driving his car to school for his use. Being the mother she is, she didn’t hesitate. 🙂

We spent time on three different days hiking in glorious Indian Summer weather, coupled with plenty of intriguing conversations. During one hike along the Sandia Crest (10,600 ft. elevation) trails I got to thinking, out loud, about why many adults spend less time being curious (we were discussing lichen). After all, curiosity is a key value of highly creative and innovative people.

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Curiosity fuels the acquisition of new information. Our brain takes in data and sorts, categorizes, relates, leverages and combines what is already present to create novel connections. And novel neural connections are the source of all that is new. So curiosity is an important learning tool.

Developing a new habit of asking more questions than you do at this point in your life is essential to energize your curiosity. Questioning is a cognitive pattern that can be habituated in our brain. Curiosity is questioning and by training your brain to question more, you become more curious. Why is it then, that children do this frequently and adults do so less?

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We have challenges at work, at home, and in the world that require creative solutions. It’s quite possible that those solutions will emerge from novel connections that we create in our minds. Consider asking yourself: What might be all of the things that I could do to enhance curiosity in myself and those around me? And you don’t even need to be at 10,600 feet altitudes to reflect on this.

If you are interested in exploring newness, here are three ways in which to feed your curiosity:

  1. Post a reminder on your bathroom mirror: “What am I curious about today?” or “What am I interested in learning about today?”
  2. When you hear someone say “It can’t be”, ask, “Why not?” Researcher Andy Aleinikov likes to say “Why not” every not.
  3. Pick up a publication that you wouldn’t typically read. Make yourself read at least one article or abstract that does not look interesting. Seriously. It’ll only take ten minutes and you might discover a new curiosity.

Or you can simply hang out on hiking trails with inquisitive minds. 🙂

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Rituals, Routines and Ruts

“In the beginning man makes the habit. In the end, the habit makes the man.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This post started simple. I was going to write about some pros and cons of routines. As I filtered thoughts, I found myself meandering around routines, habits, rituals, ruts and behaviors. Granted they’re not mutually exclusive but I wanted to find my way back to something more focused. So work with me as I try to ‘tighten’ this message.

There may not be much difference between a routine and a habit. A habit typically refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition. They can be good, bad or indifferent. Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine. A routine suggests ordinariness, even a lack of thought; to be on autopilot. But routines also involve choice for taking advantage of a range of things such as time, willpower, discipline, and optimism.

It’s helpful to have order and discipline in our lives. Creating good habits and useful routines helps us feel productive and directed. Yet, sometimes, routines turn into ruts without our realizing it. We can find ourselves feeling trapped, bored, and boring without understanding why. Enter stress; obviously unwanted and unneeded. When we feel relied upon to perform tasks we’ve grown to resent, or simply to do things the way we always have, that sense of duty can sap our energy and enthusiasm.

On another hand, a ritual usually refers to religious meaning or a solemn ceremony. But rituals are not always simply a means to an end. They can be rational, extremely effective and deeply valuable on their own. For example, think of rituals performed after experiencing losses that alleviate grief or rituals performed before high-pressure tasks to reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. They can also be as simple (and superstitious) as eating certain foods or ‘crossing ones fingers’ for good luck.

Rituals (and most of us have them) can have a casual impact on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If you’re wondering how you might add to or restore some focus to your rituals or routines, here are three possible actions:

  1. Acknowledge your top three. Every morning, ask yourself, “What are the top three most important tasks that I will complete today?” Prioritize your day accordingly and don’t retire at night until the top three are complete.
  2. Align meaning with what matters. Often, rituals are the things we care most about. If you value nature, consider a tree-planting ritual by performing mindful and valued steps that allow you to celebrate nature. Whatever rituals you create, remember to include significant and repeatable steps.
  3. Craft an “Ignore list.” Most people have a to-do list but it may help to ask yourself: “What’s not worth doing?” Write down what you’re willing to disregard – emails you have no intention of responding to, vacuuming, or exercising more regularly. Review the list occasionally to ensure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention. (But think twice about the exercising.) 🙂

Comfort Zones

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” ~ Max DePree

Those who knew me then, would say I was a relatively shy child. Even today, I am comfortable tagging myself as an introvert. A little insecurity is not a bad thing for a young person trying to find their grounding in the world. Yet overcoming initial insecurity makes one more self-confident and prepared to step out of their comfort zone. At least it did for me.

Animals in the wild have their comfort zones. A bear will return to its lair to lick its wounds or sleep the winter away. But it cannot survive for long without stepping outside its comfort zone. Unfortunately, most of us survive quite well living entirely inside our cocoons. Our lives, our habits, our thinking gets into a rut.

In an early 2012 survey of 5,000+ people, it was found that males have a larger comfort zone than females, but when broken down by ‘comfort zone types’ it’s clear that while men have a larger ‘professional comfort zone,’ women have a larger ‘lifestyle comfort zone.’

At one time, comfort zones served a purpose in our lives. But staying in that space does little to enable the growth most want to achieve now. Parting ways with your comfort zone and stepping into the world of personal expansion can present opportunities that will, in time, assist in refining your purpose. Starting small and choosing to shift beyond your limited comfort zones often exposes you to new experiences, opinions and interests.

It has been said that any challenge falls into one of three ‘zones’ – our comfort zone, our growth zone, and our panic zone. An unwillingness to move out of a panic or comfort zone and into a growth zone, is often indicative of a resistance to change. If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself, here are three suggestions:

  1. Understand the truth about your habits. They represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully. That’s how habits grow and why they feel useful. To shift from what is less than ideal in your life, you need to give up on your tightly held habits and try new ways of thinking and acting. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas.
  2. Do something weird. One obvious way to leave your comfort zone, even if temporarily, is to do something new. But a more interesting option might be to do something weird. When you choose something new you may choose something that aligns with your personality and thus, comfort. This can be limiting. Instead, choose something that is out of character for you. Something that isn’t you and the people close to you wouldn’t think that you would do.
  3. Get a partner. There are some things that aren’t meant to be done alone. It’s amazing to see how much fun it is to explore and create with an ally alongside. And since you’re no longer alone in your adventure, you can feel safe as you step into a ‘growth zone.’ Find a partner. Make it happen.

Intentional Awareness

“Don’t always believe everything you think.” ~ John Fulton

Here are some modern maxims: You are what you eat. You are what you wear. You are what you do. You are what you think. Do you believe any of them? Especially the last one? If your thoughts are like mine, they’re always changing and sometimes have little to do with things that I’m actually doing or want to do. Quite often, thoughts can distract and sometimes capture our attention to the exclusion of all else.

In awareness practice, we become more aware of what’s going on within us and around us by choosing where to place our attention. We can choose to place our attention on our thoughts, or on our breath or our body. We can choose to just notice our thoughts without being them; without having to believe them, judge them, or take action on them. Then we are free to choose how we respond to life.

Awareness can be considered as a simple system which produces clarity around your emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and gives you more choices.

Taking this a step further, awareness can be heightened when coupled with intent. We tend to associate intent with complicated actions that require our full attention and effort to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, or taking a vow are all tasks that require us to be fully present and single-minded. Intent has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into significant experiences.

In today’s world, however, we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking, which is necessary at times. However, balancing this with doses of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time; being fully present with whatever invites your awareness.

You can apply intent to any situation by simply saying, “I am aware that I am now awake” or “I am aware that I am driving to work” or “I am aware that I am preparing dinner” or “I am aware that I am breathing.” As you acknowledge what you are doing in any given moment, you own your actions instead of habitually performing them. And in owning your actions, you realize how often you act without intention and how this disengages you from reality. Imagine what would happen if you were intentionally aware every moment of every day?

As you intentionally focus, here are three ways to be more aware:

  • Filter your thoughts through multiple lenses. Ask (for example), How would Einstein think? How would God think? How would my father think? This dialogue helps to broaden your perceptions, and open your own views on life and situations.
  • Observe new things. We have so many habits and routines we become oblivious. Start by noticing everything you do with a new consciousness. Begin slowly and build upon this capacity.
  • Take an honest look at yourself. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to gain knowledge and increase performance. An honest self-assessment allows you to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. This will help you excel at building and maintaining relationships, listening, and relating to others.

A Valuable Ally: Intuition

“Not choice, but habit rules the unreflecting herd.” ~ William Wordsworth

To many, the word “habit” carries a negative connotation. Rarely are habits talked about in the same context as creativity and innovation. Yet I consciously chose to step into a habit while flying home this past weekend. And that simple habit was/is to do nothing on the flight other than to listen; listen and reflect on what I had I heard during the previous four days. Call it my intentional reflecting time.

Brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously think about and develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks. As I was listening (a valuable habit), I also consciously thought about how I could effect change and create some new habits, based on inputs from my Mastermind gathering.

Then the inner voice, a valuable resource in so many decision-making processes, made itself heard. Also known as gut feeling or intuition, it’s often a better guide than you may think. Maybe you have experienced intuition – without even consciously thinking about something, a clear choice or solution suddenly comes to mind. Or perhaps you’ve had an impulse to do or not do something, accompanied by a lump in the throat or a peculiar feeling in your stomach. Conversely, you can feel enthusiastic about something, without really knowing why. These feelings are not merely coincidental, they reflect intuition.

And what did my inner voice whisper while airborne? It told me that I needed to refine my business vision, mission and purpose so that I can communicate them to others with even greater clarity. So I reflected on this for a while because I didn’t want to confuse my intuition with prejudices and emotions. Not every first or spontaneous impression ought to be interpreted as intuition and an element of conscious filtering is definitely needed to ensure we don’t let our emotions run away with us – under the guise of intuition.

If you are interested in exploring or further developing your intuition, here are three suggestions:

  • An ability to use intuition can be learned or trained. Part of the trick is to become more conscious of your intuition and how it works. By monitoring your intuition over time – and, in particular, noting and analyzing when it paid off, it is possible to develop and use the process productively.
  • Intuition can be encouraged by allowing your thoughts to roam without forcing thought patterns back into a traditional rut. In an attempt to be rational, people often “manually override” intuitive messages and it is only after things go wrong that they look back and realize they “had a feeling” that was not a good idea, but did not understand why.
  • It is necessary to learn how to listen to one’s body. Muscular tension, sensations in the stomach, and a desire to move further away or closer to something or someone, can have real significance for some situations.

Rationality and facts are vital to business life and always will be. However, the guiding role of intuition ought not be underestimated. Even if you are simply listening, thinking about new habits, contemplating change, or making decisions, it is easier to innovate if you are willing to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder. Part of this involves engaging your intuition.

Is Your Integrity an Ideal?

“You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running within you.” ~ Rwandan Proverb

Have you ever found yourself realizing that the more you think, read and talk about a subject, the more you want to be or align with it? Over the past few years, I’ve noticed this growing relationship between me and the topic of integrity. And I like what is evolving.

I am going to share a couple of thoughts about integrity, referencing the human male. The message, however, is equally applicable to the fairer gender.

The root word of “integrity” is “integer.” And integer is defined as a whole number, or a complete unit. A fraction is not an integer. A percentage of something less than 100% in not an integer. Ergo, there is no such thing as diminished integrity. It is a pass or fail test. Anything less than complete integrity is not integrity.

Let us take someone I know as an example. He thinks he is an upstanding person. However, he likes to fabricate stories about himself. Quite often, they are untruths, told to impress others. His problem is that he cannot remember who he had told what. In your sphere, how many men do you know who act like chameleons; they are a different guy with you, a different guy at home, a different guy at work, a different guy when traveling? Instead of being who he is, authentically, he lives as multiple selves. William James, a philosopher and psychologist, said that men have “as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares.”

When a great man falls from grace, we often wonder how he could have messed up so badly. The truth is, he didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit a huge mistake. It more likely started with a little twist here, a bit of lying there. From there he just kept sliding down the slippery slope of compromise. But if you don’t compromise on the little things, you won’t on the bigger things.

So we can ask, is it actually possible to live one’s life with integrity? We all have weaknesses to work on, parts of our personality that can be strengthened, leaks that can be patched. An advocate for always being at choice, I believe for those who truly desire it, integrity is attainable. It is an ongoing challenge but it can be achieved. It’s interesting that of the few that you and I have known with complete integrity, not one of them has probably had to tell us so. Integrity is self-evident.

If you want to inspire your growth in and with integrity, reflect on these three actions:

  • What purpose would you have your life lead toward that you are willing to practice every day, perhaps for a lifetime, to be prepared for that chance event that may provide the ultimate test of your integrity?
  • What specific attitudes, habits and behaviors must you practice consistently to become the person of integrity you aspire to be?
  • Integrity is the glue that binds your virtues. What are your other core values? Why these? Are you being them, consistently?

Effecting Change

“Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember. ” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

 

In most parts of the world, there is visual evidence of changing seasons. In New Mexico, we see subtle shifts in the shades of brown. 🙂 Okay, it’s a little more pronounced than that but I do miss the vibrant colors displayed each Fall by majestic maple, oak and walnut trees. Just as change is visible in nature, it’s also evident in the diet and fitness businesses that most people begin with every New Year. These latter changes often come in the form of resolutions – to make changes that will improve lives, health, or well-being.

I’m not one who makes New Year resolutions, the ones that by March most people will have given up on or fallen back into the very habits they wanted to change. Many people just end up repeating the previous year, including the choices and responses that disappointed them or motivated them to want change. Rather than putting a stake in the ground once annually, I simply choose to effect change whenever I want. There’s rarely any significance to the start date. When I recognize a change opportunity and commit to a plan of action, it’s ‘off to the races,’ then and there.

To each their own. However, if you want to make change easy, enjoyable, and effective, here are three tips:

  1. Make a change for the right reasons. Don’t change for someone else or to avoid something you don’t want. Change is personal and can only be made by you or for you. Also, since change is intended to improve your experience and better your results, it won’t happen if it is done in fear, from guilt, or by self-criticism.
  2. Intend the results now. Intentions are where our thoughts and feelings match the experience or results we want to feel and experience. Feel it now. Experience it now. The truth is you already have some level of what you desire and if you recognize and appreciate it, you can expand the possibilities for more of it.
  3. Choose, choose, and choose again. Repeated choices and actions are fundamental to change. This can take some time, not because you are replacing or changing old habits, but because you are teaching your mind new ones. The old ones remain, so to automatically choose the new ones takes a lot of repetitions. Think how many times you have repeated what you didn’t want; the new choices won’t take as long, but they will take longer than a couple of weeks or even a couple of months.

Whatever you desire to change doesn’t happen overnight, so changing it won’t either. Successful change is a process dependent on increased awareness and repeated actions. You don’t need to wait for a new year to change. You may even find yourself wondering why you waited so long to choose what you did. But at that moment when you do, you will know you have made a permanent change and the new is no longer new!

So why are you waiting?

Breaking Patterns

“The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us even more unknown, even less free, even more solitary.”

~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

You and I constantly rely on patterns we have designed to make it easier and more efficient to respond to the challenges of living and working. Many patterns are necessary, yet others trap us in responses that get results we don’t want or would like to change. We have patterns for personal care, relationship interactions, how we do our work, and how we think of ourselves. We have patterns for fitness, eating, and getting what we want.

Patterns are formed as a sequence of responses you made to a situation, a need, or a want. These responses are a combination of the thoughts, words, feelings, and actions your mind found that worked at a particular time or in specific situations. When a similar experience or feeling appeared, your mind went back to previous responses used before. In time and with repetition they became a pattern of some kind. They even became automatic and unconscious – you just always did it that way. Personally, I can think of some doozies.

To understand, change, or create new patterns you have to know these three components of a pattern.

  1. The purpose the pattern serves or was designed to serve. For example, to feel better, to make friends, or to get to your workplace.
  2. The responses that make up the pattern. For example, to feel better when stressed you get quiet, go inside yourself and look for a way to escape the stressful situation. Or when you need to get a project done, you identify the easiest and fastest steps and take those, despite the results or a better way that may take more time and be more challenging.
  3. The results the responses are getting now. For example, your stress pattern above keeps you from dealing with difficult situations and avoids confrontations. It also keeps you from resolving situations with positive responses or patterns. To the mind the results don’t matter as much as what works.

Once you have identified the components of a pattern you want to stop or change, some quick pattern breakers can get you started. Use any one or a combination of these actions:

  • Own it. Give the pattern a name and take responsibility for using it (no blaming someone else or your childhood). Play with it as part of a game. This removes the emotional charge the pattern has for you.
  • Witness it. Step away from it and look at the pattern as if it belonged to someone else. Watch it without censoring it or judging yourself for using it. This helps to understand the purpose of the pattern.
  • Over-repeat it. Take it to the extreme, overdo it. Repeat it and repeat it until you begin laughing at it. It will become mechanical as it loses its emotional hold on you.
  • Pause it. Catch yourself in the pattern and give yourself permission to stop it for now. Just this consciousness removes the pattern’s mystery. This opens up new responses.
  • Reward it. The pattern has served a purpose, thank it and appreciate it. Stop trying to reject it. Rather, examine it and embrace it so you can let it go. This is the beginning of changing it.

Patterns are only the patterns that have worked for some purpose in the past. They can be broken and new, more effective ones created. Knowing our patterns, their purpose, the response they depend on, and the results they got to automate them, is the beginning of changing them at any time and yes, for any pattern.