“The only way that we can live, is if we grow.
The only way that we can grow is if we change.
The only way that we can change is if we learn.
The only way we can learn is if we are exposed.
And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open.
Do it. Throw yourself.”
~ C. JoyBell C., writer
It took me a long time to learn the difference between attachment and commitment.
In fact, I had no idea I was confusing the two until about ten years ago, when a metaphorical bolt of lightning hit me right in the middle of marketing one of my programs.
I’d spent over a year developing and testing the materials. And I knew, all the way down to the tips of my toes, that it would be life-changing for the people who participated.
Eight people signed up for the first program, and their feedback reinforced my belief that getting this out into the world was important. I had a vision and I was committed to making it happen.
A few months later, I offered the program again. With enthusiasm and diligence I worked my marketing plan … and worked it … and worked it. After all, I was committed and this was important work.
I went through this process two more times. I always filled the program, but each time it was with more effort, more stress, and more frustration.
But no way was I giving up!
This was my vision, I’m not a quitter, and I really cared about the work.
And then, smack in the middle of marketing the fifth go-round, the lightning-bolt struck and the shift happened.
I was in my office at 11 p.m., feverishly writing follow-up emails. And I suddenly had an image of my hand clutching the program so tightly that my knuckles were ready to pop out.
Ugh. I had a serious case of attachment.
In that moment, I shifted.
Yes, I still cared about the essence of the program. But maybe, just maybe, there were other ways to bring the material into the world. (The obvious comment at this point is, “Ya think?!” ;-))
The minute I let go of my attachment to it has to look exactly like this, I stopped struggling and suffering.
Letting go of attachments comes up a lot in the work I do with my clients. It’s often at the root of their experiences of stress, frustration, and stuck.
We all get attached, often without even realizing it’s happened. Those attachments range from a favorite sweater (such as the one my husband accidently put in the dryer), to your team winning the Super Bowl, to a promotion you’ve been working towards for years, to your most meaningful relationships, and everything in between.
When life isn’t playing out the way you wanted or expected, letting go isn’t always quick or easy. (And that may rank as the 2013 Understatement of the Year!)
You’ve probably been told – or told yourself – “Oh well, just let it go.”
But even if you’re the one dispensing the advice, it usually just incites a rant.
LET IT GO? Are you kidding?! I don’t WANT to let it go. I CARE about this and I’ve WORKED HARD for this. I’m not going to STOP CARING and JUST LET IT GO!
But hanging on with a death grip doesn’t make anything easier or more likely to happen.
Just the opposite: it makes you feel worse.
Yet this is where it seems tricky. After all, how can you let go when you still care?
The answer is not to shift into a flippant, oh-well, whatever energy.
Instead, try these five steps to shift from attachment to caring … and letting go.
- Recognize you’re attached. Don’t beat yourself up. It happens to everyone.
- Acknowledge that you care. Trying to convince yourself that you don’t care when you really do will only leave you feeling more stuck and frustrated.
- Decide you want to loosen your grip. It’s not usually a conscious choice to become attached. But once you recognize you’re attached, you get to choose whether to stay there or not.
- Find a new perspective. There’s an accompanying mindset to every attachment.
My ridiculous reaction to my husband’s inadvertently shrinking my sweater came from a perspective of I love that sweater and I’m not going to find another one that perfect.
Shifting to a perspective of I don’t want to hold Warren (my husband) to a mistake-free standard because I don’t want to be held to that standard made the difference.
- Practice daily until you’ve truly let go. Letting go doesn’t usually happen in an instant. Remind yourself at least once a day (or 20 times, if that’s what it takes) that you’ve chosen a new perspective. Each day it’ll get a little easier, until one day you’ll realize you really aren’t attached any more.
And the coolest part is … when you consistently practice non-attachment, life is easier and flows much more smoothly.
“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” ~ The Dalai Lama
Earlier this month my niece Alyssa graduated from high school. Sitting in the stands, the school band playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” I watched her and her classmates file through the doors and down the aisles to their seats.
She was bubbling over with joy and possibilities. And I got teary.
I was a tad surprised. I’m the cool aunt, not the emotional parent!
But then I realized what my emotion was about.
My greatest wish for her is that she hold on to this feeling of being able to create anything in her life. No matter what bumps, moments of despair, or twists and turns her life takes, I hope she never stops believing in possibilities.
And I hope she never thinks what I thought, or feels the way I did, in my late 20s when I was a Vice President at a bank in Los Angeles.
“It’s too late. There’s no way I can start over.”
I excelled at my work, was well respected, and loved the people I worked with. But I had no passion for my field of accounting and finance.
The only trouble was, I had no idea what I would be excited about doing.
More to the point, I knew it was too late to start over in a new career. I’d be crazy to throw away all the time I’d invested.
Um, I was seven years into my career.
I did finally uncover my passion – after another eight years – and discovered that the 15 years I ended up spending in my field were far from wasted.
So I want Alyssa to know that anything is possible … not just professionally, but in creating the life she wants. It’s true now, and it will still be true when she graduates from college and 7, 10, 20, 40 – any number of years down the road.
So, to help her – and you – hang on to those feelings of possibility, I’m passing along six of my hard-learned lessons.
Mindset matters. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Action follows thought. Without action, not much is possible. And without a belief that you can, why bother getting started? Choose to believe in yourself.
Commitment breeds success. You can do anything you put your mind to. I proved it to myself when I passed the CPA exam with high scores. I’ve proved it again multiple times over the years.
On the other hand, I also have plenty of examples where I talked a good line about what I wanted to accomplish, but never did much more than dabble. It’s no surprise I wasn’t successful in those cases.
Whatever your dream or goal, if it’s something you genuinely want from the bottom of your heart, commit seriously to giving it your all.
Positive energy lifts you up and negative energy drags you down. Be intentional about the people you surround yourself with, the environment you create at home, and the places you choose to hang out.
Obstacles are made for climbing over. Life is filled with challenges. You can choose to be the person who rises up to meet them, knowing there’s more than one path to create what you want. Or you can view roadblocks as a sign that it’s just not possible.
Please pick the first option. It’s easier in the long run, and virtually always more gratifying.
And speaking of obstacles …
Fear of failure is the biggest possibility-killer on the planet. All my biggest regrets are the goals and dreams I didn’t pursue out of fear.
Yet I have no regrets about the things I tried that didn’t work out. The growth and learning that came from each of them, albeit sometimes painful, ultimately led to something good.
What you need always shows up when you pay attention … “randomly” crossing paths with an old friend who connects you to your perfect job … support from your friends in the midst of a crisis … or landing in a situation so miserable you’re finally compelled to overcome your fears and make a big change.
Choose your mindset. Commit to your dreams. Surround yourself with positive energy. Climb over the obstacles you encounter. Embrace failure as part of the process. And trust that what you need will show up.
When you do that, anything is possible.
“Our thoughts and imagination are the only real limits to our possibilities.” ~ Orison Swett Marden
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain, 1835 – 1910
Spring forward is the trick for remembering to move your clock ahead by one hour this time of year in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the perfect way to describe the feeling spring evokes.
The first hint of warmth in the air, the early morning sound of birds chirping, and new growth poking up through the ground all bring a sense of anticipation and possibilities.
Even in places with warm climates year-round you can feel a difference in the air. The days are longer and we’re shaking off the hibernation urge, throwing open the windows (literally and metaphorically).
In most of the Western world we don’t have formal celebrations to welcome the season as do many other cultures. The closest thing we have is spring cleaning :-).
There’s a reason this time of year inspires the desire to clear out the old. It’s a primal urge to make room for new growth.
Spring brims with hope and re-birth. Everything is getting a fresh start.
A few days ago while out jogging (which is way more enjoyable than it was in the dead of winter!) I rounded a corner and saw a tree covered in a riot of pink flowers. Two days before it had been bare. In one way it had literally changed overnight.
But in truth, much had been happening below the surface to lay the groundwork for the metamorphosis.
Whatever you want to bring into bloom – your next career step, a new sense of balance in your life, or just getting in flow – here are five steps to help you successfully create your transformation.
1. Take stock
I clean out my closet every year, but last month I was ruthless. By the time I finished I had a stack of items I’d been holding onto despite not having worn in years. They were a combination of old favorites that no longer worked and pieces that kinda, sorta served a purpose but I never felt great wearing (so I never did). And still, they were absurdly difficult to part with.
Our lives often look like our closets – a mishmash of what works and what needs to change.
Although you can’t make a physical pile of what needs to change in your life, a great way to take stock is to create an energy-drain list.
Include everything, from the seemingly minor, like the doorknob that sticks, to the significant, such as job or relationship. The more honest you are, the better you’ll be able to identify what you what’s standing in your way of new growth.
2. Get rid of the physical clutter.
This is the step that literally helps you create space.
A good rule of thumb is to dispose of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose, create beauty, or make you happy. Just like in nature your mind and spirit reflect your physical surroundings.
3. Clear out the mental clutter.
In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck described her head as housing a demented squirrel. It was also an apt depiction of mine! Learning to quiet my mind was one of the initial reasons I became interested in yoga.
What’s strewn about in your head? A running to-do list? Write it down and let your calendar or to-do list do the work of remembering. Half-finished decisions and unresolved issues? A highly effective way to clear out mental clutter is through physical movement … it’s very calming to the squirrel or whatever hyper-active creature inhabits your mind ;-). Another is journaling; a powerful way work through those places you feel stuck.
4. Establish, or re-establish, rituals.
Nature is full of ritual; without it there would be no renewal and change. Bears hibernate in the winter and birds push their young out of the nest to teach them to fly.
With the busy lives most of us lead, it’s easy to drop the practices that keep us centered. Watching the sun rise with a hot cup of tea or coffee, working out the same day or time each week, a daily yoga practice, or a standing date night with your partner are all examples of rituals.
5. Surround yourself with beauty.
Bring a bit of spring’s inspiration into your life. Whether fresh flowers on your desk or in your home, pictures of loved ones, or art on your walls, beauty sweeps away the cobwebs and opens you up to new ideas and possibilities.
Before you close up this email, pull out your calendar and schedule time to work on your spring cleaning.
I’m not sure that Mother Nature requires this kind of planning, but it definitely helps us mere mortals!
Once you clear out space to let the new in, you’ll be amazed at how easily growth begins to flow.
“Spring is a true reconstructionist.”
~Henry Timrod (1828 – 1867), Poet
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success.
In his 2012 TED Talk he argues that happiness fuels success, not the other way around, He’s hilariously funny, gives practical advice on how to boost your happiness – so you can be more successful – and does all of this in twelve minutes.
After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear what you think. Post your comments below and we’ll get a conversation going!
You’ve been working a bazillion hours and you’re running on empty. The food fueling your body is borderline garbage. Your workout shoes are rotting in the closet. Your head isn’t on the pillow long enough to flatten either the pillow or your hair, you haven’t laughed in weeks, and your shoulders are hovering somewhere around your ears.
My friend Caryn calls it the deathly downward spiral.
It’s a yucky place to be.
Not long after Caryn’s comment, I was on a coaching call with a client who told me her stress levels were going through the roof – and she knew exactly why. She’d stopped doing the things that keep her centered: eating right (and regularly), getting to bed at a reasonable hour, moving physically, and spending time with friends.
She’d fallen into the, “I’m working so much I have no time for anything else and I have no choice,” pit.
Ever been for a visit? ;-).
Once upon a time you knew this stuff.
Things haven’t changed all that much since early in your life. Think of a toddler in a hungry, exhausted meltdown.
I don’t remember my own, but my niece’s and nephew’s are unforgettable. And who could blame them? Skip the nap or run late on a meal and there they go – full-power meltdown.
The deathly downward spiral is the adult version. It’s not a fun place to get stuck. Fortunately, the tools for digging your way out are the same ones that can keep you from tumbling in.
Go back to the basics.
Yup, it’s that simple.
Food. Be mindful of what, when and how you eat. The food you eat impacts how well your brain works. So, fuel yourself with healthy food when you feel hungry rather than waiting until your desk starts looking like a tasty treat. And when you’re in a whirlwind of activity, take a time-out to eat. Your brain will thank you for the nano-break, your digestive system will be much happier, and you’ll notice a boost in your creativity and ability to focus.
Breathe. You’ll be amazed at the impact just one minute of conscious breathing has on your mind, body, and spirit. Make a note on your daily calendar to breathe. It may sound crazy, but holding your breath is a physiological response to stress. A frequent reminder to breathe isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity in times of stress!
Movement. It doesn’t take much to get the blood flowing and shake the cobwebs loose. If you’re blowing off your normal 45-minute run because you don’t have time, give yourself permission for something shorter. (Ignore the snippy inner critic telling you it’s not worth the effort to do less. S/he’s lying to you.) Truth is, 99% of the effort is in getting started. After the first few minutes, you’ll naturally just keep on going.
If it’s really, truly a day where a deadline is looming and something dire will happen if you take even 15 minutes for a mini-workout, crank up some music and dance for a few minutes, do a dozen jumping jacks, or walk a lap or two up and down your office building’s stairwell.
Sleep. Sure, you can go a night or two without enough sleep. More than that, though, and you’ll end up short-tempered, panicked if your caffeinated beverage is out of sight, and frustrated by a seemingly inexplicable increase in silly mistakes. I misplace about thirty IQ points when I’m sleep-deprived! You’ll earn back that extra hour of sleep with increased productivity and clearer thinking – not to mention that you won’t have to clean up all those sleep-deprived mistakes.
Joyful moments. Especially on the busiest, most stressful days, a little joy goes a long way. Take a few minutes to connect with a friend (no kvetching – that’s not joyful), find a reason to laugh, or simply stand outside and feel the sun (or rain) on your face. We all knew how to do this as kids … you’ve still got it in you!
Eat, breathe, move, sleep, and grab a moment of joy … and you’ll be out of the deathly downward spiral in no time at all!
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
~ Dr. Seuss
“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
~ Thomas Edison, inventor 1847 – 1931
My amazing and beautiful niece turned 19 last month. Among the many birthday posts on her Facebook wall was this one (the bolds are mine):
I can’t believe we’re both turning 19!! When did we get so old?
It was basically yesterday that we went to the American girl fashion show, had the crazy whipped cream fight (we would totally still do that today), quit soccer in 3rd grade because we didn’t like bugs … and all of our other hilarious memories. Through elementary and middle school, cross country, going to Maryland together, and every single other thing we have done together in our lives, you have always made everything so ridiculously hilarious and fun.
I cracked up when I read, “When did we get so old?”
And then I got pensive. The truth is this won’t be the last time she asks how she got that old. She’ll wonder again at 21, 29, 30, 40, 50, and all the other significant birthdays that happen in between and after.
We all ask the same question: how did we get so old?
Yet what we’re really asking is, “How the heck has time passed so quickly?”
Life goes by so fast … it’s WAY too short to spend it stuck.
Whether you’re as young as 19, 35, 50, or 65, these ten stuck-busters will help you live unstuck:
- Be authentic. Be you.There’s nothing more exhausting than pretending to be someone you’re not. It might be scary in the short term to be yourself, but over time it’s a much easier and more unstuck way to live. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “everyone else is already taken.” Embrace who you are and let your gifts shine through.
- Don’t make stuff up. Have you ever wasted energy feeling mad, hurt, or worked into a snit only to discover that you’d misinterpreted the situation? I certainly have. Notice your assumptions. Then you can then decide if it’s important enough to learn the facts. If not, move on. Or choose to make up a good story so your day can keep flowing smoothly!
- Focus on what matters. Ask yourself, “How much will I care about this in one year, five years, ten years?” If what’s causing you stress or keeping you stuck isn’t going to matter down the road, take a deep breath and let it go.
- Fail forward. Failure is not a four letter word. Every experience is filled with learning and opportunity, and you can’t know how the story ends until it’s done playing out. Success and failure are simply a matter of where you draw the timeline.
- Practice awareness. Life flows more smoothly when the choices you make align with who you are and what’s most important. But it doesn’t happen magically. (Darn!) The only way to choose consciously is to be aware that you’re making choices. And awareness is difficult if you’re running a million miles an hour, so …
- Slow. It. Down. Take a few minutes (or even seconds) to transition between tasks, activities, and meetings. Breathe. Move just a little more slowly. Just a few small pauses, an ever-so-small shift in your speed of movement, creates space for awareness.
- Invest time and energy in self-care. You’re worth it. And you’ll get your investment back in multiples of increased productivity, energy, and creativity, as well as less stress. (If self-care was a financial investment, everyone would want to own it ;-).)
- Be on purpose. Even if you’re still searching for your calling, you get to live on purpose every day. It’s all in the way you show up and how you do everything you do.
- Give your heart an equal seat at the table. Your heart brings as much wisdom and value as your mind.
It’s not flaky or woo-woo to give as much credence to your heart (intuition, gut, or whatever word you prefer) as you give to your intellect. Just the opposite. It’s a really smart thing to do.
- Have more whipped-cream fights :-). Find the fun and joy in life.
There are seven days in the week and someday isn’t one of them. ~ Unknown
When I showed up at the annual fund-raising gala for the Visual Art Exchange (a very cool non-profit in Raleigh), I had no idea I was about to transform my family room.
Every year the live auction plays out the same way: the first few pieces of art go for ridiculously low prices, the intensity slowly builds, and eventually folks get in the game and begin bidding enthusiastically – and competitively.
This year was no exception.
So when the fourth piece came out and the auctioneer dropped the opening bid to next to nothing, I raised my bid card thinking, “Let’s see if I can get some action going.”
My intention was simply to kick-start the bidding
But that’s not quite how it worked out.
I bid. Another person bid. I bid again, fully expecting the competition to ignite. Except it didn’t. I’d just become the highest bidder.
That painting was coming home with us.
Although we initially had no idea where to hang it, we found the perfect spot where an antique mirror had been living.
And then we got another surprise, even bigger than suddenly owning a new painting!
Not only does it look fantastic, but the family room is completely transformed … even though nothing else is different.
Just by changing one thing on one wall at the edge of the room, the entire look and feel has shifted in a fresh, positive way.
It’s a perfect example of how one small change can create a big impact, often in ways you’d never have predicted.
The same holds true in life.
Change one small thing and shifts happen.
You might discover you’ve just cleared out mental, emotional, or physical cobwebs and refreshed your life. Or maybe you’ll fire up the momentum to get moving on whatever’s been keeping you stuck.
Either way, it starts with one small shift.
Here are five small shifts you can make to create a big difference in your life:
1. Change your environment. Light candles for an ordinary dinner, re-arrange your furniture, or buy a few new throw pillows. Clean up visible clutter or re-organize a closet. Put a vase of fresh flowers on your desk at work or add a photo that makes your smile.
Or buy a new piece of art ;-).
Even a tiny change will shift the energy in your space. And the moment energy shifts, so do other things.
2. Shake up the norm. Take a new route to work. Brush your teeth with your other hand. (Be sure to check for stray toothpaste.) If you’re normally quiet in meetings, speak up – or sit back and observe if your usual mode is highly participatory. Eat something new, listen to an unfamiliar music genre, or try an activity you’ve never done before.
Doing things differently stretches the edges of your comfort zone and lets you view the world (or a tiny piece of it) through a new lens. It’s impossible to predict where that will lead, but you can be certain it will go somewhere.
3. Add more smiles for a double dose of impact.
The simple act of smiling makes you feel good and boosts your positive energy. And when you flash a smile at another person, you’ll get a smile right back, giving both of you a boost.
The more you smile, the more you open the door to unexpected and positive impact.
And on the topic of opening doors …
4. Open to possibilities. Early in my career I worked with a guy who said, “I do something every day to keep the door cracked open for a miracle.” He then followed up with examples of smiling at a stranger in an elevator, buying a lottery ticket, or practicing random acts of kindness.
Just the act of opening the door to possibilities has an impact. Try it. You’ll experience what I mean!
5. Take one itsy-bitsy step …towards something you want to create or accomplish.
What’s the tiniest step you can think of? That’s the step to take. You’ll feel good about getting started (or re-started), be inspired to take that next itsy-bitsy step, and next thing you know momentum will take hold.
Small shifts. Big impact.
And that’s what leads to transformation.
“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” ~ Bill Watterson