A life worth watching


Don't Suffer, Change Your Words

My client Donna is within nine months of launching her own business and leaving her long-term job. She’d been enthusiastically clipping along with preparations well under way.

And then suddenly she came to a screeching halt.

Cue foreshadowing music.

It’s the business plan. Just thinking about it gives her a knot in her stomach.

The very phrase – business plan - strikes terror in her heart as effectively as Stephen King’s description of the rabid dog Cujo terrorizing the inhabitants of Castle Rock, Maine.

She’s having an emotional reaction. (Could you guess that?!)

The business plan isn’t the real problem.

Donna knows her business. She has a clear vision for what she wants. And she loves to write. So what’s the problem?

The words.

Business plan triggers everything she thinks she’s not good at: marketing, administrative details, and financial record-keeping.

I could have spent weeks trying to convince Donna she’s perfectly competent at the first and can outsource the other two. It wouldn’t have mattered. We’re not talking logic here.

Words have an emotional impact.

I know what it feels like to have certain words push my buttons! (Bet you do too.)

Writers use this to their advantage all the time. Read a Stephen King book, a love poem, or a well-written article on poverty, and notice the emotion it evokes. The exact same thing happens in the day-to-day parts of your life. And more often than not, you have no idea it’s the words creating your reaction.

Your emotional connection to certain words can propel you forward or wedge your feet into a block of concrete.

She needed new words.

There’s no rule that you’re only allowed to use certain words or phrases.

In the early days of my business, “sales” made me want to crawl under my desk. No matter how much attitude adjustment I tried, I hated the idea. I made no real progress until I dumped the word and replaced it with business development. That, I loved!

Donna’s new phrase is Roadmap to Flexibility, Freedom, and Abundance. Same output, different name. And now she’s excited and motivated again.

Your words, your choice.

Next time you find yourself dreading or avoiding an activity, the problem might be your language. If you feel energized thinking about your goal but not about taking the next step to get there, it’s a good clue you need a new word.

Consider your objective. What are other ways you might describe the dreaded activity?

Another of my clients substituted daily design for to-do list. One of my friends replaced clean the house with house-care. Get creative, and if you’re stuck, ask a friend for help.

Words have an emotional impact … choose wisely.

“Language is the dress of thought.” ~ Samuel Johnson


Non-linear growth

Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back. Remember that and be very gentle with yourself.

~ Julia Cameron

Eight Keys to a Happy Life ... Fur-ever

I recently made up a word.

It’s the combination of contemplation and celebration, and it’s something I do a lot of in June.

June brims over with special events in my world. My birthday and wedding and business anniversaries are in June. And this year marks a particularly big year for my business; a June 20th celebration of 20 years in business! (Love the symmetry of 20 on the 20th!)

Lots to contembrate :-).

As I’ve been contembrating this month, I’ve been thinking about happiness. About how committed I am to choosing happiness, because I do believe it’s a choice. About how much I believe that happiness and success is an AND, not an OR. And about how easy it is to make happiness harder than it needs to be.

That got me thinking about an article I wrote several years ago, right after the confluence of two events: a birthday that ended in zero and the passing of my dog Cali.

CaliWe’d only been back a few days from the celebrate-the-big-birthday vacation when my sixteen-year-old dog Cali announced it was time to let her go. A dog who long ago perfected the art of getting her needs met, it was no surprise that she was clear on what she wanted to the very end.

Cali had long ago cracked the happy-life code we mere humans endlessly wrestle with.

She knew how to squeeze every ounce of joy out of a day, never got hooked on a should or a shouldn’t, and never, ever wasted a smidgen of energy worrying if her fur looked good.

Other than food, she wasn’t possessive, and I know she wouldn’t mind my sharing her tips for a long and happy life.

1. Ask for what you want.
From her head suddenly appearing under your hand (right there, yes, scratch right there) to the “let me in” bark outside the door, Cali never played guessing games.

Your best chance of getting what you want or need is to come right out and ask. Most of the time, you won’t find it necessary to be as loud as she was. You can, however, try barking.

2. Eat when you’re hungry.
You’ll have more energy, lower your cranky quotient, and never again be distracted by the conversation your stomach wants to have. If you don’t have easy access to food when you need it, find the person who does have food and try I’m going to stand here and look at you with my most pathetic “I’m starving” expression.

3. Choose your friends well.
At two years old, off to the shelter she went to choose a new family member. No matter that the humans found the dog they wanted, Cali was single-mindedly focused on choosing the companion she wanted. Her choice, Ivy, turned out to be the perfect pick and her best friend.

Wherever you find your friends, be sure they’re people you truly enjoy in your life.

4. Savor your experiences.
If ever I needed to see enjoy the moment modeled, I only had to watch Cali roll in the snow, jump in the creek next to our running trail, or chase a squirrel across the back yard.

If those activities aren’t calling to you (although you might want to give one a whirl just for the heck of it), find the one that does and throw yourself into it with wild abandon.

5. Sleep when you’re tired.
You might not need 20 hours a day, but you do know when you’re not well-rested. A good stretch followed by a belly rub is the perfect prelude to bedtime. And don’t forget your naps. Sunny spots work particularly well.

6. Be spontaneous.
Slowed down by arthritis, Cali would plod along, moving slightly faster than a turtle. Then every so often, with a burst of energy coming from who-knows-where, she’d tear through the house like a five-year-old.

Routines and structures are great at keeping you in the flow and making things easier. But every now and then, a dose of spontaneity knocks the cobwebs loose, gets your creative juices flowing, and is just plain fun.

7. Stay open to change.
Sometimes, the very thing you think will ruin everything turns out to be an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Like Gems, the cat.

Perhaps it was Gems’ insistence that they be friends, or Cali’s realization that resistance was only making her miserable. Within months of Gems’ arrival they could be found within a few feet of each other, engaged in their favorite pastime: synchronized sleeping.

Next time you find yourself resisting change, make friends with the cat.

8. Express your feelings.
Tail wagging, wriggling with excitement, or trembling through a thunderstorm … what’s your way of expressing yourself?

I can’t promise that implementing Cali’s tips will catapult you into a series of blissful moments where everything you want magically appears. That may need to wait until your next life – if you’re lucky enough to come back as my pet.

But if you take her advice, it will certainly help you live your day the way you want to live your life.

“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.” ~ Elbert Green Hubbard


Choose to not take things personally

heart-rainbow“Don’t take anything personally….

If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.

You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected.

You can ask for what you need.

You can say yes, or you can say no – whatever you choose – without guilt or self-judgment.

You can choose to follow your heart always.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

Make a Not-Today List

What aren’t you going to do today?

Chances are you have more on your to-do list than can possibly be done. Every time you look at it, your stress levels rise, and by noon you know your plans for the evening are in danger. And even if you work half the night, you still won’t be done.

Am I close?

Lists are great. They help you focus your attention, remember details, and keep your kitchen stocked with milk and coffee. (In my world, nothing works without coffee in the house :-)).

But too much of anything can make you feel lousy, and a list of items that translates to 70 hours before 6 p.m. won’t make you feel productive or good about your choices.

You need a not-today list.

Yes, I know, it all has to get done. But when you have two competing thoughts going – “nothing can come off the list” and “it can’t all get done” – you’re stuck in an endless loop. That’s not a fun place to be, and it doesn’t help you focus on what’s most important.

So hit the pause button and get real about what you are and are not going to do.

Start by sequencing your list according to “the world will end if this isn’t done today” to “no one’s going to die if this waits till tomorrow.” Then make a rough estimate of the time needed for each task and decide how late you plan to work today. Voila: you now know what goes on to your not-today list.

You’ll be amazed at how much more energy and focus you have when you’re managing your to-do list instead of it managing you.

And with your new realistic expectations, you might just find yourself living your day the way you want to live your life.

“The first rule of holes: if you are in one, stop digging.” ~ Will Rogers


Full Life Living

We will continue to be tested until we are no longer triggered.
~ Anonymous

So very true. At least in my life!

The more you can embrace your triggers as opportunities to learn and grow, the less power you’re triggers will hold.

8 Tips for Creating Happiness and the Life You Want

graduationMy nephew Adam graduated from high school last week.

When his sister Alyssa graduated two years ago, I surprised myself by getting teary. But then I realized my emotion came from seeing the life ahead of her, a story still to be written, with so many possibilities.

As I watched the graduation ceremony that day, I thought about what I most wanted Alyssa to know as she went out into the world. (I wrote about my thoughts for her in Six Beliefs that Make Anything Possible)

This time around, I was prepared to be emotional. And I was.

Adam was thrilled to be graduating. High school was not an enjoyable experience for him, and he’s beyond happy that it’s now in his rear-view mirror.

I don’t have a shred of doubt that Adam will do amazing things in his life. He’s the kindest and most empathetic human being I know; he came into the world that way.

He also inherited the family worry gene.

I know that gene well. It took me a lot of years to learn how to let go of worry.

It took those years to understand that it’s actually riskier to play safe than it is to go for what you want. Ultimately, security comes from within you, not from external factors.

Adam, just like the rest of us, will learn what he needs to learn the way he needs to learn it. But to give him a running start, here are eight lessons I learned that helped me let go of worry so I could persevere in creating happiness and the life I want.

  1. You NEVER know how things will turn out … not when you’re careful and not when you take chances.

    You’re not in control of the universe. (You knew that, right? :-))

    You can have a plan, a safety net, and a back-up plan. You still don’t get guaranteed outcomes.

    And that’s actually liberating, because it means you don’t have to waste your energy trying to wrestle your life into submission. Instead, you get to channel that energy towards your dreams and goals.

  1. Don’t get attached to the way you think things are supposed to play out.

    Most of life is not a straight line.

    In the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of British retirees are enticed by an ad for the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful.” Each of them arrives with different expectations, and of course nothing is as any of them anticipated.

    This exchange between two of the characters perfectly describes the unpredictable nature of life:

    Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.
    Muriel: Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.

    It’s so true.

    There are many paths to happiness and success, and there’s no one right way to get there.

  1. You must replenish yourself regularly to be the best version of you.

    Find stillness. Reflect. Move your body. Get enough sleep. Fuel yourself with healthy, delicious food. Practice gratitude.

    Learn what fills you up.

    The more you pour into yourself, the more you’ll have to give. And the better you’ll be able to gracefully navigate the twists and turns in life.

  1. It’s ALWAYS worth investing the energy to pursue your passion.

    Your job is to discover your passion and then live it.

    That’s when you’ll be your happiest and have your greatest impact.

  1. No one else knows what is right for you.

    People will reflect their own dreams, fears, hopes, wants, and needs onto you.

    If you worry about what everyone else thinks or try to make everyone happy, you’ll never find your own path. (And it won’t change what they think OR make them happy.)

  1. Don’t settle for anything less than happiness.

    You deserve as much happiness as your heart can hold.

  1. Success follows happiness, not vice versa.

    Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. He argues that happiness fuels success and he has the research to back it up.

    His 12-minute TED talk on the topic is well worth watching.

    To boost your success, boost your happiness.

  1. Wherever you go, there you are.

    YOU will always be the common denominator in all of your experiences.

    Be intentional in the choices you make about your attitude, actions, and reactions, how you spend your time and who you spend it with, and the way in which you show up in the world.

    Most of all, make the choice to believe in yourself, to be courageous, and to trust that you’ll land exactly where you’re supposed to be.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” ~ Jack London


Expanding what’s possible


Toss Your Notes Out the Window

Words of wisdom tend to leap out at me from the most unexpected places: my nephew at three years-old, a line from a silly movie, and one of my favorites, during a presentation on professional speaking.

A professional speaking presentation is not exactly the place I expected to find a perfect metaphor for life. But that’s exactly what happened when the speaker said, “Prepare, prepare, prepare, then throw away your notes.”

colored-crumbled-paper-originalOf course he was talking about knowing your stuff so cold that you’re flowing with whatever shows up – a half empty or too-full room, malfunctioning equipment, or a church revival going on in the room next door (yes, that really happened at a conference I attended).

But the more significant point is that planning is good, but ultimately you don’t control what actually happens. And isn’t that true for everything in life?

I’m a planner. Big time. Which can be a strength, except when I cross the line from planning to control. (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one this happens to :-).)

A few weeks after that presentation I was in the Miami airport, waiting for a very delayed flight. Walking to the counter to ask, again, if any new information was available, it hit me … this was a good time to “throw away my notes.”

As soon as I let go of wanting to control the situation (as if I could anyway!), I realized there were lots of ways to use, and even enjoy, that time –  to be present to what was.

I found a coffee kiosk, leaned up against a wall, and proceeded to read half a book that had been on my list for months. It seems obvious in retrospect, but at the time I was so focused on trying to keep my plans intact that I almost gave away the chance to enjoy the opportunity that the delay was offering to me.

Too often when you’re hanging onto your plans, working like crazy to make them happen, the real opportunity passes right by and you’ve missed something good – maybe even something incredible.

Don’t stop your planning and preparation; it’s undoubtedly contributed to your success.

But next time you find yourself on the control side of the line, take a deep breath, toss your notes, and work with what’s really there.

You might just find that’s the exact moment you live your day the way you want to live your life.

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”
~The Dalai Lama