Your Precious Life

heart-over-water-1“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.

I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~Dalai Lama XIV

You can have it all ...

depending upon your definition of all. ;-)

Several years ago during introductions in the first session of my Art of Balance program, Marie introduced herself by saying, “I believe I can have it all, just not at exactly the same time.” Ask Marie what’s missing from her life and she’ll tell you she has everything she wants based on what’s most important to her at this time in her life.

You can have that too … if you’re willing to be brutally honest about what you most care about right now.

A Tale of Two Perspectives.

To Marie, having it all means balancing her most important priorities: successfully navigating her demanding management job, playing an active role in her 14-year-old son’s life, maintaining a healthy relationship with her husband and taking care of herself so she can do well at the rest of it!

What’s on the back burner? Significant time spent with friends, long quiet walks, and plenty of other things that will move up her priority list when her son heads off to college.

Does she ever get stressed or wish she had room for more? You bet! And that’s when she goes for a run or carves out fifteen minutes of reflection time for herself. Usually that does the trick, but if the feeling persists, it’s her sign that it might be time to recalibrate what having it all means.

Now meet Cynthia.

Her situation is similar to Marie’s. She runs the marketing department at a mid-sized company, has a nine-year old daughter and a thirteen year-old son, has been married for fifteen years, and is a runner. Spend fifteen minutes with her though and all you’ll hear is how much she can’t fit into her life. Island getaways. Forget about it. Curl up with a book on the weekend? Can’t even find time to read a magazine let alone a novel.

Sadly, she’s so busy looking forward to when she can have more of the things she wants in her life, she’s missing out on what’s there now.

She’s stuck in a perspective of scarcity, of it’s never enough.

New Year’s resolutions are lurking.

It’s tempting this time of year to make that list of … well, of everything. Next thing you know, you have a mile-long page that, if you pull it off, will lead you straight into the perfect life.

You’ll be buff from your five weekly trips to the gym and the healthy meals you’re whipping up daily with organic produce straight out of your garden. Your conversation will be the life of the party as you discuss the latest NY Times bestseller (fiction and non-fiction) and hold forth on the child prodigy cellist whose recording you’ve just finished listening to. You’ve taken up yoga, meditation, and your friends are amazed at how Buddha-like you’ve become. You stay in touch with all your friends from past and present but never scrimp on time with your children and partner. You travel, volunteer, and are on track for a big promotion.

In other words, you have it all ;-).

Or you would if 99% if those New Year’s resolutions weren’t going to bite the dust by January 10th.

Dump the resolutions and focus on what works for your life.

Get clear on what’s most important … now. Frustration comes from wanting everything because you’ve set yourself up for the impossible. Identify the 5 or 6 things that are the absolutely, no-kidding, this is what matters most to me and write them down. If you’re having a hard time choosing, consider what you will most regret missing when you look back in five years.

Clear out the energy drainers. There’s time and there’s energy. While you don’t control the pace at which time moves, you are in charge of your energy output. Where is your energy leaking out? Clutter, friends who suck the life out of you (frenemies), and anything on the “should, but I don’t want to” list are examples of things that create a steady drip of energy leaving you less for what matters.

Make room for more with “good enough”. For years my client Jenny was wedded to the belief that she had to be the top performer in her department. When she finally wrote down the cost of her outstanding performance reviews – regular, last-minute cancellations with friends she claimed were important, an extra thirty pounds, and no progress towards creating the personal life she wanted, she decided above average was more than good enough.

Choose a new perspective. Despite almost identical circumstances, Marie and Cynthia experience life in radically different ways. Same details, opposite attitudes and thus each create a different reality. How do you view your life? Take the time to decide what mindset you want to hold. It matters. A lot.

Fill up your life with what you most care about and you’ll have it all!

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Success and Happiness


Life, Beauty, and Duty

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Enjoy the Holidays (Seriously!)

Two of my good friends give Martha Stewart a run for her money this time of year.

They both bake enough to feed a small country, decorate as if Better Homes and Gardens is scheduled for a photo shoot, and write holiday letters that could be short-listed for a National Book Award if there was a letter category.

But there is one major difference between them. For my friend Amy (the names have been changed to protect the innocent), it’s a truly wonderful time and my friend Michelle is ready for a nervous breakdown by the first week in January.

The holiday season can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming.

There are a slew of additional commitments, the to-do list seems to have been sprinkled with super-growth powder, and all those crowds mean everything takes longer than normal.

But it can also be a particularly joyous and relaxing time. Work tends to slow down, we spend time with friends and family (I know, sometimes the latter belongs in the stressful category!), and it’s a great time to take stock of the year and express your gratitude.

What makes this time enjoyable for you? And what makes it stressful?

Make a list of both and then decide what choices you can (and will) make to maximize enjoy and minimize stress.

If you’re like my friend Amy, what tradeoffs can you make with your regular commitments to give yourself time to really enjoy all your holiday-related activities? And if you’re like my friend Michelle, consider letting go or simplifying the things you think you “should” be doing and focus on doing what will bring you joy during this time of year.

There’s no right way to do it. But when you make the choices that are right for you and your life, you’ll be living your days the way you want to live your life.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce, Poet


What Matters Most

White Painting

Love and Work

abstract-heart“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.

So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
~ Steve Jobs

Create Your Own Reality Show

Since the premier of the American series Survivor on May 31, 2000, reality television has skyrocketed in popularity. A quick web search yielded over ninety shows dedicated exclusively to the genre. That’s a big audience watching other people’s seemingly more exciting, exotic, or sordid lives, waiting every week to see what happens next.

However, I’m placing my bet that your life is much more fascinating than any of those shows, even if you’re not competing to be the last one left on the island with all that crazy drama.

I’m serious. There’s all sorts of incredibly interesting stuff to watch in your life.

Give the same attention to your words and actions that reality TV viewers give to their favorite characters and all sorts of information about how your choices, interactions, and attitude affect your outcomes begins to unfold.

You’ll be amazed at the discoveries to be made when you start watching yourself throughout the day.

My clients have experienced eye-opening realizations about everything from their communication style (did that really just come out of my mouth?) to their time management skills (why do I respond like Pavlov’s dog every time my email dings?) to their day-to-day attitudes about work and life (I really did believe it would all be just fine … how do I live in that perspective more often?).

Spend the next week starring in your own reality show, taking a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what you’ve noticed.

And be sure to rate your show “L” for learning, best accomplished by viewing yourself through the lens of curiosity. (This is contrasted with “B” for beat yourself up with anything that’s less than perfect!)

Although your reality show may not be picked up by network television, your new awareness will be just the thing to help you live your day the way you want to live your life.

“Courage is an everyday thing. When we look reality squarely in the eye and refuse to back away from our awareness, we are living courage.” ~ Unknown


Swing for the Fences

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.”

~ Babe Ruth

Pick Just One Thing

JasperOur dog Jasper arrived into our lives when he was eighteen months old and immediately proceeded to redecorate our house.

We called it the Milk-Bone look. Crumbs, pieces, and piles that resembled abstract art covered large swaths of the floor.

He quickly honed his process to perfection.

Take one bone, toss it in the air a few times, ignore the pieces that break off, then lie down and chomp with gusto.

He’d then step over the fragments all over the floor, trot off with the biggest piece to settle down elsewhere until boredom set in, whereupon he abandoned the Milk-Bone, and headed off for a nap. By bedtime he’d tackled several new bones as well as bits and pieces from prior days.

It’s your basic start and stop cycle – something most of us are familiar with as well.

Since Jasper was in the game for sheer fun, it was of no consequence whether he finished what he started. But that’s not true for most of the busy people I know … myself included.

As my client Stacy describes it, “I go through the day in a complete blur without ever feeling I can point to what I accomplished, and every day I feel a little more stressed and overwhelmed.”

In fact, she achieves a heck of a lot, including a consistent top ten ranking in a sales force numbering more than one hundred while juggling a full personal life that includes three children.

But it’s hard for her to feel productive when the day ends and she hasn’t completed much of anything she set out to do. It’s also not much fun, and it was beginning to take an increasingly high toll: think too many late nights, personal commitments going by the wayside, and a growing resentment towards a job she really likes.

So we ran a little experiment. For one week, she picked one thing to accomplish each day. Just one.

Guess what happened? Yup, she was able to get it done … every single day.

The simple act of starting each day with the question, “What’s the most important thing I can do today?”, helped her keep her eye on that specific ball and see it through to completion.

The experiment has become permanent. Her stress is down, her real priorities are getting done, and she’s an all-around happier camper.

If you find yourself in a similar situation – you start and stop a bazillion things, or just as bad, you never even start what’s on your agenda – try the just one thing experiment.

First thing in the morning choose the one task that’s most important to complete that day. And no cheating ;-). When I suggested this approach to my client Jenny, she tried to negotiate for three. Nope, it’s gotta be one, because that’s virtually guaranteed to be doable. And if it’s truly the most important thing, you’ll find a way to get it done.

Once you get started you’ll quickly see progress in what you’re accomplishing … and in living your day the way you want to live your life.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” ~ Albert Einstein