Matrix there is no spoon

We are People. Not Labels.

The first half of my life, I pursued truth and absolutes. As a perfectionist, I wanted to know what was absolutely perfect, then live every moment living up to that ideal. My second half of life is being spent releasing the notion that there is any absolute truth and perfection. I am learning that my daily pursuit should be focused on love, acceptance, and compassion.

I used to be a box checker. Every day I had a litany of to-do’s each with their own little check box. Like a bull in a china shop I bulldozed over people and propriety to complete tasks and check off boxes so I could feel that I was perfect, successful, and therefore worthy.

Slowly, I learned that I was the one creating the boxes. The boxes were not some supernatural absolute directive. They were created by me and therefore could be erased and ignored by me. I was the one who defined life and therefore I could also redefine how I wanted to live life.

It reminds me of the first Matrix movie where Neo visits the Oracle. In the waiting room is a child apparently bending a spoon with its mind.

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

There is no spoon. There are no boxes. There are no absolutes. Releasing the notion of absolutes has given me a freedom I never experienced before. It has taught me how to bend. It has allowed me to be more compassionate. When I labeled right and wrong, good and bad, I was filled with hate, disappointment, and fear. In releasing the notion that there is an absolute, and accepting that I can never absolutely know what is right and wrong, has freed me to see each situation in the moment and discern the truth and appropriate action in that moment.

None of us is perfect. We all have times in our lives when we did not act in a way of which we are proud. As I am sure you don’t want to be judged for that low point of your life, neither does anyone else. The world is changing at an incredible rate right now. Some of us are excited about the possibilities that it brings. Others are terrified that what they have always known is gone and are experiencing a massive extinction burst. No matter where we are on that continuum, we need to take things slow, process our feelings, and stay away from labeling.

Instead of making assumptions because of someone’s actions, seek to understand. Instead of labeling someone, remember who they also are. That person is not a Trump supporter, that is my brother. That is not a snowflake Liberal, that is my BFF. That is not a seditionist that attacked the capital, it is a friend from high school. That is not evil media, that is my brother-in-law. That is not a racist, it is my aunt. That is not big tech, it is my client.

This week, catch yourself putting labels on people. Look beyond the label and remember that each of us are just humans doing the best that we can.

looking into the future

Be the Change

As we move into the new year, many of us have historically created new years’ resolutions. After 2020, we may just be praying to survive, tentatively embracing the unknown. For me, instead of just enduring the new year, my goal is to live purposefully. Inspired by the book, Becoming Better Grownups, I want to live every day making the world just a little bit better.

Tiny Nudges

I seem to have always had a drive to make the world better, to help those around me. Many times, this passion has been a hindrance. It manifested in an expectation that I could and should change the world. I felt a responsibility to make everything peaceful, fair, and just. Obviously, this is a tall order and not within my ability.  Two recent learnings are helping me refocus my desire to save the world.

First, I don’t know what is right. When I was young, I thought I knew right and wrong, good and bad. I thought my way was the right way. What I now know is that there is no absolute right and wrong. What is best can change depending on the circumstance. Sometimes what I believe is the best option, sometimes it is not. I have set aside my immature notion that I know right from wrong or even that there is an absolute right and wrong. I have learned to pause and wait for clear direction and to not act on my ego-filled judgements.

Second, a concept Brad Montague expresses deftly in his book, is that change does not come across in grand gestures. It is not LaRusso winning the championships, Bruce Willis defeating Hans Gruber, or one single amazing event that changes the world in an instant. Change happens slowly through almost microscopic shifts – the kind word on the right day, a reminder of an inspirational book, sharing experience strength and hope. A tiny nudge in the right direction can be one in a line of many small efforts that lead to the big change. Evolution happens slowly over time and so does changing personally and globally for the better.

Make the World Awesome

Instead of looking at what you can do for money or what will impress your friends, live your life by creating awesome wherever you go. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What do you do instinctively without even trying?  If you focused on using your inherent talents for good, how could you make the world more awesome? Maybe it would be a new vaccine. Maybe it would be a way to make home schooling easier. Maybe it would be an awesome piece of entertainment to bring joy to others.

Don’t look at what the world needs. When I do this, I think of things that need to be done but I personally have no ability to do them. First look to your passion. What is like breathing to you? What can you not help yourself from doing?  Maybe you will know immediately how your inherent skill will help others, maybe you will uncover that over time. Either way, start with you and have the courage to share your special gift with the world.

As we move into 2021, won’t you join me in living a more purposeful life? Dig deep, uncover, and accept what you are uniquely created to do. Have the courage to share that talent with the world. And know that your small efforts will be part of a chain reaction of efforts which will bring about good in the world.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, healthy, and inspiring new year!

Becoming Better Grownups

What Do You Love About What You Do?

For Christmas, a dear friend gave me the book Becoming Better Grownups by Brad Montague. I read the 300-page book in just a few days. Don’t be too impressed with my reading speed, there are a lot of pictures in the book. Brad Montague is the creative force behind Kid President and was on a mission through this book to help us all be better adults. In the process, he uncovered many secrets to a happy life.

One of his insights is around our work and how we spend our days. So often we are focused on the labels, on the nouns of what we do. “I am a doctor.” “I work at this firm.” “I have this degree.” Those are all facts, and sometimes impressive facts. But we don’t live and enjoy facts. We live and enjoy verbs. Brad humbly shares his experience at the Jefferson Awards dinner in Washington, D.C. where by chance, he was seated next to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He was terrified because her noun, Supreme Court Justice, was so much more impressive than his noun, YouTube video guy. But then she asked him, not what he did (noun), but “What do you love about what you do?” (verb).

That question changes the discussion, doesn’t it? She was not interested in someone’s resume. She wanted to know their passion, what makes them unique, what makes them get up in the morning. Ms. Sotomayor wanted to know their verb, their experience of life. The why of what they do.

Take a moment to think of how you would respond if I asked you right now what do you love about what you do? For me, I love to support people through difficult times, to help them see the inherent power they have, and I am honored and filled with hope and joy when I see someone transformed, to see someone take control of their life again – to love life again.

When asked why Ms. Sotomayor asks this question, because she did ask it of everyone she met that night, she responded that, “when you know what somebody loves, you know who they really are.” When we get past the labels and dig deeper into why someone does something, we get to know that person on the inside not just on the outside.

Inspirationally, Brad Montague reinvented how he saw himself and his work. He stopped thinking about how his work defined him and began working from a place of love. He stopped thinking about how he was viewed because of his title, and instead ensured that what he did inspired others. He is now in the business of love, created by love, given in love.

This refocus is also a tool of motivation. Not all work is fun and inspiring, but when I can remember that the TPS report I am doing, is going to help someone grow, I find I have the motivation to do some of the less glamorous parts of my job.

What do you love about what you do? What would it mean to you and your work to focus on the purpose of love and sharing love?

raise a child

Raise the Vibration

As we come upon the tail end of a challenging year, I find it important to look with hope into the future instead of reliving this year’s pain. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we need to sweep issues under the rug. What we do need to do is focus on what we want, not what we have received previously. We have the power to create a new and better world.

Instead of staying in the negative vibration that was 2020, start out the new year by bringing in a new higher vibration in your life and in the lives of others. In this TED Talk, Joanna McEwan talks about vibration and shares how we can create serendipity in our lives. Serendipity are the unplanned and unforeseen events and incidents in our lives that benefit us. I call Serendipity, Spectacularly Perfect Events. Both Ms. McEwan and I believe that we can increase the Spectacularly Perfect Events in our lives. In her talk, she does a wonderful job of explaining how frequency may be the reason for these events. She also talks about entrainment or that a higher vibration can raise up a lower vibration.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

For me, I don’t know the science behind positive changes in our lives, I just have my and my clients’ positive experience of using the tools below to create a better experience.

Focus

We receive what we focus on. If you fill your mind with negative news, you will only see and expect negativity. Every day purposely choose to focus on what you want and need. Don’t be unrealistic about your current situation, but mentally focus on and physically work on what you want the situation to become.

Gather

Like attracts like. If you surround yourself with friends who see the glass as half empty, you will soon pick up on their hopelessness – be around the energy you want. Find groups that share higher, hopeful, supportive beliefs, not doom and gloom. Personally, I attend almost daily Zoom meetings with like-minded people who are trying to make themselves and the world better. Whether it is entrainment or something else, I know that if I join the meeting in a poor mood, by the time I leave I feel lighter and more hopeful.  

Gratitude

One of the reasons gratitude works is it helps us focus on what we already have that is good. As humans, we innately focus on the bad to avoid danger. Therefore, we need to balance this unconscious negativity bias, by actively searching out the good. Every morning I write a list of all the good in my life. It helps me balance out my expectations and experience.

Compassion

Hate begets more hate. Many people are making poor choices these days but berating and attacking them does not enlighten them. Look at others with compassion. Seek to understand. Respond with love and empathy. Be an example of what the world could look like. Show others the way.

Let’s create the world we want; not repeat the world we experienced this year. I hope the ideas above give you a few ways to get started. Wishing you all the best in 2021!

the dawn

Darkness Before the Dawn

For good or bad, one of my driving forces is perfectionism. Because of this, I am very focused on solutions, searching always for a tool or a way of being that would lead to right choices and perfect ways of living. My focus had been on the ideal, the end goal of perfectionism. It wasn’t until recently that I began to see the importance of the dark before the dawn. Before we can strive for perfection, we need to be utterly imperfect.

One of my daily readings is from The Language of Letting Go. This week Melody Beattie shared the concept that “denial is the first step toward acceptance.” I am a big fan of acceptance, so much so that I devoted a whole chapter in my book to acceptance. What this quote pointed out to me is that before acceptance, we are first in denial. If we were not in denial, there would be no reason to learn about acceptance. It is the painful place of denial we start in that gives us the ability to strive for better.

Photo by Victor ZH on Unsplash

This reminded me of the Inside Out movie that came out many years ago now. One of the biggest lessons it taught was that before each of the happy moments of our lives, there is sadness. It is in the darkness that we begin to value the light. It is in our difficult moments that we learn there is a different way. It is in the hardships that we learn to value and be grateful for the good.

Over the past years, I have loosened my desire for perfectionism. Perfectionism is no longer my goal, mostly because it is not attainable, but also because it is not enjoyable. Life is not about perfection. Life is about continuous improvement. And to have improvement we first need to start with the difficult. We are not here to become some ideal physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. We are here simply to improve, to become just that little bit better than where we started. We are here to learn a lesson, to experience the journey.

When I am challenged these days, I do not fall into a pity party or launch into a mad rush for solutions. Instead, I step back and ask what I am to learn from this experience. What is this challenge here to teach me?  These questions help me rise above the challenge itself and see this as an opportunity to learn and grow. And I thank the challenge. For without the challenge, I could not grow.

2020 has given us many things to fear and worry about. It helps me to see them as the platform for our growth. Issues with America’s politics, race relations, and institutions have come to light. It is in this negativity that we are given the opportunity to make a change. It is through the awareness of what is off that we are given the incentive to transform.

Look around you. What are your current struggles? Instead of feeding them with fear and worry, ask them how they are here to help. Are you having challenges relating to family members with differing political views? Perhaps it is an opportunity to learn compassion and acceptance. Look at each of your challenges and your fears then explore how they can be a gift to you. What lesson are they presenting to you? Next, take action. Even the smallest step can begin to make a difference for you and others.

women together

You are not alone

I remember the isolation of winters in Chicago. I can’t imagine what it is like this year after months of summer-time isolation. Even though I am in a location where I can still walk safely and warmly outside, with the holidays upon us I am beginning to feel the pangs of loneliness and isolation. As my old crutches for sadness – alcohol and comfort foods – are not an option anymore and I can only play so much Candy Crush, it has become apparent that I need to find better, longer-lasting, and healthier means of curing loneliness.

Rachel Wurzman shared her interesting findings about how our ability to connect socially and compulsive spectrum disorders are located in the same part of our brain, the striatum.  This is why when we feel disconnected from others, we reach for compulsive addiction behaviors whether they appear as excessive Amazon ordering, Netflix binging, or drug use. Much of the time, we are not even aware that we are trying to feed our loneliness with a candy bar, but somewhere deep in our brain we are trying to sooth our inner child with a quick fix. There is a better way.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Awareness

The first step is to increase our awareness. Are you obsessed with shopping, cigarettes, chocolate, Facebook, Fortnite, or YouTube? Are you constantly feeding your mind or your body, but you still feel off?  Much of our lives are lived on autopilot. We feel poorly and we unconsciously reach for something we think will make us feel better – which usually only makes us feel better for a moment, if at all. Instead, slow down, use meditation and mindfulness to come back to the present, and think before you act.

The Real Thing

Take the time to uncover what you really want and need. The addictions in our lives are bandages for our pain, not medicine. Take the time to uncover what it is that you really want and need. Where is your pain and what is the real long-lasting solution?  Focus on identifying and securing a real solution not an unhealthy substitute. In your awareness, make new and better choices.

Reach Out

As I have written about before and have been reminded of lately, the best way we can get what we need, is to give what we need. If we want to feel connected, we need to seek connection. Isolation does not cure loneliness, reaching out does. Connection and being of service are the best ways to feel part of a community again.

Remember to make real connections. Social media is a platform more to compare than share. Make real connections with real people. Zoom and telephone are wonderful means. Make use of every interaction you have. As you go about your day, make eye contact with the cashier, ask your co-worker how they are, wave hello to your neighbor. If you are aware, there are multiple times throughout the day to make a connection.

Make a Commitment

Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough. We must apply.” I am sure nothing I wrote here is a new thought for you. You know what will help. It is not the knowing but the acting where we struggle. Before you move on to the next article, make a written commitment to reach out to others. Personally, I have standing appointments with my close friends and a list of those I can call when I have time or need. Take action to reach out. In your effort, you will heal more than just yourself.