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!

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!

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.

cancel written with typewriter

Feel Free to Unfriend Me

This week I shared one of my favorite quotes by Saint Francis of Assisi, “Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart.” This concept is essential to an issue for which I have been struggling.

Every day online and offline, friends and family members share messages like: “Before I get comments asking if I really believe this, the answer is yes. Please feel free to unfriend me.” “Bet no one will repost this.” and “Here is what I believe. F*CK your feelings.” There has always been the random person or celebrity who says something off-putting. It is easier to deal with aggressive, confrontational attitudes when it is not someone for which I care. What I am struggling with, is how to react when these words and attitude are coming from a family member or someone I have know for decades.

It hurts when it seems a good friend will choose their ideology over our relationship. My struggle with today’s aggressive attitude stems from feeling that I am less important than the person’s ideology. It appears that my loved one’s opinion is more important than our friendship. Just like in the Civil War, brother is turning again brother over a belief. Family members and friends are terminating relationships online and offline because of one post, because of one confrontation. I feel as if I need to accept someone’s beliefs and aggression, or I lose our friendship.

I also struggle when the person I love is believing alternative facts over what I perceive is truth. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs. I do honor and accept that. What hurts is when we can not have a conversation about our differences. It is no longer about personal belief; belief has become non-debatable facts. If I have learned anything this lifetime is that I don’t know anything. Throughout my life I have been shown again and I again how what I took as gospel truth is not true in all situations, or maybe not true at all. These lessons have given me a humility and a willingness to hear someone else’s opinion. It scares me what will happen to us as a society when we stop listening to each other and stop being open to new thoughts and new information.

So, what do we do?  If coaching has taught me anything it is that I can not change anyone’s opinion, belief, thoughts, or actions. They need to be open, willing, and ready to make the change. To navigate these emotionally difficult times, we need to focus on improving our own actions and reactions. We are the only ones we can affect. The solution, as always, is not to change others but to change ourselves.

Understanding

“I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.” This Abraham Lincoln quote was the inspiration for a post I wrote earlier this year about the importance of seeking to understand someone, not immediately disregarding those we disagree with. In seeking to understand, go deeper than the issue. Find out the why behind the issue. Why is this issue important? Why do they believe in this or that solution? Why do they need a resolution? What I usually find when I go deeper than the issue, is that most always the motivation is fear. For instance, this article by the Atlantic goes into why some white men support Trump. It is not about the issues of Trump’s policies. The deeper reason for this group is personal; it is a feeling of disenfranchisement and worthlessness. The sense of power and pride once held is disappearing and this group does not know how to feel good about themselves on a personal level without it. Some men are adapting to the new world, and some are struggling.

The world is constantly changing, and it is scary. No matter what your beliefs or your situation, there is always something that can create fear and a sense of instability. The same goes for those around you. Have the courage to seek to understand. Once you can move past the surface issue and seek to understand, you open the door to real dialog and healing.

Compassion

When we can glimpse the “why” behind the issue, we can find compassion. When I see someone struggling with their lack of ability or willingness to adapt, I see a person in pain.

In my own life, I have struggled to learn to put people above deadlines and tasks. My dogged drive to complete projects was often at odds with those around me. I knew of their frustration with me since my moniker at the time was, “bitch.” They thought I was being insensitive and aggressive – many of the labels I can put on others today. And I was. But I was also feeling pain, joylessness, fear, anger, and frustration. I would be angry at others who did not see the completion of a task as important as I did. I would feel frustration and failure when I couldn’t make things happen. During that time, none of my well-meaning friends and managers could make me see the futility of my focus on work. It has taken time, therapy, re-education, and willingness on my part to change. So, it is with those around us.

If you can, switch to understanding and compassion with the difficult people in your life. Understand that they are actually struggling. Look at times in your own life when you were on the attack, protecting the things that made you feel worthy. We all struggle at one time or another. Provide the same compassion to those around you that you hope they would show you.

Acceptance

Most of our pain comes from lack of acceptance of reality. As an idealist, I often feel frustrated by the dissonance between how people are acting and how I believe they can and should act. The person is not causing my pain and frustration. I am causing my own pain and frustration by not accepting what really is. Byron Katie has written a lovely book to help us accept what is.

When working with those who want to lose weight, the first thing we do is focus on accepting their current weight. Before anything can change, we need to first accept the truth of the current situation. Sometimes that situation is not pretty and perhaps very harmful. But it is the reality. We need to first accept the truth of the reality before we can make changes in our lives and the lives of others.

Acceptance also includes accepting people as they are. Accepting their good. Accepting their bad. None of us has lived a perfect life. We have all made bad choices and gone through bad times. As we would hope that others could accept us when we are acting poorly, we also need to accept that part of the human experience is being imperfect.

Patience

If you thought understanding, compassion, and acceptance are hard, you won’t like patience. Patience is a struggle for me and my fellow Type-A’s. But patience is not only needed, it is essential. In my younger years, I thought I could and should affect everything – immediately and decisively. These days I am seeing the power of patience. When I can pause, solutions come to the surface on their own. Others may step up to make improvements for society. Individuals are given the space to make changes to themselves. When we can give others the space and time to do their own work, no matter what that work looks like, we are really acting in the solution.

Remember, we have all experienced struggles in our lives which made us act in unbecoming ways. I know I have. And I know that with time, compassion, acceptance, and understanding, I have changed. My hope is treating others with this dignity will give them the space to change. If you are also struggling with those around you, I hope that this post helped you find at least a little peace and understanding.

mended heart

Our Role in Healing

Last Saturday, Joe Biden made a call to the country to unify and heal. He pledged “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify. . . We need to stop treating our opponents as enemies. They are not our enemies. . . This is the time to heal in America.” Hopefully, the Biden administration will lead the way to heal the country, but he can not do it alone. We all have a responsibility to heal our nation, our communities, and our families.

Stop Spreading Hate

The easiest route to take is always one of blame and attack. No matter where you stand, it can be easy to attack “the other.” Instead of pointing out the wrongs of others, be aware of how you are adding to the distrust and distress. Are you adding to misunderstanding and separation? Are you spreading misinformation? Are you sharing negative attacks on others? Or are you seeking to understand and accept?

Stop Labeling

No one is solely a Democrat or a Republican. We are women, men, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers. We are multi-faceted individuals. When we label and attack “the other,” we are being close-minded and closed-hearted. Seeing others one-dimensionally keeps us stuck in duality. When we can begin to look at people fully and completely, we can begin to have understanding and compassion.

Photo by Ante Gudelj on Unsplash

Reconnect

During this election and over the last few years, I have emotionally lost friends and family members to differing ideologies. Somehow our opinions on one subject became more important than the lifetime of experiences we had together. When did a political ideology become more important than family and friendships? We need to look at each other as friends, family, and people again, instead of boxing someone into this or that label. Stop using labels for groups of people and remember that the person you see is not a snowflake liberal – it is your loving Uncle Ted. That woman is not a crazy conspiracy theorist; it is the sibling you spent your entire life knowing. If we are going to move forward, we need to move out of rhetoric and into compassion for humanity on a person by person level.

Be Open

Much of the pain these last years is due to isolation and close-mindedness on all sides. I believe Biden calling us to “give each other a chance” applies to each of us. We need to take off the blinders of our viewpoint and be open to learn about others. Start by not just reading what agrees with your narrative. Look at multiple sources of information from liberal, conservative, and international viewpoints. Be open to what is written and draw your own conclusions. Don’t only listen to one source. Don’t negate immediately what does not agree with your view. Be open to new points of view. Knowledge is power and wisdom is how we use that knowledge.  

Choose

Each of us has the power in each and every moment to make life better – or worse. Biden beautifully said, “It is a decision, a choice we make and if we decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” Are you choosing to make things worse, to keep us stuck, or are you choosing to act in ways that bring us all together?

Walk the Talk

If we want to be accepted, we need to accept others. If we want to be understood, we need to seek to understand others. We can’t expect someone to accept us as we are, if we won’t accept them for who they are. If we want inclusion, we need to include. We need to walk the talk and lead by our example.

Be Compassionate

I don’t know anyone who wasn’t emotionally engaged in the past months, if not years. We all have an emotional hangover, no matter where we stand on the results. Change – whether it is our address, our spouse, our job, or our political leaders – is difficult. As humans we like consistency, and any change is challenging. When we can move past the fear and anger of change, we can begin to build together. Even if we want things to go smoothly and we try to act our best self, we may not always. As we hope others will have compassion for us in our struggles, we need to show compassion to them as well.

Remember No One is Perfect

Biden used a very interesting quote in his speech, “We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darker impulses.” None of us are all bad. None of us are all good. We are all a blend. We are all human. As we begin to rebuild together, seek to find the good in everyone. It is there if we take the time to look for it. “Spread the faith.”

ghost on the street

This Halloween, let’s pledge to stop ghosting

We will get to ghosting in a minute, let me first take a step back.

Over time, the focus of this blog and my coaching has shifted from how to lessen the negative effects of stress to instead how to prevent stress by uncovering and diminishing the root causes of stress. Many of the professionals I work with need deeper assistance than just time management and prioritization skills. Most of the time their stress was caused by the fact that the career, role, or company culture they were in did not serve them. Their stress was a result of not being able to recognize they were in the wrong place and didn’t know how to give themselves permission to change.

When I look at the world we are currently in, I see the same issue on a global level. We are trying to learn how to cope in a messed-up world, where what we should be trying to do is change the paradigm. As I step back and look at the root causes of much of our pain and conflict right now, it is due to our self-focus and our resistance to learn how to come together. In the Western culture where individualism, personal freedom, and individual success is valued, we have replaced the common good with self-focused desires. What is keeping us from coming together is self-centeredness, hyper-independence, and an ego run riot.

I am not saying that we are all self-serving, cold-hearted narcissists. What we do need to be honest about, however, is how our thinking is usually focused on our own wants and needs, instead of including the needs of others or at least being mindful of how our actions affect others. For instance, I have conversations almost daily with my job seekers who are upset that after interviewing multiple times, the human resources representative is unresponsive. The candidate is never informed if they are still being considered or if the role has been filled. They are just ghosted, as the young kids say, by the company. The irony is that many times these same candidates a few weeks in the future, ghost me. I don’t know if they landed a new position or what happened. They are just gone. The bottom line in both cases is that people are not thinking of how their actions or inactions (i.e., ghosting) affects others. They are oblivious to and have no consideration for how what they do or don’t do affects others. In their mind, the relationship is over and they don’t even think of giving even the lowliest of text message response. It is not that they are mean, they just aren’t thinking any further than themselves.

As Lily Tomlin said, “We are all in this together, alone.”* These days I think we need to flip the quote. We feel that we are in this alone. Even with all the technology providing us the tools to be close, more and more people are feeling isolated. We are not alone. It is not me against the world. I am part of the world. Humanity is a living, breathing organism of which I am but a part. As more and more of us can see that we are not isolated, that we are not the only and solely important person in the world, we can begin to make decisions and policies that benefit us all as a whole. And we can begin to heal the root causes of our stress.

As a first step, let’s stop ghosting each other.

*I have also seen this quote as “We’re all in this together – by ourselves.” I could not verify the correct version.