giving

Service and Surrender

At different times of my life, I seem to have themes on which I am focusing. Two current themes I keep sensing right now are Service and Surrender.

Service

I grew up the daughter of two consummate volunteers. Under their tutelage, we were always helping others in small or large ways. At times I resented the need to spend my time giving to others, but now I see service as the ultimate gift to me. When I find myself depressed and unhappy, I usually notice that I am solely focused on me and my worries. Don’t know about you, but when I think of my worries I get caught in a downward cycle. The more I think about them the lower I get and the more I worry. It is an ugly cycle.

giving
Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash

When I instead turn to others, to their needs, to their worries, to their growth, I find release. Not only do I feel the joy that naturally comes from giving to others, but I am released from my personal torment. Giving to others is a form of gratitude. When we listen to others’ issues or can help them in some tangible fashion, it brings awareness of all the good in our lives. Visit a friend in the hospital, be grateful for your health. Give someone a ride, be grateful you have a car.  Give children a meal, be grateful for the food in your home.

Service is always a gift that is given freely, with no resentment and with no expectations for compensation. Service is the ultimate in acceptance and compassion. Giving freely and receiving so much in return.

Surrender

The song “Landslide” has been popping up in my playlist and seems to encapsulate the surrender part of my current theme. In the interpretation of the lyrics I like, Stevie Nicks is expressing looking back on her life, on the persona she created then “the landslide brought” her down. The life she created, the roles she played, even the accomplishments she had now seem meaningless or maybe not as meaningful. She is looking to make a change from what she created on the outside into what she is on a deeper level.

Surrender is the ultimate letting go. It is letting go of beliefs held. It is letting go of expectations. It is letting go of pride. It is letting go of judgment. Surrender is letting go of our ego. This term is not just the concept of ego as self-importance or self-worth. Ego is all that is “I.” Our ego is who we think we are or who we think we need to be. It is our thoughts, beliefs, memories, and physical self.

The pain one often feels in life is tied to the ego and it usually revolves around fear. We are afraid of not being good enough, afraid of not being accepted, afraid of being judged, afraid of loss. Our fears become our dictators. We act and react in life as a response to our fears. Our choices are made to keep us from the negative outcome of our fears. Love and peace come from letting go of our ego and the fears protecting that ego. Surrender is seeing that we are something other than the self. Surrender is releasing the personas we have built for ourselves. Surrender is embracing our connection to something larger than we as an individual are.

What are your current themes? What do surrender and service mean to you?

soccer ball

Get on the Ball

At a lovely breakfast with Marlies, a dear friend of mine, she told me about an issue she had with a recent boss. The analogy she gave to describe the situation was brilliant, so I asked if I could share it will you all.

Marlies was very frustrated with her boss. The manager was not very focused. Marlies’ told the manager to stop treating her like a soccer ball – telling her to do one thing, then minutes later redirecting her to do something else. Like a soccer ball she was sent right then left then backwards then diagonally. Either the manager didn’t know what needed to be done, was reactionary, or maybe she was just on a power kick to boss people around. Whatever the issue, Marlies requested that she be treated like a golf ball not a soccer ball. A golf ball is focused on one result and is continually sent closer and closer to that goal. No distractions. No side trips. No confusion over the goal to be accomplished.

soccer ballDo you have a manager that treats you like a soccer ball? How frustrating is it to never know the goal, to never be able to complete the task? With all the changes of direction it is hard to do our best work and to feel fulfilled.

If you run your own business, are you treating it like a soccer ball? Are you distracted by a new technology, a sudden opportunity, or the next best way to run your business? Often businesses, especially in the early stages, are running in circles on the soccer field. A clear strategy is not put to paper and followed. Perhaps the owner does not know the right course and is jumping at whatever comes up in the hopes that it will lead to success. Success, however, is usually the result of focused and consistent efforts.

For us personally, the soccer ball analogy is usually the cause of overwhelm and stress. We are the old juggler trying to keep fifteen plates spinning. We are running from one commitment or emergency to another. We are trying to do too much because we have over-committed and won’t ask for help. We have put the importance of the tasks above our own health and run ourselves ragged. Instead of finishing one task before moving to the next, we are inefficiently switching between tasks.

Besides being a soccer ball – those of us being pushed or pushing ourselves in multiple directions – sometimes we are a ball in a pinball machine. We are floating through life, failing to act, and being sent this way and that depending on what we bump into. We do not act. We are only reacting to things around us. The result is the same as the soccer ball and is even more harmful because we are completely out of control of our personal goals.

Where in your life are you unfocused and constantly shifting? What is the result? How does it feel to constantly change directions?

How would things shift if you focused on a single goal? You don’t have to make a hole in one. It is not speed but efficiency we are after. Being focused and not changing course constantly gives us the power to more effectively achieve our goals.

Take some time to review your work and home life. Are you a soccer ball or golf ball? How are ways you can become more focused?

airplane above the clouds

Rise Above

As my plane approached Chicago and I enjoyed the warm sun streaming through the porthole window onto my face, I remembered that Chicago was in the midst of intense rainstorms. Where was the rain? Perhaps the forecast was wrong.

After a few minutes, the captain began the descent and the plane went below the beautiful sunlit clouds plunging into darkness. Rain poured. Lightening danced. Here was the rainstorm that the forecasters had portended. Interesting how that storm was not apparent, and was not a worry, when we were above the clouds at a higher altitude.

airplane above the clouds
Photo by Thammie Cascales on Unsplash

We spend most of life under the clouds. We are in the midst of the storm of life dealing with issues, challenges, sorrows, and conflicts. From where we are, we can’t see anything besides rain. We only see the storm. We only see the pain. We only see the issues. We only see the challenges. We only see the sorrows. Life is hard. This is only true because we are keeping ourselves at this lower altitude, this lower vibration. We soak in the negativity. We resonate with the pain. We don’t expect better.

It is possible to rise above the storm. Since we don’t have our own planes and a pilot’s license to take us to a higher level, we can use these tools to help us rise above into a higher vibration.

Gratitude: Our minds automatically go to the bad, to the danger so we can protect ourselves. It is a biological, survival technique handed down generation to generation. And it is necessary for our survival. It is not necessary, or conducive, to our happiness. When you feel stuck below the clouds replaying your pain and woe, take time to list at least five (5) things for which you are grateful. This act refocuses our brains and our attitude to see above the clouds.

Act: When we are down, we tend to wallow in the negativity. We stare blankly at bad television while mindlessly ingesting our vice of choice. We have low energy. Instead of taking a nap which will not recharge us, take action. Muster whatever energy you have. Clean the pot that has been in the sink for a week. Pick a weed or two. Go for a walk. Waking up our bodies will also wake up our minds, taking us out of morbid reflection.

Connection: Talk to a friend. Talk to a stranger. By reaching out to another we get out of the loop of sadness replaying in our minds. We are listening to another. We are connected to someone else. We are no longer in the mind-storm and once more connected to a larger world.

Service: A step further than just connecting is to actually serve someone else. This could be helping at a soup kitchen or smiling at the cashier who appears to be having a bad day. When we give to another, when we wipe away someone else’s storm clouds, we receive the same joy in return, and then some. In giving to another we are not just affecting them but are healing everyone they touch, including ourselves.

When you find yourself in a storm, remember you can rise above the clouds. You can find your joy again through gratitude, action, connection, and service. Through these tools you can rise above the rain clouds into the sunny skies.

taking action

Power in Action

Job transition is very emotional for the job seeker. Losing their job is often unexpected and makes them feel insecure. They are heartbroken to be let go after decades of service or recent 80-hour weeks of dedication. They are concerned they are too old, too inexperienced, or don’t have enough education to land their next job. Added to all of these emotions, is the truth that they are not in charge of the outcome. They can not determine when a job is posted. They can not ensure they will receive an interview. They can not guarantee they will receive an offer. All of this lands them into a state of depression and hopelessness. The result is many job search candidates feel powerless and disheartened.

To help them feel empowered and strong enough to make the effort, I help them release and refocus.

taking action
Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

First, they need to release their focus on the outcome. Many candidates say they want a position by a certain date or at a certain company. It is not ideal to have these as goals because they can not affect the outcome. Focusing on things we can not affect only creates worry, stress, and tension. Together the candidate and I work to let go of what they can not affect.

Second, refocus. Instead of looking at the end result, we look at what they can affect during the process. We work on fine-tuning their resume and LinkedIn profile; both things are very much in their control. We focus on having a strategy for their search; they can control their strategy. We focus on their efforts to network; they can control their outreach and we release the outcome from that outreach. We focus on preparing for interviews; they can not control the interviewer or the results of the interview, but they can control how well they prepare before and perform during the interview.

By releasing what they can not control and by controlling what they can, the candidates find much more power and peace in their search. And they are also much more effective. Instead of spending time worrying about things out of their control, they are working on the things they can affect and therefore progress faster and better in their search.

This reminds me of the serenity prayer attributed to theologian-philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” For the job seeker, they need to release into the truth that there are certain parts of the job search they can not change. Then they need the courage to take action on the things they can affect. And, during our coaching sessions, I usually help them to navigate between the two.

What in your life is currently making you impatient or upset? What parts of the situation are beyond your control? What would it take for you to release your focus on these aspects of the issue? Then investigate what you can change. What is in your ability to affect? How can you summon the strength and courage to take action? As you explore your challenge, reach out to me or another for some support in determining what you can affect and what you can release.

Whether for one specific issue or in navigating the complexity of your life, take some time every morning to categorize your worries into accept and act. Then summon the patience and trust to release what you can not affect and the courage to affect what you can.

nighttime routine

The Necessity of Daily Habits

Throughout my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, I enforce again and again the importance of Daily Habits. “Because life changes, it is necessary to have Daily Habits to keep us centered and focused on the life we want. This is why they are Daily Habits, not one-time tools. The work in this book is not to be completed and then forgotten. It is one thing to know the road. It is something different to walk it.”

If you have read my blog for any time now, you must know that I am not perfect. Because of this, sometimes I forget to take my own advice. Recently, I fell off the Daily Habits bandwagon. “I got this,” I think. “I wrote the book, literally, on stress relief and living joyously. So now I don’t have to put any effort into it. I can just get on with living.” Wrong.

nighttime routineIt is ok to take a break from our Daily Habits. Maybe on vacation or during an emergency. A few days here or there. Or perhaps we take a bit of time off, so we can consider which Habits are helping us and which need to be revised. But taking off weeks or months at a time can be detrimental. After being away from my Daily Habits, I first notice that I reach for bandage solutions to handle difficult situations. Instead of being centered and having the ability to think clearly, I look to quick-fix pacifiers for issues. They make me feel better in the moment, but they don’t resolve the issue. Then, over time, I notice that I am not handling non-difficult situations well either. I am irritable, resentful, and triggered by the smallest things. I find myself having tantrums like a three-year-old who is not getting their way, feeling out of control and powerless. Then finally, I hit whatever bottom I need to in order to snap out of this phase and go back to my Daily Habits. Within a few days I am more centered, have clearer focus on issues, and just enjoy life better.

If you do not already have Daily Habits or if perhaps it is time to revised and reinvigorate your Daily Habits, let’s review the components of a Daily Habit routine. First, create your personal Daily Habits by what feels good to you. Absolute right and wrong don’t exist. Some things will work for you, and some won’t. Consider it okay. Create your habits from your center, your heart, and your core. Ensure your habits are in alignment with you. Here are some components you can choose from for your Daily Habits or create some of your own. Find two or three that resonate with you and that you can commit to doing daily.

  • Every morning read from the inspirational book of your choosing. What you read and even how much you read is not as important as the text being something that makes you feel calm and centered, and that it helps you see your life, your relationships, and the world more objectively.
  • Do something to feed your soul. Whether it is something creative, cooking a wonderful meal, or playing Sudoku, spend a little time doing something that stirs your soul.
  • Before getting out of bed think of five (5) things for which to be grateful. These gratitudes can be as simple as having a nice bed to wake up in and air to breathe.
  • At the beginning of the day write your intentions and goals to focus your efforts.
  • Spend at least fifteen (15) minutes in the State of Gray or meditation.
  • Move! Take a walk, practice yoga, or go for a swim. Whatever gets your blood pumping.
  • Google some different breathing techniques and find one that calms and centers you.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to check in with your mood, stress level, thoughts, and attitude. If you are headed down the wrong path, try to get back to center.
  • Take some time to write, say or listen to positive affirmations.
  • At the end of the day, journal about the good things that happened to you throughout the day. We tend to focus on the negative so purposefully calling out the good can shift our mindset.

Remember to use these Habits daily. They are not something to learn, have your life changed by, and then move on. The key to making permanent changes in your life is by using Daily Habits to help you through everyday stress. These habits also give you a solid foundation to manage when major stressful events occur.

Share with us here the Daily Habits you are going to commit to for the next thirty days.

avocado truffle mac and cheese

The Crisis of Comfort

Back in the early 1800’s, a French sociologist came to America and wrote a paper called, “Democracy in America,” where he contents American “minds are universally preoccupied with meeting the body’s every need and attending to life’s little comforts.”  I learned about this paper through a very interesting Boston Globe article which continues to explore the idea of American’s need for comfort. The article talks about how “The frontier spirit may be part of the national psyche, but Americans are still lounging in “athleisure” outfits and choosing vehicles for their cupholders.” This well-written article asks what the end game of the search for comfort is. What happens when we can’t handle a modicum of discomfort? When life happens, do we have the tools to handle adversity? And, as I have noticed, when we don’t first learn from a lesson, they become harder and hard. Therefore, as we cling to comfort, will life get harder and harder until we wake up?

In light of this article, my question is what is the price of comfort? What are we losing as individuals by not allowing ourselves to experience the difficult parts of life? Are losing the chance to grow because we never step outside our comfort zone? Are we losing our sense of self and personal power because we can’t handle a little adversity?

avocado truffle mac and cheese
https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/stovetop-avocado-mac-and-cheese/

I read this Boston Globe article months before my recent visit to the States. In the States, I was surrounded by comfort I have not experience in over a year, and I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed taking a long hot shower without the worry of running out of water. But viewing all the advertisements about comfort and seeing those around me constantly obsessed with having zero discomfort was a bit unnerving. Is it really an inconvenience to drive one extra block to buy overpriced coffee? Can we not change our eating habits so we don’t need twenty medications to deal with an upset stomach? What does it solve to honk your horn when traffic is backed up for miles?

Mexico has been a great educator in dealing with discomfort. City water may not be delivered for weeks. Grocery stores often do not have the fresh vegetable for which I was looking. Brand-name products I have used for years can not be found. Mail arrives weekly and needs to be picked up elsewhere instead of being delivered daily to our home. These are not major things, except maybe the water, yet I notice a lot of sunbirds who find these inconveniences debilitating. To them it is a catastrophe. To Mexicans and those who have learned to accept, it is just a way of life.

What I notice most about those who can not handle discomfort is their anger, fear, and desire to blame. Whether they are living in the vacation paradise of Cabo San Lucas or the comfort at every corner convenience of the United States, so many people can’t enjoy any of it because they are consumed by dissatisfaction. I honestly worry about how many are headed toward heart attacks or are simply not enjoying life because their comfort is disrupted. The article also poses that those seeking comfort has led to loneliness, anxiety, and an inability to accept responsibility. As we become more comfortable, we become less accountable, less happy, less connected, and less empowered.

I recently wrote a post about choosing to get out of my comfort zone and how the act actually empowered me to do things I never would have believed possible. Getting out of my comfort zone in little ways helps me to face new fears with strength and courage. Outside my comfort zone I take responsibility for my life, my words, my actions, and my happiness. I don’t need a truffle and avocado mac ‘n cheese to make me feel good. I make myself feel good by not staying complacent.

What comfort are you clinging to? How do you face adversity? What is the price of being constantly comfortable? How are you stifling yourself by not facing what is hard? How is being too comfortable right now going to affect how you handle life’s challenges in the future?