simon electronic game

Everything You Want

As a child back in the 1970’s, I remember spending weeks pouring over the Sears Catalog to compile what I wanted for Christmas. The latest doll. A pair of roller skates. The Simon electronic memory game. The list would go on with every gadget and toy I could find. Santa was usually pretty good to me. I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, but I would receive a lot. And usually by February, I was bored with it all. I had everything I wanted, but nothing I needed.

simon electronic gameIn contrast, two years ago, I gave my husband some plain white socks for Christmas. He was ecstatic. He could use the socks. He wears socks without shoes while working and usually wears them out quickly. With this practical gift, he received something he truly needed and was very grateful.

Look around you right now. Are you surrounded by what you wanted? Do you have the house, car, and clothing you desire? Do you have a room filled with collectibles or your passion? How full are your closets, your basement, your garage? Do you have everything you want? If not, what else is on your wish list?

It’s exciting to have a dream and work toward having what you desire. Yet how often once we have a certain thing, do we find it does not fulfill us? When you look back at your life, is it things that make you happy? Or are your moments of joy due to an experience?

One of my and my husband’s desires and dreams was to have a boat. We would spend wonderful weekends on her exploring the Chain o’ Lakes. The boat itself did not bring us joy. What did satisfy us was what the boat provided. It gave us time together. It gave us projects to do together, and it showed us how to work together even when the projects were not going well. It brought us closer to nature. It allowed us to relax after a hard week of work. What we thought we wanted was a boat; what we really needed was time becoming and being a loving, strong couple.

Here are a few ways to focus on fulfilling-needs versus unsatisfying-wants:

  • Look through all the things you wanted and now have. Do they bring you joy in themselves? Do they sit on a shelf? If they provide you with joy, is it the thing itself or the experience that the thing provides? Is there another way you could have that experience without the thing?
  • For the things you still desire, what do you hope they will provide? Do you have to have that thing to receive what you really need or should you just focus on having a similar experience of what you believe it will provide?
  • Start a gratitude list for everything you have that you truly need: food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, health. Focus on the fulfillment from the true necessities versus the disappointment of yearning for your desires.

For many years my husband and I worked hard to have the boat and a beautiful home with the items we desired. I don’t regret spending money on the Elfa closets I desired or the Mid-Century furniture and art my husband wanted. When it came time to move and we had to leave much of what we had wanted behind, over time it has shown us the beauty and gift of having only what we need. No more, no less. Feeling free and more fulfilled that any of the items every gave us.

fish out of water

Out of My Comfort Zone

Practicing yoga is doing a lot to take me out of my comfort zone. The other day one of my fellow yogi’s said she noticed that I had moved from the back to the front of the room and then she read my blog about the experience. We discussed how my fear had kept me at the back of the room; the lack of confidence in my practice, the concern that others would make fun of my ability, the desire to blend into the woodwork. We also talked about how once I let go of those fears and made the physical shift within the room, my practice improved because I could now do it without all the mental blocks. In the end, it was better moving out of what I thought was my comfort zone, into a space that truly served me.

As I began working up to a headstand, I had a similar experience. The fears and beliefs I had in my ability, held me back mentally and physically. My old thoughts and beliefs kept my legs planted and stuck. Through help and practice I am now close to doing a headstand on my own. What changed? I began to believe I could do it. I released my old story of negative self-image and any thoughts of “I can’t.” The experience was night and day. My first attempt with all my restricting beliefs increased the weight of my legs ten-fold and made it feel like magnets where locking my feet to the floor. My most recent attempt my legs floated into the air like feathers. I still needed a little spotting, but for the most part my legs just went where I directed them. What changed?

fish out of waterOn the physical level, I have been building my core and learning how my core, not my legs are the power of the move. But what I needed to do first, before I could even have the mental space to allow myself to work on my physical ability, was to shift my mind.

First, I had to release what was, what I believed was the truth, and what I experienced in the past. How many times do we keep ourselves stuck in old ways of being, simply by believing what happened before will happen again?  The first step to making a change or trying something new is to release all that we learned from the past which holds us back. In releasing this we now have the power to make baby-steps toward our goal.

The next challenge is the process of trying, learning, failing, and trying again. Especially in our instant gratification society, we may expect things to change overnight. Sorry, that’s not usually the case. More commonly it is a journey to get where we want to go. It is during this two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back phase that I find myself the most challenged. Being a perfectionist, I am always on the lookout for what I am doing wrong. Making judgements if things are not quite right. Putting myself down for not getting there fast enough. It is during this phase that it is important to focus on the minor accomplishments, not being focused on the ultimate goal or the setbacks. This is similar to what I tell job seekers. They are usually focused on and disappointed because they have not yet landed their dream job. They focus on what they messed up in their interview, instead of seeing all they did to get the interview or focusing on the lessons from the experience. I change their focus to celebrating their efforts – improving their resume, networking, following up, and learning. It is in these small efforts that they continue to move forward, and hopefully, now that they are celebrating the efforts, the process is also more enjoyable, or at least not constantly stressful.

Once I make it to my goal, I am always amazed on how it is much better on the other side. All of my fears of what would happen, how I would mess up, or who would be upset, are dissolved. I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. I see how my fears kept me from moving into a space that is much better for me.

Where do you feel stuck? What do you want to change or accomplish, but feel like it is impossible? How are your fears of change creating reasons you shouldn’t even try? Reframe your thoughts so they support your goals. Celebrate your efforts and accomplishments along the way. Then accept and embrace your newly found space. You will find it better outside of your comfort zone.

walking in anothers shoes

Walking in Another’s Shoes

I watched a terrific TED talk the other day by an individual who has a unique view on gender issues and authenticity. Paula Williams started life as a man and is now a woman. Due to her experiences, Paula has a very unique view of both genders and has experienced firsthand that they are equal, but there is not equity for both. She shares funny and sad examples of bias and favoritism. She said she lived life from both sides and the “differences are massive.”

I’ll let Paula’s message focus on the gender issue. What I want to focus on is our assumptions and unconscious bias, and the power we give away to others.

Releasing Assumptions

walking in anothers shoesPaula has a unique opportunity to really learn what it really means to be and experience life as a woman, and a man.  For most of us, we only know what we know as our gender. We can have an idea of the injustices and differences but can’t know firsthand how both genders experience life. This is true for almost everyone we meet. We all have unique journeys. We are born into different bodies and different environments. We learn and experience different things growing up. It becomes all too easy to dislike or attack another because of one aspect we see. Yet, we don’t know the full picture. Unless you can truly walk in another’s shoes, you will never know what they experience, think, and believe. We can assume, but our assumptions are clouded by our own experiences and beliefs.

Next time you have a disagreement or negative reaction to another, stop. Step back. Try to look at the big picture of who this individual is, where they came from, and if other issues they may be experiencing may be coloring their actions. So much of the online and offline rage and arguments we see are based on assumptions and “the other.” When we can release our own bias, it allows us the space to see the full picture of the other person – and start an intelligent dialogue.

Empowerment

For those of you who are struggling with self-esteem and your voice, Paula has some great words of encouragement. I have experienced people throughout my life, and even recently, who sought to put me down and belittle me in one form or another. If we hear – and take in – this negativity for too long, we can start to believe it and take it on as our own. No matter what others say about you, remember that you are intelligent and worthy. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you know. Don’t question yourself just because others do. The key to strength and power is to believe it inherently. When we look to others for approval and confirmation, we have already given away our power. Reclaim your strength by owning it.

As you go about this week, notice the assumptions you have about others. How much do you really know about them? Can you identify and, hopefully, release your bias? Who are people who make you doubt yourself? Why are you triggered by them? What do you need to own about yourself? This week, follow Paula’s lead and honor the journey and the differences of others, and yourself.

sulking child

Look for the Lesson

Sometimes people don’t understand me because I don’t let my emotions run away with me (for the most part). A car cuts me off and I smile and wave. When someone is rude to me I only become more kind to them. In the current world where righteous indignation is prized and promoted, I don’t fit the mold.

And I’m happy.

Happy I don’t fit the mold. And happy because I don’t fit the mold.

sulking childSome of us live in a world where we feel the victim. We give others our power and then when they use that power against us, we are angry.

Some of us live in a world of competition. Attacking anything and everyone to get on top and feel safe.

Some of us live in a world of mistrust, blaming others for our problems.

Some of us see the world as a struggle, making challenges and issues where there are none.

Me? I live in a world where every interaction is an opportunity to rise above, be the best person I can be, learn, and change. Every conflict is an opportunity for growth. Every confrontation is a window into the other.

Don’t get me wrong. I am human and have my share of emotions. Emotions are important. Emotions are indicators. They let us know what is working and what is not working in our lives. Emotions wake us up to something to solve, something to change. The problem arises when we let our emotions take charge of our actions. It is powerful and necessary to feel anger when someone has wronged us so that we can fix the problem or remove ourselves from the situation. But if we allow ourselves to act with anger, we only create more issues.

What if instead of going off on a tirade about what wrong has happened to you, you look for a solution? And if there is no solution, what if you look for acceptance?

Besides emotions indicating when a situation needs to be addressed, being triggered is also a chance to learn about the other. We often see ourselves as the center of the universe, as the lead in a movie. Therefore, we see everyone’s actions in terms of us. The truth is, people act independent of us. They have their own movie and universe to contend with. When we believe that people are specifically acting to hurt or harm us, we are not seeing the real picture. We need to look for their motivation.

Recently an individual decided to slander me and attempted to destroy some of my relationships. At first my emotions – anger, fear, sadness – kicked in to let me know something was not right. Then I had two choices. I could try to defend myself against untruths and fight back with anger and malice. I took the other route. I looked deeper than this person’s external actions. I saw that they were insecure and were attacking out of a feeling of defense. It wasn’t the best idea, but it was their truth. I let the attacks linger in the air, I shared the truth with some who needed to know, and then I removed myself from the situation. If I would have allowed my anger to get the better of me, I would have lashed out with the same unjustified bitterness as this individual, just causing more issues.

What if instead of labeling the other as mean or rude, you can see the struggle they are going through and how much pain they must be feeling? How would you address conflicts differently?

This week be aware of your emotions. What are they telling you? Then look for the logical solution or if necessary, accept the situation for what it is – in either case, do what you need to feel good again. For bonus points, look at the one causing you pain. Look deep inside them and see their own pain making them act in the way they do.

customer service

Making a Human Connection

This past Easter, a fire erupted in a local parking garage. Thankfully no one was injured. Although hundreds of cars were destroyed.

We park our trailer in this garage.

After a few days wait, we were able to access the garage and remove our trailer which was thankfully unharmed in any way. We had to find alternative storage as the garage would not be reopened for over a month. We found a place to store it and waited.

While we waited, I attempted to receive a refund for the time we paid for but could not access the garage. I talked to the mall office who sent me to the garage office which was inaccessible. A security guard gave me the phone number of the woman in charge, who never answered her phone. A friend obtained and called the number for the garage management parent company in Mexico City. On the first call we were told to call back because the individual we needed to speak to was on break. Next time we called there was no answer. At this point, I was measuring the importance of how much we paid for the missed month versus the effort to receive a refund. I laid the issue to rest.

customer serviceA week or two later, after the garage opened, I happened to be in the area with some time to kill. I walked to the garage office and asked for the woman in charge. After a few minutes she, and the two little dogs that accompany her at work, appeared. I was preparing myself for what I expected to be a terse conversation, when she introduced herself, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mucho gusto.”

In Spanish, “Mucho gusto” means approximately “pleased to meet you.” All at once we were not manager and customer but two human beings making a human connection. I smiled. She smiled. All the tension dissipated and we had a cordial conversation. In my broken Spanish, I was able to negotiate an extra month on my contract. Problem pleasantly and easily resolved in 15 minutes.

When was the last time you had to call the cable company or return something damaged to a store? What attitude did you go in with? Did you expect to be denied? Did you feel wronged, entitled, or outraged? Did you have anger blurring your mind?  When you entered the conversation, what happened? Did you get your issue resolved? If you did, did you feel good afterwards or did you still feel painful, angry indignation?

Replay the situation in your mind. What if you started off by introducing yourself and by taking a moment to truly connect to the other person as a human being. What if the issue was now secondary to the importance of treating the person across from you as a living breathing being with feelings?

Next time you need to address an issue or when someone confronts you in an aggressive manner, stop. Breathe. Connect as two individuals. Remember that you are speaking to a person who deserves as much respect and unconditional love as you do.

Augmented Reality

I was speaking with my friend Melissa Amling that other day who was telling me about her virtual reality concept for a new children’s book. It is a very interesting idea to bring children into the world of the book so they could fully experience and become a part of the story. She then mentioned the newest craze, augmented reality. Augmented reality is using glasses to reveal graphics and audio as well as enhancements to our senses, into the actual world around us.

by Matthew Henry
by Matthew Henry

Melissa said augmented reality allows us “to see things that are not there and to experience them as real.” I thought perhaps that Pokémon GO was a type of augmented reality, but to the experts that does not take it far enough. Scientific American wrote a great article explaining augmented and mixed reality. Where Pokémon GO could only be viewed through a phone and was not immersive, augmented reality merges computer produced items into our reality seamlessly creating a new, enhanced reality. I wrote recently about how our brain can be influenced to see things that are not really there and now it seems this technology is making the most of our easily manipulated brains.

“To see things that are not there and to experience them as real.” How often does this play out in our lives? How often does a fear consume us and suddenly cover our reality with negativity? How often do we take someone’s opinion and make it into a truth? How often do we want to believe something is real so we make it into a fact in our own minds? How often do we color everything we see and experience with our own bias and suppositions?

We now live in a world of alternative facts. We see things as we want to see them. We have a narrow view of how things should be and we try to interpret everything we see according to our beliefs and understanding. What happens is we are pained and stressed when the actual reality does not meet our expectations and/or we alienate others because they can not see things through our filters. What we need is to release our beliefs, to release our desire to control, release our fear of reality, and embrace what truly is. Mindfulness can help us get there.

Mindfulness teaches us to release our bias and our filters allowing us to see things as they truly are. Through mindfulness we can experience things as they are without our beliefs and expectations. Mindfulness releases our judgments helping us gain a true view and acceptance of reality. When we are mindful, we are in the present moment. We are not trying to relive our past or feed our fears thereby coloring the present. When we can be truly and completely in the moment we are empowered by seeing things as they actually are. It is in this state that we find peace and clear actions.

You can learn more about mindfulness in this article.