we all fail it is up to you to rise again

Oops, I did it again

Did you see this coming? I should have. Again.

Back in March, my perfectionist ego was triggered during the 30-day yoga challenge. To help create a daily practice of yoga, there was a contest to attend yoga every day in March. Those with the most days won a massage. At first, my competitive overachiever was triggered. It was not just winning, doing the most or being “the best,” but it was the feeling that I was a failure if I did not meet the challenge. Thankfully, after about a week I caught myself. Yoga isn’t about competition. Yoga is about a physical, emotional, mental connection, and a way of being which improves our lives.

we all fail it is up to you to rise again
Photo by Simeon Jacobson on Unsplash

Unfortunately, pride, competition, overachieving, and perfectionism are my life’s challenges, so I was tested again this summer with the headstand. At first, I set a realistic goal for achieving a headstand. I had a year and a half until my 50th birthday and thought that was a fair goal. I was proud that I did not push myself to do it faster. The concept of a headstand was the challenge and giving myself plenty of time to get there was in alignment with yoga. Instead of sticking to my plan however, a comment by the 20-something instructor that I didn’t need that much time kicked me into overachievement mode. Now the goal was to do a perfect headstand by my 49th birthday, just a few months away.

The yoga class I took at the time included headstands as a basic part of the routine, so I thought I would have enough time to master it by my birthday in September. However, I went on vacation for two weeks in July then in August there was teacher training at the studio. Not only was my morning routine thrown off and my daily opportunity to practice the headstand gone, but now the classes were much more difficult. I could not keep up with them and the perfectionist in me was triggered. I was no good. I should never have started yoga. Instead of quitting, I pushed myself harder. And I did what I set out to accomplish. I was able to do a headstand by my 49th birthday, but there was a price.

Because I rushed things. Because completion of the headstand was more important than technique. Because I was driven out of anger, resentment, and self-attack. I hurt myself. If you look at the headstand I shared, you can see I am in pain. The headstand happened, but it was not well executed and doing it caused damage. So much damage in fact, that for the last two months I have not been able to do any yoga and initially lacked even basic mobility. My routine changed from morning yoga to regular cupping and acupuncture to make the pain manageable. What happened?

What happened was that I got in my own way. I made the accomplishment more important than my health. I listened to instructors and gurus instead of my own body. I pushed myself toward perfection instead of accepting where and how I was. Throughout my life I have a history of pushing myself harder than is necessary, pushing myself past my breaking point. Because I push myself, I have accomplished amazing things. Always followed by a need for recovery.

The theatrical director Peter Sellars shared that his mentor told him he was bound to repeat the same mistakes, only in the future he would recognize them. So it is with me, and all of us. We all have our character defects. We all have the challenges we are going to be plagued with this lifetime. They will not go away. What we can do however, is notice them earlier and earlier, and choose differently when we realize we are headed down the wrong path.

What challenges do you continue to repeat? How can you approach them differently next time? How can you catch yourself earlier so things do not go too far? How can you cut yourself some slack when it inevitably happens again?

Días del Muerte

Life Goes On

After three years in Mexico, this was the first year my husband and participated in Días de Muertos. I wanted to create an altar and I wanted to do it correctly. My Spanish teacher sent me this link explaining the tradition. The first thing I learned was that it was not a single day but a series of days – hence días not día del muerte. Each day is designed to remember a different category of those we have lost. One day is for lost and helpless. Another day is for children who left too early. On each day a different item is added to the altar to symbolize a different type of departed. For instance, bread is added for those who left suddenly without their last meal and fruit is added for our ancestors – they are the fruit, we are the seeds. Días de Muertos is a terrific tradition for remembrance, gratitude, and surprisingly, joy.

Días del MuerteThousands of years old, Días de Muertos originated with ancient Central American cultures who thought it was disrespectful to mourn the dead. Death is part of life and this celebration is designed to keep the memory and spirit of those we love alive. For my husband and me, it was exactly that. Having an altar of those we love and have lost, kept them top of mind for us this past week. We thought about them and shared stories – happy and sad. For us, it did seem that they took the flower petal road to come visit us again for just a little bit. If you haven’t seen Coco, you can watch this short animation about the tradition.

Ironically (or as I say, Spectacularly Perfect), I had planned to write today’s post about a very different video I saw about Paul McCartney. I was surprised when that video fit perfectly into the concept of Días de Muertos. About five minutes into the video (4:55-7:35), Sir Paul shares a beautiful story about a visit he had from his departed mother through a dream.  He had been worrying about the band and their future. She told him, “It’s going to be ok. Just let it be.” As he wrote afterwards in the famous song, “In my hour of darkness, she is standing right in from of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” Through this dream he felt a connection to his mother and the reassurance he needed at the time. Have you ever had messages from the beyond? Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, have you received a message in a dream or just a pop of insight that helped you through a difficult patch? Many times in my life I have felt those I loved around me, supporting me, providing me with guidance, just letting me know I am not taking this journey alone.

The whole James Corden Late Late Show video of Sir Paul is worth the watch. One of the other things that is interesting is to see all the different lives Sir Paul has had, from his humble beginnings to the fame he has now. Life is every changing. No moment stays forever. No one is always with us. It is important to be in each and every moment, to be fully present for all that life offers us.

Take a bit today to remember those you have known and all the support they have given you before and after they were physically around you. Take a trip down memory lane and review the highs and the lows. Look at the miracle of the amazing journey of your life.

water under the bridge

Stop Pushing the River

Did you know me in my 20’s or 30’s? If so, you would have known a very different person than I am now. To put it mildly, I was a crazy controlling Type A. Never accepting help from others. Taking on more than was my responsibility. Feeling like the world would stop spinning if I was not in control. Needless to say, I was not the best person to be around. I was constantly doing, constantly anxious. I thought I was the one responsible for everything that occurred, responsible for those around me, and let’s face it, I thought I was responsible for the world as a whole.

water under the bridge
photo by Benjamin Davies @bendavisual

How I acted was a torment to those around me and no picnic for me as well. The amount of responsibility I heaped on myself was Herculean; way more than anyone could stand. As you know if you have read my blog for a while, this desire for control and taking on too much led to a physiological breakdown. I was not only running myself ragged, but I was also hyper-demanding of all those around me. I expected them to take on the overwhelm that I did. I expected them to premeditate my needs or just “what had to be done.” I tried to control those around me; barking orders to anyone in earshot. I was so focused on what I thought had to get done that I wasn’t truly living.

Truth is, through all this effort, I wasn’t truly controlling anything. Some of what I wanted to control was uncontrollable (weather, traffic, others’ actions). Some of what I tried to control, would just pop back to how it was before; my effort did not create lasting effects. The only thing my desire to control did was to create stress in my life. The futility of my controlling efforts, just added to my frustration, anxiety, and worry. I was Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill each day only having to start again the next day. Instead of getting off the hamster-wheel of pain and futility, I reached for quick fixes in the form of food, caffeine and alcohol. At times these gave me moments of peace, but they were not long-lasting and my “solutions” actually started to become a problem of their own.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. Here I was trying to control things to feel safe, secure, worthwhile and loved, but each and every attempt was a failure. If I did manage to control something, it usually angered those around me distancing me from their love. Other times, being able to control the situation was just impossible. I needed to try a new way.

For decades people told me to relax, chill, or “go with the flow” in one way or another. This was terrifying to me. My stability, my security was control. Giving up control surely meant pain, uncertainty, and oblivion. It took me years to learn the power of surrender, have the courage to live in acceptance, and to have the vulnerability to allow myself to embrace letting go of control. Today I may not feel “in control,” but I do experience the support, confidence, love, acceptance, and security I had hoped to get through control, but which can actually be found in surrender.

If you would like to find the peace of surrender, the first step is for you to admit and embrace that you are ready to try a new way; that you are ready and willing as you can be to release some or all of your control. Then every time you are presented with a challenge, instead of jumping in like a bull in a china shop trying to control the uncontrollable, trust that things will work out how and when then need to. This trust does not mean you do not act; instead you are acting by intuition instead of brute force. Soon you will enter a new peaceful, flowing rhythm of life.

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.

Stuff Happens. Don’t Spaz. Make It Right.

Water supply is a major concern for the desert town of Cabo San Lucas. Because of this, we just had a larger cistern installed to help us have more supply on hand, just in case. During construction a delivery truck damaged part of my neighbor’s driveway. I panicked. I thought our neighbor would be angry. I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot in our new community.

construction projectI expected the neighbor to rush over, irately pound on my door, and say they would sue me so I kept watch hoping to talk to them before they saw the damage and became upset.  Due to our schedules, I kept missing them. I asked the construction workers if the neighbor had come over to complain. The workers told me that the neighbor had come over and the crew explained that we had plans in place to repair the damage. The neighbor went home happy without even talking to me. Really? Phew.

I learned three things from this incident.

Stuff happens.

Life is messy. Life is far from perfect. Even with the best intentions, bad or annoying stuff can happen. Accept it. So much of our stress comes from expecting perfection when, in reality, life is unpredictable and everchanging. Stuff breaks. Stuff disappears. Stuff is not where and when we need it. Don’t focus on who to blame. Don’t think it means anything about your worth. It doesn’t mean anything about us or anyone else. It just is. As you release unrealistic expectations for unchanging perfection and the desire to find someone to blame, you can decrease the stress you experience.

Don’t spaz.

Not spazzing is first about not reacting poorly to stuff happening which does not meet our expectations, and secondly about not being upset before we know what stuff has happened.  I wasn’t quite up to spaz level, but my assumptions about my neighbor having a negative response were not pleasant. When we spaz, we are letting our fears create negative emotions. When we react from fear, we are not clear and in control. We are letting our negative emotions lead which often makes things unpleasant for ourselves and others. Take a breath. Don’t assume. Don’t fear. Uncover the truth.

Make it right.

If you are responsible for causing another pain or discomfort, own it. Apologize. Do what you can to make it right. We all make mistakes, and that’s ok. Take responsibility for your actions and do your best to make it right for all involved.

After the non-incident with my neighbor, the next challenge was overcoming my expectations for the completion of the project. Construction was not progressing as quickly as it originally had. The Type A in me started to show up. I mentally set deadlines I could not control, and I became stressed and upset when they were not met. Then I looked back at this blog post idea. Stuff happens. Materials were not available. Personal issues came up with the crew. I stopped spazzing and started joking with the crew about which mañana (tomorrow) the project would actually be finished by. It always amazes me the freedom and joy I experience when I move from the negative emotions of anger and disappointment, to embracing acceptance and playfulness. Finally, we all tried to make it right. The crew couldn’t meet the deadlines they set, but it was because they were doing quality work. By releasing my expectations, I made the project easier on them because I did not add tension to the situation.

As you move through this week, notice what you are triggered by. Can you accept that stuff happens, keep your fear-based negative reactions in check, and rationally look for ways to make it right?

time pieces

Sorry, I’m Not Available Right Now

Part of my day job is to make engagement calls to my career transition candidates. Sometimes I reach them. Sometimes I leave a voice-mail. The one situation that always intrigues me is when someone answers my call and then says in a huff tone, “I’m in a meeting.” Although I’m pretty brilliant, I am not yet psychic. I don’t have the foresight to know what people are doing when I call. The onus is not on me to not call, but on them to not answer.

The issue is not when to call or not, but one of control – or lack of control. Is it a badge of pride in our busy-ness that we have to take a call during a meeting? Is it the feeling of overwhelm that compels us to answer messages immediately to prove how much we have on our plate? Is it the lack of self-respect that we put the caller’s needs above our own? Is it feeling the victim of technology instead of using it for our benefit?

time piecesWhen we reduce ourselves to mindlessly answering calls, texts and emails when we are in the middle of something else, we are not only rude and unprofessional to those we are meeting with, but to me, more importantly, it means we are not being present. If we were 100% present in the meeting, we would not answer our phones.

A friend had the honor of meeting Sir Richard Branson on his private island. Here is a man who heads more than 400 companies. If anyone had to take a call during a meeting, we could understand why he would. But he didn’t. My friend mentioned how Sir Richard was solely focused on the individual speaking. No distractions. No impatience. Just a solid concentrated focus.

It is the same state I can get into during yoga and am trying to bring fully to the rest of my life. When I am “in the zone” during yoga, I am hyper aware of my breath, conscious of my movement, actively relaxing and deepening the pose. I am at one with the pose and there are no other thoughts or actions. Imagine what life would be like if we could approach everything that way.

Imagine being 100% present when your child tells you about their day. Imagine being fully with the one you love, without thinking of how the laundry needs to be done. Imagine focusing solely at the task at hand instead of being tormented by the other things on your to-do list.

One cool thing I have learned about being present during yoga, is that time expands. A 90-minute class feels like two hours. In fact, the first few times this happened, I got worried. I thought the instructor went over time and that I would be late for my client. But nope, same recorded amount of time, just a different experience of it. As I slowly bring this singular focus into my daily life, I find that my work day is less hectic. Time expands with my clients and between clients. What used to feel like constantly being behind the eight-ball, is now a work day of expansion and extra time. Nothing has changed except my focus, my ability to slow down and be in the moment.

Start taking control of your day by first controlling your phone. Turn it to silent and ignore it when you are working with someone else. Then, as best as you can, focus solely on the task or person at hand. Give them 100% of your attention. Then see how your efficiency, joy, and time all increase.