Hope for the Future

Many of us are happy and joyful as we celebrate this Christmas Day. And many of us also have some sadness, some worry and some concern about the future. Years ago, I stopped watching the news and it released me from depression and hopelessness. Lately I have noticed that after two minutes on Facebook my warm fuzzies of happiness change to devastation and political divide. For my sanity, I may need to begin limiting my social media consumption soon too. The truth is, even if we remove the news from coming to us, essentially hiding our heads in the sand, the world will still continue to get worse, right?

Or are things really getting worse?

I found two great TED talks you should check out. The first talk I found by Hans Rosling was in 2006. In this first talk, he begins to question what we really know about what is happening in the world.  I encourage you to watch the video and see how what you think is actually based on your perception of the world and, if you are like me, you don’t know much more than the literal monkeys surveyed. The point of this talk was that if we don’t look at the real hard data, we don’t see the positive changes in and the real progress of the world. The negativity we see and experience every day is based on our perception. Our perception is based on what we learned in the past. Therefore we are living in the non-progressing negativity of the past instead of the hopeful reality of today.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

The second talk by Hans Rosling and his son doesn’t just show how our thinking is skewed. Instead, they also provide us with tangible ways we can look for and truly see the real data. It is when we can see the real data that we can create ways to make real change, or at least sleep at night knowing life is progressing in a positive fashion.  These gentlemen postulate that we all have embraced preconceived ideas as reality. Our beliefs are based on our personal bias due to growing up in homogenized neighborhoods, to the unfortunate fact that we are taught outdated world views in schools, and due to biased news which focuses on rare events and sensationalized fear.

Here is what they suggest to help us start creating a realistic worldview:

  • Instead of focusing on and believing that everything is getting worse, focus on the fact that most things do improve (and they have the data to prove it).
  • Although there is a real gap between the rich and the poor, remember that most people are in the middle of the curve. And that the middle of the bell curve is growing, meaning more of us are living better.
  • Money is not needed to make social improvements. The inverse is true. Social improvements actually lead to increase in personal and national wealth.
  • We may have news, and now even fake news, but we control our consumption. We are often drawn to sensational and unusual events therefore we are fed more and more of these. Stop consuming the sensational, stop feeding your fears, and focus on the true daily facts of our world.

As we move into 2019, don’t focus on the past. Don’t expect things to get worse. Don’t let the past hold you back. Don’t bring the heartbreaks of the last year into the new year. Look at things with open eyes. Look to the new year with hopeful eyes. And usher in the positivity and hope the world needs today.

carry water

Walk the Talk

A friend introduced me to an author and the founder of a new system to activate the use of our whole brain. After reading weeks of his posts, I don’t think there is validity to his system which is another get-enlightenment-quick scheme. But I did find one of his initial posts poignant.

In this post, he talks about how “awakening is our beginning – not our end.” Awakening or enlightenment is the transcendence of our human minds and existence. Meditation, prayer, and numerous other tools help us transcend our physical lives and get a glimpse of the deeper meaning of life. The point he brings up is that this glimpse does not mean we are transformed forever. Enlightenment gives us the information for a better life, but then we need to choose to live that way each day.

carry waterIn my 20’s and early 30’s, I worked with a psychologist. Early on he put me on a medication. It was a very low dose, but it was enough to help me feel what life could be without stress. It didn’t, however, take my stress away. It showed me that life could be different, but it didn’t make my life different. The medication showed me that it was possible and then I had to work every day to maintain that stress-free feeling. My daily actions, the daily habits I created and utilized were the things that made a difference in how I experienced life. The medication showed me the possibility, but it did not alter my long-term experience. I had to do that.

Many experiences in Peru gifted me with amazing insight into the beyond, how we are all one, and the truest meaning of life. It was there that I also learned the old phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” We may glimpse the amazing truth beyond our human existence, but then we still need to live on earth with traffic jams, bickering families during holidays, and irate managers. Having a moment of enlightenment does not changes us. Trying to live our lives based on what we gleam from that moment of enlightenment is what changes us.

The first book I wrote, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, was designed to help you wake up. It was meant to show you that there is a different way. Hopefully in using the tools in the book you can experience a pop of transcendence here and there, or at least begin to see that there is a better, more joyful, move loving, more peaceful way to live. Currently I am working on two new books, one that is meant to help us learn to walk the talk of enlightenment. The difficulty is not finding enlightenment, but to experience a higher form of living each and every day, no matter what is going on around us. And sorry, but this takes work and effort, it is not found in some new age tool that will automatically leap you into this new way of being.

Have you had a moment of transcendence? If so, share with us here. As you go about your day, be aware of how often you are in – and out – of that loftier way of being. How often are you triggered by situations or individuals? How often do you fall into depression, anger or resentment? Can you pull yourself out of these negative experiences and back into the transcendent experience you desire?

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?

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.

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.