Archive for October 2009

Go Deep

October 27, 2009

For quite some time I’ve had a self righteous judgment that most people in our culture are way too shallow. I find myself regularly annoyed at what I consider to be a lack of depth around me – in the media, in politics, in business, in my industry, and even in my family and many of my personal relationships. As is often the case with most of our self righteous opinions, however, this judgment (as has become crystal clear to me recently) is really all about me and my own lack of depth, not about everyone else.

I’ve noticed that while I might “talk a good game” about going deep, I really have quite a bit of fear and resistance to it. Real depth often seems hard, scary, time consuming, challenging, messy, uncomfortable, embarrassing, intense, negative, painful, vulnerable, and more. It’s much easier for me to stay busy, keep things on the surface, and pretend to live my life with a real sense of depth, than it is for me to actually go deep myself.

I remember years ago when my counselor Chris said to me, “Mike, all of your power in life is trapped inside of your pain. In order to retrieve your power, you’re going to have to confront and heal your own pain. Everyone has pain; most people simply aren’t willing to deal with it or don’t know how to heal it.”

While the wisdom and truth of Chris’ words resonated with me back then, and even more so today, I find myself often avoiding my pain, covering it up, and pretending that “it’s no big deal.” Can you relate?

However, think of the power, freedom, and liberation we experience when we actually do go deep, get real, and address our own pain. While it’s usually scary and difficult at first, we’re almost always glad that we did. And, as I’ve been learning more and more these days, if we truly want to live a life of authenticity and fulfillment, we can’t run and hide from our pain – we have to face it. As some deep pain in my own life (and from my past) has been showing up lately, instead of judging it as “bad” (which is what I usually do), I’m choosing to see it as an opportunity to go deeper, to heal, and to grow (even though it doesn’t feel so good).

When we think about the most important aspects of our lives, and the most significant people around us, having a real sense of depth and truth is what most of us want. Living our lives, having relationships, and doing our work in a way that has real meaning and value to us won’t happen on the surface, it takes place at a very deep level.

While many of us crave an expanded level of depth and authenticity in our lives, work, and relationships – it’s not always easy for us to create. Our culture doesn’t often encourage depth, we each have our own versions of fear and resistance to it, and in some cases we simply aren’t willing or interested in going there or doing what it takes to keep things real.

However, most of the people I know and work with, including myself, long for enhanced strength and an empowering environment that encourages them to go deep.

Here are a few things you can do to expand your capacity for depth:

– Tell the Truth – Be honest about your own willingness, ability, or difficulty with going deep. It may be something you long for, but resist. You may avoid doing and saying things at certain levels. You may not be all that interested in going any deeper right now in your life. You may be totally comfortable with depth and simply looking for ways to go even deeper. Or, you may be some combination of these things or others. Whatever the case may be for you at this point in your life and evolution, as with many things – by telling the truth to yourself and others about where you are, you can start from an authentic place and begin to deepen your experience (if that is what you choose to do).

– Find People to Support You – Search out and attract people into you life who can help you deepen your journey. For many people, like me, going deep can be scary, vulnerable, and challenging. It often helps to have people around you who you trust and you know will hang in there with you. Whether it’s a coach, counselor, friend, mentor, family member, support group, spouse, or anyone else – we all need encouragement, feedback, witnessing, support, and even challenging and pushing to go deeper in our lives and with our growth. One of the biggest paradoxes of personal growth is that while it’s always about our own personal journey and evolution, so often we can’t do it as effectively or as deeply without the help of other people.

– Surrender – Let go and trust! Being able to surrender is an essential aspect of life, growth, and depth. Surrendering is a big one for me and is something I continue to both struggle with and learn about each and every day. When we try to control everything (and everyone) in our lives, we limit our ability to grow and our capacity for depth and authenticity. Trust, which is fundamental to this process, is a real leap of faith that is important for us to take as we expand our ability to go deep and live our lives the way we truly want. When we surrender to the journey, mystery, and magic of life – we allow ourselves to learn, grow, and deepen in new and exciting ways that we didn’t even realize were possible.

Going deep is not always the easiest thing for us to do in life, but it’s what most of us truly want at some level. When we’re willing to tell the truth, get support, and surrender to life in an empowering way – we tap into a place of deep authenticity and in so doing can liberate ourselves from struggle, suffering, and avoidance.

Where in your life and relationships can you go deeper? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Be a Fan and a Critic

October 27, 2009

I saw Rev. Michael Beckwith perform a re-commitment ceremony for a married couple a few years back and it blew me away.  He looked at the husband and said, “Your job is to be her biggest fan and her greatest critic for the purpose of her spiritual development.”  He then turned to the wife and said the same thing to her about him.

As simple of a concept as this was for me to understand, I’d never heard anyone say it quite like that before.  As what he said fully registered with me, I was moved deeply and began to cry.  I realized that so often I’d struggled with what felt like my conflicting desires to share my love and appreciation with my wife Michelle and also to let her know when something didn’t work for me or when I thought she is “off” in a certain aspect of her life.  I noticed that I was usually quite “hot or cold” about this – either being totally focused on appreciating her or totally focused on being critical of her (or withholding my feedback so as to not hurt her feelings).

Hearing Rev. Michael say this, however, made me realize that both of these things – appreciation and feedback – are essential, not only for the health of a relationship, but for the personal growth and development of each person as well.

These two important things – being a fan and a critic – often get seen as opposites when we look at them from an adolescent perspective.  But, upon deeper reflection, it becomes clear that they’re intricately connected and fundamentally important for the success of not only a marriage, but any important relationship where we want to have a genuine sense of trust, connection, and authenticity.

Our ability (or often inability) to express our genuine appreciation for someone else is directly related to how safe or comfortable we feel giving that same person critical feedback.  In other words, the more open we are to giving and receiving honest (and sometimes critical) feedback in a particular relationship, the more capacity we have to express and experience genuine appreciation with that person.  And, when we don’t feel safe or comfortable giving someone honest feedback (or we just aren’t willing to), it actually diminishes our ability to acknowledge them in a real way, and it ultimately diminishes our relationship with them in general.  Our goal is to be a real fan and a conscious critic with the important people in our life.

What it means to be a real fan

Being a real fan of someone in our life means that we focus on what we appreciate about them (i.e. look for the good stuff) and are willing to let them know in a loving and generous way.  It’s essential that we acknowledge them without agenda or because we want something in return (for them to do something for us, say something to us, or even like us more).  Acknowledgements with agenda are manipulations, not acts of true appreciation.  Being a real fan of someone else is about celebrating them, recognizing their value (whether or not we like or agree with them all the time), believing in them, and reminding them of their greatness.

What it means to be a conscious critic

Being a conscious critic of someone else means that we’re willing to say things that might be scary or may even potentially hurt their feelings, but we do so anyway (with kindness) because we’re interested in having a relationship with true depth, trust, and authenticity.  Being a conscious critic is not about being critical or judgmental (both of which can be hurtful and harmful to others and to us), it’s about being able to share things that get in between us and other people (i.e. “withholds”) and also about giving them feedback that can help them be the best possible version of themselves.  It can be a slippery slope for many of us on either side of this equation, but if you think of the most meaningful and important relationships you’ve ever had in your life, you’ll notice that having the freedom to give and receive critical feedback in a productive, positive, and kind way is almost always an essential part of that relationship.

Here are a few things you can think about and practice to expand your ability to be a real fan and a conscious critic with the important people in your life:

– Use Your Relationship GPS – Many of us have “GPS” systems in our cars or on our phones these days that help us not get lost.  However, whenever we find ourselves lost in our relationships or lost in our ability to appreciate people around us, we can think of “Acknowledgement GPS.”  In this case, GPS stands for Genuine, Personal, and Specific.  Whenever we acknowledge someone, we want it to be Genuine (come from our heart and mean what we say), Personal (appreciate something about them personally and based on their personality – knowing what will have them feel appreciated), and Specific (some specific quality they have or thing they’ve done, and how it specifically impacts us or makes our life better).

– Clear Your “Withholds” – A “withhold” is something you’ve been holding onto with another person that you haven’t shared with them – hurt, resentment, feedback, fear, an apology, an acknowledgement, or anything else.  You can do this with your spouse, friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else.  One person goes first and says to the other person, “There’s something I’ve withheld from you.”  The other person responds by saying, “Okay, would you like to tell me?”  Then the first person expresses their “withhold” with as much honesty, vulnerability, and responsibility as possible (i.e. using “I” statements, owning their feelings, etc.).  The other person’s job is to listen with as much openness as possible, not to react, and to just say “thank you” when the first person is done.  It’s best to do this back and forth until both people have shared all of their withholds with each other.  When you’re done, one or both of you may want to talk about some of the things that were said, but that isn’t always necessary.  This is not about debate or someone being right or wrong, this is about being able to share how you’re feeling and what you’ve been withholding as a way to release it and also to give the other person some important feedback in the process.

– Ask For What You Want – It’s essential that we ask the people we’re in relationship with for the specific kind of appreciation and feedback that we want from them, and how we like to receive it.  The more clear we are about what we want from the people around us (and more willing we are to find out what they want), the more likely we are to have authentic and mutually beneficial relationships.  I’ve gotten myself into trouble (and still do at times) when I assume to know how people want to be acknowledged or what works for them in terms of getting feedback from me.  Not everyone is like us (as hard as that is for some of us to realize), so we have to negotiate this personally and specifically in each relationship so that we can honor people’s needs, desires, and personalities.

Have fun with this and be kind to yourself and others as you engage in this process of being a real fan and a conscious critic.  While this is an essential aspect of deepening and enhancing our relationships, and is also something that most of us truly want (even if it may make us a little uncomfortable), it can be trick and scary for most of us, so just be aware of this dynamic and have compassion for you and those around you.

Where in your life and relationships can you see you could deepen your ability to be a fan and/or a critic of someone important, for the purpose of their personal development?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Just Be You

October 12, 2009

I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine recently that had a profound impact on me. She had just come home from a two week trip to Israel, where she stayed on the same kibbutz she’d visited many times throughout her life. When I asked her how her trip was, she said, “Mike, it’s a magical place where I truly feel like I can be myself.”

“Why is that?” I asked. She said, “The people there don’t care what I do, about the big clients I work with, or so many of the other things we care so much about here. My only currency when I’m there is who I am.”

As she and I talked further and then got off the phone, it really hit me how much of my time and energy I spend and waste trying to accumulate “currency” in the form of money, accomplishments, appearances, status, connections, and other external things – all in an attempt to have people like and respect me, gain access to the things I think are important, and to somehow erroneously think that by doing all of this, someday I’ll “make it,” (whatever the heck that means anyway). Can you relate?

What if we lived more of our lives focused on who we are, and not so much on what we do, what we’ve accomplished, what we look like, who we know, what we’re striving for, and more? What if, as my friend realized in Israel, the most important thing in life is actually who we are?

Who would we be without our accomplishments (or failures), our degrees (or lack thereof), our bank accounts, our experiences, our titles, our homes, our statuses, and more? As simple of a concept as this is for us to think about and discuss, at least on the surface, it’s actually quite difficult for most of us, myself included, to genuinely separate who we are from what we do (or have done or not done) on a regular basis in our lives.

The deeper question for us to ponder here is really one of the big philosophical questions of life, “What makes me a valuable person?” While this is something we have all thought about to some degree, most of us don’t really engage in this question in an authentic way or on a regular basis. And, when we do, we often think that if we just got more done, lost some weight, made more money, took a vacation, accomplished a goal, had more meaningful work, made it to retirement, or whatever, then we’d be “happier” or feel more “valuable.” Sadly, as we’ve all experienced, this is not usually the case.

What if we could expand our capacity for appreciating ourselves in a genuine way, and have it have nothing to do with anything external? What if just being ourselves, the way we are right now was good enough? Think of the freedom and peace we could experience in our lives (and have at times) by just being who we are – not trying to be what we think we’re supposed to be, in order to get the things we think we’re supposed to want.

Being ourselves fully, takes courage, commitment, and faith. It’s a process of letting go of many false beliefs we’ve been taught and trained to reinforce (that we have to look good, be smart, know the right people, say the right things, have the proper experience, etc. in order to be happy and successful in life). Being ourselves can be scary and counter intuitive, difficult and even off putting, and, at times, lonely.

However, being our authentic self is liberating, exciting, and fulfilling. When we have the courage just being who we are, without apology or pretence, so much of our suffering, stress, and worry in life simply goes away.

Here are a few things to consider and practice as you deepen your awareness of and capacity for being who you truly are:

– Tell the truth to yourself. Think about and own how much of your self-worth is based on what you do, how you look, who you know, what you’ve accomplished, etc. (i.e. the external stuff)? The more we let go of being defined by the external, the more freedom, peace, and power we can experience.

– Appreciate who you are. What do you appreciate about yourself that has nothing to do with anything external? In other words, what personal qualities (of being, not doing) do you value about yourself? The more we’re able to tap into what we appreciate about who we are (not what we do), the more capacity we have for real confidence, peace, and self love.

– Practice just being you. As silly as it may sound, we all need to “practice” being ourselves. We have a great deal of experience being phony or being how we think we’re supposed to be, it actually takes conscious practice for us to be able to just show up and be who we are. We can practice alone, with people we know, and with total strangers. This is all about awareness – paying attention to how we feel, what we’re thinking, what we say, and how we show up. It’s not about getting it right or doing anything specific, it’s about letting go of our erroneous notions of how we think we’re supposed to be, and just allowing ourselves to be who and how we are in the moment.

Have fun with this, talk to others about it, and have a lot of compassion with yourself as you practice – this is big stuff for most of us. And, when we remember that it truly is who we are, not what we do, that gives us real value in life – we are liberated and empowered to be ourselves, which is what we all want anyway.

Where in your life can you (or do you) practice just being who you are?  Share your thoughts and ideas below.

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Be, Do, Have

October 6, 2009

Just this past week, I realized I had fallen into a familiar, but unhealthy pattern for me.  Sometimes when I get stressed out or anxious I go unconscious, hunker down, and try to grind it out – assuming that if I just work harder, make things happen, and get on top of my long to-do list, everything will work out.  In addition, in the midst of my own confusion and fear, the cynic in me comes out and says, “All of this personal development, psycho babble is meaningless – it’s all about discipline, focus, and luck.”  (Maybe you can relate to this?)

However, as I’ve learned throughout my life, being cynical and resigned (two states of being I’m not a huge fan of, but seem to have quite a bit of experience with), don’t usually help me manifest my dreams or live in a state of fulfillment, gratitude, or authenticity.  How about you?

I remember learning about the concept of “Be, Do, Have” for the first time about ten years ago.  Most of us think we need to “have” a certain thing or set of things (more money, love, time, experience, etc.), so that we can finally “do” something important (pursue our passion, start a business, go on vacation, create a relationship, buy a home, etc.), which will then allow us to “be” what we truly want in life (peaceful, fulfilled, inspired, generous, in love, etc.). In actuality, it works the other way around.

First we “be” what we want (peaceful, loving, inspired, abundant, successful, or whatever), then we start “doing” things from this state of being – and soon we discover that what we’re doing winds up bringing us the things we’ve always wanted to “have.”

Whether or not this concept is new to you and even though on the surface it may seem either counter-intuitive or confusing (or both), it’s actually quite powerful and life-altering when we really get it and practice it in our lives.  I have personally experienced the profound impact of living in alignment with this “Be, Do, Have” paradigm – although more often than not, I either forget, don’t trust, or simply assume it can’t be this easy.  Making our goals and dreams happen is supposed to be hard, painful, and dramatic, right?  Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be.

What if we were able to live in alignment with this powerful principle of Be, Do, Have more of the time?  What if we remembered that we have the capacity to experience any state of being at any time – not just when things “work out” perfectly or we achieve exactly what we’re after.  There’s nothing wrong with us pursuing our goals and our dreams with passion.  However, when we erroneously think that the fulfillment of any specific goal, dream, or accomplishment will give us what we truly want to have in life, we delude ourselves and set ourselves up for failure, disappointment, and pain.

Remembering that who and how we’re “being” in life creates the context for how we think, feel, and act (some of the key raw materials for how we ultimately create our reality), gives us access to what we’re really after.  We don’t have to suffer and struggle as much as we do, we actually have the capacity to live our life with a true sense of elegance (the deeper meaning of this word is not about the appearance of something, but is about being able to put forth a small amount of focused effort, and manifest an abundant result).

Here are a few things we can do to remember and practice BEING who and how we want to in life.

– Think of one or more of the biggest goals or dreams in your life right now.  What is it that you think the accomplishment of this goal will bring you (i.e. fulfillment, joy, abundance, peace, freedom, etc.)

– Start embodying that state of being that you assume will come from the accomplishment of this goal.  For example, you may start “being” joyful (as if you already accomplished your goal).  It’s not about “faking it,” it’s about authentically embodying the desired states of being you truly want in your life.

– From this state of being, think about, talk about, and speculate the kinds of specific actions you might want to take.  Allow yourself to sit with this for a while, don’t be in too much of a hurry.  If you really allow yourself to come from this empowered state of being, the actions will start to show up with ease and your ability to both take them and allow them to work will increase exponentially.

– Have fun with this, get support from those around you, talk to people about this, and know that you will probably trip and fall many times along the way.  As we’ve all heard many times, but it is important to reiterate here, we are human beings, not human doings.  When we remember this, our life can really take off in a profound and fulfilling way.

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