Archive for May 2010

Be Flexible

May 25, 2010

(For this week’s audio message, click here.

How flexible are you?  For me, it depends – on my mood, how much fear or resistance I have about something, how attached I am to a particular outcome, and various other factors.

However, as I look throughout my life (now and in the past), I realize that the situations, relationships, and experiences that cause me the greatest stress and frustration, are almost always the places where I’m not being flexible.  And, on the flip side, the more flexible I am – the more peace, ease, and fulfillment become available.

Today, more than ever, we are challenged to be flexible – in our work, our relationships, and in every other important aspect of our lives.  However, due to our own fear, arrogance, resistance, stress, and obsession with being right, we often end up being inflexible to our own detriment and to the frustration of those around us (or so I’ve been told).

Being flexible is not about being weak, wimpy, or passive.  Flexibility is a conscious choice, a powerful skill, and a valuable approach to the ever-changing, always-evolving world we live in.  We can be firm in our convictions, passionate about our beliefs, and clear about our intentions, and at the same time be flexible enough to make significant changes and be open to new ideas along the way.

Here are some key elements to expanding your own capacity for flexibility in your life – which will lead you to greater peace, joy, and fulfillment:

– Let Go of Your Attachment – Whenever we get attached to something – a specific outcome, a particular way of doing things, a rigid opinion, etc. – we are, by definition, inflexible.  Letting go of our attachment to something doesn’t mean we negate our desire or intention, it simply means we let go of controlling every aspect of it, forcing the action, and our fixation on it being exactly the way we think it should be.  This is a process of conscious “non-attachment” (letting go), as opposed to detachment (not caring).

– Be Willing to Be Wrong – Most of us love to be right and will do and say just about anything to avoid being wrong.  Our obsession with “rightness” and fear of “wrongness” often gets in the way of going for what we want, saying what’s on our mind, and letting go of our fixed ideas about how things are supposed to be.  When we’re willing to be wrong (not necessarily interested in or intending to be wrong), we free ourselves up and give ourselves permission to take risks, try new things, and approach things (even really important things) with a creative, innovative, and flexible perspective.

– Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – Taking ourselves too seriously (something which I know a thing or two about), creates unnecessary stress, pressure, and worry.  When we’re able to laugh at ourselves (in a kind way), keep things in perspective, and remember that most of what we deal with on a daily basis in life is not life or death – we can take ourselves less seriously and thus have a more balanced, peaceful, and creative way of relating to things.

– Go with the Flow – If we pay attention to life, there is a natural flow that exists (although it may not always look like it or feel like it).  The more we’re able to tap into the natural flow of life, trust ourselves and others, and believe that things will work out – the more likely we are to allow things to roll off our backs and manifest with ease.  As Esther Hicks says, “Most people are rowing against the current of life.  Instead of turning the boat around, all they need to do is let go of the oars.”

– Get Support and Feedback From Others – The support and feedback of others is invaluable in so many aspects of our life and growth, especially as it relates to us being more flexible.  We can learn from and model others who are more flexible than we are.  We can also give people in our life permission to remind us (with kindness) when we get rigid, uptight, over-attached, and start taking ourselves too seriously.

Being flexible is something that’s often easier said than done for many of us.  However, just as with our physical bodies, the more attention we place on expanding our flexibility the more likely we are to do it.  As we enhance our ability to be flexible, our life can and will expand exponentially.

How can you practice being more flexible in your life right now? Share your thoughts, examples, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Appreciate the Simple Things

May 18, 2010

(For this week’s audio message, click here.)

Last week my left ear got plugged up and it was difficult for me to hear out of it for about 48 hours. It was scary and challenging. Thankfully everything was okay, it’s all clear now, and I’m able to hear just fine out of both ears.

Having this happen was yet another example of how easy it is for me to take something simple, but very important (like hearing), for granted. Sadly, we often don’t appreciate the simple things in life until they’re threatened, impacted, or taken away from us in some way.

What if we did appreciate the simple things all the time, in an authentic way? What kind of an impact would that have on our lives, our work, and our relationships? Dramatic, to say the least!

The book A Thousand Things Went Right Today, by Ilan Shamir, is all about this phenomenon. Think about all the simple things that have fallen into place, just today, to allow you to be sitting here, reading these words right now.

With this in mind, there are two important things that you can do right now (and in an ongoing way) to alter the experience of your life, your work, and your relationships extraordinarily:

1) Be Easily Impressed – In order to be easily impressed (i.e. to truly appreciate the simple things in life) we have to look for good stuff, appreciate the small miracles that occur around us all the time, focus on the amazing aspects of people and situations, and let go of arrogant, erroneous notions like, “I already know that,” or, “I’ve seen it all,” or, “No big deal.”

When we’re difficult to impress we also make it hard to be happy, grateful, and fulfilled. When we allow ourselves to be easily impressed, life gets much more fun and interesting. Appreciation is fundamentally subjective. People and things are only valuable (or not) based upon our perception of them.

If you’re interested in living a life filled with passion, success, and gratitude, it’s in your best interest to allow yourself to be authentically amazed all the time. Life is a miracle. People are incredible. You are fantastic. And, these things are only true if we pay attention to them and allow ourselves to be impressed by the greatness of life, others, and ourselves.

2) Be Hard to Offend – Being hard to offend is not about us abandoning our values or convictions, it’s more about choosing to allow other people and things be exactly as they are, without resistance of judgment.

We take so many things personally that have nothing to do with us at all. The more we react to something, the less freedom and peace we have. When I get really “triggered” by someone or something, if I make it all about the other person or the thing I’m focusing on, I usually miss the real gift, the lesson, and the point (i.e. the shadow or mirror that this “negative” thing is showing me about myself and life).

We are not victims of the people or circumstances in our lives. Others don’t actually have the power to offend us. As Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly stated, “No one can make me feel inferior without my permission.” This same phenomenon is true about being offended. It’s a choice we make and we have the power to choose not to be offended in almost every situation.

Unfortunately, most of us (myself included) have these two things flipped upside. In other words, we’re often very difficult to impress and quite easy to offend. And, as you may have noticed, this doesn’t work so well for us and those around us. How we can start flipping this around (becoming more easily impressed and harder to offend) is by appreciating simple things.

Action Idea – Appreciate the Simple Things Right Now:

Take a moment right now to pause and put your attention on all of the simple things you can appreciate in this moment. Look around where you are, go within yourself, and scan your life right now – focusing on what you appreciate. You can just think about these things, talk about them with someone else, or write them down (on a piece of paper, in your journal, in an electronic document, on my blog or your blog, and more). It doesn’t really matter what form it takes, this is about putting our conscious attention on some of the many simple things we can appreciate in this moment.

Some of these things while “simple,” may be quite significant (your health, your job, your most important relationships, etc.) And, even if you focus on very basic stuff (the fact that you have a computer or device that allows you to access this article, that your eyes work well enough to read it, that the electricity or battery power running your computer or device is allowing it to function, and more), your ability to recognize and appreciate the “good stuff” in life is directly related to your level of fulfillment and enjoyment.

We always have a choice as to what we pay attention to, what we focus on, and what we appreciate (or don’t). Make a commitment to yourself to appreciate the simple things in your life in a genuine and ongoing way, and see what happens!

What “simple” things in your life can you appreciate right now?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Distract Yourself in Healthy Ways

May 12, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here

We live in a world of distractions.  All day, every day we are bombarded with opportunities to be distracted.  And, as I’ve recently noticed about myself, many of us choose (whether we’re conscious of it or not) to distract ourselves on purpose and to escape from life in various ways.

Given that most of us are going to be distracted on a regular basis, consciously or unconsciously, it’s important that we take a deeper look at how and why we get distracted and do what we can do to start distracting ourselves in healthy ways and for healthy reasons.

Unhealthy distraction

Due to the fact that life can get quite intense and stressful, and many of us have come up with creative ways of avoiding certain feelings, situations, and activities that are challenging for us (i.e. things we’re scared of or uncomfortable with), we tend to distract ourselves in various unhealthy ways.

Whether our personal version of distraction involves food, TV, alcohol, a “smart” phone, drugs, drama, confusion, over-scheduling, taking care of everyone around us, or anything else – we often engage in unhealthy habits (like these and others) and do so for unhealthy reasons (because we don’t want to stop, feel, and deal with the intensity of our lives).

Healthy distraction, for unhealthy reasons

Once we become aware of our unhealthy patterns of distracting ourselves (as mentioned above), we can start to replace some of these negative behaviors with more positive ones.  I like to call this “productive procrastination.” Some examples:

  • We re-organize our desk instead of making those scary phone calls
  • We clean up the house instead of working on the creative project that we’ve been thinking about
  • Instead of rushing to the refrigerator when we get stressed out, we head out to the gym or on a bike ride to relieve some stress
  • We curl up with an inspiring book or watch a touching film that makes us feel better

These and other things can “distract” us in more positive ways and have less of a negative impact on us in the long run.  However, if we engage in these “healthy” activities simply as a way to avoid dealing with our lives, feeling certain uncomfortable emotions, or engaging in what’s going on around us in an authentic way, there is still another level for us to reach.

Conscious, healthy distraction

The ultimate goal of this process is for us to be able to choose to “distract” ourselves (i.e. get out of our heads, let go of our negative worries, and take a conscious break from the day-to-day stress of life) in a truly healthy way.  When our motivation is positive (i.e. we’re not avoiding anything, but choosing consciously to take a break), the outcome and experience of our “distraction” is more likely to be healthy and beneficial.

If we’re going to live a life of growth, meaning, and fulfillment – we need lots of healthy breaks and rests along the way, especially when things get hard. If we don’t take these breaks, it’s easy to let worry, fear, negativity, doubt, and the daily pressures of life take over, almost without us even noticing.

Here’s a long list of some simple things you can do to “distract” yourself in a healthy way.

  • Watch inspiring movies
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Walk in nature
  • Sing
  • Laugh
  • Play with children
  • Travel
  • Read inspiring books
  • Help others
  • Paint
  • Spend time with people you love
  • Dance
  • Take classes or workshops
  • Write
  • Listen to inspiring music
  • Swim
  • Sit and do nothing

This list could go on and on.  Take a moment to reflect on these and other things that you can do that will have a positive impact on your life right now.

It’s not so much what you do, but why and how you do it.  When we take some time to consciously “distract” ourselves in healthy ways, we interrupt the negative, unconscious, and habitual patterns of our minds and our culture that often get in the way of us experiencing the peace, joy, and abundance that is naturally and authentically around us and within us all the time.

How can you distract yourself in healthy ways and for healthy reasons?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

 

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Loving Your Ugly

May 4, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here.

Guest article – by Sara Nowlin

To really love ourselves fully, we must love all of who we are – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

For me and many people I know, it’s much easier to love and embrace the good – the best parts of us – our talents, positive personality traits, and the most attractive parts of our body.  The bad parts are a little more difficult to love.  Our ugly parts, the ones we often want to ignore or forget, are much more challenging to accept and appreciate. However, it’s these ugly parts that are the most crucial for us to love in order to be authentic and at peace in our life..

When we think of these ugly parts of ourselves, they’re often things we’re ashamed of, feel guilty about, and try to hide from others (and sometimes even ourselves).  They might be parts of our personality, aspects of our body, or even actions or experiences from our past.

The ugly part of myself that I’ve been learning to love is the aspect of my personality that bulldozes people.  This “bulldozer” comes out when I want something to go my way and there are others who think it should go another way.  My actions and attitude will flatten them and silence their voice.

We are taught from a young age that we can only show our good sides, and we must hide the bad ones.  Because we usually hide these ugly parts, we often think we’re the only ones who have them. If we start telling the truth about the ugly parts, we will begin to see that we aren’t alone – it’s just part of being human.

If we can embrace our humanity with compassion and forgive ourselves for these ugly parts, we don’t have to be driven by the need to hide them.  Doing this allows us to become more authentically who we are and also allows us to regain the energy that we’ve used to hold down and hide this ugly stuff.

Sometimes, people confuse “loving” with approving or condoning, especially when our ugly parts hurt others or ourselves. The bulldozer part of me is definitely not something that I approve of or condone.  However, “loving” can mean that we give up making it wrong and become more neutral about it.  In other words, we accept it as part of being human and part of who we are.  I can accept and embrace my bulldozer as one part of the spectrum of my humanness. I don’t have to beat myself up when it comes up, but just own it and apologize when it squashes people.

Here are a few steps to help you love your own ugly and to accept yourself fully:

1) Tell the Truth to Yourself – Before we can shift or change anything, we need to know what we are dealing with.  Examine all the thoughts, feelings, and judgments you have about your ugly parts (or some specific ugly part you want to make peace with).  It often takes a lot of courage for us to shine a light on something we try to keep in the dark.  However, we can’t love or embrace what we can’t see.

2) Be Willing to Give Up the Judgment – Our thoughts and judgments about an ugly part of ourselves can often seem like the “truth.”  However, they are just our thoughts and judgments.  If we can begin to separate our judgments from the truth, there is space to see something new.

3) Find the Value – Everything has some positive value, even the ugliest stuff.  There is a gift, something to appreciate, that this ugly aspect of who you are provides. This is often a difficult step since we have spent so much of our time and energy judging this part of who we are.  Although it may be difficult to find, seeing the value of your ugly is the key to finding compassion and forgiveness for yourself.

4) Embrace and Integrate – Once we find the value, we can begin to embrace it for what it gives us rather than hate it for what it takes away.  The protective walls containing the ugly part start to fall away.  The negative charge around it diminishes.  When you embrace and integrate the ugly, you will find more freedom and ease to be your authentic self.

5) Share with Others – Sharing with other people can remind you that you are not alone.  Friends and family can also support us by reminding us to love that ugly part when we forget.  Sharing can also inspire others to do the same – to love and accept all of who they are.

Please be gentle with yourself as you do this work.  It can be quite challenging and vulnerable, but can have a powerful impact on your life in the process.  Also remember that you don’t have to do it alone.  I often do this work with people I trust since it can be scary to look at the ugly.  But, the freedom and peace that comes from doing this, makes it worth it.

Sara Nowlin is a speaking, consultant, and coach.  For more information about her work you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

What are some “ugly” aspects of yourself that you’re willing to accept, appreciate, and love?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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