Archive for August 2010

It’s Okay for Things to Be Easy

August 31, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

A friend of mine called me out on something important last week.  He said, “Mike, this ‘story’ you have about things being ‘hard’ for you isn’t really true.  It seems to me that things come pretty easy, you just make them hard by saying they are.  What if you started saying and owning that certain things come easy to you?”

As I heard him say this, I had a mixture of emotions and reactions.  First of all, I felt grateful (I love having people in my life who are willing to call me out, even if my ego gets a little bent out of shape in the process).  Second of all, I felt defensive and noticed that I wanted to justify myself against his challenge.  Third of all, I felt a sense of fear and resistance to the idea of things coming “easy” to me.

As I’ve thought about it more over this past week ,I realize that this resistance to having things be easy runs deep within me (as it does for so many people I know and work with).   Here are some of the main “reasons” I’ve used and beliefs I’ve held for many years to resist the notion of things being easy for me:

– Easy means lazy

– If things come easy to me, other people will get jealous, won’t like me, and/or won’t respect me

– It doesn’t really “count” or mean much if it comes easy

– It’s not fair for things to come easy to me – especially with so many people having such a hard time these days

– I actually get off on struggling and suffering – I’m quite familiar with it and I’ve used it as motivation to change and “succeed” for much of my life

– My ability to work hard, overcome adversity, and rise above challenges are all things my ego uses to feel superior to others

– If I admit that something is easy for me, it will seem arrogant and then people will root for me to fail

Can you relate to any of these?

Getting in touch with some of these reasons and beliefs has been both painful and liberating at the same time.  As I think, talk, and write about them – I realize how ridiculous some of them are and how much of my life’s energy I’ve been giving to them in the process.

It’s almost like I’m walking around worried that someone’s going to say me, “Mike, you have it so easy,” and I’m preparing my defensive responses, “Oh yeah, well let me tell you how hard I work, how challenging things are for me, and how much stuff I’ve had to overcome along the way.”  What’s up with this?  It’s like I’m preparing for a fight that doesn’t even exist.  Do you ever do that?

While working hard, overcoming challenges and adversity, and being passionately committed to important and complex things in our lives aren’t inherently bad – resisting ease and being attached to struggle causes me and so many of us a great deal of stress, worry, and pain.  And, in many cases this difficulty is totally self-induced and unnecessary.

What if we allowed things to be easier?  What if we started to speak about and own the aspects of our lives that are actually easy to us and stated to expect things to get even easier?  Easy doesn’t mean lazy, that we aren’t willing to work in a passionate way, or that we expect a “free ride” – it means that we’re willing to have things work out, trust that all is well, and allow life to flow in a positive and elegant way for us.

Our desire and ability to embrace ease in our life isn’t selfish, arrogant, or unrealistic – it’s profoundly optimistic (in an authentic way) and can actually enhance our ability to impact others.  The more energy and attention we place on surviving, getting by, or even “striving” for success – the less available we are to give, serve, and make a difference for other people.  Although it may seem counter-intuitive to us, having things be easy is one of the best ways we can show up for those around us – both by our example and with our freed up positive energy.

As Richard Bach famously stated, “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” What if we stopped arguing on behalf of how “hard” things are, and started to allow our life to be filled with peace and ease? While the idea of things being easy may not be, ironically, the easiest thing for you to embrace – I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to take this on in your life and become more comfortable with it…maybe it could actually be easier than you think!

How do you feel about things being easy?  How can you make things easier in your life and work in a conscious and positive way?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

Comment on This Post

The Trap of Comparison

August 25, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here.

How often do you compare yourself to others?  If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, probably more than you’d like to admit.  And, as you may have noticed (like I have), this comparison process never seems to feel very good or work very well, does it?

Last week a woman sent me an email and suggested that I check out the website of another author/speaker.  She said he reminded her of me and thought we should know each other.  I looked at his website and was very impressed.  So much so that my Gremlin (that negative, critical voice in my head) started telling me how much better this guy is than me.  “Look at him – he’s a stud: funny, good looking, and super tech savvy.  His site is way cooler than yours, his approach is more hip, and he has this whole thing figured out much better than you do.”

After looking at his website and listening to my Gremlin, I found that I was feeling jealous, inferior, and self conscious.  Can you relate to this?

Sadly, many of us spend and waste lots of time and energy comparing ourselves to others.  Often times we end up feeling inferior to people based on our own self judgment and hyper criticalness.  However, we also may find ourselves feeling superior to some of the people around us, based on certain aspects of our lives and careers we think are going well and/or the specific struggles of the people in our lives.

The trap of comparison, however, is that whether we feel “less than” someone else or “better than” another person, we’re stuck in a negative loop.  This is the same coin – heads we “win” and think we’re better and tails we “lose” and think we’re worse.  All of this is an insatiable ego game that sets us all up to lose ultimately.  Comparison leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness, and more.

It’s normal for us to compare ourselves to others – especially given the nature of how most of us were raised and the competitive culture in which we live.  However, this comparison game can have serious consequences on our self esteem, our relationships, our work, and our overall experience of life.

The irony is that almost everyone feels this way, and we often erroneously think that if we just made more money, lost some weight, had more friends, got a better job, moved into a nicer place, had more outward “success”, found the “perfect” partner (or changed our partner into that “perfect” person), or whatever – than these insecure and unhealthy feelings of inferior/superior comparison would simply go away.  Not true.

How we can transform our comparison process into an experience of growth, connection, and self acceptance and self love (and ultimately let it go) is by dealing with it directly and going to the source – us and how we relate to ourselves.

Here are some things you can do to unhook yourself from the comparison trap:

– Have empathy and compassion for yourself.  When we notice we’re comparing ourselves to other people and feeling either inferior or superior, it’s essential to have a deep sense of compassion and empathy for ourselves. Comparison almost always comes from a place of insecurity and fear, not of deficiency or mal-intent. Judging ourselves as “less than” someone else or judging ourselves for going into comparison mode in the first place (which many of us do once we become aware of our tendency to do this), doesn’t help. In fact, this judgment causes more harm and keeps us stuck in the negative pattern.

– Use comparison as an opportunity to accept, appreciate, and love yourself. When comparison shows up, there is usually a lack of acceptance, appreciation, and love for ourselves.  Instead of feeling bad about what we think is wrong with us or critical of ourselves for being judgmental, what if we took this as a cue to take care of and nurture ourselves in an authentic way.

– Be willing to admit your own jealousy. One of the best ways to release something is to admit it (i.e. “tell on yourself”). While this can be a little scary and vulnerable to do, when we have the courage to admit our own jealousy, we can own it in a way that is liberating to both us and other people. Acknowledging the fact that we feel jealous of another person’s success, talent, accomplishment, or quality is a great way to let go of it and to remove the barrier we may feel with that person or experience. If you find yourself jealous of someone you don’t know (like a celebrity or just someone you haven’t met personally), you can acknowledge these feelings to someone close to you or even in a meditation with an image of that actual person.

– Acknowledge the people you compare yourself to.  Another great way to break through the negative impact of comparing ourselves to others is to reach out to them with some genuine appreciation. After a few minutes of feeling bad about myself, I ended up reaching out to the guy whose website I looked at last week, acknowledged him for the good work he is doing, and asked if we could connect. It felt good and liberating to do that. The more excited we’re willing to get for other people’s success, talents, and experiences – the more likely we are to manifest positive feelings and outcomes in our own lives. There is not a finite amount of success or fulfillment – and when we acknowledge people we compare ourselves to, we remind ourselves that there is more than enough to go around and that we’re capable of experiencing and manifesting wonderful things in our own life as well.

How often do you compare yourself to others? How does this impact your life, relationships, and sense of yourself? What can you do to let go of this habit and be more loving, accepting, and appreciative of yourself? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

Comment on This Post

The Importance of Unplugging

August 18, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

What percentage of your waking hours are you “plugged in” (i.e. checking things on the internet, doing email, texting, playing with your wireless device, watching TV, posting to Facebook or Twitter, and more)?  If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, probably more than you’d like to admit.

Recently I began to confront my own obsession (borderline addiction) to being plugged in.  For many years I’ve justified my somewhat obsessive nature about email and internet use by the fact that I run my own business and have to stay connected in order to make sure I’m taking care of my clients, generating new business, and not missing out on important opportunities.

However “true” this may seem, in the past few years (especially with the addition of social networking, texting, and other forms of “instant” communication and information sharing), it has become clear to me that my desire to stay connected has gotten a bit out of control and has had a negative impact on my life, my well being, and my relationships.

From entrepreneurs to sales people to managers to stay-at-home moms – just about everyone I know and work with seems to have some form of electronic obsession impacting their lives in a negative way.

About a month ago, I woke up on a Sunday morning and said to my wife Michelle, “I’m going to have a media free day today – no email, iPhone, internet, TV, or anything else.  Today, I’m going to be totally unplugged.”  She looked at me with a bit of amazement and disbelief – I think both because I was actually saying this and because she wasn’t convinced I could do it.

I had my own doubts and a few weak moments early in the day where I almost fell off the wagon and checked my phone.  However, I was able to do it and by the end of that day, I felt great. I was able to relax and be present in a way that felt grounded and peaceful. The past four Sundays I’ve been “unplugged” and I’m loving it.

What if we unplugged more often?  What if we gave ourselves permission to disconnect from technology and the “important” world of uber-communication?  While for some of us this is easier than others, most of us could benefit from a little more unplugging and a little less emailing/texting/web or channel surfing in our lives.

What’s funny to me is how hypocritical we often are about it.  When our spouse, co-worker, or friend is busy on their phone, checking email, or being “obnoxiously” plugged in, we often get annoyed.  However, when we’re the one doing it, it’s almost always “necessary.”

Here are a few things you can do to start unplugging yourself in a healthy way.

– Take inventory of the negative impact of technology in your life.  How much stress, frustration, and difficulty does being constantly “plugged in” cause for you?  Think about this on a physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual level. Admittedly, this is a bigger issue for some of us than others.  However, the more honest you can be with yourself about it – both the impact it has on you and any underlying fears that may be associated with it, the more able you’ll be to alter your habits.

– Challenge yourself to take conscious breaks.  See if you can schedule a full day to be “unplugged.”  If that seems to scary at first, try a morning or a few hours.  And, if doing a full day seems easy – try a full weekend, a work day, or something else that will be a stretch.  I’m working up to doing a full weekend myself and entertaining the idea of week day (although that seems scarier to me at the moment).  Push yourself, but go easy on yourself at the same time – baby steps are important and perfectly acceptable with this.

– Unplug together.  See if you can get other people in your house, your family, or those you work with to unplug with you.  Doing this with the support of other people can be fun and make it easier.  It will also create accountability for you and those around you.

Our issues and challenges with technology and our obsession with being connected and online 24/7 don’t seem to be going away or getting better culturally.  In fact, if we just take a look at our own lives and habits in the past few years – for most of us, things are getting worse.  It is up to us to interrupt this pattern and to disengage from our electronic obsession in a conscious way.

While unplugging may not always easy or encouraged in the environments we find ourselves in, it’s crucial to our success and well being in life.  When we’re able to disconnect ourselves, we can regain some of the passion, energy, creativity, and perspective that often gets diminshed or lost when we allow ourselves to get sucked into our phones, computers, TVs and other devices.

How often do you unplug consciously?  What can you do to have more unplugged time in your life?  What do you think diconnecting would provide for you and those around you?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

Comment on This Post

Are You Choosing Unhappy Over Uncertain?

August 12, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here.

I’ve been re-reading Tim Ferriss’ great book The Four Hour Workweek, which has been expanding my mind and giving me lots of great ideas.  In the book, Ferriss states that “most people choose to be unhappy rather than uncertain.”

As I began to reflect on this bold and somewhat critical statement, I realized how true it is for me in certain aspects of my life and work.  While I like to think of myself as someone who boldly takes risks and tries new things, there are clearly places in my life where I avoid change, suffer with “how things are,” and allow fear to stop me from doing things differently (even if the way I’m currently doing things isn’t really working).  Can you relate?

Change is a funny thing.  Most of us seek it and fear it at the same time.  Especially in the past year or two, with so much change and fear swirling around us – at work, in the media, in our families, and more – it seems as though many of us have gotten even more risk-adverse.  And while this makes sense given the nature of the economy and other circumstances, our risk-aversion isn’t making us happier and more fulfilled, in fact it usually has the opposite effect.

Ironically, wherever we find ourselves on the risk continuum (i.e. someone who takes lots of risks, someone who rarely does, or somewhere in between), we all have had lots of experience with risk, change, and stepping into uncertainty.  And while we often dwell more on the times we’ve taken risks and failed (and use these “negative” experiences as justification for not doing things differently or being bold), most of us have way more successes than failures when it comes to change.

Think of some of the things you’ve done in your life that felt risky at the time, but in hindsight you’re so glad that you did them (i.e. they really worked out and/or you learned a great deal in the process).  Things rarely seem as scary when we reflect on them in the past – it’s the stuff that confronts us in the moment or the things we worry may happen in the future that cause us the most anxiety.  However, looking back at our past risks, successes, and even failures can give us confidence as we move through our lives in the present moment.  As the saying goes, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

Right now for so many people, teams, and organizations I work with – as well as many of my friends and family members (including myself), what’s necessary and essential for us to live lives of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, is to consciously step out of our comfort zone, take more risks, and be willing to be choose uncertainty over unhappiness.

Can taking risks be scary?  Yes!  Will things work out?  Not always.  Is our level of fulfillment in life directly connected to our ability (or inability) to lean into uncertainty?  Absolutely!

Where in your life are you choosing “unhappy” over “uncertain?”  What could you do to boldly lean into uncertainty and in the process claim more of your power, passion, and fulfillment?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

Comment on This Post

Get Mike’s Free Email Newsletter: