Archive for December 2010

Complete the Year Consciously

December 30, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

These few days before the start of the New Year have a magical and sacred quality to them.  I appreciate the lull in activity that often takes place this week and the opportunity we have to reflect back on the year that is ending, as well as to create new possibilities and intentions for the year that’s about to start.  It often seems more exciting to focus on our “resolutions” for the coming year than it does to look back.  However, before we jump ahead and start making our goals for next year, it’s essential that we complete the year that is about to end consciously.

As much as I personally love this completion process, I usually have mixed emotions reflecting back on the year.  There is often excitement, gratitude, and joy for all of the wonderful accomplishments, experiences, insights, and more.  There is also sadness, disappointment, and sorrow over the things that I didn’t accomplish, the people and things I’ll miss, and the places in my life where I struggled or failed.

This is as true as ever as 2010 comes to a close. This past year I’ve experienced some really big highs and some painful lows. I’m truly grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced. And, while I have lots to appreciate from this past year, I’m also glad to see it end! How about you?

Due to the common mixture of emotions we experience and especially with a year like 2010 which created a lot of growth opportunities for most of the people I know and work with, it’s essential that we embrace and practice the art of completion.  Completion is a conscious process we engage in whereby we do and say whatever we need to in order to create a true sense of closure to an experience (in this case, the year that is about to end).

Because we often have resistance to authentically celebrating and appreciating ourselves, reflecting honestly on our accomplishments or our failures, acknowledging our real results or lack thereof, grieving loss with depth, and more – we usually just roll through the end of things and either avoid completion all together or move onto the next thing as fast as we can.  When we do this, however, we miss out on a sacred and important process.

Completion allows us to bring things to a close with a sense of gratitude, reverence, and peace.  When we allow ourselves to experience a sense of true completion, we move into the next phase of life bringing with us the gifts, lessons, accomplishments, experiences, and more from what we’ve just been through.  When we don’t take the time to truly complete something, we end up carrying baggage, regrets, fear, and unresolved issues into our next experience.  These things don’t serve us and often end up undermining our success and fulfillment.

As we get ready for 2011 and begin to think specifically about what we want to create and experience in the New Year, one of the most important things we can do is to complete 2010 in a conscious and powerful way.

Completion Questions

Here are some questions you can ask and answer yourself, as a way to create a sense of completion for 2010:

  • What were my biggest lessons in 2010?
  • What am I most proud of from this past year?
  • What were my biggest disappointments in 2010?
  • What am I ready to let go of from this past year?
  • What else do I need to do or say to be totally complete with 2010?

As you take some time to think about and write down your answers to these questions, see if you can reflect on this past year with a sense of appreciation and empathy.  The word “appreciate” means to recognize the value of (not necessarily like, agree with, or want to experience again).  Whether your year was “wonderful,” “terrible,” or somewhere in between – we each have so much we can appreciate about this past year.  And, it’s important for us to have as much empathy as we possibly can for ourselves (and those around us), especially right now.

If you’re anything like me, you probably had some big failures or disappointments this past year.  When we can remember that we almost always do the best we can with what we have in each moment of our lives, we can hopefully let go of our feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment over any of the things that didn’t go as planned for us in 2010.  And, you probably had some incredible things happen in your life this past year as well.  It’s important that we acknowledge ourselves for all of it – the highs and the lows.

See if you can create some sacred time in the next few days to share your answers to these completion questions with some of the important people in your life (and maybe ask them to answer these questions as well).  By creating a conscious intention for completion, you will give yourself the gift of appreciation for this past year and in so doing, allow a space to open up in which you can create your goals and intentions for 2011 with a sense of peace, power, and clarity.  And, as you ponder these questions, you may realize that there is something important you want to do or say in order to leave 2010 behind and step into 2011 with freedom and passion.

Have fun with this.  And, congratulations on completing another year of this magical, bizarre, wonderful adventure we call life – what a ride!

How will you consciously complete 2010? What can you do or say to leave 2010 behind you in a powerful, authentic, and peaceful way? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.

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Appreciation: The Most Meaningful Gift

December 22, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

During one of her shows a few years back, Oprah Winfrey made a profound and beautiful statement that I appreciated very much. She said, “We do shows about lots of ‘stuff’ and my ‘favorite things,’ but what people want more than anything else is to know that they’re appreciated…that’s the best gift of all.”

At this time of year it’s easy for us to get caught up in the stress of getting everything on our “list” crossed off, preparing for parties and events, and rushing around to buy last minute gifts. And, with money tight for many this year, there can added stress when thinking about what gifts to get for family members, friends, co-workers, and others.

Instead of just giving “stuff” for the holidays this year, what if we gave the people in our life the most meaningful gift of all; our appreciation? Let the people around you know what you appreciate about them and why.

What do you value most about your best friend? What is it about your kids that you really appreciate? What do you love best about your spouse? How does your co-worker or your boss make your job and life easier and more fun?

Expressing our heartfelt and genuine appreciation for the important people in our life is magical and it’s essential to our ability to create happiness, fulfillment, loving relationships, healthy families, successful teams, and productive communities. Appreciation is also an important element of effectively dealing with the stress of challenges and uncertainty that so many of us are facing these days.

This year, our holiday gifts can be expressions of true appreciation which will have real impact on our relationships and make our holiday season one to remember. And, with things the way they are these days, taking time to appreciate others and life is so important this year.

Here are three simple suggestions to make your holiday gifts and your holiday season special and meaningful:

1) In addition to (or instead of) giving actual presents, take time to write heartfelt thank you cards. Write cards of gratitude – letting the people around you know what you appreciate about them and how they have impacted your life this year in a positive way. Express your appreciation genuinely, specifically, and personally – in a heartfelt way.

2) Ask people what they really want. Giving something specific that someone really wants will have them feel appreciated and valued. It doesn’t have to be expensive, as long as it’s personal to them. And, if you ask them directly you may find out that what they really want is something simple that can’t be bought or doesn’t cost money.

3) Give the gift of your time or service – Make a list of a few important people in your life and instead of buying them something, call and ask each them if there is some project they’ve been putting off or procrastinating that you might be able to help them with. Schedule time to come over to their house or support them specifically in getting that task or project accomplished.

Remember what most people want, more than almost anything else, is to know that they are loved, valued, and appreciated. Appreciation truly is the best gift we can give to the people in our lives (for the holidays and at any time of the year).

What do you appreciate about the people around you? How can you express that appreciation in addition to (or instead of) buying presents for the important people in your life this year? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.

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Stay Grounded During the Holidays

December 8, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

The holiday season is now in full swing.  If you’re anything like me you probably have mixed feelings about the holidays. I love the excitement, parties, decorations, rituals, music, gifts, connections, and more. However, even these fun things can wear on me. And, the stress, drama, consumption, obligation, expense, and more that often come along with this time of year are not on my list of “favorite things.”

In addition, I often feel like I’m not doing enough, not on top of my “list,” and I sometimes worry that I won’t get everything done in time to make the people in my life happy the way I want to. Can you relate?

This year, especially with all that’s going on around us in the economy and the world, what if we each made a commitment to appreciate the holiday season and enjoy the whole experience – regardless of our circumstances or any external pressure we may feel?  Appreciating the holiday season, as with anything in life, will make it much more enjoyable and much less stressful.

Instead of rushing around in a high state of anxiety and worry about crossing every item off of our never-ending to-do list, we could choose another way – one which will make this holiday season enjoyable, fun, and peaceful for us and those around us.

Here are a few things we can remember this holiday season to make things more fulfilling and less overwhelming:

– Take Responsibility for Your Experience. It’s important to remember that the stress we experience during the holiday season does not come from the holidays themselves, but from us. We’re always the creators of our own experience and the more we can remember this and live our lives from this perspective, the more empowered we are.  When we stop thinking, speaking, and acting as if we’re mere victims of holiday madness (or anything else in our lives for that matter), we can dramatically enhance our enjoyment and lower our stress.

– Remember That You Are at Choice. We always have a choice about how we engage with anything. This holiday season we can choose to be annoyed by family members, obligations, forced work gatherings, crowds, prices, or anything else. Or, we can choose to enjoy the magic and fun of this time of year.  We may not always get to choose the people and circumstances around us, but we always have a choice about how we relate to them.  Our experience of the holidays (and of life) is up to us, as it always is.

– Focus on What You Appreciate About the Holidays. Consciously choose to focus on the things that you appreciate about the holiday season the most. Tell the truth about this to yourself and to those around you. If at all possible, don’t participate in work or family gatherings out of obligation. But, regardless of where you are, what you do, or whom you are with – make a commitment to appreciate what’s happening, the people around you, and the many blessings of this season and in your life right now.

Even and especially when things are challenging, we always have so much to be grateful for. At this time of the year, we can take a step back, breathe deeply, and experience the gratitude we have for our lives, the people in it, and for ourselves. If not now, then when?

While there are always things for us to do, gifts to buy, gatherings to attend, and much more going on at this time of year; we can choose to have this holiday season be one that is filled with authentic peace, gratitude, and joy – if we’re willing to look for, find, and focus on what we appreciate.

How do you relate to the holidays?  What can you do or shift to have this holiday season be one you truly enjoy and appreciate?  How can you stay grounded during the holidays? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog

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When You Fall Down, Get Back Up

December 2, 2010

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Have you ever seen a small child learn how to walk?  If you have, you know what a remarkable experience it is.  I’d heard about this, but had never witnessed it first hand until Samantha, our (almost) five year old, took her first real steps when she was just over a year.  She and I were playing in our family room one night and although she’d taken a step or two here and there, and could get around okay while holding onto an adult or a piece of furniture, she hadn’t really “walked” yet.

That night I was holding her hands and pulling her across the room with me, as she took some steps.  I decided to let go to see what would happen.  I did and she took a step or two and then fell down, face first, on the soft carpet.  She was fine.  She looked up at me and although she couldn’t speak, she made it very clear that she wanted me to pick her up so she could try again.  I did and this time when I let go she took about four or five real steps and then fell down.  I screamed, “You did it!”, started clapping wildly, and yelling for my wife Michelle to come into the room.

Michelle came running in.  Samantha and I went to the far end of our family room.  I held her hands to steady her, started walking with her across the floor, let go, and then it happened – she really walked – all the way across the room, by herself.  When she fell down, Michelle and I were so elated and moved, we both burst into tears and joyous laughter at the same time.  Samantha, so proud of herself, began to shriek with excitement and to clap her hands as she was lying there on the floor.  And, of course, she wanted to get back up and go again.

We all know how to do this – fall down and get back up.  Assuming we know how to walk, which most of us are fortunate enough to be able to do, we went through this specific and miraculous experience ourselves when we were very small.  We’ve also gone through it in a figurative sense many other times as we move through the ups and downs of life.  The question isn’t whether or not we’ll fall down; the question is will we be bold enough to get back up again?  Too often, sadly, we fall down and then decide we can’t get back up.  Boldness is about having the courage, willingness, and commitment to get back up when we fall down – even if we’re scared or don’t think we can.

Resisting, complaining about, or even feeling sorry for ourselves about the “bad” things that happen is totally normal and what we’re often encouraged to do by people around us and our culture in general – whether we do it out loud with others or just in our heads.  However, these things, while understandable, don’t address the real issues, the emotions we’re experiencing, or make things better for us. Facing difficulties in our life can actually be an incredibly rewarding and positive experience for us – if we choose to allow our challenges to be opportunities for growth.

Below is a list of some things to appreciate when we “fall down” in life.  Obstacles, failures, and challenges can:

– Give us important feedback about where and who we are

– Provide an opportunity for us to be courageous

– Allow us to wake up and notice all the good things that are happening that we hadn’t been paying attention to

– Give us a great opportunity for learning, growth, and improvement

– Allow us to learn to appreciate ourselves, even when things don’t turn out exactly as we want them to

– Give us an opportunity to get in touch with, take responsibility for, and express our real emotions in an authentic way

– Challenge us to play bigger, make adjustments, or re-think our approach

By learning to see our challenges as opportunities, we take our power back from the situations, circumstances, and outcomes of our lives. Our ability to appreciate difficulties, learn from them, and use them to our advantage, gives us an important insight into who we really are and how to create success and fulfillment in a conscious, deliberate, and authentic way.

Being bold, going for what we want, and living with authenticity doesn’t in any way mean we won’t fail, struggle, or fall short.  In fact, if we aren’t failing or facing any challenges at all, it’s probably a good indication that we aren’t playing all that big in our lives.  It’s important for us to make peace with the fact that we will fall down many times throughout our journey.  However, when we make a commitment to ourselves to get back up, dust ourselves off, be real about how we feel and what happened, and not let it stop us from being who we are and going for what we want -we tap into what true power, boldness, and authenticity are all about.

As Mark Twain reminds us in one of his many famous quotes, “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Where in your life have you recently fallen down? Have you gotten back up yet?  If so, great – acknowledge yourself.  If not, what will it take for you to get back up, learn from the experience, and appreciate yourself in the process? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.

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