Archive for March 2011

You Are Not Alone

March 31, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Sometimes I feel like I’m all alone.  Even though my relationship with my wife Michelle is amazing, the love I feel for and from my girls is profound, and there are so many incredible people in my life (family, friends, and clients) – I still find that in my darkest moments, I feel like there’s no one who really gets me, knows what I’m going through, or even cares enough to truly have my back.  Do you ever feel like this yourself?

I’m facing some pretty intense challenges in my life right now.  Earlier this week, I was standing in the center of the circle at my men’s group and I allowed myself to really get vulnerable about what’s been going on and the underlying pain and fear I’ve been feeling.  As I fell to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably, I realized that two of my deepest fears have been – “I can’t handle all of this myself,” and, “I’m all alone.”

As I allowed myself to both feel and express the intensity of these painful fears, two amazing things happened.  First of all, I felt liberated (which is what almost always happens when we express ourselves vulnerably and authentically).  Second of all, I felt the acceptance, support, and love of the men in my group in that moment, which reminded me (both mentally and, more important, emotionally and experientially) that I’m not, in fact, alone – there are so many incredible people in my life who do have my back.

We’re never truly alone, even when we feel that way.  Most of us have important, loving, and caring people in our lives who are there to support us – if we’re willing to open up, ask for, and receive their help.  And, regardless of how many people are around us, what our current relationship, family, or work situation may be, or any of the other external circumstances in our life – each of us has access to a higher power, whether we call it God, Spirit, Source, or anything else.

One of the deepest and most basic fears of being human is the fear of loneliness – no one to be with us, love us, accept us, support us, and take care of us if and when we need it.  Although this fear seems very real and there’s nothing wrong with us for feeling it, the paradox is that we aren’t ever really alone – we’re surrounded by love and support all the time, from others and, of course, from God.  The idea that we’re alone is simply a “story” we tell ourselves, especially when things get difficult, scary, or both.

Here are some things you can do to let go of this “story” of being alone when it shows up in your life:

1)  Open Up Vulnerably – Acknowledging, owning, and sharing your deepest truth is one of the best ways to liberate yourself and connect with other people in an authentic way (hence, reminding you that you’re not alone).  So often we think that if we really let others know how we feel, what we fear, and what’s truly going inside our head and our heart, they will judge us, reject us, or not understand us.  In most cases, the exact opposite is true.

2)  Ask For Help – As the saying goes, “the answer is always ‘no’ if you don’t ask.”  When we have the courage and vulnerability to ask for the help and support we need, a few important things happen.  First of all, we’re liberated from the pressure of trying to take care of everything ourselves.  Second of all, we give other people the opportunity to contribute to us and be of service (which most people love to do).  And finally, we’re able to tap into the energy, brilliance, and creativity of other human beings – which is almost always helpful and is also a good reminder that we have access to a great deal of love and support.

3)  Allow Yourself To Be Supported – Being “supportable” is something many of us, myself included, struggle with.  Even if we’re vulnerable enough to tell the truth about how we really feel and ask for the support we truly want, it takes a certain amount of maturity, self respect, and humility to allow other people to support us.  Even if it’s scary and feels uncomfortable at first, practicing and expanding your capacity to receive the support of others is both generous (as it allows other people to make a difference) and wise (you don’t have to work so hard and struggle so much).

4)  Have Faith – Faith is the belief in things not seen or proven.  At some level, our ability to grow, expand, and evolve in life is directly related to our ability to live with a deep sense of faith – in ourselves, others, and a higher power.  In our lowest moments, when it feels like we truly are alone and that things will never turn around, work out, or go the way we want them to in life, our faith is what can pull us through.  Waiting for a “guarantee” or until we think we’re “ready” or “deserving” of support sets us up to fail and creates more fear and anxiety.  Having faith in ourselves, others, life, and God is what can remind us, in an instant, that we’re not alone – because we’re not!

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There is Good News – If You Look For It

March 24, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

As someone who is very interested in current events, sports, politics, the state of our economy and world, and more – I pay a lot of attention to the news (sometimes more than is probably healthy for me). I read newspapers, check out various news sites/blogs, watch TV, and listen to the radio.  With all of this news and information, I’m often struck by how little of it is “good news,” especially these days.

While there is probably a certain amount of negative stuff that is important for us to know about (from a safety and information perspective), if we pay much attention to the media, it’s easy to get the impression that life is really scary, dangerous, and there are lots of terrible things happening all over the place.

In the recent weeks and months there have been some genuinely intense things happening around the world – the situation in Egypt, the tragedy in Japan, the violence in Libya, and more.  The state of the job market, gas prices, and the economy here in America and around the world continues to be tenuous and scary for many people.

These things do have real impact on real people – and on many of us personally.  However, what about all the good news? There are literally billions of positive things happening all over the planet at this moment – most of which we will never hear about or know about. Think of how much good stuff goes unnoticed, unacknowledged, and un-communicated even in our own personal lives (at home and at work) on a regular basis.

What has been happening in our country, our culture, and our world is a reflection of what is going on within each of us.  We can get caught up in the “doom and gloom” of the moment, obsess about all of the issues and challenges facing us today, and allow the bad news coming at us from every angle get to us on a personal level – or we can choose something else.

While I am not advocating that we bury our head in the sand, pretend everything is “fine,” and just ignore what’s happening, I do believe that now more than ever, we must be conscious about what we watch, read, and listen to.  Nobody forces us to read the paper or the Internet, turn on the TV or radio, or get caught up in the mass hysteria of how “awful” things are.

And while it is important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, to be mindful and empathetic of the pain and suffering of others, and to do what we can to support those in need – both in our own backyard and across the globe, sitting around worrying, obsessing, and complaining about how “bad” things are doesn’t do us or others any good.  As Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive our darkness, only light can do that.”

Here are a few things you can do to focus more on good news:

  • Limit the amount of news you consume.  If you’re honest about it, you don’t need to watch, read, or listen to as much as you do in order to stay informed.  If this is an issue for you, create a specific time limit per day and have others in your life support you and hold you accountable.
  • Choose news sources that you respect and at some level make you feel good.  In other words, notice how you feel personally and emotionally when you watch a particular news show, listen to someone on the radio, or read a newspaper, magazine, or website.  If you notice that after watching, listening, or reading you don’t feel so good – maybe you can find another source for your news.
  • Seek out good news. Whether it’s in the media or in your life personally, now more than ever, we must look for and find things to be grateful for, happy about, and excited about.  There’s lots of good news out there; it’s up to us to find the good stuff and also to talk about it to others.  This is not about avoiding challenges or being in denial about the “reality” of life; it’s about choosing where to put our attention and energy, and focusing in that direction consciously.

How can you do to start looking for and finding more good news in your life and in the world?  How do you think this might impact you and those around you?  Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more on my blog below.

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Live Like You’re Going to Die (Because You Are)

March 17, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

You’re going to die.  I’m going to die.  Everyone around us is going to die.

The reality of death is, of course, both obvious and daunting for most of us.  With the recent tragic events in Japan and some very serious health news I received from someone close to me, I’ve been thinking about life and death a lot this past week.  I was on a run a few days ago and thought to myself, “I wonder what it’s like to know you’re going to die?”  Then I thought, “Wait a minute, we’re all going to die – we just don’t act like it.”

As simple as this thought was, it was profound for me.  I don’t live my life all that consciously aware of my own death.  My own fears about death (mine and others) often force me to avoid thinking about it all together.  I do catch myself worrying about dying; sometimes more often than I’d like to admit, especially with our girls being as young as they are – Samantha’s five and Rosie’s two and a half.

I also don’t talk about death that much because it seems like such a morbid topic, a real “downer.”  I worry that it’s too intense to address or that if I focus on death I will somehow attract it to me or those around me superstitiously.

And, as a culture we don’t really like to talk about death or deal with it in a meaningful way since it can be quite scary and is the exact opposite of so much of what we obsess about (youth, productivity, vitality, results, beauty, improvement, the future, etc.).

But what if we embraced death, talked about it more, and shared our own vulnerable thoughts, feelings, and questions about it?  While for some of us this may seem uncomfortable, undesirable, or even a little weird – think how liberating it would be and is when we’re willing to face the reality of death directly.

Steve Jobs gave a powerful commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 entitled “How to live before you die.”  In that speech, he said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Contemplating death in a conscious way doesn’t have to freak us out.  Knowing that our human experience is limited and that at some mysterious point in the future our physical body will die, is both sobering and liberating.

The reason I’ve always appreciated memorials services (even when I’ve been in deep pain and grief over the death of someone close to me) is because there is a powerful consciousness which often surrounds death. When someone passes away we often feel a certain amount of permission to get real in a vulnerable way and to focus on what’s most important (not the ego-based fear, comparison, and self criticism that often runs our life).

What if we tapped into this empowering awareness all the time – not just because someone close to dies or because we have our own near-death experience, but because we choose to affirm life and appreciate the blessing, gift, and opportunity that it is.

Here are some things we can think about, focus on, and do on a regular basis that will allow us to live like we’re going to die, in a positive way:

– Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – As my dear friend and mentor Richard Carlson reminded millions of us through his bestselling series of books with this great title, life is not an emergency and most of the stuff we worry about, get upset about, and obsess about is not that big of a deal.  If we lived as if we were dying, we probably wouldn’t let so many small things bother us.

– Let Go of Grudges – One of my favorite sayings is, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.”  Everyone loses when we hold a grudge, especially us.  If you knew you were going to die soon, would you really want to spend your precious time and energy holding onto anger and resentment towards those around youor people from your past (regardless of what they may have done)? Forgiveness is powerful – it’s not about condoning anything, it’s about liberation and freedom for us.

– Focus on What Truly Matters – What truly matters to you?  Love? Family? Relationships? Service? Creativity? Spirituality? Our authentic contemplation of death can help us answer this important question in a poignant way.  If you found out you only had a limited time left to live, what would you stop doing right now?  What would you want to focus on instead?  And while we all have certain responsibilities in life, asking ourselves what truly matters to us and challenging ourselves to focus on that, right now, is one of the most important things we can do.

– Go For It – Fear of failure often stops us from going for what we truly want in life.  From a certain perspective (the ego-based, physical, material world) death can be seen as the ultimate “failure” and is often related to that way in our culture, even though people don’t usually talk about it in these blunt terms.  However, this perspective can actually liberate us.  If we know we’re ultimately going to “fail” in life (in terms of living forever), what have we really got to lose by taking big risks?  We all know how things are going to turn out in the end.  As I heard in a workshop years ago, “Most of us are trying to survive life; we have to remember that no one ever has.”

– Seize the Day – Carpe diem, the Latin phrase for “seize the day,” is all about being right here, right now.  The more willing we are to surrender to the present moment, embrace it, and fully experience it – the more we can appreciate and enjoy life.  As John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  Living like we’re going to die is about remembering to fully engage in the present moment, being grateful for the gift that it is, and doing our best not to dwell on the past or worry about the future.  If today were your last day, how would you want to live?

Death can be difficult and scary scary for many of us to confront. There is a lot of fear, resistance, and “taboo” surrounding it in our culture and for us personally.  However, when we remember that death is both natural and inevitable, we’re reminded that everyone’s life (whether it lasts for a few days or a hundred years) is short, precious, and miraculous.  This awareness can fundamentally and positively alter the way we think, feel, and relate to ourselves, others, and life itself.  Living as if we’re going to die (and remembering that it’s guaranteed) is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and those around us.

How can you start living your life for more conscious of your own death, in a positive and empowering way?  What can you do right now to let go of what’s not important, focus on what truly matters, and seize the day? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below

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A Bad Day for the Ego is a Good Day for the Soul

March 2, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

A few weeks ago I listened to a radio interview with Michael Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation, and he said, “A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.”  When I heard this I laughed out loud.  The wisdom of his statement resonated with me deeply.  I thought about a number of experiences in my life which have been quite “bad” for my ego (i.e. embarrassing, disappointing, and even painful), but in hindsight have been great for my own growth and development.

Over this past week, I’ve had two specific situations, one in the middle of a seminar with one of my clients and another in a personal conversation, where I felt embarrassed – things didn’t turn out at all how I wanted them to and it seemed like I messed up.  As I experienced these situations and have been reflecting on them, although I didn’t like how they unfolded, I recognize that the discomfort involved in both instances was about me protecting my ego (in other words – wanting to look good or at least not to look bad).

In retrospect, I’m grateful that both of these things happened exactly as they did.  They were and continue to be good opportunities for me to learn, grow, and evolve – both in my work and my life.

Too often our desire to protect our ego – to avoid failure and embarrassment – causes us to sell out on ourselves, not go for what we truly want, or hold back in a variety of detrimental ways.  When we remember that even if things don’t turn out the way we think we want them to, not only will we survive, we can grow in the process.  As the saying goes, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

This is not to say that the only way to grow, evolve, and transform in life is through suffering, disappointment, or pain.  However, when we do experience difficulties, failures, and challenges – all of which are normal and natural aspects of life and growth – we have the capacity to turn these “bad” things into incredible opportunities for healing and transformation.  While it may not seem that way to us (or our ego) initially, the deeper part of who we are (our soul) knows that everything happens for a reason and there are always important lessons for us to learn in each situation and experience in life.

Think of some of the things that have happened in your life that seemed “awful” to you at the time, but in hindsight are things you’re incredibly grateful for now.

The most elegant, pleasurable, and self-loving way for us to grow and evolve is through joy, success, and gratitude. However, due to the fact that difficulties do occur in life and that we often give away our power to the “bad” stuff (through resistance, judgment, or worry), learning to relate to our challenges in a more positive and conscious way is a crucial part of our growth journey.

Remembering that what’s usually at risk in life when we get scared is just our ego, can remind us, with compassion, that we don’t have nearly as much to lose as we think we do.  Embodying this insight (that a bad day for our ego is a good day for our soul) with empathy and perspective, allows us to live our lives with a deeper sense of forgiveness, faith, and authenticity.

Where are you letting your ego get in the way of your growth and fulfillment?  How can you transform your fear of embarrassment into motivation for change, authenticity, and true success? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.

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