Remember How Strong You Are

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest15

May 14, 2015

In early March of 2011, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, California, where I was scheduled to speak later that morning. Although it was a pretty big event, I wasn’t feeling all that nervous about it-I had other things on my mind. I called one of my best friends, Theo, to reach out for his support. Theo and I have been friends for more than a decade-we’ve helped each other through a lot of big life stuff, even though we live on opposites sides of the country and due to our busy schedules don’t actually get to see each other in person all that much. I love, trust, and admire Theo a great deal-not only is he one of the smartest people I know, he’s also one of those people you can call at 3 a.m. and know he’ll be there for you.

That particular morning the conversation focused completely on me and our house situation. We’d been trying to work with our lender to figure out how to get out from under the enormous negative equity position we were in. Things were really up in the air with the bank, doing a short sale wasn’t looking all that good, and the reality that we might simply need to walk away and have them foreclose on us was a real possibility. I felt paralyzed by my fear, shame, and embarrassment, and I was completely overwhelmed by the circumstances.

I said, “I don’t know if I can handle this. I can’t believe we put ourselves in this situation. How could I have allowed this to happen? I feel like an idiot!”

Theo listened with empathy and understanding. Then he said, “First of all, Mike, stop being so hard on yourself. Yes, you’ve made some mistakes, but you’re learning from them and you’re clearly not an idiot. Second of all, even with the mistakes you’ve made, a lot of people are in your same situation. It’s not your fault that the economy crashed and the housing market imploded. And, finally, it’s important to remember that you have more than this requires.”

As I allowed what he said to resonate with me, I was touched by a few specific things. First of all, I was reminded once again why Theo has been a constant in my life. He’s always able to acknowledge the reality of a situation and then put it in perspective. Second of all, his words made me stop and take inventory of some of the adversity I’ve overcome in my life. In so doing, I was reminded that I am actually quite resilient. I got to thinking more and more about my own internal strength (and the strength we each possess as human beings) over the hours and days that followed our conversation.

In just about every situation and circumstance in life, we really do have more than is required to not only deal with what’s happening, but to thrive in the face of it. As the saying goes, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. While I don’t believe that we have to necessarily suffer and struggle in order to grow and evolve in life, one of the best things we can do when dealing with a major challenge is to look for the gifts and to find the gold in the situation as much as possible.

Each of us has overcome a lot in our lives-both big and small. If you spend enough time walking around the planet, chances are you’ll experience some significant adversity. Dealing with and overcoming it not only teaches us a lot about ourselves, others, and life, but also gives us the opportunity to be reminded of our own power and strength. It’s not that we won’t feel scared, overwhelmed, angry, sad, embarrassed, confused, worried, or more-these feelings and many others are often a part of going through adverse times. However, remembering that “this, too, shall pass” will help us persevere in the midst of challenges, while reminding us that we can actually expand ourselves in the process.

One of the most painful yet growth-inducing experiences of my life was when I got my heart broken in my mid-20s. Sara and I met in college and started dating in our senior year. We were together for three and a half years, and had gotten pretty serious. Going through college graduation, the end of my baseball career, moving in together, the sudden death of her father, the start of our first jobs, a breakup and reconciliation two years into our relationship, and more had bonded us significantly.

In the fall of 1999, Sara decided she didn’t want to be with me anymore, and we split up abruptly. I was crushed. I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. I’d never experienced emotions like this before in my life. It was hard to eat, sleep, and even get out of bed in the morning. I felt lost and worried I would never find my way again. At one point when I was deep in the throes of my despair, I remember having a vision that I was a running back in a football game. This was an odd vision for me, since I’d never played football. However, I saw myself running with the ball toward the end zone. There were a bunch of guys trying to tackle me, but I was holding on to the ball with both hands, driving my legs as hard as I could, and doing everything possible not to let them bring me down. This vision felt like a sign to me-that the pain, confusion, and loneliness were there for a reason. Although it was difficult, I was strong enough to withstand it, and if I continued to persevere, I would be okay.

While it did take some time, a lot of forgiveness, support, and inner work, I moved through that painful experience and gained a great deal in the process. I learned how strong I was, gained a deeper awareness and empathy for the experience of loss and heartbreak, and came away with a greater understanding of what’s important to me in relationships and in life. Going through that heartache made me a better person and also helped get me ready to meet Michelle, which I’m eternally grateful for.

When we remember how strong we are, not only can it help us as we face challenges or adversity in the moment, it can give us much needed confidence and faith that we actually have what it takes to navigate this crazy and beautiful thing called life. As Glennon Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior and creator of one of my favorite blogs, Momastery, likes to say, “Life can be hard sometimes, but that’s okay, because we can do hard things.”

This is an excerpt from Nothing Changes Until You Do, by Mike Robbins posted  with permission.  Published by Hay House (May, 2015 in paperback) and available online or in bookstores.

What can you (or do you) do to remember how strong you are? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

My Book is Available in Paperback

May 12, 2015

I’m excited to let you know that my book, Nothing Changes Until You Do: A Guide to Self-Compassion and Getting Out of Your Own Way, is officially available in paperback!  You can order discounted copies of the it today for yourself and others…and get free bonus gifts when you do.

The book is filled with stories, lessons, and insights from my own life and from the lives of others – all focused on how we can have more compassion, more acceptance, and more love for ourselves (and thus more compassion, acceptance, and love for everyone and everything in our lives).

It’s divided into 40 short chapters, each containing anecdotes, ideas, and techniques designed to inspire and empower you. You can read the book straight through or one chapter at a time in any order – making it easy to digest and implement the insights you gain.

I wrote this book to help you:

  • Make peace with yourself, others, and life
  • Breakthrough the traps of self-criticism and perfectionism
  • Accept yourself and those around you with compassion
  • Live with courage, passion, and vulnerability
  • Remember how powerful and resilient you are

When you order paperback copies of Nothing Changes Until You Do today, you’ll receive the following free bonus gifts:

Video of my live book launch event:  You’ll be able to watch full video from my book launch event. I gave an interactive talk, answered questions, and we had lots of fun.

Video of my live keynote: Love Yourself, and The Rest Will Follow

Audios of three exclusive interviews with me and:

– Kristin Neff, Ph.D, on Self-Compassion

– Robert Holden, Ph.D, on Self-Acceptance

– Glennon Doyle Melton, on Self-Love

Audios of two guided meditations created by me – focused on fulfilling your own needs and embracing your emotions.

And, as a special bonus when you order 3 or more copies, you’ll receive:

A free downloaded copy of my exclusive audio program, Speak with Impact: 7 Secrets to Delivering Memorable Presentations

And, if you’d like to order copies of Nothing Changes Until You Do for your entire team or organization, feel free to contact us and we can discuss special discounts and offers for bulk orders.

 “This book is filled with quick, compelling, and actionable ideas. Mike Robbins uses his personal experience to help all of us see how we can take small steps toward a better life. Reading this book will give you a new way to think about how you interact with the world.”

-Tom Rath, New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Move, Sleep and Strengthsfinder 2.0

For more information and to order paperback copies of my book right now, click here.

In addition to picking up copies of the paperback for yourself and others, if you’d like to help spread the word about it, especially this week during the launch, I’d be honored and grateful. We put together a book launch assets page which contains info and resources to make it super easy to share with others via your email list, blog, newsletter, and/or on social media. Feel free to check it out and let the people in your online networks know. Thanks!

And, if you’ve read the book (or listened to the audio), I’d love to hear what you think of it and what impact it has had on your life.  Feel free to leave comments below or post on my Facebook page.

Have the Courage to Be Vulnerable

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest25May 6, 2015

Given the focus of my work, especially in the past five years since the release of my book Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken, which is all about authenticity and vulnerability, I’m constantly in situations where I’m talking about, encouraging, and seeing the positive impact of vulnerability.

Because of my baseball background, I’m sometimes invited to speak to athletes, specifically baseball players. A few years ago, I got invited down to spring training to speak to a group of minor league players for one of the Major League Baseball organizations. This was a big deal for me and I was excited to have an opportunity to speak to these guys, given that I had stood in their shoes in my early 20s. I could relate specifically to what they were going through—spring training is an exciting but stressful time, where lots of evaluation takes place and decisions are made. A number of those guys would be released (i.e., cut) by the end of spring training, so how they performed over the next few weeks would have a big impact on not only their season but also their future baseball careers (or lack thereof).

I spoke to them that morning about how they could effectively deal with the pressure of spring training and how they could handle the mental and emotional ups and downs of playing baseball in a healthy and productive way. My talk went well and seemed to resonate with the guys. After I spoke, a number of them came up to talk to me. In addition to their comments and questions about my speech, a bunch of them wanted to tell me about something that happened a few days earlier. Because I heard about it passionately from a number of different guys (and got a few different versions of the same story), I wanted to find out more about what went down, so I asked my friend and former Stanford teammate AJ, who was running the whole minor league system for this organization at the time, what had happened.

AJ told me that he had asked his coaches to introduce themselves to the players at their first all-camp meeting the week before in a unique way. Instead of them giving their résumés, he wanted each of them to tell a personal story about a meaningful moment they’d had when they were players themselves. He said it was amazing and that one of his coaches, named Alan, blew everyone away with his story.

Alan got up and said, “I played for ten years in AAA, without a single day in the major leagues.”

No one plays in AAA (which is the highest level of the minor leagues) for ten years. If you get that high up and hang around for a while, you either make it up to the big leagues, or you walk away from the game. It’s very uncommon and actually quite difficult to spend that much time at that level of the minors. Alan went on to say:

I played for a number of different organizations, but couldn’t break through and make it. Toward the end of that tenth season in Triple-A’s, I finally made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to make it. I was disappointed, of course, but because I’d given it everything I had, and it just didn’t seem like it was meant to be, I was actually okay with it.

Once I made my decision, I called my dad because we’d been talking about my career in the recent weeks. I said to him, “Dad, I’ve decided I’m going to retire. I’m not going to quit right now because the season’s not over, but when it ends, I’m going to stop playing. Would you do me a favor, Dad? Can you come see me play one last time? That would really mean a lot to me.”

When my dad got there, I was fired up. I really wanted to play well. He was going to be in town for five nights. The first night he was in town, I came up to bat in the second inning, hit a ground ball to second base, and grounded out. When I got back in the dugout, my manager walked over to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me to sit down.

He took me out of the game, and in the second inning. Now that only happens if you don’t hustle, do something stupid, or get hurt. But I wasn’t hurt, I did hustle on that play—I always hustled—and I hadn’t done anything stupid to warrant him taking me out of the game that early.

I didn’t understand. And I was mad. I didn’t say anything to my manager because I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But, how could he show me up like that, and in front of my father? Anyway, I just sat there at the end of the bench about as far away from the manager as I could.

Then, I heard someone at the other end of the bench say, “Can we tell him?” The next thing I knew, my manager walked all the way down to the end of the bench and got right in my face.

He said, “Do you want to know why I took you out of the game?”

“Yes sir,” I said. “I didn’t appreciate that; you showed me up in front of my father.”

“Well,” my manager said, “I took you out of the game because you just got called up to the major leagues.”

The next thing I knew, I looked up and all twenty-five guys on my team had gathered around me in the dugout to give me hugs and high fives. Those guys were so excited for me because they all knew how long I’d waited, how hard I’d worked, and how much it meant to me. The celebration went on so long in the dugout, they actually had to stop the game.

As amazing as this story is, the most incredible part is that when this coach told this story to a roomful of 150 Minor League Baseball players, he broke down and cried in front of all of them. That never happens there, ever. And a few days later, dozens of those players were coming up to talk to me about it because it had a huge impact on them.

That’s how powerful it is when we have the courage to be vulnerable—when we let people see who we really are and how we really feel.

Dr. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, is a psychologist and research professor from the University of Houston who studies human emotions, including shame and vulnerability. In a March 2012 TED talk, she said, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and that myth is profoundly dangerous.” She went on to say that after 12 years of research, she has actually determined that vulnerability is “our most accurate measurement of courage.”

Unfortunately, all too often we relate to vulnerability—especially in certain environments, relationships, and situations—as something we should avoid at all costs. However, it’s vulnerability that liberates us from our erroneous and insatiable obsession with trying to do everything “right”—thinking we can’t make mistakes, have flaws, or be human. In other words, being vulnerable allows us to let go of the pressure-filled, stress-inducing perfection demands we place on ourselves.

In addition to our own liberation, when we’re vulnerable we give other people permission to be vulnerable as well, and in so doing, we open up the possibility of real human connection and the opportunity to impact people in a profound way, which is what most of us truly want in life.

This is an excerpt from my book Nothing Changes Until You Do, with permission. Published by Hay House (May, 2015 in paperback) and available online or in bookstores.

How easy or difficult do you find it to be vulnerable yourself? What do you do to have the courage to be vulnerable in your life? What questions or suggestions do you have about this? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

 

My New TEDx Talk – Bring Your Whole Self to Work

April 9, 2015Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 1.36.56 PM copy

I hope you’re doing well and having a great week!

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter blog post (and you may have seen from some if my social media posts), I recently gave another Tedx talk.  This new one is called Bring your Whole Self to Work.

I wanted to share the video of the talk with you in case you haven’t seen it yet, for two main reasons.  First of all, because I think you’ll enjoy it and get some good stuff out of it – especially as it relates to your professional life.  And, second of all, because if you feel moved to do so, I’d be honored and grateful if you shared it with others…via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. :)

The talk is just 12 minutes long and focuses on the importance of bringing all of who we are to the work that we do, as well as doing what we can to create an environment around us where people can do the same.  These are things I’ve been researching, writing, and speaking about for years – and I feel like this new TEDx talk encapsulates some of my newest thinking and most exciting insights.

I hope you enjoy this talk and it gives you some inspiration and ideas about how you can more fully bring all of who you are to work that you do (and encourage others to do so as well).

And, if you’d like to share the video of this talk, you can simply forward this link (http://mike-robbins.com/tedxberkeley/) or this email to others.  If you’d like to post it on social media, here are two samples you can use or edit:

For Facebook/LinkedIn:

Mike Robbins, author of Nothing Changes Until You Do, just gave a great new TEDx talk called Bring Your Whole Self to Work, check it out: http://mike-robbins.com/tedxberkeley/

For Twitter:

Check out this great new TEDx talk by author @MikeDRobbins called Bring Your Whole Self to Work, http://ow.ly/LgAl5

Bring Your Whole Self to Work

April 2, 2015Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 7.24.33 PM copy

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

I recently gave a TEDx talk in which I reflected on what I’ve seen and learned over the past fifteen years – researching, writing, and speaking about essential human experiences in the workplace.  As I addressed in this talk, I believe that for us to thrive professionally, especially in today’s world, we must be willing bring our whole selves to the work that we do.  And, for the groups, teams, and organizations that we’re a part of to truly succeed, it’s essential to create an environment where people feel safe to bring all of who they are to work.

While this is a fairly simple concept, it’s much easier said than done.  It takes a great deal of courage for us both individually and collectively to bring our whole selves to work.  However, what my research and experience has shown me is that when we do this – not only are we more likely to create success and fulfillment for ourselves, we can have the greatest impact on the people around us and together we’re able to do our best work.

Here are some things you can do personally to more effectively bring your whole self to work:

1) Embrace vulnerability – We erroneously think that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness; it’s not.  While vulnerability can be scary and hard, it’s actually essential for healthy risk, change, growth, creativity, innovation, and more.  We can’t do, experience, or accomplish anything new or significant without vulnerability.  As Dr. Brene Brown from the University of Houston says, “You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”  She’s right, and the more willing we are to embrace vulnerability, the more courage we have to do our work the way we want to and to have the kind of impact we most desire.

2) Be willing to have sweaty palmed conversations – A number of years ago a mentor of mine said to me, “Mike what stands between you and the kind of relationships you really want is probably a ten minute, sweaty palmed conversation that you’re too afraid to have.”  Too often we avoid difficulties, challenges, and conflicts with others because we’re afraid of the consequences of speaking up or engaging.  However, when we have the courage to have those “sweaty palmed” conversations, we increase our ability to resolve conflicts, make deeper connections, and build authentic confidence.

3) Stop trying to survive – Something that gets in our way, especially when we’re doing things that truly matter to us, is that we hold back and play it safe.  I learned a lot about this during my years as an athlete – over 18 years of playing baseball, even and especially at the college and professional level – the most disappointing moments I had weren’t when I failed, but when I held myself back due my fear of failing.  I remember a coach of mine saying something powerful and poignant to me about this.  He said, “Mike, you’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it.  You have to remember…no one ever has!”  When we consciously let go of our obsession with survival, we make it possible to take risks and go for what we truly want.

If you run a business, lead an organization, manage a team, or simply want the people around you to feel safe and empowered to bring all of who they are to the work they do, there are two important components to creating an atmosphere that is conducive to this type of authenticity, which ultimately leads to the greatest levels of engagement, connection, and performance:

Healthy High Expectations: High expectations are essential for people to thrive.  However, the expectations have to be healthy – meaning there is a high standard of excellence; not insatiable, unhealthy pressure to be perfect.  We almost always get what we expect from others, although if we expect perfection, everyone falls short and people aren’t set up to succeed.  Healthy high expectations are about having a high bar and challenging people to be their absolute best.

High Level of Nurturance: Nurturance has to do with people feeling seen, heard, and valued – not just for what they do, but for who they are.  It also has to do with it being safe to make mistakes, ask for help, speak up, and disagree.  Nurturing environments are filled with an authentic sense of compassion and empathy – people feel cared about and supported.

We often think that in order to have a high bar we can’t also be nurturing.  Or, we think if we nurture people, we can’t also expect a lot from them.  Actually, the goal is to do both at the same time, and to do so passionately.

Bringing our whole selves to work and creating an environment which supports this are no small things.  They take courage on everyone’s part and, at times, go against conventional wisdom.  However, when we’re willing to show up fully and we encourage others to do the same, that creates the conditions for all of us to thrive.

Check out the video of my new TEDx talk, “Bring Your Whole Self to Work.

How easy or difficult do you find it to bring your whole self to work?  Is the environment where you work feel safe and conducive to you bringing your whole self?  What questions or suggestions do you have about this? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

Be Careful of Monday Morning Quarterbacking

american footballFebruary 4, 2015

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Wow… that was quite an exciting ending to the Super Bowl, wasn’t it?  If you happened to have missed it, the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.  The Seahawks had the ball on the one yard line with less than a minute to go in the game and a few downs to work with.  It looked like they were going to score a touchdown and win the game.  However, instead of handing the ball off to their superstar running back, Marshawn Lynch, they decided to pass the ball on second down, and it was intercepted – thus clinching the dramatic victory for the Patriots.

Immediately following the game and over the past few days, there has been a lot of criticism aimed at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for calling the play, and at his quarterback, Russell Wilson, for throwing the interception.  In our local newspaper the headline read, “Worst Call Ever.”  This is the epitome of “Monday morning quarterbacking,” a term that is often used to describe the phenomenon of second-guessing not only the decisions of football coaches and execution of players, but second-guessing in general.

With a game of this magnitude (it was watched on TV by the largest audience in the history of television… over 115 million people) and with the nature of how things transpired at the end of the game, it makes sense that people feel passionately about it and have strong opinions about what happened.  I, too, found it odd that they would call for a pass play and not a run play in that situation.  However, I am finding myself both amused and shocked by the level of intensity of the second-guessing and I think it speaks to something much more important and universal than people’s opinions about an important football game.

Monday morning quarterbacking is dangerous and is something many of us do with others and ourselves.  We also worry about either making mistakes or about the opinions or judgments of others so much, it stops us from taking risks, trying new things, and going for it in life… much to our own detriment.

What we often fail to see is that it is easy to second-guess someone else (or ourselves) when failure happens.  For example, if Russell Wilson had completed that pass, many people would have thought Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator were geniuses.  I assume people would have said things like, “Wow, that was a risky and unconventional decision, but it caught the Patriots off guard and was brilliant… that’s why they’re the champs.”  But, since it didn’t work out and ended up costing them the game, people have been saying things like, “What were they thinking?  How could they have done that?  This will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  They’re idiots.”

These comments (and ones that are probably much worse), while understandable, don’t take into consideration a few important things.

First of all, the Seahawks, their coach, and their quarterback won the Super Bowl last year, had an amazing turn-around this season, came back from the brink of elimination two weeks ago in the NFC championship game, and almost had another miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.  Two plays before the interception was one of the greatest plays I have ever seen in a Super Bowl and it put them in a position to potentially and surprisingly win the game, after just giving up another touchdown to the Patriots.  I’m not even a Seahawks fan, and it is hard not to appreciate what they have done in the past few years and how good they are.

Second of all, one play, even a big one like this, doesn’t invalidate all of the success and expertise of an individual coach, player, or team.  It also never is the deciding factor in a victory or a loss, even though it seems like it.  There are lots of things that have to come together in a specific combination for a game to go one way or another – just like in life.

Third of all, football, like life, is played on the field… not on the sidelines, in the stands, in the commentator’s booth, or on the couch at home.  None of us know exactly what it’s like to be on the field and play the game… unless we’re actually playing in that game.  The good news about being in the game is that you can have an impact on the outcome.  The bad news is that sometimes you make a decision or a mistake that causes you and your team to lose.  This is the reality of life and sports… and one of the many things that make both life and sports interesting and exciting.

Look at your own life… where do you find yourself being a Monday morning quarterback?  Where do you find yourself worrying about the other Monday morning quarterbacks around you?  What if instead of second-guessing ourselves and others (or worrying about second-guessing), we focused more of our attention on getting into the game, playing with passion, going for it, and trusting that things will work out as they are meant to work out, even and especially if we fail.

No one is perfect.  Even champions make mistakes.  Everyone is an “expert” after the fact, but no one has a crystal ball in the moment and can know for sure what the best move to make is.  Football, just like life, can be unpredictable.  Reflecting on and evaluating our decisions, our performance, our effort, and that of those around us after the fact can be helpful, healthy, and growth-inducing.

However, Monday morning quarterbacking, especially when we do it with arrogance, righteousness, and without an awareness of the fact that it’s always easier to make decisions in hindsight and when we’re not the ones at risk, can be debilitating and damaging.  Let’s stop doing this so much and try being the quarterbacks of our own lives… and doing so on Sundays, while the game is happening, not simply when it’s over.

Where do you find yourself being a Monday morning quarterback in your life? What are some things you can do to stop doing that and take your power back? Share your thoughts, actions, ideas, insights, and more here on my blog below.

The Importance of Self-Trust

Lonely OakJanuary 29, 2015

How well do you trust yourself, I mean really trust yourself?

For most of us, myself included, self-trust can be tricky. We have a tendency to second-guess ourselves, not listen to our gut, or hang onto negative memories from the past when we’ve made mistakes or “bad” decisions. These things and others make it difficult for us to trust ourselves and thus create challenges in our relationships, our work, and our lives.

Lack of self-trust, while debilitating in many ways, is quite common. There’s nothing wrong with us for not trusting ourselves… it isn’t something we’ve been specifically encouraged or trained to do. Like appreciation, authenticity, or many other important aspects of our life and growth, the first step in our process of expansion is to notice and tell the truth about why it can be difficult. In the case of self-trust, once we’re able to honestly acknowledge our challenge with it (and have some compassion about it), we can start to consciously choose to trust ourselves in a more real way.

What makes it difficult or challenging for you to fully trust yourself? Take a moment to consider this. The more aware of this we can be, with empathy, the more likely we are to move beyond it and let go of our “story” about why we can’t trust ourselves.

Here are a few things you can do to enhance your ability to trust yourself:

1) Listen to your inner wisdom. We all have inner wisdom. Some of us refer to this as our intuition, others call it our gut, and still others relate to it as our higher consciousness. Whether you call it one or all of these things (or something else), I believe that we’re all very intuitive and that we each have a deep sense of what is true and right for us in most situations. As we practice listening to this inner wisdom (through meditation, prayer, quiet time, breath, conscious thought, and more), we begin to trust ourselves on a deeper level.

2) Be willing to take risks, go for it, and make mistakes. So often we don’t try things because we think we might fail. I love Michael Jordan’s quote about this, he said, “I missed 100% of the shots I never took.” While it can be scary for us to take risks in life, one of the greatest ways we can build our capacity for self-trust is to go for it… even if we fail. As we build up our ability to take risks, we also grow our capacity for courage, which in turn expands our ability to trust ourselves.

3) Forgive yourself! This is a life-long process and is vital as it relates to self-trust. One of the main reasons we don’t trust ourselves is that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for mistakes we’ve made, pain we’ve caused, or regrets we have. These “demons” from our past haunt us and we use them as evidence to not go for things and not trust ourselves. As we enhance our capacity to forgive ourselves, we heal from the past and breathe new life into our experience. This creates a genuine sense of enthusiasm for both the present moment and for our future. And, as we’re able to forgive ourselves, we can let go of our attachment to being “perfect” and having to do everything just right… which then allows us to trust ourselves more freely.

Think of something important in your life right now – a decision you’ve been on the fence about because you’re worried about making the wrong choice (i.e. not trusting yourself). Given what we’ve been discussing here, if you fully trusted yourself in this moment, what would you do in regards to this important issue? I bet if you listen to your inner wisdom, allow yourself to take a risk, and know that you can forgive yourself no matter what happens – the answer to the question “what should I do?” in this situation is quite clear.

What can you do to enhance your self-trust and listen to your inner wisdom more? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more here on my blog below.

How to Create What You Truly Want in 2015

athletics trackJanuary 8, 2015

As we embark on another new year of life, I find myself experiencing a mixture of emotions about 2015.  I’m excited about the possibilities of this New Year and inspired by the energy of creation that exists at this special time.  There is a magical quality to this first week or two of the New Year that I always appreciate.

At the same time, I find myself feeling a sense of trepidation about setting new goals. As I talked about in my post last week, New Year, Be You, there seems to be this pressure we put on ourselves at this time of year to focus on how we can “fix” ourselves and our lives, instead of simply appreciating who we are, how we are, and the amazing lives we already have.

Because of this, among other things, most people I know and have worked with over the years, including myself, have a somewhat funny or disempowered relationship to goal-setting for the New Year.  Whether you’re someone who spends lots of time and energy creating your New Year’s resolutions or you decided years ago that you wouldn’t bother (since in years past, by mid-January, most of them have gone off the rails or out of your mind anyway); I don’t know too many people who are genuinely inspired, motivated, or empowered by their New Year’s intentions in a sustainable and real way.  How about you?

Here are some of the main reasons I think we aren’t authentically inspired by our goals or empowered to make them happen:

  • Our “goals” are often about fixing what we think is wrong with us
  • Once we set them, we feel a sense of pressure to make them happen
  • We worry that we won’t accomplish or achieve what we want, and then we’ll feel like failures
  • We don’t get the kind of support we really want and need
  • We forget that our intentions are designed to support us, not stress us out
  • We get too focused on the outcome and forget about the experience
  • We allow competition and scarcity to take over

For these and other reasons many us either don’t set powerful intentions for the New Year or we do so out of fear in a way that creates more stress in our lives.  One of the best things we can do to shift our perspective about this and create an empowering relationship to our process of setting goals for 2015 is to understand some key distinctions – intentions, goals, and actions.

Intentions – Our intentions are states of being and authentic desires.  In other words, we may have an intention to be peaceful, grateful, joyous, loving, successful, healthy, wealthy, or more.  Our intentions are our high ideals and are usually at the root of our motivation for any of our specific goals.  Most of us don’t really want goals like a new relationship, more money, or a fit body simply for the sake of those things themselves – we want them (or others) because of what we believe we will experience by having them in our life.  By starting with our intentions, we get right to the source of what we truly want.  Intentions are the core and the magic of all of our goals and desires.

Goals – Effective and powerful goals are ones that are specific and measurable.  We want to be able to track our progress and know for sure if we are reaching our goals or not.  This doesn’t have to be a competition (with others or ourselves) and doesn’t have to be filled with stress, pressure, shame, or guilt (which is sadly how we often relate to our results).  Having our goals as specific and measurable just makes them clear and more likely to manifest.  And, the paradox we have to always remember when setting and working on our goals is that we can’t be attached to the outcome – which will make us crazy and take us off course with our real intentions.  Our goals simply take our intentions and focus them on tangible outcomes in the world.

Actions – Creating action-oriented practices that support us to manifesting our goals and intentions is an essential daily, weekly, and monthly process for our success and fulfillment.  Coming up with action plans that inspire us, connecting to the goals we’re working on, and fulfilling our intentions is vital to all of this.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and is often the place where things break down for us.  The breakdown with actions usually has more to do with a lack of support and accountability (which then allows us to let life take over and we lose our focus) than it does with any “failure” or “weakness” on our part.  Having practices that support us and help us take the baby steps needed to manifest our goals and intentions is such an important piece of puzzle.  It’s also important for us to be kind and compassion with ourselves when we fail, as we sometimes do, with our actions.  If we learn to forgive ourselves and get back on the horse when we don’t do the specific things we plan to do, it allows us to give ourselves the space we need to get going again, instead of simply giving up when life gets in the way.

Here is an example of how this could look in a specific area of life.  Let’s say you have a desire to make more money (which is a very common one that many of us have).  Start with your intention.  For example, “My intention is to experience a real sense of abundance, peace, and freedom with money and to easily manifest income.”  Then create a specific measurable result-oriented goal.  “I will generate $100,000 by 12/31/2015.”  The next step is to come up with a few related actions/practices.  “I will read three or more books this year on manifesting money. I will set up two or more meetings per month to talk to people about new money-making ideas. I will make a plan each month for specific things I can do professionally to increase my income.”

The final piece of the process is creating some kind of regular accountability and support structure for this.  You can hire a coach, join a mastermind group, create a success/ accountability partnership with a friend, and more.  Having someone, or a group of people, you make commitments to and whom you empower to hold you accountable, will make all the difference in the world.

Have fun with this.  Don’t take it or yourself too seriously… it’s just life, you’re allowed to make mistakes, screw things up, and fall down (which we all do and always will).  Be kind to yourself in this process and in this New Year.  And, when we remember that our intentions (those states of being and authentic desires) are what we are truly after (not the specific outcomes or actions), it can allow us to take the pressure off of ourselves, have more fun, and trust that things will manifest as they are meant to – especially if we open up and let them show up!

What are your main intentions for 2015?  How can you create empowering support and accountability for your goals and actions in this new year? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog.

New Year, Be You

party blowers and paper streamersJanuary 1, 2015

With the New Year upon us, the annual “new year, new you” phenomenon is all around – in the worlds of advertising, media, self-help and more. And while this time of year can be a great catalyst for positive change in our lives, what if we made a commitment to live our lives in 2015 focused on who we are, and not so much on what we do, what we accomplish, what we look like, what we’re striving for, and more? One of best things we can do in this New Year is to focus on who we really are and what’s most important to us, instead of who we think we’re supposed to be.

Who would we be without our accomplishments (or failures), our degrees (or lack thereof), our bank accounts, our experiences, our title, our home, our status, 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 many of us, myself included, to genuinely separate who we are from what we do (or have done or not done). These past few years have taught many of us, in some cases quite painfully, how quickly the external circumstances of our lives (and the world) can change dramatically and things can be taken away.

The deeper question for us to ponder here is really one of the big philosophical questions of life, “What makes me valuable?” While this is something we have all thought about to some degree, most of us don’t really engage in this inquiry 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 and is also one of the main reasons why most of our New Year’s “resolutions” don’t really last.

What if, in addition to having important goals, we could also expand our capacity for appreciating ourselves and being who we really are this year – having nothing to do with our external circumstances? What if just being ourselves, the way we are right now, is good enough?

Being ourselves actually takes a great deal of courage, commitment, and faith. It’s a process of letting go of many false beliefs we’ve picked up from the collective consciousness – that we have to look good, be smart, know the right people, say the right things, have the proper experience, make a certain amount of money, and more, 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 to just be who we are, without apology or pretense, so much of our suffering, stress, pressure, 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 in this New Year:

  • 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. And, as we really get honest with ourselves, we may realize that outside of these external things, we don’t really know who we are. As scary as this may seem on the surface, it’s actually great news and can give us access to a deeper and more meaningful experience of who we are.
  • Appreciate who you really 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. This year, instead of trying to be a “new” you by fixing a list of things you think need to be fixed about you, just be yourself and see what happens.

How can you accept, appreciate, and simply BE yourself in 2015? What does this mean to you? What support do you need in your life this year to step more fully into who you really are? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more here on my blog.

Remember That We’re All Doing the Best We Can

mirando el horizonteNovember 13, 2014

I’m sometimes amazed and embarrassed by how critical I can be – both of other people and of myself.  Even though I both teach and practice the power of appreciation (as well as acceptance, compassion, authenticity, and more) when I find myself feeling scared, threatened, or insecure (which happens more often than I’d like it to), I notice that I can be quite judgmental.  Sadly, as I’ve learned throughout my life, being critical and judgmental never works, feels good, or leads me to what I truly want in my relationships and in my life.  Maybe you can you relate to this yourself?

I’ve recently been challenged by a few situations and relationships that have triggered an intense critical response – both towards myself and those involved.  As I’ve been noticing this, working through it, and looking for alternative ways to respond, I’m reminded of something I heard Louise Hay say a number of years ago.  She said, “It’s important to remember that people are always doing the best they can, including you.”

The power of this statement resonated with me deeply when I heard it and continues to have an impact on me to this day.  And, although I sometimes forget this, when I do remember that we’re all doing the best we can given whatever tools and resources we have (and given the circumstances and situations we’re experiencing), it usually calms me down and creates a sense of compassion for the people I’m dealing with and for myself.

Unfortunately, too often we take things personally that aren’t, look for what’s wrong, and critically judge the people around us and ourselves, instead of bringing a sense of love, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, and appreciation to the most important (and often most challenging) situations and relationships in our lives.

When we take a step back and remember that most of the time people aren’t “out to get us,” purposefully doing things to upset or annoy us, or consciously trying to make mistakes, disappoint us, or create difficulty (they’re simply doing the best they can and what they think makes the most sense) – we can save ourselves from unnecessary overreactions and stress.  And, when we’re able to have this same awareness and compassion in how we relate to ourselves, we can dramatically alter our lives and relationships in a positive way.

Here are some things you can do and remember in this regard:

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time people have good intentions.  Many of us, myself included, have been trained to be cautious and suspicious of others, even seeing this as an important and effective skill in life and business.  However, we almost always get what we expect from people, so the more often we give people the benefit of the doubt, the more often they will prove us “right,” and the less often we will waste our precious time and energy on cynicism, suspicion, and judgment.
  • Don’t take things personally. One of my favorite sayings is, “You wouldn’t worry about what other people think about you so much, if you realized how little they actually did.”  The truth is that most people are focused on themselves much more than on us.  Too often in life we take things personally that have nothing to do with us.  This doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us or treat us in disrespectful or hurtful ways (it can be important for us to speak up and push back at times in life).  However, when we stop taking things so personally, we liberate ourselves from needless upset, defensiveness, and conflict.
  • Look for the good. Another way to say what I mentioned above about getting what we expect from other people is that we almost always find what we look for.  If you want to find some things about me that you don’t like, consider obnoxious, or get on your nerves – just look for them, I’m sure you’ll come up with some.  On the flip side, if you want to find some of my best qualities and things you appreciate about me, just look for those – they are there too.  As Werner Erhard said, “In every human being there is both garbage and gold, it’s up to us to choose what we pay attention to.” Looking for the good in others (as well as in life and in ourselves), is one of the best ways to find things to appreciate and be grateful for.
  • Seek first to understand. Often when we’re frustrated, annoyed, or in conflict with another person (or group of people), we don’t feel seen, heard, or understood.  As challenging and painful as this can be, one of the best things we can do is to shift our attention from trying to get other people to understand us (or being irritated that it seems like they don’t), is to seek to understand the other person (or people) involved in an authentic way. This can be difficult, especially when the situation or conflict is very personal and emotional to us. However, seeking to understand is one of the best ways for us to liberate ourselves from the grip of criticism and judgment, and often helps shift the dynamic of the entire thing. Being curious, understanding, and even empathetic of another person and their perspective or feelings doesn’t mean we agree with them, it simply allows us to get into their world and see where they’re coming from – which is essential to letting go of judgment, connecting with them, and ultimately resolving the conflict.
  • Be gentle with others (and especially with yourself). Being gentle is the opposite of being critical. When we’re gentle, we’re compassionate, kind, and loving. We may not like, agree with, or totally understand what someone has done (or why), but we can be gentle in how we respond and engage with them. Being gentle isn’t about condoning or appeasing anyone or anything, it’s about having a true sense of empathy and perspective. And, the most important place for us to bring a sense of gentleness is to ourselves. Many of us have a tendency to be hyper self-critical. Sadly, some of the harshest criticism we dole out in life is aimed right at us. Another great saying I love is, “We don’t see people as they are, we see them as we are.” As we alter how we relate to ourselves, our relationship to everyone else and to the world around us is altered in a fundamental way.

As the Dalai Lama so brilliantly says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Everyone around us – our friends, co-workers, significant other, family members, children, service people, clients, and even people we don’t know or care for – are doing the best they can, given the resources they have. When we remember this and come from a truly compassionate perspective (with others and with ourselves), we’re able to tap into a deeper level of peace, appreciation, and fulfillment.

Get Mike’s Free Email Newsletter: