Archive for August 2009

Don’t Waste a Good Crisis

August 31, 2009

How do you react when dealing with a crisis? When I’m faced with a crisis myself, I often go into “survival mode” – doing anything and everything I can to get through it. In other cases, I may simply deny that the crisis exists, hoping that it will just go away on its own. While both of these approaches can and have “worked” in my life, in terms of making it through the various crises I’ve faced, they don’t allow for the depth of growth, healing, and transformation that is ultimately available in these situations.

Instead of just gutting it out or going into some form of creative denial, what if we embraced the crises in our lives and actually utilized them for the incredible growth opportunities that they are. We often waste so much time and energy fighting against, resisting, denying, or complaining about these “bad” things in our lives; instead of remembering that a crisis is simply life’s way of letting us know that something needs to change or some old pattern no longer works.

Many people I know and work with are facing intense crises right now – related to their health, money, career, family, spirituality, and more. Our country and our world are dealing with some major challenges and most of us are impacted, at least to some degree, by what’s going on around us.

As scary, humbling, and disturbing as these crises can be – one of the most beautiful aspects of going through a crisis in life is how it can literally bring us to our knees and remind us of what truly matters in life (which, as we realize, has very little to the mundane stuff we worry about and get upset about on a daily basis).

Here are a few things you can practice when dealing with a crisis (and in general), which will allow you to maximize your growth, healing, and transformation.

1) Be real. Like with everything else in life, if we deny or lie about what’s happening or how we really feel, we make it difficult, if not impossible, to grow. The more willing we are to acknowledge what’s happening and how we feel about it in an honest, vulnerable, and passionate way – the more likely we are to move through it consciously and gain the life-altering lessons the situation has to offer.

2) Lean on others. For many of us, reaching out and asking for support (and then ultimately receiving it) can be quite challenging. We worry about being perceived as weak, being vulnerable with others, getting rejected, and more. However, when we’re dealing with a crisis it’s essential and incredibly liberating to lean on the people in our lives. We don’t have to go through it all alone, and in many cases we can’t. We each have way more love and support around us then we usually realize. Asking for and receiving the support of other people not only helps us get through the “tough” time, it also allows us to connect with the people in our life in a meaningful and intimate way – something most of us truly want.

3) Let go. Being able to let go and let things be as they are is not easy for many of us, especially for me. Those of us who like to control things, have it all together, and take charge in life often find it difficult to simply let go. Crises, however, force us to let go – whether we want to or not. They also allow us to remember that everything in our physical world is temporary and transitory. When we can embrace the idea of letting go, it frees us up in a powerful way and allows us to move through things much easier.

As with many of the things I talk about and write about, it’s really important for us to have lots of compassion for ourselves and others as we face the challenges and crises of our lives. It takes a certain amount of conscious naiveté to find the authentic silver linings to some of the dark clouds that show up in life. But, when we remember that in the midst of our pain and difficulty we can find a deep sense of joy, peace, and growth – we’re able to utilize the crises in our lives as catalysts for remarkable transformation.

How can you utilize any present crisis you’re facing (personal, familial, organizational, societal, or global) as a catalyst for your own growth and evolution? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more down below.


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Let’s Get Real About Money

August 24, 2009

How much money do you make?  How much debt do you have?  How much money do you spend each month?  How much money do you have saved?  How do you feel about money in general and yourself in terms of your financial situation?

These questions, and others like them, are about as personal and intimate as almost any questions we can ask ourselves and each other.  Money is one of the most emotionally charged issues in our lives, especially these days. Because of our feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, judgment, fear, and more about money – we often don’t ask or answer these questions in an honest way.  Our inability or lack of comfort with this type of authentic discussion about money is one of the biggest reasons money continues to be such an area of stress, struggle, and confusion for so many of us.

I’ve struggled with money for much of my life – both not having money (growing up poor) and also not really understanding how it works, how to plan/spend/save in a conscious way, or how to attract it into my life.  Over the past few years as I’ve begun to learn a little bit about money and also manifest a bit more of it in my life, my feelings have not really changed all that much.  For example, instead of feeling ashamed of not having much money, I’ve simply shifted to feeling ashamed of not saving better or spending more wisely (and then assuming something was really wrong with me because even with more money coming in, we didn’t seem to be making that much financial progress).

As our financial circumstances change, how we relate to money often doesn’t change on its own, unless we intervene in a conscious way.  And, as many of us have been impacted by the current recession, it may be shining a light on some of the unhealthy, unconscious, and negative patterns we have about money – both specific and emotional.  My wife Michelle and I have been humbled this year by our decrease in revenue and the impact it has had on us, both financially and emotionally (as have so many people I’ve talked to about it).  Yet, at the same time – we’re finding ourselves eternally grateful for the wake-up call and the increased awareness this has brought about for us – both in terms of money and with life in general.

This “financial sobriety” that many of us are going through, whether we wanted to or not, can be such a blessing in our lives if we’re willing to really embrace it, tell the truth about it, and use it as an opportunity to grow, learn, and transform.  However, in order to do this we’re going to have to GET REAL about it.  Getting real about how we feel about money and, more specifically, about our specific financial situation is challenging for many of us.  We often spend and waste so much time and energy in judgment (of ourselves and others) about money; the thought of being vulnerable and transparent about it is something most of us choose not to do.

What if we did actually tell the truth about money – in detail, with specifics, and in an honest way?  While doing this may seem scary on the surface, think of how liberating it would be, how much stress it could reduce, and how much genuine support we could receive ourselves or provide for others if we did.

Here are a few things you can do to challenge yourself to get more real about money, and in the process liberate yourself with more freedom, less stress, and increased peace about your finances and your life.

– Tell the truth about how you feel about money. How obsessed are you with money?  How much of your self-worth comes from your net worth (or lack thereof)?  Do you avoid your finances, judge yourself and others about money, or pretend money isn’t really all that important (when in truth it is for you)?  See if you can be honest about your own personal relationship to money.  You may feel great and very peaceful about money (although I don’t know too many people who do).  You may have a lot of fear, stress, shame, guilt, confusion, or anger about money.  As with everything else in life, “the truth will set you free.”  The more honest you are about your own relationship to money, the more freedom you’ll have.

– Share the specifics of your financial situation with others. This one is BIG and for many of us, and quite scary.  First, you have to confront that fact that you may not actually know the specifics of your finances (how much you make, how much you spend, how much debt or savings you have, etc.)  When it comes to our money, “knowledge is power.”  If we’re not clear about the details of our finances, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to change them.  Once we do know, being able to share our financial details with others, even if we feel a sense of fear, shame, guilt, or anything else about them, can be incredibly liberating and empowering.  It takes a lot of energy to lie and pretend we have things all together when we don’t.  When we share our finances with other people, we have the ability to be free about it, as well as get some valuable feedback and support.

– Ask for support and give it to others. Being able to ask basic (or advanced) questions, reach out for help, and lean on others is so important in all aspects of life, especially with our finances.  However, because of our emotional charge with money specifically, this is one of those areas we tend not to reach out to others about.  It’s counter-productive for us to try to figure it out all by ourselves, especially if money is something we struggle with personally.  And, regardless of how financially “successful” or knowledgeable we consider ourselves, we can always support and encourage those around us…even if it’s simply listening to them or being someone who they feel safe enough to share with about this vulnerable subject.  We don’t have to do this all alone!

Have as much empathy and compassion for yourself and other people as possible when it comes to money.  This one is such a big deal for so many of us, especially in today’s environment and climate.  Being honest and vulnerable about money one of the best things we can do, not only right now during this recession, but as we move forward – to deepen our capacities for authenticity, abundance, and fulfillment in life!

How do you personally relate to money? Are you willing to talk about your financial situation in detail with others? What type of support would you love to have in your life in regards to money? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Apologizing Authentically

August 18, 2009

Apologizing can be a tricky thing.  As essential and important as I know apologizing is to creating peace, reconciliation, trust, and connection in my relationships, sometimes I don’t want to do it or I do so in a completely inauthentic and manipulative way.

Recently, this has been in my face even more than normal.  I’ve noticed my tendency at times to over apologize, to do so with ulterior motives, or even worse I find myself apologizing for who I am in a way that is disrespectful and unkind to myself.  None of these really serve me or my relationships, nor are they very authentic.

What makes apologizing in an authentic way difficult or challenging for you?

For many of us, apologizing can seem scary, vulnerable, and even weak.  We worry that if we apologize somehow we’ll be admitting we’re wrong (and therefore the other person is right), that it might be used against us in some negative way, or at the very least we are giving up our position of power by apologizing or admitting any fault of our own.

All of these things make sense – based on our ego-based culture and our obsession with blaming others.  While understandable and normal, our inability or unwillingness to apologize in an authentic way causes a great deal of pain and conflict in our relationships.

The main reason that we aren’t often all that good or comfortable with authentic apologies is that we operate from a paradigm of shame instead of remorse.  Shame, which is a very powerful and oftentimes debilitating emotion (mostly because we don’t like to admit it, own it, or express it), is based on the notion that we are fundamentally flawed (i.e. “bad”).  When we relate to ourselves, others, and life from a perspective of shame, it’s always about someone being “right” and someone being “wrong.”  Based on this, we end up doing everything we can to protect ourselves from being blamed, while at the same time looking for where we can place our blame and avoid taking responsibility.  Sound familiar?

Remorse, on the other hand,is about us realizing that we’ve done or said something we wish we hadn’t.  This is not about beating ourselves up, making ourselves wrong, or even blaming ourselves…it’s about taking responsibility in an adult way.  When we have a sense of remorse, we can make amends with people in a genuine way, own our impact on others, and apologize without shame or guilt.

Regardless of how conscious, intentional, or deliberate we are in life – it’s inevitable that we will do and say things that in hindsight we regret…and we’ll hurt, upset, or offend the people in our lives from time to time.  These situations can be wonderful opportunities for us to grow, deepen our awareness of ourselves and others, and work through conflict in a way that brings us closer together with others and allows our relationships to be more real.  An essential piece in this process is our ability to apologize to others in an authentic way.

Here are a few things to think about and do so as to expand your capacity for authentic apologies:

– Tell the truth about how you relate to apologizing. Ask yourself how you feel about apologizing and assess how authentic you are when apologizing to people?  Do you over apologize?  Do you refuse to apologize?  Do you do it just so people won’t be angry with you?  What is your relationship to apologizing and how free and genuine are you about it?  Answering these questions honestly to yourself will give you important insights into this.

– Look at your life and relationships and see where you can apologize. Take some inventory of your life and relationships, especially where you have some conflict or lack of peace.  Where have you been unwilling to take responsibility or apologize in an authentic way?  Are you willing to do so for the sake of not only the relationship, but your own peace of mind?  As you think about doing this, ask yourself how you can apologize in an authentic way (not simply to get what you want)?

– Alter your relationship to apologizing. As you tell the truth about how you relate to apologizing and look into your life and relationships to see where some apologies may be missing, how can you shift the way you relate to apologizing so that you’re empowered and inspired to do so (not avoidant or manipulative about it)?  By changing the way you relate to apologies, you can gain more freedom, comfort, and ease.

This is something that may seem somewhat simple or not all that important on the surface, but it is fundamental to our fulfillment in life and is quite “big” as we take a deeper look at it.  The more conscious and aware we are about this, the more growth and transformation can take place.  Be kind to yourself, this is not something that comes easy to most of us.  But, when we’re willing to really take this on and alter our relationship to apologizing, our relationships and our lives can transform in a profound and positive way.

How do you feel about apologizing?  Who do you need to apologize to?  How can you apologize in a more authentic way?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Embracing Disappointment

August 10, 2009

How do you feel about being disappointed? How about disappointing others? Recently, I’ve been quite disappointed by some important people in my life and, in turn, they’ve been disappointed (and annoyed) with me. As I’ve been noticing my strong reaction to these situations, I realize how much of my life is focused on doing everything I can not to disappoint others, while at the same time protecting myself against being disappointed. Can you relate to this?

When we focus a lot of our attention on trying not to disappoint others or worrying that people will disappoint us, we set ourselves up for failure and pain. And, as I’ve seen recently, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to speak our truth, be ourselves, and live with a real sense of authenticity and peace.

What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it? It’s inevitable that we will disappoint people, especially when we live our lives in an authentic way. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us, and being true to ourselves are all things that at times won’t align with others and in some cases may even upset them. It is possible for us, however, to be mindful and aware of others, and still be true to ourselves – these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Asking for what we want, counting on others, and trusting people – all of which are essential for healthy, fulfilling, and real relationships – do make us vulnerable to being disappointed and even hurt by the people in our lives. So what! We end up getting more hurt and disappointed in the long run by withholding our desires and expectations. We might as well live out loud and be honest about how we feel, what we want, and what’s important to us.

As Dr. Suess so brilliantly said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Disappointment, as uncomfortable and even painful as it can be for me and many of us, is essential and important on our journey of growth, self discovery, and authenticity. Being okay with disappointing others allows us the freedom to be ourselves in a more real way. It also takes away the pressure and stress we often feel about always having to do, say, or be a certain way. Letting go of our fear of being disappointed by other people gives us the ability to take more risks and ask for what we truly want.

When we’re able to embrace disappointment, we create a sense of liberation and space that frees us up to be who we truly are and let go of our attachment and obsession with other people’s opinions. This is not easy, but is so powerful and can be transformational.

Here are a few things you can consider and do to expand your ability to embrace disappointment:

– Take inventory of your life and relationships. Take an honest look at some of the most important relationships and activities in your life. How many of your actions, thoughts, conversations, and more (or lack thereof) have to do with your avoidance of disappointing others or being disappointed?

– Be honest and take responsibility. As you notice areas, situations, and people in your life where a fear of disappointment is present, see if you can tell the truth about it in a vulnerable way to the people involved. You may say to a friend, “I really want to ask you for this favor, but I’m a little scared to do so because I’m worried you will say ‘no’ and then I’ll be disappointed,” (or something to that effect). Take responsibility for how you feel and remember that your issue with disappointment is all about you, not them.

– Practice saying “no.” This is a great practice, especially for those of us “people pleasers” who find ourselves saying “yes” to stuff we don’t really want to do. While there is a great amount of value in being someone who is willing to say “yes” in life, there is also a great deal of power in owning our “no” as well. See if you can practice saying “no” to people, even if it’s scary or uncomfortable. Be real and vulnerable about it – with yourself and others. And, see if you can expand your capacity to decline requests of things you don’t want to do and make peace with yourself about it.

As you delve into this, be kind with yourself. This is a big one for me and so many people I know and work with. We all want to be loved, valued, and appreciated in our lives. And, most of us have had painful experiences of disappointment in the past, which have impacted us in a deep way. However, if we can alter our relationship to disappointment – we can transform our lives and our relationships in a wonderful way!

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The Power of Not Knowing

August 2, 2009

Do you like to know things? Would consider yourself a “know it all,” controlling, or anal in any way? All of these things, among many others, apply to me and many people around me.

Why are we so obsessed with knowing everything? While there’s nothing wrong with knowledge, learning, and understanding – our insatiable desire to know and control stuff often gets in our way of trying new things, going for it, and being at peace in life.

I heard a great saying recently that made me laugh, “People who think they know everything are really annoying to those of us who actually do.” Sadly, many of us, myself included, relate to life and others this way.

This obsession with knowing often has much more to do with our egos and our fear of being judged or embarrassed, than it does with a sincere desire for knowledge and information. We want to control the uncontrollable; life.

What if we didn’t have to know everything all the time? What if we could let go, trust, and be at peace with not knowing? Being able to embrace not knowing is one of the most important, yet challenging aspects of life and growth. Being okay with not knowing allows us to be creative, open, and willing to live in a state of wonder and possibility, like children do. My two girls teach me a lot about the importance of not knowing all the time.

Here are a few things we can do to enhance our ability to not know in a positive and beneficial way:

– Let Go/Surrender – Take your hands off the wheel and trust that that you don’t have to do and know everything in order to succeed and be happy.  When you let go, peace and freedom can show up authentically. This can be much easier said than done for most of us. And, it’s a practice which is all about trust and not being attached.

– Admit When You Don’t Know – Stop pretending that you know stuff you don’t know…it is stressful, annoying, and anxiety-producing. We aren’t supposed to know everything and none of us do. The easier it is for us to admit we don’t know something, the more likely we are to either learn it, let it go, ask for help, or be at peace about it. This is all about having a deep sense of self acceptance and self appreciation.

– Seek Out Things You Don’t Know – Look for things, find stuff, and take things on that you don’t understand, know about, or think you can’t do. Doing this builds our confidence, challenges us to expand ourselves, and gives us practice at hanging out in the unknown and uncertainty of life – which is where most real growth, change, and transformation can take place.

Remember to be kind to yourself, laugh often, and not take yourself too seriously. Most of us spend and waste lots of time and energy pretending we know things that we really don’t. When we surrender to and embrace not knowing, a profound level of freedom and liberation become possible.

How do you feel about not knowing? How can embracing not knowing enhance your life, your work, and your relationships? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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