Archive for December 2009

Completing the Year with Power

December 29, 2009

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

As much as I personally love this completion process, I usually have mixed emotions reflecting back on the year. There is excitement, gratitude, and joy for all of the wonderful accomplishments, experiences, insights, and more. There is also sadness, disappointment, and sorrow over the things that I didn’t accomplish, the people and things I’ll miss, and the places in my life where I failed. This is as true as ever as 2009 comes to a close. This past year I’ve experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life. I’m truly grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced this year. And, while I have lots to appreciate from this past year, I also am glad to see it end! More than most years in recent memory, this one did not turn out anything like I thought it would twelve months ago. How about for you?

Due to the common mixture of emotions we experience and especially with a year like 2009 which created a lot of growth opportunities (to put it mildly) for most of us, it’s essential that we embrace and practice the art of completion. Completion is a conscious process we engage in whereby we do and say whatever we need to in order to create a true sense of closure to an experience (in this case, the year that is about to end). Because we often have resistance to authentically celebrating and appreciating ourselves, reflecting honestly on our accomplishments or our failures, acknowledging our real results or lack thereof, grieving loss with depth, and more – we usually just roll through the end of things and either avoid completion all together or move onto the next thing as fast as we can. When we do this, however, we miss out on a sacred and important process.

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

As we get ready for 2010 and begin to think specifically about what we want to create and experience in this new year, one of the most important things we can do is to complete 2009 in an authentic and powerful way.

Completion Questions

Here are some questions you can ask and answer yourself, as a way to create a sense of completion for 2009:

  • What were my biggest lessons in 2009?
  • What am I most proud of from this past year?
  • What were my biggest disappointments in 2009?
  • What am I ready to let go of from this past year?
  • What else do I need to do or say to be totally complete with 2009?

As you take some time to think about and write down your answers to these questions, see if you can reflect on this past year with a sense of appreciation and empathy. The word “appreciate” means to recognize the value of (not necessarily like, agree with, or want to experience again). Whether your year was “wonderful,” “terrible,” or somewhere in between – we each have so much we can appreciate about this past year. And, it’s important for us to have as much empathy as we possibly can for ourselves, especially right now. If you’re anything like me, you probably had some big failures or disappointments this past year. When we can remember that we almost always do the best we can with what we have in each moment of our lives, we can hopefully let go of our feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment over any of the things that didn’t go as planned for us in 2009.

See if you can create some sacred time in the next few days to share your answers to these completion questions with some of the important people in your life (and maybe ask them to answer these questions as well). By creating a conscious intention for completion, you will give yourself the gift of appreciation for this past year and in so doing, allow a space to open up in which you can create your goals and intentions for 2010 with a sense of peace, power, and clarity. And, as you ponder these questions, you may realize that there is something important you need to do or say in order to leave 2009 behind and step into 2010 with freedom and peace.

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

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What Would Love Do?

December 21, 2009

I had the honor of interviewing my friends Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Café Gratitude, on my radio show last week.  In the course of our wonderfully inspiring conversation they brought up the idea of asking the question, “What would love do?” when making decisions or facing challenges in life. I love this question and it reminded me of one of my favorite songs with this same title, “What Would Love Do?” by Karen Drucker.

After the interview I got to thinking about my own life and some of the places where I find myself struggling, stressed out, worried, or stuck right now. I can see that instead of asking what love would do, I’m often asking other, less inspiring questions to myself like, “What should I do?” “What’s the right thing to do?” “What’s wrong with them?” or various other versions of these types of questions. Can you relate?

What if we did actually ask ourselves, “What would love do?” in all of the important areas of our lives, especially the most challenging ones? I bet that would dramatically alter not only how we relate to those people and circumstances, but also would alter what we did and said, and ultimately how we felt.

As we move through the holiday season and into the New Year, which often brings up lots of emotions (both light and dark) and gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on ourselves, our lives, and where we are – letting love lead the way, especially this year, is something that will benefit most of us and can allow us to listen to a deeper aspect of who we really are.

Everything I write about, speak about, and teach is really all about love. I sometimes find myself a little shy, embarrassed, or self-conscious to come right out and say it – somehow fearing that love seems too soft, too personal, too intimate, too mysterious, or whatever. However, being authentic and being appreciative, and just about anything else we aspire to in life, are all about love – of ourselves, of others, and of life itself. Love, I believe, is the most powerful force in the universe – yet so many of us, myself included, almost apologize for talking about it, thinking about it, and wanting to have it play a lead role in our lives.

As we interact with (or avoid) our families, in-laws, friends, and even strangers on the street or in stores or restaurants over these next few days and weeks – What would love do? As we sit back and reflect on this past year, and begin to plan, dream, and prepare for the year ahead, what would love do? As we relate to ourselves in the midst of all of this, what would love do?

As Karen Drucker says in her beautiful song, “Love has all the answers. Love makes no demands. Love will lead me to the truth and help me to understand…that life is all about love.”

Here are a few things to think about, as this relates to some of the areas and aspects of life where you may be challenged at the moment:

– Pick a challenging or difficult aspect of your life right now. What’s going on and how do you feel about this situation or relationship? More specifically, what kinds of questions are you asking yourself about this? The quality of the answers we receive in life is directly related to the quality of the questions we ask.

– Ask yourself “what would love do?” This may be an easy or difficult question for you to ask yourself about this specific situation or relationship. Allow yourself to hang out in this powerful inquiry and see what shows up. You may have lots of ideas or insights, or not. However, asking yourself this empowering question, will almost surely give you deeper awareness and insight for what you could do if you allowed love to lead the way.

– Take bold and loving action, based on your answer to this question Allow yourself to ponder and consider this question long enough that you really feel it in your bones. The paradox here is that it’s not so much about what you do – it’s more about where it comes from. If it truly comes from a deep place of love within you, you’ll know it, feel it, and it will be the “right” thing to do. Trust yourself and your heart – and then be willing to take the risk and put yourself out there.

This time of year, especially this year with all we have gone through, we are ripe with opportunities to practice asking ourselves this question. If we’re courageous enough to ask, to truly listen to the answers we receive, and to act on them from a place of real love, compassion, and truth – not only will this be a holiday season and a New Year filled with authentic appreciation and joy, we will have the opportunity to transform our lives and relationships in a real and profound way. Let’s do it…with love!

What would love do in your life right now? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Our Insatiable Desire for Fame

December 14, 2009

I’ve been fascinated by the recent sensationalized stories in the media about “Balloon Boy,” the White House party crashers, and the various alleged mistresses of Tiger Woods coming out to tell their tales. While it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of these stories, to blame the insatiable appetite of the twenty four hour news cycle, or to judge the particular people involved; the deeper issue is that some people seem willing to do just about anything to get their fifteen minutes of fame – even if it involves selling out on themselves and those close to them or causing pain, fear, or public humiliation for them or others. What is this really all about?

While most of us assume we wouldn’t go to the same lengths these people did in order to get attention and not all of us have a secret fantasy to be the star of our own reality TV show, there does seem to be a collective belief in our culture that becoming famous and well-known is an important goal and a key element to being successful and fulfilled in life. No matter how many big examples we’ve seen over the years to the contrary, many of us still get caught up in the elusive and ego-driven chase of fame. And, even though some of us have no specific desire to be “famous,” most of us think that if we had that (more money, greater influence, better body, perfect relationship, enhance ability, more exposure, etc.) then we’d be happy or feel like we’d made it.

When I look at this issue for myself, I notice that the driving force behind my own desire for “fame” (or any of the other external achievements I erroneously think will make me feel accomplished or successful) is a fear that who I am and what I’m doing isn’t quite good enough. When we tell the truth to ourselves, most of us have some version of this fear and a deep-seeded belief that we’re fundamentally flawed. This isn’t something we usually bring up at cocktail parties or even admit to the people close to us (or to ourselves). However, when we’re really honest about it, our own feelings of inadequacy are what drive a lot of our behaviors, particularly the most debilitating, inauthentic, and destructive ones.

What if, instead of standing back in self-righteous judgment, we used these recent examples (and the many that will inevitably follow) of fame chasing in the media to give us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, get in touch with what truly matters to us, and practice being more of our authentic selves in life – instead of chasing attention or acknowledgement. Standing in judgment of other people (those in the media or those in our lives), while easy to do and encouraged by our culture, doesn’t really serve us or give us any real value. Relating to people, situations, and circumstances as reflections of our personal and collective consciousness (both light and dark) and choosing to learn from them, gives us the opportunity to change and grow all the time.

Here are three things we can practice, based on the wonderful examples of these recent media stories:

1) Tell the truth about your own secret desire and motivation for fame and attention – Most of us have some secret (or not so secret) desire to be “famous” or at least to get more attention than we’re currently getting. We may want to be on TV, to get more recognition at work, to have more friends on Facebook, or something else that we think will make us feel more “important.” And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with us wanting to be acknowledged in some public way, the issue for most of us has to do with our motivation (it will make me happy or make me feel like I’m “somebody”) and what we may be willing to do in order to gain this attention (sell out on ourselves or those around us, be selfish and hurtful to others, or even lie, cheat, and steal). However this shows up in your life, the more willing you are to admit it and own it, the less negative impact it will have on you and those around you. As Sigmund Freud said, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.”

2) Focus on what you really want – Underneath our desire for fame and attention are usually some deeper and more meaningful desires. Maybe we want to make a difference for other people in a profound way, we want to experience a deep sense of appreciation, or we want to be bold and really step out in life. We often allow our egos to hijack our pure desires and turn them into superficial fantasies and erroneous notions. However, when we take a closer look at what we really want and what’s beneath our chase for “fame,” we can uncover what we really want and in most cases realize that these desires have nothing to do with gaining the attention of others. This can be incredibly liberating, empowering, and exciting.

3) Have compassion for yourself and others – As you notice yourself and others getting caught up in the insatiable desire for more attention or for fame itself, see if you can have a deep sense of compassion. It doesn’t mean any of us are “bad” for having these thoughts, feelings, or desires. Given the nature of today’s media culture and our own feelings of inadequacy, it makes perfect sense that we have some version of this obsession. However, when these things show up within us or around us, having compassion will allow us to more deeply understand ourselves and others, and give us the opportunity to be more authentic. When we go beneath our superficial desire for attention, it can allow us focus on what we’re really after – which is usually a sense of real appreciation for ourselves, others, and life and for what truly matters.

What secret desires do you have about being famous or “important?” How can you be honest about these desires in a way that is liberating? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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The Best Gift of All

December 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who do you appreciate in your life? How can you share your appreciation for them this holiday season in addition to or instead of simply buying them “stuff?” Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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