Archive for January 2010

It’s Not the Circumstances, It’s Us

January 25, 2010

I recently read a great quote from Ben Franklin that I hadn’t seen before. He said, “Joy doesn’t exist in the world, it exists in us.” While the quote was new to me, the concept wasn’t. However, as I began to think it more, I realized that even though I “understand” this wisdom and do my best to live by it and remind others of it, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself living as though I’m simply a victim of the “things” that go on around me and in the world – especially the stuff I don’t particularly like, agree with, understand, feel like I’m on top of, or enjoy.

The circumstances of our lives, especially when they seem stressful or intense (as is the case for many people I know and work with these days) do have an impact on us, for sure. However, all too often we give away our power to these circumstances and situations. We act as though it’s a foregone conclusion that we will feel a certain way based on specific circumstances (i.e. the economy, the weather, our health, our level of activity, the state of our romantic relationship or lack thereof, the behavior of our children, our families, the state of our career or business, our environment at work, and more).

Our experience of life (grateful, worried, peaceful, angry, excited, sad, alive, depressed, joyous, or anything else) is much more of a reflection of us and what’s going on within us, not a reaction to what’s going on around us. We’ve all had many examples of times in our lives when things were going “great” on the surface or we accomplished or experienced some “wonderful” external success, only to feel a sense of disappointment or sadness underneath because whatever it was didn’t satisfy us at a deep level. And, on the flip side, most of us have had moments of incredible joy, excitement, and bliss that weren’t directly connected to anything “worthy” of these feelings externally.

Even though we know this dynamic to be true, we still seem to get caught in the hypnotic, erroneous notion that if we just got rid of some issues, altered some circumstances, manifested some increased success, or changed some specific situations in our lives – then, we’d be happy, peaceful, and relaxed (or whatever it is we say we want to experience).

Author and teacher, Byron Katie, says, “The definition of insanity is thinking that you need something you don’t have. The mere fact that you exist right now without that which you think you need is proof that you don’t need it.”

What if we lived our lives with a deeper and more conscious awareness of the fact that we get to create our experience of life at any moment? Imagine what our lives, our careers, and our relationships would look like if we stopped blaming our experience on other people or on external circumstances. We would free up so much positive energy and take back so much of our personal power.

Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to own your experience of life in an empowering way:

– Admit where you play victim and give away your power. As is always the case, “the truth will set you free.” Take a look into your life, especially in the areas where you find the most pain, suffering, and struggle right now. Without judging yourself, can you find places where you’re acting like a victim of your current circumstances (as though it is simply “happening to you”)? The more honest and specific you can be about this, the more freedom it will provide for you.

– Acknowledge, own, and express your underlying emotions. Whenever we go into victimhood there is something we don’t want to deal with, take responsibility for, experience, or express emotionally. Even thought it can be a little painful and scary initially, by dealing directly with the emotions we’re avoiding, we go to the source of the issue and address it at the root. Ironically, once we’re able to acknowledge, own, and express the emotion(s) involved, much of the suffering and struggling go away – if we’re willing to really take responsibility for and express what we’re truly feeling.

– Make a commitment to fully own your experience. Declare to yourself and those close to you that you’re willing to take 100% responsibility for your experience of life. This doesn’t mean that “stuff” won’t happen, but it does mean that you make a commitment to live your life by design, not default. It’s also likely that you’ll forget, slip up, and fall back into victimhood from time to time (or often). However, making a commitment to yourself and to others – and also asking them to hold you accountable with honesty and kindness – can create an environment (within you and around you) conducive for you to enhance your capacity to live your life with power and responsibility.

Give yourself some space and have a lot of compassion with yourself and others on this; most of us have been trained, educated, and encouraged to live in “victim consciousness” – even though it doesn’t work or give us what we want ultimately. When we’re willing to tell the truth, express our real emotions, and make a commitment to live as designers of our experience – we can literally transform our lives in miraculous ways.

How can you take back your power from your circumstances and remember that your experience of life is up to you?   Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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The Triangle of Truth

January 18, 2010

I have a love-hate relationship to conflict. I love it when things “work out,” but hate it when they don’t. My fear of things not working out, of people’s feelings getting hurt, or of me losing something important are usually high on my list of justifications for not saying certain things, not engaging in the conflict at all, or selling out on my deepest truth even in the midst of it.

However, as I look deeper at what my definition of “working out” really is, I realize that it’s often some version of things going my way or some compromise that leaves me feeling like I’m the “good guy” and that the person or people involved still like, appreciate, or approve of me.

Can you relate to this? You may have a different version of this story, but most people I know and work with have a disempowered relationship to conflict and have come up with creative ways of avoiding it, not dealing with it, or manipulating themselves, others, or situations so as to not have to engage in conflict in a vulnerable way at all. However, as we’ve all noticed – this doesn’t work or give us much power in our relationships or our lives, especially when it comes to conflict.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my good friend, Lisa Earle McLeod, on my radio show about her latest book called The Triangle of Truth. Lisa, a speaker, consultant, and expert in conflict resolution, teaches through her books and in her trainings that in every conflict there are really three sides to it (like a triangle) – my truth, your truth, and then the higher-level solution.  It’s not about “compromise” or “right vs. wrong” in most cases – it’s about being willing to engage in conflict in such a way that we allow something bigger, better, and more inclusive to emerge.

As the famous quote from Albert Einstein reminds us, “We can’t solve the problems of today with the level of thinking that created them.”

In talking to Lisa about her book and the Triangle of Truth model that she teaches, I realized that my own fear of upsetting people or having them not like me, as well as my erroneous attachment to being “right” not only create more stress and separation in my relationships, they get in my way of engaging in healthy conflict, which thus robs me and those around me from coming up with higher level, more creative and inclusive solutions – which ultimately benefit all of us.

Here are the six principles Lisa teaches and how we can all use them to embrace conflict, resolve it easier, and come up with solutions that can serve everyone involved in the best way:

1) Embrace AND – So often we get caught in “either/or” thinking which makes us and those around us crazy, is quite sophomoric and limiting by its nature, and doesn’t allow us to see or hear anything else than what we already “know” to be “true.”

2) Make Peace with Ambiguity – Based on our own fear and because so many of us, myself included, like to be in control – we often resist uncertainty. However, being comfortable with uncertainty and allowing ourselves to hang out in ambiguity gives us the openness, patience, and perspective necessary to allow creative solutions to emerge.

3) Hold Space for Other Perspectives – When we’re able to listen to, understand, and appreciate where someone else is coming from (even and especially if we don’t agree with them) we allow the space for something new to arise. It takes practice and trust to allow other people to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perspectives with passion – and for us to just let them be. However, when we allow other people the space to share openly, they often gives us that space in return and we can then find out we’re not always “on the other side” in the way we think we are.

4) Seek Higher Ground – Because we often avoid conflict or even when we get into it try to get out of it as fast as possible, we sometimes rush to come up with “solutions” or “compromises” just to stop the conflict. This compromising process often “works” on the surface, but doesn’t address the deeper issues and won’t give way to the higher level solutions. It’s only when we’re open to and actively look for those higher level solutions that they begin to materialize. This happens when we seek higher ground, instead of simply trying to “win” the argument or end it at all costs because we’re uncomfortable or scared.

5) Discern Intent – With issues that mean the most to us or cut right the core of our most sacredly beliefs, we often have a hard time considering anything else than what we already believe to be true. In this process, we often vilify those who don’t agree with us. “Those people” – the ones who think differently than we do -become “them,” in a negative way. When we look for and find the positive intention of others, even if we don’t see things the way they do, we can get to the core of what’s really true, not just what our ego wants to argue about.

6) Elevate Others – This is all about raising the conversation in our heads, with the other people involved, and about the whole situation. We can and do have impact on other people. We’re able to elevate the conversation with others when we focus on being real and vulnerable (i.e. honest about how we really feel) and also focus on appreciating and empowering those we’re engaged with (i.e. acknowledging them and being grateful for who they are). We can lift up the people around us and in the process lift ourselves up and create the higher level solutions we all truly want.

Resolving conflicts in an open, conscious, and positive way is a lot easier said than done. And, when we remember these simple (but not always easy) principles, as well as the metaphor of the triangle (our truth, their truth, and the higher truth/solutions), we’re able to engage in conflict in a way that not only brings forth better and more inclusive solutions, but can actually create the kind of peace, growth, and harmony we really crave in our lives, relationships, families, communities, and workplaces!

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Love Your “Flaws”

January 11, 2010

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spent more time than you’d like to admit trying to “fix” your various “flaws.” Although I may pretend otherwise, many of my own goals, desires, and even my motivation to “grow” has often come from a deep place of insecurity within me – thinking that if I could just fix what was wrong with me, then everything would be okay. I’ve been very aware of this dynamic as I’ve been in the process of creating my intentions for the New Year.

I recently had an insight, (one which I’ve had before but this time it came to me at a deeper level), that maybe instead of focusing on “fixing” my “flaws,” it’s more important to love them instead. I’ve resisted this notion of loving my flaws for most of my life, worrying that if I actually loved the things I thought were wrong with me, they’d somehow never change and I’d be stuck with them.

Ironically, it’s only love that leads to real healing and transformation – which ultimately can create the actual change we say we’re looking for, or a true sense of acceptance that gives us access to authentic freedom and liberation, regardless of circumstances.

At a deep level, all of our “flaws” are subjective and based on our own interpretations, perspectives, and focuses. We obsess about certain aspects of our body or appearance, our personality, our life or work circumstances and deem them as “bad” or “flawed.” But, the truth is they simply are as they are – we add the meaning and interpretation to them.

Regardless of how philosophical we get about it, however, most of us as human beings experience a sense of feeling flawed in certain aspects of our lives and at particular times in life. There is nothing wrong with us for feeling this way. Although, as we each know from experience – feeling flawed can rob us of our energy, our passion, our happiness, our confidence, and our life. It’s one of the most painful ways we allow our ego to run our lives and it can have devastating consequences if we’re not conscious about it.

Here are some ideas about what we can to move through our experience of feeling “flawed,” to a place of acceptance, peace, and love:

– Acknowledge what’s true for you. The first step is almost every process of growth and transformation is about telling the truth. So often we try to avoid, run from, or pretend our “flaws” away. But, if we relate to some aspect of our bodies, personalities, relationships, careers, or lives in general as a flaw, we first have to get real about it if we’re going to do anything about it.

– Admit and express the underlying emotions. If we can identify, acknowledge, and ultimately express the true emotions we’re experiencing related to this perceived flaw, we can create a real sense of liberation for ourselves. If a certain aspect of your personality, your body, or your career bothers you and because of it you find yourself feeling ashamed – as uncomfortable or potentially “negative” as it may seem, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge and express your shame. Emotions become positive when they are appropriately expressed and turn negative when they are denied and repressed. Although this is a different understanding of emotions than we’ve been taught, we’ve all had many liberating and positive experiences when we’ve expressed “negative” emotions (like sadness, anger, fear, and more). By expressing our real emotions, we can start to unlock and unhook ourselves from the drama and suffering of the situation, which is actually caused by our denial and repression of these emotions, not the emotions themselves.

– Forgive yourself. This is a big one and something that many of us, myself included, don’t have a lot of experience with. Most of us have been trained to be hard on ourselves and also that forgiveness has to come from someone or something outside of us. However, true forgiveness comes from within us and is what ultimately sets us free in life. When we feel “flawed” in certain areas of our life, we often have a lot of blame and judgment – some of which may be directed towards other people or situations, but beneath that, most of it is directed at us. When we’re able to forgive ourselves in an authentic way, we create the space for real change and healing to take place.

– Appreciate. The word appreciate doesn’t mean “like,” “agree with,” or “enjoy,” necessarily. Appreciate means to “recognize the value of something.” What have you learned about yourself and life by dealing with this “flaw?” While pain, issues, and challenges are not the only ways to grow in life, one of the many benefits of our challenges is that we get to learn a great deal about ourselves, others, and life in the process of dealing with them. When we move into a state of genuine appreciation and gratitude for the learning associated with the difficulty, we can move out of feeling sorry for ourselves (which never helps). It’s impossible to experience gratitude and victimhood simultaneously.

– Love. The ultimate antidote for all suffering is love. Our ability to bring love to our flaws, to care for them with kindness and compassion (as we would for a child, a pet, or a loved one) is what will ultimately heal us and allow the true transformation we’re looking for to take place. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. When we love our flaws we create an environment where we’re either able to make the kinds of specific changes we truly want (from an authentic place of intention) or learn to love and accept ourselves whether an actual “change” takes place or not. Any issue, malady, or problem that shows up in our lives is an opportunity for us to deepen our capacity to bring love, give love, receive love, and accept love.

All of these things, in my own experience, are much easier said than done. And, when we’re able to tell the truth, express our real emotions, forgive ourselves, appreciate our flaws, and bring love to all aspects of our lives (both light and dark), we give ourselves the opportunity to transcend our flaws in a real way. This takes a great deal of intention, support, compassion, and patience. It is much easier to take a pill, avoid things, get busy and distracted, whine and complain, pretend things are “fine,” and various other things we’ve learned to do in life. However, leaning into our “flaws” in an authentic way and doing so with profound love for ourselves, is how we can genuinely heal and end the cycle of suffering.

How can you appreciate and love your own “flaws” as a way to create freedom in your life? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Creating the New Year with Intention

January 4, 2010

As we embark on another new year of life, I find myself experiencing a mixture of emotions about 2010.  I’m excited about the possibilities of this New Year and inspired by the energy of creation that exists at this special time.  Similar to last week, there is a magical quality to this first week of the New Year that I always appreciate.

At the same time, especially given the nature of 2009 and all of the unexpected twists and turns last year took for me personally, so many people around me, and in the world, I find myself feeling a sense of trepidation about setting new goals and jumping right back into the mix of life and work.

As it relates to New Year’s “resolutions,” 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 intentions 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 resolutions 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 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 2010 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 of our success and fulfillment.  Coming up with action plans that inspire us, connect to the goals we’re working on, and fulfill 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 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.

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, especially this year).  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 12/31/2010.”  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 intentions for 2010?  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 below.

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