Archive for March 2010

Give Yourself More Time and Space

March 30, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here.

How often do you find yourself feeling rushed, pressed for time, hurried, stressed, or overwhelmed?  For many of us, myself included, these feelings are all too common, especially these days.  While feeling as though we don’t have enough time or that our lives are overwhelming is not a new phenomenon for most of us – it seems to be getting to an epidemic level in our culture these days, particularly as we find ourselves “plugged in” all the time – laptops, cell phones, blackberries, iPhones, and more.

Sadly, many of us allow ourselves to be victims of our schedules, our communication devices, our co-workers, our clients, our families, our work, and some of the other “demands” and “responsibilities” of our lives.  And while many of these things are important and much of them do need our attention, we often forget that we are the ones who set up our lives the way we do and allow ourselves to get stressed out, overwhelmed, and caught up in our never-ending to-do lists.

I was at a workshop in San Francisco a few weeks ago put on by Hay House, the wonderful publishing company founded by author and teacher Louise Hay.  Louise, who wrote the bestselling book You Can Heal Your Life about twenty five years ago, is a pioneer in the world of personal development and mind/body connection.  She is a wise soul and teaches people to love and care for themselves in an authentic way.  It was an honor to connect with her at this event.

On the final day of the conference I asked Louise if she was planning to fly home (back to San Diego, just an hour’s flight from San Francisco) that evening.  She said, “Oh no Mike, I would never do that to myself.”  Her response, while simple, floored me.  I thought to myself, “Wow, that is a great example of honoring and caring for yourself.”  Then I thought, “I could use more of that.”

I often pack my schedule with so many tasks, activities, events, and deadlines, it becomes hard for me to breathe, enjoy what I’m doing, or really bring the best of myself to a particular activity, event, or interaction.  I then feel like a victim of my “crazy” schedule, have a built-in excuse for not showing up for others, and also don’t have to take full responsibility for my results or actions (i.e. “What do you want from me, do you have any idea how much I have going on right now?”).  Can you relate to this?

This “I’m too busy” or “I’m overwhelmed” story that many of us run is a lie that we keep telling ourselves and others.  Ultimately, we end up believing the lie and we allow it to run our lives.  Here’s how we can “prove” it’s not true – whenever anything serious happens (we get sick, someone else gets sick, someone dies, or anything else severe enough to stop us in our tracks), all of the important stuff we have to get done gets put on the back burner.  We realize how relatively unimportant most of it really is.

What if we could see, remember, and live with this awareness without something serious happening?  What if we could take more control of our lives, our time, and our schedule?  What would life look like and feel like if we gave ourselves more time and space?  (new paragraph)

For many of us the idea of giving ourselves more time and space can seem like a foreign concept or something that is out of our control.  However, if we allow ourselves to imagine it or to think back to times in the past when we felt as though we had more time and space, we can become inspired, excited, and even relaxed by this idea.

So how do we do it?  Well, there are lots of ideas, techniques, and tips we’ve learned over the years to create more time and space for ourselves.  The problem is that when we start to feel stressed out and overwhelmed, we fall back into unhealthy habits and patterns in our lives that we learned as survival skills (which don’t usually support our growth or deepen our capacity for peace).

Here are a few things to think about and practice as you look to expand your ability to have more time and space in your life:

– Notice your relationship to time, your schedule, and your commitments. How do you relate to time?  How do you feel about your schedule?  Do you feel victimized by your commitments at home, at work, and in general?  The more honest you can be with yourself about how you feel about the things you have to do in life, the more able to are to alter it (if that’s something you would like to do).  Most of us have an odd or disempowered relationship to time.  Just listen to some of the weird things we say, “Time flies.”  “I never have enough time to do what I want to do.”  “Where did the time go?”  These and other statements, thoughts, and beliefs put us in the role of victim as it relates to time and our commitments.

– Start saying “no” to things. This one can be tough for many of us.  As life coach and author Cheryl Richardson says, “If it’s not an absolute ‘yes’, then it’s a ‘no.'”  We often need some support or feedback from others when it comes to this one.  But, being able to say “no” to requests and invitations that we get is an important aspect of giving ourselves more time and space.  And, looking at the many things we have our plate right now and being able to take some of them off (by disengaging from them), is also essential.  This is not about being flaky or irresponsible, it’s about being authentic about what we were willing and able to do, and what we’re not.  So often our “disease to please” causes us to say “yes” to things we really need to say “no” to.

– Give yourself more time than you think you need. Packing our days, weeks, schedules, and to-do lists with too many things sets us up to fail.  In many cases, we don’t even realize how long it will take for us to complete simple tasks or activities.  As I continue to learn, trying to do too many things in a short amount of time has a negative impact on the task itself, anyone else involved in it with me, and on my own sense of well being and peace in the process.  What if we gave ourselves more than enough time to complete projects, get places, and take care of things?  Imagine what that would feel like for us and those around us, and imagine how much more creative, passionate, excited, and effective we could be in the process.

Get support, feedback, and coaching for this from others you trust, people know you, and those who seem like they have a relative sense of peace in their own lives.  We don’t have to figure this out on our own.  The world around us is speeding up all the time.  The expectations and demands on us can seem unreasonable (and often are).  However, when we remember that we are the authors of the book of our life and that we get to dictate how we operate, feel, and show up in life – we no longer have to be victims of time, our schedules, and all that we have to do.  When were willing and courageous enough to give ourselves more time and space, our life can transform.

What can you do to give yourself more time and space in your life right now? What will this take on your part? What will the benefits be? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Act As If

March 24, 2010

For this week’s audio message, click here.

I first heard the phrase “act as if” about fifteen or twenty years ago. I remember learning that if we “act as if” we already have something we want, “act as if” something is already occurring in our lives (even if it’s not), or “act as if” we know how to do something (even if we don’t) – we create the conditions for it to manifest in our life with greater easy and probability.

In recent years, this concept has been popularized and even mainstreamed by books, films, and teachers talking about the “law of attraction” (i.e. like attracts like, thoughts create things, we get what we focus on, etc.)

This past week Michelle and I watched a wonderfully inspiring documentary film called Act As If, which had a profound impact on me. The film is about Kathy Delaney-Smith, the head women’s basketball coach at Harvard University. Kathy, who comes from a working class background and didn’t have much basketball or coaching experience, used the power of “acting as if” to become a very successful coach at one of the most elite institutions in the world. She has also used her “act as if” philosophy to teach, train, and inspire her players both on the off the court for the past thirty years.

Most poignantly, Kathy used the power of her mind and her thoughts to act as if she were healthy and strong as she successfully battled through a life-threatening bout of breast cancer. Her story, strength, and attitude are inspiring and courageous.

The message of this film spoke to me on a few different levels. First of all, it brought the worlds of sports and the power of our thoughts and intention together in a meaningful way, which I appreciated. Second, Kathy’s personal story and her approach with her players are both important things we can benefit from, learn from, and take to heart (in business, parenting, teamwork, relationships, and life in general). And, finally, it reminded me how important it is to be conscious of my thoughts, my intentions, and my beliefs.

As I’ve been reflecting on it more, I realize that although I understand the concept of “acting as if” and I write, speak, and teach about how we have the power to create our own reality, in certain areas of my life – especially the ones that are most important to me or the ones where I feel the most cynical and resigned, I often pay “lip service” to acting as if, while simply hoping things will get better, worrying that they won’t, or allowing the outcome to determine how optimistic or pessimistic my outlook and approach will be.

This has been a sobering, but important realization for me this week. There is a big difference between knowing something and living it.

“Acting as if” is about believing in things that don’t currently exist and that there may not be much evidence for. This is about living a “faith-based” life, not an “evidence-based life.” The term “faith-based” often gets used in a political, social, or moral context when talking about initiatives or organizations that are connected with the church or some specific organized religion. However, being a faith-based person, while it can and often does encompass our religious beliefs and our spiritual practices, is even broader than this.

When we choose to live with a strong faith in things not seen, not proven, and not guaranteed – we tap into the power of the possible and we supersede the literal and predicable.

Wayne Dyer wrote a great book a number of years ago called You’ll See it When You Believe it. So many of us, myself included, live important aspect of our lives with the silent mantra of “I’ll believe it when I see it” and in doing so we hold ourselves back, limit what’s possible, and negate the power of our mind, imagination, and intention to allow and create things, situations, experiences, and outcomes that are new, unpredictable, and even miraculous.

For some of us the idea of “acting as if” is basic and fundamental, for others of us it may be new and/or more difficult, and for still others it may seem out there and quite esoteric. Regardless of how we relate to this idea, we’ve all experienced it in our lives in big and small ways. Kathy Delaney-Smith demonstrates it in the Act As If film in a powerful way through her coaching, her battle with cancer, and how she lives life.

The question for us to ask ourselves is, “What am I acting as if will happen in the most important areas of my life right now?”

We often get exactly what we expect – which is a pretty powerful concept if we take time to let it in and live with that awareness. Instead of waiting to see how things turn out, hoping that they will get better, or simply allowing the circumstances and situations in our lives determine how we feel – what if we acted as if we had everything within us and around us that we need to be successful, happy, and fulfilled already – which we do, by the way!

What can you do to “act as if” in your life right now in a way that will release stress, create peace, and help you attract what you want? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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The Power of No

March 17, 2010

How do you feel about saying “no?” I notice that saying “no” to certain people and in some situations can be challenging for me. Sometimes I find myself saying “yes” when “no” would really be more authentic. More covertly, I also find myself at times giving “half-truths” (which is quite an oxymoron if you think about it) to people when they present me with opportunities, engage with me about connecting, etc. You know what I mean, you run into someone and say, “We should really get together sometime,” but you really have very little interest in or commitment to making that happen. Does this ever happen to you?

What is it about saying “no” that many of us have a hard time with? For me, it comes down to a few specific things. First of all, I get scared that people will get upset or disappointed if I say “no.” Second, I’m not a huge fan of hearing “no” from others myself, so being the one saying it can be difficult for me. And lastly, I consider myself to be “yes” type of person. I pride myself on being open, willing, and ready to say “yes” at all times. In other words, “no” often seems like a failure, an admission of weakness, or just an overall negative thing to say.

However, saying “no” is one of the most important aspects of living a life filled with balance, integrity, and authenticity. Our ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and power in our lives. This is about creating healthy boundaries, honoring ourselves, and being real – it’s not about being closed, cynical, or unwilling.

The majority of people I know, especially these days, live their lives with a feeling of “overwhelm” that either runs them or at least gets in their way from time to time. If you think of the aspects of your life where you feel most overwhelmed, stressed out, or ineffective – there is probably a theme going on – you haven’t said “no” when you needed to. If you also think about any relationships in your life where these is stress, struggle, or conflict – you saying “no” with honesty and kindness is also probably missing.

When we don’t say “no” in an authentic way we end up feeling burdened, resentful, and even victimized (although, ironically, we forget that we are the ones who said “yes” in the first place).

Saying “no” does have real consequences. Sometimes we will upset, disappoint, or annoy people. We also may have a significant amount of fear about saying “no” to certain people (our spouse, boss, co-worker, friend, child, etc.) or in certain situations (at work, with clients, with our in-laws, and more).

However, there are huge benefits to us enhancing our capacity and comfort with “no.” Tapping into the power of “no” creates freedom, liberation, and a real sense of trust with the people in our lives. When we’re someone that says “yes” when we mean it and “no” when we mean it – others know they can count on us to be real, tell the truth, and come through.

And, when we “no” with confidence, honesty, and compassion, we do one of the best things we can possibly do to honor and appreciate ourselves.

How do you feel about saying “no?” What can you do to enhance your ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence and ease? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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The Art of Allowing

March 9, 2010

A few months ago I got some specific feedback that it would serve me, my work, and my growth to start practicing the art of allowing in a more conscious and deliberate way. While I was familiar with the concept of allowing, I realized I had very little awareness or experience of it in actual practice.

As I looked more deeply at it, I realized that I had a judgment about the whole concept of “allowing.” It had always seemed weak, passive, lazy, or based on “luck” to me. I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker, a “go-getter,” and someone who “makes things happen.” However, as I have recently come to realize – much of this has to do with a deep-seeded fear that if I ever slow down, stop pushing so hard, or simply expect things to just show up with ease – the whole “house of cards” of my life and my work will simply come crashing down around me. Can you relate?

Allowing, however, is an essential aspect of life and growth – as well as of our success and fulfillment. The first aspect of allowing has to do with us accepting things as they are. As author and teacher Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality, you lose – but only 100% of the time.”

When we’re able to allow people, things, and situations to be as they are – without judging them, trying to fix them, or wanting to change them – we begin to tap into the immense power of allowing. Ironically and somewhat paradoxically, when we truly allow things and people to be exactly as they are, we open up a space for real change and transformation to occur (if that is what we want).

The deeper aspect of allowing has to do with us trusting, being patient, and having faith that what we want to manifest, create, and experience can and will show up in our lives as it is meant to. In other words, it’s an ability to allow things to happen and materialize, without us having to manipulate, dominate, or control other people or situations to make it happen. For those of us, myself included, who have a tendency to be control-freaks at times – this can be incredibly challenging.

The paradox that exists with allowing runs deep within us. So many of us were taught and believe “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” And while there is truth and wisdom in this philosophy, as many of us know, feeling as though we have to work hard, run fast, keep up, and make everything happen in our lives is exhausting and insatiable. No matter how hard we work, what we try to fix, or all of the changes we intend to make – if we don’t learn, practice, and ultimately master the art of allowing – true success and fulfillment will always elude us. Action is important, but we have to also learn to balance it out with our ability to allow.

Allowing takes faith, patience, and trust – three things that are essential for our own peace of mind and well-being in life, but are often not things we focus on, learn about, or are encouraged to practice in our intense, fast-paced, results oriented culture. The art of allowing is truly an art and is something that often goes against the grain and runs contrary to societal norms and pressures. It has to do with us remembering, as the well-known saying goes, “We’re human beings, not human doings.”

Here are a few things to think about and practice as you enhance your capacity and ability to allow with more ease in your life.

– Ask yourself how you relate to the concept of “allowing.” Take some inventory of your own relationship this idea. How do you feel about it? How comfortable are you allowing things and people to be as they are, as well as allowing things to manifest with ease in your life? For many of us, this is something that we may understand, but may not practice. Tell the truth to yourself about how you relate to allowing and notice how this impacts your life – one way or another.

– Pay attention to what you focus on in regards to your biggest goals and aspirations. In regards to the biggest goals, dreams, and aspirations in your life right now – how much of your attention and energy is focused on doing and how much is focused on allowing? While both doing and allowing are important, most of us put a disproportionate amount of attention on action. Increasing our focus on allowing and ultimately receiving, can be a magical, relaxing, and incredibly effective way for us to relate to our goals and dreams. This is often one of the big missing pieces in our desire for not only success, but more important, fulfillment.

– Create an allowing practice. This is a simple practice you can do daily (like prayer, meditation, quiet reflection, affirmation, etc.) where you put your attention and awareness on allowing – accepting things as they are, trusting that things are working out as they are meant to, believing that the feelings, experiences, accomplishments, and outcomes you desire are on their way, and allowing yourself to receive these gifts and blessings with ease and gratitude. You may need to reach out to others for support, guidance, and feedback about creating or deepening an allowing practice that will work for you – but doing this is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself (as well as to those around you).

Have fun with this and have compassion with yourself as well. For most of us, allowing is a lot easier to think about or talk about than it actually is to practice and embody in our lives. The more attention we put on it, however, the easier it gets. And, as we deepen our ability and our capacity to allow – our whole life can transform with ease, grace, and gratitude!

How are you at allowing? What can you do to allow things to be as they are and also allow things to show up with ease in your life? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Who Do You Think You Are?

March 3, 2010

Sometimes when I’m about to take a big risk, go for something important, or “step out” in a bold way in my life, I notice the judgmental question, “Who do you think you are?, will pop up in my head.  Does this ever happen to you?

This is one of the many ways that the feelings of “not good enough” or “unworthy” show up in our lives and get in the way of our success, fulfillment, and authenticity.  Sadly, as most of us know, this question doesn’t come from our true self; it comes from our “Gremlin” – that little monster in our head whose only job is to keep us out of perceived danger.  The more we listen to our Gremlin, the more allow him or her to sabotage our life.

However, this question, “Who do you think you are?, while often asked in a negative, critical way and something that we allow to stop us from doing, saying, and going for important things in life – is also a very important question for us to ask and answer honestly.  When we look at it on deeper level, we see that our answer to this question has a lot to do with how we experience life, in general.

How life is for us has a lot less to do with our circumstances or situations, and much more to do with how we relate to them and ultimately the thoughts we have.  Some of the most powerful thoughts we think and the ones that have the most impact on us are the thoughts we have about ourselves (i.e. who we think we are).

Each of us has a “story” about ourselves and our lives.  These stories are often dramatic, funny, scary, inspiring, sad, intense, boring, enjoyable, tragic, and more (usually a combination of many of these things).  In most cases, the story we have about ourselves changes a bit – depending on how we’re feeling about life and ourselves at any given time.

One of the things we sometimes forget, however, is that we’re the author of the story of our life – not simply the main character.  We often think that our story has to do with all of the things that have “happened” to us, the qualities we were born with or have cultivated, the stuff we’ve done or haven’t done yet, etc.  But, when we remember that our story is a function of our thoughts, most specifically the thoughts we have about ourselves, we can be empowered to consciously transform not just our “story,” but our life as a whole.

Here are a few things to think about and do to enhance your thoughts about yourself, and therefore enhance your experience of life:

– Notice when your feelings of “not good enough” or “unworthy” show up – In other words, pay attention to when the question, “Who do you think you are?” stops you in your tracks and takes you out of the game of your life.  As we’re able to notice this, be honest about, and have some compassion for ourselves, we can take our power back from our Gremlin in those moments and step more fully into who we really are.

– Ask yourself more deeply, “Who do you think you are?” – Go deeper with this question, beyond the judgment and really inquiry into how you relate to yourself.  What’s your story?  The more honest we can be about the story we have about ourselves, the easier it is for us to acknowledge it, own it, and ultimately change it.  Remember, these stories are not “true,” they are simply our interpretations, judgments, and beliefs.  We created them, so we have the power to transform them at any time.

– Upgrade your “story” about yourself – In the specific areas of your life where your story is not empowering, inspiring, or fulfilling – see if you’re willing and able to “upgrade” it in an authentic way.  This basically means we change our thoughts, words, and feelings about it, genuinely.  Because we often get so attached to our stories and tend to defend them passionately, this “upgrading” process can be challenging for many of us.  It sometimes takes support, feedback, and coaching from others in order for us to move beyond our story and remember that we have the power to upgrade it whenever we’re ready.

Who we think we are is one of the most foundational aspects of how we relate to life and ourselves.  As Henry Ford said in his famous quote, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”   This simple quote is so wise and profound.  And, whether we think we’re great or we’re not, we’re always “right” – it’s a function of who we truly think we are.

Who do you think you are? How can you “upgrade” the story you have about yourself in a way that will inspire and empower you? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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