Archive for March 2012

Are You Addicted to Struggle?

March 29, 2012

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

During a session I was having with my new coach last week it became clear to me that I’ve been addicted to struggle for much of my life. While I wasn’t super excited to admit this, it has actually been quite liberating to address my struggle addiction directly and to see how it impacts just about every aspect of my life and work. How about you… are you addicted to (or at least very familiar with) struggling in your own life?

As I’ve thought about it more over this past week, I realize that I have some real resistance to allowing things to come easy and that my attachment to struggling runs deep within me (as it does for so many people I know and work with). Here are some of the main “reasons” I’ve used and beliefs I’ve held for many years to justify my own struggling:

  • If I don’t have to struggle for something, it doesn’t really mean all that much.
  • If things come easy to me, other people will get jealous, won’t like me, and/or won’t respect me.
  • It’s not fair for things to be easy for me (i.e. I have to struggle) – especially with so many people having such a hard time these days.
  • I actually get off on struggling and suffering – I’m quite familiar with it and I’ve used it as motivation to change and “succeed” for much of my life.
  • My ability to work hard, overcome adversity, and rise above challenges are all things my ego uses to feel superior to others.
  • If I don’t struggle for something, when it happens I won’t feel like I deserve it.
  • Struggling allows me to avoid taking responsibility for certain aspects of my life and keeps me “focused” so I get to avoid uncomfortable feelings, situations, and circumstances I don’t really want to deal with.

Can you relate to any of these? Maybe you have others as well.

Getting in touch with some of these reasons and beliefs has been both painful and eye opening at the same time. As I think, talk, and write about them – I realize how ridiculous some of them are and how much of my life’s energy I’ve been giving away to them in the process.

It’s almost like I’m walking around worried that someone’s going to say me, “Mike, you have it so easy,” and I’m preparing my defensive responses, “Oh yeah, well let me tell you how hard I work, how challenging things have been for me, and how much stuff I’ve had to overcome along the way.” What’s up with this? It’s like I’m preparing for a fight that doesn’t even exist. Do you ever do that?

While working hard, overcoming challenges and adversity, and being passionately committed to important and complex things in our lives aren’t inherently bad – resisting ease and being attached to struggle causes me and so many of us a great deal of stress, worry, and pain. And, in many cases this difficulty is totally self-induced and unnecessary.

What if we allowed things to be easier? What if we started to speak about and own the aspects of our lives that are actually easy to us and started to expect things to get even easier? What if we let go of our attachment (or addiction, as it were) to struggle? Easy doesn’t mean lazy – that we aren’t willing to work in a passionate way, or that we expect a “free ride” – it means that we’re willing to have things work out, trust that all is well, and allow life to flow in a positive and elegant way for us.

Our desire and ability to embrace ease in our life isn’t selfish, arrogant, or unrealistic – it’s profoundly optimistic (in an authentic way) and can actually enhance our ability to impact others. The more energy and attention we place on surviving, getting by, or even “striving” for success – the less available we are to give, serve, and make a difference for other people. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to us, letting go of our addiction to struggle is one of the best ways we can show up for those around us – both by our example and with our freed up positive energy.

My coach suggested that I start wearing a “struggle patch,” like a nicotine patch that people wear in their process of breaking an addiction to smoking. While at first it seemed a little ridiculous, I actually took her up on the suggestion and put on a band aid as a representation of my “struggle patch.” I’m allowing the band aid to represent my own commitment to break this addiction and it actually has been altering my perception of myself and my life. Feel free to use this technique yourself!

As Richard Bach famously stated, “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” What if we stopped arguing on behalf of how “hard” things are, and started to allow our life to be filled with more peace and ease, instead of perpetuating the struggle? While the idea of things authentically being easy may not be, ironically, the easiest thing for you to embrace – I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to take this on in your life and become more comfortable with it… maybe it will actually be easier than you think!

Are you addicted to struggling? How does this manifest in your life? What can you do to let go of struggle and allow things to be easier? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more.

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It’s Okay to Disappoint People

March 15,2012

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

How do you feel about disappointing others? How about being disappointed yourself? I’ve recently noticed how much of my conscious and unconscious attention is focused on not disappointing others, while at the same time protecting myself against being disappointed.

As I’ve been looking at this more deeply, I’m amazed by how much stress, fear, and worry I experience in my attempts to avoid the disappointment of those around me – family, friends, clients, and others. At the same time, I can see that much of this comes from my own deeper fear of being disappointed and let down. The irony, of course, is that no matter how hard I try to avoid disappointing others or being disappointed myself, it happens anyway.

By actively avoiding disappointment (of or by others), 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 a bold, authentic, and passionate way. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us, and taking care of 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, empathetic, 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. Seuss 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, authenticity, and fulfillment. Making peace with disappointing others allows us to release our erroneous demands for perfection. 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 with other people’s opinions. This is not always easy, but is so powerful and can be transformational.

Here are a few things you can consider and do to expand your capacity to embrace disappointment in your own life:

  •  Take inventory. 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? Also, take a look at your relationship to disappointment in general – how do you feel about it?
  •  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 great value in being someone who is willing to say “yes” in life, there is also 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, remove things from your plate or schedule that don’t serve or inspire you, and make peace with yourself about it. As author and coach Cheryl Richardson says, “If it’s not an absolute ‘yes,’ it’s a ‘no’.”
  •  Expand and express your desires. Make a list (mental or written) of some of the most important and vulnerable desires you currently have – the things you really want, but maybe have been afraid to admit (due to a fear of being disappointed). Many of us, myself included, don’t ask for things, go for things, or express things unless we’re pretty sure we can make them happen, get them, or be sure people will respond to them in a positive way. While this makes sense, it’s also quite limiting. When you allow yourself to tap into and express your authentic desires, even if what you want doesn’t seem “possible” at the moment, you give yourself the freedom to ask, dream, and create. One of my favorite sayings is, “The answer’s always ‘no’ if you don’t ask.” Start asking!

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 profound way!

How do you feel about disappointing others? How about being disappointed? What can you do to make peace with and embrace disappointment in an empowering way? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more.

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