Archive for Appreciation

Celebrate the Great Fullness of Life

girl and boy

November 21, 2013

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

With Thanksgiving upon us here in the United States, I’ve been thinking about the mixed feelings I often have about this great holiday. Of course, it can be a wonderful celebration of gratitude, appreciation, and family connection. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving also tends to be about feeling obligated to spend time with the people we’re “supposed” to, eating too much food and feeling guilty about it, and pretending to be grateful when we’re actually annoyed and stressed out.

What if we could make this Thanksgiving less stressful, more fun, and actually be able to enjoy ourselves, appreciate our family and friends (even the ones who drive us nuts), and focus on what we’re thankful for in a genuine way?

Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, there is always so much we can be thankful for.  As I talked about in my recent TEDx talk on “The Power of Appreciation,” we almost always find what we look for in others and in life – why not choose to celebrate the great fullness of life?

Here are some important tips to make this year’s Thanksgiving one you truly enjoy and remember (in a good way):

1) Be you

Instead of trying to be who you think you “should” be with your family, friends, in-laws, or guests – just relax and be yourself! So often we put undue pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, impress people (even those we know well), or do or say the things we think others want us to. When we let go of trying to please everyone and we’re able to be true to ourselves, we create a genuine sense of freedom and peace. This also means that we think about what would be fun for us and our immediate family to do for Thanksgiving and communicate this to everyone else (in-laws, extended family, etc.), even if it may upset or disappoint some of the people involved.

2) Look for the good

Make a commitment to focus on the things you like and appreciate about your friends and family members, instead of obsessing about the things that annoy or upset you about them. We almost always find what we look for in others and in situations. When we let go of past resentments, we’re able to see people with new eyes. As the saying goes, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Whatever we choose to do on Thanksgiving and whomever we choose to spend our holiday with, if we make a conscious decision to enjoy ourselves and to look for the good stuff in an authentic way, we dramatically increase our chances of having a positive and pleasurable experience.

3) Make it fun and easy

Do whatever you can for yourself and those around you to make the planning, food preparation, clean up, and the whole Thanksgiving experience as easy, fun, and stress-free as possible. This means we keep it light, share the responsibilities, ask others for help, and do the things that we enjoy doing – instead of burdening ourselves and feeling like a victim about it all. Too often we spend and waste our time and energy being uptight, doing things we don’t truly want to do, feeling resentful towards others, and creating a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration. Thanksgiving can be lots of fun, if we’re willing to go with the flow and make it easy on ourselves and for others.

4) Express your appreciation for others

One of best things we can do for other people (on Thanksgiving or at any time) is to let them know what we appreciate about them in a genuine way. Acknowledging others is a true “win-win,” as we always get to keep what we give away to others when we appreciate them (i.e. the good feelings are shared by us and those we acknowledge). There are many ways we can appreciate people on Thanksgiving:

  • Write “I’m thankful for you” cards and give them out on Thanksgiving (or mail them beforehand)
  • Pick someone at the dinner table to acknowledge, and then ask them to “pay it forward” and appreciate someone else in the group – go around until everyone has been appreciated
  • Pull people aside on Thanksgiving (or give them a call) and let them know what you appreciate about them specifically and genuinely

5) Count your blessings

Remember that in the midst of all the commotion, stress, and activity of the holiday season, Thanksgiving really is a time for us to reflect on what we’re grateful for – in life, about others, and especially about ourselves. Take some time on Thanksgiving to focus on what you’re grateful for, the many blessings in your life, and the things you appreciate about yourself. A great way for us to remember and to celebrate the many blessings in our life, especially on Thanksgiving, is to take some time during our meal and allow each person at the table to talk about what they’re grateful for in a genuine, specific, and personal way.

This year let’s challenge ourselves to make Thanksgiving more than just something we get through or even simply a nice holiday; let’s have it be a time of reflection, connection, and a celebration of the great fullness of life.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? Are you willing to do what it takes to make it a fun, meaningful, and positive experience?  Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more here on my blog.

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Get Honest Feedback

July 14, 2009

How do you feel about people giving you really honest feedback? If you’re anything like me, you may both love and hate it at the same time. Most of us want the honest feedback of those around us, yet at the same time we’re often scared about what people might say – especially if it could hurt our feelings, ruffle our feathers, or leave us feeling insecure, vulnerable, or embarrassed.

For the most part and in many situations, groups, and relationships in our lives there is an unspoken, unconscious agreement that we make with others – “I won’t call you on yours, if you don’t call me on mine.” While this makes sense and is understandable, given how sensitive many of us can be, especially when it comes to feedback, this lack of authenticity doesn’t serve us, bring us closer to others, or allow us to support and empower each other in any real way (which is what most of us truly want).

Think of some of the honest feedback you’ve received in your life and career and how valuable it has been to your growth and evolution. Although some of it may not have felt so good to hear at first – I bet you’re incredibly grateful not only for the feedback itself, but for the people who were (and are) willing to be honest with you. It takes courage to both give and receive feedback authentically. And, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to others. Learning to receive the honest feedback and coaching of other people is a critical aspect of living a life of success, growth, and authenticity.

Here are some essential things to think about and practice as you enhance your ability to receive honest feedback:

1) Ask for it. Since honest feedback can be a tricky thing all the way around and many of us are a little insecure about giving it, letting people know that you want them to be honest with you and pro-actively requesting the authentic feedback of others is a great way to make sure you get it. Give people permission to be straight with you – even if you’re a little scared about what they might say. We usually get what we ask for.

2) Be open to the feedback, but remember it’s not the “truth.” It’s important for us to be open to people’s feedback, whether or not we asked for it, and at the same time remember that nothing anyone says to us is the “truth,” (it’s just their opinion). This is one of the many paradoxes of getting feedback from others. Just because they say it doesn’t make it so. And, at the same time, the best approach we can take is to be open to anything and everything people have to say about us. Try on their feedback like you would a coat – if it fits and can help, use it. If not, disregard it. However, be careful about your ego – which will want to argue with feedback you don’t like as a way of survival (yet another paradox).

3) Give honest feedback to others. Be willing to speak your truth to other people, even if you’re a little (or a lot) nervous about it. This is not about “tit for tat” or some kind of competition, but if we really want to create relationships, teams, families, and environments where we can talk to each other in a free, open, vulnerable, and authentic way – we have to be willing to speak up and say things that might be uncomfortable to those around us. Doing this not only gives us the opportunity to make a difference for others, it also creates a standard by which we relate to one another and communicate.

Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others as you engage in these types of honest conversations – they can be sensitive and challenging (especially at first). And, as we all know and have experienced, when we’re willing to get real and give each other honest feedback like this – everyone wins and is empowered at a much deeper and more real level.

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Express Yourself

May 12, 2009

How honest are you?  While most of us aren’t bald-faced liars who go around deceiving people consciously, if we’re honest with ourselves about it, we often don’t fully speak our truth or express all of our emotions.  We’ve been trained and have in turn trained ourselves to be “appropriate” and to say and do the “right” thing so we can get what we want and look as good as possible in most situations.

For me, being a “nice guy,” a “people pleaser,” and wanting others to be impressed with me often poses a challenge when what I want to say or express doesn’t seem to fit into the “likeable” category.  Most of the people I know and work with have some “story” about themselves they want others to believe and therefore only feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings that match up with this story or the public “identity” that they put forth.

However, what if, even with whatever fear or resistance we each have – we were able to fully, passionately, and honestly express ourselves?

One way we can do this, which I talk about in Chapter Five of Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Principle 3 – Express Yourself), is to lower our “waterline.”  This idea is based on the metaphor of an iceberg, with just the tip of it popping up above the surface, and the rest of the iceberg (who we really are) down below the waterline.

The exercise that I share in the book and often do in my workshops, which I originally learned from my friends and mentors Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, is called “if you really knew me.”  Each person in the group has a minute or two to complete the phrase, “if you really knew me, you’d know…” and then share some things about themselves in an honest, transparent, and vulnerable way.  It takes courage, safety, and trust to do this.  As I’ve seen time and time again, this exercise can have a profound impact on everyone involved.

Even though I’m feeling nervous as I write this and I worry that this is overly personal or possibly inappropriate for me to write in an “advice article” like this, I will share with you some things you’d know about me if we were sitting in a circle, doing this powerful exercise together.

If you really knew me, you’d know that I spend a lot of time and energy worrying about my physical appearance – obsessing about certain aspects of how I look (my hair, my skin, my eyes, my teeth, my weight, and more) and worrying that I don’t look good enough, that people can see me aging, losing my hair, and not taking care of myself – and that they’ll judge me or won’t like me because of it.

If you really, really knew me you’d know that I can’t seem to figure out how to stay on top of my life, my work, my finances, and all of my many personal and professional responsibilities in a way that feels balanced, workable, or peaceful.  Much of the time I feel like I am drowning, messing things up, and simply “pretending” to be happy and grateful.

If you really, really, really knew me you’d know that I believe my work, my message, and the gifts that I have are incredibly powerful, important, and meaningful.  I’m sometimes blown away by the impact I have on others.  I want to have an even deeper and bigger impact on people and the world, but my ego seems to think that I’m not doing enough, not being appreciated in the way I deserve, or that I better hurry up and “make it” before people really find out how full of it I am.

Wow…I can’t really believe I just shared all of that.  And, it feels both scary and liberating to have done so.  When we’re willing to own and express our truth, we can free ourselves from needless worry, hiding, and denial.  This allows us to be ourselves, live our lives with passion, and go for what we truly want in life.

Real authenticity is not some set of rules or a self-righteous definition about how people “should” be in life…it is the willingness and courage to be real, true, transparent, and vulnerable in the moment-by-moment, day-by-day experience of being in relationship with others and living this magical, mysterious, wonderful, crazy, exciting thing we call life.

Authenticity Challenge: What You Can Do

Think about some important things you have not been willing to say or some intense feelings you have not been willing to express recently.  Make a commitment to yourself, even if you’re feeling scared or uncomfortable about it, to express yourself honestly about these important things.  Write them down, call a friend of family member, or talk to someone you fully trust.  What would they know about you if they really knew how you were feeling right now?  Reach out in a bold, vulnerable, and honest way and see what happens when you express yourself like this.  It can be magical and one of the most liberating experiences in life!  Have fun…

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Transform Your Fear

May 5, 2009

Fear is something that we all experience throughout our lives, especially on our journey toward deeper authenticity.  Being who we really are, expressing ourselves honestly, being bold, and going for what we want in life can cause a great deal of fear in us.

I get scared all the time.  When I was younger I thought there was something really wrong with me because I would get so nervous – in sports, in school, in social settings, and more.  I now understand that everyone else experiences their own version of the same basic fears I have (being judged, making mistakes, looking bad, failing, disappointing others, and more).  It’s just part of being human.

Many of us run away or hide from our fears because they seem scary, uncomfortable, or embarrassing.  We also erroneously think we “shouldn’t” have them or that we are somehow “wrong” for feeling scared.  However, most things that mean a lot to us in life don’t show up without any fear at all.  And as we strive to live with authenticity, it’s inevitable that we’ll experience quite a bit of fear along the way.

The question isn’t whether or not we experience fear in our lives (because we all do and always will for as long as we live); the more important question for each of us to ask and answer is, how can I move through my fears in an honest way so they don’t stop me from being who I really am and going for what I truly want in life?

How to move through your fear in a positive way:

1) Admit it – Acknowledge your fear, tell the truth about it, and be real.  When we feel scared and are willing to admit it with a sense of empathy and compassion for ourselves, it can often take the edge off and give us a little breathing room to begin with.

2) Own it – Take responsibility for your fear and own it as yours, not anyone else’s.  We often have a tendency to blame others for doing or saying things that “scare us.”  However, when we remember that no one else can “make” us scared – only we have that power – we take back the responsibility and the power of the fear and remember that it exists within us, so we are the only ones who can change it.

3) Feel it – Allow yourself to feel your fear, not just think about it or talk about it (something I often catch myself doing).  Feel it in your body and allow yourself to go into the emotion of it, even if it is scary or uncomfortable.  Like any emotion, when we feel our fear deeply and passionately, it has a way of dissipating.

4) Express it – Let it out.  Speak, write, emote, move your body, yell, or do whatever you feel is necessary for you to do to express your fear.  Similar to feeling any emotion with intensity, when we express emotions with intensity and passion, they move right through us.  When we repress our emotions, they get stuck and can become debilitating and dangerous.

5) Let it go – This one is often easier said than done – for me and many people I work with.  Letting go of our fear becomes much easier when we honestly admit, own, feel, and express it.  Letting go of our fear is a conscious and deliberate choice, not a reactionary form of denial.  Once you’ve allowed yourself the time to work through your fear, you can declare “I’m choosing to let go of my fear and use its energy in a positive way.”

6) Visualize the positive outcomes you desire – Think about, speak out loud, write down, or even close your eyes and visualize how you want things to be and, more important, how you want to feel.  If your fear is focused on something specific like your work, a relationship, money, etc. – visualize it being how you want it to be and allow yourself to feel how to ultimately want to feel.

7) Take action – Be willing to take bold and courageous actions, even if you’re still feeling nervous.  Your legs may shake, your voice might quiver, but that doesn’t have to stop you from saying what’s on your mind, taking a risk, making a request, trying something new, or being bold in a small or big way.  Doing this is what builds confidence and allow us to move through our fear.

Fear can and does stop us in life – from being ourselves, speaking our truth, and going for what we really want.  But, when we remember with compassion that there’s nothing wrong with us for getting scared and when we’re willing to lean into our fears with vulnerability and boldness – we can literally transform them into something that catapults our growth and fulfillment in life.

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Know Yourself

April 29, 2009

How well do you know yourself, I mean really know yourself?  An essential aspect of our journey to live a more authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life, is to know who we truly are at the deepest level.  Knowing ourselves, like being authentic itself, is a life-long process.  The more deliberate we are about this, however, the more we can grow and evolve consciously.

For me, knowing myself has been and at times continues to be a little tricky.  For many years I thought “knowing myself” meant knowing about myself (my “story,” my issues, my drama, where I’d been, what I’d been through, etc.).  While knowing about ourselves is important, it’s only a small piece of who we really are.

Being fully aware of ourselves is about looking more deeply within.  This can be challenging, confusing, and scary for some of us, myself included.  We often aren’t sure where to look, what to do, or how to deal with the aspects of ourselves we don’t understand or even like.  There are times I find myself wanting to avoid or deny certain aspects of myself, rather than confront them and deal with them directly based on my own fear or self judgment.  However, as Eckhart Tolle says in his book A New Earth, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”

How We Can Know Ourselves More Deeply:

Knowing ourselves is an evolutionary process, not a destination.  There are, however, many things you can do that will give you greater understanding and awareness of who you truly are.  Here are a few ideas:

– Pay attention – Increase your awareness of yourself by paying close attention to the things you do and say, how you interact with others, what thoughts and feelings you have, how you show up in life, and your intuition and deeper guidance.  The more conscious of yourself you can be – in a present and nonjudgmental way – the more you’ll be able to know and understand yourself deeply.

– Accept yourself – Self acceptance is an essential aspect of knowing who you are.  Appreciate yourself for dealing with the challenges you have dealt with (or are still dealing with) in your life and also be aware of as many of your strengths and weaknesses as possible, in a positive and compassionate way.  Accepting yourself is not about doing everything “right,” ignoring or denying aspects of who you are, or being resigned in any way – it’s about making peace with all of who you are, both light and dark, and choosing to appreciate yourself.

– Get feedback – Allow people to give you honest feedback – family members, friends, co-workers, and others.  Be open to what people have to say about you and ask them to be honest.  This takes real courage, but when you’re willing to listen to the authentic feedback of others, you can gain a deeper awareness and insight about who you are, how you show up in life, and how you affect others – both positively and negatively.  And, remember the paradox – none of what other people say about you is “true” (it’s just their opinion), but it can be enlightening and empowering as it gives you an outside perspective of who you are and how you show up.

Knowing ourselves is an on-going process for us to engage in as we deepen our desire to be authentic in life.  It’s not always easy and there are many ego traps for us to be aware of along the way, but when we make a commitment to ourselves, our lives, and our growth – knowing who we are is fundamental and always will be.

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Why It Can Be Hard to Be Authentic

April 21, 2009

Why is it hard to be authentic?  More important, why is it hard for you to be authentic?

This isn’t an accusation or a judgment, it’s an important question.  If we can ask and answer this question honestly, without judging ourselves, we’re well on our way to becoming more of who we really are and ultimately more authentic.

For me, being honest, real, and authentic in a vulnerable way is what I aspire to be in my life, all the time.  However, this is also something I find quite difficult and challenging to do in the day-by-day, moment-by-moment aspects of my life, my work, and my relationships.

I’m often more interested (at least on the surface) in being liked, impressing people, and wanting to look good, than I am in being real.  I worry that if I really speak my truth, go for what I want, and let it all hang out – people won’t like me, I will upset or offend them, or I won’t be able to get what I truly want.

Can you relate to this in your own life?

Many of us, myself included, get quite upset, in a self-righteous way, when we see, hear about, or experience other people being dishonest, phony, or simply withholding the truth.  However, how often do we do that ourselves?  We can be quite hypocritical when it comes to authenticity – expecting it from others all the time, but not doing, saying, and being totally authentic ourselves.

This doesn’t make us “bad” or “wrong,” it simply makes us human.  Authenticity is challenging for most everyone I know, talk to, and work with.  The more we can get in touch with our own personal difficulty with being authentic, the more able and willing we’ll be to move past whatever stops us from being real.  But first, we have to notice our own difficulty or resistance to authenticity, with compassion, and tell the truth about it.

There are many factors that play into this – family upbringing, cultural training, long-held beliefs about what’s “appropriate,” and our own personal fears.  When it comes to being authentic, the bottom line for most of us is that we’re scared.  We don’t want to deal with what we imagine to be the consequences of authenticity – people’s judgments or reactions, our own fears and doubts, possible failure or rejection, and more – so we just shut up and try to fit in.

Shutting up and trying to fit in, as we all know from experience, doesn’t really work, feel good, or lead us to anything meaningful or fulfilling in life.  Doing this leads to resentment, frustration, and a lack of power in our lives, but is often easier for us to do than it is to confront our fear, speak our truth, and be fully authentic.

Getting in touch with what makes authenticity hard for us can give us access to a deeper place of truth within us and is the first step in becoming more real.

Here are a few questions for you to think about and answer with honesty and compassion:

  • What specific messages have you received throughout your life about being authentic and being yourself, that stop you from expressing yourself fully?
  • What are the main obstacles that get in your way of being real?
  • What are some of the biggest fears you have about being fully yourself, speaking your truth, and going for what you want in life?

Allow yourself to sit with these questions, ponder them, and see what comes out of this inquiry.  Talk to others about this with empathy and openness.  Engaging in this inquiry can and will open up some new ideas, insights, and possibilities for you.  Have fun with it and be kind to yourself in the process!

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The Power of Authenticity

April 16, 2009

How often do you not say or do something because you’re worried about how it’ll be perceived?  For most of us, myself included, this happens all the time – more often than we’d like to admit.

We live in a culture that’s starving for authenticity.  We want our leaders, our co-workers, our family members, our friends, and everyone else we interact with to tell us the truth and to be themselves.  Most important, we want to have the personal freedom and confidence to say, do, and be who we really are, without worrying so much about how we appear to others and what they might think or say about us.

Sadly, however, even though we may say we want to live in a way that is true to our deepest passions, beliefs, and desires; most of us don’t and it’s not that easy.  We’ve been taught by our parents, teachers, spouses, friends, co-workers, politicians, the media, and others, that it’s more important to be liked and to fit in than it is to be who we truly are.  In addition, many of us assume that who we are is not good enough and therefore we’re constantly trying to fix ourselves, or to act like others who we think are better than us.

However, as the famous 19th century author and poet Oscar Wilde so brilliantly stated, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

What it Really Means to Be Authentic

Authenticity is about enjoying a new sense of freedom to be who we really are–ourselves, natural and without a mask in our relationships, our work, and our life.  It takes courage, commitment, and depth to:

  • Look within ourselves
  • Tell the whole truth (even when we don’t want to)
  • Be vulnerable
  • Admit, own, and share our true thoughts, feelings, desires, insecurities, passions, embarrassment, dreams, and more.

However, being open and real about all of these things (and more) is what it means to be authentic in life.

Five Principles for Being Your Authentic Self

In order to utilize the power of authenticity in your life as a way to enhance your relationships, increase your fulfillment, and empower yourself, here are five key principles:

1) Know Yourself – Make a commitment to your own personal growth.  Discover more of who you are.  And, seek out and allow the support, honest feedback, and guidance of others.

2) Transform Your Fear – There’s nothing wrong with having fear, it’s the resistance and denial of fear that is the real problem.  When you admit, own, feel, and express your fear, you have the ability to move through it, transform it, and utilize its power in a positive way.  Taking action in the face of fear is courageous and empowering.

3) Express Yourself – Have the courage to speak your truth boldly.  Deal with conflicts directly.  Express your emotions fully.  Be vulnerable and real about what you think and how you feel.  While on the surface you may worry that this will be seen as “weak,” in actuality expressing yourself completely gives you access to real freedom and power.

4) Be Bold – Live, speak, and act with courage, passion, and truth – even if it’s difficult or scary.  Go for what you want in your work and in your life. And get back up when you fall down, which you will.

5) Celebrate Who You Are – Appreciate and honor who you are, what you do, and the gifts and talents that you have.  Celebrating yourself is not about being arrogant.  It’s an awareness of your own power and it’s the key to self confidence, fulfillment, and authenticity.

Being your authentic self is not for the faint of heart, but once you’re willing to truly engage and do the work to become more real – your life, your work, and your relationships will be more exciting, meaningful, and fulfilling!

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Asking For Help

April 7, 2009

How do you feel about asking other people for help?

I’ve noticed that many of us, myself included, get a little funny about requesting support.  While we’re all different and we each have our own unique perspective, reaction, and process as it relates to reaching out to others, it seems that this can be quite a tricky exercise for most of the people I know and work with.

I have somewhat of a bi-polar relationship to asking for help myself.  I can definitely be a “lone ranger” at times and often, especially when I feel stressed or pressured, try to do everything myself – either because I feel insecure about asking for support or because I self righteously think that I’m the only one who can do it the “right” way.  On the other hand, I can sometimes be quite pushy, forceful, and presumptuous with my requests (aka demands) of support (or so I’ve been told).  Ah, to be human!

However, as I’ve also experienced personally and seen in others many times throughout my life and in my work, there is a beautiful place of balance between going it all alone and demanding help from others in an obnoxious way.  This all stems from our ability to genuinely ask for and graciously receive the support of other people.  The irony of this whole phenomenon is that most of us love to help others, while many of us have a hard time asking others for help ourselves.

Requesting support can often make us feel vulnerable.  We usually think (somewhat erroneously) that we should be able to do everything ourselves or that by admitting we need help, we are somehow being weak.  In addition, many of us are sensitive about being told “no” and by asking others to help us, we put ourselves out there and risk being rejected.

What if we had more freedom to ask for what we wanted and for the specific support of other people?  What if we could make requests in a confident, humble, and empowering way?  What if we remembered that we are worthy of other people’s support and that our ability to both ask for and receive help not only supports us, but also gives them an opportunity to contribute (which most people really want to do).

It still might be a little scary, we may get our feelings hurt from time to time, and on occasion people may have some opinions or reactions to what we ask for or how we ask for it.  But, when we give ourselves permission and remind ourselves that it’s not only okay, but essential for us to ask for help – we can create a true sense of freedom, support, and empowerment in our lives and in our relationships!

Here are a few things we can do to have more freedom and confidence when asking for help.

1) Make Genuine Requests, with Attachment. A “genuine” request can be accepted or declined, without any consequence.  In other words, if we get really upset when someone says “no” to us, not only were we attached to the outcome, it probably wasn’t a real request to begin with (it was a demand).  When we ask for what we want, without being attached to the response, we have more freedom to ask and ultimately our chances of getting what we want are greatly increased.

2) Be Easy To Support.   There are some specific things we can do to make it easier to support us.  Such as:

  • Being open to the coaching and feedback of others
  • Thanking people for their support
  • Letting people do things to support us in their own unique way instead of micro-managing them (this one is often tough for me)
  • Allowing people’s support when it is offered

3) Give Your Support to Others Generously. When we put our attention on supporting other people, the universe has a way of returning the favor.  It may or may not always come back to us from the people we help specifically, and that’s okay.  We want to do our best not to “keep score,” as many of us often do, but instead to look for opportunities to genuinely help those around us.  When we do this, we remind ourselves of the power of support and we experience it as the true “win-win” it is.

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We Teach Best What We Most Need to Learn

April 1, 2009

I’ve been humbled by some recent critical feedback.  It seems that some people close to me, both personally and professionally, have been quite frustrated with me – especially as I ramp up for the release of my new book.  Ironically, the things they’re upset with me about have to do with the exact things I teach – appreciation, authenticity, positive communication, keeping things in perspective, and more.

Although my ego wants to (and has been) defending myself, making excuses, and trying to justify my actions – it’s clear to me that their feedback is accurate.  I actually struggle in many ways, especially when I get scared or stressed, to practice what I preach.  As I’ve been making my way through my feelings of remorse, embarrassment, and confusion – I’ve been thinking a lot about the well-known saying, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

Isn’t this true?  So often the advice we give to others is the exact advice we need ourselves.  It’s ironic that we sometimes don’t recognize this in the moment (or at all) and also sad that we don’t give ourselves permission to listen to our own good advice.  Too often, we hold ourselves to some ridiculous standard of “perfection” (which no one ever attains) or we’re too self-conscious to admit we struggle with some of the very same things we advise others to do.

However, what if we did listen to ourselves and could realize that the things we passionately want to teach other people (whether or not we think of ourselves as a “teacher”) are the things we, ourselves, truly want to learn and embody.  This takes a vigilant level of self awareness and honesty that many of us, myself included, don’t always want to practice.  When we do, not only can we grow personally, we can also enhance and deepen our relationships with others and our ability to impact them in a positive way.

Here are a few things we can do to learn from ourselves and use our own advice in a positive, not self-righteous, way:

1) Be Honest – As the saying goes, “the truth shall set you free.”  The more willing we are to tell the truth about how we feel, what we want, and what we see – the less likely we are to be arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, or defensive with others.  This means we’re willing to admit our own hypocrisy to ourselves and others, with compassion.

2) Have Compassion – Remember that everyone, including you, is doing the best they can in each and every moment.  Having compassion is one of the many things in life that is simple, but not easy.  The place for us to start is with ourselves.  When we can forgive ourselves and get off our own back, we then have the ability to that with others as well.

3) Stop Trying to be Perfect – Perfection demands never work – whether they’re focused outward or inward.  When we expect ourselves, others, or things to be “perfect,” everyone loses.  What if we didn’t have to do everything right, know everything, and always “walk our talk.”  Sometimes we don’t, and that’s okay.  When we stop trying to be perfect, we can accept ourselves as we are.  Acceptance leads to peace, joy, and fulfillment in our relationships and our lives.

Remembering that life is filled with irony and that it’s okay for us to make mistakes, pretend to know stuff we don’t, and act like we have certain things figured out when really we struggle with them, can be humbling at first.  However, when we embrace the idea that we always teach best what we most need to learn, we can create a deep sense of freedom in our lives that actually gives us the space and the power to be ourselves and impact others in the positive way we desire.

How does this relate to you and your lifeShare your thoughts, ideas, and questions about this article on my blog here.

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Accepting What Is

February 18, 2009

This week’s article definitely falls into the category of “we teach best what we most need to learn.”  For much of my life, and especially recently, I have struggled to accept certain things about myself, others, and life that I don’t like.  Being someone who is committed to change and transformation, the idea of “acceptance” has always seemed weak, wimpy, or like the admission of failure or powerlessness to me – although I have pretended to understand and believe in the power of acceptance for a long time.

The truth is, I have been scared to embrace acceptance – worrying that if I truly accept aspects of myself that I don’t like, things about others that bother me, or circumstances in my life and in the world that aren’t okay with me, then somehow I wouldn’t be motivated to change them in a positive way or, even worse, I would get resigned about them and they would always stay the way they are – which, of course, to me would be “bad” or “wrong.”

The famous quote by Carl Jung, which I have quoted in both of my books and find myself saying all the time comes to mind here, “What you resist, persists.”  It seems that I, and so many people I know, work with, and talk to, are constantly “resisting” (more like fighting against) the way things are in our lives.  Whether it’s with our body, our work, our spouse, our family members, our friends, our co-workers, our money, the state of the world and economy (especially these days), or many other things – we’re often arguing with reality instead of accepting it the way that it is.

Even though it can be scary and counter intuitive, acceptance is the first step in transformation.  It’s very difficult and quite stressful (as I know from a lifetime of experience) to try to change things from a place of non-acceptance.  Acceptance is not resignation or agreement; it is simply telling the truth and allowing things to be as they are.  When we accept ourselves, others, and life the way it is – we can create a real sense of peace and let go of much of our suffering.  And, from this place of peace and truth, we’re more able to not only appreciate life, but also to manifest the kind of circumstances, relationships, and outcomes we truly want.

Action:  What You Can Do

Make a list (in your mind, in your journal, or on a piece of paper) of some of the things in your life right now that are causing you the most stress, pain, or anxiety.  These things may have to do with people in your life, your work, money, health, things happening in the world, or anything else.

As you think about or write these things down, ask yourself if you’re willing to “accept” them as they are right now.  You don’t have to like, agree with, or want them to be this way…but, if you can start to accept these things, people, and situations in a genuine way – your ability to be at peace with them (and your life) and ultimately to change them in a positive way will be enhanced significantly.

What can you do to accept things as they are in your life right now?

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