Archive for fear

Think Big

August 7, 2014

I’ve had a number of experiences in the past few months which have both inspired me and challenged me to think big (and also to look at the ways in which I don’t.) All too often we let our egos, our fears, our perceived limitations, or our selfish motivations get in our way from thinking big.

In this week’s video blog I talk about this phenomenon and how we can get out of our own way, with compassion, and challenge ourselves to think big in an authentic way.

Check out the video below and feel free to leave a comment here on my blog about it. You can share thoughts, questions, ideas, insights, or anything else that this video inspires.

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The Importance of Live Conversations

sitting coupleJune 5, 2014

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Have you ever had a conversation, disagreement, or conflict escalate over email or text? Do you sometimes find yourself engaging in difficult or emotional conversations electronically because it seems “easier,” only to regret it later on? If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, you can probably answer “yes” to both of these questions.

In the past few months I’ve had a couple conflicts with important people in my life get blown way out of proportion, mainly because I engaged in them via email, instead of talking live to those involved. As I look back on these and other similar situations I’ve experienced in the past, I can see that it was my fear to connect live and my poor judgment in using written communication that contributed to the increased conflict and lack of resolution.

Why do we do this (even though most of us, myself included, know better?) First of all, email (or other forms of electronic communication – texting, Facebook, Twitter, and more), tends to be the primary mode of communication these days for many of us – both personally and professionally.

Second of all, it can sometimes seem easier for us to be honest and direct in writing because we can say what is true for us without having to worry about the in-the-moment reaction of the other person.

And third, electronic communication (or even one-way verbal communication, i.e. voice mail) takes way less courage than having a live, real conversation with another human being (on the phone or in person). When we talk to people live we have to deal with our fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, and our tendency to “sell out” on ourselves and not speak our full truth. Avoiding the live conversation and choosing to do it in writing sometimes feels “safer” and can allow us to say things we might otherwise withhold.

Regardless of why we choose to engage in important conversations via these one-way forms of communication (email, text, voice mail, etc.), it is much less likely for us to work through conflicts, align with one another, and build trust and connection when we avoid talking to each other live about important stuff.

Anything we’re willing to engage in electronically can usually be resolved much more quickly, effectively, and lovingly by having a live conversation, even if we’re scared to do so. The fear may be real, but most often the “threat” is not.

Here are some things you can do to practice engaging in live conversations with people more often and, ultimately, to resolve your conflicts more successfully.

– Be clear about your intention – Before sending an email, text, etc. (or even leaving a voice mail), ask yourself, “What’s my intention?” If you’re about to engage in something that is in any way emotionally charged, about a conflict, or important on an inter-personal level, check in to make sure you’re not simply sending the message to avoid dealing with it and the person(s) involved directly. Tell the truth to yourself about how you feel, what you want, and why you’re about to engage in the specific type and form of communication you’re choosing.

– Don’t send everything you write – Writing things out without a filter and just letting all of our thoughts and feelings flow can be a very important exercise, especially when we’re dealing with a conflict or something that’s important to us. However, we don’t always have to send everything we write! It’s often a good idea to save an email in your drafts folder and read it again later (maybe after you’ve calmed down a bit or even the following day.)

– Request a call or a meeting – Before engaging in a long, emotional email exchange, it can often be best to simply pick up the phone or send a note to request a specific time to talk about the situation live. Face to face is always best if you can make it happen, but if that poses a big challenge (i.e. you’re busy and it might take a while to set up) or is not possible (i.e. you don’t live close enough to the person to see them easily), talking on the phone is another option. A great email response can simply be, “Thanks for your note, this seems like something that would be better to discuss live than by email, let’s set up a time to talk later today or this week.”

– Speak your truth, without judgment or blame – When you do engage in the live conversation (in person or on the phone), focus on being REAL, not RIGHT. This means that you speak your truth by using “I statements,” (I think, I feel, I notice, I want, etc.) As soon as we move into blame or judgment, we cut off the possibility of any true resolution. Own your judgments and notice if you start to blame the other person(s) involved. If so, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and get back to speaking your truth in a real way, not accusing them of stuff.

– Get support from others – When we’re dealing with emotionally charged conflicts, it’s often a good idea to reach out for support from other people we trust and respect. If at all possible, try to get feedback from people who will be honest with you, won’t just tell you what you want to hear and agree with you no matter what, and who aren’t too emotionally connected to the situation themselves. Whether it is to bounce ideas off of, get specific coaching or feedback, or simply to help you process through your own fear, anger, or tendency to over-react (which many of us do in situations like this), getting support from those around us in the process is essential. We don’t have to do it alone and we’re not the only ones who struggle with things like this.

Living life, doing our work, and interacting with the other human beings around us can be wonderfully exciting and incredibly challenging (or anywhere in between.) Conflicts are a natural and beautiful part of life and relationships. We can learn so much about ourselves and others through engaging in productive conflict and important conversations.

The ultimate goal isn’t to live a conflict-free life; it’s to be able to engage in conflict in a way that is productive, healthy, kind, and effective. When we remember that live conversations, even if they can be scary at first, are always the best way to go, we can save ourselves from needless worry, stress and suffering – and in the process resolve our conflicts much more quickly, easily, and successfully.

Are there situations in your life that require live conversations where you have either been avoiding or emailing – and they’re not getting resolved? What can you do to address these situations directly – and have live conversations with those people? Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more here on my blog.

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Testing is Not Trusting

May 15, 2014

In a session I had with my counselor Eleanor last week she said to me, “Testing is not trusting.” I realized in talking to her that much of what I’ve been calling “trust” is actually me simply “testing” new attitudes, techniques, and approaches… hoping they will work out, but fearing that they won’t (or at the very least wanting some kind of guarantee that they will.) Maybe you can relate to this?

In this week’s video blog, I talk about this dynamic and the important distinction between testing and trusting. When we expand our capacity for authentic trust, we can experience a deeper level of peace and confidence, and we’re able to create success in a much more elegant and genuine way.

Watch the video below and leave a comment here on my blog about how it relates to your life and/or any questions you have about it.

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Life’s Easy… It’s Dealing With Ourselves That’s Hard

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest16May 8, 2014

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

With my new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do, just released I’ve been reflecting a bit on the whole experience of writing this new book and now putting it out into the world.  As with my previous two book writing and launching experiences, it has been exciting, challenging, fun, vulnerable, and growth-inducing on so many levels.

This experience, however, has been quite different in many ways.  Maybe it’s because I’m a few years older and have a little more perspective or maybe it’s because the focus of this book is on our relationship with ourselves, but what I’ve learned this time around is that it really is all about me!  What I mean by this is that writing and promoting a book are actually relatively easy things to do, it’s dealing with myself that’s the hardest part.

I think this is true with most of the things we do in life – even the most challenging ones.  It’s usually our own fears, doubts, insecurities, attachments, and resistance that makes things difficult, not so much the things themselves.  Whether it’s our jobs, our relationships, our goals, our physical health, our finances, or anything else that’s important to us – regardless of the specific circumstances we’re facing, when we make peace with ourselves and what’s going on, life tends to flow with more ease, joy, and grace.  When we’re not at peace with ourselves or life, it doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” things may be circumstantially, we suffer.

Three of the main themes of my new book are also three of the main things I’ve been learning in the past year as I’ve worked on this book.  I’m no longer surprised when this happens (i.e. I end up learning exactly that which I’m attempting to teach).  I realize this is all part of the process for me and I actually enjoy and appreciate it.

Here are three core lessons for how we can make peace with ourselves at a deeper level:

1)  Have Compassion For Yourself – Self-compassion is one of the most important aspects of life and growth, but is often something we either overlook, think is “soft,” misunderstand, or simply don’t know how to practice.  There are three key elements to self-compassion.  First of all, mindfulness and awareness for how we’re treating ourselves.  Second of all, a sense of kindness and forgiveness towards ourselves.  And, third, a realization of our common humanity with others (i.e. remembering that we’re not alone in our experience).  As I was writing the book and as I’ve been promoting it, when I’m able to be gentle and kind with myself and reduce my self-criticism, it has been way more fun and I’ve had much more success.

2)  Surrender to Life as it Actually Is – Surrendering isn’t about giving up or giving in, it’s about making peace with what is (even if we don’t like it.)  A big paradox in life is that until we can be at peace with what’s actually happening in the moment (i.e. letting go of our resistance and of our obsessive focus on how things should be), we’re not able to make the changes we want or to experience the joy we desire.  During the writing and editing process, as well as in the ramp-up and launch process with this book, whenever I’d resist, judge, or fight against what was happening, I’d suffer.  However, when I was (and am) able to allow things to be exactly as they are, it has been remarkable to me how easy things have flowed.

3)  Take Ownership for Your Life – Ownership is about taking full responsibility for our lives and for what shows up around us.  This can be tricky for a few reasons.  First of all, we live in a culture that loves to blame and make excuses, so we’re swimming in that ocean all the time.  Second of all, there are a lot of things that happen in and around us that we don’t have direct control over (other people, economy, weather, and many circumstances and situations).  However, we always have a choice about how we relate to what’s going on and how we interpret the things happening around us and even within us.  When we take ownership for our lives we let go of blaming and excuses (or we notice as soon as we can when we’re heading down that negative road.)  And, we make a commitment to ourselves that we’re going to create the life we truly want – not simply react to life as if it is “happening to us.”

These are all fairly simple concepts, but like many things I write and speak about, understanding them is quite different than practicing and embodying them (i.e. they’re easier said than done.)  When we’re able to have empathy and compassion for ourselves, and remember that truly nothing can change until we change, we’re reminded that we’re the source of our own pain, joy, difficulty, and success.  It’s both sobering and liberating when we embrace the idea that it truly is all about us.  And, paradoxically, when we get this and live this way, we actually end up releasing ourselves from a great deal of unnecessary stress and make ourselves available to show up for others and for life in an open, authentic, and empowered way.

Let me know your thoughts about this and how this relates to you.  Leave a comment here on my blog – let’s engage in a conversation with each other about this.

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Stay in the Present Moment

January 30, 2014

Staying present is a simple concept and something many of us know about, however, it’s much easier to understand than it is to practice.  I’ve been recently noticing my own tendency to either reflect on the past (with a sense of regret) or think about the future (with a sense of worry), neither of which are all that helpful or healthy.

What if we stayed in the present moment, embraced it, and chose to live our lives there as much as possible?  We could eliminate lots of needless suffering, stress, and anxiety.

Check out the video below where I talk about how we can live more of our lives in the present moment.  Feel free to leave a comment here on my blog about how this relates to you and what you do specifically to stay present.

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Who Are You Trying to Impress?

approved!March 14, 2013

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

As I prepare to speak at the Hay House I CAN DO IT event, I’m experiencing a myriad of emotions – excitement, nervousness, gratitude, pressure, curiosity, confusion, peace, and more.  It’s thrilling and humbling to be invited to speak at an event like this with such powerful teachers and authors like Wayne Dyer and Caroline Myss, whom I’ve admired and learned from for many years.  I’ve never actually been a part of an event like this, although I’ve dreamed about it for a long time and hope this is the first of many such events I get to participate in.

And, in the midst of my excitement and gratitude, I notice that more of my attention than I’d like to admit is focused on trying to impress certain people – the other speakers, specific people in the audience, and especially the organizers of the event.  Of course I want to do well and want my talk to be both well received and to have a positive impact on all who hear it (which is always my intention when I speak).

However, the more I’ve been noticing this focus on impressing others, the more I realize that this has been a theme throughout much of my life which doesn’t really serve me.  In school, as an athlete, in business, and even now in the work that I do as an author and speaker, I have been (and will continue to be) in many situations where I’m being evaluated.  When this occurs, especially if I’m feeling nervous, insecure, and/or attached to some specific outcome, my underlying goal is often to impress anyone and everyone involved.  Maybe you can relate to this?

How often do you find yourself trying to impress others?  Whether it’s in our work, with our friends, on Facebook or Twitter, at a class reunion, at a networking event, with our family, or just in everyday life, we spend and waste a lot of time and energy trying to impress others, somehow thinking that the acknowledgment, validation, and positive perception of other people will make us feel good about ourselves and prove our value or worth in life.  As you may have noticed, this never works.

While there’s nothing wrong with us wanting to do a good job, be well received by others, and get positive feedback, when we focus on impressing people we give away our power and set ourselves up for unnecessary stress, worry, and fear.

There was a book that came out about twenty five years ago by Terry Cole-Whittaker called, What You Think About Me is None of My Business.  Such a great reminder for all of us!

What if we stopped trying to impress others, and focused more of our attention on “impressing” ourselves.  In other words, being true to ourselves, feeling good about who we are, and showing up in the most authentic way possible are all things that give us real power.  Trying to manage, control, and ultimately manipulate other people’s perceptions of us is not only exhausting, it’s pretty much impossible.

As the wise sage Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  So true!

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Are You Living on Purpose?

hand with targets against skyFebruary 14, 2013

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

I was recently invited to be a speaker for an upcoming online telesummit called The Power of Purpose.  While I’m honored to be a part of this program, the invitation had me pause and reflect a bit about my own life and work, and specifically ask myself the question, “Am I living on purpose?”  My initial answer was, “Yes, of course I am.”  However, as I thought about it more deeply, I could see that there are many aspects of my life and my work that aren’t “on purpose” at all.

This realization has been both humbling and enlightening.  As I’ve continued to sit in this inquiry, I’ve become aware of some of the specific places in my life where not only am I not living “on purpose,” I’m operating unconsciously or by default, simply reacting to life as it’s “happening to me.”  While I’m grateful to have work that I love, a wife and family that I adore, and so many wonderful things going on in my life – more often than I’d like to admit, it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling as though I’m a victim of my circumstances and responsibilities.  Maybe you can relate to this in some way?

As I’ve thought more about this whole concept of living on purpose, I think there are two distinct aspects of it.  There is “Purpose” with a capital “P,” which relates to figuring out and living true to who we are, what’s most important to us, and our larger reason for being alive.  And, then there is “purpose” with a lower case “p,” which relates to the level of consciousness, mindfulness, and deliberateness with which we live our lives on a daily basis.  Both of these aspects of purpose are important to our overall fulfillment in life, yet they are distinct.

Living our Purpose 

Living our Purpose (with a capital P) is a lot easier said than done for most of us.  First of all, we have to figure out what our Purpose is, which for some of us comes easily and early in life, and for others of us it takes a long time (or may seem to never quite show up with true clarity).  And, even for those of us who feel as though we’ve found our Purpose, it often shifts and changes as we grow and evolve, sometimes in significant ways.

A good way to delve more deeply into your own Purpose is to ask the simple but important question, “If money and logistics weren’t an issue, what would I do and where would I focus my attention and energy?”

Asking and answering this important question is something we can do on a regular basis, to check in with ourselves and see how true to our Purpose we’re living at any given moment in life.  However, whether the answer to this question is crystal clear to us or not, most of us don’t have money and logistics handled completely and/or what we’re doing and how we’re living isn’t totally aligned with our Purpose.  This “gap” between our Purpose and how we actually live is normal; it doesn’t make us bad, phony, or weak (although we often judge ourselves this way when we think about it like this).

The size and significance of our personal gap does, however, have an impact on us – the larger the gap, the more out of alignment we may feel, the smaller the gap, the more “on purpose” we may experience our lives.  Our level of awareness of our gap and our willingness to take action in the direction of narrowing the gap is what will lead us to a life of deeper Purpose.

It’s also important to remember that this process is unique for each of us – there’s no “right” way to do it.  Living our Purpose is about willingness, authenticity, vulnerability, boldness, and courage.  And, like most important things in life, it’s a journey, not a destination.

Living on purpose 

Living on purpose (with a lowercase p) is about how we live our lives on a daily basis.  How conscious are you?  How mindful are you?  How deliberate are you?  The answers to these questions will vary for each of us based on a variety of factors, and can even vary for most of us throughout the course of a given day, week, or month of our lives.

As fast as life seems to be moving these days, as much information and communication as we’re exposed to, and as many responsibilities as most of us have, it’s easy to let the “rat race” of life take over without us even being fully aware of it.

However, living on purpose is a practice – it’s about being conscious, mindful, and deliberate with both the big and small things in life.  Slowing down, speaking up, taking risks, making tough choices, asking for what we want, dealing with conflicts directly, expressing our love and appreciation for others, taking care of ourselves, and remembering that we’re the authors of our lives are some of the many ways we can live on purpose on a regular basis.

Living our Purpose and living on purpose are not easy, and in many cases not even authentically encouraged by those around us.  There is a lot of agreement within our culture that “life’s hard or, at least, too busy,” or “you can’t really do what you love,” or “you have to just suck it up and take care of business,” and many more along these lines.  These types of thoughts and beliefs show up in my head on a pretty regular basis, and I hear them from people around me directly or indirectly all the time.  However, just because we have these common thoughts or beliefs, doesn’t make them true or helpful.

For us to live our Purpose and live on purpose, it takes authentic self awareness and radical courage.  And, as Susan Jeffers taught us all through her bestselling book, we must “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

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Do You Embrace Change?

November 15, 2012

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

How do you feel about change?  If you’re anything like me, you probably have mixed feelings about it.  While it often depends on our perception of the type of change – big or small, good or bad, needed or unnecessary, easy or hard, etc. – most of us seek and fear change simultaneously.

I’ve recently been dealing with quite a bit of change in my life – both big and small.  Building my new website, which on the one hand is a pretty small change in the scheme of things, ended up being a very big change for me and allowed me to take a deeper look at a number of things about myself, including my relationship to change in general.

The decision to create a new website was pretty simple and clear – my old one was outdated and a new one was long overdue.  In practical terms, not having an updated website was probably costing me some business and credibility.  In addition, the type of website needed for my business is pretty simple and straightforward.

However, the actual process of creating the new website (even though it’s something I’ve done a few times in the past and was eager to do now on many levels) posed two major challenges for me personally.

First of all, I tend to be a creature of habit, especially when it comes to things I don’t totally understand or have the skills to do myself (like build new websites).  Instead of embracing change with technology, I often find myself avoiding the uncomfortable feelings associated with not knowing things or being dependent upon others to do what I don’t have the skills to do myself.

Second of all, the biggest reason I’ve avoided creating a new website for the past few years has been my resistance to getting new photos taken and new videos filmed.  As I’ve written about before, one of the most significant ways self criticism shows up in my life is related to my appearance.  Getting photos taken and watching video of myself has never been my favorite thing, but in the past few years it has become even more challenging for me as my aging process has included the thinning of my hair – a change I’ve had a hard time embracing and something I’ve definitely considered “bad.”

The thought of getting new photos taken and posting updated videos of myself online has often been accompanied by the voice of my inner-adolescent saying mean things to me like, “You’re ugly,” “People will laugh at you,” “No one will take you seriously,” “You don’t look as good as you used to,” “You should be ashamed of yourself,” and more.  Not fun or kind at all – maybe you can relate to this in your own life?

While I have chosen to “embrace” the change in my appearance in my real life by shaving off most of what’s left of the hair on my head, something about posting new photos and videos on my website seemed even more scary and real to me – hence my resistance and fear to actually doing it for the past few years.

Going through the process of confronting these fears (i.e. getting the new photos and videos done) wasn’t all that easy or fun.  However, like most things in life, facing these fears has been incredibly liberating and not nearly as painful as I thought it would be.

While I can’t honestly say that I’ve completely transformed my relationship to my appearance and made peace with how I look, I can say that this process has been a big step for me in embracing the changes to my appearance (and to myself overall), and has enhanced my capacity for embracing change in general at a deeper level.

Our ability or inability to deal with change effectively is directly related to our relationship to change and our relationship to ourselves.  We spend a great deal of time focusing on the circumstances, situations, and details of the particular changes we’re facing, instead of taking a deeper look at what’s going on for us emotionally, which is where both the impact and the resiliency needed to deal with the change exists.

Here are a few things to think about and do to enhance your ability to embrace change:

– Acknowledge and express your emotions.  Change is fundamentally an emotional phenomenon, much more than a practical or logistical one.  Whenever we’re dealing with change – big or small, good or bad – it’s our emotions that drive both our experience as well as our effectiveness in dealing with it (or lack thereof).  The more willing we are to acknowledge, own, and express the real emotions we’re feeling in relation to the change itself, the more able we are to both move through and learn from the change we’re facing in a positive way.

– Get support from others.  It’s always easier to deal with change when we remember that we’re not alone.  Whether it’s practical support, emotional support, or both – we always have people around us we can reach out to and ask for help.  Many things that are scary and challenging for us are easy for others.  Remembering that we can lean on others when we’re going through change is essential for our own well-being, sanity, and overall success.

– Take conscious and courageous action.  Staying in action, in a conscious and courageous way, is an essential aspect of moving through change effectively.  We sometimes get stuck in fear, perfectionism, or both.  When we stop taking action, it’s easy for the critical voice in our head (the “Gremlin”) to take over and convince us that we can’t do it, everything is messed up, it won’t work out, etc.  If we let the Gremlin take over, we give away our power.  By staying in action and doing so in a mindful and bold way (not simply rushing around to avoid our feelings or just doing things in our comfort zones), we remind ourselves that we have the power to deal with whatever change we’re facing.  As the late Susan Jeffers taught us all through her bestselling book, one of the best things we can do in life is “feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.”  It seems that now more than ever, so many of us are dealing with change in our lives personally, professionally, and all around us.  If we’re willing to address these changes with a sense of authenticity, compassion, and courage – remembering that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being real – we give ourselves a chance to not only deal with change effectively, but to embrace it in a way that allows us to grow, develop, and become more of who we truly are.

What changes are you currently facing?  How are you embracing them (or not)?  What support do you need?  Share your thoughts, insights, comments, questions, or advice here on my blog in the “leave a reply” section below!

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Can You Let Go Of Control?

September 6, 2012

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

I had a simple, but profound experience in the swimming pool not that long ago – I floated on my back for the first time in my life.  I do know how to swim and enjoy being in the water, but for some reason I never was able to figure out how to float on my back when I learned to swim as a kid and as an adult it hasn’t really been something that has come up as an issue in my life (although it has always been something that I wanted to learn, felt a bit embarrassed about not being able to do, and also didn’t quite understand).

Thanks to the help of my friend Steve Sisgold, I was able to let go and allow the water to support me.  It felt scary at first, but once I figured it out, it was an incredibly liberating and relaxing experience.  As I was floating there in the pool I had many thoughts, feelings, and insights – the biggest of which had to do with my own obsession with controlling things, and my deep desire and fear about letting go.

How controlling are you?  Would you consider yourself very controlling, moderately controlling, or not controlling at all?  While each of us falls somewhere along the continuum of control and for some of us this is a bigger issue than others, for most of the people I know and work with, control is an issue that gets in our way – especially in the most important (and stressful) areas of life.

What causes us to be controlling?

There are many reasons, beliefs, and emotions that lead us to hold on tight and feel the need to control others, situations, circumstances, money, communications, food, workflow, details, our environment, and various other “important’ aspects of our lives.  However, here are three things that are usually underneath our controlling tendency:

  • Fear – We worry that things won’t turn out, we will get hurt, bad things will happen, etc.
  • Unworthiness – We don’t feel as though we deserve support, help, or for things to go our way.
  • Lack of Trust – We’re scared to let go, count on others, and to believe that things will be okay without us managing every aspect of the situation, relationship, conversation, etc.

What does being controlling cost us?

There is a huge cost associated with being controlling.  This negative impact is not only on us and our well-being, but also on those we love, the people we work with, and everyone around us.  Here are some of the biggest costs:

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Freedom
  • Energy
  • Creativity
  • Support
  • Ease
  • Connection
  • Love

How can we expand our capacity to let go of control?

There are many things we can do to let go of control.  With compassion for ourselves, it’s important to remember that this is a process and something (especially for some of us) that may not come all that easy.  Many of us have been literally “trained” (directly or indirectly) to be controlling and in certain environments and situations (at work and at home), being controlling has been encouraged or seemed necessary for our own survival and the survival of those around us.

That being said, here are some things you can do and think about to expand your own capacity to let go of control in a positive and liberating way:

– Be honest with yourself – Make an authentic assessment about your own controlling nature.  It probably varies a bit for you (as it does for most of us), but at the same time we all have certain tendencies, especially in the most important and stressful areas of our lives.  With empathy and honesty, take a look at where, how, and why you hold on tight to control in whatever way you do.  And, be real with yourself about what this costs and how it impacts you and those around you.

– Ask yourself, “Am I willing to let go of control?” – This is an important question to ponder and to answer honestly.  In some cases and in certain situations, the answer to this question may be “no.”  It’s important to honor that if that’s the case for you.  And, at the same time, the more willing you are to ask and answer this question, the more likely you are to start letting go of control consciously (assuming it is something you’re truly interested in doing).  You may not know how to do it or what it would look like, but authentic willingness is always the first step in positive change.

– Consider who could support you – Getting support is one of the most important (and often most vulnerable) aspects of letting go of control.  Even though we sometimes feel like we’re all alone, that no one “gets it,” and/or that we couldn’t possibly make ourselves vulnerable enough to ask for help (especially in certain areas of life), it’s difficult to let go of control without the support of other people.  The irony of asking for help is that many of us don’t feel comfortable doing so and fear it that makes us seem weak or needy, and on the flip side most of us love to be asked for help and really enjoy helping others.  We can’t do it alone!  And, the good news is that most of us have lots of people in our life that would jump at the chance to support us – if we were willing to ask for help more freely.

– Surrender – This is the bottom line of letting go.  Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up or not caring, it means trusting and allowing things to be taken care of by others, by the process, and by the Universal Intelligence governing life – some call this God, some call this Spirit, some don’t call it anything, but most of us have an experience of It at some level.  Surrendering is about consciously choosing to trust and have faith.  It is something that can liberate us in a profound way and is all about us choosing to let go.

When we look back on our lives in hindsight, we usually see that “things happen for a reason.”  What if we lived in the present moment with this same hindsight awareness?  As one of my mentors said to me years ago, “Mike, you’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it.  You have to remember, no one ever has.”

Letting go of control is about loosening our grip, allowing ourselves to be supported, and trusting that things will turn out as they are meant to.  Is this easy?  Not always, although it can be.  However, as we practice this and expand our capacity to let go, we’ll be able to release and transform a good amount of unnecessary stress, worry, and anxiety from our lives, our work, and our relationships.

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Stop “Should-ing” On Yourself

August 30, 2012

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

A few months ago one of my mentors said to me, “Mike, it sounds like you’re ‘should-ing’ all over yourself.” I laughed when she said this, as I’ve heard this saying many times before (and have even given this same feedback to others). However, something about her saying this to me at that particular moment caught my attention and struck me deeply.

As I started to take inventory of the most important aspects of my life – my marriage, my family, my friends, my health, my work, my spiritual practice, my finances, and more – I was a bit shocked to realize that much of my motivation in these key areas comes from the perspective of what I think I “should” do, say, or feel, and not from a place of what’s authentic and true for me.

As I look more deeply at this within myself, I realize that my obsession with doing, saying, or feeling the way I think I should, is actually less about a desire to do the right thing, and more about fear, shame, and a lack of self trust. When I operate from that place of should, it’s often because I’m feeling scared, flawed, or simply not confident in my own thoughts and beliefs.  This insecurity leads me to look outside of myself for guidance, validation, and the insatiable right way something should be done; which is often stressful, anxiety-inducing, and damaging.

What if instead of asking ourselves, “What should I do?” we asked ourselves different, more empowering questions like, “What’s true for me?” or “What am I committed to?” or “What do I truly want?”  These questions, and others like them, come from a much deeper place of authenticity and truth.

This is not to say that everything we think we should do is inherently bad.  That is clearly not the case.  Thinking that we should do things like eat better, communicate with kindness, exercise, follow up with people in a timely manner, spend time with our families, take breaks, save money, have fun, work hard, be mindful of the feelings of others, push past our limits, try new things, organize our lives, take good care of ourselves, focus on what we’re grateful for, and so much more – all can be very important aspects of our success and well being (as well as those around us).

However, when we come from a place of should our motivation and underlying intention for doing whatever it is we’re doing is compromised – even if it is something we consider to be positive or healthy.  In other words, we often feel stressed, bitter, resentful, worried, or annoyed when we’re motivated by should.  This “should mentality” is based on an erroneous notion that there is some big book of rules we must follow in order to be happy and successful.

The distinction here is one of obligation versus choice, or “have to” versus “get to.”  When we stop “should-ing” on ourselves, we’re less motivated by guilt, fear, and shame and can choose to be inspired by authentic desire, commitment, and freedom.

Here are a few things you can do to stop “should-ing” on yourself:

  • Pay attention to how much “should” runs your life.  Take some inventory of your life, especially the key areas and relationships, and notice how much of your motivation is based on “should.”  You may even notice how often the word itself comes out of your mouth in relation to your own actions and your thoughts or conversations about others.  The more you’re able to notice this, without judgment, the easier it will be to alter it.
  • Play around with different words, thoughts, and motivations other than “should”. If it’s not about what you (or others) “should” do, what are others words, thoughts, or motivations you could have?  How can you relate to the most important areas and people in your life differently?  Inquire into this and see what comes up.  It’s not simply about word choice (although words do have a great deal of power), it’s about altering where you’re coming from in a fundamental way.
  • Ask yourself empowering questions. As I mentioned above, instead of asking yourself the question “What should I do?” see if you can ask yourself more empowering questions – ones that lead you to an authentic and inspired place of motivation.  Here are some as examples, “How can this be fun?” or “What would inspire me?” or “What’s in alignment with my mission?” or “How can I serve?” or “What would make me feel good about myself?”  There are so many possibilities, once we let go of “should.”

Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more.

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