Don’t Wait for a Tragedy

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How many times have you heard this story?

Someone is living a more-or-less “normal” life…

Maybe things are going fairly well, or maybe they’re not going so great. But basically, they’re just going. Things are just kind of chugging along. Time is passing. And while their life isn’t necessarily terrible (although it might be), they’re certainly not living up to their potential. They’re not fulfilling their life purpose. They’re not living each moment with passion, joie de vivre, and personal/spiritual fulfillment.

But then…

The “unthinkable” happens. Everything changes in a heartbeat. Tragedy strikes.

It could take many different forms:

  • They get into a car accident.
  • They’re diagnosed with cancer.
  • They lose a loved one.
  • They develop an addiction…and hit rock bottom.
  • Their partner leaves them.
  • They have a near-death experience.

In one form or another, they feel like the rug is pulled out from under them. And there’s no going back to the way things were.

And while these tragedies are indeed tragedies, there’s often an upside:

  • They start to turn their life around.
  • They stop taking life for granted.
  • They go after their dreams and live the life they know they’re meant to live.
  • They realize and experience the holiness of life.
  • They appreciate each moment for the gift it is.
  • They’re completely transformed.
  • And, perhaps for the first time ever, they start to truly live.

Yes, these stories are beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring, moving, and motivational. (Or at least the endings are!)

And while no one would ever wish for a tragedy, the outcome is often so beautiful that they might not take back the experience even if they could.

But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have a happy ending without the tragic turning point? What if you didn’t need a brush with death in order to fully live? What if you could transform from home…rather than from the hospital? What if you could wake up without the wake-up call?

Maybe it’s because I just finished the Rewrite Your Story ecourse, but lately I’ve been thinking of life in terms of a story — not just writing but also editing your story! So when I hear a tale of triumph-from-tragedy, I can’t help but think of how the story could be “edited” — how someone might be able to soar to great heights without first hitting rock bottom.

I think that it comes down to two things:

  1. Conscious Living - Most of the stories boil down to this: Someone was living semi-consciously, but a tragedy caught their attention and made them live with heightened awareness…and passion, purpose, and zest for life.
  2. Choice – Oftentimes, a traumatic experience (such as a near-death experience) doesn’t seem to leave us much choice — it pretty much forces us to change the way we live! But perhaps voluntarily making this choice and this change could preempt the need for a tragic wake-up call.

It’s almost as if the Universe says to us:

“I’m going to teach you some important lessons. We can either do this the easy way or the hard way.”

And we often take the hard way — learning from the proverbial “brick in the head” rather than the soft whispers and gentle nudges. And while learning from the “brick” is better than not learning at all, I’d personally opt for the gentle nudge — heeding the “still, small voice” rather than waiting for a violent yell.

Now, just to clarify, none of this is meant to detract in any way from the dramatic, life-altering experiences that so many people have undergone. To be certain, they are powerful and profound. Nor do I mean to suggest that they brought tragedy upon themselves or were somehow “less than” in terms of consciousness or in any other way. Also, I fully acknowledge that lessons often come to us in exactly the form that will have the greatest impact on our lives — which may sometimes involve tragic circumstances.

So, rather than diminish the powerful experiences of those who have gone through life-altering tragedies, I hope to honor them — in part by learning from their hard-earned lessons and, hopefully, helping others avoid the suffering that they went through to gain those lessons!

So, how can we preempt tragedy…and still gain valuable life lessons?

One way is to learn from others. Take their stories to heart. Give thanks that they lived to tell of their experiences…and to share what they learned from them.

Another way is to imagine yourself at the end of a transformational story (the inspiring part, after the tragedy)! Imagine how your life might be different because of your experiences. Imagine what lessons you would have learned, how you see life differently, and how you live differently. You paid a heavy price, but you gained an invaluable lesson.

Then imagine that life gives you a reprieve: you get to choose to gain the lesson without paying the tragic price. And that’s what you decide to do…right now! You decide to use this moment as a gentle wake-up call. You decide to learn from others’ painful experiences in order to preempt unnecessary pain, suffering, or the regret that can come from a life not fully lived.

By doing this you’re not just preempting tragedy, you’re preempting regret! And you’re beginning to live a fuller, richer, and more rewarding life than ever before! You’re stepping into your purpose and living your dreams! And, perhaps best of all, you’re doing this without a tragedy!

No, it might not make for such a dramatic story; but, hopefully, it will make for an incredibly fulfilling life!

How can you incorporate the lessons from transformational stories WITHOUT waiting for a tragedy? What can you do STARTING TODAY to live more fully, consciously, and appreciatively?

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read this. I hope that it touched or inspired you in some way! If you enjoyed the post, feel free to share it — by clicking on the share buttons…or in any other way. Thanks! :)

Photo by frugo.

What Will You Water?

what-will-you-waterImagine that you’re walking through an enormous garden. It overflows with roses, tulips, lilies, and dozens of other flowers. There’s also a huge section dedicated to vegetables: lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and almost every other veggie you can imagine — an entire salad bar in the making!

And you stroll through this amazing, abundant, richly varied garden, holding a watering can, trying to decide which of these plants you’d like to water.

Unfortunately, you can’t water them all. After all, you’ve only got a limited amount of water in your can, so you’d like to choose something you really want to nurture. Something you really care about. Something you want to help grow. Something you really love.

So you walk up and down the rows of flowers and veggies, trying to decide what to water…and then you see it! Growing in a far corner of the garden is the plant you want to water! So you walk over to the plant, tip your watering can over, and pour all your water on…the poison ivy!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

But how often have you seen someone do basically the same thing? In other words, how often have you seen them spend their limited time, energy, and attention on something negative — essentially “watering” something that you wouldn’t think they (or anyone else) would want to grow?

We’ve probably all fallen into this trap at one point or another. I know I’ve been guilty of it (and may even be doing it right now to an extent — so I’ll make a shift as quickly as possible!). It might take the form of repeating something negative that you heard about — and getting worked up about it all over again! Or jumping into the fray of a mud-slinging discussion board. Or sharing (or even just clicking the “Like” button for) a cynical or mean-spirited poster making the rounds on Facebook.

This is totally understandable. In this day and age, it’s so easy to have your attention sucked into something that isn’t really worthy of your time.

But it’s even easier to find things that ARE worthy of your time – people, stories, pictures, and ideas that you care about deeply, that want to nurture, that you LOVE!

Anyway, getting back to the garden… It’s like you’re walking past all those beautiful plants and deciding which ones you’d like to water. And the truth is, you can’t water them all. Yes, you have an unlimited supply of some things (such as love and spirit and goodness), but on a practical level, your resources are limited:

  • You only have so many hours in the day.
  • You only have so much attention that you can give.
  • You only have so much energy.
  • You only have so much “water in your can.”

So the question becomes: How are you going to use it?

  • If you only have about 20 minutes per day for commenting on blogs or interacting on social media, do you want to spend it complaining, tearing others down, or uplifting everyone who reads your words (and senses your spirit)?
  • If you only click the “Like” button a few times a day, wouldn’t you rather voice your support for something that raises you up?
  • If you only have enough energy to devote to a few projects per day, don’t you want to make sure that they’re worthy of your energy?

This gardening metaphor reminds me of a quote that a life coach once told me:

“Thoughts are like seeds; do you want flowers or weeds?”

She was making the point that habitually negative thoughts lead to negative results, while positive thoughts lead to beautiful results. It’s just a matter of which thoughts we “plant” and nurture.

And the same could certainly be said for externals — for other people’s thoughts, words, and actions. Unlike our own thoughts, we can’t necessarily control what other people think, say, and do; but we can choose whether or not to lend our energy to these words and deeds. We can choose to nurture them with our attention, or walk on by to something that nurtures US as well!

Yes, some people will spend their time trying to remove (or at least contain) the “poison ivy.” And that may be quite noble, but you have to be careful not to infect yourself in the process! Also, there’s a fine line between giving something energy in opposition and giving it energy in support. In either case, you’re giving it your energy — which can be like an infusion of fertilizer!

And wouldn’t you rather give your energy to something/someone you love? Wouldn’t you rather water the yummy vegetables or the colorful flowers? Wouldn’t you rather see those bloom and fill your life with health and beauty?

Clearly, the watering can is just an analogy. In most cases, you’re not literally pouring water on things you want to nurture — you’re pouring something much more valuable: every time you give your time, energy, and attention to something, you’re pouring YOURSELF into it!

And you deserve to have your energy go into the most life-affirming, soul-affirming, YOU-affirming places possible. You deserve to nurture your own highest self. You deserve the best!

What do you want to “water” with your time, energy, and attention? What “plants” are so important to you that you’d like to nurture them and help them grow? What do you feel is worth pouring your heart, your soul, and yourself into?

Thank you so much for being here and “watering” me and my blog with your attention. I realize that you only have a certain amount of time each day for reading, so I especially appreciate you spending some of that time with me. I’ll always do my best to make it worth your while — to plant “seeds” that I feel are worth your time and attention — to offer words, ideas, and perspectives that I feel are worth nourishing…and will hopefully nourish you in turn. :)

Photo by Viktor Gmyria.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

rewrite-story-3dFor the last 25 years, I’ve been leading a double life.

By day, I’m a mild-mannered personal-growth blogger, Law of Attraction practitioner, and Life-Optimization coach. But I also have an alter-ego as a novelist and screenwriter with a particular fondness for absurd humor.

For years, I never thought that these two sides would meet. They seemed like completely unrelated parts of me, dwelling in unconnected worlds: personal growth in the “real world” and stories in the world of fiction.

Recently, however, I’ve started to realize that  telling stories isn’t just reserved for fiction writers. In fact, we all tell stories — every day of our lives!

Sometimes we tell our stories to others. Sometimes we just tell them to ourselves. Stories like…

  • I’m too old for this.
  • I always sabotage myself.
  • I’m no good with technology.
  • I have the worst luck!
  • I catch a cold every winter.
  • I always put things off until the last minute.

…and dozens of other “truisms” that we just accept as part of our lives.

Most importantly, I’ve realized just how much the stories we tell direct the course of our lives — and how we can change our lives simply by changing our stories!

For instance, for many years I told stories about how badly I procrastinated: term papers, taxes, Christmas shopping,…you name it, I put it off until the last minute!

These stories seemed harmless enough (even comical, in retrospect)…until I noticed that they were seeping into many areas of my life:

  • Emotions – Feeling frazzled, nervous, and stressed-out became the norm.
  • Health – After years of stressful deadlines, my adrenals were pretty much shot!
  • Relationship – How could I spend enough quality time with Jodi when I was always rushing from one deadline to another?
  • Self-Esteem – Perhaps most importantly (and disturbingly), I started seeing myself as someone who could just barely get by, but never really get on top of things — not a complete failure, but certainly a far cry from the inspiring figure I was striving to be!

I pondered what would happen if I let this procrastination story continue indefinitely — and was forced to confront the prospect of a lifetime of stress and struggle.

This was NOT the story I wanted to tell…or live!

Fortunately, I realized that I could rewrite this story. (After all, I’d spent years in training as an author — why not apply these skills to my own life?) I could tell a different story — one about how I learned from the past, made a conscious decision to get on top of my life, and started completing my work in a timely, relaxed manner…while feeling great about myself!

This new story-in-the-making may not have any more literary merit than “The Procrastinator” (and I don’t expect to sell the film rights any time soon!), but it sure is a lot more fun (and relaxing) to live! The old story left me feeling stressed, trapped, and disempowered. The new one leaves me feeling lighter, stronger, more confident, and a whole lot happier…which is exactly the kind of life I want — for myself and for you!

If this sounds like the kind of shift you’d like to make in your own life, then there’s good news: YOU CAN REWRITE YOUR STORY!

And you can get started immediately by taking these four steps:

  • Identify Your Story – Recognize which stories you keep retelling and reliving — how they’ve shown up in your life, how they’re controlling you, how they’re keeping you stuck, and why you want to break free of them!
  • Release Your Story – Let go of old stories, labels, worldviews, and patterns that aren’t serving you — so that you can make room for those that do help you live your best life!
  • Rewrite Your Story – Create a story that empowers you and reflects your highest self!
  • Live Your Story – Reinforce the new story and make it a living, breathing part of your everyday life.

I hope you’ll join me in going through this process and creating a more empowering story — one that feels great to write and even better to live. One that has the happy ending (and middle and present) that I know you want and deserve!

What story of yours would you like to rewrite? What would the new, more empowered story look and feel like? How can you start writing and living this story today?

Thank you so much for being here, and I look forward to hearing all about your wonderful, empowering new stories! :)

Having a Human Experience

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We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

A lot of people see this famous quote as a reminder of our inherent spirituality. And yes, I agree — we are innately spiritual. It’s who we are.

(Or, at least, half of who we are.)

But I also think that the last part of the sentence is just as important (if not more so): we’re having a human experience.

That means that we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance, we make mistakes, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we eat, we drink, we play games, we make more mistakes, we laugh some more,…in short, we LIVE!

It also means that we FEEL: we feel joy, we feel pain, we feel at peace, we feel worried, we feel bored, we feel excited, we feel nervous, we feel confident, we feel cool, we feel insecure, we feel good, we feel bad, we feel grief, we feel gratitude,…and sometimes we feel a bunch of these at the same time!

Because we’re human. Because we’re having human experiences. Because that’s what we do on Earth.

Imagine for a moment that there’s a purely spiritual plane — a place where our souls originate and to which they return after our time on Earth. And, in this place, imagine that one soul says to another soul:

“I want to go to Earth — to have a human experience. I want to find out what it’s like to feel joy and pain, to fall in love and to have my heart broken, to listen to The Beatles and go to a Shakespeare play and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and play badminton and get a speeding ticket. I want to swim in the ocean and climb a mountain and read a book and eat an avocado and make a friend and lose a friend and make another friend. I want to be human.”

And so that soul goes to Earth, lives a long life, and then returns to the purely spiritual realm. And the second soul asks, “So, what did you do on Earth? ” And the first one says, “I spent most of my time trying to achieve a state of pure spirituality.” And the second soul says, “WHY on Earth [pun intended] would you do that?! You have all of eternity to be in a state of pure spirituality, but you had less than a century to be human! Why didn’t you experience being human while you had the chance?! After all, that was the whole point of going to Earth in the first place, right? If you’d only wanted a spiritual experience, you could’ve just stayed here!”

Of course, it’s not either/or. We ARE spiritual, and we’re also human. To forget either half is to deny half of ourselves. To embrace BOTH sides is to become whole.

So if you’re ever feeling particularly human — for instance, worrying, grieving, or feeling any sort of emotional pain or distress, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not sufficiently evolved — that if you could only see things from a higher perspective, you would never feel pain or grief. It means that you’re a living, breathing human, having a human experience. And that’s what we humans are here on Earth to experience.

(Or, at least, half of what we’re here to experience.)

Personally, I’m very wary of people who claim to have transcended human experiences such as pain or grief (or desire or confusion or any of the million other things we mortals experience on a daily basis). Yes, maybe they’re highly evolved beings. Or maybe they’re simply denying their humanity. Or maybe they’re not in touch with their true feelings. Or maybe they’re pushing away human experience because, on some level, they think that it’s not spiritual. Or maybe they see a divide (to my mind, a false divide) between human and spiritual experiences.

But if we truly are spiritual beings, then how can anything we experience not be spiritual? And if we truly are human beings, then how can anything we experience not be human?

So, what if we drop the sense of hierarchy — thinking that spiritual experiences are “better” or “more evolved” than human experiences (or maybe even drop the sense that they’re different at all)? What if we fully embrace the spiritual aspects of our lives and also fully embrace the human aspects of our lives?

Let’s be the spiritual beings we truly are, and let’s have the human experience that we’re here to have!

And let’s celebrate it all.

(Photo by Frugo)

Here’s Your Gold Star

GoldStarWhen you were in your first few years of school, did your teacher ever give you a gold star?

It might have been a little sticker on your test, paper, or drawing. Maybe it was simply a gold star, or maybe it was a sticker that said “Good Job!” or a strawberry with the words “Berry Good!” (which, if you were lucky, was a scratch-and-sniff sticker that actually smelled like a strawberry).

A “gold star” didn’t have to be a sticker, though. Perhaps your teacher wrote “Excellent Job!” or some other compliment — or simply drew a smiley face. And as you moved on to higher grades, the smiley faces and “Berry Good” stickers were probably replaced with “100%” or “A+”.

In the broader, figurative sense, gold stars didn’t always come from teachers. They might have shown up as a parent’s approving look, a compliment from a stranger, or acceptance into your peer group. As you became an adult, a gold star might have taken the form of a boss giving you a positive year-end review or a promotion, a love-interest agreeing to go on a date with you, or someone clicking the “Like” button on your Facebook page.

All of these gold stars are wonderful! They’re all ways of people saying, “I see you. I appreciate you. You did good.” And what could be better than that? After all, we all want to be seen, known, and valued for what we do and who we are. That’s a natural, healthy, and universal desire.

But here’s my theory on gold stars…

Ideally, gold stars should render themselves unnecessary. I think that their true function is to fill you with enough self-worth and self-confidence so that you no longer require external gold stars — because you’ve heard the praise enough that you internalize it, believe it, know it. You know that you’re OK — that you’re a good, valuable, worthy person — regardless of whether or not anyone gives you a pat on the back, a promotion, or a “Berry Good” sticker.

Because no amount of external gold stars will ever be enough to fill you.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a gold star or being happy when you get one. But if gold stars are your primary motivation, you’ve given up your power. You’ve made other people’s approbation the source of your happiness (or, conversely, their disapproval the source of your pain). You’ve put them in the driver’s seat of your emotional life.

Carried to an extreme, the desire for gold stars can become a crippling addiction. It can be like a trained animal pressing a lever to get a food pellet. It can be emotionally infantilizing.

If you ever find yourself desperately seeking approval, ask yourself whose approval you’re really seeking. (By which I mean: Which parent’s approval are you really seeking?) Maybe it was a parent who withheld their approval — who was overly stingy with gold stars. Or maybe it was a parent who gave them so regularly that you came to rely on them to boost your self-esteem.

This craving for gold stars affects many people well into adulthood. In fact, I’ve seen many very successful grown men (middle aged and older) reduced to emotional 6-year-olds as they say things like, “I just want to make my father proud” (even when, in some cases, their father has long since passed on).

Some people might find this sweet, cute, or endearing, but I find it sad. And the coach, friend, or just compassionate-human part of me just wants to hug these people and tell them, “It’s OK. You’re OK. You don’t need to make your father proud, to impress him or get a gold star from him — or me or anyone else. You’re enough.”

This doesn’t mean that the desire for approval — especially from a parent — isn’t understandable and natural. Everyone wants to make their parents proud. But at some point, hopefully, that ceases to be your primary motivation. At some point, you give yourself a gold star and know that that’s enough — that YOU’RE enough.

So, that’s what I would love for you to do right now: Give yourself a gold star. Here it is. It’s yours for the taking. You don’t need anyone to give it to you — not me, not your teacher, not your parents. Give it to yourself, and keep it forever.

GoldStarAnd then when anyone gives you another gold star in the future, you can still enjoy it, feel good, and add it to your collection. (And say thank you.) But you won’t NEED it…because you’ve already got your own.

And no one can ever take that away from you.

Which Side Are You On?

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We live in an either/or society:

  • You’re either male or female.
  • You’re either Republican or Democrat.
  • You’re either a citizen or a foreigner.
  • You’re either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan.

Yes, sometimes the either/or approach has its advantages. For instance, your computer couldn’t work without binary code — transmitting data through “bits” (either a zero or a one).

Either/or keeps things clear, unmuddled, and unambiguous — which is great for computers. But human life isn’t always so cut and dry. Most situations aren’t either/or, and boxing yourself into a binary mindset can rob you of life’s richness — and stop you from realizing your full potential.

(You might even be costing yourself millions of dollars! Read on, and I’ll explain.)

How does an either/or mindset show up (and limit you) in your life? For instance, do you ever try to fit yourself (or others) into one — and only one — of the following sides?

  • You’re either left-brained or right-brained.
  • You’re either spiritual or secular.
  • You’re either head-focused or heart-focused.
  • You’re either an artist or a business person.

It’s this last area that I see the either/or mindset pop up in the most. So many people seem to think in terms of Art vs. Commerce.

(“Versus” is usually a red flag of the either/or mindset.)

They think that creativity and commerce are mutually exclusive. That if you’re selling, you must be selling out. That if you can manage a paintbrush, you can’t manage a business. Or, conversely, that if you’re good with numbers and sales, then you couldn’t possibly be artistic.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Expressing both sides of this false dichotomy isn’t merely possible, it’s essential!

By shutting yourself off to latent aspects of your personality, you’re severely limiting your potential — in terms of personal fulfillment, creativity, and earnings.

As I mentioned earlier, seeing your life through an either/or lens could be costing you millions! You might have a million-dollar idea or million-dollar talent but not believe that you possess enough business savvy to share that idea with the world. Or perhaps you’re a master marketer who’s reluctant to unleash the creative ideas that would really move the world — all because you don’t define yourself as “a creative type.”

And that’s what it really comes down to: self-definition.

Do you define yourself in limiting, either/or terms, or do you embrace your multi-faceted richness? Do you think that being strong in one area implies weaknesses in other areas? Do you think in terms of competition (e.g., head vs. heart) or cooperation (e.g., all of your senses working together)?

Would you be willing to explore latent aspects of yourself? Would you be willing to consider that the “shadow” sides that you might have resisted could be the missing pieces of your life’s puzzle?

True, most people lean one way or another in most areas. Some tend to be more emotional and imaginative, while others are primarily intellectual and logical. And some people are naturally inclined to the arts more than to business. That’s not a problem. The problem is if you see such areas as mutually exclusive — in opposition to one another, rather than two parts working together to form a harmonious whole.

Once you begin to see beyond the either/or mindset, however, you’ll find that pairs you may have considered opposites (or opponents) can actually be complementary and mutually supportive. You’ll find that inner (or outer) conflicts don’t have to be conflicts at all. You’ll find that life isn’t always black and white, but full of many shades of gray — and red, green, blue, and the entire spectrum.

Embracing this full spectrum is what makes life so rich, fulfilling, and rewarding…in every sense.

Do you tend to pit art against commerce (or head vs. heart, emotion vs. logic, etc.)? Does your self-definition limit you or keep you from realizing your full potential? How can you bring more creativity into your business, more business smarts into your creative work, and more of your full self into all areas of your life?

Your Big Ol’ But

Complete this sentence:

I’d love to __________ , but __________ .

Fill in the blanks with anything you want–big, little, long-term dreams, passing whims, far-fetched fantasies, achievable goals–and the blockades that stand in your way.

  • I’d love to be a professional musician, but I’m not talented enough.
  • I’d love to lose weight, but I don’t have the willpower.
  • I’d love to go back to school, but I’m too old.
  • I’d love to quit my job, but I need the health insurance.
  • I’d love to write a book, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

…or any other desires/obstacles in your life.

This part is probably easy, right? You’ve probably already got an example or two (if not several dozen) that you’ve already said or thought–perhaps on a regular basis. Everybody has hopes, dreams, and desires–and everyone has reasons why those hopes, dreams, and desires can’t come true for them.

But what happens if you say the same sentence again, but this time stop before the word “but”?

I’d love to __________ .

(Period.)

What if you just left it at that?

Does that mean that the second part (the “but…”) isn’t true? Not necessarily. It just means that you’re willing to acknowledge, contemplate, and perhaps even say out loud what you’d love in your life.

Why is this so important?

Stating (or even contemplating) your dreams is beautiful, invigorating, and empowering. But a big ol’ “but” shuts down your dreams. It pushes them down (onto their butt) the moment they try to stand–before they even take a step! It slams the door in your face–before you even try to open it! It ends the discussion–before it even begins! It robs you of your creativity, your ingenuity, your enthusiasm, and your power.

BUT…if you simply state your dreams without the preemptive “but,” you’ll find that mental wheels start to turn. Possibilities present themselves. Doors open. And you get to bask in the beauty and power of your dreams.

Just feel the difference:

  • I’d love to be a professional musician.
  • I’d love to lose weight.
  • I’d love to go back to school.
  • I’d love to quit my job.
  • I’d love to write a book.

Suddenly, those “impossible” dreams seem possible, right? Suddenly, they’re invigorating, exciting, and life-affirming. Suddenly, they motivate and inspire you. Suddenly, they’re not so far-fetched. Suddenly, they seem like they’re real (or, at least, could become real).

Losing your “but” doesn’t mean that you instantly achieve your dreams or overcome the challenges you face, it simply means that you acknowledge your desires. You sit within the realm of possibilities instead of impossibilities.

You enter the realm of “what if…”:

  • What if I could be a professional musician?
  • What if I could lose weight?
  • What if I could go back to school?
  • What if I could quit my job?
  • What if I could write a book?

And whereas those buts stop your thinking, the what-ifs start your mind whirling with possibilities. And before you know it, you’re thinking in terms of “Maybe I could do this” or “Those challenges don’t have to stop me” or “There might be other ways to reach this goal.”

Sit with your dreams…not on them!

For starters, you don’t have to figure out ways to achieve your goals, overcome challenges, or rise above the buts that stand in your way. All you have to do is sit with your dreams. Acknowledge them. Feel their power. Bask in their beauty. They will inspire you, nourish you, and take on a life of their own…as long as you don’t slam a big ol’ BUT in their face!

So, the next time you notice a big ol’ but trying to sit on your dreams, see what happens if you kick the but out (of your sentence, your mind, your heart, and hopefully your life) and just let your dream breathe for a while. Let it marinate. Let it incubate. And just see what happens once that big ol’ but gets out of your way.

You might be pleasantly surprised.

What’s your “big ol’ but”? What preemptive blockades and excuses do you habitually throw in the way of your dreams? What might happen if you didn’t? Would you be willing to lose the “big ol’ but,” let your dreams incubate, and see what happens?

Reminders

reminderIf you read every post I write this year, you probably won’t read anything you haven’t already heard, read, or thought yourself–possibly many times before. A lot of it may be redundant. Or clichéd. Or just plain obvious.

So what’s the point of reading this blog?

I can tell you in a single word: REMINDERS.

My goal isn’t to teach you anything new. It isn’t to blow your mind with never-before-considered theories. And it certainly isn’t to enlighten you (which would seem outrageously pretentious even to presume that I could!).

I simply want to remind you of what you already know–especially the things that are so important that they deserve to be returned to and reinforced again and again (and again and again), such as:

  • Be yourself.
  • Live fully.
  • Take time to go within.
  • Keep coming back to the present moment.
  • Keep coming back to love.

…as well as some of the guiding principles that I’ve found to be true in my own life, such as:

  • You become what you focus on and what you do consistently.
  • Your life is determined not so much by your experiences as by the meanings you assign to them.
  • Beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies, and you get to choose your beliefs.

…and of course, “The Magic Formula”:

  • Gratitude – Focus on what you’re grateful for.
  • Vision – Focus on the positive elements you’d like to manifest in your life.
  • Action – Take steps to move toward your dreams…while appreciating where you are.

These aren’t things that you do once and then you’re set for life. For instance, you wouldn’t say, “I was grateful last year–now I’m done with gratitude forever.” Or, “I took one step toward my dream; now I never have to take action ever again!” Or, “I don’t have to come back to the present moment–I already did that yesterday!”

These are the things that you return to over and over and over. Day in, day out. Hour by hour, moment by moment. Forever.

But how do you keep yourself coming back to these core concepts? Again, I can answer in one word: REMINDERS.

Fortunately, there are reminders everywhere you look:

  • Blogs – this one, as well as thousands of others (plus books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and other forms of communication) designed to bring you back to the beautiful basics.
  • Friends and Loved Ones – especially if you choose to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and remind you of what’s most important in life.
  • Daily Life – which is filled with wonderful (and often unexpected) reminders that reinforce the lessons that enrich your life. (Even counter-examples can be “clarity-through-contrast” reminders of what’s most important to you.)

You can also come up with your own individual reminders. For instance, I use red lights as reminders to come back to the present moment; and each time I tie my shoes, I remember (or at least try to remember) to tap into my source of inner joy.

Do I remember to remember every time? Absolutely not! But even some of the time is better than none of the time. And that just means I’ll get my reminders elsewhere on those days. Fortunately, the supply is infinite!

So, to my devoted readers who keep coming back again and again: Don’t be shocked if you notice some recurring concepts from one post to another. This is merely a sign of something worth repeating. Something I value enough to reinforce. Something worth remembering.

You know–the good stuff: Gratitude. Vision. Action. Authenticity. Awareness. Here. Now. Love. Life. You.

What do you think are the “beautiful basics”–the essential concepts and elements of life? What’s most important to you? How do you remind yourself to keep coming back to that?

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Photo by amasterpics123

The Wisdom Trap

Don't fall into the "wisdom trap"!

I recently watched a TV show featuring a spirituality expert who answered the audience’s questions. In response to the first question, the expert taught a mini-lesson that was insightful, clever, eloquent, and wise.

And it had absolutely nothing to do with the question.

It was as if the expert had a few things that he wanted to say, and he was determined to deliver his prepared speech, whether or not it was relevant. It made me wonder if he’d even heard the question at all. It made me wonder why he even bothered with the pretext of Q & A and didn’t just teach a one-man lesson. And it also made me wonder if I should bother watching the rest of the show.

Fortunately, I did continue watching and found that the non-answer turned out to be an anomaly. For the rest of the show, the guest expert’s responses were helpful, heartfelt, and relevant.

So the episode served as a reminder not to give up on someone too quickly. It was also a reminder to avoid the trap that’s so easy to fall into (for spirituality experts or anyone else): The Wisdom Trap–in other words, putting more focus on being (or seeming) wise than on actually listening to and connecting with others.

This is a totally understandable trap. After all, doesn’t it feel great to share pithy nuggets of wisdom? Isn’t it natural to relish one’s ability to tell metaphorical teaching tales? And doesn’t everyone enjoy being able to convey their deep, profound insights on life? Of course–we all like to feel (and be) wise!

And sometimes that’s what’s called for: for instance, when delivering a sermon, a lecture, or a commencement address. And sometimes it’s not what’s called for: for instance, when talking to a friend or responding to someone’s very specific question about a very specific situation.

In those cases, what’s usually called for is, first and foremost, to listen. To treat the person as an individual. To see them. To hear them. To recognize their specific situation. And to be present with them.

Oftentimes, a person isn’t looking for advice or wisdom. They’re not looking for you to “fix” their situation. They merely want to be seen and heard. They want to know that they’re not invisible and not alone.

When someone does welcome another person’s perspective or advice, however, it’s still important to have an actual two-way conversation, rather than deliver a prepared speech (minus the podium). It’s important to talk with them rather than at them. It’s important to really see them, hear them, and treat them as an individual. And it’s important to remember that it’s about them–not about you, and certainly not about you coming across as clever, insightful, or wise. It’s about two people making a genuine, authentic connection.

Yes, sometimes wisdom may pop up as a sort of incidental byproduct during such a conversation, but it shouldn’t be the focus or the goal. Yes, it’s nice to have someone tell you that you’re so wise, but it’s even nicer to have them tell you that you’re so helpful. And it’s nicer still to have them tell you that you’re a true friend.

I realize that this approach won’t necessarily get you booked on national TV shows (although it might–after all, it would be rather refreshing). It won’t necessarily lead to bestsellers or catapult you to celebrity status (or, then again, maybe it will). And it probably won’t get your words retweeted or turned into Facebook art. (I don’t see, “Mmm… I hear ya,” or, “I’m right here with you, buddy” going viral!) But it will create true bonds. It will help. It will heal.

Now, let me be clear: I’m all for wisdom. I love powerful lessons, inspiring stories, and pithy quotable/tweetable nuggets. But it’s important to remember that wisdom exists to serve people–not vice versa. Wisdom is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

When we care more about appearing wise than about other people, we’ve fallen into “the wisdom trap.” When we care more about making true, meaningful connections–with or without “wisdom”–then we’ve got our priorities straight…and we’re being truly wise!

(photo by frugo)

Still Wearing Your Baby Shoes?

baby-shoesDo you still wear your baby shoes?

Probably not, right?

What about the clothes you wore when you were a little kid? Still squeezing into your first pair of jeans? How about that outfit you thought looked so cool when you were 10 years old? Or the one that you didn’t think was cool but had to wear anyway…because it was a gift from a well-meaning relative?

I’m guessing that these shoes and clothes have long since been retired from your wardrobe. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with them. (Although, in retrospect, some of them may have merited an intervention from the fashion police.) But at the time, they probably seemed reasonable enough. Or at least they fit!

But they don’t fit anymore. So you stopped wearing them. You handed them down to younger siblings, gave them to Goodwill, or simply threw them away.

It seems obvious enough with physical clothes, but it can get trickier when it comes to our inner “clothing.” Are you still “squeezing into” anything from childhood that no longer fits you? Could you use an inner make-over in any of the following areas:

  • beliefs
  • habits
  • identity
  • roles
  • values
  • worldview

In what ways are you holding onto parts of your past that no longer fit?

As a youngster, perhaps you played the role of the obedient (or even subservient) child. Or maybe you picked up a belief such as “You can’t trust anyone.” You might have believed people who told you that you weren’t very bright (or beautiful or talented, etc.).

In some cases, the people who passed down these beliefs may have been acting maliciously (such as someone telling a child that they’re not beautiful). Most of the time, however, these inner hand-me-downs were probably well intentioned. And in most cases, they probably served a valuable function: They may have helped to preserve the peace in a turbulent home environment. They stopped you from taking candy from strangers (except perhaps on Halloween!). And in one way or another, they kept you safe.

But you probably reached a point where these beliefs, roles, and habits no longer served you–yet you didn’t replace them.

Let’s think again about your first pair of baby shoes. They were probably given to you by your parents. And they probably fit very well (at first). They probably kept your feet safe and protected–especially if you wore them when you first learned to walk. And they were probably adorable!

But if you kept wearing those shoes as your feet grew, eventually they wouldn’t have been good for you. They would have been painful. They would have given you blisters. Eventually, they would have hindered your development or even crippled you.

Just like these shoes, many (if not all) of your beliefs were passed down to you by parents or other (usually) well-intentioned adults. Just like these shoes, they kept you safe and served a valuable purpose. Also like these shoes, you’ve probably outgrown them. The trick is to know when to let them go–and update your inner wardrobe!

This doesn’t mean that everything you learned as a child needs to be discarded! Chances are, you probably learned many valuable lessons that will serve you well throughout your entire life. However, you probably also learned some that, like old clothes, fit at the time but no longer fit. (And you probably picked up plenty of inner “clothes” that never fit to begin with!)

It’s your job as a conscious adult to tell the difference–to distinguish what’s a valuable family heirloom that you want to hold onto, what was once valuable but no longer fits, and what was always junk! And then make sure you take the all-important next step: to replace anything you’ve outgrown with something that fits the person you are today!

So, when you find yourself falling into habitual roles, viewing yourself and the world in unhealthy ways, or expressing beliefs that no longer serve you, it’s probably time to trade in these inner “baby shoes” for some big-kid kicks!

Yes, you might feel a tinge of sadness at letting go of your familiar inner clothing. You might even feel a bit of fear at giving up your inner security and embarking on a journey of redefinition–or even rebirth. You might even be angry at yourself for staying stuck in a limiting belief for so long.

But remember that those beliefs, roles, and other habits probably once served you very well. It’s just that you’re ready to move on to something a bit more, shall we say, evolved? Just the fact that you’re willing to explore this process is a healthy sign.

It means you’re ready for an inner-growth spurt!

What inner “baby shoes” have you been wearing (or trying to wear)? In other words, have you maintained any long-standing beliefs, roles, habits, or thought patterns that no longer serve you? How have they impeded your personal growth? What new “clothes” would be a better fit for the person you are now…and the person you’re becoming?

Thank you so much for coming by and reading! If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to comment, share (with the buttons below or in any other way), or subscribe (if you haven’t already done so)…and come back again! :)