Tuesday, May 26, 2009

what to do when you really want it

I was at a show this weekend hosted by my dear friend John, and he was telling a story about his first few weeks in New York City. While living in a room at the YMCA as a fresh, young twenty-something, he encountered things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But he wanted to live in New York so badly, he had to find a way around it.

"Sometimes," he said, "you have to take your fear and put it on your head like a sherpa, and just keep slogging up the mountain towards your desire."

Since there's no way I could improve on that, I figured I'd share with you three things you can do to help you put your fear on your head:

1. Define what you really want.
It's one thing to say, "I want to be happy." It's another to say, "I want to earn enough money this year so that I can afford a bigger apartment, which will help make me happy." Similarly, "I want a boyfriend" becomes "I want to meet a man who is smart, self-aware, and funny, and who loves me in equal measure."

"I want to feel the strength that comes with being more artistic."
"I want to love my body and feel good about the way I look."
"I want to believe that I'm good enough, and feel solid in my faith in myself."

If the picture of your desire is clear and specific, it will be easier to make the changes, compromises, and sacrifices it will take to slog up the mountain.

So ask yourself: what do you really, really want?

2. Imagine yourself having it already.
What will it look like and feel like to have that bigger apartment or that boyfriend? How will you be different in that situation than you are now? What does that Future You have that Current You is missing? When you can see where you want to go, and believe that you really will get there, your actions are no longer shots in the dark, they're steps towards Future You. The effort you make goes towards a realizable goal; it's not just a series of random things you're doing in hopes that they'll pan out in some-way-someday.

When you allow yourself to believe that you CAN make the changes you want to make, then starting to make them becomes that much easier.

3. Take a small step every single day.
Decide that what you want is really important to you, and commit to making an effort towards reaching it every single day. There's no time like the present! Take up journaling, and write out your thoughts about the important issues you raise in making change. Be prepared to be uncomfortable and to rock the boat. (Change is not for the faint of heart.)

You've already decided that what you want is worth it, so when you're tempted to sink into the couch and watch another TV show, or when you're headed to the kitchen to mindlessly shovel food into your mouth, or when your credit card is whipped out and ready to make another numbing purchase, decide that right now is the moment you're going to change. Why spend another day waiting when Future You is out there beckoning you to live the life you really, really want?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Being fully present by Elaine Williams

In this day and age (May 17, 2009) my life seems to be spinning faster and faster with each passing month and year. It seems like I blink and suddenly half of the year has gone by, suddenly my niece and nephew have gotten a foot taller!

Where does the time go?

My days feel like they are one long endless to do list. (I must confess that I love making my list and then getting to cross off the completed items.)

Like many motivated entrepreneurs, I feel like I will never be done, that there will always be a million other things that need to be done if I am going to take my business to the next level.

I find myself in a state of constant multi tasking: texting at red lights, listening to voice mail while on the toilet while also opening mail; returning phone calls while running to appointment in NYC with sirens haunting me on the streets; eating lunch, breakfast, or snacking while checking emails, blogs, and facebook.

And then I wonder why I feel scattered, sensory overload and harried…

More and more I have been gently reminded by the universe about the fabulous gift of being fully present and mindful, moment by moment, in life.

I was sort of suffering a month ago in my life. I have been getting what I WANT for a change: more and more comedy gigs in the tri state area, PAID speaking gigs on topics I am truly passionate about, and finally finishing a rehab project to make my basement into a cool home office... and yet, I was not enjoying much of it. I felt tired, harried, totally not present to what many years of hard work had created.

And thankfully, I had been moved to check out Eckhart Tolle’s book, The New Earth, and to listen to it on the way to some gigs. (He also wrote about The Power of Now, so it was wonderful to listen to him talk about being fully present in the moment, and to look at my ego.) I also started to read another recommended book, the Presence Process, which after only a few pages gave me a new sense of freedom, peace, and stillness.

I think the lesson I am getting is that no matter how fast paced this world seems to get; and I have a feeling that with aging and all the technological progress it will continue to be fast, the secret is to be able to come from a moment to moment “center” in my daily life. And I must admit that after listening and just starting to read the previously mentioned books, I felt released from my suffering.

I started to enjoy my life again. I got present to my accomplishments and what I HAVE created as opposed to what was left to do.

I am intending to be more mindful in my life. I am continually challenging myself to be fully present to what I am doing, and to attempt to do just one thing, really well, at a time…something that my multi tasking body has been trained NOT to do for years!

I am heading back to the NYC area after performing at two comedy clubs in WA state. While working at the second club, I met a waitress with beautiful tattoos. Now I must say that ALL of the waitresses at this particular club had tattoos, but I was especially drawn to the purple flowers with green vines on one of her arms because the viney flowers framed a gorgeous, simple, splendid word that we all could use as a reminder.

The word was: breathe.

When I first saw it, I thought, well I should tattoo that one to my forehead!

And so, my dear reader, I will pass it on: just a gentle reminder to breathe.

I challenge you this week to stop and take deep breaths several times throughout your day.

Put post it notes around your home, office, and car.

Ask yourself, are you fully present with whatever you are doing, no matter how mundane?

Perhaps even the most trivial of tasks can take on a profound feeling if there is total and complete attention and intention put towards them.

Who knows, maybe taking out the trash and folding laundry could have a whole new element of surprise and sexiness?

Whatever your week holds for you, I implore you, I challenge you to breathe and to practice being fully present!

Elaine Williams is a certified life coach, comedian, and speaker. She loves to make people laugh and help inspire others to live their dream lives! You can learn more about her comedy at www.elaine-williams.com and life coaching at www.creativelifecoaching.org.
If you want to be a part of her documentary: The Power of Healing Through Laughter, feel free to contact her at laineywill@yahoo.com.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How well do you manage change in your life? by Robin Jones

It's an important question, as practically every philosopher in history has pointed out, because change is the only constant in life; it's the one thing we can really count on.

And as there are so many circumstances out there in the world we can't control, it's worth taking a good hard look at how you manage the one common denominator in the midst of your perpetually variable life: you.

In this post I'll outline some things you can do to face change head on and meet it with strength, courage, and grace.

For our purposes, let's put the wide variety of changes you experience in your life into two categories: those you choose to make, such as moving across the country, starting a new career, ending/beginning a relationship, and those you don't choose, such as illness in yourself or a loved one, getting laid off or fired, ending/beginning a relationship.

What's true in both types, is that to achieve the outcome you want, you must meet both with full awareness, courage, and faith that it will turn out for the best. In other words, you have to show up. To do that most effectively, consider the following:

1. Clarify your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to the change

I lead a workshop I designed in corporations called Managing Change. Instead of presenting the participants with a prepackaged diagram describing the cycle of change, we create one together, based on their actual life experiences in dealing with changes.

The first thing I have them do is look at some of the changes they are currently moving through, and together we make lists of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This allows them to get in touch with the nature of how they're taking charge of the situation, how they're reacting, and to notice themselves objectively, without judgment.

If you find yourself lost in the storm of the events (and sometimes chaos) around you, take some time for self reflection to understand what you think and feel and to take stock of your actions.

2. Understand the natural cycle of change

In the workshop, participants create a sequence of five or six phases of change. What's interesting is that every time I've worked through this with groups, there are subtle differences, but essentially, they all come up with the same things. Here's what the cycle looks like: 1. Realization/the Unknown: whether this is a change you've chosen or not, there's almost always a degree of fear or discomfort when beginning the process of moving into the unknown.

2. Contemplation: during this phase, much of your time and energy is spent focused on how you got here, why this change is occurring, and what your options are. The more you can let go of fear or confusion, the better prepared you'll be to handle the change.

3. Planning: this is where you weigh your options, start to make decisions about what actions to take, and what you want the outcome to be.

4. Implementation: this is putting the plan into action. If you've given careful consideration to all your options and you're clear on what you want, you should feel a great deal of strength and conviction here. Inaction because of second-guessing can be detrimental.

5. Outcomes: now you start seeing the results of your actions and stay aware of yourself and situation at all times. It's critical that you keep evaluating and adjusting in order to stay on track.
6. Integration: the final phase of the change cycle is the easiest and most organic. Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, you see your learning and growth most powerfully. You're not the same person that began the process and you live in a larger world for having gone through it.What's important to note about this cycle is that it's happening whether you know it or not. By becoming aware of the cycle and what phase you're in at any given time, you allow yourself to make your choices based on the best possible outcome. Where we get into trouble in life is when we make choices by default, or worse, simply allow them to be made for us.

3. Let the universe polish you into a jewel

Thomas Carlyle said, "Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with."

There's a simple question to ask yourself during the process of change to keep you on track. "When I look back on this, who do I want to have been and how do I want to have acted?"

Write your answer in the form of a mission statement for moving through the change: two or three concise sentences that clarify the question. Make it a reflection of the person you strive to be, of the jewel you're becoming as you're being polished.

4. Learn to love the process of change

Some changes you'll never love. The man who becomes the caregiver for his mother as she enters Alzheimer's disease is obviously a different story than the woman who wins the lottery.

But you can learn to love the process of change if not the change itself. This is a topic for an entire book, but the nutshell version is getting to a deeper, perhaps spiritual understanding that the world is what it is, beyond the insignificance of our thoughts and emotions. It's a matter of adopting the serenity prayer: "(God), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Whether you believe in a higher power or not, learning to love the process of change is about giving up control and allowing what will be to be.

The fact is, you're moving through change every moment of your existence: some of it minor, some massive. The degree to which you can stay focused on your sense of strength and grace throughout will determine your level of peace and satisfaction as you integrate it into your life.

Wishing you much success,

Robin Jones works with coaches, consultants, and other independent service professionals who are struggling to attract enough business, showing them how to get new clients easily and consistently for the lifetime of their business. Interested? Check him out at www.successbecomesyou.com. [Blogger's note: he's also my coach, and he's AMAZING!]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

what are you carrying?

There’s a Zen story about two monks, who are walking by a river. They come across a woman dressed in fine clothing. One monk offers to pick her up and carry her over the river, which she accepts. Once across the river, he puts her down, she thanks him and goes on her way.

Several hours later, the second monk just can’t stand it anymore — “Brother, our teaching tells us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked her up and carried her across the river!”

The other replies, “I put her down when we crossed the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

What haven’t you put down yet? Maybe it’s that dumb thing you said last week while talking to the cute girl in the bar who took your number but never called. ("I shouldn't have said that. I'm so stupid.") Maybe it’s what your mother told you when you were younger – that you were pretty but plain. ("I'm ugly.") Maybe it’s the fear of failure that you carry around after a risk you took tanked. ("I never should have done that. I'm such a loser.")

It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that you see your judgments, and you make an effort to put them down. (You're not stupid, you're not ugly, and you're not a loser!) Beliefs you have about how you should be or have to be… well, they’re just beliefs.

I'm not saying that makes them easy to put down. (Let’s not kid ourselves here.) But observing the nasty beliefs that you’re lugging around with you may keep you from picking up more like them, and you might be surprised to find that, once you identify a garbagey belief, it slips away all by itself.

The world gives you evidence of your goodness and worthiness. Collect that evidence, and put the other stuff down. Try this: keep a list of compliments people pay you. Doesn't matter if they're big or small, just collect them. The guy who catcalled while you were on your way to work? He totally counts! When your dad says he loves you, hear the truth of his love and accept it. Your boss just said you did a great job -- did you even hear that? People go out of their way to pay compliments, and accepting them is not only polite, it's the best way to collect your evidence.

So the next time someone offers you a compliment, put down the ugly judgments you're carrying, don't offer any mitigating circumstances (like how cheap your new dress was at TJ Maxx) and simply say "Thank you."

(Then run to your list and write it down!)