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Archive for the ‘Choices’ Category

Money & You and all personal development programs are obviously about change.  In coaching, we say that for a client to be able to change, they must first be aware.  Aware of their patterns, aware of their blocks, aware of their goals, vision and destination.

For some people, the desire to change, learn and grow is innate.  There’s an ever-present desire to improve.  For others, that desire doesn’t come until there’s enough pain or a big enough reason that creates a NEED to change…right…now.

The next step is to take stock of where you are right now.  If you want to become financially abundant, the first thing you need to know is what your current financial status is.  If you want to want to lose weight, you need to know what your current eating habits are…how many calories you typically eat in a day.  You get the idea.

Once you understand your starting point, it’s time to pick a destination, some milestones along the way, and chart a route.   Let’s say you want to be earning $100,000 a year, and your current income is $50,000.  Your milestones might be 60K and 75K.  Your route is the financial model you’ll use to get there.  What are your revenue streams?  What might you add?  What can you do to increase your income?  This is the time to not censor yourself and think creatively.

Now do your homework.  Decide what you need….what kind of support, funding, partners, resources, training, services?  This step is important regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight, change a habit, learn a language or make more money.

Finally, it’s time to take action.  Start with little steps.  Don’t get stuck in the trap of endless preparation. Stop trying to change. That won’t move you forward.  Take action, and then take another, and another.    As Jedi Master Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

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I was talking to my friend Natalie Tucker Miller and we talked about how summer was ending, meaning a return to “normal” after residing in a summer state of mind.  Here’s the thing though…we both work for ourselves.  We don’t have to work Monday-Friday, 9-5.  We can choose when, where and how we work.  We could have a summer state of mind all year!

What is a summer state of mind?

Well, at it’s most literal, it’s long days of daylight, barbecues and picnics, no school, and summer vacations.  But really it’s a mindset, I believe hearkening back to our own school days when summer meant freedom.  Pushing open those doors on that last day of school meant endless days of adventure, play and day-dreaming.

It’s no wonder that even when we’re all grown up, leading responsible lives, we still see summer as a time to slow down the pace and step up enjoyment of life.  So what’s to stop us from doing that all year long?

I’m thinking that we could learn a lot from children about how to live in a summer state of mind.  Every day would bring the opportunity to have an adventure, look at life with curiosity, discover new things, savor an ice cream cone–one slow lick at a time.  We’d look for every opportunity to laugh and tell silly stories and jokes.  Ask our friends to come out and play.  We’d try to catch the rain with our tongue, step into puddles to see them ripple, and dance barefoot in the grass. We’d live in the moment…reveling in the sun, watching the clouds, swinging in a hammock with no cares.  Most important, we’d view life with a “why not” attitude, believing all things were possible.

So come Labor Day in the U.S. I’m going to embrace being a grown-up and act like a child with a summer state of mind all year long.

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I find myself saying one thing over and over to people:  “don’t beat yourself up.”  Why is is that people are so determined to blame themselves for every little perceived failing?  We beat ourselves up when we deviate from our diet, forget to call someone, or don’t do something perfectly.

It’s counterproductive.  When you lay blame at your own doorstep, it’s de-motivating.  It’s what causes dieters to self-sabotage and end their healthy eating just because they had a donut, or a bad day.  It makes people stop pursuing a goal, just because they didn’t get it right the first time.  It leads to stress, unhappiness and a pandemic of low self-esteem.

So I am asking you, right now, to stop doing it.  Stop beating yourself up.

The very next time you find yourself in blame mode, stop and notice that’s what you’re doing.  Notice the voice speaking to you.  Is it your voice?  A voice from the past telling you you’re no good?  Recognize that whatever voice is it, it’s just not true.  It’s an old tape playing in your head, and you are due for a new one.

Instead of bemoaning that donut you shouldn’t have had, and chastising yourself for not having self-control, recognize how many GOOD choices you have made and congratulate yourself for that.  The one donut or the day of making less than stellar choices were a choice you made, and now you can start where you are and move forward making good choices.  And take the opportunity to learn what you need to do differently the next time.

Learn to accept yourself as you are.  If you begin by loving yourself exactly as you are this moment, you can move forward from there to achieiving the vision you set for yourself.  And when you hear that voice starting to berate you, recognize it as a voice from the past that no longer serves you, and tell it to “hush up.”

One of the things that can help is keeping an acknowledgement journal.  Each day, write down 3-5 things you appreciated about yourself today.  Some days it may be harder to come up with them, but even if you have to write “I got out of bed this morning when I didn’t want to” three times, do it.  Acknowledge yourself for actions, feelings, new thought patterns, breaking habits, good choices, everything you can think of.  If you don’t want to keep a journal, acknowledge yourself out loud instead. Tell yourself what a good job you just did, how nice you were to that colleague, or what a great choice you just made.  Keep doing it so it becomes a habit.

Stop living in the past.  Often, the self-blame relates to past mistakes…divorce, job issues, relationship issues.  Recognize that the past is over.  You can’t continue to dwell there.  Learn from the past, and forgive yourself.  Learn from little children…they make mistakes, fall down, pick themselves up and try again.  That’s how they learn.  They don’t blame themselves for not being perfect.

So the very next time you begin to slip, stop.  Tell yourself that you did the best you could under the circumstances (whatever they were) and decide to do better.  You are human. You’re not perfect.  You will do better the next time. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

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In Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes email this morning he quotes Dan Millman from Everyday Enlightenment:

“The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.”

Not surprisingly, I totally agree.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any actual problems…illness, financial problems, relationship problems are all very real.  What it does mean, is how we think about those problems, how we respond or react to them, will make all the difference in how happy or stressed we are and what actions we choose to take.

If we are open to the opportunities presented by life, we begin to view circumstances as neither positive nor negative, but as opportunities for change, learning and choice.  If we choose to embrace life’s occurrences rather than resist or move into a place of fear, we allow ourselves to “go with the flow” of life, thereby reducing stress, and gaining what Millman calls “everyday enlightenment.”

Case in point:  I had a client who called me one day to tell me that she’d just returned from a business trip to find that her home had just had a major fire.  Her family was fine, but the home was in an unlivable condition.  In that instant she had a choice…to bemoan her fate, or to embrace the opportunity that it presented.  And there was a very clear opportunity for her…she could move into her weekend home and arrange to telecommute to her job part of the time.  While the opportunity or learning from every situation is not always as immediately clear, the choice to embrace each one with a positive outlook is.

Often it’s not even situations that we resist, but change of any kind, whether positive or negative.  We resist change because not only does it upset the the status quo, it also plunges us into the scary unknown.  When faced with change (like your pediatrician retiring to open a toy store in Taos, NM) our first response is to think of how that will negatively impact us (oh no, I have to find or get used to a new doctor, will they be as good, are they taking new patients, will they accept my insurance, will my child like them?)  or how that change may add an extra layer of to-dos (I have to research good pediatricians, ask for people’s experiences with them, make appointments, interview them, get the records moved…)

If instead of resisting, we seek the opportunity and possibilities in each situation, we often find that not only is it far less stressful than resistance, but there is even a benefit (the new doctor’s office is closer, they are more up-to-date, etc.) to looking at things differently.

As with everything, you need to create a new habit to replace an old one.  To create the new habit of not resisting change, start by deliberately embracing change in small ways.  Change the route you take to work, change the way you deal with emails and call someone to respond to a question rather than emailing, hold your phone in your other hand, change the order you do things in the evening.  Once you’ve mastered the art of small changes, you’ll begin to find it easier to weigh your options when situations occur.  And you’re well on your way to “everyday enlightenment.”

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I read somewhere that four out of five Americans are unhappy with their lives, and especially with the work that they do.  Just surveying the people around me, I can see that even if it’s three out of five, it’s all too true.  And it’s not even that they are not passionate about what they’re doing…they are downright unhappy and frustrated, and don’t believe that anything can change their circumstance.

That makes me crazy!  Change is always possible, regardless of your circumstance. The key is to 1) know what you want, 2) eliminate any obstacles (actual or imagined,) and 3) choose to take action.  My experience with clients tells me that folks can get stuck and any one of those three steps.

Knowing what you want means knowing what you value in life and tapping into what you’re passionate about.  Before our call last night, my friend Janet Attwood, co-author of Passion Test, asked me to email her the 10 things I was passionate about, starting with the phrase “When my life is ideal, I am… “

Last night on the phone with Janet, she had me refine my statements to separate what I want from how I can get it, and then compare their relative importance to me until I came up with the following top five:

  1. When my life is ideal I am living a healthy and balanced life..body, mind and spirit
  2. When my life is ideal I am laughing a lot…traveling, playing, and collaborating with my friends and family
  3. When my life is ideal I am enjoying my creativity in collaboration with others
  4. When my life is ideal I am taking time off to nourish my mind, body and soul
  5. When my life is ideal I am feeling, giving and receiving love from my family and friends

I’m still going to play with these until they are exactly right, but they are close.  And I just might share Janet’s number one statement “Being in the moment and loving what is.”

The interesting thing about the Passion Test, is that it’s not about “finding your passion” in the sense of making money, or becoming famous, or any number of things that people think that they want.  As I do with my coaching clients, the Passion Test asks you to dig deeper, and figure out why you want those things…what would having more money or being famous allow you to do?  (It’s like the story of the CEO and the Fisherman.)

The next thing she asked me to do is to come up with what she calls “markers” or “signposts” that let you know when you are really living your passion.  These are the things that happen when you are living your passion full out.

She said it’s important not to think how you will achieve those markers, just to write them.  So, for example from my number 1 entry above, my markers might be:

Others remark on my state of mind and ask for my advice on how to achieve it;
I wake up peaceful, happy and energetic each day;
I am able to run up and down the stairs with no effort.

That’s as far as we got…but the book is on it’s way here, and I’ll be working through it — creating my markers, vision board and passion pages–when I am done with Sonia’s book.

In the meantime, I think it would be helpful to also revisit my values with the TruValues assessment.  And because I appreciate your sharing my journey with me, I share TruValues with you here.  Because when you live your life in accordance with your values and your passions, you won’t be one of the four out of five that lives in frustration.  And I want that for you.

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I took a “Saturday Stretch” class today.  At first it’s slightly uncomfortable, but then it feels really good to stretch out the kinks and body tension from a week of sitting on the phone or at the computer in my office.  Stretching is really good for the body…elongating those muscles and opening up the joints is so important to improving muscle control, flexibility and range of motion.

And so it is with getting out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself!  At first it may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but as you stretch it feels really good to be growing in new ways.

What I am NOT talking about is just filling your mind with new information.  While I’m a big proponent of reading and adding to your memetic environment, that’s not stretching yourself.  What I am talking about is doing something different.  Trying new things.  Being open to new opportunities.

For me, taking on “My Quest” is a stretch, perhaps not so much with the subject matter, but certainly for the public way I’m going about it.  For you, it may be something entirely different, such as:

Getting into conversations with people you ordinarily don’t talk with
Learning to play the harp or speak Chinese
Going to a concert or movie by yourself
Going to a personal growth seminar if you’ve never been to one
Getting a coach [of course!] to make huge shifts in your life  😉
Registering with an online matchmaking service
Training for a trek to the North Pole (as my friend Raymond Aaron did!)

The result of stretching yourself will of course depend on how far out of your comfort zone you go.  But even a small stretch is likely to give you a sense of achievement, self-confidence and satisfaction.   And the more you stretch, the less you’re likely to experience fear of change and the more you are likely to want to stretch and grow even more.

Your idea of what is possible for you will likely stretch as well.  What might that lead to for you?  If anything is possible…what will you do?

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Passion is the driving force that has you doing things without any thought to whether or not you will fail.  It’s the force that compels and inspires you to go after your dream, to commit and follow through to taking action and making changes.  It’s what causes photographers to stand on a rocky ledge to get that perfect shot, actors to go from audition to audition in search of a role, writer’s to withstand countless rejections and keep on writing.

My first two “assignments” from the preliminary work prior to The Passion Test and in Your Heart’s Desire start out by asking basically the same question:  Think about all the areas of your life and list the top ten passions or priorities.  Each asks you to write it down  with slightly different phrasing, but essentially the exercise is identical.  And…very similar to coaching homework assignments I use with my clients.  Essentially, tap into the major focus areas of your life and state the most important element that would make that area perfect.  Those focus areas, or environments include (with slight variations– not all of these are included in each program or coaching homework):

Financial
Relationships (family, friends, peers, close colleagues)
Your surroundings (home, car, nature)
Your body, health and physical appearance
Your Self (skills, strengths, talents, character, the “essence” of you)
Your Spirit (connection to the universe, spiritual practices, faith)
Your Memetic environment (ideas, learning, beliefs, what you read and watch)
Networks (Professional Connections, Community, Social Networks)
Fun
Career
Education
Creativity
Travel and adventure
Possessions

Most pundits say (and I agree) that the first step to change is embracing exactly where you are today.  So start with where you are and then (in the areas you choose from above) decide which of the areas are your top priority to change?  What are you finances?  What shape are you in?  What do you like about your self?  What puts a smile on your face?  Where does your creativity show up?

Next, for each of the areas you are choosing to work on, write down what you want to change…in other words: how you intend for it to be. Take relationships as an example.  It may be that you already have a great relationship.  Still…what might it look like if you kicked it up a notch? Or perhaps you don’t have one, or have one that could improve.

Sonia says to write three powerful and very clear intentions.  The Passion Test asks me to list ten items, beginning with the phrase “When my life is ideal…” and to phrase them in the present tense.

I recognize that for many, that may be easier said than done.  What I know to be true (thank you Oprah) is that while many people can easily whip off a list of clear desires or intentions, there are an equal amount of folks who haven’t got a clue.  Many of the clueless (no judgment intended here) know very clearly what they DON’T WANT, and that’s a great starting place too.  But there are a large number of people who are totally blocked from telling themselves the truth about their life.  For those folks, I offer the following questions to begin tapping in to what you want for your life:

What brings you great joy?  What are you doing in those moments when you feel happiest or your heart swells to overflowing? When are you at your most creative?  What are you doing when ideas flow effortlessly and time just zips by? Is there a particular topic you like to read about?  Talk about?  Watch movies about?  Internet surf to learn more about?  Do you have a hobby you are passionate about?

I write my intentions/goals for the year annually.  I’m going to update mine, and I’ll share them with you when I do.

Anthony Robbins says “Passion is the genesis of genius.”  Isn’t it time to find yours?

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