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Commitments - An exercise

Here's a good exercise to help you focus on aligning your life with your goals and aspirations.

  1. List your top 5 commitments in life.  An example would be 1 - self-care, 2 - spouse, 3 - work, 4 - family, 5 - friends.
  2. Now track where you spend your time for a full week?
  3. Does your time reflect your commitments?  If someone else looked at how you spend your time, what would they say you were committed to?

For most of us it won't.  For example when I look at actual time spent over the last week, it would look like I was committed to eating lots of carbohydrates, or being exhausted and fussy.

Now here's the big step - 4.  What actions will you take on in the next week to align your life with your commitments?

Respond here and let us know.

I won't be eating bread for the next week.  Pretty cool that it's Passover anyway.

Justice

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" -- Mahatma Gandhi

This is one of my favorite quotes.  It really speaks to the trap that most of the world seems to be in today.  They do it to you, so you do it back.  It's very easy to understand the emotions involved.  If someone killed or hurt my family, I'd want to hurt them back - hard.  And I'd want to do it personally.  It might give me  justice and short-term satisfaction, but it certainly would not lead anywhere but down.  It wouldn't bring back my family, restore the pain in my soul or heal my grief.

And on a much less political scale, this quote speaks to the the pendulum swing the economy is in.  Many, many people made millions in the booms of the last 20 years, and many millions of people are now suffering as a result of that.  Punishing a few individuals won't fix the holes in the regulatory system that allowed it to happen, nor will it restore jobs or homes to the people that have lost them.

Looking forward and asking what do we want are much more likely to produce results and healing  than justice.   We set high store by justice and fairness, but all they do is make sure everyone suffers.  Ask yourself what you really want to create the next time you want to give someone what they have coming.  Evaluate the people you elect on the basis of what they will create, not what they are against.   The more we stop worrying about concepts like fairness and justice, the better the world will be.  Justice can only destroy, not build.

It isn't easy to set that anger aside and think about the future,  but it's in your best interest and everyone else's too.  Asking yourself  "What is my intention here?" or "What do I want to create?"  produces results.  In a business situation, asking what you want instead of what is fair is far more effective.

So what do you want to create?

Stuck

Do you feel unappreciated or unrecognized for the job you do?  Do you have more responsibility without the title and compensation to go with it?  Do you feel like there's no communication at your company?    Feel like you're at a dead-end?  And things are not going to get any better at the company you're at, but you're afraid of ending up in exactly the same situation if you change jobs?  Are you really frustrated, stressed out and angry?  And no one can help you?

If you feel this way, you're probably right.  No one can help you.  You built the box you're in, and only you can get yourself out of it.  The only way out is to realize that the box isn't really there.   You created it the minute you started looking for something to blame and being right was more important than anything else.

The great news is that there is a way out - and there is help.  The minute you accept responsibility for creating your experience, the box will disappear.  You will see that you have options and choices about what you do and lots of people to available to support you in whatever you choose.   Your options may be developing the skills you need to thrive in the new environment, evaluating the situation against your values and priorities and choosing something different,  just being happy and unstressed by the situation -  and so on.  The options are endless once you choose to be responsible for your experience. You have reclaimed your power and are now unstuck.

Choose to be responsible!

Is Coaching For You?

Coaching is not for everyone.   Many people are perfectly happy with the status quo and the way their lives are going.   They are not interested in change or transformation.   And there's nothing wrong with that.  A woman I talked to today expressed exactly that point.   She said she was really happy where she was.   Why change in that case?

Does this describe you though?  Are you truly happy at your job?  Your career?  Where you're going to be in 5 years?  Do you wish to do something else?  Or are you stuck in your job because you don't see any alternatives?  Want to move to the next level in your career but don't know what's holding you back?  Or do you know but don't know what to do about it?

Coaching can help you move to the next level in your career or life.  It can help you achieve far more than you could on your own.  "As a result of professional coaching, clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths."  (from the ICF)

Coaching is a big commitment though.  It's a commitment to yourself in achieving your goals.  Are you willing to make the commitment and do the work?   A coach can help you get there, but you still have to put the effort in and do the work on yourself.

Are you really happy where you are or are you interested in changing your life?

For more information on coaching, check out the International Coach Federation (ICF) website at http://www.coachfederation.org/find-a-coach/what-is-coaching/ .

Fear

Where does fear show up for you?

It showed up in full force for me last Saturday night.  My husband and I attended a mixer for a new young adult group starting at our temple.  Besides being overjoyed that I still qualified as a young adult for a few more months,  I was terrified.   I didn't expect to know more than one or two people there.   As we walked in,  I immediately went back to being the 7 year old kid on her first day at a new school (again) who didn't know anyone and felt like a real outsider.   It didn't matter that I'm  a long way from being 7, a successful business owner, professional coach and public speaker.  Reality had nothing to do with this situation.   The story was all in my head and a very familiar one at that.

We all have those stories that happen in our childhood and make such an impression on us that we re-create them throughout our lives.   It's normal.   The stories and the events that trigger them are different for everyone, but in one respect they are all the same.  They are all fears that we have not moved past yet.  We will continue to re-create them until we do.

The key is in recognizing the story and choosing how you will respond.   You have the power to make that choice.   You can respond the same way you always do that started when you were 7, and probably isn't doing you any good now - or you can do something different. You can notice it, embrace it and have compassion for the 7-year old that is still feeling the pain. You can look at the facts of the situation and separate them from the story in your head.   Then you can create actions that will do you good, instead of holding you back.   If you can master this,  fear will never be able to stop you again.

The Power of Responsibility

I talked with 2 women on the same day last week.  They were in very similar situations.  Both owned their own businesses in very similar fields.  Both were in their 50's.  Both women enjoyed what they did.  But there the similarity ended.

One woman had, despite suffering an extremely debilitating injury,  an air of joy and peace about her that was almost palpable.  She loved what she did and it showed.  It was a joy to talk and be with her.  And it was clear that this was the experience for her staff as well.  She had loyal employees who acted as her hands when she couldn't do something.  They had been with her a while.  They clearly enjoyed working in her business.  Business was good, even in this economy.

The second woman was clearly resentful, unhappy and unpleasant to be around.   She spent most of the time complaining and the word I heard most often was "should."  "I shouldn't have to tell her that."  She didn't feel comfortable delegating to anyone and consequently was overloaded.    Her business, despite having a good base, was not anywhere near thriving.  She also wasn't doing the things she needed to do to grow the business.  Staff turnover was one of her biggest issues.

The main difference between the two:  Responsibility!   The first woman clearly took responsibility for her choices and saw the possibilities.  She  did not let circumstances stop her.   She just adjusted how she worked.   The second saw herself as  a victim of her business and her staff instead of empowering herself.   She let her circumstances control her decisions and consequently couldn't get ahead.  She let herself become a victim to her fear.

Which one would you rather be?  The choice is yours.

Your Career is the Best Investment You Can Make

One of the things I most often run into when talking to people about their careers is the statement "I can't do any training.  My company won't pay for it right now." or the slight variation - "I don't have any budget for training.  My company is cutting back everywhere."

Well, guess what - your career is your responsibility, not your company's.   I am strongly in favor of taking advantage of any training and tuition reimbursements a company provides, but the lack of such a benefit is no excuse for not making an investment in yourself.   And the cost of giving up responsibility for your career to a company when you get hired is extremely high.

The company's first responsibility is to it's owners/stockholders.   It cannot look at investing in your career unless it is also in the direct best interest of the company.  And unless training is properly managed and supervised very carefully to make sure that all training chosen directly relates to the employee's job and is immediately applicable, it does not usually offer a positive ROI to the company in the short term.  It has the same impact that most employee benefits have and is usually treated the same way - i.e. cut back in a bad economy.

Let's look at an example.  Let's say that you make $60,000.00 right now and you are 35 years old.  You take a class or get a certification that costs $5,000.00, but increases your earning power by at least 10% annually.  That means that you will make at least  $281,362 in the next 25 years at 5%.  If you invested that same $5,000.00 at 5% now instead of spending it,  you will only have $17,406.   Now let's say you are 55.  Even with only 10 years, the difference in the numbers is still staggering  $70,467 versus $8,235.

(FYI - these amounts were calculated as future value of an ordinary annuity versus future value of an amount.)

The point is this: Your career is by far the best investment you can make!

Coping with Emotions

We learn as children that some emotions are bad, like anger and grief or fear, and some emotions, like happiness, are okay. Some children learn that happiness is bad. It is different for everyone. We learn to bury or not express the bad emotions. But not expressing emotions is like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot. It leaks, keeps building and it can explode. Trying not to express emotions leads only one way - down. If we recognize and express our feelings as we feel them, we stop the cycle. We can stop being victims of our emotions.

Allowing ourselves to fully and completely feel emotions is the key to coping with them. Not doing anything with it, just experiencing. Action may come, but only after you experience the emotion. Once we can fully accept and express our emotions – all of them, both good and bad, we can let them go. And then move on. The only way out of fear, anger, pain, sadness or any other emotion is through. And the actuality of fully expressing the pain is much less intense than our fear of it.

I had to put my cat, Percy, to sleep this morning. She was almost 21 years old and her body was shutting down. She was unable to make it to the litter box and was having trouble getting up and down stairs. She wasn’t eating and had lost a tremendous amount of weight. I just had to look at her to know it was time. Knowing all of this didn’t make the decision any easier. I finally called the vet last night and made an appointment this morning when it was clear she couldn’t make it to the litter box any longer. I have a 2 1/2 year old son and I couldn’t risk him finding a spot before we did. Little boys have a massive fascination with anything “yucky.”

I’ve known this was coming for a few weeks now. She was having trouble getting around for a while. We put her on glucosamine and that helped for a while, but it had been getting noticeably worse in the last couple of weeks. I’d been trying to ignore it and eating excessively to lessen the pain. Yes, she’s just a cat, but she was my cat. I got Percy and her brother, Pyrex, when they were six weeks old and have had them ever since. Pyrex got sick and had to be put to sleep when my son was only a few months old.

They were my constant companions and buddies for all of my adult life. I missed them more than I ever missed anything else when I traveled. I told Pyrex and Percy everything and they listened and comforted me better than any other friend I’ve ever had, even my husband. Pets are like that. They love and accept you unconditionally and there is nothing you could ever do to break that bond. Cats are great listeners too, as long as you’re willing to pet them in the process. They went through a lot with me.

It was intensely painful to know that I would soon lose Percy too. I used food / eating as a drug to lessen the pain. Alchoholics drink. I eat. This is something I’ve done since I became a teenager. The thing is, it doesn’t work. The pain is always there, underneath the food, and just like alchohol, you have to eat more and more. The sad part was that I didn’t even realize why I wanted to eat until I had to make the decision today. The pain had been building for a while. Once I faced the painful reality, went through with the decision and allowed myself to fully feel the pain, I no longer wanted to eat. The pain subsided after a visit to the zoo and a peaceful hour listening to the birds in the aviary. I was left feeling full – full of what I had needed to begin with – peace and acceptance. I wasn’t hungry and had no urge to eat. I’m sure the pain will hit me again at odd times for a long time, maybe even the rest of my life, but I know I can handle it. And each time, it will be less intense, until I am only left with the bittersweet joy of memory. They will never really be dead as long as I can remember all the joy and happiness they brought me.

Most of us learned in childhood that some emotions were bad and some were good. We learned not to express bad emotions. “Don’t cry, sweetie.” “Good girls don’t get angry.” “Boys don’t cry.” And so on. But not expressing emotion is like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot. It leaks, keeps building, and after a while it can explode. Trying to avoid expressing emotions is a losing battle that only leads one way – down.

If we learn to recognize and express our emotions as we feel them, we don’t end up becoming victims of our emotions. We can learn to honor them and let them go. Emotions are part of what makes us human.

- October 16, 2008

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