The Long Way Around

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Jay Shetty shared in is Daily Jay the other day the concept of taking another way around.  He talked about not lining up at the front, but finding another route if necessary such as the road/path less taken.  I love that this followed the idea about viewing problems from yesterday.  We need to know what we are actually solving for and we also need the flexibility to get to the answer we need.  Sometimes that answer isn’t what we think it is.  Sometimes it’s exactly what we think it is but it’s going to take smaller bites to get there.  There are little quests on the way to the grand quest.  Think about every adventure story we love, every fantasy, every science-fiction.  They all have a quest and it takes a lot to get there.  We LOVE that.  So let’s approach our lives the same way.  It’s a quest.

Quests always start at the beginning, but the beginning isn’t always where the story starts.  Sometimes we meet in the middle because that’s where the adventure begins.  Or we have to pivot and the story takes us somewhere else.  The point is to get the vision right and then find the ways to get there.  We are capable of so many things, we have great capacity to do things in many different ways.  Sometimes the most direct route ends up being a disaster.  Sometimes we are meant to take a few detours to learn a new lesson or develop a new skill.  How do we want to approach the adventure of life?  Think about how boring it would be without any sub plots or twists.  Think about walking into the end perfectly preserved, not knowing any of the richness around us.  While we may have survived, that isn’t living. 

As we embark on a new year, let’s look at where we are starting our adventure.  If things haven’t worked out so far, or if they haven’t worked out how we thought they would, then perhaps it’s time to try something new.  To hear the calling of our intuition to take a step on that less trodden path.  We receive those callings for a reason.  They are messages and they are guides.  Just because something didn’t work out on the straightforward path or in the way you thought it would doesn’t mean it isn’t turning into exactly what it’s supposed to be.  Take the shot in the dark and go on that quest.  We may arrive messy, we may arrive a bit scratched, but we will have tasted everything on that journey, and we will know who we are.  That’s a story told from taking the other way around, that’s a story told from the essence of who we are.  How exciting is that?

A Problem

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A quick thought on problems.  “A problem well defined is a problem half solved,” Charles Kettering.  At any given time, we think there are a million problems.  Truth be told, that may well be the case.  And we think we need to solve them all at once.  We need to be the super hero, always on top of the situation and creating a better day, a better way, a better world.  What we don’t often realize is that the problem we have isn’t the problem we’ve identified, or the problem that needs to be addressed.  Knowing what the real issue is becomes key when we want to move forward.  That’s why we repeat patterns as often as we do and why we keep diving deeper into the onion—there are SO many layers and until we really learn the lesson, we repeat.  The same is said for identifying the real issue.  Most of the time it’s how we look at the situation.  There’s always another way out but if we get stuck on one facet of the issue, we limit what we are seeing.  The ability to get to the root of the issue is key.

Now that we are in a new year, we may have a slew of “problems” we are trying to solve. I encourage you to reevaluate the thought process on that.  Half of the problems we have aren’t really problems,  it’s a matter of how we look at them or how we cope with them.  If we are trying to achieve something, it’s not a problem it’s a goal, and if you’re looking at a goal as a problem to solve, then maybe that isn’t the right goal.  We are trained to think that we are something that needs to be fixed when the reality is we live in a world that tells us we are wrong unless we are a certain way.  What if we allow ourselves to simply be who we are and we work on changing that mindset?     

Nothing and Everything Part Two

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So, a lovely little synchronicity happened the other day.  I’m noticing these coincidences speeding up as I get more in line with who I am, and I love sharing this journey.  So as we talked about La Dolce far niente yesterday, I had mentioned that the previous day at work was really rough and that I simply didn’t want to be there, feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore.  This morning, my son woke up with a reflux attack.  We are well seasoned in these and it isn’t anything major any longer, thank goodness, but it puts a major delay on the day as we have to wait for the spasms to pass.  Normally I would have allowed him to wait until halfway through an attack and then we would have gone to my parents so I could go to work.  But I knew with what I had written and heard yesterday that I needed to make a different decision.  This is the last true working day before the holiday, there isn’t anything I can’t do from home, and my son wanted to spend time with me.

I made a new decision, and we stayed home.  If I’m serious about honoring my path, then I need to make decisions more in line with the decisions that future me would make.  The future me wouldn’t force her child to travel while not feeling well.  The future me wouldn’t put work before health.  The future me wouldn’t tolerate two hours of commuting for a partial day of work in the office.  The future me wouldn’t tolerate the insubordination or lack of effort from her team (again, I totally understand where people are coming from, but I don’t have it in me to make it worse for others so I do my part).  The future me solidly knows her worth and she doesn’t settle for less than that.  In order to be that person, I need to live as that person—so we stayed home.  I texted my boss, I worked from home, my son was happy, the world is till turning, and I feel better. 

I realized toward the end of the day that most of what I was working on was just future prep and that it isn’t totally necessary in this moment.  The work can wait.  Everything that had happened, happened for a reason.  I was meant to be home with my son, enjoying time together.  The woman I’m becoming handles her life like that.  Her time is her own.  She doesn’t ask permission to do what needs to be done.  I’m proud I gave that version of me a little more space today.  I felt scared at first, but it felt so good.  I saved myself the stress of being accessible to people who just wanted me to do their work, I saved myself the frustration of commuting, I saved my parents the worry of whether or not it was just reflux (it was), and I stood my ground.  It felt so good. 

The universe responds to our needs, our cries, our demands, our hopes, our fears—just not in the way we think.  I never want my kid to suffer, but his not feeling well this morning was the catalyst to make a new aligned decision with my authentic self.  I had been so upset at work the previous day that I didn’t think I could go back and the universe gave me the choice today.  I chose my son.  I wouldn’t take that back for the world.  Sometimes what we think we need is what the universe offers to us, just in a different way.  I knew I needed to be out of the office, I knew I couldn’t go back and deal with the stress another day.  I’m so grateful for that choice.  Sometimes we have to stop and appreciate the opportunities that come our way.  I could have freaked out about my son getting sick—but I immediately knew the universe was giving me my shot.  So I took it.  I am worth the life I want, the life I am building.  I have earned the opportunity to thrive in a way that works for me.  I didn’t need to do anything more, it came to me in that sweetness of doing nothing, responding to what needed me.  How can you answer the calls in your life?

Nothing…and Everything

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I remember the first time I read about a saying (more of a philosophy or lifestyle) the Italian’s have: “La dolce far niente,” or the sweetness of doing nothing.  It was ages ago when I read Eat, Pray, Love and Liz Gilbert describes the philosophy as the ability to be comfortable doing nothing, knowing you have earned the time to simply be.  Not so much earned, but rather by existence, you have the right to simply be.  The saying was brought up again in my meditation the other day.  Jay Shetty used it in the context of the need to replenish every now and then.  There is such a thing as productive down time.  A necessary respite to recharge, replenish, restore, and rebuild.  In our society we tend to operate under the idea that we need to earn that rest.  But what happens when we hit that wall and keep going?  We struggle, we exhaust ourselves, and we cloud our thinking.  It’s often far more valuable to stop and evaluate than it is to keep pushing.

The other day was simply one of those days at work.  No one is really in the mood to be there right now so the work is becoming careless and people are missing small details or choosing to not do things the way they need to be done.  I privately lost my temper, thinking constantly, “I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to do this.”  It was horrible, but I pushed myself to the end of the day and picked up the slack from my employees—it wasn’t like I didn’t understand—but it was too much.  I started to single handedly attempt to dismantle the wall we were all facing, and that made it worse.  I got home and I checked my watch and saw my stress level had been in the high range nearly all day.  That was enough for me.  For as often as I talk about doing something else, I have yet to make a plan to move on but seeing my physical reaction and KNOWING how I felt made it clear: this is not for me any longer, at least not like this.

This is important for two reasons.  Sometimes walls or obstacles are redirection.  We are meant to be impeded because we are being directed elsewhere, down a new path, or to a new state of being.  In that moment, feeling that frustration and fear about what to do next companied with the fear of not getting the work done, I simply KNEW.  No one should carry that kind of weight on them.  The other reason is more in line with “La dolce far niente”: sometimes those walls are meant as a place to rest, not to be torn down.  Sometimes we simply have to go with the flow of life and understand that not everyone operates like us.  It was ok for me to take a break too.  I’m only human. I didn’t need to prove that I could do it all when my team wouldn’t.  I needed to stand my ground and accept that what I did was enough. 

When we have those moments when we feel we need to push through, I know our training makes it nearly impossible to stop.  There is no nobility in suffering or in martyrdom.  There is no one at the end of the day who will give you your ultimate score that says, “You’re enough.”  That’s your business with your beliefs.  Remember that living is a rough game at times and we all get caught up in what we think we should do.  It pays to take some time to give people some grace for who they are—and that includes yourself.  You need to know you’ve done enough even if it doesn’t feel like it.  You don’t need to earn your time.  You don’t need to be told when you’re allowed to vacation or what you’re allowed to see or who you’re allowed to spend time with.  Be who you are because you are enough.  You are entitled to your rest, to recharge, to replenish and refill all parts of you.  Sometimes doing nothing is everything.  It’s all for you.

Birth, Life, Love

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Today is my son’s birthday.  I’m making choices aligned with the person I want to be and that means choosing my family over and over again, no matter what.  The things I do, I do for them, my presence with them.  Remembering that on the day he was born, I was born again as well.  On this day six years ago, I waited anxiously for my pregnancy to be over.  It was such a painful experience with the illness, the stress of working how I did (I was a contractor), being alone (my husband was on the road 12-15 hours a day), that I couldn’t bear it anymore.  I loved my child, but we were not meant to share a body any longer.  Space was limited physically, and emotionally it was getting rough for me.  When the doctor said that we were going to do a c-section, I could have cared less—I think I said something along the lines of we could have done that hours ago.  I was just done…

They wheeled me into the operating room and I didn’t feel a drop of fear.  I was ready to meet my son. I couldn’t get a good gauge on how my husband felt because he maintained a pretty stoic demeanor the whole time.  They took him out of me and I felt INSTANT relief.  I had been waiting for someone to validate my discomfort the entire time, that I really struggled during my pregnancy and it never came.  So seeing my boy for the first time, I told him, “So you’re the one who was causing all that trouble?”  I said it in jest, but I felt so good having my body back that there was some truth to it.  I remember holding him in the recovery room, sleepily keeping him on my skin, him trying to latch the second he was on me.  I had mentally prepared myself for getting back to work right away because I was contracting and I kept some distance because the thought of leaving him that soon hurt and I was angry because I didn’t have a choice because of our finances.  I never allowed myself to be present and enjoy the time we had together. 

Six years later, I remember that feeling and I’m working on eliminating that fear in my life.  I want to be present, focused, and a part of the life we have.  I don’t want to be a thousand steps ahead as a defense mechanism anymore.  It’s exhausting.  Holding it all together for this long has been tiring and painful, still.  So on my son’s birthday, just as I was born a mother six years ago, I welcome myself anew.  I welcome the love I have for him and the time he asks of me, and the adventures we go on together.  I welcome motherhood in all its messiness and I no longer care to tailor the time I have with my child against what the world dictates I’m allowed to spend with him.  Our time is our time and I choose to celebrate that, especially on this day. 

I am so grateful for the life my son has brought to me.  He is pure magic in a growing body and it is pure joy to witness it.  He reminds me what life is, what it is meant to be before we are indoctrinated with all the negativity and crap.  We are navigating this together because having children in this day and age is unprecedented.  We haven’t done this before.  Priorities are different, we are re-establishing the importance of presence—and not just physically being somewhere, but giving the attention needed.  I have learned so much from my son over the years, and I want to cherish each moment a little longer.  Hold him more, play with him more, love him more.  Because he teaches me to love life the same way—fully, completely, and more.  Happy birthday do my boy, and to the life we are making together.

Embracing V. Owning

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I started thinking about how often I’ve written about embracing myself, accepting myself, allowing my authentic self to shine through.  Each time I’ve written about these things, I’ve had the most positive intention in mind: self-acceptance leads to understanding the self where we can learn to perform at our highest and then help others to do the same.  That is ALL true and I stand by that.  But I’ve never looked at the concept of self from an ownership perspective.  Owning ourselves and taking responsibility with the understanding that the outcome lies in our actions is a different thing.  I can love me all I want and that may not be enough to call me to action for what I need to do.  I have to create the focus needed to hone the discipline that cuts out the noise and makes the steps clear.  That is a powerful shift.

Again, I stand by everything I said regarding embracing self and allowing the authentic self to come out.  We can’t move forward with any type of plan if we don’t know who we are, it is that simple.  I’ve also said before that we need specific intention—I used the example that we can’t hope we get to Bali by booking a ticket to Florida.  Now, the key in moving forward is in the discipline and the steps we need to take to create the vision.  Embracing is about respecting and honoring the vision and accepting who we are or what we need to do to get where we want to be.  Owning is about the action and the discipline required to get there.  Embracing is accepting who we are, owning is the follow through. 

I mentioned a few days ago that I want to help people get back to themselves.  What does that mean?  I want people to learn to hear that inner voice and trust it.  I want people to know who they are and not be ashamed about it.  I want people to feel the pull to step out of their comfort zone and actually do it.  I want people to know that they aren’t crazy or unrealistic to have the drive to become something else.  It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, if you have a calling, then it is time to follow it!  That calling is yourself (your higher self) and we have to learn to cut out all the other crap that tells us we can’t do that for whatever reason.  Getting back to yourself means hearing your voice and doing what it says, trusting the intuition and, again, taking the action. 

There is ultimately only one person responsible for where you end up in your life: you.  The same for me. I am responsible for where I end up.  Talk is a helpful tool, but talk without understanding and not accompanied by action gets us nowhere.  That is the other subtle difference between embracing and owning.  It’s nice to be warm and fuzzy and cozy—and, again, we do need that to a degree—but the follow through is what gets it done.  Take the steps toward yourself.  Love yourself, yes, but love yourself enough to do what you say you will.  Be gentle with yourself, but be gentle enough to hear the truth.  Be aware of yourself, but be aware enough to be honest about what you need to do.  That is how it happens. The life, the dreams, all of it.  That is how it comes true.  We got this. 

A New Year’s Gratitude

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I am so grateful for another year.  I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to be privileged enough to continue to work on my health and development, to be surrounded by people I love, to have things that make my life easier and more enjoyable.  Mostly I am grateful for the opportunities.  When we reach a certain level of understanding in our minds, life changes.  When we see how much time we waste on the extraneous noise and the chatter and anything else we distract ourselves with, that gives us a new opportunity to shift that focus.  That’s a privilege. I’m grateful to understand my power on a new level.  I’m grateful to see myself in a new light. 

I am grateful to remember who I am.  My father found some old pictures of my husband and I from about 16 years ago and I saw something.  The last few months have been the culmination of developing mental fortitude in the form of breaking down in ways I didn’t know I could break down.  When I thought I had already experienced my lowest, there was another level.  Seeing the pictures I did at a time when I’m building back up meant something.  I saw a beautiful girl, confident, knowledgeable, aware of who she is, ready to take on the world if needed.  I made a promise as soon as I saw that to let that girl out again.

I don’t want to become a new version of myself, I want to become the best version of me, who I remember I was and who I was on my way to be.  I want to own the process of becoming who I’ve always been, of releasing that authentic version of me to bring out the best in others.  Elevating isn’t just about ourselves, it’s about the impact we have on the world.  I am so grateful to make the decision to take some focus off of myself and refocus that energy on what I CAN do.  That’s a powerful platform.  Changing the view means different opportunities come into sight. 

I’m grateful to know who I want to be.  I’m grateful to understand the relationship I want with myself, with my husband, with my son, with my siblings, with my parents.  I’m grateful to have goals and more importantly, I’m grateful to have a different drive.  The season has changed and this isn’t about being a victim any longer.  This is about taking ownership and taking the wheel.  We don’t need to drive along aimlessly hoping we don’t hit a pot hole.  We can steer around it.  We can take an entirely new path.  The choices are endless and THAT is where freedom comes in. 

I am grateful to simply be.  I don’t know what the next year brings, but I know I am ready for the next step.  I’m ready to share in a new way and to experience new things.  I’m ready to release the fears that keep surfacing and I’m ready to take ownership of where I go next.  No one is going to tell me the answers to my life, it doesn’t work that way.  The universe whispers and we hear, we know through our intuition, that is how it happens.  Sometimes we have to get quiet to hear it.  On this New Year’s Day, I hear.  I am grateful.  I am ready.  Welcome 2023.

New Year’s Eve

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Here we are on the precipice of a New Year, ready to ring in 2023.  I enjoy New Year’s Eve just like anyone.  I love the excitement and anticipation of the new year and being with people I care about, I love the idea of one moment leading to the next and making a fresh start.  I remember feeling it as a kid and I remember the excitement and anticipation just three years ago when we were about to welcome 2020, talking about the roaring ‘20’s, how the decade was going to change things.  On that eve three years ago we had no idea what was in store for the year.  We talked openly about things changing as we always did, we talked about shifting the world and making things different, we talked about being better and welcoming a new way of being.  We all know what happened a few months later—we started talking COVID.  The point is, we all talked about changes and what we thought we wanted for us and those changes came—just not in the form we thought it would. 

The point is simply this: we approach each new year with anticipation when the reality is we have no clue what’s going to happen.  We set intentions and make plans and talk about goals and we either let them fade away as we fall back into our routines or the unexpected happens and we aren’t able to see them through.  There are a few who make the change, who dive in and do the work.  More importantly, they are able to pivot as things move along.  That’s the key.  We generalize change or we get too specific about it.  We cant throw a dart hoping something will happen and we can’t have a choke hold on the outcome because we will suffocate it. 

This year I suggest a different approach.  Flow.  Yes, we can set the course, we can choose the direction things are going in, but we need the follow through.  At the same time we can’t expect to drop the person we are in favor of some new version we haven’t tried on before.  It’s a process, an assimilation, a becoming.  Do I have goals?  Yes, I do.  But the main goal in all of that planning is to allow myself to be the person I need to be to achieve those goals.  Life is too damn short to continue on a path that doesn’t work, so I still say shoot for the stars.  I’m also saying take the time to build that rocket ship so it will make it there.  This isn’t about giving up, it’s about laying a foundation and that’s another difference.

We look at the clock expecting that a shift on the dial is going to change our lives.  I’m not saying it CAN’T happen, but we are pretty much the same person before and after midnight.  In order to become that new version, we need solid ground to walk on.  We need to act as that person would—and honestly, it’s more than behavior, we need to be that way; it’s just really hard to do that if you haven’t been that person before.  So let’s not pressure ourselves to magically transform.  Instead, let’s approach the time with optimism, gratitude, joy, and anticipation that we can shift and that we are able to handle what comes our way.  We are all still here and that is a gift.  The truth is we are meant to change the course of things, we are meant to make them better.  Sometimes that means diving into the muck and doing the work instead of hoping for a magic shift of the tide.  We can still roar and make this a pivotal decade, let’s look at the focus and pivot to what really matters. 

Fight The Noise

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Another universal coincidence.  The Rock posted the other day about fighting through the noise.  I believe in yesterday’s piece I specifically said you have to shut out the noise in order to move forward so this is a concept we need to dive into a bit more.  Our brains are meant to protect us which means they are trained to pick up the crucial details of what’s around us and determine if anything is going to hurt us.  That’s fantastic and extremely helpful for the primal part of the brain.  I mean, how often do you see people walking and texting or even driving and texting?  Their attention is so divided not only are they putting themselves in harms way, they are putting others in harms way as well. We need to know if danger is coming.  But our society is so filled with constant stimulation that our brain easily overloads with information that we struggle to distinguish what we really need to know versus the junk.

On any self-improvement journey, the important versus the junk is highly personal.  What matters to someone on a fitness journey isn’t the same as what’s important to someone trying to break into writing.  Of course there is overlap (we need to be healthy no mater what we do to perform at our best) but the priority will not be the same for everyone and the priority also shifts.  And the priority shifts again depending on the environment we are in.  That’s the other beautiful part about the brain: we can shift between tasks and prioritize differently depending on where we are and what we are doing.  So, we have this gorgeous biological machine that not only protects us, but can create and focus on different things that drive toward different goals.  The brain is awesome!  It just doesn’t know how to prioritize when it’s left to its own devices.

That is when the focus becomes crucial and developing focus is a practice.  Our brain, like any muscle needs to be developed.  Yes, I know the brain isn’t actually a muscle, but the tasks we assign to it need to be developed the same way a muscle would.  Give yourself the time to practice the disciplines needed to create the life you want.  Give yourself the gift of shutting out the noise and focusing your energy on your core, your purpose.  Learn what doesn’t need your attention in the moment and let it go.  On the other hand, learn what requires your time and attention and follow that.  We are all capable of great things.  We won’t all achieve great things because we don’t all have the drive to cut out what doesn’t work—that requires stepping out of our comfort zone.  Do it and do it again until that comfort zone expands.  And then do it some more.  You will know what works for you the more you practice listening to your own voice.  Block out the rest and hear your intuition.      

Discipline and Destiny

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I want to guide us to a very specific place by the end of this year:  Back to ourselves.  I want us to remember our given power to take control of our lives.  I’m not talking about controlling the details or forcing an outcome.  I am talking about getting closer to who we are and making the decisions as to whether or not that fits with who we want to be and where we want to go.  I’m talking about enforcing the means to get what we want.  I took a really gentle approach with myself for a long time as I started this journey.  I only wanted the pieces that felt good because that would be both comfortable and still make me feel like I’d moved forward.  But that wasn’t true growth. Yes, there was progress, yes I learned about different capabilities, but it wasn’t getting me closer to the big vision of what I wanted in my life. 

The universe works in amazing ways and I came across a piece discussing this work by Ryan Holiday, “Discipline is Destiny” just as I read Ashmi and heard Rob from earlier this week.  Holiday focuses on work by the stoics and this is how he broke down the focus people need to get to where they want to go. All of this lines up to one thing: we are in control of how we react and where we are intending to go.  We are responsible for knowing ourselves and our purpose and taking the action required to get there.  Yes, it’s always a choice so if you are choosing to not move toward your destiny, then you are choosing to stay where you’re at.  That’s fine as long as it’s a conscious choice.

Our society pushes so much self-improvement and high-powered, self-centered, unrealistic goals at this time of year because we think we can entirely shed the core of who we are overnight.  Like that clock strikes midnight and we shed the skin and become someone new.  That isn’t how it works.  Of course there are moments of epiphany and breakthrough that change how we think, but establishing the habits that create the mindset we need to move forward is a different story.  That isn’t flipping a switch. Again, understanding what we need to do may happen in a flash, but actually doing it is a different story.  So, if we want to elevate our mindset, we need to let ourselves shine, and that means allowing the fullest expression of who we are out at all times. Align with who you are meant to be and decide based on that person, on that purpose.  Your life has the capacity to flow in ways you never expected. 

These changes aren’t about a specific time of the year, we can do this at any time.  This is just the reminder to take in what works for you and to shut out the noise.  Ignore the pressure of resolving to do anything and do the work of becoming.  Life is propelled by focus and clarity and that means shutting out the things that don’t align with where you’re going.  I’m not saying drop every single thing that doesn’t fit in your life, but I am saying choose your actions consciously based on who you’re meant to be, your authentic self.  The first step to that is to listen to what that voice is telling you.  Hear it again.  Allow that to shine.