Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Resolve Not to Make Resolutions!


Funny how as New Years approaches you take a sudden look at long forgotten goals for 2010. I resisted making resolutions in 2010 and instead I set goals.(Somewhat nebulous ones in some cases!) The word resolutions has, for me, negative connotations of years gone by. Good Intentions. Great starts. Long forgotten by year end. That makes me normal, I think. There are too many expectations tied up in the term "resolution". So this year, I resolve not to make resolutions again.

When I set goals, I make plans to achieve them. I think that is the difference between resolutions and goals. Resolutions feel wishful. Goals have a plan. Semantics? Maybe, but it works for me.

My goals for 2010 were to get the business started. That goal is one that will never end. I need to constantly breathe life into that one to keep it alive. This one is definitely still on the list for this year 2011. The execution plan is more expansive so I definitely made progress in 2010.

Another goal I had in 2010 was to change things up in my work life. Still on the list for 2011. I made progress once again but I am not ready to make the leap just yet. I think the rest of my goals last year were too nebulous to determine if I have made progress. How do you really evaluate if you have slowed down. I think i have but it is hard to be objective. Life still feels busy. How do you evaluate if you are living more authentically. Hmmmm...

Robin Sharma (a favorite as you know) suggests picking your top 5. The five things that if you achieved them you would say, I had a great year! I like that approach too.

I took out a new notebook last night and came up with my Top 6. When I was finished I evaluated them this way. If I achieved each one, am I closer to my goal? Are they measurable? Sounds a little corporate but at the end of the year you have to be able to say that you either achieved it or you didn't. I was pretty excited about the list. Then I put a next step on each of them so I can begin right away.

No resolutions but lots of resolve. Funny how inspiring a life with goals ahead can be. The reverse is also true. How melancholy a life without goals can feel. So clarify your goals and burst ahead into the New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 Things that Make Me Feel Happy




1. Try New Things. Keep things fresh and new. Keep your brain in overdrive. It makes you feel invigorated to have tried something you have never experienced before.

2. Sit alone in a quiet place that inspires you. Is it in nature? By a fire? Yesterday I sat on an indoor pool deck which was closed. The air was warm and the lights were dim. The water was calm and peaceful. It was a wonderful opportunity to check in with me and see if everything was on track.

3. Help someone. Give someone your time and or money. Give them a step up in whatever they need to move forward. Volunteer at the food bank with your friends.

4. Go for a long walk in the woods. Where we are the snow is on the ground and as you walk it crunches underfoot. The cold air is exhilarating.

5. Hang out with a pet and really give him your attention for a few minutes. As with people there is a big difference between a passing pat and a real touch.

6. Cook a dish that you have never made before. Create it from scratch, buying the individual ingredients, create it with love and and when it is finished bring some to share with a friend.

7. Go swimming. The feeling of cutting through the warm water and feeling your body stretch and contract is amazing for your body and your mind. Sometimes I like to just float on my back and watch the sky go by.

8. Choose a day when you have a couple of hours to read. Curl up with a new book or magazine and get lost in it.

9. Make someones day. Call a long distance friend that you have not spoken to. Find out what has been happening in their lives.

10. Get a massage. For mind and body there is no better therapy. Gets everything moving and feeling great again.

11. Do Yoga. Like a massage but even better. Always concentrate on you with no comparisons to those around you.

12. Spend an hour with a child and let him/her lead the way on what to do and where to go. You will feel like a child again when you are with them.

13. Really focus and savour the taste of a food that you love. Whether it is you first taste of morning coffee or a square of extraordinary chocolate or a complex Thai dish, savour it and really be in the moment.

14. Go to a place where you can watch the sun go down. There is a sense that all is right with the world when you watch the sun go down and when it finally sinks below the horizon, the feeling of inner peace is unmatched.

15. Choose one thing on your bucket list and create a plan to make it happen. Choose the date and write the action countdown to that date.

16. Put your bare feet in a river or a lake. Feel the coldness of the water and splash around like a child would.

17. Go to a travel website and find out your new next favorite destination. Or go to Google Images and put your destination into the browser and check out all the beautiful pictures associated with your destination.

18. I get inspired from watching a UTUBE Jack Canfield video or a Robin Sharma video. They get me to a place where I can see that anything is possible.

19. Go to a coffee shop with a friend who really gets you. A friend who knows who you really are and loves you for it.

20. Turn on the music in your house really loud and dance. Remember the adage to dance like there is nobody watching. Do that.

21. Do something creative. Try your hand at pottery or painting or any creative endeavor. Don't try to be great. Just be creative. Frame your piece or put it in a place where you can see it every day.

22. Write a short passage or blog and then rewrite it until it is something you are quite proud of. Some days, after I have finished writing this blog, I go back and read some of the earlier entries and I feel quite proud if some of the entries.

23. Spend a day wandering through a small town that has shops and restaurants. Buy or don't buy but just browse and have coffee and people watch. Do it with a friend or do it alone. It can be amazing to your happiness either way.

24. Eating things that feed my body makes me happy. When I am on my game and exercising and eating right, I get a harmony with my place in the world and it makes me happy.

25. Listening to your favorite music can transport you to another place. Listening to some great beats can lift you up before your workout and get you in the mood to workout. Listening to some great jazz while you are driving can give you a feeling of peace and contentment.

These are the things that make me happy. Surprising how simple and inexpensive most of them are isn't it? That is food for thought. What makes you feel happy?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wave Surfing and Life



Trying new things even on a small scale can be likened to diving through waves. When you stand in the shallow water and face out to sea and watch the waves roll in. If you stand just shallow of where the waves break you can watch them break from a safe distance. You sit safely bobbing in the swirl that happens after the wave breaks untouched by the ferocity of the breaking wave.

If you happen to stand right near where the wave breaks, the water crashes over you, tearing at your clothing and slamming you toward the sandy bottom. You come back up breathless and disoriented. Here is the secret though. To pass through a breaking wave you have to dive into it. When you do you smoothly emerge on the other side. You see the obvious analogy. Right now I am standing in the shallows watching the wave break. Feeling the need to dive in.

I have chosen three things that I can do right now. Climb Kilimanjaro. Register at the University to get my Masters (and then do I dare hope a PhD?) and go to my first Yoga class at my gym. Those are three things that I can incorporate into my life NOW. I have a willing friend to climb with. We just need to book the trip. I have already contacted the University for registration and all I have to do to start my yoga class is drive to the gym. Done. Many of the people I have read about, who had made their midlife changes, had chosen to do something inspiring and that changed their path completely. To a more fulfilling one. I see a big wave coming.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wishful Thinking and Entrepreneurship


I read a column from an entrepreneur coach and he says when you are starting out, most days are bad ones, where you wear multiple hats and are required to do ten different tasks, only two of which you actually know how to do. And he says some days you want to throw in the towel and other days the sky is the limit. He's right. Most days entrepreneurship is just one small task after another. Nothing glorious. Expenses still exceeding income. Moments of glory but the rest is just a series of tasks that hopefully move toward the goal.

Some days I think I Can Do This and there is no end to my optimistic view of the future. Then other days when I wonder what the heck am I doing anyway! Whatever made me think this could work? And then something small happens...some small bit of success that sends me rocketing back to optimism. A roller coaster ride to the finish.

It is interesting that if I had not invested the original money into the project, I may have quit by now. Not because the idea would not fly but because it is difficult and slow. I had expectations that this would happen faster than it has. T. Harvey Eker says to plan on paying twice as much as you budgeted and take 3 times as long as you thought it would. He was right although I did not know it at the heady launch time when I read the article.

It is still fun though and in the end that is what counts. Add in the fact that it continues to grow, despite that it grows slower than I would like it. Budgets would indicate that over time I will make money too. I still look at the product and get a little flip in my heart. Random, unsolicited, unmotivated feedback still says Thumbs Up. Still a reason to go forward. On Dragons Den they say not to expect to make any money until year 4. I am thinking year 2 or 3 but maybe that is wishful thinking....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

10 Reasons Retirement Makes You Feel Younger - On Retirement (usnews.com)

10 Reasons Retirement Makes You Feel Younger - On Retirement (usnews.com)

10 Reasons Retirement Makes You Feel Younger
By Sydney Lagier

Posted: June 15, 2010

Retirement gets a bad rap. It conjures images of white hair, rocking chairs, and forgetting where you left your teeth. It reminds you of that man driving ten miles an hour under the speed limit with the turn signal still blinking after a lane change six miles ago. Retirement is just another word for getting old, right?

Wrong. Retirement is actually the fountain of youth. Ok, maybe you won’t literally start aging backwards, but it will feel like you are. Think back to your childhood, to the last day of school before summer break. Remember the thrill of having all those months to do anything you wanted? Well, in retirement you have the whole rest of your life. Here’s why retirement will shave years off your attitude.

No more ties. Only grown-ups wear ties. When you put on that suit each morning, it transforms you. You become a professional, an adult, and let’s face it, old. When you wake up the first day of retirement and find yourself still in your pajamas two hours later, you’ll feel like a kid on Christmas morning, just waiting to unwrap the rest of your life.

Pedaling instead of commuting. Yes, you rode your bike when you were still working, but that was merely for exercise. Now it’s for fun or even to get somewhere. Pedaling through the neighborhood with the wind in your hair transports you back to your youth.

Movies in the middle of the day. Like that kid on summer break, you can catch the bargain matinee on a weekday, except now you can see the R-rated ones without your mom.

Playing just for the sake of playing. Now you can play golf solely for the fun of it, without discussing the latest sales figures with your client. Whether it’s tennis or piano or Sudoku, retirement lets you play purely because you want to, even though it isn’t productive. Productive is a grown-up word. You’re too busy frolicking to care about that.

Taking electives. Kids finger paint to create, not to sell paintings. You’ll join a class just because you want to draw or sing or write. It doesn’t have to further your career or your degree, you have time to learn simply because you’re interested.

Fewer responsibilities. Ever wonder why the president’s hair turns gray within a year of taking office? It’s all that responsibility. Without your job you’ll have a lot less of it. Your gray hairs won’t turn back to black, but you’ll probably slow down on accumulating new ones.

Ditto with stress.

Energy. After a long day at work, you pretty much have the energy to eat dinner and then park yourself in front of the TV for a few hours before going to bed and starting all over again the next day. Without that job to exhaust you, you’ll actually have energy, like when you were young.

Sleep. Part of that energy is because you are no longer operating on six hours of sleep. You’ll sleep in like a teenager until you’re absolutely ready to join the waking world.

Social networking. When you were working you didn’t have time to figure out Facebook or Twitter or texting. You had more important things to do. You don’t anymore. So when you hang with the cool kids on laptops at the coffeehouse, you’ll also be checking for new comments on your most recent blog post.

You’d think that since retirement comes toward the end of your life it would make you feel older, not younger. But it’s not the end of the road. Retirement is the beginning of a new road leading to years of slurping from the fountain of youth.

Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

View from the Porch


Picture this...you are sitting on the porch of your home 20 years from now. Are you happy and deeply satisfied with the decisions that you made in your lifetime, particularly the last 20 years of conscious living? Do you smile with the sense of having achieved the things that mattered to you? Do your eyes and smile sparkle and resonate with the depth of a life lived close to your true authenticity?

We need to change the things in our lives that bring worry and resentment. Just like that. It is not easy. We become enslaved to the more superficial elements of life and we trade them for a life of truth and engagement. It is not easy to just step away from a gradually escalating search for stuff that began when we started working. This coincides with a gradual imperceptible separation from what truly mattered to us. Until we can no longer isolate what that was. It haunts us in midlife as a nagging feeling that something is missing.

What if you did step off from the things that age your body and wear on your mind. Those who have been there say that when you move into the space where you truly belong, all things come easy. All the things you feared do not happen. You do not become a bag lady. You do not wander the house in your slippers wondering how to fill your days. Stepping off brings to mind images of stepping into an abyss.

What if you found out that you have 5 years left? How about 1 year? Changes how you look at things. You think that life will not go by so fast and yet it does. And the plan you had to change how you spend your time has fallen by the wayside squelched by the paradox of the devil you know versus the devil you don't know.

There is a gradual physical toll of living a life far from the core of who you are. A daily wear and tear that comes from worry and fear and negative stress. As opposed to the positive stress of living boldly. Cells that are constantly regenerating in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety must be very different than the ones made in a nurturing spirit centred body.

We can make small daily changes but at some point I think there are leaps to be made and then small daily changes and then leaps. And so on. It is the fear of those leaps that makes us compromise repeatedly and settle for choices that do not make our heart sing. Scary leaps make for a bumpy ride but they also make the view from the porch resonate with the clarity of a life well lived.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Exit Stage Left!


I had a call from a business today. She had been at a party the evening prior and she loved loved loved the napkins! So much so that she wants to sell them in her business, a gallery, restaurant and decorating business. So she had gone online to look for it, as the web address is on each napkin.

When I was speaking to her she said that they had so much fun with the napkins that she was going to become my biggest fan. She reinforced the conversation inspiring value of the product and the magic of her unsolicited enthusiasm was invaluable to me. She just gave that rock the final push to get it to the top of the mountain. She seemed like a person I might like to know. Easy going, irreverent and funny. And in total admiration of the product.

She reinforces the value of what I have created and renews my own enthusiasm for the project. We are working on the next release of 5 more SKU's and of course running to a deadline. We are moving production back to the US and the product quality that they have is amazing. This next line is exciting, maybe more so than the first.

Interesting and possible right now that this line could be my employment and wouldn't that be neat. Puts some real accountability on me to keep the line fresh and growing and always introducing new lines and products. Never had the experience of being totally accountable and having my pay level dependent on that. I am used to working for someone else. This would be a nice way exit stage left.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For....


Our company grapevine has revealed that there are job losses in our division on the horizon. Interesting that I wax poetic about having a life that does not include the less desireable pieces of this job and yet when I find out I may be doing just that, I experience a deep anxiety. Change never was my thing...and yet any changes that have occurred in my life even the ones I had not planned for have resulted in a better life. So why not this one.

When I think about not having a job after a lifetime of working I picture myself aimlessly moving about the house. (I think I am even wearing slippers in that image and I do not even own slippers). My family has a lifestyle that counts on my pay check to cooperate. I wonder how I will describe who I am if I am not employed. I have two children who will be in University for 4 years. Those are all the negative thoughts. Got them out there. They are always the first ones to come to mind.

Chris Daughtry was right. "Be careful what you wish for...you might just get it all."

Here are the good thoughts to chase away the scary ones. I always have to work to see the brighter side although the dark side comes to me immediately. The business takes off. Already it generates adequate revenue that primarily goes to pay off the debt of beginning the company. Maybe there will be packages that will help out on this! Freedom to travel a little. If I have 20 years left I want to fill it with joy and new experiences. Maybe I can describe myself as a successful entrepreneur/adventurer someday. Liking that handle. Liking the idea of being mobile. Maybe I will have more time to get in shape and take those courses. These will add structure to my days and stop the slipper shuffling vision from becoming real. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Lists


I have not posted for a while. Life gets busy sometimes and you get so busy living it that you do not have time to write about it. Brings me back to the whole concept of being too busy to do the things that matter. If you made a list of all the things that fill your days and a list of all the things that are important to you, are there any items that overlap both lists. I hope so. But many days I don't think so. The ideal is to have both those lists looking similar but the more different the lists are, the less likely it is that you are living from the centre of your being.

It is definitely a process. Every day cannot be ideal. The idea is to move in the direction of your list of things that matter. Do one thing that matters to you every day. Every day. It is a start and it tends to be self propagating in the feelings of engagement that result. Creating an ideal life is hard work. Everything you have learned and experienced to date led you to this moment.

Remember the goal but remember that the journey is where we truly engage with our life. I had heard that so many times and in my exuberance to achieve thought it to be a little soft. But now I see it. The journey is the goal. We grow and change through our experiences. I want the business to thrive and survive but the effort to make that happen is where all the fun lies. And since I am learning not to be so future oriented it has allowed me to see that there is a journey and that there is growth and development along the way.

It goes back to a previous entry about letting life happen. You do all you can and then sit back and experience (not always enjoy) the journey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thought Stream


I was thinking while I was driving today. Spent 3 hours on the road listening to some jazz and thinking. I read a passage this morning while I drank my coffee and I spent time thinking about it. It was from a book called Fearless by Brenda Shoshanna. The 7 Principles of Peace of Mind. I want to review all 7 of her Principles but after I do, go get the book. It will make you feel fearless. And I will never do justice to just how great she is.

She calls Chapter 2 Letting Go of Attachment & Grasping. Even the title sounds desperate doesn't it. When I read the title I thought...I want to do that. She suggests that instead of finding change "thrilling & beautiful" we find it frightening and resist it. We hold on to the past in a desperate bid to keep our lives the same. We try to maintain the status quo and hold on to what is familiar to us. She does not just reiterate the same old stuff. Her thoughts are new and powerful and right on the mark.

She offers ways to work with our fear of change. Stay open to anything that comes into your day. Wanted or unwanted. Just open up and let it it. Watch it come and go. Hold on to nothing...just observe but let it flow by you. Easy to say. Tough to do. Not impossible. Just might take a little practice.

Some things that enter your life seem difficult and then turn out to be amazing after you work through them. Sometimes a gift in an awkward package. Some things that feel good turn out less than perfect. Reminds you not to evaluate but just to let life flow past. Funny that when you are able to let go a strange feeling of peace washes over you. A smile from deep inside. If only we could hold that thought and do that every day. Could be a game changer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Magical Outcomes


On the blog before last I talked about relaxing and not controlling outcomes. The business has had a huge breakthrough. We contacted several US companies to check out their interest in carrying the line. And then I actually practised what I preached. I let the outcomes happen. Some people we did not hear from, others were varying degrees of suitable but there was one that would have been perfect. Just let it happen. It was hard to do.

Here is the magic. Acting or not acting did not change the outcome. Just the obsessing. The outcome came exactly at the right time. The company that we deemed to be a perfect fit called and told us that they wanted to represent our line. The warehouse in the US has made it possible to ship from the US. We handle up front billing and inventory. The perfect scenario.

It will probably take us six months to roll out but the sales group covers about 40% of the US population. They seem like bright rational amiable people. Just like the Canadian group that works with us now. Just like our warehouse people who pack and ship for us. Just like our manufacturing contact in China. Lucky me.

Choices


I read somewhere that in order of priority, breath and choice are two of our most valuable treasures. The value of breath is obvious. Why would choice come so close on the list to a life sustaining biological function though? Choice directs our days, our thoughts, our lives. Wikipedia defines choice this way. "Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them." Sounds simple enough. Every moment is a choice. What colour socks to wear and in my younger son's case which two colours of socks to wear. To drive the highway or the backroads. To stop for coffee or get to the meeting on time. Endless choices each day. One after another. Driven to sameness by our tendency to make choices on autopilot. Reacting without thought, we float through our days.

We can choose to think positive. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to leave situations that do not feed our soul. Because by not choosing, you are still choosing. A profound thought, because when we do not choose to make a change, we are choosing to stay where we are. Spend a minute thinking about that in the context of what you want out of life. It is always easier to stay where you are. A funny thing that.

A friend showed me a cooking school in Tuscany today and it reminded me of the choices I am not making. My teenagers will always be my priority so when they are relatively independent I will need to make my choice to step off and go. I was reading about a woman who did make that choice and she said that there are great things and not so great things about the decision. I appreciated her honesty. But she does conclude that after five years of moving around she still is fulfilled by the experiences of trying new things. She says you are never so fully alive as when you are repeatedly experiencing new things, new foods and new places.

There is an entertaining blog about three women who leave their big New York ad agency jobs and travel the world. They too have no regrets. And a book to their credit.

Choices. We all make them. You make them every minute of the day. "Life is the sum of all your choices." ~Albert Camus

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How To Be Calm During the Storm


I love writing about fear. I just think it controls so much of who we are and what we do and say. A strange little undercurrent that wields tremendous power over who we become. Or not. Manifests itself in control, obsessions, conformity and other darker extremes. We may see them as just controlling our outcomes but regardless of what we call them, they are truly just fear masquerading as relatively socially acceptable forms of fear.

We are born wild and free. Then slowly we start to adjust our behaviors to avoid things that we learn to fear. This has a positive side in that it prevents us as children from climbing into a strangers car for instance. But on the other side, we learn to fear outcomes that never happen and maybe never will. We digest the fears of those around us and incorporate them into how we behave. We learn to fear the loss of love so we conform. We learn to control other people to achieve our desired outcomes. We get so good at it that eventually we no longer recognize who we are under all the layers of accomodation.

I am not a huge control person but I do manage outcomes through manipulating other's behavior. Subconciously. I think we all do. Even as toddlers we know intuitively how to do this. It gets more calculated as we get older but less transparent so that we do not even recognize it in ourselves. Fear of undesireable outcomes develops our skill at creating these desired outcomes through manipulating other people to help us to achieve our outcomes.

We want to be loved or liked so we withold an opinion that matters to us. We wish to be part of the group so we do what we might prefer not to do. Until eventually we become a little less than what we started out as. And after many years we can no longer uncover our essence. Fears and adaptive behaviors in so many layers that we cannot find ourselves underneath.

Try this next time before you respond. Notice your desire to gain a specific outcome from what is happening or what you are feeling. Now release the outcome and just be there. Let it happen. Hear what is said or feel your feelings without judgement. Flow with the current. Relax. Breathe.Smile. Know that whatever outcome is going to happen, will do so regardless of your desire to control it. Picture the difference between floating in a current and swimming against it and you understand why flow feels so much easier. Keep your brain quiet. No chatter. No words to add meaning or fault to an outcome. Silence.

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." Lao-Tzu. Kind of a cool feeling not to have to own every outcome.

Fear starts to slip away when you don't own the outcome. You see things as they are rather than through your filters of fear. Not being afraid liberates the person you are. Your gift to the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Introverts and Extraverts


Psychology Today has a great article called "Revenge of the Introverts". The author Laura Helgoe claims that 50% of the population are introverts. She makes the important distinction between shy people and introverts. They are not the same. I am not shy but consider myself an introvert. I can actually at times be outspoken but still consider myself an introvert.

Helgoe uses the example of two people at a dance standing on the sidelines. The shy person wishes they were not there but the introvert is totally happy to be there. Introverts prefer to be alone. She uses Beth Wheatley as an example. Beth runs as she chooses solitary exercise over team sports or gyms where groups of people gather to work out. She also opts out of after work social events. I share much in common with Beth.

I am by no means shy but I am definitely an introvert. I know it and Myers Briggs proved it. Helgoe speaks of the recovery time needed after a session with large groups of people. She says introverts need that time to digest events and information. I know that I just need it to keep going out there. Extroverts live for social interaction and introverts avoid it. I myself do not mind small groups of people, dinner parties for four or dinner out with a friend,
small groups of people I enjoy. And then some down time.

I wrote in an earlier blog about coping mechanisms that we develop to survive in an extroverted society. Helgoe speaks of our Western society as extremely extroverted but reveals that there are many societal groups where introversion is valued more. Compensatory behaviors help an introvert to function in a society where extroversion is valued.

Introverts tend to be self critical as the area of the brain that controls speech is active during the recovery periods and Helgoe attributes that to inner conversations which occur to resolve and digest issues and information.

"Introverts and extraverts report a mood boost from the company of others. For introverts however the boost may come at a cost." When I need downtime I need to just go. Middle of a seminar. Party. Need to remove myself. I do not consciously spend time digesting or assimilating information...I just need time alone.

It works for me. As I get older I enjoy more time alone. I have a multitde of friends in the wings whom I see individually. I steer clear of company functions and am usually busy on party nights.

Cool article. Nice to validate what I know to be true in my life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things that Nourish You


That elusive real self seems to peek out at me at certain moments in my life. It is in those moments that I recognize my authentic self. Stripped away is the self that has been built to respond to the world. Magic moments.

I sat to list the things that made me feel the most rooted and/or the most nourished.Here they are in no particular order.

1. Reading a bestseller curled up in an armchair by the fire on a rainy day.
2. Walking my dog on a black velvet summer night and catching a glimpse of a silent starry night.
3. Creating an amazing meal slowly and without obligation.
4. Having my first cup of coffee in the morning.
5. Driving with the roof down on a summer night and listening to Brad Barker's Dinner Jazz.
6. Running through the park downtown with my IPOD.
7. Shopping at the market on Saturday morning. The busker's music and the colour and the freshness of all the stalls.
8. Reading travel magazines and business books at Chapters.
9. Drinking an amazing Australian Shiraz pretty much anywhere.
10. Hanging out with my boys and chatting after a night out.

These things put me in a peaceful place. Make your list and try to put more of these moments into your life. These are the moments when you recognize the person you are becoming.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Semi Conscious



Robin Sharma speaks of conscious living. Leaving the crowd behind and living consciously. A person I know asked me why do I have the need to make all these changes in my life. He said lots of people live in the same house and do the same things for the rest of their lives and they are happy. It made me question myself too. Why can I not just be happy and be where I am. Why this nagging need to carve out a new place. I wonder about that too. That person made me doubt my own thoughts.



Are these people happy or unconsciously living out their time here? Failing to be truly alive means we missed a chance to live at the top of our game. And we missed the chance to learn and grow. To become the person we are meant to become. Robin Sharma calls it "playing small" with our lives. Mediocrity. Safety. Small.



Living semi consciously now. I feel the excitement of the next phase but I am not there yet. Viewing it as a journey makes it okay. When the clouds break I can see the stars in the distance and that reminds me that I am patiently moving along the path. It is during the journey that we grow not in the actual attainment of the goal.



A Jonathan Livingston Seagull moment. That book was first published in 1970. About a seagull who tires of the mediocrity of life and with great effort moves to a higher plane of his existence. Serendipitous discoveries.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Braces, Botox and Batwings


Finally decided to straighten out my teeth that have become more displaced as I age. The orthodontist said that the distance between your canine teeth actually gets shorter as you age and your jaw changes. This change is more pronounced on your lower jaw but happens to both top and bottom. That explains why my teeth were once straight and perfect and now are folding over each other. The braces make me feel narcissistic at my age as they have always been a teenage affliction. But the orthodontist said that 25% of his practice is now adults. 14 month commitment.

The frown line may be next. I fear Botox or it's equivalences as foreign substances in a body that needs simplicity now. But as the frown line starts to resemble a chasm between my eyes it makes me consider the possibility. Then I go back to the concept of your face reflecting your experiences in life and that there is a wisdom in the lines we carry. I am not disturbed by the other lines and wrinkles only this one as it implies a stern, angry, unhappy person and I am none of those things.

Another obvious sign of aging is the appearance of batwings. Mine are small but I see them. Despite an enjoyable, vigourous exercise program of aerobics and weights, I still have batwings. I recall seeing a video of Madonna waving from the top of the steps to an airplane and even she had bat wings. She has trainers, money and time and her body is her marketing tool and yet she still had batwings. Let's you forgive and adapt to the changes that overtake your best intentions.

How funny life is that at the time when our minds become the clearest our bodies become less useful. Maybe one is a prerequisite for the other. Maybe in order to acquire the wisdom of a life view, we need to lose the vehicle that has been our biological tool that has propelled us forward to date. Nice that it happens in little pieces and not all at once. Profound that as younger people dismiss us as "older people", we have this invisible wisdom that feels victorious and requires no recognition. We strive to be recognized if we remain propelled by our teenage ego. But when our esoterical wisdom clicks in the ego is dispelled and loses it's power to direct our lives.

We never fully conquer our ego, so the existence of braces and Botox and exercise allow us to improve this human shell in which our developed mind resides.

The Breaking Point



Susan Shellenbarger's book The Breaking Point is an amazing book! She writes about women in midlife and illuminates the different paths that each women takes to design her new life. She reflects back to me the very things I am struggling with and organizes and validates them. Reduces some of the confusion. It is full of stories from women who walked before me on this path.



It also opened the conversation with my mother on her experience. Her experience may have been less explosive as I think that 30 years ago it was not mainstream enough create massive change at midlife. So they quietly went about pursuing their new goals. It did not change their feelings about that time. They still analyzed their life choices and made new ones. But our sense of entitlement has grown since then and our financial and social independence also gives us more freedom to explore our options in a more expansive way.



I think I have been in a mild state of dissatisfaction for maybe 5 years now. Then it became a focal point for the last 2 years. The true momentum has only gathered steam in the last 2 or 3 months when I realize there are ways to finance the change, precipitated also by the fact that my employment may be unstable so my future is at risk. And that it is okay.



My passage seems slower than the women in Shellenbarger's book but there is really no fixed time frame on this experience. Perhaps there is an element of safety once again in how I go about this. There is also the need to fully experience my children and not disrupt their lives in order to change mine. It is an opportunity to sketch out the next 30 years and then as time goes on to add colour and dimension to those sketches. There is a sense that life should not just happen but that I can orchestrate how it unravels! To a certain extent. (Not everything is within my control.)



I have one teen at home now. The other is gone to University. They have been my reason to be. And now they go forward to create their own lives. The second child's departure, coincidentally (I think not)occurs in the same year as my 55th birthday. Thus the 5 year plan ending at my 55th birthday. It aches to have my older son move on so I know it will be traumatic to watch my second move on.



If I stay in the same container life could be lonely and feel like the pieces are missing. If I start to move new pieces in place now, they will sweep me away when the time comes to say goodbye. I recall going off to University and out West when I was a teen and thinking of nothing except what was ahead. I know my sons are also experiencing that. I need to create a similar forward looking excitement in my own life. And why not. Thirty years ahead. I have so many great ideas!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Discontent



Discontent is a sign of awakening. The awakening of things long buried that struggle to the surface of your reality. We need not fear this time, as discontent, while being uncomfortable, is our guide. Pointing out the way. Rustlings of priorities long since buried by responsibilites and accountabilities of being an adult. Why do we wait this long to follow our bliss? Maybe we followed our bliss and now the bliss has changed.



Discontent. When you feel it, it is hard to view it as good. You get this urge to bury it again because it feels awkward and hard to deal with. If we let it surface and sit and analyze the things that we are discontented with maybe it will create a positive momentum. Like if you do not deal with a problem, it seems to get bigger. Maybe if we do not let out our vague feelings of discontent and look at them in the sunlight, then we cannot deal with them and they rumble vaguely as a constant unidentified irritant.



So discontent is positive? Need to repeat that one a few times to really believe. But I see the potential in believing so I will work on this one.

Midlife Defined


I cannot recall who said this line but it is the most perfect definition of midlife that I have seen. Midlife is the time when you no longer look at how old you are but instead you count the years you have left. Up until now, I had never thought of how many years I had left. Now it is how I view my life.

When you think of how many years you have left and then feel your power to fill those years with content of your own choosing, it is quite exhilarating and intimidating at the same time.

I can all of a sudden identify women in my life who have moved through this experience at different ages. One friend left a high paying job, climbed Kilimanjaro and then went to school for her PhD. Another friend went to the Philippines and when she returned she left her husband and is now considering other changes in her life.

Women want changes that matter. It is not a new man or a new car that satisfies our deepest longings but rather the things that feel right, satisfy our need for authenticity and the things that touch our heart songs.

I did an exercise with a coach once and she asked to me list 30 personal qualities that were important to me. I listed 8 and could not think of anymore. When we spoke she encouraged me to extend the list. I did get to 30 eventually and then she asked me to choose the 3-4 that were most important to me. Then, ironically, I had trouble shortening the list to 4. Here is what I ended up with:

Personal Power defined as strength, belief in myself, clarity.

Authenticity defined as friendship, trust and being my authentic self.

Continuous Learning defined as Knowledge, Achievement and Trying New Things.

Freedom defined as Adventure, Choice and Variety.


At any point in our lives that list will change and grow and some choices that did not make the final list will now move up the list. Try to create your list of 30 things and you will see how interesting and difficult it is. And then shorten it. It is a great exercise in clarity. Your list will also point you in the right direction as you evaluate your ideas against the things that matter most to you.

A Bona Fide Midlife Crisis!



For all of you who have been reading my blog each time I publish, I ask you this...has anyone noticed that this indeed is a bona fide midlife crisis in my life?



Here is how Cathy Meyer at about.com describes the symptoms of a midlife crisis.



Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided you with happiness for many years.



Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to you before.



Feeling a need for adventure and change.



Questioning the choices, you have made in your life and the validity of decisions made years before.



Confusion about who you are and where you are going.



Anger at your spouse and blame for feeling tied down.



Unable to make decisions about where they want to go with their life.




A few of these may apply given the content of my previous blogs. How about that. I am a typical person experiencing a midlife crisis. I wanted to view this time as something so much more positive than that.



I am experiencing my midlife crisis but I prefer to look at it as a midlife quest. A quest for new directions and things that matter. All the writings on the subject indicate that it is, despite it's trite handle, a redefining, reinventing stage of our lives and that we need to be patient and let the experience unravel as it should. There is a peaceful knowing in that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

That Goal Beyond the Goal...


I realize that the goal beyond the goal is what keeps me working on the business. The business is great fun. Sometimes challenging. Sometimes hard work. Always rewarding. The immediate goal is to breathe life into the business I am working on.

But the primary goal is to gain freedom in my life to do the things that create happiness and harmony in my days. Early Retirement. Maybe. That is the big goal. The rest of it is the means to the end. The means to the end must create pleasure or it is in opposition to the primary goal. The business will be part of my early retirement and it will hopefully fund a part of it. So I need to like it.

The goal beyond the goal is what keeps me executing step by step for the business to go forward. Not a bad motivator. Whenever I wonder why I working on this, I flash forward to the place I am creating for the future. Need to focus on the parts that move me forward. Sometimes in the busy-ness of getting all the little things done we push aside the things that really matter.

"How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I'm committed to?" Anthony Robbins.

Need to have a plan for what tomorrow looks like. Otherwise it will look frighteningly similar to today. (Not awful just uninspiring)Then I need to add to the list, the things that move me toward that plan.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5 Year Plan Update


At the halfway point of my five year plan. Time to check in on my progress to date. My five year plan put me in a place where I can have the freedom to fill my days with my choices. To travel, to sit and be, to have time and experiences that excite me. To add more authenticity to my life. So how am I doing?

The answer is that very little on the outside has changed since I set the initial goal. That is to an outsider looking in, I am still doing what I have always done. I am still enjoying my time with my children immensely. The days with them here become fewer and fewer so I value that time more and more. I still work my same job although I have cut back on my client list so that I can have time to explore alternative directions.

The biggest thing that has changed since the inception of the five year plan, is that I believe that I can change the quality of my days. I was not sure I could and now I am sure. Most days. I have slowed my pace significantly spending time with only those people who make my heart sing. Reduced the social whirlwind by saying no. I exercise every day for about an hour and a half a day and I miss it on the days when I cannot fit it in. I am making headway on the business, that although it is still on life support, is showing positive signs.There is no travel or cause related activity in my life yet. But I still have two and a half years left of my timeline. To make more changes.

My intent is not to make changes that are visible to others but to make changes that are meaningful in my life. Helps to keep that in sight. I am intensely motivated by setting goals and creating change for the better. When I have no goals life takes on a feeling of mediocrity that is not awful but not inspiring. I like to feel inspired.

Leo Tolstoy says that "True life is lived when tiny choices are made. Tiny choices mean tiny changes. But it is only with infinitesimal change, changes so small no one else even realizes you're making them, that you have any hope for transformation."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If Today Was Your Last Day


I was running yesterday and listening to Nickelback on my headset. "If Today was Your Last Day". Cool lyrics from a young person.

"My best friend gave me the best advice,
he said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned
Leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day
Tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday..
Would you live each moment like your last
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have
If today was your last day

Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts cause there's no second try
So live like you're never living twice
Don't take the free ride with your whole life...."

My first thought while hearing these lyrics was "how does a kid with very little experience come up with this stuff?" Mick Jagger was 20 something when he wrote "you can't always get what you want...but if you try sometime you just might find...you get what you need." Tortured artists who mature quicker than the rest of us? Pretty impressive to be young and see life as it is.

Second thought. If today was my last day what would I do? Although I love to run, I probably would not run if it was my last day. I would spend the day drinking wine with friends and eating all kinds of amazing, inspired foods. I would also have some Baskin & Robbins world class chocolate ice cream. And then I would want to give my money away to places that mattered to me. That is all I would want to do. 24 hours with the people that matter most. (If it was my last month or year I would definitely travel.)

Third thought. The list of things you would and would not do if you had 24 hours left are not really conducive to what is needed for a long life. We need to work and exercise and eat moderately and do some things that we prefer not to do. If I ate and drank and hung out with friends to the exclusion of all else, I would definitely not have a long life.

So although Chad has great and profound sentiment in his song we need to live with a balance of both long term plans, mixed with that last day, quality of experiences.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Madonna on Letterman


Madonna was on Letterman last night. Dave asked her if motherhood stood out as the greatest accomplishment on her list. Madonna hesitated then said, and I am paraphrasing as I cannot recall her exact words. I guess the socially acceptable answer to that question is yes. Always honest. Always controversial.

She risked being viewed as a 'bad' mother by not immediately gushing out a yes to that question. But I do not think she really cared. She loves and cares for her children, maybe excessively like the rest of us. But is it her greatest accomplishment? That is a tough list to top for Madonna.

She highlighted that motherhood is right up there on the list but that at any given time it may not be her number 1 accomplishment. We evaluate ourselves on so many different levels and so finding number 1 is a bit of of a nebulous exercise. Our children may challenge us so that at any given time the experience is not our list topper. In the end like Madonna if we love them intensely and care for their needs then there need not be a hierarchal list of accomplishments. There is no list. Dave was wrong.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Free Hugs

A good friend sent me this and I thought it worth watching. Enjoy.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Symbols of Freedom


Yesterday I bought a new car. I have never been a car person. For the most part if the car starts when I turn the key, I am okay with whatever I am driving. This car was different. It is the car I have admired from afar with no real intentions of ever having one. Just looking.

It is a convertible. Somewhat symbolic in the sequence of cars that have passed through my life...various vans and larger cars with room for hockey bags, knapsacks,luggage and golf clubs for my children and their large varied group of friends whom I have driven around in the last 20 years. On the new car, when the hood is down there is no room in the trunk for my purse (bit of exaggeration but you get the idea).

The car is about how it feels, not how it looks. (Although I did analyze my reasoning on this before buying the car.) I think I am about how it feels and how it fits with my quest for personal freedom. Freedom from being who I should be. Freedom from expectations. Freedom from financial obligations. Freedom from work that pays the bills but does not feed my soul.

When I look at my life, it is so great in so many ways. Maybe this dissatisfaction with a satisfying life is a catalyst to rocket me to the new place that represents the next stage in my development. Van Breathnach thinks the world sees behaviors such as this as a midlife crisis of sorts. She says that it is not a midlife crisis but rather a precursor to creating a new life that fits with the person who you have become. We created a life when we were young that suited who we were then. And we are still living it now even though we have become someone else. So it doesn't fit anymore and therein lies the source of our dissatisfaction.

What fun it is to create the new life. Consciously evaluating all the things that make your heart sing! Then slowly but surely making those things a part of my life. Then to work the financial side of it to support the lifestyle I am creating.

Here's to symbols of freedom! They make you able to see and touch a part of the nebulous cloud that you are moving towards.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pushing Against Myself


I went to the Canadian Open today. I was not planning to. The tickets were available and there was no one to take them. I woke up this morning and looked at the drive and the whole day and felt like I did not want to go. It seemed to be too much trouble. But I went.

I had the best time! I saw new things that I had not experienced. I had a great time with my teenage son. Fits right in with my goal of experiencing new things. I was outdoors all day on a sunny, warm day. It was truly unbeatable.

But I want to go back and analyze my distinct reticence about going. Trying new things brings out a strange resistance in me. An actual feeling of not wanting to go. Looking for reasons why I shouldn't. Thinking of the chaos of the large group of people. Parking. Highway driving. Easier to stay home. I thought of all the reasons it would not make sense to go. Where does that resistance come from?

New memo to self. Watch and conquer this resistance. It keeps me where I am and inhibits my plan to experience new things. Interesting how I can be my own foil. Helps to be honest with yourself about how you behave. It lets you face your demons and realize they are not frightening at all!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happiness and Joy


A fascinating distinction between the definition of two words that on first blush seem synonymous. Happiness and joy would seem to be minor variations of feeling good.

Look deeper and read the book "Something More" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She defines Happiness as a feeling often "triggered by an external event. You got the job, he loved you back, you were approved for your mortgage application." Events that happen as you hoped they would. You asked for something and you got it and now you are feeling happiness.

Although Joy seems like simply a heavenly permutation of happiness it is more. Simply stated, "Joy is the absence of fear." No matter what outcome you achieve from your efforts, you recognize that that outcome is the right one. If you did not get the result that you were hoping to get, there is a new and better result awaiting you. "Something better, something richer, something deeper". A profound acceptance of what is.

The absence of fear is a profound state of joy. No longer do you fear losing your job, losing all your money, having your children move away. When you reach that state of acceptance of what is and see each change as an opportunity to take a new path, there is no longer fear. When fear goes, joy rushes in to fill the space.

Fear reflects our resistance to change. And the fact that we like to control our outcomes. This goes back to a previous blog entry on finding the middle ground between managing your outcomes and letting life happen as it should. We want what we want. And sometimes we do not get it. Look forward, not back when this happens. There is more waiting for you. Looking back is about control, regret, unhappiness. A negative spiral of inactivity.

I am able to achieve this joy in rare enviable moments and these brief moments inspire me to reach for a longer extended version of that joy. It is like eating chocolate. It just feels good. I want more.

Photo compliments of http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Romania/East/Brasov/Piatra_Craiului/photo440669.htm

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Trying New Things


I was reading 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference. Part of the plan now. From tagging marine life to teaching English on a short term basis to spending a month on a archeological dig, it provides an endless source of intriguing ways to spend your time after work. And make a difference. No long term commitment. You work 2-3 weeks on a project. You can return to a site anytime if there is one that excites you. They are landed costs only so no airline ticket is included. They involve travel all over the world. Some of them are expensive and some are free. Most of them cost something but there are some free opportunities as well.

There is an airline ticket on a separate site that costs between $6000-8000 and you can travel around the world for a year with this ticket. There is a neat app on the site that lets you map out your route. You choose your route and destinations and that is it. Go to airtreks.com to explore the routes you can take and feed your imagination with the possiblities. The very act of planning a route makes you realize how big the world is and how much there is to experience. And, as an aside how little time.

Teach swimming to children in Fiji. (Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of death in young people in Fiji?) Caring for baby elephants in Sri Lanka. Definitely fits with my goal of trying new things. But not too dangerous. I have no desire to be, say, on a war front as a journalist. But I do crave new experiences. I prefer to be immersed in a culture rather than being a tourist and that is what these programs will do. You work alongside the people who live there and they train you with any skills they would like you to have.

I am going to build a dozen of these experiences into my early retirement plan. Who knows? I may love it enough to continue on year after year until I cannot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Zen


I was reading Robin Sharma today. I like his stuff. I always find a piece of something that I can use. Here is the one for today. (I have paraphrased his thoughts. I hope I do him justice) Life is a delicate balance between making things happen and letting things happen. Too much of either side is not desirable. On one side you seek to control your outcomes too much. On the other you just let life carry you in the current.

Robin says that "Life will always lead you to a better place". If things do not work out the way you had hoped, after you have given it your all, then sit back and let whatever is happening, just happen. Harder to do than it sounds when you have a vested interest in your outcome. That second click is the sound of a door opening to a new path. "Because every ending ushers in a brand-new beginning". I love that thought. The idea to trust that life really is going to work out is pretty phenomenal. The proof is that as I look back on my life, the outcomes that I thought I did not want led me to a good place.

Try to apply this thinking when something in life does not go the way you had planned. It is tough but if you do it you will find yourself in a place of relaxation and peace. That lets you see the next possibility and lets you hear that little second click as the new path is illuminated. Results in a sort of que sera feeling. You trust that this outcome did not happen as you had planned but that there is a new adventure waiting just ahead. Great way to view life. One adventure after another. What should I choose to do next.

Creating a new path lets you look forward instead of wishing for what was. Sometimes what was, was not all that great in retrospect. Kind of the devil you know though. If we take away one thought from this, it is to trust that it will all work out. Zen.

From Robin Sharma "The Greatness Guide"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pre-Magnificence


There is a line in the movie "The Natural" that is significant. "I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with, and the life we live after that." How profound. This life to date has been all about learning how to live. Now we get to do it! What fun that predicts for the future. If I have 20 years or so left...what do I still need to see. Like being in Rome and you only have a week left. What are the things you still need to see before you go home.

In the book "Something More" Sarah Ban Breathnach calls the restlessness before we grow, our premagnificent stage. The restless time right before we break out into our second life. The time when we look at our lives and they are not so bad but now we want something more. More what? I don't know.It is funny to look at how much I have, how positive my life is and wonder why I want to shake it up. She gives you permission to say it is okay to want more and okay to feel discontent. If between now and this day 2011, we did one new thing each day what would our world look like then? Definitely different. 365 new choices...1 each day. Sounds like fun!

Breathnach also speaks of Divine Discontent. "Discontent and disorder are signs of energy and hope, not despair." She speaks of feeling exposed and fragile. This is the turmoil that you feel in your premagnificent stage. If you view this turmoil as the time before your big breakout then it seems like a positive thing. Neat way to view it. About to launch Book 2. Book 1 was very good. I am looking for some unique new experiences in Book 2.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Goal


I am away at the cottage for some much needed R&R. Good friends. Good food. Good wine. Shared a great wine with friends last night. A 2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel. The sum of the wine, the food, the friends equalled an amazing night last night. It was one of those moments when it all came together. Those are special moments. Friends from 40 years ago. Still friends. Lucky us.

This is a great break from the business stress and pressure. But it does not stop while I am away. Still making arrangements with our packer from the US. The product in its finished form will be shipping next week. That also means some welcome influx of cash. My sales manager is prepping the shipments. We are a bonified business. My new goal is to achieve 500 new accounts. That will create a great pull on the inventory and a reasonable offset to the debt the company has incurred to date. I am going to meet with my sales manager when I return to share the new goal with her. 500 accounts. We currently have about 160 accounts so it is not unachievable depending on the sales group choices to remain with us or leave us when the contract expires. Either way we go forward to our 500 goal. Lofty but not impossible. I put it in writing and shared it with the world so it makes it that much more powerful.

Setting a goal in that way makes everything you do need to point in that direction. Each action needs to move us closer to the goal. We need to ask...does that action get us another store or stores? If not we need to move forward on actions that do. Already I am feeling pulled in the right direction. My enthusiasm and momentum are focused on that goal. 500. It's out there.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seeing The Future


I have reached a peaceful place with the cost I have incurred to getting the business going. They used to shock me to have risked our long term security to this extent. Not anymore. Somewhere in my mind I have dealt with it, processed it and then accepted it. Now to keep working on offsetting that number with product sales.

Interesting how a state of anxiety can suddenly let up. There are no choices to make, no more money to be spent...just sales to create. The task is clear. Interesting after the turmoil to have arrived in this place. I can do this. On some days I think I cannot do this but today I know I can. One foot in front of the other. The fun comes back now too. it was obliterated by the worry. Now once again I see the goals ahead of what I hoped this could be. Once again I remind myself that there are strange little success stories based on products that are not nearly as functional as the one we make.

This is the place where lots of people can easily see the sense in abandoning the task. It is quitting within 3 steps of the goal without actually knowing how close you were. It is when you look back and view the way it was and see how simple it was and then you ask yourself what you are doing on this road. I know why I am on this road so the bumps are just part of the scenery. The progress is slow but still in the right direction. Retailers are buying the product and then reordering. Sales people are excited to sell the line. All the indicators are good. A crystal ball would be nice right about now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crisis? What Crisis?

A favorite speaker says that every person is always in one of the following situations. Either we are about to enter a crisis in our lives, or we are in the middle of a crisis or we have recently emerged from a crisis. Sad but quite possibly true. It makes life a series of coping steps that we take to deal with each crisis as we enter it. Those who have coping ability survive their crises and emerge with new talents and strengths.

Therefore the problem only comes when we expect life to be completely smooth. If we expect a series of crises in our lives then it becomes a simple exercise in coping with each as they come. Maybe if we viewed it this way, it would feel normal and peaceful to move from crisis to crisis. Peaceful and steady. Sounds a little fatalistic doesn't it? But not really. I am hopelessly optimistic. But I still think the crisis theory is solid. Crises only become critical and frightening if we don't expect them to happen. Takes all the fear from the crisis when you know it is coming.

And if crises represent growth opportunities then bring them on....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Captain is Expecting Turbulence


I am listening to Brian Tracey on my IPOD and he likens starting any new project to the takeoff in an airplane. He says we always experience turbulence when we take off. As an ex flight attendant, I know the exact time when that turbulence begins. The pilot makes an announcement that we should stay buckled in as we are expecting turbulence. The air currents from the ground create turbulence and going through the cloud layer creates turbulence. So we always expect turbulence after takeoff.

So I took off. And now I am experiencing turbulence. The sales group that we were contracted to work with has cancelled the contract as they themselves are under siege by competition. They have decided they need to focus on their own company's survival.

That leaves us with 60,000 units and no sales force. Hmmm...my first reaction was shock, fear and anxiety. I have since switched to coping mode. If you read my earlier blogs you saw the one that spoke of making a list of ten solutions to the problem. Then try one of the solutions. Try another if that one does not work and keep going until the problem is solved. I had to leave for a conference so I chose not to think about this for those two days. I would make my list of solutions on my return.

My sales manager however did act and she blasted us out of our dilemma in a big way. She went direct to the individuals in the sales group and found out they were loving the product. They were very enthusiastic and optimistic about its' potential. They are independent reps and thus are able to choose to stay with the line or not, even if the company who contracted with us no longer is on board. She also emailed a large chain(which I think should definitely carry the line) with the information about the line and they responded back with who we should contact to follow up. All in a good days work and now we are back on track. We can still build our rep group ourselves or we can go back to a napkin distributor and work through him.

The orders are coming in. 30 new stores now plus the original 20 and we are making progress. Just another issue to solve instead of shock, fear and anxiety. All the credit goes to my sales manager for turning this mountain into a bump!

All just post takeoff turbulence. We will break through the clouds any day now.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life on My Terms


My younger son just started his first job. He did not want to work to get a job but I pushed him by reducing the funding of his social life. He has a great job now and he is having a great time on the job. He has met new people and been successful at things that he did not know were out there. He moves from job to school to social life to chores and stays organized and gets it all done. All good things.

I should be excited and happy about this new independent person emerging. Instead I suddenly see the point where we start to upload obligations and accountability that now weigh heavily on us in our later lives. Maybe it is part of a whole evolution of growing up and growing older. You learn to manage the obligations and the related skills that come with those obligations. Then when these same obligations that taught us so much start to weigh heavily on us, we seek to shed them but still retain the skills that came with that stage. Is there a way to live freely throughout our entire evolution or is this a necessary growth stage?

We learn to spend our time achieving goals and doing the 'right'things. We stop listening to our heart. Our definition of what is 'right' gets narrower as we age too. What if we did the wrong things? What if we travelled the world and did not get a job. What if we followed our heart and did all the things that made out hearts sing when we are young. Is that failure? Who decides what is the right path and what is the wrong path. We look at and admire those who follow their own path and reach their definition of success. Yet we seek conformity and encourage conformity in our children.

Before I do things that scare me, I always wonder why did I book this or commit to this? After I do them, I know exactly why. If I can overcome the awkwardness of the beginning...when I do not know what to expect, then I can move on through with confidence. Need to accept that place where nothing is familiar and trust myself when I doubt.

For my next twenty years I want to live a modified Richard Branson version of my life. A little adventure, a lot of unique experiences. My crowning glory of a life on my terms. And maybe I will return to the sameness of the now and it will be the right place for me. When I die I do not want to look back at an unlived life of mediocrity and safety. A life where I did all the right things but missed all the rights things for me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elusive Illusions


Last year I made a commitment to Try New Things. I even named my Twitter account Try New Things! So 18 months later...did I try new things? Yes and no. At first I would make sure to try something new every day. I would plan a new thing to do every day. A new recipe, a new wine, a new route to work, a new sport. The goal was to shake up my world a little and change the way I saw that world.

Then life got in way and at the end of each day I would look back and review the day hoping I could find one thing new that I did that day. Then I would rationalize small events to suggest that I had done them differently and therefore I had done something new. The task of explaining it all to myself became the exercise. Instead of the renewed excitement I experienced when I actually did do something new.

Starting the business became a huge challenge and every step of the way I was trying something new. Bringing the product in from China was one challenge after another and although I enjoyed the learning, I was in over my head and I could not truly feel that simple joy of trying new things. Now we are learning new software, working with the hand collating plant and learning how to work with a new sales force. So every day there really is something new to learn and we learn as we go. It turns out there are many people who are willing to help or offer expertise just when I think I have reached an impasse. And so we move forward every day. Brian Tracy says that persistence is when you keep going after the shine of the new idea wears off. This is definitely that.

So maybe I am trying new things every day. They are small one foot in front of the other steps towards creating and selling the product. A friend told me I was one of the 10 most amazing people she knows. I am humbled by that compliment. I am ordinary but mighty. She made me stand a little taller. I saw myself in a different light. The light of an observer who does not see the anxieties and fears of my undertaking. It makes me realize that it is true that those who do, do so despite their fears.

The samples arrived from China today and I was struck by just how amazing it looked. For a moment I was back in the shiny new idea place. It reinforced the idea in my mind and let me see the big picture again.

Click on the image to watch the illusion!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Try New Things


It is interesting that when we try new things it encourages us to try more new things. It gains a momentum all it's own. That first step out of the inertia of your comfort zone/anti-anxiety zone is the one that seems the hardest to take. Schedule it. Define it. Then do it at the specified time. I am going to do ____ (small goal) by _____ .(date)It is that simple.

I had fallen off my fitness schedule. In all his innocence my teenage son said why don't you just go to the gym. Hmmmmm. My mind was full of reasons but none of them strong enough to counter my son's inadvertent wisdom. I said to him I will go tomorrow and he said tomorrow you will have this social event(he named it) get in the way. You want to be strong for the summer he said. He is right on all counts. I went to the gym.

The first step behind you. The next one invites you. Now that you are out of your comfort zone that second step seems not as hard as the first. Your comfort zone has readjusted it's perimeter to become a larger circle. The first step accomplished invigorates you to look for step two. To set the second day and make it happen. Day by day your small achievements sum to an increasingly larger achievement. When you are successful it breeds a confidence that encourages you to push your limits in other areas of you life. Yesterday I blogged about achieving a state of happy because you are growing. Whenever you are melancholy choose a growth goal and take one step on the path to that goal. Define the second step and take it and pretty soon you are loping along a new and intriguing path towards a new you.

Every day I try something new. A new item in an old restaurant, a new wine from a new country, a new newspaper instead of my regular one, a new path on my regular running route. I talk to someone I would have never spoken to in my normal place. I download a new app and give it a try. A new shop that I have never been to. A book by an author I have never read. Once a month I try something bigger. I go to a wall climbing gym and take a quick lesson and climb the wall. I get the local college or recreation listings and take a course in an area that has interest to me. I read an old classic novel. I try a new foreign looking piece of equipment at the gym. I intuitively steer clear of the pieces of eqipment I do not know for fear of looking silly as I learn. Trying new equipment at the gym is another great analogy for life. Intermittent failure and looking silly are the price of growth.

The new experience creates an aha moment where we experience the world differently. Our sense of adventure, that fades as we age, needs to be rejuvenated. One new thing every day. As we try on new things our sense of adventure returns and those new things get bigger in scope. So does your comfort zone.

Credit where credit is due. Click on the picture to read the poem. It will inspire you and make you realize that you are not alone. This amazing poem was written by http://www.voiceoveruniverse.com/notes/Comfort_Zone Go to his blog.

Happiness


William Butler Yeats wrote that "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." This is one of those succinct moments when you read or hear a thing and it pulls all the pieces of your puzzle into a full picture. How a simple phrase can reignite your passion. It makes me understand why despite having all that I have that I still feel like I am searching. It also reveals that happiness is not a point in time but instead is an everchanging state of being. It unwinds the complexity of the search for happiness. In all the times when I am least satisfied I can see that those are the times of the least growth.

Imagine all the different areas in which we can experience growth. We do not grow in all areas at the same time. A friend of mine, a single mom just moved in with her long time boyfriend. She is growing in the area of relatonships. Another friend watches her second child go off to University and needs to develop a new agenda. She is growing to define what pleases her now. She is developing a new agenda for her life. Another friend has started a business and left her job behind. She is growing in the emotional parts of her inner self that encourage self reliance and confidence. In all these instances, the early chaos gives way to a peaceful retrospective of what has occurred and how we have grown. It is only in glancing back that we can see that the chaos and emotion was a necessary prerequisite to this new plateau.

We do not need to grow in all areas at once. One area is enough. Two can be stimulating. When we grow in many areas at the same time the chaos is overwhelming. Sometimes life events force change. Then we grow in many ways at the same time. The unbearable tumult gives way to a new day with new skills and new strengths haphazardly acquired but valuable nonetheless.

Real life is a tennis volley back and forth between the search for safety and our need to grow. When we settle into our safe place our dissatisfactions gradually rise to where we break out in one area of our lives and seek growth. Small puddle jumps let us try on change but do not induce the heart pounding chaos that inspires true growth. The real growth comes when we abandon our safety net and leap across the unknown abyss. The abyss jumping extreme sport is not for the faint of heart!

At other times we retreat into the no growth zone and wallow in a melancholy from which we cannot break free. We fall into a place where we are recognizably dissatisfied but not confident enough to catapult ourselves into change. It is a strange unhappy place, safe because of it's familiarity but dangerous for the very same reasons.

When you risk your safe place for new growth you create a happiness quotient that far exceeds the inputs. Not ground breaking to repeat that we need growth to be happy but the reminder can shake you out of your safe place and encourage you to try something new. So long ago spoken, Yeats words still live. How profound.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sporting Life 10 km


I ran a 10km run down Yonge Street in Toronto this morning. Both my teenage sons joined me. It is a regular annual event that we run every spring and it always challenges me. I love it because it is a family event that we share amidst the madness of running around pursuing our own schedules. I love to share the event with my boys and their different friends who choose to join us each year.

A friend and her boys run it with us and it was interesting to see that over the years she and I help each other along. She was not strong this year and I found it interesting that I missed her strength moving me forward, but found my own strength to finish with a respectable time. It was an interesting analogy to real life as some years she is leading and encouraging and other years I am. Just depends on who is at a point of strength at that time. I waited for her to cross the finish line. My time did not matter. We are a team. It is what women do.

I looked around at all the people...I think there were 14,000 runners. All shapes and sizes and ages. All running for their own reasons. There was a man lying on the road at the 7km mark and they were doing CPR on him and I teared up at the thought of his family waiting at the finish line. I was struck by the fragility of being human. It made me look at all the runners with a new appreciation. It made me appreciate the strength of my own physical self. Life is fragile. I want to wake up every day and feel my power and my peace.

I want to enjoy this physical shell that is so intricately connected to the spirit that resides in it. How great it feels to push beyond my limits! How it feeds my body and mind to do that. It makes you accept your human-ness with all it's flaws and limitations and appreciate the strengths that have been dealt to you. Thank you Sporting Life!
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