Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ghost, Monsters and Demons! Oh My!

Halloween is a strange holdiay to me - a celebration of death and fear. I know there is a long history of how and why it came to be, but to me, it's still strange. It's easy to put a life coachy spin on some of the other holidays, but Halloween was challenging for me. Then it hit me, while some choose to dress up as ghosts and monsters, many of us are plagued by our own ghosts and monsters all year round.

We are haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes and choices we didn't make or paths we didn't take. We think of what we could have or should have done. When we spend too much time back there, we let those choices affect our present and even the decisions we make regarding our future.

The ghosts of our pasts try to convince us that we are doomed to repeat those same actions over again. The ghosts of our pasts disguise themselves as 'proof' of what we can and can't accomplish.

We need to perform an exorcism of sorts. By looking at our past mistakes, we can pull out the lessons that only hindsight can provide and gain important information that can keep us from making those old mistakes again. Armed with our newfound knowledge, we can banish our ghost for good.

Monsters are another story. Like Frankenstein, we create most of our monsters. We create them and before we know it, they have taken on a life and power of their own, wielding destruction and mayhem everywhere they go.

Our monsters - fears - fueled by our vivid imaginations, grow bigger and stronger. We play the what if game which quickly becomes a series of progressively more outlandish impluasabilities. Or we see the worst-case scenario in our mind's eye - assuming our fears would end in humiliation, failure or embarassment.

Killing monsters always involves something specific - a wooden stake through the heart, or being shot by a silver bullet. So we need to be specific when it comes to killing our monsters - finding a way to dismantle our fears.

It could be using our imaginative powers for good and seeing ourselves emerging from our fears in victory and with success. It could involve addressing our fears head-on and figuring out what those fears are trying to tell us. It could also involve taking baby steps to overcome our fears.

When there are our personal demons, the things we do and indulge in that quickly go from blessing to curse. I used to shop to relieve stress. However, the shopping got to a point where it got out-of-hand and became another source of stress. Our personal demons can be addictions or bad habits or toxic relationaships or inappropriate emotional responses.

Making a firm decision to exorcise your demons is the first step to erradicating them.

Exorcising our ghost and killing our monsters and slaying your demons can free you from fear, so your personal Halloween can be more treat than trick.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Maybe Better, But Definitely Not Best

"Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," or so the saying goes. Basically, it means that you are better off dealing with the people or situations that you are familiar with, no matter how bad, because it's probably better than the unknown ... which is probably worse.

Assuming that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't makes a dangerous assumption. It assumes that the alternative, the unknown, would be worst.

The devil you know is what...
  • Keeps people stagnant in go-nowhwere jobs.
  • Makes women (or men) stay in an abusive or otherwise unsatisfying relationship.
  • Stops someone from breaking out of a limiting circle of negative and destructive friends.
You know him. You accept him. When he knocks at your door, you always let him in. He might frustrate you. He might disappoint you. He might ridicule and demean you. He might even hurt you, but you choose him. As bad as he is, you know him.

And he knows you.

He knows that you are scared to take a risk. He knows how humiliated you would be if you took a chance and failed. He knows how awkward it feels to move outside your comfort zone. He uses those fears and apprehensions to keep you firmly at his side. He know you won't leave.

There is an element of truth to what he says. It's possible that the Devil You Don't Know will actually be worse. It might lead to even more hurt or humiliation.

"Maybe he's right," you say to yourself.

But there is a strong possibility that he's wrong. The Devil You Don't Know might not be a Devil at all. You might find that stretching beyond your comfort zone could be the best thing for you. You could realize that you didn't fall when you took that step out into the dark unknown. Surprisingly, there was a hand there to guide you or an unexpected light to illuminate your path.

There's only one way to find out...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Be a Builder

Builders build. That's obvious. Yet all of us have the opportunity to build something truly incredible. We have the opportunity to build up ourselves and those around us. So be a builder!

Be a booster. Be someone who boosts spirits and focuses on the positive. Instead of complaining about problems, focus on finding solutions and overcoming obstacles instead of letting them stop you.

Use your Strengths. Spend your time on the things you do well and are passionate about. Seek out others whose strengths compliment your own.

Inspire and seek inspiration. Surround yourself with people and resources that inspire you: motivational books, inspirational music, people who encourage you to push yourself to do and be more.

Love. Even when you have to criticize or deliver bad news, always do it from a place of love and compassion. Deliver criticism with kindness and tact. Never relish in other people's setbacks.

Decide to Succeed. Commit to your success and the success of those around you. Your commitment will help you bounce back from setbacks and ensure that any failure you suffer will be temporary and not final. Be a builder and create something incredible for yourself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Easy!

While browsing at the library a few months ago, I stumbled across a book that piqued my interest. It was dog-earred and worn, so I knew it wasn't new. It's rugged exterior let me know that it had been read ... probably by more than a few people.

The book was Meditation Made Easy by Lorin Roche. Now, for me, meditation has never been easy. Clearing my mind of everything while sitting in an uncomfortable position and repeating some sound (that too me sounded and felt silly) just was never worth the trouble. Yet, I knew, I felt, that it would be good to be able to just quiet my frantic mind for a minute or two. Meditation could help.
I checked out the book and it made a huge difference. Roche starts by dispelling a lot of meditation myths.

1. You don't have to empty your mind.
2. You don't have to sit perfectly still or assume some yoga-looking position.
3. You don't have to chant.

Roche starts his medititation techniques right where you are - helping you develop your own methods and rituals.

Start by finding a place where you feel comfortable - you can sit, stand or even lay down. If you want play soothing music or just appreciate the silence.

His most basic technique involves doing nothing for about five minutes. All you do is sit quietly for five minutes. That's it. Let thoughts enter and exit your mind. Listen to the sounds around you. Observe your surroundings. Just be for five minutes.
Another technique is called the Salute to the Senses. Focus on one sense for 5 to 10 minutes.
Take your sight for example. Sit in a room and focus your eyes on something for roughly 30 seconds or so. Take in the color, the shape, look at the details and then shift your focus to another object. Do this for about five minutes.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: If you are a coffee (or tea) drinker, take a few moments to savor your coffee. Make it a meditative experience. Feel the warmth of the coffee in your hands, Take in the scent. Sip it slowly as you taste it and feel the sensations of taste and warmth.

Lorin Roache makes meditation easy by dispelling the myths and allowing you to take almost any experience and create a meditative moment.

This book did a create job of introducing me to meditation. So far, I've gone from 2-3 minutes to 15 minute sessions. I feel more focused and more relaxed. My routines might not work for everyone but they work for me.
Now I'm meditating and that's something I never thought I'd do!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Winning the Blame Game

I was watching TV and a commercial came on regarding an acne product. It said something to the effect of, “Don’t blame chocolate or fried foods, blame your hormones.” Another commercial, this one for a weight loss product, it said blatantly, “Your weight isn’t your fault”A search of news stories show we are looking to blame somebody for the economy, the recession and the oil spill. Of course, every day there are sports stories blaming some player for their team’s loss.

Outside of making us feel better, what purpose does it serve to stand around and point fingers? “It’s not my fault,” we exclaim. “He did it,” we say as we point an accusatory finger at a co-worker, family member, spouse or friend.

Accountability is part of responsibility and sometimes (the only time I can think of) blaming someone is a way to get them to be accountable for their behavior when they are trying to avoid owning their mistakes.

However, blame gives people an easy out. If it’s not your fault then it’s not in your control. If it’s not in your control then there is nothing you can do about it. If there is nothing you can do about it, then you don’t have any obligation or any need to try to change. If you can blame someone else, somehow, it lets you off of the hook.

It’s comforting to hear that it’s not your fault, but it’s also dangerous. People who have become adept at playing the blame game are people who usually aren’t getting the results they want. Who wants to be with someone who is constantly looking for a reason not to take action or an excuse not to act or for someone to blame. These people aren’t often the ones in line for promotion either.

In my mind, blame is linked with victimhood. A victim is powerless. They have given the power and control to another person or entity. Personal transformation and growth cannot happen if you are looking at the world through gray-tinted victimization glasses.

Instead of wasting precious time pointing fingers and placing blame, spend that time creating solutions and solving problems.

There is no winner when you play the blame game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Social Network

The movie The Social Network is all the rage right now (you can read my review of it over on my movie review blog here). It’s all about the founder of Facebook and the world’s youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerman. Although his web site is all about friends, the movie shows how he lost some very good ones in his quest to create the perfect social network.

So how is your social network?

Like 500 million other people, I have a Facebook page. You can find me on it every once in a while but it’s far from an obsession. I have reconnected with old friends and it’s nice to be able to see photos of them and their families, but I crave more of a connection.

You can link in to co-workers, tweet your every thought and friend everyone you meet, but there is something to be said of a more intimate connection and by intimate I don’t mean a forwarded email sent to ten of your friends announcing that “It’s girlfriends day!”

A real connection involves some sort of connection – seeing someone’s eyes sparkle as they tell you a story or hearing the lilt in their voice when they talk about finally meeting the ‘one.’ The good thing about a real connection is that it doesn’t have to be a frequent connection.

As I crawled into bed after a wonderful birthday, my phone rang. It was an old friend from my high school days. We talk every two years or so. I got out of bed and we laughed and shared stories for the next 90 minutes. Anyone listening would have never known that two years had passed since we last spoke.

It was an intimate connection. It was a real connection with someone that I care about.

Now I do send well wishes and birthday greetings via Facebook or a funny e-greeting card. Some connection is better than none. But, picking up a phone or making a face-to-face visit when possible can never be replaced.

So while Facebook might be an important part of your social network, it should not represent your entire social network. Every once in a while, pick up a phone, go out for dinner and find a way to make a really connection and fully enjoy your social network.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Real Time Waster

I love quotes, the simpler the better. Attributed to President Eisenhower, this quote is short, simple and speaks a lot of truth. Eisenhower said, “Never waste a minute thinking about people you don't like."

Yet, many of us spend a lot of time thinking about people we don’t like. We think about what they must be thinking about us. We think about what we are going to say to them the next time they say something to us. We think about the last time we saw them and all the things they do that rub us the wrong way.

If you think about it, it really is time wasted. Chances are you won’t ever have the opportunity to use that witty comment you keep playing in your head. Of course, you can’t go back and redo the last argument or respond to the catty comment, so why keep thinking about it?

If you think about something with enough passion and feeling, you can recreate that experience. Seriously, if you think about something that upset you or infuriated you, you will find yourself getting upset or infuriated all over again. Your body will tense up. Your breath will get shorter and you will actually recreate the physiology of upset or anger. The mind is just that powerful! So use it for good.

If you must replay situations in your mind, think about the time you laughed until you cried with a friend or the feeling you had when your boss thanked you for a job well done or when your business finally started turning a profit.

Spending your time on people who enrich your life and experiences that enhance your life is never a waste of time.

Let people who don’t like you waste their time thinking about you. You’ve got better things to do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Grandpa

The most patient man I ever knew was my Grandpa. In 23 years, I never once heard him raise his voice. He was kind to everyone. He never had a negative word to say.

They say patience is a virtue. Frankly, it’s not a virtue that many of us possess (I know I don’t). In today’s fast-paced society, patience is even less of a virtue. In many instances, it’s an inconvenience. We don’t want to wait. We want what we want when we want it. In fact, we normally want it faster than now.

Not Grandpa though. He could wait. In fact, he knew how to just be. Grandpa could just sit. Sometimes we’d sit together. We’d talk a little, but basically we’d just sit. He loved to ‘listen to the ballgame.’ He’d come over and he’d want to listen to the game, not watch it. He grew up on radio and he said he enjoyed it more when he could imagine the plays himself. He didn’t need a television to see it. He could see it on his own.

I think it’s from Grandpa that I learned to enjoy simple pleasures: a nice glass of ice water, a Fillet-o-Fish sandwich (a favorite for both of us), sitting in front of the fan on a hot summer day, or listening to stories about the ‘olden days.’ With Grandpa, it didn’t matter what we did, it was always a good time.

Patient, kind and true, my Grandpa was love in action.