Stick to Your Path

You’re jealous because your coworker just got a new red sports car and your car is a beat up 90’s Honda. You’re upset because you weren’t selected for the super duper high profile project but your arch nemesis from work did. Your ex is posting cozy pictures of her new boyfriend all over social media and you’re home alone on a House of Cards binge. You feel inadequate. You feel sorry for yourself. You are on the comparison Highway to Inadequacy. You need to get off that highway and focus on your own path.

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I’m a speaker. An executive coach. A mother. A dog owner. An author. I don’t get paid what Tony Robbins gets paid to speak. I don’t have the same client list as Marshall Goldsmith. My kids (are awesome) but they aren’t on the cover of Time magazine or on a Wheaties box (yet). My dog hasn’t won any Westminster Dog Shows. I haven’t written a single book and, therefore, never sold one (although there is a free copy here). The point is, how high is that bar for you? If I compared myself to everyone around me on all aspects of my life, I would be sorely disappointed. Stick to your path and quit looking at everyone else’s.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Acceptance.  Be Ok with the path that is in front of you. I was stuck in a should cycle for the last nine months on decisions regarding the rebuilding of my house post-Hurricane Matthew. I should have purchased all new cabinets. I should have bought new kitchen furniture. I should have gone with a different electrician. This is wearing you down. All that “should-ing“. Accept what decisions you have made and move forward. All that should-ing is making you dwell on the past and draining you.

 

  • Different.  I love this quote from Internal Acceptance Movement: “Everyone has their own unique journey. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. Your path isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s just different.” What I try to do, say when I see that new red sports car in the company parking lot, is tell myself: “Wow. Suzy really likes cars. Good for her.” Everyone values different things, be it material possessions or experiences. I love to travel and maybe my son doesn’t. We are on different paths and that’s OK.

 

  • Pace.  This is my biggest problem. I am always in forward motion. I want to accomplish the next thing. I want it done yesterday. This makes me incredibly impatient with other folks who operate on a different pace (i.e.: slower). It doesn’t bring out my best side. As I tap my fingers, waiting for a response to ten rapid fire texts to my assistant. Take a breath and connect with your inner Buddha. Acknowledge your pace and quit trying to have people get on board with your pace. That’s how people start to stumble. Stay in lane and keep your own pace and don’t worry about anyone else’s.

 

  • Suspend.  I know you’ve done this. You see that your coworker has put on weight or is wearing something that, from your vantage point, is unattractive. You pass judgment in your head. “Wow. Janet needs to drop a few pounds” or “What made her think that looked good on her?” It’s difficult to suspend judgment but you can label it. Say instead, “So Cathy, this is what judgment looks like.” Step away from the comparing paths and label it.

 

  • Present.  Be in this moment right now. And now. And now. Don’t try and recreate history. No, your ex is not coming back and that’s OK right now. Trust that the path you are on is just fine and it’s taking you in the right direction. Don’t “catastrophicize” the future. Sometimes paths cross and it’s lovely, and there are wonderful memories made, and then they uncross. There will be new paths to cross in the future. As you walk your path, be present.

 

You may not end up where you intended to go but you will be off of the Highway of Inadequacy. Trust you are exactly where you need to be. Trust that you are enough. You are enough.

How to Embrace Wabi-Sabi

You walk into your office and there are a couple of blinds that are off kilter. You huff in frustration and try to line them up. You get in the shortest line at Lowe’s only to find out the folks in front are waiting for a price check. Sigh. This is going to be a long wait. You finish your laundry for a long business trip, only to realize that you forgot to wash your favorite slacks. Ugh.

wabi-sabi

The answer to all this frustration and gnashing of teeth is embracing wabi-sabi. So what the heck is wabi-sabi? It’s a Japanese term which means – to embrace imperfection. So, if your favorite coffee cup has a chip, you find fingerprints on your dashboard, or the graph you just made doesn’t have the font you prefer…you accept its imperfection. Wabi is defined as – a quality of austere and serene beauty expressing a mood of spiritual solitude, recognized in Zen Buddhist philosophy. Sabi is defined as – things that come with age or time and taking pleasure in that which is old or well used. Put them together and it means acceptance of things as they are including imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness.

 

Here is how to embrace wabi-sabi:

 

  • Accepting others and ourselves.  Quit judging the imperfections of others and yourself. As Barbara Scoville wrote for Tiny Buddha, “Flaws are the leveling field of humanity. We all have them, rich and poor alike. It is our blemishes that connect us with our humanness.” Judgment is debilitating. I can get caught up in judging what someone else is wearing or my jeans fitting too tight. None of this really matters in the grand scheme of things, so let it go. Spend your judgment on important things, like whether or not you should invest in your 401k.

 

  • Accept impermanence.  Buddha wrote, “All conditioned things are impermanent — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” This has been a glaring reality as I am into my fifth month out of my house, after our house being flooded by Hurricane Matthew. I thought I would be in that house until I retired. Every week as we rebuilt, there seemed to be another setback. Another wall, cabinet or door removed. I have adopted the phrase, “This too shall pass.” Getting caught up with the way it was or should be is a mirage and only causes more suffering. Let it go.

 

  • Accept what is incomplete.  There was a time where I had a complete set of dishes, silverware and glassware. Over the last twenty years things have broken, been lost or float away to one of my kid’s dorm rooms. My daughter embraces this “incompleteness.” She frequently wears two of my earrings that I was discarding  and are unmatched. One is a blue parrot and the other is blue stone. She wears them at the same time. It’s perfectly incomplete. My trash is her beauty. There is beauty in the absence of perfection.

 

  • Set your intention.  My husband and I headed out to check on the status of a cabinet that was lost in shipping, and selected grout for the kitchen and bathroom floors. We had been frustrated with the cabinet because it was likely going to hold up the entire project for six weeks. Before we left the house, I said, “This is going to be a great day.” It was. The cabinet is being rushed and will be here in two weeks instead of six. I feel like having a positive outlook had an impact on our Karma. If you look for things to go your way, they will. As we both said by the end of the day, “The light at the end of the tunnel is a lot brighter now.”

 

  • Accept what is now.  My dear friend Susannah has been facing impermanence as she and her husband weigh job prospects across the United States. She has lived in her community for twenty years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Fretting over what might be is causing her to suffer. It is all one big unknown. The wonderful thing is that she has a meditation and yoga practice, which can center her and bring her back to the now. Don’t look back and don’t worry about the future. Embrace the now.

 

This is all a work in progress. We are all works in progress. It’s not easy, but understanding and embracing wabi-sabi in your life can bring freedom from suffering.

How to Be More Resilient

When Hurricane Matthew didn’t make the predicted hard right turn as it passed over South Carolina back on October 8th, and instead dumped 16 inches of water on our Eastern North Carolina lake-front home, I didn’t think that this experience was going to be a test in resilience. My husband, dog and I have been living at Camp Matthew for over three months now. It’s been uncomfortable. It’s been cramped. It’s tested all of our relationships. But it has made us all more resilient.

resilience

I have the honor of coaching some fantastic clients, two of whom had huge shifts if their lives this week. Those shifts happened because of their remarkable resilience. Just when you think you are at the end of your rope, there is a magical shift. Everything does a 180. If they hadn’t been able to dip into their bucket of resilience, I don’t think they ever would have arrived at their magic turning point.

Here are my thoughts on how to be more resilient:

  • Label the emotion.  I’ve been using the Whil app for about a year now. Whil has a whole host of teachers who have provided guided meditations and thought-provoking lectures. I listen for about 10 minutes every day. Several of the teachers talk about labeling your feelings. Say if you resent your boss for not returning your call, instead of ruminating, trying to escape, or stifling the feeling, call it out in your own head. Indeed, this is what resentment feels like. Then feel it. Do you find it in your stomach, your shoulders, a tightness in your throat, a heat at your temples? I’ve been feeling “helpless” because some days, there is a beehive of repair on our house followed by days of silence. When I label it and actually “feel” it in my body, instead of trying to escape it, it fades away. It’s difficult to be resilient if you can’t label and feel your emotions.

 

  • Acceptance.  In today’s day and age, nothing is simple. Whether you are in a legal battle, trying to sell your home, being audited or trying to get money to reconstruct your house after a flood. It’s not going to be easy. My clients and I have accepted that most things don’t happen overnight. Whether I need to call some federal agency, the mortgage company, flooring representative or an insurance company, I have come to accept that we are going to have to jump through a few hoops. If you let every one of those hoops devastate you, it will be difficult to have forward progress. Having an attitude of acceptance makes you more resilient.

 

  • Reflect on the progress.  One of the best reasons to have a coach is to reflect on your progress. My coach is the phenomenal Tammi Wheeler. She helps me reflect on the progress I’ve made, rather than dwelling on everything that has gone wrong. Taking stock is huge when you’re living in the land of limbo. So we may be living on top of each other at Camp Matthew, but we finally got a disbursement from the mortgage company. The sheet-rock is finally going up. The toilet is not on our front porch anymore. The attorney finally responded. I’ve turned in all the paperwork for the new mortgage.  Reflect and acknowledge what you have accomplished to bolster your resilience.

 

  • Be a quitter.  Say what, Cathy? What the heck does that have to do with resilience? As Eric Barker wrote for Time, “You can do anything — when you stop trying to do everything.” I can’t be everything to everybody. I used to cook every day at home with a new recipe every night. My husband and I rarely ate out. Now? I buy pre-marinated chicken, open a can of chili or meet my husband for dinner out. Maybe when I get home, I’ll be a gourmet cook again; maybe not. But I’m not going to feel guilty about taking some short cuts. Quitting some things helps you be more resilient with the things that matter now.

 

  • Routine.  I haven’t quit everything, but I have reconfigured my routine. In the days following the flood, I fell out of sync with my routine. I was a stressed out mess. As we regained power and landed in Camp Matthew (our wonderful, generous friends’ in-law unit), I reworked my routine of meditation, yoga and learning Spanish. Once my routine was back in sync, I was able to handle the ebb and flow of the aftermath. I personally credit my meditation practice and turning off television news with my increased resilience. but you need to find what works for you. In a state of constant change, having a routine that bolsters, rather than deflates you, is important for resilience.

 

There are going to be pain points. We are not perfect, nor will we ever be. There was a moment when I actually cussed out a customer service person. I’m not proud of that, but I was also able to accept this lapse in judgment at the moment. When you start going down that hole of negativity, just make sure you can resolve to step out of it and veer back to resilience.

The New Normal

My husband, dog and I are two weeks into our new normal. The first phase of the new normal was living in our house without HVAC for three weeks after the flooding from Hurricane Matthew.  In retrospect, it wasn’t that big of an adjustment.  The second phase of our new normal is living in a one bedroom in-law unit that our wonderful neighborhood friends offered us for the next few months.  Well, this new normal has been quite the adjustment for all three of us.  More so than I ever anticipated.  Yet, how do you really anticipate limbo, change, or uncertainty?  You can’t.

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I feel compelled to preface this post with – I’m aware that this is a first-world problem.  We have running water, a hot shower and a private bedroom to sleep in.  We are not terminally ill.  We still have a home to hopefully return to in a few months.  For this, I am extremely grateful.  In other words, I know it could be a lot worse.  But there is a toll being taken each day we are in our new normal.  On the other hand, there are many blessings that fuel us forward.

 

My learnings from the new normal:

 

  • Be open to learning.  Our normal weekend breakfast is bacon and eggs.  I have become accustomed to baking bacon in an oven for the last few years.  We don’t have a conventional oven in our temporary kitchen.  I have had to learn how to make bacon the old-school way on an electric  cook top in a skillet (I’m am a hard-core gas flame lover).  I have burnt the first five attempts of bacon that my husband contently ate without complaint.  This morning?  I finally made perfectly crisp bacon without burning.  The satisfaction of learning to adapt is tremendous.  I could have thrown in the towel and eaten at IHOP for the next twelve plus weekends.  But I was open to adapting my approach and a perfectly home cooked breakfast in our little home was quite satisfying.

 

  • Have something old.  It’s nice to have something just like home.  For my husband and me, it’s our coffee maker and coffee.  We really like strong black coffee made from French roast beans.  Even though there is a coffee maker in our temporary home, we brought our tried and true Capresso coffee maker with a thermal carafe.  This very small piece of our old normal makes me look forward to waking up in the morning.  Something to tie us to the old and the new.  Nothing to adjust to, except for the coffee cups.  One common thread that makes the day just that much better.  Keep something from the past as you move forward.

 

  • Accept what is different.  There is no changing what is.  Acceptance is the only way through.  Our dog Baci barks insanely when we leave or arrive.  This is out of character for our loving little dog.  The thing is that there are about 5 homes that border our new place.  Each has its own set of dogs.  We didn’t have any neighboring dogs at our house.  She is trying to maintain her new territory by protecting us.  I was and am still a little stressed as I arrive home or leave for work.  But accepting that this is Baci’s new normal and understanding that she is just trying to protect us in her own small way, requires we accept it as love and move on.

 

  • Sharing.  When you go from living in about 3000 square feet of space down to 700, some compromises must take place.  My husband used to play music in his office first thing in the morning.  He now works at his computer in silence.  I didn’t ask him.  He just put my needs first.  I wait until he is finished with the computer before I jump on to do my work.  He only has a few hours in the morning to sit at a desk and use the computer, so I’ve adapted to let him have his time.  We have to tag team a lot more on basics like laundry, washing dishes, and taking care of the dog.  Sharing has brought us closer, as there is a new appreciation for each other’s needs and space.

 

  • Make it ours.  My husband did an incredibly sentimental thing by bringing the picture I bought for our anniversary over to the new place.  It’s a picture of a tree scrawled with our name and date of our wedding.  It really makes it more our home rather than a temporary spot.  I bought flowers at the grocery store to bring life and beauty to the new space.  We brought a plant from the house and put it in the window above the sink.  We are trying hard to make it our home rather than a transient space.  It makes it more comfortable and familiar.  We are making it ours.

 

This adaptation has taken some time.  We are slowly settling into the new normal.  Being grateful for each other and our own little resistance to change has been enlightening and powerful.

The Aftermath from the Storm: Living in Limbo

I wrote about our experience with Hurricane Matthew last week and the flooding of our home.  As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the lake surrounded our house.  My world looking from the outside in “appears” to be normal.  We have lights on.  The trash and debris is slowly disappearing from our front lawn.  We drive back and forth to work.  The water is potable so no more gallon-size containers of water.  I’m at my computer writing and saving via Wifi.  I made our usual Saturday breakfast: eggs and bacon on our stove with gas.  I can recharge my cell phone, watch TV and take a hot shower.  Everything is as it should be.  But it’s not.

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My husband and I have been riding the tumultuous waves of limbo land.  The apex of this was when we found out that we had to move out.  Two of our neighbors had moving trucks the day after the storm; carpet mounded on their front lawn and in debris bins.  I thought to myself, Well, that won’t be us, we can soldier through.  But after the contractor gutted the sodden insulation and ducts from under our house, I realized we couldn’t stay in our house anymore.  There is no HVAC.  There can’t be HVAC until all the sodden floors are taken out.  The sodden floors can’t be taken out until someone, hopefully the insurance company or FEMA, sends us a check.  Gulp.  It was fine to live in a house without HVAC as long as it was sunny with a high of 80 degrees.  It’s another story when the temperature dips into the 40’s.  So, there it is.  We have to move out.

 

So here is how I’ve been coping with the anxiety of living in limbo:

 

  • Meditation.  There were about 5 days post-Matthew that I wasn’t able to meditate.  I have an app on my phone that needs Wifi and, without Wifi and/or power, I was unable to meditate.  Meditation centers me.  I feel more resilient.  Sudden changes in plans; a zig instead of a zag; accepting disappointment and basic uncertainty are just easier to handle when I am practicing my regular meditation.  After a decade-long meditation practice, I experience a huge shift internally when it’s not in my daily routine.  I quickly get scattered and distracted.  It’s as if the anxiety sucks me in. Being present and mindful for even 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference.  Break out of limbo-land through meditation.

 

  • Break it into pieces.  Part of the issue with being in limbo is that it’s all so overwhelming.  So if you don’t know if the project is going to get the go-ahead; if you don’t know if you should buy groceries for the week, or pack up the entire house…or maybe just the bathroom?  Just break it up into manageable, informed pieces that you can deal with.  Otherwise, it’s all so overwhelming.  I’ve been frozen into inaction before because I didn’t know where to start.  I’m in the middle of setting up a training for two weeks from now.  I was struggling with getting started.  Then I broke up the whole project into units and scheduled 90-minute sections for each unit.  Finally, I have forward progress.  So just call the insurance company.  The next day, just call the bank.  The next day, go on the FEMA website.  Breaking it up makes it not as overwhelming and you finally get momentum and forward progress.

 

  • Take time off.  I know what you are thinking: But Cath, you need to get to work on that house.  Pack up the bathroom closet at least.  Nope.  I serendipitously had a massage appointment the Wednesday after the storm.  I went to the appointment.  I think it saved my sanity.  I needed an escape, and rather than constantly focusing on the house, I really needed to focus on myself.  Yesterday, my husband and I golfed in a charity golf tournament.  We needed a break from the grind of sodden cabinets and mud-coated tools.  It was great to spend time connecting and not caring a whit about the score (or the house).  We needed a break from the House Center Vortex of Anxiety.  When you are living in limbo, take some time off to escape and bring some joy into your life.  The mess, the challenge or project will still be there–you’ll be able to deal with it intelligently.

 

  • Exercise.  I had given up my morning walk.  It was partially due to debris on the road but also because I thought, You don’t have time to take a walk!  The trouble was that by day end, I was exhausted.  I spent all day worrying about a laundry list of items, like when is the HVAC guy coming or where is the plumber and will I be able to be home when he gets there.  More and more limbo creators.  But taking a walk really reduced my stress and helped me center my head.  It was also reassuring to see that other homes in the area were in similar stages of rehabilitation.  Just getting back into my body and out of my head was restorative.  Try and get some exercise to keep the limbo at bay.

 

  • Acceptance.  I’m learning to accept the good and the bad.  I am not in control of whether the power comes back on.  I am not in control of whether the cable starts working.  I am not in control of whether the insurance check shows up today or not.  So just accept it.  I cannot tell you how many times I have said, This too shall pass.  There will be HVAC someday, just not today.  There will be an insurance check someday, just not today.  There is a debris bin where there wasn’t one yesterday.  It’s all good.  It’s all as it should be.  I remember a friend of mine said on Facebook that we were having a house cleanse.  That’s a great way to reframe it.  We are just in the middle of cleansing our house.  Just accepting what is happening.  It’s as it should be.

 

My husband and I are slowly getting out of the fog of limbo-land.  We are starting to get better sleep, getting into a routine and focusing on what we can do instead of what we can’t.  You can do it as well.  Be positive and all will fall into place–as it should be.

Letting Go. Are you attached to your kid’s success?

You verify every grade on the report card. You double check your kid’s homework to make sure she has it all “right”. You make sure they do their homework for two hours before they play any Minecraft. You take over the science project to ensure they win top prize. You want to make sure your child is a success and your happiness is dependent on it.

Really? Do you want to be dependent on your child’s success for your own happiness? That will end up being a lifetime of struggle. I’m not suggesting that you don’t want health and happiness for your child. We all want that. But are you measuring your happiness and/or success by your child’s success? What does success look like for your child? And who gets to decide what success is? Is that really up to you?

Letting go

I facilitated a workshop on CRR Global’s Toxins and Exploring Edges. I coached one of the participants on a change she wanted to make in her life (which Edge she wanted to explore). She has two sons. One is academically gifted and the other is academically challenged. Well, she was able to let go of expectations from the challenged son. She realized that letting go of one child’s expectations had heightened the expectations for the other child. The change she wanted to make was to be able to let go of expectations for her gifted son.

So here are some of the insights from the exercise:

  • Trust is the core of every relationship. This is one of the 5 Behaviors of the Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni. As Lencioni posits, it’s not just predictive trust (you do what you say you are going to do) but also vulnerability based trust (you admit when you made a mistake). Are you letting your child be vulnerable? Are they allowed to make a mistake without you chiding them? If they can’t be vulnerable, they aren’t going to tell you when they mess up.

 

  • Autonomy doesn’t have to mean you don’t care. Autonomy is a great gift to the folks in your life. Getting wrapped up in whether or not their homework is done or if they are EVER going to empty the garbage is exhausting and it’s not helping you find happiness. When you don’t let your children have autonomy (within reason folks…don’t let your 5-year-old park the car), they are constantly seeking your approval and reassurance or, on the flip side, are demotivated because they can’t have independence. Autonomy helps them create that on their own. The responsibility of success, failure and happiness are safely resting on their shoulders. Autonomy shows that you do care.

 

  • Let go in stages that work for you. The mom I was working with, initially “jumped” across the Edge. She then decided to go back and slowly inch her way across the Edge. It resonated when she was able to gradually move across the change of letting go. Her body language relaxed. You could see that she was relieved and that she could control how and when she would let go. How and when you let go is a very personal choice. Don’t jump unless you want to.

 

  • Acceptance of both failure and success is critical. Mommy client said that she needed to let go of whether her son got a 90 or a 97. “They are both A’s.” I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen when my son was making a complicated cake recipe. I was making suggestions ….er telling him how to fix it when he looked at me, put up his hand and said, “Stop! Let me fail.” I was thunder struck. Whether or not that cake failed is not life changing but him taking responsibility for its failure or success is life changing. Let go of the reins.

 

  • Communicate your expectations. One of the participants at the workshop suggested she go home and tell her sons about her new insight. If she doesn’t communicate that she is letting go of her expectations, he might feel like she is abdicating. There were several in the audience who talked about a parent who had essentially abdicated their parenting if a child did not follow the path the parent wanted (you know…doctor, lawyer, good college education, etc.). I remember telling my son after a poor semester at school, that I loved him no matter what he did. I didn’t want him feeling like he had to stick to something in exchange for my love. Unconditional love needs to be communicated.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world and is complicated, as in my case, when you are separated with the parent you had that child with. Model happiness for your children instead of measuring their success against unrealistic expectations. You will be happier in the end as well.

Every perfectionist should focus on these 7 things.

I see so many of my clients get wrapped up with perfection. I have been guilty of constantly striving for perfection myself. I have measured my ability to be happy based on whether or not: I’m the perfect weight, I have the perfect job or I own the perfect house. I’ll warn you right now, you will never, ever, get to THERE. You never arrive at perfection so quit putting off your happiness until you get THERE. THERE is mythical. No one ever gets THERE.

I won’t deny that there are peaks along the way; those moments we refer to as the milestones of life – falling in love, getting married, job promotions, graduations and births. But invariably we slide right back to our happiness set point within 6 months. Generally, hedonic adaptation involves a happiness “set point”, whereby humans generally maintain a constant level of happiness throughout their lives, despite events that occur in their environment. So whether it’s hitting the lottery or having a spinal cord injury, your level of happiness resets to the same pre-event level.

The key is to change your set point, boost it; change the landscape. I’ve been working on this for the last year or so. It’s like setting your thermostat up one degree at a time. It’s a slow process but I think it is actually working.imperfect

Seeing this photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa prompted this post. It took over 344 years to build the tower and it was already leaning when they put on the second story. So, even though it was less than perfect, they kept at it. It is a nice metaphor. Embrace the lean and keep going. Keep building; one stone at a time.

So if you are a perfectionist (and most of us are) here are the 7 things to embrace the lean:

1. Accept. Obviously, the town and builders of Pisa accepted the lean. In fact, they have said they would rather see the tower topple than fix the lean. There is peace in acceptance. Where are you leaning right now? I’m not at my ideal weight. I’m still paying for student loans from my Master’s degree and, apparently, I’m not getting any younger. This is all true but getting on the scale in the morning cannot be the barometer of how I will feel all day. A pound up or a pound down. Hmmm. Interesting. One more data point. It’s still going to be a great day. Accept what is.

2. Gratitude. I’ve been writing a gratitude journal for over three years. Every evening I write in it before I go to sleep. Usually it’s anywhere from four to ten names of people (or my dog) that I am grateful for. I’m not sure why I focus on people who had an impact on me during the day, it may have to do with how involved I have been with people in my career. You can write anything you want whether it’s the blue sky, the much needed rain or the roof over your head. Counting your blessings helps you focus on what is right with your world. This has had a huge impact on me. It keeps my glass half full. Focus on what you are grateful for.

3. Beauty. Beauty is everywhere. In the middle of winter it’s easy to see the outside world as cold and barren; leafless trees and arctic winds can seem ugly. But it’s all in how you look at it. A bracing wind makes me feel every part of my body. Barren trees make the squirrels, deer and birds much more apparent and reliant on us. There is the beauty of being snuggled up in bed when the wind is howling outside whether it’s with a good book, on the phone with a good friend or sleep. There is a beauty of slowing down to some degree with the seasons. And there is the truth that the beauty of the tower is the lean. Seek out the lean and the hidden beauty.

4. Reflection. Reflect on what you have accomplished. Most of the reason that coaching is so effective is that you have an outside person ask you to take stock in what you have done. We spend so much of our time thinking about what we haven’t done. Instead we need to think about all that we have done. I walked today, I made dinner, I worked, I wrote, I spent time with my dog, I finally sent that overdue email, I did laundry and so on. I have clients who put off our appointment because they feel like they didn’t get any action items done. When we end up meeting, even if they are resistant, they find out that they’ve done more than half their action items. They were just focusing on what they hadn’t done. Take time to reflect on what you have done and give yourself credit.

5. Reframe. Context is everything. Our perception of what we are achieving is completely in our own heads. We are the bellwether, not anyone else. Or we can be at the hands of “What will the public think or judge?” So, if you live in an expensive neighborhood, your Hyundai will never be good enough yet if you drive through a less expensive neighborhood, it might be the most coveted car on the block. I love a cartoon that was going around on Facebook that said “I wish I was as fat as when I thought I was fat”. Reframe and be OK with right now.

6. Optimalist. As written in an article by James Woodworth, ” Optimalists accept that life can be tough and painful at times. Their realism enables them to build resilience and the ability to cope with the difficulties life presents them.” This is the opposite of a perfectionist. Perfectionists are constantly disappointed by falling short as well as by every failure. They dwell on every shortcoming and they never push the envelope. Optimalists don’t fear what they might lose. They believe in the gain. The folks in Pisa didn’t worry about the tower tumbling down. Push the envelope and be an Optimalist.

7. Moment. Be in the moment. Be present. Perfectionists are constantly thinking about “what if” and are overly busy protecting their image and the “what ifs”. When you are doing this, you are missing what is in front of you. Enjoy what you’re looking at – how the sun hit that tree at just the right angle, or the taste of the coffee or the feel of the sheets. It’s your life; be there for it. Be here. Right now. Feel the chair. Feel your breath. Listen to the buzz of the room. This moment; right now.

Much like the folks of Pisa, this all takes patience. Nothing is accomplished overnight. Congratulate yourself with each small step. If you take a step back, so what, brush it off and know that you are on the right path. An imperfect path.

Good Enough

Good Enough IS Perfect. 5 Ways to Get Off the Perfection Treadmill.

Sometimes there is this feeling that you are settling when something is good enough. Like you left some money on the table or you aren’t trying to be an over achiever. But it turns out that good enough will make you happier, satisfied, and content. In Tal Ben-Shahar‘s book, Pursuit of Perfect, there is a big price to pay for the constant striving for perfection. The author paid the price while attending Harvard. Anything less than an “A” was failure, so he worked constantly to make sure he could maintain his perfection. And the price? He wasn’t happy. When you are constantly striving for perfection, you never get to the destination. You think you are but you never arrive. That’s if great success is supposed to be a college degree, making your first million or finally getting married. You might hit a bump in happiness, but the next day, you are back on the perfection treadmill.  Good Enough

I am amazed at how many of us are out there on that treadmill. Beating ourselves up for every B- paper, one pound gained or bad hair day. We are ever vigilant to find out how we failed and how we did not attain success. The constant interior score card. “I should have stayed late”, “I can’t believe I ate the chocolate cake,” or “I never spend enough time with my kids.” It’s the constant balancing act of being all things to all people. I remember thinking I was stretched in college between school work, my social life and my part-time job. That was way before email, smart phones and the digital deluge made you feel overwhelmed, let alone children, aging parents, full-time jobs and a spouse. Ben-Shahar had some great points on how to achieve good enough and to embrace being human.

Here are some ideas on how to be OK with good enough:

1. Accept. We need to accept the good with the bad. The problem is that we tend to over react and ruminate over the failures. In focusing on all that went wrong, we gloss over what went right. I can tell you ever bad training I’ve facilitated but will forget the successes. I remember everything the boss didn’t approve but when it comes to the laundry list of things she has approved, they are buried deep, never to see the light of day. I can’t tell you how many people can’t take a compliment. I say “I love that necklace!” Co-worker “This old thing? My mom bought it from a street vendor in Mexico. I don’t think it’s worth 5 bucks.” We are hard-wired to reject the good and focus on the bad. Accept what is good in your life.

2. Open. Be open to feedback. Perfectionists want to maintain a façade of perfection. They deflect criticism. They hide from it for fear they will crumble. If you seek out feedback from both good and bad experiences, you become more resilient. I seek out feedback from both coaching clients and training participants. I embrace and accept the “That was great, Cathy” and the “I felt rushed” comments equally. I find that people who aren’t open to feedback tend to get paranoid. They are afraid that everyone dislikes them which makes them even more fearful of feedback. Really? There aren’t that many people that are unilaterally disliked (i.e. Madoff, Hussain, etc.). But they are so busy preserving their self-image that they can’t make course corrections like “being a better listener” or “you could delegate more clearly” along with the “you have a great sense of humor” and “that meeting took courage”. Open up to it all.

3. Release. Try and release that you need to be all things to all people all the time. I have to admit that this has been a struggle. This is especially difficult during the holidays. There was a time when I baked 20 different types of holiday cookies with my then small children (they weren’t that helpful and there was a lot of raw cookie dough consumed) and delivered them to all my employees at the restaurant I owned. All the burnt, dented and mal formed cookies befell my stomach and the rest of the “perfect” cookies were given to all my deserving employees. While this was a very noble gesture, it was completely impractical and made me very anxious every Christmas as my kitchen filled with hundreds of cookies, my kids did not have my full attention, and I become overwhelmed. I am wiser now. I instead put out about a third of the holiday decorations, walk right past the chocolate chips at the grocery store and give a card to my employees. To be good enough means to release the unrealistic expectations.

4. Allocate. Find ways to reasonably allocate your time. Perfectionist are looking ways to maximize their day to try an accomplish EVERYTHING. When they don’t? They are crushed by the failure. Be realistic. Can you really take the dog for a walk, work 10 hours a day, make dinner, take your daughter to ball practice, do the laundry, read a novel, AND run for 2 miles? No. You can’t. OK, you can for maybe one day out of the week but you will be toast by the end of the day. Toast. Figure out how much time you want to spend in a given week on everything that is important to you and then back off about 30%. So if you want a date night with your spouse every week, go out every other. If you want to get that project done at work, schedule an hour every day instead of trying to plow through it in a day and a half. Knowing that you have allocated the time and will be able to have an adult conversation with your spouse at least every other week will feel great, and make sure it actually happens instead of feeling guilty that you couldn’t do it all. Allocate your time.

5. Mono-task. Multitasking is exhausting and it’s really just task switching. You aren’t really texting and driving, you are driving, then texting, then driving, then texting, then driving (then crashing). When you spend your day talking on the phone while answering email or watching TV while eating dinner, you are numbing yourself to the world. You are not present and it is completely unsatisfying. So decide you are going to text, and sit down and text. Talk to your brother on the phone and turn off the television. Go out to dinner with your son and put your cell phone in your pocket. You’ve decided where you want to allocate your time, so go be present for that time. Embrace mono-tasking.

The interesting thing is there are certain pockets of our lives that we reserve for perfection. For me, it has been my coaching and facilitation work. It was wonderfully freeing to me when my coach mentor, Satyam Chalmers, said that there was no perfect question. If a question falls flat, your presence is more important than finding the perfect question. Whew. What a relief. It’s the same for facilitation. I can feel like I haven’t followed the “script” but going with the flow of the room is much more important. I’m good enough and enjoying the work so much more.

Failing towards Success.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

If you aren’t failing, you aren’t innovating. Wow. That’s a scary realization. I had a project go off the rails recently and I have to say that at the time I was reading, Scott Adams‘ book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It was an eye opener. Scott Adams has failed at countless projects. Video games, restaurants, internet services, Velcro Rosen bags, and Webvan to name just a few of his failures. He suggests actually being steeped in failure. If I was not in the middle of the book reading about all of his failures, my project that failed would have stopped me. I’d have thrown in the towel. I’m not meant for this. But Scott’s consistent optimism and his systems orientation showed me that failing is inevitable. As Scott said to look at “failure as a tool, not an outcome”. It’s reshaped the way I see failure. Don’t avert your eyes from failure, learn from it. Find the one little nugget of information and move on. Thanks, Scott. success

Now I’ve started reflecting back on various other projects that were less than stellar in my life. Like this blog. I write it weekly and I can never predict if more people will click to open it or not. Frequently, the subject line or title has a lot to do with whether or not someone like you even decides to open it. This becomes a delicate dance between a quirky title like Lawnmower Fairies or something more main stream like The Butterfly Effect. One Small Change Can Have An Impact. So which do you think had more opens? The second one. It’s more straight-forward. It’s something that is relatable. I’m sure you are thinking, yeah, I can handle one small change…let me see what that’s all about. On the other hand Lawnmower Fairies was published in July of 2012 and has precisely 26 opens…ever. The Butterfly Effect was published in July of 2014 and has had over 154 opens as of this morning. Big difference. I don’t write cryptic titles any more. I mean what the heck IS a lawnmower fairy and why would anyone but immediate family (thanks Mom) want to read about it? The most important thing is to learn from it. Otherwise, I could have packed up this blog two years ago and thrown in the towel.

So here are some of the secrets on how to get to success through all those failures:

1. Do. My friend, Janine quotes Yoda frequently, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” Do the work. Write the blog. Contact potential clients. Raise the money. Research potential locations. Read books on the topic. Put a business plan together. Network. Update your resume. Make a LinkedIn profile. See who else sells Purple Squirrel catchers. Decide what you want on your menu. Figure out how many items you want in your product line. Decide if you want to self publish or not. Show up and do. Do do do.

2. Energy. Scott Adams spends a lot of time talking about energy. If want to be constantly “doing”, you can’t be sitting on a coach eating Twinkies all day. Think about how you are going to keep the fire in your belly roaring. Regular movement is one of the best things to keep you optimistic and motivated. There is no downside to exercise except for over doing it or the cost of equipment. Eat fuel that helps your body keep in tip top shape. You know if you eat that cream filled donut you will feel miserable in an hour and want to go back to bed. So don’t. Keep you energy stoked.

3. Reframe. Anytime you have a setback or make a mistake, reframe it. Say to yourself “Hmmm, that was interesting, what can I learn from this?” I have to say I use this when I coach. A client will say that they want to do yoga 5 times a week and they don’t follow through. Goose egg. So I say, “No sweat. What did you learn from that?” Client says, “I don’t like yoga”. Me, “Great. Is exercise still important to you?” Client, “Yes. I think I’d rather play tennis 3 times a week”. OK so now we have reframed and moved on.

4. Keep on. Keep on keeping on. It’s so easy to fall under the shadow of one small failure and decide to succumb to fear. “I’m not meant to be an entrepreneur.” “I’ll never get into that college.” “I’ll never find the right partner.” Do not sit and catalog all your failures from the last thirty years in order to rationalize why you should give up. Think about Thomas Edison and his 1,500 failures at creating a light bulb. Thank goodness he didn’t give up. Keep on.

5. Systems. Scott recommends creating systems instead of goals. So a system is getting daily movement. A goal is running a marathon. A system is eating three vegetables a day. A goal is losing 20 pounds. Systems are just habits in disguise. As Scott sees goals as limiting. Once you achieve it you are done. With a system, you are constantly updating and looking for opportunities. Take the system of daily movement. I don’t need to worry about whether it’s yoga, running, walking or jitterbugging. I just make sure I get daily movement. It’s a habit. A process with no end point. Set up systems.

6. Acceptance. Make sure to accept the failings of others. When you start judging those around you for their failures, it’s just a reflection of how you see yourself. If you think your son isn’t athletic enough or your daughter isn’t smart enough…there is a good chance that you don’t see yourself as “enough”. We are just works of art in progress. At one point, the Mona Lisa was just a few strokes of paint waiting to be brought to fruition. Let go and accept.

I’m not sure why I never realized it before but Scott Adams’ book just made me understand that we are all out here just trying our best. He was drawing Dilbert for 8 years while still working full time at Pacific Bell. He’s a real human just like me. We are all humans just like me.

Untether The Balloon. 5 Ways To Detach From The Outcome.

I’ve just spent a few days on the West Coast and met up with a great college friend. We spent a lot of time talking about “Not being attached to the outcome.” She shared an example of a conference she attended where, a group of 30 had to divide into three learning groups. There was no guidance as to how the groups needed to be put together but that everyone in the group had to agree with the makeup of the group. That’s a tall order. She said they spent two days trying to divide up the groups. She was tracking certain folks she wanted to be with, but the turning point for her was letting go and not being attached to the outcome. She ended up in a group sans any of the folks she was tracking but it still proved to be a great group. Letting go of the outcome let her be open to other possibilities.

I was coaching a client this week who wasn’t sure they wanted to do an Ultra Marathon (over 26.2 miles). So I asked what the worst case scenario was and he said a, “To not finish.” I asked, “What is so bad about that?” He said ” Well, I guess I could try again, especially if it’s an injury”. Exactly. We don’t need to be so tied to the outcome….it is…what it is. Let the balloon go and let it float away.  Let. It. Go. red_balloon_by_snnr

So how do we let go, become untethered from the outcome? Here are some steps to try on for size:

1. Meditation. This seems appropriate since non-attachment has its roots in Buddhism. Spending even five or ten minutes on mediation each day helps you to let go of thought. It’s not like you stop thinking, but you learn to let go of thoughts as they come into your mind for ten minutes like little balloons lifting off. It helps you learn to let go of the story. Let the story balloons go as you meditate.

2. Open. Be open to all avenues. I have several ways to get to work. Some are longer, some have more red lights and some are prettier rides. Mess up your ride today. Go a different route. Quit being on auto pilot. I bet you don’t even remember the last drive you took to work. Let go of the assumptions of what is around the next corner, what will happen if your daughter drops out of college, or if you call back that client you aren’t sure about? What if you let go of the fear of quitting your job. Be open to possibilities.

3. Paradigm. Some paradigms are meant to be broken. A paradigm is a set of rules in your head. Many of these paradigms are built on the back of ghosts. If you struggled for money as a child, your paradigm might be about making a million dollars being THE only sign of success. If you only notice that thin people are successful, you might think you can only find success once you are thin. If you had a bad relationship with someone who is Korean, you might think that your child is doomed if they date a Korean. If you don’t want to be attached to the outcome, examine your paradigms…they are likely built on the ghosts of the past.

4. Acceptance. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Brene Brown speak on her inspiring new book “Daring Greatly”. As Brene pointed out, it’s amazing how we all spend so much time judging each other. I can be devastated by a friend looking me up and down and assume they are judging my clothing selection. I can lose sleep over the fact that my neighbors must be mortified by our uncut lawn. I can make my child change what they are wearing to hope that they are judged by the pink polka dot socks and the purple suspenders. As Brene pointed out, everyone is busy being self-conscious and worried about their own thoughts. So how would you be without that thought? Let it go and accept.

5. Enough. You are enough. Let go of the struggle. You are perfectly you and no one else is exactly as perfectly you. Don’t wait for the next raise, or to hit the lottery, to lose twenty pounds or to marry the guy with the Ferrari. You are enough right now and forever. If you can be enough…right now in this moment…you can be enough even when you fail. Be enough (because you already are).

I have to say that I’ve been working on this for several years. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it and reflect on your progress, you will evolve into that floating balloon and let the wind take you where it will…and oh what a ride!