Posts tagged ‘joy’

January 4, 2018

Forget Resolutions – Answer the Big Questions

As this year begins, forget resolutions! Until you answer the big questions, it’s pointless to make them anyway.

Is there really much chance you’re going to hit the gym an hour a day for a whole year if you haven’t explored why you’ve purchased 3 yearlong gym memberships before and worked out a total of 3 times?

Will you be able to achieve your goal of reducing clutter if you don’t know why you buy more clothes, but don’t remove anything from your closet?

Is it realistic to set a goal to prepare most meals from scratch if you don’t know whether you believe that anticipated long-term health gains are more important than the convenience that gets you through today?

We’ve talked before about setting up a life structure to support change, but that’s really starting in the middle. Before you set up that structure, you need to know yourself and be clear on your values.

Most of us believe we have a clear view of ourselves, but I can tell you from interviewing many employees and then subsequently observing their job performance, we are either terrible self-assessors or willing to be incredibly dishonest to get a job. If we’re not good at self-assessing, we’re not being honest with ourselves.

I have only a passing knowledge of Brené Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability, but it seems logical that feelings of shame regarding our perceived inadequacies or the vulnerability of being unemployed contribute to our construction of a story that doesn’t match other people’s perception of us over time. While this may feel necessary for landing a job, or our social mask may feel necessary for navigating public interactions, it is important for us to connect to our true selves. If we don’t, we simply can’t construct a life that will benefit us.

Think of it this way, if you build a house with standard height doors, it won’t comfortably fit LeBron James or Kevin Durant. If you love to sleep late and work at night, a 7am – 3pm job does not fit you as well as an 11pm – 7am job. If you value routine, outside sales will make you crazy. It doesn’t matter that your earning potential is increased because the job is not a good fit! On the other hand, if you love flexibility outside sales will let you blossom.

Asking the big questions helps to identify our strengths, obstacles, and things that bring us joy. Answering the big questions with courage solidifies our values. With the resulting clarity, we can construct a life framework that supports us becoming our best, healthiest, most joyful selves, even if our new plan is 180º from where we’ve been headed.

Is it seriously possible to go from an inability to keep a single resolution to a 180º turnaround? I believe it is. I’m not saying the path will be straightforward – your particular trail may never have been blazed before. I never expect a journey that has a straight up trajectory, or is without failure. Forward progress most often requires a foundation of commitment, diligence, learning from mistakes, and holding yourself accountable.
What does a big question sound like if I should want to ask one?

Big questions are things like:

1)What are my greatest inherent strengths?

2)What are my greatest learned skills?

3)What are my greatest weaknesses?

4)What am I most lacking right now?

5)Can I sit still in total quiet without distractions or company and feel calm and comfortable?

6)What do I have in great abundance?

7)What do I have that I can live without?

8)Am I invested and engaged in my family, my job, and my community?

9)Am I able to feel my real feelings in the moment?

10)What do I do to avoid my feelings?

11)Do I embrace my emotions, both positive and negative, and lean in?

12)Can I look myself in the eye in the mirror and sincerely utter the words, “I love you?”

13)What is the worst thing I’ve ever done? Have I forgiven myself for that?

14)If I have not yet forgiven myself for my worst action, can I do it now?

15)Do I have good boundaries?

16)Do I contribute more often to peace or to conflict in my relationships?

17)Am I more likely to display compassion or judgement?

18)Do I take responsibility for my contribution to family or work conflict?

19)How do I behave when I’m my best self and during what percentage of each day am I my behaving that way?

20)Am I willing to practice gratitude, bravery, health, fitness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity?

21)Am I reliable? Can others regularly count on me?

22)What kind of friend am I to myself? Do I take care of myself as well as I do my husband, wife, children, friends, coworkers, or clients?

23)What inspires me?

24)What motivates me?

25)If there were no obstacles, what would a perfect week look like?

26)What steps can I take today that will move me toward that perfect week?

27)If there is no way to change my current circumstances, will I be okay and can I learn to thrive?

28)How much time am I willing to commit each day to improving my physical health and fitness?

29)How much time am I willing to commit each day to strengthening my emotional & spiritual health?

30)What percentage of the time do I say no when I should say no?

31)What do I believe is the biggest obstacle standing between me and my #1 goal?

32)Do I have the courage to sit with my fear?

33)What one thing can I do each day that will add joy, laughter or connection to my life?

34)What do I believe I deserve in life?

35)Am I aware of the effect my choices have on those around me?

36)What one kindness can I offer someone else today?

The answers to big questions often reveal themselves in stages of realization slowly over a period of time as we gain insight. Many of us have had our relationships to ourselves interrupted in a manner that leaves us feeling alone, helpless, weak, undeserving, defective, or numb. When this is true, it can be a monumental task to reconnect with our emotions. If you have difficulty seeing yourself as lovable, deserving of good things, or feel a need to avoid all emotions, Somatic Experiencing® may be a good place to start.

Somatic Experiencing® Therapy allowed me to reconnect with my body so that I could relax the defenses that prevented me from feeling. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE can easily be practiced with or without the assistance of a practitioner. Using SE tools still helps me trust my body to support me while I free my mind to know what I know and my heart to feel what it feels. That puts me in a much better position to answer big questions in a manner that is consistent with supporting my best self.

If you’re already feeling concerned that you may not keep your resolutions this year, forget them and try answering some big questions! After all, there’s no danger in trying something different and the knowledge you gain about yourself can give you insight into a better strategy for sustaining positive change.

Take your time, you’ve got all year! Let’s just call this a rebuilding year.

October 6, 2015

Is Bigger Always Better or Should I Channel My Inner Goldilocks?

Here’s what I’ve been pondering: Is bigger always better or should I channel my inner Goldilocks and learn to be satisfied with just right. I know, it seems obvious that just right is just right and therefore the obvious choice, but I’m surrounded by images, ads, attitudes, messages, and the occasional TEDx talk that imply, or outright state, that just right is somehow failure; that if I do not reach the absolute pinnacle of wealth, status, expertise, or achievement in my field, I will have failed to have a great career or a great life.
Versailles USA
And it seems to be no secret that I’m supposed to feel happiest when I buy a bigger house, fancier car, more expensive TV, computer, phone, coffee maker, iron, and larger lips, boobs, and these days, perhaps even booty. But I know plenty of people who have bought a bigger house or a high end car and now talk as if they’re more stressed than they were before. I have numerous friends who own the latest and greatest everything, look fabulous, and feel anxious, so anxious in fact, that they use daily medication or alcohol to take the edge off. Working in a service business for 25 years, I am also no stranger to the conversation that includes an expression of dissatisfaction with a job or spouse.

But something feels wrong to me. I understand that most of us are our own greatest limiters, so trying to inspire us to be more isn’t a bad thing on it’s own. The hard thing with all the messages encouraging excess is to determine when more becomes too much. Without tools for discernment or a different measure of enough, it’s easy to fall prey to the lure of too much and too many. Once we get on that roller coaster, nothing is enough and we certainly can’t be enough or produce enough or ever live up to our expectations. How can our spouse, our kids, our boss, or anyone, ever measure up? In this environment, how can we help but feel anxious and fearful?
Rev Run
Last fall I went to see Joseph Simmons (Rev Run) speak at a college nearby. He described a scene early in his career when he was experiencing the kind of success we’re told to strive for. Run DMC’s albums had just gone gold, platinum and then double platinum. At that point, Run’s goal became to top LL Cool J, so, his plan was to go to LA, get a presidential suite with a huge Jacuzzi tub, order French toast and smoke some weed. Then one day, he’s in LA in a presidential suite, in the Jacuzzi eating French toast and smoking weed just like he planned. As he described it, syrup was falling in the tub and ashes were falling in the tub. A guy that ordered him a Rolls Royce to rent was at the door. “Rolling Stone” magazine was at the door with a girl for him, and the hair cut guy was on the way. He had everything he had imagined as “winning”.

Then, Rev said, he had a moment of clarity. He realized that he was trying to have everything at once. He was trying to win like we’re told to win and it did not come with the good feeling he expected. That point was the beginning of his bottom, or as he said it when I saw him, his top was his bottom. To quote the way he said it on another occasion to CNN, “At that moment I took a deep breath and realized that there`s more to life than just being No. 1, pushing the other rappers down.” It was the beginning of a journey that led Rev Run to become a real reverend with a real ministry.

When I was reading “Fearless Living” by Rhonda Britten, the book instructed me to choose a list of heroes. In various versions of this list, I chose Burt Rutan, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Ben Vereen, Theodor Seuss Geisel, and Ron Clark. In the beginning, I noticed that most of my lists were full of men and none included anyone I actually knew. Was it possible that the idea of bigger is better had caused me to believe that no everyday person could possibly qualify as a hero? Even more frightening, did I believe that only men could achieve the level of hero?

By the time I’m consciously asking a question, I know I’ve already shifted my subconscious beliefs enough that I can entertain a new point of view. Today my hero list includes Michelle Knight, Elizabeth Smart, and Michelle Wilkins – all women who endured the unspeakable and emerged with a bright, sweet spirit intact. It’s that spirit that inspires me. You can’t buy it. You can’t get a degree in it. You can have it no matter what you look like. It’s available within each of us and it can be cultivated, nourished, and shared. It is a piece of wholeness.

We all have different paths to healing and wholeness. Along the way, some of us will enjoy accolades, win prizes and garner fame as the foremost achievers in our field. Some of us will receive recognition for our contributions as parents or patrons of the arts. For some of us, there will be no overt recognition. We will only know we are having a positive effect during brief moments when we feel it in another’s response to us.

No matter what my job, my social status, or my financial situation, the more whole I am, the more contentment, satisfaction, beauty, and joy I’ll be poised to experience. That sounds to me like the underpinning of a great career and a great life!
Wholeness does not require wealth, a bigger house, a high end car, a Nobel prize, a larger TV, plastic surgery, a ticket to the Super Bowl, or French toast in a presidential suite. If I am whole, I can be a hero in my life. It seems quite simple, perhaps obvious, that bigger is only bigger and better is only better when it’s just right. Now that we cleared that up, I’ll just sign off – as Goldilocks, of course!

September 22, 2013

One Step Toward Joy

The look of sheer joy on her face was priceless! My sister had just shot her first flying clay pigeon. It wasn’t the first time she shot a gun, or the first time she hit a target. It was the first time she let herself TRY to shoot a target that wasn’t stationary. Prior to yesterday, she referred to herself as the shooting challenged. She’d organize outings in the country for everyone to shoot, but limit herself to aiming at objects held by target holders.

Okay, before you get upset by the specifics of this post, please understand. We grew up on a farm in the South. Our father hunted quail on our farm. He taught us about gun safety because there were always guns in the house. In spite of this, neither of us ever shot a gun until we were adults. We were never included in the hunting because we were girls. Nonetheless, it feels perfectly normal to us to handle a 20 gauge or 12 gauge shotgun. We don’t have blood lust or killer instinct or a militant view about bearing arms. We’re just country girls who use guns the same way other athletes use a bat, a racquet, a golf club, or a hockey stick.

And guns and shooting really have nothing to do with the point of this post anyway. The point is derived from my observation of the joy of accomplishment I saw on my sister’s face and the process that led to that moment.

My sister just turned 43 and our cousin just turned 93. Both deserved a celebration, so yesterday Ben & I traveled a few hours to my mom’s house on the farm where I grew up. The weather was beautiful – clear, breezy, and about 70º. It was the perfect day to be outside.



Thinking I was only joining my sister & her guests for a ride around the farm, I ended up at a makeshift shooting range carved out of the tall grass while Ben & I were making the drive. In the clearing, there was a basic target thrower, biodegradable targets, a single-shot 410 shotgun, a 12 gauge shotgun, and when we arrived 3 women, and one man. The competition began. When it was my sister’s turn, she easily broke some nearby stationary targets with the 410.

We switched to the 12 gauge. She was happy to shoot at the same target locations with this gun as well. I encouraged her to take a shot at a flying target. Her response was, “I can’t hit those. Haven’t you ever seen me try to hit a softball? It’s the same thing.” I’m not sure she’s tried to hit a softball in more than 20 years so I was struck by the statement. I pushed; she repeated that she couldn’t do it.

I recognized that she really believed what she was saying in spite of the fact that she’d never even TRIED. I took a few shots and missed on every single throw. I enticed her again to take a shot. As I reminded her, she couldn’t do any worse than I had just done. We started by having her leave the safety on and follow the target with the gun.

410On the first throw, she stood absolutely still. I assume she moved her eyes along with the movement of the bright orange disk, but her body did not move. It was almost as if she was frozen. I stepped in and gently reminded her that she would have to move her body along with her eyes for the sight on the gun to follow the target and I told her that I would give the “pull” command.

I said, “pull”. She followed the target’s movement with her upper body. One more time and she relaxed a bit. Now it was time to turn off the safety. Breathe, relax, follow, shoot. On the second round, she obliterated a target. It was a perfect shot. The look of joy and pride that washed across her was priceless!

And the effects lingered. She stood taller, excitedly told everybody when she got back to the house. And never again will she be able to say, “I can’t do that.” because she can, and she always could.

She had been preventing herself from the joy of experiencing the process by focusing on the end goal and projecting how bad she’d feel if she didn’t perform well. She imagined she’d feel the same way she felt on the softball field when she was a kid. This projection was preventing her from progressing from stationary to moving targets.

She couldn’t even see that there were steps in the process. She believed she had to pull the trigger as soon as she said, “pull”. This paralyzed her. She never realized she could just move her body in relation to the moving object or allow someone else to determine when the target was released. In fact, she was unable to see any options at all.

My sister is not alone. How often have you prevented yourself from joining a yoga class because you’re afraid you won’t be able to master every pose the first hour? How many times have you avoided a commitment to being gluten-free because you just can’t imagine NEVER eating another yeasty dinner roll?

However many times we choose the status quo rather than trying something different, we guarantee we’ll miss the sheer joy that can result from taking the first step in the process. Will every process result in joy? Maybe not immediately, but each step forward fills our internal bank with the courage, resilience, and confidence that makes the next step easier, and yes, I believe that ultimately it is the participating that brings us joy. And our joy brings others joy. Seeing that look on my sister’s face was my favorite moment of the day!

Have you ever experienced joy or exhilaration when you tried something you thought you couldn’t do? Would you encourage someone else to take that first step?

September 25, 2012

Dessert First! Day Two.

Initially it was more difficult than I anticipated to stick with my intent to do dessert first. The morning presented the challenge of nonworking phones, an unexpected customer visit, and an irate phone call from another customer at a university who believed she had been shorted on an order. While the visiting customer tried to look at his website on our screen, the printer jammed upon printing his ads causing the computer to freeze. The thought of anything pleasant seemed beyond my grasp. It was going to take some resolve to follow my plan.

Perhaps I should mention that all of this followed an hour of pulling up carpet and moving furniture in my bedroom so that the 2nd full bathroom in my 1910 house can be demolished due to the same water damage tha caused us to demolish the bathroom below two weeks ago. And did I mention that this is the only other full bathroom in the house? In addition, on the way to the office I had fielded a call from an unemployed friend who is feeling angry and desperate.

When I finally managed to turn my mind back to my intention to savor the small pleasant moments of each day,  I felt angry, unsettled, and a bit overwhelmed.  Nonetheless, I accepted my visiting customer’s invitation to an early lunch.  I told him how I felt.  I savored a hamburger steak with crispy edges topped with grilled onions.  I lingered and enjoyed catching up with his family stories even though I had not yet researched the order shortage for my other customer.  I began to feel a tiny bit more relaxed.

Back at the office, I researched the problem and could document that we had delivered the full order and that it had been signed for by the university.  Even with that, I recognized that they believed there was a problem so I had to deal with them as if there were a problem.  Was there some morsel of pleasure I could savor first?

I turned my attention to some invoicing that needed to go out. This felt good to me because it means cash flow sooner rather than later and is a way of taking care of my finances.  Then I made the phone call.  Once that was done, I went to the dry cleaners and the bank.  Along the route, I noticed a huge weeping willow tree blowing in the breeze.  I took a moment to watch the scintillating leaves.

By the time I returned, I was feeling peaceful and calm.  Then I got the phone call that someone at the university had misplaced a box of my customer’s order.  Ahhhh, more relaxation that problem is gone.  Perhaps even the brief moments of pleasure I managed to lean into were having an effect?

Late afternoon presented a minor bump in the road, but by evening I was feeling energized by positive energy and happy as I began a book I’ve been looking forward to at bedtime.  In the moment it’s hard to analyze anything, but this morning (the morning of Day 3), I awoke feeling joyous with an excitement toward embracing whatever the day may bring.

Could it be that the small shift in focus that I managed yesterday was a powerful catalyst for how I’m feeling today?  Perhaps.  Check in tomorrow to find out.