Resiliency: What does it really take?

We all have aspirations for something.

Even if we haven’t translated it yet into a specific goal, there’s something we want more of, less of or different.

It is the ultimate dichotomy I think of our humanness: We resist change and yet change is what we crave.

The underlying conflict in this seems to be that we want the change we want and nothing else.

We do not want to have to put change to work; we only want change that works for us. And we believe we are the best judge of what that might be.

Author and leadership expert Simon Sinek recently shared these thoughts on change that I found insightful:

“People don’t fear change.

They fear sudden change.

People fear revolutions.

People don’t fear evolutions.”

Sometimes though, evolution may not be recognized. Because the best change quite often masquerades as something else, something perhaps we don’t recognize for its true potential.

That’s the essence of resilience. Being able to recognize opportunity in whatever comes our way. Once we’ve made the decision for what we want, then everything gets put to work to accomplish that. It’s one of the principal lessons I learned from Napoleon Hill’s work, Think and Grow Rich. The decision begins everything. Without a decision, there is no touchstone.

But what does it really take to go from decision to done? What does resilience need in order to work? From studying those that are repeatedly successful it would appear that there are three things that happen with resilience.

First is that everything becomes a resource and gets put to work. You see things differently. You see them through the lens of possibility. You become resourceful instead of just waiting on resources.

Second is a steadfast sense of resolve. Jim Rohn tells the story of a young girl that when asked to define resolve explained that it was a promise you make to yourself. When things go awry, as we know they will, it is our resolve that keeps us on track and moving forward.

The third element is not just what we get in the end, it’s what we continuously produce and that is results. Results are the most effective way to light our path. They show us which direction is working. They guide us along the way. That is why we have to measure from the first step, so we can harness the power of those results, adjusting our sails as we go.

What it really takes is not just one thing, in fact it’s really not a thing at all. When you think about it, what it takes is us. We make the decision, we become resourceful, we resolve to persevere and we follow the best results until we get there.

What is it you want? Decide. Start there. Let it begin.

Live (decide) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (decide) well.

 

 

 

Resiliency: Creating perspective with gratitude

Nothing challenges our beliefs like pain.

Whether physical, mental or emotional, when pain strikes, all bets are off when it comes to what we might have expected in our responses.

That is why it’s crucial for us to have a tool to create context and perspective for those moments.

That tool is gratitude.

You cannot be stressed and genuinely grateful at the same time. You cannot be angry and grateful at the same time. They are counter-intuitive emotions.

It can be hard to find gratitude when your world seems to be crumbling. And it’s maddening when others tell you about the silver lining in your cloud; or that there’s a purpose to everything. We know that of course. But at that moment, that’s not what we need to hear. What we feel in that moment is that nothing matters except the moment and its pain.

The most helpful thing we can do is to contain the moment and gain some perspective, even distance from the pain.

The fastest path to that wisdom is gratitude. This is not about being grateful for the pain. In fact, sometimes it’s about anything but the pain. Sometimes we need to rest the eyes of our soul for a moment. We need a life lens that takes away the harsh painful glare. Simple gratitude can do that for us.

However, I know from personal experience that gratitude will not always come naturally. It too is a skill that must be honed and developed. It is also one of the most vital prerequisites for resilience.

If we are not grateful we will not see the point in creating good. In the end, that’s what gratitude is really about – finding the good.

It may not be about everything in the moment, but it can be about something.

I remember during some dark days when it took all of my strength just to get through the day that the corner of light was always there because of gratitude. It was my diversion from pain to peace. Even if just for a moment, it immersed me in something outside of the pain.

Taking time to seek the good and be grateful begins to balance the scales.

It was during these days that I began a life practice that still sustains me now and that is my gratitude journal. Each day I express gratitude. A journal is a natural expression for me as a writer. It can take many forms but once we develop this life practice the skill becomes a part of us and something very special begins to happen.

We begin to seek the good in everything. We search for those reminders and we find them. After all, whatever it is we seek, that is what we find.

This is what begins to establish a life that is centered around gratitude as a core value. It takes us beyond the moment and into a deeper and richer experience of life. When someone asks how I am able to see possibilities where others may not, it usually comes back to this. When we begin to seek the good, we begin to find it. Not only in those days and times as an antidote to pain, but everyday and how we see our world overall.

Our thoughts are like magnets. When they are about what is good, that will be what we attract. Even when on the surface, we may not see it. The good is there. And we will find it. That’s the power of gratitude. It changes our perspective about pain but even more, it changes our perspective about life.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

 

How much life are you leaving on the table?

There is a phrase used sometimes when talking about negotiations that, when you stop and think about it, has a broader application. It speaks to the difference between what someone actually pays and how much they were willing to pay. It’s referred to as the seller perhaps leaving “money on the table” by underpricing or giving in to negotiation pressure. It comes down to how much was possible from the transaction vs. how much was realized.

Let’s think about this beyond just financial negotiations and look at how we negotiate with ourselves about our lives and work. Over the past few months I have found myself asking: How much life am I leaving on the table? Is there a difference between how much life is possible vs. how much I am settling for?

In a word – Yes.

What is behind the idea of settling? It’s not all bad, is it? Sometimes we go along to get along. I’ve done it. I hope I’ve matured enough to know to choose my battles. But this goes deeper. It speaks to the dangers of too much compromise and not enough fight, particularly with (and for) ourselves!

As I thought about this, the first thing that came to mind was learning how to recognize when it is happening.  After all, how would we ever know?

Wisdom from Thomas Edison prompted this personal inquiry for me with this statement: “When you think you have exhausted all of the possibilities remember this: You haven’t!”

I thought about all the factors that might create a limited perspective of what was possible. There were five that kept coming up over and over. Here they are:

  1. Limiting Beliefs
  2. Limiting Choices
  3. Limiting Circle
  4. Limiting Practices
  5. Limiting Purpose

There is no question that when we limit what we believe about ourselves and our possibilities we are leaving life on the table. After all, if we don’t think it’s possible, we won’t even try.

And, the idea of only an “either / or” in choice has always befuddled me. I lean toward both or more instead of just allowing for one or the other. Since when did choices become mutually exclusive? One way of thinking about this is:  Why settle for A or H – why not choose both and create AHA! True creativity rejects choices that are limited. Just imagine if we had settled for red and blue and never discovered purple!

There is a belief often taught in personal development circles that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  While there are nuances to that – there is a genesis of something very true here. Our sphere of influence is so important. How can you expect to stay inspired and encouraged if no one you are in the trenches with shares your vision or ideals?

The idea of limiting practices is typically my nemesis. Wanting to attain something is good and it’s a start but wanting something isn’t what gets it done. Our daily practices make that happen. We think of this for our health without question. But it’s true in your work as well. What must happen every day or every week to move your needle forward? When we limit what we are willing to do daily, we leave life on the table. As I heard recently, when we aren’t achieving what we want, it’s rarely a lack of knowledge or know-how. We know what to do. We just don’t seem to know how to get ourselves to consistently do it! Sound familiar?

Candidly, the last one on the list came first or second when I first started thinking about this, but as new ones came up, it kept getting pushed down. I’m giving that some thought but for now consider that if you don’t have an unfettered purpose you are leaving so much on the table. It speaks to belief but goes beyond it. This is where we think about 10X or 100X or possibly 1000X factors for what we believe we can accomplish. Not for ourselves, but as an agent of change in the world. I may have to re-think where this one goes in its ranking on the list.

What do you want to be true 90 days from now in your life or work? At the end of 2020? By the end of this decade?

Consider these factors for yourself. Make sure you aren’t leaving any life on the table.

Live today like you WANT tomorrow to be.  Live WELL!

Beginnings and endings… Are you ready for today?

My favored space where I write and work is filled with creative work from other artists as well as my own. My favorite pieces are where images and words collide and create illustrations that move me.

Just above my desk is such a piece. It isn’t a large work. It only measures 12” by 12” – one square foot. It covers only the basic measure of space. And yet it expresses the drive that fuels my work and inspires me every day. It’s a stretched canvas that has a transferred print from the artist Bonnie Mohr. It has a striking image of a tree in a field with open fencing against a sky with both shadows and the sun. The tree is mature with wide full branches. Its shape is lovely but has gaps through which you see the sky beyond it. You just know that this tree is the keeper of many secrets and dreams.

A tree tells the story of a seed that sprouts roots first and then grows to its fullness in time. We share a similar story. We are born, our roots begin to form even as we grow. For both of us, how we adapt to a changing environment and assimilate all of the elements thrown at us has a great deal to do with how we grow. The impact is in our shape, size, even character.  The tree in this picture has a strong character.

The image frames these words: “Nobody can go back and start a new BEGINNING, but ANYONE can start today and make a new ENDING.” 

We cannot begin again. We’ve already started. For me, it’s not even something I would desire. To start again, I would lose too much of what is dear to me. What I can start today is a new chapter. The ending is still being written. The ending is still mine to choose based on what I choose today. Like the tree, we just keep living. We keep growing and reaching for new horizons.

One of my personal mentors is Robin Sharma.  From his teachings, I incorporated a mantra within my morning reflection where I focus my day before it begins. It is this:

“Every day, in every way, I am growing wiser and stronger. Today will be my best day.”

It is the first part of the mantra that makes the second part true. As we come into each day we bring with us all of the strength and wisdom of each and every day that came before.  We have this incredible bank of experience and knowledge that is unique to us and that moment in our lives.  All we have to do is learn and leverage to make every day our best day. That does not diminish the value of any day that came before. In fact, it honors those days by building on them.

Are you ready for your best day? Are you ready for today?

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

 

Time For Something New

One of my favorite insights on life comes from Golda Meir. When asked for her thoughts about her achievements and the role she played on a global stage, she offered this advice:

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

The power lies in the fact that we determine which achievements and which sparks to fan into those flames. There is the key – WE must decide. WE must do.

Here are three questions that can help you determine if you are on your own best personal path or if you have become a bit too comfortable in that easy chair of your life:

#1:  When was the last time you tried something new?

Think about this for a moment. Do you always eat the same food?  Listen to the same music?  Read the same authors?  Go to the same places?  Spend time with the same people? If you aren’t exposing yourself to any new experiences, the rut is going to happen naturally. You’re going back and forth in a groove.

#2:  How much are you learning and growing right now?

There is an unlimited curriculum in life for learning. What do you want to know that right now you don’t?  Do you have a learning strategy that is aligned to your life strategy?

#3:  When was the last time you took a REAL risk?

Has something happened in your life or work that has made you more risk averse? Perhaps the economy. Disappointments in relationships. Missed opportunities. When that happens, it can be like the first time we touch a hot stove – it’s pretty rare for us to go back again. We experienced something that didn’t pay off. The danger is that once we’ve started thinking in terms of risk we begin to see all risk the same. We’ve forgotten that risk itself has changed.

Not taking risks today is in fact the greatest risk. Are you employed and know your industry or function is in decline?  Are you taking any risks to change your situation?  Risk could mean investing $$’s in education; it could mean starting your own part-time business; it could simply mean facing your fears and going to a networking function and meeting new people. What we fear the most is usually what is in truth holding us back. Face the fear and remove the obstacle.

If any of these questions resonate with you, it is important to remember that you hold the power to break the barrier of that comfort zone.

There are only three things you need to do:

1)      Decide you are ready for change

2)      Decide where you want to start

3)      Choose one action you can do NOW and BEGIN!

Once you are moving in the right direction, momentum will take over. The fresh energy you experience from changing one thing will also fuel other fires. The sparks will carry into every area of your life.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

 

Seasons: They are about more than the weather

From our first breath, we live our lives in cycles, in seasons.

This can mean very different things. A climate season, a learning season, a life season and so on. But there are definite cycles we experience that bring with them influences and nuances that factor into our lives.

Seasons are also a factor in life in terms of our own development and acquired wisdom from experience. We refine our philosophies along the way and become increasingly aware of our value and influence in the world.

It’s been my experience that seasons are one of the best gifts of life. They keep us from stagnating. They keep us moving. They create a current of change that continuously pushes us to what is next. While some might argue that a lovely, mild climate might be ideal year round, others would definitely miss winter. Others would miss summer. That is the other gift. In many ways we get to leverage seasons based on what is ideal for us at any particular season of life.

This is also why we must stay in design mode throughout our lives. Because there are always new and exciting factors coming in and those that have finished are moving out even if only figuratively.

As I move through my current life season, this is something I am thinking about quite a bit because I believe this is where a collective conversation can bring meaningful individual growth. What about you? Where do you see seasons shifting things in your life and work? One thing is certain, change will happen. The key is whether or not we are designing it and celebrating it or something altogether different. As with everything in our lives, it is our perspective and how we see it that makes the difference.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well!

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.” ― Christoph Christian Sturm