What Happens When We Are Willing To Wait For An Answer?

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It can feel good to be able to answer “yes” or “no” to the questions about what we should do in life. It can feel good to be decisive and know exactly how we intend to resolve a problem or situation we are facing. Sometimes, however, the impulse to immediately decide “yes” or “no” to the everyday problems and situations that we face is more about playing it safe and clinging to certainty than it is about living life to the fullest.

This is why I love the idea of Maybe. Maybe allows us to contemplate the possibilities of life unfolding in many different ways without feeling the need for action the very minute a problem confronts us.  It allows us to pause and wonder if there is something else beyond what we are seeing in the moment. Maybe we have not explored how we can be more creative or more adventurous and maybe a problem can become the chance for a new direction. Maybe it is best to wait and let the situation unfold a bit more before acting in our accustomed ways.

After our pause we may come to the same “yes” and/or “no” conclusion or maybe we will try something new and it won’t work as well as we had hoped.  But MAYBE we will expand our lives and create new opportunities, meet someone new or just have an experience unlike any we have had before.

Maybe allows us to engage life full on because instead of looking only for what we “know” we expand our boundaries to an infinite playing field of all that can be. After all, are we really looking for certainty in our lives or are we looking to live a life of fulfillment, joy and abundance?

Just Maybe.

Image from: http://11even.net/2010/04/how-to-solve-the-rubiks-cube/fun/

Living Before You Die

My client Caroline retired a few years ago and since then she has been very worried about her money and whether it will last for the rest of her life.  Her money is placed in what she believes to be conservative investments and she sticks to a budget the best that she can. However, her stress about not having enough money for the future persists and keeps her up at night.  She told me that she wants to enjoy her life but the fear of what may happen frightens her and keeps her from it.

During a recent meeting, I handed her the quote above from an interview with the Dalai Lama.  After reading it, tears began to roll down Caroline’s cheeks.  I asked her why she was crying and she told me, “I feel so relieved.  On some level I’ve been feeling that I have no right to be happy because my finances are not what they should be.  I should have saved more money and invested better and now I have less than all of my friends.  I am always afraid that one day I may have trouble paying my bills.  The stress and worry is also making me feel sick. But this quote jolted a realization in me that I am just wasting time.  I am wasting time worrying when I could be laughing with my grandchildren or playing cards with my friends.  I am acting like I am never going to die and I have been careless with the time I have left.   My circumstances are what they are and I don’t want to give up another day or my health worrying about a future that may never arrive.  There is so much I want to do and my fears of the future are holding me back.  I am still going to keep my investments and stay on my budget.  The difference now is that I am going to start living!”

I should have paid her for the session!

The Game Is Not About Becoming Somebody, It’s About Becoming Nobody.

“The game is not about becoming somebody, it’s about becoming nobody.”

                                                        Ram Dass

I remember reading this quote a long time ago and having absolutely no idea what it meant.  I had just gotten a job at a large law firm, I was making great money and I thought I had finally arrived at a place in my life where I had finally become “SOMEBODY.”

However, after fifteen years of practicing law, I felt unfulfilled and I decided to abandon the profession and focus on a career in consulting and coaching.  I was really starting over.  I had only a few clients and I was unknown in the industry. Around the same time, I helped organize a charity event to introduce children to the idea of giving.  At this event, one of the mothers said, “wow, what a group of heavy hitter moms we have here!” She proceeded to go around the room naming every woman and their accomplishments.  Everyone that is, except me.  I was dumbstruck and felt as though I was floating in air with nothing to hold on to.  A knot in my stomach formed and began to grow.  What had happened to everything that I had worked so hard for over the years? Who am I without my accomplishments?I sat with these thoughts for many days and I began to realize how much I had been using my outside achievements to define who I was and how I felt about myself.  Maybe it was time to get comfortable with myself without clinging to the outside world’s view of me to make me feel better or worse. So began my journey to get comfortable with being a “nobody.”

The most interesting part for me was that the more I sat with my “nobody” the more I found that I was freer of the strings that used to control my emotional ups and downs.  I began to really understand that the insatiable need for validation from other people was a losing battle because I couldn’t control what others said and thought.  However, once I released my dependence on how the world saw me (the philosophy of Maybe helped a lot!), I got to know what really makes me tick and who I really am. 

My “nobody” was a place inside me that was okay no matter what was happening around me.  My “nobody” is not a place where I am worthless, but instead is a place where I am always valuable.  It is enough just to be here, to love, to breathe and to be human.

I still have big goals and I have accomplished a lot since that day, but I start each journey from a different place.  My life is less of a race to the top and more of an experience of living life.  My “nobody” gives me a continuous awareness that there is more to me than what I am experiencing in the outside world and more to life than what I achieve.

I still enjoy life when I am quoted in the newspaper and my readership increases on my blog.  But I also enjoy life when one of my blog posts that I think is insightful gets very few views.  I truly appreciate those few views and I do not feel badly about what it may mean for my career and how I value myself.   It is all an experience helping me to understand my true nature.

I now believe that we can all relax into life and become happier, more giving and more peaceful without all the outside pressures affecting how we see ourselves every minute of the day.  We can give up one identity to find one closer to our hearts and less reactive to the outside world.

Maybe by being nobody is really when we become somebody – our true selves!

Helping Our Children Stay Positive!

When my daughter was eleven she tried out for the school play, The Wizard of Oz. She was quite nervous about trying out and wanted to be cast in the play more than anything. She told me that she was going to stay really positive because when you think positive good things happen. She began to say things like “when I make the play” and practiced acting and singing everyday. The day the cast list went up her name was not there. She said she couldn’t believe it and kept looking at the list again and again for her name.  She then thought it must be a mistake and began to look for the teacher but ran out of time. She came home crying hysterically and yelling “positive thinking does not work!!! I’m never trying out for a play again!!”

My heart wanted to break to think of my child looking at the list again and again in the hope that her name would appear. I held her as she cried uncontrollably, and I realized that the philosophy of Maybe is what the situation needed. My daughter had fallen into a common pitfall of positive thinking. To harness the power of positive thinking, we need to be optimistic no matter what happens. For many people, this is too hard to sustain when life takes unexpected turns. When we face obstacles in life that obscure the road ahead it is easy to doubt that things can still work out fine. It’s especially hard for children to access this positive perspective in the midst of emotional pain.  They get stuck on the idea that “if today doesn’t work out, it will never change in the future.”

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