12 LESSONS LEARNED WHITE WATER RAFTING THAT APPLY TO LIFE

The river of life
The river of life

I just returned from a trip to the American River, I realized that white water rafting is quite like life. Below are the lessons that I feel best apply to enjoying the journey of life.

1. Have a guide – either someone who’s run the rapids before, or is excellent at reading the river to help you avoid rocks and strong currents that could flip your raft or pull you under.

2. The calm spots are far more enjoyable with community.

3. When the wind picks up, if you have many people paddling in unison, you will still move forward. If you are alone, it will take a lot of work and you may not get anywhere or even drift backwards.

4. If you paddle strongly when approaching the rapids you can better position yourself for the optimal ride.

5. Sometimes the best thing to do is lean in and hold on!

6. When the big scary rapid has been passed thorough, when you are exhausted and drenched by waves that seemed determined to swallow your raft – you will feel elated and energized for the experience and look forward to the next one.

7. It is important to celebrate your successes with your raftmates.

8. The rivers are unpredictable; no two are alike and no single is the same each day.

9. In the midst of great mountains, the persistence of water has created amazing rivers with abundance and beauty.

10. Staying in your raft is a challenge sometimes.

11. Bringing a cellphone is a BAD idea!

12. The ride is far more fun if you are fully participating and present.

We are just rafts in the rivers of life – Are you enjoying the ride?

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The Challenges in Decision

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. – Rush

I have a very common affliction, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) syndrome, so it doesn’t surprise most people that I jump on opportunities when they come about, no matter how crazy they are. I’ve driven from Boston to New York City (4 hour drive) for a lunch date with a friend – it made for a 12 hour day for a lunch, but I wouldn’t have missed it! I have also made some very difficult decisions which were life altering for my entire family. I have very little trouble taking action regardless if others understand or agree with my decisions at the time.

People often seek me out because I am adventurous and take risks. There are a lot of fun decisions I have made that excite people, and there are a few really tough decisions that many people fear to make. They want to know how I calculate the decisions I make and what helps me to make some of the major, and sometimes unpleasant changes.

Recently I have been working with a couple of different people who are at life crossing points. Each have entirely different stories and situations and are in vastly different age groups, but I believe the underlying problem is identical and one faced often by many people when coming to a major decision. Neither of these people have been able to make a decision. To decide is to cut off a possibility, or as I’ve used in the past, “ to burn the boat.” Each person’s decision will be a life change, and change is scary for most people, and major change can be paralyzing for some.

Most times when making a big change people are afraid of making the wrong decision and not being able to go back. I understand this and it is a real and very valid fear. Great care must be taken in analyzing the situation and weighing out all the elements within the decision. Careful consideration is a key step, however, when it lasts over a long period of time I believe it can cause more pain than it avoids.

Ultimately, my concern is not really about coming to an understanding about what to do, because most people are quite thoughtful of major decisions before coming to conclusions. The real issue, and I believe why they end up with me, is that once a conclusion is made, not taking action on that conclusion is like sitting on a picket fence post! It is painful, not only to the person who has concluded yet not taken any action, but also to whomever else that decision may affect.

Action must follow conclusion. Ultimately, all parties involved will benefit from at least a clear new direction, whether desired or not. If it’s a job change, the boss/company will be able to begin searching for a qualified replacement, if it’s a relationship, both parties are given an opportunity to work on themselves individually and potentially find a more suitable mate.

If one focuses on the benefits of a decision, even the tough ones, it gives hope and promise to the end of the current situation. It allows the end of anything to be the beginning of something. I’m not trying to diminish the tragedy of some of the decisions that need to be made; what I am trying to do is share that almost every decision will have both good and bad effects. Often times people are so focused on the bad that they have trouble taking action on something and usually worse situations result.

Making decisions, both joyful and painful, are opportunities to live true to yourself. I firmly believe that when we act in ways that are not true to ourselves, our values and our spirit, we fail. You honor yourself and others by living your life truly, and sometimes, that means making a tough decision. As the saying goes, it may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Wishing you the courage to make the decisions that keep you true to yourself.

Peace

Move off the fence and travel the path
Move off the fence and travel the path

Focus on what – not how

I have just made a move across country to take a job at a pretty awesome company. Many people when they meet me, they ask, “What brought you out here?” I figure enough people ask, and enough people are unhappy where they are, maybe it was time to make this a more public story.

Growing up on the east coast I always wanted to know what it was like to live on the west coast (and the girl with straight hair always wants curly!). When I was 19 I was planning to move out to California and pursue education in the music business. This plan ended up getting postponed, looking back it was likely a lifesaver, but the dream and desire never left, just got put on the back burner.

A couple of years ago, I realized my current job was likely not a long-term fit for me based on many factors. One night I just sat down and since I knew I needed to continue a 9-5 as I build Thrive Life, my life coaching business, I brainstormed. I thought about what were the elements of a company that I would want to work for? What would the culture be? Where would it be located? What was my “pie-in-the-sky” goal company? If I could work for anyone, who would want to work for?

I came up with two companies that I thought had models that I wanted to emulate in my own business. I remembered advice I had heard a long time ago saying that the best way to understand how a company works is to work for them. So I sent out my resume to Apple Inc. and Virgin Companies.

The two companies have so many traits in the way the run their business and very importantly, how they treat their employees and customers that resonate with me. I didn’t know if either company would have openings that fit my qualifications, or that they would be interested in relocating me as both companies were out of my area, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t worry about the how, just the who.

The trick is not to know how it will work out, but to get started and allow the hard part to be worked out by the Universe. I call this a trick, because I think this is the part most people are tripped up by. Most people get caught up in the details of how it can happen and sometimes that is enough to stop them from throwing it out to the Universe at all.

Do note, the timetable for this major change was not over night. It probably took a little over two years between the time I decided and the time I finally got an interview with one of my dream companies and subsequently landed the job. I did put into place items immediately that would move me in the direction I wished to be. I sent my resume out, I joined each of their job websites, I stopped by their sites regularly to see if something new had opened up and maybe something I had not originally considered.

This month, as we move into Spring and the season of new beginnings, I encourage you to review an area of your life that might not be the best fit for you and brainstorm your ideal solution without worrying about if it’s a feasible solution or how to accomplish it, just what would you want it to look like. Then move toward that vision as you can in small steps, and leave the details out of your concern.

I’d love to hear from you to hear what you decide to move towards – leave a comment below if you are willing to share.
Set course on a new day

To Leap or Not to Leap – Not a Question!

You must leave the ground to fly

I talk with people a lot about taking risks. Personally I think taking risks is the most fulfilling way to live. When life gets predictable and too comfortable people have a tendency to get stuck and stop growing.

I am someone who considers herself experienced in this area and therefore feel like a good guide for most. I have done what some only dream of, and some claim “could never do!” A few years ago I quit my 3 jobs, sold my house, sent my daughter on her freshman year of college and took my son and dog to an island in Central America to live for a year. Recently, I left a 5 year career in my home state where I was fully established to take a chance on a job in a state I had been to once (for my interview) across the country where I know no one, for an opportunity with an amazing company who had let the previous employee go after a very short period.

I do however, consider myself a calculated risk taker and I believe this has served me very well. I carefully think through a situation and review any consequences I can see. Once assessed, action follows. Before I moved out of the country I set criteria I couldn’t live without – there was no specific number, these were just the elements that absolutely had to be present in the new location. Luckily I do not have tremendous needs, so the number was fairly small. Once I found the location that fit my criteria, I decided that was where I would relocate and went to visit for a weekend mostly to give my father some peace! I had already decided it was perfect.

A little research before any big change, and even some of the small ones, is definitely necessary but then take action! To every West, there is an East if you take the wrong exit off the highway, find the onramp and try again! Leap, a net will appear although, most times you’ll find, one isn’t required, or that it’s a simple as taking the next exit.

Risk taking is not without its concerns and stresses. Before most of my biggest risks I get butterflies and fears about making a bad decision, but I move forward in spite of the fear and feelings. I have done this enough times to understand the difference between an experience being different and unknown to it being dangerous. I suggest you practice with the little things and learn to decipher the differences in your own experiences and gradually move to bigger things.

There are little things I encounter each week that I may hesitate to do for fear of failure or how the action might be perceived by others. No one wants to be rejected or look badly to others, but for me, the opportunity that I might regret not having tried or been true to myself is worse. I often think of the worst case scenario – if I do something that is not received the way I hoped, at least I know and won’t waste any further energy on it. Win, win!! If I do it and it is received how, or better than how I hoped – then I win again!

I save a lot of energy and time by making a decision and leaping and not worrying about the net, I know if I miss my mark, something will be there to catch me, or I may land somewhere better altogether. This is certainly a muscle I suggest everyone exercise.

What risks are you not taking because of fear? Break it down, calculate and then take action! You will likely find a great freedom to facing the unknown and from there you are limitless!!

Hold Your Own Key

As we venture into a brand new year, many people take this time to assess their past year and their future goals. If you are reading this blog, you too are probably one of those people. Resolutions are designed to bring people closer to happiness or to the idea they hold of what happiness is.

Often times I find that a person’s idea of happiness for themselves includes actions of another. Now that is not to say this is a bad thing, however it bears some exploration. At times when you probe the question, “I am happy when_______________ “and that happiness involves the actions (done or not done) by another person, you are giving your happiness power away. The statement “I will be happy when I am married to a wonderful man/woman” requires many actions to be taken by another individual, for which you may or may not control. This is only one blatant example, but do you see how it might matter?

I often find when looking at an individual’s goals that they are so focused on the end result they fail to see they are giving away their power to be happy or successful to someone else. For example, often sales people tack their goals to the number of customers they have or sales they make. Do you see how that sets them up for an excuse to be unhappy? A sales person has no control over if someone buys their product or service. A more productive option might look like this: I, salesperson, will make 40 calls to prospective customers and 20 maintenance calls to current customers and write 30 proposals for existing or new customers.

Do you see how that goal still puts people in mindset to propel them forward without tying their happiness or success to the customer buying something? This also allows for the little beauty called integrity. This type of goal will allow the sales person to decide that maybe their product isn’t well suited for a particular customer, maybe something else would be a better fit. Do you think that if you goal or happiness is tied to the other person buying the product a sales person will have the same focus? If the sales person has made the call and listened carefully to find out their product didn’t fit the customer, do you think that customer might have confidence for a future, maybe bigger sale later?

So back to the idea of what happiness looks like. I suggest you take a good look at your resolutions and goals for the coming year and see if you are giving away your happiness power. I encourage you to rethink any goals that rely on the action of another to make you happy/accomplished/successful and return that power to its rightful owner.

By aligning our goals with actions under our control we can continue to strive to improve and grow all while maintaining integrity. A goal achieved at someone’s expense never feels as good as one in which you push yourself and achieve it and more people benefit in addition to the goal setter.

I don’t know about you, but I like the power to create my own happiness and not wait or expect anyone else to provide my happiness. In the end, if I own it, I can share it with others and we can enjoy our happiness and success together.

Here’s to you handling your keys and riding that happiness to your goal destination!

Your ride awaits
Your ride awaits
Photo Credit PJ Farinha

Seasons

I am about to make a major move, physically relocating across the country. This means many of my relationships will be changing in some way. I have moved many times, some bigger than others which has given me the perspective that people come in and out of our lives at a time for a reason. Sometimes an old friend will reappear after a long hiatus, and sometimes friends or family members will drop off for a bit, or move quietly out of our lives never to be seen again.

I believe all relationships have seasons. People bring unique gifts to our lives at a given time and sometimes they stay a long time or even forever, but sometimes they don’t and the original friendship takes on a different light or none at all.

I recently spoke to a friend about this very type of thing. He is a wonderful, kind and very giving friend to all whom he bestows his friendship upon. Recently a friendship of his that was once very meaningful was changing and he was having a hard time with the different tone it was beginning to take on. When I shared with him my point of view that his relationship might be going through a seasonal change, he was puzzled by the idea. I explained that as the seasons change outside, it makes no sense to try to hold onto the one that is departing. You wouldn’t see someone trying to tie leaves back onto a tree branch after they had fallen. You see people outside raking and clearing the ground for the next new thing to come – snow in these parts. Putting leaves back onto a tree that has naturally shed them doesn’t make any sense, and neither does holding onto a relationship “the way it used to be.”

Just because the seasons change, and the leaves drop off the tree, does not make the tree dead, it just makes it look and feel different. If the leaves did not come off the tree, the tree would certainly suffer irreparable harm when the snow fell and the leaves caught the snow making the branch buckle and break under the weight of the snow.

Relationships too have their seasons; they ebb and flow, wax and wane with life events. If we are growing, our needs are changing from time to time and different people will fulfill those needs at different times. Allowing and appreciating the new season and accepting the changes it brings opens us up to different possibilities, sometimes even with the same people. Preventing something from following the natural course of change may bring pain or destruction to the very thing we’re trying to preserve.

Each season has a purpose and to miss that is a lost opportunity. Truly enjoying our relationships entails allowing them the freedom to be what they are at any given moment and love them as they are.

The beauty lies in acceptance of the changes each season brings
The beauty lies in accepting the changes each season brings

Finding Your Tribe

Meet some members of my tribe
Meet some members of my tribe

I have heard the comment that you are like the people with whom you spend the most time. This is something that I understand and agree with, but did not make it much of a conscious decision. The people you spend the most time with are sometimes just in that space – your work, your daily to-do’s put these people in your daily life circle, but there are those people with whom you choose to spend your time.

Recently, I decided to really look at the statement and reflect on it (I highly recommend this for everyone). There were some people that I was pleased having in my circle that influences me, and a few that caused me to question if they were indeed the influence and the energy which I wanted to surround me. This is not to say anyone I spend time with is a bad person, but my intention was to align myself with those people who possess the qualities I desire. It was clear that some of the people were not embodying the characteristics of my future desired self.

So I made some very deliberate choices and although I have not dropped out of anyone’s life, I am being very intentional about those with whom I am surrounding myself. I have also spent some time during my morning meditation thinking about my tribe and allowing the universe to direct me – or help me get out of my way so I can find them, or they can find me!

I have continued to participate in events that are aligned with my values, and support what I believe is my purpose. I had hoped between the meditation and the events in which I was participating, I might find a couple people that are the positive spirits I sought. While following this process, I became involved in a movement where I had the chance to interact with a group of people who have the biggest hearts and are so accepting and loving towards each other. Few of us knew each other a month ago, but through an effort to replace the terror of the Boston Marathon tragedy with love, we have bared our scars and bonded as we healed together.

Growing up, I always wanted one of those really big families; I feel like I have finally found it. I am now surrounded by an amazing group of people from whom I believe I will learn and develop to become a better me. If I can be a fraction of the people that have become my family over the past month, I will be the most happy, fulfilled and successful person I have ever known.

By recognizing my time is important, and clearing space by spending less time with those not embodying the elements to which I aspire, I have made room for positive additions. The Universe has brought me a gift wrapped in a community of people I feel so utterly connected to and loved by for no reason except that I am me. I have been lucky enough to have truly found the people with whom I want to spend my time – not only for what I can learn from them, but what we can learn and accomplish together.

What can this exercise bring you? Are you open to the possibilities that your tribe is out there looking for you?