What’s In Your Pickle Jar?


I keep hearing people calling for more balance in their lives. I don’t believe it’s actually balance they need at all! In fact the same people screaming for balance also want to live full, rich lives and have crammed their datebooks and calendars full with activities, events and “to-dos” to provide them the balance to their overflowing work life!

It is not balance you seek!

Balance is the act of two of more objects being of same weight, or in this case importance. This just isn’t the case for most people I speak with. What is happening in most people’s lives is that something of lesser importance or of less value to someone is taking more time or weight from the things that create joy and fulfillment in their lives. So if you are spending too many hours doing things that don’t bring you joy and then you try to add equal time doing things that do bring you joy you are going to be out of time and totally stressed!

So what happens is the work stuff gets done and the joy stuff does not.

The Professor’s Example

A long time ago when I was screaming for balance in my life as well I came across the classroom story of “The Pickle Jar.” The professor was explaining that when people thought the jar was full with a bunch of large rocks, there was still room in it for more and he added pebbles, sand and even water until there was no empty space. The underlying theme of the entire demonstration is that if you put your big rocks (most important things to you) into this pickle jar (representing your life) first then the next important things (represented by pebbles) then the next (sand) and the next (water) you will have space for everything in your life. The professor’s take on this was that there is so much we can fit in our lives even if we think our lives are full now by simply making sure the big things get in first and then you can fit so much more in it.

As well intentioned as that lesson is, I think it’s a load of crap and that most of us are walking around with stuffed pickle jars! Just because you can cram a ton of stuff into your pickle jar does not mean you should. I believe the good professor missed the point that if you fill your jar with rocks, pebbles, sand and water there is no room for life-giving air.

Where is the air?

Humans, can do so many amazing things and some can go for long periods of time with really full pickle jars but what happens when there is no air to breathe or feed the flame and no space to absorb and enjoy the process or the results? The pickle jar smothers out causing all sorts of issues that may show up as burn-out, anxiety, depression, lost relationships, health issues or substance abuse.

So I ask you, is your pickle jar too full? Do you even know what is filling your pickle jar anymore? Was a rock or pebble placed in your pickle jar by someone other than you? Does each rock and pebble in your jar belong there today?

It’s time to examine this cry for balance and begin to look at what we are trying to achieve. I believe what people are truly seeking is not balance but a fullness of life. People tell me they wish to fill their lives with people and experiences that matter to them and contribute to the greater good in the mean time. When I sit down with them and examine their desired life and current pickle jar, they just don’t seem to match.

What Can You Do?

Dump out that pickle jar and look at all the items in it. Should the rocks be rocks or maybe pebbles?  What might you take out of your pickle jar and put in a “not now” pile?  An item may indeed be a rock, but the time for that rock to take priority in your life might not be this moment. These are hard but necessary questions if you are seeking to live a less stressed and more fulfilled life. Think about it, if your pickle jar is stuffed, how can you possibly enjoy and experience all that you’ve stuffed it with if you can’t even move things around and see it all?

Fulfilled life doesn’t necessarily mean a filled life. There needs to be space in your life to be able to be present and enjoy what you place in your pickle jar! For me I gained amazing results when I looked at my pickle jar and consciously refilled it with a nice mix of rocks, pebbles, sand and water – I also was able to fit a shell in there too!

How do you want to fill your pickle jar?FullSizeRender-1




The Key to Success

Just Show Up!

The key to success: Show up and don’t give up. This is it. It is that simple, don’t complicate it by thinking too much!

I have been a runner for almost 10 years. I have challenged myself many times along the way, and at times I have just complacently run along at a pace and distance that were comfortable for me.

I just recently ran my second marathon, I felt better prepared for it than my first because I had one experience under my belt. Although I had read the elevation map this time the hills still took me by surprise. I had read about how flat and fast a course this was, however neglected to remember it was still going to be over 26 miles of running! Of course I knew it intellectually, but I forgot how that feels in the moment.

The First Battle Is Your Mind

 I had a lot of time to think over the seemingly endless miles. There were many times where I was tired or sore and I thought about how much easier it would be if I just stopped. I began to try to figure out how would I get back to the start line to get in my car. Then almost immediately I dismissed the crazy idea; I started a marathon, I would finish it. What helped me through this was that I began to realize how far I had already run and how little was in front of me. I remembered the stories about how many people quit when they are right about to get to where they envisioned. At that point, there was no decision to make but to see it through.

Nope, I don't think so!

I started to see how much my life was like this marathon. I know it’s cliché, “Life is like a marathon” but it’s cliché for a reason. I have been going through my life and career as a 5k runner, occasionally throwing in a 10k. All these races were fine and even a little challenging as I sought to better myself through time and distance, but was I all that I could and wanted to be? Was there something more?

Becoming a Marathoner

Recently I left the corporate world (my 5k & 10k world) and became an entrepreneur (a marathoner). I get up before the sun to line up with many other great people seeking the feeling of self-powered accomplishment. We tackle hills together, some walk, some power up, and some just keep their pace slowly cresting the top. There is almost always a point along the course, or as an entrepreneur, where you question why you are doing this, is it worth it? There is most often a little pain along the way, but we keep moving forward, either slowing our pace or walking if need be. We each face our own challenges along the course, those known and unknown. We have to remind ourselves from time to time how far we’ve come so we don’t give up. The key to those of us that succeed is we just don’t stop, we keep moving forward because for us, there really is no choice but to see it through.

The Success Medal

I believe if we each live our lives as marathoners on our own course, regardless of the distance chosen, we will almost undoubtedly receive our medals. We prepare the best we can, read the maps and signs before we embark while understanding there will likely be unforeseen challenges and obstacles along the way. We power through, slow or walk if we need to but we keep moving forward. Some will get to stand on the podium, but we each receive our medal for our efforts and persistence.

In life success is our medal, some may have a faster pace than others, everyone has their own form and style, but if we just show up to the starting line and don’t give up, we can earn our medal. Where are you on your own course?

Just don't give up!IMG_4192


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?

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.


Move off the fence and travel the path

Move off the fence and travel the path

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!!

How you do anything is how you do everything

This is a statement, maybe more like a mantra, from one of my mentors. I heard this for the first time over a year ago and since then it has rung in my head as a constant reminder that who I want to be needs to be who I am every moment of every day.

I recently read a book by someone from my hometown of Boston who stated he had the amazing experience of crossing paths with Derek Jeter of the Yankees. Now as a true Bostonian, there is an inborn negative reaction to all things Yankees (although the Yankees tribute to Boston playing “Sweet Caroline” for us post Marathon Bombings makes hating the Yankees a bit harder now). However this gentleman felt about the Yankees, he couldn’t help but be in awe of this great player. He went on to explain that it wasn’t that Derek Jeter had won many championships, it was the all-around player he is that was admired. Whether Derek Jeter is playing an elimination championship game, or an exhibition game, he gives the same energy and dedication. The author further explained that Derek plays the same way so his body remembers how he plays, there is no half-effort game – this is just how Derek Jeter shows up every day.

I was taught as a child that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. We cross paths with people all the time, sometimes you don’t even notice you are creating a first impression because you didn’t even notice someone was watching you. My mentor who taught me the opening phrase of this blog likely has no idea he is one of my mentors. Do you know who is watching what you do as an example? Would you be pleased at the reflection you create?

These two sayings dovetail together completely. I woke up this morning in May and it was “real feel” of 32 degrees outside (BRRRR). What got me out the door anyway is what has become my mantra – “how I do anything is how I do everything”. I could have rolled over in bed, pulled up the covers and decided my training could wait, or I could have half-assed a quick run and no one would know. However, my mantra reminded me, if I let this slide, what else will I do half-assed? I don’t want to do everything with half effort or half anything, so I don’t want to do anything that way either! If it was a race today, I would have been out there, so for a training run; I was out there in the cold and rain.

It is one thing to do the easy things but it is so important to get out and do the hard things. The more you accomplish the hard things, the easier they become, and it just becomes what you do. No matter what the task, hard, easy or otherwise I work hard to bring my best self to everything I do. I am training my mind and body so that it knows how I play, not just during the big games, or when someone may be watching, but EVERY moment.

I am in control of what I project to the world. I work hard to approach everything with my best effort and energy so I can be proud of the projection I cast. Of course, I am still working on it, it’s a constant work in progress, but this mantra helps remind me to bring my champion to everything because this is who Elizabeth is and this is how I play. How about you?

Bringing the A game - cause there is no B game!

Bringing the A game – cause there is no B game!

Good just isn’t good enough

I was listening to an old Tony Robbins audio I found online the other day as I often do when looking for an infusion of inspiration (I highly recommend it). Tony was talking about what results a good job produces. Now when he first asked the question, “What happens when you do a good job?” I immediately thought, well, good things. He let the thought linger for his audience and then responded “you get poor results.” Well, this kind of confused me, and he figured it would confuse his audience obviously because he went on to explain. If you do a good job at work, will you get promoted? Will you maintain your job even? Often times, the answer to those questions are no, and in this economy, even more so!

So the audio goes on to talk about doing a great job results in good results, one has to do an extraordinary job to get really good results. Tony went on to say that constantly keeping this in mind and not resting on your laurels, but pushing harder and better is necessary to be the person you are able to be.

The morning after I listened to the audio I went on to run a small local 5K race as I do from time to time. I was on pretty good pace and was going to be happy with my time based on my mile times. I got about a half mile away from the finish line and was very content to meet my goal time…then Tony showed up!

So here I am running my pace, and Tony pops into my head and says, sure, that would be a good time, so you’re ok with good? Oh man, that stung! No, I’m not ok with good, so of course I picked up my pace and finished with my best personal record for a 5k. Thanks Tony!

Since that day, I am often interrupted while in the process of something I’m doing now with my own voice saying, “Is this what you aspire to be? Is this extraordinary work, effort or product? Is this my best work, I mean my absolute best work for this moment in time?”

It is hard work to keep the motivation to continually push and strive to be a better person than I was yesterday, but I must say, I love the feeling that what I leave behind is my best work – whatever it is that I’m doing. It’s funny because I didn’t think I was “sitting on any laurels” but it turns out, I can do better at everything I’ve been doing. I just need to realize I was settling for doing a good job and I never asked the question – “Is doing good, good enough?”

Are you living a good life? Is a good life giving you the results you desire? Is there more effort you could make in one area that would produce great or extraordinary results? What personal record could you shatter today?