Finding your Inner Compass

I remember the day that it all hit me – I really don’t want to do this. It wasn’t until that moment that I could find my clarity. It was in the moment I figured out what I really, viscerally, didn’t want to do, that I could identify better what I did want to do.

It all started when I decided to hire a life coach for myself. I had never done anything quite like this before. Sure I had been to counselors or therapists before at various times in my life, but I didn’t feel like I needed therapy, just help with direction of what did I want to do next in my life.

I was about 40 years old at the time and had raised my children, created a good career, not one that I loved, but I thought, who needs to love what they do? I was good at it and that felt good and it paid well, so it was really good enough. However, good enough was no longer how I wanted to live my life.

I wanted the life I saw Richard Branson living. I wanted to be in love with my job and career as much as he was. I wanted time and space to be able to travel and do the inspired things that made me come alive. I wanted to give my energy to those causes that I felt deeply connected to.

The Flail Before The Fail

So I began to flail – I tried all sorts of ways to make my career more of what I thought I wanted. I created groups, I began speaking at conferences and I found that I was no more happy then I was originally and I realized I was thoroughly stuck!

It was at this point I decided to hire my own life coach to help me figure out how to make my career more fulfilling. It turned out through a couple sessions of chatting and running various tests that my personality and desires did not match what I was doing. No wonder why I could not find a way to make it better! But then where do I go from here?

 

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Ahhh, Direction

After a few more sessions we worked out a direction for me and I must admit I was pretty excited. We developed a plan and a path but the more steps I took, the less excited I became – was this normal? My sessions with my coach ended and I kept moving forward because this was the path my coach and I had decided I should take to get to where I ultimately wanted to end up.

My lack of excitement soon turned to procrastination, then to dread then to pure avoidance of any of the steps on the identified path. In one moment of complete clarity sitting in front of a stack of unopened mail related to my chosen path it hit me.

I Don’t Want To Take This Path!

I don’t wanna take this path, I don’t have to and I’m not gonna! The wash of relief came over me. I just couldn’t go through with the path laid out by me and my coach. I didn’t get any clarity at that moment of how I was going to get to where I wanted, but I sure knew how I wasn’t going to get there and it felt wonderful!

When I took a moment to look at my behaviors, it was completely clear that the path was completely out of alignment with what I truly wanted. The end goal was right on the money, but the path was way off.

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Gut Check

When I thought about the career move I wanted to make I was still excited. When I thought about how to get there I was unsure, but I just felt like I would figure it out because the goal just felt so right for me.

This was a new discovery for me that once I recognized this strong procrastination I was creating, I actually felt I was off balance. Once I recognized the off balance feeling, I could easily identify when that feeling went away and therefore what felt right.

 

I Know This Isn’t It!

I think this takes some time to develop, but it might be more present in your life already than you think. Right now you’re probably reading this article identifying with some part of the story. You know that nagging feeling that says, “I’m not sure what is right, but this isn’t it!” You’ve had those moments when you were not sure how you were going to do something but you just knew you had to move forward on it. Some people call those hunches, intuition, or gut feelings – but whatever you call them, they are there to be heard.

Some Ideas For You

I encourage you to take a moment to review anything you procrastinate. Take a moment to think about why you procrastinate this item. There are many reasons for such a behavior, but this is a good marker and it was a key marker for me.

Another idea you might consider is to review the feelings you have around various decisions you are making. Take some time to journal or meditate or do something active with this decision in mind and listen to where your mind goes, to your body’s reaction, your emotional response. I think you might surprise yourself at the answers that are trying to reveal themselves.

I truly believe we all know what is in alignment for us however, most of us have been taught to ignore what we’re feeling and move forward on our path. Ever see a young child fall down and begin crying? The parental reflex  response is “brush it off, keep going.” Although there might be nothing wrong with that approach sometimes, other times it is worth exploring while you’re down if a different option is better. Sometimes you find your compass while you’re telling yourself to get back up.

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What’s In Your Pickle Jar?

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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!

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Did Your “Calling” Lose Your Number?

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So you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? That’s ok. Yes, I said it, it is totally ok!

This doesn’t mean that you just sit back and wait for the lightning bolt to strike or that “moment” when your purpose just hits you – it rarely happens like that. Few people knew at a young age what they were destined to be, and some of those who did know decide part way through their life that maybe they need to be something different anyway.

So if the Aha moment isn’t necessarily coming and you don’t have a clue what you were put on this earth to do, what do you do? How do you get to where you need to be when you don’t know where that is?

You Are Not Alone

As a coach I see many people in this conundrum. They know they are not currently fulfilled or doing what they were called to do, yet they have no idea how to find their “passion” and their calling isn’t dialing in!

Many are surprised when I tell them they are not alone, they feel like they are the only ones stumbling around in the dark bumping around in a fun house at an amusement park, however it is not fun nor amusing. There is anxiety in their voice, they must have a purpose, they have been told as much. Why is it so easy for others to find their purpose and so hard for them?

How Do I Find It?

First off, let’s break this myth that it is easy to find your passion. I have done countless exercises with people and they themselves have taken numerous quizzes and questionnaires (some proven, and others just facebook algorithms) and each person is moved at different times with different tools. You see there is not really a viable, “5 Tips to Uncovering Your Passion” that works for everyone.

What works best in my experience is when people take action. You see I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction as much as I truly believe in the Power of Action. They both work on the same principle, however attraction does not work without action.

You cannot OM your way to success or purpose. You must step into a direction, any direction and begin where you are with simply a desire. This does not have to be perfect, and likely it will not be.

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Your GPS (Guiding Passion System)

You may step into your desire in entirely the wrong direction. You might be going down the totally wrong road and you might spend a little time on this path before recognizing that something doesn’t feel right. Or maybe obstacle upon obstacle pops up preventing real progress. You keep trying your heart out because this has to be right, you have put time and energy into it, you don’t want to waste that time!

Even if you head out completely wrong, you end up feeling it, and noticing that this is just too much. You may want to quit, but I warn you, don’t do it! Keep plugging away, change a bit of direction or approach, ask yourself some quality questions and sit quietly receiving answers. Hire a mentor, one who has walked the road before you. One way or another, you will be guided to “make a u-turn when possible” or recalculate your plan. Much like a navigation system, you can’t get redirected to a new route if you are in park afraid to back out of your driveway because you may make a wrong turn. Trust me, the worst wrong turn is no turn at all. Inaction is the killer of purpose.

You may head into the exact direction of your purpose and head smack dab into it. Your purpose may end up looking precisely as you expected or totally different, but either way, when you end up looking it square in its face and you know you have hit what you were born to do.

How will I know?

When you stumble, or walk confidently, into your purpose, or it taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hi, this is your sign” you will feel it. The feeling is a lot like love, it makes you warm inside, it fills you with excitement, you have an all consuming desire to do more of what this is to experience more of this feeling. The most common reaction I hear is that people find a sense of peace when they have found their purpose.

Now don’t get me wrong, everything doesn’t turn into rainbows and kittens when you find your purpose. There will be work to be done, you might find that you have found your calling, but you cannot fully step into it because you have bills to pay, mouths to feed. It is ok, once you have found it, just start small to move in ways that continue to build on that excitement. Fit your purpose into your life as you can and continue to develop and grow with it.

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Yes, this is not a type-o. The best way to find your purpose is to do. Don’t be afraid of the mistake or the wrong turn. Just move in the direction you think is forward and assess. If you need to recalculate or adjust your aim, at least you will have a point of reference of what didn’t work.

So go out there and shoot for the stars! If you miss, adjust your aim and fire again!

 

The Message

Here's your sign!
I have said before when I get a repeat message in my life, in any capacity, it makes me think the Universe is trying to tell me something. Right now, it feels like the Universe is screaming! I am being bombarded these days with news of deaths and illness in my direct circle.

The Picture

Let me go over some of what my current landscape looks like today:

Close friend looses 37 year old family member/Spartan racer and very strong healthy man, to condition he’s had for life. Leaves behind a legacy of greatness and living, together with a wife and 3 young children.

Family member has stroke and is facing uncertainty, and a whole bunch of change in his life.

Close friend’s mother has just entered hospice care. This woman’s mother blossomed following the tremendous grief she moved through after her husband died. She went from being this quiet, devoted wife to the party organizer at the assisted living facility for her new-found friends. She became someone always doing something fun and most often things she didn’t do when married.

A new, but dear friend, announces he’s about to take up his battle with Cancer, one that he’s certain to overcome, but a battle nonetheless.

A mentor of mine, for whom I run his local group, has died in a tragic accident at 33, leaving behind a huge legacy, a young wife and a large, amazing community called Live Your Legend.

A sister of a family member has been placed into hospice after living with MS, Cancer and metastatic Cancer. Preparing to leave a full life of all that was dear to her.

What does it mean?

I have to wonder – Is the Universe trying to tell me something? OK, I get it! No more messages at this time please!! Live life while I am here!

As you know, I walked away from corporate life a few months ago to move my business from a “side job” to my full-time focus. I can honestly say, although the road is tough and a bit scary for its uncertainty, I absolutely love each day. I mention this at this time because it is really, really important!

We have one certainty the minute we are born, that we will die. We have no idea what the road has in store for us, but we can bet on an unforeseen circumstance coming along at some point. What that unforeseen thing is, and how it will show up in our life is unknown. Will we be able to provide our family and loved ones the comfort of a full and beautiful life well lived?

A Time for Reflection

I am spending some time in reflection. Am I living the life I believe in? Am I chasing money at the expense of what is truly valuable in my life? What is truly important to me when faced with the end of my days, or a life change that will dramatically altar my sense of “normal”? Do I believe I am using my days to their fullest and living my values? Would I be living any differently if I were faced with the knowledge of my days ending?

If I had not taken the leap to leave corporate by now, I think I would be doing just that at this point. However, since I have taken the leap, I now look to two people who have just died and am so moved that each of them have been living such amazing full and inspiring lives. They were strong, purposeful people leaving behind more than some of us will after many more years than their short time here. They died while fully engaged in this thing called life, they weren’t just earning money and paying bills, they were living fully.

My Desired Legacy

I work each day to continue to reach out to people and help them consider new possibilities in their lives. I hope to be able to encourage others to reach for their dreams despite any odds they feel there might be. I hope in my life to make a positive impact in as many lives as possible to say, you matter, you can do it and I believe in your dreams. I also hope to be one of the people in your life that lets you see you can have the life you desire and it is worth reaching for. Finally, I hope to die while living fully and doing the work that I love and connecting with those seeking to do the same.

Please let your light shine while you are here – we owe it to the world!

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?

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!

Goals with Feeling

A short while ago I suggested to add a twist to the task of goal setting and affirming those goals (see Spending A Little Time in Bliss – January 2013). I now suggest you build on that and take this one step further.

Often times, when I set goals, I create an exhaustive list of things I want to accomplish. I create a series of goals and then break down the steps I need to take to reach them. These are specific and measurable and all the good things that goals are made of – right?

I have come to understand that when I set goals I am actually working towards a feeling. I am setting these goals with the intention of becoming something – and that by becoming something, or completing that goal, I will feel a certain way. Hmm, how did I not notice that concept for so long? (one of those aha moments!)

I propose to turn goal setting on its head. I suggest concentrating on how you wish to feel. That’s right, how do you want to feel each and every day? Sit with that for a bit and begin to brainstorm all the feelings you will have when you are living the life you wish to have. It’s cliché, but yet belongs right here, start with the end in mind. I want to feel________________.

Every choice a person makes, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear and the career they pursue is driven by a desire to feel a certain way. So truly, how do you wish to feel? Do you already feel this way a little, but want to have a grander sense of this feeling? Is there someone you admire who projects a certain feeling you wish to have?

I suggest you sit with this question for about a week or so. Really brainstorm about how you truly wish to feel. I recommend you carry a list with you and when something hits you, add it to the list, include how you don’t wish feel if that comes to you as well, we can work with that. Don’t worry about the number of feelings on the list, just put everything, silly or serious on this list.

Once you believe you have exhausted this exercise, begin to pare it down to 4 or 5 feelings. You will find that many feelings live within each other and can be encompassed into one feeling statement. I call this the desired state.

Now that you have determined your desired state, you can begin to set your course towards your ultimate desired state. This becomes your touchstone to determine your steps. Will doing _________ move me towards feeling___________? By doing __________ will I feel a bit __________ today? You may find out, as I have, that some of the goals you have been pursuing are not in sync with your ultimate desired state and can begin to re-assess if this is something which needs to be revised or entirely tossed.

I believe the process outlined above will both save you time, and provide greater direction in your life and the pursuit of your true dreams. I believe genuine happiness is a feeling that lives within the desired state.

What step can you take today to move you in the direction of the feelings you wish to experience?

Set your course!

Set your course!