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!

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

 

 

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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!

 

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?

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?

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!