Recently I took part in my very first group blog interview! The topic was “Productivity”, and I was honestly surprised at how much I had to say on the topic. You can read the interview here, but I also wanted to share some insights that came out of this most recent interview adventure.
If you would have asked me twelve months ago whether I felt productive in my everyday life, I would have certainly said an enthusiastic “Yes!” At that time, I was working on my first manuscript, rebuilding my website, blogging, and taking an online course on how to become a successful author. Oh, did I mention I’m a single parent with a full time job?!
I was super busy for sure, often working into the early morning hours. I felt great though! Taking a leadership role by directing the course of my life has a fantastic experience, and learning and doing new things makes me come alive! The thing was, I wasn’t seeing a tremendous amount of viable products coming from all my activity, and my manuscript was in danger of missing its deadline.
In talking with a friend about my concerns, they pointed me towards a one hour productivity course. I didn’t understand, because in my mind, I was super productive. I trusted their insight, though, so I decided to check it out. What I came to realize from that course is that activity and productivity are two entirely different things! At that time, I was busy, but that busyness wasn’t producing any viable products.
As it turns out, the thing my activity was missing was structure, focus, and a measurable outcome. Adding this back in to my life was difficult, because in the five years prior I had transformed my overly analytical and organizational habits in favor of a rich and fulfilling practice of presence awareness. In other words, I was so “here and now” that structuring my activities seemed incongruent with my deepest experience of peace.
Happily, I learned I was wrong, and integrating presence awareness with the goals that I have set for my life has taken my experience of peace to the next level! In fact, the resulting insights and experiences were so profound, I decided to start a consulting business helping others do the same in their own lives.
In the time since my lesson in productivity, I was able to:
- Meet my manuscript deadline
- Write my first ebook
- Redesign my website (again)
- Write and share over 130 insights on my blog
- Complete a course in Positive Psychology Coaching
- Develop a vast offering of Pintrest Inspigraphics
- Develop and implement a social media strategy for promoting my life’s work
- Collect and publish a series of 4 books of poetry that I had written in 2009
- Successfully coach 5 people to experience empowering clarity in their life
- Begin development of a new web-based journaling community called Cathartic Clarity
- Expand my network of peers, mentors, and friends
- And so much more!
How’s that for productive?! Seeing it all in a list here even surprises me. What’s most surprising, though, is that I am actually able to get in my required sleep these days, and my experience of presence awareness has deepened.
So if you find you are struggling to turn your dreams into reality and share your life’s work with the world, you may benefit from learning some productivity essentials. I’d love to have a conversation with you about it! In the meantime, you can check out more of my recent productivity insights here. If you have any questions or comments, I’d genuinely love to hear from you!
Yesterday I shared a journal prompt with the Journaling Community I started, Cathartic Clarity. This week, I’ve decided to merge my weekly Journal Prompts and Responses with my blog. Below is the journal response that came about when I wrote from that stem. Enjoy!
Journal Prompt: “To me in this moment, authentic compassion means . . . ”
To me in this moment, authentic compassion means listening deeply to those around me in equal measure to the depth in which I also listen to myself, my body, my dreams, and my heartaches. Listen, not just to the words shared, for words alone are clumsy and never tell the fullest truth.
Listen instead to the intention behind the words, and listen not with your ears but with the intention of listening. Listen not just to the thoughts unspoken, but perhaps listen to the dreams unlived. Listen from a space of your highest possible self, and you will begin to hear only the highest possible self in others.
To me in this moment, authentic compassion means responding to ourselves and others without fear of offending or exploiting. Authentic compassion is a response born out of sincerity and integrity: born of honoring ourselves in equal measure to the degree in which we honor another. It’s knowing deeply that we don’t have all the answers, and that some of the answers we have found are subject to change based on time and circumstance.
In that light, to me in this moment, authentic compassion means bowing with humble gratitude to this miracle of experience, this miracle of perception, this miracle of connection, and this miracle of collaboration towards shared visions. By listening to the miracles more deeply than we do the words or actions of ourselves or another, we become a pristine beacon of authentic compassion.
New inspigraphic inspired by my first LinkedIn Post!
If we practice resistance, then when we get where we’re going, we will resist there too.
An experience of enduring fulfillment becomes possible when we are fundamentally, energetically, exactly where we are. Our thoughts may move in this direction or that, but if our energy is rooted here and now, we can experience our fullest possible expression of ourselves in that moment. That experience is inherently fulfilling.
One way of rooting ourselves in the here and now is to remember that we don’t know everything about everything. The only truth worth holding tightly to is the one that says we mustn’t hold too tightly to any given truth. Truth is never what we think it is, yet it can always be experienced here and now within the context of our capacity to understand the situation. With each experience, we understand differently, and so truth must be allowed to shift along with our understanding if we are to gain the full benefit of our experiences.
“Yet if my experience is one of resistance, isn’t resistance true then?” To a degree, yes. But you need to ask yourself what is causing the resistance: the situation, or your thoughts about the situation? I can think of few extreme examples of where it might be the situation. More often than not, it is simply our thoughts.
Our thoughts about the situation usurp our power by ignoring our role in creating the situation. Only when we take full responsibility for our part in creating the situation, as well as for our thoughts about the situation, can we begin to understand whether the situation even needs changing. Only then are we in a position to make a skilled assessment on how to change it. Otherwise we are simply spinning the roulette wheel again which will likely result in another dead end.
Why run that risk, when you can stack the deck in your favor?
My new “Fizzle” friend and inspiring blogger, Max Turner, recently wrote a great article about transforming your life simply by learning about the lives of exceptional people. It’s clearly a strategy that has worked wonders for Max, and I couldn’t agree more.
For instance, my decision to start my own consulting business seven months ago was the direct result of listening to “everyday” people who are doing exceptional things. I quickly realized that technology has quietly dismantled many “barriers to entry”, and no one had told me! I can now write, publish, and sell a book, and not have to pass through the formidable gatekeepers of publishing. So you know what I did? I published a book! Then another and another. My fourth one will be released later today!
But for me, learning about exceptional people will never have as deep or as lasting of an impact on our quest for transformation if we haven’t first experienced our own exceptional lives first hand. Along my journey, I discovered that “wanting” an exceptional experience of life actually interfered with my capacity to experience the exceptional life which was living me.
Quite unintentionally, I realized that an exceptional life starts with doing normal things in an exceptional way.
My best example: For years I thought that if I could just create a clean and happy home for myself and my family, that we would all be enduringly happy. The problem was, that strategy never seemed to work. We tried moving, buying nicer houses, nicer cars, nicer clothes, nicer vacations: all with no lasting impact to our baseline unhappiness.
Eventually I began to deeply resent that I was the one stuck doing all the household chores. It got to the point where I was so transfixed by my unhappiness that there was no room for creativity anymore. Late one night, in a desperate bid for peace, I surrendered all hope of ever creating “happily ever after”. That’s when things got interesting.
The next day when I was doing the dishes, it was . . . exceptional. My irreconcilable angst was gone, and in its place was an experience of pristine spaciousness. The smell of the soap, the playful bubbles, the warmth of the water, the concert of sounds, the sun streaming through the window lighting up my face, were all a source of aliveness and fascination. It was a thrilling discovery, and all I could think was: “What else have I been missing all this time?!?” Since then, I’ve transformed the mundane activities in my everyday life into opportunities for “exceptional”, and in response life has opened up exceptional opportunities for me.
Normality is not a malady in need of a cure. When we open to seeing the exceptional in the ordinary, our baseline experience of life is transformed, and we discover new opportunities everywhere. It all begins with you: what normal thing can you open to doing in an exceptional way today? Here’s 10 great pointers to get you started.
And when you’re ready for a high-impact approach to get unstuck and on track fast, send me an email: I can definitely help.
Unhappiness is a powerful driver of change in our lives. We sense unhappiness, or even simple unrest, and we take action to dispense of whatever we deem the culprit is. This action can seem to alleviate the perception of burden . . . for a time. Eventually that sense of burden is back again, and the cycle begins anew.
What if nine-times-out-of-ten the thing that needed changing was not contained within the situation but was instead contained within your thoughts about the situation? How much time, effort, money, and heartache would you save if the only necessary adjustment was simply a shift in perception? What if unhappiness was prompting you to learn something rather than change something?
The next time you notice unhappiness, don’t rush off to change what you are doing. Try instead to do what you are doing in a different way. Get curious: what can unhappiness teach us about happiness? Notice one breath consciously, sensing the expansion which that breath fails to relinquish in the face of oppressive unrest. If possible, offer a word of humble gratitude for the situation for prompting you to connect with yourself in a new way.
If the desire for change still remains, you are now in a space ripe for effective, compassionate action. Leveraging unhappiness in this way will reveal a creative, inspired, empowered course of action that aligns seamlessly with the intention you hold for your life.
Some people can affect change in their lives by triumphing over willpower. I am not one of those people. Beacons of inspiration have overcome illness, disability, obesity, disease, financial ruin, and the like: all through sheer determination. Not me.
My past efforts to feel more alive through exercise, diet, investments, meditation, affirmation, or organization had all failed. It seemed that the only thing I could succeed at was “failing”. Like so many other people, I believed that if I could only overcome my obstinate willpower, I would achieve great things.
We live in a time of unprecedented availability of empowerment advice, yet our society is faced with an enduring sense of powerless at our failure to create lasting fulfillment. The endless provocative testimonials touting the astounding success of each program we purchase only deepens our sense of personal failure when old habits reclaim their seat at the head of the table.
A triumph over willpower is a hard battle of inches, and that battle is never over. The slightest slip can send you right back down where you started from . . . or worse. You have to stay vigil. You may have achieved your goal, but at what cost? Now you have to maintain it.
My hat goes off to those people who have triumphed over willpower: it is not something I have any interest in even trying anymore. I discovered that there is another way. It was quite an innocent discovery. There was no master plan other than to just get out from under the weight of seeming failure.
(If you enjoyed this excerpt from my book-in-progress, email me by 7/31/14 and when it’s done I’ll send you an advance pdf copy for free!)
Empty open free
From sky to deepest sea
Even when you fall
In stillness it will call
Breaking down the wall
Past taught “you” and “me”
Moving now to “we”
Learning just to be
(from volume 2 of my anthology)
Every time you become aware of waiting today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice all the moving parts that had to align perfectly in order to create the opportunity for you to notice one breath consciously.
Engaging mindfulness helps us clearly identify inconsistencies within our thoughts, speech, feelings and actions. We can then adjust our thought processes as needed to ensure our integrity in intact. Viewing our lives through the lens of mindfulness enables us to recognize which opportunities best support the overarching intention for our lives.
Now when we experience resistance to a situation, we are able to most effectively drive change. We accept “what is”, allowing us to first understand whether the issue needing changed is truly in the world or whether it is a result of inconsistencies within our thoughts, speech, feelings, and actions.
We then evaluate our intention to ensure that it is both aligned with our values and constructed in a way that sparks curiosity and discovery. Finally we look to see what, if anything, we can do to effect positive change in the situation. If it turns out there is nothing we can do in that moment, mindful acceptance helps us to remain open within the situation. This puts us in a place of empowerment and keeps us open to opportunities for change when they do arise.
The path to fulfillment will never be found by following in the footsteps of another.
The first-ever birdsong still resounds to this day. Can you hear it too?
Relative independence is something that can potentially be fought for, but relative independence will never fully quench your thirst for freedom. Until you experience fundamental independence, life will seem a worthy adversary and success will seem hard won.
At the end of your days however, you will likely realize the battles that consumed your life, the ones you fought hardest for, were but a diversionary ploy. As long as we are fighting those relative fights, we don’t have to face the one that we feel most ill equipped for and most unlikely of winning. We continue to choose the known and comfortable heartache over the daunting and avoidable unknown. We die never having known the rich fullness of life.
It is important to realize that the predisposition to settle for less is something that we inherited. Only when we become aware of how judgment defeats us can we even notice the option to make a different choice. Only then can we begin to experience fundamental independence, because the hardest battle was already won the moment our awareness disengaged from relative battles. Only then do we stand clear and drink deeply from our own source, at last quenching our thirst for freedom.
Want to know how? Here are some posts I’ve written that could help (in no particular order):
A common trap we can fall prey to in our everyday lives is the inclination to gloss over the pesky activities that create the foundation of our day. You know, things like brushing our teeth, washing our hands, eating, walking to our car, preparing a meal, cleaning, and whatnot.
As with any activity, what we practice we strengthen. Demonstrating a lack of intention with our mundane daily activities can only undermine the degree of intention we bring to other areas of our lives.
Despite how many times you may have performed an activity before, these innocuous activities provide a rich opportunity to demonstrate intention. Because they are impersonal, they provide a safe space for us to let our guard down and break free from any judgmental mind chatter.
My suggestion: Each morning, call to mind a single simple activity that you do throughout your day. Then, each time that you become aware of doing that activity (before, during, or after), notice one breath consciously. Allow your shoulders to relax, and allow any tension in your face to fall away.
Survey your surroundings and activity with a heightened sense of curiosity: What do you smell, feel, hear, that even one moment ago you were entirely unaware of? Slow down, and perform the activity at hand as if you were savoring your most favorite activity. As you finish the activity, perhaps offer a silent word of gratitude.
Your experience of life will be well served by weaving in these micro-moments of high intention. As you continue on in your day, notice how that high quality of intention spills over into other activities and transforms your overall sense of wellbeing.
When we achieve a goal, there is an initial wave of relief. We attribute that relief to getting what it is we strove for, but truly that relief is simply because the striving has come to an end: momentarily, anyway.
Striving is a habitual behavior, and if not kept in check, it will negate any possibility of experiencing enduring fulfillment. Striving at its core is a form of discontent. We look around our lives and decide something else is needed in order for our lives to be complete.
There is always more, though. With enough years spent striving and attaining, we come to a point where we feel like anything more is just more of the same. Life starts to lose its color and fascination, and haunting aloneness robs us of sleep as we stare into the nothingness wondering “is this all there is?”
This can be a time of ripe discovery in our lives if we recognize it as such, but far too often it is a missed opportunity. This silent epidemic of “hitting top” is a rapidly growing issue in First World countries, and persistent striving is just one of the symptoms. Due to its complex and varied nature, this issue of “hitting top” has only recently come to light as a new field of study. Because of this, there are too few advocates available to raise awareness and guide the afflicted masses out of that barren darkness.
To make matters more serious, because we live in such a richly diverse universe, it can take us far into retirement to arrive at that point of desolation. Along the way, we misattribute our waning zest for life to the aging process, and entirely miss the opportunity to take life to the next level.
There is a solution. With guided self-inquiry provided by someone who has successfully transcended that desolate void, we can discover the golden thread woven throughout our life experiences, transform our habitual thought process, break through that vapid plateau, and take life to the next level.
While there is a remote possibility of achieving these results through personal self-inquiry, doing so can take years or even decades, and by then we don’t have the time or energy to explore that next level of experience. Hiring an expert in the field gets us on track and up to speed quickly, allowing us the most possible time to fully explore both our inherent and acquired wealth in meaningful and inspired ways.
Want to learn more? Shoot me an email. I welcome the opportunity to hear your thoughts and questions on this most serious, and potentially transformational, experience of “hitting top”.
There is a certain thought process that was necessary in order to get us where we are today. That thought process served us well to a point, but inherent in that thought process were unseen limitations.
Eventually we reach a plateau where those limitations are persistently front and center in certain areas of our lives. As much as we try, we are unable to transcend those struggles, effectively limiting our experience of enduring fulfillment.
To take life to the next level, we need a different lens through which we view and interpret our life experiences. Self-help solutions are often explored for this reason, and may provide a marginal and brief reprieve from the persistent angst that undermines our capacity to thrive, but following someone else’s “recipe for success” will never lead us to our own.
In this way, a “different” lens is not enough to break through vapid plateaus: it must also be original to us.
Original insight into our life experiences becomes possible through sincere self-inquiry. Sincere guided self-inquiry from someone who has successfully bridged that gap accelerates that process. Guided self-inquiry get us off the bench and back onto the playing field, allowing us the most time to explore and engage our new found vision before the game as we know it comes to an end.
If you find you are struggling more than you are comfortable with, and you have not been able to make any genuine and lasting change in your life, consider seeking out a mentor skilled in the art of original insight. Even just a few conversations are often enough to transform our thought process, empowering us to take life to the next level.