Are You Getting Enough?

Screen-shot-2011-05-20-at-4.49.15-PMAre You Getting Enough?

I know; you have no idea what I’m referring to in this article’s title, do you?  I’m not really trying to be coy, I just couldn’t think of any other way to speak to a learning which I had this week.  As so often happens for me, the actual information wasn’t new.  But the concrete experience was like none I had ever had before.  Let me explain.  Obviously, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts over the last week.  Something that allowed me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what was missing before, and what I’m slowly but surely getting enough of now.  I know that if you allow yourself the opportunity to get enough of this one thing, you’re life will be easier all around.  Want to know what it is?  It’s unscheduled time.

Think about it.  Take a look at a typical week in your life.  How much of it is “unscheduled time?”  My guess is that there’s not very much “white space” in your calendar, daytimer, blackberry – whatever it is you use to keep yourself organized and your time accounted for.  Between personal appointments, children’s activities, work meetings, projects and tasks you’re probably scheduled to the max. That’s not including time to eat, bathe, sleep and tend to other basic essentials.  Let’s face it; you’re a pretty scheduled person.  I know what that’s like; my schedule can look the same way most weeks.

Last week, however, I had the opportunity to take back some time.  This was possible in part because of a couple of appointment cancellations.  Ordinarily what I would have done in that circumstance is fill the suddenly opened time with other tasks; goodness knows there’s always something to do.  But last week, I chose to let the time and space be open.  I could feel a cold coming on and, given the time that was suddenly available to me, I chose to just be.  No writing, no talking, no reading, no nothing – just being.  Letting my mind wander, I was amazed to experience a degree of grounding like I hadn’t felt in a long time.  In doing this, I confirmed for myself something I’ve known intrinsically for a while:  as human beings, it really does serve us to just “be”. 

I know this can be hard to do, but that’s the point.  You don’t have to “do” anything – just “be” for a while.  It doesn’t have to be for long, it just has to be for a time.  A small amount of time can revitalize you in a big way.  Giving yourself time to go for a mental walk of sorts – which is what I’m really talking about when I say “just be” – fills your life with clarity like nothing else can. 

For me, this is taking the 80/20 rule of time management one step further.  If you’re not familiar with it, the 80/20 rule advises that you schedule 80% of your time, allowing 20% to be unscheduled so that when things take longer than anticipated (which they inevitably will) or when crises arise (which does happen from time to time) you won’t fall behind or become overwhelmed.  My suggestion to you is, in addition to allowing for buffer time in this way, you also allow for “being time” – wide open space in which nothing is scheduled and nothing gets scheduled, which allows for you to just be.

Bottom-line, just like you need sufficient doses of various vitamins to function properly, you also need sufficient amounts of unscheduled time.  This is time for you to just be free – not in front of the TV or cuddled up with a book, but rather time to be free of any and all tasks and agendas, allowing your mind to wander and your brain to slow down a bit.  As a chronic thinker, I know this can be challenging.  And at the same time, what I know for sure is that there’s a reason you’re called a human BEING as opposed to a human DOING – time to BE is far more important to your life than time to DO.  So create some time to BE and watch your life improve.

stressandweightgainYour Goals are Robbing You of Happiness

Goals. We are all taught to set them, to work towards them, to achieve them, and to some degree, to identify ourselves by such achievement. Goals can motivate us and give us a sense of direction, of purpose. Generally speaking, goals are considered good things, especially when you can be really specific about what they are, and how you are going to go about reaching them. The problem is that, in some ways, these objectives are getting in the way of your experience of happiness.

Here’s how.

So often, when you’re working towards your goals, whatever they are, your eyes are on the prize. In fact, when it comes to goal achievement, you’re taught that this is essential to the process: keep your eyes on the prize, right? Stay focused, stay determined, stay the course. Can you relate?

As you move with your eyes on the prize, the fact is that you are missing all that is going on around you, or at least most of it. You are so forward-focused, that you’re not allowing yourself to experience what’s around you in the here and now. And then, when you finally reach the goal, whatever it is, you find that it’s not quite what you thought it would be. Even if it is all that you imagined, the sense of accomplishment, of enjoyment, is short-lived at best before you set your eyes on another prize.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, it’s not to avoid goals. It is, however, to make sure that you don’t make your life about goals alone. The way to avoid the unhappiness associated with focusing on goals, is to learn to make your life revolve around the JOURNEY toward the goal, rather than the destination of the goal itself.  Do you understand?

If you want happiness in your life, you have got to source it out in THIS moment. You can’t keep putting it off until whatever it is that you’re striving for comes about.

Happiness is found in the here and now. Period. Go ahead, set your goals and work towards them. But don’t make your happiness dependent on the achievement of them. Link your happiness to the experience of moving forward, however you do that.

Bottom-line: enjoy the moments along the way, and you’ll experience an explosion of happiness in the most meaningful of ways.

kids_can_changeHow Are You Changing the World?

Whenever I talk about changing the world – whether I’m talking about my hopes and desires for such change or questioning others on their experiences in this regard – I can feel a sort of heaviness infuse the space. There’s something about “changing the world” that feels so daunting – the world is a big place, filled with a lot of people, a lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities. How do you decide where to start, right? And how can one person change anything?

This last question is one that often permeates any discussion on change: “I’m just one person; how can I possibly make a difference?” Well, it’s time to put that particular myth to rest. No matter who you are or what you’re up to, you’re changing the world already, like it or not. Your very presence on the planet is having an impact and it’s imperative that you realize this.  Moreover, you’ve got to understand that, no matter how small your action, its impact radiates outward, creating an effect that you may or may not have anticipated. In other words, you’re changing the world, consciously or not.

Here’s the thing. Such change is happening most in the realm of action. Yes, your thoughts have impact and your words have impact, but action – the choices you make, the example you set – is what is changing the world most powerfully, most visibly, and is what you will ultimately be remembered for. So often, discussions around change are no more than that – mere discussion. And discussions can be a great starting point, in that you can explore, expound and extrapolate ideas until they feel actionable. But the point at which you take action is the point at which you’ll really make a difference, have a presence, and change the world around you.

Paulo Coelho, one of my favorite authors, has said that “the world is changed by your example, not your opinion.” From my perspective, this quote invites me – invites all of us – to move beyond the realm of discussion and into the realm of living out our ideals. Consciously setting an example of the changes we want to see is what makes the biggest difference and has the biggest impact on the world around us. So, this begs the question: what example are you setting in the world? And what changes is this bringing about? Something to think about…

moustacheSo, There’s This Guy I Can’t Stand…

That probably seems like an unusual title for one of my feature articles. Typically, I write with a view to instruct or inspire, you know? Well, this week is no exception – despite what the title might suggest. I’m just going to go about it a bit differently, by beginning from the place of personal experience. My request is that you humour me, just a bit. I’ll make it worth your while.

My daily life revolves in many circles. I have my coaching work, my writing, my speaking. I have my library work and my book club groups. I have my church work where I chair the council as a whole, work with numerous committees and simultaneously find spiritual nourishment. I have my dance family (thanks to my daughter) and my sports family (thanks to my son). I have friends that fall outside of any of these groups. And I have family all over the place. Being involved in so many circles, it’s pretty safe to say that I interact with a LOT of people, in various capacities. And when I say “a lot of people”, I mean a lot of different people. I’m talking about different personalities, different perspectives, different beliefs, different ways of interacting with the world around us all.

Ordinarily, I’m a big proponent of embracing the differences. After all, there’s a cliché that goes something along the line that diversity is the only thing we truly have in common. My sense is that each and every person has something to offer the world, something to teach us, something to share. My inclination is to look for that thing, that value, whatever it may be, and focus on that. And this inclination has served me very well…until recently.

A new individual has come into one of my circles. The nature of this circle is such that he and I need to interact in a variety of situations, and work on a few projects together. And, I cannot stand the man. I really can’t. I find him loud, obnoxious, and condescending. I have yet to experience him as a good listener – unless he’s listening to the sound of his own voice. He actually pulls the adult version of “if you don’t do things my way then I’m picking up my marbles and going home”. He appears to think he’s beyond rules – rules seem only to exist to support his agenda. He seems to have no awareness of his impact on the space around him. He has yet to admit that he doesn’t know an answer…he’ll make it up as he goes along, regardless of the consequences. And heaven forbid the man should accept responsibility for a mistake, or apologize in any meaningful way. As you can tell, this guy has gotten under my skin and I’m irked.

When I first realized what I was up against, I was annoyed. Moreover, I didn’t know what to do. I mean, in my worldview, as I said earlier, embracing and accepting differences is how I prefer to operate. But how do I embrace and accept someone who operates in such a polarizing way? Perhaps, more specifically, how the heck do I WORK with this guy? How do I ensure that what needs to happen – what I’ve been entrusted to make happen – happens, without his way of being undermining everything?

What was getting in the way for me was a sense that if I “accepted” him in the traditional sense, then I would be condoning his behavior. And I couldn’t do that. Not when I saw the damage that was slowly being eeked out in that particular circle. And, I couldn’t ignore him (standard advice when you run up against someone you don’t like) because of the nature of our work together.

So, here’s the question: how do you be with someone you can’t stand? How do you move forward and do the work that has to be done, when it’s clear that your worldviews don’t align? Are you ready for the answer? Because I think I may have found it. And it’s a multi-facted one.

First, get over the idea that you have to like whoever you work with. You don’t. It’s actually okay for you to not like each other, even as you work together. Obviously, it’s easier to work with those whom you like, and it’s not a prerequisite. Understanding this was a liberating experience for me.

Second, get comfortable with discomfort –and say what needs to be said. This might be the most important facet of the solution. You don’t have to be mean, not at all. What you do need to do is be honest. Share what’s working and what isn’t. Let the individual in question know when boundaries are crossed. Be clear about expectations, and then get on with the work at hand. When I had such a dialogue, as difficult as it was, it was actually productive. Particularly because I was able to implement the next two facets while I did so.

Third, hold the bigger picture, always. Remember what your circle’s objective is, and your role in facilitating that outcome. Work with that end in mind. Holding my circle’s objective and ultimate goal allowed me to speak clearly and in a grounded fashion.

Fourth, model what you’re expecting. In other words, if you need the individual in question to listen more, make sure you’re listening as well. Set the example of what your circle needs, in conjunction with having the necessary dialogue.

Finally, make sure you’re not fighting fire with fire. This can be tricky – I mean, if someone’s being obnoxious, it can be tempting to be equally obnoxious in return. It’s a form of modeling, right? As in, modeling what you don’t want? The thing is, it’s not effective. It might provide a moment of satisfaction, but it will not serve the bigger picture. So stay clear of the temptation.

Bottom-line: you will find yourself in the position of having to work with someone you can’t stand. Not just someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with, but someone who pushes every button you possess. This is challenging to say the least, I know; at the same time, there is a way to navigate it. Keep it all simple, and remember that the key lies in holding the big picture and saying what needs to be said. While you’ll likely never reach a point of understanding with someone who’s so diametrically opposed to your way of being, you will find a way to co-exist and move forward. And in the end, that’s the piece that really matters.

boss-say-yesThe Paradox of Possibility: Do You Get It?

Every week, when I coach my clients, I have the privilege of bearing witness to their challenges, their successes, their progress, and their choices. I get to notice discrepancies between what they say they’re about and how they’re actually showing up. And I get to support them in determining how they really want to be in the world, what they really want to do in the world, and what it is they want the world to know about them. This last piece – telling the world what you want it to know about you – is something that you likely don’t give a whole lot of thought to. And, my experience tells me that this lack of thought is hurting you to some degree or another.

You see, everything you do, everything you say, every choice you make sends the world a message. In its simplest form, your choices and actions are “yes/no” statements. When you choose to say ‘yes’ to one thing, by definition you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.  Think about that for a moment if you need to. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.

When you say ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others, what you’re doing is telling the world what you’re about. Some choices in this regard are of more importance than others. And, I would assert that the cumulative message of all of your choices over time, speak volumes, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s this aspect that I want to highlight for you today, because my guess is that there is so much you’re telling the world, without even being aware of it.

We live in a world, and perhaps more importantly in an age that increasingly tells us that everything is possible. Indeed, one of my favourite quotes comes from Anthony Robbins who says that “impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. What’s impossible only remains so until someone finds a way to do what others said could not be done.” How empowering and liberating and exciting is that? While I fully believe his words to be the truth, there’s a bit of a paradox at play, in my opinion. Namely, that saying ‘yes’ to one thing implies saying ‘no’ to something else. Why is this a paradox? Because you actually cannot have it all, do it all, be it all – whatever all is – at the same time. The nature of “yes/no” – which could also be understood in terms of contrasts – denies this. Period.

So, when you say ‘yes’ to going to the gym, you’re inherently saying ‘no’ to sitting and eating a bowl of chips at the same time. You might eat some chips when you get home, but not while you’re at the gym. And, if those two choices were made, your unconscious message to those around you is some version of I value my health, and I enjoy my salty snacks as well. If this is the message you want to send, great. If, however, you want the world to believe that you’re a fitness and health guru, you’re likely undermining yourself. You’ve got to make sure that what you say matters to you, and the choices that you make, align. When it comes right down to it, no matter how much you articulate that you want something or believe in something, it’s the choices that you make which truly tell people what matters to you, and in turn, tell the world who you are and what you’re about.

Now, admittedly, even conscious messages can be misinterpreted, based on the filters being used by the individual on the receiving end, however, that’s a whole other article…maybe one to be touched on next week. For the purposes of this week, what I want you to concentrate on is aligning the messages that you are sending. Ii want you to make sure that you understand that when you choose ‘x’ you’re inherently denying ‘y’ –even if only for the time being.  And the question for you to answer is whether or not this choice aligns with what matters to you.

Bottom-line: in the words of J. K. Rowling, from the book The Chamber of Secrets, “it is our choices that tell who we really are, far more than our abilities.” I would extend this to say “far more than what we say”. So get conscious about your choices. Turn up the dial on your conscious living. Be sure that the actions you take allow you to say ‘yes’ to what truly matters to you, so that the world knows what you’re about. Because when it comes right down to it, that’s how you’re going to be known, and be remembered – by what you actually say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to.

P+MARIKA+BLOG+barefootSummer Lessons to Last the Whole Year

The month of August is complete, and the month of September is upon us. For most of us, this heralds the dawn of a new beginning: the start of school, a return to routine, letting go of a certain amount of relaxation that just goes hand-in-hand with the summer experience.

One of the things that we don’t typically associate with summer is the experience of learning. Learning is for school, and school is generally NOT a summer thing, right? Maybe not. But learning happens all over the place, all the time, including in the summer, and this summer was chock-full of learning for me. Much of it was unintended, admittedly. But all of it was more than worthwhile.  In light of this, I want to share these lessons with you. My sense is that each of these lessons, in one way or another, can and will help you as you move on in whatever it is that you’re engaged in. So, in no particular order, here are some summer lessons that can serve you year-round:

1)      Taking time to rest is not an indulgence, it’s a necessity.  Whether it’s turning in for the night, grabbing a catnap in the afternoon, going for a mid-morning walk, or just sitting on your porch for half an hour, breathing in the fresh air, time to rest allows your brain to slow down, your   body to rejuvenate, and whatever challenges you’re facing to resolve, in one way or another.

2)      Ditto for taking time to disconnect from the electronic, virtual world. No matter who you are, believe it or not, the world will function just fine without your input for a stretch of time. So put away your phone, turn off the computer and go for a walk. Or a device-free vacation.

3)      On the flip side, true human connection is soul-nourishing.  Make time –every day if possible, or weekly at the very least – to be in the presence of others, having conversation, listening to one another, laughing together. Playing board games, discussing books, enjoying a meal – these are all ways to be together, and such togetherness creates experiences that cannot be replaced.

4)      Worry is an exercise in futility – don’t indulge in it.  The challenge, of course, is that worry can disguise itself as “problem-solving”. You can distinguish between the two based on the amount of mental bandwidth that’s being taken up. If your brain is incessantly pondering “how to” deal with something, then you’re not problem-solving, you’re worrying. And the answer will not be forthcoming. So move on to lesson #5.

5)      When you allow things to unfold, they usually do in the best possible way – one that you couldn’t imagine. This doesn’t mean that you can’t consider your options. It just means that at some point, you let go of the “problem” at hand, and let circumstances unfold. You stop trying to be the master of every situation, and truly let things unfold. So often, what emerges is a thing of beauty and one that you couldn’t have anticipated in the first place.

6)      Standing in expectancy, while letting go of all expectation is the most liberating experience.  Admittedly, this can be a tricky one. And my experience this summer tells me this: expectancy is that circumstance in which you allow yourself to stand in wonder, to know that something good is going to happen. It’s a childlike anticipation, that’s how I would best describe it. Letting go of expectation means that you don’t get really specific about the details – you just know that it’s going to be something good – and you blend this expectancy with lesson #5, and allow it to unfold. My experience this summer with this last lesson was incredible.

Bottom-line: life is a continual exercise in learning. Sometimes the richest learning happens anywhere but in a classroom. This summer provided me with some rich learning experiences, and my intention is to live these out in the months ahead. My hope, in sharing these with you, is that you will benefit as well.

Family PicAs you know, last week I was on vacation with my family, enjoying a road trip and time in both Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC. We took in a ball game, we visited Abbey Lee’s dance studio, we soaked up a lot of history, ate good food – in short, it was a delightful time that we spent together.  Here’s a picture of us preparing to embark on a bus tour in Arlington Cemetery; we’re a pretty happy bunch, eh?

We were blessed with a relatively uneventful trip, from the perspective of detours. That being said, there were a few incidents that required us to “course correct” as it were, reschedule events or otherwise tweak our plans. Road construction on the way down caused some major traffic delays, changing our schedule in Pittsburgh dramatically. In Washington, some sites weren’t accessible when we went to check them out, due to unanticipated volume or special events. You get the idea. And I’m sure you can relate. No matter who you are, there are times when the best laid plans don’t go according to plan. So what do you do?

Well, there are a couple of options, including throwing up your hands in despair, sighing (or yelling) in frustration, stomping your feet and going on a tirade. This is a possible response and, in my experience, it doesn’t really help the situation.

You could act as if the “obstacle” doesn’t exist. Road construction? Nope, gonna plow through anyway. No tickets available? Can’t be true, I’ll just stand here and wait for someone to decide that they don’t want their tickets and then buy them off of them (it could happen). Flash flood? That’s okay, a little rain never hurt anyone (despite the warnings of police to stay off the road) – let’s go check out that museum!

Some might look at the above examples and feel that they illustrate persistence. It’s important to understand, however, that persistence isn’t about pig-headedness; instead, persistence is about being able to take in the circumstances as they change, keep your eye on your objective and tweak your plans accordingly. In other words it’s not so much about staying the course, as recharting the course as needed, so that you reach your destination most effectively. It might be later than anticipated, but it will be safely accomplished. The planned activity might end up being on a different day, but the day will be more suited to the plan. Do you understand what I’m talking about?

I’ve had a great deal of opportunity to dance with course-correction this year. My book still hasn’t gone to print, due to a variety of seeming “obstacles”. I know that it will. And it hasn’t happened according to plan. At first, this has been frustrating. And yet, every “delay” has resulted in something good coming about as a result.  My fall workshop has been rescheduled by a week. Bummer on the one hand; brilliant on the other as I’ve secured the right location for it. Do you see what I mean?

Bottom-line: life’s detours can be frustrating, challenging and downright irritating, especially when all you want to do is “get there, already”! That being said, such detours are par for the course – for every course, no matter who you are – and learning to course correct, no matter your objective will serve you well. So stop bemoaning the challenges you’re facing; accept them for what they are, keep your eye on your ultimate objective, and find the alternate route to your destination. You’ll get there. And you’ll be better off for the experience.

hourglassYou’ve heard it said a million times or so over the course of your life:  there’s only so much time in a day.  To be specific, there are 24 hours in each and every day, 7 days in each week, and 365 days in an average year.  Time is measureable and, therefore, for all intents and purposes it is finite.  Face it; this sense of finality has you feeling like you’re racing against the clock when it comes to a lot of the things for which you’re responsible.

Need examples?  Well, school starts in two weeks; have you done your back-to-school shopping?  Thanksgiving (in Canada) is about 2 months away; have you organized the details of whatever traditional celebration is on the horizon?  Halloween and Christmas are on the heels of that – you can tell if you’ve been shopping at all recently – these seasonal displays are already creeping into the stores; do you know what needs to be done in preparation – and have you done any of it yet?  Each of these markers can leave you feeling harried, hurried and in a race with time.  How on earth will you ever get everything done, and ON TIME?

What I know for sure is that time is a funny thing.  Yes, empirically speaking, it is a finite resource.  There is, in fact, “only so much of it” and you’ve got to work within the confines of the limits that exist around it; you cannot go out and “buy more time.”  Or can you?  How is it, after all, that two different people can get two vastly different quantities of work done in the same amount of time?  Sure, you can point to time management and organization, but I want to point you in the direction of something a little bit different, something that, admittedly, might seem a little hokey.

There is a way that time seems to diminish in quantity, the more you focus on it.  Contrary to the law of attraction which says “that which you focus on expands”, time seems to do the opposite.  The more you watch the clock, particularly when you’ve got a deadline to meet or a specific task to complete, the faster time seems to race.  This seems especially true the older you get.  Think about it; when you were a child, summer holidays seemed to last FOREVER, didn’t they?  Now that you’re an adult, with specific obligations on your calendar and a sense of time passing, there seems to be a way that summer goes by really quickly, right?  Well, you actually can combat this sense of time passing in the blink of an eye; simply put, stop being quite so forward-focused, and stay right here, right now, in this moment.

The reason time can seem to work against you is that you’re living from event to event, rather than within the events themselves.  You’ve programmed your brain to always be thinking ahead, moving from moment to moment.  When you can live within the moments, time slows down for you – or at least, it feels like it does.  This feeling of time slowing down then gives you a sense of expansiveness.  There’s a way that you’re no longer rushing against the clock; instead you’re working with it, and within it.  This in turn allows you to shift from a mindset of “there isn’t enough time” to “there’s plenty of time.”  This mindset shift will allow you to accomplish all that needs to be done, in a timely way, without pressure or turmoil.

Bottom-line:  time is on your side.  It really is.  The way to ensure that you’re making the most of it is to stop focusing on the moments and events that lie ahead, and stay fully present in the moment and event at hand.  When you do this, you’ll find that time seems to expand as you need it.  And, as a bonus, you’ll feel less rushed, which means you’ll enjoy your life more.  Here’s to enjoying your life, right here, right now!

everything-is-possiblePossibility thinking.  This is a hallmark characteristic of mine and has been for a long time.  I grew up with a father who always, always said that “anything is possible.”  As a child, I’m not sure I believed him; however, that way of thinking got hammered into my subconscious and, as a result, as I grew up, it came to govern much of my thought processes. 

As a professional speaker, life and leadership coach and author, infusing my message with the essence of possibility-thinking is par for the course.  Whether I’m speaking to a core team about building team competencies, writing for an audience of professional women about the truth about life balance, or coaching a group of executives around the challenges of decision-making, “possibility” and how to engage with it is always on the table.

The stumbling block that inevitably arises, at least for some of those involved, is the question of whether or not anything truly is possible.  There are all sorts of reasons for this.  Sometimes it’s about preconceived notions; sometimes it’s about personal experiences that seem to disprove the premise; always, it’s about perspective. 

Perspective is the vantage point from which you choose to view the world.  Notice the use of the word “choose” in the previous statement.  In other words, perspective can be changed.  The power to change your perspective lies with you.  Why does this matter?  Well, let’s use the concept of flying as an illustration.

For centuries, humans longed to fly.  For those same centuries, it was deemed impossible.  Factually speaking, anyone looking at the human body would have to agree; the human body is not built to fly in the same way that birds fly.  And therein lies the essence of possibility, the perspective challenge.  If your perspective is that flying for humans can only be managed in the way that birds fly, the feat will remain impossible.  If, however, you start to look at the situation from another perspective, perhaps holding the question “how else might we fly”, possibilities open up.  as we know in this day and age, those possibilities have opened up so much that not only is flight simply part and parcel of our 21st century travel experience, the question of whether or not humans can fly is no longer raised. 

When it comes to possibility thinking and the question of whether or not anything is possible, it’s imperative that you understand one thing:  believing that anything is possible is not about being a Pollyanna, or defying the laws of the world, or thinking that you are immune from trials and tribulations.  Instead, possibility-thinking is about giving yourself the gift of expanded perspective.  It’s about recognizing that any one way of viewing the world isn’t the only way to do so.  And, it’s about letting go of the question of if something is possible, and instead dancing with the question of how it is possible.

Bottom-line:  anything truly is possible.  It may not be possible from the vantage point you’re currently holding.  If, however, you shift your perspective and hold another question, possibilities will always emerge.  Let go of your idea that something has to happen a certain way; and watch the possibilities become real.

This week I wrap up my exploration of the Serenity Prayer. Once again, for those who haven’t heard it, or don’t recognize it by that name, here it is:

serenity_prayer

Having looked at the first two lines over the course of the last two weeks, I want to draw your attention today to the third line which, in my opinion, is the crux of the matter. In fact, I sort of think that you could (to some degree) ignore the first two lines and still enhance your life and leadership, if you truly embraced the last line.

“The wisdom to know the difference.” There’s something profoundly accurate about invoking the quality of wisdom when it comes to living and leading, isn’t there? Wisdom is that quality that goes beyond mere book knowledge. Wisdom isn’t about how “smart” you are. Wisdom, instead, is about your capacity to stand outside of yourself – to take yourself out of the equation – and make decisions in service of the bigger picture. It’s about sourcing an understanding from the situation, allowing the circumstances to inform you, so that you act accordingly.

Admittedly, wisdom can be a tricky concept to get your head around. But that’s the point. The truly wise don’t get their head around it, they get their hearts around it. They are able to stand in the question of “what will serve” rather than “what needs to be done”. In other words, those who are wise anchor any and all action in a solid sense of what the space is calling for.

Last week, I shared the formula for building your capacity for courage. “Think, Breathe, Act, Repeat.”. Marrying the first two steps , thinking and breathing, is what activates wisdom, in my opinion. Why? Because it allows you the time to get clear and get anchored. Wisdom is always found in clarity and stillness.

This brings us to the last piece of this line and, indeed, the last piece of the verse, “knowing the difference.”  Specifically, we’re talking about the difference between what you can change and what you can’t. How do you separate the two?

Sometimes, it’s easy. You can’t change the weather. You can change the accoutrements you tote along to deal with the weather. You can’t change your gene pool. You can change the type of clothes you wear to enhance your physical traits. You can’t change who your family is comprised of. You can change how often you choose to hang around with them (which may be particularly helpful information, if you don’t get along). 

The realm of human relationships might probably provides the greatest challenge when it comes to the concept of change. Whether you’re talking about employer/employee dynamics, parent/child relations, spousal situations or anything else, we are often told that we can only change ourselves, not others. I think we all understand, instinctively, the truth of this idea. The practical implementation, however, can be a different kettle of fish. Let me explain.

Imagine: you’ve got an employee who just doesn’t seem to be meeting performance expectations. You really like this employee; you see that she has great potential, she’s just not living up to it. So you think to yourself, I know I can’t change her but, surely I can explain myself, make my expectations clear. So you take the time to meet, you explain your expectations, you share what you see as her potential, you lay out a clear plan to support her in changing for the better – and she still doesn’t measure up.

So you go though it again. And again. And just one more time. You start to change your own expectations because hey, you can’t change her, but you can change you, right? And before you know it, you’re in one big mess.

What went wrong? You started down a slippery slope. You continued to “act”, without “thinking” and “breathing” before each action. Had you in fact done so, you would have realized that despite your efforts to create something that worked for both, the employee just wasn’t on board. Either because she didn’t understand or, because it didn’t fit with her value system, or perhaps, she just didn’t want to. Regardless, the truth is that this is a situation that cannot change – at least not in the way you originally desired.

Changing your expectations is an option – and, it’s only an option if the way in which you change your expectations still jives with whatever is true for you. Understand?

I will confess that this is an area that I continue to grapple with from time to time. In other words, my sense is that it’s not easy. Except when it is. And it’s always easier when I Think, Breathe, Act. Always.

Bottom-line: knowing the difference between what I can change and what I can’t, facilitates my being able to accept what needs to be accepted, and then source the courage necessary to make the changes that are needed.  The qualities of serenity, courage and wisdom need to be consciously accessed every day. It sounds like a chore, and it’s not. Instead, it’s a liberating step on the path to effective leadership.

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Writing provides me with an outlet for sharing my insights on a regular basis. I freelance for magazines and publications as opportunity presents itself. I also channel my thoughts into regular blog posts and monthly articles. Blog posts are visible on my blog page, and an archive of articles from my monthly ezine, LAUNCH –as well as some articles from publications – can be found on the “articles” page of this site.

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