March 24, 2014

8 Steps From Dream To Reality

 Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.
-Langston Hughes

In December I attended an amazing musical performance.  Above the wonder that I experienced musically, was the overwhelming feeling of being part of the unfolding of a dream. The thought of it made me ponder the alchemy of dreams.  How do they start, what is the process that makes them come true? (Spoiler isn't wishing!)

This particular dream consisted of over 200 choir and orchestra members, all volunteers, all strangers - all of them waiting to be pulled together into something wonderful.

This dream belonged to a woman named Beth, who had attended this same musical presentation across the country.  Being moved by the performance, she imagined how lovely it would be to recreate it as a Christmas gift for her own community.  At that moment, this event in her community didn't exist anywhere except in her mind. As she shared her dream with others it began to gather steam fueled by passion. Dates were set, a theater booked and little by little all of the details began to fall into place until a full blown musical extravaganza popped out on the other end.

People came together to create a community that consisted of wide ranging musical abilities. Suddenly there was a choir and orchestra where just weeks before, no choir or orchestra existed. (except for in the thought of them.)  It's as though the thought had power to pull them from wherever they were to where they were needed.

Even the audience members were drawn into the idea and were pulled from the many places they could otherwise have been to be seated in that auditorium to witness and enjoy this spectacular musical offering.  Consider it!  There was no performance.  There was no choir.  There was no orchestra and Beth, who ended up directing the event wasn't even a director before the idea took root and pulled them all together.

Everything around us, including this keyboard I'm clacking away on right now, came into being from what was first just an idea.  If you're sitting on a chair right now or are reading this on your cellphone, you're sitting on or reading from a dream that became reality.  It's something that's so mind boggling and yet, we sit on chairs, clack on keyboards and use cellphones day in and day out, taking no notice of it, all the while believing our dreams, can't come true??  What's with that?

So, when we talk about the alchemy of dreams, let's see from the example above if we can get it broken down into it's components.

1. A THOUGHT  It all started with just a thought - an idea.  It may be intangible but within a thought lies all possibility.  Without a thought, or idea, there's nothing to build on.  I don't even want to count how many times I've had a great idea that never got out of diapers.  Later I find that someone else had the same great idea, except they didn't stop there. They used the steps below and called it into reality.

2. CLARITY  Beth knew exactly what she wanted to do.  She wanted to bring that exact performance to her own community.  It wasn't vague. She knew exactly what it would look like and her thoughts were of recreating the vision she saw in her mind.

3. ACTION Take the first step. We don't need to know all the steps and usually we can't know even the next step until the first step is taken. Bringing together over 200 people from various walks of life and getting them to buy into a vision, then convincing them to volunteer countless hours of their time didn't for free happen by accident.  It took doing something. I'm told Beth, with others, visited over 500 local churches promoting the idea and looking for people to participate.  None of that could have happened without the first step being taken.

4. FAITH We have to believe in our dream.  If Beth hadn't believed - completely - that there was indeed an orchestra and choir of people just waiting for a place to come together, she wouldn't have taken the first step toward locating and marshaling them.

5. PATIENCE We have to be patient with the process.  Nothing monumentally worthwhile will ever happen overnight.  In all of the details that had to be worked out in order to make Beth's dream a reality, I'm sure there were setbacks all over the place.  Try outs, finding a venue, getting stage help, funding the project, practice schedules, and marketing, are all parts of what needed to be done to make the project succeed.  Any one of those could have been overwhelming without patience.

6. PERSISTENCE  We have to be willing to keep going forward not matter what.  It's been said that anyone can succeed with persistence alone.  Persistence will wear down the biggest obstacle.  Imagine the tiny drip of water that persists to break down a huge rock.  Each drop might not seem like it's doing much, but the persistence of the dripping will surely see it's efforts rewarded. The moral: keep dripping!

7. DETERMINATION  We have to decide not to quit.  It's this do or die attitude that absolutely refuses to acknowledge defeat that finally turns dreams into reality.  Beth decided she would bring this musical gift to her community.  When she made that decision, there was no going back.  She didn't have all the details worked out at that point.  She couldn't have imagined the countless details that even needed to be worked out.  If she had, she might have thrown her hands up and given up right then.  We also must just be determined to start and keep going.

8. VISION  We have to see past what's "in front of us" to what's "coming soon." Focusing on her vision of the end result allowed Beth to push past the obstacles.  Vision will keep passion alive when the dirty work threatens to kill it.  Vision also drowns out the voices of "well meaning" doomsayers and non believers, and I promise all of them believe they are well meaning!

Dreams do become realities.  Our lives are surrounded by evidence of it every minute.  I guess the decision we have to make is whether we are willing to combine our dreams with clarity, action, faith, patience, persistence, determination, and vision to make them come true.  If not, maybe our dreams aren't big enough!  Small dreams that lead to small outcomes and will only stir small passion.  It takes a great dream mixed with the above ingredients to generate great passion.  My challenge for us all, is to dream great dreams. Then get to work!

Your dream could change our world, and it will, without a doubt, change yours!

March 20, 2014

Shift Happens

I’m reading (for the second time) a wonderful book called SHIFT HAPPENS by Robert Holden.

I LOVE THIS BOOK.  I love this book because it shares information about how to transform our lives by shifting our focus and attitudes.  I love this book because what Robert says mirrors what I’ve found to be true in my own life.  I love this book because when I put it down, I’ve had an attitude adjustment that lets me see what’s good all around me.  It also reminds me how the bad things might not be so bad after all since each of them contains a lesson that has the potential to be transformational.

I don’t know about you, but I find that reading to, listening to, and surrounding myself with good content and good attitudes is to put myself in the presence of something contagious.  Something I WANT to catch for a change.

I’ve come to understand that I am in charge of my happiness.  It’s up to me to put myself in spaces that nurture happiness and help it to grow.  Gone are the days when I believed that someone else could “make me happy.”   What a burden to place on someone else.

How do we get caught in the trap of believing that someone else can know what makes us happy?  How do we expect things to go according to plan when we are waiting for someone else to come up with the plan? 

There is nothing more freeing, in my opinion, than to take the steering wheel and drive our own lives.  Yes, it comes with risk.  Once we take the drivers seat, we give up the option of blaming other people when we go off course, run out of gas, or just plain don’t like where we end up.  It’s also exciting!  It means we can turn the key, put the car in drive and head a new direction whenever we’re ready.

Shift really can happen, and when it does, and we begin to turn our attitudes around, a whole new world is set before us.  One that holds promise and potential.


March 17, 2014

When Appreciation Isn't Appreciated

As the world heads more and into cyberspace, face to face interaction is beginning to take a backseat to tweets, texts, emails, and the like.  How then do we maintain our relationships without the human touch that was such an important part  of it in days gone by?

Appreciation is one key factor in creating and maintaining nurturing, long lasting relationships. When we recognize the contributions of around us, it creates mutual respect that develops strong bonds.  We also benefit from the appreciation we receive as well.  It’s validating and rewarding to know our efforts have been noticed and have made a difference.

There is risk involved in "appreciating" people however.  That risk is doing it in an in-genuine way. 

In-genuine praise is using the carrot and making it feel more like the stick.  People can tell when the praise they receive is sincere and when it's being done with other intentions.  Having been on the receiving end of insincere praise, I can tell you it makes me feel more like I need a shower than validated.

Insincere praise is actually a form of manipulation.  Praise given to inspire someone to do more for us for instance, is an example of manipulative praise.  

 It has nothing to do with validating the other person.  It has to do with stroking people in order to improve our own situation.  Any praise given toward a self serving end, will always come back to bite the giver. Insincerity of all types, breeds suspicion, lack of trust, and bitterness.

 It feels like being given a caramel dipped onion in place of the apple and leaves about the same taste in your mouth.

In my opinion, insincere praise is worse than no praise at all because it feels like a condescending pat on the head and assumes the stupidity of the receiver not to know the difference. 

It’s going to be increasingly more important to take time for small things like genuine appreciation, validation, and even carving out some actual “face time” (not the kind with two screens involved) to maintain quality relationships, but I think it’s time well spent.

 When all is said and done, your cellphone, tablet, and computer will not be there to comfort you through life’s biggest challenges. (they can however distract you from them) Your friends and love ones, considering you’ve made time for them, will be.


March 14, 2014

Getting Over The Humps

My good friend sent me a text recently asking me a question and asking that it be the topic of my next blog post.

His question was:

How do we get over the humps that still come up in our lives years after we climbed over the original mountain that brought us to our knees.

I can't promise that what worked for me, will be a custom fit for everyone else, but I'm happy to share my journey and if someone else finds something helpful in it, wonderful!

For me, it took avoiding looking at the "humps."  I only see "humps" when I try to look too far ahead or try to take in every part of an obstacle at once. 

Like climbing a hill, I found when I was constantly focused on how much of the hill was still ahead, each of my steps didn't seem to amount to much.  By keeping my eyes on the single step in front of me, each step mattered.  Occasionally even looking over my shoulders to see how far I'd come brought greater resolution, encouragement, and made each of my steps lighter.

Focusing on what was right in front of me was no easy chore.  Concentrating on one thing at a time is probably one of the hardest things I do daily.  My mind has a mind of it's own with millions of side hobbies.  

When I do get distracted, (Notice I said when instead of if? Yep, it's that hard!) I can easily fall into "all or nothing" thinking. It goes like this..."If I can't do all of this, I might as well not even start."  That's crazy talk.  Doing something is still doing something. No matter how super we are, we can only do well, one thing at a time anyway so why not do that one thing?

I noticed that any time I tried to focus on "completion" instead of "process" I got frustrated and became overwhelmed.  

Completion IS a process.  There's no such thing as insta-healing.  Every time I tried to rush it I ended up back peddling instead.  The moment that overwhelm hit, I became paralyzed and all forward motion came to an abrupt halt.  Even though I'd stopped making progress, I  felt just as exhausted as I would of if I'd been working hard and moving ahead.  I believe the exhaustion came from the emotional beatings I'd heap on myself when I found myself stuck in my own mental mire.

Making a list of what I needed to do each day helped give me focus. 

My "list" was always something manageable.  Checking off what I'd finished gave me small victories that were energizing.  It was hard to feel like a success when I was defining "success" as "all done."  I could be successful in making small accomplishments and by doing that, the huge things were being cut into bite size pieces that in turn helped tackle the huge obstacles.

Another breakthrough for me was when I stopped thinking that healing is something that I could one day "finish."  

Healing is a life long process that we get better and better at. The better we get at forgiving, the better we get at healing.  Forgiveness isn't about letting anyone off the hook except ourselves.  We don't have to accept mistreatment as OK to forgive, but we have to accept forgiveness to be OK ourselves.  When we don't forgive we're forced to relive the original pain continuously.  The worst hurts of all are the ones we heap on ourselves by reliving repeatedly the things that are already over.

Staying connected and finding supportive people who  championed my efforts, listened, and encouraged me made all the difference. 

Having my feelings validated, and feeling understood was an amazing process that helped me find self validation. We're all stronger together than we are alone.

The next may be the most important step of all:  Being patient with myself. Healing, digging out of the aftermath, learning new ways of being, each have their own time frame and won't be rushed. Once I gave in to that and allowed myself to take how ever long it took, I felt less self-imposed stress to "hurry up and heal." 

By allowing the process to unfold, focusing on what's was right in front of me, forgiving, staying connected, being patient with myself, and keeping an open heart, the guidance I needed to keep moving forward came.  Not always when I wanted it, but always just as I needed it. I hope the same will be true for you as well.

What steps have worked for you to overcome life's "humps?"


March 13, 2014

Thermostat or Thermometer


That was the question at topic of an article that I was reading today.  Strangely, the article didn't really relate to the topic at all, but it sure made me think.

A thermometer monitors and reports the temperature of the environment around it.  The thermostat is where the temperature is determined.

It was a compelling question.  It made me reflect on my own life to see where I might be acting as one or the other.  In some situations, we're all thermometers.  There are things in life over which we have no direct control so monitoring and reporting where necessary is all that's required or allowed.
There are many area's of our lives over which we have total control.  In those areas we ideally are thermostats.

I'll be the first to admit that I've played thermometer way too often in the past.  It somehow seemed "easier" that way.  I learned the hard way, that when we give up control over situations that are our direct responsibility, it's not only NOT easier, it's downright miserable. Let's look at some examples where this is true.  Our personal happiness is a good place to start.  

 When we burden others with "our" happiness, it not only makes life difficult and unpleasant for them, but it ensures we are likely to spend a lot of time disappointed. 

How on earth can we expect someone else to know what "makes us happy" when half the time, we're not even sure ourselves.

Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person refused to take responsibility for their own happiness?  Did you feel like a constant disappointment.  Did it seem like no matter what you did, it wasn't enough?

How about our attitudes?  Do we sometimes act as thermometers pretending that our attitude is determined by our environment?  

Maybe you're someone that still believes it's possible for others to determine your mood?  I had a friend, who was a psychologist, share with me a great illustration of how silly that really is.  He was called to a junior high school by the principal to intervene between two boys who were constantly fighting.  As you might imagine, when he asked the boys what the problem was, they each blamed the other for "making them mad."  

What Doug did next was brilliant.  He explained to the boys that it was completely impossible for someone else to make them angry and told him that he would prove it to them. 

Doug took a ten dollar bill out of his pocket and laid it on the table in front of the two boys.  He told one of the boys that he would give him $10 if he could make the other boy angry.  He told the second boy that he would get the $10 if no matter what happened, he was able to keep from getting angry.  As you might predict, no one got angry that day.  Doug pointed out that when our motivation for not getting angry is greater than our motivation to get angry, we can always control our anger.

The point then is this:  We have a lot more control in our lives than we think...and sometimes more than we care to admit.  

If we refuse to set the temperature of our environment, we can't complain when someone else takes it upon themselves to crank the heat.


March 11, 2014

Recovering Know It All

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio 

I am a recovering "know it all." I became afflicted with this around my 16th birthday when I suddenly decided my parents didn't have a clue. It lasted right up till the time my own children decided that I didn't have a clue. Karma can be cruel!

With the above quote in mind, I want to tell you about someone who, at one time, would never have fit into "my philosophy." (The older I get the more fluid my philosophy becomes.)

There was a time when I believed that "western medicine" was the only real treatment option and that those poor souls, who were not born in a place where it was practiced, were sadly unfortunate. Those days are happily behind me. I'm finally old enough to be comfortable with knowing that I don't know everything. Instead, I've become ignorance on fire with the world as my laboratory.

Western Medicine knows some things, but even they will be the first to tell you they don't know everything.  It's been my experience that what western medicine knows best is how to prescribe pharmaceuticals to treat a myriad of symptoms and as one doctor pointed out  "None of them are without possible side effects." 

Another medical doctor offered this:  "Everything is considered a clinical trial. We try one thing and if that doesn't work, then we try something else. That's why it's called practicing medicine." 

My grandmother was fond of saying "There's more than one way to skin a cat!" (Why anyone would want to skin a cat was never discussed) and so it goes with treating ailments.

Over the years I've had great experience with chiropractic, "old wives tales," essential oils, and homeopathy, for handling a variety of discomforts. I even got rid of gallstones without surgery...but that's another tale altogether.

Today I want to introduce you to a man named Clyde. Clyde has a gift for "discerning" medical conditions and offering natural remedies. Hooey you might say...and at one time I would have agreed.

If you met Clyde on the street, you would be mostly unimpressed.  He's a humble man without an ounce of pretense.  He's small in stature with a quick smile and eyes that  sparkle.  He has a quick wit and a way of putting you instantly at ease.  

Along with intuition, Clyde uses kinesiology to help locate the physical malady that lies at the cause of the symptoms and treats that cause to eliminate the symptoms. It's SPOOKY sometimes how he can tell what someone has been suffering from with without a word having been uttered about it. Last week I called him on the phone to tell him I wasn't feeling quite myself. 

He told me "You have a cold."  I replied "But I'm not coughing, sneezing, or feeling like I have a cold."  He answered..."Well, I can't help that, you still have a cold. Start taking Elderberry right now."  

Within 8 hours all the cold symptoms hit like a ton of bricks. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Clyde is a gifted healer. I've taken too many people and seen too much to believe otherwise, but I'm not writing about Clyde today to extoll his methods over another - and I'm especially not writing to convince any non believers to believe. 

I'm writing out of gratitude.  I'm grateful for Clyde and the way he's dedicated his life to helping those who can't find relief from "main stream" medicine.  But what I'm even more grateful for is the way my mind has cracked wide open to allow space for new ideas, points of view, and experiences. I believe we really stop living when we come to believe we can no longer learn anything more.

Life is so much more exciting now that I've given up the notion of "knowing it all" There's amazement around every corner!

March 7, 2014

5 Steps For Overcoming Poisonous Self-Talk

Self-talk. I'm not talking about "talking to myself" (which I do all the time and is a topic which could fill numerous blog posts.)  I'm talking about that little voice that lives (rent free) inside our heads and rambles endless commentary about everything that's going on around us. (Please tell me I'm not the only one hearing it!)  It disguises itself by mimicking our own voices so we believe the thoughts are ours.  Pretty insidious huh?

Self-talk might seem harmless enough, but it's anything but.  Our self-talk is so important that it sets the bar for all of our achievements. It tells us who we can date, marry, and have as friends.  It places limits on which jobs we can have and the quality of life that we enjoy...or not.  It tells us what size clothes we can buy and how much we dare spend for them.  Self-talk dictates our dreams and creates our reality.  Just like the fleas put in a jar with a lid will soon stop trying to jump higher than the height of the jar, even when the lid is removed, self-talk, if poisonous, keeps us jumping small and will create our self fulfilling prophesy

Some of the criticisms the inner chatter bathes our mind with may be direct quotes from people we've loved and trusted. Trust makes messages we receive about ourselves weightier, and love makes them cast iron.  Other messages perhaps, were not spoken directly, but were implied.  Some may have only been perceived. It doesn't really matter how the tapes that play in our head were recorded, but it does matter how much air time they receive and how often we allow ourselves to sing along - which leads me to this question: How do we shut down poisonous self talk?  Here are a few suggestions that will help. 

1. Awareness  

Just like diet and exercise are necessary to produce a fit and healthy body, actively monitoring our thoughts is necessary to producing healthy self talk. Consciously listen to your internal dialog.  Look for recurring themes.  Decide where they might have come from.  Just the act of conscience listening will help you to see that, as the listener, you are separate from the thoughts.  You can then observe them objectively as a spectator.

2. Journal
Before you gag and choke here, hear me out.  I'm not suggesting that you keep a running log of every thought that passes through your mind.  Only the ones that are damaging and aren't serving you well, and only for a week.  Keep a note pad close by or even use your smartphone to record limiting, self defeating thoughts.  If you find the exercise enlightening, you might decide to keep going, but only commit to a week and see how it goes.

3. Examine 
Drag the negative messages out into the bright sunlight and see what they're made of.  Look for evidence of their lies.  For instance, if one of your limiting beliefs is that you're a "loser."  Look for times in your life when you have set goals and accomplished them.  Remember a time when you achieved something that you were proud of.  Focus on that feeling of accomplishment.  Also look for any truth as well.  If you find there is a morsel of truth in any limiting belief, know that you can change anything you are willing to take responsibility for and make effort toward.

4. Replace
When you discover yourself playing host to a negative interloper, override the negative thought by replacing it with a thought that will serve you better.  If "I'll never get ahead" comes to visit, kick him out the door with "I'm well on my way" or something that will be an empowering reminder that you are not the sum of your old recordings.

You didn't get a head full of junk overnight.  You may never have even realized you could choose to challenge what has been a part of you for so long. You won't be perfect at changing your poisonous self-talk overnight, but take courage knowing that every small victory is moving you forward.

If you've found other successful ways of dealing with poisonous self talk, I'd love to hear them.  If you know someone who could benefit from the suggestions above, please share them. 

March 1, 2014

The 3 Best Ways To Exact Revenge

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." -Confucius

REVENGE.  Just the word is super saucy! It elicits visions of regaining power and control that we feel we've lost at the hand of "the offender." The idea of righting all wrongs - getting even for all the "injustice" and just plain getting even can be so alluring!  So let's get started on 3 surefire ways to get the deed done.

1.  FORGIVE  When we choose to forgive, we evict the pain associated with the "offense." There is no point at which it is necessary to say "you were right to hurt me" or "what you did was OK." Forgiveness is about releasing ourselves from pain and suffering. Forgiveness does however allow for the "humanness" that we all share and the inevitability that people, sometimes, just through preference, will do things that will be painful to us.  It also allows for the fact that sometimes we too will hurt others just by exercising choice.

I've learned how true it is that "pain is inevitable but misery is optional."  We don't have to stay miserable. We can feel misery and let it pass. In order for that to happen we need to stop throwing wood on the fire. We need to stop reliving "the offense" over and over in our minds. The constantly wondering "WHY" has to end. When we're feeling deeply wounded, is there really an answer to "WHY" that will magically make it OK? Trust me on this - NO!  Continuing to seek a liberating answer only keeps us stuck. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to be free. It's the choice to take back our power instead of giving our energy to someone who most likely has already moved on. Besides, if someone really did intend to hurt us, what could be more aggravating for them than to see that we're no longer tied to them with strong emotions like hate, and anger?

2. SURVIVE AND THRIVE   When we feel we've been struck a deadly blow, the idea of "thriving" isn't even on the radar.  Getting from day one to day two seems like a mammoth undertaking.  Surviving and thriving is a two part process.  The first part requires that we move to a "safe place."  That doesn't always mean a physical move but if that's a real concern we need to do it as quickly as possible.  It also means creating an emotional "safe room" by surrounding ourselves with people we trust and who love us. (They're going to need to love us to put up with hearing about it over and over again for awhile.)

We need to be willing to seek the help of a professional if we feel we feel it's needed. This isn't a sign of weakness -  it's a re-commitment to strength. It's important to get back to the center of "us."  Reconnecting with who we were before the wound, is the best way to separate ourselves from the wound.  We all know people who have gone through hurt who "become" their hurt.  They live and breathe through their pain and as a result it defines who they are - not just what they've been through.

The second part, the "thriving" can only happen as we reconnect to ourselves and set our sights on the future. There is no "thriving"  in the past. Thriving requires forward thinking and forward motion.  AND...can there really be anything as annoying to an intentional offender than seeing that we've moved on?

3. LET GO  Letting go is the hardest part of all.  We can move past our struggles, but not until we're willing to.  For a time, when we're healing, we need our wound.  It gives us time to go through all of the emotions required for healing.  Going through the emotions is the only real way out of them.  Suppressing tears, diving in to our work to forget, or pretending we don't care, may work for awhile, but at some point the suppressed emotions will resurface.  Often it's as we're attempting to move into a new relationship.  We can end up taking our old, unhealed grief along with us and unwittingly trying to extract "our pound of flesh" from the new innocent person. There is no room for a healthy relationship in a heart that's still shattered.  All the goodness that might have been can end up slipping through the cracks - ripping open the healing that's already taken place.

Letting go is not done unconsciously.  We have to be ready to say, "I-am-willing-to-let-go."  We need to be willing to give up the pity and empathy that we've enjoyed from our friends and family.  We have to say goodbye to the "righteous indignation" that's allowed us to feel "better than." We have to give up our "woundology" and be willing to accept responsibility for ourselves again. Letting go assures that we can move into a fresh future.  A future that allows for things like trust and vulnerability.

A wise person once told me that as we seek to regain trust, we need to have a broader definition of the word. He went on to explain that trust isn't just something we extend to someone else. Along with extending trust, we must also deeply trust ourselves. Trust is being willing to take a chance again knowing full well there is a possibility of hurt. Hurt is inevitable when living in an imperfect world with imperfect people while also being imperfect. Trust is knowing that "when" our feelings get hurt again, we have within us, the strength to pick ourselves back up and carry on!

Our happiest days are just up ahead, waiting in the wings for us to heal up to them - but when we do, we'll need to be full of hope and with a willingness to trust in order to claim them.

There you have it. No go out there an unleash an avalanche of "Revenge" and see how just how good it makes you feel!