Thinking of Packing It In? (Don’t!)

Have you ever been tempted to pack up shop and quit?  You know how it goes.  Your client calls to cancel at the last minute.  Again.  Oh, there’s a good reason.  That’s not the issue.  It’s just that there are issues that come up frequently when people are working their way through difficulties.  Parents, peers and professionals- all of these roles require support from a mind- from a perspective, that exceeds what one person can offer. Sometimes there are breakdowns along the way. These episodes can have clients skipping everything from coaching to a needed legal consultation to a chemotherapy appointment. When breakdowns become frequent in number, they become the default. You’re still carrying some clients on your census that have missed more of their sessions than they’ve attended? At some point, the process just stops working because the client is anxious, avoidant, depressed or wholly disengaged.

Maybe the trouble isn’t a person?  For some of you, the trouble is a circumstance.  You’re waiting for one or more pieces to a solution. There’s a challenge in the area of business, education, health or finances.  You’ve got enough clients to pay the rent, but not enough to pay yourself a living wage.  Your Spanish, French or other language is good enough to talk and even to translate a document, but it’s not good enough to let you deliver your professional service in your second language.  You’re eating healthier, but the A1C just isn’t coming down.  And neither is the weight.  Your business and personal budgets are maxed out.  You’re giving and you’re able to put some in savings.  But investing?  A six month cushion for emergencies?  It’s not there yet. 

In every one of these situations, there’s a human tendency to look for the easy button.  C’mon, you’ve seen the commercial with the big, red button.  Figuring out how to do things in one step or a few steps is a fallacy.  So is figuring out how to do things using one approach.  We always want the end result.  The short cut, right?  This innate desire shows up in our storytelling. A genie and three wishes… A fairy godmother, some glass slippers and a handsome prince… In the real world, maybe it’s a coaching package and six steps… A treatment plan with a qualified clinician… Or six sessions with a CPA to get your commercial taxes unknotted… I’ll tell you a secret:  know why all of these systems, services and short cuts often work?  It’s because the people who use them work their asses off.  That’s it.  That’s the secret to success in business, coaching and life. Coaches would say that such a person “is playing full out”. In other words, they’re not holding anything back. They’re as engaged, disciplined, committed and active as it is possible to be.

It’s worthwhile to look for the right tool, system, principle or approach.  It’s worthwhile to pay a coach or a consultant or other professional to support you through the process.  But the key ingredient is work.  And most of the places where my clients and I get stuck, if we’re just brutally honest, is getting stopped at some point when engaging the work.  Why?  Work is uncomfortable.  It’s costly.  And it’s unpredictable.  You can’t KNOW that after five sessions, you’re going to be all set.  Or that after two more months of working on your healthy food plan, financial wellness plan or spiritual maturity plan that you’ll have gotten to your intended destination. At some point, you have to sign on the dotted line of your own commitment and promise to pursue the journey whether it’s six steps, sixty steps or six million steps. 

So- don’t pack it in!  As one sojourner to another on this mortal plane, trust in the combination of diligence, discernment, engagement and vision you’re consistently engaging to move you forward.  You’re going to get there.  And when you do, you’ll look back at today and be glad that you stuck with your promises to yourself.  Go ahead and pour on that labor. Your sweat equity will accrue over time. Your choice to be diligent to the point of being uncomfortable matters. It’s significant. It means that you’re more invested in the change you want to see than you are in maintaining the present. Honestly, you’re going to be uncomfortable to some extent in any case. It’s a choice between the discomfort of limiting present circumstances or the discomfort of investing in the vision. Staying in the present scene can bring depression, disengagement, disappointment and dysfunction. Or- choose the discomfort of facing the future and its costs- generally a combination of courage, integrity, perseverance and skill, Because that’s how you get to real results. 

If you’d like to consult with a compassionate coach who can help you keep that vision in view and enhance the results of your labor and engagement, reach out! We’ll be happy to support you as you journey forward.

Bubbles Galore- Continued: Bubble Metaphysics

We made contact with three key concepts in our blog post entitled “A Bobble in the Bubble: Stasis”:  1) our physicality dwells in the present, but our internal faculties aren’t really bound by time, 2) the stories that we tell ourselves about the past, present and future are always being rewritten and 3) what matters is how we FEEL about the stories of our lives.  These stories are like successive bubbles on a timeline that we indwell. 

A bubble is singular.  Specifically, it’s a singular confluence of events operating within time.  Once it pops, it’s gone. Its impacts live on in memory.  How we DID feel, DO feel and WILL feel about any particular time in our lives changes.  New information comes in, new edits are added to the storyline and a new version of the story is posted to the webpage of our lives. 

Bubbles in our timelines form successively, one after the other.  They last as long as things continue to remain the same.  Whatever is going on has a tendency to perpetuate itself.  A bubble has elements that operate together:  these are the circumstances that make up a particular point on the timeline. 

These elements are the moments that make up every day: the system lasts until there’s a disruption of some sort.  I get laid off.  My partner leaves me or divorces me.  I win the lottery.  Or invent machinery for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  Change occurs that’s real and that’s impactful enough to disrupt things. 

The consciousness is engaged in a new way due to the change.  The scene has played out and is about to shift.  For bigger disruptions, the scenes of the current act close and a new scene begins.  That’s the transition from one bubble to another.   

Soap bubbles have a surface tension that keeps them intact.  They do fine as long as they are floating and free.  When one lands on a hard surface, it dents itself.  It’s surface tension is disrupted and it will eventually pop.  Our personal bubbles are like that.  They arise because of a system of elements that work together to create a norm.  It’s a balance of conditions that work for some time.

These elements operate or remain in motion as a system so long as there is available energy to expend that exceeds the force of a disruption.  When something “pushes” on the bubble’s surface, it might get added into the mix.  More sizable shifts usually herald real change and there’s a “pop” followed by movement. 

The waters of our lives foment until a new bubble forms.  It has its own system of ideas, norms and its own story to tell.  The new interval has a size, a perspective on the world and a working synergy of being and doing that are unique.  Think of this bubble as the eye of your conscious mind.  It’s experiencing life as an embodied being.

You’re floating on the whole of self, connected to all of who you were, who you are and who you may become.  But your consciousness can only contain awareness of a portion of that.  It’s the story of creation.  A sacred tale that the self speaks out over and over again. 

The bubble is bounded.  Really, the self is too, right?  The question is not one of scale, but of distinction.  None of us would say that the self is all of mankind or all of the living beings.  In the same way that a drop of water contains all of the properties of the ocean, each of us contains all of the properties of every human.  But you wouldn’t mix up the drop and the ocean. 

The surface tension of water where it meets the air is formed because water droplets like sticking together more with other water molecules than they do air molecules.  Soap molecules sandwich a thin layer of water between themselves and a film is formed.  The thin film surrounds a bit of air and voila!  A bubble! 

Without soap, bubbles form gas molecules and leave water due to more favorable conditions such as falling atmospheric pressure.  They are basically globules of one substance inside of another one, such as air in water or a soap film. 

Three things determine how long a bubble lasts: surface tension of the soap or water barrier, and pressure both inside and outside of the bubble. In the same way, there are conditions that determine how long any of our personal bubbles last. 

The self, through its focus, engagement and energy, pushes OUT on the environment.  The ambient environment pushes IN on the self.  The distinction in conditions operating inside and outside of a personal bubble is the metaphysical pressure differential.  

What about the barrier between the self and its surroundings?  The boundary, or the surface of the bubble, is double walled.  In many plant cells, there is a secondary cell wall that provides additional protection, rigidity and strength.  While bubbles and cells are physically diverse in their properties, it’s true that imposing order on the world by means of a particular system of beliefs gives us personal strength (like the plant cell) and that we have a separation of being from our surroundings (like the bubble). 

The outer barrier, where the outer world is touching the inner world, is the immediate context of the self.  The inner barrier, where belief orders the world, is the construct.  Stuff is coming at us from all over, but it gets bent a bit, like a light ray, as it passes through the place where consciousness separates us from the whole.  It gets bent again, like a light ray, where consciousness applies an organizing dynamic.

The self takes these raw materials and spins them into a coherent narrative, adding ray to ray of illumination as it builds a story letter by letter and line by line.  The self then files these written pieces and their supporting artifacts away, much as a librarian files books, periodicals and other resources. 

The particular luminescence of each conscious being changes with every addition, small or large, to the whole narrative to date.  The story of our lives is the story of felt experience.  It’s ongoing whether we are consciously aware and engaged or wholly reactive.

From inside the bubble, the force of energy that is pressing outward on the surrounding area is variable.  Some energy is consumed in maintaining the self and even more is consumed in maintaining the status quo or the present equilibrium. 

Physical, psychic or spiritual damage, injury and trauma mandate that greater energy is required in order for the self to accomplish the same basic work of its ordinary being, believing and doing.  Repairs, rest and other restorative efforts are needed in order to increase the amount of energy that can be directed to learning, making new connections and managing change.

The outward flow of energy passes back through the first wall of the self’s body of beliefs to date.  This energy has an alignment that vibrates sympathetically with the existing construct.  Alignment is an interesting term that comes from the French “a ligne” or in a line. 

Think about physical or electromagnetic waves having a normal line that is discernible.  It’s a line describing the motion and agreement of the energy that is being propagated through water, air or another medium.  This disturbance of the medium in the form of waves is the transfer of energy. 

Waves can even pass through a vacuum, which is not a medium in the strictest sense of the word.  Space, however, is not synonymous with vacuum.  Outer space, for example, contains radiation, a low density of particles, magnetic waves and other items.

Intergalactic Medium has also been proposed to exist. Expected amounts and locations of normal matter have not been found in space.  Using computer models, Warm-hot-intergalactic-medium has been evaluated and is believed by cosmologists to exist as plasma between galaxies. 

Energy can transfer or flow in the physical world in every kind of environment.  Existential energy also flows in the self, as well as between it and the surrounding context.  Examining physical contexts, properties and systems can give us real insight into the metaphysical as a whole and as it pertains to the self.

Existential energy is the ability of the self to do work: our being, believing and acting all consume a portion of this commodity.  For the self and its outward flow of existential energy, lack of alignment with one’s own beliefs means that more “push” is needed to get some energy out into the world. A backlash into the bubble or an energetic dousing of shame and anxiety accompany efforts to act in ways that violate the conscience. 

For example, if I believe that lying is wrong, but cheat on my income taxes, I’ve created a crisis situation.  I’m not aligned with a key belief.  I can change my action or my belief in order to resolve the discord.  If I fail to deal with the matter effectively, there’s a pool of trapped energy that feels uncomfortable.  In psychic and spiritual terms, I’ve got a gut ache.  There’s a disruption to the outward flow of my energy. 

Physically, I may feel anxious, angry or seek to distance myself from the situation through diminishing its significance, denial of its having occurred, or distraction from the circumstance.  It takes energy to engage in and sustain these negative dynamics, which is why we still feel the impacts of some of our past decisions to the current day. 

Either the beliefs or the actions must change in order to return to alignment.  The work of continuing to impact, influence and order the outer world consistently depends on this energetic agreement.  A process of recovery, restitution or restoration is needed.  Otherwise, the dissonance will continue to drain energy reserves. 

Sometimes, it’s our beliefs that need to change.  Maybe I struggle with perfectionism.  Or I just don’t believe that things will work out on my current job, even though I’ve had good evaluations so far.  Or I can still hear some voice from the past, telling me things that I KNOW aren’t true.  But they still FEEL as if they’re true.  Consciously regulating the content of our beliefs is crucial to having a workable system (or bubble) at any given moment. 

Orientation is another feature of this transference between the self and the larger world:  it consists of the attitude or posture of the self with respect to the whole system of its beliefs, a metaphysical point of reference or horizon. 

Planes also have attitude or a position with respect to the physical horizon.  Pitch attitude is the angle formed between the plane’s longitudinal axis and the line of the horizon.  Bank attitude is the line formed by the plane’s lateral axis and the line of the horizon.  These are changeable, but impact how conditions play out and how decisions are made by the pilot. 

The following five emotional orientations or attitudes, if held by pilots, interfere with sound decision making:  antiauthority, impulsivity, invulnerability, macho and resignation.  These traits tend to compromise decision making and may result in a number of behavior traps that are accident inducing: peer pressure, continuance of visual flight rules into instrument conditions, loss of situational or positional awareness etc. 

Pilots manage five “P” factors in flight:  the plan, the plane, the passengers, the pilot and the programming.  With so much more than just flying the plane to consider, how they approach the work on a given day is a crucial factor to everyone’s safety.  Attitude affects outcome in every circumstance!

Within the bubble, the orientation of energy or the attitude, determines how much useful work any of us can accomplish.  When conditions are ideal; when the self is rested, open and free of existential energy that has pooled and become trapped due to an inability to be expressed, released or resolved, we are in an optimal state.  Some describe this as “flow”. 

Energetic hot spots, when they occur, are like bruises or puddles under the surface that have become cut off from the main flow.  They require energy to address and resolve and may feel intensely painful, weighty and imbued with negatively charged psychic energy. Headaches, gut distress, skin breakouts and other indicators of the presence of negative stress are sometimes experienced through these negative felt impacts. 

Absent such blockages, one’s felt competence, energy and enthusiasm are almost boundless.  Health markers are generally better and there is an enhanced felt quality of life.  Ideally, none of us want to have these areas as part of our story.  The fact is that the presence of some energy blocks is a universal part of the human story, deeply integrated with our own dual nature and our concept of perfection. Wrestling with these is part of the work of maturity, of vision and revision and of the sacred act of writing out our own tale.

Resonance is the third dynamic within the meta-mechanics of the bubble. Besides orientation or attitude and alignment, resonance factors into how the self experiences its own energy and on how directly, effectively and intensely the self is able to act on itself or its surroundings. In terms of sound, resonance is defined as being qualitatively deep and full. Sound waves are reflecting back from a surface and therefore the sound is prolonged or reinforced. Neighboring objects can also vibrate in sympathy to the wave that is creating the sound.

There’s an element of applied force to resonance. In the case of sound waves, they’re bouncing back off of a surface and creating a longer sound. When kids are swinging, there’s a rhythm or a frequency to the arc of the swing as it moves. If someone pushes the child in the swing, the arc of the swing goes higher. The key is the push, which is a force, applied at the right time- cooperating with the movement of the swing without disrupting it. The right time to apply this force is at the highest point of the arc, when the swing it JUST about to go the other way and the force is added onto the forward motion.

Resonance is like that in the bubble system too. We can consciously leverage our circumstances and beliefs in order to catalyze our energy and have a bigger desired impact on the world. In positive terms, it’s choosing to be mindful of or grateful for the moments we’re living in, the love that we experience and feel and the connections that we enjoy with our bodies, our psyches, our spirits and our surroundings. In negative terms, it’s choosing to dwell on or be reactive to these same elements. There’s a “push factor” within all of us- we can add to the positive or negative elements of the stories of our lives at will.

If you need a little help gaining conscious mastery in your mindfulness skills and increasing your impact on the world around you, call us! One of our caring, compassionate coaches will support you on the next steps in your journey.

Success, Happiness and Chickens

“Daddy was tossing chickens…it was SO silly!” said my dear young friend. Now, the mental picture of her dad tossing chickens like feathery bowling balls popped up in my brain. She finds physical humor to be more relatable than other forms, so this conversational thread has persisted. Now, no chickens were actually harmed in the telling of these tossing tales. It turns out that the aforementioned fowl were going airborne in the virtual world. Still, the initial image startled me. My mind’s eye pictured her very studious and serious looking father carefully positioning each chicken as he got ready to toss it down some sort of a chicken-lane that was demarcated by white lines on pristine green grass. (I’ve never successfully gotten the name of the computer game in question, so who knows what the GUI in question resembles…)

Tossing chickens may be hilarious, heinous or merely a hindrance to the fulfilling of more important tasks, but it does give one pause… Someone had to write the game’s premise, storyline, rules and character roles. The visual interface needed to be created and then some company had to buy the rights and release the game. How much effort and energy went into tossing chickens in cyberspace? Now, frying chickens in a skillet, keeping chickens for their eggs, even breeding chickens to hold down the fly population in the barnyard are all understandable, relatable chicken initiatives. Why create an animation sequence as the basis for a game? My guess is that somebody had a good laugh at the thought of humans tossing chickens and took the idea further than most of us might have.

Chicken tossing is a disruption of the mundane. As a game, it’s a metaphor for engaging in the design of a tool for enjoyable disengagement. What kind of a personality is required to design such a game? Technically saavy and with a bent towards physical and visual comedy? Moreover, what kind of person plays such a game? Someone will produce a peer reviewed study, perhaps, on the psychographics of chicken tossing gamers… It’s possible to be very serious, focused and intense about not-so-serious things. Maybe that’s a good reminder for all of us. We need a little bit of mental junk food from time to time. Now, my young friend’s dad is the most serious and sober of people in how he lives out his daily life. Hard working, focused, skilled, strategic and at the top of his career. Does he do the chicken toss to amuse my young friend? Or maybe it’s his version of an antidote to the very straight edges of the rest of his routines.

“Daddy keeps on tossing the chickens…and they go ‘buck! buck!’, hee hee hee…”. Okay, this is more informative. Now we have noisy, fluttery virtual chickens being lobbed in cyberspace. She finds it hysterical. I was curious enough to look this up. Shockingly, there is a game based on real rubber chickens that is played outdoors and a very old computer game with chickens invading from outer space. Hmm. It seems that the game in question is likely to be a cannon based tossing game for cell phones. I guess that the point is that the value in any given engagement of our energy, faculties and focus is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Design a chicken tossing game? Sure. Play one? Why not… Life is often considered a game to be played. Views on questions of winning or losing and concomitant definitions vary. Whether the game is random and incidental or very organized and with defined roles and rules is also a matter of perspective. Energetic budgets aren’t open-ended, though. Humans require rhythms of engagement and recovery. A life of significance needn’t be one of endless hardship and drudgery. Neither need it be one of distractions taken one after the other until dissipation and ennui are all that’s left.

There are two views of how to engage life well: “be happy” and “be successful”. They show up as a couple, sometimes and may be dysfunctional in their dynamic of connection. “Happiness is success” or “Success is essential; happiness is optional”. There are studies about how to be happy. Whole branches of disciplines such as coaching, economics, faith, family systems, politics and psychology are taken up with the pursuit of happiness. In the end, though, happiness isn’t a discipline. It isn’t a destination or even a destiny. Happiness is the journey that I’m on and how I feel about that journey. Simple as that! If I’m unhappy- it’s a being thing as much as it is a doing thing that needs to shift.

Something as simple as tossing chickens in an online game made my young friend happy and the memory of it has made both of us laugh since then. Something as complex as deciding to marry a partner or starting a business is only the beginning of a journey. And while there’s an end in view, happiness is found in the steps along the way- both in the prospect of gaining the goal and in the fact of enjoying the steps taken today. This is where happiness and success are functioning as an optimal couple. Life is centered in the present and there are plans that are being engaged for future goals.

If you need a little help getting your happy factor and your success factor to collaborate to produce your version of the ideal life, call us! One of our coaches will be happy to help!

A Bobble in the Bubble: Stasis

Dawn is a glorious time to be awake!  The sky heralds the soon arrival of the visible sun with splashes of color and light from a palette of singular beauty.  Twilight- the time of day when there is visible light in the sky, but the sun is below the horizon, occurs slightly less or more than an hour before sunrise.  There is some variation based on location and season, as well as who is doing the measuring! 

For example, the Talmud is read by many to say that seventy two minutes is the timeframe for this light to be visible prior to sunrise.  Civil twilight is based on the sun being six degrees below the horizon.  Nautical twilight ranges from six to twelve degrees below the horizon for the visible sun’s location (so you’d see the outlines of large objects in this instance).  Astronomical twilight ranges from twelve to eighteen degrees below the horizon for the sun’s position and light here is so faint that it’s illuminance is meaningless.

It’s easier to move around in dawn’s light or civil twilight than in the relative darkness of nautical or astronomical twilight.  Earth’s rotation brings the image of the sun from the east every morning, an existential rhythm that has inspired art, faith, industry and every form of production in living memory.  The simple presence of light so deeply regulated our activities that life’s work happened between sunrise and sunset.  It wasn’t practical or even possible for millennia to engage in field work, craftsmanship or business in the absence of light by which to travel, see the lands or care for crops, flocks and workspaces. 

Dawn calls us to prepare for the sunrise in some manner, the ritual of honoring the return of daylight has dominated our engaged imagination through the centuries.  Art, faith, focus and the routines of our individual and collective lives are still shaped by it.  Old sundials fire the mind with curiosity about these long forgotten times and the customs of the peoples who lived without many of our modern conveniences.  Temples that referenced sunlight during the summer or winter solstice such as Machu Picchu built in the fifteenth century by the Incas and located high in the Andes weren’t uncommon. 

India’s Konark and Modhera sun temples were built in the thirteen and eleventh centuries, respectively and keep company with many others.  Egypt’s fifth dynasty produced a number of sun temples beginning in the twenty fifth century BC (or BCE),  Karnak was an Egypian temple complex in use for between seventeen and twenty centuries (2000 to 1700 BC and 300 to 35 BC approximate range) whose principal deities were Amun (later Amun-Ra, as he became fused with the sun god Ra), his consort mother-goddess Mut and moon-god son Khonsu. 

The disposition to worship or to celebrate light in some form is an intrinsic part of the human experience.  In faith today, it might be considered more a matter of spirit than of astronomy, but the impulse is enduring.  Even in an era of abundant light through all the hours of the day and night, we still prefer to start our days early and end them within a couple of hours of sunset insofar as work norms for school, employment and government. 

In circles where personal work is a topic of discussion, inner light comes up as a common thread.  We all want to see our way forward clearly and we all aspire to possess that spark of divine light that can be kindled to full flame through focus and through flow.  We aren’t so different from our human ancestors, even if the world and all of our opinions about it seem much changed.  We’re less likely to bow before the sunrise, but we try to salute the sacred light in ourselves and in others. 

We define it differently.  Whether the guiding light is God, Christ, the Higher Self, Wisdom or something altogether different, we need a star to steer our ships by, and landmarks to measure our progress by.  Our maps of the spiritual night sky and topography may vary, but forward motion requires some comparative points that allow us to measure direction, speed, distance and elapsed time. 

What happens when we have no points of reference?  Our motion may be circuitous, lateral or regressive.  Essentially, we’ve wasted our resources of time, motivation, focus and energy.  Disappointing, certainly.  It’s important to maintain momentum in order to maintain movement: it’s equally important, however, to be able to see where you are going and measure your forward progress.  

Otherwise, you may find, with Solomon that: “The sun rises and the sun sets… and hurries back to where it rises.  The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.  All streams flow into the sea, yet the seas is never full.” (Eccl 1:5-7a NIV)  This is the price of living without consciously accounting for the light.  There might be a lot of motion, even a great many achievements, but the questions of intention, motivation and significance are missing from the scene. 

If you’ve lost momentum, motion or even movement due to a lack of meaningful clarity and insight, you might be tempted to just drift along.  Your outer life is moving along with its rhythms and routines, but somehow your inner life is unable to move along with it.  Ever gotten the sense that you’re well and truly STUCK?  You feel frozen, unable to progress towards your goals.  You’re experiencing inner STASIS and you’re not going anywhere!  What happened?  We live outside of the constraints of time.  But when our focus goes off to engage with other stories, it means that the PRESENT is on HOLD. 

You know how this goes sometimes- you call in to your doctor’s office to make an appointment.  You’re just about to finalize the date and time, and the receptionist says- “please hold”.  And there you are, stuck!  You’re not getting that appointment until she gets back on the line.  Did she have to deal with a patient?  Did somebody stop by the desk with some juicy gossip about those two lab techs that are dating?  Did she spill coffee on her laptop? 

We may never know, because her FOCUS is elsewhere and WE are here in the moment, stuck.  When your attention is elsewhere than the ideal center of focus for the current context, it’s behaving exactly like that receptionist!  Your wandering, distracted and anxious mind has divided its faculties and your perceptive and reflective acuity are going to suffer.  Can you even tell where you’re going and how much, if any, progress you’re making towards your vision through the achieving of your goals?

So, what is the mechanism that makes up focus and how is it divided? Well, through our FOCUS, we travel to the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE and places of DISTRACTION.  Although we experience our physicality as bounded by the present, our BEING can be said to exist in these other spaces of the past, present, future and places of distraction.  The more fragmented our focus due to fatigue, anxiety or inadequate self-regulation, the worse our performance will become.  And, let’s be honest, performance matters!  An embodied life is the only whole life than any of us has, so what we do is tied to where we expend the majority of our focus, energy and time. 

What if I said that my goal is to lose twenty pounds between now and the end of the year?  It’s a relevant goal!  It’s specific and it’s measurable and it’s time bounded.  Now- what if- in order to fulfill that goal, I began reading all of the recipes online I could find that matched with my diet?  Good start, right?  Okay, now- what if I went out, bought the groceries, cooked some meals ahead for the week and packaged them up?  Great!  Now, what if I start obsessing over the fact that I can’t eat bread, drink beer or pile up the dinner plate with my favorite casserole?  I get stuck on that loop and start getting frustrated. 

See what I’m doing?  The story has somehow changed from “let’s lose some weight and I can really DO this” to “drat, this sucks…”.  Before you know it, my motivation begins to ebb, my attention is less on that goal and more on the costs to be paid along the way and I’m now in the danger zone!  I can either take steps to recover my focus and engagement… OR I can drift along on the current of my distraction until I’ve forgotten why I ever wanted to do this project in the first place.  The year ends with the goal still undone and I’m now less likely to reengage the goal because I don’t want to risk failing again. 

In terms of our energetic output- the places that we choose to engage and focus as opposed to the ones we don’t-there’s ALWAYS some kind of a storyline.  We’re always reworking our stories in light of the information on hand.  Back to the receptionist with too many things going on simultaneously, how does that divided focus affect the patient waiting on the line?  Well, it depends on the story that comes up when the receptionist comes back on line. You’ll be at least a little sympathetic if she was attending to another patient.   Or if she spilled coffee on her laptop. 

But if she had a mini gossip session?  Or FORGOT about you while you were on hold?  Yeah, then the sympathy might be a little lower. Of course, you’re only going to know if you get the information and you’ll react or respond based on that narrative.  Our focus acts on the tension between these stories from the past, the present and the future and any incoming information that changes them.

You’ll get off the phone with the doctor’s office with one kind of impression if the receptionist told you what happened and apologized for the delay.  It’s likely to be favorable.  Or at least neutral.  But you’ll get off the phone with the doctor’s office with a very different view if you were taken off “hold” and hear laughter and joking in the background.  Plus no apology.  Plus her finishing her chat with the office tech about that hot couple of lab techs. 

Even if you’ve always thought that this doctor’s office was just fine until today, now you’re irritated.  Suddenly, you remember that they billed you twice for that copay… yeah, that sucked.  You’re reworking your narrative about the doctor’s office in your PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE based on the information in hand and how you feel about it.  Your internal FACULTIES are able to move to other points along the timeline, even though the physical you is always HERE, in the present.  When our focus is elsewhere, we’re stuck. 

Okay- let’s look at what happens when we’re in STASIS because our focus is specifically aimed at the past:  BUBBLES- we live in one place at a time.  One set of circumstances, relationships, beliefs and emotions.  One point on the Time Line.  Our present BUBBLE.  Think about how many intervals you’ve lived through: who your family was in your earliest years… school…  first date… first job… first car… These can be very special memories.  Mostly good.  Some bad, too!  All of these events were transitions.  They helped to change something significant about how you did life every day.  You may have popped the old BUBBLE and moved to a new one. 

Even though a circumstantial BUBBLE pops, its influence and impacts live on.  Its influence and impacts live on in MEMORY.  You remember how things happened, including some key details about the places, people and other pieces of those distant times.  ts influence and impacts live on in VISION.  You remember how you FELT about how things happened.  What you DID think about how it would affect you in the future. 

Now, that STORY may have shifted.  New information changes how we FEEL about old memories.  A BUBBLE happened.  Once.  THAT bubble NEVER came your way again.  BECAUSE- a BUBBLE is a singular confluence of elements operating within time.  When they POP, we sometimes resist acknowledging it. Pieces degrade.  Deteriorate.  Rot.  But we’re still living in an Old Narrative. A shroud. 

Sometimes the bubble wasn’t wholly popped.  It was wounded.  Leaking emotion.  Leeching energy from the process of sustaining the new bubble.  The new bubble has formed.  It’s inevitable.  But we’re dragging bits of the old one along for the ride.  Some of these narratives are about powerful regrets.  Stories whose impacts are still active, resonating and vibrating in the present time.  Long after the transition has happened.  Because we didn’t fully process the transition.

The new bubble is life giving.  Life sustaining.  But it can be infected by attachments to pieces of the old one.  Time- unfolds only WITHIN the current bubble.  Our internal FACULTIES unfold BOTH INSIDE of the BUBBLE…  and OUTSIDE of the BUBBLE.  So- they OPERATE in TIME.  And NOT-TIME.  (Because our BEING can be said to exist in the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.)

It’s our Spiritual, Intuitive and Imaginative faculties that operate throughout all of the INTERVALS that we experience. The BUBBLES?  They STILL exist in the view of these internal faculties. 

Because we still feel the impacts of what we HAVE experienced, And IMAGINE how we felt. 

Because we feel the impacts of what we DO experience.  And INTUIT how we feel. 

Because we expect to feel the impacts of what we WILL experience.  And ENVISION how we will feel. 

The THREE NARRATIVES are always operating… Collaboratively…  Interrelating…  Interpreting… Themselves… In light of the information on hand.

AND in light of how we INTUIT that we DO FEEL about the information ON HAND.

AND in light of how we IMAGINE that we FELT about it in the past.

AND in light of how we ENVISION that we WILL FEEL about it in the future.

Okay- we’ve established that our INTERNAL FACULTIES interact with the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.

We rework the stories that we tell ourselves about these BUBBLES or INTERVALS whenever we have new INFORMATION ON HAND.

We get STUCK- go into STASIS in the PRESENT TIME when our FOCUS is directed elsewhere.  STASIS is most likely to occur when the ELSEWHERE is at some point in our past.

These intervals that we experience through our internal faculties are NOT-TIME. They are psychic or energetic manifestations of things that we have experienced, and the meanings that we have made, do make and will continue to make out of them.  Our narratives write themselves out of our reactions, unless we mediate them through a response.

We can only DWELL in ONE BUBBLE at a time…

BUT, we may be haunted or inspired by the energetic and psychic echoes of OTHER bubbles.  We’re still ENGAGED with, PREOCCUPIED by and ATTACHD to the WRONG bubble.

It exists, but only in Not-Time.  It’s only accessible through our internal faculties.  Regaining your freedom from stasis is a critical first step in shifting your life towards the rhythms and routines that support your goals and your vision of the ideal life.  A skilled coach can show you how.  Call us, we’re here to help! 

A Foggy, Froggy (Soggy) Metaphor

Sometimes when you look at your life, you see what you EXPECT to see, instead of what actually is. There’s a filter in place, and to the extent that your life conforms to your expectations (or at least SEEMS to), it’s not something you give a lot of thought. You’re a frog on a comfortable lily pad: plenty of flies are passing by for your needs and you just stay put. It’s not perfect, but it will do, for now. Maybe you spend time in your foggy, froggy brain dreaming of better lily pads, bigger ponds and a larger assortment of flies…

If it would only rain a little more, water levels would rise, along with the hatching of more flies! If the weather would only turn cooler, conditions would be ideal for more lilies to grow, along with the blooming of their flowers! If the fish would only hatch their eggs, their offspring would enhance the pond’s nutrient levels and the liy plants would become taller, larger and more luxurious! A frog’s paradise, all wrapped up in external conditions based on “if…only!”.

You’re a visionary frog! The trouble is that nothing that is outlined in your vision depends upon you. No effort, energy, or engagement needed. That’s what separates a fairy tale from a vision. A vision has the possibility of coming true and it’s based almost wholly in the engagement of your own faculties. A fantasy, on the other hand, is a wish. Often, it’s a misappropriation of your time and attention. Because, after all, there’s no harm in wishing… That is true. There’s no harm in wishing. But there’s not much benefit in it, either. Unless you act in competent ways on a consistent basis to execute behaviors that will bring the image in your mind’s eye to fruition. In short, it’s only a wish until you act to bring it to an embodied state.

Maybe instead of dreaming your froggy days away, you’re more of a frog-of-action? You don’t content yourself with sitting on your leaf lined posterior, but you’re always looking for a chance to leap. No time for mindful froggy reflection, you’re ready to hop right on it! And you do! From lily pad to lily pad, from pond to pond, and from swarm to swarm of yummy flies- you’re always looking for the next best spot! You leap first and then leap again. Eventually, you land somewhere acceptable. As soon as you feel restless or see a shadow pass over the water, (could be a hawk!) you’re off! “Keep moving!” is your motto. “Keep changing, keep hopping, keep looking… the best spot is out there somewhere!”. You work your poor froggy fanny right off with not much to show for it, other than some legs tired of always leaping and a vague sense that you’re missing out on something, (so you’d better keep on…!). You’re a frantic froggy whose frenetic efforts fail to bring you the success you seek.

Maybe instead of wishfully dreaming the days away OR frantically working and doing the days away, you’re a frightened froggy? You’ve seen other frogs get EATEN and you just don’t think that you want to risk that. So, you stay completely OUT of the pond, and OFF of the lily pads. You sit on the bank, under cover of some weedy grasses. Not too many flies come your way, but nobody bothers you much here, either. When you’re a little extra hungry, lonely or scared, you feel angry.

After all, WHY do frogs get eaten? There ought to be a law! Creatures should be kind to frogs for holding the insect population down. Besides, other animals could just as well eat flies. Or grass. Or something. So you’re a fearful, fretful froggy. Too overwhelmed to even THINK about hopping, lilies or pads. Those frogs out on the lily pads are foolish! They should take more care, like you do. They’d live longer, for sure!

There are other froggies out on their lily pads. There are fragmented froggies who have difficulty concentrating on one fly catching strategy at a time. There are funny froggies who are always seeing who can croak the loudest and puff out their throat the biggest. There are fanciful froggies who are dreaming up chocolate dipped flies or sketching out the latest stats on lily propagation under a variety of growth conditions. There are furious froggies who carry their aggrieved selves with angry croaks, hops and vocalizations. There are romantic froggies in search of Mr. Macho Frog or Miss Femme Frog Fatale. In short, there’s every flavor of frog imaginable exercising every conceivable focus of energy and engagement imaginable!

But- the only actualized froggies are the ones who effectively combine being and doing! They set the intention for a course of action that they wish to execute in service of a goal. They mindfully consider all of the possible obstacles and outcomes of their proposed course of action. They execute their intention and it’s sometimes an iterative, messy process. (You don’t always hit the lily pad on the first leap!) They then use their curiosity to sit with the outcome and see how they could do it better.

These froggies then engage in the habits that will support the achievement of their goals. AND they develop a pattern of ways of doing and being that enhance the likelihood that the outcome that they have in mind will happen. These froggies aren’t doers, dreamers, drifters or drudges. They don’t just do things to check them off of the list. They don’t just dream about the items on the list. They design their life, plan it out, execute it, improve it and perfect it. Be an integrated froggy (or human). You’ll get the best results for your efforts and the felt quality of your life will be fantastic!


My very dear young friend has a fantastic shirt printed on the front with the oversized face of a white tiger and studded with sparkly beads.  “Rrrrrrraaaarrrrrrgh!!!” She sports this fashion forward garment on the regular and is sure to provide an accompanying vocal stream.  After all, tigers are growly, powerful, awesome predators!  Beautiful, fierce and mysterious, they are the perfect symbol of power. 

Revered by Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam, these beasts are royal.  India’s national animal is the Royal Bengal Tiger, or panthera tigris tigris, a truly kingly beast.  Tigers have the largest brains of all of the big cats and while lions are physically heavier, on average, the upper range of potential size for males makes tigers the largest big cat.  They hunt at night and are a bit slower than lions, though about equal with respect to their force of strike.  Though they hunt alone, they produce larger litters and mature more quickly than the other four related species. 

Emulating the sounds that a tiger makes while wearing that tiger print t-shirt gives my young friend a boost; she feels quite powerful, possibly even regal!  We’ve played audio files of the growly roars that tigers produce and compared them to those of lions.  While lions are certainly louder, the otherworldly, guttural sounds of tigers make for some scary listening. 

Ever noticed that humans also tend to get a bit growly, hostile and loud when they want to assert their dominance or emphasize a point?  Whether complaining, crying, screaming or shouting, we use our own tactics of dissuasion for those who insult us, instruct us without having been asked or intrude into our space.  Feeling anxious, angry or attacked makes us take up more room physically, psychically and vocally.  We project a presence that we believe is likely to deter others from taking advantage of us.

Creatures have all kinds of reactions to discourage perceived threats.  Vocalizations, scent or ink production, posturing and physical changes in color or size are all ways that they communicate “I’m able to defend myself… stay away!”.  Roars are seen in big cats, elephants, gorillas, howler monkeys, red deer and some bovids.  Scent is used as a deterrent by skunks, striped polecats, and stink badgers.  Vultures will vomit to gain an advantage, stupefying the threat with odor, messiness and acid.  Possums poop out a deterrent while playing dead when under attack.  The sea hare exudes a slimy purple ink to dissuade predators and it has been noted to cause anxious behaviors in lobsters.  Squids, octopi and cuttlefish all squirt ink to confuse predators.  Pufferfish increase in size and many animals have either protective coloration or are actually able to change colors. 

The range of human behaviors in response to perceived threats is almost equally broad, and is based as much in behaviors as in biology.  Norms of clothing divided by roles, gender, function and class separate us with respect to behaviors.  I’d hesitate to ask someone in a suit and tie or skirt and jacket to help me move something heavy.  I might also conclude that someone dressed in such apparel is acting in a formal role for work or socially.  Many people dress up when appearing before a court or attending services in a faith community. 

In addition to style points for ourselves and those around us, we also have defensive mechanisms when requesting a favor or assistance in the form of language.  “Please”, “thank you”, “would you mind…?”, “may I…?” and similar forms punctuate our interactions and are designed to position us favorably.  Or at least to communicate that we are not a threat and therefore are not potential objects of hostility, irritation or violence. 

Money, or at least the perception of wealth, is another discriminator that serves as a defense for many people.  Possession of an income that exceeds monthly liabilities, property that is adequate to shelter the household and a profession that secures the stability of the family unit are all indicators of stability, security, prosperity and order.  Working systems are less likely to break down and therefore, households that have a baseline of cooperative collaboration are far more likely to endure and even to thrive.

Clothing, language and money are shields of a sort; so, too are standards that accord to an acceptable degree with the social and political norms in force.  Peacocks and other birds have feathery displays and dances designed to attract a mate.  Other creatures use color, movement and vocalizations in the same manner. These standards are often codified for certain roles and distilled into a set of norms that include dress, special forms of expression and ritualized routines. 

Think about flight attendants preparing for departure, military personnel at a comrade’s funeral, police officers on parade- these are all instances where norms are rigidly formal and there is more moral force behind decisions to comply or complain and disrupt the setting.  Often, settings where there is heightened risk of harm or loss have more comprehensive requirements for normal conduct by the actors on the scene. 

Students might argue with a peer but be disinclined to do so with a parent, policeman, principal or teacher.  Employees might disagree vocally with their colleagues but be hesitant to do so with a board member, boss or director.  Norms are designed to guide conduct in such a way as to prevent us from being targets of aggression, judgement or ostracism. 

Sometimes, we run into a disconnection between the norms in force in a given context and the agency that we wish to exercise.  Mom wants to take the evening off for a girls’ night out and would like dad to take over the evening dinner, homework and parenting routines.  Gaining cooperation is harder if her partner holds a belief that such tasks are “women’s work” or that they “aren’t difficult” and that “good mothers don’t take time off”. 

Mom in that case faces a choice of accepting the status quo or of expending the energy needed to engage and shift the perspective of her partner.  The roles could certainly be reversed!  Dads need time off, too!  Or older siblings… or grandparents…  The point is, when norms are at odds with felt experience, there is some work to do.  And- it’s likely that some defensive or even some aggressive posturing and communication will be deployed on one or both sides.  Unless we cultivate the habit of awareness of our own values and those of others, we may not even understand what is behind the conflict.

Norms, in and of themselves, aren’t morally good or bad.  A quiet, ordered home isn’t better than a noisy, boisterous one.  Traditional divisions of labor in the home aren’t better than half-half or rotating arrangements.  Who stays home, who earns the money, who lives with whom… these are matters of personal preference and perspective.  In even the most closely aligned relationships and in even the best designed institutions and organizations, awareness of the need to work together for the common good in ways that are equitable and sustainable are critical. 

Disagreement will come.  Discord, too.  Allowing these differences of felt perspective to become too entrenched, however, is detrimental to the whole space and all of its occupants.  Recognizing the rising anxiety and its accompanying defense mechanisms before they get away from us buffers our reaction just enough… so that we can use our curiosity and awareness of ourselves, others and our respective values to find common ground. 

Common ground isn’t agreement with respect to values.  Or perspective.  It’s agreement with respect to workable outcomes.  It’s perfectly fine for one partner to be more conservative and the other more liberal.  It’s understandable that some children prefer books, quiet and study while others crave crowds, constant activity and collaboration.  It’s been said that it takes all kinds to make the world go around, and so it does.  Let’s use our insight, intelligence and intuition in such a way that the world goes around in an equitable, peaceful and sustainable manner. That’s a pretty good definition of success. (Rrrrraaaawwwh!)

Notes From Sunday: One

Let’s take a look at what life can look like when we don’t reach our destination: when we don’t reach our full potential, in very real ways, parts of who we are decompensate.  One of the most famous of biblical figures is the person of Moses.  He was born under a death sentence, according to Exodus 1:22.  Pharaoh first ordered the midwives Shiprah and Puah to kill all Hebrew newborn males and when that failed, he gave the order to the general populace.  Moses was hidden for some months by his mother, Jochabed, and was placed into a basket and set afloat on the Nile. 

Adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him home out of pity, he grew up exposed to both his birth family and the royal household.  As an adult, he committed murder: when an Egyptian was beating another slave, he killed the abuser.  Subsequently, he ran away for forty years because his deed became known to others.  The impetus for his speedy departure was as follows: a Hebrew slave was oppressing his fellow and when Moses challenged him, he replied “who made you a ruler and a judge over us?  Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”.  He was afraid of Pharaoh’s wrath and he fled, leaving behind everything that he knew.

Having survived sex selective infanticide/ genocide, cross-cultural adoption and the prospect of Pharaoh’s justice, Moses spent years away from all that he’d known.  Married, working and with children, he was just “doing life” in the context that was available to him.  The narrative next shows us a disruption to the norm, but at God’s hand.  A bush in the desert was burning, but wasn’t being consumed by the fire.  Attracted by the unusual sight, our hero comes aside and receives a divine commission to rescue his people from slavery.  This time, however, he’d have a new set of tools and the backing of a divine mandate and divine support. 

This wasn’t enough, initially; Moses argued that he wasn’t a skilled speaker.  (Surely there was someone more suited to the task?) How was he going to get the attention of Pharaoh and require that his fellow slaves be released?  God answered Moses by sending him proofs of His support and by sending his brother to meet him in order to go forward together on assignment.  Now- God had warned that it wasn’t going to be a quick or easy resolution.  Apparently, Egypt’s ruler wasn’t of a progressive mindset in any sense of the word. 

So began a cycle of Moses announcing his assignment to a resistant Pharaoh and the exchange of problems, promises of freedom, solutions, deceit and more problems.  The bosses of the building program also busted any attempts to unionize by increasing production and decreasing supplies.  They also beat people who failed when they’d been set up to fail in order to pressure Moses from below.  Egypt had their own troubles.  God held up His side by weighing in with a series of catastrophes:  water turning to blood, hordes of frogs, lice, flies, sickness in livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness.  Finally, perhaps ironically, He warns that all firstborn of humans and animals will die if Pharaoh won’t relent. 

There was a method to the madness from God’s perspective:  Hapi was the god of the Nile and water turned to blood, Heket was the frog-headed goddess of fertility and frogs overbred, Geh was god of earth/ dust which became lice, Kepri was creator over the sun, skies and rebirth where flies swarmed, Hathor was the cow-headed goddess of livestock… and they became ill, Isis was the goddess of medicine when ashes became boils… (no magicians could even stand before Pharaoh due to ceremonial impurity from boils-), Nut was goddess of the sky which rained hail and fire, Seth was god of storms and disorder and locusts destroyed any crops that the hail left, Ra was god of the sun which vanished during three days of darkness. 

In summary- God might even have outdone the Bad Bosses of Egypt’s building program and He had one very terrible and ironic Bad Thing left:  Pharaoh was to either let his slaves go or lots of animals and people would die, at least all of those first born.  Sons, based on what I can find… In order to avoid death of all firstborn that night among the Hebrews, God required the sacrifice of a lamb and the application of its blood to the sides and top of the door. Anyone who did not perform the Passover as instructed would be visited by the Death Angel. The plagues are thought to have been visitations of divine wrath that were perhaps carried out by a band of angels at God’s command. There is no single Destroyer or Angel of Death in scripture.

So after a lot of difficulties, Moses gets the people gathered together and they escape Egypt, where they were abused, enslaved and overworked.  While Egypt suffered plagues and the slaves suffered from Pharaoh’s wrath, God took the time to explain things during the events leading up to and immediately after the flight from Egypt.  To wit, the Hebrews escaped most of the impacts of the plagues (no darkness, loss of livestock, loss of firstborn etc…).  But- they’d been traumatized by their circumstances and hadn’t really recovered.  Even seeing miracles and gaining their freedom left them unable to enjoy things.  They grumbled.  A lot.

They’d gotten into it with Moses and with God over the hardships that had accompanied their preparations to leave Egypt, the threat of harm and death during their escape from Egypt when they were chased, and they’d even had a massive orgy and festival of idolatry when Moses was off communing with God and getting the ten commandments issued on their stone tablets. Moses broke the first set of tablets, melted the golden calf in fire, ground it to powder, sprinkled it on water and had the Israelites drink it before departing to get the second set of stone tablets with God’s commandments.

In fact, when the narrative unfolds in Numbers 11, they’ve already taxed the patience of their leadership and even of God.  By this point, they’ve decided that God is trying to kill them in the desert.  They’d seen some badass demonstrations of divine power, but it didn’t stick.  Which just goes to show that mindset…matters!  I mean it REALLY matters when it comes to fulfilling all of your potential.  They eventually carried on to the point that they had to turn away from the new land promised to them and would remain tiresomely stuck in the muck (well, okay, in the desert) for some time. 

And to make matters clear- they weren’t going to get to the Promised Land.  Everyone aged twenty and over at the time that they declined to go INTO the land and fulfill their destiny was under a sentence of death.  (Well, a life sentence.  They’d die off in the desert and generation two would go in.)  Everyone died off with the exception of a couple of people who’d been Pro Team New Digs: Caleb and Joshua. 

Even Moses lost out for failing to follow directions because anger, anxiety and stress overwhelmed his better judgement and God wasn’t doing excuses post-miraculous deliverance. This event was later in the timeline than the event involving grumbling over manna and meat, but it’s worth noting because habits, once set, have consequences that continue to accumulate. Mindful habits such as curiosity, resiliency and competent self-management have one set of outcomes. Mindless habits such as being highly reactive, black and white thinking, grumbling, and pessimism have a different set.

So in the circumstance of Numbers 11, the grumblers kept on grumbling.  Here- they were tired of the food on hand.  Egypt had fish, onions, melons, garlic and stuff.  They were stuck eating manna.  You could bake it into bread, boil it into porridge and do other stuff with it.  Divine C-rations, but sure, it’s limited.  One core group of grumblers started grouching and the whole group took up the lament.  More than 600,000 men and their families comprised the people hanging out outside of their tents and wailing for meat.  Somebody was SICK of it.  (Well, God and Moses both, apparently.) 

God decided to serve up a new menu of meat for a month, but He wasn’t happy with the whining.  People gathered a ton (literally) of quail per person blown in from the seashore.  Dried them.  Cooked them.  Chowed down.  And some died.  Is wanting meat wrong?  Nah.  It’s not an endorsement of veganism.  It’s more the case that after all of the energy and effort invested in leaving Egypt, they seemed never to have fully left.  Sure, they packed up, got payment for their prior labor from the Egyptians by “borrowing”  a bunch of stuff to worship God before departure, performed the first ritual of Passover so that the Death Angel wouldn’t come to their families and walked on out. 

They’d crossed the Red Sea and moved on, accompanied by a visible sign of the divine presence in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  The difficulty was in their inner self.  Call it worldview.  Call it mindset.  Call it a trauma bond.  Call it a lack of spiritual regeneration.  Somehow, they didn’t get hold of their change in circumstances and leverage it. The lack of change in their ways of thinking and being lead to a corresponding lack of change in their ways of doing things. THAT lead to trouble engaging with their new environment that lasted through multiple of them testing the patience and goodness of those guiding them.

What about us?  Well, I’m not in the desert and there’s a lot of privilege and provision in my life.  Occasionally, I lose my cool when stress is crazy.  Not as often as I used to.  Not as badly as I used to.  Those close to me say I’m not the same person that I was a few years ago.  I know from experience that mindset matters.  Grumbling is human, but left unchecked, these habits of complaining and grumbling can become weeping and wailing.  Life has its challenges.  But our responses are up to us.  Let’s make some inroads into our own resilience by increasing the capacity for mindful self-regulation.  Whatever the Promised Land is for each one of us, let’s leverage the wisdom we’ve gleaned from our experiences to date and get there sooner, rather than later (or not at all). 

Orange Cat

Orange cat ran into my room.
She said “I’ll take my old straw broom-“.
“I’ll sweep the stars down from the Sky.”
“And put them in a jar close by.”

“You cannot reach the stars” said I.
“A broom can’t sweep them from the Sky”.
“They will not fit into a jar.”
“They are too big and hot, by far!”

“Then I will catch them in a net!”
“And place them in the Sea, so wet!”
Orange Cat stood on each soft paw,
flexing every single claw.

“You cannot place them in the Sea.”
“Nor empty jar, nor cup of tea…”
“Stars belong in outer space.”
“Where planets run in rings and race…”

“Comets zip-zoom around for years.”
“Asteroids and other spheres,
“Travel far in paths called orbits.”
“All shapes, sizes and all courses…”

Orange cat said “it’s time to eat!”
“Stars for me would be a treat!”
“You cannot eat stars from the sky.”
“You cannot catch them as they pass by.”

“I’ll sweep them all into a net!”
“I’ll dunk them in the Sea, so wet.”
“My old straw broom is very strong.”
“With bristles that are very long.”

“The Sea will cool the stars for me.”
“I’ll eat them with a cup of tea.”
“No one can tell me not to try.”
“To get those stars down from the sky.”

“The taste of them will be so sweet.”
“I’ll dry them on my old white sheet.”
“I’ll salt them with a little shake.”
“And what a lovely snack they’ll make.”

Orange cat ran out of the house.
Grabbed her friend, the Old Gray Mouse,
And climbed up high towards the sun.
On an old ladder, “Oh, what fun!”

“I cannot wait to gather stars!”
“I’ll catch them all in my glass jars.”
I knew that Orange Cat would fail.
She’d become mad, and swish her tail.

The stars would not fall from the sky.
She could not sweep them, nor could I.
Old Gray Mouse tried hard to help.
But he fell down, and gave a yelp.

“We must try another way.”
I heard my friend, the Orange Cat say.
“A rocket ship is what we need!”
“To lift us up and give us speed!”

“Then the stars will not escape.”
“And I can eat those YUMMY shapes!”
Orange Cat ran into the shed.
She grabbed her tools, and off she sped.

She built all through the afternoon.
“My space ship will be finished, soon!”
At four o’clock, she stopped for tea.
And drew a map of Land and Sea.

She grabbed her net and Old Gray Mouse.
And got into her Space Ship House.
It looked just like an old tin can.
It was time to execute her plan.

She pushed a button, round and red.
Then off to outer space she sped!
The flames were bright behind her ship.
She was off on her star catching trip!

Old Gray Mouse was SO excited,
to see the engines all ignited!
He took a look at all the stars.
The rocket soon cleared planet Mars.

Orange Cat began to count.
Soon she reached a Large amount!
The stars in space were big and hot.
They never stayed in just one spot.

The planets ran around each star.
Some paths were close, and some were far.
Comets also flew past the ship.
The computers all said “bleep” and “blip”!

Soon the system gave its report.
“No stars will fit the net, abort!”
“You cannot go deep space star fishing!”
“No matter how hard you keep wishing.”

“Meow!”, Orange Cat said to the ship.
“This plan was wrong, a wasted trip!”
“I must consider another way.”
“To snack before the end of day.”

Old Gray Mouse was silent, still.
He thought and thought and thought… UNTIL!
“Why don’t we make a tasty treat?”
“Something salty and something sweet?”

Orange Cat sniffed and gave a sigh.
“We had fun flying up so high!”
“We built a rocket, away we flew.”
“We learned some things we never knew!”

“Stars are big, and hot and far away!”
“We’ll come back again another day!”
With that, the two friends turned around.
And flew their space ship to the ground.

Orange Cat put away her ship.
She was home from her Star Catching Trip.
Old Gray Mouse then asked his question:
“What, dear friend, is your suggestion?”

“We should have a snack with tea, quite late.”
“Perhaps out back, by the garden gate…”
Orange Cat put on a tall Chef’s Hat.
She grabbed an apron, knife and mat.

She cut and diced. She mixed and stirred.
Ovens heated and machines all whirred.
Soon enough, she set the timer.
She fixed a metal tray and liner.

She placed some dough upon the tray.
Each one was shaped a certain way.
Old Gray Mouse set up the table.
He was fast, neat and very able.

Orange Cat served the treats she made.
The last rays of the sun did fade.
Old Gray Mouse bit into his treat.
Star shaped, salty and also sweet.

                      The End

Blue to Gray

Speaking with a counselor acquaintance of mine recently, it seems that my impression of the compounding of existing impacts of Covid-19 isn’t far off of the mark.  The world has gone gray and the landscape of the space where we expend most of our energy looks less like a series of wind sprints and more like a marathon.  A sense of being tapped out for optimism, energy and agency can drive us from dysfunction to disengagement to despair.  

Outrage that has erupted in the news cycles, on social media and in professional and personal spaces is our survival instinct working on overdrive against a threat whose impacts are both direct and oblique.  There’s no single villain to blame, no single demographic or interest group to fault, no single dynamic whose mastery would liberate us from the complexities and complications that follow onto shifts in how we do life mandated by Covid-19. 

Trump, Pelosi, Fauci, the Proud Boys and Antifa may make convenient targets, as do corporate interests, government’s scale driven inability to respond rather than react and the sad reality that there’s no “fix” for this.  When the world is blue, we can connect with the source of our pain and feel the feels.  Our emotions have a rationale or at least a causal object.  When the world goes gray, however, there’s a lack of clarity around cause and cure. 

Managing complexity is considered a higher order skill in every sphere, and at every level.  We’re metaphorically dealing with a car crash as it happens to us personally.  We’re functioning while the highway is congested by traffic that cannot flow past the scene of the accident.  Cars are running into the rear of the line of cars already destroyed.  The scene is being experienced, investigated, narrated and quantified simultaneously.  Consequences of each impact are compounding the fallout of prior impacts.  Individually, collectively and systemically, we’re in pain, vulnerable and working on partial solutions in the hopes of countering some of the damage. 

Consider any demographic as the center of a wheel and its supports as the spokes and the scope and depth of damage is more apparent.  Students are served by their parents, peers and teachers, all of whom must operate to fulfill their respective roles without using the normal channels of interaction.  The youngest students, those with special needs and those who are economically disadvantaged are suffering.  The elderly and infirm are served by family, friends and providers, all of whom must operate at a literal distance.  The virtual space is a lifeline as a channel for the flow of information, economic activity and connection, but it lacks the elements of touch and the other physical senses beyond vision.  It also lacks the element of the freedom to move about at will. 

With all of these compounding dynamics and no certainty of a timetable with respect to a solution in the form of a safe vaccine or an economic and cultural reset in the form of the freedom to gather and to pursue our activities of choice at will, there’s a bottling up of very powerful emotions driven by anger, anxiety, depression, rage and sorrow.  The key to conserving the greatest possible degree of functionality for each of us and for all of us in our felt experience of daily life lies as much in the management of our emotions, expectations and energies as in the finding of a vaccine or the successful remediation of impacts in other spheres. 

More people are being dragged by circumstances and they are in turn dragging themselves and others into patterns of behavior that are toxic.  Not knowing what is happening next or when things will improve can be triggering.  Domestic violence, drinking and every form of acting out is on the rise.  Collectively, we’re more angry and we are more violent that we were six months ago, before the fresh hell of Covid-19 turned into some sort of stale purgatory that we couldn’t figure out a way out of.  We all want to think about the days ahead with hopefulness and with optimism.  But- what if the mess that we are in sticks around and the world doesn’t come to rights in short order?  It’s a scary question and one that we may not want to address.  After all, why waste time and energy focusing on what could continue to go wrong instead of on what might go right? 

We can’t wait for the good old days to come back.  They’re gone.  Somehow, we need to come to grips with that.  Whether a vaccine is found soon and the economy recovers and the school year ahead is eventually its ordinary self isn’t the point.  There are layers of impact to work out and the present landscape of our life labs is where we are faced with carrying out this essential, important and ultimately inescapable work. 

As people and organizations, we are faced with a monumental challenge:  we must figure out how to wrestle with our roles under the weight of heavier stress and with the complication of resources that are simply more difficult to access.  Emotional intelligence is the coin of this new realm and the habit of engaging our curiosity about our own experience and that of others is the way that we can see things clearly. 

The world may indeed have gone gray, but we can figure out how to focus so that we can see clearly and engage effectively as we work our way forward. It’s done just a moment at a time by mindfully refocusing our consciousness on the present moment. Neither our horror for the unknown nor our hopes for better outcomes can be permitted to distract us from the work. Doing the work that has presented itself now, irrespective of the fact that we didn’t choose the current context is the most liberating choice that we can make. And the one that will give us the best possible outcomes.

If you need support engaging consciously and mindfully with aspects of your career, family or other concerns, reach out. We’re here to help.

Bubbles of Being: Perspectives, Prejudice and Possibilities

The world that we live in is divided up into spheres of experience, impact, influence and perspective.  Collectively, these embodied narratives play out in billions of moments that make up our lifetimes.  We often narrate the lives of others as well, supposing that we understand what it means to actually be that other person.  Then, we allude to this construct as if it were true.  What that other person should or ought to feel, do or be- we think that we know! 

In the world of people whose perspective is constrained, muted or strangled to silence, many harms arise from these substitutions.  They’re a form of projection of the self and its perspective onto other people.  In essence, this substitution of my supposed understanding of their felt perspective for that of others is inauthentic.  It’s enmeshing.  It connotes a lack of self-differentiation and its impact is to make objects of others. 

People on the Autism spectrum experience many of these impacts.  As do people who are deaf.  Blind.  From a different culture, demographic or language.  Other gender.  Other worldview.  Somehow, we aren’t as curious about the experiences of those who are different as we might be.  It takes engagement, energy, skill and time to develop even a partial understanding of how others experience their world. 

We can only connect to others to the extent that we can experience life in the way that they do.  By listening.  By learning.  By leaning into differences through seeing people as more than the sum of their parts.  Because let’s be honest- some choices are disagreeable, even intolerable in our eyes.  There are constructs that help to mediate some of these differences of opinion and perspective.  These provide legal and social governance that can be shaped over the course of time to reflect changes in the mindsets, values or vision of the constituencies. 

Our error lies in arrogating some of the prerogatives of governance to the unjust detriment of others.  Prejudice, broken down, means to pre-judge.  We are facing people who believe that behaviors can be regulated by means of social and physical force.  And so they can.  To a degree.  But if we step back and consider the truth that the perspectives of others are not our own, we find a compelling reason to restrain ourselves.  We simply don’t know what we’re doing to such an extent that we can confidently judge the factors that drove another person to commit a particular act. 

We need to listen more and “teach them a lesson” less.  We need to look around for tools that build connection, collaboration and common understanding.  We need to moderate our perspective more and privilege it less.  All of that needed work is best accomplished through a robust rhythm of mindful practices that enhance self-awareness and that foster powerful, comprehensive self-regulation. 

Curiosity is a gateway to discovery that can change the course of each of our lives.  Creating space in your day for listening allows you to engage with yourself and with others in ways that are supportive and authentic, but that still align with your values.  You don’t have to agree with everything that comes into your space whether it arises from the self or the sacred soul of another person.  Beings can be prompted by sensing faculties in their bodies, souls and spirits.  The conclusions that you reach after engaging openly and with mindful curiosity are uniquely your own.

The idea behind this kind of openness and curiosity is that listening is done less with an outcome in mind and more with a discovery mindset.  It’s less about results and more about the process.  In order to engage in curious, open inquiry with your colleagues, kids, parents, partners and other stakeholders, it’s necessary to think in terms of “what if?”.

 Remember when your sixth or seventh grade teacher explained that reading requires suspending belief?  You’re not judging whether or not that novel, passage or story is true.  You’re entering into the world inhabited by the characters in the tale.  All of them are described by the author using either a first, second or third person (“I”, “you” or “they” perspective. 

Think about the awkwardness of a tale written from the perspective of “you”- it’s not often seen in fiction!  You do find it in technical and “how-to” manuals and it’s noteworthy that instructions and directives are being given in those cases.  The manual is kind of bossing people around and if they want the promised results, it’s worth it to comply with the instructions! 

But- there are relatively few people in the world that any of us should be bossing around in the form of telling them how they feel, what they think or what they ought to do.  Even the youngest of children bristle at having labels slapped onto their motives and behaviors that parents or teacher impose.  Which is what doing life in the second person is, an imposition. 

So- how much do democrats bristle at being labeled by republicans?  How much do Muslims bristle at being labeled by Christians or Buddhists?  How many employees leave positions because the “you” that is described and directed by their bosses is inaccurate or unsustainable?  “You” is generally inaccurate at best.  It’s arrogant, accusatory and abusive.  Because it inserts “I” into the life of another person by means of its prejudices, pronouncements and punishments for simple disagreement.  Be careful with “you”. 

It’s better to take the time to get to know others through their own perspectives.  “I” is self-described, self-differentiated and self-directed.  Even if you’re directing after the discovery process, using “I” as the reference for perspective is better.  It maintains the lines of delineation between perspectives and identities.  Parents can still parent, but they don’t have to judge.  For example, compare:  “you need to pick up your room or you won’t be able to use the wifi”…  “that room needs to be picked up before the wifi is available…”.  Same directive, just a little less weighty and forceful. 

Or compare these two directives: “you need to stop playing on your phone and get to work…  you’re too noisy and you’re distracting others…”.  Okay, true enough.  But what if, instead, it was said this way… “it’s time to work with focus…  noise is distracting…”.  It’s’ worth experimenting in allcontexts and roles to see where implementing open listening and more neutral language can make the “ask” of the self and others to regulate well, collaborate well and co-dwell well.  Leaving “you” behind often leaves behind a lot of baggage in the form of arguing, disparaging and disrespecting the perspectives and agency of others.  Simply listening more and leaning into connection more can provide a richer, more meaningful dynamic in the home, school or workplace. 

So- “you do you…” and “I’ll do me…” doesn’t mean that anything goes, anytime or anywhere.  It does mean, though, that curiosity and the suspension of belief that we practice when engaging our own narratives and the narratives of others can foster interaction that is deeply respectful, safe and sustainable.  That, in turn, will enhance the quality and degree of engagement that we experience in all of our roles and all of our shared spaces. 

Moving to observe the bubbles that others live in from their first person description will give better insight and better overall quality and quantity of information.  Ordering the inner and outer world is what we all do.  It’s work that we all share.  Insisting that others do so in accordance with our perspective and values is despotic.  Instead, find ways to feel the world that others inhabit.  It’s enlightening, liberating and ultimately the gateway to real understanding and wisdom.


Last Sunday, I was driving along i-45 in Houston and saw a police car in my rearview mirror. I had a slight startle because the new tags for my car had arrived, but I hadn’t yet attached them to the car because I was missing the bottom two screws on the front plate.  That startle reflex got me to thinking… the long arm of the law casts a shadow!  Really, it’s the presence of authority that casts a shadow.  If you’ve ever had the experience of stopping your chitchat in class because the teacher walked in… or you’ve ever felt a pang of regret, remorse or even shame because of a poor choice, you’ve experienced the impact of authority entering the scene and having been found wanting in some way. 

Police cars use lights to rush to the scene of an emergency.  Whether they’re chasing speedsters, responding to a report of crime in progress or dealing with another emergency, everybody moves over to let them through.  Fire and ambulance vehicles get the same treatment.  But that wouldn’t happen for any random car, even if they stuck a strobe on top of their vehicle.  Flashing pink or purple lights gets you zip in the way of clearance to rush through traffic. 

Known imposters are vilified.  There was the case of the Bronx man who’d been a member of the Latin Kings gang.  After a ten year prison sentence, he recreated his identity into that of a Hasidic rabbi.  And cop.  Which he was not.  Didn’t stop him from pulling over a transit bus full of passengers or posing as law enforcement in other contexts.  Eventually, charges followed.  Many, many of them.  Many of us have had people in our circles who posed as some sort of authority without any reasonable basis.  Tattle tale peers and siblings, officious colleagues and busybodies of all kinds abound.

Misappropriation of authority is a hotly debated topic.  Kids don’t want parents to have too heavy a hand in discipline.  Employees want protections in dealing with their bosses and clients.  Age, race, gender, family and faith are some key areas where we want to see rights and personal liberties protected.  The fact that we don’t all agree on what is a reasonable balance between rights and responsibilities in all of our roles is just one of the complications of living our lives both individually and collectively.  But where did the instinct to react in the presence of authority come from?

Authority in the form of police, parents, managers, and educators is a means of mediating between people and standards with respect to the choices that we all make to act in certain ways.  From our earliest moments, an inculcation of standards of some sort is making its impact felt on our beings.  The mechanism is an ongoing process of comparison between the actor and the standard.  We all have definitions for what is good or even acceptable.  These are individual and under ongoing revision depending on the context and on the circumstances in play. 

Most of us would agree that murder is wrong, but would consider shooting or harming someone to save lives, our own or our loved one’s.  Most of us would agree that speeding is wrong, but would consider driving fast if the situation were a medical emergency.  Stealing is wrong, but a three year old taking a cookie without permission isn’t as egregious as a self-centered adult making off with the Thanksgiving leftovers from auntie’s house without permission.  The comparison of standards and instances of acts committed is ongoing. 

There’s an internal stream of evaluation in the form of self-talk.  It’s rife with echoes of the voices we heard in the dawn of our lives.  And this is where the problem arises, for most of us. My dad taught me to play chess before I entered school.  He taught me to make a bed with mitered corners and to do laundry and other basic chores competently from an early age. I knew how to read well before I got to kindergarten. 

He also taught me some less desirable things through acting out verbally and physically. He solved problems (as he saw them) by intruding on my boundaries.  And that was how his parents dealt with him.  Back across multiple generations, there are real similarities in my family history on my mother’s and my father’s sides. 

Impacts and echoes of these ways of being were transgenerational.  Collectively, the embodied authority distilled into an inner voice represents a shadow.  Ostensibly, the comparison between who I was as a young child and who I should have been represented a comparison between what is perfect (or light) and what is flawed (shadow).  In reality, however, embodied authority is itself imperfect.

I wanted to be safe from the flawed exercise of authority that my father represented and I deployed a variety of stratagems towards this end.  Avoidance, compliance, resignation and resistance, seeking sympathy or support elsewhere…  efforts to mitigate the impact of strict rules or stern statements took up a lot of my existential focus and energy.  I had a self that was inauthentic. 

I still have this self, she’s just better adjusted and mostly integrated. This self was a response to the shadow cast by authority.  And who, herself became a shadow echoing some of the strict rules and stern statements to herself and others.  It can take a lot of resources to unpack maladaptive behaviors and beliefs. They were initially create to prevent having to hear those parents or other early poseurs run through their unfavorable judgements that lead to unpleasant consequences. 

It’s important to tune into the inner voice that each of us has in order to evaluate the content.  If what’s found is a lot of blame, shame and uncertainty, it’s time to reconfigure things.  None of us arrived on the planet with this voice.  We inherited it in the same way that we did our features or our talents.  We built on it out of our own experiences and meanings made.  It can be disconcerting to think that some adjustments are in order. 

The inner voice is a guidance system that embodies key attitudes that drive our actions.  It’s a distillation of our values as an applied set.  It operates somewhat like a control tower, letting us know what is at liberty to “take off” in our life, or what actions we can complete without offending our own sensibilities.  The difficulty is that the wrong self may be on shift as the air traffic controller.  The false self may disallow things that actually align with our values because she (or he) desires to protect us, just like in those very early years. 

Her rationales will sound reasonable, rational and familiar unless you tune in very consciously to her frequency for communication.  Then, patterns are going to emerge as you see her interventions through the years of your life and notice the aftermath, where she convinced you NOT to take a chance, advocate for yourself or pursue the more difficult path.  You may find yourself arguing with your own anxieties, fears and habitual ways of being.  You may find yourself disconnecting from them with distracting or destructive behaviors.  Some mediation is needed.

So- becoming aware of your inner voice and getting to know which aspect of the self is driving its content is critical to unpacking how to connect with yourself and the rest of the world successfully  No part of the self is the adversary or the enemy.  They’re just an internal personification of the impacts that caused them to come into being. 

If your dad was very critical, part of your inner voice may retain that trait as a safety net.  You may be very vigilant about preventing errors or even the risk of making errors.  Or you might be a little cynical and resigned.  It’s another defense mechanism.  Cultivating a persona to get through the discomfort doesn’t speak to accessing your authentic self. 

It’s often a choice that’s made under duress when we’re very young and it resonates down through the years of our lives as a reactive habit or way of being.  It was a helpful coping mechanism, originally.  Now- it may no longer serve.  Or at least not very well.  Counselors and coaches will sometimes speak of these habits as parts of the false self, as a negative vow or even as an energy block.  Change feels scary to this part of the self because their role in the younger version of us was protective. 

Now, conscious engagement and energy must be expended to lean into a better way of being and a set of beliefs that serve us in the present.  It’s good work.  It’s necessary.  Support can be helpful.  Group work.  Counseling.  Coaching.  Reflective practices.  Meditative practices.  Any of these or all of these can help us be more fully alive, fully conscious, fully engaged and fully integrated beings. If you’d like to connect with our coaching practice to explore how you can move your own growth forward and live your best life, call us.  We’re here to help!

Flip the Script!

Have you ever gotten yourself into a position where you are simply at the end of a conversation or conflict and the exchange just isn’t going anywhere? Maybe all sides have made their points with relative clarity and logic, But you simply haven’t been able to come to some sort of a workable agreement about a division of labor in the household or the allocation of time and other resources. We often try to convince people of the validity of our position rather than collaborate with them in order to gain their cooperation.  We just keep digging that hole deeper and deeper until it’s a literal pit! 

When you find yourself pounding on a point and applying more and more pressure in order to get your way, it’s time to take a step back (or three!) and reset the scene.  At the end of the day, living well with others in the classroom, the rooms at home or the Zoom meeting is as much about grace and strategy as it is about logic and justice.  As any parent, partner or person knows, it’s entirely possible to be right and still be wrong! What often happens when we want something very badly from the people in our lives that they are unwilling to give is that we try to insist on our way by means of force- force of control, force of discussion, force of will, force of shame, force of withdrawal… These are often the weapons of our warfare with kids and other key people in our lives.

So you’ve got to ask yourself- what else can you do? The first rule of succeeding in managing your roles well is to divide the tools needed for the job into two basic categories: self-management and shared management. Self-management is necessarily predicated on a robust self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love.  Failure to do the personal work needed to fully develop in any of these areas leads to intrapersonal as well as interpersonal breakdowns in connection.  For example, self-awareness that includes an acknowledgement of past trauma, its impacts and resolution is a necessary foundation piece to carrying the weight of the self and its accumulated experiences into the many decades of a (hopefully fully functional!) adulthood. Self-acceptance includes working with one’s foibles, faults and failures without excessive shame, blame or condemnation.  Honesty in the face of these challenges goes a long way towards improving a felt sense of competence to manage well through all of the seconds and seasons of life.  Self-love that’s functional and optimal follows onto the practices of self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-regulation. 

Okay, you know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself and self-regulate well enough to effectively self-manage.  Now what about that shared management stuff? Here is where the hard work of getting to know yourself, differentiate yourself from others and love yourself pays off! Instead of relying on the dysfunctional tools of discussion (arguing), distancing (withdrawing connection), force of will (insisting and persisting in perpetuating the discussion loudly and at length) or force of might (physically compelling your child or partner with either “hands-on” direction or corporal punishment), the relative peace of your inner world will enable you to remake and remap the outer world, too. 

The way that each of us feels about the world that we share with others is made in the image of the world that we are experiencing internally.  So- to remake the outer world into a better one, there first has to be a remake of the internal world.  Once we are somewhat more fluent in the “pause, is there a better way to do this?” line of thinking, we get into the real work of collaborating at a level that allows us to create a lasting impression that’s positive.  NOW we’re positioned to leave a legacy that matters! 

Implementing any tool is a matter of chain reaction that moves from intention to execution to habit to pattern.  That’s true irrespective of whether the behaviors and beliefs that we are embodying are set into motion through conscious choice or via a default decision.  So- when I’m tired and margins are slim with respect to time, money and bandwidth, THAT’S when the many headed Hydra of Dysfunction can pop up!  It’s in those moments that my actions best reveal whether positive patterns have taken hold in ways that matter.  That’s especially true when I’m deliberately stretching some of my routines around productivity and other pursuits.  Validating my intentions to embody a consciously guided, mindful execution of my values with behaviors that are aligned is what elevates a felt sense of competence and confidence.  But- there’s often a couple of breakdowns that accompany efforts towards breakthrough.  Those have to be accounted for and any needed adjustments and apologies made. 

Self-awareness includes being mindful of past breakdowns and their accompanying triggers.  Not so that they can be avoided, but so that they can be managed.  Late afternoon at my house is a space that’s often filled with grouchiness and anxiety from my special needs relative.  Dinner prep conflicts with her desire for one more outing.  She crowds me when I’m cooking in order to move me towards her goal and I lecture her while I cook in order to gain my goal of some space.  Can you say “dysfunction junction”? 

So- I’ve simplified the routine.  I’ve injected humor.  I step away from conflict.  It’s much better.  Occasionally, though, I lapse into a lecture.  It’s the exception.  But it’s still a breakdown on my side.  It still has to be accounted for.  I do that by connecting with her.  I value her as a person more than the minutes lost to dinner prep.  That’s flipping the script.  Not giving in, but not giving up.  “Lean in!” as Sheryl Sandberg so famously wrote. 

Asking more of others (like asking my relative to wait while I cook) is always more easily accomplished if our own rigorous honesty, integrated self-management and other intrapersonal tools are online.  The quality of our connection to others is really predicated on the quality of our connection with ourselves.  So- we manage inside out.  The world around us comes into line largely to the extent that we bring ourselves into line and engage with practices that perpetuate and support that dynamic. It’s also easier to take risks that pay off in the form of additional opportunities to succeed in the classroom, home and business whenever felt competence is at optimal levels.  And risk is necessary to growth!  Which is why it’s time to take care of yourself, take stock of your context and take a chance that you can surmount some of the behaviors, beliefs and habits that are holding you back. 

If you could use some support in your engagement with personal work or with your efforts to flip the script in places where you are stuck, call us! We’re here to help!

A Positive Negative

I found myself getting stressed out and verging on the hairy edge of grouchy just a few minutes ago.  The frame for the context felt SO familiar.  I’d gone down a long list of steps and tasks and provided support through some personal and client difficulties and I’d been taxed in my roles to the point where I’d hit the “no zone”.  The “no zone” is where there are some choices to be made and the wrong ones can be very impactful- but negatively.  The “no zone” is when resources are taxed and there isn’t an immediately actionable answer for the deficit. 

Eventually, there’s a “one more thing” on the list and it’s time to nope out of that.  The kids need one more outing.  They want one more trip to their favorite fast food joint or one more drop off to that new extracurricular they’ve signed up for.  The boss wants one more project on the list or one more meeting to squeeze in at the end of a long day.  The “no zone” is a place to avoid.  It’s a place where being stretched is normalized and where objections are sometimes viewed as the starting point for negotiation that is designed to benefit the asker rather than the performer of the favor or task.    

When in the “no zone”, the best that can be managed is to take the shortest path to an acceptable exodus and devote some resources to not being there again.  We’re not speaking here of the organic growth in our roles that comes with long experience and practice of the crafts that we live by.  We’re speaking of a kind of cancerous “creep” in these contexts, whereby demands have been accommodated but no countermeasures of resetting expectations or trimming other areas of responsibility have been implemented.  The result is often a sense of entitlement from past recipients of our efforts, favors and giving. 

Clients, children, community members and companies often overlook reasonable limits to function in a role in favor of normalizing standards of performance that aren’t sustainable.  To put it bluntly, requests are accompanied by attempts to cajole or to compel an answer favorable to the asker.  “Say Yes to the Dress”- remember that show?  The whole premise was to allow the setting of the shop and the vision of what a “perfect” wedding day could look like to dictate the purchase of a bridal gown.  On a much smaller scale, the askers in our lives have their own visions in mind of the outcomes being sought.  Fitting things into the budget, resources available or schedule is a process that requires a high degree of both self-awareness and integrity.

So- what happens when the budget, resources and schedule are cannibalized?  I know someone who is in desperate need of housing, income and a fulfilling life plan that is allowing her housemates to use her car, allowing herself to be made the chief cook and scheduler and allowing herself to be stymied in her efforts to get her ducks in a row due both to her anxiety and due to these distractions.  It’s been painful to watch.  She knows that her housing situation is temporary.  She knows that she’ll need a car, a place to stay and support services. 

Somehow, though, she’s still operating as if things are normal for her.  Under extremes of stress and duress, the options are customarily fight, flight, freeze or fawn. If circumstances are creating a context that feels very “high demand”, responses can be skewed in one of these four directions. Sometimes, we don’t even know why we agreed to do what the asker requested. It’s a reaction. What’s needed is a response. In intimate contexts or in interactions with people who have power over some aspect of comfort, livelihood or wellbeing, the temptation is to continue down the well worn path of agreement.

“Sure, I can pick that up for you.” “You want to bring your friend to our reception? Okay.” “I don’t really have time to take that project on… but, I guess I can figure it out.” Everyone makes their own choices.  It’s important to be certain that agreements are acceptable, authentically given and equitable before committing to perform that “one more” item on someone else’s list. Things sort themselves out for people who are a little too agreeable. Eventually. But often at a higher cost than is reasonably warranted. The lack of clarity in those situations doesn’t help with planning next steps.  Anxiety is the enemy of authenticity in most cases, and will push us towards what seems to be the path of least resistance.  

And- when we can’t speak with authority and clarity around the use of our own resources, they are often misappropriated by others.  It’s a weird little momentum piece to the way that our days are lived out.  Think about it, who do you know that you could NOT ask for an accommodation such as emergency childcare, an emergency loan of money or an emergency ride to the airport?  With some people, it would simply be inappropriate. 

For example, the likelihood that your boss will drive you to the airport to catch that redeye flight in order to save the cost of an Uber is pretty low.  But your mom?  Sure, she might.  Sometimes we make the mistake of acting as if our agency in these matters is held in common.  Nope.  But- if you’ve had soft boundaries and have set the precedent that others can rely on your “yes” more often than not, then it’s time to reset.  Because while our charity and generosity is needed now more than ever before, so too is our mindful management of the resources that are on hand. 

Becoming habituated to moving through our days as if everything is normal when dealing with escalated care needs, diminished energy and practical resources can be a necessary adaptation in some contexts.  The difficulty lies in normalizing the extraordinary.  Gymnasts and ice skaters at the Olympic level make it look easy as well as gracefully beautiful when they perform.  It’s easy to focus on the outcome of their efforts instead of being mindful of the rigorous and regimented practice schedule that they committed to fulfilling and submitted to tolerating.  Inevitably, impacts on their time with friends, family and other leisure, academics and even sleep were all impacted.  What if they’d allowed the askers in their lives- friends, fans and family, to dictate their schedule? Their preparation would have been impacted and so too, would their outcomes. Good-bye gold.

In like manner, parenting children through their reconfigured academic and social lives while working and managing the home requires committing to a rigorous practice of self-management and submitting to an ongoing introspective inquiry as a means of developing a robust self-awareness.  If managing these roles previously could be summed up as keeping all of the plates spinning on their poles, it currently could be summed up as keeping these same plates spinning in an environment with twice the gravity pulling at things to stop. 

Everything requires more force of engagement and more focus of awareness and more tolerance of farcical complications to ordinary processes and routines.  So, along with practicing deep breathing, clarity around boundaries and supportive routines that account for your own needs, break out the “nope”.  It’s time to get negative, but in a good way.

Practice with me:  “no”.  See?  That wasn’t so bad.  When you know an ask is coming, decide ahead of time whether you prefer to say “yes” or “no”.  Then, avoid getting into JADE.  There’s no need for someone else to agree with your “no”.  They might try to make you uncomfortable by withdrawing connection, by making it seem like you’re the only solution or by becoming sad or having a tantrum.  Don’t engage.  You don’t have to justify your decision, argue about it in order to convince the asker, defend your perspective or explain your decision until the other party is satisfied. 

You have to do your own responsibilities within your roles, sure.  Bills?  Pay them.  Children?  Care for them.  Community?  Support them appropriately.  Friends?  Balance the give and take authentically and organically.  Job?  Fulfill your duties with excellence and look for opportunities to gain new skills.  Pets?  Walk them, water them, love them and feed them.  Partners?  Prioritize time with them and perform your part in the household that you share.  Spiritual life?  Fulfill the practices that align with your beliefs and values while retaining your own agency and developing your own perspective. 

Every other ask?  Has to get in line for consideration and prior beneficiaries of your time, talents and other largesse outside of your ordinary fulfillment of your roles?  Practice that positive negativity.  “No.”  “Nope.”  “That will not be possible.”  And then stop.  There.  Because if you proceed to detail your logic, limitations or leanings of opinion with respect to the ask, you’re not deciding.  You’re negotiating.  At least, that is how it will seem to the asker, who will address each statement that you make in support of your decision as if they were a Harvard lawyer arguing before the court or a politician convincing the voting public of their fitness for public office.

Everything that you say “no” to is a means of being able to say “yes” to the things that matter to you.  These are first on the list.  As a sacred being with a singular combination of values, vision, talent and context, no one else can fulfill your unique contributions.  Respect for your own agency and for your own necessary boundaries- it’s more critical to be mindful of these things in situations where everyone is feeling the pinch of performance expectations and the absence of many customary supports. 

Don’t always go to the back of the line. It’s quite all right to go first.  Don’t always take the leftovers.  When it’s your person, your purse or your performance that are being requested (or required) to engage, remember that there are limits to what any one person can reasonably do.  Don’t let yourself get beyond the outer limits of your own agency or resources before you begin to consider saying “no”.  Say it early.  Say it often.  Say it masterfully.  Say it mindfully.  Who knew that a negative could be so powerfully and positively impactful? 

If you struggle with feeling like you are free to say “no” when it’s appropriate or even simply preferable in your own eyes to do so, take a little time to practice!  A few iterations of reminding yourself to decline some requests or demands will strengthen your own felt agency and enhance your felt experience of daily life.  If you could use a little help in gaining clarity around where you want to say “no”… or “yes”… call one of our caring coaches.  We’re here to help!

The Power of Persona

Have you ever found yourself embodying some character traits that simply don’t align with your personal values?  Maybe stress has been high and money and time have been in short supply. Or maybe the technological and systems based frustrations of living with COVID-19 and its impacts have complicated some of the task that you do on a regular basis as a parent, professional or in your personal life.  There are things that you simply have to get done… and there are things that you know from experience will become disaster zones if you allow them to pile up. We’re living in smaller spaces in every way that we can name.  The virtual world of work, school and leisure are crowded into the bandwidth available. 

Physical space constraints are impacting us viscerally, as well.  Think of the square footage that our lives have lost recently…  the office, the classroom, the bar or restaurant or retail space.  Many have even lost their incomes, homes and connections to friends, family and community.  Still, we must manage to live in the midst of this mess.  For those of us that are sharing constrained resources within our households and networks, we’re grateful to be able to work, relate and be educated during this season of compounding disruptions. 

But…  there are still impacts to assess, losses to mourn, mindset matters to manage and skills to develop.  Even if things are out of sync or off kilter, we have to recapture the utility and workability that we can from tools, systems and relationships that we’re able to access.  Personal work has never been more essential to surviving and even to thriving than in this moment.  If disruptions due to Covid-19 has strangled our ability to access some necessities, then substitutes must be appropriated. 

It feels somewhat like Life used to be a basketball game with two hoops, a smooth, fully marked court and a ball in play.  Now, the ball is still in play and the object of getting it into the hoops still exists for each team, but the zones of play have shifted to include ALL of the hoops including the four practice ones down the long sides of the court in my old junior high gym.  Now play includes offense, defense and penalties for six hoops, not the original two. 

Shots can go into any hoop from the opposing team as a layup or from any part of the court.  Sure, each team has three hoops, not six, in which to score points.  But with divided resources, it’s more difficult to play competently, consistently or successfully.  In like manner, life has become more fragmented and more challenging since the advent of this pandemic.  The shifts have created more complex rules of engagement for all of our roles and there are many ways in which the “ask” of the current field of play feels like it vastly exceeds what we have to offer.

As players in the game, it feels like our personas have shifted somewhat, too.  People who are careful in their roles as team leaders and who operate with a black and white filter for what is right and wrong might be struggling with the new normal and their personas now show up as controlling and micromanaging.  Parents who want their kids to have excellent grades and perfect attendance are facing school software that’s crashing and assignments that they can’t even see, never mind track.  Anxiety is in the space, along with anger, blame and shame.  These are the four horsemen of the Covid-19 Impact Apocalypse. 

Along with these bad dudes of the emotional world come some interesting and unhelpful characters.  Oscar the Grouch is popping up from his trash can of gripes with greater frequency.  The stench of his energetic signature is exceeded only by the volume of his complaints.  The baggage of the past has become the garbage of the present and children, clients and the community are experiencing the glowing green of his toxic spillover in the form of comments, flame emails and the proliferation of rules in the office, home and classroom space. 

He’s engaged with control in an effort to make things safe and tolerable.  Unlike his more charming namesake on the popular Sesame Street series, his grouchiness isn’t punctuated by much self-awareness or self-management. Oscar is an obstacle that is a bilateral black hole: he puts out complaints and negative energy while sucking up the precious resources of time, patience and goodwill that others must ration. He’s a “hit-and-run” operator and most of his interactions are negative. Others will go out of their way to avoid dealing with him and his calls, emails and meeting invites are avoided wherever possible.

The Count is also popping up with his inappropriate enumeration of things that he has gotten done and self-congratulatory speeches.  He’s there on the Zoom call hogging the meeting with a monologue of the status of every project he’s on and contributing nothing towards the topic of how to reallocate some of the work due to layoffs.  His jovial self-centeredness is tolerable in the normal office but too much in these trying times.  His kids are also sick of being told how great he is at parenting and problem-solving.  They’d like him to listen to their troubles and help with the hiccups in the online classroom. 

Big Bird is on the Zoom call too, talking about his friend Mr. Snuffleupagus from the foreign office that nobody ever sees and asking earnestly about how to solve irrelevant problems.  His large professional presence is an earnest persona that patters excessively and simply doesn’t discipline his focus to remain on the most critical priorities. Meetings run over because he always has one more question for his managing director. 

He never seems to save them for an email or for one-on-one check-ins.  And he easily gets his feathers ruffled if anyone tries to point out that he needs to move things along.  It’s not that he gets angry, no.  He just gets more unfocused.  Life on the home front is no better and Mr. Bird is often wondering why he’s so far behind on everything with work, wife, kids and all…

Bert shows up too, most often in accounting and human resources.  He is a scrupulous, organized fellow and his record of reliability and consistency generally serves his organization and mission very well.  Under stress, regrettably, he becomes evermore bound by “the rules”.  Unfortunately, his understanding of the rules in situations where he is under duress is a rigid, legalistic one that isn’t useful.  In ordinary times, he’s likely to send back expense reports that are under their total per diem but that included some snacks at the conference instead of regular meals.  “We cover meals.  Incidentals are your responsibility.” 

No matter that there wasn’t a restaurant at the hotel and the team couldn’t get away, no.  Disallowed.  And the total cost to the company goes up, because next time the team has their meals delivered at conference.  Bert has been costing companies money by enforcing the rules since companies first existed.  Now, though, he’s adding extra “rules” to his mental “roster”. 

He’s replaced rejecting expense reports with disallowing necessary home office equipment for remote teams, who find themselves using their own cell phones, laptops and printers.  Oh, he’ll buy a cartridge for the home printer, but only if the request is submitted two weeks in advance so that he can try to order them from the approved vendor list. 

Meanwhile, his colleagues are faced with making these purchases from their own pocket or deciding that they are now a de facto “paperless” environment until supplies come in.  That’s great, until they’re Zooming on a single screen with a client while simultaneously reviewing the most recent contract draft.  Because his kids need all of the devices they can use for online school and his wife’s laptop is off limits.

In addition to Oscar, Big Bird and Bert, there are other stress-based personas that pop up.  Teachers can feel removed from being able to influence their students online.  It’s a bit like Ernie observing his Twiddlebugs.  During season five of the show, a family of four Twiddlebugs made regular appearances as they moved through their daily activities, living out their lives in a window box.  Teachers have a sky eye view of the lives of their students in terms of academic, familial and social functionality and skill sets. 

But- the ability to communicate directly and to effect immediate change in the attitudes, behaviors and outcomes of their students is obviously different in the virtual world.  A standard in-person classroom is different from an online one and all parties are experiencing something of a disconnect and some real discomfort in the adjustment process.

Almost every office and classroom has a mascot, someone who is more silly, socially active and spirited than the rest of the group.  Elmo- everybody’s favorite water cooler or snack break companion!  The difficulty with Elmo is that while he’s great fun and a great distraction in an ordinary environment, in the more constrained circumstances of doing life at home, Elmo can seem, well… grating.  A little too much.  Elmo uses humor to cover for anxiety and isn’t very good at adapting comedic routines to the context. 

He’s prone to sharing a little too much personal information about himself and others.  He’s also known for sharing “not suitable for work” videos, tweets, texts, screen grabs and memes.  If you call him out on his attempts at humor, he’ll whine that he was just joking, trying to lighten the mood.  He got tickled about that gossip or about that awkward situation and thought that everyone else would laugh along with him.  HR sometimes has to deal with writing up or terminating Elmo and his kids wish that he would wise up instead of being a cut up. 

Then, there’s Maria.  She’s been in the office forever.  She has more knowledge of the history of the organization, its norms to date, its processes and its systems than anyone else.  She even retired for a few years, but found that it didn’t suit her.  Since her return, she’s found that things aren’t really up to her standards.  In fact, they’re downright slipshod.  The decision to discontinue some product lines was one she fought because they were always big sellers.  She doesn’t have to follow the current rules because (as she’ll tell you) she wrote the book on how her department runs. 

And it used to run a lot better when Bob was still the senior vice president and before Janet retired as chief admin.  She’s a bottleneck for every major change that’s proposed and the C suite is now painfully aware of the cost to the company’s bottom line of allowing her outsized sense of entitlement to reign unchecked.  They’re going to “re-retire” her after Covid-19.  They’re already planning a great party and slowly rotating her out of various aspects of her role. She’s too busy telling stories of the good old days and running “her” department to have noticed.  Yet.  Her kids are grown and gone.  While they are tremendously proud of her accomplishments, they do wish that she was more caring and less controlling. 

Cookie Monster is obviously head of sales.  He can really bring in the clients and he is always a force to be reckoned with.  Unfortunately, Cookie has found the mandatory salary reductions unpalatable and is being interviewed by the competition.  He has to look after his own interests and he needs plenty of dollars to keep up with his cookie habit.  All very understandable.  The problem is that Cookie has left his team in a bind. 

As head of sales, all of the reports for quarterly performance as measured against predetermined objectives are his responsibility.  But he hasn’t touched last quarter’s yet.  And this quarter’s are now due.  Cookie’s crumbs are going to stick to everybody else long after he’s gone because nobody’s going to be able to have relevant objectives without real data to base them on.  It’s part science and part art, certainly. 

But his team still needs those numbers!  It’s a good thing he’s moving on because he wouldn’t have lasted much longer in his current role.  At home, Cookie also tends to leave the scene when his kids or wife get angry, anxious or upset.  He’s a little selfish in the best of times, and very good with knocking out the big things like paying the bills.  In his mind, the messy emotions and practical needs of others are their problem, not his.  And he’s right.  It’s just that he doesn’t take into account how ignoring some of his other responsibilities compromises things for everyone. 

Sesame Street characters are so memorable precisely because they are larger than life and somewhat exaggerated.  Muppets are the brainchild of Jim Henson and are great for entertainment.  None of us, however, benefits from resorting to these more rigidly defined personas, even in crisis.  What’s needed are the living personalities of our resilient, mindful, consciously engaged selves. 

Reactions are a kind of energetic engagement.  In scientific parlance, they’re fast, hot and generally exothermic.  Responses are another kind of energetic engagement.  They’re a form of energetic engagement that’s mediated that’s still exothermic, but in a controlled way.  The power of self-awareness is found in its ability to buffer our initial reactions and to allow us to make a different choice.  Reaction is a default process, mindless and mechanistic.  Response is a deliberate process, mindful and even masterful. 

If an outsized sense of anxiety has you resorting to an outsized persona due to stress, call us!  We’ll help you to reconnect with your authentic self and restore a felt experience of living that is powerful, positive and passionately joyful.

Wearing It Well

I consider that we wear our bodies and daily activities in the same way that we wear clothing: there are distinct elements of fashion, practicality, purpose, and utility in the way that we wear both. Some people devote a great deal of time and energy to their grooming regimen and we’ve all made little jokes about people spending two hours on their hair in the bathroom in the morning. Irrespective of whether we’re considering an adolescent male from the decade of the 1950s or a glamazon teen with big hair and bigger shoulder pads from the early 1980s, it can take a lot of effort to achieve the intended effect. 

Odds are that there is an archetypal image for every decade of the 20th century available in magazines and other media that successfully distills the message and the mood of the era down to a single picture.  Think about some of the iconic photos and images popularized in media at the time- The Kiss, a famous depiction of a sailor returning from World War Two kissing a nurse on the streets of New York, Norman Rockwell’s iconic depictions of Americana including his Thanksgiving illustration of a family around the dining room table- these and similar depictions said something about us collectively.  Who we were, who we aspired to be, how we saw ourselves, each other and the pattern of our times can all be found reflected back in the images of advertisements, articles, cartoons, illustrations and photos.

In one sense, media is really a mirror to our collective consciousness. It’s a mind map of the meta themes and meta narrative that frame all of our cultural referents.  It’s never been more possible then currently to customize our preferences as consumers. Choices about how we can figure our personal and professional lives have never been more accessible nor more defended through the medium of social media messaging and the schoolmarming voices of advocates for a variety of causes.  I remember my dad explaining to me that popular culture in the 1950s was very conservative and that the wagging finger of lecturing and “shame on you” correction was found in the home, on the job and in the larger social systems of the time.

The end of World War Two ushered in a cultural shift of sizable magnitude. There were two simultaneously occurring dynamics of nostalgia for the security and serenity of the home front and vastly expanded appetites for the consumption of all kinds of convenience and luxury goods. In the first four decades of the twentieth century, the American consumer had experienced the First World War, the Great Depression and the Second World War.  Women may have been granted the right to vote, but a lot of anxiety, privation and violence were part of the daily experience of tens of millions of souls.  Perhaps to counter the impact of that collective set of disasters The American psyche seemed more predisposed than ever to a conservatism and a nostalgia for the imagined good old days.

Media shifted from the auditory forum of popular radio to the relatively new forum of television and the programs of the day narrated the American mythos of peace, plenty and prosperity. People who had been accustomed to gathering around a radio in order to listen in to their favorite programs for entertainment or news now gathered around a screen and directed their gaze to the characters in the serials, the spokespeople in the advertisements and the earnest anchormen of televised news hours.  The impact to the collective social psyche was that people saw themselves more than ever in the mirror of consumer driven programming that had the power to promote ideas of what was good or bad. Moral authority was now with the masses and the moral majority as experienced through the conduit of media programming.  Of course media was never the point of origin or Ground Zero for these ideas, but it served to vastly amplify their impact and to standardize the expression of the American character and personality.

Against this backdrop of nostalgia for a nonexistent past, people were supposed to have been simply more competent in their manner of living in the “good old days”.  Those days were deemed better by virtue of an almost perfect conformity to a rigid list of do’s and don’ts.  The whole social order apparently depended on this cooperative conformity for cohesion and for coherent function.  This movement seems to me to have been simply a cultural backlash against the chaos and privations of the earlier twentieth century enumerated above. 

As soon as the capacity for production and cooperation could be directed away from supporting the troops or those on the home front after the Second World War, these faculties found their expression in the “rightness” of cultural trends that catered to an ordered world and that was steeped in an appetite for more and better things to have in the home, on the job and in school. 

Individualism was in vogue insofar as an idea that people would succeed by dint of determination and hard work.  But conformity in terms of conduct was expected and heavily promoted in every sphere.  Distinct ideas of what was “manly” or “feminine” prevailed, as did acceptable occupations for activities in work, social and leisure settings.  People whose lives ran counter to the prevailing narrative faced social shaming, ostracism and loss of opportunities to earn, live and marry according to their preference.

 Some agreement about how government should run is essential to the ordered function of society and some agreement about how any nation should conduct its life in all of its aspects can serve as a unifying social force. A thoroughly reasoned argument can be made for the benefit of a common understanding in these matters.  Taken to an extreme, however, the pressure to conform produces a destructive stunting of individual development, growth and liberty. 

Whereas the fifties saw a push towards conservatism, the sixties exploded with the energy of a different kind of rebellion.  Social mores were strained through the filter of feeling “good” and the paternalistic benevolence of popular culture in the prior decade saw itself overthrown.  Decades give way to new movements in every century and the backlash and counter backlash of movement from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other will sway and even wildly swing as long as human cultures endure. 

Media is more accessible to us now than ever before and more customizable now, as well.  People can find themselves reflected in the mirror of their Facebook feeds, Instagram photos, Pinterest boards and Twitter hashtags.  Interestingly, shame has made its appearance on the scene, as well.  People can “go viral” in good and bad ways for the things that we say and do.  The mindlessness of the meta-media consumption of the nineteen fifties has become the mindlessness of the micro-media production of the twenties of this century. 

Information now flows outward from individuals as well as from larger interests and it has had the effect of remapping the balance of power in how events play out.  Protests can be arranged on social media.  Political figures can be shamed.  Parents can be criticized.  So, unfortunately can teens, children and marginalized or vulnerable populations. We can mold our own mirrors now more than ever before and make choices in how our lives are lived out.  Impacts on the self and on others are vastly amplified and the results can be life enhancing or detrimental. 

Let’s own the terrible responsibility that comes with such power.  Consciously choosing our values and disciplining our daily routines to conform with them is going to build a life that we love.  Respecting all people as sacred beings will allow us to self-differentiate.  When people make choices that we disagree with, worry over outcomes can make us anxious, controlling and judgmental. In some instances, toxic displacement occurs and the boss or client that we can’t answer back becomes the child or spouse that we objectify, taking out our exacerbated frustrations on them for minor mishaps and the normal disasters of too much work, traffic, stress and schedule overload.

The social isolation and economic disenfranchisement of Covid-19 adds to the challenge of living out our days in the best possible way. We do indeed want to be at our best and do our best, but may feel overtaxed and utterly lacking in needed resources and adequate margin for social, relational and psychic recovery. Disengagement is tempting and we DO need times to unplug. But let’s do everything mindfully, enjoying our pastimes without getting lost in depression, distractions or dysfunctions.

We can choose NOT to become like those gatekeepers of the nineteen fifties who, having felt the trauma and tumult of many awful events, sought to impose order based on a false narrative.  Wagging fingers, lecturing and shaming are tactics of last resort.  The sarcastic quip on someone’s post or the side eye in that social group aren’t ideal, either. Be part of the Conscious Resistance and resolve to draw the line from intention to execution to habit to pattern. Do it persistently and your life will happen for you instead of happening to you. You’ll be surfing the waves of your own being, attuned to your own energy, faculties, values and vision. That’s the best possible stance for these uncertain times. (Well, ALL times are uncertain and the future is unknown. But we can leverage our own inner knowing and impose our own vision of things onto the world by embodying the behaviors and beliefs needed to attain the outcomes that we desire.)

Let’s live a consciously chosen, carefully curated life based on our own illumination and inspiration.  That way, our authentic way of being and doing life will help our own progress and may help someone else who is struggling.  We may not even have to say a word to get that result.  And- when anxiety, depression or shame come calling and try to bring us from the optimal to the dysfunctional space, the habit of non-judgmental curiosity can inform us as to the cause and suggest a way forward. 

If wearing the habits and attitudes of your life feels a little heavy or awkward, we’re here to listen and support you as you ditch the things that are dragging you out of the light and into the shadow.  Healthy connection is a gateway to clarity and inspiration and a coach can help you to tune in and to connect more deeply with yourself and with others so that you can feel fully heard, fully seen and fully your authentic self.  Reach out.  We’re here to help.

All the Wealth

Sometimes it’s good to take a break from doing things the same old way. I have a tendency to start my morning off with a cup of coffee and a few quiet minutes.  I have always made my bed as soon as I got up and opened all the blinds to let in the morning light as well. There is a comfort in the familiar that is very hard to describe. It’s found in expressions such as “there is no place like home”.  Well, before the popular movie the Wizard of Oz came out the expression was actually “be it ever so humble, there is no place like home…”.Most of us can remember very specific scenes from the places that we have lived, loved and worked over the course of our lifetimes. 

The feel of a certain chair, the smell of the common rooms after they’ve been cleaned and dusted, The way the light spills in through a favorite window-these details make our memories come alive in three dimensions. There’s a significant way in which the sameness of our routines interacts with the repetitive ways that we use our spaces and possessions.  There’s a patina of wear on the habits of our lives that is precisely like that found on old pieces of brass décor.  Buffing out all of the patina with polish and rags would cause our lives to lose something of their unique character.  People who care for old pieces of brass will polish them up without removing all of the evidence accumulated from many years of repeated use. Evidence of age, use and wear add perceived value to these pieces in the eyes of the collectors who purchase them. Some artists, craftsmen and hobbyists will add patina to a piece.

Textiles are also sometimes given the appearance of age and long use through techniques that distress the surface of them, adding an interesting element of appeal. Real patina on leather, metal or wood, however, is prized for its association with age. Singularity is also a factor, since any item that has acquired this surface trait or veneer naturally is unlike any other similar object in the world. Its history being necessarily unique, no duplicate exists to acquire anywhere or at any price. Old books, old cars, old clothes, old fixtures, old furniture… it’s all sorted by time, style, method, means and location of production. For some collectibles, there are more objects than buyers. For others, the reverse is true. Either instance will affect perceived value and price to a greater extent than materials used.

It makes sense that we want to hold on to some of the unique character that our lives have accumulated to date. We even want to hold onto the unique character of the objects that others used in their lifetimes! Nobody is going around painting over old masterpieces on display at the museums or buffing out cave paintings and other memorials from the civilizations of past millennia.  On the contrary, we placed the greatest significance and value on these bits of cultural detritus.  These are just a few of the jigsaw pieces to some very old puzzles that only hint at the larger scenes of which they form some part.  Whole disciplines are dedicated to the study of ancient artifacts whether they are weapons, pottery, metal, glassware or apparel. 

These civilizations are essentially studied through the lens of their residue, including language, writing and any physical artifacts as described above. As additional artifacts come into evidence, working theories of how these past peoples may have lived and constructed their lives in every sphere are often revised. The same can be said for artifacts of our past in terms of our memories: when they arise from the depths of our subconscious and emerge into conscious awareness and analysis, they are revisited, reinterpreted and reintegrated into our memories again. Working theories of who we are and how we came to be are revisited, revised and reincorporated into our self-concept. Everything is subject to reinterpretation and revision.

Our estimation of our moral rectitude, felt sense of competence in different seasons of our lives and understanding of our capacity to make a difference are all factors under ongoing revision. When we meet up with someone who tells us the same old stories about themselves in the same old ways, we are likely to surmise that they’re stuck. Whether it’s a jock revisiting the glory days of high school football and wrestling or a woman in her fifties reminiscing about how beautiful she was when young, the focus on those old reference points can be unhealthy. Insistence on their primacy as plot points in life’s story after they have aged out of relevance to the present time can seem comical, dysfunctional, eccentric, misguided and even tragic.

People can be enmeshed in the past for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, nostalgia, trauma or unconscious motivations. Any of these instances perpetuate a rigid narrative based on a limited array of plot points and other references that support a very redacted view of things. When carried to extremes- when individuals and organizations act in the present as if conditions from the past were still in operation, a heavy cost is incurred in the form of broken perspectives on identity, relationships and roles. Our psyche naturally draws back from situations where duplicity is in play. When things feel out of phase or out of alignment with what is real, authenticity is impossible. Consequently, so are growth, healthy function and intimacy with the self and with others.

Each of us weaves the narrative of our lives in terms of the story that we tell ourselves; we embellish and embroider an old experiences that we have encoded in the tableaux, memories, inspirations and associations of our conscious and subconscious selves.  Sometimes we are faced with some very distressed fabric upon which to work due to prior instances of violence, trauma, neglect and conflict.  It can feel distressing not to be able to toss out this old fabric with its prior associations and a sense of its possible ugliness. The raw materials with which we are working aren’t of nearly as much consequence as the level of skill and craftsmanship with which we engage the work of living out our lives. And- to the greatest degree possible- it behooves us to remember that beauty and worth are inherent, waiting only for the skill of the artisan to make them evident.

Remember that value isn’t determined by the raw material alone, but by the story that we tell ourselves about it in terms of the wisdom and information that we can derive from it. Like those old cave paintings and other relics of bygone eras, the materials that we are crafting on now were generated in the primordial days of our earliest existence.  Their value is all the greater for their relative rarity and the significance that we can derive from reworking these pieces or reframing them is immense.  Get inspired by your own story.  Tell it in the way that best serves your values and the legacy that you desire to leave.  Act, in the moment, out of the sacred self that you are.  Connect the past, the present and the future into one glorious, epic tale of your own design and you’ll find the wealth in the masterpiece of your own existence.

If you need a safe space to retell some of the pieces of your own story, call us.  We’re here to help. 

When It Hits…

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I almost started this blog by mentioning the you know what- the reason that we all have to wear masks, stay six feet apart and stare at all strangers, surfaces and swappable items with suspicion.  The reason that dust is bust, clean is keen and paper is the new gold plate for dining…  The wave has hit and we’ve accounted for it, incorporated adjustments for it into our routines and audited our routines for anything that we can defer, delegate or ditch.  We’re down to the essentials in terms of managing things and trimming away wasted time, money and energy bit by bit.  I’ll let you know how we finished out the year sometime in late December, when I expect to be a bit thinner, have a bit more savings and be more disciplined on several fronts.  All of this is worth it, to me. 

But the “naughty virus” as we’ve name it for my special needs relative (in order to avoid frightening her) isn’t the only challenge that has landed in the last several months.  My housemate is building a business and it’s doing well.  I have a coaching practice that is having birth pains and growth pains simultaneously.  On paper, we’re good.  On the client side, we’ve got the systems, space and resources.  But- our slots aren’t all full and all of this stuff that comes with the naughty virus has us a bit off track of where we expected to be.  (I know, right?  “Welcome to the club…”.  You’ve got a point.  I’ll move on now.)

The thing IS that while we’re all busy managing the stress from changes, complications and losses due to you-know-stinkin’-what, we’ve gotten a tad stretched out.  Overtaxed, even.  And then, we get acclimated to the one-more-thing syndrome.  That’s the one where of course some other curlicue is about to be thrown on the next pitch.  Life is throwing curve balls across home plate one after another.  Every batter that’s up faces a tough line-up on the pitcher’s team this season. 

At my house, the curlicue is a major medical procedure for my relative’s dad, which means he’s out of commission for a bit.  And THAT means that somebody, who is completely a daddy’s girl, is going to have some dad withdrawal symptoms in September.  Which we’ve kind of explained by explaining-but-not-explaining…  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Information is power.  At least, it’s potential power.  But how we receive it determines whether or not it’s actually going to be useful. 

I’ve never used the term “people mechanic” before.  It’s the only way that I could come up with to explain-but-not-explain that dad visits were on hold.  Because language matters.  And while we essentially want honesty, we also have to keep the frame of our audience in mind.  So, whereas I research and deconstruct whatever I’m facing before acting, my relative requires a more stripped down version of facts.  Dressed in vocabulary that’s reasonably accurate, but that doesn’t trigger her somewhat extreme anxiety around anything “doctor-y”. 

SO…  frame matters, words matter and capacity matters.  We’re all telling ourselves a story about how things are going in our personal and professional lives.  The felt experience of our lives is certainly impacted by the onset of challenging and difficult events, especially when our felt sense of competence is taxed- sometimes to the point of exhaustion or overwhelm.  But- we can choose to reframe how we tell ourselves that story and THAT is a tool whose impact is endlessly serviceable in the management of stress and the enhancement of our feelings about the lives that we are living. 

Difficulties that pile up one on top of another can have the consequence of causing us to be vigilant in every moment, watching for the next emergency that we’re expecting.  Living in that mindset is untenable.  It’s depression, dispiriting and plain old exhausting.  Put yourself into any posture that you like and hold it for a minute… two minutes… five minutes…  Are you tired yet?  In order to have the ability to respond to things as they arise while still fulfilling our regular roles and responsibilities, we need a more relaxed posture. 

Change up the narrative.  Dispel the tension.  Engage in something that brings a more positive vibe.  These are all ways of breaking out of the state of hypervigilance and reengaging with the world in ways that are meaningful, relevant and soul-sustaining.  Freezing up in anticipation of the next thing that might go wrong is disempowering. 

If you need a little help recrafting your own narrative, reach out.  We’re here to help.

Practice Makes Perfect- And Other Lies

Practice Makes Perfect- But What Are You Practicing?

Practice Makes Perfect- But What Are You Practicing?

I remember an accomplished horsewoman brought me up short one day when I told her that “practice makes perfect” and she replied “no, PERFECT practice makes perfect”.  What an irritating rejoinder!  WHO is perfect?  But, she was right.  Which brings me to reflect on this question in a larger context:  how we live is composed of a set of routines that can be broken down into habits of being and doing.  Each of us has a morning routine, a workflow for the job, a routine for helping our kids with their needs and routines for other matters such as spiritual, relational and fiscal matters. 

Even in our most mundane roles, we tend to do things in the same old way day in and day out.  I have the same basic grocery list, cleaning routine, meal preparation and car care tasks that I’ve used for several years.  The store that I prefer is small and no frills.  But I can get in and out in about forty minutes.  The house gets cleaned first by me in terms of organizing, laundry, dusting and decluttering.  Then bathroom, kitchens and floors are all done to complete the maintenance.  Cars may change occasionally, but I’ve got the same old car shop and the same old oil change place that I’ve had for years.  Taken all together, these routines form the patterns that I live by.  Odds are, you’re somewhat the same in your approach.  These routines that we don’t have to think about very much keep the mundane machinery of our lives running.  Not a lot of extra effort is expended in deciding what to do.  It’s unnecessary because it’s already well known.

Conscious engagement is the gatekeeper of wisdom.  For every habit that is on autopilot, I derive benefit only to the point that the behavior in question allows.  I’m not going to find an abundance of organic food at my small store, though many of my preferred products there do fall into that category.  I could do a deeper, more organized cleaning if I were willing to shake up my “once and done” approach and incorporate rotating in some of the less frequently addressed tasks like cleaning the baseboards or recycling items we don’t use frequently.  My car shop is good, but they tend to upsell me when they can do so and it’s not always a strictly necessary repair.  It’s obvious that I’m not living ALL of the areas of my life in the most optimal way possible.  The trade-off is that my routines serve me by conserving the energy that I’d expend engaging with them consciously as to how they could be made better.  If I wanted a home like Martha Stewart, I’d have to adopt a different set of routines composed of different habits that are built upon different behaviors. 

Every area of our lives should have at least a modicum of conscious engagement.  Periodically, it’s necessary to review how to clean better, cook better, organize better, shop better and just plain old live better in the spaces and places of our daily lives.  One habit that is detrimental, left unchallenged by our conscious mind, can have a real felt impact when its cumulative cost is revealed.  One glass of wine several times a week isn’t a problem for most of us.  One piece of cake per week?  Likewise.  What happens, though, when one glass becomes two or three or four…?  Or one piece of cake becomes a daily dessert with more generous portion sizes thrown in…?  One charge on the credit card that’s paid off in a timely fashion won’t break the financial bank.  But living off of the cards without paying them off will.  Habits, left unchecked, tend to creep because behaviors, once engaged, tend to repeat.  Then it’s twenty pounds later or several thousand dollars in debt later or an overtaxed liver bordering on cirrhosis and the impacts are more plain. 

So it’s good to unplug from engaging with every single behavior that is practiced on each occasion of its occurrence.  That gives us the margin needed for deep work, high demand contexts and overcoming obstacles that tax our resources.  But- we need to regularly assess our behaviors and our practices.  Doing so can uncover behaviors and beliefs that don’t serve us anymore.  Or even entrenched behaviors and beliefs that are hurting growth and optimal development. 

When the cost of behaviors that don’t serve us well impacts on our felt experience- often in times of crisis- we may begin to distance ourselves by intensifying the dysfunctional dynamic.  Let’s face it, change is uncomfortable in the best of times.  Most of us don’t wake up and decide that TODAY is the day that we’re swearing off of booze, credit cards or that toxic love interest unless we’re first confronted with real evidence that the pain of the present pathway that we’re pursuing exceeds the anticipated agony of adjusting to a new way of being and doing. 

And our lizard brain tends to frame it as agony, not merely pain or discomfort.  I mean, “WHAT IF…?”, right?  “WHAT IF” is a BEAST for most of us when we’re faced with the prospect of needed change.  So we tell ourselves a story.  “Things are bad, sure.  There’s pain here.  It’s a mess.  It’s unpleasant.  But CHANGE?  NO way.  THAT is scary!  At least this is the devil that I know.  Who knows what I’d be dealing with if I try it a different way?  I mean, I am already exhausted and I can’t afford the energy and focus that change requires!  No.  Not now.  I can make things work here for awhile.”  So we put the prospect of the future that might require effort and focus under a microscope, maximizing its negative potential to the greatest possible extent.  AND we put the present into a telescopic view, one that keeps things distant, hazy and illuminated.  I mean, it’s not perfect, but it’s “life”, right? 

So, we put things off, adding pounds to our body, dollars to our debt, damage to our liver and an ever intensifying shame matrix that goes like this…  “I can’t change.  It’s futile.  I also can’t stand THIS.  So I’m going to distract myself a little…”.  With more food or booze or gambling or pills or porn or playing around with that toxic family relationship or love interest.  Because while engaged with practicing the current behavior pattern that’s based on the current belief set, we’re numbing out any consciousness of the real costs of our decisions.  We’re in action.  We’re “doing life”.  But in a way that totally sucks and isn’t going to get us anywhere that we really want to go.  Failing to reach our full potential.  Foolishly discounting the cost of the present while inflating the effort required for real change.  Futilely practicing the same old-same old behaviors and beliefs.  Stuck. 

Remember Superman?  Yeah.  He could do ANYTHING unless there was kryptonite on the scene.  Fly.  Lift the heavy stuff.  Catch the bad guy.  Stop the train.  Save the world.  When the present dynamic reaches a point where it steals our resources of talent, time and treasure- it’s time to find the kryptonite and remove it.  Your lizard brain has decided to keep the kryptonite around.  It’s familiar.  It hasn’t killed you yet.  It’s a distraction.  But- remember who you are in the face of it.  And who you REALLY are without it.  You can push past the behaviors and beliefs that hold you back.  You can reserve your energy, engagement and focus- or at least the preponderance of it, for things that matter.  You just have to trade in one story that you’re telling yourself for a better one, that’s based on better, more serviceable beliefs and that is accompanied by more optimal and optimistic behaviors.  

First, stop telling yourself how bad the pain of change is.  Embrace it.  It’s the gateway to the perfecting of your craft of living and to the future that you desire.  Get clear with respect to what you believe and refuse to tolerate whatever is holding you back.  Your personal kryptonite.  Whether it’s a belief, a behavior, a mindset or a relationship is irrelevant.  Get rid of it.  When you get down to the core of why you’re stuck, you’re going to find that once you deal with deconstructing the reasons for how you got there and what the story is that is keeping you there, the momentum to get going on better personal practices will already have started to generate.  Then, it’s a matter of finding the right support, setting up some accountability and being compassionate and caring towards yourself.  You’re a sacred being and you should treat yourself with the utmost of care, compassion, integrity and respect. 

If you are struggling and feel overwhelmed, reach out.  The world is full of connections that can support your growth and your quest to optimize your life.  Keep us in mind, too.  We’re here to help. 

Off and On

For many families during Covid-19, the new version of normal means that school and work have both come home.  While it might save a little bit on the fuel and the dry cleaning bills, it’s presented an impromptu case study in “How to Function Under Enhanced Stress”.  Parents have lost the support of care and education in the form of childcare and schools.  There are actually now virtual babysitters and virtual teachers, therapists and tutors.  The division of labor just isn’t the same.  Now, resources can be accessed.  But they are all in the virtual space. 

We don’t DO life virtually.  Not only do many people work in factories, offices and stores, but many of them work with teams that are normally out in the field or off on the road and are supported by a back office with administrative support, product support and technical support.  We’re used to having dedicated space for almost every activity of our lives from childcare, education, healthcare, home, and professional activities to hobbies, personal development and other forms of recreation.  The road used to separate these roles for us and sort them pretty neatly into whatever blocks made our lives run.  The school day, the work day, personal time… these were all a thing until Covid-19. 

Now- two people are trying to work, educate their kids and care for them, their home and themselves all in the same space.  And it’s hard to leave for a break!  Oh, sure.  You can get your groceries delivered and see your colleagues on Zoom.  Some stuff works okay.  But if you have young or special needs children, you have already experienced the vortex of EVERYTHING that has landed on the home front.  School might be virtual.  Or on campus.  Or a hybrid.  But you’ve got to keep up with safety and health precautions and educate those kids.  Work might have dried up completely due to some businesses folding under the stress of Covid-19 mandated closures.  Or it might have doubled or tripled if you’re an essential worker taking care of health, retail and safety clients.  One things’ for sure, even if roles have shifted and the division of labor is different, there’s plenty to accomplish and less than ever in the way of resources for most folks to get it all done. 

Amassing wins in 2020 might feel more like keeping your kids healthy and safe and keeping your household finances and marriage intact than gaining that promotion or working through those benchmarks from the earlier part of the year.  That’s okay.  They still count.  Covid-19’s impacts may not have been anticipated, but most of us are old hands at dealing with the fallout by this time, even if we’re feeling more of the wear and tear as we come around the shifting seasons into the fall months facing the prospect of renewed resources needing to be allocated for work, school and relational health and harmony.  Sorting through the tasks, roles and responsibilities that have to be performed under abnormal circumstances and significant duress can feel taxing, overwhelming or even impossible.  The thing IS, we’ve still got some distance to go…

Take stock.  Some families have trimmed their list of things to do on all fronts and September is as good a time as any to redo the list again.  With school and work coming IN for many of us with more intensity, everybody has got some sorting to do.  Work time, rest time, personal time, parenting time, friend time, creative time, cooking time, cleaning time, childcare time, budgeting time… decide what the categories are for your household and decide where to place the added emphasis of “this has GOT to get done”.  Extra energy being sucked up at work?  Kids need extra assistance with school?  Maybe that toxic frenemy has GOTTA go.  List out your “to do” majors for each day. 

If you’re not motivated by a list, get yourself WHATEVER motivates you and use it.  Vision board?  Writing time?  Friend time?  Couples time?  Feed yourself whatever you need with respect to self care in order to be optimal in terms of fulfilling your roles.  Also, as long as there’s trimming to be done- it’s time to give the side eye to toxic time wasters.  They’re kind of like yeast- they enhance their footprint in your life, even after being beaten down. If you continue to drink, drug, gamble, game, act out sexually through porn or shop…  just be aware that stress is high, so investing in moderation will be more difficult. 

Give yourself the gift of an honest assessment in determining if your stress busters serve their intended purpose or if they’re the existential equivalent of highly processed food- do they cost more, taste worse and enhance your felt sense of joy less?  It could save your some heartache now AND later to ditch them.  Don’t get me wrong.  We all have a few distractions.  But if they’re destructive, better substitutes are in order. 

Which brings me to some of the best advice that I’ve ever gotten and it was from my seventh grade social studies teacher, who said: “when I was in college, I made sure that when I worked, I didn’t think about the party later that night… and when I was at the party, I enjoyed myself and didn’t worry about the test tomorrow… when I worked, I worked.  When I played, I played.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in those couple of statements that I missed as a teen.  Being discrete, insofar as possible, in your roles is one of the keys to managing felt stress.  If you’re worried about the kids, the house and the spouse while your boss wants your attention on Zoom, it’s going to be hard.  If you’re worried about your budget during the evening care routine with your littles, you’re not going to be IN the moment with them.  At least not in a good way.

With everything tumbled all together into the home space right now, it’s sometimes necessary to conflate things for a moment and there.  Toddlers are making their Zoom debuts during meetings with bosses and clients.  Spouses are cycling household laundry while busting out that report after the kids have gone to bed.  Teens are figuring out how to connect the dots socially and academically in the absence of school classrooms, sports fields and teachers.  Resist the temptation to assimilate everything.  One big LUMP of life taken all together in a single moment is heavy, stressful and unproductive.  One mission, moment, role and task at a time- carefully traded and mindfully executed, will yield reduced stress and better deliverables on all fronts.  It’s worth thinking about what Mrs. Clardy said one afternoon way back in 1980.  I think you’ll agree that she had a point.  If we heed it, it will serve us well. 

It’s IN There!

Have you ever heard of the phrase: “it’s in there…”?  Prego brand spaghetti sauce famously used it to promote the idea that their jar of red sauce had all of the good ingredients, methodology and spices of a homemade brand.  In the whackadoodle model of advertisements as the social proof of that era, someone representing a consumer entered the scene and spoke up for the value of a product in a brand’s lineup.  It wasn’t real, it was a representation or a type of what the advertiser imagined that one neighbor endorsing their product to a friend or acquaintance would look like.  As it turns out, most of the prepared food products being hawked on television radio and in magazines didn’t live up to the hype behind their campaigns.  They weren’t the “real thing”. 

The thing about many of the products on the shelves back then is that their ingredients weren’t all listed.  The laws were later amended to make leaving out details like unattractive ingredients, preservatives and chemical additives more difficult to disguise, but it’s an ongoing back-and-forth between mass producers of consumable food products and government agencies acting to require reasonable disclosures. 

Sometimes LIFE can feel like that list of mysterious ingredients that parade in order of descending quantities on the labels of our food.  It’s always a little disconcerting to read that the first two ingredients in your favorite soup starter are 1) salt and 2) monosodium glutamate.  Or that the fat that’s now OUT of your baked goods was replaced by sugar.  (Excuse me while I squick out a little bit here…  bleh!)

The things that we have to get done every day can be like those lists of ingredients on the prepared foods lining the aisles of our grocery stores and warehouses.  Some of that stuff is hard to recognize, pronounce or even account for!  Maybe the “run the kids to school” routine started with an “up-eat-dress-brush teeth-out the door” series of steps when they were in pre-k or elementary school.  Odds are, by the time they made it to middle school, particular brands of toothpaste/ breakfast foods/ favorite drinks/ grooming products were added to the lineup.  Lunch money or sack lunch gave way to who they were going to sit with and what choices were on offer at the pop-up food boutique on school grounds or their favorite fast food pit stop.  Maybe you once knew all of their appointments, assignments, friends, frenemies and teachers. 

Now, though?  Well, it’s all there.  It’s accessible through the online portal for whatever the homework and policy data are from the school.   After hunting, reading and trying to parse some of the “officialese” in the communications, parents are free to send an e-mail, an e-message or make an e-ppointment to clear up any confusion or address any concerns.  Information that plots their performance academically may be available, but it isn’t the whole picture. 

It requires some interpretation.  Social function and wellbeing within the peer groups and meta-groups may be harder to come by and impossible to parse accurately.  Because the way that your middle schooler or teen feels about their lived experience is vastly different than the way that you might have felt about your own.  Or that you anticipated that they would feel.  It’s the mystery ingredient thing again.  More stuff to account for.  And your kids don’t come with a complete label, so you have to use your own faculties to stay on top of things.

Curiosity helps to open the door for communication with kids and with the other people sharing space with us.  It’s an essential tool because it’s the only way to create a safe space where others can share with us a portion of what they are experiencing.  Their felt experience.  Parents can only reasonably compensate for what they can discern, intuit and know based on their own experiences and on the quality and quantity of communication and interaction with their kids. 

Of course, this is applicable to relationships that are personal, professional and based on other interests such as hobbies, missions and passions.  Connection depends on an ongoing sending and receiving that begins with the creation of a safe space through the use of simple, nonjudgemental curiosity.  That’s a dynamic that can help with bosses, kids, spouses.  Even with self-awareness, self-discovery and self-management.

So- for any area of our lives over time- curiosity can help us to discover what is ACTUALLY in there.  Because we all know that the ingredients on the label may not be complete, or in the quantities listed or with the nutritional values stated.  This is as true of humans in their roles as it is of consumer products.  Remember the “caution” statements?  Those of us who’ve been alive forever remember when warning labels appeared for the first time on a host of consumer products, including appliances, cigarettes, machinery, laundry detergents, machinery and medications. 

Side effects, statements summarizing possible harm in the event of misuse and other “oh no” possibilities were all listed.  With materials in chemical, industrial and manufacturing settings, there’s a Material Data Safety Sheet or more standardized Data Safety Sheet that specifies handling, hazards and other helpful information.  Labels don’t give us everything that we need to know, certainly.  But in consumables, food and other materials, they’re a good way to satisfy safety standards and it’s good to be curious enough to use them. 

Finding out what’s in us, our colleagues, family and friends is essential information to have on hand,  When stress is high, it’s good to have a sense of the normal operation of an app, a consumable, a person, a product or an organization.  It can tell us at what points stressors may cause compromised function or even critical loss of function.  We’ve all been in situations where we WISH we hadn’t said that dumb thing because it happened to be the wrong moment or just the wrong person to vent that particular emotion to. 

Like- the employee who had eternally been on Zoom meetings and was trying to leave at 4:30 sharp for an appointment when her boss wanted her on ONE MORE meeting.  The text she meant for a colleague venting about her “insane boss: went to her boss by mistake.  Ouch.  So curiosity is key to knowing the context.  Because people as well as products operate within a range of conditions.  Knowing that and applying it will save a lot of frustration.  If Prego’s “it’s in there” campaign of yesteryear taught us nothing else, it taught us that people can SAY anything.  But real experience and information is everything. 

What are you curious about with respect to you own relationships and roles?  Where are your conditions allowing for optimum functioning?  Or- do you need a little help discovering what’s IN there and getting things situated so that YOU can function at your best?  Call one of our compassionate coaches for a free consultation.  We’re happy to journey with you on your path of discovery!