Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are You Leading or Managing Your Life?

My husband and I had a great conversation this morning about the difference between leading and managing. We tend to think of work when we use the terms leader and manager but they aren't really positions they are attitudes that actually apply to every aspect of life.

When we are leading we are more concerned with the what and why of whatever we are involved in whereas when we are managing we are more into the when and how. These questions afford two very different perspectives and tend to lead us in very different directions in terms of what we end up doing and how we experience it.

Do you ever take a moment to really stop and ask yourself what am I doing and why am I doing it? Or do you tend to be more task oriented, always trying to figure out how you're going to get stuff done and how fast you can do it? I think there are times where both approaches are useful but if we never stop to inquire as to the what and why of what we're doing we just end up constantly racing around trying to manage our lives instead of really living it in a way that is harmonious, fulfilling and enjoyable.

Managing as the primary modus operandi in life is a very busy and stressful way to get through whatever life presents whereas leading tends to be more directed and focused thus reducing stress and wasted effort.

Personally, I can really feel the difference when I am managing as opposed to when I am leading my life. When I'm easily upset or have a hard time sleeping or feel a lot of internal (or external) pressure to get things done I know I'm in management mode. When I am in the flow and things are getting done with ease and grace and I'm sleeping well I'm usually functioning from leadership.

The question is, have you bothered to check in to see where you're operating from lately (or ever)?

Stop right now, take a big breath and check in with questions like:
  • What am I doing right now and why am I doing it?
  • Am I doing what I love or am I caught up in what I think I should be doing?
  • Is what I'm doing important or what is it the thing that seems the most urgent?
  • Have I considered why I'm doing what I'm doing or am I stuck in automatic?
  • Is there a better way to deal with what is happening?
  • What do I really need right now so that I can be more focused and peaceful?
You get the drift.

Sometimes we just have to stop the insanity and get the larger view. Wondering about the whats and whys of life is one way to do that.

Then we can get on with the when and how with much less stress and anxiety.


Monday, February 18, 2013

From Worry to Wonder to Inspired Action

Alternatives to Dead End Mind Habits

Do you find yourself caught up in repetitive worry thoughts or complaints quite regularly? I’ve noticed that excessive worry and complaining are kind of kissing cousins in that they often both have their roots in feelings of powerlessness and frustration. They are also major energy drains that don’t tend to get us what we really want either. 

Is there a place in your life where there is often a great deal of frustration? Because sometimes it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially in long standing situations, there can be a sense of hopelessness as well. Hopelessness and powerlessness are often expressed in worry thoughts that loop endlessly. You might also find yourself complaining a lot, either in your own head or to anyone who will listen. 

Worry and complaint are very common and normal ways of expressing frustration. There’s nothing inherently wrong with complaining or worrying; they just aren’t very effective in terms of resolving issues or creating change when they go unchecked. On the other hand I’ve noticed that when I get caught up in complaining or worrying about something, there’s actually an opportunity being presented. When I go beyond the surface and pay attention to what is driving the worry or complaint, I usually become aware of the real need that I have undoubtedly at some point decided could not be fulfilled.

For example, when I find myself worrying or complaining in my own head about how I’m going to look after my mother’s needs when I am particularly busy, there is usually an idea behind the worry that says something like ‘I am not enough’ or ‘I have to do everything myself’ or ‘nobody cares’ or ‘there’s no way out’, etc, etc. That kind of thinking is usually accompanied by feelings of sadness or fear. By taking some full, rounded breaths and shifting my focus from the worry thoughts to the feelings I am experiencing in my body, I break the repetitive pattern that my thoughts have been creating. The shift is from thinking about what is happening to being present to what I am actually experiencing; two very different activities. 

Being present to what I am experiencing in the moment helps me to see beyond the endlessly looping worry thoughts. When I see what’s really going on I can actually question the thoughts I’ve been trapped in and more often than not I realize they aren’t the ‘truth’ but rather what I believe about myself or my situation. A belief is just one way of seeing a thing, it isn’t the truth about it. 

Did you know that there are hundreds of millions of bits of data available to us at any given moment and that the human mind is only aware of about 2000 of them? In other words there’s a lot going on right where we are that we aren’t even aware of, including a different way of seeing what is going on as well as an almost infinite number of ways of resolving any issue. Wow! 

By getting out of the looping thoughts and realizing I’ve been locked into a particular point of view that isn’t working for me I am then free to open my eyes and look around at what else might be possible. I call this the wonder phase. Shifting from worry to wonder is like going from being trapped in a dark cave to suddenly walking out into a sun drenched day. It isn’t an activity that is filled with effort and fear; it is entering into an open and receptive mental state where possibility abounds. There may not be a ready answer in the moment but there is most certainly a much more peaceful and hopeful feeling where there had been doom and gloom a moment before. 

The state of wonder is where new ideas or renewed energy and perspective can then be translated into inspired action. I love the experience of taking inspired action. When I shift from worry to wonder and let go of trying to figure everything out myself I am often wonderfully surprised by solutions I would not have thought of otherwise. Sometimes the solution isn’t necessarily new but the energy around it is. For instance, I might still do the same shopping and laundry and running back and forth to doctors for my mother but it will fit with my schedule and there will be a sense of flow and effortlessness to it instead of resentment and trying to cram everything in.

A shift often happens when I take the time to pay some attention to the complaining I may be caught up in and notice something in me needs a little compassionate attention and understanding. Then I can give myself a moment or two of gentle attention and open to the state of wonder and possibility from which inspired action is born.

Try it, it really is delicious. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dealing with Heartache

I've been pondering affairs of the heart lately, having clients and friends going through particularly difficult times at the moment. Funny how things seem to happen in bunches; all quiet on a certain front for a long time then all of a sudden several people in my life having similar experiences.

Intimate relationships are undoubtedly one of the most challenging areas for many of us. If there is anything lurking under the surface of awareness that needs our attention there probably isn't any better way to bring it to the forefront than through relationship. We usually get caught up in thinking it is about the relationship though so we often miss the opportunity to bring compassionate attention to the real source of the 'problem'. I certainly did for most of my life. I have vivid memories of lots of heartache and pain that bordered on hysterical around my relationships. I had no idea how to deal with what was coming up back then, all I could do was survive, and repeat the same old dynamics over and over with different faces and in different places.

What I have come to realize is that the pain and heartache that come up when a relationship fails or is going through difficult times is more often than not very old pain that is triggered by current events but not rooted in them. It has much more to do with things that happened and what we decided about ourselves and about life before we were 6 or 7 than what is going on today. We had no idea what to do with what was going on when we were small so we filled in the gaps with ideas like 'I must have done something wrong', 'There's something wrong with me', 'I'm not wanted', 'They hate me or they want to hurt me', etc. We all have our own version but they have a similar sentiment. Then we grow up thinking similar thoughts whenever anything reminds us of the traumatic things that happened in the past and we end up reliving the trauma over and over in our minds and bodies. We get so used to it that we think it's just the way it is and have no idea that it isn't the way it is but rather the way we think it is. Two very different things.

The bottom line is that when we are triggered and feeling heartache or heartbreak, it's an amazing opportunity to go back to the real source of the pain, which is within, and bring the compassionate, loving attention that was not available when we first experienced the pain. It's still there, lodged in the body memory, waiting for someone (that'll be you) to acknowledge it, and bring understanding and compassion. It isn't the bad guy! The sweet innocent core of being is just in behind the pain. Don't run or distract yourself from it, move toward it, embrace it, get to know it, question the ideas you have developed about it but love the innocent being behind it. Let the sweetness of that innocence flow through the pain so you can reconnect with it and live from that sweet Essence rather than the facsimile you've developed to get you through the day.

Know that all is well right here and now. Life is bringing you exactly what you need in the moment and you're it.