Monday, November 27, 2017

It's about time

© Can Stock Photo / Violka08

HURRY UP  PLEASE ITS TIME (The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot).

It's the time of year when you can feel the clock ticking right down to the bone. The end of the year. A time for preparations (for the holidays, for the new year) and accounting (for whatever needs to be done before the year ends). A time for hurrying.

I am feeling the pressure more than I usually do, because my work schedule is unusual this year and I won't get the time for reflection and connection that I value in December. If I am to reflect and connect, I will have to do it on purpose, with plans and perhaps with less sleep than I would like. Hurry up, please.

By the time we realize that things are changing, they are often changed. Relationships, habits, and situations are always shifting, and often they do it just outside of awareness. As the year ends, we look around  and do the math. When was the last time you saw that friend? How does your progress compare to people who aren't around you now? Are you getting there fast enough?

Whether or not you liked 2017, it's almost time to let it go. It's not an option: you have to keep moving forward in time. You might as well keep moving forward in life.  People you care about will change or move. Your work will develop or not. You might get smarter, or at least build a little more awareness of who you want to be. The past goes by fast and the future is already calling.

Take a moment and live in that moment.  Take stock as if you have just landed and everything is fresh and new. Build on what is real and present. It's the only solid ground.

And it's the only time you need.

Monday, November 20, 2017

You have to practice if you want to go in the deep end

© Can Stock Photo / liveslow

I'm beginning to feel like this sign is everywhere.  This week, a marketing expert I respect wrote that people want smaller and smaller chunks of information. To provide value today, package your stuff in little boxes. 

I started out studying poetry, where a few words can be used to tempt someone to dig deep for meaning. Sometimes small packages open up in the reading. 

I even like teaching people to notice and explore the surface. At the beach, skimming along the surface can be fast and fun.

But remember when you were a kid at the pool? It was a big deal to swim well enough to be allowed in the deep end. You only got there by working and risking. You could only brave the heights of the diving board when you were capable of navigating the depths of the water.

When you want to be one of the big kids, you have to break through the surface and explore the air above it and the waters below.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How do you play a waiting game?

© Can Stock Photo / Evgeniy_p
When we had small children and busy schedules, my husband would say "cherish dull moments."

But moments can stretch and become uncomfortably long. I teach in a system that has been on strike for about 5 weeks. The end may or may not be in sight, and even if it is, the results of the waiting are unpredictable. For me, it is not a matter of life or death, but it does impact my ability to plan for my business and my life. I don't know if I'll get paid again or when. I don't know how I will manage a too-heavy schedule with few breaks. I don't know when I will decide it's time to make a change, since life is risky either way.

Does this sound familiar? On any given day, many of the people you encounter are playing a waiting game for something not quite predictable and possibly unpleasant. While I've been waiting out the strike, I've been observing the way waiting influences my states and choices. Here are three things I have been doing to stay focused on what I want while trapped in the hallway of life:
  1. Make tangible progress where you can. I've set up a plan for new programs, scheduled the first of them, and gone through them with my team. Whatever does or does not happen, I can point to these courses as things that started while I was waiting. I've also cleaned and reorganized all my kitchen cupboards.
  2. Be mindful of your state. Notice the signs of stress as they show up in your thoughts and your body (especially when you would rather be sleeping). Label these as signals that waiting is stressful. Accept and be gentle with yourself (and maybe with the people around you).
  3. Create interruptions by connecting deeply with other people. There's nothing that uses so much of your brain as being fully present and engaged with others. When you dive into a connection with all your best stuff, you create a break in the endless internal dialogue about what comes next.
  4. When in doubt, watch a good video, listen to a podcast, or read a good book. Learning makes everything better.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Pick five words that describe the way you want to experience your life

The people who study emotions tell us that there are six basic emotions: joy, surprise, fear, anger, sadness and disgust.  If you believe them, then most of your emotions are unpleasant.  This is how people have written about emotions for hundreds of years: as if they pull us down into the mud. The better way to live, the reasoning went, was like Spock in Star Trek. All decisions would be made better by reason alone.

Now we know that people with no access to emotions have a hard time making any decisions at all. It turns out that emotions are a complex signalling system that allow us to know very quickly that our brains have recognized a pattern that might help us or harm us. You can see how all those negative emotions might be useful in this way: they are an early warning system that might allow us to avoid danger, or at least to recognize it when it's all around us.

This is important if you believe that the goal of the human being is to persist, to stay alive. It's certainly a key to understanding how much of our automatic responses work. But that's not the whole story. We don't want to just stay alive; we want to experience our lives as joyful, satisfying, challenging.

© Can Stock Photo / osons

So this week, pick five words that describe how you want to feel. In addition to joy, what words describe the way you want to experience your life? What words describe the way you want to feel?

I guarantee, that after you pick your five words, you'll be more sensitive to how and when those emotions show up in your day.  We don't always get what we aim for. But aiming for a destination makes it much more likely we'll end up there.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to keep your head

© Can Stock Photo / wtamas

We're one day away from Halloween and you're probably surrounded by images of heads that have become separated from bodies. If you're lucky, you're not also surrounded by coworkers who are losing their heads.

Since you probably already know how to lose your head (at least under pressure), here are three reminders of how to keep it:
  1. Your head should be continuous with your body. That means staying aware of your physical needs for food, rest, exercise and touch (yes - I said touch. People are social creatures and a hug will often reconnect a lost head).
  2. Your  body and your head should be moving in the same direction. You need to walk your talk when you want to keep your head. Integrity is a sure way to reconnect the head you are afraid you are losing.
  3. Phone a friend. Better yet, go find a friend and talk in person. Putting your concerns into words will stabilize them and telling them to a friend will add both comfort and perspective.
When you're losing your head, it's hard to keep it together. You'll be tempted to avoid real connection (you'll talk at people instead of with them) and to avoid your body (sleep deprivation makes it easier to pretend that your mind and body can function separately). People who have lost their heads are also separated from their strong memory of what they value, so it's harder for them to walk their talk. 

The best way to ensure that you can keep your head is to keep it. Stay connected to your body, to your values and to your friends in good times, and you'll find that you are able to stay connected during catastrophes and other distractions.