These Three Things Block Success More Than Anything Else

Comparison, competition and perfection - the trifecta for failure. And what to do about them. 

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Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

By Cindy Yantis

All three of these beauties – Comparison, Competition and Perfection - present themselves to me often, in varying degrees, one at a time, or when things are really fun they show up at my door as the three Witches of Eastwick, taking up residence in my castle, car, computer, office, dialogue and of course the mind, wreaking havoc, getting wild and basically controlling everything.

This is the way the Trifecta works. Each of them has their own bag of tools and spells designed to accomplish one thing: to keep us in place, safe from harm (getting hurt, rejected or dismissed). Their nutrients are fear, shame, disappointment, disillusionment, frustration and regret. And as long as we serve up these goodies our unwelcome guests are never going to leave the party and they block the door so we can never leave either.

Comparison Robs Us

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

A brilliant actress friend of mine was up for the role of a lifetime. It’s a role she'd wanted since she was a child and she had a great shot at it. After receiving a callback she found out she was one of only a handful of others called back. So, unable to stop herself, she began Googling (Yep, Google is in the Trifecta’s toolkit). She looked up the other actresses also up for the role and then unwittingly gave her cursor over to Comparison. And, as we so often do, she could only see what they possessed that she thought she didn’t. She lost the part before even walking in the door to the callback.

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” Iyanla Vanzant

I fished out the email I’d sent to her at the time, because this is what we do for each other as friends, we provide that soft place to land and then give a boost up so they can look in the mirror. Believe me, she's done the same for me. 

Here’s what I said: “What you bring to the table is so unique and wonderful and completely different than anyone else. There's NO ONE like you. You bring your YEARS of experience and expertise and talent and skill, in a way that no one else does. No one can compare or compete with that. It doesn't matter what their resume looks like (or anything else for that matter). Truly. At this stage of the game, you're in the room with very experienced actresses. That's where you want to be. If you just focus on that, then you'll stay on your A-game. Let them play their game and you play yours. And, don't allow them to rob you of your experience by giving them your time and energy; it gives your power away.”

This comes up for me as I follow brilliant writers who have published numerous books and I think I can’t possibly hold a candle to that at this point. A myriad of reasons (food for Comparison) present themselves: I’m too old, it’s too late, they’re better, smarter, prettier (not sure why but this comes in too but it does), braver, you name it I’ve projected it.

But, here’s the thing. When you compare yourself against others, you’ve given away your power to something outside of yourself. 

Comparison leads to judgment, which almost always leads to self-judgment.

Let's Reframe Comparison

Take a moment to think about reframing comparison. Look at what you admire about the other. Pay a brief and silent homage to that person’s success.

Empowerment coach Andrea Quinn, says, “Until you’re able to appreciate and honor the other’s success you won’t have the space to do it for yourself.” That’s how debilitating comparing yourself to others can be. It locks you in the deep freeze of your own prison. The first step to unlocking it for yourself is to appreciate the other.

Then, look in your own mirror. Dig deep and acknowledge what strengths and talents you bring to the party.  What are you serving at the table? What do you do that you know in your core gives you an edge as you?

Competition is a close bedfellow.

Now, certainly there’s something to be said for understanding your marketplace, or "competition" as marketers like to say. Knowledge is power when it’s used as information that serves you. But, when Competition is fed with all of those things we listed above at your self-defeating party, then it’s a blocker and not a helper.

Funny, the idea of competition came up recently as I was driving to an appointment. In the middle of the canyon with winding roads, I was minding my own business when suddenly the car behind me – a Honda with a thick front bumper guard – was on my tail, honking and trying to push me faster. Stop signs and other traffic didn’t matter; this guy was trying to be a force. In the past it would have stressed me out because I would try to please and play by his rules. This time, I surrendered to the metaphor and found it really interesting how much he was trying to get ahead. I thought, Dude, I’m going at my own speed, in my lane, you’ll just have to deal.

[Related: Pick a Lane, Follow the Road Baby]

Then, when we were on a wider thoroughfare I found myself competing with him. I played a game, trying to get ahead and around him, beating him through a light or slowing down on purpose to piss him off.

I caught myself and laughed out loud. It got me thinking about how much focus I was giving to his journey and not my own. I was literally giving this other annoying driver all of my attention. So, I stopped, slowed down my breath and focused on where I was going at my own speed, which to be honest was slower and more steady.

Pretty soon I forgot about him only to be aroused a few moments later by a series of loud beeps several cars behind me. Sure enough it was the Honda guy with the front bumper guard, torturing some other driver who was in his way. It struck me that people like him often need a protective bumper; they’ll keep running into or barreling over obstacles along the way. Awesome, if that works for them. But, that’s not the way I roll. So, why was I trying to compete with him? We both seemed to be on the same road, going in a similar direction, but we each have different purpose and reasons for doing so. In truth, I had no interest in where he was going.

When we focus on our competition we can lose sight of our own purpose.

Competition can foster copycat thinking and actions rather than originality and authenticity based on your own gifts and magic. When you lose those you lose yourself.

“Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” Lau Tzu

Let's Reframe Competition

When you realize that no one makes it alone, often aligning or collaborating with those forging similar paths can sometimes bolster you and inspire you to keep going toward your own goals, dreams and desires. Then you have a community rather than a field of competition. That feels pretty good. Seek out those who have done what you want to do. Learn from them, partner with them, help each other and all the while, forge your own way.

Nobody has your magic sauce. Remember that. Get back to your own self worth.

Then, there’s Perfection

Perfection is the lurker, the wallflower at the party. Perfection can be the non-starter that keeps you from engaging in life all together.

I know so many incredibly talented people who are brilliant at what they do – in their own rooms. They re-do it, edit it, start over, keep polishing, get feedback and then start it all over again. All the while robbing the world of their gifts.

Trust me, I’ve been there. A lot. Just one more pass, then I’ll send it out. It just needs something…and then it will be ready. I will be ready when it’s perfect.

Perfection keeps us playing small. And, that’s not doing anyone any good.

Brene Brown says perfectionism is “a 20-ton shield. We carry it around thinking it’s going to protect us from hurt. But, it protects us from being seen.”

Yikes.

Progress not perfection

When we think of our work as progress rather than perfection, when we release it into the world it takes the pressure off of trying to be perfect. It’s a work in progress. We are a work in progress.

[Related: 6 Reasons Why Progress, Not Perfection]

Say it with me, fellow perfectionists. “I am a work in progress.”

Hmmm. Look around. The sky didn’t fall, the world kept spinning and guess what? People will only notice that you’ve stepped a bit more into your light, which allows them to give themselves permission to do the same thing. And, that's a gift that keeps on giving. 

So, our lovely little Trifecta of failure, reframed becomes a…

Trifecta of Purpose and Success:

Comparison becomes Appreciation, Gratitude & Self-Acknowledgment.

Competition becomes Collaboration, Community & Self-Respect.

Perfection becomes a Work-in-Progress & Self-Trust.

Now, that’s a trio worth inviting to the party and taking along for the ride.


Mastering The Art of Fear

 How to allow fear to work for you instead of against you.

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Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash 

By Cindy Yantis

I think about fear a lot. I mean, at times we all do, right? Lately it's been a very loud companion as I dig deeper into writing my memoir. No matter the situation, whenever it shows up I run the gamut in my relationship with fear. I see it, dread it, fight it, am pissed off at it, run from it, cry with it and am utterly fascinated by it for the never-ending lessons and conversations that derive from it. 

Recently I listened to Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast when she and guest co-host, Martha Beck interviewed author Glennon Doyle. They were discussing Glennon's extremely raw bestselling memoir, LOVE WARRIOR, which is sitting next in my Kindle queue. I'm an admirer of all three women and their work. This was a great interview where they delved into a wide range of topics centering on their commitments to being completely truthful in the expression of their stories and the way that stretched and freed them.

I was listening in my car and suddenly realized I kept exhaling, loudly, and my whole body was vibrating, my stomach like the engine room of the Titanic. Honestly, their conversation scared the sh*t out of me as I wade tender-footed into the pool of my own stories, uncovering little places where I've been hiding, often in plain sight, fearful of how it might be received. It was big. And, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time because this fear of expressing my deep truths to someone other than my cats, often has me paralyzed. 

When I sat feeling the bigness, what I discovered led to a more expansive aha: this engine in my belly, this fire that made me exhale like a dragon, is a fuel, an ammunition if you will, like I haven't experienced in a long time. Like it goes deep and wide, echoing back decades, the kind of echo you hear in canyons and see when you look at your reflection in a house of mirrors. The truth is, this reverberation has been growing louder for a while now.

[As an aside, although it's not really an aside because it's such a big part of my story, I've been on a 30-day cleanse, eating only clean food. The intense vibration I felt I couldn't feel before because I was numbing out on an addiction to sugar and overeating. Now, I could actually FEEL the raw fear in my belly which turned into food for my soul and fuel for my work when before I was feeding emotions that numbed me from feeling anything else. It feels incredible, honestly.] 

I had lunch with a friend recently and we got into a great discussion about fear. He said he believes fear drives everything, good and bad. It's a constant no matter what. I think there's truth to that.

And, it got me thinking about how mastering fear rather than fighting or trying to conquer it might turn fear into an ally instead of an opponent. It's like mastering an art form; at times you feel the art might kill you, until you reach a place of working with the art, willing the art, arriving at the mastery of the art. Could it be the same with fear? 

The famed music producer Jimmy Iovine in HBO'S THE DEFIANT ONES said things turned the corner for him early in his career when "fear became a tailwind rather than a headwind." What a game-changing shift in mindset! When fear is a headwind, getting in your way, it can be so strong that it keeps you in place, stagnant, stuck or pushes you entirely away from what you want. It can feel like fear has a power of its own.

When fear is fuel for intention it's the tailwind that catapults you forward. Gary Zukav said in SEAT OF THE SOUL, "Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by intention...your intention creates your reality." When intention is aligned with your fear-turned-into-fuel it's a very powerful forward momentum.

The game-changer is the knowledge that we are the ones controlling our fear, not the other way around. 

I had a friend a few years ago who used to say when she was afraid of doing something it made her feel truly alive, to go into the fear and do it anyway. 

That can be called many things: courage, bravery, boldness. They all give fear a new role in the game. 

Invite fear to be your partner, to work with you instead of against you. Is it a fear of rejection or of failure or of success that you have? If you take fear by the hand and move forward with it into each of those arenas, you take control and allow fear to morph and transform into passion and action.

Put your fears, as kindling, into the fire of your own engine. Then, just watch what happens. It could create the tailwind you've been waiting for. 

 


Here's What Happens When You're Not Being Present

And, what to do about it so you are.

  Grocery store

Big weekend plans were looming, with house-guests and an event that’s been a year in the planning. Everything coming together. Ticking off the to-do list, with still-needing-to-be-done phone calls and emails and conversations rolling around in my head and a ball of nerves in my gut. But, I’m gettin’ it done. I think.

A couple days beforehand I head to the grocery store to get stocked up, and I take time to fill a beautiful cart with necessities and delectables including a lush mint plant. I smile as I picture serving fresh mint water to my guests. 

I get to the cash register. “Oh, I don’t have my wallet,” I say, with a bit of a panic rushing into my voice as I dig through my purse. It's never not in my purse.

“Is it in your car?” the helpful cashier asks. I try to think of the last time I used it. The mind is blank. But wait, I can write a check. I forget about my checkbook because who writes checks anymore.

“Yes,” she says. So I write the check. “Oh, but I need your ID,” she says sweetly.

“It’s in my wallet,” I say flatly. (sorry but adverbs are kind of key in this story) Meanwhile, I’m answering texts and she’s bagged up my gorgeous groceries into my favorite shopping bag (it has lemons on it so you get how special it is). Seriously, I feel like Martha Stewart with my perfect bag of yummy goods, with the mint leaves cascading over the top. So, I run out to my car to look, while she holds the line for me.

Sure enough, there’s the wallet, sitting lazily on the front seat.

Out of breath, I pay for the groceries, while the lovely people in line behind me wait patiently. The cashier tells me to have a better day and I roll the cart happily to my car, my lemon bag bouncing along inside the cart. One more thing to check off my list. I start the car and drive off, my head already at home, making dinner and following up on stuff for the event.

I pull into the driveway, and you’ve probably guessed, I left that gorgeous bag of groceries. In the cart. In the parking lot. Twenty minutes away. Of course, I sit in my driveway and call the store. After five minutes someone finally answers (seriously five minutes) and the woman, her name was Angel (truly), is so kind and looks all over that parking lot and store for my pretty lemon-enhanced bag. Of course, it's not there.

I was so mad! First and foremost at myself. How could I do that? I mean, I was really beating myself up. What an idiot! What a waste of time and money! Then, I got mad at whoever took it. Couldn't they see what a special bag it was and that it surely meant something to the person who owned it? I mean, who does that?

And, then that’s when I took a breath. Who does that? Who takes a bag of groceries that clearly someone forgot?

Someone who needs it, that’s who. I have to believe that my beautiful bag of deliciousness went home with someone who could really use it. A friend of mine said, “Someone who didn’t need the groceries would have rolled the cart back into the store so that whoever left them could come back and get them.” She’s so right. Another friend shed a beautiful light on it when he said, “You made a donation to someone you don’t know and will never receive thanks for it. How great is that?” He’s also right. He now asks, “Did you stop at the store where you made a donation?” I love that.

It got me thinking about how un-present I was. I wasn’t at all present. In my head, I was 20 miles and three days away from that parking lot when I got into the car and drove off.

Then, get this. The next morning I put on my makeup. Twice. I was 10,000 miles away from my bathroom, in some other mental stratosphere adding to my to-do list. So I applied my makeup a second time, not realizing it until I was almost done. Sure, my makeup looked great, but I was a mess. Later the same day I walked off and left my keys at the office.

I. Was. Not. Present. Not even in the vicinity of being in the Now.

There's an even deeper reveal here - the real lesson - not only was I not being present with myself and what was in front me, I wasn’t being mindful. At all. My head wasn't in the game, which never results in a winning proposition. And it only makes sense that if I'm not being mindful while putting groceries in my car and putting on my makeup, where else am I being mind-less?

Being mindful is the action of being present. To be deliberate and mindful in all of one’s actions is to be fully present, in the now.

So, my friends, learn from my stumble… Here's how I came back. 

Take a moment - just stop.

Pay attention - to what's in front of you.

Get present - not tomorrow, a week from now, or 10 minutes away. Get in the here and now.

And, be mindful. Mindful while making coffee, mindful while eating, mindful while paying for groceries and loading in the car, mindful in conversations and relationships and most importantly, be mindful with yourself. Really pay attention to each action and moment.

Be mindful toward every thing and everything. 

Oh, and when I went back to the store - because I still had to stock up - I asked for a new bag with lemons on it, 'cause it's still my favorite. And, when I told the cashier what had happened to the previous one, just because it made a good story, she gave it to me for free. Actually she gave me two. So, I'm thinking I made out on that deal, mindfully.

 


Listen to Your GPS: You Just Might Learn Something

Walking path
Photo by Julien Lux on Unsplash

By Cindy Yantis

It was the umpteenth time I’d driven to Los Angeles International Airport in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in LA. And, in all those times I’d never taken the route Google Maps took me recently. It was a winding path that led me down streets and through sections of the city that were entirely new to me.

Previously I’d stuck to habitual routes, commonly known directions or the straight shot, even when traffic was abominable.

I laughed at how often I second-guessed the navigation system, overriding the guidance, thinking I knew better, so that whatever GPS I was following had to constantly recalibrate.

So, this time I decided to go with it, even as I retorted to Google: “Really? Are you sure about that?” To which she said, “In 1000 feet, turn left on Crenshaw.” “Okay, let’s see,” I said, still thinking I was going to outsmart her.

She guided me down small streets then back onto previously trusted thoroughfares only to within moments take me off the beaten path again. At one point she said, “Due to congestion ahead, I have another route that will save you four minutes? Interested?” (Really she did). In the past I would have ignored the suggestion and kept on my way, because I knew better or didn’t trust that she really knew what she was talking about. But, this time I was intrigued. So I said okay. Sure enough, I got there earlier and felt gratified that I’d learned something new that day.

I also noticed another important thing. I was completely engaged in the journey. The new way I was being shown really woke me up. Rather than operating by rote or by habit I was fully present with the guidance. Hmm.

It got me thinking about how often we ignore guidance, inner or otherwise. Even after we’ve asked for help or guidance or direction, we ignore or second-guess the answers that come. We brush off that little inkling, the soft whisper of a suggestion because we’ve never done it that way before, or because one of any number of fears creep up and tell us it will be wrong or not good enough or too hard. Or it’s the old, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Well, sometimes even if it ain’t broke there could be another, better way, a way that will flow if we only give it a chance.

What I can say about listening and following the guidance I was given (and asked for), is it was easy, smooth, interesting and surprising calm.

A few days later, to continue the experiment, I completely surrendered again to the GPS guidance for another jaunt across town. It was all I could do not to go the familiar way. Truth was, I wanted help on the best way to get there during morning rush hour for an early morning meeting. So I asked for guidance. Twice, when I knew the guided route would lead to a busy intersection without a light, I stayed on the “proven” path. Actually spoke out loud, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Only to be then stopped in a ridiculous traffic jam. Okay, okay, I said. I’ll try it your way. And, even though there wasn’t a light where she had me turn left, it was much faster and got me smoothly though the area.

Okay, lessons learned. The same lessons apply when it comes to listening to your own guidance, whether it’s someone else’s advice or your inner voice.

Ask for help and let go of preconceived notions. Sometimes there are experts and people with experience who know better.

Listen to your own inner voice or higher power. So often it’s the inner GPS guide that we ignore, that powerful voice of wisdom and inner truth.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the right message coming through because of all of the chatter coming at you, all the time. I had a conversation with a wise friend awhile back when I was feeling particularly stressed with all I had in front of me. I was amped up and shut down. She said, “I think you’re getting too much input. Taking in too much information.” She was so right. I was taking in so much information from so many directions that I couldn’t hear my own guidance to make my right choices.

At the end of the day that’s the most important voice and guide you’ll hear.

The answer for me after that conversation was to quiet the chatter, all of it, for a while. I took a break from input, got back to meditating and journaling and took a good long breath. Then, I could hear the whispers of truth that guided me.

So, perhaps give your GPS system a break and listen. You just might wake up and forge a new path.


These Words Can Change Your Mindset

 

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By Cindy Yantis

I recently reconnected with an old friend with whom I'd been out of touch for several years. She's going through a challenging transition which includes selling her home, something she doesn't want to do, but has to. Interestingly, I went through a similar transition at about the same time we'd last spoken. So, the timing of our phone reconnect all of sudden seemed rather divinely directed. I shared something with her that someone said to me during that time that shifted everything for me. And, when I said the words, she had a very similar reaction.

It got me thinking about how much words, when you hear them at the right time, can shift mindset in an instant.

From a place of boy-have-I-been-there, I shared my experience with her. I was laid off in 2008 and was out of steady work for over two years. I was in a daily struggle to try and keep my house. During that time, my friend and financial advisor, Lisa Gould, was a lifeline of truth. We often discussed various alternatives and on this particular phone call it was a brass tacks breakdown of what it would take for me to, in fact, hang on to the house. And, it literally felt like hanging on for dear life. I loved that house and my identity was ingrained with being its owner, making every little inch of it mine and sharing it with others. It gave my life a meaning that came from years of creating the meaning, by habit, by stories about the American Dream and that home ownership was an integral part of being a successful adult. I felt like a failure if I couldn't keep my home. 

When I discussed all of this with Lisa, during the brass tacks chat, she said, "Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

Wait, what? Say that again, I said. 

"Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

I still remember where I was sitting when I heard those words. Literally everything shifted in my body, my face felt flush and I felt alive, like I had choices. And, what shifted was my mindset.

And, the reason it made such an impact in that moment, is that I was ready to hear it, to receive and to incorporate it. That's when mindset shift happens. You hear or read something just at the moment when you're ready. It wasn't until she said it that I saw that's exactly what I'd been doing: trying like crazy to protect myself from failure.

Protecting yourself from failure is looking over your shoulder, stopping the bleeding with a bandaid that doesn't hold, being in a constant state of shame for fear of what others might think and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's painful and a self-generating cycle of doom. You feel like a loser.

Because here's the thing, since what you focus on expands (another phrase that's a true mindset shifter), protecting yourself from failure focuses your attention on the impending failure. 

Setting yourself up for success is looking forward, cutting your losses and moving on so they're not shackles holding you down. It's knowing that your circumstances don't define you, it's what you do with and about the circumstances, that do. Setting yourself up for success becomes all about intention. When you focus on your intentions for success, then success expands. 

Gary Zukav in The Seat of Soul said, "You create your reality with your intentions." So, if your intention is to protect from failing, then you'll be in that state. And, if your intention is to continually be serving your highest good with your choices which lead to success, then you'll be living in that state. 

Well, that changed everything for me at that time. Literally in that moment, my home became a house, brick and mortar. It removed the emotion which is what was keeping me so attached. The emotion is what linked to the shame and feeling of failure. In a success mindset, it became a transaction that freed me to rebuild. Was it hard? You bet. Short selling my house was a huge financial hit. But, I recognize it as a moment in my life, a circumstance I went through. Once it was done it cut the chains that held me back, in so many ways that went beyond selling the house. Because when your mindset is changed it effects everything.

I remind myself often of Lisa's words. And, when I find myself in a conversation like I had with my old friend, I share them as well. With life's ebbs and flows, this phrase has ongoing benefits in my life. It's one of my mantras now.

Whenever I see Lisa I tell her how profound it was and that it needs to be the subtitle of her book! 

What words or phrases have shifted your mindset? Make them a mantra and share them with others. It's the best way to not only expand your own life, but expand and raise the collective consciousness as well.

 


Want to Grow? Look Beyond What You Know

There's so much there to find.

Edge of waterBy Cindy Yantis

The temp read 101 degrees as I pulled into Ralph’s parking lot. It was a challenge as usual to find a parking spot which was further exasperated by the fact that I was hot and didn’t want to walk a mile to the door. So, again as usual, I trekked up and down the rows of parked cars watching for brake lights indicating someone was pulling out.

I turned down the last row, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a ramp. I have no idea why I had never noticed this any of the numerous times I’d been to this grocery store, but today it felt it had been put there just for me. It led to underground parking and as I drove down the ramp it was like finding a secret passage way. I found a spot right by the door so I whipped my Mini Cooper S into place.

I grabbed a cart and rode up the elevator next to a man with a beard and a twinkle in his eye that made me think of Merlin the magician, or a young Professor Dumbledore. I said, “This is the first time I’ve parked down here. It’s like a whole new world.” Without skipping a beat, he said, “a whole new world that’s a whole lot cooler.” Well said, Professor.

It got me thinking about what can happen when you look beyond what you already know, or think you know.

How often do you find yourself thinking something won't work because the thing you tried, failed to make it happen? Or a solution to a problem feels less than satisfactory, but it was the general consensus so it's what you go with? Or you've fallen into a habit or routine that used to work for you but it's lost it's power or value, however you keep doing it because it's what you've always done? Or you just can't figure it out so you quit? Or you can't find something, so you give up?

We've all done it. No judgment here. Heck I didn't even know there was underground parking at a shopping center I've been going to every week for almost two years!

But, what I experienced made me realize - or remember- that there's always another way. There's always something beyond what we already know. There's nearly always another way into it. 

So... Want to grow? Look beyond what you know.

Or simply ask, what else is there? What's beyond what I already know? Take a breath and allow the answer to reveal itself.

Then go there. You never know. Looking beyond what you know could lead to a secret passage way to exactly where you want to be. 

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you've already mastered, you will never grow." Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Related: Here's What It Means to Level Up


The Key to Unlocking the Door to Your Best Life

Do this one thing and it will change the way you live your life. And, it's simpler than you might think.

Key in door
photo by Isabela Kronemberger

By Cindy Yantis

I was going to be seeing some people I hadn’t seen in awhile, a couple of them with whom I shared some history. Enough history that I had some angst about seeing them. Enough so that I started rehearsing dialog in my head days before, playing out various scenarios – some good, some not so good – and rummaging in my closet to decide what to wear so that I looked more at ease than I felt.

Ever been there? Sometimes it can take over and become another character in the room, the character that plays out the scenarios which stops you from being present with what’s really happening in the moment. Stops you from being you.

At a recent women’s retreat I was part of fabulous discussion where we tapped into a notion that flipped a switch for all of us. The idea of being Available. Wha??? Certainly, it's a word we're all familiar with, but this way of thinking about it was new and enthralling.

To get to that aha moment, we acknowledged where in our lives we were not there, where things felt stuck or stagnant or scary. Where we stopped ourselves from moving forward or from having a tough discussion or from asking for what we want/need. Where we had showed up halfway for fear of the not knowing, or where we edited ourselves down to being a fraction of who we are because of wanting to avoid conflict. Where we were trying to control the situation so much that we put others off and eventually lost control in a bigger way.

So we asked, what’s the shift that will change who we are in those circumstances? It’s more than being authentic, although that’s vital too. It’s more than being present. It’s more than being open.  

It’s being actively present and open, which we determined meant being Available.

Being Available means being actively present and open. That unlocked the gateway. Or rather, blasted it wide open!

Then, we gave it voice, which birthed a mantra that carries you boldly into any situation. It literally calms and revs your energy at the time. It centers you, gives you confidence and allows your heart to lead the way. And, being mindfully available is a starter, not a stopper. And, it’s simple.

Follow “I’m available” with whatever you’re about to do, or what you're desiring to make happen.

  • I’m available for this meeting.
  • I’m available for this discussion.
  • I’m available for my next, better job. I’m available for this interview
  • I’m available for, to and in this relationship.
  • I’m available for this phone call.
  • I’m available for this date.
  • I’m available for my body to be healthy.
  • I’m available for and to my best life.

Try it! I’m available…

It makes it even more powerful when you incorporate it into conversation with people. "I'm available to and for creating the best solution for all of us." Taking ownership of your availability is so incredibly empowering. 

Being in a state and mindset of availability allows you to really show up. It can be a baby step toward fulfilling a big goal, or toward conquering a fear. Just be available for the baby step, and just the baby step. Then, the next step and the next. And, when the big opportunity presents itself, you’re ready and AVAILABLE!

Being available - and stating that you're available - helps to release expectations and false foregone conclusions. 

Being available means being undefended, knowing there's nothing you have to defend. Being defensive or defended closes off your availability. You're just available and that's enough. 

Consistently being available makes what seemed impossible much more possible. It removes the chains that have held you back from all that is possible for you.

Thus begins a new way of thinking, of showing up for ourselves and to the world. I do it all the time now and guess what? I'm available!


How to Be Free in Mind, Body & Spirit

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By Cindy Yantis

I've been wondering what our beautiful bald eagle has been thinking lately. Does she worry about her home? Is she afraid for her loved ones? Does she know her species is endangered? Has she had to reframe her sense of freedom? It's been awhile since I've seen an eagle in person, but I recall how easily she took flight and soared, completely in charge of her own air. I imagined how she went about the business of being an eagle, creating the best world she knew how, protecting herself and her species, despite the downturn that continues to take place in her universe.

I can relate. It got me thinking, again, about our own micro-freedoms, and by this I'm taking about freedom of thought, freedom of body and freedom of spirit. To my way of thinking, nurturing these freedoms is the starting point, like putting on your own oxygen mask. 

I'm fascinated about this topic and know that these micro-freedoms lead to an opening, an allowing and a freer way of being.

To honor our micro-freedoms I feel inclined to share three pertinent posts to inspire you.

8 Ways to Re-Create Your American Dream -  George Carlin said, "It's called the American Dream 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it."  Funny irony, for which Mr. Carlin was the master. But, my mindset has changed around the whole concept of this shared national ideal. Or I should say former shared ideal.  Read more for 8 suggestions or areas to free yourself from the old to welcome your new. 

And,

What is Your Personal Sense of Independence?There’s much that we take for granted, living where we live in these great and complicated United States. The freedom to do so certainly started with our forward-thinking founding fathers. They set forth a whole new way of being, and living, with independence.

A true feeling of independence starts with an energy, a force that fuels and permeates a sagacity of human spirit, a spirit that manifests as personal power, something that is at times forgotten or lost in the chaos of the daily grind. To my way of thinking, this personal sovereignty is a combination of both mindset and sense, a combo that reminds us of whom we are meant to be. Let us begin with some core senses or deeper places of wisdom. Read more about 7 senses that form a healthy state of personal independence.

And, one more about a key ingredient to living in a free mind, body and spirit:

Letting Go is a Four-Letter Word - I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is one of the hardest things to do in life, proven by the fact that there are literally thousands of books (328,000 in Amazon alone), articles, seminars and schools of thought on the subject of letting go, available to us hangers-on who at times find it nearly impossible to let go. To my way of thinking, letting go is the greatest way we can honor ourselves, and the only way to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Letting go means taking back control over our emotions, thoughts and actions. Because the truth is, the hanging on, the very root of any attachment, is formed in the mind, so the letting go must take place there as well. So, here are some suggestions for changing our thoughts and creating room for a new way of thinking.

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains. And we never even know we have the key." ~ from the Eagles

Oh, yes we do have liberty, with the keys to the freedom of our minds, bodies and spirits, and no one can take them away from us. 


Here's What it Means to Level Up

And, here are 8 steps to start leveling up in your life.

By Cindy Yantis

Inhale exhale

"Level up!" This was the attention grabber in a recent email I received. 

What is actually said was, "Level up, Libra!" It began the week's horoscope full of "time for a mid-year reboot," and "the new moon will bring a boost to your professional life." Okay, I'm in! 

I love the phrase "level up." Not only is it motivating, but it got me thinking about what that might look like in all areas of life. 

What does it mean to level up?

Simply put, it means to improve your current station in a way that feels like a powerful shift. And, it starts with a change in thought, a shift in mindset, followed by brave action. And, the fuel that drives all of it is Passion.

No sooner had I begun pondering this question when an another email popped into my inbox with the subject line, "Level up the passion in your life." Well, now I'm really paying attention. The email was about a yoga retreat and this Nelson Mandela quote was front and center. 

“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

So, with passion powering us, here are some thoughts about leveling up.

  • Start with the questions - Take time with your journal. In these areas of your life, where do want to step, or leap, to the next level? 
  •     Career/Purpose - stretch your wildest dreams
  •     Health/Wellbeing - get real with where you are and where you want to be
  •     Relationships - current as well as future-desired
  •     Spiritual - where you desire to be more mindful and conscious in connection to your Source & Self
  •     Life Enrichment - skills you want to learn, places you want to travel or live
  • Define the big step - ask yourself what feels like a big step. I took 10 minutes and made a list of 25 actions that feel like big steps for me, in all areas of my life. What is for you? Is it making that phone call you know could change things for you? Or booking a venue for a new program you want to launch? Or asking someone out? Or booking the dream vacation? Or having a difficult conversation? Or going back to school? Or quitting a job that doesn't fulfill you? Or hiring a trainer? Go to the place that scares you. Start your big step from that place.
  • Say YES to the things that feel like a level up - and say NO to those that don't. Some aid you and some stop you. This is where you trust your gut and intuition. When you slow down to listen to the voice of your body, you'll know which is which.
  • Acknowledge the Yeah-Buts - we all have them. These are the fears, which feel real but mostly are imagined. The yeah-buts are simply expectations of outcome that we've made up to protect ourselves from those fears: I'm not good enough, they won't like me, I don't have enough time, I'm too old, it's too expensive, I'm too fat, I'm too young, I don't have enough experience, I don't like to fail. Leveling up is recognizing the yeah-but and then doing it anyway. That's brave. So, meet the yeah-but with -
  • Oh yeah? - it's the self-pep talk to squash the yeah-but. Oh yeah? Here's what I know I am good at. Oh yeah? My people, my divine right matches will love what I have to offer. Oh yeah? I have the time because I make the time. Oh yeah? I'm not old I'm seasoned! I'm not old, I'm wise. Oh yeah? I'm not too young, I'm smart and eager and ready to go. Oh yeah? Here's what experience I do have. Putting the focus on where you rock paves the way to your next level(s).
  • Inhale the future, exhale the past - don't stay stuck in old stories and patterns that have held you back in the past. It didn't work then and it certainly won't work in moving you up.
  • Visualize you - living at your up level. What does it look like, feel like, smell like? How's the air up there? See in your mind's eye a day in the life of you, living your big life.
  • Give someone else a lift up too - offering others a hand up as you level up pays dividends exponentially. It's just good karma.

And, as with all things, do it from and with passion.

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” – Jon Bon Jovi

Passion, joy and love. After all, isn't that what life is all about anyway?

 


How Do You Know When Your Calling Has Called?

By Cindy Yantis

It often comes when you're not expecting it. At least it did for me.

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Photo credit: Yoann Boyer


It was the middle of the night. The year was 2002. I was tossing and turning, thrashing in and out of the sheets because I alternated between sweating and freezing. No, I wasn’t ill. No, I wasn’t having a hot flash. But, my breath was hot as I sighed, the weight of the world on each exhale.

Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve come to understand I was having what could be known as a “dark night of the soul.”

The origin of this phrase goes back to a 16th century poem by Spanish Poet St. John of the Cross, where the poem narrates "the journey of the soul to mystical union with God."  Eckhart Tolle defines it today as, “…a collapse of a perceived meaning in life, an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaningless…what really has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.”

This was exactly what was happening to me. My mind was engaged in a war of purpose, while I pleaded, cried, even screamed in prayer.

Ever had one of those, a dark night of the soul? It can be triggered by any number of things – anything that can rock your current existence, from a personal tragedy or loss, to a deep feeling of loss of direction or purpose.

But, as Eckhart said, the dark night of the soul “awakens you into something deeper… A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life. It’s a kind of re-birth.” A spiritual awakening.

Well, I’ve experienced a few nights (and days) like this as I’ve evolved and grown in my human experience and as my consciousness has expanded. And, they can be gut and heart wrenching to go through. But, there are two that stand out as re-birth moments in my purpose – in 2002 and very recently – and what’s so mysterious and awesome is that they’re connected.

But back in 2002, it had been four years since I’d uprooted my life in Michigan to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, acting particularly at the time. I’d had a few trickles of success: some theatre roles, a co-star spot on NYPD BLUE, and several national commercials (McDonald’s paid for the redecoration of my West Hollywood condo). And, I had started writing, mostly so I could write roles for myself in which I could act. I wrote and starred in a tiny short film that I used to help me get an agent. I wrote a piece for an industry workshop. And, I wrote my first script, which placed in a prestigious screenwriting competition and helped me get my first literary manager.

But, so much of it felt like an uphill climb. I felt like I had a gift, but I felt split. I enjoyed the making of the art, but the business was daunting. And, if I’m being honest, which at this point that’s all I can be, I wasn’t sure I wanted the acting thing badly enough to do what I knew it was going to take, that being a guerrilla approach to self-promotion. Whenever I did it, it didn’t feel authentic. And, I certainly didn’t enjoy it. And, truthfully, I didn’t think I was a good enough actor to break through the fray of other actors who really, really, really wanted it. The writing was still fairly new, although I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was ten. And, I didn’t know what to do with it, really. Self-promotion was going to be involved with that too.

So anyway. That night. With the soul. Some of these unvoiced and hidden truths were swimming around in my subconscious. Some of them I wasn’t ready to admit because I was determined to find my purpose, and I didn’t give up easily. As a lifelong seeker that was a force that was innate. My body was in pain as I stiffened on top of my mattress; my mouth was dry and I became aware that I was constantly sighing heavily, audibly a whisper of wanting that led to my conversation with God, my Source, my Higher Wisdom.

“God, what am I to do? Why is this so difficult? If it’s my purpose shouldn’t it be easier?”

The silence was beyond deafening, until another sigh of desperation exploded from me. “Why did you give me these gifts?” More silence. My cat, Callie, who had previously become very bored with my bed-top one-woman show of angst, came slinking back into the room. Like she wanted to hear the answer to this as well.

“Please help me. What am I supposed to do?”

And, then it came. An answer I wasn’t expecting, but it was very direct, short and surprisingly sweet. It made me bolt up from bed.

“Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”

What? I can tell you, those were not my words. I didn’t use the word prose. But, that’s what I was told. “Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”

Was that the call of my calling?

That’s when it became the “aha night” when I heard the call of the soul.

My body relaxed as I settled into this new mantra of truth. A mantra that has carried me ever since. So, my focus became writing. I’ve evolved into a pretty good storyteller, screenwriting mostly, my wheelhouse being characters, primarily women, who are in self-discovery, smart, sardonic women with big flaws. Heroines who also have dark nights of the soul. And, there’s movement around a few of them, although it’s Hollywood movement, which can mimic molasses. I’m okay with that though. All in the right timing, with the right people. And, this blog Thought Changer, was birthed from that mantra as it's about changing your life, an idea, an expression, a thought at a time.

Calling fulfilled? Maybe. At times it feels that way. 

But, something has recently shifted around it, causing more angst. Oy!

After breaking my wrist and taking the time to reassess priorities, I decided to concentrate on writing a novel that I’ve been researching for awhile.

Also, during this time of rehabilitation I’d engaged with a couple of healers for energy healing sessions. Now, this may sound a little woo-woo for some, but hey this is my world, these are my peeps and it’s how I roll. So, hang with me. I love exploring different healing modalities and they have opened up my life and expanded my mind. Anyway, during the course of the sessions with both of these women, they received strong messages from my angels, spirit guides and loved ones that I’m supposed to do some more deep writing about myself. Both of them said the same thing, on separate occasions: I have a story of my own to tell. And, I said, "Aw thanks. I’ll definitely do that some day." And then I filed it away under the category “maybe someday when I’m interesting.” But these readings happened at a time when there was a lot of quiet in my life, so I heard it on a deeper level. Oh, and they also gave me specific topics and events I’m supposed to write about. Yeah, I know, but that's exactly what happened. 

Well, that scared the crap out of me. I think because I knew what that was going to mean. Raw, hard truths that are challenging enough to admit to myself, let alone put out there to the world for others to read. And, my perception is that memoirists have really interesting lives that include huge events - often tragic and dysfunctional family lives - that catapult them into subjects of literary fame. I don't have that. I have a wonderful family that functions pretty well, most of the time. 

But, there are some dark and transforming moments, as with any life. So, what did I do? I decided my new novel would be based on some real events in my life. I gave the main character some of my story, writing actual scenes from my life into it and recreating them. That way, I could embellish them and create a much more interesting story than what mine is or would be. That felt like the perfect solution! Much easier to hide behind a fictional character than to reveal anything messy about myself. I don’t show the world my messy. And, I could really write it! Write what you know, right? So, I wrote a few of those chapters and laid out a kickass outline that I was excited about.

Then, I stopped writing. I literally couldn’t write. I researched and made notes. But, I wasn’t writing the novel. I didn't know what to do with her, this character that was sort of me, but wasn't at all me. Procrastination became an appointment in my daily calendar. And. It. Was. Frustrating. Any prolificacy that I’d previously experienced when on a project had left the building.

When the Call Comes Again 

So, I created a weekend writing retreat to help me focus. I got a lot done, both on the novel outline and the blog. I was tapping into some deep work. Although something was still in the way, scenes just weren't forming.

As part of the retreat I took part in an herbal tea meditation and breath workshop. The healing breath work was very intense. As the practitioner, Melissa Terese Young, told us, the consistent and deep breath pattern when done for an extended period of time (we did it for close to an hour) over oxygenates your brain and body and puts you into a meditative, and at times alternative, state. A lot came up for me during the session around my novel, my work and more aspirational questions than answers came forth.

That night, in bed, is when the 2nd night of the soul took place. Tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep and I was feeling a collision of purpose coming. The difference this time is I had some sense of navigation because I’d been here before. So, again I prayed and I asked, “What is stopping me?” “Why have I been so stuck in my writing?” “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” "Please guide me on what's next."

In the silence that followed, a small voice came. “Write meaningful prose that will change YOUR life.” Hmmm. It went on. “Take your story back and tell your own story.” And, the deeper message I got was that the more I dove into my own truths, pains, revelations and transformations, the deeper the connection will be with those who read it, connection to that deep wanting and truth within themselves too.

Now that is a calling that rings really true. And, it petrifies me.

"Every time I picked up a pen, this grinding, unnamed fear overcame me—later identified as fear that my real self would spill out. One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit. What I needed to write kept simmering up while I wrote down everything but that. In fact, I kept ginning out reasons that writing reality was impossible. I cranked up therapy and drank like a fish.” ― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

So, I’m committing to it, to writing those scenes from my own life, whether it’s about the loss of a baby and a marriage, the depths of food addiction, the perils of the hysterically funny and tragic voices in my head as I discovered boys and ran up against mean girls, the shame of pretty, the Miss America Pageant, the path of being a childless woman, the eye-opening metaphors that shifted my perspective and my own spiritual exploration, from Sunday school to shamanic journeys in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. It’s all game and I have no idea what it’s going to look like or what path the story will take.

But, it’s calling. So, I’m answering the call. And guess what? It's pouring out of me, like a waterfall of life. 

So, how do you know when your call is calling?

The best way I know is to:

  • Ask those deep questions - and then get quiet. Really quiet.
  • Listen intently  - to what your inner voice tells you. It may be a soft whisper, or it may be a shout that makes you jump out of bed.
  • Pay attention - when your entire being feels in accord with that voice, pay close attention

That just might be the call.

Answer it.

Related: A Soul's Purpose. Are We Ever Really There?