On a recent flight, I ran across a story about the first female pilot to fly for a major US airline. In 1973, Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo, at age 24 literally soared above that glass ceiling. Today, American Airlines continues to honor her feat by bestowing an annual $50,000 grant, aptly titled The Bonnie Award, to mid-career female filmmakers who are blazing trails and breaking through their own glass ceilings.
It got me thinking about my own personal glass ceilings and how great it feels to be looking down through the glass floor rather than up through a seemingly unpenetrable glass ceiling, where you can see it, sometimes feel and taste it but you just can't quite get there.
Some of the barriers were societally or industry-imposed and some were created and built by me. Can you relate?
Personal glass ceilings aren’t those imposed by society or industry, but rather are our own barricades that hold us back, barriers we place there out of fear. How to tell? If you’re constantly coming up with excuses for not getting what you want, then that's likely a sign that they are blocks you’ve placed there yourself. In other words, you become your own glass ceiling. Yikes.
When you think about it, even though it was a societal and industry glass ceiling that Bonnie Caputo burst through, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at piercing through the ceiling if she’d put her own fears and excuses in front of her. “They’ll never promote me because I’m a woman.” “It’s never been done before so why try.” “I have to be better than I am to do this.” It's certainly possible those thoughts were prevalent during insecure moments, but they never became her personal glass ceiling.
Shattering a glass ceiling sounds kind of messy and dangerous. I mean the notion conjures up the vision of being cut to bits by shards of sharp, cruel edges. The same kind of sharp cruel edges that come from imposing a harsh inner critic upon your dreams. Another yikes.
When put that way, how about a reframe on breaking through your own glass ceilings. Perhaps as you continue to blaze your own trail, the energy from your own heat will dissolve the barriers. Hmm, it’s a thought.
"I never thought I was breaking a glass ceiling. I just had to do what I had to do, and it never occurred to me not to." ~ Marian Wright Edelman
And, as more and more of us rise up and dissolve through more and more of our own personal glass ceilings, it stands to reason the societal and industry glass ceilings will dissolve as well.
Here are some heat-generating tools to aid your trailblazing journey upward:
Be optimistic - “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Set intentions & goals - and write things down. There's power in committing the words to paper.
Work smart and be diligent - one day after the next.
Do things that scare you - stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Each day stretch a little bit further. You can break it down into bite size pieces that way.
Recognize fear - give it voice and then forge ahead anyway. Often it's not as bad as you've made it out to be in your mind.
Keep track of your progress - you'll surprise yourself when you recognize the baby steps that have grown into bigger ones. All of a sudden you're there and the glass ceiling as disappeared.
Be assertive about your own worth - you are your best advocate and it starts with your own self-talk.
Here’s the thing about personal glass ceilings, as you break through one and continue to evolve into the person you’re meant to be, there will be more ceilings and barriers to dissolve. Because as we break through and start to get used to the air up there, we just keep rising and discovering and reaching for the next height or accomplishment. And, each one is a breakthrough!
So, keep soaring. Keep looking for higher personal ceilings to breakthrough.
Keep moving toward your heart’s desire.
And, take a moment to look back from time to time to appreciate your journey. Honor the accomplishment, no matter how large or small.
She had bright orange hair that kinked around the nape of her neck. She wore a black lace miniskirt, black tights and combat boots. With a smile that lit up the room and a hyena giggle that pierced it. She greeted everyone by name and with interest. She’s my favorite Coffee Bean barrister and on that day, when I was still sitting on the edges of victimhood after my computer was stolen, she woke me up and got me present.
As I watched her interact with a woman, going beyond your basic barrister and customer moment, I was surprised as I got tears in my eyes. I was suddenly really emotional.
It continued throughout the morning. But, what I realized is that they weren’t tears of sadness or loss. I had certainly shed several tears bearing those descriptions. No, these were tears of gratitude. And, hope. And little flickers of joy. Life. Humanity.
I choose this.
I was still feeling anger and wanted vengeance at some level. I’d just received a denial of claim from the valet company who’d parked my car when it was robbed, which felt like being victimized all over again. And, was getting no response from the garage company where my car was vandalized. I wanted to see the security camera footage. I wanted to catch someone to make someone responsible for the crime. Every morning I woke up with a nervous stomach. The butterflies of vengeance.
Then I saw this Lao Tzu quote: “Victimhood is staying in the suffering.”
Those feelings of gratitude, as surprising as they came, softened the edge of vengeance enough to see through it.
Gratitude reminded me that to dig deep into my own personal power for what to do next. Gratitude reminded me that people are good and most often want to do the right thing.
I appealed to a person at the valet company, with kindness, with directness. And, it worked. They paid for my broken window. Gratitude.
My insurance company (Liberty Mutual rocks) took care of me. I felt heard, believed and resolved. More gratitude.
I felt empowered. Which I realized was the antidote to the suffering. The key to unlock the gate in order to leave victim-hood.
But, could I put it behind me? The nervous stomach still persisted. It still gnawed at me that someone needed to pay for what they did. But, I noticed that what was really underneath the nervousness was something more.
The thing is, I really wanted to just move on. But, I felt guilty about that. Was I giving up if I let them get away with committing a crime against me, and who knows how many others? Why did I want to pursue it? Because, I felt guilty if I didn’t.
Is it giving up if I let it go? Or if I let it go, is that giving up?
It got me thinking about the difference between giving up and letting go. It seems there’s a fine line between them yet they’re vastly different. It comes down to the feeling behind it, the intention inside it, and the embodiment of it. It's a mindset shift.
Then, it got me thinking about all of the other areas in life where giving up or letting go can either hold you down or set you free. Where things didn’t happen like you’d planned. Where a dream fell short of realization, over and over again. Or when you wake up one day and look around at your life and things aren’t what you thought they’d be.
In this context of giving up:
Giving up is staying stuck in the what ifs. The if-only’s. The I-won’t-be-successful-unless-that-thing-happens. The expectations that start to feel unhealthy.
Giving up is the stomach ache. It’s catching your breath and holding it. It’s shoulders that hug your ears. It’s the energy that gets stuck. It feels heavy. Like being deep under water and holding your breath, in the moment right before panic sets in.
Giving up feels sad and like failure. Falling just short, or way short. Always wondering what could have been. It feels like letting yourself down or letting another down who might have invested time and energy.
Giving up is a never-ending feeling of not quite getting there, of feeling less than.
Giving up is rooted in regret.
It can live in your psyche and permeate everything. Giving up shackles you to the very thing you’re trying to release.
Giving up keeps you in the past.
Letting go, on the other hand, is a beautiful release.
Letting go isacknowledgment of the ending of something, a moment, a life phase, an exhausted effort, a situation that doesn’t serve anymore. Whether it's a relationship or a job or a long ago goal imagined in a former self.
Letting go is releasing what isn’t working anymore. What you have no control over. Events in the past that have nothing to do with the present. That can’t be changed because they’re over with, gone, dead and buried in the past which has nothing to do with right now.
"Letting go is the exhale." Andrea Quinn
Letting go feels like a full breath with an exhale that courses all the way through the body. It feeds the present not the past. It fills it up while at the same time creates alive energetic space where the “stuff” has been taking up room.
Letting go is an unlocking.
It’s the oxygen tank under the water.
It’s the turbo fuel injection.
With letting go, comes clarity. It clears the fog.
Letting go is removing yourself from the one-foot-in-one-foot-out syndrome. You know that place, right?
The profound gratitude was the beginning, the way in, to letting go for me.
I was still holding the grief and violation in my body so went to see a wonderful reiki healer who helped me to work the energy out, to release it.
It was during that session when I felt a complete and full feeling of gratitude that it all happened. I actually felt grateful that the event happened.
I released the attachment to the violation. It was something that happened to me, but I let go of the suffering. And, the guilt for wanting to move on.
Letting go put it in my past where it actually is anyway.
Letting go is a 4-letter word. Letting go is love.
“What’s the solution, not what’s the excuse?” Jack Canfield
Sometimes, it’s a deep-seated desire or lifelong dream that you’re not ready to give up on. The feeling of giving it up can feel like you’re giving up on yourself. Believe me, I'm a lifelong proponent of not giving up on your deepest dreams.
But, this is where letting go becomes a powerful tool for not giving up on yourself, where you move out of victimhood and into empowerment.
The language of victimhood is full of blame and self-pity and resentment and regret and excuses.
The language of empowerment is about the solutions and taking back your power and letting go of the energy that’s keeping you stagnant.
"When you don’t want to let go of it yet, trust that there’s a better way." Dina Strada
The empowering choice is to let go of old expectations around it, of what you wanted it to be or thought it would look like, all those years ago.
The empowering choice is to change the thoughts within the dream or goal or relationship. It all starts there.
Give that desire or dream or goal or relationship a fresh conversation. Bring it into the here and now. Modernize it. Give is a new wardrobe. Apply today’s technology to it. Reframe it. Be open to a new way.
For me, the clarity that came from letting go of what happened with my computer, and all of the stuff that come along with that situation, has freed me to look more closely at what's really important. To inventory other things I've been hanging onto, dreams and otherwise. Reviewing and releasing some. Reframing, changing the thoughts and conversation around others. Recommitting in a new way.
I love the little moments, the game-changers that shift things, changing everything from that moment on. This was one of them.
I was doing a Creative Jam Session with a client recently, a woman who is brilliant at what she does. I mean crazy brilliant.
We were brainstorming on creative ideas to get her business going in a new way.
“She intimidates me,” she said, talking about a high-profile woman for whom she’d done some coaching.
I understood. The woman had some really impressive creds, was a genius at what she did and was running a large event where she was required to speak, which is where my client was coaching her.
She floated quickly through the comment, “She intimidates me.”
It got me thinking about the idea of intimidation and more apropos to our discussion, the meaning and weight placed on it.
One definition of Intimidation is defined as "inducing fear or a sense of inferiority."
To my way of thinking Intimidation is a wall. It’s a stopper. It’s a dam that cuts off flow.
It creates a hierarchy, a ranking order that’s created in your mind. When you allow someone to intimidate you, you place yourself in the state of inferiority.
The truth is, it’s not real. It’s a story you make up to keep yourself safe and small, to stay in place. Even when we’re not at all aware of it.
You can’t go anywhere when you’re in intimidation, at least not anywhere forward. How can you build a successful anything if you’re intimidated by the very people you want to work with, have hire you, partner with.
Meet Them Here
I asked what it was that she found intimidating about the woman. And, it was all of those things that made the woman fabulous, the qualities that described exactly the type of client she is hoping to attract.
And, yet, I said, “she hired you to help her with something she’s lacking, something she’s not good at. And, that you are. Her expertise isn’t yours, but yours isn’t hers either.”
The thing is, you carry intimidation into the room with you. When you’re intimidated it makes you weaker and not fully authentic. It’s an unlevel playing field with jagged surfaces and bumpy paths.
I said, "it sounds like you’re in awe of her. You admire her."
And, the energy in the room shifted. “Oh, that’s so true,” she said. That was it.
And, based on the feedback my client received, the feeling was very mutual. Chances were very strong that this high-profile woman was in awe too, perhaps even a little intimidated.
So, what if you took intimidation out of the equation?
It’s been said people meet you where you are. So, if you’re continually intimidated, it's likely that the people who will meet you there are those who use intimidation, by those who are fed by the power of intimidating others to get what they want. Those relationships will not grow you, your relationships or your business.
Those playing at the higher levels won’t put up with the out-of-balance energy between you. They may not be able to explain exactly why, but they won’t want to work with you.
However, if you meet them at awe, then that's a reciprocal relationship that flows in a positive direction. And, you’ll be met at a higher level, at the higher vibration of awe.
It levels the playing field. Intimidation does not. Awe and admiration do.
So, change the meaning of and reframe your meeting reference point.
Zig Ziglar said, "The playing field of life is not level, and to compete in the game of life, you need an equalizer."
Here are some equalizers that level the intersection:
Meet each other at Awe.
Meet each other at Admiration
Meet each other at Expertise
Meet each other at Respect
Meet each other at Talent
That’s powerful. A true intersection of equals. A meeting that magnetizes and grows and nourishes. And, keeps people coming back for more.
So, who intimidates you? Be honest with yourself. There’s no shame in it.
Recognize the positive qualities that you admire, that you’re in awe of. Turn the mirror on what you bring to the table. What you’re offering.
Meet them there.
If they don’t return to the level playing field, turn and walk the other way. As Empowerment Coach Andrea Quinn calls it when someone doesn't meet you at your standards and qualities: “Not your people.”
Removing intimidation from the equation was the game changer for moving my client’s creative business forward.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure what it is that’s stopping us, keeping us from starting something or from following through or taking it to the next level.
We can’t see the clear path through the fog, or more accurately through the forest of obstacles we’ve placed in front of us. Intimidation is one of those obstacles.
Getting clear on your own talent, expertise, awe, will provide the beacon to remove the obstacle and that will lead you to the right people. Your people.
It Starts With the Word of the Year. And, the word is Perspective.
Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
I’ve been thinking a lot about Perspective.
This is one of my favorite times of year, when things start fresh, slates are clean, the canvas is fresh, new journals are cracked opened, solid lists of resolutions and goals are constructed and the reset buttons are pushed.
But, I don’t think it’s really possible to completely start with a completely clean slate or canvas because old stories and patterns are still there underneath the surface, ready to become visible. Often it's when we’re just ready to breakthrough or soar that they rear their little heads.
This is where the idea of Perspective comes in.
It’s such a great word and I think is vital to make the most out of the transition from year to year, from an end to a beginning.
Often when someone has a shift take place in his or her life or career, it’s because of change in perspective.
I watched a recent interview with James Franco, who is soaring right now with his already awards-darling film THE DISASTER ARTIST. Franco, as he says, “from the outside perspective it looked like I had this great career,” and he did. At one point he was in a play of Broadway, making a film during the day and flying to LA weekly to teach classes. He couldn’t get enough and thought, as an artist, the more he did the better. But, he “was depressed.”
That’s when he slowed down long enough to look at his life and shift his perspective. It took twenty years, but now he’s approaching his life and career, which shines brighter than ever, with this: “Hard work does pay off. But what I didn't realize is that you need balance, and you cannot make your happiness contingent on work, or on anything outside of you, for that matter, right? At the risk of sounding cheesy, it's gotta be a more spiritual thing. I didn't learn that until a year ago," he said.
Without this point of view it’s likely he wouldn’t have been able to present such a nuanced film because the truth is your current perspective permeates everything you do. And, THE DISASTER ARTIST is all about perspective.
Perspective can make you lighten up and not take things so seriously, while at the same time Perspective can help you get really serious about the most important things.
Perspective gives you a helicopter view. This bird’s eye view allows you to look through history, even beyond the last year, without attachment (or less attachment) to the circumstance so you can extract the jewel.
And, Perspective is what helps you hone in to reveal the truth underneath your old stories including whatever pattern or emotion you have attached to it.
It’s Perspective that starts the process of letting go.
It’s been interesting, as I’m writing my memoir; Perspective is my number one ally, shocking, as it has been at times. As I examine my old journals I've found that over the years I wrote about some of the same issues, fears and desires, over and over again. Like over and over again. At first I was like, ‘Damn Girl, you’re stuck in your story. When will you get it?’
Then, I decided to remove judgment from the question, and it changed my perspective. It became, ‘Wow isn’t it revealing how attached I was to parts of my story and the spiral of comfort and familiarity of discomfort that came from telling it to myself and others?”
Now, that I can work with. In truth, each time I asked those same questions or pondered similar issues I was moving through and past something, working through a relationship issue or breaking through a life or career barrier.
And, I realized that each round of questioning, or even angst, started from the previous ending point because I had some experience and Perspective to lay the groundwork.
It can take some time for Perspective to form. And, it can take an instant.
Perspective IS the Canvas
So, what if rather than starting the year with a clean slate or canvas or blank page, what if Perspective is the base coat, the backdrop, the color with which you paint your resolutions, write your story and pave your path. What if Perspective is the canvas?
Use your Perspective to lift out, carve out the pieces that are useful and will serve your now, your present and your future.
It starts with culling through the last year and using the perspective of being a year more experienced and wiser to cut out the prizes, the things that worked, to carry forward and then leave the rest behind.
It reminded me of when I was ten and eleven; I eagerly anticipated the mail at the beginning of every month, for that’s when McCall’s Magazine would arrive. I quickly flipped every page, slowing as I came toward the back until I found the Betsy McCall Paper Dolls. Every month it would be a surprise how Betsy would show up and her outfit, which was cutout alongside her, would be a sign of the season.
Sometimes I would cut them out straight from the magazine; other times I’d tear out the page and then when I was ready I used my round tipped scissors to carefully slice around each tab and edge. Then, I would dress my paper doll in her new garb and take her with me on whatever adventure I'd planned.
It was the same thing while looking back at the achievements, events, situations and relationships over the last year. I flipped through the metaphorical history book to cut out the gems, the prizes, the lessons. I then sliced around what wasn’t needed anymore, breaking the pattern and leaving the remnants behind.
Or, remember the carnival claw machine, where after you put your token in you took control of the giant claw in order to try and grab the toy of your desire. It was hard sometimes to get that thing to mind you and to weed through what you didn’t want so you could capture the prize, which was sometimes at the bottom of the heap.
While pulling out what worked and what I’m carrying forward into 2018, I found it wasn’t the circumstances or specifics that bubbled to the surface, but rather the perspectives, the lessons learned, that were the prizes that are providing the starting points for what’s next. The new foundation and starting line.
It’s Perspective that keeps you from going backward.
For example, breaking my wrist taught me to get quiet, listen within and the power of single-tasking over multi-tasking.
And, speaking up and asking for closure at the end of a brief relationship taught me how much the relationships we choose (and we’re always choosing) provide a very truthful mirror.
It’s Perspective that allows us to do better, be better. Perspective is where wisdom, experience and courage not only get you started on the next thing, but Perspective is also what takes you across the finish line.
It’s seeing patterns through the lens of your now wisdom to change your inner dialogue which shifts mindset and ups your actions. It all starts with Perspective.
Which is why Perspective is my word for 2018
I’m rereading Michael Singer’s “Untethered Soul,” which is a great companion to Perspective. In it, he talks about the inner dialog, the incessant voice in our head that judges everything. You know the voice. Stop for a moment during the day and pay attention. It literally never stops. The voice is what drives us through the day, through life, good or bad. It drives us crazy!
Singer says you are not that voice, You are the one hearing the voice, you’re “the witness.” He says the “only real solution” to change and improving our way to enlightenment, “is to take the seat of Witness Consciousness and completely change your frame of reference. To attain true inner freedom, you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them. No solution can possibly exist while you’re lost in the energy of a problem.”
The same can be said for patterns in old stories or the emotions that keep you attached to them. Witness consciousness and Perspective are what lift and change things. As Singer says, the incessant voice will never stop, but you can change your relationship to it.
So, if you continually look at opportunities and self-growth through the lens of Perspective then it’s your own wisdom that leads the way. Combine that with asking what your heart wants, it’s a winning combo.
This year, with Perspective, I’m thinking in terms of more and less.
Perhaps some will resonate and you’ll come up with your own. What are you so over and done with, and what do you want to increase to elevate your life?
Some of mine have to do with my personal lesses and mores. And, some have to do what and who I want to surround myself with.
More and Less of This and That
Less input; More output. This is number one for me. Too much input clouds the output.
Less resistance; More surrender.
Less social media; More real life connections
Less fear; More faith
Less busyness; More focused action
Less going with the flow; More flow within structure
Less being an island and going it alone; More collaboration, partnering and asking for help
Less judgment; More curiosity and awareness
Less negative; More positive
Less talking; More listening
Less talking; More thinking
Less chaos; More moments of stillness
Less drama; More peaceful expression of truth
Less weight on other’s opinions; More self-trust, self-acceptance and self-reliance
Less hierarchy; More knowing importance of self value
Less perfection; More just doing it.
Less competition; More just doing it.
Less indecision; More just doing it.
So... Perspective in 2018 is part helicopter pilot, part conscious witness, part paper doll artiste and part bold creator.
"If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self." ~ Napoleon Hill
I pick my racehorses because of their names. I do the same thing when filling out my March Madness bracket, choosing the teams by the names that I like. Believe or not, I actually won the office pool one year by doing just that. I have an affinity for Jayhawks and Wildcats, so there you go! Names and titles inspire me.
So, when it came to choosing a challenge on the Ropes Course, I saw “Leap of Faith” on the list and jotted my name down without even thinking about it. Then, I asked which was the hardest one, and the woman said, “You just signed up for it.”
Now, if you know me, you know this is not like me. At all. I don’t normally do hard physical challenges that could put my life in danger, as a rule.
But, I was there, at the women’s weekend retreat Campowerment, to push past my own personal boundaries, to dig deep and move beyond where I’ve been, so I wrote my name on the line next to: “Leap of Faith.”
What exactly is a Leap of Faith?
Various definitions include, “an act of believing in or attempting something whose existence or outcome cannot be proved.”
Or “an act of believing something that is not easily believed,”
Or, “to do or believe in something or someone even when the circumstances are not visible or touchable.”
Or, “to jump from, to, over and/or on an object that's at certain distinctive distance and height.”
This particular leap of faith started simply as the last one. I was to climb to the top of a 30-foot pole and attempt to stand on top before jumping for a trapeze bar hanging a few feet away.
But, it quickly became a stunning breakthrough that shone a light in all areas of my life.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
The leap started when I made the decision. I had no idea what I was getting into. I just decided to trust and go for it. So, I showed up at the Ropes Course at the allotted time.
As soon as I saw other women scaling the pole and struggling to stand up, I mean really struggle, I began looking for excuses not to do it. “I broke my wrist a few months ago,” “I get vertigo,” “I don’t like heights.” Suddenly, I was so sick of those voices in my head that are so bloody brilliant at coming up with excuses. So, I escorted them off the premises and joined the support team on the ground, cheering on the women and prepping my psyche for what was to come.
There was really was no way to prep. The coach, whose name was Zen, was on the ground with words of encouragement all through the process. He asked me, “What are you afraid of?” I told him I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to balance. I’m out of balance. Whoa.
He said, “Trust your balance.” Okay.
After a relatively easy climb, until I reached the top and realized, without anything to grab onto, I had only my own lower body strength to rely on to hoist myself up.
And, I thought, there is absolutely 100% no way I can do this. I was completely stuck, hunched over the top of a telephone pole in the middle of a field tucked in the mountains of Malibu, California. But, the thought of the pretty picture I struck was the furthest thing from my mind.
Zen asked, “What are you afraid of? Say it out loud.”
I said, “I don’t think I have the strength in my legs to lift me up to the top.” He repeated it and acknowledged it and said, “Okay let’s think about something else. What do you want to do next?”
After a moment I said, “Put my right foot on top of the pole.”
“What’s there now?” he asked.
“My thumb,” I said.
“Okay, just look at your thumb and only your thumb. Don’t think about anything but your thumb.”
I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever focused so fully on one single thing, my thumb, and only my right thumb, which was pressed so flat and hard I thought I might leave a dent.
And, then as if it had a will of it’s own, my right foot stepped up and replaced my thumb. It felt like a huge victory. It was a solid footing.
So, I’ve got one foot on top and the other is glued to the rung on the side of the pole. At that point I thought; I’m good. I hit a wall and thought; I’m kind of done. I can’t go any further but I’m okay with that because I’ve gone further than I thought I would. If I just let go now, I’m okay with that.
That’s when something happened. The wall that I hit became transparent. The wall melted away and I could see the other side.
Just a glimpse of what it would feel and look like to stand on that doggone pole. So, I refocused.
It took everything in me, literally everything between mind and body, to lift and place the other foot on the 9-inch surface.
I stood up, albeit rather wobbly, but finally balanced and sturdy. I yelled, “I’m balanced.” Actually, I said, "I'm f*^king balanced," because I was blown away by how much I'd gotten caught up in the story of being out of balance, of not trusting my balance. Thank you, Zen!
I spread my arms and look out at the horizon over the Pacific Ocean.
JUST REACH FOR IT
Coach Zen said, “Don’t look at the horizon. Keep focused on what’s next.”
And, “next” was to jump off the top of my pole, where I’d become quite comfortable, leaping to catch the hanging trapeze bar. And, it looked far.
I felt a little dizzy at the prospects.
‘What are you going to do?” Zen asked.
“I’m going to reach for it.”
The awesome women on the ground gave me a countdown. And I leapt.
And, I caught it. Whoop. A sure hard grip. No residuals of the former broken wrist.
JUST THE NEXT STEP
When I was back on the ground, Zen asked me, “How’d you do it?”
“Just the next step,” I said, no hesitation. It was so simple, even when it was hard. I was elated; in a pure joy of knowing I could do something I seriously didn’t think was possible in the moment.
Just the next step meant pushing past the best of my last best.
My dad just to tell my sister and I, when we were up against something we were afraid of, or were challenged by, he said, “Mind over matter.”
Mind over matter. I finally got it. Just the next step was mind over matter. Will over substance. Not letting anything cloud or hinder what was next. Just the next step, and then just the next step.
It felt huge and expansive.
WITH EXPANSION COMES CONTRACTION, THEN INTEGRATION
The major high lasted for a few days. Entering back into pedestrian life after a breakthrough can be tricky. You want the expansion to last and it can be hard to understand why it doesn’t, why you might feel a little sad, or all you want to do is take a nap.
I kind of crashed. And, I listened to others who were having a similar experience after their breakthroughs from the weekend, and there were a lot of breakthroughs. Some called it backlash.
Then, I remembered.
It’s completely natural to contract after a major expansion. In fact, it’s necessary during the integration process.
That’s when it hit me. The integration that takes place afterward, after the leap, after the breakthrough, is the most important part. And, contraction is a vital to integration. The backlash is the contraction.
Developing strong integration skills means understanding the contraction is part of the process. It’s important to embrace the contraction as a key phase in moving forward at the higher level you found when you took the leap.
The contraction is there to allow yourself to catch up, to take a breath, a pause, to fully incorporate the new mindset, the new feelings in your body, the new energy that wants to course through you. It gives the whole of you a chance to say, “Hold on, I want this and I need a moment – or a few – to sit in all of this bigness, this knowing that I’ve got this.”
A healthy reframe of contraction is to think of it as a pause. It may feel kind of icky and stuck, but it’s a pause so you can fully step in and inhabit the expansion.
In the past, I’ve been undone and done-in by the contraction phase, to the point where it’s stopped me, where it felt like stumbling backwards. But, this time, it didn’t last very long. I’ve done a ton of integrating the last several years, and have made it an integral part of my own evolution as a human being.
It was the leap, the leap of faith that was a culmination in which everything led up to that moment, that self-trust to move beyond what was before. It felt like the graduation to the next grade, to the PhD level of life mastery.
I thought the leap would be the victory, but it was just the beginning.
The full experience is to push through your limit and then to fully integrate the lessons learned from the expansions and contractions. Those lead to the next step up or leap where the process starts all over again.
Since Camp and the leap, I’ve noticed that I’ve moved forward. I’ve completed more things. I’ve put down over 50,000 words on my book. I’ve launched a new program. I’m written a lot more articles, and published them. I’ve made new connections and I feel my current relationships becoming more honest, deeper.
I feel different but the same. I feel the same but different.
I’m bolder while at the same time becoming gentler, more real.
It came at the right time in my growth, education, evolution. Unpeeling, unfolding to what's coming next.
THE THREE THINGS AGAIN
This breaks the leap or breakthrough down into three steps or phases.
A leap starts to happen by taking Just the Next Step. Laser focus on just the next move, eye of the target, not the horizon. Nothing else matters in that moment. Nothing.
To leap – Just Reach For It. Push past the best of your last best.
Integrate – that’s the most important part of a breakthrough experience. It’s alchemical to integrate. Allow yourself to catch up. The actual change happens during integration, not during the leap itself.
A leap is a breakthrough. It ups your ante. Embrace it. Every time.
“There are many talented people who haven't fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.” James Cameron
It’s very in vogue to talk about gratitude. Have you noticed? It’s kind of everywhere. People writing about it, talking about it, recording it in gratitude journals, texting in gratitude chains, creating memes about it and gathering around dinner tables to honor it.
The truth is, being grateful has never been out of vogue. And, there’s a simple explanation for that.
Because Gratitude Works
The law of attraction is grounded in gratitude. When you express what you’re grateful for, in a powerfully energetic way, the universe conspires and moves to give you more of what you’re grateful for. It's the simplest form of 'what you focus on expands.'
Lack and Gratitude are Polar Opposite Energies
When you feel you’re lacking something, the moment you shift to a place of gratitude you’re no longer in lack. Even if it’s just for a moment. So, when you think about, if you spend more time in an attitude of gratitude there’s more room for abundance and less and less space forlack.
It’s a pretty simple concept actually.
I interviewed a West African shaman a couple of years ago for a book project. His tribe, members of the Bwiti tradition, subscribe to one, and only one, simple prayer:
“Thank you for this new day.”
They begin each morning with the same declaration: “Thank you for this new day.” Each day is a fresh, clean slate, a new journey. With this simple prayer of gratitude, their minds are clear for what blessings are to come. He said “Every day we come with new thoughts, clear from yesterday’s thoughts."
It's such simple clarity. They live in the present moment in an attitude grounded in gratitude. They are happy people with a deep loving tradition of family and community.
"Gratitude is heaven itself." William Blake
Living in The High Attitudes
An attitude is defined loosely as a feeling or way of thinking that affect’s a person’s mood or behavior. It's a manner or disposition.
To my way of thinking, you could also think of an attitude as a spiritual level of consciousness. Sometimes it’s easier to wrap your brain around the idea of shifting or adjusting your attitude rather than the notion of lifting your consciousness, which can sometimes feel a bit esoteric.
The highest attitudes are those that resonate and vibrate at the highest levels of energy, leaving you with a fuller feeling of vitality, contentment and joie de vivre.
The high attitudes:
An attitude of love. An attitude of understanding. An attitude of grace. An attitude of compassion. An attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of pinnacle attitudes.
"I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged." Patch Adams
You know when you, or someone else, is having a “bad attitude.” You’re unhappy, angry, finding flaw with everything around you, often having a hard time shaking the milieu of discontent. And, you may have heard the words (or said them to that someone else), “You seriously need an attitude adjustment.”
Here's where gratitude comes in. What you start with just voicing or internalizing a feeling of gratitude, in whatever moment or situation you’re in, being grateful leads to understanding and compassion and grace and love. Find just one thing in that bad-attitude moment to be grateful for. It starts the shift, the adjustment to a higher attitude.
The Bookend Effect
And, here's the beauty about the bookend effect of gratitude.
Each of the high attitudes mentioned above, rises again to a place of gratitude. You can't not be grateful, when you're in a state of love, understanding or compassion.
It’s a powerful cycle. It creates a continual cause and effect, a mobius, an infinity of wellbeing and enlightened living. Gratitude begets love, which begets gratitude.
That’s why gratitude is the highest attitude.
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." Cicero
Here's a fresh take on what can be a debilitating force.
Photo by Becca Matimba on Unsplash
By Cindy Yantis
"Focused attention yields the best results." - Melinda Hughes
Melinda is my personal trainer and the owner of The Strength Shoppe, a high-intensity training (HIT) facility in Pasadena, California. And, this quote, from their website, exemplifies what most I've learned from training with her.
HIT is a slow burn, really intense, focused workout where with each weightlifting exercise you exhaust an isolated muscle or group of muscles to a slow count of ten. It's also called Super Slow, Slow Cadence, Power of 10, or Resistance Training.
It takes such focused concentration to get through a set of the slow ten. The tendency is to put all of your body behind trying to lift the weight. That's when Melinda says to direct your brain to focus on the specific body part so that the target muscles are worked to their max. That wasn't something I'd done before.
I was amazed at how when you place your undivided attention, singly, on one body part, you can actually feel the isolated muscle doing its thing. The brain is so powerful. Then, the rest of the body is just there to support.
Toward the end of the set, the weight is so heavy that it barely moves, if at all. This is when the body's flight or fight response starts to kick in, wanting to give up or drop the weight. And, that's when Melinda says to "lean into the fire instead of pushing past it." It is, in fact, what provides the most benefit, leaning into the resistance.
In a recent yoga class, we were holding a lower body twist, for several moments. My hip flexors were screaming at me. That's when the instructor said in her soft zen voice, "Allow your awareness to go to the place of resistance. Focus on softening the edges, the tissues around the resistance. Now, find the place in yourself where you can settle deeper into it."
This all got me thinking about the broader force of Resistance and how it shows up in other ways. Everywhere, to be more exact.
In truth, I've been thinking about resistance a lot lately. What I’m noticing is that as I’m moving up and forward with projects in some new ways and at higher levels that I haven’t tried before, I’m meeting an internal resistance that feels like a gust of wind connected to an electric fence. It can be a really powerful force that pushes and pulls at the same time.
“Where there is power, there is resistance.” - Michel Foucault
THE LAW OF RESISTANCE
There are schools of thought that put Resistance right up there with the other powerful laws of the universe including the laws of Attraction, of Polarity, of Vibration, and of Compensation to name a few.
Jasmine Contor Dawson in "Aliens to Zebras: Dictionary for a New World" defines the Law of Resistance is: "That which an individual pursues in anguish or anxiety, will inevitably remain elusive."
In thinking about this, I was drawn to read again from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” He’s my go-to expert about resistance, which he calls “most toxic force on the planet.” In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to this beautiful, terrible monster.
He says: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” He talks about how it's the root of so much unhappiness and “to yield to resistance deforms the spirit.” Pressfield considers resistance as strong a force field as gravity or electromagnetic, in that it can’t be “seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt.”
It’s an internal force, is always there and its aim is to repel.
He also says this. “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
So, when you're at the threshold, or the crossroads, feeling the pull to where your soul wants to go, succumbing to resistance can keep you at the crossroads. Forever.
LIVING IN THE CROSSROADS
Resistance can also show up as doubt that results in inaction.
People have gotten stuck in doubt, and at some point, they came to a crossroads and found "themselves rooted there, with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection. Alas, they never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally, they put a folding chair smack in the center of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there even was a crossroads-forgot that there was a choice."
Ugh! When I first read that a few years ago I felt the floor fall out from under me. It was a huge wakeup call. I realized how I'd allowed resistance to stop me enough, over and over, so much so that I'd set up camp at the crossroads! I became Mayor of Crossroads, USA!
HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS
However, as Stephen Pressfield also says, “Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer resistance.”
In addressing how to get out of the crossroads, Stephen Cope quotes the teaching in the "Bhagavad Gita: the Path of Inaction-in-Action," where Krishna says, "There is a certain kind of action that leads to freedom and fulfillment… an action that is always aligned with our true nature." Cope says this "is the action motivated by dharma. This is the action taken in the service of our sacred calling, our vocation."
So, then it's possible to embrace resistance, as an ally rather a foe.
"In dharma, it is possible to take passionate action without creating suffering." - Stephen Cope
To my way of thinking there’s something kind of comforting about that. When you think about it, if you welcome the resistance and recognize it as a threshold or crossroads through which you must pass to accomplish the next step toward your dream, purpose, and destiny, then when you make it your ally, it becomes part of your journey rather than a hindrance keeping you from moving forward.
"Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you." Hans Solo
When you fight resistance or procrastinate because of it, you're not present. Get present by talking about and releasing the fear that's underneath and fueling the resistance.
LEANING INTO THE FIRE
I know for me, I know when I'm in resistance about something, nine-times-out-of-ten it's something I need to do - for my body, for my work, for my life, for my soul. So leaning into it feels easier, and not only doable but necessary, and powerful.
Focus on it. As in my yoga and HIT experience, focusing on the resistance softens its edges because your awareness and attention are pointed towards it.
Be with it. Get present. Being in the now with the force restores inner strength and balance.
Get vulnerable. Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It's the birthplace of everything we're hungry for…Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. So -
Be courageous. Lean into the resistance and go forward.
Get creative. Creativity and spontaneity are energizing positive forces that help counterbalance the negative force of resistance.
And, Trust. Trust in all of these - focus, presence, vulnerability, courage, creativity and spontaneity.
They carry you through the threshold of resistance and across the crossroads of to your soul life, your purposeful life.
Interestingly, Pressfield also says that the resistance is only there when you’re faced with an up level. There’s no resistance going down, only up. Think about that for a moment. So, when resistance comes, welcome it because it only means you're on your way up.
“To fly we have to have resistance.” Maya Lin
So, I’ve decided to lean in, to be with resistance. I know it’s always going to be there. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to walk through it. Take one more step. Stretch beyond what I did yesterday. And, tomorrow will stretch beyond what I did today.
Because sometimes, procrastination isn't procrastination.
Procrastination has gotten a bad rap. And, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the badness of it, and to browbeat ourselves over it. I get it. I’m an experienced perpetrator, judge and jury when it comes to the subject of procrastination, often handing down my own verdict: Bad Writer!
As I’ve mentioned here I’ve been working on a memoir. And, for a while it was simply pouring out of me.
Until it wasn’t. It’s like the river of ideas just stopped flowing. I fell into what most people would call the abyss of procrastination, which kind of fascinated me, to be honest. I'd start by beating myself up, then by trying to pep myself up and then just giving up. It was a cycle that went on for days.
Then I realized, I was talking about the story with everyone I know, flushing out an idea for a title, discussing through lines, themes and what was underneath certain scenes, asking my family about specific events from childhood, clarifying my memory. The fact is, I’m thinking about this memoir all the time, like a hundred times a day. Also, I read some books about writing memoirs and connected with other memoirists to discuss various aspects of the genre.
That’s when it hit me. This is my process, not my procrastination. And, not just about writing. This is the way process shows up in every area of my life.
So, when isn’t procrastination, procrastination? When it’s part of process.
The truth is, I noodle. And, I noodle, and then I noodle some more. Then, the pieces start to fit into place, like a mystery puzzle when you don’t exactly know what it’s going to look like completed. At that point, often the project really cranks, like it has a mind of its own, until it's a little jewel of creation. It becomes the product of what I now call Productive Procrastination.
Ah, there’s a reframe!
I think this new recognition of procrastination deserves some love here. Productive procrastinating can actually be very helpful.
I ran across three TED Talks recently that sparked more thought along these lines.
One of my favorite TED Talks, "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator", Tim Urban talks about what happens when we procrastinate and how the "instant gratification monkey mind" takes the wheel, involving us in everything except what we're wanting to get done. Fellow procrastinators, this talk is a must-see. It's hilarious and my guess is you'll see yourself in what he describes.
I say the monkey mind can be a great friend to creative productive procrastination.
In a fascinating TED Talk, “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers,” psychologist Adam Grant concluded that some of the most original and creative thinkers procrastinate, they incubate. “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in non-linear ways, to make unexpected leaps.” He says, “Procrastination can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity." As a result of this process, "some of most creative people are fast to start and slow to finish." Yes!
The creative process is not rational, “the true essence of creativity is unexpectedness.”
That really takes the pressure off. Some of the most brilliant people I know are 11th hour geniuses. No matter how much time they have, they continually pull off brilliance at the last minute.
Author Manoush Zomorodi in her TED Talk “How Boredom Can Lead to Brilliant Ideas,” says, when you engage in mundane tasks you enter “default mode. Your body goes on autopilot and your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.” You can probably recall times when THE idea or solution or word or thing came to you while you were doing something mundane, or by rote, like driving or taking a shower. Not that you should be bored while you’re driving, but your body is on autopilot so your mind can wander somewhat.
So, here are some ways to be a Productive Procrastinator:
Get bored. Do nothing. Stare at the wall. And...
Be still and just think. That’s it. Just noodle. Don’t take notes, don’t try and catch a thought. Just allow your mind to travel. Set a timer if you want to. Know that you’ll remember what you’re supposed to remember.
“You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Aaron Sorkin
Engage is some mundane, autopilot tasks: laundry, dishes, mow the lawn, any by-rote physical task.
Allow your imagination to take flight. This time take notes. No editing. No judging. Just free associate, mind to paper.
Be in nature. Being around such alive energy, it’s definitely where I do some of my best noodling.
Idea-storm, word-storm and brainstorm with others.
Keep trying new ideas and fresh ways to look at things. Sometimes it’ll take several passes before it’s the winner.
Know that “bad” ideas are simply pre-great ideas.
Remember, reflection is the Productive Procrastinator’s secret weapon. It's how ideas germinate and generate.
Then, put your project on your dance card. Make an appointment with yourself to get back to work on moving your project forward.
And, relax. There will be plenty of time to procrastinate again!
How to allow fear to work for you instead of against you.
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.
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.