Bad Advice

We have all received terrible life advice. Prescriptions for lasting love, stable careers, purposeful living, happy family life and fool-proof fashion. This advice is offered as pearls of wisdom and truth with a capital T. It can come from family, friends, websites, teachers- usually unbidden.

pearls-in-hand Sometimes this advice is just plain against human nature. Often, it’s just ridiculous.  Even good advice given at the wrong time or applied in the wrong place, or slightly misinterpreted, can slide into “Danger, Will Robinson,” territory.

My friend Richard, told me the worst advice he ever got was that he, “couldn’t have a singing career and a family.” He was at a crossroads, he believed that this decision was either/or. Sigh.

It took a while to hone my list of godawful guidance down to just a baker’s dozen of terrible teachings I’ve gotten. How do I know they were terrible advice for me? Take a wild guess.

I’m positive that I’ve given #s 5 & 6 and acted on #10 all too often. And #13, a piece of advice for an evolved being, who doesn’t need it by then anyway.

In no particular order of awfulness…

  1. Don’t cry.
  2. Wait for the exact right time.
  3. Wear plastic sweatpants to lose weight.
  4. If you give everything you’ve got to others you won’t need to give to yourself.
  5. If it makes you anxious, don’t do it.
  6. If it makes you anxious, do it.
  7. Never go outside with wet hair.
  8. Don’t even think you’re creative unless what you’re doing is completely original.
  9. Never quit.
  10. The best thing you can do for a friend is give advice (even if they don’t ask).
  11. Get even (as in, “Don’t get mad, get even”), you’ll feel better and they’ll learn how it feels.
  12. Hold onto it, you never know when you might need it.
  13. and the breezily & oh so easily said, always at the wrong time…Just let it go.

I’m sure you’ve gotten a bit of crummy counsel, even some doozies, of your own. Maybe given some too? Share in the comments!

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Today!

Today

My friend Carol, who’s absence is an ache in my heart, loved the word RESPECT.  Carol played seriously and learned playfully, continually calling on me to Re-Spect or “look again” during countless staff development days when I was her teaching colleague.

What does it mean to look again? It means that there’s always an opportunity to become more there for what’s here.. for a moment, for a person, for a situation, for a problem, for a feeling.

It means that what we thought was true about that moment, that person, this problem, that situation, this feeling, might have something else that’s true about it, too. Or, our interpretation might morph into one entirely different from what we thought at first pass.

Looking again might require a quick shift, a question, a breath between thought and action – or pause. Or, it might require a longer commitment to practices that help us suspend judgment so we can listen more closely to deeper truths… whatever they might be.

Looking again might apply to worrying, or some other habitual thought process like judging others, or some other default mode we use to comfort ourselves or to numb our wounded hearts. Each time we look again we add another droplet, our droplet, to the greater lake of humanity, becoming more…

Yesterday,  I was watching an older man with a very young girl in the pool. The older man was gruffly exhorting the 5-year old to swim faster and farther. To my horror, as the girl swam closer and closer to him, the man put his hand out and pushed her tiny head underwater and then stepped backwards, waiting calmly for her to resurface and swim an even greater distance.

I blazed with indignation on the girl’s behalf. I pretty near vibrated off the chaise with self-righteous parenting and teaching knowledge. Luckily, I knew to say nothing.

Moments later Dmitri was sitting next to me telling me his story. This child is his joy,  his grasp at a life beyond grief after the loss of his first- born adult child who died in an accident one week before college graduation. This little girl loves to swim and Dmitri makes time every day to play in the pool with her, sometimes twice a day. He adopted her recently. Dmitri loves her with his whole old-school heart. Well, crack mine open.

If you struggle with not enough time, now is the perfect moment to look again. What do you think about time? Does it rule you? Do you allow the unimportant to derail you? What’s really important to you, anyhow? Do you believe you have to manage time by doing 5 things at once, or by berating yourself for not getting through #99 in your To Do list?

How willing are you to look-again at what gets in the way of being in time, in sync, with your priorities, the true ones?

We all have the same amount of time each day – everyone one of us, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, the bus driver, the hoodied guy at library searching online for jobs, the jogging mom balancing a latte while pushing a double-wide stroller, and the twenty-something on her way to work at Walmart headquarters.

So today, what will you re-pect? Will it be you?

 

 

Wednesday Words: Worry much?

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I don’t know about you, by my internal worry machine manufactures worries like a factory on a deadline. And yet, I’m posting Wednesday words today, Thursday, and not worrying about it. This departure is an intentional deviation from the usual second guessing and “what ifs” that can make up a significant portion of my inner chatter.

Unravelling the worry habit takes some doing – or some undoing, that is. I’ve been working with it for years. My clients struggle with it too.

The creative mind can be prone to worry.

Creative thinking always involves the question “What if?” What if I combine these ingredients in the sauce? What if  we make a phone that’s small enough to carry everywhere? What if people could fly? The “what if mind” is generative. It’s usually imaginative too,it gets busy picturing possibilities and conjuring scenarios.

Consider what happens when we combine that fertile imagination with fear, “What if I try and then fail?” “What if  I can’t manage all my To Dos?” “What if the interviewer asks me something I don’t know.” “What if I  miss the train? ” “What if what I want isn’t possible?”

What if you saw your ability to worry as creativity gone off track? Is there more space for you to deal with it? Is there an opening to approach the equation, imagination + fear,  differently?

Worrying is a poor substitute for action.

A client recently said, ” I fool myself into thinking that I’m doing something when I worry.” She’s right, worry has energy, it can make our heart race, thoughts travel through our minds sometimes far into the future, and then… and then…. This can feel like doing something. You’re not. This is a mind trap.

Human brains are wired for action. If you’ve been around children you know that asking them to “stop running” is much less effective than asking them to “walk.” Why? Because we respond much better to directives that require forward movement. Positives not negatives. Do this instead of Don’t do that.

Worry = Love. Not.

At every family gathering for what seemed like years, my stepmother pulled me aside to say,”Your dad loves you, he worries about you all the time.”  Have you been told that worry is proof of love, an act of love or care or concern. Is it? Really? Are you sure?

Many of us learned to worry instead of learning to do the things that actually are loving to others and to ourselves.

Habitual worrying has effects – worrying about them won’t change anything.

One consequence of persistent worrying is that It begets more worry.  Deeply unsatisfying, worry causes constricted muscles, headaches, unease and possibly dis-ease. Even more reasons to worry! Not only are we out of the present moment when we worry, but we’ve begun to,what the Buddha calls “bend the mind,” that is, we see more of what we think about and that becomes our reality. Yikes.

Worrying may be a habit (which provides some level of comfort) but it isn’t action, it isn’t proof of care, it alters your reality and it isn’t asking for what you want.

It isn’t even fun.

 

 

 

Wednesday Words: Deviate Baby

crapsdiceroll It’s possible that life could get better by chance…it could happen, it sometimes does. But to paraphrase Jim Rohn, it’s more likely that life, your life, my life, will get better by change, not chance.

And, if you’re like me, the phrase “Get out of your comfort zone” feels a bit stale  (wise as this advice might be). Instead, think about the shift a small deviation can bring. Want something specific in your life to be different than it has been? Ask yourself, “What’s normal for me?” and then deviate.

Neuroscience tells us something fascinating about our brains; while one system craves routine and “normalcy,” the other thrives on variety and change. No wonder we strive to get into a groove and then before we know it that system becomes a numbing rut!

When I moved our entire household for the second time in four months, I couldn’t help but notice how essential it was to establish routines. You know, for those areas of life where going on automatic makes it possible to think about something beyond “Where’d I put the spoons?” At the same time,  it was delightful to see our stuff in new places and to register the absence of the usual. Fresh sights, sounds and smells made me more alert and I could be a smidge more present to my immediate surroundings.

You don’t have to move to experience small changes lthat remind you of your vitality.Tiny deviations, a new route to work, wearing your watch on the other wrist, saying “No” when you’d normally say “Yes,”  or, saying  “Yes,” when you’d habitually say, “No” can wake you up.  You shift perspective.  Loosened up and re-connected you just may feel emboldened to discover a different response to a persistent problem, or even go for that new form of exercise, eating habit, meditation practice, job, or who knows…

Invite some playfulness and creativity into this practice- nothing more needed than what you can already muster – and take a look at at what you can tweak this week. Post your ideas here!

Enjoy!

Judy

Sample Move Into Change Newsletter here.

Wednesday Words: Too Short For Shoulds

  • too short

Our inner score-keeper keeps track of how often and how well we live up to its demands. It’s favorite word is “should.”

  • I should exercise.
  • I should be nicer, kinder, more accepting.
  • I should eat healthier food.
  • I should read these types of books.
  • I should watch these types of movies.
  • I should be the kind of person who wants to read those books and sees those movies.
  • I should be more assertive, confident, proactive.
  • I should be grateful for what I have.
  • I should work harder, smarter, and more productively.
  • I should have better relationships with my family.
  • I should be more successful than I am.
  •  I’m not keeping score, should I?
  • I should obey the voice that tells me what I “should” do and then I’ll be…

When was the last time obeying a “should” truly gave you the sense of well-being you thought you’d get when you cajoled (coerced, convinced) yourself to do the thing you “should” do – which, let’s be honest – isn’t very often?

Never? Or, not for very long until exhaustion, apathy, resentment, rebellion, or avoidance show up. That’s because when we “should” ourselves we are aligning with only one part of ourselves. That part is prone to black and white thinking. Its solutions to our problems are usually pat prescriptions.

The “should” voice is likely an external judgment we internalized long ago and because it’s old, it lacks the nuance and flexibility of mature creative thinking (despite logical sounding adult vocabulary).

Have you noticed that when you succeed at doing  the “should,” you may experience momentary relief and then there’s a sense of hollowness. You feel empty because the “should” had no real meaning for moving your life forward now.  You may not even realize your predicament because, before you know it, more “shoulds” jump into the void.

Since it’s always asking you to keep up (because you lack whatever it’s telling you to do) keeping score can only lead to anxiety and more negative thoughts. Never enough…not good enough, if only I could get myself to do this I’d be a ___ person.

The trick is to recognize “shoulds” for what they are; only one part of many ways we talk to ourselves. No more true or right about us than any other part. We don’t have to believe it. When we are aligned with the score-keeper, when we see it as the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we do believe it and that’s where the struggle begins.

Clues that we’re aligned with the “should”:

  • Obviously, the word “should” as in, I should stop saying “should” – don’t fall for that one.
  • We get excited at the idea that finally, this time, we’ll be able to live up to the expectations.
  • We are feeling shame and this offers us the way out – but it doesn’t really protect us.
  • We don’t want to do it, whatever it is.
  • Or, we are avoiding or resisting the very thing we want to do.
  • We are worried that if we don’t listen something bad will happen, like we’ll become lazy, dishonest, a homicidal maniac, a bag lady, unlikeable, immoral, or unworthy.

We can’t banish “shoulds.”  We can learn to recognize when we’ve bought into the score-keeping attitudes. We can spend time watching our thinking so we can see that we’re more than those thoughts. We can sense in our bodies that we are more, much more than any set of rules.

We can tap into life, which is too short to waste on trying to appease the score-keeper.

Wednesday Words: Also true…

more or less

I’s pretty obvious that I love quotes. Sometimes a particular quote will be just what I need and at other times it’s hollow, holding no meaning for me what.so.ever. Or, sometimes one thing is true, and another time just the opposite is true, or more accurately, also true.

Take the overused “less is more” quote. Japanese brush paintings, slowing down to pause, small tasty portions, keeping it simple sweetie, all speak to the satisfying elegance of less is more.

But it isn’t always so, because sometimes more  – Hieronymous Bosch paintings, the ocean, fractals and outer space – is  inspiring and exhilarating because of the promise of well, more.

There are gazillion and more (hee hee) examples of more equalling less. The dizzying amount of breakfast cereal, satellite TV channels, and Starbucks coffee options, requires us to use more brain energy than, say, 3 choices might, which means less bandwidth for important decisions. Need I mention that addition distractions in the form of beelps. blerps, tweets and pings, give us little time for clear sustained action or deep focused and creative thinking?

I have clients who don’t understand why they are feeling bereft despite getting raises, owning gobs of expensive clothing, going to massages, spin classes, and vacationing at increasingly exotic locales…it’s because, in these particular situations,  more does equal less. If we aren’t  Watering Ourselves, if we lack the will ” to show up for our real needs, it doesn’t matter how many people love us or how much external pampering buy – we’ve left a person who really matters (us) by the side of the road. And nothing, can make up for that.”

Though silver linings are real and the desert exists due to lack of water, less money to feed a hungry family isn’t more no matter how you cut it. No question about it, less is really less. And in our inner world, less confidence, low self-esteem, and lack of joy in life don’t add up to any type of more that I’d want.

So all of the above are are true… sometimes. It’s important not to get locked into one. When a quote rings true (note the lower-case “t”) for you, take some time to ask yourself what about it is meaningful right now. Ask yourself what is also true. Following these threads can lead to important insights into where in your life cultivating more or shifting to less will be moving you forward in the direction of the life you want.

Wednesday Words: Water Yourself

Right to growIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while or are getting my Move Into Change newsletters, you already know how much I adore Cheryl Strayed. This quote comes from Tiny Beautiful Things, a small book whose outsized compassion and powerful writing knocks me out every time. It’s a must.

The above quote reminds me of two foundational aspects of personal growth that I forget to talk about sometimes.

1) The right to grow is in our very nature. We often think that we have to prove to someone that we have it – but we don’t. A gazillion years ago, Byron Katie  told me that if I thought of myself as the tree outside my window, it would be simple to understand my own worth and then get out of my own way. I never forgot it.

Now I know  she meant that to participate in and contribute to the ongoing creation of life as it moves forward from moment to moments is our birthright. Trees don’t question it, so maybe we don’t need to, either.

2) The moment when I recognized that I wasn’t showing up in my own life was the precise moment II began to grow up. Don’t ask me how old I was…

Recognizing that we all must do this for ourselves is basic, yet so many of us resist.  Looking for others to do for us that which we refuse to do for ourselves leads only to disappointment, anxiety, isolation and a a profound sense of loss. Attempting to teach other people (like our children) how to do this is futile unless we live it first. By the way, all things I llearned the hard way.

Do not misunderstand, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t ask for help or trust others to support us. If we lack the core ability to show up for our real needs, it doesn’t matter how many people love us (or how much external pampering we give ourselves),  we’ve left the person who really matters (us) by the side of the road. And nothing, can make up for that.

So, grow yourself and don’t forget that you can carry the water.

watering

Fall in Love with Your Life

What would it take for you to love your life?

Dear Valentine’s Day,

I’m using you as an excuse to talk about what matters to me.

Today, I’m thinking about how often I hear people say, “I hate my life.” Granted, it’s usually in a moment of frustration, annoyance or when yet another obstacle arises. I know I felt like this when the ceiling fell in on our bed. But I digress…

Most people, when pressed would say they didn’t really mean it, at least, not in the sense of being clinically depressed. They say that no, no, they like their lives, or maybe they just feel embarrassed by an outburst that holds a kernel of truth.  side note: If you feel so awful that you don’t want to go on living, stop right here and call someone for help.

Falling in love with your life is a little bit like falling in romantic love for the first time, but it’s more akin to rekindling the fire in a long-term relationship like marriage.

If you’ve been in a relationship for longer than a year, you know that relationships get into habits. Difficulties can get swept under the stove. We can start assuming we know what the other person will say and feel and how they’ll react. Sometimes we react as if they already said, felt and did those things before they even happen. We even interpret something new in light of the old. It can be jarring when years into the relationship one or both parties wake-up and wonder “How did we get here?” “Do I still love this person? What does it mean to love him/her now? We can feel trapped and uncertain about what to do next.

See where I’m going here?

We have a relationship with our lives, as we live it every day, whether we know it or not. If we walk away from this relationship we abandon only our selves.

The first step, and always the first step, is to intend to have a new relationship with your life. To commit to it. Dear Life, will you be mine?

Feeling the love again requires some work. No news there.

Questions to explore are the same for any other love relationship. Do I like my life? Do I Love it? What habits have I gotten into? Do I expect less of myself and tamp my desires because I’ve let myself down before? What have I decided is true that isn’t? Am I willing to look at my responsibilities here, including not taking on what isn’t mine? How do I treat me? How do I treat my life? What actions will I take to spark some change?

What will it take to fall in love with my life?

Coaching is one tool for falling in love with your life. Check out 27 Benefits to Coaching.

Love, Judy

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Wednesday Words: One Way

one-way-sign copyIf this quote makes you stop for a second and ask yourself these questions, Where am I headed? In what direction do the actions I take today send me? Do I really want to go there? You aren’t alone.

While some people really like where they’re headed (and I say “Bravo” to you, whoever and wherever you are), you may be a person who never really thought about your life in this way. Perhaps you go to work at a job you don’t really like; it exhausts you and you go home drained, just to eat, sleep and …wash and repeat. Or you have the same issues with close relations or co-workers again and again. You may not realize that  daily actions become a direction and you’re headed in the direction of more of the same.

Accepting this is so doesn’t mean there’s no hope. The fact that you perpetuate a life you don’t really want isn’t an indication of your worth, or your ability to change. It only means you’ve been unaware that you’re enabling yourself to go where you don’t want to go.  That’s all.

So where do you want to go? How do you want be on the way there? What do you need to cultivate in yourself in order to get there?