Archive for the ‘New Perspectives’ Category

I have to start this post by acknowledging that it has been a really long time since I last wrote.  Really long.  The only real excuse I have is that I have been doing other work, in addition to coaching, and that has kept me really busy.  But, I never stopped working with clients or loving coaching or feeling a desire to write about things that interest me.  I have thought of posting many times because I continue to read a lot and be excited by ideas and insights, but I have let myself be derailed (I know exactly how it happens…I am tempted now to get up and start going through my closet to get rid of things.  That needs to be done too, but for now it will have to wait.)

But today will be different.  I am mostly caught up with my work, so I am going to sit here until I hit the Publish button.  And since I have done this a few times before (I have a few drafts from years past where I never did hit that Publish button), I am going to keep it simple.

This article by Carl Richards in yesterday’s New York Times, “Time to Be Honest About the Fear That’s Getting in Your Way,” feels like a good place to dive back in.  That’s because I completely relate to the first few sentences:

There is something you have been working on, isn’t there?  Something big. Something exciting. Something you have always dreamed of. It’s that perpetual “work in progress” that you tell only your close friends and loved ones about. The novel that is in “final edits.” That website that you are going to start … tomorrow.

Ah yes, tomorrow.  I know it well.  Some avoidance is about laziness or lack of time or something else, but for the big things, the bold things, the things we keep wanting to do despite the “roadblocks” we imagine…they are stopped by fear.

Our own work, when we are judging it ourselves, is never finished or good enough. I have a secret for you: It’s not because we are perfectionists. It’s because we are scared. Scared nobody will like it, scared it won’t work out, scared to be embarrassed.

I think I stopped writing blogposts because I got really busy with other things, but then once I was out of the habit, I started to have doubts about the worth of my posts and were they good enough, and who cares what I think.  Fast forward several years and here I am, with blogposts to write and other creative projects I want to do.  Carl Richards asks the questions I need to answer.

Once we understand why we are perpetually stuck at 90 percent, we can make major strides toward 100 percent. It’s no longer about this or that specific roadblock. Now it’s about, “How do I work with fear?”

That is a much better question than, “What font should I use?” and it’s one that is much more interesting.

So how do you work with fear? Do you have specific things you do when you have something you really want to do but are hiding because you’re scared? Mantras you repeat, stories you tell yourself, music?

 

It took me a few paragraphs of this NYT opinion piece, You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake by Delia Ephron, to get drawn in. I couldn’t really see where she was going with the bakery stuff, and then  I cringed at her term discardia, which she defines as “the tendency to throw things away after a few bites…”  As child of parents who lived through WWII and faced very real food shortages, I will admit I am more sensitive than the average person about this.  For better or worse, I inherited a grave aversion to throwing away food…even questionable food (what’s a little mold…you just cut it away and eat the rest!).   But I kept on and liked what I read after that.

Having it all seems to breed wanting more. And since we can’t have it all because it is statistically impossible, and since there is no such thing as more than all, the whole notion seems, I’m sorry to say, depressingly American.

In many countries, having it all is learning to read. Having it all is getting to choose whom you love. Having it all is walking to school without worrying that you might get raped on the way.

In other words, it’s about perspective and remembering there are different ways to look at every situation and circumstance.  We are all guilty at times of putting too much energy and focus on the more, and forgetting to embrace and enjoy the small moments when things feel good.

To me, having it all — if one wants to define it at all — is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up. Like an eclipse. 

It takes effort to see an eclipse.  You can’t just look right at it.  You need protection.  And you have to look when it’s there and not necessarily at a time that is most convenient for you.   It’s the same with noticing and embracing the good moments.  Maybe we need to start thinking in terms of having it.  Just that.  Leave the all behind.

I love the way Ephron brings everything back to the bakery at the end and describes the visceral pleasure it gives her.

Which is why I love bakeries. Peace descends the second I enter, the second I smell the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread, see apricot cookies with scalloped edges, chocolate dreams, cinnamon and raisin concoctions, flights of a baker’s imagination, and I know I am the luckiest person in the world. At that moment, in spite of statistical proof that this is not possible, I have it all. And not only that, I can have more.

Yes, she can have more, but I have to say that Ephron might want to think about her habit of discarding perfectly good food.  It is (to use her own words) depressingly American.  (Sorry, I couldn’t leave it!)

As you go through the week, think about what your having it moments are.   I am having one right now…working at home, sitting with my feet in the sun and writing.

I sent my sister an article from the New York Times (yes, my NYT tag keeps getting bigger!) by Ruth Starkman about her experience reading college applications at U.C. Berkeley.  I sent it partly because our children will soon be applying for college.  I also sent it because I feel like it exposes the gross side of the college admissions process, or really any application process.  In other words:  playing the game.  I find both comfort and discomfort in what Starkman writes, although the first feeling was definitely discomfort.

First and foremost, the process is confusingly subjective, despite all the objective criteria I was trained to examine.

Fortunately, that authentic voice articulated itself abundantly. Many essays lucidly expressed a sense of self and character — no small task in a sea of applicants. Less happily, many betrayed the handiwork of pricey application packagers, whose cloying, pompous style was instantly detectable, as were canny attempts to catch some sympathy with a personal story of generalized misery. The torrent of woe could make a reader numb: not another student suffering from parents’ divorce, a learning difference, a rare disease, even dandruff!

In my note to my sister, I wrote that the article stressed me out.  She wisely wrote back that it shows that you might as well just be yourself.  Oh yeah…that’s what I keep telling my clients.

Then she sent me another NYT article…a transcript of a commencement speech by the writer, George Saunders, to Syracuse University students.  It was the perfect antidote.  Real.  Hopeful.  Putting kindness at the top of the list of goals.  A good perspective for everyone…graduating from college or at any stage of life.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

It may be facile, but that’s what I like.  It boils it down to something easy to grasp.  Be kinder.  To others, and I would argue, to yourself.

I have the pleasure of working with several 20-something-year-olds right now and one thing I see again and again is how hard they are on themselves.  There are so many internal and external voices telling them they should be further, better, happier.  They say how old they’re getting.  I have to laugh because I know I felt the same way but from where I’m sitting they are so young!  Again, Saunders has a lovely way of expressing this pressure to succeed.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

That’s where balance comes in.  Succeeding is great and we all want to feel productive, but that success will feel so much better if the big questions are not ignored.  And, that’s exactly what I see processes like college applications and complete focus on career potentially doing…crushing the big questions.  There’s not much room for kindness in those processes.  What are the big questions?  They present themselves on their own time…it’s a matter of being willing to see them.  In the meantime,

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.

 

 

I am finally stepping into the world of categories and tags!  I realized at some point that I have written a lot on this blog, but there is no way for people to find things of interest without scrolling through and looking.  There is too much on here now to make that a good option, so I have taken on the task of categorizing and tagging each post.  Here are some things I have learned along the way:

  • I have written a lot over the past few years (I’m a little over half way in this project…it takes time!)
  • There are endless things to think about and ponder
  • I know I don’t have the “right” categories, but it’s a good start
  • I think I might have put down too many random tags
  • I feel good about starting to do this, but have decided it’s time to stop using this project as an excuse not to write a new blog post
  • I get a lot of information/inspiration from the New York Times

I hope you’ll find the categories and tags as useful tools for finding old posts that may interest you.  If you have any category ideas that you think I have missed, please let me know.  I plan to refine things over time.

I get a daily email from The Universe…really a British guy who is in my general line of work.  I signed up for it a long time ago, and I’ve thought of unsubscribing many times because I hardly ever read the notes.  But sometimes I do and they really resonate with me.  That was this case this morning.

What if you’re already doing everything right, even though you’re not sure?

And the surprises along the way have only sped things up, even though it felt like they slowed you down?

And all that you want is now barreling towards you, even though you can’t see it?

I’ve been doing a lot of mental gymnastics lately about what I need to do to build my coaching practice, whether I’m doing enough, is it sustainable, etc. etc.  Somehow my note from The Universe snapped me into a different perspective.  It was kind of like seeing something that has been there the whole time, but that I sometimes lose focus of.   Maybe I am doing enough, and maybe there are things coming that I just can’t see right now.  And that is comforting.   And maybe it’s okay to just be today, without coming up with the revolutionary thing that will change everything.  Maybe…