Tag Archives: mindset

Beware the Silent ‘P’

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Have you ever noticed how many wonderful words begin with the letter ‘p’?

There’s passion, purpose, playfulness, plentiful, potential, poetry, prayer,  partnership, positive, peace. So many wonderful words.

Then there are the not so wonderful ‘p’ words. Psychosis, pneumonia, pseudo, ptosis, psoriasis, psittacism (yeah, I didn’t know what it meant, either). Notice what those have in common?

The ‘p’ is silent.

So I began to wonder—could we relate to the difference between the pronounced ‘p’ and the silent ‘p’? Could it be that, as years go by, through conditioning or neglect, so many of us lose touch with the things we feel passionate about is that we’ve learned over the years to silence them?

During my teens I wrote poetry.  The ones I remember most vividly spoke about hope, love and possibilities (ah, another wonderful ‘p’ word!).  

Then, as life began to present me with its inevitable challenges, disappointments and setbacks, my poems began to take on darker tones. I wrote of loss, frustration, heartbreak, disconnection. Eventually, I stopped writing them altogether.

Around that same time, I also began to lose sight of my dream to make a living as a freelance writer.  Months would sometimes go by between one writing project and the next; attempts to submit my work or query ideas grew even more staggered. I left a trail of half-written stories in my wake, along with a few that I even finished, but that never saw the light of day.

After college I snapped up the first stable nine to five job I could latch onto and, relieved to receive a steady paycheck and benefits, I hardly even noticed as the dream faded.  I had college loans to pay back, an apartment to furnish, a car to maintain and insure.  I was living the dream, right?  Never mind that it was not my own.  My life seemed fine.  My chosen path seemed safe. Most writers never make a living wage anyway…

My ‘p’ grew silent.

In Walden, Henry Thoreau famously wrote that most men “lead lives of quiet desperation.” A dismal worldview? Maybe…but look how it plays out in the “Thank God it’s Friday” existence that so many of us lead, lives where relaxation, adventure and fun are all packed into one or two weeks a year, or where we live vicariously through the success and joy of those who dared to do or be what we did not. These results stem from letting our ‘p’s’ go silent or, worse, by intentionally silencing them in order to gain the acceptance and approval of others, or through fear that we if we took a riskier path, we might fail.

I’m trying to decide how to bring this post to an optimistic close. The fact is, I continue to cling to the safe and familiar, and still need the approval of others more than I care to admit. So it’s not like I am a shining example of self-actualization.

But I guess simply being aware of that is a start. That’s the optimistic closing I was looking for and would like to share here because, as I am beginning to learn through the reading and exercises I’ve been doing lately, awareness changes everything. The first step in solving a dilemma is admitting that the dilemma exists.

Time to take the next step. Care to join me?


Life is SO Unfair!

download (2)   Every once in a while, when I struggle coming to grips with one of life’s thornier questions, I Google the question to see what answers I might find online.

Google, my guru in a box.

And so it was earlier today. I had another blog post partially written for this week, but over the last few days I hadn’t had the energy to finish it. It was way too positive, something I had not been feeling during most of the past week. Maybe I just would skip a week on my blog. Who would notice, really?

But then I began the peel back the layers of why I felt the way I did, at first blaming others for letting me down and not treating me the way I felt I deserved to be treated. My partner John. My boss.

I kept peeling. Eventually I got down to the core of why I felt so demoralized. What I discovered there didn’t really surprise me; I have actually been aware of it off and on for years. But this wasn’t one of those self-discoveries I’m particularly proud of. Not at all.

I felt disheartened because, dammit, life is just so unfair.

Rationally, I know better. I mean we’ve all heard the question, “Whoever said that life was fair?” It’s really not. Bad stuff happens to good people. It always has. But in my mind, that’s not the way it should be.

Time and time again throughout my entire life, when I’ve encountered a situation or an experience that I considered unfair, I’ve reacted in the same way—hot, angry tears spring up, my rational mind shuts down, and it feels as though my heart has turned into a rock.

I mean, why do I give so much and get so little in return? I have been more than a dedicated partner, employee, friend. Why shouldn’t I expect Easter flowers, a significant raise, or some unsolicited encouragement and support in return? I’ve been there for them, right? Shouldn’t it work both ways?

Life is just SO unfair!

When I finally recognized that this fairness/unfairness concept was once again the source of my discouragement,  I wanted to come to terms with it once and for all (which of course probably hasn’t happened—we are all works in progress). As I said, rationally, I know life isn’t fair. Why do I keep expecting it to be, only to be disappointed over and over again?

So I turned to my guru Google, and I typed in the search box, “How do I stop expecting life to be fair?”

The first page of results from that search contained articles that pretty much told me I should put on my big girl panties and just deal with it. Not very helpful because, as I said, my kneejerk response to anything I perceive to be unfair has always been immediate and automatic. I wanted guidance on how to change how I’ve been feeling in recent days. Telling me to just get over it didn’t cut it.

I kept scrolling. On page three of the Google search I came across the first article that struck me as helpful. Once again, it didn’t tell me anything that, on a rational level, I didn’t already know. But it explained my dilemma in a way that I could embrace at a deeper level, making it possible for me to break the downward mood spiral I’d been on and giving me the energy to write this new post.

You see—and you may already totally get this, but I obviously still needed enlightenment—that sense of unfairness unfailingly occurs when we set expectations for people, places and things that we have no control over. When those expectations aren’t met, we experience disappointment, resentment, and maybe even anger. We focus on what we believe should have happened, or should have been said or done. We justify our reaction by thinking that we would have behaved differently, or that we deserve to have our expectation met because, doggone it, we’re hard working or loving or honest or thoughtful, so we should get something in return for that.

And sometimes that happens. But quite often, it doesn’t.

Rather than get all worked up about it, then sink into a quagmire of defeat and lethargy, the emotionally healthier approach (and physically healthier approach, for that matter) involves resetting one’s perspective. Instead of mulling over the perceived affront or letdown, concentrate on all that is wonderful and good about your life. You’ll immediately feel an energy shift. I sure did.

So a couple of things didn’t go the way I wanted them to this week. Big whoop. I have my health, my family, my friends, my house, my yard…and that’s just for starters. I have Google to pose questions to. And the Syracuse University men’s and women’s basketball teams are both in the Final Four for the first time in school history.

But expecting people or circumstances to behave a certain way is simply unrealistic. It’s like expecting perfection from the weather, or travel plans to go flawlessly, or basing our financial future on lottery tickets. Expectations over things we can’t control creates stress. Releasing those expectations creates energy.

I hope, if you’ve come across this post, that it energizes you as well. Let’s face it, the world needs all the positive energy it can get. Each of us can contribute to that.


The Power of Right Here, Right Now

download (1) While casting about for an idea for this week’s post, I remembered that I keep a folder of quotations  in my Gmail account, so I dipped into there and pulled out this little gem:

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ~ Unknown

As I begin this post, it’s a rainy, dreary-looking morning, by all appearances totally uninspiring. Up until I sat down to write, I followed the same-old, same-old routine I perform most workday mornings, in the exact same order, beginning with hitting the snooze button.

Rediscovering this quote totally changed the tenor of my morning. In fact, I believe it will reconfigure my thoughts, moods and actions for the entire day.

It’s so easy to slip into the comfortable but unproductive habits of regurgitating past conversations and events that upset or aggravated us, or worrying about conversations and events that haven’t happened yet. In his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle gently but persistently pulls us into the only moment in time where we have any influence at all: this one. Only what we think and do right now has any power to affect or shape the next hour, day, or rest of our lives.

This is one of the most empowering concepts you can ever embrace. And, if you’re anything like me, one of the most difficult.

Whether due to a physical condition like ADHD, or simply a lack of mental conditioning, my waking thoughts ebb and flow and twist and twirl like autumn leaves in a windstorm, unless I am working on something specific, like this blog post, or a project at work.

Or, if those thoughts do settle down into something specific, they take the form of the last song I heard on the radio before turning my car off, playing over and over in my head in an endless loop, or repeatedly rehashing an unsuccessful conversation or a poor decision from the day before.

Pulling oneself from that cesspool of thoughts into the present moment has some powerfully positive impacts:

  1. It awakens the senses. Yesterday morning, my great-nephew Justin posted on Facebook, along with a photo he took: “Birds chirping in the trees this morning! I just love walking outside every morning to the wonderful/peaceful sound of birds chirping!” What a marvelous present moment experience—and one he would have totally missed if he was busy worrying about how he did on a math test or reliving a disagreement he had with a friend. How much more pleasurable life is when we truly savor the foods we’re eating, inhale the aroma of baking bread or the luscious scent from a lilac bush, relish the comfort of a good pair of shoes or marvel at the glory of a breathtaking sunset. Or, like Justin, listen to birdsong.
  2. It allows us to experience gratitude. Sometimes, as I walk the short distance from my car to my office building, I am struck with a lightning bolt of gratitude for being able to walk, or for being able to see the rich blueness of the sky, or for having a jacket that’s warm enough to protect me from the elements. Feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have in our lives—our families and friends, our homes with all of their amenities, our opportunities and even our challenges—not only opens us up to fully appreciate the present moment, but clears the way for even more good things to come into our lives.
  3. It helps us to focus. This actually brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this post. How could we possibly do something today that our future selves will thank us for if we are replaying scenes from yesterday, concocting stories about tomorrow, or simply letting our thoughts run amok? Awareness of the present moment, of what is going on right here and now, gives us a chance to make this moment count: with little gestures, like letting a car cut into traffic in front of us or relinquishing our seat on the bus to someone who needs to sit more than we do; to big, perhaps even life-altering actions, like coming up with a new solution to an age-old problem at work, or coming to the aid of a friend at his or her darkest hour—opportunities we would have otherwise missed, or maybe regretfully realized later.

That’s the power of living life in the present moment.

As I said earlier, I struggle with doing this myself. More often than not I’m either rethinking and maybe even regretting something I said or did yesterday, anxious about a situation that may never occur, creating endless to do lists in my head or not paying much attention to my thoughts at all.

But when I remember to do so, I pull my attention to what is in front of and around me. It’s at these moments, when attention and intention intersect, that I can choose to make the rest of my day matter. I want to experience more of those. Every day.

I invite you to do the same. It will not only change the tenor of your day—it may change your life.


A (Better) Way to Look at Setbacks

This is actually a revised version of a piece I posted in another blog a few years ago. I found it while sifting through my online folders, looking for writing ideas. I have a feeling that it was no coincidence that I came across this now—that I, and maybe even you, needed to be reminded again.

images I recently heard the most remarkable story during my morning commute to the office.  It really didn’t make a point I’d never considered before, but it drove home that point in quite a memorable way.

I have a practice of listening to teleclasses and webinars that I’ve downloaded  from the internet and burned to CDs, and audiobooks that I sometimes buy when I’ve run out of the online freebies, while driving. The topics I listen to run the gamut, from how to promote my blog to how to manifest everything I want in life.

This particular story was part of a “how to think like a millionaire” CD set (I occasionally give another go at trying to wrap my middle class mind around that) that I’d bought some time ago and hadn’t listened to in ages.  Or maybe I hadn’t even gotten this far into the set before—it would seem I would have remembered this story if I’d heard it before.

As he told it, motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley was in an airport a number of years ago, rushing to catch a plane for his next speaking engagement in another city.  To his complete dismay, he was told that he was too late to board it. Waitley tried everything from righteous anger to pleading in the hopes of getting on that plane, but even as he did so he could see the ground crew beginning to wave the plane into its slow, lumbering taxi.  He couldn’t believe he was actually missing his flight, would miss his speaking engagement, and would miss the large amount of money he would have made that evening.

He proceeded to go to find someone at the airport with which to lodge a formal complaint.  He never  made it that far, though; as it turned out, he heard that the very DC-10 he had a ticket for never fully took off.  Instead it crashed in its attempt to get airborne. There were no survivors.

It made me think of the countless times I’ve lost my head in traffic, percolated with anger over decisions I didn’t agree with at work, snarled about  news stories that I thought were ridiculous or unjust, or even impatiently chided myself when I haven’t accomplished everything I think I ought to have accomplished.  Although every once in a while I have been able to catch myself in the moment and think, “Maybe there’s a reason for this,” or “ Maybe you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,” more often than not,  my immediate reaction is not so…mature.

I’m glad I heard that story this morning, because maybe it will help me begin to choose my reactions to life’s big and little bumps from a healthier perspective.  And I decided to write about it today, just in case you needed to hear this story, too.  Whether you’re facing challenges in your personal life, or you’re struggling to run and grow your business, perhaps those maybes could help.

Maybe there’s a reason for what’s happening.  Maybe you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be…for now.