Don’t Back Down


Wont-Back-Down600I’ve never been surfing (though I’m a big fan of Brian Wilson songs), but that image of a surfer poised on a cresting wave is extremely powerful to me. That’s how I picture a life on path, the life you’re meant to lead. When done right, the surfer makes it look effortless. I know it takes putting yourself in the right place, choosing your moment, standing up on shaky ground, and staying focused and balanced. But catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world, with all the energy of the ocean giving you power. Veer off track and the waves come crashing down on you. Blue crush.

So therefore, if I’m struggling then I’m trying to surf in the breakers. I’m tossed and thrown by the waves of circumstance. It’s impossible to succeed because I’m not where I’m supposed to be. My pattern has been to do it with jobs. I often settled for something that didn’t suit me but seemed easy. That ease disappears quickly when the job gets boring and you have to drag yourself to it. If you don’t swim out far enough or you never pick the wave to ride you never get to shoot the curl.

What in your life feels like a constant struggle? What perspective shift might you get if you paddled out a little further and looked at the crashing waves from the other side? Are you watching and yearning from the shore, or out in the calm sea never choosing to take that ride? What would get you to go for it? You know that in the long run it’s easier than resisting. Don’t back down from that wave.

Read also Before & After: An Inner Self Makeover

No Place Like H.O.M.E.

theres_no_place_like_home_matA few years ago I was having dinner at a Hollywood restaurant with several of my husband’s childhood friends– one of whom was a movie producer who owned the restaurant, and another was some big deal in the music industry. I gave meaning and importance to their glamorous titles. I decided that they were better than me because they had money and celebrity. In that rarefied air I felt oversized, underdressed, and at the same time puny and invisible.

I can still feel the outrage of my self-generated nightmare. My dinner companions may have lacked the social skills necessary to help me feel at ease, but I brought the powerless attitude.

I’m reminded of this as I think about circumstances that bring out the best (and worst) in us. My favorite way of being is the exact opposite of that dinner party. I want to feel expansive, engaged with others and comfortable exactly as I am. Certain environments contribute to our success. Clients have recently told me they feel most like themselves as a gracious hostess at home; an energized team member at work; an inspiring leader at group seminar; or an artist alone in the studio.

If we identify the qualities that make those locations effective we can choose them and build them into our lives like architectural details. With my tongue in my cheek I call them Highly Operative Me Environments. My goal is to spend as much time as possible at H.O.M.E., feeling like my me-est self– by that I mean in my skin, true to myself, living my highest values.

Where do you feel most like your favorite self? What are you doing? With whom are you interacting? What’s around you? What values are you honoring? I know that for me to feel fully myself I must be learning, connecting, and laughing. My Highly Operative Me Environment will include challenges, other people, and fun. Someone else’s H.O.M.E. might have solitude, nature, and physical activity. Another’s might have music, computers, and knotty problems to tackle. Look around and see where you feel most alive. Now ask how much time you spend there. If the answer’s not “most of the time” it’s time to move back H.O.M.E.

If it seems impossible to change to a new environment maybe there are ways to adapt the existing one to be more supportive. For example, you may not feel able to leave your current job, but perhaps you could take on new responsibilities to make it more challenging, or delegate to make it less stressful. Maybe you can’t afford to rent the perfect studio space yet, but you could clean out that spare room and start there. Start somewhere. Take that pottery class. Join that biking club. Choose to put yourself where you thrive.

To turn your current reality into a Highly Operative Me Environment ask yourself:
a. Where do I feel fully myself?
b. What values of mine are being honored there?
c. How could I apply those values elsewhere in my life?
You don’t need ruby slippers. All you need is to know the way H.O.M.E.

Being Committed

A number of years ago at my first personal growth seminar, the wise group leader asked if I had problems with commitment. I clearly remember my thought processes. “Commitment? I’m not sure I understand what that means. Oh well, it’s probably not important.”

That was a pivotal realization for me. I subsequently learned what commitment means and how it shows up for me. Maybe this is on my mind now because I’m coming up on a significant wedding anniversary– my first. That aspect of my life is working well. What about the parts that aren’t?

I recently had to cancel two workshops because not enough people had signed up. Certainly the beautiful weather and/or frightening world circumstances may have been factors. But I wonder how much of the lack of interest was generated by me. For both events I had created a design that was about 80% complete and I stopped there. I had the main ideas worked out but didn’t finish the final agenda or produce the handouts. Was this prescience or a self-fulfilling prophesy? Are people not committing to me because I’m not committing to them? Which is the cause and which is the effect?

In retrospect I think I was waiting for the enthusiasm of others to carry me over that last hurdle. I wanted to see some registrations before I fully committed. It was a bargain, not a gift. Why? Holding back certainly didn’t protect me from disappointment. And we’ll never know whether the effort would have been wasted. What would it have cost me to disconnect the giving from the receiving? I don’t tell my husband, “I will love you if you love me back.”

At that same personal growth seminar mentioned above I heard a useful explanation of the different levels of commitment:
Level One – I hear you.
Level Two – I’ll think about it.
Level Three – I’ll do it (unless something comes up).
Level Four – I’ll do it unless, god forbid, I’m hit by a bus.
Level Five – I’ll drag myself there bloodied and broken if I have to.

I like this distinction. Not every circumstance deserves a high level of commitment– it would be exhausting. But I want to choose based on what I’m willing to give not on what I want from others.

Maybe it’s not a matter of disconnecting the two sides of the bargain, but providing both halves yourself– the giving and the receiving. I have this image of a seesaw. The more commitment you have on one side the more trust you need to put on the other– trust that your needs will be met somehow or other. At all levels the seesaw is balanced, but the heavier the commitment and trust, the wilder the ride.