Magical and Extraordinary Gifts

Wishbook Cover
Earlier this week, I found myself reflecting back on Christmas as a child. Good memories, each and every single one of them, for sure. 

Part of what made for a good Christmas in my youth was the arrival of the Sears catalog. In the back of the catalog was a HUGE Christmas Wish List section that seemed to span hundreds of pages. (I think it really was hundreds of pages!)

I can remember my mother handing me the catalog one year in particular and asking me to make my list for Santa. Can you imagine the joy in my heart in that very moment? Pure bliss, plain and simple!

I think I handed my mother two notebook pages full of selections. I honestly don't know how she held back her laughter. Instead, she looked at me rather seriously and said, "You know, Santa can't bring you everything on this list." That pure magic made a 180-degree turn to pure disappointment. "What do you mean? Santa brings good girls and boys everything they ask for!" 

I suppose my mother didn't want me to think I wasn't a good little girl, so she encouraged me to trim my list just a bit. And though I can't specifically remember what Santa brought me that year, I'm sure it was filled with many of the things I jotted down on my list. And I imagine my mother was likely relieved that another Christmas had passed without the lid being blown on Santa. After all, the "real" Santa had a budget to consider!

I'm not one for making Christmas wish lists these days. Perhaps if the Sears catalog still came in the mail, things would be different. There was no better guide for sparking one's imagination and reminding you of the things you really couldn't live without.

Of course, it takes getting into one's adult years to fully realize the greatest gifts aren't listed in the pages of a Wish Book or in the packages we unwrap; they're in the hearts and souls of our families and friends. If these are gifts you haven't yet identified, let alone unwrapped, don't wait a moment longer. 

You see, it wasn't what was on page 217 in the Sears catalog (the Malibu Barbie beach house, perhaps) that mattered most; it was the person who handed me the catalog in the first place -- my mother. Such an extraordinary gift in my life.  

And so, dear readers, I ask you: what is the gift that you most wish for this holiday season? Let me propose a slightly different question: who is the gift that you will most treasure this holiday season?

My wish for you is that your lives, your hearts, and your homes be filled with the magical and extraordinary gift of love from your family and friends. 

And I wish you much peace and an abundance of joy.

Merry Christmas.

Grown-Up Christmas List

Christmas-list
When I arrived at my home airport a couple of days ago from my latest out-of-town adventure, I hopped into a shuttle bus that would take me to an off-site parking lot where, as you might well guess, my car was parked.

The shuttle was packed with what appeared to be a mix of business people, back from a couple of days on the road, and families beginning to make their way home for the holidays.

It always strikes me as odd how people, in the most crammed of spaces, do their best not to speak a word to one another or make eye contact. (Think elevator ride.) What is it about connecting with strangers that we do our best to avoid it?

Blaring from the speakers of the shuttle’s radio was one holiday tune after another, a spirit of warmth that would seem to draw us all together. Not so much. It wasn't the holiday tunes that we shared in common; it was our collection of handheld, mobile devices that cast a techno-blue hue amidst the darkness. 

It seems to me we've forgotten another rather obvious common denominator: our humanity. How is it that we’ve allowed so much technology to get in our way?

Moments later, one of my favorite Christmas songs made its way into the cue. It was Amy Grant’s, “Grown-Up Christmas List.” And in the absence of airport-shuttle-conversation, the opportunity appeared to deeply listen to the lyrics of this moving song:

GROWN-UP CHRISTMAS LIST

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies

Well, I'm all grown-up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

[Chorus:]
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree

Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul

[Chorus]

What is this illusion called
The innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief
Can we ever find the truth

[Chorus]

Soon after the song ended, a woman made a comment about my shoes. We shared mere moments of conversation and a few laughs. When she and her husband were getting off the shuttle, she wished me a happy holiday. And, she warmed my heart.

One thing for sure on my Christmas list this year is a wish for human connection, not the superficial kind that we find online, but the kind that’s waiting for us when we turn away from technology and turn to look in the eyes of another and enjoy a bit of face-to-face conversation.

How about you…what’s on your “grown-up Christmas list” this year?

Happy (Stress-Free) Holidays!

Stress Free Holiday

Ah, the holidays -- there's nothing quite like them to stir-up a bit of stress as we make those last-minute purchases for the people on our gift list, navigate our way through airport security for our holiday travels, and attend the many parties and social events with our friends, families, and co-workers.

With all of the glad tidings and wishes for a happy holiday being delivered to my mailbox on a near daily basis these past few weeks, I got to thinking that a holiday card wishing me a "stress-free" holiday would be a welcome, and rather appropriate, greeting.

Perspective is a wonderful thing, particularly at this time of year. I'm quick to remind myself what the holiday is all about, to keep the real joy and true spirit of the holidays front-and-center. Doing so allows me to create spaces of peace and laughter in what might otherwise be spaces of frustration and chaos. 

How are you handling the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season? When faced with stressful situations, do you take them in stride or do you wrestle them to the ground with reckless abandon, creating even more stress for yourself and for those around you?

With the 2010 holiday season in full swing, consider how you would react to the following situations:

  • Out of nowhere, someone darts past you in the over-crowded parking lot at your local mall and takes “your” parking spot (the one you’ve been on a crusade to find for the past 15 minutes).
  • Your dear, old Aunt Sally, who you haven’t seen since last Christmas, tells you you’re looking much “healthier” this year and suggests you'd be wise to skip that holiday fruit cake.
  • Your employer announces that the holiday bonuses aren’t coming through this year given less-than-expected company earnings.
  • The aisle seat you reserved on your “home-for-the-holidays” flight was somehow booked as a middle seat (and, you’re claustrophobic).

Would your response to any of these situations make front page news? Or, would you remain calm and unflappable in spite of these stressful events? Better yet, would you even perceive them as stressful?

It all comes down to choice, doesn’t it? And yes, I’ll admit, a bit of patience too. Part of the choice we make is how we perceive situations in the first place. What may throw me into a hair-raising hullaballoo may have you scratching your head asking, “What exactly is the big deal here anyway?”  

While your reactions may feel like a very natural part of your DNA, the truth is, you can unlearn the messy art of reacting and teach yourself the fine art of responding.

Whatever situations you encounter as 2010 comes to a close, Life Touch Coaching wishes you and yours a stress-free holiday and a New Year filled with peace, joy, opportunity, and (healthy) excitement.

C'mon, Get Unhappy!

Partridge Family Bus
Ok, so you wouldn’t necessarily expect a headline plea to “Get Unhappy,” nor would you need one. The unfortunate truth is that many of us live in a space of unhappiness.

One blog I follow rather consistently is “Marc and Angel Hack Life” (subtitle: Practical Tips for Productive Living). A post from earlier this week was so dead-on in revealing the well worn paths many of us travel, leading to a destination of outright unhappiness.

I’m sharing their post with you in this space so that you might have the same eye-opening experience that I did, lest we form a band and start traveling the country in a school bus, singing our signature song.

Dale Carnegie once said, “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy.  It’s what you think about.”

I don’t think anyone could say it any better than that.  I’ve watched so many friends search tirelessly for happiness by changing jobs, moving to new cities, pursuing intimate relationships, and tweaking all sorts of other external factors in their lives.  And guess what?  They’re still unhappy.  Because they spend all of their time and money adding positive externals to their lives when their internals are still in the negatives.

So with that in mind, here are 75 ways to stay unhappy forever.  Of course, I would highly recommend you read each bullet point and then move swiftly in the opposite direction.

  1. Dwell on things that happened in the past.
  2. Obsess yourself with all the things that might happen in the future.
  3. Complain about problems instead of taking the necessary steps to resolve them.
  4. Fear change and resist it.
  5. Work hard, do your best and then condemn yourself for not achieving perfection.
  6. Belittle yourself.
  7. Hang out with other people who belittle you.
  8. Try to control everything and then worry about the things you can’t control.
  9. Lie to yourself and those around you.
  10. Keep doing the same thing over and over again.
  11. Be lazy and follow the path of least resistance.
  12. Hold onto anger.  Never forgive anyone.
  13. Always be right.  Never let anyone else be more right than you.
  14. Compare yourself unfavorably to those who you feel are more successful.
  15. Let small issues snowball into big problems.
  16. Never learn anything new.
  17. Never take responsibility for your own actions.
  18. Blame everyone around you.
  19. Don’t ask for directions and don’t ask questions.
  20. Don’t let anyone help you.
  21. Quit when the going gets tough.
  22. Be suspicious.  Trust no one.
  23. Get four hours of sleep every night and convince yourself that it’s enough.
  24. Never throw anything way.  Even if you don’t use it, hold onto it.
  25. Say “yes” to everyone.  Fill all your time with commitments.
  26. Try to be everyone’s friend.
  27. Multitask, multitask, multitask!  Do everything at once.
  28. Never spend any time alone.
  29. Don’t help others unless you have to.  Do only the things that benefit you directly.
  30. Hang out with people who complain about everything.
  31. Focus on what you don’t want to happen.
  32. Fear the things you don’t fully understand.
  33. Always seek external validation before you consider yourself good enough.
  34. Take everything and everyone in life seriously.
  35. Spend your life working in a career field you aren’t passionate about.
  36. Focus on the problems.
  37. Think about all the things you don’t have.
  38. Read or watch lots of depressing news from broadcast media.
  39. Set lofty goals for yourself and never do anything to achieve them.
  40. Never exercise.
  41. Only eat junk food and fried food.
  42. Never check-up on your health.
  43. Setup your lifestyle so it revolves around money.
  44. Spend more than you earn and rack up lots of financial debt.
  45. Don’t say what you mean.  Don’t mean what you say.
  46. Frown.
  47. Never tell anyone how you feel or what you’re thinking.
  48. Make sure everything you do impresses someone else.
  49. Always put your own needs on the back burner.
  50. Get involved in other people problems and make them your own.
  51. Make others feel bad about themselves.
  52. Watch TV for several hours every day.
  53. Gamble often.
  54. Stay in the same place.  Don’t travel.
  55. Don’t play, just work.
  56. Let your hobbies go.
  57. Let your close relationships go.
  58. Never finish what you start.
  59. Take everything personally.
  60. Do lots of drugs.  Drink lots of alcohol.
  61. Never say, “I’m sorry.”  Never say, “I love you.”
  62. Don’t work hard at anything.
  63. Always wait until the last minute.
  64. Believe that, no matter what, you are entitled to things.
  65. Let others make decisions for you.
  66. Remember the insults.  Forget the compliments.
  67. Let it all bottle up inside.
  68. Rely on others for everything.
  69. Fail to plan.
  70. Don’t dream.
  71. Don’t think about the future at all.
  72. Always disregard other people’s opinions and suggestions.
  73. Make promises you can’t keep.
  74. Don’t decide on anything, ever.
  75. Just keep going and going and going.  And never ever stop.

And now that you know what not to do, let me tell you a secret about happiness.  Nobody is happy all of the time.  It’s perfectly normal to experience considerable fluctuations in your level of happiness from day to day, month to month, and even year to year. 

In fact, according to a recent scientific study, overall levels of happiness decline from one’s teens until one’s 40s and then pick up again until they peak in one’s early 70s.  So the chances are that your happiest days are yet to come.  Hopefully that gives you something to smile about.

What five things from the list above will you throw out the (school bus) window in 2011?

Become a follower of Marc and Angel. You’ll be happy you did!

Give Thanks for Everything

ThankYouShore
For 45 straight weeks, I’ve been publishing this very blog with observations about life and what it takes to live one that’s nothing short of extraordinary. And I’ve loved every minute of writing and delivering it to those of you who have been on the receiving end, many of whom I don’t even know.

Last week, something rather odd happened. In what would have been its 46th week, “Life Notes” went unpublished. It’s as if my heart skipped a beat. Perhaps it did.

Stepping back for a week was a test of sorts. How would it feel to let go of the idea of being so darn regimented, of keeping a "perfect" track record, of being driven not to miss a single beat?

Suffice it to say, I didn’t score so well on the test -- a C+, or average result, at best. It didn't feel so good. But then again, letting go can be like that at times.

Such a test, albeit a minor one, is merely a reminder that life continually holds lessons to learn and comfort zones to climb out of. And, that there's always more work to do. (Ah yes, but isn’t there always more work to do?)

I’m reminded of Barbra Streisand who, upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1995 Grammys said, “I’d rather think of myself as a work in progress.” Isn’t that great? The very accomplished Ms. Streisand, a “work in progress?”

The truth is, we’re all works in progress, dear readers. We have the opportunity, always and everywhere, to re-create and re-invent ourselves. It’s part of what makes the human experience so great.

And, it's yet another reminder that life is indeed about the journey – one that doesn’t rely on us being perfect or keeping the beat or arriving anywhere in particular.

(Isn’t that something for which to be thankful?)

Albert Schweitzer said, “The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live.” 

As you gather with those you love this Thanksgiving holiday, consider giving thanks for everything you’ve experienced along your life’s journey – for your family and friends, your admirers and your enemies, your joys and your sorrows, your bumps and your bruises, your happiness and your sadness, your laughter and your tears.

You name it, literally – it all counts.

This year, while giving thanks for everything, I especially give thanks to those of you who have invited “Life Notes” into your world. Sharing this space with you in my own life’s journey has been, and continues to be, both an honor and a privilege.

(And for that, I deeply and sincerely thank you.)

Let Yourself Out

  Open-door1

The week before last, I had what Oprah would call an “aha” moment. Wandering the aisles at the new health food store in town, it hit me (somewhere around aisle 2) -- I wasn’t having enough fun in my life. 

If I could experience so much enjoyment from doing something as mundane as checking out the new health food store, surely something was missing in my life. (And it was.)

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I let myself out for awhile to do some things I’d wanted to do for quite some time. Nothing spectacular or over the top –- just a few, simple things that I could cross off my list while enjoying the opportunity to get out and about on a beautiful fall day.

After leaving the health food store, I headed over to the local library to donate a trunk full of books that I’d stowed away in my car for at least six weeks. (I told you I don’t get out much.) I had a delightful conversation with the lady at the front desk, who quickly beckoned a young man to collect the multitude of boxes from my trunk.

Driving away with my car 500 pounds lighter, I was truly amazed by the amount of joy I felt from yet another simple moment in my day.

Truth is, I felt lighter too. It’s as if the “book guy” also unloaded the psychological weight I was carrying from all the other “stuff” in my life.

None of that stuff mattered for the simple reason that I was in the moment, enjoying myself, connecting with people, and having fun. I had forgotten just how exhilarating that can be.

While this may not seem like a big deal, the truth is, for months I had not given myself the time or permission to do the things that bring me joy, that take me away from my work, that connect me with the people in my life who are important to me.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had someone who would ask us a couple of times a day, “do you wanna go out?” Then they’d throw open the door, away we’d run, and lose ourselves for awhile.

(Pets have it made, don’t they?)

The good news for us is that we don't need someone else to throw open the door; we can do it ourselves.

(Human beings have it made, don't we?)

In my own experience this week, of spending more time with those who are near and dear to my heart, of finding a bit of time for myself, I realized all the more how much I love life and the gifts it brings when I'm there to receive them.

So, head on over to your door and let yourself out for awhile. Run and play, laugh and sing, do whatever it is that takes you out of your head and into the moment.

Be with yourself, be with those you love, be with life.

(Wanna go out?)

Mastering Your Life

What is a master? If visions of Major Nelson and “I Dream of Jeanie” come to mind, I invite you to fold your arms, blink real hard, and give it another thought!

Consider this: a master is someone who resonates with success. He or she is a person whose mindset automatically attracts the right people, places, events, and opportunities.

It’s that same mindset which allows that person to jump all over those opportunities with gusto, and without fear or hesitation.

I believe that while each of us can do many things well, there’s really only one thing we can truly master, and that’s being who we are. And while it takes a lot of effort to become really good at what we do, there’s no real effort necessary in being who we are – we just tend to make it that way at times.

Each of us has a very unique makeup which, at its core, is perfect. When we tap into our true core, our real gift to the world is revealed. And, when you share your true gift with the world, you can be considered a self-master.

Self-Mastery is made up of three parts:

  1. Understanding that each of us has a unique gift offering to the world and that such an offering comes when we are truly authentic;
  2. Discovering (remembering) exactly what our truly authentic self really is; and,
  3. Sharing who we are with the world, in a way that only we can

It's not what you do that matters, nor as much how you do it. Mastery is about knowing who you really are and how you express that in what you do.

So instead of trying to better yourself so you can finally be at a place of deservedness, why not relax and look within to find that which you are really seeking?

Self-mastery means living an abundant, fulfilled, and enjoyable life. It means feeling in control without having to control anything or anyone.

As a master, it means you’re at the cause, instead of the effect of your life.

Self-mastery means resonating at a high frequency of energy, and attracting all we could ever want into our lives, with little or no effort.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a great way to live.

(I’d like to know about you. Let me know what you think!)

Not Being SAM

Slumber_party 
I was listening to a radio interview earlier this week in which the woman being interviewed, "Susie,” was describing a moment from her childhood when she, and a bunch of other girls, attended a slumber party at a friend’s ("Janie's") house.

When bedtime rolled around, Susie was told there was no room for her to sleep in Janie’s bedroom with all the other girls; Susie was told she would have to sleep in another bedroom – with Janie’s mom.

As upset as Susie was, she agreed, and slept in the other bedroom that night -- with Janie’s mom. (Yes, a bit odd.)

When the interviewer asked Susie why she stayed that night instead of calling her mom to pick her up and take her home, Susie said, “I was too embarrassed and ashamed to make a big deal out of it, so I just went along with it.”

It’s an experience that Susie, now 40, has carried with her some 32 years later -- that feeling of being pushed aside, of feeling left out, of somehow being made to feel “less than.”  

As Susie continued to relate her story, she said something that really caught my attention.

“I don’t want to be someone’s awful moment.” And she wondered aloud if it was already much too late, if she was for someone else what Janie was for her.  

One thing’s for sure -– today, Susie’s 100% committed to not being SAM. And, it takes a high degree of consciousness to keep that commitment because we don't often realize the impact we have on other people.  

Of course, I couldn’t help but think about when (not if) in my life, I had been SAM. What might someone else be carrying around all these years later based on something I said or did “x” years ago? It was a troubling thought, for sure.

And then a funny thing happened. Susie ran into Janie about five years ago, and after moving beyond their pleasantries, Susie asked, “Do you remember the night of your sleepover when there was no room for me in your bedroom with everyone else, and you made me sleep in your mom’s bedroom? I’ll never forget that night. It has stayed with me all these years.”

Janie’s response makes the story even funnier. ”We had a sleepover at my house? I don’t remember that at all. Wow. I’m sorry I did that to you. I honestly don’t remember a thing about it.”

And here Susie was, carrying this around like a dead weight for most of her life. Janie was positively clueless about having been Susie’s awful moment.

At the ripe young age of eight, Janie would have no idea the impact she would have on Susie all these years later. How could she, really?

To what degree are you creating awful moments, knowingly or otherwise, with  the people in your life today?  And, to what degree are you creating beautiful moments?

To borrow from our wise old friend Susie, “I don’t want to be someone’s awful moment,” be it at a slumber party, a birthday party, a cocktail party, a retirement party - anywhere, at any time, period.

(Mind you, I don’t do slumber parties these days.)

Want to know the best part about not being SAM? You become the kind of person who creates beautiful moments, those that are truly worth remembering. 

Choosing to Choose

As you may know, I distribute a monthly e-newsletter called LifeLines, which is filled with tips, tools, and resources for leading an extraordinary life.

This month’s issue is all about the choices we make -- and the space from which we make those choices. I’ve received so much feedback around this topic that I thought I’d go ahead and share  October's featured article with you here: “Catabolic vs. Anabolic Choice.”  

(As a point of reference, catabolic simply means negative or destructive and anabolic means positive or constructive.)

With that in mind, I invite you to think about the space from which you make the choices in your life as you read the following excerpt from this month's LifeLines:

Many of us walk around feeling like we have limited choices in many aspects of our lives. Take notice of how many times a day you say the words have to, should, and need to. Whenever you feel like you must do something, you become a victim to your thoughts or circumstances, which places you squarely in the space of catabolic energy.

In fact, when you’re faced with a task or something to do, there are actually five basic ways you can respond, and of those responses, only one is by full, conscious choice.

The five ways of responding are: “I won’t,” “I have to,” “I need to,” “I want to,” or “I choose to.”

When you say “I won’t” do something, you’re saying that you have no power, that life happens to you, no matter what you do or believe. You don’t believe that you have a choice. You also don’t really think there’s anything in it for you – so why do it?

If you say “I have to,” you’re looking at the short term perspective. You “have to” complete the task in front of you, or else you'll experience dire consequences. You feel forced to do it, and that you have very little to no choice.

The third response, “I need to” is a more powerful place to come from. Here, you’re aware of your choices and you seek to find the opportunity in the challenges presented to you. This perspective brings more chances of success, but it’s still catabolic because you don’t feel like you’re fully at choice.

These three responses involve either non-action or action by force. Since you're not energetically bought into a situation, goal, or project, and because you're bringing catabolic energy to it, you're also bringing a recipe for failure. So, in these catabolic levels, even though you may think you're choosing to do something, at your core, you chose not to do it -- or not to do it well.

The next response, “I want to,” is anabolic because it indicates that you're mostly at choice, but “want” still comes from a place of lack.

The most powerful response is “I choose to.” When you respond this way, you feel you have complete choice. There’s a powerful connection between who you are and what you do.

So how do you get to "choose to?" Simply come from a place of having everything, and choosing to experience, rather than fill a need. Easy? Not at all, but you can choose to try it.

(Click here if you'd like to choose to subscribe to LifeLines.)

(A French) Balancing Act

Balancing Act

After a particularly harried week, I just stumbled across a blog post by SmartBrief's Liz Perman, reporting from INSEAD Women's Leadership Conference in Fontainbleau, France.

Here are the top three reasons I'm sharing it with you:

  • It provides seven great tips on work-life balance.
  • It's a pure pleasure to lend someone else's thoughts to Life Notes this week given my own challenge of creating a successful balancing act over the past several days.
  • It seemed pretty cool to share content reported directly from France!

And so, without further adieu (er, ado), here are Liz's seven key takeaways from the panel discussion* she attended on balancing a demanding career with raising a family:

  1. First and foremost, love what you do. Make sure you’re passionate about your job; otherwise, it’s impossible to do your best work, let alone balance it with family obligations, social engagements and hobbies.
  2. Don’t let life happen to you — make choices. Some people have more energy than others. Know your limits and schedule your time accordingly. Learn to outsource whatever you don’t like to do. Don’t enjoy cleaning the house? Then pay someone to do it for you. If you don’t have time to bake a homemade cake for your child’s bake sale, bring in a store-bought one.
  3. Don’t feel guilty about making time for your family. Both work and family are important, and there will be times when you need to prioritize one over the other. This is normal over the course of a career and if you choose your workplace with care, your employer will respect your choices.
  4. Don’t neglect yourself. The soft issues such as workplace culture really do matter. You won’t be able to do your best work if your values don’t align with those of your work environment. If you’re passed over for a promotion because you’re pregnant, it’s probably time to consider a change in company, or forge out on your own. If you need to fit in a daily jog to maintain equilibrium, set aside the time and don’t apologize for it.
  5. Choose your husband, wife or partner carefully. Once you’re married, you’re an ecosystem doing the work-life dance together.
  6. Recalibrate daily. You might not feel like you’re maintaining a work-life balance every single day. Take time to reflect and change your plan for the following day accordingly.
  7. Finally, keep learning and have fun.

Some pretty good stuff here, huh?

As I look to restore a bit of balance in my own life these days, I think I'll head out for a walk in the cool night air, give thanks to God that I absolutely love what I do, and remind myself to recalibrate daily and take more time for reflection. (No reminder to have fun necessary!)

Au revoir.

(*Panel Members: Susan Rowe, principal coach & founder of Rowepryal; Evelyne Sevin, partner at Egon Zehnder International; Jane French, head of strategy and product development at Citi; Greg Ellison, managing director at Barclays Wealth; and Anat Bar-Gera, chairperson at 4G Africa.)

Pull Anyway

Pull2

As part of the daily practice of running my business, I post a quote (the "Daily Life Touch") on my Facebook page. Here's one such quote that I posted earlier this week:

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but...to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." - Dorothy Nevill

Most of the time, we do know right from wrong, don't we? We know how to push one another's buttons as well as we know how to leave well enough alone and pull for love.

And yet, we tend to be intent on pushing buttons rather than pulling for love, for somehow not doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do.

How do I know this to be true? By watching what's happening in the world, on a macro-level, for starters. Add to that the heated conversations and over-the-top political ads that are flooding the airwaves as the mid-term elections draw near and you'll see button-pushing at it's "finest" (er, worst).

It would be easy to jump into the fray, to join the "button-pushers," particularly in those tempting moments, wouldn't it? But would good would that do you or me or any of us, really?

I'm reminded of a quote by Marianne Williamson who said, "An angry generation cannot create peace."

We must begin then, on a micro-level, each and every one of us, to create that peace - to pull for love. It begins in our hearts and in our minds, not somewhere outside of ourselves or with someone else. When it starts on the inside, we won't have to worry about saying "the wrong thing in the tempting moment."

To begin the movement, to help get the momentum going (not just sometimes or in areas of your life where it's convenient), consider living by these words, often attributed to the late Mother Teresa:

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Try to be successful anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do it anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help, but they may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Pull for love, for peace, for understanding, for goodness and kindness, for sharing the best that’s inside of you.

And always remember: where there’s a will, there’s an anyway.

All Aboard!

All_aboard

After years of being a master procrastinator, I decided to hop aboard the S.M.A.R.T. train this week and allow it to take me to destinations I’ve longed to know. Of course, I would have hopped aboard much sooner, but as you might guess, that would have meant, well – hopping aboard much sooner. That’s just not how I rolled.

As determination would have it, I no longer roll; now I ride.

Let me tell you a little bit about the S.M.A.R.T. train. You get on this thing and it takes you exactly where you want to go. You want to get things done? You have a goal or two or three (dozen) you want to achieve? They rarely see the light of day when you’re a master procrastinator. And if and when they do, it’s often a sluggish and harrowing journey to get there.

On the S.M.A.R.T. train, you experience a journey of another kind. And, you’re not a mere passenger; you’re the conductor.

So, if you want to achieve what you’re setting out to do, you’ve got to get your ticket, hop on board, and stop at these five stations:

1.  Specific – a specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal, it helps to answer these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who's involved?
  • Where’s the location?
  • What’s my timeframe?
  • What are the requirements and constraints?
  • What's the reason, purpose, or benefit of accomplishing my goal?

2.  Measurable – establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track. (Pun intended.)

3.  Achievable – establish goals that are achievable and attainable. When you identify goals and objectives that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can reach them.

4.  Realistic – to be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goals should be. A high goal is often easier to reach than a low one because it exerts high energy and a high motivational force.

5.  Timely – a goal should be grounded within a timeframe. With no timeframe attached to it, there’s no sense of urgency. Set a date and you set your mind in motion to begin working on that goal.

Taking this ride is far more satisfying than procrastinating. When you procrastinate, you run the risk of missing the train altogether. And that’s a risk that I, for one, am no longer willing to take.   

How about you -- what do you say? (I say, “All Aboard!”)

Ebb and Flow

Tide
I attended a seminar earlier this week in which I heard a curious statement, “Happiness doesn’t last because there’s no resistance. It comes in and out of our lives; it ebbs and flows.”

Without fully grasping the profundity of that statement, my inner voice kicked into high gear saying, “Of course we don’t resist happiness. Who in the world would want to do that?” In my haste to understand the statement, I missed the larger, more powerful message.

The larger message is really about why “good” feelings, like joy, peace, and happiness, flow through our lives with greater ease while “bad” feelings like anger, frustration, and upset have a tendency to hang around a while longer.  

It essentially boils down to what Carl Jung concluded many years ago: what we resist persists. And in similar fashion: what we accept dissolves.

Think about it.

We resist what feels bad, what we’re told is bad, and what we perceive as bad. As a result, the “bad” persists. Negative feelings take up frequent residence and, at times, a lot of space. In fact, they can take up so much space that there’s very little room for the “good” stuff to flow back in.

You might conclude that resisting the “good” stuff would be the answer, that doing so would allow us to crowd out the “bad” stuff. Good logic, though not a sustainable solution. In fact, it’s more like denial. The very nature and rhythm of life requires that all things ebb and flow.

Let’s take a quick look at the “elephant in the room” theory. It’s all about that thing that doesn’t get talked about, that obvious thing that doesn’t get expressed. Over time, that elephant expands beyond the room and begins to take up space in our hearts and minds too, no doubt generating some “bad” or negative feelings.

So, how does one go about getting rid of an elephant? It’s actually easier than you might think. All you have to do is feel the elephant! (As far as painting a picture in one’s mind goes, I’ll admit that’s not a pretty one!)

Feel the “bad” feelings, every bit as much as you do the “good” ones. You’ve got to allow them to flow through. It’s how trapped energy gets un-stuck. Energy, both positive and negative, needs to be expressed.

Ah, but "I dare not express myself," you say. If that’s the case, say hello to your ego, but don’t invite him in. The ego is afraid to let go for fear of losing control. and having the freedom to choose. Here's the good news: your feelings are not in charge – you are - and you absolutely get to choose.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not build a condo there.”

Feel your feelings, moment by moment, and keep moving. Let the sadness and upset ebb so that you can make room for the love and happiness to flow.

(Who in the world wouldn’t want to do that?)

Let's Go Dream!

Dream
Last night, I had the opportunity to attend game three of the WNBA finals here in Atlanta and to watch the Dream take on the Seattle Storm. It was an awesome sight to see 10,000+ fans gather to cheer on a team that had become the Eastern Conference champions in just their third season of play.

It’s a great story, really. The Dream battled back from a 2008 opening season in which they set two WNBA all-time records, both for consecutive losses and for losses from opening day. (Not the kind of records that one wants to set.) And yet, just three years later, they find themselves at the 2010 WNBA finals. Pretty darn impressive in anyone’s book.

Last night’s game was an exciting one for sure, particularly with the “do or die” quotient hanging rather densely in the air for Atlanta; Seattle had already claimed the first two games on their home turf.

All that being said, this entry has nothing to do with basketball, really. It’s about what I witnessed up in the stands last night. With a team having the name, “Dream,” it’s really interesting (at least for me) to draw parallels between the passion that one has for the Dream on the court vs. the passion one has for the dream in their life.

And so, I found it quite entertaining to watch people all around me ringing cow bells, beating thunder sticks, and waving terrible towels emblazoned with the words, "Believe in the Dream.” Then, there was the persistent and enthusiastic chanting of "Let's Go Dream," throughout the evening. (Given the volume of things, I dare say a few people are in search of their voices this morning.)

I couldn't help but wonder if they could muster up that much passion for their own dreams. I literally laughed out loud when I heard the game announcer invite everyone to, “Make some noise for your Dreeeeeam!

Imagine having your own personal announcer encouraging you like that for your own dream. At his beckoning, you'd instantly stand up and cheer yourself on to victory. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it? (I should have taken that guy home!)

Analogies abound with team Dream, illustrated beautifully by taking a look at some of their headlines:

·  “Building the Dream”

·  “Dream Falls Short”

·  “Restoring the Dream”

·  “Living the Dream"

So, what’s your dream? And, is it big enough to light you up, to motivate you, and to inspire you to take action?

Imagine having the fire in your belly and the passion in your heart to stand up and cheer for your dream, cow bell in one hand and terrible towel in the other. Nothing moves people quite like passion. Discover yours and get moving.

Build your dream.  Restore it if you fall short. Live your dream. And no matter what, in the face of all else, believe in your dream. You see, life doesn’t kill the dreams we dream; we do.

Believe

By the way, this morning’s headline tells the tale as to who took home the victory last night: “Storm blows through Atlanta.” (Enough said.)

318 Years Later

With the continuation of my summer clean-out (which is soon to conclude, along with the season itself), I came across yet another treasure this week. It’s a rather yellowed, scroll-type document which was initially discovered in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore; dated 1692.

Its content is just too good not to share with you, some 318 years later, my beloved “Life Notes” readers. And so, here goes:

Go placidly amid the noise & haste & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud & aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter, for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the tress & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors & aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

I surely don’t know where my treasured scroll will be discovered, or who will discover it, 318 years from now, but the thought of it is pretty intriguing. Will this message continue to transcend the test of time such that it still makes a connection with the heart and soul of another human being?

Beyond that, I ask myself the broader question (and invite you to do the same): “What’s my message, the one I’d like to imagine resonating with someone, if not the world, some 318 years from now?

If you have an answer and would like to share it, I’d love to hear from you. You can post it in the "Comments" section of this blog entry on Life Notes or send it to me at cindy@lifetouchcoaching.com.

(Life Touch Coaching, Smyrna; dated 2010)

Enter Your Destination

How do you get from where you are to where you want to go? Determine your destination, put the car in gear, step on the gas, and away you go!

In today’s techno-centric world, we need only turn to the GPS system on our dash to help us find our way. It’s as simple as entering our destination. A few bell sounds here-and-there to indicate where to turn (or perhaps a sultry voice to guide our way) and, before we know it, we’ve arrived at the place we summoned from the very beginning.

Sure, we may travel some unfamiliar roads along the way. And perhaps a neighborhood or two that leaves us feeling a bit uncomfortable. Yet, knowing our GPS system is well aware of our final destination, we can be fairly confident that we’ll arrive at the destination of our choosing. We can relax and let go and not worry so much about how we’re going to get there; we just know that we will.  

Ok, pardon the pun, but you had to know where this was going. What does it take to arrive at the place in your life that you’ve longed for in your heart, that you’ve spent years dreaming about, that you’ve pictured in your mind a thousand times over (just last week)?

What if the answer was as simple, and as obvious, as programming it into your internal GPS system? As deliberately as you would enter “123 Main Street; Springfield, MO” in your external system, you enter the desired end result in your internal GPS and simply allow the details to show-up. And just like you do with your external GPS, trust that your internal system knows exactly how to take you where you truly desire.

Nothing kills a dream faster than getting caught in the net of “I don’t know how I’m going to do it.” And asking ourselves over and over again, “Exactly how am I going to get there?” Release yourself from the “how” and the notion that you must control every detail  and allow the Universe (or God or Spirit) to show you the way.

What’s the worst thing that happens when you take a wrong turn every once in a while? The system simply recalculates and puts you on a slightly different path to get you to your destination.  No problem.

Imagine that you could realize your dreams, your goals, and your highest aspirations in a similar fashion. Enter your (personal) destination by imprinting the end result in your mind's eye; then, watch how people, situations, and opportunities present themselves along the journey to help you find your way.

A couple of caveats for you.

First, don’t choose something you have a hard time believing in or it won't show up. Commitment to the destination is huge.

Second, don’t be attached to the outcome. For example, if you’re looking to get married, don’t insist on George Clooney. By all means however, insist on a relationship!

As you set your sights on your destination and get yourself in gear, consider a bit of Steppenwolf blaring from your sound system to start you on your way:

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

(Away you go, indeed!)

Remembering Betsy

Mom5 I’m writing this week’s post on a date that is both meaningful and purposeful -- August 27.

It’s on this very date 66 years ago today that my mother, Betsy, came into the world. She would leave it just 43 years later, tragically and unexpectedly.

And so I dedicate this post to her, a woman who taught me what it really means to live in the spirit of generosity and kindness, of concern and compassion, of laughter and of love.

Compassion is something that came quite naturally to Betsy. She loved helping people and so her choice to pursue nursing couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. What propelled her to make that career decision is what speaks volumes about the person she was.

Her brother Paul died at an even younger age, 22, a staggering loss for any family. Feeling helpless watching Paul fade away from cancer, Betsy decided she would make it her life’s work to help other people. And so she did. She became a nurse just two years after Paul died and stayed in that career up until the time of her own death, some 15 years later.

As I was struggling in my 20’s and 30’to pursue a career that really fit (as opposed to one that just paid the bills), I needed only look to my mother’s extraordinary example to find my way. And it’s truly no accident that at the age of 43, I found my perfect fit when I chose to pursue coaching as my life’s work, leaving behind a 20-year career in sales & marketing.

(Nursing never could have worked for me since the sight of blood makes me weak!)

It’s an amazing space in which I have the privilege of working with people, a space that allows for generosity and kindness, for concern and compassion and yes, even laugher and love.

Who are your guideposts in this life, whether they’re with you now or have gone on before you? In your own search (perhaps struggle) to find your way, is your lighthouse right there in front of you? Are you waiting (and waiting) for the fog to lift or are you pressing on, despite the storm(s)?

Look-up for the searchlight. And listen for the fog horn. It’s all there, well within your reach.

When I look-up and listen, I see a bright light shining and hear a voice inside me saying, “Thank heaven for Betsy.”

The Circle of Five

I once read that we are each the sum total of the five people with whom we spend the most time. If you’re like me, you’re taking an instant inventory of those people and wondering if this statement is actually true.

Test it out and see. With whom do you spend the most time? And, how would you characterize those people? Are they upbeat, optimistic, and happy -- the kind of people who light up a room the moment they enter? Or, are they the kind of people who instantly drain your energy, leaving you with a feeling of worry and upset with nearly every interaction? Perhaps they're somewhere in between. (Perhaps you are too.)

I didn’t pay attention to such things in my youth. I didn't have concern for who lifted me up or brought me down (or who I was lifting up or bringing down for that matter). It was more about appearances. Which circle would give me the best chance of fitting-in, of having a sense of belonging?

The wonderful thing about growing older is that it matters less and less what people think of me. Imagine: they’ll think what they want to think and say what they want to say whether I like it or not. (Talk about a revelation!)

And so the people I surround myself with today are not there for the purpose of keeping up appearances or providing a means to an end.

They’re people who inspire me to be my best, who hold my agenda without concern for their own (an incredibly rare and precious gift), who lift me up on days that feel most heavy, who see things in me that I cannot see in myself, who delight in the simple things, who stand in a place of observation rather than judgment, and live and breathe the space of unconditional love.

So, who’s in your circle of five? And how do they reflect who you are in the world?

Are you in the “fit in at any cost” circle? The “I’ve got it going on” circle? The “don’t mess with me circle?” Perhaps it's the circle of "world peace" or the "simple pleasures matter most" circle.

I simply invite you to check-out your circle of five and see how it resonates with who are and what’s important to you.

As awesome as the power of choice is, we often draw people into our lives based on the energy we emit in the world – both positive and negative - as opposed to making definitive choices.

If your circle doesn’t feel quite right, check your energy level and re-draw your circle, if necessary.

There's no right or wrong when it comes to your circle. There's just this subtle realization that you’ve perhaps drawn the perfect circle when your circle of five makes you feel like a million.

Arrivals and Departures

Where is it in life thatyou’re looking to arrive? You know, that place you feel sure will make all the difference once you get there, that very same place that tells you (and the world, for that matter), that you’ve made it?

Is it (or was it) the arrival from childhood to adulthood?

…from high school to college?

…from living with your parents to living on your own?

…from being single to being married?

…from being childless to having a house full of kids?

…from a busy schedule to a relaxing vacation?

…from overweight to losing weight?

…from living on the east coast to doing life on the west coast?

…from an unhappy marriage to a divorce?

…from being divorced to being remarried?

---from employment to retirement?

...and so on and so on.

Do the places you arrive give you the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and fulfillment you imagined? Or is it one fleeting trip after another, leaving you feeling a bit frustrated and exhausted (…and perhaps wondering what the heck direction you’re actually headed)?

We have a tendency to go through life with the idea that once we arrive at a particular place, achieve a specific goal, or reach a significant milestone, our lives will somehow be different – that we will somehow be different. But is that really the case?

If moving to a new city, leaving your partner to do life with someone new, or changing careers are the kinds of changes you think will lead to your ultimate fulfillment, you may want to think again. You can be certain the same kind of “issues” that were with you before your departure will find you upon your arrival.

The reason is simple: wherever you go, there you are. You are the common denominator in the situations, events, and relationships in your life. (After all, who else could it be?)

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a scheduled departure, no arrival will ever satisfy you, no matter where you’re headed, if you’re not "grounded" in who you are and what’s really important to you.

Here’s the thing. It’s not the doing that defines us and creates our ultimate success and fulfillment; it’s who we’re being, how we’re showing-up for ourselves and others.

When we choose to show-up with peace, love, and joy (as we often wish one another in our holiday cards each year), the chances of experiencing a sense of fulfillment are infinitely greater than say, the chances of experiencing an on-time departure.

Take the time to contemplate how you want to be in life, how you want to show up for others, and for yourself. Start leaning into that and see the difference it makes. And when you start living into it fully, not only will you have "made it," but I guarantee your travel schedule will be a lot less hectic.

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Last week, I stumbled upon anew show on NBC called “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins." Another reality show to add to the already cluttered genre? Yes. A reality show like all the rest? Definitely not.

What separates this show from the pack is the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly impossible odds.  Clearly, there’s no striving to “outwit, outlast, outplay,” or choosing a husband from a pool of eligible bachelors, or watching a bunch of real housewives live their unreal lives.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of those shows (in fact, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” is a personal favorite!); I’m merely suggesting that if you want to experience a compelling dose of reality (pun intended), give “Breakthrough” a look.

Whether you tune-in or not, I think it’s worth sharing the seven steps Tony outlines for freeing yourself from your limitations – any thought that’s in your head or heart that tells you that you can’t do something, that you’re somehow incapable. These steps help define how you move from a breakdown to a breakthrough:

Step 1: Rewrite your story

Step 2: Confront your real issues

Step 3: Discover your inner strength

Step 4: Redefine what’s possible

Step 5: Exceed your expectations

Step 6: Change your belief system

Step 7: Own your breakthrough

Any number of people could tell you that you’re capable of leading a truly extraordinary life, of living a life beyond your greatest imagining. Would you believe it? If not, why not? What’s stopping you, really?

I invite you to follow the story of Frank and Kristen Alioto from last week's episode of "Breakthrough" so that your own sense of what’s really and truly possible may be radically altered.

And then re-create your own reality, one that moves swiftly from your imagination to a place of action. After all, it’s in the doing that makes the difference. And it’s where your breakthrough is waiting for you.

Let me know the date and time; I'll gladly tune-in!