Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

Turning On Your Success Faucet

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution type of person. For me it runs much deeper. I set “Intentions” that are based upon my deeper life goals. My intentions form the basis of my decisions when choosing which tool I will select from my inner toolbox and how I will employ it as I make choices all year long. When faced with a decision, I ask myself, “What choice takes me closer to my goal? Does this align with my intention?” You should know that these are not ordinary goals; they are the heart-filled keys to my success. Success that starts in my inner world and is mirrored in my outer success.

Many of my clients come to me saying, “I don’t know what I want to do next. I just know it’s not what I’ve been doing.” These are executives and professionals with many of the trappings of externally based success. What they are seeking is more than just a new job, they are looking for satisfaction, a sense of meaning from what they do – I call it inner success. In my experience, nearly every one of them does know, deep inside, what it is they want to do, they simply need some help in the excavation work. And when they tap into this inner success, it shines brightly in their external success.

In the process of digging deeply into this tomb where our desires have been buried, we start with the question “What do you want? No, I mean REALLY want!” When I first asked myself this question, I realized that the part of me I’ve come to call my Wanter was broken. Long ago, I had learned how to determine what was available to me and then make myself seem happy with whatever crumb was offered, instead of discerning what I truly wanted and then being willing to do what it took to get what I wanted, really wanted, deep down. Perhaps you, too, have lived under the admonition to “be practical” or you squelch your desires before they even have a breath with phrases like “it isn’t realistic.” How do you know what is possible if you don’t allow yourself to even know what you want?

Too many of us decide what we want based on what we were told we should want. Every day, I talk with clients who, after completing medical school or law school, have practiced a profession for decades, because that’s what their parents thought they should be doing. Or men and women with MBA’s who tell me that following their dreams now would be a waste of all that education. Or that the debt they’ve amassed creating the illusion of external success has them feeling trapped. I am always amazed how people seemingly at the pinnacle of their careers, are secretly unhappy and wonder why. These are wonderful people who have houses or cars or activities or entire lives that are founded on having what the culture has defined as markers of success. Yet, they are caught in the meat grinder of wanting what cannot fill them up.

See if this you can relate to this scenario. You and a friend are meeting for dinner while you’re away on business. Your friend suggests a restaurant that you don’t know anything about but he says got great reviews. When you arrive at the restaurant, it’s impressive, but on your first scan of the menu, nothing jumps out at you. Disappointed, you take a second look, deciding to choose something from what is available. While your stomach will be full at the end of the meal, and surely you’ll have enjoyed conversation with your friend, and can brag at home about going to such a fine restaurant, you end up grabbing a candy bar from the mini-bar back in your hotel room as you flick on the TV to watch The Daily Show.

Now imagine this scenario. Your friend asks you what you’d like to eat for dinner and you tell him you have been craving eggplant parmagiano. He suggests a little Italian bistro near your hotel. You order the eggplant parm. Your mouth is delighted, your tummy hums and you and your friend linger long into the night catching up on each other’s lives. As you tuck into your hotel room that night, you feel satisfied and notice the smile on your face and how it’s coming from deep inside you.

What’s the difference? You knew what you wanted and when you got it, it satisfied more than just an externally motivated part of you.

That deeper satisfaction comes from aligning our external actions with our inner goals. It is the secret to your success. Those of us who are fulfilling our inner goals have what seems like effortless success. We are using our talents and expressing our values. But getting to those inner goals requires looking beyond status, power and other people’s opinions. It requires looking beyond what’s simply available to choose from and trying to make yourself happy with it and, instead, delving into your own heart’s wanting. Maybe this year, for Valentine’s Day, you might give yourself or your sweetheart a chance to live a heartfelt life. I have put together some ideas here.

I frequently ask my clients questions like these:

  • What is the legacy you want to leave behind marking your life in the world?
  • If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
  • What would you do if all jobs paid the same and had the same prestige?
  • When in your life have you been most joy-filled and engaged?
  • What is your secret dream?
  • What are the barriers to combining happy and successful in your life?

In April, I will be hosting a 3-day workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona called Tapping Your Inner Wealth. This workshop will be focused on working in person with a small group of men and women to identify your inner success and make it shine as your outer wealth. If you are unable to join me live in Scottsdale, I will be launching an eight week online telecourse in May to help you Turn on Your Own Tap of Success or you can schedule a phone session with me by clicking on the link in the sidebar at the upper right of this column.

Before you decide that what you want is impossible for yourself, I ask you to reframe that statement and see if really the way to read the word impossible is “I’m possible”.

Building Your Courage Muscles

I was talking to the massage therapist the other night about my upcoming workshop on Courageous Choices and what a thrill I get every time I am able to help someone let go of the familiar to try something new. Whether it’s a new job with a different company, asserting new boundaries within an important relationship or a significant transition like choosing a new career – each step toward change requires moving beyond a well trod comfort zone and that takes courage.

For most of us, the path from the Land of Wishing to the Land of Having requires us to step through the Gate of Doing. Typically, we step through that gate only when a) the pain of staying where we are is too great to stay put or b) the desire for that for which we have been wishing becomes strong enough to overcome the inertia of resisting. I’ve seen that pain come from any of a thousand different avenues for the people I work with – getting fired, not being able to raise the next fund, learning your spouse is preparing to leave you, a serious medical issue, death of a loved one, the empty nest or a gnawing restlessness that you just can’t put your finger on but you know you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing any longer.

For nearly everyone, “wanting” something to be different may be the starting point, but as the old saying goes “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Change requires action, plain and simple – no avoiding it. It is often fear that keeps us from taking the action we most need to see the changes we desire. Fear is not the enemy, inertia is. Fear challenges you to build your courage muscles and when you make friends with fear by stepping outside of your comfort zone, your comfort zone expands. Too often we hold ourselves back from taking the steps that will improve our lives and fulfill us, hoping that our fear will go away. The fear that you might not make enough money or that you won’t be as successful in a new career or that someone is going to be upset about your decision can keep you stuck where you are, hoping that “some day” you’ll wake up and feel the courage to try something new. Believe me, courage is not going to find you, you’re going to have to tackle that fear and step into the courage whether you want to get a new job, give a speech or leave a relationship that just clearly isn’t working anymore.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the pioneering psychiatrist in the work of grief surrounding the dying found that the most oft-cited fear was the fear of death, even though we all know that it is inevitable and unavoidable. Her research showed that those who felt they understood and acted on their purpose in life or found special meaning in what they had been able to do faced significantly less fear and despair in the final weeks of their lives than those who had not.

Identifying the work we are meant to do and the strength of character to do something that frightens us and then deploying the physical or mental or emotional willingness to do it is empowering and exhilarating. It requires reflection, introspection, a willingness to look at things in a new way, and the courage to actually step out of one’s comfort zone and do something different and unfamiliar and yes, sometimes, frightening.

Often I hear “What will other people think or say if I (fill in the blank)?” A fellow I’m working with has become clear about the specific step that he needs to take to have the life of his dream, one he’s been dreaming of for as long as he can remember, admitted that he was worried about what his family and friends would say if he took this step. He wasn’t sure he could stand up to their criticism of his decision, even though he knew that if he didn’t act soon his dream would really be beyond his reach. I shared with him a favorite quote: The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. – Rollo May

Courage is the willingness to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism or disapproval of others. Many people stay in jobs they detest and go to events they despise and behave in certain ways that violate their integrity just to please other people, all the while draining their life force into the pit of conformity for the poison pill of approval. To me, it is a sad waste of a life. After all, I often joke that if your friends think less of you for chasing your dream, you need some better friends! And, families often use the tool of guilt to manipulate their loved ones into conformity because of their own fears and wants. While it’s easy to confuse courage and bravery, I think courage is not the absence of fear, but the resistance to fear and mastery of that which you have not yet achieved.

Here are some questions I use to regain my courage:

1. What do I really (in my deepest heart) want? (Be precise)
2. What do I need to do to have that? (List every action)
3. What am I afraid of? (List every fear, no matter how silly it looks in writing)
4. What does avoiding this fear cost me?
5. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? (List every action)
6. At the end of my life, will I regret not having done this?
7. How will my life benefit from facing this fear?
8. What else might I be able to do if I faced this fear?
9. What specific actions must I take in spite of this fear so I may have what I want?
10. What one action am I willing to take today and who can I ask to support me?

Dear friends, I want for you the life of your dreams. You deserve it, you’re worth it and as Christopher Robin said to Pooh, “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”  If you need me to be your Christopher Robin, I’m here.

If I Were A Rich Man …

Sorry for starting this column off making you silently hum that familiar tune from Fiddler on the Roof! 

Last week while I was waiting for the dealership to complete the oil change on my car, I struck up a conversation with the woman who was sitting next to me as we watched a clip promoting a television show called “Secret Millionaire”.  The premise of the show is that someone with money goes incognito into an impoverished community and agrees to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the lives of those in the community.  She told me that she loved that show and it inspired her to see someone giving back like that and hoped to do something like that herself one day.

In the course of our chat, I also learned that she is going through a divorce, recently filed for bankruptcy and had been struggling with her teenage son who has a drug addiction.  When the service rep entered the waiting area and began recounting the necessary repairs to her car, I pretended to be engrossed in the magazine on my lap but I could feel the tension building long before he told her that the repairs would exceed $3700, money I was sure she didn’t have.  She authorized the service department to handle the one safety issue that otherwise left the car unsafe to drive.

As we continued to pass the time waiting for our respective vehicles to be ready, she told me that she had been a homemaker for the past 23 years and that she was struggling with a new sales job she had just taken since she has to support herself.  She had been a top sales rep for Xerox before her children were born and she had taken the sales job since it was the only job she knew how to do. 

I asked her what she longed to do, if money wasn’t a concern.  I find that whenever I ask people this question, they always have an answer on the tip of their tongues.  Everyone knows what they wish they were spending their time on.  Sometimes it’s a sport or a hobby or a charitable mission or a dream they long ago put up on a shelf because someone labeled it as “unrealistic”.

Her answer was that she’d like to work with women whose husbands had cheated on them, to help them recover their self-esteem, like she had had to do and to help mothers whose children have a drug addiction.  I asked her what she was doing to make that dream a reality.

That’s when she looked at me as if I had three heads.  It seems to be the response I get most frequently when I ask someone why they aren’t doing what they really wish they were.  Her subsequent statement also echoed a version of what I hear most from people who aren’t following their dreams, “What would I do for money?  Everyone knows I wouldn’t be able to support myself and my kids doing that.”

I wondered if it was really true that she would be unable to support herself and her children doing something she was passionate about.  Why do people assume that their passions are incompatible with economic sustenance?  So, I figured I had nothing to lose.  I asked her what it would take for her to be willing to do what she was passionate about.  Her answer, like many I’ve heard before, was that when she had enough money saved she would think about doing it.  “How much money?” I asked.  She said, “I don’t know.  I guess ‘enough’.”   I pressed a little further, how was she supporting herself and her children now and learned that she was living with her mother since her husband refused to pay his child support.

I asked whether her mother would throw her and her children out of the house if she didn’t bring home “enough” money.  Would her children be forced to become shoeless beggars?  Of course not.  I asked whether she had thought about just staying with her husband while he was having an affair and doing the work she loved.  She said no because she didn’t want her kids to see her living a lie and selling herself out.  Can you guess my next question?  Why was it better for her children to see her selling herself out to a job she hated, while she waited to garner “enough” money to do what made her happy?

My conversation partner became a little aggravated at that point and said that if she had enough money then she would do exactly that, but until then it was better to teach her kids responsibility and the value of hard work.  I’ll admit it, I was pushing the edge of a conversation with a relative stranger when I asked her what exactly the value was of the hard work she was modeling.  And why the lesson for her children about responsibility couldn’t be modeled  in doing what brought her happiness instead of modeling responsibility as a miserable duty that must be endured to earn money so one could then be “happy”.

I reminded her of how much she admired the Secret Millionaires, how each of them made a point of finding out what really made others’ lives better and made their contribution doing exactly that.  Did she really need to wait until she was a millionaire to be able to make her contribution?  Couldn’t she do that in addition to (or instead of) holding a sales job?  I wasn’t encouraging her to be a loafer and live in her mother’s house forever or to leave her children without shoes or with hungry bellies.  What I was doing was questioning the falsity of the unspoken premise that is only the dollar value or enormity of our contribution that makes it worth doing and that, until we each have amassed our personal fortune, we can’t do what makes us happy or that contributes to the well being and happiness of others who are less fortunate?  I think that’s a myth that too many people have bought into – the eternal deferral of what fills you with passion until after you’ve made “enough” money – whatever that is. 

Over the past year, in addition to working on the book I have been writing on work-life balance issues, I have been guiding individuals who are looking for a solution to exactly that dilemma – how to reconcile their desires to do what fills them with passion and still provide for their families while making a difference in their community.  It is this work that fills me most with my own sense of purpose and I enjoy inspiring others to find ways big and small to live their purpose NOW, not later, in an authentic and meaningful way.  I hope you will join me at one of my many workshops and gatherings to explore the solution to this dilemma for yourself. Until then, I leave you with two very important questions:

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  – Mary Oliver