Do We Build Ourselves Up By Putting Others Down?

In our current climate of divisiveness there is a lot mean-spirited talk, there are a lot of lies being told. It’s hard not to get caught up in being outraged, insulting, and judgmental. Some quotes that keep me conscious of how I participate in conversations are below. We are all doing our best, and we all fall short, but we can at least try to be mindful of our words, and the energy that carries our words.

By “mean-spirited talk” I mean speaking or writing with any of these qualities: unkind, spiteful, unfair, nasty, hateful, harsh, rude, insulting, degrading, disrespectful, uncivil. I also include grossly distorting or editing someone else’s words to give a false impression.

Under stress people start to feel powerless; then the impulse to put others down in an attempt to feel better about their own situation shows up. I fall into this trap on occasion; I think we all do. We are currently in an overwhelm of stress that comes with a global pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen before and can’t predict. Now more than ever, it’s time to try and do better in our discourse.

Here are the quotes I hope will act as a friendly reminder of the boomerang effect of mean speech:

 

“You speak badly of others thinking it will make you feel superior. This only sows seeds of meanness in your heart, causing others not to trust you and causing you to suffer.”

Pema Chodron, Always Maintain a Joyful Mind

 

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.”

Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

 

“Hatred never ceases by hatred,

But by love alone is healed.

This is an ancient and eternal law.”

Maha Gosananda spoken from the Dhammapada

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

“It is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

“The words you choose are programmed to release power and life force into whatever they express. As you speak, so you experience…”

Sonia Choquette, Your Heart’s Desire

 

“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Ian MacLaren

 

“Whatever we say, we’re always talking about ourselves.”

Alison Bechdel

 

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.”

Ken Keyes

 

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Loss Sparks a Transformative Journey; How to reinvent your life after the worst day of your life

I look back on a life path rich with learning. I’ve learned the most painful loss can set into motion the most dramatic transformation. I use my divorce as an example of an unexpected blow that ultimately brought me to a brighter, happier place. I share some of my lessons in the hope that my perspective looking back can help you if you’re currently going through something painful.

The day I was served divorce papers was a stunning shock. My husband at the time told me, “I’m not happy” on a Thursday, moved out the following weekend, and served me with divorce papers first thing Monday morning. I was stunned and blind-sided. The day the papers were delivered was shocking, devastating, embarrassing, and overwhelming. I had never worked harder on anything in my life than I worked on my marriage. To see it dissolve in the space of five days, without warning, shook me to my core.

If someone told me then I’d look back on the day the divorce papers were served as the best day of my life, I would not have believed it. Yet that’s how I look at it from my current vantage point. That day set me on a new path. It caused me to reexamine everything I believed about how I should live my life. It caused me to show up for myself in an entirely new way. It caused me to transform and grow in ways I never imagined.

So here are lessons I learned in clawing my way out of that dark, depressing pit.

  1. Get your mind around it.It happened. This is your life now. Your dreams are crushed; you are going through stages of grief – shock, denial, bargaining, and anger. Your job right now is to try to get to the acceptance stage because you don’t want to stay stuck. Do not be telling yourself “this shouldn’t have happened to me” and “I didn’t do anything to deserve this” and “it isn’t fair”. Those are all ways of saying you shouldn’t be having the experience you’re having, and they all keep you feeling bitter at the hand life has dealt you. Holding the belief it shouldn’t have happened closes you off to the possibility of good coming from the experience.
  1. Do not let that story define you.Do whatever it takes to quit dwelling on feeling wronged and victimized. I’m not saying you weren’t wronged, maybe you were, but don’ttell your sad story over and over, endlessly elaborating on the injustice of your experience, bashing him and every other man along with him. Don’t allow friends, in an effort of misguided support, to let you tell and retell a story that casts you in the role of victim. It may start out as supportive, but it becomes toxic. At a certain point, the story you tell starts to define you, and you don’t want to define yourself at your lowest point. Either tell your story to a professional and process the experience for healing, or give yourself a limit on the number of times you tell it and then stop. Don’t get locked into defining yourself at your worst. I have not told my divorce story in decades, and I only share it now with the intention of encouraging others to hold onto their dreams, even when the circumstances of life feel like an insurmountable setback.
  1. Do not expect closure. Waiting for closure is a gigantic time waster. This is true when you lose a relationship, job, home, or business. There may be some point in the future when you look back with clarity on what happened, or you get a piece of information that makes all the pieces fit together for your “aha” moment. But don’t count on it and don’t put your life on hold for it. It might take the perspective of decades to look back with enough detachment and accuracy to truly understand.
  1. Own your piece of it.The more you can take responsibility for your part in creating your experience, the more quickly you’ll bounce back. If you can only see 1% that was on you, own that. In some way you contributed and colluded in creating this experience. Accurate perspective taking is balanced – you don’t blame yourself 100% and you don’t blame someone else 100%. In the moment of being divorced I blamed him, but over time I acknowledged my role in the unfolding of my story. Through honestly acknowledging I had played a part in this drama – at the very least I chose him as the man I would marry – I found the power to change. In looking back years later I was able to own more responsibility – I ignored certain signs, I avoided painful issues, I didn’t always ask for what I needed – in these ways I was complicit in creating mutual unhappiness.
  1. Give other people their freedom.I had to acknowledge his right to choose. He gets to be happy, he gets to create the life he wants, and if he needs to divorce me to be happy he gets to make that choice. I don’t have to like his process, and the pain it caused, but I do have to accept his freedom to live his life making choices for his own happiness. For me, it was a wake-up call to focus on making choices for my own happiness as well (which required me to get really clear on what I wanted and quit settling for less).
  1. Commit to reinventing your lifein such a way that you’ll look back on this as a stumble on your journey, not going off the cliff. It is a defining moment, so let it define the moment you fully committed to reinvent your life as something radically better. Commitment to your reinvention is Find a compelling reason WHY you will not let what happened define you as bad, unlovable, unworthy of your dreams, or a failure. Your life has just burned to the ground and you get to build back anything you want. Keep the focus on what you do wantto create (not on reacting to what you don’t want to be happening).
  1. Invest in yourself. Get the professional help that will keep you moving toward your dreams. You’re at a low point and discouraged, so it is easy to give up. You need to find a supportive person that will hold on to your dream for you during the times you can’t. If you are ever going to invest in yourself, the time is now. Dig into the rainy day fund if you have to. There’s no better use for your money than saving yourself and pulling your dreams out of the fire. Use coaches, counselors, workshops, retreats, spiritual work, energy work, bodywork, whatever resonates for you, whatever helps. There is a vast array of helping professions and professionals – find what works for you to heal the trauma and move forward. This is not the time to go it alone. When you choose your support person, be absolutely sure the person you choose is invested in supporting you to move forward.
  1. Dream bigger.Counter-intuitively, if your dream has failed, you need a bigger dream. After the stunning crash-and-burn of my first marriage, I set my sights on a different kind of love; I had actually set my sights too lowthe first time around. When I started dating again, I was more true to myself and thus I attracted a man who saw the real me. By being more authentic I found love that was stronger, more committed, and a much better “fit” for me. My new relationship isn’t more work; it is actually much lesswork and struggle than the first time around. I feel the joy and gratitude that comes from being with the right life partner every day.
  1. Get out of your head.When your head wants to explode with the effort it takes to process all you’ve been through, then it’s time to give the mind a rest. Find something you love, or that you’ve never done, and immerse yourself in it enough to set your mind free from the spin cycle it is on. (Creative pursuits, endurance training, cooking, guilty pleasure reading and movies, volunteer work, taking on a goal such as a job promotion or finishing a degree, learn to meditate, do yoga, kayak, run a race, or sing karaoke). Refocus some energy on something that’s a stretch so it will really consume you, both mentally and physically, in order for you to blow off some steam and have a new frame of mind (or at least get some sleep).
  1. Become sincerely grateful.I am truly grateful my first husband divorced me. It brought forward issues that needed healing. It caused me to look deeply into my life on all levels and started me on a journey of personal growth that is still evolving. I have changed, grown, and become a person with more capacity to give and receive love. In the process I have learned to manifest every dream for my life. Why wouldn’t I be grateful for that gift?

There is a lot of letting go in moving forward. Letting go of negative stories, circumstances, excuses, limiting beliefs, shame, guilt, blame you are casting on others, blame you are taking on yourself, your comfort zone. You will be letting go of the people who don’t support your change and growth and reaching out for the right kind of help and support.

All easier said than done. These steps are tough and might not make sense until you are on the other side of the wall you need to get over. You may cycle around some of the steps multiple times. It may be a long journey, but if you do the work things can work out remarkably well.

I used the example of the loss of my first marriage – your loss may be something entirely different and you’ll have to apply what I’ve written to your situation. Any loss can be a point of hitting bottom in a way that sparks a new life. I don’t expect you to feel grateful for every loss. When you lose someone you love due to death you may never feel grateful, but it can still be the day that changed the course of your life, the day that started a transformative journey, the beginning of a new path toward purpose and meaning, an opportunity to become a stronger, better, more compassionate person.

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Words That Inspire In Challenging Times

These are excerpts from a letter written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her words resonate now more than ever. The title is:

Do Not Lose Heart,
We Were Made for These Times

BY CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, PhD

You can see the full text at https://www.awaken.com/2017/05/do-not-lose-heart-we-were-made-for-these-times/

You can learn more about the author at http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com

Here are her words that I reread when current events throw me off balance and toward despair. Here are words that remind me to “stand up and show my soul”:

It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

Yet … I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is—we were made for these times.

Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely.

We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.

Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered—can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the Voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.

One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair—thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts—adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.

The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires … causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both—are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, a Mestiza Latina, a long time activist in her seventies now, continues to testify before federal and state legislatures for social justice causes of disenfranchised persons. She is a poet, an author whose books are published in 35 languages, and a post trauma recovery specialist, serving 9-11 survivor families; and students, teachers and community after the Columbine High School massacre. She is a senior diplomate Jungian psychoanalyst in practice for forty-seven years, the former Chair of the Colorado State Grievance Board, and is the first recipient of the Joseph Campbell“Keeper of the Lore” award.

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5 Tools for Creating Your Best Life

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When I reflect on my life I’m quite amazed at the dreams that have come true in my life. I would like to share with you five tools that have been essential on my journey to manifesting my heart-felt dreams.

#1 Co-creation

We can access a great universal power when asking for the fulfillment of our dreams. I believe in co-creating with this force, whatever you choose to call it. Inspiration, creative insights, synchronicity, “aha” moments, intuitive knowing, and fully formed ideas show up (seemingly “out of nowhere”) when you consciously ask to co-create and then pay attention.

There are many words and concepts that exist in science, spirituality, and religion for this power. It has been called the Universe, Spirit, God, the superconscious mind, the oversoul, the supraconscious, infinite intelligence, God mind, inner Divine, Higher Self, collective unconscious, God consciousness, Buddha consciousness, Christ consciousness, Divine Mind, the Christ within, Source, Mother-Father God of all Creation, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Spirit, Higher Knowing, the Field, the Divine Matrix.

Whatever you choose to call it, I encourage you to use this force to supercharge your ability to manifest everything you want to be, do and have. I have a degree in Spiritual Psychology, and I learned from my teachers to write my goals and dreams this way, filling in the word that most resonates: “With ______ as my co-creator, I create this or something better for the highest good of all concerned. So be it and so it is.” Then list your heart’s desires. This wording explicitly asks for co-creation. Adding “this or something better” allows this higher force to create a better outcome than our tiny brains can imagine; this phrase guarantees your limited thinking does not restrict your results.

Co-create and allow the Universe to be working on your behalf in fulfilling your dream. If it doesn’t happen, it is either not in your highest good, or the timing isn’t right. Don’t give up if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want or expect; stay true to your dream. Tap into the wisdom of this higher consciousness and play close attention to subtle messages and unexpected ways your dream is being fulfilled.

#2 Abundance Mentality

As humans we may experience shortage and lack. As spiritual beings we experience abundance, and can tap into the infinite abundance of the Universe. I try and catch myself when I am in a mentality of “not enough” and consciously shift to what an abundance mentality would say.

It’s possible that the story you’re telling yourself about why you can’t have your dream is blocking it. I’ve attained many dreams in spite of an abundance of evidence I never would. When I wanted a life partner I quit telling myself “there is nobody for me” and started telling myself instead “I want my ‘right partner’, a wonderful man, and in the abundant universe of men there’s one that fits me.”

#3 Action

Once we have a clear vision of what we want to create we must take action. The Universe meets us at our point of action. Don’t expect to reap the harvest without planting the field.

Granted, sometimes you need to quit doing more, take a step back, rest and rejuvenate. Granted, sometimes you need to pause and clarify your intention. You need clarity the vision of what you want to create. Granted, one inspired and creative action can be worth years of plodding and struggling, so action aligned with intuition and the wisdom of our Higher Self is preferable, but action must come.

Action signals the Universe we are serious about our intention. The Universe can fulfill our dreams in ways our linear cause-and-effect brains could never predict or orchestrate. Take a step, set things in motion, and allow the Universe to go to work on your behalf.

For example, I hear sentiments like, “If God wants me to be married he’ll bring me my husband”. That may be true, but you will probably need to leave your house, or tell your friends you’re ready to meet someone special, or create an online profile, or notice the men you’re interacting with through your day. At the very least, you need to take action that opens your heart and shows you are ready to receive love. Make space in your home, your calendar, your heart, and in your life. Take action that shows you want it and are ready to receive it, whether it’s subtle inner action or bold outer action. Notice the men noticing you.

#4 Alignment

Another concept from spiritual psychology is aligning the “goal line” and the “soul line”. Most of us are familiar with the concept of the goal line. We can be fantastic at reaching milestone accomplishments – degrees, income, spouses, children, career, business, athletic achievement, houses, cars, etc. But if it feels like something is missing, or if goals continually elude us, it may mean the goal line and the soul line are going in different directions.

When we manifest on the soul line we are manifesting our highest destiny. “Soul goals” nudge us over and over. We fully embody our capacity for the contribution we’re meant to make. Just like a tiny acorn knows everything it needs to know to grow into a mighty oak, we are programed with everything we need within us to advance on the soul line and make a difference. And when the goal line and the soul line are in alignment, nothing can stop us.

To use the marriage example again, finding a wife or husband because you want the status and benefit of a particular picture of your “perfect” partner is very different from finding your “right partner”, your spiritual partner. When a relationship is a “soul goal” it keeps us in the game despite disappointment and discouragement along the way. We will not give up because our heart knows we are meant to be with someone and keeps nudging us to find him or her. We have a calling to give and receive love in a special, intimate relationship that will support our growth and our work in the world.

Another way to be out of alignment is by creating conflicting intentions. If we constantly speak our truth out into the Universe in ways that send conflicting messages about what we want to manifest, nothing can line up. When you go through the drive-through you must place a specific order. Likewise, the Universe can move on our behalf if we have a clear, specific, unambiguous desire that does not conflict with what we are saying and doing. Be conscious of the alignment of both your words and actions with your intention to create.

#5 Embrace the Journey

You are on a spiritual journey full of growth and evolution. The lessons, challenges and trials are necessary for the spiritual growth that will prepare your heart for the dream. Avoid looking at the journey with regret, fear, distrust, and the attitude “this shouldn’t be happening to me”. Rather, look for the gift in each step and be grateful.

Instead of meeting missteps with anger and resentment, keep asking: what is this here to teach me, what is the blessing in this experience, how does this help me recognize get absolutely clear on what I do want and what I don’t want in my life.

There is triumph in overcoming obstacles and challenges. There are guides and helpers (human and Divine) to support you in getting where you want to go if you’re willing to ask for and receive the help. There are wonderful people on your path, bringing gifts you may only recognize when you look back from a perspective of time and growth. Your worst heartbreak can be your greatest teacher.

Some dreams take complete transformation, time and energy, sustained effort, resilience and persistence. They require traversing the dark night of the soul. They require willingness to change, and grow, and remove barriers. They require vulnerability and taking the right kind of risks. In the end (given enough time) you’ll see how every step on the journey had purpose, taught an important lesson, and helped you become the person who can have your dream.

To sum up: Get absolutely clear on what you want, make sure the desire is in alignment with your heart and soul, and is not in conflict with other intentions. Be open and ready to receive your dream by stepping into the energy of abundance. Ask the Universe to help in co-creating the dream, take a small action step in the direction of your dream, and finally learn the lessons you are meant to learn on the way. I wish you all the best in manifesting the desires of your heart.

 

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Writing the Permission Slip

2020 is the year of giving myself permission to be, do, and have more. Rather than make resolutions or set intentions, this year I’m writing myself the permission slip.

I am giving myself permission to:

  • Lead with my heart.
  • Love and accept myself, and others, wholeheartedly – regardless of struggles and imperfections.
  • Let go of self-help and self-improvement and embrace the natural evolution of my journey. This doesn’t mean stop growing or stop healing. For me it means to let go of the guru, the one right answer, the relentless drive to fix something, the need to be perfect. It is letting go of the belief that something is broken.
  • Create with passion and abandon. Delve deeply into my spiritual/creative path without concern for other people’s reactions.
  • Embrace abundance without guilt or apology; use my time and money in ways that bring joy and fulfillment. Exercise thoughtful stewardship of the resources in my care.
  • Live clutter-free, and turn the resulting time and peace of mind into soul-fulfilling creativity.
  • Write in a way that inspires others.  Allow my writing to be seen and discussed. Tell the story only I can tell. Make a difference in my own way.
  • Believe any inner or outer obstacles to fulfilling my dreams are simply part of my journey. Obstacles appear as opportunities for healing issues, not to stop me.
  • Please myself, and let everyone else take care of their own happiness and evolution.
  • Take action on my dreams. Follow intuition and inspiration with curiosity and courage, keeping an open mind to where it leads.
  • Be healthier, happier, more educated, more loved, more controversial, more true-to-myself, and more visible than I have been in the past.
  • Trust that everything is working for my highest good.
quote from the journal It's Gonna Be OK

quote from the journal It’s Gonna Be OK

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10 Ways to Help Your Kid Get Past Discouraging Setbacks

We want our kids to have a sense of purpose and a belief in a positive future. Nothing hurts more than to stand by and watch our kids fall short of something they really want – whether they are auditioning, trying out for a team, applying for a job or college admission, working toward grades or leadership roles, or wanting a date for the prom. But somewhere, sooner or later, kids will face loss, disappointment, a tough challenge. You can’t change the outcome. Sometimes all you can do is help them think about the experience in a way that develops resilience and keeps them going for their dream.

Some kids are naturally more resilient than others, but resilience can be strengthened. Here are 10 ways to help your child gain perspective on what they are labeling a “negative experience”. Remember to always ask permission before giving suggestions, advice or opinions.

  • “Can I make an observation?”
  • “I’m wondering about….”
  • “Can I suggest another way for you to think about the experience…”
  1. Help them learn to ask for help. Maybe this is an opportunity for them to learn something every successful person knows – sometimes you need to ask for help from someone who is farther along the path. There is humility in knowing what you don’t know, and it doesn’t take away from the ultimate accomplishment of a goal if someone has helped you along the way. Kids need to learn the value of mentors, how to reach out for expertise they are missing when they need to build their skill set, and simply get help on the pieces that are not in their lane. And they need to learn the value of a network and develop the ability to reach out for support.
  1. Frame the narrative as the hero or heroines journey. There is power in this perspective. Successful people have failed a lot. They have learned how to “fail faster”. They accept setbacks as part of the journey so they recover and get onto the next thing faster. Being conscious of how you tell the story helps with speedy recovery. Reading or watching biographies and autobiographies will help them see how the challenges and setbacks are just one part of a bigger story. Your kids will feel your compassion if you share your own story of setbacks and adversity. Help them tell their story of facing adversity. I love the brief outline of the hero’s journey quoted in the book Show Your Work! “In the first act, you get your hero up a tree. The second act, you throw rocks at him. For the third act, you let him down.”     – George Abbott.
  1. Jettison negative self-talk. Self-criticism and beating yourself up takes the trauma of one disappointment and puts you through it over and over until it is not about what happened, it is about who you are. No good comes from that. They need to remember what they do changes who they are, and who they are changes what they do. It is a cycle of learning and growing and ultimately becoming the person that can have the dream.
  1. Help them with an accurate assessment of what could have been executed in a more skillful way. This doesn’t happen when they are in the depth of despair over a bitter disappointment; this happens later. Remember, the style of parenting that has you constantly in the cheerleader role, telling them “you can have anything you want” and “you’re God’s gift to the world” doesn’t prepare them for the real world. In reality, we all have areas of strength and areas that aren’t our gift. Help them with an honest evaluation of skills and abilities; but put the brakes on when you hear them verbally berating their abilities in a way that shames and diminishes them. Focus on how to do better next time. And help them understand where their strengths are, because they’ll accomplish the most if they work in areas where they’re naturally strong.
  1. Teach them to follow the joy. When things don’t work out there is often ambivalence at work. Was it really an intention of the heart, or just a “should” in their life? If there wasn’t a commitment to really do the work to prepare, then why? Were there competing intentions and therefore lack of focus? If they learn to follow the dreams that have energy and enthusiasm, follow what holds their interest, not yours, they’ll go farther. Yes, life has responsibilities. Yes, there are consequences to the choice of not doing the work required. And admittedly, sometimes that work is uninspiring. Let’s face it, not every kid is going to love every required class/assignment in high school or college. There’s a balance between doing what’s necessary and doing what really lights you up. We want more for our kids than just being successful hoop jumpers – get the grades, get into college, get the degree, get the job, get the paycheck. If they do it all successfully, but there is no joy in it, ultimately there will come a point of burnout and disillusionment. Their life mission will resonate with an aliveness that lets them know they’re on track.
  1. Ask empowering questions. Here are a few from a much longer list that coaches use.
    • What is this experience teaching you?
    • What have you learned?
    • What’s your next step from here?
    • What are your ideas for moving forward?
    • What is another path to your dream?
    • Is there a skill or ability to work on that will help?
    • What’s one thing you can do?
  1. Give her credit for going for it. Going for it and falling short is more a victory than not bothering to go for it at all. Lots of things can get in the way of what we want, but at the end of life most people are lamenting not going for their dreams. So teach your kid to give himself credit any time he takes a shot. And again, make it about the learning.
  1. Set an example. Do we love the world we live in? Do we express joy and delight with life? Do our messages about our world paint a positive picture? Do we demonstrate gratitude for our journey and resilience with our own challenges? Before they listen to you they need to see you live it.
  1. Embrace every experience. They need to have experiences that show the contrast of likes vs. dislikes, what works vs. what doesn’t. It is all information when they’re young and discovering their unique path. The “bulldozer” parenting style is one that tries to remove all obstacles and leave kids as smooth a path as possible. Resist that style because the learning is in the struggle. Of course they need to know we have their back, and we will stand up for them in situations where the power imbalance requires an adult advocate. But some things need to play out for the lesson, so don’t jump in take the learning away from them.
  1. Be sure they find a positive way to self-soothe. If you don’t help kids find positive ways to get back into emotional balance after a disappointment, their peers will surely help them find drugs and alcohol to self medicate. There should be an outlet for stress on a regular basis, not just when there is major stress and disappointment. Time in nature, sports, workouts, creative pursuits, yoga class, friends, community, ways to burn off energy (hike, bike, swim, parkour, dance, snowboard, hit the trampoline gym), escapism (books, movies, plays, dance performances, games, concerts, an occasional Netflix binge), planning an adventure, massage, aromatherapy bubble bath, whatever works. Be sure they have something they enjoy doing to unwind and de-stress, and have access to doing it.

There are amazing people on the planet (past and present) who have gained their power through a series of challenges (and possibly wounds), sometimes over years of trials and “failures” that led them through dark days. These people usually come forward as the ones who radically transform our world because they’ve experienced their own transformation. While it is painful to see our kids struggle, we want to allow for the possibility that something is being born and will emerge in time if we let it. A loving presence that holds space for what’s emerging is a gift that’s always in our power to give them.

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Remembering Brian — Measuring Success Part 3

Last night I had the heart-wrenching experience of attending a vigil for a young man who died of an accidental drug overdose. In the sharing, it was clear this young man was dearly loved, was a valued member of his school and work community, made people smile and laugh, always showed forgiveness, loved to work hard, charged onto the basketball court and played hard, appreciated the times he was truly seen by others, impacted a lot of lives, and brought strength and dignity to his struggles and challenges. This young man filled a room with people grieving his loss and speaking of how he was valued and loved.

Emotions were raw. He died just one day ago. Tears flowed and hearts were heavy, yet there were smiles and laughter at remembering his sweet spirit and how he embraced life with energy and passion – whether it be a snowfall, a sheep farm, his love of a new sweatshirt and matching shoes, time spent with family and friends, or sharing contrarian political views to enliven the conversation.

There was also sharing of his struggles, his sensitivity, his pain – and mention of his red beard. In the marriage of those images I had the vision of a Viking warrior who had died and ascended to Valhalla – received to a place of honor and glory by other warriors who fought courageous battles. Brian represents a new kind of warrior, a Spiritual Warrior, valiantly fighting the battles of our day and age. This is a difficult time to live life with a sensitive spirit. Life isn’t easy when you grapple with your own challenges at the same time you deeply feel the suffering of others.

This quote seems appropriate.

            The Knighthood of Our Times

            There is a knighthood of our time whose members do not ride 

            through the darkness of physical forests as of old,

            but through the forests of darkened minds;

            They are armed with a spiritual armor 

            and an inner sun makes them radiant;

            Out of them shines healing,

            healing that flows from the knowledge of mankind as a spiritual being

            They must create inner order, inner justice, peace and conviction,

            in the darkness of our time.

Karl König

For me, the most painful thing that was shared was that he felt he was a failure. In my mind, he was anything but a failure. When we leave this life we won’t take our wealth, awards, credentials, success, celebrity status, family or friends – we will only take our spiritual growth from this lifetime into the next. We are spiritual beings having a human experience that serves the evolution of the soul. From that vantage point, you are successful every time you…

  • Learn to be raw and honest and not hide who you are
  • Show compassion and forgiveness to yourself and others, rather than judge or criticize
  • Couragously face the shadow self, giving all your aspects, light and dark, a voice
  • Create deep relationships with fellow travelers on the journey
  • Allow your challenges to give others the opportunity to learn and grow
  • Face your struggles with dignity and courage and humility

Brian did all those things.

Our culture is drawn to beauty, celebrity, and money as evidence of success. We measure worth in superficial measures of “likes” or “followers”. We’ve given our children a world with huge economic disparity, political divisiveness, never-ending wars and regional conflicts, an overwhelming amount of negative information they don’t know what to do with, and an unprecedented rate of economic, environmental, and technological change to grapple with. They certainly have reason to feel disheartened, discouraged and disillusioned. And yet, overall, they manage to find a way to love life. They find relationships and experiences to embrace and enjoy. Clearly, given what was said in the sacred space of the vigil last night, Brian certainly did. I would call that success.

We feel he was taken too soon, his absence leaves a space no one else can fill. And yet we have to imagine the possibility he was here in the right time and place, doing precisely what he was meant to do, for the time it took to fulfill his life purpose.

In spiritual terms there is no such thing as failure. In his lifetime he was surrounded and protected by an army of angels, and now they are welcoming him home.

 

 

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23 Things to Consider if You Feel Like a Failure – Measuring Success Part 2

We’ve been taught to view success by outer measures – degrees, income, assets, job title, number of readers, followers, subscribers, likes, friends, our kids, GPA, college acceptance, number of years married, weight, awards and accolades.

I’m certainly not immune to these measures. I care about many of them.

And I’ve expanded my definition considerably through what I’ve learned as a wife, a parent, an artist, and an entrepreneur.

I’ve come to view success as an ability to use everything unfolding in my life as an opportunity to grow & evolve, be more awake and aware. And to simply remember that underneath any crap-storm of emotion and perceived f**k-up I am a spiritual being having a human experience, and I need to give myself some grace.

With that in mind, here are 23 Alternative Perspectives on Success For Your Consideration…

Success = getting OK with the idea that if I try more, and do more, I will fail more — Less Successful = not wanting to try things I’m not sure I can do well

Success = willingness to get out on the edge and stretch, take a risk, leave the comfort zone behind, make a mess of it — Less Successful = fear, paralysis, staying stuck, refusing to push myself (even a gentle nudge)

Success = getting OK with the worst case scenario and taking action anyway — Less Successful = continual focus on what I might lose or give up if things don’t work out, with the result that I never follow my dream

Success = accepting “what is” — Less Successful = demanding a different experience, i.e. “this shouldn’t be happening to me”

Success = telling my story as the hero’s journey with all its trials and triumphs — Less Successful = telling my story in a disempowered way – “I’m upset because…” or “I’m the victim of…”

Success = getting an idea, being curious, taking action to see what happens — Less Successful = continual fence sitting because I’m waiting for absolute clarity and guaranteed results before taking action

Success = being open to what the process teaches me; letting the process change me; learning to do something more joyfully and effectively and creatively — Less Successful = singular focus on, and attachment to, one and only one outcome

Success = setting intentions and taking action in alignment with my values — Less Successful = acting outside my value system

Success = taking a stand for something, even if it is controversial — Less Successful = not wanting to disagree with conventional wisdom or upset anyone

Success = the desire to give and serve — Less Successful = desperation around what I want to get

Success = discernment and clarity around what is a “yes” and what is a “no” — Less Successful = always saying “yes” or always saying “no”

Success = focus on how I want to be, qualities I want to embody as I show up — Less Successful = entire focus on what I do, with no consciousness of the energy I bring to doing it

Success = discipline to do the work even on days when I’m not in the mood — Less Successful = only showing up for my dream when I’m super inspired and motivated

Success = loving the questions life is bringing forward, an attitude of curiosity — Less Successful = anger and frustration that I don’t know the answer right this minute

Success = trusting myself to move forward with what I know right now  Less Successful = self doubt and always waiting to know more before taking action

Success = being open to the surprising, unexpected ways dreams and goals can manifest —  Less Successful = talking myself out of the dream when I can’t see a clear, linear, logical path; not trusting Higher Intelligence

Success = moving forward with the tools and help I have right now — Less Successful = waiting for the perfect circumstances before taking action

Success = exploring the journey one step at a time — Less Successful = waiting to know my ultimate destination, and what each step looks like, before I even start

Success = asking a question that brings forward creative thinking– “How can I…” — Less Successful = Continually asking questions that result in self-limiting thinking – “Why can’t I…” or “Why don’t I ever…”.

Success = clarity on my area of stewardship, my life mission; maintaining focus on what I can change — Less Successful = compassion fatigue, despair, overwhelm to the point of doing nothing

Success = willingness to get there in my unique way, in my own time — Less Successful = compare and despair, other people’s lives are better; other people are smarter, richer, more talented, more successful, more celebrated, etc. so I either won’t bother or else I’ll attempt to imitate someone

Success = loving myself no matter what — Less Successful = believing my worst thoughts about myself; hating myself when I don’t succeed in the traditional measures of success

Success = being grateful for every step on my journey, and what it is teaching me — Less Successful = being bitter at the hand that life has dealt me

This is my definition today; it might well change tomorrow as my life experience helps me evolve. I’d love to get beyond a black-and-white view of life that labels things as success or failure. For now, it has been so engrained in my thinking that I have to trick my brain with how I define success or I’m too paralyzed to move forward with anything outside my current comfort zone. Part of redefining success is putting it on a spectrum of success vs. less successful (or room for improvement) rather than defining it in terms of black-and-white success vs. failure.

I encourage you to tell your story and define your life in your own terms. My first marriage ended in divorce (and not a happy, let’s be friends and keep in touch, version). I don’t call my divorce a failure – I call it “practice”. Defining success and failure in my own terms allowed me to quit telling a bitter story of regret and failure, and to quit blaming, and judging my choices and experiences as wrong. Instead I was able to turn my focus to what I learned and how I wanted to grow. Embracing the lessons in that experience allowed me to be open and vulnerable again, to be a better partner and build a new kind of relationship. Now I’ve been happily married over 20 years. I accept that my first marriage was exactly the experience I needed. Deep pain uncovers the opportunity for a wealth of growth and evolution.

Choose the definition of success that works for you. Choose a definition that supports your growth and evolution. Avoid the trap of letting others define your success or failure. Have faith and trust in yourself and your journey.

 

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21 Ways to Define Success – Measuring Success Part 1

I’ve been through a brutal year. That’s the honest truth of it.

A year that’s required me to look at everything I think I know and ask hard questions.

During this year I’ve thought a lot about success and failure – what those terms mean and how I define them. I share my thoughts on success and failure with the intention of inspiring you to expand your definition of success, rather than measure yourself by someone else’s narrow and limited definition.

My Definition of Success: Learning something important about…

  1. What I’ll fight for.
  2. How hard I’ll fight.
  3. Becoming the person that can achieve the dream.
  4. Savoring the richness of the journey.
  5. Being willing to pause and rest, as well as work and persevere.
  6. Embracing life’s challenges with a strong and open heart.
  7. Leveraging my strengths and gifts.
  8. Authenticity – being who I am and not trying to be what I’m not.
  9. Letting go of control and perfectionism; letting life be messy, complex, unpredictable, scary and exciting.
  10. My freedom to make different choices than I have in the past.
  11. Nourishing my spirit and realizing I don’t have to earn the right to do something good for myself.
  12. Looking for the unexpected gift, the silver lining, the brilliant insight that puts Light on everything I’ve been through.
  13. Creating an uplifting and supportive environment (both inner and outer) that’s a sanctuary of peace and calm in trying times.
  14. Finding balance and not working in a way that ruins my health and body.
  15. Getting inspired and creative when obstacles appear, rather than giving up.
  16. Not taking myself too seriously – or even taking my dream of changing the world too seriously – bringing play and joy into the process.
  17. Giving myself permission to acknowledge and celebrate the small, incremental wins (rather than waiting for some far-distant definition of ultimate success before I enjoy and celebrate life).
  18. Gaining insight regarding when to stick with a goal and when it is time to let go, reinvent, & reimagine a new goal.
  19. Becoming aware of the clues that inform my next step.
  20. Making a soul connection with those I’m traveling with on my journey.
  21. Accessing intuition, inspiration, and clarity around my next step.

In the final analysis I ask myself, did what I went through…

Teach me

Change me

Inspire me

Challenge me

Wake me up – bring forward something I haven’t been conscious of

Open my heart

Open the door to a new path, new choices and opportunities

Give me clarity on what I do and don’t want in life

Connect me with someone wonderful

Help me ask a better question, one that reveals a new perspective

Push me to grow and evolve

My Definition of Failure: Learning nothing, changing nothing, on the inner or outer level.

In life there are many paths, many doors to go through. If one doesn’t work, that informs my next choice, and has given me important information I can use to move forward.

Sometimes we do cross a definitive finish line – we accomplish the degree, promotion, number on the paycheck, we publish the book, reach the business goal, run the marathon, marry our life partner, become a parent, we achieve the award and have our accomplishment recognized by others. Other steps forward are subtle, and in the moment may feel like a misstep, a waste of time, even an epic fail.

In those times, an accurate assessment of where we’ve been can restore hope and trust in ourselves and in our future. A new perspective on success can give us faith we’re following the guidance of our heart, and progressing in the perfect way to ultimately fulfill our life mission(s). An awareness of the inner shifts that have happened can give the confidence to take outer action. Gratitude and appreciation for every step, no matter how challenging, allows us to feel joy and delight in the journey we’re creating.

Hope for the future, curiosity to try a new approach, and willingness to keep learning and moving forward – that’s my true measure of success.

 

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