Creative Visualization

15541549_10154808096969655_9204891255238104112_nRecently I was feeling a bit silly and rather serious at the same time. Practicing a little creative visualization, I sheepishly snuck an advance reader copy of my upcoming book, Walking the Heart Path, into my local Barnes & Noble, found a few favorite authors’ books for companions, placed my own on the shelf, took out my camera, and began to snap away. No, I didn’t leave it there, but I did pause for just long enough to breathe in the moment and visualize possible outcomes . . . specifically, to envision and consider what success might look like for me.

15589980_10154808096974655_5275041062588752987_nCrazy? Perhaps; Will it work? Possibly; Has it worked in the past? Absolutely. Many times, in fact.

Too early to know for sure, what I do know is this:

We become what we imagine and believe is possible. We should therefore learn to dream with our hearts wide open. 

No, I’m not suggesting that everything is possible. If you are an active asthmatic, for example, the U.S. Air Force is not going to let you pilot their planes. Some rules  (including the laws of physics) are, at least in this present moment, what they are.

But I believe in miracles. I believe in dreaming big, working hard, and acknowledging that while not everything is within our control, the possibilities for our lives do in fact expand or diminish in proportion to our courage and commitment to our vision AND our willingness to make sacrifices and do the hard work required along the way. I believe in the power of Faith, prayer, and honest intention, too — which collectively calls us to both dare to dream and be willing to simultaneously surrender to unknown outcomes.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

If we’re not careful, fear (whether of failure or success) and its close cousin, pride, will show up at our party, often unannounced. Invited or not, letting them roam freely in our minds is the sure fastest way to sabotage our dreams. Left unattended, they will plant seeds of doubt and/or create a lengthy list of reasons why we deserve something less than we imagine is possible (or perhaps have yet to imagine), though trying to smother, silence, and bind them only fuels their fire and determination to squash our spirit.

So what is the answer?

As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests in her book, Big Magic, make friends with fear (and feed your pride some humble pie while you’re at it). Acknowledge fear’s presence, but while you’re at it, step up your Faith, paint the picture you want to see, and learn to lean into love.

That’s where the real magic resides.

I’m curious to know and ask…

Do you find it easy to dream or do you find yourself holding back? What are the biggest obstacles that keep you from pursuing (and therefore realizing) your dreams? Have you ever painted a picture in your mind and/or created a physical visual of your desired outcome? What was the result? How does creating a vision for your life (or project) help move you closer to realizing your dreams?

p.s. Want to read a great book on daring to dream? Pick up a copy of Whitney Johnson’s book, Dare, Dream, Do, and while your at it, a copy of her latest book, too — Disrupt Yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

Selling Out

Far too often, we sell ourselves short and/or sell ourselves out. We act from a place of fear. We act from a place of pride. Sometimes, we fail to act at all.

I should know.

For too long I allowed fear (and later pride) to hold me back. Pick your flavor, I’ve probably tasted it already. First, there was this overarching fear of what everyone will think; a malady I lived with for far too long in my life, and one that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I made relational choices early on that re-enforced this pattern and then chose a career that all but guaranteed that I would remain personally stuck (unless I dared to break through). A career where what others’ think does in fact matter and is an important yardstick for advancement. In certain spheres, it matters so much that I actually have friends who’ve worked hard to have a ‘zero’ social imprint. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no blog filled with paintings, prose and personal revelations. And though as a child I aspired to be a diplomat (or in intel) like some of these others I know, these days I’m humming Garth Brook’s ‘Unanswered Prayers’ and am thanking God that it didn’t quite work out — at least not as I once imagined.

Then there’s that pesky thing called perfectionism.

I didn’t think I was one. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought perfectionism looked like my friends’ houses where there’s never a speck of dust or paper in sight. Or my friends whose perfectionist OCD tendencies manifest in their need to relentlessly organize their surroundings. That’s not me. Though I appreciate a tidy home, I don’t care much for housekeeping and prefer to have my ideas and creations visibly accessible, not tucked away in some drawer. So I was shocked to learn at a recent leadership retreat that there was universal consensus among the group that I was indeed a perfectionist, just of a different flavor. And while I’m letting go of my concern with what others think, I’m still left with that I think. And I think they’re on to something.

The truth… my truth… is that all of this perfectionism, people-pleasing and pride is exhausting. Really exhausting… And it has taken me into my 40s to finally begin to understand: if we’re not okay with ourselves, then perhaps it does matter… more than it should… and from that mindset, we’re likely to attract people and situations into our lives that validate these fears and keep us stuck. But however much we might protest to the contrary, ‘stuck-ness’ is really not about others, but about where we are with ourselves.

Want to let go of people-pleasing? Try a little self-love on for size. It’s not about being selfish, but it is about owning our own truth and valuing ourselves, including our imperfections and limitations. It’s about being at least as accountable to ourselves as we hold ourselves to others or others to us. Want to face down your fears? Try a little courage on for size and take on the very thing that you think you can’t do… the one that will help you advance your own dreams. Want to let go of pride? Take risks, fail publicly, acknowledge ‘not knowing’, give yourself a hefty dose of grace, then graciously return to the arena, wearing a little more humility than you once did before. Want to step more fully into your own voice and leadership? Learn to act from your core truths and values and lead with a servant’s heart — not from a place of all knowing, but from a place of quiet confidence in yourself and humble acknowledgement of all that there still is to learn.

Selling ourselves out_square with transparent overlay_swirl (c)

I’m curious to know

Have you ever allowed fear, pride or indifference rob you of your own dreams? Have you ever sold yourself short or sold yourself out? In what ways have perfectionism or people-pleasing kept you stuck in your own life? What steps can you take today to get out of your own way? What one step could you take today to move you closer to your own dreams?

About

How Do You Do Vulnerability?

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown (Elizabeth Gilbert is a close second). Maybe it’s because we’re both from Texas and share a similar dust-yourself-off-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of thinking. Maybe it’s because she’s brought shame out of the closet, shored it up with courage, and has helped legitimize the struggle for empowerment that so many people face. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because her fight with vulnerability mirrors my own.

Over the past four years of blogging, I’ve learned a few things about myself. I’ve learned that it’s not hard to ‘go deep’ with an anonymous audience, though it’s immensely difficult to be ‘seen’. It’s not hard to authentically connect with strangers, though I’m often challenged to be ‘known’. It’s not hard to write, though impossibly painful to publish. Most surprising to myself, I’ve learned that it’s easier to be a perfectionist than to accept the vulnerability that comes with possible failure.

At the heart of empowerment is vulnerability_square with transparent overlay_(c)But what happens when we build our lives around playing it safe? What happens when we raise or lend our voice to others, yet bury our own in the process? What happens when we dare to allow ourselves to be ‘seen’ as we truly are, in an environment where pedigree, perfection and political correctness often trump the very things that make us real?

These are the questions that keep me up at night; the demons I wrestle with daily — daring, provoking and pushing me out of my fear and into the world. These are the unspoken questions in the untold stories of millions who are silenced by their fear, or the wisdom that is lost in the silence of one’s passing.

As I reflect on these truths; as opportunities and invitations to a deeper honesty leave me wrestling with my own fear, I’m curious to ask and know…

Do you ever struggle with the vulnerability of being truly ‘seen’? How do you work through the fear of being truly known? Have you ever withheld the gift of your own story? What is your own relationship with perfectionism and failure? How do you do vulnerability?

Saddle Back Up!

If sometimes we need to do a little Texas two-step to keep moving forward, we also need to learn to saddle back up!

A seasoned rider since the time I was small, I recall with great clarity the ease with which I once rode my proverbial horse wild and free, feeling on top of my game! I had grand vision, relentless drive and an enthusiasm that left little room for doubt. I vacillated between a Western style that afforded me more opportunity for hard-charging freedom, and the more structured and controlled nature of the English saddle.  Always prepared, I rode in environments that encouraged me to explore and expand my limits, while challenging me to step around or jump over obstacles in my way.

But even with the best preparation, things don’t always go as planned. Even with strong skills and experience, we can be knocked off our horse (though the choice to get back up is always our own).

Until the first fall, our courage, strength and resiliency remain untested. Until the first fall, we do not fully understand risk, fear or failure.

I remember my first significant fall.

stamp.phpHer name was Polly. A stubborn, yet beautiful pony. Returning home from an English hack, we stepped out of the woods and into an open field that led to the barn. “Be sure to stay together!” our leader told us. “Always maintain control!” we were again advised, for it was this time above all others that posed the most risk to riders. From the ponies’  perspective, it was a race to the finish where the reward (food) could finally be reaped.

Sandwiched in the middle of the group, Polly broke out ahead of the rest. Unable to restrain her, I was violently thrown off, lying perpendicular on the ground to the remaining ponies who proceeded to jump over me along the way. A single kick to the head could have been fatal, so I held tightly on to my hat, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited for the stampede to pass.

Shaken, tired, sore and frightened, I stood up and wandered back to the barn in a dazed and haphazard way. As I approached the gate, Polly looked up at me from her oats as if to say, “What took you so long?”  

In that moment, I had a choice: Walk away or saddle back up.

Never one for quitting, I brushed off the dirt, secured my hat, and climbed back on. I walked slowly at first to regain my footing. I reflected back on my missteps and took measures to refine my technique. Polly would smell no fear from me and I would ride again.

And so we did.

Many times.

Sometimes she would stubbornly stop short of a jump, refusing to budge. At other times, we moved seamlessly in sync. When she taunted me, I learned patience. When I struggled to hold on, I learned to dig in. Over time, I learned that fear would always undermine progress, while courage, confidence, trust and respect could take us both far.

I’m curious…

Have you ever had a time when you fell off your horse and struggled to saddle back up? What lessons did you learn and how have you applied those in your life moving forward? What did the circumstances teach you about others in the process? How did your understanding of courage, strength, resiliency, risk, fear and failure deepen as a consequence of your fall?

 

 

 

Falling into Fear or Leaning into Strength?

alice__s_falling_by_doucesse-d52vnca

In any given situation, we are presented with a choice: we can either fall into our fear or lean into our strength.

When we fall, it is rarely of the controlled sort.  After all, we don’t seek out and intend to fall, unless we’re skydiving, of course. And though we may welcome the feeling of ‘falling’ in love, for example, we can never anticipate the fall itself. It catches us off guard, and is often an unintended consequence of losing our footing, our balance and our center, whether literally or figuratively.

By contrast, when we lean in, it is with deliberation; an intentional choice to put the full force of ourselves in to something or to draw from something, whether strength, love or something else altogether.

Recently I was confronted with a situation that was as uncomfortable and unsettling as it was familiar. As I contemplated my course of action, I couldn’t help but reflect on similar encounters in the past, and how I use to fall into my fear, as if helpless to choose another course of action. When people crossed a personal boundary, whether of my own accidental making or not, I would either ignore it, bury it, or run away from it altogether, focused more on protection from than prevention of. I might also cry, worry or vent, and in the process, inadvertently create a new layer of ‘stuck-ness’ that was every bit as damaging and dis-empowering as the circumstance itself. In simple terms, I enabled the unwelcome, and then wondered why things didn’t turn out as I planned.

When we cease to view ourselves as victims of our circumstance, we empower ourselves beyond measure.

But in every situation, we have the power of choice: we can mindfully act from a place of self-love or recklessly react from a place of fear. We can practice learned helplessness or exercise self-assertiveness. Though we cannot always prevent and anticipate the unwelcome in our life, the mindset of victim or victor is still within our control.

This time I chose a different course of action. Instead of running away from the discomfort, I sat with it. Instead of masking my pain, I confronted it. Instead of focusing on what was being ‘done to’, I focused on personal accountability — choosing to act from a self-empowered place, instead of giving my power away to another. Most significantly, instead of falling into fear, I chose to lean into my strength. 

Addendum: Leaning into our strength begs the question of where strength itself comes from. Moreover, it raises another important question: If we lack inner strength, what alternative is there to falling into our fear? On my own journey, when (I feared) I lacked the strength to navigate a difficult situation, I leaned into my Faith. For me, they are interrelated, for as my Faith deepens, so does my courage, self-love and respect, from which strength and resiliency are born.

I’m curious to know…

As you reflect on your own life and leadership, do you tend to feel powerful or powerless? Are there specific triggers that cause you to fall into fear? How have you leveraged leaning into your inner strength to overcome these fears and build resiliency in your life? 

Connective Purpose

(Photo courtesy of Roadrunner333 via Photobucket.com)

(Photo courtesy of Roadrunner333 via Photobucket.com)

Last week I wrote about pruning for purpose — cutting out or back to create space for deeper meaning, growth and joy — turning down the noise of life that we might tune into our own heart and others’. Though sometimes painful, I believe this process of pruning is necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go, for if we try to move in too many directions at the same time, we end up going nowhere fast.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that in this season of pruning; in this time of centered stillness, I’m beginning to better see what once was hidden behind the overgrowth of my life.

I call it connective purpose. Those moments when heart and head align at the intersection of all of our past experiences and future dreams, and we begin to see the connective tissue that gives shape and meaning to our lives. Those moments when the sum total of our experiences, including our setbacks and struggles, reveal evidence of a greater purpose than we could have envisioned on our own.

Beyond our own self-awareness and individual dreams, there is another kind of connective purpose — the kind that binds us to others, as our individual voices and talents conspire to advance a collective good. Like a patchwork quilt, our individual squares, when sewn together with others’, create a larger landscape of possibility.

We take a risk, extend ourselves, reach out, share our stories, and listen to others’. And in the midst of what once felt impossibly vulnerable, we find authentic connection where there once was none. We find collaborative opportunities to contribute, share, and co-create. Opportunities to advocate, serve, and raise a collective voice. We move as individuals, but more consciously as part of a whole.

Yesterday in D.C., The Atlantic hosted a conference on Maria Shriver’s latest report on the female face of poverty, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink. I wasn’t there in person, and yet I was — virtually, anyway. For 8 hours, we listened to a myriad of perspectives on the problems of many. It was a robust dialogue intended to not only elevate awareness of an important issue that impacts us all, but to engage each of us in working collectively toward possible solutions in our own communities. As I listened, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own journey and how it fit into the larger context of the conversation. Collectively challenged, moved and inspired, what once appeared as random or coincidental touch points in my own life, now revealed themselves to me more clearly as part of a beautiful tapestry, and in that revelation, I could begin to understand how my personal story was part of a larger, more purposeful plan.

This is how it works with the Universe. We move along in our individual lives, as if isolated from the rest of the world. Yet sometimes, all that is needed is one spark, one connection, one honest moment with ourselves and others, to begin to see how our lives are infinitely intertwined with others in ways and to a degree beyond our human comprehension. In these moments of awakening, selfish desire gives way to a spirit of service, our own pain melts into compassion for others, and whatever sense of lacking we might have in our lives expands to a sense of wonder, abundance and gratitude. A gift of grace, we begin to understand that we need not walk alone in fear and isolation, but can faithfully move forward in community with others, from a spirit of deep, connective purpose.

I’m curious…

To what degree does purpose define your own journey? Have you ever had one of those moments when what once felt like disjointed, random events, began to take shape, and you could see how your own individual story fit into a larger, more connective purpose? How does having a sense of purpose or calling help dissipate fear and enable you to develop the courage needed to achieve your dreams?