Monday, March 30, 2015

Live for the “Oh crap!”

Do one thing every day that scares you. –Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you ever sent a random text to someone you like? Sent a heartfelt email? Shared an intimate part of your story most people aren’t privy to? Been the first to say I love you? Asked someone out? Waited for the call after the second interview? Waited for pregnancy results, test scores, audition calls back, or admissions notices? And have you ever noticed that whether you are praying against a dreaded outcome or hoping for a favorable one, most of us wait the same way? We wait with a stomach in knots, sweaty palms, lump in our throat, fast heart beat, and the incredibly vulnerable space of the unknown.  I’m generally not a fan of waiting and I’m certainly not a fan of anxiety. But recently, I’m learning to embrace both. I’m learning to appreciate what I call the “Oh crap” moments of life that leave you flushed, slightly panicked and make you cover your face and scream. Here’s why.
Consider Dr. Brene’ Brown’s work and the vulnerability as courage revolution she’s started in our culture. Her extensive research has tapped into the core of the human experience. She urges us to boldly remove our masks and allow ourselves to be seen. Her work challenges us to live authentically and from the heart. Instead of wearing a mask of indifference (or perfection or anything else) she encourages people to be honest about their experience. It seems easy enough, but it’s perhaps the hardest thing we can do- to sit with the discomfort of not knowing how it’ll all turn out.
Regardless of the outcome, there’s strength gained in taking risks. I invite you to take on this challenge with me. Think about things you want to do or say, preferably things close to your heart that reflect your genuine self. Think about safe places to express those things and develop a lifestyle of doing them daily. Do you normally use sarcasm to conceal genuine emotion? Try direct communication without the mask of humor. Do you typically wait for others to initiate interaction? Try extending yourself first. Do you stay silent in class or in meetings even though an idea burns within you? Why not breathe through the fear and offer your thoughts anyway? There’s something beautifully sacred in the “Oh craps” of life. The outcome itself becomes less important. It’s the courage and character that develop within you that matters.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Play Time

In Him we live and move and have our being...-Acts 17:28
Recently, I’ve been wondering why we don’t play anymore. I can remember as a kid having as much as an hour long recess every day. It wasn’t part of a structured P.E. class. It was something separate. It was just time to run and be free. As soon as our little feet hit the outdoors we were transported into our own imaginative world. Sadly, kids these days don’t get recess, and if they do, it might be fifteen minutes at the most. Then, by the time they become adults, opportunities for play are fewer and farther between with unfortunate consequences.

Think about it. The majority of grownups are stressed, anxious, and irritable. Many are depressed, cautious, and inhibited. Even when they’re invited to be creative and fully present in their bodies, lots of people experience an initial block. Their carefree, spontaneous, childlike side has been squelched for so many years that it’s hard to just cut loose. A lot of adults rely on sex, drugs, or alcohol for their sense of fun and recreation. But that’s not the play time I’m talking about. Those things serve to numb you and make you forget, not make you feel truly alive. I’m talking about making up a fun game completely off the top of your head. I’m talking about running, jumping, flipping over, and  laughing from your soul. I think that’s another reason fitness has become so important to me. In many ways, it feels like a throwback to childhood recess. I can temporarily cast off formalities and responsibilities and be me.

If you’re reading this and realizing you don’t have that in your life, don’t fear. It means you have an invitation to intentionally integrate play into your lifestyle. Resist the urge to view play as trivial or unnecessary. I think striking a balance between work and play grounds us. It inoculates against the intensity of life and reminds us to cherish it and live it to the fullest. So, let’s start playing again and purposefully living by my friend’s favorite tagline: Live. Move. Be. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An inside job

One of the offices I counsel in doesn’t have a window. I asked to switch to an office with a window but they were all taken. For months, I’ve just made do with it, but over time it really started to get to me. I’m a physically active person, so it’s already challenging enough to be sedentary for several hours a day. But then to remove natural light and a visual connection to nature was just too much. I felt like I was going into a closet all day and that made me feel trapped and claustrophobic. Something had to change. Since it wasn’t going to be my office assignment, it had to be my perspective.

I decided to purchase this artwork for my wall. I figured if I couldn’t have a window view I’d create one. That simple act has worked wonders so far in improving my mood and my work day satisfaction. It also reminded me of an important lesson I try to teach my clients.

I’m not sure who said it first, but I’ve come to really value the phrase, “Happiness is an inside job.” Human nature causes us to look outside ourselves to feel good about things. We want people and circumstances to change and then we’ll be content. That puts us in a very passive position in life. We’re not meant to be passive. We’re meant to be proactive and creative. If you feel like you can’t change your situation, there is something you can change even if it’s just your view of it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Perfectly On Point

In all of the years I did classical dance I struggled with turns. I faked them fairly convincingly and produced something I think looked graceful. I never really felt strong in that area though. In fact, there was only a single time in my entire life I did a successful turn. I was in college and I can remember practicing in front of a studio mirror. For whatever reason that day after multiple attempts of working on my pirouette I felt something magical happen. When I went on the ball of my foot I felt myself completely on my center of gravity. I was a straight line from the top of my head to the bottom of my foot. I had never ever felt that before. Normally, I feigned balance and got around about twice before starting to fall and transitioning into another move. But for some reason, that time and that time only I got it. It finally clicked for me at the body level that turns weren’t about force at all. They weren’t even solely about spotting (focusing your attention on one area so you don’t get dizzy). It was about finding that sweet spot where you’re in perfect alignment.

I’ve been thinking about this analogy as it relates to career fit. I’ve gotten to the stage of life where I and most of my contemporaries don’t just have jobs; we have careers. We spent years in school and now we’re working professionals doing what we trained to do. In many ways, it’s a dream realized and we’re certainly thankful. In other ways, the overwhelming theme among us is that it’s close to our heart’s desire. There are aspects of our work that we enjoy. There are moments we come close to that sweet spot. But it’s the equivalent of pulling off a decent looking pirouette without actually being on point with it.
Lance Wallnau describes this “on point” experience as destiny convergence. It’s when your passion, your gifts, and your purpose intersect and you get paid to do what you love. There’s energy around it and it doesn’t even feel like work because you’re so on fire about what you’re doing. Many of us come close to this. But what if it were possible to live in the sweet spot? What if Sundays weren’t ruined dreading Mondays and work weeks weren't spent living for Friday? To me, that’s like the effort part of trying to spin around when you’re not in balance. You’ll stumble every time. But once you’re in perfect alignment and on point with your purpose, you can spin around endlessly because now you’re flowing with ease and grace.