The Importance of Going Beyond What We Think We’re Capable Of

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You have to push… – young Japanese woman encouraging my friend’s daughter to stretch herself.

Simple yet powerful words…words of encouragement…wise words that remind us that only when we put effort in, do we really begin to get the results we want in our lives.

“You have to push…” My friend repeats these words often to me, during our regular morning telephone chats. Whether we’re talking about exercise, or about the event I’m planning for June 2015, or about taking time for self, she responds with “you have to push”.

We laugh. She says it often. But we both know that if we don’t push we’re not going to get those results we say we want.

How often do we know for sure what we’re truly capable of? Our imaginations run wild with reasons why we can’t, it’s too hard, I won’t do “that” – but have we really tried? Do we know for sure?

There is a verse in Proverbs 26:13 that always gets my attention: “The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” This is our imagination at work. We don’t want to explore… experiment and perhaps fail, so we come up with reasons including ferocious animals that may be out there somewhere waiting to get us!

I started to tell myself that I wouldn’t have enough time to write this article. I have a flight to catch in an hour and a half. How often do you say that you don’t have enough time? Is it time you need more of, or grit?

In an Inc Magazine article by Jessica Stillman called “Never Say I Don’t Have Time Again”, she says “Your busyness is often unstucklargely in your head and down to inefficient time use or lack of clarity about your priorities and your actual schedule.”

How can you get real? Author Laura Vanderkam offers this simple but radical change that will force you to stop sleepwalking through “busy” days and make more conscious choices about how you’re using your hours:

Change your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a CHOICE. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

Often before even trying something we say things to ourselves that simply aren’t true. “I’d never be able to speak in public.” “I know that if I lose my job I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.” “If I don’t get this promotion my entire world is going to collapse” “I simply don’t know if I’ll be able to move on with my life if something happens to him/her.” None of these things are sure to happen but we obsess about them way before time – AND let them keep us back from taking action in the present moment.

Og Mandino offers these questions to contemplate: “Why should I throw now after maybe?  Can tomorrow’s sand flow through the glass before today’s? Will the sun rise twice this morning? Can I perform tomorrow’s deeds while standing in today’s path? Can I place tomorrow’s gold in today’s purse? Should I concern myself over events which I may NEVER witness? Should I torment myself with problems that may NEVER come to pass?”

If you truly want to know what you are capable of, you need to PUSH beyond your comfort zone. But first you need to know and understand your circle of competence. Warren Buffett says “There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t know a thing about. I just stay away from those. I stay within what I call my circle of competence.”

Here’s a simple guide based on Buffet’s own analysis of trying and failing often enough to come up with a strategy that brings him the results he wants:

Ask yourself the following 3 questions.

  1. What are you interested in?
  2. What do you know now?
  3. What would you like to know about and are willing to learn?

In my own interest to lose weight I needed to come up with a strategy that worked for me. I had tons of limitations in my head as to what I was capable of doing. I didn’t think that I could do more than 20 minutes a day. I rationalized that this would be enough. I didn’t want to change how I was eating. I rationalized that I was making “ok” choices. Of course nothing happened.

But then at Christmas time I got a FitBit as a present. Nathan Chandler describes in his article about the FitBit, that “it is a physical activity tracker designed to help you become more active, eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and ultimately, turn you into a healthier human being.” It basically records my steps (with a goal of 10,000 steps a day in order to reach my goal weight by May 2015). It didn’t change my life immediately. It’s not magic. I still needed to do the work. But when I started (doing perhaps 7,000 steps per day) I slowly began to feel differently. Day before yesterday I did 20,438 steps! I’m not doing this every day but my point is that before I pushed, I would have said that I’m probably not going to be able to do that many steps in a day! Since I’ve upped my activity levels AND started eating on a smaller plate, I am seeing the results I want – that is – I’m FINALLY losing weight.

I’m of the opinion that we all need to push in our lives. We can’t stay where we are. Contemplate these words by Mark Nepo: “Just how often do we cripple ourselves by not letting love with all its risks teach us how to fly? How many times do our hearts stall because we won’t let the wingspan of our passion open us fully into our gifts? How frequently do we search for a song of guidance that can only come from inside us?



It's a New Day

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New-Day-New-Choices-picJumped into my car yesterday on my way to my regular coaching session with Sean, Sian and Maria at the Plant People and Patti LaBelle’s song started to play. For those of you who don’t know me well, I seldom listen to the radio. I have mixed CDS that I play in the car with everything from Count Basie to Shaggy! And if I’m not listening to music I’m listening to a SUCCESS CD. But I digress 🙂

Have you ever heard that song?

It’s uplifting! And as I listened I was reminded of the gift of each new day that we get to experience. I immediately started looking around at the familiar places that lined the route from my mom’s house to the Plant People’s office with new eyes.

It’s amazing what you see when you look at things being fully present and fully conscious Tweet: It's amazing what you see when you look at things being fully present and fully conscious as opposed to when you just watch at your life through a haze, in a daze, allowing your monkey mind to distract you with all that is feared, with all the thoughts of what can’t be done and how much hasn’t been done yet.

When you truly allow yourself to open your eyes your path will get clearer and you will realize that life has always been an inside out experience and not the other way around. We’ve all been given the power to choose so whoever you are, wherever you are, regardless of what is happening in your life- know that in this moment you can turn things around. It’s a new day ….take it away Patti!

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Don't be so Stubborn about Changing your Mind

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To change ones mind about a person, an approach, a direction means to admit that perhaps we were wrong about the choice we made. Rather than quickly jump off the path we’re on – to another; rather than cut a completely NEW path – we plod on, wanting to prove ourselves RIGHT.

We’re often equally stubborn about how we see other people. We create our own story about them without their collaboration and when they show us a different side to themselves, we make excuses for their behavior versus simply accepting who they are.

It appears that the pain of being WRONG is greater us than the pain we may experience if we simply change our mind.

Do you think your life would change drastically if you weren’t so stubborn about changing your mind?

How much time do you think you spend in the comfort of sticking to your guns?

How much faster do you think you would get to where you wanted to go if you were flexible enough to accept that perhaps THE WAY isn’t working and you need to choose another?



Beware of the Illusion of Progress

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Merrill’s Marauders (named after Frank Merrill) was a United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, which fought in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, or CBI, during World War II. Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (15 March 1911, Atlanta, Georgia – 19 October 1998, Beaufort, South Carolina) was a journalist and author of memoirs and non-fiction works. His best-known work was The Marauders (1959), a first person account of the Burma Campaign in World War II. In fact it is from the Harper’s magazine 1957 article “Merrill’s Marauders” that earned Ogburn his book contract. In this article Charles said:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating THE ILLUSION OF PROGRESS while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.”

Is it just at the national level or is it at also at a personal level that we use reorganizing as a way of appearing busy and feigning progress? A coaching client of mine tells me that when faced with stuff he knows he has to do he usually starts with reorganizing his office. What about you: what do you choose to reorganize before getting started on the important project or having that hard but necessary conversation? The truth is that most of us prefer to linger at the “three to get ready” point and not ever reach to “four to go” where we would actually have to DO something.

In fact what most of us do is ramp up the amount of confusion in our lives just so we don’t do those important things that might prove that we couldn’t really, weren’t capable of or failed at the very thing we said we were passionate about.

According to Keller and Papasan, the authors of ‘The One Thing’ you say:

“You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions—and lots of stress You claim you want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends.”

But do you really WANT these things? Your choices tell a completely different story. Your choices suggest that what you really want is not to be a failure and not to look stupid. You have two degrees but feel you need a third. Going to school has in itself, become a career for you. Richard Saul Wurman observes in ‘Information Anxiety’, “The same people who would delight in confessing to sexual indiscretions or income tax evasions blanch at the idea of saying ‘I don’t know.’ Instead we all practice the ‘uh-huh and yes’ defense. We all learn how to respond with a look of thoughtful intelligence to even the most incomprehensible information.” You don’t want to appear as not knowing what you’re really doing and so you’ve created a smoke screen of being a “work in progress” – busy but never quite completing anything and actually making REAL progress.

In her book ‘Inspired’ author Marcia Yudkin cautions

“Getting ready keeps you in a safe zone where failure isn’t possible. You have the illusion of progress even while you are simply spinning your wheels. You have the comfort of plausible excuses, such as “I don’t know enough yet” or “I’ll do it after I quit my job.”

If you’re part of the 95% who are kicking up loads of dust getting ready to take action know that you have EVERYTHING you need RIGHT NOW to take that NEXT STEP! You’ve taken countless classes, spent years assembling your tools, created the perfect office space and devoted yourself to the controversies among experts on how to get started.

It’s time for the number four to surface for you as a symbol of progress – “4 to go” that is! Are you ready to make REAL progress in your life?



Embrace the Hand You're Dealt

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When I was a child, I remember both my mother and grandmother giving me a thick, viscous, malt-based concoction on a spoon daily. It was “good for me” I was told. There was no evading it. It was poured and administered – spoon immediately in mouth – I had no choice but to swallow it as quickly as possible and remove any traces by creating tumultuous waves in my mouth, swishing and agitating, with water – a gulp and a frown – knowing that I’d have to endure the same….tomorrow.

My mother said that the crust of the bread was also “good for me” and so never removed it from my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which I loved.

And so to this day, I still eat the crust first (because in that household there was no getting around NOT eating what you were given lol) off any sandwich that I’m consuming – leaving the delicious center for last.

I didn’t realize that I was already learning a valuable lesson as a young person, that in life you must figure out how to deal with the hand you’re dealt. When you’re playing cards you have no idea which cards are going to end up in your hand. Sometimes they bring you joy and feelings that you’re going to win, and sometimes you just can’t wait for the game to be over.

Our power always lies in how we CHOOSE to respond to the hands we’re dealt.

Will you throw in the towel? Give up? Quit?

Or will you, as Cari Murphy describes in Create/Change/Now, make decisions to use the strength of your character to bravely play out your hand with honesty, integrity and grace?