How to Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best SelfHolidays aren’t always “Jolly” days.  There are more errands to run, tasks to do, lists to make and follow through. We get stressed out trying to “get it all done” so that we can actually enjoy the season. Then there are the social gatherings, some mandatory and not always pleasant.  Sometimes it’s our own family interactions that put a damper on our best intentions to have a “Happy Holiday”.  

How can you shift this scenario and bring the “Happy” back into the holidays?  Try being your “Best Self”.

Carolyn Hax, a columnist for the Washington Post was recently asked how to define “Best Self”.  Here is how she answered that question in her column of Dec. 13th. “It’s when you like yourself. Or, when you’re getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses.  It’s highly personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strength:

  • Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?”  (This is also the key to joy in your chosen work)
  • “Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don’t inspire persistent doubts about whether they’re dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?  Are you that person to those you love?
  • When you are impressed by, grateful, or concerned about someone, do you show it?
  • Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences?”  (This is hard for many, but if you can consistently operate this way, you will stop blaming others/external circumstances for your life as it is, you stop being or feeling like a victim and instead begin feeling and being empowered)

Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Four Agreements; “Be impeccable with your word” and “Always do your best”.   Similarly, Hax asks the reader; “Do you honor your promises and commitments, to yourself and others?” and “Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others?”

How about dealing with your weaknesses so that you can be “your best self”?  Here are some of the questions Carolyn asks her readers to consider:

  • “Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?
  • Do you understand the boundary between you and others’ business, and stay on your side?
  • When you’re unsure, do you admit that and seek help?
  • When you’re about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing?  And imagine how its target will feel?”
I challenge you to consider these questions and be honest with yourself in your answers. This doesn’t mean berating yourself or wallowing in regret.   Forgiveness is a powerful activator for positive change.  Forgive yourself and others for not being their “best selves” and move on.  In every moment we can choose to be our “best self” and by doing so, we become more mindful and sometimes even “JOLLY”.
 
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!  — Dee

(To view Carolyn’s full article in the Washington Post on 12.13.2013 click here

Passion at Work

Pattiy Torno

Pattiy Torno

What would it be like to be excited to “go to work” on a regular basis, to be brimming with creativity and inspiration, to be energized by your own efforts?  I have often asked that question in an effort to find answers to share.  Do you know someone who says they absolutely love their work?  Have you ever heard someone say; “I enjoy this so much I can hardly believe I get paid to do it”?  Who are these people and what do they do?  I found some shining examples during a recent visit to the Carolinas.

I spent an afternoon wandering the River Arts District in Asheville, NC a couple of months ago. “This unique neighborhood along the French Broad River is home to more than 165 artists with working studios located in 18 turn-of-the-century industrial buildings”.  I loved that people are welcome to wander in and talk with the artists, and if you’re lucky, observe them at their craft.  What really struck me was the unbridled enthusiasm of the artists I spoke with. Their passion for their work was a tangible living thing exuding from each studio I visited.  No one tried to sell me anything either.  I loved that!

Take Jonas Gerard for example.  Born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1941, he migrated to NYC and began showing his art on the streets at the age of 16.  Although he spent years working in the engineering field, his passion for his art eventually lead him to pursue it full time.  Largely self taught, he is best known for his abstract art.  He describes the essence of it as:

  • To unfold the spirit of self-exploration by painting (or creating) freely without restraint or self criticism
  • To develop a deeper trust in one’s intuition and instinct as they happen
  • To realize that letting go of set goals opens up a whole world of infinite possibilities

I think these are terrific goals for anyone seeking fulfillment in their work, don’t you agree?

William B.Leonard of Bold Life said; “it would be hard, maybe even impossible to find anyone who is more passionate and energetic about his work than Jonas Gerard.  He is an artist with the heart of a showman and he happily welcomes visitors into his studio to watch him work.  As he paints, he dances in front of the canvas to music that blares raucously from his cd player” and talks while painting saying that he has no idea where the music and paint will take him.”

Another studio I visited was Pattiy Torno’s.  When she was in high school she decided to head towards fashion design as a career.  She says on her webpage, “It was the only career I could think of that would allow me to earn a living doing what I love most—sewing.”  She apprenticed in the fashion industry in New York and then started her own business in the 1980’s as she wanted to get back to “the simple joy of playing with fabric.”  She began making quilts.  (See her picture above with a thimble on her finger and quilt behind her.) 

As I sat in her studio drinking herbal tea that chilly afternoon, I was struck by how much she truly loves what she does.  Pattiy shared her work and encouraged me to touch and try on her creations.  I walked out with one of her lovely fleece hats on my head. Whenever I wear it, I think of the joy of the artist who made it and it makes me feel good (it’s nice and warm too!).

Do you have passion at work?  If you are shaking your head, NO, you might re-consider if you feel or express any of the following:

Empowered, energized, excited, unstoppable, joy, entertaining, creative, evocative, motivated, a sense of flow, giving to others, or sharing your talents.

And, if none of those words apply, you might rethink your career path…. Life is too short to spend more than half your waking hours in passionless work.

 

Gremlin Taming: how to free yourself from your inner critic

Picture of a garden gremlinI’ve been revisiting a gem of a book; “Taming Your Gremlin A surprisingly simple method for getting out of your own way” by Rick Carson. I’ve worked with this marvelous material with my coaching clients over the last few years to help them overcome self limiting beliefs and negative self talk.  I’ve found Rick’s book so useful that today I registered for a 3 month tele-course with him to learn more “Gremlin Taming” strategies and techniques.  Here’s why I like his work and this book in particular:

  1. It is written simply, no esoteric detail or religious dogma.
  2. The author personifies the “narrator in your head” as a Gremlin who influences you. (My concept of a gremlin is like the picture above.  I found this little gray guy at my son’s house this summer just hanging out in the garden.)
  3. It is flat out full of laugh out loud bits especially the stories from the author’s personal experience.
  4. There are fill in the blank pages, like a kid’s Big Book of Fun, to help the reader with self discovery.
  5. In describing the “acts” we put on, he uses such terms as “Back to the Land Woodsman, Red Hot Mama, Pious Puritan, Hard Rocker, Damsel in Distress and Macho Man”.  (Have you met some of those folks?  Yeah, me too!)
  6. Lots of pages have hand drawn illustrations, most of which are quite humorous.
  7. The definitions are clear and easy to understand;

“Your Gremlin: is the narrator in your head.  He has influenced you since you came into this world. He’s with you when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night.  He tells you who and how you are, and he defines and interprets your every experience.  He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal, from moment to moment, day to day is to squelch the natural, vibrant you within….your Gremlin wants you to feel bad.”

The Natural You:  is the one inside that miraculous mass of matter out of which you are now peering.  The natural me is inside my own body, which is at this moment holding a pen.  From inside this aging sculpture of hair, eyes, teeth and limbs, the natural me is writing the words, “Hello in there”.  You just pulled in through your eyes the words, “Hello in there.”  The natural you understands the essence of my words. Your mind is busy making sense out of them.  Your Gremlin, meanwhile, is gnashing his teeth and screeching something like “This is ridiculous!” or “You’re just going to get your hopes up and end up disappointed.  Nothing’s going to change, least of all you.” Or “You need another self help book like a hole in the head.”

“Beliefs: are just opinions that we develop loyalty to, so that we can pretend that the world has at least a modicum of predictability.  Doing so helps us feel safe.  Ironically, we sometimes fight to defend our beliefs, creating anything but a safe situation.”  (so true!)

Taming Your Gremlin is both playful and powerful.  It emphasizes self inquiry and self acceptance as the keys to higher awareness.  If you are looking for liberation from your inner critic, check out this book.  And come on back and visit this blog.  I’m sure I’ll post more on Gremlin Taming as I go through the tele-course.  Here is the author’s website:  tamingyourgremlin.com

In relationship to your (spotlight of) awareness, you can be a passenger or a driver, a victim or a participant, a pawn or a player  You choose.  Not once and for all, but in each moment of your precious life.”  –Rick Carson

Thinking like an Entrepreneur

For most people, the toughest part about leaving a job is the concern about a stable income.   We live in a culture that trains us from childhood to follow the rules, work hard, know the right answers and teachers will reward you with good grades. These lessons groom us for the employee mentality.  Be at work on time, work hard, maybe you can get a good “grade” resulting in the reward of a raise. By virtue of our jobs, we live around set schedules of when to sleep, eat, go to work, take a break, go home and take vacations.  It is a very structured life.  Step out of the job world and you are suddenly free of the schedules, the structure, the expectations of employers and co-workers.  The very ambiguity sends some would be entrepreneurs back to the perceived security of the J-O-B.  With the recent trend of downsizing, furloughing, and layoffs, there is no longer security in having a job. (Was there ever?)

Why not consider starting your own enterprise?  Use your skills and talents in a way that is not only personally satisfying but also fills a need in the marketplace.  One of the advantages is the ambiguity; when you don’t know what’s coming next, you are pushed to be creative, to stretch your imagination and to live outside your “comfort zone.”  If you try out an idea, a service, or product and you don’t get the results you want, you get to improvise, improve the design, or create something different.  It’s wonderfully empowering to use your own skills, talents and abilities to turn an idea into a product or service that serves others and brings you income.  Not ready to leave  your steady job?  That’s okay –  you can always start a business on the side and see where it grows!  Just remember to focus on thinking like an entrepreneur.

“You can do or be whatever you want in your own life.  Nothing can stop you, except your own fears.  Don’t blame anyone else…you have the power to make the decision.  Just do it.”            – Nola Diamantopoulos

“Victory always starts in the head.  It’s a state of mind.  It then spreads with such radiance and such affirmations that destiny can do nothing but obey.”  –Douchan Gersi

Julie & Julia, Accidental Entrepreneurs

This past weekend I saw a fabulous example of following your passion: the movie Julie & Julia. The movie is based on the true story of Julie Powell, a frustrated state worker who spends her days in a cubicle taking incoming calls in the aftermath of 9/11. In search of a way to deal with her frustration and soothe her aching soul, she decides (rather on a whim) to prepare every recipe in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She diligently works her way through the 536 recipes in 365 days and blogs about her trials and tribulations along the way.

In the movie we simultaneously get to view Julie’s experiences in modern day New York and Julia Child’s life during her years in France as she discovers her passion for cooking. As Americans in Paris in the 1950’s, Paul and Julia Child had a glamorous nightlife but when Paul went off to work at the embassy, Julia found herself looking for something with which to fill her days. After a few failed attempts at entertaining and educating herself, such as a hat making class which she found boring, and a bridge class with the same result, she decided to attend culinary school. Julia and her husband were enamored with the gustatory pleasures of French cuisine, and so it seemed natural that Julia would find her joy in taking classes at the renowned Cordon Bleu cooking school.

She delighted in the rigors of learning to prepare French cuisine, fearlessly attacking the tasks and holding her own in a class dominated by men. She thought about how wonderful it would be to have a cookbook in English so that “servantless” Americans could enjoy the pleasures of French cooking and collaborated with two French cooks in creating a mammoth manuscript.

Back in the states Julia Child not only got her book published but became the acclaimed “French Chef” on TV, introducing millions to the joy of boeuf bourguignon, chocolate soufflés, and the like. Julia never set out to become an entrepreneur, she simply pursued her passion and shared it with others. Similarly, Julie Powell rose to literary prominence after she was interviewed by the New York Times about her Julie/Julia project blog. Her story became a book and then a major motion picture. She has a new blog, was interviewed by Nightline (check out the clip, it has vintage footage of Julia Child!)and a second book soon to be released and isn’t working at that cubicle job anymore!

When we follow our passions, we flourish. We may find ourselves as these women did, making a living without a job.

“Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman