Peace in the Puzzle
How Do I Get Myself Into These Situations?
I saw a cartoon today that made me both smile and think – a nice combination.
The scene is King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building with the captured girl in hand and planes flying around his head. The caption,” How do I get myself into these situations?”
Most of us have asked this question at one time or another. I certainly have. We find ourselves in situations that are difficult, dangerous, too risky; you pick the adjective that fits for you. A situation that sets us in the wrong direction. A situation that gets us off track somehow.
During my 60th year, I made four large changes in my life and transformed myself into the person I was always intended to be. How? By keeping my eye on the goal. By keeping my focus on the outcome I desired.
Reminding myself that drinking prevented me from completing my book, and keeping my focus on that desired outcome allowed me to stop drinking. It really was that easy. As one of the voices of wisdom said when asked what advice they would give to their younger self, “Obstacles are things you see when you take your eye off the goal.”
So, how did King Kong get himself into the situation at the top of the building? The question isn’t really, How do I get myself into these situations? The question is , How do I not get into such a situation again.
Decide the direction you want your life to go and then keep your focus on that goal. Use affirmations to remind yourself of the goal and that you can achieve it. Something like, “It is easy for me to find and fulfill my purpose in life.” Remember to say it often and say it like you mean it.
Would King Kong have been on the top of the building swatting planes if his goal was clearly in his mind. I think not.
Where is your focus?
Using the If/Then Technique for Self-Transformation
I was reminded of the if/then sentences I used to teach in parenting classes when my son and daughter-in-law masterfully used this technique with my grandchildren when I was visiting them recently. When I was teaching parenting classes, the use of if/then sentences was a quick way to improve parent /child interaction, as in “If you clean up your room, then you can go outside to play with your friends,” OR “If you wake your brother in the morning gently, then you can use the car to drive you both to school.” It usually is a magical and fast acting tactic.
It occurred to me that I utilized if/then with myself during my self-transformational 60th year. My “then” was becoming my intended self by writing a book about self-transformation, and two of the “ifs” were “If you quit drinking, you will be able to write at night and finish your book,” AND “If you get your finances under control, you will have the resources you need to publish your book.” Holding out the “then” carrot was a powerful motivator for me to accomplish the “ifs”. People understand sacrifice if they understand the reason for it.
All of us long for the self-transformation that will lead to self-fulfillment. And while, many of us are too hard on ourselves when it comes to our abilities, most of us know what it would take to become our intended self. I believe that each of us knows what our “then” is.
What are your “thens”? What are the “ifs” it will take to get there? Commit yourself to your “then” and do the “ifs” it takes to get there.
As Goethe is quoted as saying, "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
Systems Thinking with Me as the System
I recently had the opportunity to hear David Peter Stroh speak at a philanthropy conference. His topic - Systems Thinking: Help Your Giving Create Greater Change – called on philanthropists to consider the broad and long range consequences of their grants. He cited a World Health Organization grant that was intended to kill mosquitos that were causing disease in Africa but instead inadvertently disrupted an ecosystem. Unanticipated consequences resulted by not looking at the whole system.
It is said that if your tool is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. Similarly, since I wrote the book, Peace in the Puzzle: Becoming Your Intended Self, everything – including systems thinking – seems to fit into the idea of intentional change and self-transformation.
Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving with each problem viewed as a part of an overall system. A systems approach thinks about how individual parts of the system interact with other parts of the system. Examining as many of these interactions as possible can inform what parts can be changed to impact the whole in a way we desire with a minimum of unintended consequences. Think machine and which levels move which parts and then what happens to the whole machine. Think cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.
My system - aka me - wanted to write a book. My problem was that I wanted to write a book, and, while I felt I was intended to do so, I never finished. I started many books but never completed them, and I could never understand why. Looking backward, unconsciously I took a systems approach to my life in order to complete the book.
Using several tools, I discovered that three parts of my system were preventing me from completing. Each of them interacted with the others exacerbating their impact. Each stemmed from an underlying behavior or belief that kept me from completing my book.
Here are the interconnected parts of my system that I changed and the underlying behavior or belief associated with them:
1. I stopped drinking alcohol. I had gotten into the habit of having wine each evening. With a full time job, I needed to write for my book in the evening, and a few glasses of wine each night prevented me from doing that. Once I stopped drinking, I was able to get in a few good writing hours each night. I changed the behavior and my system began to change but not enough.
2. Once I started writing each night, I realized that I believed I couldn’t afford to write the book. So, I started tracking my income and out go on a spreadsheet each month, and by so doing, I got my finances under control. If I was going to have the money needed to publish and promote my book, I needed to understand what money I had. Once I understood my financial situation, I was able to finish the book with the confidence that I would be able to manage it financially. Once I was writing with the confidence that I could afford publishing the book, I realized my focus was frequently on others.
3. Early in my life, I had taken on the role of coordinator of the universe and believed that others needed me to help with them to succeed. So, I decided to let others coordinate their own universe by no longer having expectations of others. By focusing on the perceived needs of others and my perceived ability to fix them, I ensured that I would never have time for my writing. They were always potential distractions from my work. Once I let each person in my life make their own way, I was able to make my own.
I am happy to report that I finished and published my book within a year of making these systems changes.
Have a goal you aren’t meeting in your life? Consider thinking of yourself as a system and ask what parts of your system are preventing you for meeting your fullest potential at work and home. Find the levers in your system that will create what you really care about.
“Fail” your way to Peace in the Puzzle
I recently attended a conference and in one session, the group was asked to explain what “failure” is. People had trouble answering in part because it seemed clear. Failure is missing the mark, not making your goal. It is a bad thing.
Try to explain it yourself, and if your definition is along the along the lines of screwing up, it probably doesn’t fit a Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s idea of failure. To them, failure is an opportunity to learn from a mistake. Failure rules out a path thus focusing them on another – and perhaps more fruitful – path. It is a good thing when viewed in this light.
Little bets are risks you can afford to lose. It is also the title of Peter Sims’ book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. I had the pleasure of talking to Peter recently, and he suggests that it is vital to take small risks and course correct until you reach your “goal.” “Goal” is in quotation marks because he believes – as do I – that in most things – entrepreneurship or becoming your intended self- the “goal” only becomes clear as we continue to move towards it. Little bets are things you risk and can afford to fail at as you discover your end goal. Little bets and course corrections lead to your desired end point.
When I turned 59, I decided to get a tattoo on my 60th birthday. I decided to find a symbol that meant something to me. I made a little bet that lead to my desire to transform myself intentionally. I choose a symbol that stands for self-transformation, and I got it on my 60th birthday. While I had changed many times in my life, I had never done so intentionally. My little bet to choose a meaningful tattoo led me to the discovery of how much I admired people who have self-transformed. The choice of tattoo led me to I make three little bets that if I quit drinking, got my finances in order and let go of expectations of others that I could make my big bet and write my book. Peace in the Puzzle: Becoming Your Intended Self was published in late 2011. And that larger bet helped me discover my purpose – to help others find theirs. Little and increasingly bigger bets led to my piece of the puzzle and my peace in the puzzle. My little bet - to get a tattoo - lead small discoveries – changes I needed to make - that lead to the breakthrough ideas in my book and transformed my life.
Peter Sims is right. Breakthrough ideas can emerge from small discoveries. Breakthrough ideas that come from little bets.
Last year, three people shared with me that after reading my book, they quit their jobs. For each of them, although the decision was a long time coming and the exercises in the book helped them make small discoveries about next steps. All are on a path to something different. I am confident each will find their peace in the puzzle. Doing the exercises in the book was a little bet. Have no doubt that quitting your job is a big bet. So, if you are in a job that isn’t helping you and perhaps impeding from becoming your intended self but you don’t have a trust fund, what are some little bets you might make? What can you afford to do with a manageable amount of risk?
Here are some possible little bets that might lead to small discoveries:
- The cooperative universe wants you to find your place in the world and is supporting you as you find it.
o Ask someone who has known you for a long time, what you are good at. What is your gift?
o Look back on your school and career path. Where you are being led? What opportunities are being present to you?
- What part of the news are you drawn to each day? Which magazines do you subscribe to or pick up in the doctor’s waiting room?
o If you are drawn to needs in the community, is there is a nonprofit whose mission you are passionate about where you might volunteer? And, if they say no, ask another.
o If you read about tech starts up constantly, are their tech people you could ask to do an informational interview with? And, if they say no, ask another.
· Most people love to share what they have learned in their lives and are willing to do so when asked. Is there someone you see as being successful that you could ask to mentor you into your next job. And, if they say no, ask another.
· Peruse online class catalogs. Note which classes you are drawn to. Consider taking a course in an area you believe you could not only excel but be excited about.
· Go to www.peaceinthepuzzle.com, choose an affirmation and start saying it – a lot.
What little bet are you willing to make to become the entrepreneur of your own life? What little bet are you willing to make to become the artist of your own life?
Take it now.
Happiness, Tattoos and Becoming Your Intended Self
On my 59th birthday, I made a commitment to get a tattoo on my 60th. Nothing flashy or too visible to the general public but something to mark the occasion. Deciding to get a tattoo is easy; deciding what that tattoo will be in more difficult.
After months of searching, I decided to get a tattoo that symbolized self-transformation in Ghana. That decision led me to transformation intentional so I could write the book Peace in the Puzzle: Becoming Your Intended Self and to find my purpose - to help others become their intended selves. The symbol is on my lower back and on each page of my book.
I have not regretted the symbol I chose, but I sometimes think about the last few symbols that were in the running before I settled on self-transformation.
One of them is the Japanese word for living with a sense of purpose – ikigai. To me it means, living knowing why I am here and what I am supposed to be doing with my life. Since I found my purpose, I have never been happier.
After reading my book, many people have asked if each person only has one purpose. I answer that it depends on what you mean by one. Consider, for example, that your purpose may be to support others in times of stress. On the playground, this could have meant that you supported those being bullied but as an adult it may mean that you are a hospice volunteer.
One woman told me that after doing the exercises in the book, she decided that at 26 years of age, her purpose for now is to discover what she is intended to do in this life. Each day, she wakes with a spirit of discovery and hopefulness. She told me, she too had never been happier.
At age 87, another woman told me that after reading the book, she was reminded when she became her intended self when her adult daughter was killed in a car accident in a construction zone. She became an advocate for safe driving and regularly supported those who experienced a loss such as hers. When she told me this, she smiled, saying that even in the face of such loss, knowing her purpose made going forward with her life possible.
Want to find happiness? Begin the journey to find what you and only you were born to do. One step would be to think about IF you were to mark yourself for life with a tattoo, what symbol would you choose. Whether you get a tattoo or not, your decision will lead you to what is important to you and may lead you to your intended self. The self-confidence that comes with clarity of personal purpose will make you happier.
Grateful to be in the game
'Tis the season of giving thanks and being grateful. And with every article I read about the survivors of Hurricane Sandy, I am reminded that I have much to be grateful for both big and small – a roof over my head, dry clothes, pictures of my children safe and sound in a metal box. I have many good things for which to be grateful, but two young women recently reminded me what true gratitude can be.
One girl said she was grateful to be alive because she almost succeeded in committing suicide. As this young woman knew, even in trying times, life itself is something to celebrate. Similarly, another young woman, whose arms were covered with the scars of years of cutting herself, spoke quietly as she expressed gratitude for her counselors, who had helped her learn to trust herself. She, too, said that she was grateful to be alive.
These two young women knew firsthand that each life is a kaleidoscope of good and bad and that there is something to be learned in both. But after much bad, they were grateful merely to still be in the game. They were grateful for life. They were grateful to be able to see the fall flowers on the table, hear their friends giggling, taste the tartness of the cranberry sauce, smell the aroma of the turkey and experience the community of the meal.
I have many thinks to be grateful for but these girls reminded me that as long as I have breath, I have life, and as long as I have life, I am grateful. Knowing this, I can be grateful for all I see, hear, taste, smell and experience.
Reflecting on Your Tracks in the Snow
Each of us has a unique role to play in our lives and the universe – however you envision the force larger than yourself – supports us as we find and play our role by providing experiences to lead us. Reflection is one tool to help us each discover that unique role.
Reflection causes us to think about possible links between our recent experiences and earlier ones in order to discover commonalities and interrelations between them. These common threads lead us to think about our life in total and see patterns. Seeing and acting on these common threads allow us to see more clearly our unique role.
Consider the following story:
Once upon a time at a large university, the president, being a woman of order, was concerned about the fact the students did not walk on the sidewalks. This resulted in sad looking grass, and additional maintenance costs associated with continually making that sad grass look happy again.
Announcements were made to get the students to stay on the sidewalks, speeches were delivered, emails and texts were sent to get the students to stay on the sidewalks. They still walked on the grass.
Frustrated, the President consulted with a motivational specialist before the school year began in the fall. After hearing about the problem and touring the campus, the motivational specialist assured her that for $10,000, he could get the students to stay on the sidewalk.
She was delighted.
School started, and the students continued to ignore the sidewalks. The President continued to be upset. The motivational specialist did nothing.
The leaves began to fall, the students continued to ignore the sidewalks. The president continued to be upset. The motivational specialist continued to do nothing.
By Thanksgiving, the President had had enough and angrily called the motivational specialist.
“When are you going to do something?” she demanded.
“Patience,” he said, “I will have an answer for you by year’s end at the latest, and a solution for you by spring.”
By spring, the motivational specialist had contracted with a landscape architect to take out the old sidewalks and replace them with new ones. And, lo and behold, the students stayed on the sidewalks.
The President happily paid the bill for $10,000 but called the motivation specialist out of curiosity.
“How did you get the students to walk on the sidewalks?” she asked.
“After the first snowfall, I took pictures of where the footprints were and put the new sidewalks where the students were already walking.”
In the story above, the path was always there. The students were on their path. The sidewalks were in the wrong place and someone else’s idea of where the path should be.
Reflect on your tracks in the snow and look for patterns - patterns leading you to your peace in the puzzle.
What are you willing to do to change yearning for your passion into action?
I had been unsuccessfully writing a book my whole life. With my 60th birthday looming, I realized something had to change if I would ever actually complete a book. I was at a turning point. Book or no book, that was the burning question.
In my 60th year, I did what it took to intentionally transform to the person I was intended to be all along. The person who would write my book. I transformed so I could take my unique, enduring place in the world.
Passion is an action word
Each of us is meant to find and claim our place, and we all yearn for the journey that will lead us to find the one-of-a-kind role we were meant to play, the person we were intended to be, the person we know in our mind’s eye, the person we long to discover and be. I yearned to write a book.
But yearning isn’t an action word. Passion is an action word. So how did I change a yearning into a passion? I examined what I wanted and what I was willing to do get it. For me – and perhaps for you – there were things getting in my way. In my 60th year, I became willing to make changes so I could get what I wanted. I became passionate; I removed my roadblocks.
- Because I had a full-time job, I needed to work on my book in the evening. Since my evenings usually included several glasses of wine, I needed to quit drinking, so I could write. And, I did. One roadblock removed.
- Because publishing and promoting a book takes money, I needed to get my finances in order, so I would have the needed resources. And, I did. Another roadblock removed.
- Because writing a book took time and energy, I needed to focus on my writing and not on what others were or should be doing. So, I quit having expectations of others. Final roadblock removed.
Be the hero of your own story
I went from feeling the tension between the life I was living and my longed for life that had a purpose uniquely mine to being passionate about my purpose. I felt this tension most of my adult life but during my 60th year, I learned how to become the hero of my own story. I decided to transform – intentionally – from yearning for my birth right to being passionate about my birth right.
I decided what I wanted to create in my life, decided what I needed to change, so I could create what I wanted in my life and I did so by utilizing tools I had found throughout my journey. Those tools helped to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I published my book – Peace in the Puzzle: Becoming Your Intended Self – last year by having a passion for being who I was supposed to be all along.
Are you yearning for your intended self?
September - Grateful Giver and Receiver of Abundance
On a recent visit to the Farmers’ Market, the overflowing bins of squash, pumpkins, peppers and beets were proof of the abundance of a great harvest. Proof that the collaborative universe provides what each of us needs to thrive.
But, there is evidence of the abundance of the universe everywhere, not just at the Farmers’ Market. A wealth of goodness and unlimited potential are always available to me and to each of us. Time spent enjoying interesting people, reading wonderful books or walking around my favorite lake are some of the ways I experience this abundance. I am a grateful receiver of this great harvest of abundance provided regularly by the collaborative universe.
There was, however, a time when I was not convinced of this abundance, and I had a scarcity mind set. I worried about getting what I needed and wanted, and believing there was only so much good stuff to go around, resented the perceived abundance of others. I was not a good partner in the collaboration.
I grew tired of worry and resentment; I decided to become a better partner to the universe.
I intentionally changed my outlook by using this affirmation: There is more than enough good stuff to go around; therefore, I delight in the success of others as well as my own.
As I began to believe what I was saying in this affirmation, I began to see that there is enough good stuff for everyone and that the universe provides everything we need to learn and grow on our journey to our intended selves. I was able to give to others more freely, knowing that there would always be enough for me. When I gave more to others, abundance flowed naturally back to me.
I now consciously keep abundance flowing in large and small ways. Sometimes I can point out abundance in another person’s life and directly tell them how delighted I am in their success. Sharing in their abundance multiplies the abundance that I experience. I also keep abundance flowing in less obvious ways. I ride an elevator several times a day, and I always send a wish for abundance to my fellow elevator riders. I keep the good stuff flowing.
The cooperative universe wants each of us to experience abundance, and it provides an endless supply.
I am filled with gratitude and serenity in the assurance of the unlimited supply of abundance. I resolve to never dwell on the appearance of lack or limitation but to think, speak and live as a grateful giver and receiver of abundance.
August Blog – Where are you on your list?
Need replenishment? You must be depleted. So, how does a depleted person find the time and the will to replenish? By putting yourself higher up on your list.
We all know how to take care of ourselves; we just seldom make the time to do so. We put other things higher up on our list and never get to us. When a friend says you need to take better care of yourself, do you say “YA BUT I can’t right now.” Here are three YA BUTS you might be using to keep yourself low on your list:
1. YA BUT taking care of me is selfish. Understand that taking care of you is not selfish. It doesn’t mean ignoring the needs of others; it means not ignoring your needs. Not putting yourself first is selfless. Literally not having a self.
2. YA BUT others will be mad at me. Taking care of you is vitally important to personal happiness. Keep in mind that if you are happy, you will treat others with respect. By not being happy, you become irritable creating a tendency to disrespect others. Disrespecting someone only creates negative consequences and so amplifies your unhappiness and the other person’s. Stop this downward spiral before it begins.
3. YA BUT they can’t do it without me. Remember that they can’t do it when you are depleted either. Put first things first. Every frequent flyer knows the phrase, “In the case of cabin decompression, put your own mask on first before helping others.” This goes for off the airplane, too. If you have nothing left to give, you can’t help yourself much less others.
Next time you hear yourself using a YA BUT, do one or all of the following:
1. Know which way is “west.” "Go West, young man" is a quotation by American author Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward in the mid-1800s. If you know what your true “west” is, you can focus on it and use to guide your decisions. If your “west” is career success, career success means being the best you possible. Decide what it this takes to be your best self. Rest, exercising, meditating, eating right, and spending time with good friends all become a part of your career success. They become important. You find time. If your “west” is happy, well-adjusted children, model what it takes to be happy and well-adjusted yourself. 80% of what we teach our children is the behavior they see us doing. Know where your “west” is and make decisions accordingly.
2. Use an affirmation. It is a well-known fact that one comes to believe whatever one repeats to one’s self. I started saying the affirmation, “I have more than enough time to do all the things I want and need to do,” when I was a busy working mom with small busy children. I said it like a mantra and found my time was not finite but something that grew as needed. With this affirmation, you will have plenty of time for what you need to do – including taking care of yourself.
3. Know your crash point. Women sometimes are depleted because they put the needs of other ahead of their own needs. They go until they run out. They crash physically, mentally or spiritually OR all of the above in what becomes a FORCED replenishment. Your body makes you replenish. What do your crashes look like – headaches, illness, grumpiness, a good case of busyness? Know what your forced replenishments usually are and begin to catch them before they reach the crash point. Don’t know what they are? Ask as trusted friend.
4. Imagine what you would say to a friend who needed replenishment. Now do it yourself.
Where are you on your list?