Dealing with the Darkness: Honoring the Life of Robin Williams

Robin WilliamsAs I continue to sit with the tragedy of Robin Williams, I am filled with mixed emotions and thoughts in how to best honor his legacy – his light and darkness.

As someone who has struggled with depression at different times in my life, I can get the despair that can swallow you up, grabbing the steering wheel, while you ride shotgun. The darkness is palpable. Even with all the tools I have learned on my journey, I am not immune to the darkness taking hold.

I have learned that if you try to fight or deny or dismiss the darkness, it just squeezes tighter like the toy – Chinese Finger Cuffs.

fingercuffsI have learned to lean into the darkness from a place of curiosity and exploration. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but this isn’t about giving up or giving in. It’s about dancing with this part of me that is just as real and valid as the lightness within me.

While we experience the pain, there is nothing inherently wrong with darkness. It’s how we relate to the darkness–our thoughts and actions in response–that are most damaging. By removing the judgment from the dark experience, you can create more freedom to dance with the darkness and in turn grow stronger.

By dancing with my darkness, I learned to reclaim my power and reclaim my life. I can take the wheel back and steer toward the light.

You may be asking – How do you dance with the darkness?

Here are a few practices inspired by Robin’s own words:

Dead-poets-societyUse your Voice

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” Dead Poets Society

So often we stay silent around darkness. It’s barely talked about in close circles, let alone in public circles. That’s how it lives and grows…in the silence, in the shame. By bringing voice to the darkness, it brings it into the light and loses strength and power.

So when the darkness descends, reach out and find someone to talk to about it, someone you trust. It can be a family member or close friend, a therapist or even someone on the end of a hotline. By simply speaking it aloud, the darkness begins to loosen its grip.

good-will-huntingLook for the Good in the Dark

“People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.” Good Will Hunting

Life is messy, filled with imperfections and flaws and failures—filled with darkness as much as the light. If we continue to dread the darkness when it shows up…and it always does in this crazy world, then fall victim to the darkness.

If we can see the good stuff, the gift, the wisdom in the darkness, then we can begin to change our perspective on the darkness. We can begin to see what it can give us instead of all that it takes away. I often find that my darkness gives me the gift of reflection as well as connection to others.

patchadamsNever Give Up

“The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy.” Patch Adams

I don’t say this lightly because it takes something to Be Happy, something radical. It doesn’t mean you have to feel happy all the time because that just isn’t humanly possible. We all experience the darkness, but it is important to stay vigilant and never give up in that darkness.

We must commit to return to the light, each and every time. The commitment is not to stay in the light because we will have those descents into darkness, but simply do the work necessary to return to the light without judgment, without shame.

If you are dealing with some darkness, know that you are not alone. Reach out to those who love you. If you are not able to see the light right now, let your loved ones hold the light for you until you can see it yourself. The light will come.

 

Robin Williams – You may have lost the battle with darkness, but you will be remembered for the brilliant light that you brought to the world.

 

Going for Gold? Go Within

With my fascination of Olympics, I have been in awe of all the tremendous hard work and difficult decisions that the Olympians have had to make over their lifetime to achieve their ultimate goal – GOLD!

With so many difficult decisions and sacrifices they have made to pursue their dreams, they had to look within, trust their gut or intuition to determine which way to go.

You have probably heard someone say, “Go with Your Gut!”  That’s what I often say when someone is struggling with a  decision to make.  The reason for this simple answer is that we truly do know what is best.  We have the wisdom within us to make those difficult choices.  It’s that quiet whisper that nudges you to make a choice that is consistent with who you truly are.

It’s not always the easier choice.  In fact, it is often more risky, more uncomfortable, but oh so much more rewarding.  In his famous 2005 commencement speech, Steve Jobs encourages “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.“

Every time, I am struggling with a life decision, especially the bigger ones, I waiver between what my inner voice says and what I think I should be doing.  The suffering that occurs in my head – should I – shouldn’t I.  In the end, after all the back and forth, when I go with my gut, I am so much happier and it more often works itself out.  When I follow the “should,” I often create more struggle and suffering.

Now this is not to say, seek out the advice and opinions of others or consider all options.  I am a big fan of checking in with others – the people who know me well or have some experience with the issue.  Sometimes, I seek out direct advice.  Sometimes, it’s just listening and teasing out what’s going on underneath the suffering.  They can provide new information to assist in making a stronger choice.  Who do you reach out to for advice or support?

Now you may be saying to yourself, “How can I trust that voice? I have made bad choices in the past, I don’t know if I can trust myself.” Self-doubt can run rampant in tough decisions.  Look – I get it.  Why do you think I suffer so much in decision wavering?  I am afraid of making the wrong decision. So I sit on the fence, which can be really uncomfortable – Ouch!

So it’s time to get off the fence and make a choice.  Remember you aren’t married to your choice – you can always make another choice later. As I look back on those bad decisions, I realized that I wasn’t following my inner wisdom, my fear or need to prove myself.  It was more in quick reaction rather than taking a breath, settling in and finding what was the deeper wisdom.

So the next time, you are going for gold or simply struggling to make a decision, take a breath, listen to that quiet wisdom, and step forward!

A Deeper Look

  • What would you do if you listened to your inner wisdom?
  • Who can you seek out for support?

Creating Your Definition of Success

success-coaching-header

We all want to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?

Well, if you go by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Success is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” But what if you have wealth and fame and no happiness?  There are plenty of cases where we have seen wealth and fame backfire on celebrities and other people in places of power.

We learn the meaning of success from our family, friends, and society as a whole from a very young age. And that definition continues to be reinforced as we grow older and new expectations are inserted – job, salary, family, etc.  Sometimes that works for people, but many times it causes undue suffering.

What if what’s important to you isn’t in the standard definition of success?  Does that mean you won’t be considered successful?  In my humble opinion – Of course not!

The danger is that if we aren’t considered a success by others, we won’t consider ourselves successful.  Even more dangerous – we may consider ourselves a failure. I have definitely traveled down this dark dangerous alley – beating myself up along the way.

After a good self-inflicted assault, I realized that I must create MY OWN definition of success.  I haven’t been one to follow the path of others; I like to take blaze my own trail.  So why wouldn’t I blaze my own definition of success?

So I invite you to take a deeper look as to how you define success.  Is that what you really want out of life?  Or is that what other have said that you should want?  Are you striving for that will make you happy?  Or will it make others happy?

It is your life, so you get to define the terms…you get the final say in your success!

Looking Deeper

  • How would you define success?
  • What’s important for you to feel you have a successful year, a successful life?

Fire Re-ignited

heart-of-fire-love-30476808-1920-1080

Last month, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Omega Institute’s Women & Power Retreat and felt the Fire Reignited!  Inspired into action by listening to Omega’s Co-Founder Elizabeth Lesser, Vulnerability Expert Brene Brown, and Roshi Joan Halifax, I was ready to reconnect to my passion and purpose to make a difference.

This past year that fiery passion had been doused with doubt and struggle.  I had been on the economic roller coaster where my self-worth had been tied to the money in my bank account.  Even with a decade of inner work, I still struggled to find some peace in the matter.

With the amazing support of my partner, friends and family, I found the strength to keep holding on when all I wanted to do was jump off the ride.  Finally the financial roller coaster has slowed down and leveled out, I am incredibly grateful for the lessons the ride has taught me and ready to get back to my work on this planet – radical self-acceptance.

While it’s not all figured out, I have learned some great lessons along the way that I would like to share.

1.  You are not your circumstances. While I have heard this one many of times and even said it to others, I didn’t realized how much I tied my identity to my work. I found myself flailing when my career was in limbo.  Not sure where to go, not sure who I was. I had to keep telling myself, I am not my job.  I am not my bank account.  Even if we don’t attach to that, we may attach to other things like how smooth our day goes or how many likes we get on Facebook or Instagram.  We are sooo much bigger than those details.  If we can see our worth beyond our circumstances, then life’s challenges aren’t quite so debilitating. Our worth is unwavering.

2. Community is key. One of my saving graces has been and continues to be my community.  I am incredibly grateful for friends and family to listen when I needed to vent, hug me when I needed comforting, and the kick in the butt when I wanted to give up.  It’s important to reach out, get real and share what’s true for you in times of struggle. While often challenging to be vulnerable and reveal we don’t have it altogether (believe me, I can relate), it’s a crucial component to surviving the struggle.

3.  Get in action…Stay in action. This is easier said than done, at least the staying in action part.  By getting in action, doors opened for me, opportunities were created.  Despite my fantasy and desire that money would come in by watching marathons on Netflix, it didn’t work out that way.  By getting into action, energy was created and the world responded with something positive, some doorway to walk through.  While I must admit I didn’t walk through all the doorways, I know momentum was created with each threshold I passed, physically, energetically, emotionally.  I didn’t always know what was opening up, but I kept walking through.  By keeping enough momentum with each action step, shifts can occur and life can unfold in your favor.

Life is messy, uncertain and full of challenges. One day it can take you to the top of the mountain; the next day in the deep ravine.  That’s what makes it so beautifully mysterious.  It is that fire within each of us that keeps us going, that gives us grit and determination to not give up.  Push through the challenges, rise up out of the ravine and seek the summit of the mountain.   Join me and let your light shine for all to see!

Rethinking Resolutions for Real Change

With the New Year comes new hope and often New Year Resolutions.  Did you make any resolutions for 2013?  Or are you like me in hesitating in making any resolutions because they usually fail by February anyways.

Resolutions fail not because they are a bad idea, but because we go about it backwards.  We look at what’s wrong in our lives and create a goal like losing weight or getting organized to counteract the wrong in hopes to become happier.  While that strategy can work in some cases, it is challenging to sustain and often doesn’t produce the happiness we had expected.

By starting with end result – the happiness, prosperity, or peace we are seeking – we open the door to more opportunities to experiencing that feeling and therefore more successful!

Here are a few tips I follow to create Resolutions for Real Change in my life:

1. Listen to Deeper Desires – What is it that you really want in your life?  One way to figure that out is to take the resolutions you often make and ask the question “What will that provide?”  With each time you ask that question, you dig deeper to your true desires.  I recommend 3-5 rounds to get to the heart of what you really want.  When I dig deeper to my resolution of losing weight, I discovered the desire to be energized about life.

2. Declare your Commitment – Once you discover what you really want, you can declare a commitment to creating that desire in your life in 2013.  A commitment inspires you into action.  A commitment doesn’t require perfection, but simply the willingness to get into action regardless of past performance.  My Commitment is A Life Full of Energy.

3.  Get into Action – With an inspiring commitment, now it’s time to get into action, any action that supports your commitment.   Brainstorm a list of aligned actions to encourage variety and flexibility, which leads to greater success over time.   Taking simple actions every day in support of your commitment will allow you to create what you really want for your life.  With a Commitment to a Life Full of Energy, I can exercise, socialize with friends, go out dancing or Zumba, or sing along with the car radio.

4. Create Community – With any sustained change requires a support team to hold you accountable and encourage you when your commitment fades, as it commonly does.  To be most effective, be specific with how each person can support you.  Will it be asking for encouraging words every day?  Will it be inviting a friend to join you in creating a similar commitment?  While it can seem vulnerable to ask for help, we succeed that much faster, that much greater when we include those around us.

5. Celebrate Small Successes – Celebration is critical to success and satisfaction as a whole.  If we continue to strive for the next goal without celebrating and acknowledging the progress made, we don’t recognize our growth and are often left still feeling “not enough.”  Celebrating can be simple with a manicure, or even FREE with a Shout-Out on Facebook or 5-second Dance Party with a friend.  Celebration often provides the needed inspiration to keep your commitment alive.

As you step into 2013 with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to change, remember that real change is like a roller coaster with highs and lows.   While the journey may be simple, it may not be easy.  Show yourself compassion when you make mistakes.  A sense of humor can help too!

May 2013 be a Year of Desires Fulfilled!

Give the Gift of Presence

newtown-christmas620x350A strange week to say the least. Between mourning the tragedy in Newtown and the anticipation of the holidays, I am trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings of what seems like opposing experiences. How can I honor both experiences simultaneously? How can I honor the lives lost and still celebrate? How can I make the tragedy a personal wake-up call for my own life and not just for the nation?

The holidays are filled with opportunity to be around people, whether it’s family gatherings, parties, religious services or last minute shopping. These opportunities allow for us to not just be around them, but truly connect with each other.

While we often hunt for the perfect gift for our sister or best friend, we could give one that is more meaningful and FREE. We could give the Gift of our Presence. Yes, it may be cheesy or cliché, but can also be incredibly powerful.

Here are a few ways you can give the Gift of Presence:

Mend Friendships – Many people are speaking about how we can peace in our communities these days, but what about start with creating peace in our own circles. Are there any strained relationships that could use some mending? Are there are resentments that could be forgiven? I know there are few in my circles. My friend, Dr. Stephanie May, came up with this brilliant idea after much soul searching, and I just had to share it. If we can “Be the Change” of creating peace, then our communities and nation will be more peaceful.

Have Authentic Conversations – Despite the hectic schedule of the holidays, I consciously try to have meaningful conversations with family and friends, rather than surface chitchat. Far too often we speak from a place of automaticity, rather than authenticity. When people ask how are you doing, give them a real response beyond the automatic “fine.” Seek a deeper response in their answer as well; find out what’s really happening their lives. Brady Quinn, KC Chiefs quarterback, eloquently shared a similar message after the domestic violence tragedy with teammate, Jovan Belcher. By having authentic conversations, we show people that they matter and you care.

Create Gadget Free Time – The holidays often mean spending time with friends and family, but I know for me that most of that time is with my phone in hand. While I may be sitting with my family, I am checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds. As a result, I miss out on spending real time with people I care about. If we put the gadgets down, turn off the TV and spend real face-to-face time with our loved ones, we can truly stay connected.

Count Your Blessings – As the year comes to an end, it often is a time of reflection. And with this year in particular after all the tragedies, I am going to count my numerous blessings. While it may be easy to recall all the things that went wrong, it’s often more powerful to recognize our successes and be PRESENT to the greatness within ourselves and our lives.

After such a roller coaster of a year, and especially this last week, join me in taking the time this holiday season to count our blessings and truly connect with the people in our lives. With the simple Gift of Presence, we can make this holiday one to remember.

Thank You…More than Just Being Polite

THANK YOU…How many times do you hear it in a day? How many times do you say it in a day? If I consciously counted, I am sure there are at least dozen on each side of the Thank You.

However, I have difficulty remembering any that actually made an impact. Most could be categorized in the humdrum automatic social politeness. Rarely does the Thank You leave a lasting impression. Our Thank You’s can quickly become hollow in meaning, but they don’t have to be.

A thoughtful Thank You can create an opportunity for someone to not just be acknowledged, but truly seen. Whether it’s family, colleagues or customers, people want to know they matter, they make a difference in the world. Let the people in your life know they matter to you, they have an impact on your life.

Just after Superstorm Sandy, I had the pleasure of meeting Terry, a utility worker from California restoring power to a Queens neighborhood. Even after six days of exhausting work clearing trees and repairing power lines, he was proud to serve his country in desperate need of rebuilding. He was willing to put his life on hold for weeks to bring light to a community living in darkness. As a native Californian, I was so grateful for his generosity and sacrifice. As I thanked Terry, he quietly smiled – while probably not used to hearing gratitude in that way, it was apparent he was touched by my words and being seen for being a True Man of Service.

Here are a few tips to turn your Thank You from automatic to awesome:

Make it Personal– I find myself saying Thank You more as an automatic response than an actual Thank You. Whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store or the person holding the door open, a personal Thank You with eye contact and a smile interrupts the automatic and allows it to actually be heard as a message of gratitude rather than a required politeness. If you really want to interrupt the automaticity of thanks, you can use a sales clerk’s name (from their nametag). It often gets an extra smile.

Sprinkle in Specificity – This is a great strategy for the workplace. A simple Thank You is appreciated with colleagues; it is even more appreciated when there are some specifics attached to it. Adding some details with what they specifically did creates an environment that shows that you truly see them, their hard work and their contribution to the company. Thank You with specificity builds loyalty and encourages people to work even harder.

Top it off with Heart – A heartfelt Thank You is an amazing gift to give someone. Those are the ones I remember, the ones that remind me that I am making a difference in the lives of others. With Thanksgiving days away, a great way to thank your friends and loved ones is to acknowledge them for not just what they do for you, but how their actions have impacted your life. Share with them how they have made a difference in your life. I know this may be outside of your comfort zone and could even be a bit awkward, but the benefits can far outlast the awkward moment.

With Thanksgiving around the corner…Who can you thank in your life? Whether it’s a stranger, like Terry, or a loved one, I encourage you to acknowledge them with a personal, specific and heart-filled Thank You.

Turning Crisis into Triumph

The last few weeks, ok…more like the last few months, I have been struggling with a problem that I haven’t had to deal with ever before. If I was being truthful to myself, I would even call it a crisis, a financial crisis. It has pushed me and pulled me in ways that I could have never envisioned I would experience at this point in my life.

Now I have struggled financially off and on over the years, but never to this extent. Due to some life circumstances and some mental roadblocks, I find myself in new territory.

You may not be experiencing a financial crisis, but you may have some other challenges that are testing you, whether it’s a relationship, an academic or work situation. Unfortunately, as part of being human, we all are tested now and again.

Rather than focusing on problem and feeling disempowered, what we can do is reclaim our power and find a route to overcome the challenge. While I haven’t fully resolved my financial crisis, I have found some steps to begin to turn the challenge in the direction of triumph.

1. Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but…

Telling the truth in this area can be very challenging for me because I want to appear successful both to others as well as myself. However, ignoring the problem only made it worse. However, my work is about being authentic, so I thought I better walk the talk. So I sucked it up and began to tell the truth to myself and the people who loved me. When I did, the sense of relief was palpable. I found out I wasn’t alone and it didn’t diminish their image of me and my success. In telling the truth, I was able to finally take real action to shift the crisis into triumph.

2. Look for the Lesson

This is the crux of turning any challenge into triumph. While isn’t always easy or fun to look for the lesson or gold while in the middle of a crisis, this has been the quickest way for me to turn the tides. Sometimes I resist the lesson because I secretly like the drama of being in crisis. I am definitely good at the drama too. :) Yet, I know the struggle and suffering leaves me feeling powerless, so I look for the lesson or gift to reclaim my power in the situation.

As I look for the lessons in this financial crisis, two come to mind immediately. The first is my stepping up in financial responsibility – essentially putting my big girl panties on. I am now intimately connected to my bills and bank accounts in ways that will set me up financially for the rest of my life. The second gift is willingness to accept help. Being fiercely independent, I always hesitated to really depend on people because I didn’t want to be a burden. However, in this situation I have to make many requests for assistance, depending on people on a deeper level than ever before. This leads to the final step to turn challenge into triumph.

3. Seek out Support

The support from others was essential in helping me find solutions to turnaround the financial crisis. Whether it was simply a consoling conversation, advice on pinching pennies or job referrals, I was grateful for all the support I received to know that I wasn’t alone. Most people, especially our loved ones, are eager to help out in some way. The more specific we can be in our requests, the easier it can be to for supporters to step up. With our support team by our side, we can step up and out of our crisis and into triumph.

Whenever I am in trouble or even in the midst of a crisis, I am reminded of Christian D. Larson’s wise words. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Whether it’s a health crisis, a financial crisis or a relationship crisis – we can all find ways to not just survive the crisis, but more importantly you can find a way to thrive from it.

Honoring the Heroes of 9/11 with Love

As I sit and listen to the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, I am overwhelmed with the amount of loss and grief that still exists for the families and country  eleven years later. I am also equally present to the incredible  love that lives on in their memories.  The reading of the names is such a beautiful tribute to honor each individual, especially as they are read by the family members of those who were lost.  With each name, there is a hero who is remembered.

I am especially moved by the young children speaking of their fathers and mothers who they lost at such a young age.  The love they have for their parents is so profound and evident when they speak of their heroic parents.

While wiping my tears, I wonder what I can do in honor of these heroes.  What can I do to make the world they leave behind a better one for their children and generations to come?  The only word that comes to mind is LOVE.

Love the ones we lost and love those who are still here.  Love those who risked their lives to save others.  Love those who are sick as a result of 9/11. Love for the country who united together for one another.  Love for those deployed and their families who serve with honor.  Love and embrace my loved ones.  Love to continue to bring people together and create community.  Love to counteract the fear, ignorance and hate that still exists in the world.    Love for all of our heroes!

What will you do today to honor our heroes?  Where can you show love in your life and community?

Befriending Fear to Create True Happiness

Befriending fear is the first and crucial step to creating the happiness you want. While it may seem counter-intuitive to finding happiness,  looking at the ugly stuff creates a clearer vision for true happiness.

Believe me, I am good at avoiding this ugly stuff myself. However, what I have found is that if I do step over this step and try to jump straight into finding what makes me happy, it often crumbles like a house with a bad foundation. The foundation of truth is crucial.

Telling the truth about what makes you nervous about your future. Is it the fear of failure, fear of not knowing, fear of hard work, fear of swallowing your pride, fear of success, fear of asking for help? All of these, if continually avoided, can stop us from creating a life of happiness and fulfillment.

The reality is that these fears are completely normal. Expect to have these fears and concerns. Make friends with them because they aren’t going away. They will be with you throughout your life at different points.

While I have experienced all of these, my frequent visitors are fear of asking for help, not knowing, and success. These will often paralyze me and keep me trapped into what is familiar and comfortable. I even had these fears visit as I am creating my upcoming webinar – I Got the Degree – Now What?

Oprah defines “COURAGE as not the absence of fear, but having fear and acting anyways.” To be powerful is not in getting rid of the fear, but befriending it so you have power over it.

What does it mean to be Friends with Fear? I know that seems a bit crazy, but it is incredibly useful. First, you have to shift your thinking that it is your enemy or shouldn’t be there. Fear is a normal and healthy emotion and filled with helpful information and gifts. Just like your friends brings something of value to the relationship, so does fear. It is just a matter of finding out what that value may be.

The value could simply be a reminder that you are stepping out of your comfort zone or to pay close attention. Or it could it serve a deeper purpose like a red flag to self-reflect and see if there is something you may need to consider.

In the last few weeks, I have experienced a lot of fear – the kind that feels like a knot in your stomach. I have even had a few sleepless nights. It wasn’t until I stopped avoiding it and befriended it, that is has finally allowed me to breathe deeply and fully. This fear was here to have me look at what I have been doing – playing it safe rather than going after what I really want.

Recognizing that it’s time to go after my dreams, the fear doesn’t magically go away, but it isn’t controlling me anymore. It now sits in the passenger seat rather than the driver seat. With courage, I can take the steering wheel and drive toward my dreams. And fear can ride along to remind me that this unfamiliar road is the path to my purpose on this planet.

What is fear telling you?  What can you learn from your fear if you stop avoiding it?

If you would like to know more or register for my upcoming webinar -
I Got the Degree – Now What?
Click here.