Comfort zones aren’t all bad

Comfort zones aren’t all bad

“Whatever we cultivate in times of ease, we gather as strength for times of change.” -Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book Regular readers know I’m a big proponent of getting out of our comfort zones, trying new things, stretching, learning, and growing.  It can sometimes be uncomfortable (hence the term ‘growing pains’), but it’s always worth it. As someone once said: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” But, as with anything else, balance is the key. A lot of people give up on new ventures, even ones they’re extremely passionate about, because they just get too darn uncomfortable.  Most of us have been there and done that. Sometimes, we just run out of the fuel we need to keep going, to manage the discomfort, and eventually get to some level of mastery over the new thing we’re trying. There are the obvious fuels, always worth a reminder: Getting plenty of sleep, good nutrition, water intake, exercise, and relaxation. But what about the less obvious fuel?  What if the alternative fuel that will help us get out of our comfort zone is…making regular visits to our comfort zones? Revisiting the things we’ve already mastered – for the sheer joy of doing something well and for the reminder we made it out of an earlier comfort zone to achieve that mastery – can be just the energizer we need.  If we did it before, we can do it again with something new.  It’s important to celebrate and remember and enjoy. The trick is the balance.  That pesky word that’s so important.  Picking and choosing the things to keep in our lives and the...
Dreams are for now, not later

Dreams are for now, not later

“Your dreams don’t have to be lofty; they just have to be lived.” -Kelly Rudolph Ah, dreams.  Lovely thoughts.  We lift our heads up from the grindstone periodically to gaze at them, like distant stars way out in the universe.  Then we sigh and return to our to-do list of “urgent” action items. Who invented that thought process? What if having dreams was not so much about some perfect situation off on the distant horizon, or something we hope to achieve or experience…someday? What if, instead, dreams were simply a guiding light, showing us how to live our lives right now, this very minute? Aren’t dreams the embodiment of what we most value, after all?  (If we latch on to our own dreams that is, not someone else’s.)  Why can’t we incorporate those values into our daily lives and enjoy our dreams now, today? Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  I love that thought.  But I’d add that the present moment does too, if we let our truest dreams guide us through our days. Think about it.  What’s the essence of your dreams?  In other words, which of your values do they serve? Creativity, health, harmony, exploration, invention, service, abundance, connection, fun, discovery, compassion, adventure?  Expressiveness, hospitality, leadership, education, mastery, originality? Not sure what your values list looks like?  Check out this list of 400 values to gain some clarity. The dreams that tug at you again and again will spring from what you value most. For one person, it may be a dream of traveling the world.  For another, it might be going back to school,...
Making Room for the Best Kind of Yes

Making Room for the Best Kind of Yes

“Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.” -Claudia Black There’s this annoying little bug going around.  Actually, it’s been around for years in one form or another.  It can creep up and knock us for a loop if we’re not careful, so awareness is key to prevention. Anecdotal research has shown that this bug springs from a chronic inability to say no.  The symptoms can be brutal: extreme shrinkage of free time, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and frequently missed self-imposed deadlines.   And all traces of fun can mysteriously disappear. Left untreated, it can result in a permanent distraction from what’s most important to us: our values, our loved ones, and our dreams. I’m not sure what the official medical term is for this bug and its symptoms, but I think of it as “overcommitted-itis.” Perhaps you’ve seen this bug in action.  You may have been overcome by it yourself.  (I know I have, and just thinking about it stresses me out all over again!) The good news is there is a cure, and you don’t even need overpriced health insurance to make it so. Quite simply, the cure for overcommitted-itis flows from making room for the best kind of yes. The kind of yes that is in alignment with who you are and what you value. Stephen Covey once wrote: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘YES’ burning inside.” We all have a bigger yes burning inside, but it can become obscured by what can sometimes feel...
The Joy of Reinvention

The Joy of Reinvention

“No great thing is created suddenly.” -Unknown Cary Grant was a reinvention ace. Grant’s image is firmly set in our imaginations as elegant, witty, and classy.  Humble and down to earth too.  For decades, he was the go-to role model for how a gentleman should behave. And he made it all look so easy. But the truth is he worked long and hard to create (and recreate) himself.  And not just his image, either.  He was determined from a young age to better himself, to learn and grow, and contribute something of value. Reading Cary Grant, A Class Apart, by Graham McCann, got me thinking about reinvention and transformation, and what they really mean in our day-to-day lives. It’s happening around us and inside us all the time.  We all do it – reinvent ourselves, bit by bit.  (Think about it.  Are you the exact same person you were ten years ago – personally or professionally?) But the trick is to do it consciously and in alignment with our own values, so we head in our happiest direction, enjoy the process, and make the most of our time on this planet. In his 2012 Tedx talk Reinventing Yourself, Wesley Goo talks about New Year’s resolutions (aka intended reinventions) and the usual frustrations that tend to go along with them. He shares his theory on why resolutions fail and are abandoned: “Too many people try to bring the last year’s version of themselves into the new year.  But the new year [as we envision it] may require new things of us.” Grant knew this about creating a better life for himself –...
Use Your Smarts and Follow Your Heart

Use Your Smarts and Follow Your Heart

“By all means, follow your heart, just be sure to take your brain with you.” -Unknown “Follow your heart, because if you always trust your mind, you’ll always act on logic, and logic doesn’t always lead to happiness.” (Unknown) Hmm, sounds good! “For all its accolades and celebrated recognition as sound guidance, I have personally noticed that sometimes ‘follow your heart’ is really bad advice.” (Steve Maraboli) Oh, wait a minute, maybe I should rethink this!  Which is correct?  Which approach should I use with a big decision I’m facing at the moment? It’s a universal dilemma.   Does this sound familiar: Finding yourself torn between doing what seems most “practical” and what feels good?  Staring down a decision with sweaty palms and not knowing which to listen to – your head or your heart?  You are not alone. We all have our default setting when it comes to making decisions.  We tend to lead with our heart or our head.  But it’s the combination of the two that enables us to turn a dream into reality. Take NASA, for instance.  Space travel began as a dream, a quest of the heart, a yearning.  But its successes to date have been driven by both the heart and the head. The joy of exploration, the wonder of each new discovery that awaits, the mystery of what’s out there tugs at the hearts of NASA scientists and astronauts.  We all may love to gaze at a sky full of stars, but the folks at NASA feel a mighty pull to take action. This is where the brain needs to kick in and partner with the heart, to sort out...
Use the “Power of Yet” to Bring Your Dreams to Life

Use the “Power of Yet” to Bring Your Dreams to Life

“None but ourselves can free our minds.” -Bob Marley When was the last time you gave yourself permission to be enthusiastically “bad” at something for a while?  To feel not quite comfortable performing part of your job or when trying a new hobby or recreational activity, but to keep going anyway – without beating yourself up? Permission to recognize that it was just a matter of time and effort before you’d reach some level of expertise, and to just enjoy the stretching and the learning process itself? Think about that time – what made it possible for you? Chances are, it was what Carol Dweck calls the “Power of Yet.” Yet is a tiny little word, but it’s a powerful word indeed. Dweck shared this story in her TED talk, The Power of Believing You Can Improve: “I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade “Not Yet.” And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere.  But if you get the grade “Not Yet,” you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.” Cool concept.  Being able to view the growing pains of learning as positive can come in handy.  Not only when learning a new skill or task, or solving a problem, but with the bigger things in life too — such as starting a new job (or business), moving to a new city (or country), or even making a total career change. Imagine being able to use the power of yet to...