Why Mindfulness Might Be Bad

Mindfulness is all the rage. Everyone’s talking about it. Especially in business.

Mindful work. Mindful leadership. Mindful this; and mindful that.

The big corporations are on board. Like General Mills and Google and Apple and Yahoo and Aetna Healthcare.

Mindfulness has a lot of proponents like Sam Harris and Janice Marturano and Arianna Huffington.

Oh, and there’s research; a lot of research; from impressive places like Harvard and the University of Massachusetts: mindfulness practices will reduce stress and inflammation; they’ll increase acuity and productivity; and they’ll make you happier and give you a greater sense of overall satisfaction.

But here’s the rub. Mindfulness means that you need to show up in the moment. In this moment.

Not swirling; not distracted by the smartphone; not multi-tasking; not racing about; not running around.

Not in the past. Not in the future.

Here. Now. Mindfulness

Seeing what is. Experiencing the present. Whatever it is: the good; and the not so good.

Which may be good; or not so good. Because we live is a culture of overwhelm; a state of continuous partial distraction. A culture in which busy has become a badge of honor. A culture in which busy has come to mean something: Like we’re important; significant; successful.

But as Brené Brown says, “It’s easy to convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up to us.”

Which of course is the ultimate “problem” with mindfulness: when we show up in this moment, we must confront ourselves. We must confront what’s working in our lives, and what’s not; where we’re full and where we’re empty. What brings satisfaction, what brings joy, and what brings despair. Which relationships work, and which ones don’t.

In the moment, you can’t hide from yourself. The camouflage of busyness is gone.

And, of course, that can be scary. Because you might have to do something different.

So before you you jump on the bandwagon, just realize that there’s a price to this mindfulness stuff.

You’ve been warned.

Your Heart’s Desire

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

How are you today?

I hope you’ve woken up rested, refreshed and satisfied after your holiday celebrations.

But if, instead, you’re feeling dazed and depleted and maybe a little bit empty, you are not alone.

The holidays are a huge source of stress; a seemingly never-ending torrent of buying and wrapping and eating and drinking and binging and networking and connecting and partying; with concomitant unceasing demands and obligations and expectations.

Likely you’ve spent the last several weeks (or months!) hustling around fulfilling everyone else’s wants. Tending to the needs of others.

Maybe you think you’re done.

Except that you’re not.

It’s today. Another day. And while you can, perhaps, distract yourself for a little while longer, ringing in the New Year, the day is coming soon when you will face the expanse – or the abyss – of the year ahead.

So today’s question is not about all those other folks you’ve been attending to. It’s about you.

What do you want?

What do you really want?

Not what you think you should want; or what you think you’re expected to want. Not what your father wanted; or what you’re mother thought would be right. Not what your partner or boyfriend or girlfriend or neighbors want. Not what your clients want. Not what some well-intentioned teacher or guidance counselor wanted for you.

Rather, what is it you want ? For yourself? Right here? Right now?

The folks who read this blog are, by their very nature, givers. The challenge for givers is receiving. The challenge for givers is getting quiet enough to listen to the still small voice that speaks to us of our heart’s desires. The challenge for givers is giving to ourselves what it is we really, really want.

Because, we presume that what we want is bad. Or selfish. Or self-centered.

Or more frequently, we forget what we wanted. We become numb to our heart’s desire.

So on the threshold of a new year, I have a challenge for you: Set aside some time just for you; and spend some time asking yourself (and perhaps journaling about) these questions:

  • If I could make my life any way I wanted it, what would my ‘perfect’ day look like? My ‘perfect’ week? What time would I get up? What would I wear? Who would I spend my time with? What work would I do? What projects would I pursue? What travels would I take? What would my ‘perfect’ life look like?
  • If this were my very last year on earth, what would I do? Would I stay in the same relationship; would I keep the same job; would I hang out with the same people; would I go the same places; would I do things the way I’m doing them right now?
  • If money were no object, if I won the $30 million dollar Powerball, what would I do? After I bought all the toys I wanted, where would I go; who would I go with; where would I spend my time; what experiences would I want to create; what legacy would I want to leave?

Because here’s what’s true: Those whispers that are in our hearts, those dreams that we have, those projects we want to create, those places we want to go, the empires we want to build, the impact we want to make… they’re not random musings; they’re not accidents. They are the call of our Spirit, the Divine within us, showing us – telling us – the way.

So think. Write. Draw. Free flow. Tear down the boundaries. No limitations. Let your imagination run wild.

And then get busy. Because, that’s what you want. That’s what you really want.

That’s your heart’s desire.

I Envy You

She ran up behind me and matched my pace.

I didn’t know her. But she clearly knew me.

“I loved your Facebook pictures from Ireland,” she said. “I envy your lifestyle.”

“Yeah, thanks, it’s pretty fine,” I gasped as I crested the hill.

She peeled off to the right.

If I hadn’t been hypoxic in the moment, I would have said more.

I would have said that envy is good. How-to-get-rid-of-envy1

Envy is a voicemail, a text message from your heart.

Envy tells you that there is something that is lacking, something that you want, something that your Spirit seeks, something that would bring you joy.

I would have said to her that you need to listen to your envy.

What’s it saying?

What’s not working? What needs to change? What needs to be subtracted? What needs to be added in?

What are the goals you are not attaining? What are the dreams you are not fulfilling?

Yeah, my lifestyle might be good. But what are you thirsting for? What is it that you want; that you really, really want?

Know your envy, befriend your envy, understand your envy. Deconstruct your envy. Hear its siren call.

And after you’ve snuggled with your envy for a bit, harness its energy.

Put it to work.

Too often envy can be turned inward; and become bitterness, resentment, victimhood.

Know that envy calls you higher.

Get clear. Take action. Grab hold of the life you want.

Envy is not a deadly sin. It is a gift.

Get busy. Use it.

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Tripping Out

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. -W. Clement Stone

Imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip. Maybe it’s a drive across the country; maybe it’s a tour of the grand capitols of Western Europe; maybe it a sabbatic leave in the South Pacific.

Now, imagine imagining that trip; imagining that destination; picturing yourself walking down the cobblestone streets, climbing the Eiffel Tower, taking long strolls down those beautiful white sandy beaches.

Where did it begin?

Maybe you saw it in the travel section of the Sunday paper. Maybe you saw an ad in the window of a travel agency. Maybe it popped up on Facebook. But somewhere you saw an image, a description, a picture. Maybe it was just in your mind!

And you imagined yourself… there.

Then maybe you Googled a bit; popped onto Trip Advisor; or maybe you ran out to the bookstore for a Fodor’s or Lonely Planet Guide.

You got out some maps; went to the AAA; began to lay out the route.

If it’s a drive, you plotted your course, planned your stops, booked your overnights. You know where you’re going and what you want to see.

The car’s been tuned, the oil changed, the radiator checked.

On your GPS, you’ve locked in your waypoints. Your destination certain.

You’re good to go.

If you’re flying or cruising, you’ve bought the ticket. (It’s non-refundable.) You know where you’re landing; you know your ports of call. You’ve booked the hotels and reserved the excursions.

You know those little restaurants you want to visit, the museums you want to see, those sites and vistas you cannot miss.

You’ve got the clothes, the suntan lotion, the cameras, the cash, the credit cards, the traveler’s checks, the passport.

You’ve got it all laid out. It’s crystal clear. Treasure2

You can’t wait.

Because, you can see yourself, so clearly… right there.

Now, imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip.

It’s called 2014.

Where will your imagination take you? And what exactly do you need to do to get there?

Your Heart’s Desire

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

How are you today?

I hope you’ve woken up rested, refreshed and satisfied after your Christmas celebrations.

But if, instead, you’re feeling dazed and depleted and maybe a little bit empty, you are not alone.

The holidays are a huge source of stress; a seemingly never-ending torrent of buying and wrapping and eating and drinking and binging and networking and connecting and partying; with concomitant unceasing demands and obligations and expectations.

Likely you’ve spent the last several weeks hustling around fulfilling everyone else’s wants. Tending to the needs of others.

Maybe you think you’re done.

Except that you’re not.

It’s today. Another day. And while you can, perhaps, distract yourself for a little while longer, ringing in the New Year, the day is coming soon when you will face the expanse – or the abyss – of the year ahead.

So today’s question is not about all those other folks you’ve been attending to. It’s about you.

What do you want?

What do you really want?

Not what you think you should want; or what you think you’re expected to want. Not what your father wanted; or what you’re mother thought would be right. Not what your partner or boyfriend or girlfriend or neighbors want. Not what your clients want. Not what some well-intentioned teacher or guidance counselor wanted for you.

Rather, what is it you want ? For yourself? Right here? Right now?

The folks who read this blog are, by their very nature, givers. The challenge for givers is receiving. The challenge for givers is getting quiet enough to listen to the still small voice that speaks to us of our heart’s desires. The challenge for givers is giving to ourselves what it is we really, really want.

Because, we presume that what we want is bad. Or selfish. Or self-centered.

Or more frequently, we forget what we wanted. We become numb to our heart’s desire.

So on the threshold of a new year, I have a challenge for you: Set aside some time just for you; and spend some time asking yourself (and perhaps journaling about) these questions:

  • If I could make my life any way I wanted it, what would my ‘perfect’ day look like? My ‘perfect’ week? What time would I get up? What would I wear? Who would I spend my time with? What work would I do? What projects would I pursue? What travels would I take? What would my ‘perfect’ life look like?
  • If this were my very last year on earth, what would I do? Would I stay in the same relationship; would I keep the same job; would I hang out with the same people; would I go the same places; would I do things the way I’m doing them right now?
  • If money were no object, if I won the $30 million dollar Powerball, what would I do? After I bought all the toys I wanted, where would I go; who would I go with; where would I spend my time; what experiences would I want to create; what legacy would I want to leave?

Because here’s what’s true: Those whispers that are in our hearts, those dreams that we have, those projects we want to create, those places we want to go, the empires we want to build, the impact we want to make… they’re not random musings; they’re not accidents. They are the call of our Spirit, the Divine within us, showing us – telling us – the way. Life's enjoyment

So think. Write. Draw. Free flow. Tear down the boundaries. No limitations. Let your imagination run wild.

And then get busy. Because, that’s what you want. That’s what you really want.

That’s your heart’s desire.

Be A Slasher

One of my least favorite questions in the entire world, asked at nearly every business meeting, networking function, and social gathering, is, “So, what do you do?”

As if what we “do” – for work – defines us.

Of course, for many folks, it does define them. What they ‘do’ is all they are.

It is their identity; their stature; their worth; their significance; the entire core of their being.

They are their job. Their job is their life. There is nothing else.

That leaves some folks feeling frustrated, lost, trapped… and sad.

Boomers are particularly plagued. And men. They (we) were raised with this model: Go to school, work hard, really hard, get a job, a ‘real’ job (ya know, the one with the benefits), toil for 40 years (with the requisite perks and promotions), retire, move to Florida, and die. Deviation from this model meant (still means) something went horribly ‘wrong,’ accompanied by a concomitant sense of failure, embarrassment …and shame.

A “doing” that defines their being. For all time.

In my coaching, I meet many folks who are tired of what they ‘do.’ They want desperately to break free of their ‘personal hell;’ their ‘rat race’…. To be more. To discover a richer, fuller, more satisfying life, a life that resonates more deeply; work that makes their hearts happy; a way of being in the world that makes their spirits soar.

And they have no idea where to start.

It starts with:

Stopping long enough to open up a space within ourselves for hope;
• Giving ourselves permission… to imagine, to dream again; and
• Having the courage to say ‘no’ to what’ s not working.

It’s about being playful about possibility. It’s about a willingness to experiment, and bravery enough to try things out. It’s about having the audacity to step out from behind a role; the courage to face the fear of our own nakedness; and the resolve to dust ourselves off and begin… again and again and again.

It’s about being willing to let go of a ‘role’ in order to embrace a life.

And it’s scary shit.

When I walked away from being a full-time lawyer, it nearly paralyzed me. (Still does from time to time.) Being a lawyer was a safe secure identity… an accepted role. An ‘important’ one even! Who am I without that mask? An adventurer? A photographer? A speaker? A coach? What does ‘doing’ all those things mean? Are they as ‘significant’ as the role I played? And if I’m many things and not just one thing, am I really ‘serious about what I ‘do’? And who am I now in the ‘pecking order’ of folks who continue to ‘do’ just one (really) ‘important’ thing?

Of course, now I’ve met a slew of folks who ‘do’ so many cool things: Folks like me who are coaches/speakers/authors/mountain climbers/ocean sailors/adventure photographers; accountants who are recording artists; runners who are dental hygenists; doctors who play in rock bands; lawyers who are triathletes. Folks whose eyes sparkle when they tell you what they ‘do.’

Each of us possess so many gifts and talents that are uniquely ours to share. Gifts that no one else can give. To define oneself as a single activity is not only an anachronism. It denies the world the richness of who we really are.

Gail Sheehy, in fact, suggests that “a single fixed identity is a liability today.”

We – all of us – are complex. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own that complexity, to stand authentically in every facet – every ripple – of who we really are? Wouldn’t that be freeing? Wouldn’t that be fun?

It feels scary to loose oneself of what one ‘does.’ But it is no longer expected or required that you ‘do’ just one thing. fonts-slash

So who do you want to be? What slashes do you want to add to your identity?

A guitarist/sales person/bike rider? A lawyer/rower? A water- colorist/psychologist? A rabbi/comedian? Or maybe an entrepreneur/inventor/writer/printer/politician like Ben Franklin?

We get to choose.

Brene Brown, in her beautiful book, the Gifts of Imperfection has the perfect answer to the question ‘what do you do?’

She responds by asking, “How long do you have?”

Be Free

One of the most powerful books of the 20th century was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist living in Vienna when the Nazi’s came to power. He was aware of the unraveling of things and had obtained a visa to secure refuge in the United States. But at the eleventh hour, he chose to stay in Vienna in order to care for his elderly parents who could not travel.

On September 25, 1942, Frankl, his young wife and his parents were rounded up and sent to the death camps. The Nazi’s took and destroyed all of Frankl’s writings and research. They exterminated his wife and his parent in the gas chambers… and burned their bodies in the crematoria.

Through it all, Frankl chose to care for his fellow prisoners. He chose to believe that, despite the odds, he would survive. He chose to believe that, even in this darkest of times in history, evil would be overcome, good would prevail.

He chose to believe in hope.

Frankl did survive… and after he was released he went on to write Man’s Search for Meaning. Its central tenet: That the greatest gift of our humanity, the greatest of all of our human gifts, is our power – our freedom – to chose how we will be in every moment – regardless of our circumstance.

We get to choose:

Hope over despair;
Kindness over hatred;
Peace instead of turmoil.

We get to choose the work that makes our hearts happy; we get to choose the relationships that nurture our souls; we get to care for these beautiful bodies that have been given to us.

We get to choose to see beauty in all things; to hold all as sacred, as divinely given.

We get to choose to act even in the face of insurmountable odds. We get to choose to begin again no matter how often it is that we have failed. freedomKey

We get to see the majesty of this very moment; and we get to choose to believe that the best is yet to come.

And above all else, we get to choose love…

Because we are free.

Celebrate your independence day.

Who Are You? And What Do You Want?

What’s one of the very first questions we ask when we meet a child for the first time?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

And kids know the answer to this question. They want to be doctors or firefighters or police officers or secret agents or astronauts.

When we’re growing up, most of us have a grand vision for our lives: We know what we want to do, who we want to be, where we want to live; we have exciting ideas about where we want to travel and adventure, and how our lives will unfold.

Our imaginations run wild. There are no limits to what might be possible.

Everything is possible.

Until we become ‘domesticated.”

We come out of school and we’re told that we need to settle down… and get a ‘real’ job… you know the one I’m talking about… the one with ‘benefits.’

We start accumulating some debt, we find a partner, a spouse; we buy a house (in a ‘good’ neighborhood… with ‘good’ schools), we get a good, ‘safe’ car like a mini-van or a Volvo;  we have 2.2 children; we join the ‘right’ clubs and organizations; and try our damnedest to live that ‘perfect’ life….

We work hard climbing the ladder. (Only we’re never really sure if the ladder is against the wall we really want to climb.)

One day starts looking like the next, the same bloody thing, day after day after day. And pretty soon we start feeling like we’re a “B” character in that old Bill Murray movie Ground Hog Day; or like the guy in that old Dunkin’ Donuts’ commercial who gets up every morning at 2:00 a.m…. you know the one I’m talking about: “Time to make the donuts.”

And eventually there comes that moment when we ask ourselves: Is that all there is? who_are_you

For many, sadly, that is all there is.  Because it requires boldness, courage, tenacity, and an audacious spirit to reclaim the grand vision for our lives that we once held; to answer anew those questions so fundamental to our full humanity:

Who am I? And what do I really want?

I shared some thoughts on this all-important mission recently with a group of business professionals.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Then follow this link to listen in:  Who Are You?

I would love to hear your thoughts and would be grateful if you’d leave a comment when you’re done!

 

 

 

Lost and Found

My eyes scanned the shelves. I nodded and I smiled.

I recognized that I owned nearly all of the self-help books in the store. And I knew in that moment that I was finally on the road to getting better.

That was well more than a decade ago now. Yet I remember clearly the bleakness of that time. How very lost I felt.

Divorced; single parenting; raising boys; practicing law.

Making lunches; taking kids to school; racing to work; getting the calls from daycare, the fever of 102º; the homework; the soccer games; the parent-teacher meetings; the calls from the principal; and, oh yes, the clients and the cases and the employees and the office management.

Falling into bed at night, exhausted and depleted. One day melting into the next; every day like the last.

And wondering: Is that all there is? What in god’s name is the point?

Dante wrote,

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost. To tell about those woods is hard — so tangled and rough and savage that thinking of it now, I feel the old fear stirring… .

(Yup. He sure had that right.)

The truth is: All of us get lost from time to time. We lose our way. The road gets rough and savage and really hard.

None of us escapes. (It’s what brings many folks to coaching.)

And there really is no way out of that dark wood.

The only way out is through.

Good teachers and mentors and therapists, and of course dear friends, can help us along the way.

But only we can do the heavy lifting.

Nietzsche wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’

Rediscovering our purpose, reclaiming our sense of meaning, finding again that grand vision for our lives, allowing for the possibility of our dreams, getting in touch again with what quickens our hearts, what fires our imaginations: This is where the work is done. These are what finally lead us to the forest clearing.

Because our purpose is our power; and a purpose driven life is a life on fire. SunStar3

I remember climbing Mt. St. Helens after it had erupted, the volcanic ash ankle deep, two steps up, one step back. A demoralizing slog.

But the view; oh the view from the top, across that landscape of renewal and regrowth: It was magnificent.

And the slide back down the hill such fun.

It’s kinda like that.

So don’t despair. You will find your way through.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Purpose work is some of the toughest work people do. I know that it’s some of the toughest I have ever done. Coaching folks along this path is a tremendous privilege. As a way of giving back in gratitude for those who walked the path with me, and for the lessons I have learned along the way, I’m teaming up next week with a friend and coaching colleague for an hour-long teleclass to talk about purpose and meaning and finding the way. Join us. There’s no charge, no up-sell. Just a bit of perspective from the top of the hill.

Click HERE to join us.

 

 

Why Happiness Is Old School

Happiness is all the rage these days. A good thing, I say.

Gretchen Rubin’s book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a bazillion weeks. And Shawn Achor’s  getting 15 grand a pop for his keynotes on happiness.

(That sure would make me happy!)   images-1

Last month, there were 5 million Google searches worldwide using the keyword happiness.  And there are more than 25,000 books in print that have something to do with happiness.

So I guess it’s kinda a big deal.

I tend to think so… I talk about it a lot in my own keynotes.

It’s a key to our success, I think. And, it’s a choice.

A colleague challenged me last week over my happiness toot. He said that the pursuit of happiness is a narcissistic, superficial, self-serving preoccupation of the modern world.

I had to think about that for a bit.

Not that I don’t have a capacity for self-serving pre-occupation; but, I think my colleague is wrong.

Granted he grew up in a third world country. And I get it that folks who are scrounging  for food and just getting by don’t have the luxury of existential reflection. Don’t Worry, Be Happy isn’t likely a theme song.

And yet…

Some of the happiest folks I’ve ever come across in my travels are folks who have far fewer bells and whistles and toys than most of us have.

So I had to go back and dig deep into my thinking on this thing called happiness.

Turns out that long ago and far away Aristotle had some things to say about it: He thought happiness was the central purpose of human life!

But here’s the rub: Turns out that Aristotle and, later, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson (you, know that ‘pursuit of happiness thing’ in the Declaration), when they were all talking about happiness, weren’t referring to beach volleyball, cigarette boats or Paris in the springtime.  They were talking about fulfillment, the attainment of our human potential, and the depth and meaning of our lives.

I came across a great article from The Atlantic, a rather dense deconstruction of happiness and meaning. Seems like Aristotle probably had it right all along.

The article spends a fair bit of time reflecting on Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a book I love. Frankl was the Austrian psychiatrist interned in the Nazi death camps, who lost his entire life’s work (and, oh yes, his wife and his parents too) . Through his words and his actions, Frankl taught that happiness is a byproduct of the choices we make in every moment, regardless of our circumstances; that happiness is really about valuing our own uniqueness; and that it is only in the service of others that our deepest meaning – and greatest happiness – can be found.

(Or perhaps finds us?)

The pursuit of happiness – that happiness so fundamental to the fabric of our nation – that happiness that we search for and write and talk about – that happiness that always seems to be just beyond our reach and yet so key to our success – is not about our things.

It’s about how we connect with others. It’s about how we show up in the world.

It is about how we choose to frame our lives. Even in the midst of hardship.

It is a necessary quest. It is essential to our wholeness.

It is our wholeness.

So go out and give and love and share and serve.

Don’t hold back.

Choose in every moment to live out the highest expression of yourself.

Choose to believe that you will make a difference in the lives of others.

And (don’t worry); you’ll be happy.