Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paint Your Days

Sunrise Flare
Originally uploaded by nobleup
Your days are numbered. That sounds really scary, doesn't it? But the reality of this fact can be transformational if you wake up right now. In fact, you can even make time expand for yourself if you start today, this moment, living creativly and with intention.

Consider this. The average life expectancy in the United States is around 80 years. Knowing your own age, you can figure out about how many days you have left on this beautiful Earth. I'm guessing that if I take good care of myself and stay healthy, I have somewhere between 13,000 to 15,000 days remaining. That sounds like a lot, but it's still a finite number.

In a 24 hour day, we spend 6-8 hours sleeping and probably another 10-12 working and doing other extraneous activities that must be done -- getting dressed, cleaning, running errands, doing chores, etc. That's 16-20 hours of your day spent sleeping, working or doing things that are either neutral or a pain in the butt. And if you don't like your job, you are really living most of your day uncreatively and frustrated. Add up those hours, and you've consumed nearly three quarters of your days on Earth alive but not really living. Is that what you want?

If you can shift your thinking a bit, you might see that each remaining day is a beautiful, incredible, glorious gift. If you shift your thinking you might decide, or even demand, that you start living consciously and creatively. So what does that mean? For me it means reclaiming as much of my day as possible for living that brings me joy and meaning and contentment. I want all of my days to be lived that way. I only have a few thousand left!

If you see your day as a blank canvas, start with your vision of the completed masterpiece and work backward. What do you want for today and for every day of your life? I want fulfilling work. I want to experience beauty. I want to interact with loving family and friends. I want to learn. I want to enjoy nature. Filling your day with more of what you want and less of what you don't want takes some courageous action. You might decide you need a different job. You might need to let go of some unhealthy relationships. You might have to simplify your life with less stuff and fewer commitments.You might have to let go of fear of failure or being too old or unable to change. These bold actions might take a little time. But not taking them will steal nearly all of your time.

When your day becomes your own self-created masterpiece, time slows down. You are savoring time instead of killing it. You are living in the moment instead of for the next moment. There will be stuff that still needs doing -- neutral or unpleasant stuff. So here's another secret to slowing down time: even with this stuff, stay in the present moment. Do these tasks with intention and focus -- even with gratitude. If you are distracted, you are in the future, and you've given away the now. Give away enough nows, and you've lost days, weeks, even years. You have the power to make even the most unpleasant now a moment of your own creation. With intentional living, you will have less and less of these unpleasant moments.

Now imagine your remaining day on Earth. You are looking back on the canvas of your life. How do you want it to look? Is it splattered with the paint of fearful, boring and unconscious living? Or is it an exquisite masterpiece of your creation, artfully and lovingly rendered by your own bold hand?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be? I'm not asking who you are or what kind of life you want to have, but who do you want to be? One of my favorite literary characters of all time is Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. Gregory Peck played the role in the movie, and he captured the character as the quintessential father and a man of compassion, honor and integrity. I wanted to know him, and I wanted to be like him.

Role models are a good way of beginning to define who we want to be. It may not be Atticus for you, but you know the people whose demeanor, behavior, attitudes and values are inspiring and motivating for you. Sometimes we look at those people and think, "I wish I could be like that." They have their act together, but I'm too emotional, angry, sad, insecure -- whatever your story happens to be. We feel stuck in our feelings and heartaches and life events. We want to indulge our anger and feel self-righteous about our pain.We feel incapable of becoming the who we want to be. Life throws too much at us. We must react.

In relationships we seem to step farthest away from the who we want to be. We defend our turf or our story. We lash out because we've been wounded or misunderstood, and we want to equalize the pain. But is that really the highest vision we have for ourselves?

Living that vision of being our highest self, the who we want to be, is not impossible to achieve. In fact, it is profoundly simple. First, you must take the time to decide who you want to be. You need to sit down with paper and pen and write down the qualities of this person, this new you. I want to be a person who is honest. I want to be a person who doesn't yell at my children. I want to be a person who follows through on commitments. I want to be a person who solves conflicts without condemning or belittling.

Then you must cloak yourself in that robe. You must wear the robe until it becomes your own skin. Until you become your own role model, an inspiration for others, the who you dreamed of being. If you must pretend at first, then do it. Act as if. In your next encounter with your misbehaving children, act as if you are the calm mother next door. The next conflict you have with your spouse, act as if you are capable of giving unconditional love and support -- and then give it. In spite of their reactions, comments, misunderstandings. Be a creator, not a reactor. Don't give away your vision just to defend your ego. It's never worth it.

We struggle and struggle to make everyone else become the who we want them to be. But there is only one who whom we can control. Ourselves. Find out who you want to be. Then go be it. Before you know it, that who will be you.

Friday, October 16, 2009


My friend Elizabeth is a great mom. She's the kind of mom that makes a fresh, hot breakfast for her kids every day and handmakes crafts and toys. She's also whacked the head off a snake in her yard that was bothering her boys (while she was wearing her nightgown no less). I think about her in disbelief sometimes as I hand my kids a frozen waffle. She approaches motherhood fearlessly and with loving commitment, and yet sometimes she can feel quite bereft about her parenting abilities. (Can't we all?)

The other day she called me and told me about her day. Dishes, dog throw-up, sick child, carpool, school meeting, grocery store. We mothers need to do that -- rattle off the litany of activities that comprise our day. With no one around but small children or surly teens who could care less about the details of the day, moms in particular need to proclaim to someone, "Look here now! I've done something with this day." I like to let my mom friends know, "Yes indeed, you have done something, and I for one applaud you." It may have been so tedious that your eyes were glazing over or so tiring that you find yourself standing in the kitchen wondering why you're there. But it needs acknowledgement. Just a word or two - "I see what you've done, and it makes a difference." It can sometimes move an unsuspecting parent to tears.

I am learning in coaching school that acknowledgement is essential to the one being coached. To anyone really. Taking action can be really hard. Every step, every movement toward a passion, a goal or a dream should be acknowledged and celebrated. Steve Chandler, a great coach and author, says that you don't need to have motivation. Just take action. Some kind of action. You don't have to be inspired to write. Just start writing. You don't have to feel energized for that exercise program. Just put on your sneakers and take a walk. You don't have to feel loving to give your child a hug. Just hug them. Action begets action and motivation follows. With each tiny step, acknowledge yourself. Or take a moment to acknowledge someone else on the path. Whether a mom or a dad or a business leader or a teacher or a child.

Acknowledge the struggles, recognize the actions, celebrate the accomplishments. Acknowledgement is like a shot in the arm, a ticket to ride, a cool breeze. It can make the journey lighter and more interesting. Because someone sees that you've done something. And it makes a difference.

Acknowledge someone today. And then acknowledge yourself for taking action.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Standing On The Edge

Life is an adventure pulsing,
Waiting to be claimed,
To be molded and formed
Into the design of your making.

It is an instant on the edge
Of some wild cliff where you teeter,
Then fall with arms outstretched,
Knowing the universe will catch you and hold you
In a tender embrace.

Life is a glorious hiccup in time, a flickering star.
Hold it like a delicate flower, then fling it to the sky
With wild abandon, with laughter, with utmost love.
Until your heart bursts opens and blooms,
And a million radiant gems scatter down upon you.

You are a living, breathing slice of eternity
For whom you are named and given essence.
It is your obligation to make your namesake proud,
To suck the juice from the marrow of the moment
And savor every breath, every tear, every thing.

Awaken now! Turn the potter's wheel and press the clay.
The fire has forged you and made you new. The cliff is calling.
Close your eyes, fall forward with the wind at your face.
Smiling and knowing that creation has begun.

Love the fall. Love the wind. Love the arms that catch you.
They are your own.

-Barrie Davenport

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dig Deep

a little digging
Originally uploaded by edartr
My friend Laura is a digger. She also is a finder and a seeker. (And a keeper!) She is always digging within to find what's real for herself beyond what everyone around her defines her to be. She seeks meaning and purpose daily.

Laura appears to have it all, and for the most part she does. She's beautiful, funny, a great friend, talented and smart -- the glowing adjectives could be endless. But as Laura says, these descriptions (as nice as they are) are like the wads of chewing gum people stick to you. For good or bad, throughout a lifetime, you continue to morph into what other people perceive you to be. Sometimes that's hard to live down -- and even worse to continue to live up to.

But Laura keeps digging under the chewing gum. She wants to live authentically, even if it means discarding some of those sticky wads that can shape us and limit us. Laura wants to live a creative life and a life that she has created. A life that has more on the list of "things I love to do" and less on the "things that must get done" list. The latter list is like kudzu -- it can take over without a purpose to keep it in line.

Creating your own life means having a purpose, being bold, and designing a plan. And to do that, you must keep asking questions of yourself. Who am I? What do I value? What do I want from life?

Here's a daily email meditation Laura sent me recently about the digging required to find purpose. I think it could be her mantra. Try it out for yourself . Maybe it can be yours too.

Look for the reasons behind the reasons. There is some reason
for everything you have chosen to do or to be.

Behind each reason is another reason that drives it, and a
whole string of reasons, reaching to your very core. Dig
deep enough, and connect with your most treasured purposes.

The more clearly you know who you are, the more elevated
your perspective becomes. Develop a solid understanding of
your very own fundamental reasons why, and you'll find
multiple opportunities for moving forward.

When you're in touch with your purpose, you'll find that
many of the external things you see as necessities are not
really necessities at all. The less you need, the more
abundant and fulfilling your life will be.

Know why you do what you do, and you'll understand how to do
it more effectively. When there is authentic passion driving
your actions, those actions get results.

Where there is a real and meaningful reason, fulfillment
naturally follows. Find your deepest reason why, and
activate your most powerful abilities to make it so.

Ralph Marston

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Books From the Universe

Books are for Throwing
Originally uploaded by Andross
Have you ever had a book claim you? I have. In fact, it happens to me all the time. I'll be walking through a bookstore, and a book will fly off the shelf and boink me in the head. I call these "books from the universe" because they clearly want me to read them. Or something does. Granted, there are lots of attractive books on the shelves that look intriguing just by the title and cover art. I've picked up hundreds and bought them because the story looks good, I like the author, or a friend has recommended it.

But I'm talking about books that might be homely or hidden or previously not on your radar screen that somehow come to your attention in the bookstore. You're walking along thinking about finding a mystery or a bodice ripper, and suddenly a kooky little book will distract you. You start flipping through it, and the next thing you know, it's in your bag on the way home with you.

Recently, I had a very clever book come from the universe right through my computer. I was doing some research for my coaching work, and this very persistent book kept aggravating me for attention. It's called Fearless, Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can, by Steve Chandler.

Now I had never heard of the book or Steve Chandler, but I read the reviews, and they were pretty glowing. By now, having been boinked by a book many, many times, I gave up the ghost and bought the thing without much further ado. Steve is a life coach, so I figured I might learn something from a guy whose published a book. Boy was that an understatement. The universe really knew what it was doing with this one.

I don't want to ruin the book for you if the universe decides to chunk it at you, but suffice it to say, there's some really good stuff in it. Like this amazing idea: fear isn't real. It's just a thought about something from the past that's already gone or something in the future that hasn't happened. And you can analyze a thought, and break it down, and look at it every which way. And darn it, if most of the time that thought doesn't hold water. So the fear kind of evaporates. He has lots of stories to illustrate this, so don't spend too much time trying to debunk it before you read the book. Like my 12-year-old daughter did: "But mom, what if it's a lion." So OK, you can be afraid of a lion (if he's in the same room with you).

He also offers this other great gem which seems so obvious but was a huge revalation to me: you can't be a success unless you are a failure. If you live your life only inside of your safety zone, never trying anything new or allowing yourself to fall on your face, then you don't grow and learn and become successful. You must fail and fail and fail to be a success. Otherwise, you just become Mediocre Man or Woman, as Steve likes to say. Did I mention he is very funny too? The universe has a sense of humor. Thank God.

I don't know if Steve's book will be a universe dropping for you like it has been for me. But there's a lot to be gained from reading it anyway. And he mentions lots of other great books, and great teachers, and has many profound insights. And he seems like a nice guy. That's always a plus.

If you haven't ever been bruised by a book from the universe, I highly recommend it. If it's your first time, I'd suggest you open yourself up to the idea before you walk into the bookstore. Kinda casual. Like, "Ok universe, I'm here for John Grisham, but if you have something you want me to read, I'll take a look." You might be surprised at what falls on your head. It could be life changing!

If you are interested in Steve's books or his work, please visit his web site listed on my links on the right side of this page. Happy reading!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Originally uploaded by peterbaker

There are two things I used to do that I try not to do so much of anymore: buy stuff and do stuff.

I spent years of my younger adult life accumulating things or thinking about how I could accumulate them or why I deserved to accumulate them even if we couldn't afford them. Clothes, furniture, gadgets, gee gaws, doo dads, you name it. I would walk into a mall with all of the glittery stuff that shouted, "You need me!", and I'd be almost delirious with want, want, want. I didn't have a shopping addiction or go on spending sprees. Well, maybe sometimes. But it wasn't what the world or Oprah would label a problem. (Maybe because much of my world suffers from the same affliction.)

The problem was inside of me. I thought all of that stuff could define who I was to everyone else. Hmm. Nice house, great decor, cool clothes, shiny car. She must have her act together. She's really someone. But the problem is, to keep feeling like you are really someone, you have to keep buying the stuff. More and more and more stuff. Until you don't have any more room for stuff, but you still need to feel like somebody special.

The other side of this coin was all the time I spent doing stuff. The more stuff I could fit into a day, the more accomplished I appeared and felt. Like most of us multi-tasking moms, I took great pride in the fact that I could prepare six meals before sunrise, clean the house, drive carpool, work part-time, all while spinning plates on my head and playing the piano with my toes. But it was exhausting.

I was an exhausted woman with lots of stuff. I didn't feel like having people over to look at my stuff. I didn't have time anyway. And they had their own stuff to look at with no time to look at mine. How can you be somebody if nobody is looking at your stuff or seeing how much you can cram into a day? So if all of the stuff and doing doesn't define me, who the heck am I?

One day I woke up. I'm not sure exactly how. Maybe just getting older makes you realize some valuable things. Now I walk around my house looking at stuff and thinking about how I can get rid of it. Rooms we never use full of furniture. Closests full of clothes that don't see the light of day. The idea of one of those cool, clean loft apartments with lots of light and minimal furniture seems very appealing right now!

And then somewhere I read these amazing words: "Stop intending to do so much, and start doing less with more intention." Wow. Those words stopped me in my tracks. What if I actually enjoyed the things I was doing, because I chose them carefully, did them slowly and with intention. So some of the things on my "to do" list didn't get done that day. Would that be horrible? Then I could really appreciate, savor, and truly experience the doing of whatever I'm doing. It's kind of a zen thought -- be in the moment of what you are doing without thinking about getting to the next thing.

Consider this monumental shift for a moment: Simplify your life. Get rid of clutter. Give things away. Stop buying so much. Take things off your plate. Slow down.

It's not a race or a competition. Enjoy life and savor it. I think that's why we're here.