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Archive for November 2010

When will things get better? Stop waiting and start living.

For all of the people who keep waiting for things to get better, stop.

Stop waiting. You’re losing time, whether you are enjoying this moment or not. This is it. It is all you have, so wake up. Live.

I know people who have spent the past two years overwhelmed by stress and fear, and at the end of it, what do they have to show for it? Two lost years.

These difficult days are demanding far more from us than we’ve ever been expected to deliver.  The daily news will give you a  dose of despair because, let’s face it: Things aren’t looking good. Nobody knows when the economy will settle down, when everybody will go back to work, when people will start spending, when the real estate market will rebound, when our retirement accounts will look like we can actually retire.

Nobody knows any of that.

But, I know this: If I don’t find fulfillment in this day — as uncertain as it may be — it will be lost to me. If I don’t find happiness in this day and every day like it, I won’t get a do-over. This is it. I’ll be a day older, then a year older, then ten years older, and I will have wasted precious time that I did not need to waste.

No matter how dark your circumstances, life is happening. Do you take time to see how much you have, even as you cope with all that has changed and what you may have lost? I love the quote by Frances Rodman that says, “Just think how happy you would be if you lost everything you have right now, and then got it back again.”

All is not lost. The things that have changed have hit our core feelings about security, self-worth and the future. But there is much more to this moment of chaos than crisis. This is a time to step out of the worry loop and make the choice to appreciate your health, family, friendship and spirituality — those things that matter most of all. Seriously, if you lose any of those facets of your life, you will truly know despair.

You may be experiencing real agony because you have lost a job, a home and a vision of what your life and what it was supposed to be. But, when all is lost, you still have the present moment. You can fill it with grief or anger or fear or any other dark emotion. Or, you can fill it with life.

Put on your shoes. Go for a walk. Hug your loved ones and know how lucky you are to have them. Count on your friends and be glad they are there. See the beauty in nature. Go deep within. Pray if you pray.

But live, no matter what.

Tenacious living

Tenacious living begins with truth.

In your life, you will be pushed to choose between your truth and the expectation. It may seem easier or more practical or more judicious or more noble to put outside expectations ahead of your own desires, but you will ultimately define yourself by your ability to tap into your core truth and honor it. You can make a deliberate choice to compromise individual choices, but when you compromise your truth, you extinguish your individual self.

You can compromise your individual self by forcing yourself to push too hard or quit too soon. Compromise occurs at the extremes and every point in-between, but you know you have crossed a line when you find yourself considering other voices before you even listen to your own.

Potential for what? And by whose measure?

The word “potential” has always left me cold because it measure’s individual capacity against outside expectations. It’s not fair.

I used to work with a woman who was hired as an assignment editor just a few years after college. She was smart, quick, personable, savvy and she really “got” news. What a winner she was, and senior management quickly tagged her for the fast track so she could achieve her true “potential.”

Our bosses plotted out a trajectory for her, giving her a written list of goals and objectives that would lift her through the ranks – fast.

They assumed their drive was her drive, their goals were her goals, their values were her values. Since they would have been honored to have been rewarded with such opportunity, they thought she would be over the moon about it. Nobody thought to ask her if that was what she wanted.

But, one night we went to dinner and she confessed her truth.

“I want to work my forty hours, then go home,” she said. “I want a family. I want a life. I have no ambition and I don’t think I should have to apologize for that.”

Is professional ambition a requirement for fulfillment? How much ambition is required? Does professional ambition count more than personal ambition?

She did a great job, but limiting her ambitions to that job in the lower management ranks would have seemed absurd to others who thought she should have wanted more. They would have assumed she lacked motivation or confidence. None of them would have taken a step back to see that she was choosing a path that gave her the balance and fulfillment that she wanted. That her fulfillment didn’t have to be achieved by their definition of her potential.

Her mentors wanted to rotate her through every department at the newspaper for three months at a time. What a great opportunity – one that just about any of us would have clamored for – but the idea made her sick. She felt she’d been put in a position where she couldn’t say no, so she said yes and convinced herself she would come to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity.

You could see a physical change in her during the first rotation. She wore the stress on her face. She wasn’t enjoying any of it, but didn’t know what to do.

I told her to speak up and ask to go back to the job she’d been hired to do. While that would kill her chance at moving up again, she didn’t think she wanted to move up again.

Rather than be honest about her own goals and dreams, she left the company and took a less demanding position across town. A year later, she got married, then quit when she became pregnant with her first child. I caught up with her on Facebook a year ago and she seemed concerned that I might not understand the choices she’d made with her life.

“Sorry,” she wrote. “I didn’t make much of myself professionally.”

Since I’d seemed more career driven, she thought I wouldn’t be able to see the value in her life as a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t judge her choices – I admired them. Her Facebook profile showed me a happy woman with a beautiful family. She knew what she wanted and honored her own values, rather than muting her own dreams to fit into someone else’s definition of what was best for her. How many people honor their true center?

She is happy.  She doesn’t have the prestige title or the fat paycheck or the power that comes with a senior position, but that doesn’t matter at all. She has everything she needs and wants. Isn’t that success?

Should she be measured against potential others defined for her, or the fulfillment she found within herself?