The Word of the Week…

…is ASK!

In the beginning, I wondered how I would come up with a regular Word of the Week. One that was not only relevant enough for me to want to meditate on, but also relevant enough to want to share.

Once I put that question out to the universe, though, all I had to do was keep my mind and eyes open, and pay attention to the things I pay attention to…

A perfect example of the Biblical: „Ask and ye shall receive“.

I follow black American blogger and essayist Danielle Belton’s critically acclaimed blog, The Black Snob. A few days ago she announced that an essay she’s written – „The Problem with Marriage“ – is featured in an upcoming book called „Where Did Our Love Go“. Part of the chapter on divorce, Danielle’s essay focuses on a crucial weapon in the war being waged on what she calls „Forever-and-Ever-Amen“ marriage.

Instead of getting married at a fairly young age and figuring out how to best navigate the adult world together as a couple, people in Western society now go through a longer and longer phase where they are dependent mostly on themselves. A kind of “post-adolescence”, if you will.

Young people study longer, land their first jobs, set up a pension funds, travel, become property owners – all while they are still single. It’s expected that they spend time “discovering themselves” and taking life only on their own terms. They’re brought up the believe they should try to get their way in life, and feel perfectly within their rights to throw a tantrum if they don’t.

And – when you think about it – that’s what (esp. US) society rewards you for in the West: being (successfully) independent. Being “self-made”.

  • Think of the Republican slogan from the last US presidential election: “We built that”.
  • Think of the notion of the “creators” versus the “takers” who are only in it for “free stuff”
  • Think of the the ridicule of “The 47%”

But: What’s the flip side of that coin?

The virtues of consensus, compromise and compassion – while still alright for Sunday School or high school civics class – have become the trademark of losers. For mid-30-somethings taking their 1st stab at it, marriage becomes a battlefield, because neither party feels they can afford not to be right. Not to dominate 100% of the time. Not to win.

What does this have to do with the concept of “asking”, you wonder?

Late Sunday evening I settled in to watch a TEDTalk I had bookmarked. It’s by musician Amanda Palmer and is called “The Art of Asking”. In her talk, Amanda examines a new relationship between artist and fan. A new relationship that is reflect in everything from payment for gigs or music to where she and her band sleep on tour.

This admittedly has nothing to do with marriage, but it does have a lot to do with (the quality of) relationships – and control. Fighting to hold on to it versus trusting the universe enough to let it go.

The Germans have a saying: “People who speak (up) can be helped”

For many of us, though, asking for anything is a sign of weakness and failure. It shows we’re not the bright and shiny super-heroes we were taught to believe we need to be in order to succeed. Many of us would rather bite off our tongue than ask for anything, and – if we are honest with ourselves – we look down (at least a little) on people who do.

I can remember my first job in marketing. I was working on an international naming project for a line of sports attire. Part of my job was to do a legal pre-check for conflicting brand names in the trademark directory. And every single name we generated either had a direct hit or one so close even I knew our recommendation wouldn’t be legally viable. A few times my boss asked how things were going. “Fine!”, I assured him with as much fake optimism as I could muster.

Finally, on the day before we began to prepare the actual presentation, my boss wanted to see the list of names that had cleared the pre-check. As you can well imagine, my response hit that conference room like a bomb.

No, my boss didn’t yell and I wasn’t fired. But it was made clear to me, that by not asking for help, I lost the chance to get support from the team and jeopardized his opportunity to come up with the best way to manage our clients’ expectations in a timely fashion.

I’d like to say that incident cured me, and that I now know how (and when) to ask for help. But that’s still only partially true.

How would your life or relationship change if you trusted enough to ask for what you need?

Check out Danielle’s blog and Amanda’s video. Tell me what you think of them.

Share how you feel about asking…for anything!

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Be Soft

beautiful

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03/03/2013 · 03:03

Wednesday Wisdom

I thought I would change things up a bit this week, and meditate out loud about a question that has been following me around recently:

What is the best way to deal with negativity?

Sometimes we are so caught up in the flow of daily life, that outside influences don’t seem to pierce the shell of activity around us. But heaven forbid we stop long enough to catch our breath! Just like I used to seem doomed to come down with a bad cold the second I planned to actually take the weekend off to relax, now – when I slow down for a day or two – some negative issue gets under my skin. In need as I am of a brief physical and mental pause, it’s as though the level of inner tension and discomfort are taken up a notch or two instead of down by some issue either in my personal life or on the world stage.

It’s almost as though I am standing beside myself, too, watching myself as I amp up…

  • My inner monologue becomes increasingly resigned and bitter
  • I begin to question the “why” of current projects or – in extreme cases – my entire, primarily optimistic world view
  • My good personal habits begin to slide from reasonable and healthy back into the realm of “who cares?”

So what, I get off a pithy letter of complaint, write a searing blog post, or verbally go toe-to-toe with someone. What toll is my emotional reaction to this issue taking on me, and what is the price I pay to regain my equilibrium?

“I just don’t deal with the negativity. I can’t get involved in that side of it. I don’t understand it, and you can’t let it take away your life and what you are trying to do.” (Rick Pitino, basketball coach)

Because I am now able to observe myself, I feel more motivated to better understand why I automatically react the way I do. I’m also committed to finding ways to make my reaction to the negativity around me more effective and less self-destructive. Here are a few of the truths I’ve encountered so far:

  1. Make positivity your default setting. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life, is that you usually find what you’re looking for. If you believe the world is basically a dark and dangerous place, and your fellow humans are all out to get you, your days will be chock-full of examples to confirm that hypothesis. It’s not that there aren’t other – decidedly positive – examples to at least balance out your pessimism, but you’ll overlook all of those as your eyes search out yet another headline about acts of senseless violence, corruption, misogyny & co. While it makes no sense to ignore the sad and bad news our world has to offer, by being open to the positive, we are not only protecting our personal well-being. We are also positioning ourselves to be an inspiration in the lives of those around us.
  2. Remain solution-oriented.  There’s nothing wrong with letting off steam from time to time, but if a lengthy rant is your only reaction to the negativity and injustice you encounter, what’s the point? All your Facebook rant is likely to accomplish is a jump in your blood pressure. Ask yourself instead how you can make a concrete contribution to a sustainable solution! Is there an organization you can support? Can you contribute your time, money or useful goods? Will adding your signature to a petition make a difference? These are only a few examples of how to turn your anger and frustration into actions that can really making a difference. And don’t forget that sometimes the small things (e.g. a hug or smile, a heart-felt “how are you?” coupled with an open ear) can go a really long way in your personal life!
  3. Realize you can’t do it all. Achieving any degree of change – whether in our personal lives or society as a whole – is a process that takes time. Lasting solutions are seldom achieved instantaneously. There will be phases during that process when you will neither have the time, strength nor peace-of-mind to make a meaningful contribution to the solution. Instead of beating yourself up for not being able to drop everything you’re doing right now to join that march, spend half the night talking to a friend during a break-up or launch a coup at work, realize that your contribution can only be as good as the quality of the energy you bring to the table. Tomorrow’s another day…

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The Word of the Week…

…is VISION!

“What a desire!…To live in peace with that word: Myself” (Sylvia Ashton-Warner)

This week I’ve decided to bring you The Word of the Week in written form again. I’m wrestling with a cold, so my voice is a little sensitive. Because I am heading off to Hamburg for a meeting tomorrow, then on to Berlin to conduct a workshop on Friday and Saturday, I need to protect my it as much as I possibly can, so…

My inspiration for this week’s WoW is two-fold. The original idea came from some thoughts I had about last week’s WoW (which was “Play“, by the way). I was meditating on the (rare?) opportunities we, as adults, get to flex the muscles of our own fantasy.

  • When do we give ourselves permission to dispel disbelief?
  • Under what conditions do we allow ourselves to dream?

I also couldn’t help reflect on just how the “play” we engage in – both as adults and as children – often serves a Higher Purpose we don’t recognize right away…

This original thought was later impacted by an article I read about a white father in the States forbidding African-American hospital staff from caring for his newborn, as well as a searing commentary on the subject written by an online friend. Part of my friend’s commentary went off on a tangent that added to my thoughts on the purpose of vision. Namely, the seemingly overwhelming negativity associated with the image of black women in the American media.

  • How (much) does this negativity thwart the development of a positive self-image in black women and girls?
  • Was this negativity as pervasive in other parts of the world as it is in the States?

At some point, though, I realized I was allowing my thoughts to take me down an extremely reactive path. I was permitting myself the illusion that someone else has ultimate power of my self-image, when – in fact – they simply don’t.

It’s therefore no coincidence that something right in front of me would take me back to a place of centered self-reflection.

Several weeks ago I was looking for  some references I wanted to use in a presentation I was preparing, so I went into the basement to dig through a few boxes of unpacked books. During my excavations, I “rediscovered” a few treasures and brought them back up into my home-office. One of my finds was my copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach‘s epic “The Illustrated Discovery Journal“. I remember posting in the Facebook group that I had found it. Although I had a deadline looming, I swept things away from the center of my desk in order to spread out my own personalized version of the journal in front of me.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Not only did it contain the collages I had spent several thoughtful afternoons creating in a cottage on the Dutch North Sea coast, I had also used the pockets in the back to store hefty stacks of other visual material, as well as articles, quotes and recipes that had caught my attention.

Going over this material – running my fingers over pictures flush with color; taking feathery pieces of news print into my hands as long-forgotten words and phrases leapt off the pages at me – allowed me to sink back into the memory of contemplating the assignments in the book, for example:

  1. What do I consider to be my authentic style?
  2. How do I define success?
  3. Where is my “house of belonging”, and what does it look and feel like?
  4. What connections in life do I  hold sacred?

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Rediscovering this book helped me remember how important it is to have my own vision of myself. To have a vision of who I am, what I stand for and what I believe. This vision of myself is an authentic reflection of my essence and my purpose. It’s what nurtures my soul and helps it grow straight and true. It’s also what shields me from the malice of someone else’s false representation of who I am; their dark image of who they need me to be in order to fulfill their own riddled agenda.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, collages or vision boards are only one way to allow our visions of ourselves to unfold. Journalling is another, as (for me, at least) is digging into your family’s genealogy. But – to quote Oprah Winfrey – there’s one thing I know for sure: If I have a vision of myself – a vision that evolves and expands and grows as I do – I feel less impacted by the false images others attempt to disseminate about me and use to control me.

What tools or techniques do you find useful in “midwifing” your authentic vision of self?

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The Word of the Week*…

…is PLAY!

Suggested Reading: “The Value of Play

When do we – as “grown-ups” – still get to play?

  1. As an adult, do you still “play”?
  2. Did you have a favorite game or fantasy in childhood?
  3. Looking back, what did that game/fantasy give you? Is there any part of you still carry in your heart?

~~~

*Click the link to listen to this week’s podcast

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Weekend Meditation

Weekend Meditation

A photo I used for a presentation on the 1st Step of Leadership: Taking Control of Your Own Life

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02/02/2013 · 16:23

The Word of the Week*…

is OBLIGATION!

1: the action of obligating oneself to a course of action (as by a promise or vow)

2a : something (as a formal contract, a promise, or the demands of conscience or custom) that obligates one to a course of action

b : a debt security (as a mortgage or corporate bond)

c : a commitment (as by a government) to pay a particular sum of money; also : an amount owed under such an obligation <unable to meet its obligations, the company went into bankruptcy>

3a : a condition or feeling of being obligated

b : a debt of gratitude

4: something one is bound to do : duty, responsibility

 

How is it with you?

1. Who are the people and what are the situations where you’ve noticed yourself taking on obligations you don’t really stand behind?

2. How do you recognize that it’s a commitment you resent or feel uncomfortable with?

3. What would be the worst thing that would happen if you would say „no“ to unwanted obligations more often.

~~~

*Click the link to listen to this week’s podcast

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