Category Archives: dealing with stuff

You Are Not Your Achievements

I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

Last time I said I’d talk about how to stop basing our self-worth on our achievements. I’m kind of afraid I won’t do it justice, but I also know this stuff needs to be said, so let me set the stage a bit before diving in…

First important thing: I don’t have this shit all figured out. I’m still working on it, too.

I struggle regularly with running my life as though I need to justify my existence with contributions, achievements and productivity. (Just last week I came down with a stomach bug and had a fever, yet I felt like a complete slacker for calling in sick.)

Second thing: You are not broken. And it’s okay to feel as though you are broken.

Our emotions are valid – always – and trying to trick yourself into thinking positively when it goes against what you’re feeling is a form of repression. Let’s be real, here, okay? We all have periods of time – some longer than others – when we wish we could just crawl under a rock.

Feeling like shit and admitting to it doesn’t doom us to a life of negativity.

But let’s also remember that we aren’t defined by our thoughts and feelings.

Third thing: The point of what we’re talking about here is not to make you a “better person.” (You’re not broken, remember?)

It’s about living with more joy and less suffering.

It’s about stopping the patterns of punishing ourselves for not accomplishing what we think we should as quickly as we should. And it’s about easing the pain of so-called failure.

It’s all well and good to say that all failures are learning experiences, but it’s pretty fucking hard to benefit from the lessons when we believe the fact that we’ve failed means we are failures.

Now that that’s out of the way…

What do I mean by self-worth, worthiness, enoughness and value?

At the risk of over-simplifying things, I’m talking about the fact that each of us is born deserving to pursue the best existence we can. We deserve love and care and to do what’s best for us.

(I’m not 100% satisfied with that definition, but I’m trying not to get bogged down in semantics.)

The key point is that we’re born with inherent worth, and if you don’t believe me, look at any newborn baby.

Would you ever question their worth? Would you ever say that they don’t deserve love and care and to live at the highest possible level of Maslow’s hierarchy?

Because we’re born with our worthiness, I’ve come to think of our poor sense self-worth as a symptom of forgetting who we are. We were all newborns once. We learned to stop valuing ourselves.

Our worth gets covered up with layer after layer of bullshit and lies and misunderstandings and other people’s fears and insecurities that often become our own.

So decoupling our worth from our accomplishments isn’t about learning so much as unlearning. It’s about uncovering our true selves.

Rather than trying to build or gain a sense of self-worth, it’s more a matter of discarding the unhelpful beliefs that cause us to forget we’re worthy, simply by virtue of being alive.

So where do you get started with all of this?

1. Accept the fact that you have to choose it before you’ll feel it

You’ve got however many years of absorbing the idea that your worth is based on accomplishments.

Getting comfortable with our enoughness isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s more like a lifetime practice.

Regardless of how you feel about worth and where it comes from, you’ll need to choose to believe you’re enough, and you’ll need to remind yourself frequently. If choosing to believe it feels too difficult, choose to try to believe.

2. Start paying attention to how you respond to low/no productivity, failures and unmet expectations

Our constant need to be productive, contribute, achieve and improve ourselves is a sure sign we’re trying to earn our place in the world. So is our unwillingness to stop and heal.

Makes sense, then, that when our efforts aren’t successful, it can be downright devastating.

When are you forcing yourself to work when you should be resting?
When you “fail” what are the stories you tell yourself?

Before you can start shifting the pattern, you have to start catching yourself in the act of judging yourself unworthy.

3. Develop a regular practice of meditation or mindfulness or some way of connecting with yourself

It’s important to have a way to get to know your essential self, your soul or whatever you want to call it – that part of you that knows who you really are and what you really want. The part of you that isn’t trying to please others or avoid getting hurt.

The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to move from fighting against poor productivity and berating yourself for failures toward prioritizing self-care and accepting that you’re allowed to feel what you feel.

The more you can accept how you are now, the more you’ll be able to start actively appreciating yourself.

Slowly you’ll notice that when something doesn’t go as planned, you’ll still appreciate that you’ve put yourself out there in some way. You’ll remember that you are not your accomplishments.

(One easy way to start meditating is by signing up for the free option of Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. Her video teachings helped me to get a lot more comfortable with meditation.)

4. Surround yourself with evidence of your enoughness

Read people who help you see that you’re not your accomplishments. Stop reading stuff about kicking your own ass.

When you find yourself sending compassion to someone else, send it to yourself, too, because you’re just as deserving.

If the timing is right, we can also work together to shine a light on your patterns and establish new habits to be kinder to yourself and bring more ease to your work.

5. Try not to turn this into another way to beat yourself up

The reality is that you can turn any practice into a harsh metric of self-worth – even meditation and personal growth. Maybe especially personal growth.

There will be good days and bad days with this process. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ll discover a whole deeper layer or other area where you’re tying self-worth to Doing rather than Being.

That’s what makes this a lifelong practice. It’s never done, it just gets easier the more you do it.

The last 18 months for me have involved a lot of work around being okay with where I am, shedding expectations and shifting my beliefs so that my life could feel a lot less arduous, so I know first-hand that this shit is hard work. I also know it’s totally worth it. I’m sending you lots of compassion and love for the road ahead.

What’s So Special About THERE?

In the previous post, I shared my tendency to try to press on and be as productive as possible, even when I’d be better off giving myself time to heal and replenish.

In a nutshell, the refusal to stop and rest is a sign of refusing to accept where I am right now. It’s a form of denial – if I can remain productive, then it must mean I don’t need sleep or rest or whatever, right?

But what’s beneath the refusal to accept where I am right now?

A clue to that lies in where I think I should be. Even as I write this, I think I should be done writing it. I should have the next move for my business figured out already. I should know how to manage my creative energy by now so that I can be more consistent. I should have already finished adjusting to my part-time day job.

Why is it so important to me to get THERE already? What’s so special about THERE?

I think for most of us, the real question is, Who do we believe we will BE once we’re THERE?

What I’ve seen in myself and in my clients quite often is that our desire to get THERE is really about earning love and proving our worth.

From the time we’re very young, we’re taught to believe that Achievement = Self-worth, aren’t we?

If we do the “right” things, we’re praised and rewarded. If we don’t, we’re punished or even shamed.

That’s hard enough, but it’s about a billion times worse when we do something that we believe is the right thing, yet the results feel like we’re being punished. You launch something and hear crickets. You try to exercise and eat right but you still feel exhausted most of the time.

We believe that if we do X, we’ll always get Y, until the day that we get Z instead, and then all hell breaks loose. Because we didn’t want Z at all, and oh shit, what does it say about us that we got Z instead of Y?

When my body was in rebellion and I was sinking into a Dark Night, I kept trying to work. I kept pushing. I kept telling myself that if I kept going just a little longer, things would turn around. My business would grow, life would get easier.

But it didn’t.

And when I was faced with that moment where I knew I could no longer keep pushing, I was filled with a deep sense of failure and shame.

Resting and surrendering were unacceptable because BEING is inferior to DOING. Doing is the only thing that leads to achievement and accomplishment that will show I am of value.

“See? Look what I did. Look how good I am. Look how well I contribute.”

But what kind of dynamic does that mindset create?

It makes the status quo infinitely more appealing than taking any sort of risk. (File under: The Devil You Know…)

It’s like trying to drive around with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake.

We can’t rest because we need to get THERE.

But we can’t head THERE without risking the possibility that maybe we won’t make it. And that’s a crazy big risk to take if our self-worth hangs in the balance. (File under: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t)

The only way to stop the whiplash-causing herky-jerky stop-and-go is to end the inner conflict. And that inner conflict ends when we truly understand that it’s okay if we keep trying and it’s okay if we stop and rest.

We need to know that we’re completely and thoroughly OKAY regardless of what we do or don’t do.

And by “OKAY” I mean, you are fine, you’re whole and unbroken, you can accept yourself, you don’t have to answer to anyone about whether you are enough.

Isn’t that what we all want, deep down? To know that no matter what – no matter how badly we fuck up our lives and no matter how badly we flake out of opportunities that the Universe has gift-wrapped and handed to us – we are still OKAY?

Sad, angry, frustrated and uncertain at times? Of course. But still enough. Still OKAY.

Can you imagine what it would be like to know down to your bones that you are enough whether or not you ever make your dreams happen? That it doesn’t have any bearing on your worth?

That’s what makes it okay to be exactly where we are, and to let go of any schedule and expectations. (File under: Simple But Actually Ridiculously Fucking Hard)

But how do you do that, when you’ve spent most (if not all) of your life striving to prove your enoughness?

That’s what I’ll talk about next time.

In the meantime…

Here are some questions to ponder about acceptance and enoughness.

Where is THERE for you? Do you have multiple THEREs for different parts of your life (e.g., business, health, relationships)?

What’s your schedule for arriving THERE? Are you already late?

Where did your schedule come from? Are there particular people you’re comparing yourself to? (I often compare myself to people I went to school with, despite the fact that I don’t actually want what they seem to have.)

How do you feel when you’re reminded that you’re not THERE yet? Where do you feel that in your body? (For me this often feels like a pressure in my chest, a bit like I want to scream and yell about not getting what I want.)

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to know you are already enough, simply for who you are, not what you do. Where do you feel that in your body?

Again, no wrong answers. We’re just exploring, so be sure to breathe and be kind to yourself throughout this process.

Healing

I cut my finger the other day. We were completely out of band-aids, but it stopped bleeding quickly so I wasn’t too worried about it.

Yet because of where the cut was, I kept scraping and bumping it – even drying my hands after washing them was a problem.

Fast-forward a few days and I realized the cut still wasn’t healed. For how minor it was, it really should have been mostly gone already, but there it was, still hurting and occasionally opening back up.

I was prolonging the healing process by refusing to stop at the store to get more band-aids. I told myself I didn’t need them, that the cut would heal just fine on its own.

And yes, eventually the cut did heal on its own, but it took probably two or even three times as long by leaving it exposed to more damage.

How often do we do that to ourselves? We experience some kind of wound (physical or emotional) or illness, but we refuse to give ourselves what we need to heal.

By refusing to protect the area that was damaged, it takes longer to get better.

It’s relatively easy to see how important that protection is if you think in terms of a broken bone or severe flu – of course you need to stay off the break or stay on the couch. It gets a bit trickier when dealing with something like depression or chronic illness or pretty much anything that doesn’t have a clear “do this and get better” method of treatment.

We don’t want to change our lives. We don’t want to alter the way we go through our day in order to facilitate healing.

Maybe we think we’re being stronger that way, or more productive. We believe we’re saving time or money or energy by doing the bare minimum. We’re refusing to give in.

We expect to be able to operate as normal, despite the fact that we’re injured or simply running on empty.

But the reality is that in order to heal, we need to protect the place of hurt. We have to stop doing the things that cause more damage, even if those things would be completely innocuous under normal, healthy circumstances. Once we’re injured or depleted, it’s no longer business-as-usual. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

But how do you go about shifting that pattern?

This refusal to give ourselves enough downtime to get better is deeply ingrained in our culture, to the point that “working through the pain” is a veritable badge of honor. It’s hard to catch it as it’s happening, but that’s exactly what we need to learn to do.

Believe me, I love the idea that I could follow steps X, Y and Z and turn into the kind of person who is always kind to myself and gives myself as much time as necessary to heal in just the ways I need. Oh, and never feel an ounce of guilt about it, either.

But the thing that my most recent Dark Night has taught me is that there is no 3-step process or 6-week program or fill-in-the-blank workbook for the really deep stuff that needs healing. It requires the thing that’s hardest to do – learning to notice what’s mostly unconscious.

The most obvious clue that I’m refusing myself time to heal is when I get frustrated at my lack of productivity and start telling myself I should be feeling better already. (Your clues may be different, of course, but I bet frustration is one of them.)

Regardless of what I’m recovering from, it points to an unwillingness to accept where I am right now. A lot like my unwillingness to buy band-aids and protect my cut finger.

But what’s beneath the refusal to accept where I am right now? Why do so many of us have trouble with this?

That’s what I’ll be covering in my next post.

In the meantime…

Here are some questions to help you dig in and explore healing and productivity.

What are some of the ways you heal and replenish? In what ways do you resist healing?

What helps you to be productive? What does productivity look like for you?

What are some of the things that contribute to being less productive than you’d like? (Illness? Depression? Family obligations? Lack of clarity? Utterly wonky hormones?)

Where do your expectations of how productive you should be come from? (Who has set the bar for what qualifies as “productive enough” for you?)

How do you feel and respond when you have a non-productive day, week or month?

How do you feel and respond when you are efficient and productive?

There are no wrong answers. At all. This is all about becoming aware of what’s true for you right now. I know that lack of productivity can be a source of pain and deep frustration. Keep breathing as you think about these questions, and as much as possible, meet yourself with kindness. (Remember – you are not broken.)

Power vs. Control

When we do something (create something, offer something, apply for something, etc.), usually we’re doing it because we want some kind of outcome – we want to receive validation from people we respect and admire, or be supported financially by our gifts, or quit our jobs, or have a certain number of people sign up for our class or buy our ebook.

It’s natural to want certain outcomes, but it tends to create a lot of problems and make life miserable.

Most of us believe on some level that if we take the right steps, we’ll get what we want. You pop leftovers in the microwave, push some buttons and you get hot food. We tend to think (or at least hope) that is how all of life works.

But the reality is we control a lot less in our lives than we think we do.

If you offer a class, you don’t control how many people sign up.
If you get a degree, you don’t control how easy it is for you to find a job.
If you bare your soul to a significant other, you don’t control how they respond.

And if you put a bowl of stew in the microwave, you might hear a loud pop and even though the microwave still runs, nothing gets hot anymore. (Ask me how I know this.)

Yes, taking the so-called “right steps” can increase our chances at getting the outcome we want, but in the end, it’s still outside our control.

It’s hard enough to deal with the disappointment of not getting what we wanted and expected, but where it gets excruciatingly painful is when we confuse our lack of control for a lack of power.

You try something, it doesn’t work due to something beyond your control, and then you think, “Well shit, I guess I don’t have it in me to do that.”

You’ve now interpreted that sequence of events as evidence that you are lacking the power you need to do what you want. But really, this was just how the cookie happened to crumble in this particular instance, and it says nothing about your power or lack thereof.

Power and control are two separate things. And if you confuse them it becomes really easy to give up at the exact moment you should lean in.

I struggle with this all the time.

I’ve had tantrums about my body and its various illnesses. And about how many people signed up for my classes. And about imploding real estate markets (to name just a few).

When faced with those situations, I wanted to crumple. I felt beaten down, and like my attempts at doing the right thing to the best of my abilities were in vain.

I felt powerless.

Sure, you could argue that not having control is a form of powerlessness. We’re powerless to control the outcome.

So then what is it to be powerful? What does it mean to use our power?

Power is nothing more than exercising our ability to act.

And it’s important to remember that taking action can happen on the physical, spiritual, emotional or mental plane. Even making a choice counts.

It’s not dependent on getting the desired results.

The truth is that even by making the attempt, you’ve already exercised your power. It was already a great feat of strength and courage.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to remind myself lately:

Even though I wish creating stuff and sharing it with the world worked a bit more like a microwave with predictable results (pop in a bowl of new stuff, push some buttons, and wind up with hot business growth), the truth is it’s more like making a phone call.

When I make a call, the person I’m trying to reach may not answer. And I might feel disappointed or frustrated about that, but I don’t hold myself responsible. I don’t blame myself for it. I work through the emotions and try again later, because I know I’m not in control of what’s happening on the other end of the line.

Similarly, when I create something and put it out there, I can take it as far as picking up the phone and dialing. The rest is out of my hands.

Sure, it still hurts if the call doesn’t go through in the way that I hoped, but it’s less painful when I remember that I used my power to do my part.

For further exploration

When you look back on a situation where something you tried didn’t go the way you planned or hoped, what did that disappointment say about you? What did the outcome say about you or your power and ability to make stuff happen?

Can you appreciate your power, even while feeling disappointment that you couldn’t control the outcome?

When Nothing Works

Can I just say that all of this being conscious and mindful and taking ownership of our lives is really fucking hard sometimes? Maybe even most times?

I’m not saying there’s never any ease or joy, but sometimes I find myself in a hellish season and it feels like it’s never going to let up.

Being online in those times can be excruciating. There’s no end to the posts and updates and suggestions and sales pitches that say, “Here’s what you need!” and, “Just do this and you’ll feel better!”

If reading those things help you, that’s fantastic – you’re getting what you need.

But if reading them makes you want to gouge your eyes out or burn down the entire internet, you’re not alone. Sometimes all they do is remind you of everything that isn’t going right in your life.

Sometimes things are just hard. Sometimes no matter what you do, everything hurts and it feels like nothing works.

And what makes those times even harder is the sense – and the overt messages – that you should stop focusing on how bad you feel. You should focus on what you’re grateful for, and what you’re trying to create, instead.

Again, if that kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps approach works for you, great.

But even if it would help, sometimes it’s the hardest thing you could possibly ask of yourself.

There’s a fine line between accentuating the positive and ignoring your own pain.

Sometimes you can’t shift your focus away from what’s not working until you really acknowledge it. Really sit with it and hear what it needs from you.

What if those emotions keep coming up in such demanding ways because they’re asking for something from you?

What might those parts of you need?

Maybe they just need to hear you say, “I’m sorry, I love you.” Maybe they need to know that you see their pain and share their sorrow, and that you love them regardless of whether they’re having a hard time or not.

In my experience, the only way to move out of a difficult time is to accept where you are and let go of your desire to change it. (How’s that for damned near fucking impossible?)

But you don’t have to do it perfectly. I’m constantly letting go of my frustration and then picking it up again. And then finally wearing myself out once more and putting it back down. Repeat ad nauseum.

Try to remember that having a hard time doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

It’s another way we’ve been taught to believe we’re broken, but we’re not.

Of course none of this makes it suck any less. I get that. Completely.

If you’ve decided to walk your path while awake, foregoing a constant state of detachment and numbing out, then there is no easy answer.

Offering yourself compassion may not be the express lane out of your dark night, but it will always move you in the right direction.

Truly Believing

I’ve been thinking a lot about beliefs lately.

For one thing, I believe we can change our beliefs. (Ooh…meta!)

But I’ve been very aware lately that my responses and reactions to various situations don’t seem to line up with what I believe.

For example, if I believe that the process of creating something is more important than the results, why does it feel like an unrecoverable disaster when I launch something that falls flat?

That sense of failure is a big struggle for me.

Intellectually, I know that none of that effort is wasted. There’s learning and experience woven throughout, just waiting to be assimilated.

I found myself asking, though, when would I reach the point where I would feel it in my bones? When would I know it so well that a setback was no big deal?

But asking that question means there’s an underlying assumption that’s gumming up the works.

The assumption I’m making is that if I truly believed that none of my efforts were wasted, I wouldn’t feel disappointed.

In other words, it’s not okay to be disappointed in how a project turns out because then it means I don’t really believe the process is more important than the results.

But is this true?

What’s true is that I feel disappointment.

Part of that is coming from not getting what I want. And sure, part of me does feel I’ve done all that work for nothing.

But the rest of it? I think it comes from what the “failure” says about me.

It’s about the meaning I attach to failure.

A disappointment turns into a disaster when we assign meaning to it in unhelpful ways.

And it doesn’t much matter what it is – if I make a plan and that plan doesn’t go the way I want, it cues a chorus of loud, angry voices saying things like:

I’ll never figure this out.
This is too hard.
I’m not good at this.
I’m not cut out for this.
I should just give up.
I should have known better.

But does a mishap or setback or disappointing outcome really mean any of those things?

Drawing those conclusions from a setback (however painful) is really a form of self-sabotage. If I define myself as a failure ever time something doesn’t go my way, it’s way too tempting to give up.

The truth is that a disappointing outcome is nothing more than a disappointing outcome. It’s okay to want something to turn out in a certain way. And it’s okay to feel disappointed when it doesn’t.

It’s okay to grieve and even throw a tantrum.

(I think there’s a lot of drivel out there that implies if we’re “doing self-development right,” we’ll never feel negative emotions. On an unconscious level I’ve bought into that, but it’s complete bullshit.)

It’s not easy – at all – but I’m working on remembering that the only person who gets to assign meaning to my setbacks is me.

Since we were all taught what meanings to assign various outcomes from a very early age, the grooves in our brains are well worn. So we can’t expect to unlearn them overnight.

Just like meditation, it’s a practice.

As you meditate, your mind wanders and you just keep going back to your breath, time after time.

The goal of meditation isn’t to reach the point of not having thoughts. In fact, the more you try to stop your mind from wandering, the more it will happen. Rather, you’re trying to meet your mind’s tendency to wander with kindness, letting go of the thought and returning to your breath. No matter how frequently it happens.

In the same way, when dealing with the fallout from a setback of some kind, you’re not trying to squelch the disappointment (or anger, sadness, grief, frustration) you feel. All you can do is meet the sad parts of yourself with compassion, while choosing the meaning that works for you. Over and over again.

I’m choosing (well, trying to choose) to see setbacks as a necessary step along the path. And slowly I’m learning to meet the accompanying emotional upheaval with acceptance. To allow myself to experience the emotions without believing they define me.

It’s completely counter-intuitive, but the more I accept who, how and where I am, the more quickly things shift.

Do the setbacks still hurt? Yep. Do I still wish I would “just get over it already?” Yep. And then eventually I remind myself that the meaning is what I say it is. Again.

What meaning do you assign to setbacks and disappointments?

How would it feel to choose a more supportive meaning?

You Are Not Broken

image: cracked heart

For most of my life, I believed I was broken.

  • My emotions were a sign of weakness; they were too intense and needed to be stifled
  • My resentment at having to follow stupid rules or do meaningless assignments meant I was difficult
  • I needed too much information before making decisions and cared too much about getting them right, so I was wishy-washy

I spent a lot of years beating myself up for being the way I was. I was constantly trying to hide those parts of myself and re-shape them into more acceptable traits.

Especially when I entered the corporate world. I felt like I didn’t fit, but I thought it was because there was something wrong with me.

Then, during my fourth traditional corporate job, I noticed I hadn’t made any progress with changing myself into a good, happy worker-bee.

I realized that giving myself some kind of lobotomy – shutting myself down so I wouldn’t care whether my work was fulfilling – just wasn’t an option.

I wanted more freedom. More sovereignty. More say in what I’d create and how I’d create it.

I knew on some level that changing companies and job titles wouldn’t be enough. By definition, a job (working for someone else to further their agenda, as noble as their mission may be) was never going to cut it. I’d have to build a business and it would have to come from my heart.

But what was really in my heart? After years of shutting off the parts of myself that didn’t fit other people’s views of how I should be, I didn’t know my own heart anymore.

And even if I did know, I had no idea how I could turn it into a business.

That was when I really started learning about myself. Connecting with myself so that I could know what I wanted and what I needed in order to be happy and thrive in my work.

I had tried to change myself to fit their requirements and it was a complete disaster. Not only did it not work, it created a hell of a lot of pain and self-loathing.

That was when I stopped believing I was broken.

Partly I stopped believing it because the belief itself was a source of pain I was no longer willing to carry around. It was a belief that was handed to me at a time I was too young to know any better.

But I really grokked the truth that none of us are broken when I noticed that so much of what I regarded as unacceptable about myself was actually just inconvenient for someone else.

  • If you have a strong sense of self, you get called stubborn
  • If you are highly sensitive, you get called needy and high-maintenance
  • If you are an idealist who wants to make the best possible choice, you get called indecisive and wishy-washy
  • If you bristle at stupid rules and busy-work, you have a bad attitude

Whether it’s inconvenient because it makes someone work harder to help us thrive, or asks them them to reconsider their own worldview, or maybe something about us simply forces them to feel something they’d rather not feel, the result is the same. We’re the minority so we wind up feeling as though we are the problem.

But here’s the thing:

Not only are you not broken, but the parts of yourself you learned to despise are most likely the very parts that hold the key to finding your Thing, creating work that you love and changing the world.

It took a long time, but eventually I saw that my sensitivity is what helps me to connect with my clients. And my intolerance for bullshit is what led me to the path of entrepreneurship. And my careful decision-making is simply part of the way I think and operate.

Those traits I was trying to squelch were all signposts leading me toward what I wanted to create and how I needed to create it in order to thrive. They were never flaws that needed to be banished or rejected.

Sometimes my “special traits” still bump up against life in a way that feels inconvenient and painful, like everything would be so much easier if I could just not be that way, at least for that situation.

But I’m learning that the more I meet all of myself with acceptance, compassion and curiosity, the more I’m able to build my business around who I am.

We’re born with a unique set of traits and characteristics.

And the traits that not everyone understands are the ones that get deemed inconvenient, unacceptable, not ready for prime-time.

It’s because those traits aren’t for everyone. They’re gifts to your Right People. (Is it any wonder why it’s so draining to hang out with Wrong People all day long?)

Maybe all of this is hard to believe right now. I get it.

How can something you learned to believe was a flaw – which caused you so much pain and kept you from fitting in – be a gift?

Suppose it were true just for a moment.

What would those unacceptable parts of yourself tell you about the kind of work you’d really like to do and the kind of people you’d really like to work with?

How would it feel to stop fighting against who you are and instead build your work around it?

What gifts are you withholding from your Right People?

(Image credit: Ellipsis-Imagery)

Real-Life Business: What to Do When You Misjudge Your Capacity

Image: Cup Overflowing

One of the key principles I teach in Project Prowess is that you have to have enough Capacity if you want to enjoy your creative process and complete your projects consistently.

(A quick refresher: Capacity is the time and energy you have available to do whatever it is you’re working on.)

Here’s a little story about what happens when you try to work beyond your capacity.

As you may know, I’m an Instigator for A Year With Myself. And I was completely honored when C. A. Kobu invited me to participate.

My module was due on February 16, and Project Prowess was (originally) set to start on February 23.

I thought I could submit excellent content to C. A., while still keeping up with spreading the word and preparing for Project Prowess.

Turns out I was completely wrong.

The pace I’d set myself was just not sustainable, and I let that manic energy of “I must do one more thing for my business…” take priority over rest and nourishment.

I had started to dread the fact that Project Prowess was about to start. And I was quietly cursing myself for agreeing to contribute to a different project at the same time.

When I found myself avoiding the things I love doing, I thought I was entering a season of Oh shit I have to tear down my entire business and start from scratch because oh my god I was wrong and what I thought was my passion isn’t my passion!

When you work beyond your capacity, you will pay the price sooner or later with fatigue, anxiety and even resentment.

It can change how you feel about your entire business and sap you of all motivation.

Here’s how I got myself out of the over-capacity mess:

1. Notice that something isn’t working

Your symptoms will be unique to you, but if you feel like you’re running from task to task (unsuccessfully) and you’re feeling tired, frustrated, resentful and needy (like you want someone else to fix everything for you – ahem!), chances are good that you are working from a state of depletion.

2. Ask yourself what can shift

Rarely is everything in your life unchangeable.

In my case, I couldn’t change my due date for A Year With Myself. That was a project with an external deadline, and lots of moving parts dependent on my contribution.

So I had to look for other places to open up some spaciousness.

The most obvious choice was to postpone Project Prowess, even though it felt like a really big deal to do that.

3. If you’re having trouble finding any wiggle-room, for each commitment you’ve made, ask what would happen if you postponed or cancelled it

As I said above, rarely is everything unchangeable.

If you’re sensitive and conscientious, chances are you tend to overestimate the impact a change will have on the other people involved. And that means you’ll be reluctant to back out of or shift a commitment you’ve already made.

Plus, if you were on the receiving end of messages about “quitting” being A Bad Thing, it’s easy for this kind of situation to trigger feelings of having failed.

Commitment is a necessary ingredient for creating what you want to create, but you have to look at your own commitment patterns to determine if keeping the commitment or changing it is the right choice for you.

What became clear to me is that if I didn’t postpone the start date, I would not be at my best for the lovely projectizers who had already signed up. And that was definitely not okay.

4. Whatever you decide to do, take responsibility for your choice

The resentment I was feeling toward my business a few weeks ago? Totally of my own doing.

I felt resentful because I perceived myself as powerless to change or fix things to work for me. I was defaulting to a victim mentality, when in reality, I am a business owner. I get to decide what’s best for me and my business.

Once I took control over my schedule again and decided to postpone my course, a lot of the anxiety dissolved.

That said, it was still pretty terrifying to tell people that I was changing the start date, especially since it was due to my own flub (i.e., not realizing sooner that I had a conflict). Would they get angry? Would they ask for a refund? Would they secretly think I was a flake but not say so?

All I could do at that point was to send honest emails to the projectizers and let them know what was happening and why.

5. Let go of the outcome

I didn’t know how the people who’d signed up would respond, but I’d made my decision. I knew I’d done my best to minimize inconvenience and disappointment, but I wasn’t in control of the outcome.

Part of how you keep that victim mentality from creeping in is by remembering that you made a specific choice, and why you made it.

I had to accept that maybe someone would get upset, but I was postponing the course to preserve my health and make sure I could offer a high-quality program for my people.

As it happened, nobody got upset. Not even slightly. In fact, several people said that the new start date worked better than the original.

6. Reflect on what needs to change for next time

This part is challenging because there are an infinite number of ways you can wind up working outside your capacity. That’s why part of what I teach in Project Prowess is to review every project for ways to improve and better understand your creative process.

In this particular case, here’s what I learned:

Promoting a course takes a lot of time and energy (at least for me, for now), so if I get an additional opportunity that’s too good to pass up, I’ll do a better job of negotiating my deadlines and changing them when necessary.

Mistakes will happen, and they are almost never the catastrophe my inner perfectionist believes them to be.

Ignoring the signs and symptoms of depletion does nothing to address the problem.

I’ve gathered more evidence that doing what’s best for myself is very often what’s best for others, so it doesn’t make sense to punish my health for a deadline that can be changed.

How about you?

What has you over-capacity right now?
What gets in the way of creating more spaciousness for yourself?


Psst! If you missed this session of Project Prowess, sign up here to be notified when the program is starting again!

Image credit: karpacious

Redefining Success

Image: Spiral Staircase

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing a serious lack of motivation.

There was a lot that contributed to it…health stuff (which showed up as fatigue, depression and anxiety), family stuff and financial stuff.

I was trying to gear up to open registration for the next group of projectizers in Project Prowess (my program to help you choose, start and finish projects), but the work just wasn’t getting done. It felt as if I was trying to swim through molasses.

I started and deleted upwards of ten posts. Even if I was lucky enough to experience that initial burst of inspiration about an idea, somewhere between brain and fingers-on-keyboard it would all go horribly wrong.

I did my best to be kind to my body, because I know that pushing doesn’t always work. And having a hidden agenda behind the self-care often cancels out the benefit.

I’d do okay for a day, sometime three, but then I’d start freaking out about how long it had been since I’d done any real work. (And getting to the bottom of what constitutes “real work” is a whole ‘nother blog post.)

After a couple of weeks? I was convinced my motivation was gone forever.

On some level, it felt as though this not-working was becoming a pattern. Or maybe a habit.

But what to do about it?

If I looked at my to-do list and started thinking about all the work I hadn’t been doing and could have been doing over the last couple of weeks, it was an instant panic-fest. So that’s definitely what not to do.

I had to cut myself a lot of slack. But this was a different kind of slack – not the “poor thing, why don’t you go lie on the fainting couch for a while” kind.

I had to let go of any attachment to how much output I would have. Over and over again. Yet I needed to push myself (gently) to start working more.

If I only got as far as opening the admin panel of my site (which is where I write my posts) before I got distracted by Twitter or Facebook, that was okay.

And if I only wrote a sentence or two before I hit refresh on my inbox. Or *cough* played a game of solitaire, that was okay, too.

Every time I lost focus, I had a choice to make:

Would I collapse into the distraction, subsequent frustration and sense of having failed, or would I bring myself back to my work and try to take one more step?

I couldn’t expect to just crank out hundreds of words (or to plow through my task list) all at once, because it had been weeks since I’d done that.

Success is what YOU say it is

I get to decide what counts at success.

So do you.

We all hear tons of messages, day in and day out, about how our productivity should look. And often the message is that we should be kicking ass and taking names. Or just doing it or getting over it.

But in the end, it’s up to us.

The Rub

If you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you know I’m not a fan of pushing yourself to the point where it essentially becomes a violent act. Our bodies and souls need nourishment, and often lack of motivation and fatigue are messages that we need to replenish.

But there’s this other element of commitment that’s absolutely necessary in the creation process.

Sometimes commitment means not working, even when it feels like you’ll fall behind.
But sometimes it looks an awful lot like “forcing” yourself to work.

And therein lies the rub.

Only you can know whether you need to flex your commitment muscles by working when you don’t feel like it or by resting when you have lots to do.

That’s the dance we have to do as entrepreneurs…what works for us today may not be what we need tomorrow or next week.

There’s no formula to follow other than know thyself.

And that, as with so many other things, is a process.

How about you?

How do you define success? And is your definition truly yours, or did it come from someone else?

I designed Project Prowess to teach you the foundational skills that will allow you to get shit done while customizing the creation process for YOU.

I know first-hand that cookie cutter-solutions almost never work. We’re all unique, so what are the chances that someone else’s formula will work for you?

Project Prowess will teach you how to get more projects done in ways that fit who you are and how you work. The program starts March 8, so I hope you’ll check it out!

Image credit: edvvc

Going from Beautiful Idea to Finished Creation

I’ve been thinking about projects. You know, those things we want to create that will help our people. And grow our businesses. Stuff like ebooks, courses, services and products.

And I’ve been pondering what gets in the way of going from idea to plan to finished creation – sanely and enjoyably.

The ideas are plentiful, but don’t always take off

I think for most of us, the ideas are there. (In fact, usually too many ideas and choosing what to focus on is the problem.)

Often, when an idea bubbles up into our consciousness, there’s a period of Great Infatuation where the idea is all you can think about. I’ve lost many a night of sleep because I can’t stop mooning over how cute some idea is.

And then – eventually – the Great Infatuation is over

Maybe we look at all our other commitments and feel like we can never do justice to our idea, so why bother starting.

Or we’re willing to start but can’t figure out how.

Or maybe we start but the Voices tell us the idea is stupid after all.

Or we lose steam because the project has since ballooned into a magnum opus and it’s just not fun anymore.

Or sometimes we get all the way to the end and just can’t bring ourselves to expose our fragile creation to people who might not appreciate it.

Regardless of why or how, it winds up being damned challenging to get our project into the hands of the people we created it for.

Thoughts…I haz them.

Between completing many a project as a database programmer (in another life) and creating and launching offerings for my people here, I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

But before I start spewing what I know all willy-nilly, I’d like to know about your experience with projects.

Where do you get stuck?
What do you wish you knew about how to go from idea to finished creation?


You can answer here in the comments, or you can take this super quick 6-question survey.

Your answers will help me focus on the stuff that will make it easier for you to bring your creations into the world. Creations that your people need. And I want to help you get them out there.