The Push Toward Courage

 

Last month I went a rock climbing camp with the Boy Scouts in Taylors Falls, MN.  The boys got to learn about rock climbing gear, safety, and climbing techniques.  They also got to climb on real rock vs. the man made climbing walls they tried in rock climbing gyms.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to climb up the face of a cliff with a rope tied to a harness and one of your peers who has the other end of the rope to keeping you from falling.

The kids managing the safety rope (a technique called belaying) were just as nervous as the climbers because they knew their friends’ safety was in their hands.

Some of the group had climbed before and this was just another challenge in their rock climbing experience. For others this was a new experience and you could see their apprehension and fear.  A few boys made it to the top of the rock face, but most made it  half or maybe two thirds up the face.  Regardless it took some kids as much courage to go up 30 feet as those who made it to the summit.

At the end of the day the kids had the option of rappelling off the summit of the cliff to the ground 50 to 70 feet below.  While climbing up the face of a cliff is daunting, stepping off the top of a cliff while leaning back is frightening.

I watched from below as each boy received guidance from the instructors and then proceed to the edge. Most of the boys took at least 10 minutes of looking over the edge and contemplating that first step.

The challenge of rappelling is that once you’ve stepped over that edge there is only one way off that cliff: down.

They had to push themselves toward courage. I’ve rappelled before and everything in your brain says, “This isn’t normal. You are not supposed to lean back over the edge of a cliff and walk down”. To rappel you have to push through those thoughts and have enough courage to take that first step.

Once they landed on the ground they were filled with relief and excitement as they accomplished something they were afraid to do. Some boys will never try rappelling again, but they pushed themselves toward courage and that will benefit them throughout their lives.

 

My guess is that if you look back in life you will see times where you had to push yourself toward courage. You’ve done things that your brain has said, “This isn’t normal, you shouldn’t be doing this”, and you went ahead anyway.

You may be at a time now where you know you need to push towards courage. What that is, I don’t know but here are some things I’ve seen other people push themselves to:

  • writing a book
  • running a marathon
  • starting a business
  • starting a new relationship
  • leaving a relationship
  • going back to school
  • getting a new job
  • losing weight

The challenge is that there are times where the direction we want to take in life does not have  a clear path or ending. Just like these young boys didn’t know if they could walk off the face of a cliff many of us don’t know if we can succeed in doing something new.

My encouragement to you is let go of the outcome and focus on each step that will get you closer to your goal.

Push yourself toward courage and become the person you are.

 

Flawed and a Little Crazy. It’s a Good Starting Point.

I have to admit it, but I’m deeply flawed and a little crazy. Aren’t we all?

Much of life is geared about trying to seem normal and healthy to all those around us. In the workplace and around our friends and acquaintances we work hard to show only the positive things in our lives. We are smart, witty, and engaging. Everything is going well and we are all happy.

Sometimes I’ll hear people say, “Wow Bob and Mary seem to have it all together. They have great jobs, a beautiful home, and their kids are amazing”.  While  that looks true I usually think, “That can’t be true. Nothing is ever that perfect”.

What’s with the negativity?  If I’m honest I am flawed and some of my thinking is a little crazy and I’m not the only one. My wife and kids are flawed and their thinking can be a little crazy too.  Flawed and crazy is a human experience.

The sad truth is that we all work too hard holding up a facade we hope people believe because we are afraid of social and psychological rejection.   But trying to be perfect and maintaining that facade takes a tremendous amount of physical and psychic energy. Day after day and year after year of trying to appear perfect only adds stress to an already complicated life. It’s not worth it.

Why is admitting that I’m flawed and a little crazy a good starting point for life? 

First, because it’s true.

Second, because we don’t have to work so hard trying to look and behave like perfect people.

In the On Being podcast, host Krista Tippett interviewed relationship expert and  philosopher Alain de Botton.  In this interview Alain states that healthy relationships are those where individuals understand they are deeply flawed and that their partner is deeply flawed too. In this relationship the couple is not looking for their partner to meet their every need, but see the relationship as a way to help each other become their best selves.

If we start our relationships with the ideal that other people are and should be perfect, then we are headed for disappointment and disillusionment. If our friends or partners expects us to be perfect, they are headed for the same disappointment.

Here’s a link to the blog and podcast: On Being With Krista Tippett

By embracing my flaws I can have compassion on myself  and that compassion can extend to those around me. I believe that we all do the best we can given the context we are in and the knowledge we have. No one is trying to consciously try to screw up their lives. We are all doing our best and if we could give each other a little compassion for being human, we will all grow in the right direction.

Embracing the fact that we are all flawed isn’t a justification for our behavior, but it does explain it. The goal is to continually evolve and grow in life and embracing your flaws is a part of it.

Here’s are handful of my flaws and crazy thoughts that I know my friends and family have to experience:

  • When I feel I’m right, you’ll know about it
  • If I  believe it, I want you to believe it too.
  • I’ll convince you of what is right.
  • If you are not convinced, then it’s your fault.
  • I need to be right to be OK.

As you can see these are not very generous ways of living with others, but these are flaws that I’m working on and my goal is to have awareness of my crazy thinking and behaviors. I don’t have to act out on them and let them interfere with my goals and relationships.

Having awareness of our flaws and crazy thinking is a great starting point for living a intentional and meaningful life . Living without awareness will hamper our ability to authentically connect with others.

Embrace your flaws and crazy thinking as a great starting point for having meaningful and intentional lives.

 

Working With The Gravitational Pull Of Life

Not Me

Downhill skiing reveals the pull of  gravity that many other activities don’t.  When you are at the top of the mountain and point your skis downhill, gravity takes over.

It’s an exhilarating experience and sometimes frightening, but I’m learning that if I work with gravity by adjusting my weight and skis I can make my way down the slope mostly in one piece.

What’s exciting (and sometimes frightening) about going down a more challenging run for the first time is that you don’t altogether know what the run will be like. A trail map can give you some information, but it can’t replace experience.

This week I stood at the top of the tallest mountain peak I have ever been on. As I rode up the gondola I got more and more anxious as we approached the 11,166ft summit.  For a few minutes we walked around the summit and took in a view that stretched from Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. That alone was the worth the trip to the peak.

This was the most daunting run that I and my wife have attempted and for a few minutes we both thought about turning back. Had it not been for the encouragement of our 13 year old son, we might have.

I entered the course and worked hard to maintain my speed and not get out of control. After a couple of falls and a few swear words I got past the most difficult part of the hill and made my way to the bottom with more confidence. It was awesome and I will most likely never do it again.

It takes courage to try something new and to venture into an experience where you feel drawn but where the outcome is unknown.  This the gravitational pull of life.

Sometimes we feel pulled in certain directions or to certain peopleWe feel drawn to move into a new venture or feel called to pursue an option we haven’t tried before. These experiences can be fun, exhilarating, and frightening.

If we fight this pull we often miss out on opportunities for growth. We miss on meeting  people who will expand our understanding of ourselves or our world.  We miss the opportunities to move our careers in a direction that’s in better alignment with our values, skills, and strengths.  We may also miss an opportunity to expand our sense of what we are capable of.

Sometimes we feel pulled to move in a new direction but are unsure of if we can be successful or who we will become in the process.  Here some gravitational pulls I’ve had and seen other people go through:

  • to start a relationship
  • to end a relationship
  • to go back to school
  • to start a business
  • to travel
  • to engage a social cause
  • to transform their health
  • to transform their minds
  • to rework their beliefs
  • to shift in their career

What I’ve learned as a I’ve evolved as person is that if we are doing our best to live a life of awareness we will understand more about what is pulling us. I’ve learned  if I trust my internal sense that a new direction is the right path to take, then I can also trust that I will figure out how to work with that pull.

When you are wresting with a pull in your life and are unsure about it, it’s time to call on the people you trust. Enlist the wisdom of people around you and be open to their feedback and advice. Take advice but  you get to decide what is right for you because you are the author of your life.

I’ve had times in my life where I knew I was being pulled in a certain direction and I ignored it.  Like trying to fight the gravitation pull of the earth I  wasted a huge amount of time and energy resisting the call to live life differently.

I’ve learned that if I work with what is pulling me life is more rewarding. I’ve also learned is that if you work with the gravitational pull of life, you may not always know how it will turn out. That is what makes life both daunting and exciting. Let go of the outcome and engage in the process.

What gravitational pull of life is pulling you?  Are you working with it or trying to fight it?

 

Why I Love Flawed Heroes

Credit: Martinm

Credit: Martinm

In pop culture we have a lot of amazing hero characters that entertain us and any of them are almost flawless. James Bond is good looking, tough, and has the ability to work his way out of any difficulty.  If he has flaws in his personality you don’t see them, but in general he is portrayed as someone always in control.

Superman has a weakness around Kryptonite, but his drive to doing good and saving lives is unthwarted in most situations. He has unearthly powers that every kid would love to have and he has a goodness in him that radiates through his character.

There are many characters in film and literature that portray strength and consistency in their thinking  and behaviors, but I don’t think they are as compelling as heroes with deep flaws.

In contrast, there are characters who are trying to help and do the right thing, but have a dark side that they continually fight against. I can relate to that.

My new favorite is a British detective series call “River”.  The main character, Detective River, is a brilliant and effective investigator yet has mental illness where he has hallucinations of the victims who’s crimes he is trying to solve. He talks with them, fights with them, and asks them questions while people around him are perplexed at his behavior. At times he is comfortable with his hallucinations and at others he is terrified by what is happening to him. But it’s in his interactions with his hallucinations that give him the clues to solve crime.

Why am I writing about this?

I believe that deep in each of us, we want to do great things.  We want to make a difference in the world, our community, or the people around us. We also want to be recognized and seen for who we are and what we do.

But many of us connect with the flaws of these heros because we know we are deeply flawed too.  In my life it seems that I can take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back in many of my goals. My motivations go up and down. My behaviors are consistent and sometimes erratic. And as soon as I think I got life figured out I realize I have much more to learn.

Do we need to be flawless in order to do make a difference and do good things?

No. Our flaws, short comings, and quirks are part of our lives but they do not have to define us. Living with awareness of how our flaws affect us can give us insight to what we need to do to mitigate their impact.

Acceptance of our flaws can create greater self-compassion and compassion for others. One of the reasons I like the Detective River character is that he has deep compassion for those is society that struggle and are marginalized . If we have connected with the fact that we all struggle and need help, I believe we will be less judgmental and more compassionate on those around us.

Becoming our best selves is not a perfect process.

Becoming our best selves isn’t living life without failure or struggle. Rather living an excellent life is about focusing on our strengths and working on our flaws and weaknesses so they don’t hold us back. If perfection were the prerequisite for success, then no one would achieve it. Trial and error can be the clues to success. Our flaws can help us find people who can work along side us and balance out our weaknesses.  Giving up perfection can save us time and energy trying to achieve something that does not exist.

So do we embrace our flaws?

I think by acknowledging our flaws they have less power over us. When we make mistakes we can correct our plans or repair our relationships. We can seek out help in humility. We can partner with others who have similar goals.

 

Be the hero you are; to the people you love, the people you work with, and the people around you. Don’t let your flaws get in your way of being the excellent person you are.

 

 

 

Do Our Failures Define Us or Inform Us?

Credit: Harman Abiwardani

Credit: Harman Abiwardani

Relationship failures. Business failures. Career failures. 

Been there and done that.

What about failures in parenting? Failed partnerships? Vocation or educational failures? There are too many failures to mention, but we all know we have failed somewhere in our lives.

The question I have for you (and for myself) is do your failures define you?  What I mean by that is do we allow our failures to set our identity?  “I’m a divorcee.”  “I’m a dropout”. “I’m unemployed”.

Setting our self-worth and identify by our failures is a limiting experience. It limits our ability to see our life in the broader context of all that we do well and all that has gone well. It narrows our view on who we are to external events and actions.

When we allow our failures to define us we go to dark places in our minds.  We relive the past over and over and focus on our mistakes.  Dark places lead to dark emotions and there is nothing helpful about depression and anxiety.

The inner critic in our minds blames us for being stupid,making bad choices, or for being naive. It focuses our minds on the mistakes, the blunders, and the omissions.  The inner critic is not our friend, so don’t treat it like one.

Instead of letting failure define us, what about letting it inform us?

Hidden in every failure is a clue to our next success. We need to let go of the failure, let go of the guilt and shame, and let go of the discouragement. We can instead embrace a learning that will make us stronger and wiser.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves when we have a failure, whether it be big or small:

  • Why did I fail?
  • What would I do differently if I could do it all over?
  • What was within my control? What was outside my control?
  • What is the key learning I can take from this so I don’t repeat it?
  • Who do I need to help me figure this out?
  • Was it worth it, even though I failed

I’ve used this strategy to help me understand one of my failures.  From 2006 to 2008 I was self-employed. I was an independent consultant and was working hard to build my consulting business. After two years I was breaking even, which is better than losing money, but still not successful. Then the  recession hit in 2008 and I decided to fold my business and find a full-time job.

Here’s what I learned from that failure:

  • I started my business too early in my career.
  • I didn’t have a big enough reputation for what I do
  • My network was too small
  • I was gaining momentum in late 2007 but the recession hit
  • While I liked being self-employed I missed having colleagues

If I were to start my own business in the future I would have a greater chance of success, because I have 10 more years of experience, a bigger reputation for what I do, and my network is huge compared to 2006. (No worries to my employer, I’m happy where I am at.)

Was that failure worth it?  I think so.  The reality is that the company that I  work for was attracted to me because of all the work I did in my own business. While I didn’t make enough money, I still built the skills and experiences that my current employer was looking for. In that sense, it was worth it.

When I was a kid I used to be afraid of failure, so I excluded myself from things that would have been beneficial to me. As I matured I gained more courage to try new things and engage with new people. Some things were successful and some failed, but all of these experiences contribute to who I am today.

I’m a huge believer that nothing in life is wasted.  From all experiences, both good and bad, there is something we can learn.

Learning from our failure is one of the ways we become our best selves.

 

Slow Down to the Speed of Life. Interview with Psychologist and Author Joe Bailey

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Feeling like life is moving too fast and you can’t keep up? Anxious and frustrated?

Then, Slow Down to the Speed of Life.

Slow Down to the Speed of Life is a phenomenal interview with psychologist and author Joe Bailey where we discover how to change our thinking in order to better handle the stress of life. Often we are looking for our circumstances to change in order for our lives to improve. They key to resilience to life adversity and overall mental health, is to change our thought process in order to change how we feel and respond.

Slow Down to the Speed of Life is one of the best books I’ve read and I plan to read it every year to remind myself how to slow down, live in the moment, and enjoy life to the fullest extent possible.

For more information about Joe Bailey, his books, and videos go to:  www.joebaileyandassociates.com