Plot Twist: Time for a New Ending

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Do you remember being a kid – maybe seven years old – when everything was possible? You could grow up to be an astronaut, a cowboy, or a rock star. And you absolutely believed it. Your story was ever changing, endlessly exciting and most importantly, totally doable.

And you know what? If any one of us would have held tight to those dreams and kept on believing them with all of our might, there is a high chance that our paths might have been a little different. Because you see, the funny thing about our words and our stories is that they are the truth, even if they’re spoken before the present-day reality has caught up with them. You’ve probably heard the famous quote by Henry Ford in which he said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

That quote has endured for the past hundred years or so because it’s extremely accurate. The problem is, most of us let go of our childhood dreams and desires. We’re told to “grow up”, and to “be practical”, whether this message comes from parents, teachers, peers, or even ourselves.

Fast forward a few years to when make-believe is no longer encouraged, and you start checking things off from that list of potential reality. Even my own teenage daughter is not immune, and despite hearing for years how important our thoughts and words are, she can still rattle off a whole slew of formerly desirable jobs she could “never” do for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, as our world of possibilities shrinks, we often start writing another story, and this one is far more dangerous. It can sound like this:

“I’ll never get that promotion. There are so many people much more qualified than I am.”

“Every time I look at a piece of cake I gain 5 pounds. I’ll always be overweight.”

“I’m terrible with money. There’s no way I’ll ever get out of debt.”

The thing is, unlike the stories of possibilities from childhood, these new stories not only do not serve us, but the more we repeat them the more likely our reality is to reflect our words. And these stories are like a disease. They are disruptors on our life’s path, distractors that keep us from walking in alignment with our purpose. The words that make up these limiting stories and beliefs are woven into the fabric of our souls, and eventually they can masquerade as a part of our personality. Sometimes we get confused and even let them define who we think we are.

And that’s when we start feeling lost and out of sync with life. Oftentimes it’s in middle age that people realize something is off. The lucky ones see it sooner and take corrective action.

But sometimes it can be tricky to identify that there even is something amiss, at least on the surface. We go through the paces of our life – showing up for work, paying the bills, and driving the kids to soccer practice.

But if we’re paying attention we may start to hear a little voice – perhaps at first it’s just a whisper. And it may sound, just a little bit, like the stories of our youth. We may hear hints of our forgotten dreams, clues about who we could be, if only we’d stop playing small.

But how in the world do you get from here to there? How does one go from doing all the things you’re “supposed” to do, as a responsible citizen, to fulfilling your purpose and living the life of your dreams? Well, it starts with the simple fact that your thoughts are your powerhouse and first point of contact for true self-creation.

If we’re mindful of those thoughts and carefully guard against the negative ones, we can start to once again speak in the language of what’s possible. When we’re able to open up our imagination and mentally transport ourselves to visualizing the life we want to lead, we’re already well on the way to making it happen.

Once you can see where you want to end up you have to start playing a little game with yourself, with both your thoughts and your words. You have to think and feel and talk as if you’ve already achieved your goals. It’s important to declare it to be true because this is the way to start shifting your energy around your story, which leads to a different ending entirely.

In this way, “I’m terrible with money. There’s no way I’ll ever get out of debt” changes to: “I’m so excited and grateful that this is the year I’m coming out of debt.”

Instead of, “I always gain weight. I’ll never be in shape,” you can shift your energy around to, “I enjoy eating healthy and being active. I feel so good when I eat well.”

Once you believe it in your very core you need to start taking steps to inch your way towards your goals. While it’s neither possible nor important to know exactly what your journey looks like between here and there, it is critical that you take action, however small, in the right direction.

It’s a simple choice, really – taking ownership first over your thoughts and words and then your actions, to consciously craft the life of your choosing, or to be a victim of mindless words and complaints.

Let me start you in the right direction with my declaration: I fully believe in you and am thrilled that you’re well on your way to taking charge of your life and achieving all that you have set out to be and do. So go forth and conquer, and enjoy the journey, dear warriors. You’ve got this!

Protecting Your Peace

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There is a thief that has robbed me repeatedly over the past 20 years, both in my personal and professional lives. I have never recovered anything that this thief has taken from me, but I have found ways to protect myself against being violated again in the future.

This thief has a name, and its name is Worry, and it’s taken from me two of the most precious things we have on this earth – peace of mind and the sweet gift of time.

And Worry is a practiced burglar. It sneaks in, quietly at first, innocuous and small, like a speck of dust or a tiny seed. And then the seed sprouts, grows and takes over, like a cancer. Before you know it, that thing – whatever it is that’s causing you worry and stress – becomes the only thing you can think about, making it impossible to do anything else. Your mind becomes polluted, and you get to the point where you can’t even function. You lose any joy in the present moment, sleeping is out of the question, and your entire personality can be changed.

The funny thing is, the thief isn’t even real. All of this happens in your own mind as it spins a fictional tale of what might happen “if” or “when”. For it turns out when Worry comes in we become extremely skilled at telling dark and twisted stories about our impending doom.

I remember one time when Worry blindsided me on what should have been a fun night out. My future husband and I had moved to Los Angeles with a handful of possessions and little money. Although we were both working, paychecks were sporadic at best, and they never came in as fast as the bills did. We were working hard to build a life for ourselves but at that time all of the unknowns felt like a mountain that was exhausting to look at, let alone climb.

Somehow in the midst of all of that we had managed to scrape together enough money to go and see a Joan Baez concert at the Greek Theater, but unfortunately, Worry followed us there too. No sooner had we sat down than it hit me full force. I felt the panic taking over, uncontrollable. “Oh, my goodness,” I said, wringing my hands. “What are we going to do? We don’t have any money. We are never going to be able to figure this out. We have no backup plan!”

My tirade went on and on, as John tried to talk me down and back into the present moment. It helped a little but the feeling of panic never really went away, and the night that should have been so pleasant was absolutely stolen away by my soon familiar companion, Worry.

Worry became a regular visitor during the ensuing years and took from me many beautiful days, and countless nights that could have been spent in rejuvenating slumber. I recognized that Worry never served me well. It never helped to solve any actual problems, or do anything constructive, but it wasn’t until years later that I finally figured out how to protect myself from its unwanted presence.

After living with this thief for too many years, I highly recommend the following techniques to protect your inner peace:

  1. Be very protective of the messages you allow into your consciousness. Newscasts, violent or disturbing TV shows and films, and negative “scare-mongering” people have no place in your life. If you can’t eliminate them completely, you at least need to tune them out.
  2. Worry is a form of fear, and fear and love cannot cohabitate. It’s either one or the other, so when you feel Worry seeping in, consciously choose love. One helpful technique is to practice writing down a list of things you’re grateful for, right here, right now. No matter how bad things seem, everyone has good things to acknowledge, and the more you do this the easier it gets.
  3. Really come to understand that Worry is all about a future myth that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen. Focus instead on the present, taking one second, one minute at a time. You’re okay right now in this moment, so accept that, breathe, and practice being present. Practices like meditation can help to center you if you find this difficult.
  4. First, accept that you need to let go of any outcome of your situation, and trust that whatever happens is for your higher good. Once you fully accept that, try taking baby steps towards making a positive impact on whatever Worry is trying to taunt you with. If it’s a money issue, figure out what tiny step you can take to begin to move your finances in the right direction. If it’s a relationship issue try making a little effort to improve things. Then let go of having to control how the whole thing turns out. It is exactly as it should be.
  5. Help someone else. One of the quickest way to inner peace, and one of the fastest way to squash Worry is to get the focus off of yourself. Volunteer, call a friend and offer to help around their home or business, begin performing random acts of kindness with total strangers, always expecting nothing in return. Worry can’t handle this kind of altruism and will soon be a distant memory.

I have found that Worry still shows up from time to time, and even occasionally gets a temporary foothold, but it doesn’t stay long. I am deeply protective of my inner peace and the more I stand my ground on the matter the easier it gets. In fact, these days I can even fight it off in my sleep.

Elin Barton is the CEO and President of White Knight Productions, Inc, and is the co-founder of Ready, Set, Grit, a place for business-minded individuals with a spiritual consciousness to join forces for real, honest and supportive conversations around the issues that matter. Elin would love to hear from readers who have questions, comments, or who are interested in finding our more about Ready, Set, Grit: elin@whiteknightpro.com.

 

Failure, I Love You

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For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in stories about failure. This is not because I’m a negative person or some kind of twisted voyeur who enjoys watching others struggle. The part I do love is hearing how people have come up against major obstacles in their lives, and how they’ve overcome the hard stuff.

I listen to those stories as if the words are made of gold, clinging to every syllable as if somewhere within those words is the wisdom I’m seeking for my own life:

“How did you do it?”

“What is the real secret to your success?”

“Can you teach me the steps?”

 

I’ve asked questions about failure so many times and have thought so much about the answers that I’ve come to realize something. Failure is not a problem. It’s not something to be ashamed of, or to be guilty about. It’s not something we should hide from our family and friends.

In fact, it’s not even real.

All it is – the only thing – is feedback. It’s pushback from the Universe, from the business world, the stock market – whatever you happen to believe in. It’s feedback that is telling you to make an adjustment and change something. That’s it, end of story. You tried it. It didn’t work out. Figure out what you can learn from the experience, adjust and move on.

Here in the United States we are especially weird about failure. We’re a nation that values wealth and perceived success over mostly anything else (as the current political events prove). We hate weakness, vulnerability and what we perceive as failure. But I think that is a mistake. Not only does it make us extremely superficial, it also robs us of an opportunity to reflect and learn valuable lessons.

If failure is really just feedback, we need to be able to look at whatever happened without self-judgment and without any attachment to whatever it was we were trying to achieve. If you take away guilt and shame and allow yourself to pause and step back from the situation with curiosity, “Hmm, how interesting”, then you start to see the so-called failure for what it really is: a steppingstone on the path to greater success. And if it’s an inevitable marker on that road to success then we should not avoid failure – we should welcome it.

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, and one of the richest self-made businesswomen in the world, famously tells how her father always encouraged his children to try to fail at something every single day. If they showed up at the dinner table without a story of how they failed at something, he’d be disappointed.

Was Sara’s dad a child-hating masochist? No, not at all. He was simply trying to teach his kids to try things. And if that thing happened to not work out he wanted them to try again, and again. The only really failure in his eyes was being too afraid to try something new.

I recently read another quote that resonated with me on this topic. Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, was interviewed in the New York Times and said, “I do not like it when people talk to me about how something can’t be done. I don’t want you to tell me you can’t do something. You may not get there 100% of the time but you can get there 80%, so don’t start with the presumption that you can’t.

And that’s the thing. You may not feel fully prepared to try something new, and that is very common. But please don’t let the fear of failure stop you.

How many people feel fully prepared to start a business, or raise a child? If you’re undertaking any new venture you will probably experience a certain amount of failure – perhaps a great deal of it, but don’t let that simple fact stop you from trying. It’s not important to get every single thing right. What is important is to keep your eye on your goal and to ask the question, “How can I try something new today? Will it be possible to fail at something? I hope so because then I get to gain new knowledge!”

So, go forth and fail, friends. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.