Turning the Impossible Upside Down

I have a confession to make. My husband and I are not athletes. Not even close, actually. We enjoy light activity – yard work, walking, sailing – but you probably won’t catch us running marathons or entering Ironman competitions anytime soon. Yet, in recent months we have been paying more attention to our health. We changed our diet, taking out sugar and carbs, and started walking. As we began to feel better we wanted to do a little something more to improve our health, and when I came across a Facebook post for a 30-day plank challenge, we thought, “Yes! This is it!”

If any of you have done the plank challenge before you know that you start out planking for just 20 seconds, and in the course of the 30 days you work up to more than four minutes. Well, on day one planking for 20 seconds was hard (but not that hard), but thinking about doing 60 seconds (or – gasp – four minutes!) seemed impossible.

We’ve now been doing the challenge for several weeks and are approaching the four minute mark. We got here by practicing consistently (almost every day, with some resting days planned in the schedule) and by pushing ourselves just a little harder and longer each day. There is no way we could have done a four-minute plank during our first week, but now we’re no longer scared of this goal and we know that we’ll be achieving it within the coming days.

The other day I was listening to a Tony Robbins podcast and the topic was building a business by pushing yourself just a little farther out of your comfort zone, day after day. On the show they talked about building up and learning to flex your entrepreneurial muscles and it got me thinking how similar that concept is to what we have experienced this past month.

  1. Dig deep and find your grit: there are no shortcuts. Whether you’re building your muscles or building a business you have to show up and do the work day after day. No one can do this for you and there is no faking it.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up: some days are just better than others. Some days we would go to do our planks and we’d feel like we were on top of the world. Sometimes we’d improve our time by 20, 30 or 40 seconds from the day before. Then other days we just couldn’t hold it very long at all.
  3. Don’t psyche yourself out: it’s mind over matter. You really have to go into every challenge with a belief that you will prevail. If you tell yourself that you can’t possibly hold the plank for more than a minute, guess what? You’ve lost before you’ve even begun.
  4. Seemingly impossible obstacles become easy. When we started planking it was just like when we started the business in that it was easy to get lost in the overwhelm of the enormity of the situation. If you focus on the obstacles you will never progress as quickly as if you break your challenge down into manageable steps. When we’re planking it comes down to focusing on our breathing; one breath at a time. With the business we consider our goals and build a strategy around them. Then we figure out specific tactics – small steps – that we can take to help us achieve our goals.
  5. Teamwork makes everything a little easier. We could do our planks at the same time, I suppose, but so far we’ve been taking turns so that the one not planking acts as timekeeper and cheerleader for the other. It’s a small thing, but taking on the challenge together has made us more likely to show up to do our part, and I’m sure that we’re both trying a little harder than if we were just doing this on our own. Plus it’s more fun to work on something like this together. I think the same is true in a business. If you don’t have a business partner, then getting your employees on board as part of the team that is working together towards a common goal is key for long-term success.

Live Like a Lottery Winner

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Who hasn’t dreamed of winning the lottery? Sure, we’ve all heard the statistics – the odds of winning are less than the odds of meeting your high school sweetheart while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at precisely 2:32 p.m. on September 26. You are more likely to be struck by lightening on separate occasions, be crushed by a meteorite or even become an astronaut than you are to win the jackpot.

And the stories of all of the people who either lose their entire winnings or who are ruined by the experience are not very encouraging, either. But still, there is something enticing about the dream of choosing the winning numbers. How different and exciting your life would be… how you’d have entirely new freedom, happiness – and probably a better car – than you do now.

With one of the big jackpots creeping up towards $400 million again, it got me thinking about a conversation I had with a former neighbor of mine. We were living out in Los Angeles at the time and my friend Beth lived across the street with her husband and young son.

One day she announced that they had decided to move to Santa Cruz, on California’s Central Coast. I was surprised by this revelation, as they both had good jobs and were well established in LA, but Beth’s logic went something like this:

“If we ever actually won the lottery we’d move to Santa Cruz. The lottery thing may never happen, but we can control where we live. Even if we have to go to a smaller house and cut corners for a couple of years we’ll still feel like winners.”

Many years after this conversation happened it still sticks with me very poignantly. Some people might call what they did foolish or risky, but I think it’s just the opposite. What are the implications of not taking control of your happiness? How many people do you know who feel trapped in jobs or situations they don’t like, and who stay because they feel they “should”?

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of:

“I’ll be happy as soon as I get that promotion?”

“When our sales reach “X” dollars, then I’ll be happy?”

“When I meet Mr. – or Ms. – Right, that’s when everything will be good.”

Are you starting to see what is wrong with this picture? With a limited number of days, hours, and minutes to walk this earth, isn’t it time to make a positive change in your life, starting today?

I ask you, don’t we all have a responsibility to live like lottery winners, even if it’s just in some small way? If you won the lottery what would you want? Is it more time with your family? Would you become a philanthropist? Spend time at the beach? Go fishing?

Sure, some of these things would be easier or could be done on a different scale with millions in your pockets, but life is short and if there are things you have thought about doing it’s time to start figuring out how to turn those ideas into reality.

It’s easy to make excuses but you’re surely doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t start taking little steps towards your big goals. Here is a guide to get you started.

  1. Visualize – close your eyes and imagine that you suddenly have endless wealth. What are the top five things you’d like to do?
  2. Now look at each of those things and consider, what is the core reason you would enjoy each one? For example, you may envision yourself living in a luxurious mansion, but if you dig a little deeper you may discover that the core enjoyment is, perhaps, being surrounded by beautiful things.
  3. Once you understand where your core pleasure is rooted, take out a piece of paper and brainstorm ways that you might start achieving some of those feelings of joy right now, before you win the lottery. For example, if you’re craving being surrounded by beautiful things could you take one room in your house, or one corner of a room and start a conscientious transformation of the space?

Continue taking small steps towards all five of your top lottery winner goals and you will gradually begin to see real transformation in your life, whether or not your numbers are ever drawn. For isn’t it true that we all owe it to ourselves to live our best lives, without waiting for some external event to make everything change?

My husband and I always said we’d become patrons of the arts when our big money ship came in. Well, we’re still waiting for our millions, but we’re not waiting to live out our dream. I have joined a committee on our local arts council and now support multiple artists by donating my time and what we can financially to this organization.

And what about my friend in Santa Cruz? She still hasn’t won the actual lottery yet, but she is living in a lovely little house in a very beautiful part of the country. By living bravely and by making conscientious choices she isn’t waiting to live the life of her dreams, and neither should you.

 

 

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!