I write a column for the Garland & Rowlett Messenger in Texas, and with the paper coming out last week, I think it’s only fitting to share the column with you all here. If you click the link here, you can see the photo copy I’m all kinds of proud of.
Faced with a seemingly insurmountable goal, nearly every last one of us quits the fight. Then there are the select few that reject the hand-me-down rules of what we are capable of. These individuals change the landscape of human achievement, and they don’t do it for medals, awards, or recognition. They do it because they feel it in their bones as something they can do when the world tells them it’s impossible.
Diana Nyad did the seemingly impossible over Labor Day weekend by swimming, without a shark cage, across the Caribbean Sea from Havana, Cuba to the Florida Keys. 110 miles of open water, hordes of box jellyfish, and the ever-present threat of sharks weren’t enough to deter her from reaching her ultimate goal.
Nyad is no stranger to defeat and the pain of failure, having finally completed the swim 36 years after her first of five attempts. At 64 years old, she swam for 53 hours straight, fueled by unshakable vigor. It begs the question, what drives someone to do such a thing?
In her 2011 TED talk, she explained her commitment and drive, saying, “I want it to be difficult. I want it to take passion. I want it to take an unwavering commitment to be able to get to the other shore.” She spoke volumes when the first few words out of her mouth after finally reaching that shore were, “we should never, ever give up.”
This is a shining example of having a vision and commitment to making it become a reality, regardless of what obstacles come before you. In my workshops and personal coaching programs, I meet countless people with big dreams and big reasons for them, but not enough strength to keep forging ahead when it becomes difficult.
The great Roman philosopher, Lucius Seneca said it perfectly: “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” The journey is almost certainly going to be difficult at times, but you must keep pushing if you wish to shine.
You have within you the power to create an absolutely extraordinary life if you simply give yourself permission to do so. Since we were little, we’ve all had those voices telling us to be more realistic and practical in what we set out to accomplish. For some of us, the voices were those of our family members; others learned to aim lower from their coworkers, friends, teachers, or spouses.
This is the great lie of the human experience. Fear of aiming too high and failing was instilled in us based on the opinions and experiences of others. We carry around other peoples’ assumptions about life as our own. One of my favorite questions to raise is this:
If you never learned failure – if you never learned to be realistic, what would your life look like?
Give yourself permission to throw out all the conclusions you’ve been given about life, and goals you’ve been told you can and cannot reach. The greatest innovators, athletes, leaders, and performers in the world share the same chemical makeup as you – they just don’t believe the same things about life, and it allows them to create extraordinary successes.
If I told you a 64 year old woman was going to swim for 53 hours straight, 110 miles across the Caribbean Sea from Cuba to Key West, you might not believe it. You might think it couldn’t be done. She, however, never learned that lesson.
My invitation to you is to examine your beliefs about what’s possible for you in your life. Take a closer look at where you may have learned those beliefs and give yourself permission to throw out assumptions that no longer serve you. Focus on what you truly want to believe and experience, and notice what begins to happen when you do.
Until next month, stay brilliant.
Nourish What Matters – a monthly column of empowerment, clarity, confidence building, and challenges from inspirational speaker and coach, Blake Alexander Hammerton.
Please share your thoughts. What are you saying yes to these days? What would you like to say yes to?
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Thanks! Stay brilliant!
The other day a friend of mine posted this picture on her Facebook wall, with the followup comment of “story of my life.” It immediately got me thinking:
How many people feel this way?
More importantly, I instantly felt curious about how many people took it a step further and decided to no longer let the heart make decisions – after a breakup, mistake, fallout etc. Many of us experience something that alters our outlook on life to such a degree, that it can sometimes take another life-altering experience to switch it back.
I’ll be turning 30 next month, and I have been that guy – the one that lead head-first into everything, and refused to let his heart make any decisions. You see, I got my heart broken in high school (as most of us did), and in true teen-angst fashion, questioned whether love was even worth it anymore. I went to college and fell madly, stupidly, wildly in love again. Then that fell apart. Well, that was it for me. My brain told my heart he was no longer allowed to make decisions.
My heart was cutoff.
No more decisions from that guy.
Of course I then fell in love again – just as deeply, madly, and wildly as before, but there was something new happening. I was assessing and calculating like a team of high functioning autistic accountants. At the first hint of displeasure or struggle, my team of “statistical engineers” ran the numbers and determined if my relationship was worth any further effort. I started actually hearing the math being crunched in my brain when things weren’t going well.
Needless to say, my relationships were not going to last very long. And they didn’t. The greatest (read: sarcasm) and most tragic fact around all of this was that I truly believed it wasn’t my problem – the women in my life just weren’t perfect enough to pass my committee. What an awesome guy I was, right? (Again, sarcasm in heaping spoonfuls here).
Then one day my coach changed my life by putting my brain and my heart in opposite corners, and let them fight it out in court. My brain explained exactly what it was doing, and why it was the best way to go. My heart sang its song, and why it wanted out from under the thumb of the committee upstairs. For the first time in years I witnessed the struggle. I heard the cold calculations. I felt the ache in my heart from years of being ignored. I learned something more important than anything else:
My. Brain. Was. Wrong.
You see, my brain shamed me for feeling– not thinking– and causing me (brain and heart included) to experience something that turned unpleasant. My brain shamed me into following its logic. For years I was the reason my relationships were falling apart. I was the reason emotional mediocrity was the name of the game. My brain, with all its calculations, made-up probabilities, and erroneous statistics, had carved a path for me that turned out to be something so far from what I wanted whenI was younger. My brain made me look like an idiot. And suddenly I felt like one.
You know what the funny part was: My heart forgave me. How cliche is that?
Look, when your heart leads you into a situation that turns sour, it can make you look like a fool. When your brain leads you into situations that prevent you from feeling anything at all, well, that can be so much more devastating. It’s much better to look like a fool and feel something, than to actually BE a fool and miss out.
For the record, I totally know this image is humorous and easily relatable. I get it, and I giggled when I saw it too. There is, however, some pretty powerful truths to this, and I wasn’t about to let it slide. My heart had something to say about it, and my brain knew how to make words appear on screen – go teamwork!
Remember that you’re more than just logical. You’re an emotional being. You’re significant, incredible, amazing, intricate, irreplaceable, and you are always at choice. Choose to feel. Choose to experience. Even if your brains tells you the opposite, let your heart sing.
When has your brain told your heart NO? Leave your comments below!
Over the past few days, I’ve had some pretty powerful conversations about what it means to let things go – what it means to “unplug” from the story, other person, situation, outcome etc. It’s not easy to do. That goes without saying, really. More importantly, however, is the fact that the entire situation is in your hands. There’s a hard truth here, and it’s a good one to take in.
Resentment is a poison you take, hoping the other person will die. ~ Malachy McCort
We, as humans, all play parts in this big play called life. We sometimes play the hero, sometimes the villain, and sometimes the victim. When we find ourselves in a place we don’t like, and all our effort to change it (with force or otherwise) is met with another’s opposition, we jump into victim. We blame, criticize, lash out, and shut down.
Have you ever been in a relationship that was so toxic you starting wishing he or she would take a long walk off a short pier? You know, the one where it feels like no matter what you do this person just knows how to push those buttons and make your head explode? Yeah, you’re pretty plugged into it, aren’t you?
People may have told you that the reason he/she has such an effect on you is because you “plug in” and feed energy to their cause. When you react, it gives that person something to continue to manipulate and enflame.
Feels like beating a dead horse, right?
Nobody beats a dead horse. They beat that which is still kicking and screaming. When you react and start kicking and screaming, they receive immediate assurance that this issue is still going, and they continue with the button-pushing-bonanza.
Let’s switch gears, shall we? The dead horse analogy feels a little dark.
What about working toward something that just doesn’t seem to happen – sound familiar? Take a look at your life and see if there are any parts that feel like no matter what you do, it’s just not moving forward. If so, check in and see if you’re working with or against the tide of your life. Are you holding onto an outcome so tightly that you’re blind to all other possibilities?
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our assumptions (read: stories) about what’s going to happen, that we miss what is actually happening! Some of us spend our whole lives in the “shoulds” that we never make it to the clearing to find our way home.
So here’s the Hard Truth:
You – not anyone else – have to let it go.
The moment you unplug from that which manipulates your energy negatively, you are free to breathe life into that which fulfills you. So often we have this idea of what we should and should not be able to have, do, and/or be, and when someone challenges that (read: pushes our buttons negatively), we plug in and start reacting defensively. Should that person continue to “not let it go” we can find ourselves fighting with two entities: our doubt (maybe he/she is right) and the other person, himself.
There are two things you can do right now to help get yourself moving forward, and away from this painful cycle. The first is forgiveness. This is one of the most powerful tools on the planet for creating greatness in your life. When this person or situation is pulling you away from your fulfillment, causing you to react and plug into their cause, take a deep breath and realize this is never going to change. You don’t have to convince the world or another person of the validity of your opinion or life – and they do not have to convince you of their own. Forgive them for any pain they’ve caused you, and let them be. Take a deep breath and unplug from it.
The second thing to do is give yourself permission to perform without approval.
Wait, what did he just say?!?!?
Exactly. You may not consciously know it, but often the reason you argue your point so voraciously with the same person or people is that you feel it isn’t good enough – you’re not good enough – until they are convinced and give you their approval. Stop that. When you put your success in the hands of those that influence your energy negatively, you bury yourself in their land – their negative perspective, their projection, their weight is now pushing, squeezing, smothering the action and ideas you want to embrace.
So, for the next week, let your assumptions go. Let your resentment go. Let your need for approval go.
Give yourself permission to let it all go. Hold onto that which fulfills you and makes you feel alive and connected!
It’s hard, no question. Start now anyway. In a year from now, you’ll wish you started today.
An earlier post prompted some commentary about the “voices in one’s head” and the negative influence they have. In my response, I noted that we all have these “voices” that influence us. The truth is:
You are your own saboteur.
As many of you know, my coaching style is one part nurture, one part nature, and one part “in your face, this is the reality of life, wake the hell up to it” honesty. This is no exception. We sabotage our success. You do it. I do it. Even successful people do it! To coin a very cliche phrase and quote Henry Ford:
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
The truth in this is that a large portion of the world automatically believes they can’t even before trying. This is the result of the saboteur within us. It’s a voice that keeps us in familiar, albeit boring, predictable, and possibly miserable situations in order to keep us safe. Many coaches and therapists also refer to this as the Inner Gremlin or Deep Risk Manager. I call mine Clark.
Technically, if we’re being honest – and let’s be honest, we are – I have a committee. There are a lot of different voices and personalities screaming things at me from time to time. If you’ve ever seen an episode of South Park, you’re probably familiar with the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone portray mobs and politicians – they’re a large group of characters that simply yell, “Rabble Rabble” over each other until it creates this incomprehensible noise and nothing gets done. That’s essentially how my committee behaves if I let them.
No, I’m not crazy. Let me explain.
The Saboteur inside you will say things to you to keep you in a place that it can control. The upside is that it prevents you from taking ultimately life-threatening chances (read: playing hopscotch on the expressway), but the flip side of that coin is that it also prevents you from taking risks that could really have us living out loud.
The voices say things that include, but definitely not limited to:
- “You’re not smart enough to do that. Who do you think you are?!?”
- “Yeah right, fatty. There’s no way you stand a chance.”
- “He’s never going to call you, you ruined it.”
- “She’s out of your league. Give up and go home where at least nobody has to see you strike out.”
- “They’re never going to hire you. You just don’t have that “thing” everyone keeps talking about.”
- “You don’t deserve it. What did you do that was so great?”
- “Don’t try… you’ll only fail and get hurt again… we all remember what that was like.”
Pretty depressing, right?
We continuously find ourselves in crappy situations and wonder how it happened. The truth is, our Saboteur told us it was a bad idea, killed our confidence, made us believe that it was better (and safer) to not stick our neck out and go for it – and that voice went unchallenged.
Ready for a heaping scoop of hard truth?
“You cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time it happens, it’s no longer a mistake – it’s a choice.”
Did he really just say that? That can’t be true.
I did say heaping, remember? This was big. Chew on it for a second. The way to pull yourself out of self-sabotage (read: not challenging those negative voices in your head), is to acknowledge what’s happening, and consciously choose your next step. For example, let’s imagine you’re unhappy with your job, and you’d like to change careers, and possibly move out of state and away from everything you know. The thought of this may trigger some of the responses in the bullets above. Hear them. Write them down. Now ask yourself, “is this thought helping me, or hurting me? When I believe this thought, do I feel good, or do I feel scared? Am I powerful or powerless?
If it makes you feel the latter of all of those options, acknowledge it. Then choose to do/feel the opposite. I know it’s often easier said than done – especially when you first start rebelling against your inner gremlin – but it does get easier. Here are some tips:
Attitude Adjustment – How is your attitude? Are you always searching for things to promote your negative outlook? A bad attitude and negativity is paramount to self-sabotage. Breathe deep, and turn the page on it today. Try seeing only the positive side for a week. It will make a HUGE difference.
Have a Plan & Work it – One of the major contributors to self-sabotage and letting the voices go unchallenged is not having a plan to support you. Make a plan for your success. Write out your goals and why they’re important to you, and start taking steps to make them happen.
Procrasterbation – Sometimes there isn’t anything quite like sitting around and doing nothing, but remember that every time you choose to procrastinate, you are also choosing not to go after what you want. If you get too comfortable being idle, you’ll sabotage projects just so you can subconsciously go back to being idle.
Fear of Failure – Many, many, many people have such a powerful fear of failing that they never really start anything. The beauty of failure is that it’s only feedback. If you learn something from it, you actually gain traction to make it happen next time. The old adage is, “If you’re not failing, you’re not really doing anything.” Get out there and do it!
Ask for Help – One of the greatest, and most often overlooked options in the pursuit of success is asking for help. How many of you are struggling, but don’t ask for help? There are people out in the world that have been in your shoes, and are full of insight and examples to help you get where you’re going. Open your mouth and start asking for help. We love to help each other.
I know this is an incredibly long post, but it’s important. The bottom line is that it’s completely normal to have negative voices in your head keeping you down. It’s almost routine to sabotage your own success from time to time. The point here is that once you know about the committee in your head, you can start consciously choosing to create different outcomes.
In the immortal words of Devo (and I use the term immortal very loosely), “When a problem comes along, you must whip it. Whip it good!”
Do you have an inner voice or gremlin you’re trying to tame? What do you do? Share you story in the comments below!
There has been a lot of negative discourse in the world these days – in case you missed it: “the economy is terrible, everything is getting too expensive, you’re not getting any younger, there’s nothing you can do, terrorism is taking over” – it’s all thrown at us every day in the media and sometimes in relationships with those closest to us.
I know, like every last one of you, I’ve found myself in situations that were not the way I’d planned them to be. Whether it’s the unexpected end of a relationship, a surprise visit (from anyone good or not-so-good), failure or falling-short of goals, or financial burdens, when things don’t go as planned it can turn us all upside-down (even if only for a few moments).
So what’s the answer to all of it? What’s the other side of this cursed coin?
There are a lot of little things you can do to shift your game, and level the playing field. They may never prevent the unexpected (it’s called unexpected for a reason), but they’ll definitely help to change the way you influence the world around you, and how it impacts you. Here are some keys for helping you through “what to do when my plans don’t go as planned.”
Tune out the “it’s never gonna get better” voice
The moment things do not go our way, we instinctively begin rattling off all the far-fetched and overly melodramatic details of how “this is just one more terrible thing” in our lives – exaggerating how the situation truly affects us. A previous post of mine [Bad Publicity] talked about this voice a lot. The messages we tell ourselves have a very serious impact on how we view the world.
Ready for a little nostalgia? Remember when you were little and upset about something and your mom told you it would be okay? You believed her! Coincidentally, she was right, wasn’t she? When did you stop believing it would be alright?
When things don’t go as planned, take a moment and listen to that voice in your head. Notice how it makes you feel to believe all the negative and depressing ideas that voice is pushing on you. If you don’t want to feel that way, choose not to believe it. 90% of the time, we blow things out of proportion. The big question is this:
Did my plan get derailed or just delayed?
Take the hint – something is trying to emerge
When what you want seems to elude you, pause for a moment and look around. What appears instead? There’s something trying to emerge in all conflict – which is exactly what happens when plans go awry! I remember working in sales a few years ago, and I found that toward the end of that job it was getting increasingly difficult to smile and stay motivated. The job wasn’t terrible on the surface, but beneath the visible, my heart was crying out for escape. I was not supposed to be there any more.
I know you’ve had moments where you suddenly saw/felt a sign that changed your perspective or brought you clarity. In fact, you may have even asked the sky/God/Universe for a sign. Well, they’re all over the place and it’s high time you gave yourself permission to slow down and see them.
As an example, let’s imagine you’re unemployed and feeling pretty down about it. Maybe you even feel like the victim of the economy. The media is posting record unemployment numbers and it’s all doom-n-gloom well into the future.
Pause. Let’s look around for a moment.
Let’s imagine that other people around you have modified their searches and have found work. Let’s even go as far to say they took risks to get the jobs they now have. What’s this sensation? Maybe the sign here is that changing your plan or taking a risk will deliver the reward you’re looking for. Are you too focused on something that’s not coming? Are you so focused on the tree in front of you that you miss the engulfing wildfire around it?
What’s trying to emerge in your struggle?
Play the Bigger Game & return to the basics
This is probably the most important piece in the equation. When plans fall apart or don’t go as expected, and you feel the weight of it all pushing you off track – discouraging and demotivating you – get back to basics. The Bigger Game is all about knowing who you are and why you do what you do. If you don’t know what it is that makes you come alive, then everything can almost taste the same. If, however, you’ve discovered what you want – what fulfills, thrills, motivates, calms, and creates you – then all you need to do is return to the why behind it.
A perfect example of this is my friend Joe. He works in his garage building custom motorcycles on weekends and most weekday nights (often well into the early morning hours). He also works 40 hours a week in a corporate job pounding phones in a cubicle in the suburbs. When things don’t go as planned, he knows it’s just a delay in his real place in life – building custom bikes.
Joe is so infinitely clear about what makes him feel most alive that he simply doesn’t let anything get in his way. His why is pumping through his veins. Motorcycle building and customizing is Joe’s “Adrenaline of Purpose.” What’s yours?
When it’s as crystal clear what you want as it is with Joe, a calmness comes over you when the unexpected happens. Instead of reacting to the stress, you get curious about it. It no longer threatens your future or happiness. You know what you want and why. That’s the first brick to lay in your foundation.
If you want help discovering what your Adrenaline of Purpose is, contact me. Let’s discover what pumps through your veins.
The Mark Twain quote above is so perfect because we need to stay present to opportunity. Even completely changed or ruined plans can unfold into the most beautiful day in your life. Give it that chance.
What do you find yourself doing/thinking/feeling/behaving when plans don’t go as planned?
Leave your comments below!
P.S. It’s all going to be okay.