How to shrink overwhelm so you can shine your light
June 6, 2012
This week I entertained an uncomfortable house guest: The Overwhelm Critter.
The Overwhelm Critter is my personification of that part of me that feels it’s her DUTY to protect me from situations that might require change, or hard work, or the potential of feeling like (or actually BEING) a beginner. (I wrote more about her and two other common critters in this little free book.)
My Overwhelm Critter has it in her head that any such situation is inherently bad, and has perfected the art of highlighting, in relation to any such situation, tons of details at once – each one like a flashing, singing, spinning neon sign – so that the Big Picture of whatever it is I’m looking at appears to be WAY TOO MUCH for me to handle, and therefore something I can dismiss as Not What I Will Give Attention To Right Now.
On a REALLY good day of work, my Overwhelm Critter has me tucked safely into bed with a pillow over my head.
On more average ones, she has me avoiding doing what my heart wants to do, and instead doing things like check email constantly, surf the web mindlessly, or go slightly numb and blurry-eyed when in conversation with others who feel passionately about whatever it is my critter wants to protect me from.
I share this because I think encounters with the Overwhelm Critter are part of the human experience and rooted – like any self-protective behavior – in fear.
And fear is what I’m here to name. I’m here to name it and find ways to healthfully move through and beyond the control it exerts over us so that our living – MY living – can be rooted in something more enlivening.
So I’m here to tout TRUST, too, as the bridge from feeling overwhelmed to feeling more at ease and more capable of weighing input thoughtfully and seeing it nestled into a broader context of where I want my values and goals and ambitions to lead me.
So let’s get super practical.
I got overwhelmed this week by the realization, brought on by conversations with a friend whose livelihood requires her to know such things, that my efforts to buy and consume food that’s healthy for my family and our planet is only the beginning of the distance I could go in pursuit of such things.
I’m already well outside the norm of U.S. culture on such things, so this felt like a punch in the gut. Ice water poured over my head.
You guys, the food in this country is really, really messed up. And the cosmetics industry, too.
So my Overwhelm Critter jumped right in and spun each fact so brightly and blinkingly that sunglasses weren’t protection enough from the lot of them.
And as I sat there, reeling, she whispered in my ear:
- You’re already trying to manage gluten and lactose sensitivities in your home. Now you’ve got to cut out most of your go-to gluten/lactose-free products? Really? REALLY??
- You’re working more than part-time, being full-time with young kids, and barely keeping the house picked up and the toilets sort of clean. Where can you possibly find time to look for even cleaner cosmetics and food products or stores that sell them…let alone PRICE things so that you find affordable options…or prepare foods that take more time to prepare?
- The sky is totally falling, Kristin. You know that, don’t you? Everyone’s eating crap and absorbing crap through their skin and the only “winners” are Monsanto and the pharmaceutical companies that treat all the problems these systems create.
- DOOM!! GLOOM!! KABOOOM!!!!!
Can you imagine how possible it is, in the face of an onslaught like that, to feel joy, or levity, or the slightest bit energized to take positive action?
Right. Not very.
So here’s what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting this for people burdened by food concerns or environmental concerns or concerns about the media their kids take in or the education system.
And I’m suggesting these in relation to any overwhelm at all.
These very steps have transformed my inner AND outer lives this week.
1. Pull back, in your mind’s eye, from whatever it is you’re overwhelmed about, and do the (sometimes challenging) work of situating it in a broader context.
If you’re overwhelmed about the food or cosmetics industries, pull back far enough to recognize how many companies exist right now that are making it their business to care about the ingredients they use and the impact these have on our planet…or to educate so more do. Note the tide of awareness across our country turning. No matter what you do or don’t do about these issues, the tide is turning.
If you’re overwhelmed by the care you’re needing to give a dear one who’s aging or sick, pull back far enough to see this season in the broader context of both of your lives. Remember other seasons you’ve experienced. Become aware of how many other folks are in similar boats and the supports – online and in-person and in books – that exist to ease some of the burden of this. Try to get out of the forest to see this broader landscape.
The effect of this pulling-back won’t be to magically make things easy. But it does typically pop an inadvertent illusion that “the sky is falling everywhere”, or “the sky is mainly falling on me”. Both carry their own kind of burden.
2. Take stock of whether this issue you’re overwhelmed about is a torch that’s yours to carry.
In your heart of hearts, are you feeling called to be an activist around this issue?
Is this school, for example, a school that you want to help orchestrate change within?
Is this friend or relative your responsibility to help?
Can you imagine the outlines of a business or non-profit that has your heart and experiences at its core that can address this thing that has your Critter so in fits?
Whether or not this is your torch won’t necessarily mean the difference between doing something about it or doing nothing at all (even non-torch issues are things we can take action around), but it does shift where you set your sites, and can dramatically diminish the dissonance that arise when you recognize a problem and aren’t clear whether it’s your role to do anything significant about it.
3. Identify small (these can be teensy tiny) steps you can take over time to respond to this issue.
If you’ve gotten clear that this isn’t your torch to carry, these steps won’t have the purpose of creating world change. These steps will be more about honoring a value that you hold, or honoring a wish from your heart.
If you’ve gotten clear that this IS your torch to carry, these steps will have bigger goals in mind.
In both cases, the point here is to consciously turn off the spinning, blinking, neon-flashingness of all the angles and details of this issue (which your Overwhelm Critter has so dutifully turned on) and break this thing down into little, bite-sized pieces that don’t intimidate you so much.
I realize, for example, that I can get rid of the Canola oil in my pantry and quite easily buy a healthier alternative at one of the stores I already frequent. No grand restructuring of every aspect of my diet required.
There are surely 20 more steps I could identify that I could not freak out about if I did one each week (or even month, if that timeline is better).
My country’s broken food industry is not my torch to carry – I feel super clear about this – so my steps will have to do with putting my values around food into action, raising my own and my family’s awareness, and – here’s a really important one – soothing the parts of me that are in knots about this issue.
If this isn’t my torch to carry, and being mired in a sky-is-falling mentality only hinders my capacity to shine my light (i.e. do the things that ARE my work to do), I need to revisit #1 above, and find small, soothing steps to get me out of my lizard-brain reactiveness and into a calmer state.
Upping my intake of leafy greens, getting more sleep for a few days, taking time to journal and unwind before bed, limiting the conversations I have with people whose torch this is to carry: these are the sorts of things that predictably shift me out of lizard-brain fear (I talk more these moves in this video interview).
My guess is that all of the above apply, in some way, to those who say their overwhelming thing is indeed their torch to carry.
+ + + + + + + + + +
Steps like these create bridges from our places of fear and impotence – which are contagious states of mind – to places of greater confidence and ease. They give us footing on trust, which is contagious, too, and help create a more hospitable world for all of us to inhabit.
Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post
is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here
. I’m so glad you stopped by!
Lessons in Conscious Innovation
May 23, 2012
Before getting started I want to say a quick word about innovation. I think innovation ROCKS. Since recorded history began, and surely before that, people have used it to learn, to grow, and to awaken. New thoughts that give way to new questions and new discoveries and new ways of thinking and acting and creating and being human are responsible for so much goodness and vitality!
At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression by this article that I think innovation is always the best route to everything worthwhile. I don’t believe this to be true. There are traditions that stretch well across time – for individuals and for groups; in spiritual and nonspiritual arenas – that are deep sources of nourishment, sustenance and awakening. I don’t want to downplay their importance by the lessons that follow.
I’ve had a slow, visceral dawning over the last year about two related lessons. Both might be as obvious to you as the nose on your face, but I’ve a hunch that you don’t give much thought to your nose most of the time, and more conscious attention to these lessons could richly nourish your trust.
The first lesson is this:
You don’t have to do it like anyone else.
Lots of voices in the online world are saying some version of this these days, but it’s remarkable, to me personally, how possible it is to hear this and agree completely…and not actually live like it’s true.
Living like it isn’t true can include things like:
- Feeling your energy drain away around certain activities but continuing to assume those activities, or those activities done in that way, are a must.
- Not actually doing the activities you feel you simply must do, but keeping them on your to-do list anyway and feeling a gnawing dissatisfaction with the fact that they aren’t ever getting done.
- Being conscious of a dream (Get in shape! Be more peaceful in my parenting! Quit the job I hate! Get the promotion! Find love!) but getting stalled up in pursuit of it because the steps you feel it must involve aren’t ones you feel right about taking.
- Taking class after class after class (or reading book after book after book) to try to get the right information and the right set of steps to do whatever it is you want to do.
- Feeling like your real life, the one where you’re living how you want to live and feeling how you want to feel, will finally get started once you figure out how to be a grown-up, how to be a parent, how to be spiritual, how to feel safe in your skin, how to get the right friends, etc.
I’ve had these experiences in relation to parenting, to the clothes I fill my closet with, to my feelings around writing a novel without a writing degree, and most recently with the boundaries I inadvertently set around how to package and sell trust-nourishing content.
I “believe” that I don’t have to do any of these activities like anyone else, but have continued to act and/or feel as though I don’t.
It IS true that there are ways things can be done that can’t and won’t achieve our goals at all. Showing up to an interview in your underwear, for example, in almost every case, will not land you the job.
But there is a wide open field of possibility, around almost everything you can imagine, for how to do it, and succeed at doing it – even excel at doing it – NOT like everyone else.
I’m so inspired by people like Jen Lee, who challenge the common assumption that digital media is the only profitable way to go these days. What if you really don’t like ebooks? What if you can’t bear to put your content into an online course? Get creative about some alternatives.
I’m inspired by people like the Soules who are parenting non-traditionally (check out Amanda’s parenting book list or list of books on unschooling), living close to the earth, and making a living largely through online means without screen time dominating their days. This amazes me!
And Tami Strobel and so many others in the tiny house and simplicity movements – living as though the American Dream of a house, two cars, two kids, and closets crammed with stuff just isn’t their idea of fun. How cool is that to get conscious of what lights you up and then set up a lifestyle that completely supports that?
But take this lesson right down to you, sitting or standing where you are this very minute:
What about your life could lift and lighten if you truly believed that you don’t have to do that thing (that relationship, that project, that landscaping, that extracurricular routine, that sex, that exercise plan, that career, that connection with Source) just like anyone else?
If you can imagine believing such a thing but, like me, can’t always…believe it, this exercise might help.
But maybe you’re already steps beyond that thought and on to a set of fears that can come on the tails of this first lesson.
Such fears might have already flared for you, at times, while surfing the sites of “Do It Your Own Way” types, or entrepreneurs whose creative genius floors you.
Namely: What if I need the guidance of existing models? What if I’m so new at ______ that I couldn’t deviate from the norm if I tried because I simply need to know the very first things about this new-to-me task? Am I somehow less-than if this describes me?…if I’m not ready to shed all conventional skins?
Here’s where the second lesson comes in:
Many of our world’s greatest innovators started by learning from those who’ve gone before. Learning and mastering a particular form is a legitimate and downright helpful means for getting to live and dream beyond it.
Maybe you sit at the feet of a teacher and soak in and imitate everything they know for a time.
Maybe you find a how-to book about something you want to do and follow its instructions completely.
Maybe you pray like your parents or interpret sacred texts like your rabbi or priest or meditate as though that’s your only and sure-fire path to waking up.
Maybe you dress and act just like you think should….
And then you reach a day when you realize you’re ready to take a different path, a sideways step. And you’re conscious enough of what you’ve learned so far to clearly and powerfully make that choice.
Go all of us!!
This is a world and a time of great innovative possibility and a wonderful era to learn from those who’ve gone before. A wonderful era to learn consciously from what has gone before for you personally.
The more conscious you can become of what you need right now to thrive – whether that be to shed the inadvertent belief that there’s only limited right/best/awesome ways to do _______ (fill that blank in with ANYTHING you’re up to these days), or to recognize your need of concrete teachers of specific forms, the greater your trust will be that where you are, right now, is a wonderful place to start.
Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post
is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here
. I’m so glad you stopped by!
The perfect place to begin
February 28, 2012
Join me here on Wednesday for the launch of Deep Listening
, an ancient healing art with a Trust Tending twist. I look so forward to connecting with many of you this way!
April resource round-up
April 30, 2011
It’s been a rich month here for me, and I feel thoughtful as I leave it. On the one hand, my trust feels stronger. I feel much more capable of holding tension with the fears I feel around my new endeavors – capable of feeling a deepening peace about trust being possible and available and growable, even when I’m simultaneously feeling afraid. Optimism, on this front, makes such a world of difference when it comes to taking action to live beyond fear!
On the other hand, I feel aware of disappointment that my work here this month hasn’t magically dissipated the anxiety I’ve carried since starting this site. Shouldn’t one month of tending trust on this topic make me feel all zen about the newness I face here every day??
I chuckle at the ridiculousness of that, and remind myself again that this work is a life-long habit, that the process is my destination, that small inner shifts are hopeful in themselves, and also add up to big transformation. I’m not the person I was when this month began, and what happened here has played a huge role in that change.
I hope that in the new things you may be dreaming about or already embarking on, you’ve experienced big or small shifts toward trust. Thanks so much for your presence here this month, and for all the ways your words and silent participation shape the conversation!
Below are some wonderful resources for growing trust at the start of new things. If you know of other resources we need to hear about, please share in the comments below!
- The Wishing Year Noelle Oxenhandler chronicles a year spent wishing for three things (“a house, a man, my soul”). She’s a natural cynic of the power of wishing, and includes some wonderful research on the topic, so even the most skeptical may find hope in these pages. I loved this book!
- Mondo Beyondo Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher co-facilitate this online course designed to help name and unlock your dreams. My worldview was transformed by this course, and the fruits of that shift are all over my own work today.
- Finding Your Voice Jen Lee recently released this multimedia course. Jen is gifted at helping people recover their voices and stories, and this process is integral to both trust and clarity at the start of new things. Highly recommend!
- Writing from the Inside Out This book by Dennis Palumbo articulately names the fears that so often accompany and thwart the writing life, and offers wonderful, trust-inducing tools for working past them.
- The Productive Writer Sage Cohen is a soul friend of mine, and offers practical help in this book to anyone wanting to up their productivity at the page. She’s a gentle, trust-inducing soul who makes living past fear seem not only possible, but likely. Highly recommend!
- Writing the Life Poetic: An invitation to read and write poetry Another book by Sage Cohen. A must-read for anyone whose new thing is a wish for more poetry. Super practical, soulful, and beautiful read.
- What to remember when waking by David Whyte. This audio series is an amazingly trust-inducing resource for anyone, and especially those on the cusp of a new life season.
- Getting Unstuck, by Pema Chodron. The title sums this series up well. I leave these CDs, always, feeling more hopeful, grounded, and trusting.
- Working with fear, by Bridget Pilloud. Another wonderful resource for working with fear. Free.
- These 8 coaches are all such great resources for anyone seeking help. Their websites and one-on-one coaching, both, may be just the help you need.
Resources from this site:
- Click here to see an annotated list of posts from this month at Trust Tending, all related to starting new things.
Again, if you know of additional resources we need to hear about, please share in the comments below!
I’d also love to hear about any shifts you’ve been experiencing in your trust this month, or stories you’d like to tell about starting something new!
A conversation about marketing
April 27, 2011
Last week I wrote about self comparisons at the start of new things (the theme here this month) and promised a related post around goal setting. My attempts at putting words to the latter ended in the realization that I was too close to my fears to talk about them clearly. My fears were less about goal setting generally than about marketing, specifically, and the goals that can be set around this work of making goods and services known to the masses. For many of us, this is quite the fearful thing!
Time and tending trust have done wonders for me, though, and I’m feeling ready to talk. I thought I’d try something new this time and share my thoughts more candidly, “in person”. I’d love to know whether this is a form that works for you or whether you feel written reflections work better for this kind of thing. I truly want to know!
So without further adieu:
Interview: 8 coaches you need to meet
April 25, 2011
As I thought about interviews for this month of starting new things, I realized there were two types of people from whom I really wanted to hear: those who have lots of experience starting new things, and those who *help* lots of people start new things. These aren’t always mutually exclusive, but treated in isolation, they give voice to different and enlightening sides of experience.
Last week we heard from 8 entrepreneurs, so today we’ll hear from 8 life coaches.
I’m thrilled to hear from these women! These are soulful, dynamic coaches whose work is transforming our world in significant ways. They all offer one-on-one coaching, in addition to the quality information, encouragements, classes, interviews, and advice they provide on the web.
If you’re dreaming about starting something new, or floundering a bit in any life arena, one of these women might be just the person to help shift your life season to spring.
Today, each of them (alphabetically below) answers the following question:
What key advice do you think people most need to hear and believe when they’re facing fear at the start of new things?
Bridget Pilloud is an intuitive, a spiritual mechanic and a life-shifter. She works with people all over the world to help them feel better and enact positive change in their lives. She can be found at bridgetpilloud.com and on Twitter. (Kristin’s note: Bridget offers a free guided meditation so relevant to this interview. It’s titled Working With Fear, and can be listened to here.)
Fear at the start of a new thing is normal. Often, people think that if they are feeling fear at the start of a new thing, that something is wrong.
Fear is information, a sign that the new thing is important and that part of you is changing in response to the new thing. When a client of mine realizes this, it helps her honor what she is doing and to be aware of the changes within her.
The key advice that I give when someone is feeling fear is to feel that emotion without trying to fix it. To just let the feeling express itself. When you do this, your spirit is able to process the feeling, which enables you to understand it and to allow it to ebb out of you.
This makes space for you to move forward with the new thing.
What you might initially describe as fear is usually several emotions tangled together. When you feel it, and observe your feeling, you can start paying attention to the other emotions as well: emotions like excitement, anxiety and wonder. These feelings also form and inform your new thing.
Feel your feelings. Don’t try to think them. And Move Forward.
Britt Bravo Britt Bravo is a blogger, podcaster, and social media coach who believes using social media should be fun. She’s also a creative career consultant who loves to help people discover their joyful work, and make the time to do it. She loves to collage, bake cupcakes, write letters, interview big visionaries, and bring groups of people together, online and offline. You can learn more about her at brittbravo.com, and on her blog, her podcast, Twitter, and Facebook.
I’ve always wanted to grow tomatoes, but I’ve been afraid I’d kill them. Turns out my neighbor wanted to grow tomatoes too, so last weekend we went to the farmers’ market to buy some plants, and learn how to grow them. Your fears about starting something new may be related to a larger goal than growing tomatoes, but the same 5 tips apply:
1. Educate yourself
The woman we bought the plants from, as well as fellow customers, gave us all kinds of tips about which plants to buy, and how to take care of them.
2. Take small steps
I bought two tomato plants; my neighbor bought one. If they grow well, we’ll plant more.
3. Get a buddy
It was more fun learning about tomatoes with my neighbor than it would have been to do it alone. Plus, we can support each other as our tomatoes grow.
4. Accept that there will be the obstacles
When I checked in on my plants this morning, snails had already eaten a bunch of leaves. Now I need to go back to tip #1 and learn about snail prevention!
5. Embrace the process
Life’s too short to not take steps towards your dreams, even if it’s just to grow juicy, delicious, sun-ripened tomatoes (: There are no guarantees that you’ll achieve your goals, but you’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process, so enjoy it. Have fun!
Chris Zydel, MA, founder of Creative Juices Arts, has over 32 years of experience as a compassionate and soulful creativity guide. Through her classes, workshops and training programs she has devoted herself to providing the support, guidance and inspiration that allows her many students to connect with the sacred force of creativity that lives inside of us all. Visit her website at creativejuicesarts.com
I think the main thing that people need to remember when they are feeling fear about beginning something new is that it is perfectly normal to feel that way. And even something that is to be expected. Taking steps towards what you’ve never done before always means you’re venturing into the unknown. And our little lizard brains don’t trust ANYTHING that is unfamiliar. Different is always perceived as dangerous.
What gets folks into trouble is thinking that the fear means something is really wrong. And that they should wait until they don’t feel the fear before they start the new thing. Which is never going to happen. If you wait to feel unafraid you won’t ever actually DO the things you want to accomplish or create. Fear is always related to taking action. It’s usually not too scary to spend time fantasizing about your project or making endless plans. But the fear arises when the rubber is about to meet the road. Fear is just part of the territory when you you are forging a new path. And at this point in my life, while I’m still not enlightened enough to completely welcome it, I’ve come to appreciate fear as an indicator that I’m on the right track.
Jamie Ridler is a creative living coach and the founder of Jamie Ridler Studios. From coaching to workshops, from podcasting to blogging, Jamie’s work helps women find the confidence and courage to discover and express their creative selves so they can be the star they are. Her offerings can be found at her website, openthedoor.ca, Twitter, Facebook, and her podcast series, Creative Living with Jamie.
Hi, beautiful. Here you are, standing on the verge of something new, something that quite possibly could be amazing, life-changing even. It’s an adventure. That thump-thump-thump of your heart tells you so. And every adventure needs a hero, right? That’s you. Yes, you. You can do this.
See, here’s what I know. Your world expands each and every time you step into something new. And that alone is worth the risk. But there’s more. You’ll expand too. You’ll gain new skills, discover new strengths, find new guides, be amazed by new experiences, have new ideas, see new possibilities, discover new opportunities and yes, face new challenges.
But in that heart of yours is all the bravery you’ll ever need. And in your toolkit are rich resources that will help along the way. And when you step into this adventure, you’ll discover you’re more than you ever imagined. Trust yourself.
You can do this.
Kate Swoboda is a life coach, teacher, and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She supports women from around the world in making powerful choices and rocking out their lives (side note: this involves a lot of courageous laughter, love, acceptance, and not taking ourselves too seriously). She’s the author of four e-programs and creator of the Courageous Play and Create Stillness retreats. When she’s not writing, coaching,or leading retreats in Italy and San Francisco, she can be found sipping chai in libraries, buffing up on her Italian, taking photographs, or getting all bendy-stretchy on the yoga mat. Learn more at yourcourageouslife.com, or check out courageousguides.com.
The fear of failure is what dominates so much of our thinking at the outset of any new venture—whether that venture is something tangible like weight loss or starting a business, or a life shift such as self-acceptance or having more patience with others. We worry that “we can’t really change; it won’t work out.” The most helpful thing one can do at that point is to drop down into presence and surrender to simply BEing their journey. It might work out according to some pre-determined plan, or it might not—either way, BE a being, and BE your journey. Surrender to the what-is-ness of your life, and be open to all that you might learn from simply BEing where you are, and there’s no way you can lose in the face of that. It’s freedom to surrender to BEing, which is practicing acceptance.
This is warrior work when fear is running the show. To do it, one needs to slow down and get present, so that they can notice when they’re slipping out of that acceptance and into attachment to a result. In the face of that, I advocate a lot of courage, breathing, and practicing stillness.
Kendra Thornbury helps soul-centered women & evolutionary leaders create spiritual and financial freedom so that they have a greater impact & make more money….all while being true to who they are! She provides proven methods and time-tested systems that empowers clients to translate their soul’s calling into a thriving business that makes a real difference in the world.
Known for her ability to blend spirituality with business and soul with money, Kendra E Thornbury, MA, is an internationally highly acclaimed coach, spiritual guide, speaker, facilitator, author, humanitarian and entrepreneur. Visit her at kendrathornbury.com.
Congratulations! Something new is being born through you right now.
A new way of being.
The impulse of life is to grow!
Rather than stay in the tempting “safety” of the way things have been, you have courageously said yes to that next step, that new bud of life emerging in you.
And with this yes, you may notice some fear stirring.
What advice can I share about your fear?
1) Do not believe your fear.
Fears are just responses to thoughts. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they believe their fears. They think they are “true”.
Recognize that most fears are just fabrications of your mind based on past pain or future projections.
Take a few moment to identify what thoughts you have that lead to your fears. Then, consciously choose new and supportive thoughts to replace them.
2) Feel the fear.
Get comfortable with just feeling what is. Usually we run away from feelings. It doesn’t work!
So just feel. The irony is that when you really let yourself feel, the feelings change.
Expand your capacity to be with the fear. Breath. Just let it be. Watch how it shifts as you hold presence (rather than make it bad and resist it).
3) Keep going even with fear.
It’s so sad how people stop their dreams, their joy, their prosperity because they feel fear about that new next step.
They believe their fear is an indication that they “shouldn’t” move forward, or that they are not really prepared, or that there is too much threat in the change.
No! Do not let fear stop your life.
Recognize it’s there and just keep going. Let the impulse of life live.
Tara Gentile empowers artists of all sorts to produce and profit from their passion. She pushes past your comfort & convention to dig into your power of ease & independence. She can be found at taragentile.com. She is also the editor of Scoutie Girl, a daily digital zine where creatives connect, converse, and commune.
Successful, innovative people don’t start things thinking they’ve got it all figured out. In fact, they start things understanding that any expectations they have will likely be turned on end. Beginning new things can be scary but that sense of fear is only exaggerated by feeling like you actually need to know what you’re doing and what to expect.
Figuring it out as you go is liberating and often leads to better-than-imagined results!
The key piece of preparation you need is understanding the what & why of your desires – not the how.
Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer and coach. A regular contributor to Huffington Post, she writes the blog Wise Living. Click HERE to receive her free Goals Guide, “Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out (To Get What You Really Want).”
Remember that fear is, quite often, a signal that you are on a great track. It means you are stretching out of your comfort zone, risking failure or criticism. It means you are really doing something.
Remember that you are hardwired to have irrational fears. Over tens of thousands of years, our brains evolved to be highly sensitive to any possible danger, because in the wilderness, perceiving any possible threat was crucial for survival. Now hear you are, safe on your couch, and your brain’s danger alert system is misfiring all the time. Being aware of the biology and history at play in our fear can help us take it less seriously.
There are lots of simple tools for quieting fear. Use them. Three of my favorites are:
- Follow your fear through to the endgame. Whatever worst-case scenario you are freaking out about, ask yourself, “If that happened, then what would I do? How would I cope?” You’ll find a surprising calm, and resourcefulness within when you follow your fears to the endgame.
- Act! I love Angeles Arrien’s words, “action absorbs anxiety.” If needed, use supports like a buddy, a coach, a deadline, an incentive to get over fear paralysis and into action. Acting reduces fear.
- Spiritual practice. Feeling loved reduces fear. Feeling strong reduces fear. Call upon a power greater than yourself, do lovingkindness meditation, pray, or do an activity like hiking or painting that connects you to love and strength.
My heart-felt thanks to all the interviewees! I come away from reading your thoughts feeling soothed and more courageous, both. Thank you for your nourishing words here, and for the work you do every day to help people live beyond fear. Our world is so much better for it!!
This month’s theme at Trust Tending is starting new things (description here
). Click here
to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
You are enough
April 21, 2011
My lofty goals of a post today (or yesterday!) about tending trust around goal setting have been buried under more pressing commitments and a few failed attempts at putting words to my thoughts on the subject. Truth be told, my own fears and vulnerabilities on this topic (marketing is the heart of what I want to talk about) are so close in that I think I need a few days’ time to get perspective before coherent words will come.
So let’s end the week here this way:
Starting new things involves a maddening mix of gumption and vulnerability, I can do it! and What in the world was I thinking??? It often takes up more of your energy, more of your time, and more of your emotional capacities than any other thing, and makes the word “balance” (as in living in a balanced way) feel like a foreign, untranslatable concept for a while.
And that’s okay.
It’s more than okay.
It’s how things go.
If you’re in such a season, and feeling the pressure of all you want to do, all you’ve said you’ll do, and all you want to try to learn; if you’re swinging vastly between bold courage and OMG, I want to hide under the covers for a while!; if you’re bone tired from working into the night or sleeping poorly because of all that’s on your mind; if you feel green and new and uncomfortable in the knowledge that learning to walk – or run or fly, for that matter – inevitably involves trips and stumbles and flat out face plants; if you wish you could crawl up into someone’s lap and be small and safe and held there for a while:
The image above is for you.
I’m sending love and a wish for peace for us all,
On keeping self comparisons clean
April 19, 2011
Monday’s interview was a stretch for me, and I think an exploration of the reasons for that could be a trust tending move – for me, but also for anyone navigating the choppy waters of self comparisons and goal setting at the start of new things.
Toward this end, I want to explore two related thoughts – one about self comparisons, and the other about goal setting. The first I’ll post today, and the second
tomorrow on Friday.
Thought #1: Self comparisons can be just as constructive as they are destructive.
Many of the folks from Monday’s interview intimidate me. The volume of work they’ve produced does this alone, but when you add to that their business savvy and/or the strength and clarity of their convictions, I find myself silenced, sometimes, wondering what in the world I thought I was doing pursuing my dreams. By comparison, I feel like a slow-motion slug.
Leaving my comparisons with people at that – at a feeling of shame or discouragement about what I have or haven’t done or am currently capable of doing: this feels like an inherently unproductive activity, and one that uproots, rather than nourishes, an outlook of trust.
I think this is true even when our comparisons with others leave us feeling superior in some way, or proud of how much better we are at some activity than they.
Because embedded in that entire system – the one that assigns pride and shame to the various parts of every spectrum (productivity, popularity, business savvy, etc.): embedded in that system is the knowledge (fear!) that I am or could be labeled “shameful” by comparison to someone else.
I want to do everything I can to sidestep that game altogether.
What I don’t want to do is avoid comparisons altogether. Comparisons are a wonderful means of identifying places where we want to grow. They can clarify our dreams and help us recognize the nuances of who we are and who we aren’t, what we stand for, and what we can’t, with good conscience, get behind.
I wrote in the comments from last time that I’m challenged to do things I otherwise wouldn’t do by some of Seth Godin’s ideas. He’s constantly saying, “Ship it!”, meaning Get your stuff out there! Stop waiting around for someone else to say it/do it/create it/dream it up better! Stop bogging down in all the rationalizations that really have fear at their core!
This is a message I truly need to hear sometimes.
And as I said, at the same time, a closer listen to my own life and calling has me hearing this: Ship it, yes. Step out of the bog, yes. But slow is sometimes the most necessary thing for certain goals, and in some cases the more trusting, courageous act than a frantic, mad dash.
I don’t think Seth would disagree. But I don’t think these thoughts are his line, either. They aren’t his torch to bear.
My comparisons with him – as with all the rest of the people from that interview – have me clarifying the torches that are mine to carry while illuminating my edges for growth and my “fears that look like rationalizations”. I’m getting to know myself better. I’m more mindfully imagining who I want to become.
My encouragements to myself and everyone else on this point, then:
- Compare yourself with other people as a means of clarifying your torches and convictions and identifying where you’d like to grow.
- Listen with an open heart to other people’s lines, but extend the same ear and same open heart to your own convictions, regardless of how productive, popular, or rich you happen to be by comparison.
- Do what you can to sidestep the comparison game that elicits pride and shame altogether.
My roots are Christian and I’m reminded as I write this of the story where one of Jesus’s followers, Peter, wanted to walk on water. Peter was in a boat and Jesus standing on the water some distance away.
“Come,” said Jesus, and Peter stepped out of the boat onto water and – holy hills! – with his eyes on Jesus, was walking! But then he noticed the wind and waves around him and started to sink.
The points above feel a lot like keeping our eyes on the prize – maintaining the gaze that makes the treacherous wind and waves of pride and shame irrelevant as we go about the miraculous task of starting new things.
Up next: Part 2: Keeping the discomforts of goal-setting clean
This month’s theme at Trust Tending is starting new things (description here
). Click here
to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
Interview: 8 entrepreneurs that rock my world
April 18, 2011
The theme this month at Trust Tending is starting new things (click here for a list of past and future themes) and today I’m delighted to introduce you to a few of the muses that have inspired and helped me in my own new endeavors. I’m doing this for two reasons:
1. I’d love for you to know about and be inspired by these people, too!
Each perspective here is unique, and offers challenges and encouragements different from the others and from my own. Last time
I talked about finding balance between our masculine and feminine energies, and I find in this line-up a wonderful mix of both. The differences between my life approach and theirs have been important agitations in my quest to live in an ever more balanced, awake way, and our places of greatest resonance continue to be gusts of wind in my sails as I pursue my own dreams.
I believe in their work so much that I’d love to give some away! Comments on this post will be entered into a random drawing to win a product of your choice. Winner chooses from any of the linked products throughout this post (none of these are affiliate links – I simply want to share these people with you and am happily paying out of my pocket to do so!).
2. I want to dispel the myth that successful entrepreneurs aren’t real people with real fears and challenges to face.
Each person on this list faces fear and experiences places of vulnerability. Trust, for all of us, I think, is nourished as lines between “successful” and “unsuccessful” shift into planks on a boat we’re all on, called Being Human.
So today each of these 8 entrepreneurs (alphabetically below) answers the following question:
What is one of the major internal blocks that you face (or used to face) as you launch new projects, and how did/do you overcome it?
Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and world traveler with the goal of visiting every country in the world (click here for his current count). He creates super practical guides and products for anyone interested in breaking out of the status quo to a) live the life they want to live and b) change the world for the better. I love that combination! ($58 versions of linked items eligible for give-away) He publishes the Art of Nonconformity blog at ChrisGuillebeau.com, and has recently published a book by that same name: The Art of Nonconformity: Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world.
Chris: Resistance… in many forms. I have a hard time figuring out the timeliness of things. Why now? Why is this important at this particular season? That’s the bad news… once I figure it out, everything else tends to click.
Me: And how do you go about figuring this timeliness out?
Chris: It helps for me to get started, to work out the end game and plan backwards, and to latch on to one key thing — a component of the offer or message that everything else builds around.
Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist whose drawings on the backs of business cards transformed his life…and now transform tens of thousands of others’. Like Chris, he writes a lot about living outside of boxes and changing the world for good, and has published two books that communicate related ideas as only Hugh can: Ignore Everybody and Evil Plans. Hugh’s drawings were a huge inspiration for my own sketch-a-day practice, and I remain inspired and agitated (in a good way) by the ideas his images convey. Read his blog at gapingvoid.com and sign up for his free, daily cartoons here.
People often get stuck when they start comparing themselves to others- when they spend too much time watching what other people think.
I was never particularly good at following other people’s paths, but it took me a while to realize, hey, that’s OK.
Like I said in Ignore Everybody:
One evening, after one false start too many, I just gave up. Sitting at a bar, feeling a bit burned out by work and life in general, I just started drawing on the back of business cards for no reason. I didn’t really need a reason. I just did it because it was there, because it amused me in a kind of random, arbitrary way.
Of course it was stupid. Of course it was uncommercial. Of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete and utter waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge.
The biggest gift to humanity The West has made to this world, is the idea that everyone must find their own path. That’s what the ancient Greek mythology is all about. Ditto with Christianity, Star Wars and Rock & Roll.
Remember the power is within you.
Jen Lee is a Brooklyn-based writer, photographer and a regular performer in NYC’s storytelling scene. She leads workshops and retreats focusing on creative expression, and has recently launched a multimedia course titled Finding Your Voice. I had the great privilege of attending her Companions retreat in Brooklyn last year, and can vouch with heart-felt conviction for her powers as voice-finding and voice-healing guide. She blogs at JenLee.net, and her honest writings there about her inner world combined with the soul-shifting work she offers through teaching and storytelling have been sun and water and nourishment for the growth of my trust.
When I launch new projects, having to actually tell people about them and spread the word is my most dreaded task. It makes my stomach turn and my nerves really raw, and all I know to do is to keep the hot cocoa flowing and keep focusing on the gift the work will be to others. How happy they will be to discover it, how changed they could be on the other side. I reach out for support and encouragement, even though I can hardly bear to ask. And it really affects me–pretty sure I’m losing weight over this latest project’s promotion. Self-care, gentleness and rest are the best medicine I know. It takes a lot of love to be brave, and self-love surely counts.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of six books with close to a million copies in print, a retreat creator, and Comfort Queen turned activity catalyst. She just launched a new project that I’m following with so much joy and inspiration, called The Savor & Serve Experiment, at jenniferlouden.com, where you can also sign up for her acclaimed Self-Trust course and learn more about her Savor & Serve Cafe, her support center for women to do what they love in service to the world (2 months on me if you’re the winner of the drawing and choose this as your prize!).
Only one block? I only get one? Why? I think two or three would be much better.
And there you have my lovely block, my dear old friend: choosing. Limits. Driving a stake into the ground and saying, “This is it. I dedicate my heart to this.” I love potential. I dig vision, the first flush, the rush. By the time I get to the launch? Getting a bit bored. After that? Yawn.
What’s a lover of more and new to do? Investigate my fears of staying put – tease out my stories. Embrace how I want to work – don’t make it wrong. Build a project-based business with support that allows something to run without me. Have friends who see me about to abandon horses mid-stream and say, “Stop it.” Do creative stuff just for the sake of creating. Charge more so I can pay people to do stuff I hate. Partner with great people who keep the whole process more yummy. Give myself lots of vacations and rest (boredom is sometimes exhaustion).
Most important of all: focus on serving something larger than myself.
Jonathan Fields is (in his words…) a giddy dad, husband, New Yorker, serial wellness-industry entrepreneur, author, recovering S.E.C./mega-firm hedge-fund lawyer, slightly-warped, unusually-stretchy, spiritually-inclined, obsessed with creation, small-biz and online marketing consultant and venture partner, book-marketer, professional speaker, copywriter, entrepreneur-coach, yoga-teacher, columnist, once-a-decade hook-rug savant, blogger and career renegade™…gone wild. In my words, he does many things unusually well, and spending any time at all at his blog, jonathanfields.com, will give you good things to think about and apply – not just to business, or entrepreneurship, or fitness, or spirituality, or life…but really all of the above!
First, the word “block” bugs me. Language matters and when you frame something as a block it gives it more “immovable” weight and creates a perception of an impass. So let’s change it to “challenge,” which is something you rise to, something that’s far more easily framed as an opportunity.
Okay, now what is one of my major challenges in starting something new? For me, it’ often deciding where to allocate my energies. I don’t have much trouble beginning new things and taking risks. I’ve launched, built, succeeded, crashed and burned and lived to tell enough times that I know I’ll be okay. But I also know anything worth doing will take away from other things worth doing, so deciding where to spend my energy is a big focus.
I run numbers, plan, assess leaps of faith, but in the end, the greatest adventures always have unknowns and you’ve got to learn to tap and trust your intuition when making the call. I also ask a simple question – “Will this opportunity allow me to spend the greatest amount of time absorbed in activities and relationships that fill me up, while surrounding myself with people I cannot get enough of, contributing to the world in a meaningful way and earning enough to live well in that world?”
Marianne Elliott is a change-maker, a human rights advocate, a yoga teacher and a writer. She is the creator of 30 Days of Yoga, an online course to establish a regular home practice of yoga and build a kinder relationship with your body. She is currently writing a memoir about her life as a UN peacekeeper in Afghanistan, and blogs thoughtfully and soulfully at marianne-elliott.com. Marianne’s writings and presence are, for me, a true trust serum.
When I launch new things I face fear! Fear of failing, and equally fear of succeeding too much or attracting too much attention. Fear that I’m not actually good enough to do the things I’m trying to do.
I’ve thought a lot about how I work with fear and I keep coming back to Susan Jeffers line: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ It is simple, and over-used, but when you pay attention to what it says, it’s powerful.
1. Feel the fear
What doesn’t work for me is ignoring or denying my fears. I have to allow myself to feel the fear, soften towards it, meet it with compassionate clarity. And then…
2. Do it anyway
I love the simplicity of this. I’m not ‘overcoming my fear’, I’m just acting despite feeling fear. To find the courage to act even when I’m feeling fear, I connect.
I connect to people who support me. I connect to the energy and power available through my breath and body (hello yoga!). I connect to my sense of purpose, my reason for acting and I connect to the greater whole of which I am part.
Melody Ross is a free spirited visionary artist, product designer, and writer. After growing an international, multi-million dollar company from her kitchen table (chatterboxinc.com), Melody joined her sister, Kathy Wilkins, to found The Brave Girls Club, an online community of women from around the world who want to live the best, happiest, most productive and brave lives they possibly can. Whether or not you feel you’re brave, the Brave Girl’s Club is truly worth exploring – retreats, ecourses, and other products (including this soulful CD) – not excepting!
I have started enough things in life that I have fallen on my face plenty of times. I have also had some tremendous wins…and that is a blast!
I think when you have had a lot of what can be perceived as “failures” in your life, it can be both very good and very difficult. It is good because you know that you have failed before and lived through it, so if you fail again, you will live through it…just like before! It can be difficult because you remember the pain, and the weak part of yourself doesn’t want to feel that pain again.
So…how I overcome this is to remind myself that ANYONE who does big things in the world has a few “failures”…and that is where they learn what doesn’t work SO THAT they can learn what DOES work. It is part of the process.
And, if it is part of the process, it is necessary and good. So, if this time it is one of those “lessons”, I will learn wonderful things that I will able to use to get to my next win. And…I will be able to pass those lessons on to others so that they can avoid the pitfalls, and that is always a good thing too!”
Seth Godin has written thirteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. I’m challenged by the many simple, profound, unconventional ideas he writes about at his blog, and by his persistent message to “ship it!” – get your ideas out into the world without bogging down incessantly. His official website is sethgodin.com
Seth: I think the biggest internal block (for most of us) is the rationalization that looks like fact but is actually fear. We seek out proof that our fear is justified.
Me: And your strategy for identifying and moving through that rationalization?
Seth: Saying it is the strategy.
My heart-felt thanks to all the interviewees – for your good words here, and for being the lights you are in our world! My life, and trust, are better for it!
To join the drawing for a free product of your choice (linked items throughout this post are all eligible), comment on this post by Tuesday, April 19th at 8pm PDT. I’ll announce the winner here shortly thereafter.
UPDATE: I just put all the comment #s in a hat and drew….#1! Congratulations, Lindsey! I’ll be in touch to find out which product you’d like as your gift.
Much warmth to all!!
Trust tending: A balancing act
April 15, 2011
As I continue my dives into this topic of starting new things I’m bumping into something repeatedly. It feels huge and important and worth exploring thoughtfully. Truly, it feels like a key to a new world for all of us.
One of the driving ideas of this site is that force and coercion are not the most effective means of addressing fear. These can take the form of bullying ourselves into doing things that scare us; encouraging friends or coaches to “kick our butts” into doing what we know we want to do; literally or metaphorically shouting at ourselves alternative “truths” to the things our fears are telling us (i.e. I’m just fine! There’s nothing here to fear! I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!!).
These methods get things done, but generally cause fear to go underground where it continues to wreak havoc – and often worse havoc than when it’s allowed the light of day. Their efficiency is in outer results, but when it comes to achieving a peaceful inner world, they slow down or even stall out that process entirely.
Instead of force and coercion, then, I advocate a gentler approach to addressing fear. I advocate a daily practice of cultivating trust.
This practice can take any number of forms and reach into myriad arenas, but the heart of it, the seed, is this: fear naturally loses its power the more our trust takes root. And by trust I mean the sense that I’m okay no matter what happens; that learning is always possible; that there is no need to prove my worthiness of love; that my outer achievements are not benchmarks of my worth; that I can say yes and I can say no; that there isn’t any shame in changing my mind; that age and youth do not disqualify me from joining the conversation; that I can take risks and can also wait for ripeness for such things.
You get the idea.
But here’s the thing I keep bumping into: masculine energy. Like feminine energy, it’s everywhere, and this irrespective of gender. And generally speaking, public life in the western world has long been weighted far more toward masculine energy. It’s characterized by light (think: sun), action, assertion, direction, focus, and logic. Conversely, feminine energy is characterized by darkness (think: moon), receptivity, emotion, creativity, and intuition.
To me, the work of tending trust aligns more readily with feminine energy. It’s a revolutionary contrast to the more popularized, and masculine, methods of dealing with fear.
It seems to me, in all the thinking I’ve been doing about starting new things this month, that a balance of masculine and feminine energy is every bit as important in the work of tending trust as it is in the work of running countries, corporations, and firms. It seems inseparable from the capacity to listen to and honor fear (feminine energy) and not be immobilized by that listening, but motivated to strategize and take helpful action (masculine energy) in response to it.
Case in point: I have felt so vulnerable this month. I’m working on an interview series with writers and thinkers and entrepreneurs whose resumés are book-length tomes. I’m finishing an ebook that I want to share with you soon. I’m brainstorming projects that feel at the heart of my calling and well beyond my bank of experience.
These are all good things that I want to be doing, but I’m vulnerable as I do them. There is lots in me that wants to stall, to zone out, to avoid the discomfort of them all. And I’m noting that to heed these impulses would be to dwell in my feminine’s shadow.
I’m clear, however, on my current calling, and recognize a ripeness for all of these goals. So when my kids get sick in the midst of them all, and I’m left without my normal hours for work (as has happened this week), I’m discovering my capacity to lean into energies that don’t rejoice at an excuse to stall (hello, personal history!), but at the chance to face a challenge with greater determination. I’m recognizing that for me, to tend trust in all of this newness + my current week’s setbacks is to tap into my masculine strength and press forward, into the late hours if (since!) need be, to do the work I know is mine right now to do.
So here’s a question for all of us: As we start new things and simultaneously wish for grounded, peaceful inner worlds, how are our masculine and feminine energies being balanced? Where might we need to lean into one or the other to reach more effectively for the lives – inner and outer – we most want?
My hunch is that the vast majority of us could use more feminine energy to counter the forceful, coercive voices that keep us blocked and/or running doggedly after outer achievement. But maybe there are some of us whose positive, masculine energies need to be tapped in a greater way…whose trust could actually be nourished by the doors this energy takes us through.
If you’re in this camp, here’s a song for you (Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down):
And if you’re in the other, here’s one with wonderfully feminine inspiration (Trish Bruxvoort Colligan’s What If from her album Splash – highly recommend!):
May you know when to rest and when to press ahead. May clarity about the work that’s yours to do right now come. May you find, even in your unknowings, the power that flows from the masculine and feminine sides of you.
This month’s theme at Trust Tending is starting new things (description here
). Click here
to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.