Change

“Change is the only constant in life.” ~Heraclitus

We are born with only one certainty: that nothing we attach to or experience in this life will last. Nothing. Our life’s end is its only guarantee. Let us no longer focus on the illusory permanence, rather let us open our heart, mind and body to joy. Changing, fleeting, multifaceted joy.

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The fluidity of success

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver

Ever since our childhood, we are imprinted with a desire to be successful. Maybe even more so than an encouragement to allow for happiness. Our parents, our teachers, society at large, implicitly and explicitly build within the growing child the expectation for ambition, for striving towards a set of goals largely predefined. We learn to expect success to look a certain way: years of communal schooling, a degree or several, a well-paying job, a secure relationship, marriage, children. Climbing the corporate ladder. We slowly turn numb to the voice inside, and particularly try to muffle it when what it speaks to us is in discord with what those-who-know-better-and-care have been ushering us towards.

But truly, who knows better and cares more? Even people who undeniably love you, and who genuinely want accomplished their version of what’s best for you, do they truly know you better? Can they possibly care more? The life you live, the minutiae of the daily routine, the unrecognized and unfulfilled yearnings, those are internal beacons nobody else can see but you. And, if you’re like most of us, not even you. You’ve silenced them so long ago, as crazy, misguided, unworthy. Still, that does not kill them, and they continue to affect your life force. You know something is missing even though you might not know what. You might think at first that it’s a matter of quantity: you haven’t become successful enough. Your job could pay more. Your house could be bigger. Your children could be more brag-worthy. Your vacations more sparkly.

It’s hard to reach the realization that perhaps you’re trying to run faster and faster on the wrong track. That maybe the good boy or good girl you thought yourself to be has not taken the time to really examine his or her life. To see to what extent it makes your heart leap. Do you feel alive? Are you excited to be facing a new day?

There is nothing more important you could be working on uncovering, in this life, than your own version of success. What does it really mean, what can it really mean, for you. Why that salary? What does that money get you? At what price? Why this dynamic in your relationship? Are you giddy to be with the ones you’re with?

You’ve been entrusted with a miraculous existence, and it is your ultimate responsibility to savor it well. What makes you happiest? Do you do enough of it? Could you do more? Are the obstacles you perceive real? Do you consider self-sacrifice a virtue? Would you want your own children to live a life designed by others, or can you allow yourself to release the fear of anything different and entrust them to follow their own compass? Can they learn that by watching you live your life?

Ask yourself these questions, especially when you do sense that numbness. You are never stuck. There is always a way to live your life in better alignment. There are trade offs and it takes self-awareness and courage, but the reward is deeply stirring and it benefits more than just you. It can give permission to many others to engage in honest examination of their journey, question and uncover, course-correct and design for themselves the life they were born to live.

Do it.

surfing myrtle beach

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One wish

What if I told you that this is IT. This is that time you’ve been waiting for.

In fact, it was here all along, waiting for you. Waving, jumping up and down, shaking things up, trying to get your attention. “Some day”, you thought.. “Pick me, pick me!!”, this day called back. “If only,…” you wished. “It’s here, it’s all here and now”, the present whispered in your ear. You almost heard it, you even stopped for a moment.
Then the next shiny “what if” caught your precious attention and led you slippingly away from the brilliance of this space, away from this time, the only real instant, the one between this breath and the next, between two heartbeats. Between thoughts.

Astray from you, you’ve been for a while. You’re ready now to sit within. To release your tight grip on never-land. To allow. My favorite word, the first step toward embracing. Allow.

Like a deep breath, a long exhale. You can do that. It asks no more of you than to just be still. Don’t do, don’t rush, don’t spill outside of yourself. Don’t comfort. Don’t strive. Don’t entertain, nor impress. So effortless, really. Be, allow, soak it all in. The place you’re in, the sounds you hear, the smells, the sights. Do you watch the light, really take it in? How it rims around people, how it glimmers in their eyes, or on a moist leaf, how it envelops, contains, sustains. What a miracle.

Through you, in you, in this moment, the Universe is aching for respite. Will you offer it this gift? It’s all up to you, and it asks simply for stillness.

Grant it this wish, let the whole manifested world find a peaceful moment through your choice to simply be within yourself.
Fill your physical boundaries with kind acceptance. Allow. Love yourself be. Love it all be.

Thank
you.

 

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No pain, no pain

no pain no pain

 

If your experience is anything like mine, you grew up being taught that in order to accomplish anything worthwhile you needed to sweat, hurt and sacrifice.

Yes, perseverance is crucial to reaching a goal, and sustained effort is how you move forward. But does it have to be painful? Could pain be a sign of striving toward a goal that does not speak to you? Does intense work need to be “hard”?

After years of having consumed these beliefs, I am still on a detox diet of allowing myself to understand that enjoying my work hours (and there are a lot of them) is not only compatible with success, but could even be a catalyst for it. Being pulled forward by your mission is much more powerful of an engine compared to being pushed by a sheer sense of duty. Think about it. Feel about it. “Sacrifice” and “have to” is how fear moves us. “Mission” and “get to” are part of the language of love.

Dream it, feel it, and love it into being.

 

You are free to stop the harsh, self-punitive racing, and discover the intensity of gentle, purposeful, unapologetic progress.

Sometimes no pain simply means no pain.

 

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Express your love

What if you viewed your work as an expression of your love?

rumi beauty be what you do

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Fairground

Sometimes I feel like a kid at the county fair. The human experience is such an incredible ride! To have picked this time, this body these circumstances and then to dive right in, with little memory of why, and work a lifetime on uncovering that truth. Such a thrill.

Watching little kids who ache for a witness to their best moments: Look Mommy, watch me, see this, over here – or, as my daughter says, “STARE at me, Mommy”! We sometimes feel most fulfilled when our experience is shared, reflected in the eyes of others like ourselves. Why then not believe that the Universe created the manifested world to deepen the realization of oneness and beauty in a joyful and circular way: different droplets of sparkling awareness, come from the same infinite pool of consciousness, reflecting their brilliance into each other, before they merge again in the Ocean of Oneness.

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you’re sorry…

…because I say so

We tell kids to say sorry, say it “like they mean it”. Is this mostly to fulfill what we think society expects of us?

What are we really suggesting to them?

boy with finger“You don’t need to experience empathy, as long as you pretend to”. “I am not interested in what you might be feeling, as long as you make me look good by faking society-approved good manners”.

What if we took the time to drop our worry of being seen as a bad parent and actually listen to the child, get down to their level and really understand their motives and distress? What if we modeled true apologizing, for them to see and understand at a time when they are open to absorbing it, and not when they are in the hot seat?

I strongly feel that teaching is at its core an inspired way to trigger an intrinsic love of learning in someone else. Placing a purely external expectation on someone without them having made that piece of information or behavior their own is bound to unravel once the external pressure is no longer there, or once the internal frustration of being inauthentic becomes too great.

(thoughts inspired by this good article)

 

 

 

 

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giving and receiving

“When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.” ~Guy Kawasaki

To give without expecting an immediate, commensurate repayment, is a freeing act. There is true, intrinsic satisfaction in knowing that you have extended yourself towards another, you have made available your special talents or possessions for their benefit, with no other agenda than to simply offer solace, joy or inspiration. For the recipient of your no strings-attached offering, such an act can be the trigger of a restoration of hope, gratefulness and trust, feelings which in themselves can keep on giving long after the original goodwill gesture took place.

Rather than random acts of kindness (a refreshing concept nonetheless!) consider sustained, unattached sharing of what only you can share: your special insight, your unique abilities, your presence. Often the people most in need of receiving your focused time are the ones nearest you. We tend to shortchange them, during the usual busy day, since we know they will still be there tomorrow. However, there is not another today, and an opportunity for closeness and genuine connection is sometimes lost for good.

There is value in giving without expecting anything in return. There is also value in allowing ourselves to be at the receiving end of others’ warm generosity. Both allow basic human kindness to flow freely, and elevate our human race to a higher level, a little more each time.

 

Be focused on action and not on the fruits of action. Do not become confused in attachment to the fruit of your actions and do not become confused in the desire for inaction” ~Bhagavad Gita

boy offering daisies

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paralyzed by carrots

There is much to say about education, and there are many different views of what it means and how to achieve it.

I’ll focus on a topic I think is of utmost importance: the WHY of learning. Motivation.

This plays a crucial role in how people of all ages seek and absorb information and how they perform their work.

Motivation’s root word is “motive,” which means reason. We all do what we choose to do for a reason. A very popular approach to parenting, teaching, training and managing revolves around incentives and rewards as ways to trigger and maintain certain types of behavior

While this can work well for dogs, I feel strongly that this is a less than ideal way of going about educating and leading humans.

” It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” ~ Albert Einstein

There are extrinsic motivators (such as bonuses, gold stars, prizes, and similar carrots) and intrinsic motivators (passion for the specific work, the desire to better one’s performance, curiosity and the love of discovery). We, as parents as well as in management roles, tend to under-estimate the latter, and end up treating others as if nothing would get done in the absence of some sort of external pull.

However, studies on what makes people happy with their jobs have shown time and again that the main motivators aren’t material. Rather, people thrive when they feel their jobs allow them these three intrinsic rewards: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

That is not to say that monetary compensation is irrelevant. Underpaying someone will eventually hurt their performance. But once people are being paid fairly for their responsibilities, additional bonuses are considerably less relevant to their performance as are these three factors.

Autonomy: self-direction, rather than micro-management. We thrive when given the space to make decisions and learn from our successes as well as our mistakes.

Mastery: we love doing what we do well, so there needs to be an opportunity to improve one’s skills and stay on top of what is new in the specific industry you’re in. The inner satisfaction of a job well done, when allowed to blossom, cannot be matched by any type of external pat on the back.

Purpose: we spend many hours each day doing our work. To be most enthusiastic about it, and thus perform at our very best, we need to have a higher purpose for our actions. A company’s core values should be in alignment with the employee’s priorities, and there needs to be a clear way for anyone up and down the ladder to be aware of the impact and meaning their work has in  the bigger world. No “casual Friday” can even come close to raising someone’s spirits and desire to do their very best when compared to clear insights into how their work betters the lives of others.

There are companies out there who understand these concepts better than others. A results-only work environment for example is a culture where what you do matters more than the chair you sit on. That is, work hours and a specific work location become much less of a factor (if the nature of the job allows it) as long as the work is being performed well and on time. Similarly, freeing up some of the time to “work on anything” has unleashed creativity in unexpected ways and is benefiting both the employees as well as the employers.

In early education, there are child-centered approaches (such as the Montessori method) where the environment is chosen carefully, filled with materials which present specific concepts and challenges. After a brief, individual demonstration of how a specific material works, there is little need for ongoing correcting intervention from the teachers. The children then are given space to walk around the classroom and choose what they want to work on, with no interruptions (from teachers or peers), for as long as they need to, until they feel they mastered that particular material.

Perhaps the most famous study  which showed, shockingly and counter-intuitively to most, that dangling carrots can have a paralyzing effect on creative work is the Candle Experiment. In a nutshell, creative thinking was needed to solve a relatively simple problem. Some people were told they were part of a benchmark group to establish average times to a solution. Another group was told they would win a monetary prize if they complete the task the fastest. The result? The group competing for an external reward took longer to solve the problem than the group working under no such pressure! I believe that the presence of that prize breaks our much-needed concentration, and interrupts our innate voice that drives us to do our best, replacing it with another chatter, focused on external comparisons and concerns. The more intrinsic desire we already had to complete the task well, the more the negative effect of external incentives becomes amplified. Also, the larger the carrot we are pursuing, the bigger the distraction, and thus the drop in performance. What does this mean for you, as a parent, an educator or a manager?

External incentives might result in better performance for those tasks which are repetitive in nature and require little creativity. For work requiring ingenuity however, they have the opposite effect. If you are looking to foster analytical skills and creative problem-solving (in your children or your employees), the best way might be to give them the necessary tools and knowledge, a meaningful quest, then get out of their way.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. “ ~ Thomas Jefferson

montessori preschool

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your brand

I see branding as an opportunity to go deeply inside and figure out what we’re about. We begin, sometimes in a rush and superficially, with a quick logo design or a free website only to become aware, as time goes by, of the need to have a consistent message and look, a unitary way of presenting ourselves to our clients and, ultimately, to the world.

Our businesses are defined at their core by who we are. So, in order to define a brand, especially in a service industry, we need to understand why we are choosing to serve in this particular way and whom are we doing it for. It’s a clear-minded and open-hearted look inside ourselves, followed by a journey to summarize and represent the essence of what we find for others to see and understand.

This is not an easy feat, and it continues all through our life—or at least all through our business life.

“A business based on brand is, very simply, a business primed for success.” ~David F. D’Alessandro
What begins somewhat casually continues to iterate and refine, sometimes change course altogether, following inner revelations or in response to shifts in our outer world as we find and define our place and our role in the larger context of people and concepts we interact with.

Some concrete steps to take as you are starting on the journey to branding your business, particularly for a service role which has you at its core. Begin by answering these questions:

Why are you doing this?
Why now?
Who are you directing your brand’s message towards?
Why should they care? What will make them take notice?
What exactly are they paying for?

Think of (and ask people who know you to send their suggestions) three words which describe your approach or your style in your line of work. Collect these pieces of insight, sift them through your own vision and weave them into the words you used to describe your brand.

Imagine your ideal client in thorough detail. Gender? Age? Give them a name, an occupation, hobbies, a family. This step can feel intimidating to a new entrepreneur, as choosing someone so specifically will feel like you are denying all the other type of possible clients, and so are turning down work and revenue. This is not the case.

You are, however, identifying your tribe, your market niche, those people who will most appreciate what you have to offer. Your brand and your marketing efforts should be largely directed to them. There will be other client types as well, and you could devise a multi-tiered set of offerings, but ultimately, the more you can focus and specialize, the greater an impact you will make, the happier you will be, and the more of an expert status you will establish in that area.

Consider and harmonize the meaning (content) and delivery style (design) of each and every contact point in the dialog between you and your clients.

As they get to know you and experience your work, people will look for uniqueness, inspiration and a well-rounded, identifiable experience. A brand is, ultimately, a feeling someone has when working with you. A thought that comes up as soon as your business is mentioned. Your brand is intangible, yet it permeates everything you do. Approach it as honestly as you would any relationship you’d like to foster for a lifetime, and remain open to what you might learn about yourself in the process of trying to explain others what you’re all about.

“Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” ~Orson Welles

 

redhead oana hogrefe

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