Monday, April 29, 2013

Solution To All Your Problems

The problem with our problems is not that there are no solutions it's that we like complaining about them, ignoring them, or using them as excuses more then doing what it takes to fix them.

It's almost always that simple.

Seth Godin was giving a talk and asked people to write down on a card the problem that was holding them back from making their art. They then passed their "problem" to the person next to them who was tasked with writing down a solution. He didn't care if the problem was solved by this random person next to them, there is never a shortage of solutions that can be shot at a problem. But what if they did come up with perfect answer, how many would be willing to act on the solution? And unsolvable problems are their own solution because they are simply limits that need to be worked around or accepted and signal we can now move on.

So if you're stuck ask for solutions, hire an expert if you need to. But my guess is you probably know what the first step to solving your problem is you're just choosing not to do it. No judgment, I'm doing the same thing. I just happen to know that's what I'm doing... do you?

When we label and then carry around problems that aren't solvable we're wasting our time (never going to be able to fly, be 5'7", have magic to bring my loved ones back to life, or have perfect family and friends). Not to say we should give up on something because we haven't found the answer, but come on-- you know the answers to 99% of your problems, have access to find them, or know who does.

The solution to our problems is to move forward and start enacting a solution whether it be ours, an expert's, a random one suggested by the person sitting next to us and then pivot as a better solution comes along. Now the question is will we let something stop us or will we start living into the solutions... only you have that answer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scheduling Your Suffering & Sadness

Yesterday I got sucked in... I heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon and turned on the news and couldn't turn away for a full four hours. My friend Karyn was running the marathon and just last week we were talking about how excited and nervous she was, so to think she might have been in the area when the bomb went off was terrifying. She and her family are safe but I couldn't help think about all the people who were injured and the families and friends waiting to find out if they were ok.

Last night I had to take a shower at 7pm just to wash the ickiness of the worry and sadness off of me. Luckily today it is sunny and I haven't had the tv on yet and have limited my online exposure to the aftermaths. The people affected will live with the nightmare for weeks, months, probably their lifetimes, but for the rest of us we must get back to our lives. Giving blood, donations, checking in with loved ones are all good things to do but we can't get stuck in fear and sadness and let evil, tragedy, and negativity invade the rest of our lives.

Thinking about this reminded me of when my Nonne was dying. She was totally aware she had only a little time left to live and it was within months of my sister's wedding. She was sick the weekend of my sister's shower and when we thought of rescheduling or someone staying with her she said: always go to the happy event. Her philosophy was that we should never give up happiness to wallow in sadness. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful, fun, happy shower and she loved seeing them.

Later that same year I was taking a Landmark Education course and there is an exercise they do were you write down something you are suffering about and they guarantee by the time you complete the exercise your suffering will be gone. I won't give away the details but let's just say at the end of the night I was the only one left still suffering about something and the instructors had no idea what to do with me-- apparently no one had ever not stopped their suffering. What can I say, I'm gifted!

Anyway, on my drive home I am now suffering about how my suffering is so extraordinary that it can't be resolved. I climb into bed exhausted and of course as it almost always does my mind woke me up at 3 a.m. with the answer. Life isn't about not having sadness and suffering in it, it's about understanding why we're in pain and putting it in its proper place. The image came to me of boxes on a shelf that you can't ever get rid of but that you take out and "play" with when you want or need to think about something or someone then you put them back when you're tired of being sad.

The bottom line is if we thought about all the tragedy in the world we would never get out of bed. Yet, if we ignore the suffering and sadness that life has handed us we'll numb ourselves to the joys too. We need to feel things, we need to be sad, occasionally it is good to suffer a little. So schedule yourself some time for a good cry, a sad movie, a date with Ben & Jerry, or give in when the world is in mourning. And when you're done then it's time to put it where it belongs and get to the party. Go to the happy! Because that's what we're here for and that's what our Nonnes, and anyone who loves us, hell... humanity needs and wants for us.

UPDATE: Here's Karyn's post about her experience at marathon:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wildest Dreams Club

When Oprah's show was ending I wrote her a letter about her part in inspiring me to get my book deal and how instead of a book club I wanted to start a:

Wildest Dreams Club 

After I wrote about it in a blog post I began asking my friends on their birthdays what their wildest dream was... trust me you don't know your friends fully until you know their wildest dreams!

Why must you have a wildest dream in the first place? Because people who live through their kids are boring and set a horrible example to the exact kids they are trying so hard to raise. Parenting is important, I would even say it's the most important life's work a person can take on, but that said, it can't be the only thing someone does. If you are only living through someone else's dream you are letting a part of yourself die and someday you'll regret it- no matter how perfect your kids turn out. And this is true for only living for your work as well if it's simply a paycheck and not something that brings out your passion.

Not only does living into a dream make you more excited about your own life it adds a new dimension to your relationship. People want to be inspired and proud of their partners, and only talking about and making time for the kids and work is not the most engaging way to connect with your love. Very little is good about divorce but a great after-effect that can be practiced, even (especially) while in a happy marriage, is taking some time out for oneself. Don't wait until you have an empty nest or weekend visitation breaks to work on something that excites you. It doesn't need to be completely world changing it could be a great garden, running a race, taking up painting, travel-- who cares, just find something that you can have passion about and that you can dream and live into.

One of my dreams is to be around people that are enlivened to actively work on their dreams. I believe the old adage is true: you are the sum of the people you spend the most time with. And I want my sum to include people who are leading interesting engaged lives and inspire me to live my best life.

So I'm excited to announce I am hosting my first Wildest Dreams Club dream-together on April 20th. It is by invite only for the people who have done the CREATING2013 workshop. If interested please register and I'll contact you with details (past participants already have received invites). For dates & details of future events see workshop information.

Now you might not live near me or want (for some odd reason) to attend the workshop- no worries, start your own club. Get together people you think will be supportive of others, have some chutzpah, and have a dream of their own. Meet regularly, declare your dreams, see how you can assist each other and build into it anything else you think will make it your own. (Love to hear about it if you do!)

Life goes by so fast, and there are so many things that can bring us down... living into our dreams, even if it takes us a lifetime, is well worth the time and energy spent.

Happy -and Wild- Dreaming!!!

Overwhelmed at the thought of creating a WILD dream? Feel free to start here:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Backburnering Your Unreciprocal Friends

Friendships are meant to ebb and flow with the pace or changes in our lifestyles. In high school we can barely go hours without talking (or kids these days: texting) to our friends, in college we miss a roommate that goes home for merely the weekend. As we mature and get on with building our own lives and families we might go weeks, months, years without being in contact with those we could not get by 72 hours without seeing.

When we get older it's more likely friendships go through phases of lopsidedness when someone has young children, a new job, new romance or a health issue. The balance might be more one-sided while the other person is in need. And in the long run it evens out for committed friends and they are happy to take up the slack in those times.

That's all good and fine if that is happening on both ends, but what do we do with friendships we're still committed to that are not flourishing as they once did and they get way out of balance?

Unreciprocal relationships build resentment. When one person makes more effort on a continuous basis the friendship gets overly lopsided and it strains both sides. The friend who is making the greater effort starts to resent the other, the other then begins to feel put-upon; it just doesn't work. How can you maintain a friendship without feeling taken advantage of and drained by the friends who are just not that into you?

First, see if the relationship has simply run its course and it's time to let it just fade away. If that's so better to let it die its natural death. If the relationship is still worth something but you are tired of being taken for granted then it's time to backburner it. Backburning a friendship is just letting it simmer without adding anything more to it. Stop investing in the relationship or simply downgrade it. Mindy on The Mindy Project amusingly refers to friendships this way: Best friend is not a person, it's a tier. Whether with BFFs or secondary friends maybe it's time to take them down a tier or two if you find the friendship lacking.

There is no need for drama or hissy fits like in grade-school just take it down a notch and if it is meant to be rebuilt let the other person come back and make some effort. If not, then sorry to say they probably aren't really your friend anymore.

As sad as ending or backburnering friendships are there are many other people out there who would love and appreciate your friendship so now you'll have the time and energy to go find them. And don't take it personally or let it taint the fond memories you've had; sometimes we outgrow friends, gasp- they outgrow us, or we've just grown in different directions. In the end if we're meant to stay friends maybe a slow simmer on a different tier (yes, I'm mixing my metaphors) is all that is needed to eventually bring the friendship back to the top of the tiers.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

That Is Not My Circus. Those Are Not My Monkeys!

Not my circus, not my monkeys is Polish (nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpyfor not my problem.

When is something our business and when are we the keepers of the monkeys? Quick answer: almost never our business, almost never our monkeys.

Have you ever been more invested in someone's problem then they even seem to be? I have and it's bananas! The better use of our time, energy, and focus is to worry about our own monkeys, our own circus goings on. Even with those closest to us, rarely is anything we say going to make a huge impact. People do what they want. So the key is to focus on ourselves and tend to our own business and tame our own monkeys.  

Worried about slacking off co-workers? Don't- that's not your monkey- just focus on making your work its best. Concerned how your siblings marriage is going? Not your monkey- your energy would be better spent engaging in your own relationship. Over-parenting your kids? Even when it comes to your own little monkeys it's better to show them by example how you: reach for your dreams, live up to your commitments, respect your body, treat your friends, etc. In this case: monkeys see, monkeys do.

It is often said if you want to be a better person help others-- I say work on ourselves first and then everyone we come in contact with benefits. Start under your own bigtop and dealing with your own monkeys and people will be inspired by the example you're setting. Or they won't and they'll continue to live in their drama... but either way you'll be happy with less circus-chaos and more peace with everyone keeping their monkeys to themselves.