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Personal Independence Day

“In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.” – Virginia Satir

It’s July 4th and outside my window I can hear the booming sound of fireworks.  It’s in independence day and the country is celebrating.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be celebrating my personal independence day, as I do every day!

I love the quote I shared with you. It says everything I could write here. So I’ll make this short.  I love my GREAT LIFE…  I’ve said is before and I’ll say it again. This is my life and I can choose to live it for myself and those I love, or I can spend my life working in a job I hate, so I can buy things I don’t need, to impress people I don’t like.  I choose my GREAT LIFE.

Fear of change

Fear of Change to Joy of Transformation

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard someone distinguish the difference between change and transformation.  The two words are often used interchangeably but are really two different things.  In further exploring and formulating a model for change and transformation it’s become clear that the not knowing the difference could mean the difference from failure to long lasting change.

When I started to work on a simplified model (simplified not simple) for change I was quick to point out the huge difference between change and transformation.  This is easily several chapters for my book but I’ll break it down.  Change is when we want a single aspect of our life to be different.  Example, I want to be thinner!  If I want to be thinner I focus change on that one area (my body) and eat and exercise to support weight loss.  Simply stated, if I want to be thinner I need to eat and exercise to lose weight.  And we all know how simple that is! That’s why we all look so good! Obviously I’m being sarcastic.  For some people focus on diet and exercise may work. That is the only thing they need to focus on to be successful.  For the mass majority of people who suffer from weight issues, it’s not so simple.

Successful weight-loss for most of us requires transformation.  Transformation is when we want a single aspect of our lives to be different but it is necessary to focus change on multiple areas in our lives to support our goal.  If I want to be thinner I need to not only focus on diet and exercise, but on my emotions that make me want to overeat, my relationship to people and my environment, my job, every person, place, or thing that effects my physical health.  Transformation requires that we inventory and manage change in numerous areas of our lives to support long term success toward the goal.  Transformation happens and we achieve long term physical health, and when you are able to say to yourself, “I can’t believe I use to live such an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Transformation is easy.  It’s complex! …but it’s easy.   Transformation requires leverage.  When we begin to change many areas of our life to support change in one area we begin to make progress on multiple levels.  We release the blocks that kept us from getting what we want.  Transformation requires support and accountability from others to help us keep inventory of our “wins.”  Transformation is a slower process, so if you’re looking to get rich quick or get “rock hard abs in 30 days then this is not for you… unfortunately if change worked for you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Change is difficult.  Change is often an oversimplified strategy to getting what we want.  Back to our weight loss example… If I only focus on diet and exercise I will lose weight.  But long term weight loss may not be possible if I engage in temporary behavior to lose the weight.  Maybe, I don’t go out with friends because my meal plan doesn’t allow me to eat out.  It’s possible that once we reach our goals and return to our “normal” routine, we begin to gain weight again.

The quick fix and failure of change strategies that don’t work cause us to give up on what we want.    You start to believe that there is something wrong with you!  You start to believe that somehow you are worse off than others and that you must be a hopeless case.  This is not true!  Maybe you’re afraid to try again.  You don’t want to be disappointed.  You don’t want to get your hopes up. The fear of failure causes us to fear change.  You settle into a comfortable level of erosion that slowly hurts your confidence, worth, and esteem.  There is nothing more devastating than awareness of the acceptance of a life you don’t love.  But there is hope.  You tried to change and you held on to your strategy and it worked till it stopped working.  Transformation may be your only hope.

On a fundamental level I strongly believe that change is holding on tight to the way things are.  If only this one thing would be different then everything would be better. Transformation is choosing to let go.  If I work toward making things better and letting go of those things that hold me back, then I’ll change.  Transformation requires we let go of people, places, things, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etc., that keep us from reaching our fullest potential; in doing so we become who we want to be.

Transformation is flexible and adaptive to a strategy that is not working.  When we are committed to transformation there is no right or wrong only honest appraisal of what works and what doesn’t and the flexibility and willingness to adapt and to keep pushing toward your goals.  Time is not part of the equation.  There is no milestone to indicate failure or success only a daily pursuit of joy in the journey.  When we practice letting go, we move toward transformation, the fear of change dissipates and we feel the joy of transformation. 

 

 

 

Silhouette of helping hand between two climber

Personal Transformation Creates GREAT Leaders

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” – Booker T. Washington

I’m a strong beleiver in the idea that GREAT leaders are often those who have experienced personal transformation.  I beleive that many leaders have experienced a personal tragedy or run into walls that caused them to radically transform who they are.

In my study of addiction, the twelve-stepper and many of those in recovery will explain that recovery is three-fold. Recovery is physical, emotional, and spiritual.  I would argue that there is a fourth level of recovery, intellectual.  Addicts who radically transform their lives do so in all four areas.

  1. Emotional – Addicts who transform their behavior learn to “turn over” the things they cannot control.  They give up those external forces that cause them stress and anxiety that push them to drink, use drugs, etc.  They learn to calm the emotional roller-coaster that causes them to act out.
  2. Physical – Addicts who transform become different people in appearance.  They end destructive behaviors such as drugs and alcohol and that causes an observable shift in appearance and behavior.  They carry themselves different and often dress different.  They change there surroundings and make an effort to fit in by removing “character defects” and “short comings” and making amends to those they have personally harmed.
  3. Spiritual – Addicts use prayer and meditation and create a “Higher Power” (for some it’s their personal definition of God).  They use this spiritual connection to create a sense of certainty.  This sense of certainty is often expressed in the thought “no matter what happens I will be OK.”  Their spiritual connection gives them peace about a future… by the way future is something that nobody can predict.
  4. Intellectual – Many addicts that transform begin to reevaluate their belief systems and patterns of behavior that caused them to abuse drugs and alcohol.  They evaluate the root causes of resentments toward “people, places, and institutions” and understand “their role” in the resentment.  This level of intellectual understanding helps the addict to adopt new thoughts that are consistent with a healthier lifestyle.

One of the primary objectives of GREAT Leaders Coaching & Consulting is to draw parallels between personal transformation and organizational transformation.  It is my strong belief that the concepts that drive personal transformation are the same as those that drive organizational transformation.  However, management gurus and self-help gurus rarely use the same language but the parallels are worth noting.

A widely studied area of leadership is the idea of transformational leaders.  My favorite theorists in this area, Bernard Bass, designed a way to measure transformational leadership and broke the theory down into 4 components.

  1. Individual consideration – Transformational leaders exhibit a great deal of consideration toward the emotional state of their associates.
  2. Idealized influence (sometimes referred to as Charismatic Leadership) – Transformational leaders act as role models for ethical behavior.  They embody the physical image of a great leader.
  3. Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders communicate optimism about future goals.  They are visionary and communicate their vision tho that it is encouraging.  They provide a sense of certainty about the future of the organization.  In my personal opinion  certainty about the future is simmilar to having a spiritual connection.
  4. Intellectual stimulation – Transformational leaders challenge assumptions, and solicit ideas from followers.  They use this information to shift or alter current practices, policies and procedures.

On a personal level transformation is experienced.  I believe that if a leader has personal experience they are able to express the same values that lead to personal transformation to lead organizational transformation.  I believe that in essence organizational transformation is the process of personally transforming every individual to support the change the organization wishes to make.  Leaders who wish to transform their organization must develop other leaders who can express concern for employees on an emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual level.

GREAT Leaders who suffered from addiction include:

  • First Lady Betty Ford
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
  • Ray Kroc
  • J. Paul Getty Jr.
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • George Bush Jr.
  • Not to mention the long list of artists, actors, writers, and creators…
Never too late

It’s Never Too Late.

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.” – George Eliot

It’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to be happy.  It’s never too late to fall in love.  It’s never to late to live the life you dreamed of… It’s never to late to feel young again!  Though my mind and body may tell me otherwise.  At 38 years old, this is not the life I had in mind when I was 30… Then again, at 30 I was living a life I couldn’t have imagined when I was 20!  Does it ever turn out the way we plan?

I love my life today, and I’d like to say I wouldn’t change a thing but that’s the beauty of life… It’s never too late to become everything I dream of.  I love my life and do everything I can to change, to grow, to challenge myself, to remove the façade, to be vulnerable, to be me.  The most amazing thing about my process of transformation is the opportunity to experience everthing from a different perspective.  The world and everything in it is different as I become renewed, transformed.

When I was active in my addiction and suffering from severe depression I hated everything.  I was afraid.  I lived as a shut it.  When I had to venture out into the real world I was a really nice guy.  People would say, “you’re always smiling” not knowing it was a defense.  I was afraid and needed ways of numbing my fears.  I discovered several coping strategies (addictions). I pushed people away.  I sought work opportunities that kept me isolated.  I thought shy and quiet was just the way I was, but in my heart I wanted to be more outgoing, more connected to others.  I’m still working really hard on that!  While I am introverted, I practice interaction with everyone.  I genuinely want to connect with people. I love it!

My transformation was in large part due to my relationships with other people recovering from addiction.  I saw these people as beautiful.  I’d hear them talk about feeling of not feeling a part of, not feeling “enough” or feeling like the “biggest piece of shit in the world” which was a tittle I had long held!  These people were fragile, vulnerable, honest, and inspiring.  I saw them with compassion and love.  They did the same for me.  I saw my transformation taking place in their eyes.  While I didn’t always believe it, I knew it was true because I saw them as they saw me, without the mask and without the façade.  I was slowly becoming the man I was meant to be.  I saw them become who they were meant to me.  Thankfully, I began to see myself as the man I should have been.

I am by no means perfect.  In fact just in the last few days I’ve been hit with some very difficult challenges and my work had slowed down.  I’m looking for a steady job while I build this site and hope to get clients.  But this is a road bump.  Joan of Arc said “I’m not afraid, I was born to do this.”  I was born to live a GREAT LIFE and share it with you.  It’s never too late to start.  If you start today, a year from now you will wish you started sooner!  Don’t let another day pass. Start now!!!

 

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Confidence

Confidence lies within.  Confidence is not an accomplishment or the desire to please others.  Confidence is knowing what you want and having the courage to go after it with or without the approval of others.  Confidence is the act of pursuing that which is in your heart knowing the end result is never the reward but the pursuit of inner strength. – Albert Castanon

What is confidence?  I thought I was confident once.  I made lot’s of money; was really successful; I had the respect of family, friends, co-workers… I was confident.  My title, my watch, my car… that’s who I was… That’s how I rolled!  Then I lost it all.  Now, I don’t know if I ever had confidence.  I know I had accomplishments, and the stuff that success buys,  but confidence?

If you lost it all… job, money, your stuff… If you lost it all would you still have your confidence?  Would you still be you?  The question is important.  These day’s you can lose your job, money, security…  Would you be confident if the things that define you were gone?

I think we would all like to believe that our confidence comes from somewhere inside us and was not the result of external validation.  Who knows?  I guess it’s one of those questions you can’t answer with certainty until you experience it.  I’ve lost it all.  I lost all my possessions… I lost my confidence, self- worth, self-esteem and will to live.  Today, I have confidence or working on it… I know I can lose it all… I did… but that doesn’t change me.  I’m confident.  I am who I am.  I’m not ashamed of my life.  I know who I am, and who I am today has nothing to do with the things I have (luckily because I don’t have much… thankfully I don’t need much).

If your confidence is based on what you earn, what you have, what you do, think about who you would be if you lost it all.  You are so much more than what you have or any titles you hold.  Do you know who you are?  What can you do if you didn’t have all that you have?

I’m in a time of my life where starting this blog and going into a new direction in my career has put a financial strain.  Will I give up? Do I believe it is possible to live the life of my dreams.  Do I believe it is possible to be a successful coach, writer, speaker?  I am successful coach, writer, and speaker!  I’m working on the financial success part of that equation!  I know who I am.  I’m confident in who I’ve become, and now I hope to let others know and God willing, have a career where I could help others build the confidence they need to live the life they dream of.

Crying woman

Overcome Negative Thinking

“For many, negative thinking is a habit, which over time, becomes an addiction… A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of the Big Three — the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn’t get you, the others are waiting in the wings.” – Peter McWilliams

I refer to most of my negative thoughts as “the usual suspects.”  For me most of my negative thoughts are part of a pattern that tells me I’m not lovable, I can’t do it, I’m not worth it, I don’t deserve it,  I’m not enough; good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, experienced enough, successful enough.  Most of the time I’m able to deal with the thought as it comes I’ve done enough personal work on myself to overcome the thought and focus on the tasks in front of me to living a GREAT LIFE.  Every once in a while I’m bombarded with thoughts that paralyze me from taking action.  In the past I’ve used food, women, drugs, alchohol, TV, the internet, and other people in self distructive ways so I wouldn’t have to deal with the thoughts.  I destroyed my mind, body and emotional health.  Today, I’ve developed a resilience against negative thinking that has transformed my life.

Under the GREAT LIFE page there is a simple but powerful exercise that helped me deal with negative thinking.  It’s a four step process to turning around your negative thoughts.  Since I had a very rough day I want to show you how I follow the formula to change the paralyzing thoughts into action.  The following is a reminder of my 4 step process (Recognize, Reject, Release, and Replace.  Follow this formula to removing negative thoughts from your life.

Recognize the thought: Usual suspects include: “I’m not enough” (smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, ______enough.)  DO NOT IGNORE THE THOUGHT.  Negative thoughts linger and when enough build up it’s like the bursting of a dam.

* For me today my negative thought was: I’ll never get a job I love, the dream of being a writer, speaker and workshop facilitator will never happen, I just need to get a job and forget what is really in my heart.

This is the kind of multiple thoughts that at once can be paralyzing.  Let’s count them. 1. I’ll never get a job.  2. I’ll never be a writer. 3. Ill never be a Speaker.  4. I’ll never be a workshop facilitator.  5. I’ll have to forget the life that is in my heart.  6. I need to get a job.

Reject the thought by following these three steps:

  1. Is it true?  If it isn’t true we can move forward.
  2. Is it permanent?  If it is true, but not permanent you can change!!!!
  3. If it’s permanent, will you let it stop you? If it is permanent you can choose to let it stop you or you can find a way… There’s always a way!!!

Reject each thought one by one.  1. I’ll never get a job.  That is not true. Fist of all I have a job. Second, though business is slow it will pick up. Finally, if I need to get a job, I’m smart and talented enough to work my way up from any bottom I am willing to start at!  2. I’ll never be a writer. Not true, I’m writing right now. 3 & 4. I’ll never be a speaker or workshop facilitator, I work as a facilitator and part time faculty at a college, I’m already a speaker and workshop facilitator.  5. I’ll have to forget the life that is in my heart.  That is not true, I am committed to living a GREAT LIFE one day at a time, this is the life that is in my heart. AND 6. I need to get a job.  This is not true. I need to earn more.  There are lots of things I can do to earn while working toward my dream.

Release: “For today that thought will not stop me.”  This simple act helps me to let go of my negative thinking and get focused on reality.

Replace: Turn the negative thought into a positive affirmation.  “I will have lots of opportunities to work.  I am a GREAT writer, speaker, coach, and workshop facilitator! I live a GREAT LIFE and I’m committed to the life that is in my heart.  I am amazing at what I do and will earn by being of service to those I can help.”

I say this affirmation five times and throughout the day as I need to.  It’s OK that we experience negative thinking from time to time.  It’s not OK when we are paralyzed by it or feel trapped in our mind.  Practice this 4 step process.  Write it out and read it nightly.  When I first developed this process, I wrote on each of my usual suspects and hung the process of replacing the thought around my bed.  I’d read and memorize the response so when the thought comes up during the day, I am ready!

IMG_4494 miracles

LIFE is a Miracle if You Choose it To Be

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

My life is a miracle.  I’m so grateful for all that I have.  While my life does not look like I thought it would by the time I reached 38, but I really can’t complain.  I am living a life that I truly love and all my experience is a blessing, nothing short of a miracle!

I’ve overcome a number of challenges in my life.  I suffered from severe depression.  I overcame addiction and self abusive behavior.  I hit such a bottom I was convinced I was unlovable and the loneliness and sense of failure made me suicidal.  I set out to destroy all that was good in my life wanted to end my suffering by taking my own life.  A twist of fate set me on a new path… Like I said, my life is a miracle.

I feel so blessed to have had the experience of struggling and suffering.  Having had this experience I’ve been able to help people who feel alone.  I’ve been able to be a miracle in someone else’s life.  I have such an appreciation for all the beauty around me that it’s hard not to see miracles.

I heard a comedian tell this story: “A friend of mine was in a car accident.  My friend said it was a miracle I survived.  No it’s not! I said,  the miracle was everyone else that didn’t get into an accident!”  Not a great joke but the delivery was good… I love this idea that everything is a miracle.  A miracle is a perspective of an experience.  I find so much joy in my life and the service I can be to others.  My experience is a miracle that I wouldn’t wish for anyone.  My life is a miracle that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  But all I see, all I am surrounded by is a miracle and I hope you can see it and experience it as I do.

 

 

 

DSC00894 gratitude

Gratitude Is The Start To A GREAT LIFE

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”  – Ann Frank

The goal of living a GREAT life daily is to start the day in Gratitude for all I have.  The GREAT life is a philosophy that is lived one day at a time.  Here is how it works for me.

I start my day being mindful of all that I am grateful for. Being grateful does not mean I think of all I love about my life. Being grateful is more of an inventory of all I have.  I’m grateful for a lot of things, my health, my home, my reliable (but not so cool) car.  I’m even grateful for the fact my life is not where I thought it would be at this age.  I’m 38, single, no kids, and financially I could be better! I’m grateful for the awareness. I’m grateful for the courage it take to look at my challenges (or problems) and know I can choose to accept it, or take action to changing it. Living a GREAT life means always choosing to take the path that will make my life better.

I once had a client tell me she could not think of anything to be grateful for in her life. She was convinced that there was nothing in her life that made it worth anything.  If you feel the same try this exercise.  Imaging lying in bed and waking from a deep sleep. You open your eyes and as your eyes focus you realize you are not at home in bed, but in the hospital. You don’t know how you got there of what happened. Imagine a doctor standing over you and saying to you “relax, you’ve been in an accident.” You respond, “what happened?” Imagine for a moment what is the worst thing the Doctor could say. Be grateful what you imagine is not what is happening to you. Can you find gratitude?

Try this exercise: Imagine your phone ringing in the middle of the night. Your gut tells you something is wrong, there’s been an accident. Imagine the call that would come in the middle of the night of news that someone you love has been in an accident and is no longer living.  Who is that person? What do they mean to you? Be grateful they are well. Better yet, call them and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Tell them you love them.

Gratitude is a powerful tool to starting your day in perspective.  Life is beautiful, the GREAT life is more than you can image when you start the day being mindful of all that is in your life.

how to be beautiful

How To Be Beautiful

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

I use to hate the man I saw in the mirror.  There was a time in my life where I lived as a shut in.  For years I isolated.  I threw towels over the mirrors in my home, I had blankets over the windows.  The house was dark and you couldn’t tell if it was night or day.  I slept all day and stayed  up all night.  I didn’t answer my phone or the door.  I pushed away everyone who loved me.  I spun into the depths of my worst thoughts about myself.  I ate, slept… I was deeply lonely, and my loneliness hurt, physically hurt.  I longed to be held and told everything would be OK.  When the pain of loneliness was so bad, I’d binge on food till the pain in my stomach masked the pain in my head.  If that didn’t work, I cut myself.  If that didn’t numb the pain, I’d take a handful of pain killers and alcohol then sleep a day or two and pray for a miracle that when I woke up something would be different.

My story of hitting bottom is long, and in several areas of my life the wreckage of my past haunts me.  But I don’t look back and wish it was different.  I don’t regret my past.  I don’t have any shame about the man I was in my addiction.  I don’t have shame about the man I was in my depression.  The pain, suffering, failure, defeat… it’s all a part of the man I’ve become.

I love who I am today.  The struggle, the challenges I’ve faced in my life shaped the man that I am.  I’ve lost well over 100 pounds from my top weight, I don’t drink or do drugs, and I have a respect for mental illness as a problem never to be taken lightly or treated by my own will.

When I look in the mirror today I’m sometimes surprised by how different I am.  When I look in the eyes of someone who’s been where I’ve been or someone who’s feeling like I’ve felt, I see beauty.  I see them in there vulnerability and they are beautiful.  I see myself…  I see a compassionate, sensitive, understanding, loving man.  I feel beautiful.

The secret to feeling beautiful… is feeling everything.  Feel shame, feel hurt, feel lonely, feel sadness, feel loss, feel defeat, feel suffering, feel vulnerable, then feel compassion, feel forgiveness, feel the courage to face your fears.  If you allow yourself the feelings, if you allow yourself help and support, I promise you will feel a beauty in yourself that will change the world around you.

great life unreasonable

Be Unreasonable…

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable one persists in  trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

I live my life with passion and at times I’m a bit idealistic… dare I say I’m a  bit naïve.  I believe in love; I believe in helping others; I believe that you can have the life you have always wanted; I believe a GREAT LIFE is possible for everyone.  I believe I can change the way we define the meaning of a great life.  Is that unreasonable?

I was never able to adapt to the world around me.  I tried.  I wore mask held on with glue that became my addictions.  The masks helped me fit in, helped me get by.  My mask that was most suffocating was the one that tried to please everyone.  The face that accepted the reasonable, predictable, mundane, and passionless.  I was reasonable, agreeable… I conformed to the world around me, and hated my life.

As I nurture my self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem I let go of my masks.  I allow myself to be seen.  I don’t need the masks today.  I don’t accept the limiting beliefs everyone finds reasonable, acceptable or tolerable.  I’m unreasonable!  For today, I try to adapt the world to me…

What you see is what you get.  I gave up my masks.  My word is all that I am.  I’m unreasonably honest.  I believe all progress depends on those who are unreasonably intolerant of a life full of predictability or expectation.   “All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  Being unreasonable depends on self-love that demands more than what we believe is possible.  Be unreasonable… love without fear, live without limits, dream bigger and FOCUS ON PROGRESS!!!  The GREAT LIFE is waiting.  Be unreasonable and don’t settle for less.