The Opposite Day

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I have a friend whose son just left for college. As she pored over his baby pictures, College Guy packed and told me about school. “This is going to be so much harder than high school AP classes.” “I already need more money for textbooks.” “I’m sure I’m going to be pulling all-nighters.”

Sound exhausting? Don’t worry – there’s still plenty of time to turn it around.

The August series, Easy Fixes, has focused on quick ways to address everyday problems. Here’s your parting gift – the technique of the opposite day.

It’s a process by author Peggy Rometo. It didn’t start on a mountain top. It was borne out of frustration.

When block after block appears, Peggy will ask herself, “What’s the exact opposite of what I would normally do? If I could start today all over again, how could I have the opposite day?”

Hold up – this isn’t a license to let your inner Darth Vader cut loose from the dark side. Simply flip your thinking past the tried and true to whatever pops into your head. Ideas first, decisions later.

College Guy has a golden opportunity to have the opposite day. His subconscious attitude is “the only quality work is hard work, so I’m preparing myself for life to be hard.” Instead, he could change his mind to, “College is going to be challenging, but I’m excited about pursuing my passion.” This outlook applies the Soul Boss principle to amp up the joy and turn down the struggle.

The Opposite Day

This series has demonstrated how people can choose the opposite day.

  1. Get the Easy Stuff Right” showed how to give up right fighting. Restrictive words like “always” and “never” were replaced with “I’m willing”. Above, College Guy was projecting how overwhelmed he was going to be, and he hadn’t even stepped on campus. He could have said, “I’m willing to be surprised.”
  2. Avoid the Fight” focused on heading off touchy situations before they spin out of control. You can use steps like: (1) remembering your original intention; (2) asking discerning questions like “Am I seeing this clearly?” and “Is this mine to do?”; and (3) using mindfulness to reign in and transform emotions that are flying fast and furious.
  3. Just Like Me” revealed how keeping an open mind is essential to staying in the flow. We’re drifting when we look for the “one size fits all” remedy, the moment everyone is just like us. Changes begin when we recognize that complexity and ambiguity are a problem for the ego’s shadow side, not Spirit.
  4. In “Plan Be“, we learned how to rise above upsetting moments. Taking random actions just to feel like we’re doing something rarely works out. When we’re feeling anxious and unhappy, we have an invitation to Plan Be.

This is the week to surprise yourself with creative solutions. Find one thing to get moving, one small shift. When you’re slipping back to those cliché, knee-jerk reactions, stop and ask yourself, “How can I have the opposite day?”

Good Find Friday: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

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“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s a classic quote from Dr. Richard Carlson that still works.

He doesn’t stop there – he has a whole list of good habits. And what a better way to wrap the August series, Easy Fixes?

Enjoy!

Dont Sweat the Small Stuff

 

Plan Be

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In the classic political movie, “The Best Man”, a politician glances at a Presidential candidate and sighs, “He fires off a cannon to kill a bug. And that’s just plain dumb.”

Can you relate?

We’ve been talking about quick ways to address everyday problems in the August series, Easy Fixes. Have you ever had a situation that didn’t sync with your master plan? And then you lost your cool and set off a cannon to kill a bug?

Suzy Toronto, author of The Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women, described the tension of learning how to handle Plan B.

Life is all about how you handle Plan B.

Plan A is always my first choice.

You know, the one where

Everything works out to be

Happily ever after.

But more often than not,

I find myself dealing with

The upside-down, inside-out version,

Where nothing goes as it should.

It’s at this point that the real

Test of my character comes in.

Do I sink, or do I swim?

Do I wallow in self-pity & play the victim,

Or simply shift gears

And make the best of the situation?

The choice is all mine.

Life is all about how you handle Plan B.

By August, you might be feeling angry or resentful after watching your beautiful 2016 intentions get turned upside-down and inside-out. Are you ready to channel all that frustration into action? Hit the brakes before action turns into acting out. Plan B is your ally.

In fact, let’s change it to Plan Be.

Loving Plan Be doesn’t mean you stop caring about results. And you certainly don’t put your feet up, idly waiting for a miracle. The easy fix is to show some patience.

A time out would have been perfect for the talk radio caller. He was passionate about starting a business, and did just that. His parents were so excited to help that they invested.

Everything sounded great…until he asked the show host for techniques about to have a hard conversation. He forgot to mention that several banks had turned down his business plan. And that his parents didn’t have cash. What they did have was a mortgage-free home.

After convincing them about the rush to launch, his parents borrowed equity. Unfortunately, their only hope to repay the debt was blow-out profits in year 1. You see, they were retired. Now he had to tell them that in addition to the business going belly up, they were probably going to lose their home.

So how do you know when it’s time to take the hint and calibrate? If you’re nervous like the caller, or if you’re taking action to compete with or get back at someone else, you have an invitation to Plan Be.

This week, don’t get anxious and shoot off a cannon to kill a bug. You may be on the sidelines, but that time to take a second look, to adjust to changing circumstances, can be filled with purpose.

And what about all those detours and delays? They can still get you to happily ever after.

Good Find Friday: Brooklyn

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Ok, it’s a chick flick.

But it’s charming.

I’m talking about “Brooklyn“, the story of a young woman trying to settle into life in 1950s New York City after leaving her family in Ireland.

Saoirse Roman is phenomenal as the idealistic, romantic Eilis Lacey. After you see her performance, you’ll understand her long list of Best Actress nominations for this role: Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice.

Julie Walters quietly steals the show as Eilis’ boarding house matron desperately trying to keep her independent tenants on the straight and narrow. After the girls make one too many jokes at the dinner table, the caustic, protective Mrs. Keogh says, “I’ll tell you this much: I am going to ask Father Flood to preach a sermon on the dangers of giddiness. I now see that giddiness is the eighth deadly sin. A giddy girl is every bit as evil as a slothful man, and the noise she makes is a lot worse. Now, enough.” Hilarious!

You’ll see yourself or the people you know in this lovely picture. If you have kids going off to college or moving into their first apartment, you’ll remember striking out on your own. If you love romance, you’ll root for Eilis to choose the right beau. But most importantly, you’ll be reminded about being your true self, wherever you land.

Enjoy!

Just Like Me

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“Everyone was just like me.”

When Michael Gates Gill, the author of How Starbucks Saved My Life, said that, it wasn’t a compliment. He recognized that everyone he had chosen to be around him – childhood friends, former colleagues from the advertising industry, and his social set – were just like him.

White. Wealthy. Privileged.

That’s why his job at Starbucks, working for a younger, black woman, was startling in more ways than one.

In the August series, Easy Fixes, we’re looking at simple ways to address everyday problems. Michael Gill’s comment demonstrates how diversity takes many forms. When you say “diversity”, it’s common to think of ethnicity, sexual orientation or economic background. But are you also exercising intellectual diversity?

By the time everyone was getting their first cup of coffee, the Operations staff was buzzing about the surprise executive announcement.

As Drew headed in from the parking garage, Susan was right behind him. She raised her eyebrows and whispered, “Lunch with Karim. Today.”

“Drew, you know Paula,” Susan said as they sat down. “What’s it like to work for her? Paula has a reputation at General Mills for running flawless teams. On the other hand, Johanna’s so relaxed. She stays out of our hair.”

Susan fidgeted. “Will our new VP change everything?”

“Not necessarily,” Drew said, trying to reassure her. “Ok, new leaders always want some things to change, but there’s a lot of good already happening.”

Karim looked puzzled. “I’m not following you. How can things change and stay the same?”

“All I’m saying is that one person isn’t all good and the other all bad. Ideally they can each bring their strengths and counter-balance the other person’s weaknesses.”

“Susan’s right – Johanna really trusts her leads. She relies on the three of us to manage our people and know when we need assistance. It’s just that sometimes she wants to have all the pieces fall into place before she engages. That’s hard in an uncertain world.”

“Paula’s the polar opposite. She’s successful because she immediately gets to the heart of the matter. Her solutions are creative and practical, but sometimes people can feel a little steamrolled as she jumps in.”

“They need to learn…I guess we all need to learn – that styles have to shift with the times. For example, as Directors, we need to know when to shut down a supply side problem before it effects the manufacturing line. At the same time, we have to have a sense for when to step back and let our food suppliers work out their supply chain issues.”

Drew shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “It’s definitely an art, not a science!”

When we’re in the flow with Spirit, complexity and ambiguity don’t scare us; we’re confident things are coming together. When the shadow side of the ego takes over, we’re looking for the instant “one size fits all” remedy – the moment everyone is just like us.

This week, curiosity is your friend – that’s your easy fix. Stay open to insights from the most unexpected places. You’ll know you’re successful when you hear yourself say, “I never thought of it that way!”

Good Find Friday: Summer Salads

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Did you plant tomatoes for the first time this year? Are you having a good harvest? Maybe too good?

Don’t worry – frost is on the way.

In the meantime, you’ll want to put all the produce overflowing in your yard and at your local Farmer’s Market to good use.

If you’re trying to use up those tomatoes, try the Heirloom Tomato and Chicken Toss. It will keep you out of a hot kitchen and will still be substantial enough for the guys in the family.

You can add to your tapas repertoire with the Summer Melon and Ham Salad with Burrata and Chile.

Are you looking for something special to make your Summer guests? Crab, Corn and Tomato Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing is elegant and comes together in less than 10 minutes. Win, win!

And what if salads bore you to tears? Here’s your rule of thumb – make your plate as bright and colorful as possible. Just remember, personal trainers like to joke, “Great bodies start in the kitchen, not the gym.”

Enjoy!

68 Quick and Delicious Summer Salads from Southern Living

Cooking Light Salad Recipes (including 22 versions of potato salad – really!)

Williams-Sonoma Pasta and Rice Salads

Williams-Sonoma Vegetable Salads

Avoid The Fight

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The older daughter sighed loudly and rolled her eyes. Her younger sister slowly destroyed the display at the end of the aisle. And where was their parent?

Don’t ask.

The August series, Easy Fixes, is looking at ways to quickly address everyday problems. Most of us don’t have an extra 5 hours to spare on our meditation cushion. We need techniques to use in the middle of our fast paced world.

As I browsed the office supply megastore one lazy Saturday morning, the agitated questions kept coming. I couldn’t tell whether Middle School Mom was talking to the staff, her kids, or thinking out loud.

“Why don’t you have all the notebooks in one place?”

“Why are the scissors so far away from the pens and highlighters?”

“Why is this stuff so expensive?!”

As a third sales associate avoided eye contact and tried to pass by, she blocked the aisle with her cart.

“You know what you need to do? Get a list of all the schools in the area, figure out their school supplies list, and then sell them in a bundle. You could make a lot of money with that!”

The sales associate was dumbfounded. He said slowly, “Well, there are a lot of public and private schools in the area. Um…I’m not sure how we would do that.”

Overhearing their conversation, another customer chimed in. “That’s a great idea! Why don’t you guys already have those packages put together? And then you could add a dollar to the price. That’s it – $1! That would be perfect!”

Sales associate #3 went blank. “Hmm…that’s an interesting idea. We’ll give that some thought.” The women continued complaining as he dashed to the stock room.

You’ve probably figured out by now that this story isn’t about school supplies. Not really.

It’s about what happens when we get triggered. And when we get triggered, we’re spoiling for a fight.

Let’s make this personal. Think back to last week. What was your breakpoint – the moment something didn’t go as planned and spun out of control?

If you could rewind the situation, what spiritual principles would you use? Here are 3 steps to avoid the fight:

  1. Start by setting an intention. When you envision the end point, what actions do you need to take to get there?
  2. Use discernment and ask yourself, “Am I seeing this clearly?” and “Is this mine to do?” Looking back, Middle School Mom might admit that getting set up for an entire school year takes time. Forcing herself to make all the decisions, especially when she already felt rushed and overwhelmed, made everyone miserable.
  3. Incorporating mindfulness will keep you on track. For example, you may have become frustrated when someone was unkind. And then, like Middle School Mom, you found a buddy who justified your aggravation, and kept it going. Instead, stay flexible and avoid your crazy spot. Do you feel like fueling resentment? Just skip that part!

If you find yourself getting a little stressed this week, go back to basics. Do you need to set an intention, be mindful, or just maintain your sense of humor and keep it loose? Fill your week with easy fixes!

Good Find Friday: Rio Olympic Games

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There’s good news and bad news.

The Summer Olympics are finally here! And in spite of health concerns (that’s the bad news), the athletes are as determined as ever – hard working and inspiring.

That’s why you’ll want to check the daily events schedule and tune in over the next few weeks.

  • To start loving sports you’ve never heard of. Canoe slalom, anyone?
  • To hear the back story of people you’ve never met, like spitfire gymnast Simone Biles.
  • And to walk away with some motivation and maybe even a new dream for your own life.

In no time, we’ll be saying to the people of Brazil, “Cada dia que passa eu me apaixono mais por você.” (Rough translation: “With every day that passes, I fall in love with you more.”)

Let the games begin!

Get The Easy Stuff Right

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It’s hard to go deep in Summer. Temperatures are hot, tempers are short, and people are daydreaming about vacation.

But does this mean that our spiritual lives hit the skids? Absolutely not. In the August series, Easy Fixes, we’ll find ways to address everyday issues in just a few minutes.

When NYU Professor Scott Galloway spied a new MBA student walking in an hour late to his first class, he asked him to leave and arrive on time to the next session. Easy fix.

That’s why he was startled when the student emailed him, complaining he was “bothered” by Galloway’s request. He argued for leniency. After all, he didn’t know it was their policy that people couldn’t walk in late. How could he since this was his first time attending? The other professors hadn’t said anything.

The other professors, you’re asking? Oh yes. Professor Galloway’s class was actually the third on the list. In the prior 60 minutes, he had already been to, and walked out of, two other classes, hoping to find one he liked the most.

Galloway had an epic response. Here’s an excerpt:

Your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class… However, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard.

In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right.

In and of themselves, they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential, which by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades.

It’s not too late.

You might be interested to learn that Scott Galloway teaches brand strategy. Unfortunately, the student forgot to add “self-awareness” to his personal brand short list.

So, how can we break down a big subject like self-awareness into an easy fix? Let’s take a single aspect: language.

Like the student, do you unintentionally give away your power, claiming things just happen? Or perhaps you hear yourself making negative statements like, “I’ll never get my money together”, or “I’m always underwater with deadlines.”

This week, listen to the words you repeat such as “always” and “never” and replace them with a new go-to phrase – “I’m willing.” Don’t pressure yourself to solve the problem immediately; just be willing.

Overwhelmed at work? “I’m willing to pick one priority today.”

Frustrated with your family? “I’m willing to see things differently.”

Do you feel like things will never change? “I’m willing to be surprised.”

And if you’ve just signed up for Professor Galloway’s class, your new mantra is, “I’m willing to show up on time.”

Start shifting the rest of your year with an easy fix. Get the easy stuff right!

Good Find Friday: The Boys in the Boat

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I fell in love with “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games” in the first ten pages. I knew this wasn’t a story that could be rushed. Within minutes, I closed my library loaner and purchased the ebook.

You’ll be inspired by the true story of University of Washington students who became Olympic champions. “The boys” were average guys, not professional athletes. During the off season, they routinely worked at the family farm, fishing in the Puget Sound, or in the logging business. Becoming champions was a hard fought physical, emotional and mental battle.

You’ll be especially touched when you read about Joe Rantz, abandoned at 10 years old after a family split. Author Daniel James Brown describes Joe’s recollection of his experience being part of a legendary team this way:

“It was when he tried to talk about “the boat” that his words began to falter and tears welled up in his eyes…Finally, watching Joe struggle for composure over and over, I realized that “the boat” was something more than just the shell or its crew. To Joe, it encompassed but transcended both – it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition.

It was a shared experience – a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished moment but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.”

Just in time for the Olympics, PBS has put together a special “American Experience” episode airing across the US in August. However, I urge you to pick up “The Boys in the Boat” and add it to your book bag. Savor every minute. Brown’s writing is insightful and poetic, and the sacrifices to get the gold will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Enjoy!

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