Ever think about why things are not happening in your world, relationships, career and life when others around you seem to be organizing and orchestrating their lives toward their goals? You too might have gone to all the workshops or summer programs and gotten the same information, gone home and thought about how to apply it to your world. You started the process but got lost along the way. Your enthusiasm started to fade when the information you had been given doesn’t make sense anymore. Or maybe you just never followed through long term because you were not quite sure how to organize it all. To drown your sorrows, you plugged yourself into cyber space and the virtual world so you could distract yourself from the emotions you are feeling about not being able to accomplish the projects successfully. And it’s hard not to listen to the harsh self talk that might call you lazy or even stupid. If this sounds familiar, know you are not the lone ranger.
So what are we talking about here? There are a couple of different issues I would like to discuss. First the issue of why you may not be having any success with applying the information that was given. Second how we all allow ourselves to become distracted by cyber space and the virtual world which takes us off point and hooks us too much into our emotions. And third, the importance of getting unplugged and back into the game with some new tools and skills to keep you awake and motivated.
Let’s deal with issue number one. Have you noticed that often times, the information one gets from the friends, colleagues, workshops, summer program or courses that one takes usually only tells you WHAT to do? You might get very excited about the information and examples given, but once you get home and try to apply the information, you realize that you weren’t told step-by-step HOW to successfully use the information and tools so you can never get to where you want to go.
“The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.”
~ Author Unknown
Examples and stories are often given to illustrate the “how to” part of the “what to do”. However, if you have never had those kinds of experiences given in the examples and stories, it is difficult to figure out what the “how to” part is. You need to have that information in order to accomplish each task or step to get to that outcome you want. Examples and stories are great, but useless until they can explain clearly “how” to put them to use. Examples are the most helpful usually when you have had some similar personal experiences. If you are novice in the professional performance field you have to figure out what the game is, what the rules are and then most importantly, how the game is played, the “how to”. How does one find the “how to” part of the “what to do”?
- Start this process by researching on line, the key words in the “what to do” part. I am sure you will come up with a plethora of examples of “how to” within your research. It is then up to you to figure out which of these resources you will need to help put your project or plan in play. You may fall off the horse a few times, but remember that failure is only an opportunity for good solid feedback and a chance for you to learn something important. And the more experience you gain, the easier it will be to understand and choose what will work for you right now and also permit you to implement the steps for each future career project using what you have just accomplished as a model with more confidence.
- Once you have the “What” and “How”, the whole enchilada, you are the only one that can successfully make the project or plan happen. Because all of us have a particular inner language system that we prefer, (auditory – I hear what you are saying, visual – I see what you mean, or feeling – It feels right to me, you might have to do some translating into your own preferred inner language system before the information you were given will make sense to you. So don’t be afraid to experiment with adjusting the language used to fit your own understanding. Then, the information and examples will probably make more sense to you and your particular way of thinking so they can become user friendly. Once that is in place you have a solid model to follow.
- Another stumbling block might be that you are waiting for someone or something to help you make sense of it all. You are the one responsible for your own growth and understanding of life. You can’t just do some project or work some plan for a week or even a month, and expect immediate results. A career and life are a process of trial and error. Results are most times not immediately forth coming. Yes, you can usually see some progress but the process requires you to do something toward the outcome you want each and every day. That’s why the tortoise won the race.
- If you want to succeed, you can’t throw whatever it is you are trying to achieve away and go back to your old unproductive habits. Our current world seems to be into the mode of immediate gratification, you know, have it all right now. Having to delay gratification often seems too hard to tolerate. Notice if this is a pattern you follow. Changing your mind about this issue is your choice and if you choose to change your mind about something, it will take some real resolve on your part to make it happen. Like making any other kinds of change in your life, you have to be awake and alert so you can notice when it, the bad habit, starts to rear its ugly head. This gives you a tiny window of time to sound the alarm which reminds you to adjust your thinking and make some changes. This is the way all of us change our habits, by being mindful. It is the art of seeing that every moment has a value of its own, even if the experience of that moment does not connect with any of our ambitions, goals or mental preoccupations. Simple, just not easy!
“When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole world revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Want to try being mindful right now? Try this visualization:
Take some task that would normally bore you to death, some mundane chore like sweeping the floor. Read the preparation and execution then close your eyes and using your imagination, experience this task.
- Preparation – As you contemplate the task ahead, promise yourself that you will concentrate only on the physical experience in itself, your senses, and not get distracted by thoughts of what you could be doing instead or will do after you have finished this exercise or by the slowness of the work.
- Execution – In your imagination perform the task of sweeping while being alert with all your senses: hearing – seeing – feeling – tasting – smelling. In your imagination see what type of broom you are going to be using. Feel how the broom feels in your hands. Feel the texture and thickness of the handle with your fingers are you prepare to sweep. Hear the sound of the broom swishing against the floor. Notice the subtle smells released from the floor. Notice the rhythmic movement of the broom in your hands, arms and body as you sweep. Be aware of how your whole body responds to this movement. Rest here and observe.
How was that for you? Did you learn anything new about being awake and mindful? If so, put it someplace in the forefront of your mind to remind yourself how to make it happen and how it helps slow any process down so it might help make it possible to accomplish.
Sometimes having too much information available can also take us off point and we lose our interest and focus on what we want to accomplish. Never before in human history have we been the recipients of so much information designed to fill us with ideas, desires, and distractions. The news of the world good, bad or indifferent is available at every hour of every day.
- Sometimes we use this kind of distraction to help keep our internal “Brat” from taking over; you know that pesky internal chatter in our own heads. Instead of taking the time to quiet the “Brat”, so we can actually think our own thoughts peacefully, we instead often times put on a set of headphones to distract ourselves with music, spending time talking to someone on the phone, text messaging, or Twittering.
- Surfing the web can become a big distraction even through you start out with greatest of intentions. Your intention is to research a specific subject and one link leads to another and you are very quickly off deep into the world of cyber space forgetting what you went there for in the first place.
- Another distraction can be virtual social networks like Face Book and the like. OMG, one could waste a whole day there for sure. These are all reasons for not getting the job at hand done. It’s the distractions we allow ourselves to give in to that all come with emotional baggage that can keep us wasting our precious resources of time, energy and sometimes even money. Habitually we go there just so we don’t have to deal with our own thoughts, make time for any kind of quiet contemplation, perform some mundane task we hate doing or do a job that requires some measure of confrontation.
“We avoid the things that we’re afraid of because we think there will be dire consequences if we confront them. But the truly dire consequences in our lives come from avoiding things that we need to learn about or discover.”
~ Shakti Gawain
Another reason you might use distraction as a tool without really recognizing it is that you might feel deep down you are not equipped to handle whatever it is that is bothering you ? We think it should be easy to focus on our own thoughts, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, or use our energy to create and maintain real and lasting relationships. We often feel as if we are the only ones with these doubts, insecurities, frustrations and internal chaos. So we hide behind and become very attached to being distracted and as I said before, to all of the emotion baggage that goes with it.
As hard as it is to believe, taking a break from being that plugged into the world and tuned out from your innermost self might be refreshing and certainly help you get a more balanced perspective of your life even though it might require that you make some changes. That means get out in nature or go to a gallery or museum and really be there in a mindful way.
In the 16th century sailors used the term “fetish” which comes from the Portuguese word meaning charm to describe the odd objects made of many different items that were worshipped by the natives of western Africa. The sailors thought them interesting souvenirs to bring home, but the Africans held them in great esteem believing that they were home to the spirits.
We too have our own version of this “fetish.” It is our emotional attachment to certain people, our things, stuff and our every day pluggediness, that often creates an addiction to them.
- Take the time to notice how much of your own soul and spirit is invested in your things and stuff. Many of us allow them to define our worth and we often make their acquisition and constant usage one of the central goals of our lives with all the emotional baggage attached. Shunning the material world which also includes that emotional baggage is not an automatic “get out of jail free” card. The more we feed our materialistic, distracted and emotional appetites, the hungrier they become.
- Your “fetishes” provide a link with your past, and are a message to your future. Think about that!
- Often all three, our love of our material things, our distraction choices and our emotions allow us to stay stuck in our comfort zone afraid to break out and take that much needed risk that will move us forward on our career path.
All are tricky because we tend to feel that they are valid in and of themselves. But succumbing to the emotional longing to possess something or someone can and often does create distractions and defenses which can often make you feel like an unwilling “hostage.”
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. ”
~ Henry David Thoreau
The challenge to all of this is to remind yourself that your own worth is innate and enduring. The worth of any object or relationship and it’s emotional pull – whether it be a piece of art, a car, an heirloom, a person, surfing the web, spending too much time in the virtual social world or perhaps even success, lies in what it is, not in whether you can aspire to possess it one day or fear its loss.
From my own experience I feel it all boils down to knowing how to slow down just a wee bit and having the guts to get more unplugged and tuned into the present. It might feel very unnerving and uncomfortable in the beginning. However this allows you to start looking at your world through different eyes. You need to be awake in the sense that you are not always only in your thinking mind, which is a great tool, but also a great emotional distracter. Here’s an example of what I mean. See if this sounds familiar: You start out with some great thought that then brings you to something else, and that leads to what you to, “I forgot to pick up the laundry” to “I need to call …….”, I forgot to cancel my coaching, etc. and you are off and running finding it almost impossible to get back to that terrific thought you had in the first place. You get the idea. And don’t forget to notice the emotional range you just experienced as each thought went through your mind as well. Each thought you just had held a different level and type of emotional pull. It’s exhausting! However, being awake brings you to being able to focus without distraction because you are in the moment doing the task and nothing else. Not a bad exchange!
And when you start to feel that emotional pull, try this tool: physically taking one step back away from emotion and see, feel and hear it as you leave it over there. You might have to do that a few times, but by becoming disassociated from the emotion, you have the ability to remain curious and flexible within the situation looking only at the information and facts. It does work so try it. And they say practice makes perfect. So it stands to reason that the more you are able to apply these tools, the easier and more habitual it will become.
Getting what you want sometimes requires being unplugged from the “data” world or even the Ipod downloaded music world. Being connected and available is a good thing if done in moderation. However, most times we seem to be lulled to sleep by plugging into the pre-packaged images and sounds that the mind has become addicted to. So wake yourself up, and remain curious and flexible. Every thought is an act of creation. Don’t ignore the visionary within yourself. You are very capable of conceiving of and bringing about your own destiny. You have the capacity to be utterly original in your thinking and can fulfill your potential each and every day.
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
I hope the goal for you now is to make the time to think about how this new idea might work in your life and relationships including the one with yourself. It’s for sure going to be a challenge. It’s for sure going to be different. So the question to ask yourself is: is it worth your time and energy? For me, the answering is always yes. Is it for you?
Ciao until next time, Carol