All posts by Jay Forte

About Jay Forte

Jay Forte is a Greatness Coach, author and speaker. He uses his speaking and writing to inspire others to discover their unique abilities (their greatness) then to find applications to bring that greatness into the world. He works with teens, young adults and others who are looking to discover their fit in life – to connect their “greatest joy with the world’s greatest needs.” His tools, blogs, coaching, programs and books can be found at www.TheGreatnessZone.com.

Is Your Life A Super Highway or a Garden Path?

gardenSo many of us feel like our lives are a race – a dash. We are sprinting through the events of our lives to get them “all done.” We have amazing to-do lists; we are compelled to achieve and accomplish; society says this is how we get ahead. We pride ourselves on being so productive.

But what if, instead, the value of life were not in the dash and amount of things we do, but in the quality of life’s events – in the time we spend enjoying, connecting and becoming part of what we do? What if life were more like a garden path than a superhighway?

My dad was an amazing gardener. And the garden was the learning ground for so many lessons in life.  The greatest lesson I remember is the role of the garden path.

He explained that the garden path is designed to help us slow down and connect to the Earth, Mother Nature and the amazing flora around us. A path zigs and zags – it is never a straight line. The straight line pulls us to a destination; we feel obliged to keep moving – get someone where. The meandering garden path, on the other hand, encourages us to slow down and to spend time on each curve, connecting with and admiring each new view because at each bend in the path, the view is entirely different. There is so much more to see; there is so much more to be part of.

It is the same with life. With each new event in life, we see things differently. We learn. We appreciate. We participate more fully when we slow down and become more present.

Life on the straight path – on the superhighways – encourages us to move quickly; the garden path encourages us to slow down and connect with our amazing planet, nature and the beauty of our environment. We show up more to the moments of our lives. Life is fuller. Life is richer. Life is more amazing.

For my family, planning what was planted along the path was a labor of love. We would visit nursery after nursery, looking at plant size and colors (in all seasons), and sampling fragrances. The walk along the path was to be a full sensory experience – to hear the wind in the foliage, to see the colors in the flowers and leaves, to smell the scents and to touch the textures. Our gardens were outdoor masterpieces – works of art that were inspired by love and created for the benefit of all who would commit the time to come off of the highway and intentionally choose to walk instead of run, notice instead of ignore and share instead of take. Heaven.

My dad is no longer with us, but his love of gardening, plants and nature courses through the veins of all of my five siblings and me. Though we are also a family that can get comfortable on the superhighway – focused on achieving and doing – we always remember the valuable lesson of the garden path – I lesson I am glad to share. We know that there is more to life than a grand to-do list. Life was not designed for the dash; it was designed for the meandering walk along a great garden path, to appreciate and be part of the things along the way.

Here is one of Dad’s favorite garden poems that my siblings and I now keep posted on our fridges or computers – to remind us of what he used to regularly call to remind us: go out in the garden, life is beautiful there.

There’s peace within a garden,

A peace so deep and calm;

That when the heart is troubled,

It’s like a healing balm.

 

There’s life within a garden,

A life that still goes on,

Filling the empty places

When older plants have gone.

 

There’s glory in a garden,

At every time of year;

Spring, summer, autumn, winter

To fill the heart with cheer.

 

So ever tend your garden,

Its beauty to increase;

For in it you’ll find solace,

And in it, you’ll find peace.

Be intentional about your time with the gifts of our planet, that generously share themselves with those who take the time to notice.  Go out in the garden.

3 Tips to “Wake Up” with Spring

wake upApril. Spring. Daffodils. Tulips. Magnolias. Things that were resting, sleeping or hiding are now starting to wake up and join life again.

We all need rest. We have complex bodies and minds that need time to disconnect and recharge. Winter is that for many of us; the weather forces us in instead of out. It forces us to watch instead of participate. It forces us to hide instead of run free.

And now that spring is here, we wake up. We watch nature wake with the first rounds of colors – from forsythia to crocus to tulips to daffodils. We watch dogwoods and magnolias bud and the first new tender leaves change the stark and gray-brown views along our highways to light, faint, mint green. Nature’s awake.

The energy of spring reactivates our energy. We shed our winter doldrums and step outside, taking in the smell of a new world – warmer, greener, more fragrant and more welcoming. This welcome can encourage us to see ourselves differently.

We had dinner with another couple last night. One of the couple has used this change of seasons to shed the old and to step into the new. He changed his exercise program to include more time outside – walking, investigating and connecting to his world. He changed his look with a neater, trimmer hairstyle and chic hip glasses. I asked what had inspired the change. He shared that there was a new and better self wanting to surface and that spring inspired this change. He is happier, healthier and more connected to his life. His relationships are stronger, his approach to work has improved and his time with his kids is better. A season change inspired his personal change. Brilliant.

Lessons?

  1. Let the “wake-up” rhythm of the season inspire us with new energy, ideas and plans. Make an intention to get up earlier and spend more time with your day, the people in it and the dreams that it inspires. Pull the family together and brainstorm ways for all of its members to embrace it and use the new energy to improve their outlook, effort and approach to life. Implement your ideas. Have a plan. Act.
  2. See the colors of spring as a reminder to add more color to our lives. Make an intention to connect more with the people who matter in your life. Do things that feed your spirit and soul. Plan an adventure. Paint your walls. Buy a new bright article of clothing. Bring flowers into the house. Play more music. Open the windows. Buy a new flowering plant. Shed the winter grays in favor of vibrant spring colors.
  3. See the arrival of spring as a gift. Trees with new leaves, gardens of flowers, sounds of birds, footprints of deer and the fragrances of the season are all gifts of spring. Make an intention to notice and appreciate these gifts. With the arrival of spring to many parts of the country, our views have almost instantaneously changed from somber to vivid. Notice it. Spend time with it. Appreciate it. Share it. Love it.

Spring inspires energy – wake up and show up big to life. What intentions can you make to use today’s energy to awaken a bigger, better, greater you?

Nature is showing and sharing its best. Seems like a great time for us to do the same.

Life is Like Pasta – Which Type Are You?

pastaMy family is Italian. In an Italian house, all good life lessons always involve food. Here is one. 

Life is truly like pasta because no matter how you serve it, it is always good. But with a little information about the shape of the pasta (what makes it unique) and the sauce that fits it, it can change the dish from good to great. This requires a quick pasta lesson:

Pasta is a “carrier” – the shape of the pasta is used to deliver, appreciate and celebrate its sauce. There are 9 types of pasta – short/long, smooth/lined, flat/round, straight/cupped, or filled. Pasta – good. Pasta with the right sauce – great.

So think of it this way:

• Smooth pasta works best with sauces like oil or butter – something to coat the pasta – think pesto.

• Pasta with lines (“rigate” in Italian) works best with wet sauces because the lines hold the sauce – think marinara, Bolognese, vegetable or meat sauces.

• Pasta with cup, scoop or tube shapes works best with creamy sauces – to scoop the sauce with each bite – think alfredo or any cheese sauces.

• Filled pasta – ravioli, totellini, angelotti – works best with light sauces to be able to taste the amazing filling.

Think about the American favorite – spaghetti with meat sauce. A meat or tomato sauce does not stick to a slick, long and thin, slippery pasta. The result is when you finish the pasta, the sauce is still in the bowl. Unforgivable for an Italian! (Suggestion: if you love meat or tomato sauce, use a lined ziti, penne, mostaccioli or rigatoni – you’ll enjoy the sauce and the pasta together.) With this little bit of information, we can now better match the sauce with the pasta and go from good to great.

It is the same in life. We are each like a unique shape of pasta; we are good in some situations but great in others. We first have to know our shape – our unique abilities – our talents, strengths and passions. Knowing this, along with knowing our world, we start to find ways to connect what is best in us with our world. We find work and life situations that fit us. We find and do our “thing.” We feel capable, competent, happy and courageous. We move from good to great. We are like the correct matching of the right shape of pasta with the right sauce. Everything is better.

I think of this every time I stand before the 30 or so shapes of pasta at the grocery store. When I look at the boxes of pasta, I see opportunities in each shape – to match them to what sauce works best for them. I see the same when I look at people in my seminars or programs, or those I coach – each is unique and able to create something amazing when they learn how to build their world around what makes them unique – how to connect their lives (sauces) to their unique abilities (shapes).

The more we know and appreciate what makes us unique, the more I am reminded of what my mother told us as she taught my five siblings and me how to cook, “When you know your ingredients, you can always make something great.” Know your ingredients – your talents, strengths and passions – then select the things in life that need your amazing (and unique) ingredients. This is how to go from good to great in the kitchen, and in life.

One of my favorite pasta recipes: Ziti with Spinach and Olives

In a large sauté pan, sauté a finally chopped onion, pancetta (or smoky bacon) and crushed red pepper in olive oil. When cooked, add black and green olives (I’m Italian – I don’t measure things; we go by look and feel. Add as many olives as you like). In a separate pot, cook ziti (smooth, no lines; this is an oil-based sauce). Drain ziti and add to it to the pan with onion, pancetta and olives, and return it to the (low) heat. Add a handful of fresh gently chopped spinach for each person being served and stir until the spinach is wilted and the ingredients are blended. Pour into a large warmed pasta bowl to be set in the middle of the table. Top with fresh ground black pepper and freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Total time – about 12 minutes. Swap out the spinach for swiss chard, beet greens, arugula, kale or whatever is fresh. Serve with a salad. Tutti a tavola!

The World Is Not Against You: 3 Tips for Battling Depression

depressionA coaching client of mine lost her job – for the second time this year. Downsizing. Company problems. None of it had to do with her performance – which was exceptional. She received a glowing letter of recommendation from her CEO to help her land her next job. She asked, “Why is the world so against me? Why do bad things always happen to me?”

We all think this from time to time. We have great plans. They don’t work out. Someone we care about leaves. The person we want to spend time with can’t or won’t spend time with us. A storm damages our house, car or something that we value. Our company fails. We go bankrupt. We think the world has it out for us.

Then we look to see if we have been good – because, you know, it isn’t right or fair that bad things happen to good people. We feel that if we change, and become better, our lives will improve. Then another difficult life event happens and we are back to being depressed, challenged and upset. We, like my client, think the world has it out for us.

I used to think this when things until I heard something that changed my perspective. I was listening to a podcast about earthquakes. (Bear with me, this will make sense in a minute.) In the podcast, they were explaining why earthquakes happen – the movement of the tectonic plates deep within the earth. The earth is alive – the plates within the Earth are always moving. In short, the Earth does what is true to its nature – it brings the materials deep from the earth to the surface to regenerate and recharge itself. It isn’t spiteful or against us. It isn’t personal. Though we may be affected by an earthquake, it isn’t against us.

This helped me better understand life – it is as it is. We can choose to be disappointed, depressed, upset, bitter and hateful for what “happens to us” or we can see that life happens – it isn’t spiteful and the world isn’t against us. When we realize this, we can now focus our energy not to fight with it, feel victimized or be upset.

How can we remember to see that the world isn’t against us? Consider these:

    1. Remember: The only thing I can control is my response. We are small players in a big universe. We can’t control many of the things that affect our planet, country, state, neighborhood, house, family, work and health. We can, however, choose to show up present to each moment to see and understand what life is sharing with us – then choose the best response in the next moment, using all that we know. We can only control our response to the events of our lives – our thoughts, feelings and actions from the events; we can’t control the events.
    2. Ask: What are two opportunities that can come from this? Getting out of victim thinking and into an opportunity mindset is the key to thriving in our big wild world. By changing our focus from what is not right to seeing opportunities, we shift our energy from negative/victim (catabolic) to optimistic/opportunistic (anabolic). In this way, we can shift our energy from lack to one of power that can invent, create, solve, anticipate and appreciate.
    3. Ask: How will this help me show up bigger, truer, stronger, or more capable?  Developing the ability to see opportunities, regardless of what life sends us, enables us to handle the tough events in life with grace, optimism and courage; we see them as the opportunity to be better. I think we are hardwired to struggle – meaning we have the built-in capacity to be resilient and tenacious. This enables us to go head-to-head with the tough times to use them to become more aware of how capable we truly are.

Life is as it is. It doesn’t pick a fight with us; it isn’t against us. It delivers what it delivers. Our days would be happier if we could learn to see life as a friend and a teacher. It is a friend when it sends us beautiful days, success and opportunity; it is a teacher when it sends us pain, challenge and struggle. Both are for us. Both benefit us. We can use both to show the world how strong, capable, courageous and amazing we can be.

3 Steps to Reload When You’re Filled to Capacity

capacityOur lives are filled to capacity. Technology has encouraged us to stay connected in every moment. We rarely allow ourselves time to think, to be, to experience, to dream. We can’t make any space to allow for new things in life because we have filled every moment with something.

A solution is to learn to intentionally NOT fill the daily schedule. Having time and making space creates the opportunity for spontaneity, wonder, new perspectives and an expanded view of life. Our best ideas come from the space we allow ourselves, not from the hurried, harried, filled-to-capacity day.

Everyone in my house will raise their eyebrows when they read this because I am the master of filling each moment. My life moves from checklist to to-do lists. I think it is this way partly because I run my own business (hear the rationalization?) and partly because I like being busy (more rationalization). But I am aware and do now make the commitment to be more intentional about how I use each moment.

It is truly our choice how we fill the moments of our lives. What if we were to intentionally build time into our currently filled-to-capacity day to step away from the busy-ness? What if we were more intentional about putting time into our day to breath, dream, invent, connect, consider, imagine and relate? To consistently do this, I know I will have to make some changes – here is what I commit to doing (perhaps they will inspire you to do the same or something similar):

  1. Rethink how I start the day. I commit to starting each day with what the great writer/speaker Robin Sharma calls the “holy hour” – 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of meditation/stillness, 20 minutes of exercise. Get up an hour earlier (this of course adds a few more moments to the day) and use that hour wisely to set the tone, direction and pace of the day. This time reminds me to create moments to connect with my world – to be inspired by reading, to get clarity through mediation and to feel healthy though exercise. I commit to starting my day with a “holy hour.”
  2. Add “exist time” to my to-do list. I’ll admit I am just working around my incessant need to have a to-do list, but since that is the way I manage my days, I’ll add an urgent-and-important topic of “exist time” to my to-do list. “Exist time” is time allocated to wander through the yard and see what is blooming (in FL there is always something blooming), time to chat with a neighbor, time for hobbies (for me it is more time cooking), or time for just being with the people who matter in my life. I know I’ll need to set the alarm; not to remind me to get back to work, but to remind me the “exist time” isn’t over yet – to stay in the moment – to enjoy it. I commit to creating “exist time” each day.
  3. Take mini NOW (mini memory vacation) breaks. Because much of my work, when not out with clients, is at my desk, I have great mementos of life all around my workspace – the hand carved Buddha statue that was a gift from my partner, the pictures of the kids and my new sons-in-laws, the mascot bobble head of the college I teach at, the watercolor paintings by my mother, the artwork and things we collected on our travels – all things that encourage (and even beg) me to take mini NOW breaks – mini memory vacations. These help me step out of the rush to be part of a thought, feeling or emotion. This encourages me to dream, reminisce and change the pace of the day. I commit to taking mini NOW moments.

Make space – this is the antidote to a life filled to capacity. Living out loud and living full out doesn’t mean running through life at breakneck speed. Instead, living boldly includes time to get focused, have some chill time and be part of mini mental breaks or NOW moments. Each is like a deep exhaled breath – the opportunity to allow new things in, connect to what is important and feel part of your amazing life.

3 Tips to Stay Fired Up Instead of Fizzling Out

fired upLife comes at us fast. We choose whether it fires us up or fizzles us out. Here are two stories to make the point and then to share some comments in how to stay fired up – passionate – energized in life.

Story one. Fizzled out.

A friend of mine tries to do it all. Someplace in her thinking she feels she is supposed to be supermom, super-employee, super-friend, super-problemsolver, super-cook and super-spouse. She has a personal requirement to be all these – her choice. She comes from a family of high performers where they constantly assess and judge each other based on the things they do. Huge pressure. Lately I have seen the normally fire-filled eyes with gray shadows – she is fizzling out – losing her inner passion, fire and energy. Instead of showing up big to any of these roles, she is now just barely keeping up, disappointed with herself, with others and with the world. Fizzled out.

Story two. Fired Up.

Another friend of mine is a talented speaker who has a high-activity life. It is not unusual for him to be in two or three cities in a week. Between his writing and speaking, he is on the go all the time. He is fired up, passionate, excited and energized by what he does for work. But to keep this pace and to keep the internal fire burning, he has built some effective and practical “stay fired up” habits.

  1. Gratitude. Always start each day or event with a thought of gratitude. Each moment of each day has blessings in them if we choose to see them. By taking the time to appreciate the greatness and “amazingness” of each moment, we fuel our internal fire. Gratitude is a fire builder.
  2. Breathe. Take a breath anytime we feel too busy, confusing or chaotic. In this moment, we improve our clarity about our situation. This creates the ability for our next moment to be wiser, saner and more effective. Stop things even for a fraction of a second to see more clearly. This can help us pace ourselves to feel more in control, less defeated and therefore more fired up.
  3. Self-talk. Have positive self-talk. Most of the chatter in our minds is critical, non-supportive and judgmental. Noticing that chatter and realigning it to be kind, gentle and supportive is the way to rekindle our passion for what we are doing. That critical “committee” in our head is a fizzle maker. Tell the noisy voices in your head to sit down and shut up (I know that sound severe but sometimes our committees only respond. Then, without the noise, you can take a breath, be grateful and reconnect to your inner fire.

A single dad friend of mine used to say to his kids as he got them into bed (and help them to stay there instead of wanting this and that and making the bedtime process take hours), “When you stay in bed it gives me time to be ready to be a great dad to you tomorrow.” We all need to develop our personal habits to allow the time to plug back into our power source – to have greatness habits that fire up the passion for life, the passion for people and the passion for our work.

Our world can wear us out. Actually, we allow our world to wear us out. Since we choose how we respond to the things that life sends us, we could also choose to stay fired up. We could choose to feed our internal fire by connecting to our passions, being more present in what we choose to do and to appreciate what is instead of noticing what is missing. It takes awareness. It takes practice. It requires building some fired up habits.

What feeds your soul and energizes you to love life and feel connected to it? What can you do each day to do more of this? What makes you feel empty, tired and disconnected? What can you change to do less of this? Fired up or fizzled out. It’s always a choice – our choice.

***

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photo by: matthewvenn

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

luck 4 leaf clover“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was on a coaching call with a particularly rigid and challenging client. He was lamenting how things don’t go his way – he’s not lucky like others – and he named a few celebrities, sports personalities and city success stories. “They seem to get all the luck,” he said. My question to him was, “Is it luck or preparation?” This changed the tone of our conversation and we started to make some great progress.

Personally, I don’t think I believe in luck. Instead, I believe in preparation and being present to things as they happen. Prepared, we now are tuned in to things that we first would not have seen, and second would not have acted upon. Like the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, I like to think that my intentionality in things leads to their results – cause and effect. To me, luck is what we rely on when we don’t prepare; luck has never struck me as a success formula.

In addition to my coaching, writing and speaking, I am an adjunct professor at a college in South Florida, teaching in the business school. In my last class, I asked them how they are using their time in college to get ready for life after college. Only two of the 33 students in class had a plan. Only two had a strategy to intentionally selected their majors, enroll in courses that were necessary for what they wanted to do after college (even taking courses that were not in their majors) and what internships would give them the most practice, experience and exposure. Clarity. Intentionality. Focus. The rest of the class just shrugged and shared that “with a little luck” they would find something meaningful after college. With a little luck? This was like trying to drive without your hands on the wheel.

We get results in life when we take responsibility for ourselves as life unfolds. I know we can’t control the events of life, but we can show up present to them, gather information from them, then make meaningful decisions in the moment that lead us in the direction that fits what we want for our lives. Not showing up present means we’ll get moved along according to the whims or plans of others. We then celebrate good luck or blame bad luck for things.

Why is it that we rely on luck instead of great preparation? Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • We have been told this is just how life is done. It is a big, cold mean world that favors some and not others. Some people are lucky and others aren’t.
  • We don’t know how to create success for ourselves because we haven’t learned how to know ourselves and how to connect to opportunities in work and life that need what we do best – we don’t know how to look for opportunities.
  • We don’t own our results. It is always easy to make things someone else’s fault. Attributing things to luck let’s us off the hook from being accountable; we have something or someone to blame.

To move away from relying on or blaming luck requires listening to the wisdom of some of today’s greatest consciousness thinkers. They remind us that when we show up present to the moments of life, we connect to information. Information then creates options. Expanded options increase our ability to find and select the ones that move us forward. In other words, clarity in our direction plus awareness of options creates preparedness; this seems a better life success formula than relying on luck. Talk to the successful people in life and they will share that their success was not based on luck but rather on preparation and awareness of opportunities. This seems a far better formula for success than luck.

Getting Past Feeling Overwhelmed and Finding Focus

focusLast week seemed to be Overwhelm Week with my clients. Several were excited for their coaching to work through work and life situations that made them feel completely overwhelmed. And with feeling overwhelmed comes paralysis – they become so aware of how overwhelmed they are, that their energy focuses on them, their problems, the volume and the helplessness, they then have no energy left to get things done (to eliminate the feeling of overwhelm). They are stuck. Nothing happens.

Though getting past overwhelm requires also getting organized and building priorities (what’s urgent, what’s important and what’s both), the key to its undoing is an understanding our personal energy. Here is what I share with my clients about energy and how energy is the gateway to staying organized and getting the important things in work and life done.

Energy is catabolic (diminishing and unproductive) or anabolic (growing and productive). Feeling overwhelmed naturally brings on our lowest level of energy (catabolic) – of feeling like a victim because the situation creating the feeling of being overwhelmed, owns us. We are at the effect of these events – it may be a demanding boss and work schedule; it may be a challenging home situation or a busy kids/household schedule; it may be worn out by caring for someone who is not well or trying to get yourself out of situation that needs changing (relationship, work, etc). The more we focus on how we feel in these events, the more we use our energy to focus on how bad our situation is. We are like a dog chasing its tail – the more we think about it, the worse we feel, so the more we think about it. This now uses up all of the energy needed to make changes – including getting organized, setting priorities and getting things done. We have to free ourselves from this catabolic energy in order to redirect our energy to being productive, or we will find our situation will never change.

People who are masters at getting things done, staying organized and moving things forward are this way because they change how they look at their world. Eckhard Tolle shares in his book, A New Earth, that we should be in only one of these three awakened modalities: acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm. Notice that all of these are positive energies. The reason for this is as energy moves from negative to positive (from victim to acceptance) we start to see how to move past where we are. We now have energy to consider how we might be able to organize our space, our work or our emotions. We have the energy to start to prioritize what is around us to get in it in an order that can make things happen. We become unstuck, unfrozen untrapped, and uncaught (I know I made up a few words, but I liked the rhythm…). We move out of victim and into conscious and powerful performer. All this can happen by seeing that we are stuck and choosing to focus on opportunities to get unstuck instead of staying in victim or helpless mode.

In helping my clients, I find our starting point is reviewing the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are present in victim energy, and the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are in opportunity energy. Many times by seeing that both of these are choices in the same circumstances, those who are stuck can start to visualize a way out. They are encouraged because they can see what success looks like and feel empowered enough to work through the situations that are creating their victim thinking.

We can’t be victim and optimist at the same moment. So the more we shift our thinking out of victim to optimist, the more energy we have available to focus on solutions, opportunities and possibilities. We stop making our discontentment and feeling overwhelmed the center of our energy. We can then find ways to make things happen.

Achieving means getting things done. Go for the fuel source – the energy. It creates the power to wake up like the person in the Lunesta commercials – ready and raring to go – to face the world – to make the to-do list – to organize their space – to create the priorities – and to get things done.

Kindness – It Does Your Body Good

Helping the homelessI remember being told to be kind as a kid, primarily as it related to how I treated any of my five siblings. I was thinking about this again this week while watching how little kindness there seems to be in the news. Between political battles of ideology, fighting for land, arguing over resources and fighting over egos, we have forgotten how to be kind. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fight a hard battle,” is a quote attributed to Plato. Regardless who said it, its message rings true now more then ever. What would it take for us to be more intentionally kind? And, how would our world change we did?

To me, the word Namaste says it all – “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you.” May whatever is great in me focus on seeing the greatness in you – even if I don’t know you. And if I did, I would be kinder. If I did, I would be more generous, more loving and more forgiving. I would see the greatness in you, trying to express your inner divinity. “We must find out for ourself that inside us is a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born so we can express our divinity,” says Deepak Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

Here is an exercise I regularly use for myself and as a challenge I share with my audiences. The next time you are on the highway and someone cuts you off, or you are in line and someone steps ahead of you, how will you make a point of seeing their greatness and their divinity instead of feeling offended? How will you see them as related to you, part of you and part of a greater plan? It isn’t easy because we have been trained to focus on ourselves more than on others. We feel violated, slighted or insulted. But it doesn’t have to be this way – our reaction to this is our choice. As we can choose to be unkind, we could also choose to be kind.

Changing a habit takes intention. To change a habit of focusing first on us takes the intention of wanting it to be different and committing to make the change. The starting point is awareness. We have to be able to see when we are kind and not kind. We have to be present enough to see ourselves in action – to notice our triggers and be aware of our responses. Only then will we be able to stop the “go-to” reaction of selfishness and retaliation, and instead see that we have a choice. That choice could include kindness. In the example of the car cutting you off on the highway, it could mean not blaring the horn and passing a gesture, but instead slowing down, letting the other car in and be entirely unaffected by the event. This is a choice.

The most amazing thing about being kind, is the greatest benefit is not for the other person; it is actually for you. The more unkind we are, the more damage we inflict on ourselves. I was coaching a client this week who is getting ready to leave an employer for some unfair and unprofessional things the employer did. This employee has the ability to “stick it” to his employer; be upset, carry a grudge and bad-mouth his employer. Or, he can realize that in a win-win termination solution, the employee can choose to not be at the effect of the situation, but actually choose to show up kinder, more aware and more committed to greatness. He can choose a mutually beneficial response that treats both sides kindly and professionally. He took the higher ground. His mood, health and spirit were left intact from the event. Kindness, it does a body good.

In what ways can you be more intentionally kind today, this week and this month? Feel the effects of it. See the effects of it. Though kindness does a body good, it also can do a planet good. Choose kindness.

A Lesson in Resilience

cherry tree resilienceOne of my brothers still lives on Cape Cod, the place where my 5 siblings and I grew up. This is noteworthy for two reasons – first, he is a scenic photographer – he captures amazing shots of nature; second, Cape Cod and New England has had snowstorm after snowstorm this winter. This has created one of his latest works – the amazing flowering cherry tree in his front yard in each of the four seasons. Amazing flowers in spring, great dense green leaves in summer, amazing fiery reds and orange foliage in fall and the bare brown trunk blanketed under epic snow in winter. This bold tree is resilient; it shows up powerfully in each season. It inspires my intention to be more resilient.

The lesson from the cherry tree is that we too are capable of shining no matter what happens. We are resilient to handle the seasons – and by seasons I mean the constant changes in our lives. We meet sunny days where things are going our way – we flower, we shine. We meet stormy days that seem unfair, unrelenting and scary. When we are intentional and determined about connecting to our inner greatness and strength – to the power deep in us – we find we have access to amazing resilience. This helps us show up strong and committed to life, regardless what comes our way.

It still amazes me that this tree can survive in temperatures from minus 10 to nearly 100 degrees. It stands there and faces what comes, doing what it does best – living its truest self. It doesn’t lament the rains or wind. It doesn’t give up when it snows. It doesn’t wish that its leaves would remain all year – it allows them to change color and sends them off to make room for new ones. It partners with life; it allows life.

We however, like to plan and control everything in life. And when things don’t go according to plan, we find fault. We get angry. We blame. We quit. We feel at the affect of our world – at odds with it.

Or, we could learn from this cherry tree. We could see that we have the strength and resilience to see the blessing in every event, and not to fight with life but live it as it is delivered. “Anyone can be cooperative, patient and understanding when things are going well and life is good. But it is the noble man or woman who can behave with grace and compassion, and even kindness, when times are bad,” shares Garr Reynolds, blogger of Presentation Zen. My intention is to be noble and act with grace, compassion and kindness regardless of what happens in life.

Resilience, or grit, is what enables us to show up committed to life when life sends snowstorm after snowstorm. Resilience is what enables us to show up big to life when our idea didn’t work, the relationship failed, or the job was lost. As the great Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” We can choose to bounce back – we can choose to see what was, understand it, learn from it and get back into life’s driver’s seat. We, like the flowering cherry in my brother’s front yard, can just keep on keepin’ on. Resilient. Strong. Committed. Determined. Intentional. Living our greatness and ready for the next moment of life – whatever that might look like.

Find your resilience role model – nature, a pet or even a person. Mine is this amazing cherry tree. Let it share its wisdom with you; learn from it and let it inspire you to be intentional and purposeful about living powerfully, positively and resiliently no matter what comes your way.

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