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Living On Purpose

Archive for March, 2009

Losing Me to Love You

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Have you ever been in a relationship where you compromised yourself to keep the relationship in balance? Whether it’s a romantic, professional or personal relationship, this realization usually comes too late – at least for the sake of saving the relationship. It typically happens as you are going through a break-up or after the relationship falls apart, sometimes many years later.

 

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Jon originally came to coaching because he was unsatisfied in his job. As we navigated through these changes, he seemed more alive and enthusiastic. He had started a new romantic relationship and described moving from the infatuation stage into, what he called, the “real relationship.”

 

As they grew closer, he noticed patterns from his previous relationships creeping in, ones he thought he had outgrown. In one coaching session, he said his ex-girlfriend, Liz, had called. They had broken up at least a year before he had met his new girlfriend. He had left the previous relationship out of anger and had harbored resentment ever since. Now that Liz had made contact, he was faced with the opportunity to clear some past blocks and possibly open more freedom in his current relationship.

 

“There is a part of me that wants to resolve this with Liz (the ex),” Jon explained, “but another part that just wants to forget about it. I don’t want to mess up anything in my new relationship.”

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It was heavy on his mind. I asked, “What is the gift of facing what happened and what is the cost?”

 

Jon realized that a part of him – a large part – had been consumed in the previous relationship. Normally quite independent, he had managed to bend so much during the relationship that he ended up resenting her, which is why he left. As he expressed his anger towards her, he realized that he was really mad at himself! He had allowed it to happen. By placing the relationship over being truthful with himself he had compromised his values and lost himself for the sake of being loved. In the end, he lost the relationship as well.

 

These realizations opened up several possibilities for growth. “What should I do now?” he asked. He had the answers; my job was to help him figure out which was most in line with his truth.

 

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To help him clarify his wishes, I asked him two questions. How did he want to handle it with his ex? And, how could he integrate what he was learning into his current relationship? Denying that it had happened would be easiest – at least temporarily – but that was not what he chose to do. Instead he decided to write a letter to Liz describing his feelings about how the relationship ended and his recent realizations for his part in the break-up.

 

In his current relationship, Jon decided to use this as an opportunity to explore any areas where he might be repeating the same pattern. Had he been bending too far? If so, he would identify these areas, and write about what beliefs lie behind these behaviors. Was he afraid of being truthful? Would there be problems or confrontations?

 

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Jon would then talk to his girlfriend about the situation with the ex, how he was feeling (being open and vulnerable) and any realizations he had had about their current relationship. He would use this as an opportunity to communicate with her and deepen the relationship. In effect, he was actively choosing NOT to repeat the pattern!

 

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Coaching Challenge: Think of an important person in your life… in a friendship, a romantic or a professional relationship. Where do you experience frustration in the relationship and how do you handle it? Are you honest or do you let things slide for fear of confrontation? If you are more on the “sliding” side, write down at least three reasons why you allow yourself to put the relationship above your truth. For each reason, answer the questions: Is this a valid fear? What is the gift of believing this and what is the cost? Then ask yourself, “Is it worth the cost?” Are you willing to do anything – possibly even give up your truth – to stay in the relationship? Or are you willing to break the pattern?

I’m Bored. Now What?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

In the middle of a recent coaching appointment, both the client and I had a huge realization. She was completely bored with her life! As we were talking about a decision she was facing, it wasn’t the opportunity that was appealing; it was the thought of welcoming change – any change – into her life that had caught her attention.

 

“What’s challenging to you right now? What is exciting in your life? Where do you find passion?” I asked. To each question, she gave me a puzzled, almost painful look. She did not have an answer.

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Finally, she explained, “I work hard and am successful in my career. I got married, had kids, survived divorce and am now working hard to keep some balance in my life. Life feels functional; I have a lot of responsibilities and I find that the only real challenge is juggling the activities in my life.” But where was the passion?

 

It’s easy to see how this can happen. When we were in school, our goal was to graduate. Then we wanted to get a good job. Next it was to meet someone and get married, have kids, be a good parent, etc. Now that we’ve done all that, what are we moving towards? The first part of life seemed so structured. We knew what we were “supposed” to do and what was “normal” and what came next. But who makes the rules and sets the goals now? What is “supposed” to happen next?

 

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“Imagine that you are the writer and director of a movie – your movie,” I said, introducing an analogy for us to play with. “The stage is set, several plot lines have been introduced, and there is a cast of characters with you as the lead. Tell me how the story unfolds. What happens next?” Sounds pretty open-ended, right? The irony is that this much flexibility can be stifling!

 

She looked at me, completely stuck. I pressed, “Where is the passion?” She had become so busy just managing her day-to-day life that she had forgotten.

 

We then reconstructed and described each of the eras of her life. We began in childhood and moved on to the School Era, the Single Years, the Relationship to Marriage Era, the Family and then the Divorce Years, which brings us to now.

 

We brainstormed her future Eras. The next one was called Back to Me. Travel Time came next, which naturally flowed into the Relaxation, Retirement and Grandparent Eras. We talked about each one and built a loose framework for her future. As we watched the chapters unfold, she saw where she was now with more perspective as to how it fit into the rest of the story.

 

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By creating descriptions for each time period (including the tone, color, theme song, motto, etc.), we provided clarity and dimension to the various segments of her story. Excitement grew as her entire life began to feel more alive and connected. Ideas sprang forth that took completely by surprise and the boredom disappeared. We had, in effect, re-energized her life by adjusting her perspective.

 

Stepping outside of the day-to-day responsibilities can help to gain a broader perspective. This macro-view provides the big picture along with the details…and how it all fits together to make up your life. By knowing where you’ve been and where you plan to go you gain a better understanding of where you are right now. Isn’t life really all about right now?

 

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Coaching Challenge: Review your life and write down the major eras. Describe each segment by answering the following questions:

•    What is the overall theme of this time period?

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•    If you had to describe this era with an article of clothing, what would it be?

•    What is the lead song on the soundtrack of this era?

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•    What kind of car do you drive?

•    What would a bumper sticker on your car say?

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Now list the upcoming time periods in your life. Create the macro view. Then focus in on each one and answer the questions above. Have fun with it. See where you are going. Imagine the possibilities, and feel the passion!

The Beauty of Doing Nothing

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Anyone who knows me will laugh at the headline. I rarely do “nothing.” I’m like a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed at night for fear of missing something. Add in a family, my own business, and an eager desire to stay in shape, learn, and be involved and you have the makings for a very busy schedule. “Multi-tasking” is my middle name!

 

My clients will also get a chuckle out of the headline. Each time we meet, they leave with a homework assignment– which does not imply doing nothing. This isn’t the kind of homework you remember from school. These are self-identified, self-directed assignments to help the client move forward.

 

In the novel, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Italy in hopes of discovering pleasure in new and different ways. In the book, she contrasts Italian and American cultures. She explains that in America, we don’t know when to say enough is enough. We tend to overdo everything and there is never enough time to get it all done. She asserts that Americans really don’t know how to do nothing. In Italy, however, they have mastered the art of il bel far niente – the beauty of doing nothing. In Italy it is the ideal…the goal of all of your work. It is the same in many spiritual philosophies. To master enlightenment often equals letting go and doing nothing.

 

I contrast this philosophy with my own life and with the lives of several of my clients. Take Sarah, for example. She is the owner and CEO of a mid-sized company. The past ten years have been a balancing act, to say the least. She started her company when her kids were little as a way to continue her career, but also to be at home with the kids. As they grew, so did the business as well as demands on her time.

 

Sarah can vacillate from being enthusiastic and wanting to take on the world, to feeling pulled like taffy. We looked at her calendar and there were only slivers of time in between the almost-fully blocked schedule. In each area of her life, there were people who needed things from her and she gladly gave as much as she could.

 

Last week she was talkative but exhausted. Sarah said that when she gets stressed, she goes into overdrive, trying to cover all of the bases. She gets a certain thrill in “getting it all done!”

 

“Take a minute to catch up with yourself,” I said as she flew through the door. We sat in silence for a few minutes to allow her to find her center. She explained how stretched she had been feeling emotionally, physically and mentally. “You GIVE energy most of the time – to your job, your family, etc. When do you RECEIVE energy?” I asked.

 

“I don’t have time and I feel guilty if I do,” she said.

 

Using the metaphor of a bank account, I explained that she can withdraw “energy” whenever she needs to AS LONG AS she has taken time to replenish the account.

 

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She said, “It’s like the emergency instructions on an airplane…put your mask on first and then assist others, right?” She understood so now the challenge was to help her integrate this concept into her life.

 

We brainstormed her homework assignment. She agreed to create a Replenishment List, which would include five activities that GIVE her energy (fill her energy bank account). Once the list is completed, she agreed to enjoy (with no guilt) at least two hours a week doing something from her list.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if we would have had homework assignments like that in school?

 

Coaching Challenge: Create a list of five activities that you enjoy. If you feel selfish or self-centered when writing this list, you are probably on the right track. Over the next two weeks, find two hours a week to relax and enjoy any of these activities. To remind you of how important this is, create a sign that says, “il bel far niente,” which is Italian for “the beauty of doing nothing!” Hang it on your bathroom mirror so you will remember to do your homework.