The other day I read an article by Jaleh Bisharat, Co-founder/CEO at Naked Poppy. It was called “10 Books That Changed the Way I Think About Business”.
There seems to be some magic in numbering. This many life hacks… days to…, habits… and yes, so many books.
It got me thinking about books that have had a meaningful impact on my life. There’ve been many. But one floated to the top.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s What We Ache For fills the bill on so many levels. (Hey, why knock myself out to come up with a compelling “number”, I thought.One is good.)
Dreamer’s book is chock-full of beautiful prose. It offers reflections and exercises that deepen the reading experience. And it goes to the heart of what I believe to be an important mission in the second half of life. That is, finding those things that are truly important and using our innate creativity to weave them into a Multidimensional life.
While I won’t say that reading this book was a triggering event in my life, it was definitely a spurring one.
I read it approximately 10 years ago and I’ve picked it up many times since then. For coaching program or writing workshop ideas. For my own writing inspiration. It is a book that I need to have in hard cover, that I can rub my finger along the rough paper as I read. I highlight and underline and put notes and exclamation marks in the margins. I engage with it as I read it or skim through it or open it up at random to see what wants to be seen. It has post-its and random pieces of paper to hold a place and the end flaps tuck in between pages to remind me where I want to go next. It’s the whole enchilada!
Dreamer says “Doing creative work allows us to follow the thread of what we ache for into a deeper life, offering us a way to cultivate a life of making love to the world.”
Yes! Following that thread is my undertaking in my second half of life. Cultivating a deeper, more meaningful (to me) life and honoring the tug in my gut, the quiet voice in my heart. Having the spiritual courage to do all this while living in my world and doing my own work.
This is what I want for me and, if this resonates with you, it’s what I want for you.
Have you also felt that ache, that tugging? This is what my 6-week program, You Are The Artist of Your Life is about. It will ease that ache, gentle that tug and begin your journey into a more integrated, Multidimensional life that is unique to you alone.
Want to learn more? Join meThursday, August 29th at 6:30 pm ET on Zoom for my free monthly call. This month a I’ll be talking about my upcoming workshop You Are the Artist of Your Life. We’ll get to meet; you’ll get a taste of what the longer program will be like. One person will have a chance for a mini coaching session.
I was always a leaper. Challenges? Problems? I was compelled to do something. Anything! I often thought in terms of “close my eyes, hold my nose and jump”! Must be that trial and error life I’m destined to live.
However, what I learned was that in doing that I was surrendering my freedom of choice. I learned that the better course of action was non-action. A stop, look, listen. A Pause. A bit counter-intuitive, I know.
I’m not talking about passivity, but rather a purposeful decision of which way to go. Not always the most popular, but the best for me. Not always a well-lit, well-traveled path, but one on which I would find the most joy.
When we are in the midst of change – which is really so much of life – it can feel chaotic. No, forget the “can”. It’s damn chaotic. It feels unsettling and uncomfortable. We feel rattled, uneasy, cranky. Something’s up. We soldier through. Because that’s what we’re taught to do.
In the moment, we may not realize what’s happening but when we pay close attention, we can recognize the symptoms of change and transition. Dang! Didn’t I go through this a few months ago??
Yeah, life is about change.
That is your invitation to pause.
Not only an invitation but an opportunity.
Consider this: If you had paused the last time you felt this way, would you be thrust into another round so quickly? Oh, there’d still be change and transition in your future, but it might play out a little differently.
Pausing gives you the freedom to choose, to actively decide on a course of action rather than be swept away by outside currents. You may choose the same plan that life’s currents suggest, but it will be your decision.
It’s an opportunity to tap into the essential wise self that’s in all of us. It is asking questions and listening to your body’s response. It is heeding your gut.
When you pause you remember that your choices are not always set in stone. They can be evaluated and changed at a later time.
Pausing slows you down and lets you consider that deferring a choice could be a temporary solution.
Pausing jogs your memory so you can remember what you want and what is most important to you, not always most expedient and urgent.
The duration of a Pause can be done in a moment or days or months. Is this doctor best for me? I know what others have said, but… (a quick gut check) Is this the right time for me to retire? (longer process)
What helped me.
Looking back, I see that once I began to pause, I made much better decisions. I didn’t just react. I would write it through. I spoke with the right people. (Fortunately, I have lots of coaching friends!)
Were there times in your life where you would have benefited from a pause? Are you in the midst of that chaotic feeling of change now? How would it feel to pause? To step back and look at what is happening from a different viewpoint?
Here’s what will turn your chaos into great change.
Sometimes it helps to have someone to accompany you during a Pause. Someone on your side holding the light so you can see things clearer. A safe place to think out loud. To sort through the noise and, yes, the chaos. The tools to listen to yourself better and discern what is best for you. Because you are the one that knows best.
This is what I do in my coaching practice. Want to learn more? Contact me for a 30-minute discovery call.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.– Helen Keller
Reading this quote led me to think of how, in midlife, we begin to feel the unease of change and the belief that too many doors are closing. Each time I read it, I get an immediate visual of someone looking longingly at a closed door, looking backwards at what’s done and gone. It may be that she’s not ready or willing to face what’s ahead. Or perhaps she’s not even aware that there is another door beckoning.
That makes me sad.
When life hits us with challenges and changes it certainly feels like doors have closed and options are evaporating. And sometimes we’re too tired to go searching for the newly opened doors. I get that. And, while it may not always feel believable, what I do know is that we always do have choices, also known as doors.
Ignore the open door. Or continue to believe that there are no open doors for us. Feel sadness and despair.
See the door but feel fear about walking through it. Do nothing. More sadness.
See the door. Or doors. (There may be several.) Pause and step through with understanding.
That pause in the last option is a rich one.
A Potent Pause
A pause can be minutes, days or longer and here is what I have found to be true about it:
A pause is a rich time when we listen to our thoughts, observe and feel our way to choices. Because there are always choices. We can make them actively or passively, but they are always there.
It’s a period to process and integrate what has passed. When we do so, we can regroup, refresh and reorient ourselves to what lies ahead.
For me, pausing enables me to set aside my impatience and be objective and observant. I have aha moments and my body cues me as to the best direction.
What I’ve learned
As we listen deeply during a pause, we begin to understand that the first attempt might not be the final and that’s okay. At the same time, we know that inaction is rarely good. I’ve learned that life is full of trial and error and that we always have a second chance (or a third or fourth!) until our time on earth is over.
Life has taught me this many times. It’s why I pause. It’s how I remember what I know. When I believe there are open doors, they appear. When I trust my inner voice, I make wiser decisions. Those decisions are always the best for me at the moment. It may not always be what I expected. I leave myself open to wonder and surprise and I know there will be more doors.
Are you working through changes and looking for open doors? I can help you with that. Contact me and together we will shine the light on the door that has opened just for you.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
– Carl Sagan
If you live in New Jersey, road work is a fact of life. The sun rises, Taylor pork roll is fried and the road crews set up for the day. Something is always being taken apart and put back together; milled and paved; big projects (think new bridges), small projects (paving your street…in fact, they just set up camp at the end of your driveway.) Detour signs take us on new roads, concrete partitions (ironically called Jersey barriers) shunt us from lane to lane, sometimes leaving our desired point of exit in the rear-view mirror. We’re used to it. We don’t particularly care for it, but we’re used to it.
I have found that the path through life can present similar obstacles. Yes, I know that the idea of life as a highway isn’t new. The journey, the road, the way. But it’s still a good analogy.
And the idea of waking up to the best on-ramp to your next stage of your life? A good parallel and oh, so necessary. (I prefer the idea of an on-ramp. It feels like movement to something new rather than an off-ramp which feels like the journey is over.)
What I have learned is that if you don’t look ahead and form even the slightest idea of your desired destination, you’ll end up on an eternal round-about. Have you ever gotten stuck on one of those? So frustrating.
For me, the goal is and continues to be to building and maintaining an on-ramp to each next stage of my life. It started as an unconscious yearning close to twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve had to make several U-turns. I got proficient at driving in reverse. I learned to pay better attention to where I was and where I was going. (Believe it or not, I have missed work exits, not once but several times. Being attentive really helps!)
You plan ahead for a road trip, right? Why not do a little for your one, precious life? Seriously, where is the benefit in the struggle?
If we stay with the analogy of the road and visualize the crisscrossing winding arrays of possible directions, here are a few things to consider:
The speed at which you’re traveling.
Like the White Rabbit who’s always in a hurry, are you always in motion? No time, no time… What might you be missing as you rush through life? Possibilities can be hidden in plain sight as you speed by.
Take the time to pause and listen to the quiet voice inside that is nudging you in your best direction. Be curious about where you’re going and understand that it is an unfolding process.
What you bring along.
What are you toting around in your bag, backpack, trunk of your car, the untended places of your heart? The old messages about what you can and can’t do; should and shouldn’t do. The ballast that weighs you down. The rules of the road that don’t work anymore.
What is one small thing you can offload now?
The clarity of the view
Sometimes we drive along squinting through our windshield, when all we need is a little Windex.
What are the things you say to yourself that get in the way of what’s in front of you? What old beliefs are coloring your current experiences? Are they true? Maybe they were then, but are they still?
What might clear that view, even if just for a mile at a time?
A vision of where you’re going
Even if your vision of the journey is not fully formed, there is usually an overarching element in your yearning that is non-negotiable. Freedom, beauty, creative expression, relationships, family, out-reach, advocacy.
When you know what is essential, you will tune in to the possibilities that will provide those elements.
The goal in all this is to home in to your personal journey so you are able to recognize your on-ramp to what is next for you. Pausing and considering your direction will set you up for a rich and meaningful next part of the road, your second half of life, retirement or whatever is next for you.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate strategy. It definitely shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should always be a work in progress.
What part of the incredible you is waiting to be known? Contact me to find out how I can help.
Midlife. It brings the inevitability of change as well as the quest for wholeness. When you enter wholeheartedly into both you will slip into the current and flow like a mighty wind.
Change is a fact of life, regardless of age. We have no control over it. But the quest for wholeness is something I have found to be more pressing as I move into midlife and beyond. If I resist the former and ignore the latter, life becomes a struggle. It can actually be physically painful as I tense my muscles, eat poorly, bind myself to my work and ignore the multidimensional life that is calling me.
The quest for wholeness
Reaching for wholeness is a normal part of this time of life. It’s gathering together all of the disparate pieces that have been strewn across the first half. It is combining your creativity and dreams with the resources and skills you’ve acquired over the years to shape something greater and truer.
It’s also an exercise in pulling ourselves out of the eddies of the opinions and expectations of the world at large and checking in with the inner world of your essence. Who am I at my most basic self? What do I know now? What’s important to me now? What delights me? What do I do well? How can I transform this knowledge into a current and flow like the mighty wind?
The inevitability of change
As much as we think things stay the same, change is constant. Minute by minute, often invisible, right in front of our eyes.
Here’s another quote. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)
Clearly, the great mystery of life is that it is lived in an always flowing stream of change. We are one person with one set of ideas at one age, and then, when we look back years later, discover that we became another person at another age. The only certainty about it is the fact that we ourselves decide both what we are now and what we intend to become. And we make that decision one choice at a time.
~ Joan Chittister
What I know to be true for me is that when I cling to what has been, I miss out on the possibilities of what could be and I struggle. If I don’t consciously decide both who I am now and who I intend to become, I struggle. But when I allow myself to flow with change – and I don’t mean the leaf in a babbling brook – with my hand on the rudder, making choices rather than having choices foisted on me, ah, then the struggle drops and I revel in the wind at my back.
These active choices and decisions are unique for each of us and when we flow with it, we are better situated to find that wholeness we seek.
There are ways to step into the slipstream. Here are a few of my best practices:
Ask a Small Question
The work of reconciling to change and returning to your true self can be daunting. A small question can make it so much more manageable.
However, there is an art to it. You want to elicit curiosity and surprise. One element to consider is the scope. What is one thing I know now that I didn’t know before? Limiting the request to just one thing takes away the overwhelm of life’s great questions.
Another element is letting go of the need for an immediate answer. If you ask the question, the brain will begin to work on it. Straining for an answer will often produce an edited version of the truth or an old story. Allow yourself to be curious about what comes up and tune in to what feels right.
And, finally, consider formulating your question as a how or what instead of a why. Why often produces reasons why you can’t; asking how and what will offer ways that you can.
Once the question is asked, open up to possible answers.
One of my favorite things to do with a small question is to take it out for a walk, preferably a solitary walk. (In bad weather I take it for a spin on the treadmill. Not as refreshing but it still works!) You’ve probably had the experience of an aha moment as you walk, drive, do the dishes or take a shower (Consider investing in tub crayons for those moments of brilliance.) You know it works. So put that experiential knowledge to work. Ask the question as you set out and then enjoy the scenery or the bubbles. At the same time, ratchet up your awareness and don’t discount any ideas or thoughts or objects that come into your line of sight. Say hmm… instead of nah.
Capture the Responses
Asking the questions and listening (whether while walking or driving or waking) is part of this adventure. You then need a way to capture what emerges. Doing that lets you go deeper and integrates your findings into your inner conversation. The answers that arise can also lead to more questions and your journey will become clearer.
One of the ways I do this is to use the voice recorder on my phone as I walk or drive (hands-free, of course). I also journal, make notes on a pad or post-it or use the notes app on my phone. I do this so I will remember.
Use whatever action that will help you remember, take you further along in the conversation and give you access to that current and your essential self as you navigate the journey into midlife and beyond.
The more I work with these tools, the more responsive they become. For instance, when preparing for a presentation I ask a small question (What is one thing that will be impactful? What is one way to make it fun?) I go about my day. I listen. The script is then downloaded, quite effortlessly!
It’s almost magic!
As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might you help navigate this rich time of life.
When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.– Thomas Edison
Do you feel like possibilities are dwindling in midlife?
You’ve been doing what you’re doing for 30 years or so. There was a time when you were passionate about it. You leaped out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world. Can you remember that? You were a crusader. There were windmills to tilt at. You were learning tons of new things and gobbling up new experiences.
Now, you’ve hit a certain age and you feel like your spark has gone out. At a minimum, the pilot light is flickering. How do you find new possibilities?
Something has shifted.
As a result, it’s gotten harder to drum up the enthusiasm that had once filled you up. Now many mornings bring dread instead of excitement. Something has shifted. Is it just you?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve been there myself.
Wayne Dyer said “change your thoughts, change your life.” I used to think that meant I had to change the way I thought about my career. And while that might work for some, it didn’t work for me. For me, in midlife, the thoughts I needed to change were about what else I could do. I needed to see doorways, not brick walls. I needed to widen my lens.
What to do?
First, I would never, never, ever suggest you quit what you do every day. Even if it’s an effort.
But what I always, always, always would suggest is that you step back and Pause.
Some things to do in a Pause.
Do a little exploring and excavating.
A small, Kaizen-like question is a perfect place to start your explorations. Stay away from the question that begs to solve all the problems of the world. Instead, make it smaller and more immediate. Frame it in a positive way. Ask what lights me up as opposed to why am I feeling so flat. (How you frame it is important because your brain will supply responses to the negative also.) Ask it frequently during the day without any expectation for an immediate response. Your brain will grab onto it and go to work. Answers will pop up. The real trick here is to be paying attention and not censoring. Be curious.
Journal. Writing is a powerful tool during a Pause. In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron prescribes 3 pages, longhand, to be done each morning upon rising. This is ideal and, if you can, certainly start there. However, if this is too daunting, you’ll likely do nothing. In which case it’s better to begin with very small Kaizen-like steps. Promise yourself to write for 1 minute. Ask your small question on the page; do a very quick brain dump of what’s on your mind. If you go longer, that’s great. If you only do one minute you’ve still kept your commitment. As this becomes habitual, stay on the page longer.
As you expand your writing time you will get to a point where you think you have nothing more to say. At that point nudge yourself very gently to write a little more. I promise you will go deeper.
Is what you do for a living leaving you deflated?
Can you explore your current industry? Is there a way to shift the focus of your work, move to a different area of your organization, take on a different responsibility, learn something new? What opportunities are there? Often compensation becomes a factor here. If a reduction in pay is really necessary, put pen to paper and figure out if it’s feasible and worth it. How long would it take to get back to your previous level and what would you gain in the meantime?
Do you have a mentor or a trusted colleague with whom you could confide your frustrations and concerns? This person might be able to role play with you as you practice asking for what you want. She can also provide a different perspective on opportunities as well as an objective look at you.
Do a skills and experience inventory. Dig in to what it is that has made you successful. Maybe more of a functional resume. Where else can those skills be used? Get creative here. And, don’t forget the volunteer work you’ve done: the PTA, the fund raising, the sports coaching, even the family event planning. All of this has combined to make you a unique package.
Or is it something else?
There’s also the possibility that the problem isn’t what you do each day, but rather what you don’t do. Have you over-fished your personal pond? I’ve been there. It ain’t pretty!
More about that next time.
As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contactme to find out how I might help ignite that spark.
I’m not happy, I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them. ~ Beverly Sills
One morning I woke up thinking “be a sunflower”. I have no idea where it came from. I can’t remember any context, just the statement “be a sunflower”. Sound a little goofy? Maybe. But, for me, that’s an opportunity to follow a thread of thought and see where it goes. It piques my curiosity.
I love sunflowers. I love the way they grow and bloom and how their faces follow the arc of the sun in the sky. They signify happiness, warmth, abundance and loyalty. They feel so positive.
Why would we not want to imitate the sunflower!
I started writing this post several weeks ago. And each time I came back to it, I disagreed with myself. I began to browse books on my shelf; I searched for articles on positivity, positive psychology and Pollyanna. I looked for ideas that substantiated what I thought I’d set out to say: That we should only be looking for the positive in life.
But that wasn’t quite right. It brought to mind the quote by Beverly Sills. Where was the thread? I kept thinking and asking myself questions to help give shape to this amorphous thought that was trying to emerge.
The Shadow Knows
At the same time, I was reading Awakening at Midlife by Kathleen Brehony. I came to a section called “The Shadow Knows.” “At midlife unconscious, shadow material erupts into our life.” She goes on to say how the emergence of the shadow is an attempt to bring balance to our personality, accepting ourselves as we are, “… coming to love those neglected parts of ourselves as elements of our own authenticity and humanity.”
Okay, now we’re getting closer.
Looking for Balance
I had always strived to be a happy person. If something knocked me down, I would put on my big flouncy Scarlett O’Hara hat, say fiddle dee-dee and leave it for another day. I’d put it in the “long bag we drag behind us”, so aptly described by poet Robert Bly.
Boy, was I out of balance! And, at some point it got to be a lot of work. More than it was worth.
I could see where being a sunflower and only following the light no longer served me. As I followed this train of thought I also realized that I had already done a lot of the work. Coaches, reading and a little bit of therapy had helped. I gave myself a little pat on the back.
Brehony suggests that this distortion is quite normal in our second half of life, when we begin “perhaps for the first time to see the “other”, the parts of ourselves that have long been ignored in favor of who we always thought we were”.
How gratifying to know that it was normal to throw off these old stories at midlife and open up to the parts I’d kept hidden; to attain better balance.
A Need for a Pause
However, that balance is not attained by quick fixes, but rather a Pause where we can explore and experiment with those other parts of ourselves that have been neglected.
That pause is a juicy place that includes light and dark, sun and shadow, clement and inclement weather. It comes bearing gifts for midlife. It is the first step into a mindful second half of life.
I love sunflowers. But don’t be one. Our journey is rich and complex and the good news is that we do not have to travel alone! Contact meto find out how I might help you pause as you honor all your beautiful parts and create a path back to a whole you.
Please note that this is not intended to replace professional psychological help where needed. If life is okay but you feel there’s more I can help. If you are feeling despair, please seek a skilled therapist.
Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found. – James Russell Lowell
What do we do with an idea?
I am rising out of sleep, not quite awake. It’s 4 AM. Half in/half out of a dream. Seemingly disparate photos slipping away. They get fainter and fainter. Just the sentence “Find the thread and follow it in” remains.
I grasp for the images. But they will not be caught. Pfft! Gone. The who, what, where and why go with them. Just the one line remains.
Find the thread and follow it in.
Writing in my head
I often wake to words that stay with me. I start writing in my head.
While I sometimes reach for something to write on, more often I don’t want to disturb the flow that runs so easily in the quiet dark. In the relaxed body state where I’m melted into the bedding, where my body hasn’t awakened but my mind is gearing up. Many of my blog posts start there.
How about you?
Where do things start for you? What quickens your imagination and shifts your thoughts to possibilities? Opportunities? A project in the studio or around the house, a job or life change?
What do you do with the idea once it arrives? Dismiss it or explore it? How would it feel to grab that thread and see where it takes you? Recognizing where it starts and allowing your process to take over can be the difference between a dream realized and a dream deferred.
Once the idea is allowed to live, what is your process to get started?
Do you feed it with small questions? Talk it over with a supportive friend or coach? Do you allow yourself to daydream? (Yes, daydreaming is a productive activity!) Do you make a list? Do you sketch it out, mind map it, doodle it? Do you look around at what’s out there to find what you like and, sometimes more importantly, what you don’t like.
Most importantly, do you let it emerge in its time, like a butterfly out of its chrysalis?
For me, with writing, it is often starts in that half asleep state. Rather than dismiss it I let it take its own course. It could be hours or days before anything gets onto the page. That’s okay. I find that the theme will linger for a few days in my waking-up time and show me more. I also find that it will spark other ideas. Those spark more and so on.
This is intentional creativity and it is available to us 24/7. In our dreaming and in our waking. When you’re aware of how ideas take hold – when you’re able to recognize your thread – you become aware of your creative process. This will take so much of the struggle out. Your awareness will provide a magic carpet that you can ride into anything. Your process is as unique as you. Go with it.
If you’d like to explore how a creativity coach (that would be me!) could help you with your process schedule a free discovery session. I’m a very good thread detective.
Years ago, when my commute was almost an hour, I worked with a woman who lived nearby. What a happy coincidence! As a result, we began to carpool. She was the epitome of “all or nothing”. Even with her car’s heater. She would constantly turn it on and off. Too cold, too hot. (Hey, there’s a built in thermostat for a reason! I’d tell her)
She would make pronouncements about how she was going to quit smoking, lose weight and start working out – all beginning that day. I understood her “why”, however, I instinctively knew this wouldn’t work. I would ask her why she didn’t just start with one of those things and then add the others over time. Nope! Not a big enough gesture. Subsequently, within a few days, all those big plans would fade. A month or two later she’d drag them out again.
I hadn’t learned about Kaizen at that point.
When people ask me what Kaizen means I tell them it’s “a Japanese philosophy that means continuous improvement though small steps.” Sometimes I’ll add “small questions, small thoughts and small rewards.” That’s a quick and easy explanation.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. I just haven’t come up with a quick sound bite to explain the magnitude of Kaizen.
Kaizen is huge!
Kaizen is about gradual, lasting change without fear, resistance, overwhelm or procrastination. Can you feel something start to unwind in you as you read the word without? (Oh, and there’s my sound bite!)
How does it work?
With Kaizen, change or goal achievement happens through the accumulation of small steps, questions and thoughts. Kaizen bypasses that part of the brain that throws us into the fight or flight mode, the mode that made my friend give up before she even started. It is intuitive and gentle but it is very powerful. It builds sustainable momentum. When you add principles of creative thinking that momentum becomes an evolving process that reflects who you are, feels more natural and is easier to continue. In Kaizen, small thoughts and questions allow you to act with wisdom as you build new habits.
Why do we need it?
There is such a pandemic of overwhelm, perfectionism, fear and resistance in today’s world! Everything needs to be bigger, faster, done overnight. Reactive, as opposed to proactive. Just writing this I can feel prickles of anxiety. Corporations want to do more with less and they want it faster; workers compete to come up with big ideas, big solutions, big innovations. They want home runs not singles. They don’t want to see that the more batters that get on base the better the odds of the win.
Looking for the big innovation overlooks the importance of the smaller steps, the building blocks, and the creative process of trial and error – all the things I use in my coaching.
Stop and think for a moment. How do you bring change into your life? How do you work toward goals? Have you, like so many, fallen victim to the fairy tale of overnight whopping success?
Would you like to experience this for yourself? Contact me for a 30 minute discovery call.
There’s a kinder and smarter way. It’s called Kaizen.
“Happiness is like a cat. If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you… But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing up against your legs and jumping into your lap.”
~ Dr. William J. Bennett, American author and educator
This post isn’t specifically about happiness or cats. However, if you can imagine being in a situation where a contented cat (literally or figuratively) is purring on your lap… was that a smile?
The real reason for this blog is to pose a question and invite you into a conversation.
The question: Are you at a point in life where you’re not sure what’s next? Not in the sense of “should I do the dishes or watch the news”. But rather, a wondering about what is next for you in the bigger scope of life, pondering who you were meant to be, wondering how your next chapter will read. You’re not miserable, but just not particularly a contented cat.
According to Carl Jung this, along with some other deep questions, is our job in the second half of life.
Perhaps you’ve been in a certain career, on a particular path, or in a role for a while now. It no longer lights you up. Something is off but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You could stay the course, coast along, but that doesn’t feel good.
Is there another “gig” in my future, you ponder? If so, what is it? Or, you might wonder, Is it too late for something new? Can there be a “what’s next” for me? What could it be?
What if I told you that it’s really none of your business?
You’d probably sputter, roll your eyes, snicker.
I’ll say it again. What’s next for you in this beautiful journey of life is none of your business.
(Let’s qualify this with the assumption that your basic needs – physiological and safety – are being met. If so, we can continue this conversation.)
Paying attention is your business.
Awareness is always a good place to start.
Years ago, I worked with a great lady who used to start her daily huddles with the reminder “Radar on, Antenna Up!” I quote her frequently. This is such a great call to attention and a way to monitor and refocus that attention.
Because, when we sit and stew about what’s next, we create walls of worry.
But, when we ratchet up our awareness and curiosity, we create paths.
When we fixate on only one possible solution, we miss out on possibilities we may never have considered.
When we don’t believe there are possibilities, we shut them out. When we believe they’re there, we let them in.
When we look ahead with anticipation and trust toward what seems to be a hazy destination, the journey is a joyful one.
This is not hocus-pocus or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels and chanting “I do believe.” This is about implementing awareness and curiosity and paying attention to what shows up.
Let go of the struggle
Does this sound anti-goal or plan? Its not. I love purpose and aspiration. It’s just that I have come to see the value in letting go of the struggle. That is what impedes the creative process. And, make no mistake, it is your creative process that leads to the next best stage.
So, this is our business: Awareness, curiosity, anticipation and trust. Living in an open-ended question that guides us in the direction of our highest good. Taking the small steps, listening with our ears and body, adjusting our course and taking more steps. Knowing instinctively when you’ve arrived at the next place.
And then it’s about the happy cat leaping onto your lap.
I’d love to hear how this lands for you. Please leave a comment below.