3 Life Lessons From 2013

questioningI know it is well into the new year and many of us are focused on working on our resolutions and looking ahead to lighter, richer, healthier, better version of ourselves. But, I’m not quite ready to close the book on lucky 13. Before I bid adieu to el Año Viejo, I feel it’s important to reflect on what life had to teach me last year. For me it was a great year with challenges, achievements, wins, and losses. Each small experience brought to me life lessons. Below are three of the big takeaways from 2013 that I wish to share with you:

 

Helping people make positive change should feel as good as spreading soft butter on warm toast

I love mentoring and coaching people to help them achieve their dreams. I mentored friends, colleagues, and students throughout my career as a natural byproduct of my work, but this year I was fortunate to have a job as a coach and work with people from all over the country. This summer I had a couple of coaching and mentoring experiences that were very challenging. The goals were not the issue, it was how I felt about the progress they were making. I felt frustrated and anxious at not being able to truly identify the best way to be helpful and have them move things along more quickly. I tried different tactics and continued to feel uneasy with my approach. I sometimes doubted my abilities as a coach and wondered if I was asking the right questions. Yet, other people I was coaching were making great progress and it was thrilling to see how each session was opening up new ways of thinking. In the end I learned this: people can only work on the things that that they are ready to face – and that goes for professional as well as for personal issues. It dawned on me that I have seen this kind of resistance to change in myself. When we are truly ready to deal with the barriers that hold us back then we become more open to help and more pliable to change. Those people who sailed ahead with a little bit of coaching were truly ready for it and helping them felt as good and easy as spreading soft butter on warm toast. For myself I learned that be most helpful to people I have to match their pace. If their pace is at a standstill, that’s as far as it will go and that is okay.

True friends are superheroes that show their superpowers in times of distress.

Some lessons come in the ways of do’s and don’ts. This is the case with this lesson. Throughout my life I have considered myself surrounded by lots of friends. The main reason for this is because I called everyone a friend. If I knew only a little bit about you then bam!, he or she was a friend. If we had done some work together or shared an experience, that meant we were automatically friends. You can see that I had set a pretty low bar to friendship and it came back to bite me. So the lesson for me here was don’t set the bar to friendship so low that I can trip on it and fall on my face 🙂  But, the real takeaway comes from the incredibly beautiful experience of seeing my true friends emerge by my side when I was facing difficult times. My friends (and I use that title very carefully now) have become larger than life superheroes in my life giving me their attention, support, love and constant reassurances. They have deflected negativity with one swoop  WOOSH!, crushed my self-doubt with a single blow CRASH!, and kicked fear right in the gut. POW! Their counsel, advice, and shoulders to lean on have been the most precious gift any one could receive. True friends, like Superheroes, are rare indeed.

Work towards what you want but let go of the outcome

I am a big believer in visioning. If you can envision what you want, I believe that you will get what you want. Where I get discouraged is when the path towards my vision seems to take me off course, or if it does not line up with the steps I thought it would take, or if it’s taking much longer than I thought. The frustration comes in when I feel I cannot control the steps or the speed with which I am making progress towards my vision. From the prior two takeaways I learned this: I cannot control the outcome. How things wrap up or end up are not for me to own because all who are involved share and contribute to that outcome. I can feel elated or disappointed about the result but it is not for me to own as if my actions alone were the catalyst. The best thing I did in 2013 was to surrender. To surrender is hard but also uplifting. To surrender does not mean giving up my power, rather it is a way to release my power from the box I had constructed around it. If you’re looking to feel lighter in 2014, try surrendering. It works!

If you would like to share your big takeaways from 2013, write them in the comments section and I will post them in a special page for all of us to read.

Feliz y Prospero 2014!

Much Love,

We Attract What We Need

(first posted on June 19, 2011)

The friends in our lives fulfill our emotional and spiritual needs

At a wonderful Texas retreat with friends

This week I heard Iyanla Vanzant say on the Oprah Show, “You attract what you are.” Those five words rang in my head and I repeated them to really absorb their meaning. The mental picture was a magnet drawing in similar matter into its magnetic field.  Hmmm, I began to test this theory with different scenarios: when I am insecure, do I attract people or situations that add to my insecurity? when I am confident, do I attract people or situations that add to my confidence? When I am fearful, do I attract people or situations that add to my fear?

I began to see how this might be true. But, as it relates to the people who are constants in our magnetic field, what do they say about us? I mentally surveyed all of the friends that have remained in my life since high school or college, or who were once work colleagues and now are friends. I have many qualities in common with my friends. I will tell you about one of them. Dionne and I met during my junior year in college. To describe her in a few words, I’d say she is vivacious, spiritual, responsible, compassionate, feminine, and my Aries sister who can make me laugh in less than 15 seconds. Whenever Dionne and I talk, we hear each other in a way that no one else can. Because we both suffer from elevated levels of responsibility – we feel it is our duty to ensure that things are getting done and people’s needs are being met without the inconvenience of our feelings or needs – our antennas are tuned in to the things that we say or do when we are putting ourselves last. With profound understanding of how we tick, we have been each other’s support for many years.

I continued testing other relationships and wondered about people in my past. If people were no longer in my life, did it mean that I had outgrown that part of myself? I thought back to people who at one point seemed would be friends for life but, are no longer. Yes, there was that one friend I met during my freshman year of college. We were hardly ever apart for the next four years. It reminds me of how socially insecure I felt during that whole time. I wanted people to like me and to be smart enough to make it to graduation. My friend was sweet, funny, smart, but also a little weird and went out of her way to be different and edgy. What we had in common was our extreme vulnerability. But, we could not be more different in our approach to adapt to our social environment. We remained friends for a little while after graduation but then we went our separate ways.

It may be true that we attract what we are. But, another truth I found from my own reflection is that we attract what we need –  at the time that we need it. Thinking back to the beautiful relationships in my life, I can see that each one gave me what I needed at the time. The friend in college, who felt just as vulnerable as I, provided a balance for my deep desire to fit in with her need to be different. Sometimes, we also attract the opposite of what we are to challenge us or encourage us. One day that I was feeling unsure about a business decision I was making, I received a call from a friend who for twenty minutes told me why it was exactly the right thing to do. It is no accident that now that I have started my own business, many of my friends are creative, entrepreneurial and have a positive outlook on life.

We attract the people who will teach us something, challenge us and help us grow. We do this unconsciously. Pay attention to the people that are around you at this time in your life. Can you see what it is you need? This is part of your growth. And, during these growing experiences you will find people who are of similar matter, and they will become those dear and cherished friends who will hear you and “get you” because they are just like you.  

Much Love