Habits are Good Except When …

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This morning I watched my daughter as she turned on the light in the laundry room so she could get a sweatshirt for school. There are three light switches outside the door. She started at the far end and worked her way down to the correct switch.

It was interesting to realize how much of what we do in our lives is habitual. When I turn on the laundry room light I take it for granted that it’s the switch closest to the door. I don’t have to think about it. I hardly even have to look at it.

Ella still does. The knowledge has not been hard wired into her brain yet. She has not repeated that action enough to create a neural pathway, so every time she does it, she still has to think about it and “figure it out.”

Those hard wired neural pathways create the habitual patterns that are extremely beneficial in our lives. Can you imagine if you had to figure out how to tie your shoes or read the paper, cook an egg or start your car every morning?

And you think it takes you a long time getting ready for work now?!?!

Most of us don’t have to think about those things: We don’t have to bog our conscious mind down with the minutiae of our daily tasks. Our subconscious mind takes over and handles those details. And that’s a really good thing… Except…

Except when the habitual patterns – the hard-wiring in our brains – keep us doing things that are NOT beneficial to the creation of TRUE Abundance.

Lately, I’ve been paying very close attention to the hard-wired patterns in my life. I’m evaluating them to see if they are serving me – moving me towards a life of TRUE Abundance – or sabotaging me – holding me back from TRUE Abundance. It’s a very interesting exercise if you feel like trying it.

Basically, you bring consciousness back to as many of your daily activities as you can. It’s a practice in presence. How conscious can you become of the normally unconscious actions you take throughout the day?

You might want to start with just 10-minutes. Try spending the next 10-minutes being fully conscious of every action you take. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Last night, as I was working on the online community site for the 30-Day Abundance Quest, I got to experience just how tenacious these hard wired patterns are. I have long known that perfectionism is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. And as I worked on the site I realized just how strong its grip is.

With my trip last week and then all of the downtime my hosting service has been having I was working on the site late last night so it would be ready for today’s official launch. On a conscious, intellectual level, I knew that the top priority was to get all the functionality working correctly so that the community members could login, access the program recordings and resources and start connecting with and supporting one another.

But even as I “knew” what I “should” be doing I felt an irresistible urge to work on the design of the site, to make it look good and get the cool bells and whistles installed and working. It was a great opportunity for me to take another step in deconstructing that hard-wired neural pathway.

At times I felt like I was in the middle of a big tug of war: My unconscious mind was urging me to indulge the perfectionism and work on the “nice to haves” while my conscious mind was urging me to get the core functionality in place so the site would be ready to go today. Each time I felt the unconscious pattern of perfectionism starting to “win” I stopped and took a Breath Break and brought myself back into presence.

Where do you go into unconscious, habitual patterns that hold you back from TRUE Abundance? Start paying attention, become an investigator into the habits of your life. And when you find a habit that holds you back, start to bring more consciousness to it.

Try putting in a “Breath Break” before jumping into your unconscious actions. Email is another one of my self-limiting habitual patterns. So I’ve added a Breath Break before every email check. Every time I feel the email urge, I stop and breathe. After the breath I ask myself if I really need to check email at that moment. Will checking email move me towards or away from TRUE Abundance? If the answer is away, I don’t check it.

Where could you use a Breath Break? Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

Your partner in TRUE Abundance.

Edward

PS. If you do have habits that hold you back from financial abundance, the 30-Day Abundance Quest program is perfect for you. Over the next 30-days you’ll take short, simple actions that are specifically designed to transform your unconscious patterns of scarcity and lack into conscious patterns of abundance and prosperity. And you’ll be supported every step of the way by me and by the amazing community of Deliberate Creators who have joined the 30-Day Abundance Quest Community! We just began today, and it would be great to have you along on this journey into TRUE Abundance!

Have You Ever Had One Of THOSE Weeks?

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I haven’t posted much this week. It’s not from a lack of trying. It’s from an inability (or an unwillingness) to complete anything I consider worth posting. I’ve started about 8 different posts, opened up another 5 or 6 from my drafts folder and closed them all when I found myself spinning around in circles and worrying that I was just making them worse!

Most of us have days, or weeks, like this; times when we’re spiraling around our old limiting beliefs and patterns and resisting the opportunity for personal evolution that is bubbling up.

Yes, even somewhat successful personal growth bloggers have these moments.

They’re not fun. They’re certainly not comfortable. But in the end, experience has taught me that when I come out the other side, I’m at a higher level of awareness and functioning.

So forgive me while I swirl around in my inner muckety muck for a few days. I appreciate your patience. And I have a feeling that I’ll have a few insights to share with you when I come up for air.

A Commitment to Continuous Course Correction

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Have you ever been so invested in a plan that you ignore guidance – inner and outer – no matter how clear? I do that. I create a certain vision of how a project or plan or event is “supposed” to unfold and I hold on tenaciously to that vision in spite of growing input urging me to change direction.

That happened this morning when I went for a hike in the redwoods … sort of.

I love hiking and, whenever possible I try to get out during the weekend for a nice long solo hike. I love the solitude, the connection with the Earth, the quiet, the exercise.

B.E. – Before Ella – it was much easier to find time for these hikes. A.E. – After Ella – my hiking time is much harder to come by, so when a window opens up I hold onto it tightly, sometimes, as you’ll see, until my knuckles turn white, or get frostbite.

This morning I had negotiated some solo time away from the family, and I was definitely looking forward to an early morning hike in the redwoods.

When I arose at 5:30 I saw that last night was one of those rare nights of hard frost here in Northern California: The bushes, cars and nearby houses were covered with a shimmering frosty white coating. Since I don’t have the proper clothes for long hikes in 20-degree weather, I wisely chose to meditate before rushing out into the frosty, pre-dawn air.

It was almost 8:00 by the time I left, but still cold. My fingers were nearly numb when I finished scraping the frost off the car windows. As I drove I began to hear little voices of dissent in my head, questioning whether or not this early morning hike was such a good idea.

My plan was to hike for 2-3 hours then stop by a café for an hour or two of writing. As I approached my designated café, I heard a clear voice in my head saying, “Looks pretty warm and cozy in there. Maybe we should go there first! Hint. Hint.”

“Don’t worry. It will be just as nice and cozy in there after the hike!” I insisted.

When I got out of the car at Armstrong Woods my first thought was, “It’s friggin’ cold! Maybe I should go to the café first.”

But once again, that old stubborn streak kicked in with, “Once we get moving it won’t feel so cold.”

Yeah, right!

I made it about 10-minutes down the trail – felt like 30-minutes – before I stopped and said, probably out loud, “This is not fun!”

And even then, even after admitting to myself that I was definitely NOT having fun, I still had to argue with the stubborn part of myself that was invested in seeing the morning unfold in a certain way. Finally, I’m thankful to say, my wiser self – or was it just my colder self? – took charge and I turned around, and walked – quickly – back to the car, drove back to the café, and got a nice hot cup of chai.

Much better!

Do you ever do that? Do you ever get so caught up in your vision of how something is meant to unfold? Have you ever ignored, or even argued with, supportive guidance urging you to shift?

Imagine for a minute that you’re the captain of a ship. It’s the middle of a dark, foggy night and you’re attempting to get to a small island. You’re at the wheel and the navigator comes to you and says, “Captain, according to my calculations, we’re heading 10 degrees northwest of our destination.”

“Hogwash.” You say. “We’re right on course.”

Later in the night, the navigator, once again comes by and says, more adamantly this time, “Captain, I’m convinced that we’re now heading at least 15 degree northwest of the island.”

“Thank you for sharing.” You say. “Now go back to bed. I’ve got this under control.”

Soon you get tired and turn the wheel over to your subordinate with the command to, “Stay on this course until we arrive at the island.”

“Yes sir.”

Just after dawn, you’re awakened by a tentative knock on your cabin door. “Enter.” You say.

“Captain?” The navigator says timorously.

“Yes.”

“We passed the island sometime during the night. We’re now approximately 10-miles to the northwest.”

“Damn.”

We all have a navigator. It’s called our inner guidance. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather make that course correction the first time I hear from the navigator. This morning, that would have been long before arriving at Armstrong Woods.

There are no mistakes. There are no right or wrong decisions. There are only choices that will require course corrections and adjustments.

We don’t arrive at our destination by a perfectly straight line. Even the path that “the crow flies” is filled with constant subtle and not-so-subtle adjustments and corrections.

It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that once you make a decision and choose a course you’re done. You’re far from done. You’ve just taken the first step on the journey.

This morning as I walked back to the car, I realized how much easier my life can be if I let go of the need to “be right.” Letting go of my stubborn attachment to how things should look will open the way to fluidity and continuous change. And ultimately, that openness will lead me to my chosen destination much more quickly and gracefully.

I’m all for that!

So from this morning forward I intend to focus a significant portion of my awareness on remaining open to the inner and outer guidance providing me with suggestions for necessary course corrections.

Would you consider doing the same? Let me know. Leave a comment with your commitment to continuous course correction.

Photographs and Memories

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I just read a wonderful comment from Linda on the For Perfectionists Only…Not post. In the post I mention William Stafford, and Linda, who was a student of his at Lewis and Clark college, shares a lovely personal story about him and his down-to-earth humility and kindness. She also shared this interesting fact about Stafford:

Something else I haven’t seen written about him: he was also a photographer. He brought a camera to class and took photos of his students’ faces, which he had printed and posted all over the walls of his campus office. It was those photos, he said, that helped him to remember his students’ names and faces years later, as he did mine when I heard one of his last readings in 1992.

This comment brought back a memory of my grandfather’s medical office. We were there to pack up his things after he passed away. He had been a general practitioner for thirty years or more, in a low-income section of Boston.

He had a camera – I forget the make – that used 35mm film but took half-frame shots. He took photographs of all his patients, had contact prints made from the film and taped the images to his office walls.

There were hundreds of these tiny images on the walls. He organized them by family. It was amazing to look at the images and see all the families he was treating. There were loads of three generation families, and I’m pretty sure there was at least one family that he treated four generations.

I wonder if, like William Stafford, this was how he remembered his patients’ names and faces. Or could it be that he was offering his patients a moment or two of “fame” when they got their picture on his wall.?

For Perfectionists Only…NOT!

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Last week, on a lovely walk along the Laguna path with my friend and colleague Suzanne Murray, we wandered onto the topic of perfectionism. She admitted to being a “recovering perfectionist,” having recently discovered that she could settle for excellence instead. And while I have made a similar shift from hardline perfectionism to compassionate excellence, I constantly battle the powerful allure of perfectionism.

Suzanne mentioned the poet and teacher William Stafford who is recognized as one of the most prolific poets of recent times. For the last twenty or more years of his life he wrote at least one poem every day. And, to the dismay of his students at Lewis and Clark University, he assigned the same task. I can just imagine the groans and complaints that must have followed that announcement. But when the students asked how it could be done or insisted that it was impossible, he replied simply, “Lower your standards.”

“Lower my standards?” The thought of lowering my standards flies in the very face of my beloved and comfortable perfectionism. If I’m going to put something out in the world it had better be perfect. And, as far as my inner perfectionist is concerned, nothing will ever be perfect! And that, my friends, is the problem.

But see, there’s a key component to Stafford’s assignment that my inner perfectionist doesn’t quite get. Stafford never told his students to, publish a poem a day. He told them only to write a poem a day, which is exactly what he did.

I bet if we were to look at some of his daily poems – the ones that did not get published – we would agree that many of them, perhaps most, were not so good. I’m sure he would agree with us as well. But when you write a poem a day, you’ve got a lot to choose from. And out of those daily poems he found enough good ones to publish more than 50 books, one of which – Traveling Through the Dark – won the National Book Award for poetry. He was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and held the post which is now called the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Clearly there is something to this idea of “lowering your standards.”

Do you want to know how many “unfinished” essays, stories, newsletter articles and other stuff I have stashed away on my hard drive? I bet you do! But I’m not going to tell you. Suffice it to say that by lowering my standards, not a whole heck of a lot, I could have been publishing 2-3 newsletters each month instead of one, plus articles, books and who knows what else!

What would happen if I lowered my standards just a bit? What if I took out these essays, gave them a final (quick) revision and posted them online? What if one person happened upon one of them and it turned out to be exactly the thing he or she needed to hear at that moment? Is it worth it? Is it worth the risk that I might publish an article that stinks? Is it worth it to risk posting an article that isn’t perfect? Is it worth lowering my standards? Even if I can reach just one person, you bet it is!

And what about you? What “articles” do you have sitting on your hard drive? What creation of yours is waiting to see the light of day because it is not yet “perfect?” What if you lowered your standards? Just a tiny bit. Just enough to finish it and get it out into the world.

Here’s my commitment to you: I’m lowering my standards. I’m going to start writing a lot more, and publishing a lot more of what I write. Some of it will be crap. And some of it won’t.

When you read something that’s crap, feel free to let me know. And when you read something that’s not, feel free to let me know that too. And who knows, you may just find a kernel in something crappy that really works for you, a bit of insight buried in the not-so-eloquent stuff that helps you take the next step in your life. Remember, one person’s crap is another person’s fertilizer!

And now here’s my hope and my challenge to you: Can you lower your standards? Just a bit? Can you look through your hard drive, or your closet or workshop? Can you dust off your chisels or brushes, get our your business plan or novel and reawaken your creative dreams? Can you lower your standards just enough to get those creations, those ideas, those dreams that are waiting inside of you, out into the light?

If you find yourself stuck in the process, wondering if it’s perfect enough, remember this line from the last poem William Stafford wrote on August 28, 1993, the day that he died, “Be ready for what God sends.”

Indeed, be ready for what god sends, and be willing to let it come through you and out into the light.