It’s lonely at the top. The higher you climb in an organization, the fewer people you have to talk frankly to.
Dogs (and Your 5th Grader) Are Smarter Than You
I love my dogs. Life for them is so simple and pure. Maybe I'm oversimplifying, but I'm pretty confident that they aren't wasting their days worrying about what the other dogs in the neighborhood think of them. Or what kind of collar they hope I'll get for them so they can be the coolest pooch on the block. Their agenda is clear: Chill out. Play. Sleep. Eat. Get into a little trouble. Chase a cat.
What's on your agenda? I’m certain it's way, way more complicated than that. If you're like most people I coach and consult with, your list of worries takes over your agenda more days than not. Your list includes tactical, practical things like paying your bills, keeping your job, having groceries, making it to meetings on time, and so on. It also includes personal things, all rooted in our fears about measuring up to one standard or another. We spend our time distracted, disillusioned, and often depressed, even if not clinically. We are stressed out on the job and at home. We are medicated. We are surviving instead of thriving. We want more and are never satisfied with what we are literally killing ourselves to attain. Nothing is ever enough. Other people let us down, get in the way of our pursuit of happiness, and demand more of us that we feel capable of giving. We are searching for the answers but we aren't even sure we are asking the right questions.
Oh, to be a dog...if even for a day.
What can our dogs teach us?
- When you're chilling out, chill out. When you're playing, play. In other words, be present. Live in the moment. Plan for the future, but don't live in it. Learn from the past but don't dwell on it. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, be there. Don't waste the present moment chasing the moment you just left or fretting about the moment that hasn't arrived. Give the gift of all of your skills, knowledge, and abilities to the moment you're in and you'll reap abundance, and so will the world around you.
- Never trust a dog to watch your sandwich. Even dogs know they can't be trusted to watch food for you. Why? Because they are hard wired to survive and getting enough to eat is crucial. So, if you leave your sandwich unattended with a dog nearby, who is to blame if they eat it? Not the dog. You. If you trust someone to not let you down, and they've let you down before, who is at fault if they "break" this trust? Not them. You.
- Let crap go. If your fellow pack mate steals your food at breakfast, don't waste time being mad about it all day. Instead, guard it better tomorrow. When someone does something crappy to you and you make it the center of your world (a.k.a., feeding the drama), you're the one suffering. They usually couldn't care less. So, they made you suffer and then you're suffering LONGER? Dogs don't do this. They don't dwell. They live, they learn, and they move on.
Whether you're at work or at home, learn from our four-legged friends. Be present. Trust appropriately. Move on. You're not getting another today, so by all means, don't waste it, especially not on petty b.s. that doesn't deserve your attention. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be as smart as your dog. One thing I can promise: Follow these lessons and you'll be less stressed and more satisfied. It's not a rope toy or tennis ball, but it'll do.
Do you ever wonder when you'll have enough?
Enough money. Enough time. Enough love. Enough stuff. Enough success. Enough happiness. Enough memories. Enough space. Enough LIFE. When will our efforts produce ENOUGH?
Last week, a stellar, robust, larger-than-life woman who was like my second mother to me succumbed to cancer. I took my daughters to the memorial service over the weekend and I wept for her, her husband, children, grandchildren, and every last person who loved her throughout her short life. The rabbi wove a beautiful service together, apparently like only rabbis can do. Referencing the Talmud, she spoke about the elusive concept of "enough." (Thankfully for me, she spoke in English for this segment of the service so I could grasp the powerful message she offered. I know a few choice words in Yiddish but I doubt those would have done me much good.)
The message was simple: We will never have enough. Well, not in this lifetime, anyway. We will always want more. Even when we are happy, we will thirst for more happiness, for more time to revel in in, for more people with which to share it with. At first, this struck me as deeply sad. Then, in true B (what I call myself) fashion, I got even more thinky thinky and realized how freeing this concept is! If NOTHING is ever enough, then that means I can stop this senseless, frustrating, and downright crazy-making pursuit of it! I'll never HAVE it, so I can stop trying to GET it! Yowzers!! This brilliant and perfectly placed rabbi just saved me about 3 bazillion hours of therapy, gallons of tears, and countless bottles of wine.
Scratch that. I'll still drink plenty of wine.
Only now, I'll do it to celebrate the amount of I DO have. The money. The love. The time. The stuff. The success. The happiness. The memories. The space. The LIFE. I'll rejoice in THAT, knowing that it's the only enough I'll ever know.
How can this approach free YOU from angst and frustration? It's so damn simple that it's one of the most profound things I've ever shared.
You can now live in THIS moment. In THIS situation. In THIS experience, not yearning for what you don't yet have, but rather celebrating with wild abandon whatever it is that you DO have. The suffering we experience comes from the gaps: The difference between what we want (or expect) and what we have. Letting go of the quest for "enough" removes a massive amount of this suffering. It equalizes what we want with what we have.
Happiness isn't having what you want....it's wanting what you have. It's being satisfied with your current state. There is joy in striving, but we should never forget to be happy now. Because, folks, truer than true: Now is all we have. Let that foolish notion of enough go free...and feel the powerful shift in your life that will allow to accept things are they are, not as we envision them to be someday. We don't have someday. We have to-day. Eat that up, people. Eat. That. Up.
Dear Dr. B,
It’s 2017 but I’m still stuck in 2016. I had a crappy holiday, realizing how off track my life is these days. I always feel like I’m coming up short wherever I turn and I just don’t know what to do to make 2017 any different. Work, home, health…you name it and it’s a mess. I’m heading into the New Year making resolutions that I’m confident will never stick.
Can you help?
You’re not alone. If I had a nickel for every time someone presented this problem, I’d make Warren Buffet look poor. The answer is buried in the problem itself: You are where you are based on a series of decisions you’ve made, responses you’ve had, and perceptions you’ve held about yourself and the world.
So, how do you fix where you are? Decisions. A series of decisions that head you in another direction. That’s how pivots happen and pivots, by definition, change everything. You know better than anyone what decisions have led you to this moment in time, so you know best which ones might need to be revisited. For the purposes of this quick and dirty response, I’m going to keep it simple with a quick list of things to DO and things NOT to DO as you make shifts in 2017.
State your commitments in terms of “more” versus “less.” More of things vs. less of things (focus on action, not resisting action). More fruits vs. fewer sweets. More proactive vs. less lazy.
Define yourself as you’d like to be. Things like: I am flexible. I am patient. I am kind. I am fit.
Instead of trying to tackle 2017 all at once, target Q1. A year is a long time, so stay on track today, day after day.
Be accountable – to yourself and others. Tell people what you plan to do. Write down your new commitments and post them where you can see them every day.
Expect perfection. You’re human, you’re going to make mistakes, come up short. Being harsh with yourself won’t increase the likelihood of your success.
Expect immediate results. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t change your life that fast either. One step, one day, at a time.
Forget to reward yourself for every little bit of progress. When you make a positive decision, seeing yourself doing something that looks like a pivot, congratulate yourself with a hearty, “Go, YOU!” Celebrate your progress, remembering that hard work really does pay off. And living a life you’re joyous about it worth it.
If you need an accountability partner, or if you want to dig into the decisions you’ve made and are continuing to make, reach out. I’d be happy to support you as you create the 2017 that awaits you.
Dear Dr. B,
There is so much stress and drama at my office. Management is harping on the tiniest of mistakes when the larger organization is falling apart. I’m getting caught in the crossfire and I’m walking around on eggshells, waiting for other shoe to drop. My stress is through the roof and it’s really taking a toll on me. Every time my boss calls a meeting, I feel overwhelmed, wondering what he’s going to find this time. People who are doing a good job but aren’t part of the “network” get targeted and take the fall for the truly incompetent. I’m working crazy hours and I know it’s going to catch up to me. I’m going to make a mistake and then what? What do I do?
~ Stressed to Perfection
Dear Stressed to Perfection,
That sounds like a shitty way to live. I have some survival tactics for you, of course, but I have to ask the question that’s as obvious as the nose on my face: Why are you still working there? I know it’s hard to start a job search. I know change can be difficult. I know that the devil you know can feel better than the devil you don’t. I know that you hate to give up and admit defeat. But, Stressed, this defeat doesn’t sound like it’s yours. Have you done your level best every day? If so, it’s time to assess what more you think you can do there (is there really anything?). And then, my friend, move on. It’s often hard for us as humans to do that. To give up. To throw in the towel. We stay committed to things (or people) until we’re set to be committed. That’s no bueno. Since I’m in the advice business, here’s my survival advice until such time as you walk out the doors and don’t walk back in:
- Get active in your job search. There are other jobs and companies that would be blessed to find your kind of passion, fortitude, and competence. Seek them out.
- Focus on self-care. How much are you exercising? How healthy are your food choices? When was the last time you took a day off? Pick one good thing you can do to show yourself some love and do that. Right now. Then pick another. Repeat. Building your strength and focusing on you is your best use of your energy. You’ve been focusing on Crazytown and that ain’t good.
- Find your power. The first two pieces of advice were really all about this, to be honest, but I couldn’t start with this or you might have stopped reading before you got here. You are the only one in charge of your power but you’ve somehow forgotten that along the way. You’re handing over your power here by letting this situation define you. Stop that. When you’re surrounded by crazy you can feel as though you’re crazy, but that doesn’t make you crazy. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths before you enter or exit any room, meeting, start a project, take a call, etc. Imagine yourself in your happy place. What can you see? Smell? Feel? Now, when you’re interacting with the other inhabitants of Crazytown, imagine that they are behind plexiglass, like in a zoo exhibit. You’re in your happy place, they aren’t. You’re watching them like we watch the monkeys at the zoo, without becoming a monkey because we are on the other side of the glass. Observe what’s happening, but don’t become what’s happening. That’s where your power resides and where stress can’t find you.
Call me if you need support. You’re not alone, not out here where the peace and the power is. We are waiting for you!
~ Dr. B