The Success Catalyst

Up Your Game & Bring Out Your Best

Reactive Versus Creative Operating Systems

From The Leadership Circle™

Most of us have seen the meme that asks a group, “Who wants change?” and everyone raises their hands. Then they’re asked,” Who’s willing to change?” and all hands are down. Put another way, “Everyone wants to be on the top of the mountain but few are willing to do the climb.”

Why is it so hard for so many of us to make some of the changes we keep saying we want to make in order to have the impact we know we can have? One of the reasons is that we don’t get what we want, we get what we believe. I think Oprah said that. And from my experience working with leaders, and in my own life, I’d say she’s spot on. 

According to the Universal Model of Leadership, developed by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams and described in their book, “Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results”, we all have within us two operating systems: Reactive and Creative. And they have a lot to do with how we play our inner and outer game.

Guess which one dominates most individuals, teams, work cultures, and organizations? And guess which one, when developed, is what takes leads from good to great, and is the most highly correlated with being an effective and successful leader?

When a leader is operating from their Creative competencies they are empowered, energized and effective. They lead with vision, purpose, and passion and are focused on moving toward their most important and valued long-term outcomes. And they bring out the best in others while doing so. 

When operating from their Reactive tendencies, they’re typically engaging in behaviors that may also get a lot accomplished (or not), but they tend to drain the energy of the system, others, and themselves. From this approach, they’re focused on short-term and problem-focused (real or perceived) threats, and on what they want to move away from rather than what they want to move towards. 

The Reactive is driven from fear and anxiety and it’s based on limiting beliefs and assumptions that we all have, in varying degrees and in varying styles, from our childhood formative years. It comes with the territory of being human. It’s neuroscience 101: when there’s a perceived threat we fight, flight or freeze. We all developed beliefs and behaviors to cope with our environments growing up and not all of these are in service of our greater good.

Here are the three dimensions of the Reactive tendencies. Take a look and see which one resonates most for you.

1. Complying Your sense of self, worth, and safety comes from don’t rock the boat, keep the peace, keep people happy – approval-seeking. 

2. Protecting Keeping distance establishes your sense of self, worth, and safety through your intelligence. Think, “smartest person in the room.”

3. Controlling Your sense of self, worth, and safety comes from what you achieve. Survival of the fittest, winners and losers, power over others gets the job done – whatever it takes.

In what ways do any of these Reactive tendencies show up for you in your role at work? 

Our job as leaders is to harness our ability to act from intentional awareness, engage more fully in our creative competencies, uncover our reactive tendencies, and strengthen the ability to see things from different perspectives. 

Practicing and integrating new attitudes, behaviors, and habits while letting go of unconscious patterns that get in the way of optimal productivity and success is a process, all in service of being of maximum value to your team, your organization and work culture, and to YOU.

It starts with being committed to a growth mindset, so let’s do this! 

Next time, we’ll take a deeper dive into how to get out of your own way and strengthen your inner game by engaging your Creative competencies

Dani

Seeing Eye To Eye

Out, Loud, and Proud at Wildwood Farm Sanctuary in Oregon.

Who would disagree that life is more fun when we’re surrounded by those who see things the way we do? It certainly can be a lot easier. But what do we do when they don’t and we have to work and live productively and effectively together?

We are living in unprecedented times and there’s no shortage of opportunities to work through our differences. And the stakes have never been higher if we don’t. It’s not to say I don’t love a great deep dive into a juicy subject with someone who sees things differently but, more often than not, working through our differences become missed opportunities for a chance to learn and grow together.

Imagine if when someone said something we disagreed with we responded with a genuine, “That’s an interesting perspective. Can you say more?” or “What’s important about that for you?” rather than reacting with, “What is wrong with you, how can you not see it the way I do?” or “Why are you taking this course of action when it’s obvious it should go like this?”

Seeing eye to eye. Wildwood Farm Sanctuary in Oregon.

Instead of having the goal be to agree, what if the goal were to understand, learn, and connect? I always say to my coachees when they are frustrated and want something they’re not getting, “Whatever you want more of, give more of.” For example, if they want to be understood, one of their assignments is likely to be to go out and be more understanding in their interactions and report back the results when they tried it out in the field.

I have them get into a “relationship” with what it means to be understood and that it’s a universal need for all of us. It’s easy for us to see how others aren’t “doing it right” and a lot harder to see the ways in which we’re committing the same faux pas.

I also have them connect with the assumptions and beliefs that are underneath their perspectives so that they have a choice to choose their perspective rather than have their perspectives choose them.

When we judge others and don’t meet them where they are, we’re not going to get very far. Nobody wants to be shamed and made wrong for the way they see things. Our POV’s are precious to us and we only change when we feel we own our decisions.

You can’t make someone see a situation through your lense, but you can lead by example. There’s a saying, live by “attraction rather than promotion” and those who want what you have will take notice and will do what you do.

Finding common ground. Wildwood Farm Sanctuary in Oregon.

So, the next time you encounter someone with a difference of opinion, and it won’t be hard to find these days, notice how your first instinct is to want to react and prove them wrong, try a fresh approach and invite the tension, get curious, look for common ground, and remember that they are struggling with the same needs and want to be as heard and seen as you do.

We’re all in this together so let’s start acting that way.

Tara Brach, Ph.D, psychologist, author and teacher of meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening powerfully describing “understanding” another person is to “stand under”:

“Isn’t it true that to get to know the beauty of a tree, you have to be quiet & rest in the shade of the tree? Don’t you have to stand under the tree? To understand anyone, you need to stand under them for a little while…you have to listen to them and be quiet and take in who they are, as if from under, as if from inside out…”

The Difference Between Coaching And Mentoring

In a world where up is down and down is up, it helps to be prepared for anything.

Years ago, I had a coaching client come to one of our sessions after just having seen “The King’s Speech”, a movie about a British royal inheriting the throne and his hired speech therapist who successfully helps the king overcome his fears to powerfully deliver the speech of his life, and she said, “That’s exactly what we do together – you challenge me to get out of my comfort zone – to let go of old ideas and limiting beliefs that aren’t serving me in order to achieve my goals, while also tapping into my inner strength and ‘finding my voice’.” 

The magic of good coaching is that the coach does not necessarily need to have expertise or even knowledge of the coachee’s professional field in order to deliver lasting beneficial results. The speech therapist knew nothing about how to rule a kingdom yet he successfully delivers the outcome the future king had so desperately sought prior to their partnership, without ever having stepped foot into a royal palace. 

And he does so by not ‘buying into’ the king’s story of himself as a stutterer. He stutters, but that isn’t the whole story. The real story, his much bigger story, is he has a kingdom to rule and a country to lead and if he wants to invigorate, unify, and inspire his fellow countrymen during a period of great uncertainty, he must do the unthinkable and face his inner demons to achieve the seemingly impossible. His impediment, the ostensible obstacle, becomes the way to his greatness, and this is the bigger story of humanity to which we can all relate. 

In the process, he learns how to “get out of himself” and focus on what his people need. In Co-Active coaching, we call that “forwarding the action and deepening the learning.” And we do that by engaging our coachees in thought-provoking and creative conversations, based on deep listening, getting curious, and asking powerful and clarifying questions so that they find and form their own answers. What they need is already inside themselves and it is our job as their coach to empower them to develop confidence in their own natural abilities and potential. 

There’s a saying, “When we go for what we want, we get what’s in the way.” Just as in TKS, when he tries to give a powerful speech, his obstacle (his stutter), prevents him from accomplishing that which is most important to him. In coaching, we want what gets in the way to show up so that we can discover the thought and behavior patterns that are not serving our coachee’s real agenda. 

These reactive tendencies are gold because now we can identify the internal barriers to their success and facilitate the process of creating new habits and competencies of thought and behavior, based on what truly matters. This allows them to cultivate new ideas, perspectives, and solutions to their ongoing challenges. 

A coach helps their coachees discover what they want, why they want it, and what they’re going to do about it. Then create structures of accountability to make it happen. Coaching is about empowering others to stretch and grow with increasing resilience to match the growing complexity and uncertainty of our ever-changing environments, and to empower others to do the same. 

Although coaching and mentoring share many similar principles and qualities: both are built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect, both can be formal and informal, and both are developmental – learning and growth being the cornerstones – there are distinct differences. 

According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), mentoring can be thought of as “guiding from one’s own experience or sharing of experience in a specific area of industry or career development.”

Think of it this way, mentors are seasoned professionals experienced and typically trained in the area they are mentoring; leadership/executive/business/career development coaches are trained to coach professionals. 

Mentors are expected to share their experience, transfer knowledge, and give advice. You look for a mentor you admire and who has “been there, done that” in your industry, profession, or domain. A mentor is often someone who has been selected by the mentee, but they can also be assigned to new hires of an organization to help them learn the ropes of their new role and navigate the work culture. Kind of like a travel guide – they show you around and have your back when you get lost or need a clearer roadmap. The mentor will hopefully serve as a role model and they often provide useful introductions and networking opportunities. 

Several years ago I provided mentor coaching to coaches in training to become Certified Professional Co-Active Coaches (CPCC) and, for that role, I was both coach and mentor. I regularly shared my experience, offered guidance, and gave advice (very lightly), in service of assisting them to become effective coaches. I listened, observed, challenged, asked powerful questions, and offered relevant feedback. 

And, I have two mentor coaches, myself! I LOVE being coached and I LOVE being mentored by seasoned professional coaches who are widely admired and who I feel resonance with. They are so different from me in so many ways, but they are leaders in the movement and have experiences that I relish and appreciate. They also see and appreciate and learn from me – I love that.

Whether coach or mentor, you want someone who has a growth mindset and who is leading by example. Gaining knowledge and acquiring information is not the same as growing. Both mentors and coaches can be invaluable as part of any professional’s career support team.

Organizationally, creating a dynamic learning culture where both mentoring and coaching is valued, offered, and practiced, is the best of all worlds. It means you are being set up for success and in this fast-moving, hyper-growth reality where anything goes, in order to thrive, we must be able master our inner game to meet the complexity of conditions head-on so that “we have it, it doesn’t have us.”

Whether coaching or mentoring, in the spirit of leadership, “let your actions inspire others to learn more, do more, dream more, and become more.”

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic! 

5-4-3-2-1

Image by @tallieimages

As we collectively navigate this time of heightened uncertainty, it’s especially easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by the (social) media frenzy and lose “our center.”

So, here’s a practice that recently crossed my radar to help all of us anchor to the present moment, which, in reality, is all that exists. I know, sometimes way easier said than done.

It’s called 5-4-3-2-1 and it’s a super user-friendly way to reconnect to the here and NOW. I’ve been doing it, myself, and appreciating how grounding it is.

Wherever you are, look around and name 5 things you can see. I see my chiweenie, Rocco. My purple spiral notebook with my orange liquid gel pen hooked onto it. The cat brush. The old-growth tree outside my window. My coffee mug.

Now, name 4 things you can hear. I hear birds tweeting in my backyard (pretty much my favorite sound in the world.) Rocco snoring (also, pretty much my favorite sound in the world.) Kids down the block yelling (not one of my favorite sounds.) Neighbors’ dogs barking (also, not one of my favorite sounds.)

Name 3 things you can feel. My fleece beanie on my head (hey, I live in the Pacific Northwest. 🙂 ) Tightness in my jaw. My heart aching over a friend who unexpectedly died from complications while undergoing a simple surgery. 

Now it gets a little harder. Name 2 things you can smell. The jasmine outside my window. The fresh air coming through said window.

Lastly, 1 thing you can taste. The banana I ate.

*Do* try this at home (!) and let others know about this simple way to hit the pause button and take a mental break while we weather these stormy times together. 

Looking forward: How To Create The Year You Want

British Columbia road trip 2015

The tough-talking Queen of Vulnerability, Brene Brown, refers to the predictable pattern of New Year’s Resolutions and it goes like this:


January 1    This resolution is going to be awesome!
January 5    I’m awesome.  
January 10  This sucks.
January 20  I suck.


If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. For many, the new year is about a renewed sense of hope – this is the year we’re going to have more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. More courage/less fear. More productivity/less procrastination. More genuine connection with ourselves and others/less worry. More creativity/less stress.


But wanting something badly enough isn’t always enough. Most of us know from experience that – good intentions and all – traditional goal-setting, alone, doesn’t always work. So many things are competing for our attention these days – we often feel torn between our responsibilities at work and at home. Between taking care of others and taking time out for our own physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being, which is often the first that gets left behind.


Some of us make a list of resolutions at the beginning of the year, give it our best shot, and hope for the best. Then real life happens – everyday distractions, frustrations, obligations, disappointments and other challenges. And not much changes. 


One of the reasons this happens is we haven’t taken the time to ask ourselves what values we want to be honoring. A value is a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable. Values provide the foundation on which the things we consider important are built. They help guide our decisions and motivate us to take action, achieve balance, and gain a sense of satisfaction in our lives. They help us to create the future we want to be living into.


Many of us don’t take the time to think about our values until we experience a crisis or personal challenge. But you don’t have to wait until the sh*t hits the fan to align your values with your actions. By focusing on what’s important to us, we can reaffirm our sense of identity and empower ourselves to live a more authentic and courageous life.


When times are stormy, values are like a lighthouse, preventing us from drifting off course and anchoring us to our sense of self. In good times, values are the wind in our sails propelling us to live fully and with purpose.
So, before you go straight to goal-setting, take some time to connect with your values. Try this: think about the year ahead and have your future December 2020 self describe to your NOW self what values you aligned yourself with and WHY.


Ayn Rand spent her life developing her “philosophy for living on earth” and emphatically concluded that, “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.”
I second that.


For more on how to clarify your values you can go to a blog I posted here last February The Value Of Knowing And Living Our Values

Looking Back: Highlights and Lowlights

Rocco enjoying the adventure

At the end of each year it’s pretty typical for most of us to celebrate (or not) another year gone by and get all hopeful (or not) for the one to come, but we often skip over saying goodbye to the previous year in a meaningful way before greeting the new one.

The closing of a year can be a perfect opportunity to review the past 12 months and reflect back on all that we accomplished, experienced, contributed, missed out on, made happen, didn’t make happen, were surprised by, and grateful for. And no good annual review would be complete without including the disappointments, losses, and fears.

We oftentimes get so focused on forwarding the action, but forget that deepening the learning is just as valuable. The more we learn and grow, the more in tune we get with our true nature, which then allows us to make choices that genuinely reflect what really matters most to us. And the the more we make authentic choices, the happier, more relaxed, and productive we become. Sometimes we need to slow down in order to become more efficient and effective.

The best way to look back is to get grounded in the present. Give yourself permission to take time out to focus on your year. 2019 was yours, and yours only, and the best way to connect with your year is to connect with yourself in the here and now. Make it a priority. Make you a priority.

I posted a Year in Review blog last December that I’ve been doing with my coaching clients, and myself, for several years, and find it a helpful way to give structure to looking back.

A few tips for reviewing your year:

I go through my calendar to refresh my memory of all that went on – the events I attended, the places I went, the people I coached, the friends I spent time with, the people I did activism with, the conferences and trainings I attended, colleagues I collaborated with, the workshops and trainings I gave. And then I do some journaling on what shows up from reviewing my cal.

I also go through my Facebook where the bulk of my social media hangout is, and it’s a huge resource for my year. I go through my morning pages (journal), my Amazon and Audible order history for books I bought, and my library for the ones I borrowed.

You might have apps or notes you keep that are good to mine as well.

My theme for 2019 was, “Important Not Urgent”, which is one of the four quadrants in Stephen Covey’s principles of effective time management matrix from his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” This is the most overlooked quadrant despite its power to transform your life. This is where creativity and flow happen. This is where coaching and learning live. Also relationship-building, increasing our emotional intelligence, preparing and planning, introspection, focus, meditation, and mindfulness hang out here. All great leaders make quadrant four a priority, even if they don’t use this language or this matrix. This is The Zone, so make time for it.

I haven’t decided yet what my theme will be for next year, but I’m heading to a cabin in the snow next weekend and bringing my poster paper and colored markers for mind-mapping. That, along with some journaling, and taking long winter walks with the pooch to stir my imagination and connect with my inner world.

After you reflect on and close out your year, take time out to get in touch with what you want for this coming year. For a fun and powerful exercise filled with prompts, check out my December Holiday Letter from last year. Then you can start setting your intentions for 2020 as well as deciding on a theme. It can be a word or phrase – something you can anchor your year to as you go along.

As you unpack 2019, it’s ok to get emotional. In fact, it’s a good time to practice taking time out to feel your feelings. We often forget that even if we’re disconnected from our emotional life, we’re still having feelings. So, go ahead and put your heart into this time of introspection. Allow whatever wants to come up to just surface.

Start with the fundamentals by noticing when you are mad, glad, sad, or scared and know that if you actually feel the feeling, it will pass – the good ones and the hard ones. They all pass through us.

We are emotional beings, but it takes effort and practice to connect with our inner world. And if we don’t allow ourselves to have our feelings, then our feelings will surely have us, which can result in generalized anxiety, lack of focus, a state of reactivity, procrastination, depression, perpetual frustration and anger, and frequent misunderstandings with others.

In memory and honor of the profoundly observant Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, who died this year, her simple words are some of the best advice around:

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.” 

The Value Of Knowing And Living Our Values

V for Values. Vegan goodies on Valentine’s

Back in the beginning of the year I posted a blog Write Your December 2019 Holiday Letter and one of the prompts to help you write your letter one year from now about your desired future was to ask yourself what were the values that guided you in 2019.

More often than not, when asked about our values people kind of draw a blank and then say something like, “Uh, well, honesty and integrity, for sure. And probably _______.” (fill in the blank with one other value that comes to mind and that you identify with.)

But it usually stops there. Not because we don’t have core values – we all do, but because we may not ever have been given the guidance to explore what they are, why they are, and the structure to live into them. Many of us would say we value honesty and integrity, but most of us don’t really think about what that really means for us, personally, day to day.

I spent New Year’s day at a meditation and journaling retreat called, “2019 The Year Of Integrity”, and when we talked about what integrity means to us, for as many people as there were in the space, there were that many definitions. Not that we didn’t all have similar notions, ideas, and variations of, “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” but the deeper dive on what that meant for each of us was where the juice was.

My all-time favorite experience of integrity is “Doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” It lights me up just thinking about it. Why? Well, for starters, because it feels liberating (another value) when I “do the right thing,” whatever the means to me, regardless if anyone’s ‘watching.’

Our values give us our sense of individual identity. They help guide our decisions and motivate us to take authentic action.

Living our values highlights our natural abilities, talents, and strengths and provides the foundation on which the things we consider important are built. Living into and honoring our values is a lifetime labor of love.

Helping the folks I coach to clarify their values is one of the first and most important activities we do together because when our actions and decisions align with our values, we experience harmony, flow, and deep fulfillment. And when they’re not in alignment, we experience an inner dissonance and disconnectedness, even if we’re not fully conscious of it.

There are many ways to clarify our values, but, for now, let’s start with one. Discovering what our core values are isn’t so much an intellectual exercise as it is an exploration of who we are and what really matters to us.

DO try this at home:

1. Think about a moment in time when you felt on top of the world, exhilarated, in the zone, lit up. What was happening? Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? Now keep probing what values were being honored during this Peak Experience.

2. After you’ve identified one of the values that really stands out, ask yourself, when was the last time you were honoring that value. The value might have been “adventure”, “connection”, “nature”, “love”, “freedom.” Or maybe a phrase comes to mind, like, “Fire-Breathing Dragon”, “We’re In This Together” – one of my TOP core values:), or “Brave-Hearted Warrior”, you get the picture.

3. For 5-10 minutes, journal the following inquiry: What does my value of _______ mean to me and how am I (expressing, living, creating) this value?

4. Use what shows up and then, each day, for seven days, ask yourself, “Just for today, how will I express this value?” The expression may look bold or “ordinary” – however it shows up, enjoy playing with it.

Cliche, or not, as Gandhi has been known to have said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”, really comes alive when we are living into our values.

Have fun and feel free to share what shows up for you!

Write Your December 2019 Holiday Letter

Planet Iceland 2018

One of my coachees recently said to a friend in a joking way, “Are you going to take 2019 by storm?” and he replied, “No, more like a gentle breeze”. She then said to me, “I think this is going to be my mantra this year: Getting things done using a gentle breeze.”

Whether you decide to take the year by storm or take the gentle breeze approach, here’s a cool writing exercise that will set the stage for creating authentic goals for the coming year. It will help reveal what’s really important to you and why. Creating the year you want to be living into and then working backward is an exciting way to live life.

I once heard it said that having goals is just another way to fall more in love with life. For me, it’s a reminder not to take the term ‘goals’ so seriously. Make (and sometimes break) them in the spirit of giving some thought, structure, and follow-through to meaningful ideas, hopes, plans, wishes, and dreams.

With that in mind, here goes…

Imagine it’s the holidays of next year and you’re celebrating another year gone by. Take a moment to reflect on everything you lived through and experienced over the past year. Notice where you are and what’s alive inside of you. Really allow yourself to get present with yourself and connect to your inner world.

Looking back over the various areas of your life – best case scenario, what did you experience over the last year? What did you accomplish? What did you contribute?

What were some of the highlights? Thrills? Milestones? What made it a successful and fulfilling year? What values guided you? What were you committed to in a “no joke, no kidding” kind of way?

Who or what motivated, inspired, and supported you? How did you stay focused on your “important, but not urgent” commitments?

What helped you stay grounded during challenging times?

How was your aliveness and energy throughout the year?

How was your sense of belonging?

What experiences filled your heart and made you smile?

What did you embrace and what did you let go of?

What was the theme of 2019? It may be a word or a phrase. Mine a few years ago was Badass Wholehearted Renegade. 

Now, here comes your December 2019 Holiday Letter:

Write a letter to someone that’s not meant to be sent – unless you want to – or to your future self and, using these prompts, describe your most positive year, one year from now.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

“Imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~Albert Einstein

2018 Year-in-Review

Live Life Like You Mean It

This reflection exercise is something I do every year with the folks I coach and I just did mine this morning. Have a look and give it a whirl. 

The end of another year can bring up both challenging and wonderful times for many of us. It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-blame and self-criticism when reviewing what we think we were supposed to accomplish. Whatever our saboteurs/gremlins are, we tend to easily forget a lot of what happened that led us to make our decisions. So let’s take a look back at 2018.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will give you a fresh perspective on this past year. Feel free to add any of your own. 

1.) What experience/situation caused me to grow?

2.) What accomplishments am I most proud of?

3.) In what area of my life did I make some progress?

4.) What was missing from my life last year?

5.) Whom did I help?

6.) What am I most grateful for and why?

7.) What were the most fun times I had?

8.) What advice would I give myself for 2019?

Despite the impossibly super-human standards we set for ourselves, it’s important to take a moment to realize what went well, what worked out, what we gave to others, what life lessons we learned, and what hidden gems appeared that we could not possibly have predicted 12 months ago. There are times for action and times for reflection. Have fun looking back in preparation for creating your year ahead!

Relax Into 2015 With A Simple Plan

‘Tis the season to set goals and make resolutions. You know the drill – make resolutions, break resolutions, feel bad about breaking them, feel bad about feeling bad about it. And then, from that frustrated and disappointed mindset, keep trying to motivate yourself to stick to the plan. Sounds like a stressful and miserable way to start a new year, let alone, a way to live a life!

Consider approaching this new year with a fresh perspective – decide that no matter what happens this year, you are committed to living a life you love.

Imagine taking that on as THE GOAL. From there, while planning your year, your month, your week, your day, ask yourself, “Will this choice make me feel more in love with myself and my life?” Notice I added “myself” in there – because, no matter how much you accomplish, it’s pretty tough to enjoy the ride if you’re in a not-so-hot relationship with yourself.

From all the years of coaching others, and from my own life, if I had to distill down the key factor that determines whether someone is happily living a life they love, it comes down to what kind of relationship they have with themselves. We can’t get away with having a great life while secretly in a crappy relationship with ourselves.

And it’s not our fault. We live in a society that breeds self-hatred. And the outcome is evident all around us as the cultural norm is to take cover in a variety of addictions: overbusyness has become a badge, hyper-identification with a job role is a sign of success, sex and romantic fantasy addiction dominates the online dating world, consumerism and the non-stop need to acquire more stuff is sanctioned, and food and alcohol abuse is rampant – anything to numb the pain of our deep self-loathing. We’re collectively obsessed with trying to get our internal needs met by external means and it’s a no-win game.

So even though we may not have caused it, it is our responsibility to show up for ourselves in a way that honors and respects relationship, “the state of being connected”, and the most important place to start is to look at how we’re connecting with ourselves. Once you shift this most primary relationship, the rest unfolds accordingly.

Challenge yourself to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with yourself – you are your greatest love and the kind of life you have truly depends on how you are treating and talking to yourself. The idea is to start making choices that reflect a healthy, conscious, and loving relationship with yourself.

One way to do this is to get really honest about what kind of relationship you’re currently in with yourself. Is it tumultuous and unstable? Is it calm on the surface and a mess behind closed doors? Is it “touch and go”? Is it shallow and superficial, but as long as it looks good to others it’s good enough? Are you just using yourself in order to get others to do for you what you need to do for yourself? In other words, look for where you’re being not so honest about the way it actually is.

See what characteristics are most prevalent in your current relationship with yourself. Is there a lot of unchecked hostility, judgement and criticism? Do you allow yourself to talk to yourself with contempt and disregard? Is the self-talk snide and sarcastic? Blaming and defensive? Condescending and critical? Harsh and impatient? Sweet-talking and insidious?

Look at ways you abandon yourself by making choices that might get you short-term gratification but that make you feel sick inside because you know you’re selling out. Notice when you say ‘yes’ to people and things when you really mean ‘no’ and the impact it has on you and others. Consider the possible missed opportunities and ways you may have sabotaged situations and relationships where, instead of creating mutual respect and collaboration, trust, partnership, inspiration, and closeness – your actions caused irreparable damage, mistrust, ill-will, and un-lived possibilities.

The point of all this is that it’s all well and good to have goals and dreams, but if we’re in a continuous battle over whether we’re even worthy of having what we want, it’s not only exhausting and depleting to be in an ongoing contentious argument with ourselves, but, even if we do get what we asked for, we likely won’t have the capability to see it, be open to it and receive it, let alone hold on to it, when it does arrive.

Chances are, some of the things you find when you take a peek behind the curtain are not going to be pretty. But until you realize that “you’re the one you’ve been waiting for” and that no one’s coming to rescue you from the chaos of your own self-abandonment, no amount of outside approval is going to make you ever feel enough. And when we don’t feel enough inside, we create and perpetuate a continuing cycle of pain and suffering for ourselves and others. And on it goes, and time waits for no one, and there goes living a life we love.

Now the good news! Once you decide to make your relationship with yourself the most important relationship you’ll ever have, you’re on your way to living a life you love. Decide what qualities you want to develop in this intentional relationship. Some to consider are – warm and understanding, open, honest, and trusting, playful and curious, sweet and loving, fun and exciting, responsible and accountable, safe and secure, tender and caring, mindful and attentive, appreciative and thoughtful. Go ahead and come up with your own that feel right for you and feel free to mix and match.

And it’s not about being perfect and never having a bad word to say about yourself – hardly. It’s about deciding what kind of relationship you want to have with yourself, no matter what comes your way. It’s committing to a way of life. You get to decide what that looks like and you can tweak it as you go. And when you notice yourself slipping into old ways of relating to yourself – and you will – simply acknowledge it for what it is, an old default – and choose from your list of new ways of being, and keep at it. Expect it to take practice. Like anything else worth having, it requires practice, patience, and support – and it gets easier.

And it just so happens that one of my favorite creative geniuses, John Lennon, put it this way: “We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

How you know you’re on the right track is that you feel alive, open, and inspired – connected to others and all of life – you’re living a life you love! From this place of lovingkindness and compassionate self-regard, you’re free to make choices that truly align with who you really are, which is who we all are: powerful, thriving, creative, and worthy humans with unlimited potential to live a life filled with love, joy, peace, connection, and true contentment.

Have fun playing with this approach and let me know how it goes!

With Big Love,
Dani

Stay tuned for my next post which will focus more on the nuts and bolts of making your dreams come to life – coming shortly: Make 2015 your best year ever – how to turn good ideas into powerful intentions.