Sorry

After the recent school shooting in Florida, where another 17 students were mowed down by a disgruntled student with an AR-15 weapon, President Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Later he stated: “Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families. To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain.” And then he went off and played golf. This is the man who received 30 million dollars from the NRA and was quoted as saying (and I paraphrase): “You were good to me, so I will be good to you.”

There have been over 10 school shootings in America in the past six weeks alone, and guns have been fired in schools 18 times since 2018 began. There were 58 shootings since the beginning of the school year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group. Of the 13 worst school shootings in America’s history, only three happened in the eighties or nineties. The rest were all within about 10 years, with five happening in a little over two years: Dec 2015-Feb 2018. The biggest two happened in the last two years as well with the Las Vegas and Orlando shootings.  (See The Guardian Feb 15, 2018.)

So I’m guessing thoughts and prayers aren’t working. We can’t really leave this up to God when we have mostly Republican congressmen receiving huge gifts from gun advocacy groups. According to Politico.com, Republicans received 5.9 million in gifts and Democrats about 100K in the 2016 election year, with top donations going to congressmen like Paul Ryan, who personally received $336K.

I’m thinking that instead of thoughts and prayers, that hearing this might be more helpful: “I’m sorry that my greed and my need for power made me accept blood money that is now killing your children.” That would be a start. And then outlawing and buying back all semi-automatic weapons, that are not helpful for self-defense or hunting, would be the next thing to do. But it begins with the word Sorry. Or how about “I’m sorry we cut taxes for corporations and billionaires and won’t have enough money to feed the poor, but at least we’ll be giving them food they don’t want or can’t eat in little boxes somehow delivered to their front door?”

I’ve been thinking about this issue of apology a lot lately in my conversations with clients. So many of my clients, who are smart and talented and hard-working, would benefit from hearing Sorry from emotionally abusive parents, in two cases, who never heard what the client needed as a child, so these clients struggle as adults to believe that their needs are valid. Or how about another client hoping that her father will stop negating the choices she is making, by constantly trying to steer her to another path, even though she’s doing great? Or how about my friend whose husband has been emotionally abusive for years– what if he apologized and got help? Or the friend with the husband who has been cheating for years? “I’m sorry I betrayed you and it’s not your fault. I’m going to get help” would go a long way.

I’m kind of tired of thoughts and prayers. After bouncing around a lot of churches over the years, trying to find our “church home” we finally gave up, after the last very liberal minister tried to convince me that hiding illegal aliens was more noble than giving to the Americans who are starving and homeless in our own backyard. I think it felt sexier to him to get caught up in the Sanctuary Movement, even though it was against the wishes of many parishioners. As I said to my kids, “If every American was fed and clothed and safe and warm and had a good job, then we could give amnesty to all these new poor people who snuck in illegally. But if we can’t take care of our own– all the Native Americans who were here first and all the African Americans whom we stole and forced onto ships– then we have no business hiding foreigners. Hearing a Sorry from our minister might have allowed us to stay, but in the end, he felt like he was part of the Underground Railroad, saving people who didn’t belong here and forgetting that he was abandoning all the ancestors of slaves in our own neighborhood.

As you think about your world stage, remember to listen not just to what people say, but to what they do. Learn to follow the money to understand people’s actions. If it’s not about money, it’s about power for so many people sadly. But if you can stand up for what is right and expose the hypocrisy of all the greedy, power-hungry people offering thoughts and prayers, as opposed to real life-changing solutions, then you will be on your way to claiming your world stage.

 

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Stop Fixing

This week it seems that many people I talked with were in some crisis or another. My daughter is still recovering from her concussion, my son is trying to navigate middle school politics, another friend has a daughter with a concussion, and one friend is in a toxic, emotionally abusive marriage that she can’t easily leave due to children. I have a friend who hasn’t found a job in three years of looking and the money is running out. I have clients who are struggling with bad relationships as well, or are lonely or struggle to ask for what they need. Many are scared that the world is falling down around them and that their dreams are out of reach.

In addition, it seems like everywhere you turn, there is bad news these days. This winter is one of the worst flu seasons since the Swine Flu of 2009. 4,000 people died from the flu in the third week of January this year and 63 children have died. The government was actually shut down because of a fight among parties about the rights of illegal aliens, and yet we are ignoring our American citizens, many of whom are addicted and/or homeless. The number of Americans who died from an opiod overdoses in 2016 (64,070) surpassed the total number of people killed in the entire Vietnam War (58,200). (CBS News, Oct 17, 2017) This is higher than the number of AIDS victims in a given year at its peak in 1995. In addition, 2017 was one of the hottest years on record and the six hottest years have been since 2010, according to CNN, and yet our administration denies that global warming exists. There are endless scandals in the White House and cover-ups for sexual abuse and domestic violence and a pedophile was almost elected to the Senate. And there are all the refugees fleeing violence, from Syria to Myanmar too.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. We are not made to take on endless stress and worry. Those of us who are caring and competent and good listeners can find ourselves drained from constant problems and others needing support. So this week, I decided to be more like a turtle, to pull myself in and focus on self-care and the most pressing needs of my family and my work, and do little else. We know how important it is to protect ourselves in obvious ways– like wearing a seatbelt or a helmet or locking our doors, or looking both ways before we cross, not to mention washing our hands a lot during flu season. But how do we protect ourselves energetically when everybody seems to have a problem or need something, when we become the dumping ground for everyone’s needs? The answer is to stop fixing. It doesn’t mean that you stop caring or wishing others well. It just means that you stop helping to solve others’ problems, which is a big tenet of coaching as well. Letting clients come to their own solutions is empowering, whereas fixing on any level can be enabling and doesn’t serve anyone. So this week, I took three large steps back energetically from solving the world’s problems and helping everyone who needed it. And it felt amazing.

To find your world stage, remember that you can inspire others and point them in the right direction, but you can’t save them. It’s up to them to do that work. And sadly, the world will always have problems, there will always be sad stories, and there will always be things we can’t control. What we can control is taking care of ourselves and being responsible citizens, who vote and recycle and avoid drugs and try not to fix. And if we do that, we can look up and rejoice in the wonder of so many things, like music and nature, and be glad once again to be alive.

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The Problem with Denial

I just saw a riveting documentary called There Is Something Wrong with Aunt Diane about the Long Island mother who drove the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway in July 2009, with 5 children in her car, killing 8 people: 5 of the 6 in her car (her son survived) and 3 in another car. Her blood alcohol levels were found to be twice the legal limit and she had a large amount of marijuana in her system. And yet, her husband hired a lawyer to contest these medical facts, to prove that Diane wasn’t drunk. He said, “She was the perfect wife and mother.” That statement alone should have given people pause, because no one is perfect, and extreme perfectionists like Diane– the kind who was known for ironing even her kids’ play clothes after working a full-time job as the primary breadwinner– those are the people who need some kind of outlet for the unrelenting stress. Not only was she over 200 pounds, she smoked pot every night, according to her sister-in-law, so that she could relax. And she was the one who put a full bottle of vodka in the front seat of her car for the trip home, even though she was driving kids. And yet no one in her family was willing to put two and two together.

I read the memoir by the mother whose three girls were killed by their Aunt Diane, called I’ll See You Again. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, describing the hell of losing all of her children, but the whole book was a denial of the test results and DNA, which were run multiple times, which showed that Diane was drunk and high at the time of the crash. The mother of the girls, ages 8, 7 and 5, couldn’t bear to believe that her husband’s sister had killed their children, or even worse that her husband knew about his sister’s problem with alcohol. Neither of those is something you want to know. So instead, for her survival, she chose denial.

One of my friends confessed to me a few years ago that he had been a raging alcoholic for many years and had driven drunk multiple times and even blacked out while driving. (I realized after the fact, that one of the times I was in the car.) There was one time when I caught him with slurred speech and he tried to brush it off as medication he was taking. I actually went through the trash bins to try to find evidence, but addicts are good at hiding. I never smelled anything, but then again, as he later told me, vodka is what seasoned alcoholics drink because there is no smell. The point of all this is that my friend held down a job, raised kids, was very responsible, and seemed very high- functioning. And his spouse, who also drank too much, was very happy to help him hide and enable. This was probably the same with Diane. I think her husband knew, but to confess that would mean lawsuits from the three adults killed in another car. So it’s better just to lie.

This story fascinated me because it’s so easy in our busy lives not to notice what is going on with the people around us, or to be in denial about our own lives. I have clients who struggle to see their marriages clearly, or to realize how lonely they are, or how toxic their jobs are, or how much they are enabling others’ bad behavior. We all do it to some degree. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we only need to lose a few pounds, when it’s really more like 20 pounds, or to think we don’t have a problem with alcohol but we can’t go a day without a few drinks, or to believe that we don’t have a spending problem, when in fact the debt is enormous. We also enable our family and friends when we don’t speak up. A former neighbor sent angry videos and emails to the whole neighborhood a few years ago, which was very strange behavior for this up-standing soccer mom, and no one said anything. Most people didn’t want to pry and needed to assume the best. I knew something was off and actually showed the strange videos to my daughter to make sure she never played over there, since I didn’t know if the mom was drunk or high or mentally ill, but none were a safe situation. It turns out she was bi-polar and going through a long manic stage. Thankfully she never drove my kids anywhere and ended up getting divorced and moving away, but one of her closer friends should have stood up to her and confronted her about what they saw. No one ever did.

As you seek your world stage, a big part of moving toward what you want is getting honest about what you’re in denial about. It’s not fun and it’s not easy, but asking the hard questions is so important for creating success. You have to be willing to step on the scale, add up your debt, notice how much you drink or smoke, and look at how happy your relationship really is. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you realize that something is wrong. It means that you’re a flawed human who is courageous enough to really look at your life, which is the first step toward making change. It also takes courage to notice what our friends and family are up to and to speak up if there is a problem. The fact is, denial can hurt or kill people and/or their dreams. Today, make a decision to really look at what is going on. It may be scary, but it’s the key to moving forward.

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Be Willing to Walk

One of the best things I have learned as a parent and as a person, is not to give too much importance to any commitment, whether a school or an activity, in case the situation sours and you have to walk away. I think about this dynamic often as a parent in a competitive cut-throat world, in which parents push their kids relentlessly to succeed. While my husband and I work hard not to push our kids, many of the parents around us do. It’s hard when your child has made the team or the orchestra to walk away, even when the coach or director is badly behaved, but it’s essential to be able to.

When my daughter made it into a highly regarded youth orchestra, which hundreds of kids audition for, we were so excited for her. But when I sat through the first rehearsal and heard the conductor actually threaten bodily harm to one of the sweet little violinists because she couldn’t play the passage right, I was horrified. I looked around at the other parents watching and they were all smiling. When I asked a veteran parent about this, his answer was, “They get amazing results from the kids and it looks great on the college resume.” He didn’t seem to care that the conductor was abusive, given that she screamed: “If you don’t get this passage right, you will wind up in the hospital and I will wind up in prison.” The next week, I watched again, and the conductor was just as terrifying, so I told my daughter that we were going to walk away. Nothing was worth this kind of abuse. I called the school and they gave a full refund, although they reminded me that most parents don’t complain about the behavior because their kids improve.

Last spring my son auditioned for a competitive choir in Boston that sings with orchestras and opera companies. The director really liked him and wanted to groom him for great things. The problem was that month after month, the rehearsals were long and intense and there were many performances and demands outside of rehearsals. My son’s voice was starting to hurt from overuse, since he is one of the leads in Mary Poppins at his school right now. He was starting to get insomnia and other stress-related ailments from being over-scheduled. He was being groomed to sing a solo with a professional orchestra, but he doesn’t really like classical music. And the director seemed particularly interested in the few boys in the chorus, inviting them privately for ice cream with him, which we refused to let our son do because we thought it felt creepy. So, we walked away.

I think of all this because of the recent trial for the gymnastics doctor who was found to have molested hundreds of girls over 20 years, often while the parents were in the examining room. A lot of people have commented that they don’t understand how the parents didn’t know. But I totally understand that. They didn’t want to know because the stakes were too high. When your daughter is poised for huge success, you don’t want to be the person who blows the whistle. The gymnasts didn’t tell because they wanted to be one of the five who made the US team. But I get it because I see it everyday in my town, with parents who are so invested in their kids’ success, that they aren’t willing or able to speak up before it’s too late.

In our town, parents allow their kids to play on multiple soccer or hockey teams from a young age, and the kids’ muscles are strained from repeating the same sport over the over. We wouldn’t let our kids try out for travel soccer until they were older since we had a babysitter who had had two major surgeries from soccer before she was 16. A boy in our neighborhood had his leg shattered last fall from a collision on the field, I believe from years of overplaying. But when I ask parents why they allow coaches to insist on more and more practices and then games that are sometimes four states away, the parents shake their heads and say, “It’s an arms race, but if we drop out or speak up, we lose.” So as a result, everyone loses.

The fact is, we don’t always choose right. The preschool we chose for my daughter was like Lord of the Flies, with bigger kids bullying little kids, terrifying my girl. We walked away from a lot of money to go with the more orderly school that had rules that everyone had to follow and she ended up thriving. We walked away from the pediatrician who was rude and condescending to us, when my son had a medical problem that this doctor didn’t know how to fix. We walked away and found a great team to help him and never looked back.

To find your world stage, remember that if something is wrong, you do need to speak up. And if the situation doesn’t change, sometimes the best thing is to walk. Nothing is worth getting hurt or abused– no gold medal or Ivy League school or accolade is worth that. Keep your eyes open and notice when something isn’t right and speak up. In the end, you can either try to please others and get along, or you can please yourself and stand up for what is right. In my mind, that’s an easy choice.

 

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Silver Linings

I’ve always been an optimist. I believe that most people are caring, and that in spite of all the misery in the world, life is fundamentally good. I try to focus on the beauty of the seasons, the joy of holding a new baby or a squiggly puppy, the wonder of seeing life through a child’s eyes, the excitement of discovering a new city or hearing beautiful music. Even though I’m not a huge fan of winter (I don’t ski and I hate being cold), I love the hush of winter and the look of snow falling through a window. Even though it rains a lot in spring, I am a huge tulip lover and am mesmerized by the explosion of color after a dull, dark season. Summer is swimming in lakes and sunshine and shorts and fresh berries. And fall, with its glorious color and crisp air and apple picking, is magical.

And yet, it’s easy to forget those things when life gets tough. In the last three months, my son had an emergency appendectomy, and then two months later had a laser treatment for a skin condition he’s had since birth, which leaves him bruised for weeks, often with his eyes swollen shut. It was one thing when he was a little guy and we could hide him from the world, but now that he’s in middle school, it requires a whole new level of courage returning to school even with faded bruises. Now that he’s finally healed, my daughter had a snowboarding accident on a school ski trip earlier this week and has been home with a concussion, with dim lights, no technology and no visitors– not easy for a teenager.

My husband reminds me that our house didn’t burn down, we are not dying of cancer, and we don’t live in parched places of Africa where there is no food and water. That is true, but still. On top of this, my son’s down jacket was stolen, and the attic has a leak from various winter storms, so in spite of a lot of roof work over the years, our 80 year-old house is going to need even more repairs. The good news is that it’s not fall of 2016, when the entire family passed lice back and forth for two months until we finally got rid of them, and then my daughter broke her finger, which took four months, two doctors, one physical therapist, one occupational therapist, and a lot of driving to heal.

But as all of this was happening, I thought of the silver lining, which is that my son had an amazing team at Children’s Hospital for both medical procedures, and we live near one the best hospitals in the world. We were 20 minutes away when we needed emergency attention and not in the middle of the Sahara, as my mom actually was when she traveled through Africa with her parents as a preteen. The good news about my daughter was that she was wearing a helmet that saved her when she fell back hard against the icy snow and blacked out. The ski patrol said that this saved her from very serious injury, and we will always be grateful. (In fact, we are keeping her helmet for our memories, given that she can’t use this one again, to remember what it did to help her.) And, I have a client and a neighbor who will now wear helmets because of this.

There are other silver linings too. Because Americans have Trump in the White House, we are slowly waking up to the fact that we need to be citizens and not consumers, and that we need to get off our devices, turn off the Kardashians and march. Because my daughter was home and had to be unplugged, we made art together and I read stories to her, which is something we haven’t done a lot of in years.

I’m starting to hear from more of you– which I love!– that you’re wanting to make changes in your life, to get in shape, to learn more about yourself and the world. The world becomes a better place when we take care of ourselves, because then we have more to give to others. One of the lessons I’ve learned when I’m under stress is to make sure I have time to sleep, eat well, and exercise. It allows me to be more patient and present.

To find your world stage, don’t forget to find the silver lining. It doesn’t mean going around with rose colored glasses on. You have every right to feel bad when things don’t go well. But as soon as the crisis passes, or even if/when it doesn’t, it is a great spiritual practice to ask what is good about this. I don’t believe the oft-used slogan of “Things Happen for a Reason” since there is never a reason for so many things, like children dying in wars or suffering from hunger. But, I do believe that there is a silver lining that we can see if we really look. And finding that lining allows us to endure the next time things are hard.

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Remember the Dream Again

A year ago, I wrote about Martin Luther King and what a hero he was, not only to black people but to all of us. I am re-posting this again this weekend, because it is more important now than ever. Americans have spent a year feel assaulted by the bully we have in the White House. We already know that Trump is sexist and racist, but his horrible comments this week about not wanting people from s*** hole countries is disgusting. I feel ashamed to be American, and I can only imagine what Martin Luther King would have thought. I hope that we all find the courage to start marching in protest against all the dismantling that has been done already, from our environment to foreign policy.  It is ironic that these comments were made on the eve of MLK Day, given that this day honors a man who stood up for the poor and the oppressed and who understood the power of language to unite or to tear down.  He cared about justice and building a better world for everyone, not about making more money at others’ expense. In honor of Martin Luther King, here is the post I wrote exactly one year ago, celebrating one of my heroes. May we all remember that freedom is not something we can take for granted, and we must fight for it every day.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and none of it was planned.  The night before, King asked his aides for advice about the speech, as to whether he should use the “I Have a Dream” line, which he had used a few times before.  His advisor, Wyatt Walker, said, “It’s trite, it’s cliche.  You’ve used it too many times already.” The next day, King did not plan to use it.  He wanted something as powerful as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but just couldn’t seem to nail it.  When he reached the podium, it was almost 90 degrees and the crowd of 250,000 people had been standing in the heat for hours.  King was 16th on the program, almost at the very end.  As Norman Mailer wrote, “there was… an air of subtle depression, of wistful apathy which existed in many. One felt a little of the muted disappointment which attacks a crowd in the seventh inning of a very important baseball game when the score has gone 11-3.” King delivered a rather staid address, reading from his notes, but it clearly wasn’t as passionate as other speeches he had given in the past.  As he neared the end, Mahalia Jackson, who was behind him, having sung earlier, cried out: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King paused, put down his notes and decided to preach like the Baptist minister he was, and the rest is history:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… I have a dream that…one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” (The Guardian: Aug 9, 2013.)

Over 50 years later, some of the dream has come to fruition, like having a black president in the White House the past eight years, but racial tensions continue, with white cops killing innocent blacks and blacks retaliating.  Most recently in the news, there was a very sad and disturbing story of four angry black teens kidnapping and torturing a disabled white teen to seek revenge on all white people.  The ordeal was videotaped by the teens and posted to social media because I guess getting noticed for their hatred was far more important than not getting caught.  Still, it makes me so sad and angry that all these years after the Civil Rights Movement, there continues to be more racial hatred and violence.  Dr. King would be so disheartened to see this, and yet I’m sure he wouldn’t be surprised.  Racism is taught at home and anti-racism has to be taught as well.  Children don’t just grow up knowing the importance of not judging by the color of one’s skin. It has to be taught.  Children aren’t born racist.  Babies love all colors; they love people who play with them.  It is adults who teach them to be mean and judgmental and afraid of people not like them.  And we should be ashamed.

My family is fortunate in that we can afford to live in a town that is very racially and religiously diverse, with 30% Jews and many Asians and African Americans.  My son’s classroom last year was 50% non white, his teacher was Indian-American and his aide was African-American.  The year before, his teacher was Costa Rican. My daughter’s school is an international school with 75 countries represented. At her birthday party, half of all the girls spoke another language as their first language.  My husband’s best friend is Japanese, and our kids have grown up thinking that “Crazy Uncle Dave” is somehow blood related, even though we are pale white people.   My kids know that discriminating against people because of the color of their skin is like choosing friends because of the color of their tennis shoes– it’s pretty random and unfair. But not all parents teach this.  Some white children are taught to hate and fear blacks and visa versa, and that’s sad, because the cycle will never end until all of us learn and teach the right thing.

As you begin this new year, committed to finding and living your world stage, remember the brave preacher that one hot August day, who had a dream that someday black children would be equal to white.  This is also a man who took a chance, against the advice of his aides, and put his speech down, knowing he had no other words to read from, and followed his heart in order to inspire a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people looking for direction and hope.  Remember to ask yourself how you are helping Martin Luther King’s dream to live on in the way you live your life.  And ask yourself what your “I Have A Dream” speech is, and what would happen if just once, you lay down your notes and spoke from your heart.  You might just make history too.

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Do the Hard Thing

I saw a documentary recently on middle class teens who became addicted to heroin after taking pain killers for a sports injury. After the prescription meds became too hard to find or too expensive to pay for, they switched to heroin and even ended up using needles, entering into a life that neither they nor their parents could ever imagine. What struck me most was the number of teens who described their surprise at how good they felt the first time they took the pills. One guy said, “It felt so amazing that I figured it had to be good for you.” This was an college-educated guy saying this.

I thought of all the things that feel good and are good for you, like snuggling a child and eating blueberries hot from the sun, or watching a sunset in explosions of orange, and going for a walk. But then I thought about how many of us find it easier to bury ourselves in our phones and not snuggle, or eat a bag of chips instead of the blueberries, or decide we’re too busy to watch the sunset and miss the colors that only last for a few minutes before they’re gone. There is a reason that so many people increasingly throughout the world, in first world countries, are overweight or addicted to alcohol or drugs or gambling. If you go to an American mall on a given weekend, it’s shocking how many people are fat, wandering around eating fast food and drinking soda, with tons of packages on their arms, for a day of shopping as sport. I’m curious how many of these people are in debt and can’t afford to be shopping for fun.

The fact is that the key to being successful is being willing to do the hard thing day after day after day, while everyone else seems to be having endless fun, if you believe social media. Tony Robbins once said, “Every successful person did what no one else was willing to do.” We read about Olympic athletes who train for hours per day in grueling weather conditions and through physical pain to get where they want to go. Entrepreneurs have been known to work 80 hour weeks. The Pixar creators apparently worked so much in the early days to launch their films, that they slept in their offices to save time. There are stories all the time of obese people who finally got up the courage to lose 100 pounds or more, one step at a time.

For me, the hard thing is eating healthy foods instead of junk food and sugar, and getting out there to exercise most days. It’s writing my blog every single week no matter what, for almost 2 years and with over 100 posts at this point. It’s showing up 100% for my coaching clients every single session and coaching some days beginning at 6:30 for Australian clients. It’s the discipline of meditation and chi gong. It’s being there for my kids when they are sick or struggling or need help or comfort, or just want to have fun, and putting other things aside. It’s tracking every penny that we have spent for the past 25 years, budgeting every month, and not wasting money so that we can spend on what matters to us– a nice home, private schools, international trips, and things like camp and skiing. I say this not to brag but to mention that many friends with similar income have asked how we can afford this, but they forget that we don’t go shopping for fun, or go out to eat often, or spend $30 at the movies, or buy fancy cars. (We have one car, an 8 year-old Subaru, which works great for us.) We do the hard things so that we can have what we want. It’s definitely not easy or even always fun, but it’s so worth it.

To find your world stage, ask yourself what easy comfort you rely on, like watching too much tv or eating fatty treats or shopping all the time, that you will need to give up to become well-read and fit and fiscally responsible. It is definitely not fun in the moment, but the rewards are so great. Remember, nothing that is that easy is usually good for you, particularly in the case of addictions. Life is not meant to be smooth sailing all the time.  It’s meant to be rewarding, and that comes from doing the hard thing that many people can’t or won’t do.

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Happy New Year!

As 2017 comes to a close and we look forward to 2018, I wanted to remind everyone that the answer is not a long list of resolutions to try to stick to, but instead a short list of Absolute Yeses for the new year. There will always be a lot of noise and distractions in the world, as well as family and friends with their own agendas insisting you do what they want. But in the end, it’s your life and your choice. You get to choose what works and what doesn’t. You get to decide what brought you joy this past year and what didn’t. You don’t have to follow the crowd and mindlessly do what everyone else does.

Here are some things I did in 2017 that I loved:

  1. I took on more wonderful coaching clients and really enjoyed being able to connect with and help clients from all over the world.
  2. I continued to write this blog, and got to guest blog for Live Your Legend, which was a great experience.
  3. I started performing again, after a long break, and now have several gigs.
  4. We hosted a French girl here for 10 days and then my daughter went to Arles, France for 10 days, all of which made me feel so hopeful about the world.
  5. We visited Seville, Spain and fell in love with it.

Here are some things I let go of this year:

  1. I stopped putting up with doctors I didn’t like. I switched my internist, OB, dentist, and my daughters’ pediatrician, all of whom are much better.
  2. I stopped giving endlessly to one-way friendships and raised my standards for what I expect in a relationship.
  3. I set up boundaries around my work hours, so that I could be more productive, and screened carefully for new clients, so that I work with clients I enjoy.
  4. I didn’t host Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and my family had a simple staycation this holiday. And next year, we will be traveling at Christmas, so I don’t have to spend hours buying and wrapping gifts that frankly none of us need.
  5. We quit going to church, after bouncing around various churches for the past 10 years, realizing that we feel more religious when helping others or hiking in the woods or traveling.

As you think about this next year, with 365 new days waiting for you to experience them, remember that how you spend your days is how you spend your life. And if you don’t have a clear plan for how they are spent, others will decide for you.

Here are my Absolute Yeses for 2018:

  1. Spirituality: connecting with what matters to me on a daily basis
  2. Health: putting my diet, exercise and sleep front and center
  3. Family/Friends: making sure I spend time with family and friends who matter
  4. Creativity: making my music and writing a top priority
  5. Coaching: growing my business and serving more clients from all over the world
  6. Adventure: making sure that my life is full of fun, travel and new experiences.

What are yours? As you seek your world stage, think about what you have to say no to in order to make room for your yeses.

Happy New Year to all of you.  Wishing you a new year filled with joy and peace.

 

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Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are in the world and whatever holiday you celebrate, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas in as many languages as possible.

This season, remember that we are more alike than we are different, and that the answer to having peace in the world is to be a light for others. Practice love, show joy, extend kindness, and be of good cheer. As you find your world stage and claim your voice, use your gifts to brighten the world. It needs it now more than ever.

Wishing you all a very joyful season. With love and gratitude,

Melinda Stanford

World Stage Coaching

 

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Let Go of Perfect

In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson wrote that it’s easy for many of us to find fault with everything, to the point that we miss the joy of life. I think this is very easy to do during the holidays, when expectations are sky high and yet so many things can fall short of our expectations. For those of you who are like me, who tend to be perfectionists and want everything just so, it’s a great lesson to let go and not hold on as tightly to how things have to be. Last night, for instance, my family and I went to see the old movie It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen in an old movie house. When we arrived, there were almost no seats, the place was run down, and my daughters’ arm rest, which was covered in gum, actually fell off. We could have gotten upset, but instead we just laughed about it, and remembered the slum we lived in when we spent time in Sydney a few years ago, that was falling down like this movie house, and then we enjoyed the movie. And today, when we went to my son’s choral concert, we ended up surrounded by people who were either chatting or texting or checking their PayPal accounts during the concert as soon as their own children weren’t singing. I just gently said “shhh” to a few people with a smile and let go of the larger fact that they were acting rude. I was able to enjoy the concert and they got the message. I didn’t have to get drawn into analyzing other people’s insensitivity.

Tonight my daughter celebrated her 15th birthday with 25 of her friends, including boys. Since many of her friends are from all over the world, because she goes to an international school, half of the parents didn’t RSVP.  My daughter texted her friends as well, but even as we were heading to the party, we didn’t really know who would show up; texts were coming in, asking where and when the party was again. I had to accept that even though I was raised to respond to invitations promptly and write thank you notes, that this may not be important in other cultures. So I just took a deep breath and accepted that whatever happened would be okay. In the end, we had two last minute no’s and one last minute yes and two people arrived late and one person left early and everyone had a great time. We did have a party room that only sat 16 people, so the other nine had to stand, but we squished them in by the door and handed them cake and soda and they were fine for the brief 10 minutes we were in there. One dad couldn’t seem to find the venue to pick up his daughter so I had to talk him through using Google Maps, and another boy hid in the bathroom since he was feeling socially awkward, but my husband and another kid were very kind to him and made him feel better. We also got kicked out of the skating rink since it closed at 9pm, so we stood in 15 degree weather outside, waiting for the late parents to pick up.  We ended up hanging out with a  bunch of kids in our car until those parents had arrived, which ended up being fun.

It always amazes me how wonderful life can be when we let go of needing to seek perfection, when we let go of rigid rules and expectations, and when we accept that cultures are different– not everyone values responding or being on time, and that’s okay. When you let go of that, then the magic appears. You enjoy the concert and don’t worry about why the audience is so inattentive. You enjoy the birthday party and don’t worry about not having enough chairs, or getting kicked out of the venue into the cold. You come up with a Plan B, which is more creative and fun. You realize that you don’t have to be the perfect hostess and follow all the rules, which frees you up to notice the dynamics of your daughters’ first boy-girl party. You get to notice the joy that these kids felt just being together, and you realize that they didn’t care if they had a seat or were kicked out in the cold, as long as they could hang out longer.

To find your world stage, try to soften your rules, expectations, assumptions, and judgments. The world is large and we are all so different. If we let go of what needs to happen, we start to see the magic of what does unfold, for better or for worse. This holiday season, remember that you don’t have to be perfect, but instead be open to whatever comes.

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