Don’t Surrender to Your Fear

Fear has the ability to halt your progress if you let it

As I walked out of my boss’s office one thing she said stuck in my mind above everything else, “We are downsizing, so your job and department are being eliminated.”

What!? After spending my entire career getting to this position. One I really love. I am now being pushed out the door. I really had no idea what I was going to do. Afterall, I had invested most of my professional efforts into this company and building skills that allowed me to move up the corporate ladder. Now the rungs have been cut and I’m seeing myself speed down the ladder, like a terrified teenager plunging to their death in a bad horror movie.

Fortunately, I had the sense to invite my fear to lunch. We considered the past, did an inventory of the present and made a plan for the future. When our lunch was over, fear and I shook hands and went our separate ways. Your meeting with fear may not be so cordial. You may feel him taking a firm grip on you and heisting your hopes and dreams of a comfortable future. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can find a way past fear. A way to develop confidence and not just survive your travesties but to prosper through transcendence of the experience.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Often we find comfort in the past, even a confining one. We know the past, and it doesn’t hold any surprises. We believe the past offers us stability. This is, however, not true. The past restricts us. It limits our growth and stifles potential. While living with the limits of your situation provides a sense of stability, it will never transform you. Surrendering to your circumstance will keep you bound to a life of subservience. You deserve more than that!

Life consists of ups and downs. It is a series of peaks and valleys that bring you both joy and sorrow. Realizing that your existence is fluid, always changing, will help you to free yourself from the obstacles that are holding you back.

Looking out over the horizon, we see a vast unknown. As a result, it is natural to gaze out into the void with anxiety and fear. Even though you are moving into uncharted territory, you are not doing it alone and unprepared. You have experience, skills and a network of people to help you through these trying times. You need to take inventory of your resources, plot out how to use them efficiently, and take action. This is your opportunity. March into the future bravely, accepting your fears and finding a way to navigate a course beyond them.

One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.

What are you afraid of?

As you look at the road that lies ahead you, may have hopes and dreams of what your life could be. Maybe those ideals end with, “but someday,’ or ‘if only.” This limiting self-talk blinds you to possibilities. It keeps you static in a rapidly moving world. Why not take a few steps down the road to discover if you can see your future with better clarity?

Fear causes you to become immobilized, unable or unwilling to take the next action. You may be apprehensive about your future. Maybe you feel that failure is inevitable. That there is no sense in trying to get beyond it, so why even try. You can be better than that. How can you know what you are capable of if you don’t even try? Dip your toe in the water. Then take some time to honestly evaluate the experience. This is the way to discover the solutions that work best for you. It’s all trial and error, correct and make another attempt.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Of course, you are going to fail, that is how you learn to succeed. Naturally, it won’t be easy. Nothing worth its weight ever is. Nevertheless, take the moment for all it’s worth and wrestle your success from it. You are the master of your life, in spite of your fear and shortcomings. It is through this process of facing your fears that you will reduce apprehension and build confidence. As you build confidence you will gradually begin to understand that you are where you need to be at this moment, doing what you have to do, in order to become the person you are meant to be. Seize the moment.

I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom — how great is that?

Accept failure as a by-product of the process. A chance to develop, become more intelligent, stronger and more prepared for the battles ahead. Failure does not equate to surrender — It is an indicator that you need to learn more. In that process you will comprehend how to succeed.

You don’t have the benefit of hindsight. As a result, you do not know the reason for the experience you are having, what you are to take from it and how it can help to guide you to a better existence. You need to complete your due diligence, have faith and jump. No regrets.

Make fear a colleague

Understanding your fears and what feeds them is vital to overcoming them. We tend to fear what we do not understand. Learning about your fear and why you are experiencing it will help you to overcome the anxieties that accompany your strong feelings of apprehension and maybe even terror. This knowledge will better equip you to manage not only the situation, but also future dilemmas.

Examine your fears and anxieties. Learn to identify what triggers and feeds them. Then educate yourself with solutions for overcoming them. In time, instead of looking for avenues of retreat, you’ll be confidently proclaiming: “Been there, done that!” And chalking up victories big and small along the way.

This ability to face your fears head-on will eventually lead you to freedom. Freedom to stand up and be recognized as a person of value. Freedom to live your life on your terms. Freedom to unleash the talents and abilities you have locked inside for too long. This all starts with looking your fears in the eye and considering the message they have for you. Fear is not a bad thing, it comes with a message of the need for you to take action. You need to be the one to manage your fears. Control them, don’t let them control you.

Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person. Seth Godin

It's your life

This life is the only one you have. You can choose to peek through the peephole when opportunity in the form of a problem or conflict knocks at your door and lock the deadbolt. Or you can open that door and greet the experience with a firm and friendly, “Hi, how ya’ doing!?” It’s completely up to you.


Letting an abusive partner control you is not ok. Accepting to work in a situation where you are unappreciated isn’t acceptable. Believing that you are not worthy of achieving your goals or that someone has it better than you, will never allow you to unlock your potential. When trouble knocks you down, get up and force a smile, Then punch it right back. Accept nothing but the best from yourself each and every day. Like weight training, you will grow stronger with practice. The key is to keep working to combat your fears. If you fall off the horse, get up and try again. You won’t get today back, so do what you can to win this day.

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The challenges I face today will make me better tomorrow.

Don’t Be Afraid to Accept the Challenge

The older and wiser version of yourself will be glad you did. I am finding it difficult to pick up my guitars. They sit just across the room from me, and yet I avoid looking at them or listening as they call for me to pick them up and play. It’s nothing they did wrong.

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How you can be more empathetic

pensive grandmother with granddaughter having interesting conversation while cooking together in light modern kitchen

The quickest way to gain credibility is to show that you care.

Treating others with empathy is something we are taught from childhood. Our elders would often say, “put yourself in their shoes.” We have come to believe that listening to and intellectualizing how others are feeling is enough. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Practicing real empathy is harder than that. It requires us to consider not only what but also why, others do what they do. When we can do that, we gain a deeper understanding of the other person, their needs and contributions.

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.

Understand feelings

The first step of acting with empathy is understanding emotions. Our emotions are strong influencers in our decisions, both to attract and distance intended feelings. To get at the heart of another’s emotions is to have a better understanding of your own as well. 

When communicating with another person, consider initially how you would feel in their situation. Then ask questions to understand how they perceive the situation and why. Their view of the situation and needs will be different from your own, so listen deeply. This will help you understand what the person needs and how you can support them. When you understand the underlying cause of their emotions, you will improve your ability to consider the issues from their point of view.

Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.

Consider Preferences, Culture, And Motivations

Beyond the feelings and emotions of others lie their cultural influences, personality and mitigating circumstances. Considering these areas takes a lot of patience. We often want to use our own lense to see the world. But thinking about the other person’s cultural background (family, local, regional, and/or national), their experiences and their level of tolerance for novel and uncomfortable situations will help you to catch the nuances of what the true intention is beyond the words.

We All Act With Good Intentions

The vast majority of us want to see world peace, get along with our neighbors, and make gratifying contributions to our communities. When someone behaves in a way we judge as counter to this, consider how their action works towards those ends (even as part of something bigger). Interpreting the solution from their point of view will help you work together to find more viable alternatives in unraveling bigger challenges. 

Bob is planning on making a new recipe tonight, Chicken breast with roasted tomato. He needs those tomatoes to be soft and ripe. Unfortunately, all of them were a bit hard. So, he left them on the counter this morning with the intention of softening them up a bit during the day. Mary saw the tomatoes on the counter and assumed Bob had forgotten to put them back in the fridge before going to work.

That evening when Bob returned home, knowing that he had left the tomatoes on the kitchen counter, he was sure he had lost his mind, confused by the fact that he could not find them anywhere. When he opened the fridge there they were, just as fresh and hard as they had been this morning. He was more than angry. His plans had been completely disrupted. 

When he asked Mary about the tomatoes, she said that she had noticed them on the counter and thought he had forgotten to put them away. Anticipating a tomato and cucumber salad as part of a nice summer dinner, and that these ones were in perfect condition for that. She put them in a paper bag and set them back in the refrigerator.

Both people had good reason for their action and worked with the best of intentions for making use of those tomatoes. Yet without communication, each person’s action disrupted the plans of the other. Through an empathetic discussion, they will be able to decide whether to have the salad today or the chicken tomorrow. 

We always consider the intentions of our own actions. However, when it comes to others, we focus only on the behavior. We usually don’t take the time to consider their point of view, only considering the results as acceptable or unacceptable. Oftentimes, we incorrectly believe the other person’s action was a deliberate attempt to stir up problems, create conflict, or foster ill will. That is just not true. Instead, we need to take the time to focus on the ideal that they had good intentions when deciding on and taking their course of action. After such consideration, we can work together to discover future steps that lead to mutually beneficial results.

The opposite of anger is not calmness, its empathy.

Servant Leadership

In our relationships, if we focus on how we can serve others and through our service inspire them to pay it forward, we can create positive momentum alongside a sense of understanding of those around us. Doing this builds quality relationships that continue to build deep connections and understanding.

3 Steps to Being More Empathetic

Be in the moment

Focus your attention on the other person.  Watch them as they speak. Listen for the words they choose, the tone in their voice and facial expressions. Really give them your undivided attention. Tune out everything else and focus on the conversation.

Pay attention to body language

Listen not just for what they say, but also how they say it. Look at their facial expressions. Notice the way they fidget and their body positioning. These things are indicators of what is going on inside. 

Test Your Understanding

Use paraphrasing techniques and draw conclusions based on the previous points. Then ask them if you are hearing them correctly. You can use this as a springboard for developing solutions together.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain.

Summary

 Practicing empathy requires us to slow down, look others in the eye and consider situations from their point of view. We have to do more than put ourselves in their shoes, we need to live in their skin for a moment. While being truly empathetic can seem hard.. Practicing it at any level of ability will be appreciated by those you interact with.

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The challenges I face today will make me better tomorrow.

Don’t Be Afraid to Accept the Challenge

The older and wiser version of yourself will be glad you did. I am finding it difficult to pick up my guitars. They sit just across the room from me, and yet I avoid looking at them or listening as they call for me to pick them up and play. It’s nothing they did wrong.

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When your emotions talk, are you listening?

man person people emotions

Get to know your emotions

Your emotions are a set of powerful tools. Abraham-Hicks, best selling author of The Law of Attraction, calls this your emotional GPS. Experiencing emotions warns you of dangers, draws you into pleasant experiences and triggers an increasingly wide variety of responses that continues to grow as you understand your emotions and what they are trying to tell you.

According to Joshua Freedman, the CEO and founder of Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network, there are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language. If you do not have an adequate emotion lexicon, you will naturally lump the description of your feelings into categories too small to effectively express what you are experiencing. One way to build your vocabulary of emotions is to use the Plutchik Wheel of Emotions.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

How to use Plutchick's Wheel of Emotions

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind.

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Now that you have internalized definitions of emotions and a scale for their level of intensity, you can identify what you are feeling in a nuanced way, not just in the extreme moments, but also in a wider variety of situations. Using the levels of intensity from above, you can now take an emotional inventory with the help of a journal or note taking app. This is an ideal way to document what’s going on inside of you. According to Harvard neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, unfueled emotions only last only 90 seconds, so you’ll need to increase your ability to identify them quickly.

Listen to your emotions

The value in identifying emotions is not just in those 90 seconds when they are the most intense. It’s what you do after that really counts. Emotions are the trigger point. Considering what caused the emotion is almost as important as what you do once you have experienced that feeling. Intensifying or diluting is up to you.

Emotions used to give us two options: fight or flight. Today, however, there are many more options for responding to emotional signals. For example, we might need to consider a response, ask a question, or quickly invent a solution. By capturing the emotion, then pausing to consider how you will respond, you are becoming emotionally intelligent.

There are however, real dangers to just sweeping those feelings under the rug. A failure to recognize and effectively work through your emotions leads to high levels of stress, depression and a wide range of physical and mental health problems. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize it. Understanding emotions is vital to your ability to diagnose problems and reproduce pleasant experiences as well.

Respond to your emotions

It is important to realize that the discomfort that comes from emotions is not a bad thing. It helps move you to another action. Emotions that you consider to be negative could be alerting you to a high level of risk or that you need to have more information about a situation before responding.

As scientists and emotional intelligence practitioners learn more about these sensations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these feelings are a means of our nervous system communicating with our conscious minds. As a result, it makes more sense to read emotions as non-verbal messages and respond to them. Instead of reacting immediately to the stimuli. Once you experience an emotion, stop and think about what to do with that information before acting.

There are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language.

You will find that your responses are much more beneficial to your well-being when you add this cognitive step to your process. In fact, you may find that the energy created by a bad feeling can be redirected in a positive direction. Redirection creates momentum that moves you towards your target at a force greater than complaining and anger ever will. I call this the catapult effect. Basically, the catapult effect states that if you first react negatively to an emotion, you need to get back to zero before you can move in a positive direction. But by processing the emotion intellectually (at zero) and creating a viable solution, you can create positive momentum that will catapult you forward towards your desired results. You can read more about my theory here.

Emotions are neither good nor bad

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind. By widening your emotional lexicon you will more effectively identify your emotions, and be able to interpret with greater clarity the messages your nervous system is providing you. Then you can devise solutions that are intelligent and effective, advancing you in a direction that benefits your well being.

The best way to get a clear picture of your emotional intelligence is by taking an Emotional Quotient (EQ) test. Here is a free one from Mind Tools that will get you started. What is your EQ?

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Be more empathetic with active listening

Active listening requires listening deeply

It's not your turn to speak yet

It can be frustrating, infuriating and even disappointing when others don’t listen to your views and opinions. Everybody has an idea to share yet no-one takes the time to hear yours. So how do you get others to truly comprehend your words, your thoughts and your ideas? Try active listening first.

To communicate more effectively you need to start with listening. Not only will being a deeper listener help you to engage others, it will also allow you to present ideas in ways that resonate more lucidly with your communication partners.

We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Listen with your eyes and watch with your ears

When you listen, it has to be more than just waiting for an opportunity to speak. That’s confrontation, not communication. You need to slow down and really take the time to understand what is on  your communication partner’s mind.

One way to be an active listener is to look at the other person as they speak. Take in their posturing. Do they look nervous or excited? Read their body language. Are they swaying or fidgeting? Examine facial expressions. Is there a smile or does their face look strained? There are so many things that are going on inside the person you are speaking with. If you do not take the time to consider their thoughts and feelings, you will be unaware of what they are really expressing to you.

Using your eyes helps to increase your level of empathy  and more actively involves you in the discussion. Let your eyes help you unwrap a deeper meaning to the message than just the words that come from your communication partner’s mouth.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

It's about more than just the words

To be an active listener, you need to consider both what the other person is sharing and why. Why are they saying this now? Why are they saying it in that way? Are they framing the message in a way that will make more sense to you, or are they choosing their words carefully to omit something they do not wish to reveal?

Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communicating is hearing what isn’t said.”

Maybe her words are just coming off the top of her mind. Try to rephrase as a way of ensuring you understand the meaning behind those words. Stopping your partner with an occasional do you mean or are you saying builds trust that you are actually listening to them and helps them to focus their ideas as well.

Ask questions to dig more deeply into their point of view. Once you have the gist of their idea ask more questions to understand it deeply. Get the depth and detail you need to respond in an engaging way.

Gabriella Blum, the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School recently talked about the dangers of not actively listening, “By failing to listen carefully and effectively’, she said, ‘we lose important information, act on wrong assumptions, and unnecessarily damage the relationship.”

Communication is what the listener does.

Respond with empathy

Now that you have a clear understanding of your communication partner’s thoughts, frame yours in a way that will be clear and insightful for them. You know their mindset from listening deeply. So you can now present an impactful response that will resonate with them.

Choose your words and phrasing in a way that will engage. Just because you are listening in a laser-focused manner, does not mean that your communication partner is too. In fact, they probably aren’t. So framing your response is even more important.

There are so many ways to say the same thing that presenting your ideas in a way that your conversation partner easily comprehends will make your message more impactful. Stop from time to time to ask, does that make sense or do you know what I mean?

Let them reply to your idea as you build it out. Weaving their ideas into yours, or even better yours into theirs, makes the discussion more collaborative. Even if you do not see eye-to-eye, you will have a better understanding of their views and they of yours. That all starts with listening.

So listen actively. Understand what your conversation partner is feeling and saying before you respond. Then when you do, reply in a thoughtful and insightful way. As you become a better listener you will be a good communicator too.

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Tokyo 2020 – Ready to Serve

Yesterday was my first day of volunteer activities for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and it was full of intrigue. From the start to the end, it was all an enjoyable learning experience. Step 1 – Leave early, just in case I learned Murphy’s law, If something can go wrong, it will, very early in my

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The next time you’re triggered try this…

Image by Claudia Mitu from Pixabay

How to make exponential gains with emotional intelligence

After several weeks of work on my new client’s website, I was proud and excited for the unveiling. Not only had we meet every demand they had asked for, but we had also included a few extra features that would help them to analyze traffic and attract new leads. What’s more, we finished a week early! I went in happy and full of ambition. However, as the meeting dragged on and on they asked for more and more revisions. “like the catalog,” they said, “but this email reminder about what is in the shopping cart seems to salesey… We don’t want our potential customers feeling like we are spamming them for fear that doing that will drive them away”

Walking out, I mustered a smile and said we would handle all their changes in a fortnight. But inside I was seething, “Why weren’t they clearer from the beginning? Always more changes and delays!”

I was triggered.

It took me the whole trip back to the office just to cool down and then even longer to get the ambition to start tackling their requests. I just wanted this project done and paid for!

I am sure that you have had a similar experience. Where you have felt triggered due to the actions of others and need a reset before being able to regroup and take beneficial actions. There is a better way to handle these situations and learning how will enable you to create exponential forward momentum. I call this the catapult effect.

Emotions can help you and they can hurt you, but you have no say in the matter until you understand them.

— Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves explain that our emotions first are felt and then reacted (or responded) to. This got me thinking about a catapult effect we could employ by first experiencing an emotion then taking a moment to decide what to do with that energy. This could not only help us to avoid destructive behaviors, but also move us straight to actions that will launch us forward.

How can you use the catapult therory?

If I were to have taken a moment to think about what my client was really saying and asking for, instead of feeling crushed that they weren’t as pleased as I was, it would have been more constructive. I could have felt anger about them asking for yet more changes but then clarified all the issues so that we won’t need to go down this same road again. That would have led to a discussion of exactly what their expectations were and how to implement them, instead of me boiling on the inside while smiling and agreeing on the outside.
I would have driven back to my office with anticipation for making improvement not dread about working with them ever again. This is the result of not backsliding by giving in to the emotion, focusing instead on solving the problem from the beginning. All my momentum would have been pushing me forward instead of pulling me back. This would have resulted in a 4X momentum swing.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Achieve your own 4X Catapult Effect

Identify the emotion(s)

What is the emotion, or emotions, you are feeling at the moment? Identifying your range of emotions will help you to recognize them faster and more objectively when they come around again. Using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (above) is a good way to identify your emotions and their intensity. In her article, The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It, Hokuma Karimova, MA explains how to use the wheel to identify and manage your range of emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

What were you feeling before the incident? When did everything go haywire? Does that always happen with this emotion and/or situation?

Understanding the answers to these questions helps you to see patterns and mitigate harmful emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

When you understand your range of emotions, you will be able to choose some that create positivity and are easy to apply in any situation. Use this as your coping mechanism, telling your mind that you feel a certain way will fool it into action. Allowing you to filters and evaluate the situation through a different lens. As Hall of Fame, Martial Arts Grand Master Jim Buhisan says, “fake it until you make it.”

Create a solution

You have caught lightning in a bottle and now you need to unleash it. Think wide and deep about any and all solutions. Then choose the best action.

Move forward

No need to mope or seethe. Once you can see the target again, you can use your momentum to catapult you towards it.

When you can regularly identify your emotions and their triggers. Then consciously apply a more constructive solution for the situation that follows. You will have developed the ability to utilize the catapult effect.

Curious about your emotional intelligence? You can take a free assessment here.

Articles that will help you manage your emotions

The Power of Silence

5 Ways to Recharge Your Mind

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Volunteer

My Tokyo 2020 Olympic Journey

The Olympics brings to mind an ideal of unity, sportsmanship and inclusion like no other event. These ideals are what I signed up for. Being part of such a massive global event, I reasoned, would surely be a beneficial experience.

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4 Tips for Taking Control of Your Life

Tom is a software engineer. He recently got his dream job, working for a gaming company. He had a new girlfriend and life was looking great. Then he got furloughed when work slowed down. His girlfriend found out a dark secret from his past that made her doubt the relationship with Tom, and he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do next. His life is reeling, and it is all because of situations which are completely out of his control.

If you’ve ever felt like Tom and that the world is against you, it is time to end that pity party. Get to work on building yourself into a person who is able to achieve their goals, whatever they are. The world is not against you. In fact the universe is conspiring for you. That’s right. When you can focus on what is within your control and release what is not, you will find that a cornucopia of opportunities are awaiting you. Some you may foresee and others you’ll have no idea existed until they present themselves to you.

Maybe Tom’s work for a game developer was a sample of what is to come through the development of his craft. Maybe his new girlfriend wasn’t meant to be in his life for long. Perhaps she served as a bridge to something better and a lesson for an area of Tom’s life that needs attention. Conceivably life is really on the upswing for Tom, despite the immediate signs suggesting otherwise.

One key in getting to a place in your life where things align for your benefit is to take action that moves your life forward. You can improve your skills, spend time with people who are important to you, and check things off your to-do list that keep you progressing, focusing on what you can make happen instead of what happened to you will have you life propelling forward instead of sliding backwards. Here are four things you can do today to take control of your life.

Stop blaming others

Your life is your responsibility. Despite how it may seem, no one has enough malice towards you (or energy) to spend time plotting your demise. If you think they are, why are you letting people like that in your life to begin with? Be stronger than they are by working on ways to improve yourself daily and choose to take more control of your environment. Most people are too busy with their own lives to actively spend much time trying to disrupt yours.

Take the time to evaluate your situation and consider why opportunities are not coming into view. If you are not getting called for job interviews, your resume probably needs changes. If you are not attracting the right people into your life, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. These are just a couple of examples of the ways you can take more control of your situations and their outcomes.

Release the things that are out of your control

Being laid off, labels others place on you, the economy, or not getting an invitation to go out with people you thought were your friends are all things you have little control over. Dwelling on those will take you down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. Instead, work to understand what role you have in these things happening around you. Letting go of those things you can not control and making an effort to improve the things you can, will free your mind to focus on more constructive ideas.

This takes more than just flipping a switch; it is a complete change of mindset. As above, there is a fine line between your influence on outcomes and control of decisions. You cannot control who gets promoted at your organization. However, you can increase the odds that it’s you by doing high quality work and being professional. At the end of the day if you are not promoted, realize that you provide your company a high quality service that you are proud of. That is a victory unto itself.

Chose to do one thing that moves you forward

You don’t need a big action or grand result now to be successful. Take a small step towards your goals and the person you want to become. Capture that action on your calendar or in your journal. Over time your progress will materialize on those pages as clearly as the ideas in this story materialized out of my own reading and experiences.

Life moves incrementally, not exponentially. Thus, the small steps you take today are the ones that will pay big dividends in the future. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to move forward one footstep at a time. Taking one step towards your goals everyday will have you 365 steps closer to those aspirations at the end of the year. That is something you have ultimate control over.

Look for an opportunity to make a difference in your own life

If you are not looking, opportunities will never find you. Carefully evaluate your decisions throughout the day and make conscious choices about what you do. That is the basis of taking control of your life. When you consider how simple decisions such as what to put on your grocery list or what to do first thing in the morning shape your life, you will start making choices that are more meaningful. These seemingly unimportant decisions will make a difference in your life over the long haul.

It is widely documented that we make an average of 35,000 decisions every day. Thirty-five thousand! Every time you say, ”I don’t care” or ”It’s up to you,” you are forfeiting a decision. Start being mindful of the decisions that have been placed in front of you. Consciously make choices as an exercise in seizing control of your life. Watch not only the outcomes, but also how your decision-making process changes. As a result, you will make better decisions and increase your confidence in doing so.

A caveat here is to be careful not to dismiss things you think are out of your control but that you do actually have influence over. For example, those friends who don’t invite you out may not like that you become increasingly negative the more you drink. Thus, cutting down on your alcohol consumption and avoiding complaining would make you a more desirable person to spend time with. When you find that many people have the same problem with you, then you are the problem. It takes a brave person to admit that.

Finally, don’t create added obstacles for yourself. Those recurring patterns and seemingly negative cycles you experience are a sign that you need to do something different to get past this life barrier. Look at your approach, your decisions, and your mentors. Then decide if you’re properly equipped to win. If you are not, ask yourself what you need to do to break through. The resources are undoubtedly at your disposal. You just need to consider all your options and ask the right questions. Then do something today to make the change.

At the end of the day, the control you have over your life solely rests in the decisions you choose to make, or to forfeit to someone else. Be mindful of those and choose to be the determining factor in your life. After all, you are the driver of your life.

This article first appeared on Medium.com as Who’s Driving Your Car

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An Opportunity in Disguise

It’s only failure if you don’t learn from the experience

I recently completed my six-month evaluation and it has been a year of terrific growth. However, no assessment is complete without looking at how you got there. The road here has not been smooth. In fact, it’s had a lot of ups and downs, that’s true for everyone. But what’s amazing is that where I am now would not have been possible without those trials and tribulations. Opportunities often come disguised as failures.

In the past, I leveraged an interest in marketing into a position as a brand manager, developed a top-rated podcast, managed an international call centre that made $3 million on a single event, and helped clients become confident presenters and meeting facilitators. Yet, there were times I wondered if I’d wasted my life. There were times when I felt absolutely worthless and that I couldn’t go on. Nevertheless, in the last six months, I’ve become a professional writer, started an online coaching business and developed my own website. All the while adding a group of successful people to both my personal and professional networks. And I’m just getting started.

It’s not where you have been that matters, it’s where you are going.

What I’ve learned from these experiences is that life prepares us for what comes next. We may not be able to see what lies ahead. But God knows. Living with trust and faith (regardless of who or what you believe in) I can accept that everything I experience is getting me ready for what comes next. Bruce Lee said, “be like water.” Living that way reveals possibilities.

Viewing my past experiences as valuable lessons for my future allows me to continue growing, and living the entirety of my life without regret. Of course, there are things I wish I could’ve done better, but I can’t do them better. They’ve already been done. But going forward, I can learn how to be more thoughtful in similar situations.No regrets, only lessons to be learned.

This philosophy gives me a different perspective on life’s challenges than many have. When a friend is sad about the passing of someone close to them, I say: “You’re lucky to have had that person in your life.” When looking back on losing a job, I say: ”I’ve contributed all I could to that company. It’s time to make new ripples.” If a colleague is apprehensive about their future, I say: “What can you do today to make your tomorrows better?”

You see, the future is what you create with your present actions. When you choose to binge watch TV all weekend or focus on what is happening in the news, you are choosing to let others control your mind and heart. When you go for a walk in nature and experience your surroundings or spend time discussing how to solve meaningful dilemmas, you are deciding to expand your skills and abilities of perception. Make meaningful decisions.

Not every day is sunny

Days that seem the worst are actually some of the best, in reflection. There were days I felt that I hadn’t accomplished anything. On a recent Monday, no to-do’s were crossed off my list, a new project without clear objectives was added to my responsibilities, and a night out with friends was cancelled.

Looking back at the end of the week I realized when no to-do’s were crossed off I actually moved a couple projects forward and then was able to complete them by the end of the week. The new project dumped in my lap was to develop a personality assessment. In this project, I will use the knowledge and skills I have developed in several of my past jobs and assignments all on one project. Then Wednesday night my boss asked me to do a presentation for one of our top clients on Friday (just three days later). It’s a good thing the plan to meet with my friends was rescheduled. I might not have had time to work on the presentation and gone out. The point is, I did accomplish things that week. But I didn’t see those accomplishments would be possible on Monday until I reframed them in my mind. In retrospect, it actually was a fantastic week!

We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. — Paulo Coelho

Just put it out there

If there is one takeaway from all of this, it is to seek opportunity. That is how we truly grow and are presented with the experiences that will make us better people. Don’t wait for the stars to align, they never will. Don’t doubt your own skill or abilities. The tools you need to succeed will find you. Don’t get discouraged when you get downsized or fired. It’s time for something new. Have a dream, make a long term goal, expect the unexpected and believe with all your mind and heart that it is possible. Finally, look at each detour as a learning experience. Though they may come disguised as problems or failures, your dreams will find you. Be ready.

This post originally appeared in ILLUMINATION

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Pin Collecting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Today will be my 13th day of volunteer activities, and along the way, I have enjoyed every day. You can check my previous post for evidence of that. One thing that has really become an interesting measure of the ability of each one of us volunteers to make a difference is the number of pins we receive.

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Why Do You Need Art

Van Gough Irises

The other night I caught Gillian Anderson in A StreetCar Named Desire from London’s National Theater on YouTube. During the COVID 19 lockdown they, and other theater companies across the globe, are presenting different plays from their archives every week. Watching Ms. Anderson’s performance as Blanche Dubois made me really appreciate the artistry that goes into live performances. It was a pleasant reminder that art is a deep level of communication that we rarely get in the world around us.

Watching Blanche transform from a woman down on her luck to one experiencing a psychotic breakdown, I could feel the depth of emotion that Ms. Anderson poured into that performance. I could not only see but also empathetically sense the triggers that sent Blanche past the point of no return, and the role that each of the pivotal characters had on her descent.

The performance brought to the forefront how we, knowingly or unknowingly, affect the lives of others. This play wasn’t just about a house disrupted by neurosis. It was also a reminder of the role we all play in the lives of others. Art helps us to consider such questions and get in touch with our emotions.

Rather than looking for distraction and a world far from reality, art gives you the opportunity to explore your own feelings and build your skills of understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. It gives you access to experiencing the pure emotions the artist is sharing. Surgi Rachmaninoff said that music is communication from the heart of the musician to the listener. No need for language to dilute the emotion. 

No musician epitomizes this more than Pat Metheny. Watching and listening to him play guitar, you feel he is reaching out and sending you joy with every note and chord he plays. He and his band give you a bath of exhilaration as you experience the emotion that goes into every bar of a tune, not just from him but every member of the band as well. Like in this clip of As It Is.

Paintings and sculptures can affect you in a similar way, if you take the time to let them infuse you. Consider your mental and emotional impressions. Art may even give you a physical response such as shying away from or drawing you into it. Let the artwork wash over you. Think about what the artist and their art is saying to you. Consider their state of mind as they worked on their creations for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. What compelled them to share this image from the thousands they had in their mind? 

On a visit to the Getty Museum in California, I saw a woman looking at Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises with opera glasses. At first this seemed odd. That is one manic art lover, I thought to myself. Later, as I considered the scene, it dawned on me that she wanted to ingest every stroke and fine detail in Van Gogh’s work.

Maybe she was imagining him putting oil to canvas, in the field and then in his studio as he recalled the image from his mind. Perhaps she wanted to connect with the emotion he was feeling as he intricately detailed each leaf and petal. Perhaps she wanted to imprint those strokes and the finished painting in her mind as a living experience. Like with theater and music, the painting was delivering a message to her directly, from the artist’s heart to her own. This deep appreciation made her one with the painter as she interacted with his masterpiece.

Van Gough Irises

Rather than just considering art a pleasant diversion from your daily life, take the opportunity to interact with it deeply and intimately. Experiencing these works on an emotional level and considering what the artist’s heart is communicating to you will leave you with a new perspective and a lasting impression that you can relive over and over again. 

This article originally appeared on Medium

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