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How to Get Out of the Box

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And the day came when the risk to remain, tight in a bud, became more painful then the risk it took to blossom.

This quote by Elizabeth Appell (often attributed to Anais Nin) perfectly describes the transformation I have felt in my own life and seen in many of my clients and friends.

It is our natural inclination to choose the pain we already know. It is miraculous when we witness a person crossing over that invisible line where they choose the unknown, the world in which they don’t have certainty, where they don’t know the twists and turns that lie ahead.

Yesterday, it was impossible to change. Today it is impossible to stay the same.

My co-writer, Jenny Watson, and I were not familiar with this quote when we created the “Out of the Box Girls” with our artist, Elizabeth McKnight Sloan. In each chapter of Unwritten Travels: a self-guided journal to charting new territory in your life, we featured a girl breaking her way out of the boxes that had previously constrained her (pictured above).

For so many of us, it is easier to find rest inside of the box.

When we are able to meet and match the expectations that we, or others, have for ourselves, there is a sense of relief. We think, I did what I was supposed to, now I can rest.

And then, one day, we can’t rest until we get out. This Out of the Box Girl, still inside of the box, but reaching out with her whole heart, inspires me. Once the heart makes it’s way out, the rest will follow.

In his book, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, Harry Browne gives us tips on how to get out of the boxes that have etched their way around our real selves.

 

How to Get Out of The Box

1. Identify the box you are in.

2. Decide what the box is costing you.

3. What will it cost you to be rid of this box?

4. What will you do with the freedom you will have when you are out of the box?

5. Pay the price.

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The Leader at Rest

finish

Finish (verb): 1. bring a task or an activity to an end; complete

2. to complete the decoration of

Finish (noun): and end or final part or stage of something. 

The Sabbath has gifts for all of us.

Wherever we are, whatever we need, whomever we serve, sabbath is the bonus waiting at the end and the beginning of each week: the weeks that were good, the one’s that were bad, those days that were such a blur, you can’t remember what you did. Good or bad, accomplished or unfinished, the Sabbath is there waiting to take you, wrap you up, feed you, and send you back out again filled up with the experience of rest.

The more “important” we are in our world, the more challenging it is to accept the gifts of sabbath. When I was a server at Lone Star Steakhouse, if I could not work for any reason, it was relatively easy to have someone else cover my shift. If I wanted the money, I had to work, but the restaurant could easily function without me.  As we move into positions of leadership, it becomes much more complicated to get someone else to cover for us. For example, the manager of Lone Star had to either be really sick or seriously plan ahead if he could not come into work.

When I think of some of the greatest leaders in my life, I realize they embodied many of the gifts of sabbath to me. Those strong and supportive individuals represented the very definition of being at rest. Knowing they were on deck meant I could feel safe or less worried.

My husband is the first person to wake up each morning, he wakes up the kids, takes Schroeder for a walk, and brews a pot of coffee. Last week, I started sleeping in, first because I was tired and then I realized there are very few times in our family lives these days that it is just him and the kids. I am sure he appreciates this gift I am giving him. But what I am so deeply thankful for in those blurry early hours while I am listening to the sound of our family from the comfort of my bed (this morning included a lost phone and a shattered water bottle) was that I can only be “at rest” because I know he’s got it covered.

It is impossible to be at rest when we are the ones taking care of everything and everybody.

This is one way Sabbath also can assist us in working more intentionally, using our time taking care of others to help them learn to take care of themselves, or to train other people learn how to take care of them.

The sabbath gives all of us a chance to not be the single most important person in any system.

A true leader is someone who uses their strength, influence, wisdom and courage to protect, defend, teach, and guide us while we are learning to become someone who can do the same, first for ourselves and then for others.

Practicing weekly sabbaths and yearly sabbaticals has exponential benefits for those in positions of leadership. It provides us with consistent times and spaces where we let others practice be leaders.

Our real work begins to prioritize making space for others to rise up and take their place in our world, the highest level of work for those in leadership.

art by Sealed with a Kiss

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Go with the Flow

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The simplest definition of flow is how you feel when your skill and the challenge you are facing are increasing at the same pace.

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The simplest definition of stress is how you feel when you do not have the skills or resources to meet the challenge you are facing or when the challenge itself has unclear or impossible expectations.

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The simplest definition of boredom is how you feel when your skill set is stronger then your challenge. When we are bored, we look for quick fixes that put our minds and hearts on pause. We look for things to entertain or preoccupy our time. We sometimes create our own stress just to make us feel something.

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“Flow is natural because we personally do nothing to cause it to exist. Whether or not we give it our conscious attention, it just is. Sometimes we may hardly know it’s there: when obscured by our fear or anger it can run underground like a river. But when we move into greater awareness and trust, it emerges in all its strength and power.” (From The Understanding Flow by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom.)

Obscured by fear or anger: As I have written many times before, so much of my reality was constructed on fear and anger. It’s fair, there is so much to fear and so much to be angry about. When we are operating under the laws of fear and anger, we are knotted up in stress that oppresses us, chips away at our immune system and steals our joy. That stress blinds us to seeing where our skills can be sharpened and when it is time to let go.

Strength and power: The challenges we face are not going away, but we access the skill to face them when we are able to accept that fear is a part of being alive and of being in love, and that our anger is giving us clues all of the time about the passion that runs deeply through us.

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According to Linda Caldwell in TimeWise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time (pictured above), Flow involves:

*Intense levels of concentration and focus

*Being one with the activity; being totally absorbed

*Not being worried about the outcome of the activity

*Not feeling bored or wondering when you can do something else

*Being mindful of the activity and of your body and mind in connection with the activity

 

 

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Alignment

questions for each month

At the beginning of the year, instead of creating goals or resolutions, I made the decision to ask myself questions that were aligned with the seasons. It is kind of like eating seasonally. You are going to enjoy better quality when you eat what is fresh at the time of year that it is ripe.

The same is true with our goals.

Any time we “should” ourselves, we are asking ourselves to behave, produce or expect something from ourselves or from our lives that is out of season. Just because we can get a tomato in February, doesn’t mean we should. It is going to be the kind of tomato that makes people say they hate tomatoes.

Let’s eat tomatoes in the summer when they are heavy and plump and begging us to taste them for the pure pleasure of the bite.

This idea of aligning myself with the seasons can also be translated as aligning myself with reality. When I am out of synch with reality, I do not understand what is wrong. Things are cloudy and require effort that does not produce accordingly. When I am able to see that this is my season, this is my struggle, this is a gift and a grace for right now and only now, I can receive all that this particular moment in time has for me.

Questions for the Year:

January, What quiet generosities do you have for me?

February, In what ways can I feed and nourish my inner fire?

March, How can I prepare my soil for planting? What do I need to acknowledge as lost or dried up?

April, What does my soul need to be fed? What do I want to plant?

May, What is the beauty that surrounds me?

June, How can you tend my inner garden? What needs air and sun?

July,  How can I receive the rest and  freedom of your long days and warm nights?

August,  How can I lose myself in your sweet gifts of air and time? 

September, What are you revealing to me about my essentials?

October, What do you have for me that is ready to harvest? How can I gather those today?

November, What preparations do you have for my home for winter, for celebrations, for family and friends?

December, What grace do you have for me to receive and give today?

In January, I spent a day writing and asking these questions, but I have not gone back to them each month, as I intended. The wonderful magic about aligning myself with the seasons is that I did not have to remember the questions in order to benefit from them. They have been written in nature since the beginning of time just as they are written inside of me.

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The Sleep Revolution

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Listen

Enjoy this enlightening conversation on the Happier Podcast.

Read

Check out Arianna Huffington’s Book, The Sleep Revolution.

Practice

Create your own bedtime routine with Arianna’s 12 Tips for Better Sleep.

 

 

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One Minute Margins

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One Minute Margins

We have never been able to accomplish so much in a minute.

We can write and send a message. We can schedule an appointment or pay a bill. We can take a picture, post it and wish someone a happy birthday. We can return a phone call, sign a contract, and see what our friends around the world are doing at this very moment.

It is truly amazing. What used to fill all of those minutes?

Half of my childhood was spent in some kind of waiting room absorbing every outdated magazine on the coffee table or studying the posters on the wall. We used to ride in a car for hours with nothing to do but look outside the window or create new games for all of the buttons on the console.

When I was driving, I was thinking or listening to music. When I was waiting in line, I was people watching, interacting with my kids or getting to know the stranger next to me.

These moments where “nothing” is getting accomplished are not valuable to us anymore. In fact, we consider them a waste of time…until those moments don’t exist anymore.

What science is just now discovering is that those moments are essential for our emotional and mental health. Those pauses allow our brains to take in and let out what we really need.

One simple way to start creating margins is by downloading an app on your phone that tracks your phone use and then check it every night. The next day, spend less time on your phone.

Another valuable step is to start tracking how you use your time just like you would track your food if you were changing eating habits. You can do this through an app, like this one or, if you are a paper girl like me, with a pen in your Passion Planner or journal and notice how you spend your time.

In her evidence-based program, Time-Wise, Linda Caldwell recommends also making a note as to why you spent your time that way and how you felt about it.

She offers these options for motivation:

  1. Had To
  2. Wanted To
  3. For a purpose
  4. Nothing else to do
  5. What others thought

This is a very important step because most of the time, we do not know why we are doing what we are doing anymore. Many of us have had our thoughts, our feelings and even our motives numbed out by our incessant use of technology. Not having access to our own thoughts has become normal.

Be prepared for the discomfort of waking up again. It hurts.

Imagine the last time your arm or leg fell asleep. Remember the pins and needles that you felt when the blood started flowing to your extremities again? It is painful. This is exactly what is going to happen when you begin detoxing your margins. These feelings are normal and healthy even though they hurt. You trust this process when your limbs are waking up. You will learn to trust this process when your heart and your mind are waking up. Being a human is hard but trying not to be human has it’s own consequences-many of which you may be suffering right now. If you are not suffering, ask the people who live with you if they are suffering.

In order to thrive in this world, in order for our children and ultimately our society to thrive, we must wake up.

It can happen one minute at a time.

 

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