|Last month I went to a stimulating business conference in Orlando. Surprisingly, the most memorable learning experience for me came out of a nature walk I took on the hotel grounds.
I discovered the hotel had a nature trail on its extensive grounds when I first arrived. Getting to the path seemed straightforward enough on the hotel’s map, so I decided to walk it the next morning as a way to start my day. I imagined that I would get fresh air and exercise while enjoying nature and becoming grounded. With this clear vision in mind, I ventured out into the chilly Florida morning.
Not quite sure where to go, I asked a man who worked there how to get to the trail. I was taken aback when he said, “Well, we don’t recommend that you walk there, because there are alligators and snakes.” Immediately doubt set in. Should I still go? I sure didn’t fancy meeting up with an alligator. Suddenly the vision of my walk turned from being filled with peace and joy to fighting a losing battle with a creature whose jaw was longer than my body.
I decided to continue anyway, albeit with some trepidation. Almost 45 minutes later, I still couldn’t find the entrance to the trail. Completely frustrated, I returned to my room.
The first thing I saw on the trail was a sign warning me about the alligators. As I walked the wide grassy path I looked around me, doing my best to be present to the beauty that was there, but keeping my eye out for any suspicious movement. Other fears crept into my thoughts. I was the only one on the trail in a secluded area, and I felt vulnerable. My critical mind chimed in too — the trail was too close to a highway; I wasn’t getting real “exercise”; the promised mile markers weren’t visible.
Suddenly I spotted something long and brown on the side of the path. Aack! Could it be? Heart pounding, I started to back away, and then I realized it was just a pipe. That’s when I came to my senses, reasoning, “Hey, it’s 45 degrees out here. No cold-blooded animal is moving around right now!” I had totally overblown my fears about something that wasn’t even possible.
Thinking about this, I came to a beautiful body of water. As I stood there trying to focus on being present to my current experience, I saw a huge bird fly up right in front of me. I had been so engrossed in my thoughts that I hadn’t even seen it standing there.
New moment. I took in a deep breath, and stretched out my arms in a gesture of receiving the beauty before me. My very next thought was, “What if someone sees me? This looks weird.”
As I went back to the hotel, I realized how this walk was a perfect metaphor for how many of us approach our goals:
So here’s a question for you: Where in your life do you let those challenges — real and imagined — keep you from living your best and most joyous life?
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My mother used to tell a story about a Christmas morning early in her marriage to my father. She had her eye on a certain camelhair coat displayed at a department store. Her anticipation grew as Christmas drew near because a box appeared under the tree that was exactly the right size for the coat. She described how she reserved opening that particular present for last. Finally, she tore off the paper, opened the box, and… it was a toilet seat cover! Even telling the story decades later her face would contort in an expression of disappointment and resentment. It was meant as a practical joke by my father, but it fell flat, and he still rues the day he bought it.
Tip #1 – Ask for what you want – specifically!
I can’t say for sure that my mom didn’t ask for that coat directly, but I do know that he didn’t buy it and it didn’t end up under the tree. I’m guessing she had an assumption that he would know what she wanted, and get it for her. The number one mistake we make when we want something is not asking for it specifically! I get exactly what I want for my birthday and during the holidays. Why? I not only tell my husband what I want, but I find it online and then send a link to him with a note saying “This is what I want.” We both end up happy – me because I got what I wanted, and him because there’s no pressure for him to figure it out on his own, risking disappointment.
Tip #2 – Ask for what you want, not what you don’t want
When I was younger, people often gave me clothes as gifts. It was a perfectly reasonable gift to give, but it really rankled me. I was very particular about what I wore, and I disliked feeling obligated to wear something I didn’t like. I complained about it, saying things like, “I wish people wouldn’t get me clothes.” or “You can get me anything except I don’t want clothes!” Guess what the universe heard over and over? Clothes, clothes, clothes! No wonder people were always getting them for me. As the saying goes, what you resist, persists. Instead, ask for what you DO want!
Tip #3 – To have what you want, want what you have
At a company holiday gift exchange, my husband once received a compact floor heater. I thought that was just about the dopiest gift you could ever give at a company gift exchange. Rather ungraciously, I remember poking fun of it at the time. Guess who ended up using that heater more than anyone else? Yep, me! In fact, I used it so much that I literally burned it out. Part of experiencing the abundance of having what you want is wanting what you have. As Deepak Chopra said, “We never need to seek abundance. We simply need to notice and open up to what’s already there and allow the bounty of the universe to flow through us.” So be open to receiving what is coming your way. It may not be exactly as you imagined it would be, but if you practice receiving it gratefully and graciously, you might be surprised at how the gift becomes exactly what you want. And if it doesn’t, well, it’s perfectly OK to let it go.
The media bombards us with images of happy children gleefully opening presents on Christmas morning and men standing with blue Tiffany boxes behind their backs beside beautiful and unsuspecting women. These images imply that the joy of giving and receiving is in the surprise. Hogwash, I say. The greatest joy in getting what you want, is getting what you want.
When you know how to ask powerfully, you can stop wasting your time and stop putting your energy into things that just don’t work. Instead you can have the money, time, and resources to create what you want. Download my free ebook, “The Power of Asking”, to learn more!
Recently I threw my husband a 50th birthday party and when it came time to sing Happy Birthday I was encouraged to say a few words. I laughed and said, “I’ll bet you never imagined growing up that the word “ukulele” would figure so prominently in your life!”
Then again, I never imagined that either, until three years ago when I picked it up for the first time. Now playing the ukulele has become an almost daily occurrence. I regularly go busking in Central Park as part of the duo Ukulicious and played at the Morgan Library last spring with my bluegrass group the Westside Irregulars (a paid gig!). And now I’m broadcasting “Your Guide to Love, Life, and the Ukulele” on Periscope, saying a few words on a theme of the day and singing a song for all the world to hear. (You can see some examples on this youtube playlist.)
At one time in my life, I wanted to be a singer and dancer like Madonna. Now, playing music is a way for me to create community and express myself joyfully. (And I love performing!) And yet, sometimes, playing on Periscope, I feel vulnerable in the face of judgment. People can be snarky, even hostile. I notice myself being more reluctant to share myself or stuttering as I watch the comments come in.
But what does that have to do with me? They’re just words on a screen. I read them, and make up my own story about them – about the person, or about myself. This is what we do as human beings. People open their mouths and sounds come out, we hear them and then we interpret them. “Uh-oh,” I think, “Am I not singing well enough? Are people bored? Do they not like this? How can I make it better?” instead of just saying, “Hey, if they want to listen, great, and if they don’t, that’s ok too. I’m doing the best I can in this moment. Who cares if they don’t like my singing? I’m still going to sing and have fun.”
Whatever it is you are working towards – living the good life, creating wealth, having a successful relationship, enjoying a fulfilling career – ask yourself, how often in life do you avoid expressing yourself joyfully because of your fear of other people’s judgment? Liz Wolfe is a breakthrough coach in New York City who has been helping people create a richer life for 20 years. Sign up for a free 30-minute breakthrough coaching session with her here.
A hot cup of coffee. Crispy, almost burnt toast. An uncomfortable sense that I’m already behind in my day. The only thing missing in this flashback to my childhood is the sound of bleating lambs coming from the basement, awaiting their breakfast. I half expect my mother to turn the corner into the room, berating me for still lingering at the table instead of mixing up their vanilla-smelling milk concoction, made from powered Real Imitation Milk. Continue reading
I love that freshly-washed feeling of the turn of a new year. It could just be the fact that I get more sleep in the 10 days between Christmas and New Year’s because the kids are off from school, but I seem to have more energy and impetus to clear away things I’ve been tolerating, and similar to many people take the opportunity to look ahead to what’s next. Continue reading
I woke up yesterday angry at America. Angry at the world! And angry at my kids. Someone ate the Reese’s peanut butter cup right off my dresser, the one that I’d been saving, the one, truth be told, I took without asking right out of my son’s Halloween candy stash. Found the wrappers in the trash can, right within view, no hiding that. When confronted, neither my son nor daughter admitted to having eaten it. Could my husband, who is out of town, have eaten it? Nope, he texts me. Back to the kids. My son did his “I’m lying but pretending not to be” shrug, twice, and I shrugged it right back at him. He also claimed to have completed all his homework on Election Day – back to that in a minute – on his day off. Nope. Lying again. I looked straight at him and said, “I don’t understand why saying you didn’t eat a candy bar that I know you ate is worth defending.” At no point, however, did I admit that I had taken it right from the stash strewn over his floor. So that technically it was his. I was waiting for him to admit it first. Which being 13 he was not likely to do. Continue reading
“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” Clarence Budington Kelland
I saw this quote posted on Facebook on Father’s day. It reminded me of my father right away. He is a simple man, low maintenance, you might say, never wanted much more for himself or for us than to be happy, whatever that looked like. Although he did do some telling us how to live, actually, but the advice was always stemming from his love and care for us. Continue reading