What Are You Allowing Your Life To Become?

What Are You Allowing Your Life To Become?

I was THIS close.

Many years ago I found myself in position to do something rather unlikely. I was about to beat Russ Lavoie in a tennis match. Unlikely, because, well, I sucked at playing tennis. Russ didn’t suck at tennis. Russ was very good at tennis. He took lessons. He had a coach. He had great equipment. He even had the proper tennis clothing. But there I was, with a borrowed racket, an Aerosmith T-shirt, and a pair of Converse All-Stars, on the cusp of beating the best tennis player I knew.

But then I didn’t.

It started as us just lobbing the ball back and forth. Russ’ dad was there, a rather intense man, and he wanted to make it more meaningful. “Let’s make this a real match.” Right from the start I was outperforming Russ. I don’t even think I knew how to keep score in tennis. But Russ’ dad did, and boy did he enjoy reminding his son that the kid in the Converse All-Stars was getting the best of him. Sort of his way of motivating Russ. And demotivating me at the same time.

To say I was playing way over my head would be an understatement. With no training or coaching somehow I was holding my own and winning far more games than I though possible for me. I was actually up two sets to none, needing just one more set to win the match. As Russ’ dad would remind him he was getting beat by me, as in the me who should never be able to beat a trained and well-coached tennis player, it got me to thinking that maybe I really shouldn’t be able to do what I was doing after all. Maybe dad was right. And eventually I proved him to be so, dropping the last three sets of the match and saving Russ from certain parental humiliation. 

Yes, Russ beat me, but on some level I had actually beaten myself.

I thought of this experience when I was reviewing the past year of my life. It’s become a tradition of sorts in the weeks just before my birthday. I conduct a review of the past 12 months. The highlights as well as the lowlights. How did I spend my time? Intentionally or reactionary? Of the things I told myself I wanted to do during the year, what did I actually accomplish and what didn’t I get done?

Overall, it was a very good year of personal growth. But I always have a question for the items on the What Didn’t Get Done list. “Why not?” Why didn’t I get this done? Sometimes there are external factors involved. Sometimes in hindsight I realize I actually didn’t want to accomplish what I told myself I did. Sometimes, though, the painfully honest reason things didn’t get accomplished is I simply didn’t allow myself to.

We can set very specific goals with the absolute most perfect of intentions and develop and implement a consistent action plan to achieve them. But unless we allow ourselves to achieve them we never will.

In my mind, even though I was just a few points away from beating Russ, on some level I knew I wasn’t supposed to. The image and expectations I held for me was inconsistent with what I was accomplishing. At some point the inner voice always wins and we adjust our actions and behaviors accordingly. I told myself I wasn’t supposed to win. And I didn’t.

I found in this year’s annual review some of the things I didn’t accomplish were, in fact, because I didn’t allow myself to accomplish them. The person I would have been had I actually accomplished my goals was different from the person I accepted myself to be. Even with clarity of purpose and actionable intentions, I was unable to sustain the momentum needed to meet my objective. It wasn’t a lack of opportunity or tools or information which did me in. It never is. I wasn’t going to allow certain things to happen. 

I’ve become quite comfortable having uncomfortable conversations with myself. Those deep, honest, introspective conversations, free of judgment or blame. Because until I am willing to get to know the deepest me I will never be able to get to the places I know I tell myself I want to go. These conversations uncover the psychological and emotional roadblocks to me moving ever forward. They show me the self-imposed limitations, the walls and fences I’ve subconsciously built to keep myself tethered to what is and keeping me from what could be.

We will never become more than we are willing to allow ourselves to become.

In an unlimited world we all have our own degree of limitations. It doesn’t matter how they got there, what is important is acknowledging that they are actually there. Knowing you have accepted some level of limitation is often very uncomfortable. It requires a level of responsibility and accountability. Who readily accepts the blame that they aren’t where they could have possibly been in their lives?

Knowing you have accepted some level of limitation, though, is also very empowering. Because that’s the starting point to moving past them. If you don’t know you’re stuck, how will you ever unstuck yourself? How will you ever grow forward?

Most of the limits we have are silent, stealthily working behind the scenes keeping us aligned with who it is we tell ourselves we really are. They show up in our habits and behaviors, regulated by the expectations we have set for ourselves. It’s the reason why I’ve never kept off those last 10 pounds, or taken full advantage of certain opportunities I’ve had in my life. 

I never allowed myself to do so.

When you look at the highest vision of your life, what’s preventing you from being all that you envision your life could be? Is it the stuff outside of you or is there a little voice telling you that no matter how clear your vision is you’re simply never going to allow yourself to become it?

It’s not an easy conversation to have with yourself. But it’s the only way to move closer to becoming all you were created to become.

And I’m moving closer.

It’s a great day to be you.

photo credit: Aaron Clinard via Unsplash

The Most Important Resolution Of Them All

The Most Important Resolution Of Them All

His fingers were so numb from the bitter cold that he could barely even hold the match to light the fire which would soon keep him warm. Eventually the match ignited and the fire was born.

One thing about fires, though. They need to be fed. They simply don’t last simply because you’ve started one. Kinda like the fires we start in life. Fires of desire. Unless we feed them continuously they eventually go out.

New Year’s Day is perhaps the most prolific day to start fires. Fires of desire, that is. All these resolutions and hopes and dreams we decide to bring to life.  Yes, we may start such fires but how often do those fires of what we desire simply burn themselves out? Intentions create the initial spark, but without the real commitment the flames will soon be extinguished, starved of the fuel needed to maintain them. Good intentions alone are never good enough.

I’ve certainly started my fair share of fires. A great many of them have met an early demise. Simply because I never fed them. And I never really fed them because I rationalized I must have never wanted them bad enough. But the more accurate reason why many of the fires never got fed was because somewhere inside I never felt I was supposed to have the things I wanted for myself. Continue reading “The Most Important Resolution Of Them All”

Maybe Your Truth Is What’s Holding You Back?

Maybe Your Truth Is What’s Holding You Back?

“Someday I’m gonna climb that mountain.”

It’s 1992 and I’m on my way to Keene, New Hampshire for the first time. As I approached from south of the city I caught my first glimpse of Mount Monadnock. It’s not a huge mountain, but it was the tallest one in southwestern New Hampshire. That’s when I announced I’d be climbing that mountain some day.

And I finally did.

26 years later.

Self-promises and bold declarations are easy to make. But for me, at times, life has been far more talk than actually doing. Years went by as I continued to travel Rte 12, always glancing at the big mass of granite and trees, reminding myself that I’d climb that mountain some day.

Someday.

After my last birthday I began questioning many things in my life. When you realize you’ve had more birthdays than you’re gonna have your relationship with time changes. With that fresh perspective I decided to gently challenge myself and the collection of things I’d thrown into the rather thick “Someday” file. I wanted to look at each one and decide if it stays or if it goes. And if it stays, when was I actually going to do what I told myself I was going to do? Continue reading “Maybe Your Truth Is What’s Holding You Back?”

Santa’s Most Precious Gift Is Never Found Under A Tree

Santa’s Most Precious Gift Is Never Found Under A Tree

“No one ever loses their Christmas spirit…they just misplace it.” – Santa

I had a rather impromptu conversation with Santa at an event at my daughter’s school earlier this week. The topic? Christmas spirit. It seems like many people find the holidays to be less than joyful, more “no, no, no” than “ho, ho, ho”, and I wanted to get his take on the matter.

The loss of Christmas spirit goes beyond just having far too many things to do to get ready for the holidays. It’s much deeper for some, sometimes quite painful, the memories of what used to be, the reminders of what never was, the people who’ve gone and the emptiness now left behind. Sometimes witnessing the joy others experience during the holidays provides us with the contrast which only intensifies the emptiness and the lack of joy we feel is missing from our own lives.

I’ve been examining my own Christmas spirit of late and I see I, too, have let the joyous light of the spirit of the season grow dim within me. Not intentionally, but the light isn’t shining as brightly as it once did. I do remember when Christmas was a time of awe and wonder, of magical possibilities, of I’m-so-excited-I-can’t-even-sleep kind of excited, of joyous expectations! Continue reading “Santa’s Most Precious Gift Is Never Found Under A Tree”

Flowers, Weeds, and the Joy of Regret

Flowers, Weeds, and the Joy of Regret

“Why not change the world?”

This was the first slide of the presentation as we began the college tour. With each slide the university showcased it’s long history of how by creating of a curriculum and environment of innovation and excellence their students had, indeed, changed the world.

When I graduated from high school, I never went on a college tour. I was lucky to get accepted into a community college where no one was talking about changing anything, let alone changing the world.

As the presentation continued, I found myself wondering if the students in the tour group understood how huge of an opportunity this was. I know I surely saw it, wishing Continue reading “Flowers, Weeds, and the Joy of Regret”

The Top 5 Good Excuses For Not Living Up To Your Potential

The Top 5 Good Excuses For Not Living Up To Your Potential

Boy, did I set myself up for quite the challenge.

My task this week was to filter through a lifetime of learning and living and come up with the definitive list of the top five good excuses for people not living up to their potential.

Not to brag, but at one point in my life I would have been considered an expert in this field. In fact, I probably would have won the lifetime “lack-of-achievement” award for my consistent and innovative excuse making if, of course, the world actually awarded those who’ve never done anything other than make excuses as to why they’ve never done anything.

Based upon my extensive research and unquestionable qualifications, I present to you Continue reading “The Top 5 Good Excuses For Not Living Up To Your Potential”

Are You Feeding The Stray Dogs of Doubt?

Are You Feeding The Stray Dogs of Doubt?

They show up all the time, don’t they?

You know, those nagging thoughts of doubt, weakness, and unworthiness. Like stray dogs who keep showing up looking to be fed.

Because we just keep feeding them.

Minds, like stray dogs, habitually know where to go. It’s a matter of training and conditioning, and we’ve spent a lifetime training and conditioning our minds to respond to life’s challenges the way we do.

This can be either good or bad, depending on the thoughts we keep feeding.

Our thoughts are really an extension of what our expectations are for ourselves in any given moment. Those who expect good things will usually find them, while those who don’t expect things to go their way are usually never surprised when they don’t.

Certainly, our life experience greatly impacts our expectations. But the most powerful Continue reading “Are You Feeding The Stray Dogs of Doubt?”

The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution

The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution

So here we are again, day one of a brand new year. Many will greet this day with a renewed sense of passion. This is finally going to be their year! This is the year we stick to the resolutions, many of which have been continuously rolled over from years prior. But this year is gonna be different, we tell ourselves.

At some point, though, resolutions become work. At some point we lose the initial jolt of adrenaline and slowly we revert back to who we have always been, guided by that “little voice” in our head reminding us of who we think we really are and who we think we are Continue reading “The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution”

The Surprising Benefits of Thinking Like A Tree

The Surprising Benefits of Thinking Like A Tree

When I grow up I want to be a tree.

Why?

Trees, simply, grow.

Trees live up to their potential. Everyday. They fully expand and become all they were created to be. Because trees never work against themselves. The don’t fill themselves with doubt or question their worthiness. They don’t complain about the quality of the soil they’re planted in. They don’t stress wondering what will happen if there isn’t as much rain as last year. Trees never look at other trees with jealousy or envy, the short trees never wishing they were taller, the wide-trunked trees never wishing they were thinner.

Trees never work against themselves.

Continue reading “The Surprising Benefits of Thinking Like A Tree”

When You Forget You Are Beautiful And You’re Not Sure You Matter

When You Forget You Are Beautiful And You’re Not Sure You Matter

You are beautiful.

You are unlimited.

And you matter.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten this. Please let me remind you.

Or worse yet, you don’t believe it.

Please let me convince you.

Life gets busy and often the importance of perspective gets lost as we just try and make it through another day. Daily demands and prioritizing others often means you never get around to taking care of the most important person in your life.

You.

Here, in no particular order, are seven thoughts to contemplate in hopes you’ll take the a few moments to reconnect with this beautiful person you call you.

Beautiful isn’t something you become, its something you already are. Walk through any supermarket check-out and you are inundated with the latest fashion and lifestyle magazines, Continue reading “When You Forget You Are Beautiful And You’re Not Sure You Matter”