Saturday, March 31, 2018

If Only…

Photo Credit: Ryan Garza-Detroit Free Press
Ever had a case of the “if onlys”? You know, as in; “If only I’d gotten that job,” “If only that guy/gal hadn’t broken up with me,” “If only I hadn’t been passed over for that promotion,” “If only I’d won the lottery!” “If only I had more talent,” and so on.

Unfortunately, once you get started on your “if onlys” you can keep the list going for days. I certainly have. It’s like binge-watching Netflix. How do you cry “Halt”?!

But here’s the thing: the “if onlys” don’t get you anything. I mean zip, nada, nothing. Not even the satisfaction of “Whew, that was exhausting but now I’m totally caught up on ________(insert name of favorite show).” I take it back. They do get you something. They get you to stay stuck in your past and prevent you from seeing, much less acting on, a desirable future.

What do you think would have happened if Chris Norton, who broke his neck playing football for Luther College, at 18 years of age, had accepted the doctors’ verdict of having only a 3% chance of ever feeling or moving below his neck? What would have happened if Chris had dwelt on all the “if onlys” of his plight? To name but a few: if only I hadn’t played in the game that day. If only I'd chosen to go for basketball or swim team or track instead of football! If only I'd fallen differently on the field. If only I'd just broken my arm or leg instead of my neck. If only I'd been bruised instead of paralyzed!

If Chris had indulged in all those “if onlys” and many more, he would never have done what it took to move his arms and legs again, certainly wouldn’t have managed to walk across the stage five years later to receive his college diploma, nor would his next goal have been of walking seven yards down the aisle to marry his sweetheart. He certainly wouldn’t have become the motivational speaker he is today, nor the founder of the SCI CAN Foundation, dedicated to raising money for specialized hospital and rehab center equipment for others with spinal cord injuries. All this by the age of 25!
Turn your back on your “if onlys.” Leave them where they belong, in the past. What is done, is done, and you can’t undo it. What you can do, however, is look to solutions, resolutions and other possibilities, in your present and in your future, just like Chris Norton. We humans are capable of amazing things once we turn our focus and attention to them. So don’t waste your precious creativity, your resources, your mind, on lamenting your “if onlys.” Face whatever challenges you experience boldly, square on, and conquer them!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Success: What Do You Have To Sacrifice In Order To Get It?”

Recently I came across the Dalai Lama’s “18 Rules of Living,” which he shared with the world at the beginning of the new millennium. Here, 18 years later, it seemed relevant to revisit them.

In particular, I was struck by his rule: “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.” At first I thought, “What?” As women, for example, many of us had been told umpteen times that we couldn’t have both a thriving family life and a successful career. Fortunately, that has been changing (although I still wonder why men were exempt from that contradiction!). Surely the Dalai Lama, that fount of compassion and love, didn’t mean that we should judge our professional/job success by the family life we short-changed? Or vice-versa. Or that we should judge our success in either domain by the abuse, negativity or other unpleasantness that we stoically put up with in order to make it all happen?

That just didn’t square with what I know of the Dalai Lama’s philosophy. So I meditated on his rule, let it float around in my consciousness, until it hit me. I know exactly what I had to give up in order to succeed! My belief in impossibility, my doubting of my own talents, my fear of failing.

I remember vividly the first time an attorney asked me some 30-odd years ago, in my capacity as a trial consultant, if I could conduct a focus group for him. I’d only been a trial consultant for a couple of years, my experience was primarily with preparing witnesses for trial, and I’d never even heard of a focus group. But I needed to put bread on the table and keep a roof over my head, so I vaulted right past my insecurity and fear and said, “Sure!” I promptly scurried around gathering as much information about this mysterious thing called a “focus group” as possible, which was a very different challenge back then given the non-existence of the Internet. It worked. Conducting focus groups became one of the cornerstones of my trial consulting career.

And then of course, there’s when I went back to ballet at 65. I looked with longing and envy at the younger students practicing their splits on the floor thinking, “I could never do that.” I had to give up my “It’s impossible” and “Never gonna happen” to even get down on the floor and try. Now, I can finally do the splits with my right leg forward, almost there with the left. Give me a little more time and I’ll have both down!

What do you have to give up in order to succeed? What fear, insecurity, impossibility ruins your chances of the dream you so desire? Not enough time, not enough money, not enough talent, not enough resources, not enough support, not enough whatever! It’s those beliefs in limitation that we must give up in order to succeed.
There are endless examples online of people who’ve had to give up those beliefs to achieve their dreams. To take just one, Jake Olson, a blind football player, with two years of high school football and two years of college football behind him. He snapped the ball last fall for the final extra point that gave the USC Trojans their 49-31 home victory over Western Michigan. Imagine the limiting beliefs Jake must have “sacrificed” in order to snap that ball. A blind football player? Come on! And as his coach said, his wasn’t a “charity case,” but that Jake was the player best suited to make that play.
Time for you to make your play. Give up whatever limiting beliefs you find that stand in your way, and enjoy your new-found success.