Letting go

I try not to let artificial boundaries define my life too much. Yes, I pay my bills on the first of the month, and make sure my corporate to-do list is complete on Friday–but I long ago stopped making New Year’s resolutions.

For a while I had a word for the year: one word to help me move toward a more expansive life. Then I stopped that practice and just focused on being in the moment and connecting with my heart to create my goals for the week, day, moment. Who decided that January 1 is the best time to redefine our lives?

However this year I find myself thinking about the upcoming changeover to writing 2018 in place of 2017.  Perhaps it’s because I am in job-finding mode and know that activity should pick up on January 2, or perhaps it’s because the last 18 months have had more challenges than usual, and I am looking for a fresh start. Or perhaps I am just desperate for a topic for Over the Hump.

Whatever the reason, nowadays I find myself using a phrase that guides my actions much of the time. That phrase is “letting go.”

In my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of growing older is that I don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much. In the last few years I have really stopped worrying about things that don’t matter–traffic that’s making me late, whacky clerks, or whether I have been watching too much TV.

In the last few months I have also started letting go of more important things–wondering what my next corporate job will be, concern that my aging parents are getting quality care, questioning if colleagues like my work or friends like my Christmas cookies.

These questions and concerns still cross my mind, often. The difference that they do not stay long.  Ruminating on this stuff does not help it progress or solve itself. Plus it just wastes my mental and physical energy, and annoys people around me when those thoughts escape the dark depths of my mind.

So I have found myself saying, “letting go” a lot. And it helps. I believe that life works for the most part, and it’s more pleasant to relax into the flow than worry. So I let go (of the concern, not the action when appropriate).

I’ll report in at the the end of 2018 and let you know how it goes. Or maybe sooner if I choose not to let January 1 define my life too much. What about you? What practices help you relax into the flow of life?  Please comment below.

My best wishes for an amazing day and week. See you next Wednesday!

Make time for this important activity

Especially when you are super busy

Make time for communication.

I heard this as part of a larger conversation last week at a SAMI meeting, and it really hit home so I have been pondering it since.

Engaging with one another thoughtfully and fully is one of the most satisfying parts of life. It’s also a key to avoiding conflicts–one of the most frustrating, time wasting, damaging parts of life. How many times in our lives have we said, “Oh, I thought you meant this. You really meant that!” How much time, energy, and perhaps angst could have been avoided if we took time to communicate fully, openly and honestly.

Here are a few ideas for enhancing our practice of making time for communication:

  • Work to find the highest level question. Rather than “Would you like cake or ice cream?”, ask “Would you like dessert?”  In place of “How many minutes should this presentation be?”, ask “What are the key learning points? If you could wave a magic wand, what would be the very best outcome?”
  • Let go of fears around asking for clarification. As many of us are bustling around, creating a lovely, large meal tomorrow on Thanksgiving, perhaps ask, “When you say the turkey will be ready at 3, do you mean carved and on the table, or coming out the oven?”, or “When you say you want to watch a little football, is that 1 hour, or 6?”
  • Take time to really hear your friends and family, especially those who are different than you, or those who push your buttons. Sometimes when I listen to the person underneath the words, I discover them on another level that helps me to connect in a new way, and let go of the things that bother me. Maybe even say, “Hello Magnificent!”

As I write this, I realize that I started out thinking this practice is about respecting others by hearing them more deeply, but I have transitioned to understanding that it’s also about respecting myself enough to want a meaningful conversation, knowing that I am worthy of making the time. I feel more relaxed about the crowded kitchen tomorrow!

Like most things I write about here, you all know this stuff and my role is to hopefully provide a gentle reminder. I’d love to hear if this resonates with you and what you do differently in the coming days.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and Thanksgiving holiday. May you be blessed with wonderful family and friends, and life enhancing conversations. See you next Wednesday!


Finding good in others

Last week as I wrote about looking in the mirror and exclaiming this lovely, true sentiment to ourselves, I realized it’s a great way to see the magnificence in others–especially those folks who make us cranky.

A long time ago I was venting to a friend about a family member who I found hard to be around.  He was raised with every advantage and education, yet was demanding, opinionated, and closed-minded. Even a mildly different opinion was not tolerated in conversation.

I had spent a couple of evenings around the dinner table listening to him during a family visit and was now venting to my friend.  She replied, “Lisa, it sounds like he wants your approval.”  WHAT??!!

How could this person who had so much advantage in his life, had lived more than me in many ways, want my good opinion?  But, after pondering a bit I knew she was right. She advised me to just find one thing I liked about him. Then tell him.

What a challenge. But I did it, and was glad.  Evenings around the dinner table were still boring, but I was not nearly as cranky with him, or cranky that I was stuck in the situation.

And, I realized that everyone has something to like. When each of us looks to find something to like in everyone else, we are more joyful.  It doesn’t really matter if it affects the other person.

Writing last Wednesday I realized that one of the best ways to find something to like about another person is to say “Hello Magnificent!” to them.  I practiced it this over the last week and found it really useful, and fun. At this point I am still saying it to myself, but soon I will say it out loud.  Won’t that be fun!

It’s a great reminder that we humans have so much more in common than the differences that we let separate us. Magnificence is all around us. It just takes a moment to recognize it.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and week. See you next Wednesday!

Over the Hump is back!

My life lesson from a schefflera

With just a little room to grow, miracles happen.

A couple of weeks ago I transplanted a schefflera plant into a larger pot and added some additional soil. Voila! Sprouting new sprouts where there had been none for over a year. The previous lack of growth was a bit of a surprise as scheffleras are quite hardy. I had fertilized it and put it near a window with little result.

So when I noticed roots coming out of the top of the pot, I realized it needed more. With a larger pot, more soil, and 30 minutes of digging in the dirt my schefflera had a new home.

Now it has new shoots on every branch. Plus those new shoots are growing really quickly.

I realized this is a great metaphor for life!  A little additional space plus fertile soil can lead to rapid new growth.

To take advantage of this idea we have to recognize that it is we who create the pot that is too small--with our routines, practices and judgements.  Things like “I won’t work on that project after dinner because I am too tired so it won’t be quality work” or “I should not apply for that position because I don’t have an MBA” or “I’ll never be able to finish a marathon or century bike ride.”

We are usually our harshest critic. Sure we may have learned the words from others, but we are the ones who continue to believe them…up until now!

Here are a few tips for creating a bigger pot and more fertile soil for ourselves:

  • Let go of negative self talk–even the most simple things. Take a deep breath and blow it out, away from  yourself. Replace it with encouraging words such as “I am strong and capable. My friends, family and colleagues support whatever I truly want to achieve.”
  • When we make a mistake, or something goes wrong, recognize that it’s all part of human life–everyone goofs now and again, and stuff happens. We are not a bad person, it’s just that we had a whacky moment. Take action to fix or mitigate the results of the mistake or wackiness–then move on. Next!
  • Look in the mirror every morning and say out loud, “Hello magnificent!” (just like each and every other living being)

You may have noticed that Over the Hump has been missing for a while, but it’s back!  It took me a year to get past my small pot and realize how much I enjoy communicating with you all. Heartfelt thanks to those who encouraged me to start again.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and week. See you next Wednesday!

What is Good Enough? 80% or 90%?

rock-stack-extra-right-hand 600x599How do you define “good enough”?

How do you know when a project is done? Sauce seasoned perfectly?

Years ago a boss told me, “Your version of okay is most people’s really good (picture me smiling). And I do not mean that as a compliment (picture me frowning). Stop revising and get this document out the door!” After my ego recovered from it’s dramatic turnaround I realized how much agony went into my work and how little benefit was achieved, especially when writing.

A few years after that I heard the term analysis paralysis, and was grateful to have a term for my over-zealousness. (My father did not use his Mac computer for weeks after purchasing it because he had not finished reading the manual. I think I know where I acquired this penchant for analysis and planning.)

KC_OverTheHump_Masthead 230x200Then I learned a new philosophy, “80% and out the door.” I embraced that for a while, but realized there were times when 98% was what I wanted and others when 60% was right.

Today my mantra is “done is better than perfect.”* It helps me push send on this email newsletter when I have only reviewed it twice, or have just one more thought to add; or share project ideas with colleagues when I really want to research them more. I think this takes courage,

  • to know my colleagues and friends will still like me and my work even if it’s not always exceptional
  • to hear feedback and new ideas with an open mind
  • to know I am okay when others disagree with me

What about you? Any great mantras for moving forward? How do you know what’s good enough?

Joyful regards,

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* I learned this from amazing interior designer Laura Robbins. Thanks!


How is Life Like Eating an Apple?

apples iStock_93376911 700x700I recently heard a story about a man who moved to a region where apples were plentiful and could not stop eating them, downing up to 20 per day.

I think the story teller embellished a bit, however it did remind me of the first time I tasted a fresh-picked apple when I first moved to New England. Two decades later I still have vivid memories of the amazingness of it.

It was super crisp and juicy. It tasted like sunshine and rain coming together, with honey and a hint of tartness. It was similar to, and yet so very different from, the experience of a grocery store apple.

KC_OverTheHump_Masthead 230x200Now as I drive past apple orchards, watching the ripening this year’s crop my mouth waters. I realize how when I eat really fresh, tasty food I slow down and savor every bite. What if I did that with all my food? All my life experiences?

For sure it has me paying closer attention and working to notice deeply into these final warm days of summer. What are you savoring?

Joyful regards,

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Who’s Afraid of the Giant Green Worm?

Photo courtesy of Univ of MD

Photo courtesy of Univ of MD

It’s summer, so I have to talk about giant green tomato worms.

A decade ago in my first real garden I found a GIANT green tomato worm. It was as big around as my thumb and longer, much longer. As it turned it’s face to me I half expected it to say, “Hello Lisa, what’s cooking?”, like in a cartoon.

I realized that under my fascination I was scared of it, wanting to remove it from my tomatoes so I’d have a few to eat myself, but not wanting to touch it or even go near it with gloves. Then I saw how zany I was being, and laughed out loud.

The worm is not poisonous or threatening in any real way. I realized that my fear of this worm is like most fears in my life–made larger by my mind than the reality of the situation calls for.

Help or Hindrance: How Do To-Do Lists Affect You?

open to learningI’m really good at making to-do lists, not so great at completing all the items on them.

I feel powerful and organized when making the list; then manic as I try to complete everything in the time allotted; then frustrated and disappointed with myself when I don’t complete everything.

Do you create these lists too? They range from dinner party menus, to birthday party or product launch organization, to life goals.

I’m Feeling Brave

One Insight for Greater Self-Awareness

Another day!

Another day!

I’m feeling brave.

I had plans to ski with my dear friend Marci. I love spending time with Marci, even more than skiing. We are both avowed fair weather skiers, so when the day dawned with sleet that was blowing sideways we called one another to talk about our plans.

Most of the time I would have ditched skiing and gone to the movies with Marci. For some reason on this day I heard the words, “I’m feeling brave” come out of my mouth. Pondering this outburst, I realized I really did want to brave the elements. Marci pondered my words and realized she was not in that kind of mood, so we agreed to get together another time.*

I had a pretty good time skiing. I felt strong and brave and tried some new things. I grew physically and emotionally that day.

You Have Already Won

One Insight for Self-Awareness

iStock_000005123017Small1You Have Already Won.

Last Monday I got to listen to a wonderful speech by that title.  Fellow Toastmaster, Tim Greenwood, expounded on the topic wonderfully.  He started by being a bit obsessed with getting “like”s on his phone, then transitioned to the benefits of doing it your way.

More important, he talked about doing it your way in a new and different way.  He encouraged us to something new.  It doesn’t really matter whether we gain or lose by the effort, it’s the trying that makes us a winner.