Hanging Tough in Turbulent Times

I don’t know about you…but I’ve been reeling with all the turmoil in the world lately. Sitting here in the “relative” calm of New York City, sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart all around me.

Are you hanging on? Or hanging tough?

Look east and nature is wreaking havoc on our friends in Japan. Look west and a psychotic dictator is tearing apart the fabric–and the humanity–of his own country in Libya. Not to mention that the so-called “economic recovery” here in the U.S. feels anemic at best and the slumbering bear of recession seems endlessly poised to reemerge from his winter hibernation!

That’s why it was so inspiring to hear about a great new book that just hit the shelves this week: ” Emotional Balance: The Path to Inner Peace and Harmony” by Dr Roy Martina. Dr Roy joined me on my radio show, “Life Shifting with Dr J” and shared some of his powerful insights from the book. The key theme of which is thus: how to find–and maintain–emotional balance in the midst of life’s inevitable ups and downs. How timely is that!

There are many important and ground-breaking principles in Dr Roy’s work, which beautifully aligns with the themes of my book, “SHIFT: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear“. I love the synchronicity of how his work, which emanates from his many years of practice as a holistic medical doctor, dovetails perfectly with my work, which hails from my experience and research in psychology. So cool to see the bio-medical and psycho-spiritual worlds not just collide but INTERSECT and interweave — with far more alignment than discord.

At its core, Dr Roy’s work is all about helping readers find what he calls the “Still Point”–that place of aligned, centered presence, where we are re-connected with our divine essence — and the fears, at least the ones that cause us recurring anxiety and stress, are recognized as the result of the way our brains develop leaving us “conditioned towards stress”. But the good news is that leading edge work in neuroscience has proven that our brains, as well as emotional and nervous systems, are highly malleable and adaptable. In sum, we are powerful weavers of our own stories, and can discard the narrative of fear, insecurity, scarcity and separation at will (with the help of some focused, intentional practice). His book gives us the tools we need to do just that–offering us a “way out” of anxiety, stress and depression, and a pathway to restoring our emotional balance. In essence: a road map for finding our way home to ourselves.

I hope you’ll give our chat a listen–just click here to get the download for free. It was a joy to speak with Dr Roy while he is on his book tour all around the world (he called me from Amsterdam at midnight!)…I came away re-invigorated, empowered and less vulnerable to the onslaught of the outer world turmoil that sometimes feels omnipresent. I also feel most heartened by the way that the disparate worlds of psychology, spirituality and modern medicine are FINALLY integrating and moving towards a unified approach to health and healing. There is a piercing LIGHT of hope on the horizon!

Namaste,

Dr J

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Leap and the Net Will Appear

Hello everyone!

Are you ready to be inspired?

Have you ever wondered how all those amazing non-profit organizations out there helping people, all over the world, with counseling, financial support, mentoring, volunteers–get started? Maybe you’ve thought about starting a non-profit yourself but thought, “Well, those kinds of organizations are only for rich people like Bill Gates?” NOT.

This week I had the privilege of hosting Leo Preziosi, the amazing, passionate, founder of a non-profit called “Live Out Loud, on my weekly radio show, Life Shifting with Dr J, This wonderful non-profit organization, dedicated to providing role models and support to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) youth, has been doing extraordinary work–for over ten years! Founded by Leo in 2001, Live Out Loud works with high school and college LGBT support groups — bringing successful role models from the gay community BACK to their hometowns and colleges–to speak, mentor, and present a POSITIVE FUTURE to kids that may be struggling with sexuality, bullying, and virulent homophobia.

For anyone who has ever dreamed about doing something BIG in the world, stepping up and doing something to truly help those in need–Leo is an inspiration. He graciously agreed to come on my show and share his wisdom and insights about HOW and WHAT it takes to MAKE A DIFFERENCE every single day.

I hope you will tune in or download my interview with Leo–just click here or go to www.transformationtalkradio.com and look for Dr. Jeffrey Hull, under “hosts”.

I was deeply moved by Leo’s dedication to kids and his gift for starting, building and, most of all, sustaining a non-profit organization for over ten years. For anyone out there thinking about joining or starting a non-profit…Leo would surely say, “Go for it! Take the leap…and the net will appear!” Here are a few of his wise tips:

1. Go with your passion! All it takes is an IDEA…but you have to believe in it PASSIONATELY. What you care about MATTERS. Leo’s story is simple but moving. He read an article about two high school boys who committed suicide rather than have to deal with the pain of being gay in a world that shunned them. He was moved to his core…and made a simple decision: to do something. What moves you? What suffering in the world are you not willing to tolerate? What might you do about it?

2. Don’t go it alone. Find companions to join you on the trip.

All hands on deck

Build a coalition of like-minded folks who want to help.

3. Seek out the experts. Recognize your strengths (Leo, for example is great at creating events and raising funds) and seek out people with expertise that fills in your gaps (he acknowledged that he’s not great with administration and accounting!).

4. Don’t be afraid to ask. Leo shared a great story about the challenge of fund-raising: learning to ask for $$$$. He acknowledges that it can be daunting…and you have to learn to handle “no”…or “not now”…but many many people are out there who WANT to help. You have to learn to ask.

5. Stick with it. Organizations that last ten years like Live Out Loud grow incrementally and steadily…as Leo recounts, it is not a sprint to the finish line, rather it is about making small and steady steps in the direction of growing, affirming what you care about, being persistent…and staying true to your dream.

Thanks Leo…for you amazing story and the powerful, uplifting work you are doing in the world to support gay youth. We all know, from recent highly publicized events, that bullying and prejudice, unfortunately, are alive and well in our society. Even in a world where TV and movies now regularly portray gay people as just like everyone else–we have a long way to go in creating a society where acceptance and tolerance are the NORM rather than the exception.

I hope you’ll tune in to my interview with Leo, and more importantly, think about how you might GET INTO ACTION and volunteer, join…or maybe start an organization…even a MOVEMENT. Why not?

One person really CAN make a difference

With gratitude,

Dr J

Got Mojo?

“Lost,” she stated. Simply. “I feel lost.”

...in a dark wood

Having “mutually” agreed that she should leave her job as a highly-paid management consultant due to the recession and re-structuring at her firm, my client was burning through her severance package…and feeling very unsure of what to do next.

Another client, that same day, also recently “dismissed” — through no fault of his own– from his accounting job at a Wall Street firm, joked casually about “running a ski resort” (he has recently taken up skiing and loves it!), but quickly dismissed that as an “idle fantasy”…and returned to the more measured state…of “feeling lost.”

No motivation. No direction. A sense of having been ripped off track by huge winds of change…and sucked up into a dark fog…with no light at the end of the tunnel. In other words: NO MOJO!

We’ve all been there. Shift happens. Especially somewhere along the trajectory called, “mid-life” (30-40-50 and up…), the rug gets pulled out from under us–a lay-off, an illness, a divorce–and suddenly the “story” we’ve been telling ourselves about WHO WE ARE no longer rings true. SO…how do we re-claim our MOJO?

As my “unstoppable” guest on my radio show, Life Shifting with Dr J, Frankie Picasso, stated: “We need to reconnect to our deepest dreams…not dismiss them but re-discover over how they fuel our MOJO for living full-out.” You got it Frankie, Bravo!

My “lost” client, above, actually dreamed about being a doctor when she was a child…but got de-railed on that path by parents and life events. Today, she is a mid-lifer who would dismiss the possibility of med school as far-fetched and impractical. Maybe. BUT what about the QUALITIES of being a doctor that her childhood fantasy was attempting to live through her? There are myriad ways to “doctor” the world; she only needs to re-connect, at a deep level, with the dream…and re-configure it to her current life story.

Likewise, my client who fantasizes about running a ski resort: why is this dream so quickly dismissed? He’s a former venture capital consultant; he knows a lot about how to raise money, how to run a business. But perhaps “running a ski resort” IS too far fetched, impractical. No matter. In the dream are the seeds of possibility. By exploring his fantasy–and seeing what’s POSSIBLE instead of what’s WRONG…the MOJO — the motivation, the enthusiasm the creativity can be tapped…and soon he’ll find his way out of the FOG.

mojo in motion!

It turns out that he loves to be in nature, to get his hands dirty…to make THINGS (maybe skis?). Whoa…is it out of the question that one day he just might discard the suit and tie, roll up his sleeves and glide off to manage a ski manufacturing business in Vermont? Sounds like a dream worth exploring, no?

I heartily encourage you to listen in to my conversation with executive coach, radio host, Frankie Picasso, author of “Midlife Mojo” –a guide to re-inventing yourself AT ANY AGE! Her story of becoming a certified master life coach after surviving a devastating motor cycle accident and having to RE-LEARN, literally, how to walk…is inspiring and wise. She never gave up, and today she has a successful coaching business, is a sought-after speaker/teacher…and works on major, multi-million dollar non-profit projects–supplying portable homes to the homeless all over North America! Way to go Frankie!

So…if you are feeling a bit LOST these days…listen in here to my talk with Frankie, and remember: Don’t discount your dreams!

the nugget of GOLD in an endless sea

Dream On!

Dr J

Dancing on the High Wire of Life

Howdy all,

Time for a re-cap of my fabulous radio interview with Gabriele Ganswindt this past Monday on Life Shifting with Dr J. Such a cool conversation! Gabriele, psychologist and executive coach extraordinaire, is an expert on two of my favorite “Life-Shifting” themes: finding balance…and building resiliency in challenging times! A most timely topic no? You can listen to the full interview or download to Itunes/podcast with this link: http://www.transformationtalkradio.com/meet_shows.php?id=3991#

So here is your key question: HOW DO WE DO IT?

What to do?

How do we stay grounded, flexible and adaptable in the midst of what may feel like an “out-of-control” world?

A tough question, needless to say, but Gabriele says, “Don’t despair! There ARE practices and ways of being/thinking that can truly help us stay “on track” and centered, even in the midst of chaos.”

Gabriele knows of what she speaks: She is a successful business owner, a mother to two young children, a homemaker, a philanthropist, a writer, an ordained interfaith minister, an organization development consultant and life coach…and a survivor of a life-threatening illness. Continue reading

Twenty Questions…and A New Video!

Dear friends,

I just wrapped a “prep” project for what I hope will be an opportunity to chat with Diane Rehm’s of NPR’s Diane Rehm’s show book segment. I had to answer the proverbial “twenty questions”…(Ok…fifteen!) which was time-consuming but also great fun as it forced me to think deeply about WHY I wrote my new book, “SHIFT: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear” –and why I’m passionate about helping people MOVE THROUGH FEAR and shift their lives into high gear!

I thought I’d share the question/answers with you here…BUT of course I still hope you’ll tune in when I get the call from Diane! Also…check out the cool new video that my publicity team created for me…I think it captures my excitement about the book as a tool for becoming a master “life-shifter”, the need for us all to get better at handling the up and down cycles of life… and my desire to help!

See below and click here: SHIFT VIDEO

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

1. What inspired or compelled you to write Shift: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear (GPP Life; April 20, 2010)?

There were two main drivers behind my passion for writing “Shift.” The first motivator emerged when I found myself frustrated with the dearth of current self-help books that I wanted to share with my clients. Today’s self-help literature feels so fragmented and “dumbed-down” to me. There are lots of short, pithy “motivational speech” type books about how to achieve happiness in five easy steps, and books that tackle anxiety and depression from a bio-medical perspective (the neuro-science angle is all the rage) and cognitive slant (“change your mind and you’ll change your life”), but very few that take a serious look at how change really operates in our lives—and more importantly: how to navigate the inevitable FEAR that accompanies change. I kept returning to books that were written up to twenty-five years ago (e.g. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway or The Road Less Traveled) and finally decided that a book needed to be written that provides an integrated—mind, body, heart—approach to moving through change, and fear.
The second reason I was inspired to write “Shift” was that after working with clients for over 15 years from all walks of life—business, academia, government—I noticed a clear pattern, a series of distinct stages, that people would seem to go through whenever a big upheaval or transformative “shift” would happen in their lives. I definitely noticed it in my own life as well. In the process of shifting out of the corporate world, into the entrepreneurial, consulting arena, I watched myself go through specific stages, and experience distinct anxieties and fears, all of which paralleled exactly what my clients were going through. I decided that a roadmap of these stages, with tools for working through the fears that accompany them, would be exactly the kind of self-help book that I wished that I had been able to reach for…and one that could potentially help people relax more as they undergo change, perhaps not need the “pharma fix” to quell the symptoms—and in general, become more masterful at dealing with change.

2. “Shift happens,” as you so colorfully put it. If change is such a common and constant part of life, why do most people dread it?

We are constantly bombarded with media images of smiling, prosperous, skinny, happy people who are lounging on Caribbean beaches drinking Pina Coladas. This “endless happiness” rant—a sort of consumer nirvana, has become the holy grail of Western culture. Yet, the reality, as we all know, if we stop and think about it, is that life doesn’t really work out this way. Change, as the Eastern traditions remind us, is constant. We become so caught up in the quest for material wealth, security and so-called “happiness,” that when life does what it does—change—and we are called to grow and move beyond our comfort zones, into new jobs, new relationships, new careers, new family or community constellations, our first reaction isn’t excitement, or enthusiasm, but, unfortunately, dread.

3. Anxiety, worry, stress, and even depression often come with the territory of major life changes. What’s wrong with how most sufferers treat these painful symptoms?

The issue here is what I call the “myth of the symptom.” This myth is that just by alleviating the symptom, we will not only feel better, we WONT have to change. The reality is that most of the time these symptoms are a surface manifestation of our deep-rooted resistance—and fear—of change. We view the painful symptoms as “the enemy” when in reality, they may very well be our soul calling out to us to grow, stretch and move out of our comfort zones. In a word, to change!
Far too often, we seek to alleviate the symptoms, and temporarily feel better with pharmaceuticals or comfort food or excessive sleep or alcohol, but despite our best efforts, life keeps moving. We eventually have to heed the call to wake up and get with the program—to take a risk, step over the edge and change. Our jobs, our families, our relationships, our finances—these will all constantly morph and change.
On the other hand, as I’ve seen over and over again in my practice, especially with entrepreneurs and business leaders, even positive changes like a job promotion or starting a new business can bring on symptoms of fear. Unfortunately, our cultural tendency has become to avoid, dismiss or deny even the most positive opportunities to grow. Instead, we get stuck and reach for the pharma fix. This is unfortunate, because very often the symptoms which we label as BAD, are actually very helpful “pointers” to our need to move, grow and shift, if we could just wake up and “smell the coffee” as they say. This is why I approach fear—and its attendant symptoms, anxiety, depression, stress, etc.—with reverence and view them as potentially (not always) positive signs of growth and change, not as pain points that we should immediately attempt to banish or cover over with drugs.

4. In Shift, you confront the formidable subject of fear—but in a way rarely talked about in self-help books. Would you explain how fear and change naturally go together?

Too many self-help books treat fear as if it were an enemy, something to be avoided, dismissed and jettisoned as soon as possible so that we can get back to being fat, dumb and happy consumers. I’m frustrated with this approach to self-help, because I believe that the endless clamor for happiness and avoidance of pain is actually promoting the very opposite of what is intended: distress and de-motivation. Fear can be a great motivator. It shows up as a signal that it is time to “get in gear” and move forward in our lives, to take new risks, learn new ways of adapting, and to be creative. Fear is a signpost on the road that change is in the works, and it is not always, or even most of the time—bad.
In the context of change, our trouble starts when we feel anxious, or stressed, and we label ourselves as having something “wrong” with us, and make the symptoms worse. In truth, the push to grow and change that comes from the outer world, or from our soul’s desire to expand and create, often brings up the symptoms of fear—and this is actually a GOOD thing…a sign of life pushing us forward against the edge of complacency.

5. As you note in Shift, most people view change as a three-stage event—with a beginning, middle, and end. How did you come to see change as actually happening in six stages?

After reading the best-selling book “Transitions” by William Bridges and noting that most books of this type denote change processes as having these three basic stages, I started to notice that there was more going on in each of these stages than at first meets the eye. I started studying closely the events, the emotions, and the fears that showed up during the early, middle and ending stages of the cycle of renewal/change that clients were experiencing and I began to see a pattern of shifts that occurred all along the way, six of which are clearly identifiable: a rupture (breakdown), a release (ending, letting go), a retreat (rest stop), a revival (beginner phase), a rehearsal (new commitment) and a realization (manifestation). I found that breaking the change process out into these more nuanced stages was extremely helpful—mostly because the types of fears that we experience vary greatly at each stage along the way.
Recognizing that fear morphs and shows up differently at each juncture is an important element in becoming more masterful at moving through change—because we can come to EXPECT to feel fear, to consider it “normal” and not to denigrate or criticize ourselves for not always being thrilled with each stage even as we know that we are growing and evolving. Even at the culmination of a change process, what I call the realization stage—we can feel fear (fear of success!) and perhaps reprimand ourselves for not truly embracing the moment. Yet, when we become aware, for example, that fear may show up even in the realization of a dream, we can ride the wave of the symptoms with greater equanimity, calm, and awareness….and yes, even enjoy the ride~!

6. Most self-help books approach personal growth as a steady, uphill journey or a linear process. What makes Shift radically different?

Again, it is a Western conceit to consider personal development to be a linear, uphill, trajectory. This tendency to view life as a straight line towards enlightenment—or happiness—is built in to the culture mostly through out education system, which is designed with 2 or 4 year increments of study, each of which culminate with a graduation, and some formal ritual of completion. Yet, the deeper truth is that we never “graduate” from life. Thus, early in our lives, we are suffused with the cultural patterning which tells us that life is a series of steps to be climbed that lead straight up to happiness, prosperity and retirement. Yet, if we look at how nature works—in seasons and cycles—we see that life really doesn’t operate in a straight-line trajectory. Everything moves in cycles, and every culmination, or “realization’ or graduation, is followed by an ending, a letting go, and a return to a beginning.

7. In Shift, you take issue with the popular notion that everyone has an “authentic self.” So, how do you define identity? If there’s no such thing as the self, how can a person possibly develop self-awareness?

I like the way you phrased this question because although I take issue with the idea of an “authentic” self, I do believe that we have a self—an essential, deep and abiding beingness that is very real, but not static. The key to my approach to the self, and our need to constantly reinvent the self all throughout our lives, is to recognize that what we consider to be an “authentic” self is just a story, a narrative of how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we are moving in the world at any given moment in time. It is not “inherent” or “real” or unchangeable—just the opposite in fact. What is “authentically” real about us is in constant flux—our roles, our beliefs, our attitudes—and once we recognize this it is very freeing. We can then give ourselves permission to re-write the “story of me” at any time, throughout our entire lives.

8. In Shift, you also take issue with the prevailing self-help focus on achieving happiness. Why?

I am not fundamentally against “happiness.” However, my concern with the trend towards studying everything about human life from a “positive psychology” standpoint is that it carries the assumption that happiness is something to be “achieved” as a goal, as a marker of a life well lived. Yet, how many people do you know that are constantly happy? Happiness is an ephemeral, moving, transient experience, and unhappiness—melancholy, sorrow, grief, and yes, even fear—are not always bad. I’m more interested in helping my clients live a life of meaning and depth, a life filled with exploration, creativity and risk-taking, than I am helping people to climb up a “happiness tree,” find a perch to hang out on and rot. Happiness is a great, if momentary, experience along the cycle of change that characterizes real life—not something to be set forth as the pinnacle to be achieved. This attitude toward life actually sets us up for the opposite experience—distress—because it is so unrealistic and more like a Hollywood movie than the way life really works. By being bombarded with images that promote striving for success and happiness as the epitome of life’s purpose—we set ourselves up to be highly self-critical, to rarely measure up…and paradoxically, to be very unhappy!

9. Why do you have a problem with experts who stress the power of positive thinking? Why do you see navigating change as a matter of the body and heart as well as the mind?

I am not against “positive thinking” or approaches to personal growth that incorporate awareness of how our thoughts impact and influence our feelings and behaviors. The thinking mind is a key component in the constellation of self; it is a crucial part of who we are. BUT, it is not everything. Human beings are much more than “brains on a stick”—we are thinking, feeling, and physical beings. Just changing your thoughts may have a temporary impact on your life—making you feel better, change a behavior for a while, but real transformation, the kind where you wake up and don’t even recognize yourself or your life, requires the full-on engagement of the emotional, physical and mental aspects of who we are. We have to bring the body/heart right up in the front seat with the head.

10. As you explain in Shift, the best approach to navigating change depends on whether a person is more of a “thinker,” a “feeler” or a “doer.” How can a person determine his or her particular predisposition?

Everyone uses all three of the modalities to move through life—thinking, feeling and doing. However, we all have a stronger affinity for one or two of these and tend to ignore or dismiss the others. In Shift, readers can take a simple diagnostic exam to help them determine which of the three modes of operating they lean towards—giving them information about what they should attend to and not ignore. In order for real transformation to occur in our lives, we need to engage with all aspects of our being—and knowing more about our natural tendencies can help us to be sure to bring into focus those areas of our lives that we might naturally ignore or dismiss.

11. Throughout Shift, you reinforce the benefits of meditation and yoga. How can these spiritual fitness practices help anyone deal with the challenges of change?

The real benefits of meditation and yoga are simple, yet profound. Both of these practices help us get out of our thinking minds and become aware of our emotional and physical states. We learn to attend to our breathing—a natural access route to become an observer, a witness of ourselves, whether in action in yoga postures, or in a relaxed, contemplative state like meditation. Learning to step back, create space for feeling, sensing and being present to our physical and emotional energies is key, for it encourages us to create a dialogue within our selves—to listen in for clues, symbols and signals about what is really happening in our lives—and how/what kinds of change may be occurring.

12. As you make clear in Shift, what most people really fear isn’t the end result, but the beginning. Would you share a few nuggets of wisdom or strategies for making starting over less daunting and more manageable?

A crucial strategy that I offer my clients—and everyone who is up against feeling stuck or resisting the call to change—is to remember what it was like to be a kid, to connect to that “beginner’s mind”. The key to becoming masterful at what I call “life-shifting”—moving through life’s upheavals and ruptures, is to become aware that every ending signals the shift to a new beginning. As we get older and more set in our expectations that as “adults” we’re supposed to “have it handled,” we may resist and fear endings.
But even more often, we struggle with the call to begin again, to start over, because being a beginner is often awkward and uncomfortable. I always remind my clients that life moves in cycles and that the “beginner” phase of any life change can be the most exciting, energizing, and fun part of the process. We have to give ourselves permission to view this stage—what I call the “revival” –as a creative, exploration process. We need to recognize that “feeling inadequate” is perfectly normal, and that if we can get in touch with the child-like energy that is always available to us at any age, we can learn new skills, re-invent our roles, and our sense of self at any point in life, even very old age.
I encourage older people, baby-boomers in need of renewal for example, to blend together the two energies—of the inner child and the wise adult—together in approaching new activities or learning new skills. It is not only ok to make mistakes, and to stumble along the way, it is normal and expected. We need to lighten up on ourselves and remember to have fun along the way. It is a misnomer to believe that “mastery” means doing everything well or being an expert. Mastery, to my mind, is about becoming aware that being an awkward beginner, a ungainly adolescent, and a struggling apprentice, are natural parts of an endless cycle of change—becoming masterful is about becoming adept at moving through these phases and not dreading, but delighting in the process.

13. In today’s economic climate, more and more people are being forced to change their careers, lifestyles, and expectations about retirement. Can you offer any words of reassurance or practical guidance to help them?

When I look to reassure people that they can get through a major change, or a difficult time in their career or family life, I remind them that ideas like “retirement” are very new on the cultural and historical scene. The fact that we are living longer and living healthier lives means that instead of worrying about retirement (although financial planning is wise), we have the opportunity to reinvent our lives over and over again rather than sit back, watch tv or play golf. By recognizing that we have the energy of creativity available to us at any age, and that what we consider our “defined self” is anything but determined, we are free to re-write and re-craft our own personal story all along the path of life.
I’m reminded of my adopted mother’s view of life. She passed away about a year ago after struggling with cancer for many years, but even in the last five years of her life, with cancer, she still found time to volunteer at local elections, work part-time in the city hall of my home town, and gather on weekends with friends and local folks that were decades her junior. When I would ask young people who loved brunching with her on the weekends, why do you hang out with my mom…I mean, she’s “OLD”? They would answer, “Because your mom is ageless. She has a joy about her, grit and determination, a wonderful sense of humor…and she really knows how to LIVE. It is a joy to spend time with her.” I feel grateful to have had a mom who really didn’t buy into the cultural story of retirement and “giving up” as you get old…she had innumerable careers, a busy, active social circle, and endless numbers of hobbies that kept her engaged literally right up until just a few weeks before she died.

In Shift, readers will find inspiring stories of a number of men and women who “re-invented” their stories about who they thought they were…at forty, fifty and beyond. You are never too old to learn how to master change, because change is occurring anyway…the key is strapping on, with enthusiasm, for the ride!

14. As you share, you trace the birth of your book all the way back to the fateful date when you were seven. How did learning the truth that you were adopted mark a seismic change in your life and identity?

I like to share my adoption story with people because along with other important “shifts” that I’ve experienced in my life, this is a great reminder that who we think we are is ALWAYS subject to change. I had an early life experience, a revelation, of how my sense of self was not “fixed” or fact. I have a genetic story of who I am that is different from the environmental story. I have moved at times in my life from feeling like an “orphan” to being embraced with having two families, and many friends. Life is like that. Our identities are not etched in anything even remotely concrete. When people come to me with stories of failure, or childhood trauma, or breakdown in their careers or relationships, I’m quick to remind them that this is just part of the story of who they are—and always subject to change.
Today in our culture, we suffer a great deal from what I call “crises of identity” because we get very attached to our jobs, our lifestyles and our material possessions. But, these are always subject to change…and this is not a bad thing, but can also represent an opportunity, for re-birth, growth and new expression of our potential as creative beings.

15. What is your greatest goal or aspiration for Shift? What would you most like any person grappling with a major change to learn from reading your book and do first?

What I most want people to “do” after reading my book, is to give themselves a break. HAHA. To relax more and lighten up. To realize that who they see themselves being and doing is not fixed in stone. As a culture, we need to re-connect with the child-like, playful, inventive energy that made our country great in the first place.
My greatest aspiration for the book is that people will come away with an awareness that they are always moving, shifting and changing and that this “fact” gives them a great deal of freedom to become bigger, better and MORE of who they dream of being…BUT they have to re-assess their beliefs about fear, and its attendant symptoms, and become less rigid, less “dictatorial” and attached to some so-called authentically fixed story of self.
I’d love to see people breathe a sigh of relief after reading “Shift”—and not be so quick to reach for the anti-depressants or beat themselves up for not always being happy. Instead, to recognize their fears and anxieties as normal responses to a deeper process that undergirds all human life: the impulse to grow, create and constantly be born anew…at any age.

Continue reading

Job Loss, Life Gain. Part 3

Today’s post picks up where I left off in part 2, with you dancing in your living room.

Get ready, get set...let's go!

Get ready, get set...let's go!

Hopefully, you will allow this “dance” time to be more than a Minute Waltz–perhaps you’ll give yourself a few days, a few weeks–even a month–to re-claim your soul, and re-kindle your vision. But soon enough, it will be time to get out in the world and get to work, literally. So let’s go.

If you’ve been following my thread in these posts, then you likely have picked up on a theme — a “life-shifting” mantra — that is near and dear to my heart. Turning any job loss into a life-gain is about shedding an outworn identity, re-claiming your vision, your passion, and values–who you KNOW yourself to be– and aligning these with the world of work. It is about finding that oh so sweet, sweet spot: The place where the world pays you to do what you love.

Of course, in a Mcdonalds, Gap, Starbucks world, this is easier said than done. BUT, it’s worth the effort to go for it. Otherwise, how else will we change the world? How else do you ever make the shift–from a consumer cog caught in the machine of commerce, to a human being manifesting your true potential? This is the real job, for all of us: the job of having a meaningful life.

So if you’re finally feeling fearless (ok, maybe a bit of trepidation, but ready!) and charged up, here’s what I consider to be the next steps:

5. Don’t network. Here’s the skinny on networking: it doesn’t work. What we really need, in order to find our next home in the world of work, is not a stack of business cards, a long email list or 600 friends on Facebook. We need instead, maybe one, two or three REAL connections–real people who will help us, listen to us, point us in a new direction, and likely connect us to one more REAL person that brings us closer to our “sweet spot.” The problem with networking is that it is far too often a “transactional” form of human intercourse — where quantity and speed are valued over depth and connection.

It's the connection that counts

It's the connection that counts

Recently, I was invited to attend a “networking” breakfast. It was one of those regular Tuesday morning affairs, held at the ungodly hour of 7am by a “business networking association” (that shall remain unnamed so I won’t get hate mail!). I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see how these things work. For me, in a word, they don’t.

When I arrived, there were about twenty people sitting around a table, all looking like they needed much more caffeine than was provided by the now empty urn on the side table. Each person got two minutes to stand up and give their “elevator pitch.” It was fast-paced, anxiety-provoking, and mildly entertaining (of course it was 7am so I have to be fair: not sure that ANYTHING would have been very entertaining to me at that hour). There were accountants and lawyers and real estate agents and recruiters. Other than the few who had polished their speech with a good metaphor or self-deprecating joke, I can’t for the life of me remember ANY of them.

The only person that I would consider a “connection” was the wonderful woman who invited me in the first place, a person, by the way, that I had only recently met at another association function, and who I had the pleasure of really talking with, listening to and SEEING. She was/is a really great person, and one whose friendship and support I hope to nurture for years to come. The other twenty people at the “networking” social, are still sitting on my desk, known only through their innocuous — if graphically stylish– business cards. For my taste, the whole early morning-breakfast-spiel-business-card-swap thing–is a colossal waste of time.

What you really want to accomplish when you “hit the pavement” and enter the fray to “build a network” is this: real connection. Talk with a few–maybe just ONE–real person and do more listening then speaking. Connect with their dream…and ask them to connect to yours. Make a date to get to know them. Creative solutions to life’s dilemmas are not born from a three-minute spiel, they are born aloft on the wings of deep dialogue.

6. Don’t look for a job. Ok, let me get this out on the table (it’s probably been too long in coming): I think the whole idea of a “job” is outdated. A job–that is, a “slot” in which to fit a person–is rapidly going the way of the typewriter, the hand-held calculator, and newspapers.

We love to forget that the idea of a “9-5 job” is probably less than one hundred years old, and like “retirement,” is an anachronistic invention of the post-industrial revolution. What has always existed, and what we humans are driven to seek, is WORK. And, work that is meaningful, value-added, and flexible enough to accommodate today’s fast-paced global economy, more and more often doesn’t “fit” neatly into a box called “job.”

I tell my clients this: don’t look for a “job,” look for a problem to solve. Get out and meet people, reconnect to old friends (this is where Facebook can be GREAT), sit down with them and listen in for their “problem.” Ask yourself: what problem do I LOVE to solve? The key to finding real, meaningful work in today’s tough climate is to BE THE SOLUTION to someone else’s problem. Whether or not there is a job, there is usually a problem. Your “job” as a seeker of work, is to find the intersection–the sweet spot–between the world’s problem and what you love to do (the solution).

More and more companies these days are hiring temp workers, part-tim’ers, consultants, and project managers. In fifty years, I doubt that very many people—beyond government employees and unionized plant workers (which will surely be ALL overseas)—will have traditional jobs. We will all live a “portfolio” life, doing a bit of this, a bit of that, a project here, a consulting gig there.

It can be unnerving—and challenging to juggle in the checkbook—but it is better to get with the program: a portfolio of work, not a job, is the future. And, for many, the future is now (Freelancers Union, a non-profit organization for people who live a portfolio life — a “gig life” as many of them call it — was formed only eight years ago, now boasts millions of members, and is doubling in size every year!).

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go on Monster.com and look for a “job” as listed there or elsewhere. You should. But don’t put all your eggs in the traditional baskets (if you ever wonder that the world of work is changing rapidly, just consider that job hunting sites like Monster are now considered “traditional” when they didn’t exist ten years ago…).

What really “works” in the new world of work, is this: get really clear on your vision of what you want to do in the world; get out and meet a few people and offer to help them with their “problem” (whatever that may be); be flexible and fluid and prove your value; do your homework and find out what your “value” is worth on the open market; once proven, demand same. Done. That is, for now.

Until next time the bottom falls out…and it will. The biggest lesson that we all need to learn from this turbulent time is that there is no such thing as “long term” any more. Everything is changing, faster and faster, and we must adapt.

But this can be great news for those who learn to master the process of “life-shifting.” Becoming adept at changing stripes, shedding jobs, identities and attachments (think Zen Master in a suit/tie), you pass through a doorway and enter a kaleidoscope landscape of possibility, meaning and progress, bestowed by life with the greatest gift of all: the gift of re-invention.

My river of change...

My river of change...

As I sit here on a sun-drenched, freezing Sunday morning, gazing out at leafless trees, a river of ice flows, and a dozen, dipping, undaunted ducks, I can’t help but pause and remember: the seasons “re-invent” themselves four times a year. We could learn from that.

Cheerio,

Dr J

Victim, Victor and Valence

Do you ever have stuff happen–life events, people problems, bad luck–that prompt you to want to cry out, “why me?” Or just as likely, “What did I do to deserve this?” We’ve all been there. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t felt like a “victim” at times. Especially these days, with the economic and political situation seeming to daily drop another bomb

Didn't see THAT coming

Didn't see THAT coming

on us from places and circumstances that seem (and are!) far from our control.

So my question of the day is this: When life throws you off kilter, how do you get back on track? How do we make the shift from “victim” to “victor”? This can be a difficult question, especially if we have experienced a tragedy–loss of a job, loss of a loved one. Yet, even if it takes days, weeks, or years, I believe the answer is the same: valence.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking, what the hell is he talking about? Valence? Isn’t that an arcane term from high school chemistry? Well, yes. AND…it is also one of those handy words, that once understood in context, beautifully sums up the trip from victim-hood to victory.

Let’s start with a definition: “Valence” is the capacity of a person to react with or affect another in some special way, as by attraction or the facilitation of an activity (Random House Unabridged 2006).

Perhaps that doesn’t help much. Here’s how I think about it: valence is the energy of movement–and attraction–between two forces, in this case, two “stances”: victim and victor. To my mind, the key to shifting from victim to victor stance is to shorten the distance–in time and space–between the two poles of energy: negative (victim) and positive (victor).

Valence can be thought about like an oscillation. When bad stuff happens, our emotional energy is immediately pulled towards the “woe is me” story. We are likely to hang out there–for a long time perhaps–until the energy of attraction to something else (e.g. the energy of empowerment, self-responsibility, positivity, “victory”) becomes stronger. Then, and only then, do we make the shift.

Let’s look at an example. Yesterday, I had a classic “victim” moment. Ok, more than a moment…a few hours. I was all set to spend the afternoon catching up with friends by phone, working through the email overflow, and reading the NY Times online Sunday version “cover-to-cover” (is that possible anymore?), when suddenly, literally in the middle of typing a sentence, everything went dead. No email, no internet, and in my case, since my telephone is connected through the internet: no phone.

Yeah, right?

Yeah, right?


My first reaction was to be pretty irritated with my cable company. With no land line that worked, and no access to email, I was forced to go stand in the middle of my driveway (that’s the only place where my cell phone gets a good signal) in the 20 degree upstate New York December CHILL, and dial, re-dial, and dial again the 800 number, trying to reach the cable techies. I kept getting a busy signal. Oy, it is cold out here in my bathrobe, and it is Sunday, why don’t they answer the phone? ARGH!

Standing in the cold, unable to connect to the world at large (at least that’s how it felt), I was very angry at first. Miffed, big time. Returning to the computer, only to find that NOTHING had changed and that I was probably in for an extended “outage,” I turned to the TV — just to calm myself (I don’t recommend this choice as a “calming influence” btw!). Bad idea. TV: dead. TV: tied to same cable company. DR J: very upset. VICTIM of total technological withdrawal.

At this point, the valence factor in my emotional system read as follows: 100 percent attracted to victim stance. Time 12:35pm (I checked). With no TV to assuage my anger, I turned to my next favorite “pacifier” and brewed myself another cup of Starbucks. Strong (again, probably not the best choice…but I’m human…we’ve all been there). Strangely enough, truth be told, the steaming hot java did have a calming effect. In fact, it was so tasty and toasty, that I decided to bundle up in winter gear and head outdoors again, this time to sit on my deck in the blazing, frigid sunshine.

Sipping my coffee and noticing the frost gleaming on my deck furniture (which should be stored away by now, I remember thinking), I caught a glimpse of a deer down by the river, sipping the icy brew. I was mesmerized by its beauty. Majestic. Calm. Seemingly oblivious to the cold. I felt the valence shift: I had completely forgotten about the computer, the TV, the phone. I may have been disconnected from “the world” (really?) but I was connected to this deer, the river, the sunshine…and even began to notice the wispy, molten fog of my own breath.

Valence is movement. The deer, the air, the sunshine–all worked on me as energetic triggers that prompted a re-framing of my sob story. The turning point came when I awoke (that is what it felt like when it hit me) to the question that I often use with my clients when they are in “victim” mode:

How might this technological white-out be happening “FOR” me instead of “TO” me? Voila! Victory! Time, 2:05 pm. I had spent 90 minutes in deep victim mode.

All at once “victim” was vanquished and “victor” arrived: I strolled back up the stairs and found the computer screen still blank, yet rather than re-igniting my fury, I took a deep breath and sank into reverie. The valance–the movement of attraction–had fully shifted to this new interpretation of events:

When the internet had gone dead I had been writing to a friend about how overwhelmed I was feeling–with work, family stuff, economic stress, etc. I was contemplating a much-needed vacation…but didn’t think I could afford it..financially or time-wise…

Suddenly silence. All of a sudden, I had NOTHING to do — no emails to write, no phone calls to make, no TV to watch. I could do ANYTHING I wanted (except those things, of course). I had TIME to kill–time to rest, time to relax, time to kick-back (we’ll deal with feeling guilty about all this in another blog).

AND, now that I had made the shift, and no longer felt like a victim, the rest of the afternoon was glorious: I read a bunch of chapters of a great novel that had been sitting waiting for me–for months. I wrote in my journal (long hand!). I went for a long walk. I practiced yoga (without a DVD: fun!). I even, God forbid, took a nap.

Four hours later, I awoke…to the blinking lights of a phone, internet, and TV connection restored. I was almost sad…and, of course, relieved.

The moral of this story is simple: we all fall “victim” to victim thinking at times. It is in our nature to be pretty upset when things happen that are beyond our control. What is in our control, however, is HOW LONG we hang out in victim mode. The key to making the shift is waking up and shifting the valence of energy from “bad news happens to good people” to “how is this seemingly bad thing a gift?”

As a therapist and executive coach, I don’t try to convince my clients not to be “victims” of the dire circumstances that many of them are experiencing right now. Polly-Anna I’m not. What I do try to do is help them make the time spent in victim mode shorter and shorter each time it happens. Growth, happiness and learning is all about valence:
Moving the energy of attraction from the dark to the light.

I’m pretty happy with having made the shift in 90 minutes yesterday. Depending upon tomorrow’s tragedy, the journey from victim to victor may take longer…or shorter (I’m going to shoot for 60 min!).

V is for...

V is for...

So here is your key question: What if this (tragedy, bad luck, etc.) is happening FOR me and not TO me?

To shorten the gap — try posting this question somewhere where you’ll see it, loud and clear (maybe on the computer!):

And so, dare I say? Vanquish thy victim, vouchsafe thine victory!

happy V-day!

Dr J