Bouncing Back from Brokenness

Dear Friends,

In my profession as an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, people generally don’t call on me unless they’re either headed for — or in — a full-blown crisis.  After receiving such a call from a potential client this week, it got me thinking about the deeper meaning of life’s challenges and how we can navigate them.

Are you experiencing a state of brokenness that has sent you into a downward spiral?

  • Being fired from a job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • A severed relationship
  • A debilitating illness
  • A life-changing accident
  • The death of a loved one
  • A business start-up that never took off
  • An opportunity that fell flat
  • A broken promise
  • Incarceration
  • A failing grade
  • Fill in the _______

Sometimes, we may feel that life has thrown us into the deepest end of the ocean, expecting us to swim back to the shores of safety without a life preserver.  This may result in feelings of bitterness, resentment, anxiety, frustration, depression, and/or isolation.  However, life’s challenges are inevitable and create opportunities for learning and growth… if we are willing to focus on the value, rather than the venom.

If you are in need of a little (or a lot of) inspiration, here are some ways to help shake off despair and climb out of your well-worn rut.

Break the cycle of negativity. Reacting to adversity in a dysfunctional manner such as denial, addiction, distortion, repression, or other numbing behavior only magnifies the situation, which can make matters worse. Negativity feeds a continuous cycle of destruction that keeps you stuck, so find ways to enhance your quality of life. Whether it’s meditating, changing your daily routine, learning something new, spending time with family or friends, or getting outside to enjoy nature, do something that will create a shift in your thoughts and actions.

Find the lesson. With every challenge comes a lesson to be learned.  The sooner you accept the lesson and learn from it, the sooner you can graduate to the next phase of your life.  To find the lesson, ask yourself “What is this situation here to teach me? Then listen for the answer.

Surround yourself with support.  During challenging times, we all need the comfort and wisdom of a strong social support system. This is anyone that you can trust for sound advice, counsel and emotional support.  Having a confidant who understands what you’re going through without sitting in judgment can help alleviate raw emotion, so that you’re better able to deal with the situation.

Give thanks. While life may not be the way you want it at this moment, you are still here. Know that the Universe has a larger plan for you, and what you’re going through is a part of that plan to help you reach higher ground.

Be realistic. There’s an old song entitled, Trouble Don’t Last Always. Just as the seasons change, so do the cycles of life.  Use the wisdom of nature to persevere and grow through life’s inevitable highs and lows.

Brokenness is the starting point for rebuilding. For many, it’s the only way to experience healing, restoration and the deeper meaning of life.  Without brokenness, we’re likely to remain in a state of self-sufficiency, living on the periphery of life never acknowledging a power greater than ourselves.

In closing, I echo the words of M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the timeless classic The Road Less Traveled: “The truth is that our finest moments are likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

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Learning the Language of Silence

Dear Friends,

In modern society, we have become so accustomed to a frenetic pace and the gravitational pull of noise that we rarely consider what it means to be silent. Noise allows us to temporarily ignore our inner dysfunctions, because it’s often too distressing to face our own struggles. Yet, our outer world mirrors our inner conflicts.

Noise and constant activity separate us from the essence of who we are by leaving us in a fast, furious and futile attempt to manipulate ourselves around our psychological, emotional and physical discomforts to escape our painful realities. Despite our efforts, there will always be situations to come along that we cannot wish away, cure or escape. 

When we cease to wrestle with our circumstances and their outcomes and let go of our agenda, its through calming stillness that our breakthroughs will often emerge. Control produces known patterns and results; but silence invites us to face our unpleasant experiences and feelings, and makes room for the unknown and unexpected.

Silence challenges the purely intellectual thinking of our times with a deeper truth emanating from within. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonious’ immortal advice to his son Laertes is, “This above all: to thine own self be true… [and] thou canst not then be false to any man.” Our life’s answers do no lie in the external environment, they lie within us — the last place we often consider searching. Self-understanding increases our ability to have a more fulfilling and productive relationship with ourselves and others. Silence heightens self-awareness of our own attitudes, emotions, behaviors and intentions and is a key ingredient for personal transformation and our capacity to be of service to others.

The Encounter with Silence

To tap into the power of silence, we must move beyond the noise of words and chaotic experiences to reconnect with our inner voice. While learning to be comfortable with silence takes practice, here are some ways to begin the cultivation process:

1. Take a walk alone, so you can naturally listen. Consider a quiet neighborhood, park or nature trail where you can listen to your thoughts, interact with them, and pay attention to the feelings that emerge. There’s no need to draw conclusions, just be present with your thoughts and emotions.

2. Make room for self-exploration. Use the practice of silence to increase self-awareness, gain clarity about purpose and assess progress towards your goals. For example,  you might ask, Who am I? What am I here to do? How are my activities aligned with my purpose? What areas of my life are calling (or screaming) for attention?

3. Pose a provocative question, then stop talking. The next time you’re having a conversation with a boss, peer, direct report, or client, ask them, “If success was guaranteed, what bold steps would you take to make a dramatic improvement in company productivity (or sales, marketing, staffing, operations, morale, etc.)?”  Then despite any overwhelming urge to interject your own thoughts or ideas, wait in silence for a response. You’ll learn a lot more about others’ perspectives regarding organizational issues, challenges and potential solutions.

4. Quietly reflect on your experiences. After a meeting where something important was mentioned, discussed or decided, or after a stressful experience, a period of silence can help you to become clear about your interpretations, feelings, conclusions and next steps.

Regularly planned periods of silence allow us to become quietly reflective, blocking out the distractions of our mental chatter and the busyness of the world around us. A period of silence can occur at any point during the day. Morning silence allows us to focus and picture ourselves moving through the day on purpose. Evening silence allows us to reflect on the day’s experiences and how we can use them for personal growth and change. A silent interlude can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a week-long retreat. The length of time is not as important as how intentional we are about making the time.

Silence speaks more profoundly than all the collective words in the universe. Tap into your inner realm of silence to call forth your highest truth, ignite your deepest passion and achieve your greatest potential!

Until Next Time,

Mary

Taking Time for Self-Renewal

Dear Friends,

Lake George, CO

I’ve just returned from a 3-day self-renewal retreat in Lake George, Colorado. I completely unplugged from technology, and allowed nature to be my teacher.  This self-imposed detachment was a gift of solitude that has provided me with a renewed sense of serenity and balance from the pressures of daily life.

We’re all familiar with the term work/life balance.  While it’s one of our greatest intentions, it’s also one of our greatest failures.  We may flirt with the notion of creating balance, but seldom do we take action.  Taking care of ourselves is a priority if we are to be in service to others.  If you’re plagued by stress or disenchantment, it’s time to engage in some tender loving self-care.

Recognize the Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a physical, mental and emotional state of exhaustion induced by prolonged stress.  A constant attempt to meet competing demands can leave you feeling overworked, undervalued, helpless, and hopeless.  If you answer yes to most — or all — of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing job-related burnout:

  • You find your work monotonous and unchallenging.
  • You feel disillusioned about your job.
  • You arrive to work late and want to leave early.
  • You are more irritable and less patient with others.
  • You have become isolated from colleagues.
  • You have no reasonable balance between work and personal life.
  • You lack energy to be consistently productive.
  • Your sleep habits or appetite have changed.
  • You suffer from headaches, lower back pain, neck pain, or some other ailment.
  • You self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or other addictions to dull the pain.

Revive Your Energy

When we’re energized, we feel bright, expressive and optimistic.  Vitality is our natural state, but at times we sabotage it by the choices that we make.  If your flame has extinguished, here are some ways to rekindle your spirit.

Pare Down Your Tasks.  Analyze your schedule and distinguish between the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts.’  If a task isn’t absolutely necessary, move it to the bottom of your list or eliminate it altogether.

Alter Your Routine.  Rather than doing the same things the same way, mix up your activities to add zest to your life.

Create Sacred Space.  Create a place of solitude that’s conducive to reading, meditation, reflection or relaxation.

Feed Your Spirit.  Employ affirmations, inspirational quotes, stories, anecdotes and poems to unleash new ways of thinking and being.

Practice Mindfulness.  Wherever you are, be there.  Bring full consciousness to your experiences.

Engage in Physical Exercise.  Physical activity boosts your endorphins and your energy, so get moving!

Release Perfection.  Stop over-analyzing and taking yourself too seriously (’nuff said).

Have Fun.  Whether it’s a spa treatment, self-renewal retreat, a hike, or an outing with friends, do something that brings you pleasure and joy.

Life’s journey begins from within.  Transform your experiences by pushing beyond your self-imposed boundaries to heighten your consciousness of a more holistic worldview.  When you surrender to the wisdom of a higher plan, you’ll awaken to see the world differently with new energy, motivation and possibilities.

Until Next Time,

Mary

Rumi’s Guest House

Dear Friends,

It’s been a challenging week, and I’m in desperate need of self-renewal.  Sitting in the stillness of 1:30AM, I find myself meditating on Rumi’s Guest House:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Breathe,

Mary