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I believe in people’s basic goodness.
I believe that your desires are worthy and your birthright.
I believe that the explosion of self-help is an expression of our deep desire to connect and live from love.
That said, I’m a down-to-brass-tacks gal. I genuinely want people to change their lives, and when I see that a whole lotta people are buying into a concept, but that it isn’t actually translating to a better life for someone, I get a bit dubious.
“Dreaming big” and setting intentions falls into that category.
The internet is full of intentions, and the tricky part is how to go from intention to realization. People sign up for e-courses but don’t finish them. They proclaim they’re going to change XYZ, without following through. They ride the high of their intentions for six months to create a website, blog, and business packages…and then stop updating things altogether.
There’s always some seemingly good reason for quitting, but really, the reasons for quitting on something are typically the exact same challenges that people who keep with it are facing: life gets busy. Time or money seem in short supply. Illness happens.
Same challenges; different response. The response makes all the difference.
On their own? Intentions alone aren’t really worth a damn.
Click to tweet that: http://clicktotweet.com/bTD0i
They’re like window-shopping, a lovely pleasure, but without ever doing the gritty but necessary work of procuring the job and working the hours so that you can get the money so that you can afford the thing in the window (or finding some other innovative and creative way to bring to fruition that which you desire).
Since I’m all about facing fear, let me be transparent: I fear that you’ll think I’m hard or that I pooh-pooh on your good intentions, or that I’m looking down on you because I always follow through on what I start (definitely not the case); or that I don’t acknowledge that sometimes, in that wide expanse of time before something can come to fruition, holding your intentions close to your heart is the best a person can do.
I’m hoping that you’ll see that in pointing out the potentially hard-to-swallow truth that intentions alone don’t get the job done, you’ll see the love and the deep desire that I have for all people to end their own self-imposed suffering.
When it’s another year of good intentions, without much actual life change, people suffer. The door is wide open for the inner critic. Life seems more meh.
Most of the self-help work out there rarely goes beyond the stage of setting intentions. Plenty of people sell “dreaming big.” Dreaming big is fun! You think of all the things you want or desire. There are lists to be made and visualization exercises to complete. You will probably end up setting a lot of…intentions.
Dreaming big is fun. Living big? Much harder. The two need to be paired together.
Living big is working through conflicts with someone because you choose to love them unconditionally, not declaring them an “energy vampire” and putting them on your “stop doing list” because that’s “self-care.”
Dreaming big is all about the high of visualizing six-figure deals after you sell the next Great American Novel–and I’m all about it! Visualizing success is a component of success.
But living big is what Aaron Sorkin did, writing A Few Good Men in spare moments on cocktail napkins while he was bartending to make ends meet, and then coming home to empty his pockets and get it all typed up into an old computer that he and a bunch of his roommates had had to chip in to purchase (and then share).
I’m not saying that one is fun and the other isn’t. While it’s more challenging to practice unconditional love, I know that my heart is more open and better off for it. While it’s not ideal to create a masterpiece on napkins, I’m guessing that Sorkin was deeply in a pleasurable, creative flow.
The missing link that gets you from dreaming big, to living big?
Integrity is when your words and actions match, and they are in alignment with your values, beliefs, commitments, and life vision. –Matthew Marzel
Intentions are the vision. Integrity is the vehicle for the vision.
Pair intentions with integrity, and you start making your words and actions match. That alone can be a hurdle. Then you start making sure that they’re in alignment with your values and belief system: hot tamale, Batman! You’re going to find some values that you aren’t honoring and some belief systems that you are living from that need to be dropped like a hot plate.
Pair intentions with integrity, and it becomes clear that you absolutely must pay attention to where you sabotage yourself from over- or under-commitment. Start making a lot of choices in service to your intentions, and you’ll become clearer that this is all feeding into a larger life vision.
Integrity is sexy. It’s a force. When I see someone with a big dream who’s willing to do what it takes to make it happen, simply being around that energy feels irresistible.
Everyone has fear, doubt, or hesitation come up. Everyone has challenging circumstances. Everyone would love more time or money.
The difference between intention and realization is not about pretending to be “fearless,” nor about not having any life challenges, nor about having an abundance of anything. Plenty of people have peachy-keen life circumstances and still live miserable lives (and of course, we can’t forget that if you’ve got a roof over your heard, security in where your next meal is coming from, and access to the internet, chances are good that you qualify as having some pretty “peachy-keen” circumstances, compared to millions of people around the world).
Use your intentions as they were, well, intended to be used: as a jumping off point for expanding possibilities and daring to dream.
Then take the next step. Risk. Risk hard and risk big. Your life is waiting.
A client called me recently, in a tremendous amount of pain. She’s going through a hard time in her life and she was on social media (yep, we talked about how that’s not a great combo) and she saw someone post something about how other people are less likely to want to be around you, if they can tell that you’re in conflict with yourself.
She, my beautiful and incredible client, is in conflict with herself.*
Reading that social media post, she felt despair at the idea that in addition to the pain she was experiencing, she was possibly repelling other people who see that she is rough and messy and not holding things together so well.
While the person posting might have intended to offer a rallying cry for people to release inner conflicts, the inclusion of the part about being less appealing to other people created the same sort of fear that magazine covers inspire: if you don’t measure up, you’ll be alone.
“I just want to be successful in life,” my client said.
So I asked her, “Would you know that you were successful in life, if you weren’t in conflict with yourself?”
To practice courage and move through challenges, you’ve got to examine the beliefs that underpin everything that you think, say, or do. One of the hugest belief systems that I invite people to explore is how they define “success.”
My client paused at this question of how she would know whether she was successful in her life. It didn’t take long for her to arrive at the truth–success is something that is gauged individually. It’s not defined by a social media post, how many people invite you to things, or having a career that you love.
I’ve had this as my email signature for the past two years:
“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even when they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” –Miller Williams”
I have never met a successful person who hasn’t had inner conflict, rough edges, or even some quirks such as being a bit too brash for most people’s tastes, missing social queues, or attracted to eccentricities.
In fact, it’s been those conflicts, rough edges, and quirks that have contributed most to living fully alive.
But I will say this: the most successful people I’ve ever met, at least by my own definition of success, have been the people willing to extend love and compassion to the people who are going through rough spaces and places.
This means not telling people that (or treating people as if) they’ll be less wanted because of their rough edges.
This means acknowledging that we cannot ever truly know “what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
This means not holding people up to a measuring stick of goodness or rightness, before you’ll interact with them or deem them friendship-worthy.
(By the way, that “measuring stick mentality” carries with it an arrogant assumption that you will never be in the kind of pain that causes you not to behave so beautifully. Tread with caution if you’re attached to that measuring stick. Life just might humble you.)
Pure, unfiltered, heart-centered love.
Love for the messy, rough edges. And yep, love even for the people who are attached to their measuring sticks. That’s the place where they are at war with themselves. That’s painful, too.
Love. Just love.
That’s my definition of success.
* Yep, I have her blessing to write about this.
So this word came to me the other day: joygasm.
I immediately knew that it wasn’t mine, that I must have heard it somewhere, before, and surely enough–Urban Dictionary did not disappoint.
Here’s my definition of a joygasm, and it’s pretty simple: unrestrained, surrendered, ecstatic joy.
This is…the kind of joy that doesn’t try to “look cool.” The kind that isn’t predicated upon anything other than your own internal wellspring of unfettered, uncomplicated access to pleasure.
No second-guessing (“Do I deserve this?” “Is it okay for me to receive this?”).
And yep, you can experience the joygasm while experiencing the other kind of ‘gasm,’ but this is something sensual without (necessarily) being sexual.
The joygasm, pure and unfiltered could include: Ecstatic laughter as easily as exquisite silence. Biting into food so delicious that the taste seems to go beyond mouth and tongue. Core-shaking moments of gratitude that you are right here, right now–you are ALIVE, baby, and it alllll feels good.
And yes, I encourage you to experience multiple joygasms, on a regular basis.
So how do you get there? How do you get to the joygasm?
It’s utterly surrendered. I don’t think you can plot the course. I don’t think that there is “how to.”
But–here are the top three things that I think get in the way.
#1: Over-commitment. When there aren’t enough serendipitous moments, when life is over-scheduled, it shuts down the inner kid side of ourselves that needs a certain amount of spontaneity in order to stay fully expressed. (“Jesus, Kate–you believe in that ‘inner kid’ shit?” And I say, “Oh yes, indeedy, I do.”)
We are a society that vacillates, wildly at times, between knuckling down into responsibility, and then spinning into excess.
Want to strike something even closely resembling a ‘balance’? Something where you reclaim your life, again? Where you have more access to the joygasm?
Reduce your commitments. Be responsible for fewer things, so as to be less driven to excess because the responsibilities feel over-bearing. Then you don’t skew from one extreme to the other.
#2: Rumination. Particularly, rumination on the past, on how he or she done did me wrong. By “past,” here, I don’t even think we need to talk about your childhood–it would be fair to say that most of us can readily find examples of ruminating on what someone said or did, whether it’s a family member or that guy who cut you off in traffic.
Rumination is a waste of time. It creates a cascade of biochemical responses in the body that lead to you feeling like shit about yourself, your life, and the people in it. If you’re going to ruminate on something, ruminate on the most joyful experiences on your life. Even if they’ve been few and far between, ruminate on them until the current moment is joyful because you’re recalling joy.
That’s a choice.
#3: Living in Logic and Strategy. Strategy is one of my strengths. I geek out on it. And the moment when I’ve carefully considered a challenge, and found my way to a logical answer that makes such perfect sense that all sense of anxiety disappears? Love it.
But 100% fully-alive living doesn’t happen when you live your life wholly from logic and strategy. Logic and strategy support life, but the surrendered, creative impulse is where we are going to FEEL most alive.
Sometimes, logic or strategizing keep us from what we truly desire. When we deny what we’re really hungry for, everything inside will scream that we are out of integrity with ourselves. Logic will dictate that the stakes are high and that you’ve got to play your cards just right if you want a particular outcome, but we’ve all heard stories of people who decided to just drop their striving, and to their surprise, things came to them with ease.
There’s a time for logic and strategy, but when I spend too many days living there, it crowds out the joygasm. Logic and strategy create an environment of restraint, and restraint can create a lovely creative tension.
The joygasm is the creative tension, bursting forth, unleashed, wild. The joygasm is the untamed, rebellious, renegade within you.
I’ve spent many years writing about the necessity of looking at hard truths, getting to the core even when it’s scary or painful. I have used my fear in a way that most people don’t–I’ve used it as a path to liberation and more fully-alive living.
I’ve used my fear because there was such an abundance of it, because it was a ready tutor, and because I see so clearly that fear would always be present on some level, as long as I was taking risks and trying new things–no point in trying to bullshit myself or anyone else, and avoid it.
Recently, I was thinking about using joy as a path to liberation, and realized: my skillset is not as finely honed in that area.
Whoa–what a revelation!
I have total confidence in walking alongside people in the hard things in life. I have been in rooms with people who were (literally) screaming their pain, making noises so primal that most people would be terrified to bear witness, and instead of being terrified, I found myself connected to the honesty of that pain, fully expressed (I’m not afraid of what’s honest).
I live a joyful life–but I’ve arrived at the joy by working through the hard things, by going into my own primal screaming and pain, to come out the other side.
So–what is there to explore simply by going straight into the joy?
This reminded me of a conversation I had with Brene Brown a few years ago, where we talked about how joy could feel surprisingly vulnerable.
Can you feel it, too? How there’s that tingle of hesitation, the surrender, the ecstasy, the–dare I say it?– “loss of control” that true, unrestrained joy carries with it?
This summer, despite the dictates of logic, I’m going to be experimenting with multiple joygasms, daily. I’m curious to see what effect that will have on every area of my life, from my health to my marriage to my friendships.
The current plan is simply this: more play, as a prescription for life.
Appointments? Taken off the calendar.
Teaching position I was offered? Released.
Plans for various health-related treatments? On hiatus. (I’m very curious about the healing powers of joy).
Swapping that out for: books and lots of reading. slowing down. attending all those music and film festivals that I always say I’ll go to and don’t quite make it to. more coffee dates with friends. I might not be answering emails. Two beach houses have been booked. Kansas City in June, and Portland for WDS in July.
Fewer work commitments. More focused attention to clean up any lingering points of rumination. And naturally, since I’ll be releasing income-making opportunities, clearly “logic and strategy” have been thrown out the door. The “logical” and “strategic” thing to do this summer would be to spend it working, business building.
But the promise of the joygasm cannot be denied.
Again, that question: What is there to explore by going straight into the joy, without first thinking you’ve got to “figure it out” or dissect or analyze life, the past, what happened, what the challenges are?
Consider for yourself: How would you answer that question? What’s more available to you, if you go straight into living from your joy?