#DontBreakTheChain

November was one of the best months I had during the amazing year 2017. A year that I consider a turning point in my life.

I started the month with this post on Facebook. Inspired by Seinfeld and Austin Kleon’s post about this topic in his book “steal like an artist”.

Then, everyday for the next 30 days I posted on my social media the “X”; crossing the day off to indicate that I committed to my #dontbreakthechain challenge of waking up early and doing my morning routine.

It was the first time for me to be public about my 5am habit although I shared it here before, but few people only knew about my blog. And although it was a fairly regular habit for me that I got back to in October after summer craziness and September’s adjustments; being committed publicly like that felt so different and gave me such happiness and a purpose boost that I didn’t expect.

The outcome I really did not see coming though was how many of my dear friends encouraged me and approached me via their messages, wanting to know how I did it and why. Their genuine cusriosty was refreshing and I realized then that I started meeting my tribe. Little did I know that some were actually starting their own chain challenges because they got so motivated by my posts.

Weeks later, I received an overwhelming thank you note from an old friend whom I admire a lot because of the impact of sharing my daily progress on her and she followed it herself in her own way and succeeded. I had goosebumps reading her message! As my sister said in alignment with great spiritual teachings that what you give, you give yourself. My friend motivated me when I needed to hear it.

My sweet November was indeed an experience worth sharing and repeating. It led to deep conversations and exchanges with wonderful people that I’m truly thankful for. That’s why I started the challenge again in January. I’m a better person when I wake up early to have my alone time to write, meditate and plan.

I also don’t know who else would I be helping by posting my daily X. I’m showing up consistently and I know for sure that new people will reach out to me with the same curiosity and I will welcome them to my tribe.

#DontBreakTheChain

Emotional heavy lifting

After the industrial revolution has subsided, humans moved to the knowledge work era; where we are no longer using our muscles for heavy lifting to get things done but rather use our communication and thinking skills to do business.
And as we’re mostly done with phycial labor as a way to make a living, we are now engaged in some other kind of labor. It is called “emotional labor”. Building on the previous post, it’s the effort you put in to overcome your natural attraction to the status quo, to where you know you are ok. It’s initiating a phone call to request feedback. It is walking up to someone’s desk to ask them for approval on your request. It’s calling your dad when you don’t know what to talk about exactly. It’s calling versus texting to wish someone close a happy birthday. It takes courage and presence and being ok with awkwardness and needing help. It’s answering that annoying caller with the best attitude you can muster. It’s being courteous when it’s easier to be snarky. It’s rejecting an output because it does not meet your requirments. It’s starting a difficult conversation. It’s beginning and ending a relationship. It’s speaking in a meeting and asking about the last point because you didn’t get it.

The easy way is to avoid any kind of confrontation because it’s dangerous. Remember how your brain translates your discomfort? But easy does not mean best. It takes emotional labor to succeed in today’s world. Recognize your discomfort and ask: what’s the worst that can happen? Why does this scare me?

But after all that, you do what you have to do. You act. You don’t let the questioning be another form of running away because your brain can outsmart you, it’s what got humans here, but survival mode is not a way to live.

Emotional heavy lifting

Resistance

To this day, our brains respond to threat as if we were still living in the caveman age. A threat used to be a wild animal and our brains would respond by making our bodies fight, flight or freeze. Modern age is here and our brains evolved but not as fast, their main goal is for us to survive so they look out for any danger. Threats, however, have changed form. Wild animals are replaced by the fear of being seen. Modern day threat is an email you want to send or an article you want to express your opinion in like this one I’m writing where people can see into you.

Your precious brain is still protecting you. It plays the resistance card by coming up with all excuses to avoid the pain of potential future criticism or failure. When you want to hit “submit” on that application, it either plays stories in your head that “this might not work” (fight) or you casually check some other fun social media platform (flight) or you stare at the form reading it over and over (freeze). The resistance symptoms you experience fueled by the old small almond-shaped part of your brain called amygdala will kick in whenever you want to do something out of your comfort zone. Because, with no immediate physical threats like the ones faced by our ancestors, the brain mistakes sharing your work with the world as the new threat and tries to convince you to stay where you will survive, as going out there is not safe.

Does resistance go away, you may ask? Well, it doesn’t. But the masters of resistance like Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin recommend acknowledging it and dancing with it. They say if you notice it waking up from its slumber when you consider a new idea it means you are on to something, follow the lead.

Resistance

You’re Nervous

You’re nervous. Something happened and you don’t like it and you started making up stories about what it means. You’re analyzing that look you saw in their eyes, or the way they talked to you. You notice the onset of the usual accompanying bodily symptoms.You feel your heart racing and mind speeding to negative conclusions. Your hands are clenching and your breath is shortening, your face is flushing. You’re hooked. Hooked on your emotional reaction to the story you made up about what happened. You missed the window between thought and emotion. You believed the story.

What do you do now?
You grab a pen and paper. You write. You ask: “What’s the story I’m making up in my mind about this situation?” You write like the 5-year old version of you would write. You whine and complain as much as you want. This is what the author Brené Brown calls SFD, or shitty first draft (use “stormy”for kids and workplace). She uses this term that author Anne Lamott coined when writing a novel to get over the perfectionist in her and get herself started.
You pour out your heart in this draft. You know you got this exercise right if it fulfills these 4 criteria: it is honest, unfiltered, unedited and possibly unshareable.
After that, it’s time to read your SFD and think about what you need to learn or understand about others or yourself or the world, about your triggers that the situation awakened, and where you still need to grow.

You might decide to talk to the other party involved in the situation after proccessing your emotions and removing their sharp edge. You might say something like: “when you gave me that look, the story I made up is that my presentation/my outfit/my cooking …etc was awful and you hated it. Is everything ok?”

Next time you get that look again, but maybe just maybe, hopefully you’ll slow down your reactive mode, you would remember that such looks invoke inadequacy feelings in you that are not true. You become aware and don’t bite the hook this time. You become present. You let it go. Lesson is learned.

Ready for the next one?

You’re Nervous

Turning words into works

As one of my goals this year, I agreed with my mentor that I will not read or listen to anything new this month but share what I learned so far from all the books I previously read.

She reminded me about the difference between a stagnant receiving lake and a giving waterfall, and that I need to be more of the latter this year.

Few days into this “fasting” I noticed I’m taking some time to dive deeper into my daily spiritual lessons. For example I’m re-reading a book called the daily stoic for the 2nd year which is about the Greek stoic way of living. I love their ideas so much and they make so much sense to me. I noticed, however, that I skipped the very important introduction about the history of this philosophy last year. This time I was more intentional (since I’m not to read anything else) and took the time.

I was also too busy the last couple of days of 2017 that I missed reading the lesson of 31st Dec. I read it today. Guess what was it about? Putting away books and “turning words into works”! Imagine my big aha moment!

Thankful for this sign I’m on the right path. Maybe this month would have an extension. I can’t wait to find out.

Turning words into works

You suffer when you hate

“What the ego doesn’t want us to see is that our pain doesn’t come from the love we weren’t given in the past, but from the love we ourselves aren’t giving in the present.”

-Marianne Williamson

“If I think I’m unkind to you, I’m not comfortable within myself. I cause my own suffering, and I stop for my own sake. I take care of myself, and in that you, too, are taken care of. My kindness ultimately has nothing to do with you. We’re all responsible for our own peace.”

-Byron Katie

Marianne Williamson’s quote based on the teachings of “a course in miracles” stopped me in my tracks when I read it in my most favorite book “A return to love”; the only book I got copies from to gift to my friends.

Did it occur to you that when we are in pain in any of our relationships, feeling hurt and hate, withdrawing into ourselves and stonewalling the other, that it’s not because of what the other did or said? Not really. It’s because when that situation happened we took a decision. The decision to close our heart to them. To stop being loving and kind to them. They don’t “deserve” our love, we concluded. Let them feel how much they would miss our love.

This decision of closing the flow of love is one that is guaranteed to hurt the decision-maker first and foremost. We are in pain because we are blocking the natural state of our hearts that are supposed to be open to life and love all the time. Otherwise, we suffer.

Here is where Byron’s quote comes in, from her amazing book that I just finished “loving what is” -can’t believe how late I discovered this book but then again maybe this is the most ready version of myself for it- she’s saying when I am kind to you, it’s out of self-interest, I’m doing myself a favor when I speak nicely to you! If I’m unkind to you, however, this idea of “not being a kind person” will cause me very unnecassary suffering. Is it worth it?

Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean we keep unhealthy drama in our lives, we still let them go when it’s the right thing. But keeping our heart open means we wish them well far away from us. Easier said than done. We can’t do it without mindfulness and intention and most importantly faith in a power greater than our own.

As Katie says, we’re responsible for own peace of mind. So we keep re-opening our hearts no matter how hard the ego convinces us not to and lies to us that we would be better off . We act kindly and generously, because that’s who we are. We fail and go back to our old belief that hate works, then wake up and start again. We remove the blocks to love one mindful moment at a time and we turn them into bridges of connection. We return to love.

You suffer when you hate

Authenticity

When I was in my early twenties I used to be subscriber of “O, the Oprah magazine” and received it on monthly basis in our mailbox. Now, I’m a subscriber to the digital version of it. Not as enjoyable, but definitely more accessible.

One of the themes of an issue back then was “authenticity”. All columnists and contributors wrote their perspective on it and how they embodied it in their life. I was really intrigued by this topic because the closest term I knew that resembled it was “just be yourself” at the time.

Almost a decade later, I think I am starting to really get it. Authenticity is revealing nd acting as your true self unapologetically.

How does that practically look like in my life?

Before I got more comfortable with my self I used to shy away from sharing my opinion about something fearing I would not look cool. What life taught me and the aweosme Brené Brown uncovered in her book “The gifts of imperfection” is this “Cool is an emotional straightjacket; it prevents emotional growth and movement”. Acting cool is like hiding yourself just to fit in. I’m pretty sure we agree that childhood and peer pressure in school has a lot to do with it for most of us.

I used to go out to places I didn’t like just to see the gang, now if I prefer to stay home and sleep early I say that. I don’t worry as much what others might think of me. If I didn’t like a certain event or movie I just say that while before I really worried about disagreeing with others. It felt like all I wanted was to get along with them and be on the same page. Otherwise it would feel too weird and maybe lonely.

Even sharing with others that I wake up at 5am to journal and have my own time feels like a huge leap of authenticity. I get the casual “you’re crazy to do that”. I explain it only to people who really want to know more. I don’t need to do that with everyone because not everyone has earned the right to hear my story. Even recognizing that is huge milestone in how I express myself and to whom.

Still learning how to be true to my self. How to say No to things that don’t fit who I see myself becoming while also being braver in saying Yes to growth opportunities.

I thought before that my opinion about something was still immature because I still needed to learn more and read more. So I didn’t have so many clear ideas about where I stood regarding some topics. Maybe that was really what I needed at the time. But now I’m better at taking stands and believing myself and hearing my own voice.

It’s really a work in progress but I can’t be everything for everyone and I’m really just realizing it.

Authenticity