Mt. Kilimanjaro Episode 1: Four Lessons I Learned from Booty Shaking Joy

It was a long day of climbing.  We are Americans, after all.  We don’t move for 7 hours at a time, we WORK for hours on end at our desks, in front of the biggest screen possible.  I don’t know about the rest of the group but it was the step ups that got me.  Each step had a mini-order of challenges.  I placed my foot upon one broken and off-kilter slab after another, stepping forward and joy dancingupward, forcing my weight into my quadriceps and knee and pushing up into a precarious one-legged balance before quickly pulling my other foot into place. Step after step without distractions of civilization- no drinks with friends, no Hulu or Netflix marathons, no juicy gossip or bag of potato chips to scarf down mindlessly.  Instead it was me and the steps, the endless steps, the rolling dust and the mirage, the constant promise of the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

As we trudged into camp, as the tents grew closer, a choir of voices also drew near.  They didn’t sing in English, but their eyes and smiles trained on our slowly moving line, it became clear this good will was directed as us.  The collection of African characters in their dusty boots and mismatched gear, huddled in a circle swinging their bums rhythmically as there was a nightclub among the bright blue skies and mountain scapes.    They shook their “booties,” and sang a song to us in Swahili, seemingly (I never confirmed) blessing us, the camp, the mountain, and the American guide. Swinging and swaying to our future success, visioning the moment we stood on top of the mountain.  At first the little strip of rubble and dust that separated my tired and worn American group from the wildly joyful Africans might as well been a cavernous valley that separate the peaks on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Us with our tired smiles and newly pressed hiking gear and them with ridiculous joy, their one change of ill-fitting clothes and worn heels.

And yet they danced, shaking their rumps provocatively and laughing at the future, enjoying the moment.  I felt it winding around us, lifting us up and making us smile.  Something reached across the divide and enveloped us in joy.  It was nothing short of contagious.

Their joy shamed me, inspired me and taught me a six things:

  • Booty Shaking Joy Lesson #1:  Your clothing has nothing to do with your mood or your skill.

Their stuff didn’t define them.  I didn’t have to ask them; they didn’t change their clothes for the entirety of the trip, only cleaning up and swapping clothes at the end.  They didn’t have a lot of “stuff,” in fact our Alpine Ascents guide Eric shared they would sleep many to a tent, snuggling together to offset the 30 degree temperatures of the dawn.  And yet, they bounded up the hill ahead of us greeting each other with loud calls of “JAMBO, JAMBO!” (a cheery, “hang loose” sort of greeting) and then joyfully and patiently waited for us to arrive at the next camp and then celebrate our hard-won success of the day.

  • Booty Shaking Joy Lesson #2:  Doing the simplest task well is inspiring.

There were many people supporting our 13-person group.  I can’t tell you, although if you look at the video you will see the number is sort of embarrassing. Each individual was assigned a job.  There were cooks, people who set up the tents, others who joytravelled with us, making sure we didn’t march too quickly and tire ourselves out.  There were even people who carried our poo, yes, that’s right, our number two. I won’t say everyone had the same attention to detail but the culture was enforced just the same, with senior guides encouraging or demanding (depending on the need) that all participate with those delicious smiles and joyful demeanors.  They did everything with nothing (see the photo of the cake they made us over an open fire) Read:  They demanded joy as a culture and living in that sort of excellence at all costs was nothing short of inspirational- we couldn’t tip them enough.

  • Booty Shaking Joy Lesson #3:  Your joy is not dependent on your beautiful smile.

I had to throw this one in, against the backdrop of America’s teeth-whitening obsession.  I refer to their beautiful smile several times in this post but the truth is, their brown teeth probably drove Brian (a dentist from North Dakota) insane.  The Africans most likely did not grow up with regular dental checks and daily brushing.  Yet, I don’t think any of us will forget one of the most beautiful smiles we saw, belonging to the lead singer and bouncer, Shedrach.  I can’t describe it in words but he is front and center in the video- Any flaws I might have noticed were overcome by the joy seeping out of every pore.

  • Booty Shaking Joy Lesson #4:  Joy comes from the inside

We are a forward thinking culture here in the U.S. of A, for sure.  It’s all about the next big thing, the retirement, the wrinkles that joyare going to arrive.  So much do we think of the next step that we don’t see the wonderful amazement standing in front of us, the breath in our lungs, the amazing selection at every grocery store, the opportunities that greet us at every corner.  And yet, in sharp contrast, the men with their joyful connection and collaboration were living in that moment.  They didn’t have a retirement plan to fall back upon.  Most of them weren’t really looking forward into next week!  Yet, I am certain they felt more joy in that moment than we did.

So here I am back in the U.S.  My temperature is controlled at a kind 72 degrees.  My world is filled with options to eat, plenty of clothes, a general lack of germs and bugs and a bright future that is mine to grasp any time I want.  Yet now I know, as I close my eyes and conjure up what should be a top-40 hit called Joy- I will always remember those beautiful smiles, the booty-shaking joy. Your cup runneth over to me, Shedrach and crew.  I will never forget you and I will always enjoy you.  Thank you for sharing with me.

Now it’s YOUR turn to create your own Mt. Kilimanjaro experience!  Create excitement and momentum around your business.  Or, delve into the personal with the Live Big Project Series.

BTS: 20 Beautiful Women- Inspiration, not perfection

It was a daunting task, fitting all that I believe about beauty and success into 2000 words.  One has a HISTORY by 43, if you know what I mean.  inspirationMy contribution, a chapter titled “The Climb My Life,” in the bestselling book 20 Beautiful Women details my journey over 18 years, beginning with the birth of my twin sons and ending with a stunning realization at their final band concert.

It didn’t start out so inspirational!

The chapter focuses on my journey into my purpose, first shaped by my parents and then my children. As the oldest daughter of immigrants, I received the overprotectiveness typical of the eldest children multiplied many times.  My response to their (at the time) burdensome love ranged from pushing back to running away but in the end, it wasn’t their parenting that impacted me the most.  It was the inspirational way they lived their life.

It was inspiration, not perfection that led me home.

As far back as I can recall and even before that in my subconscious are memories and witness to a daring and hope-filled life on a foundation of love.  They took risks in their career.  They made decisions to expand their life spiritually, financially and emotionally.  They held hands, they prayed, the kissed, they backed each other up and they chose to see the best in each other.  I know it wasn’t always easy but when it became my turn to take on the baton of inspiration, I knew that in spite of all the mistakes I made, following my purpose and living in love would be more powerful than anything physical I could PROVIDE for my children.  Please enjoy this Behind the Scenes look at The Climb of My Life and as you watch it, I ask you:  Are you trying to be perfect, or inspirational.  And, click away if you are interested in the book- it’s fantastic!

 

Mommy and Travel inspiration: 8 reasons you should leave your children and climb a mountain.

Most people have been encouraging as I regale them with tales of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Sure, they wonder about the bathroom situation with wrinkled noses and pointedly question my ability to climb 19,000

mountain

Excited to go on this trip!

feet to the ceiling of Africa.  My enthusiastic response usually satisfies the run-of-the-mill naysayers.

There is one common challenge that doesn’t retreat so easily:

You are really leaving your FOUR children for 2 weeks?  How can you do it?  Isn’t it hard?

To that, I say this:  NO, it isn’t hard.  Sure I will miss them and yes I am the vital cog but since you don’t believe me, here are 8 reasons why you should leave your children behind and climb a mountain.

  • Mountain climbing reason #1:  You might need a break:

The longest I have been away from my children, for business, vacation or mandatory weddings/ funerals is 5 days.  I have been there, online to keep my in-box from growing to big, planning play dates and ensuring the basic household bills are paid.  I’m not sick of it all, but I’m sure when I will return from the mountain refreshed, with a new perspective.  That’s what breaks are for.

  • Mountain climbing reason #2:  It’s MY time too:

I have many friends who feel their time is not now, that this moment is for their children and all resources – time, effort and financial- should go to their offspring to give them a better life.  For the most part I agree; I am responsible for the wellbeing of my kiddos and I want them to have the best possible start to an amazing existence.  I believe, however, that our dreams can run concurrently, rather than end to end.  The truth is, I am not guaranteed tomorrow. I must fulfill my dreams as well.  There’s room for all of us.

  • Mountain climbing reason #3: It’s good for someone else to do what I do, once in a while.

My husband has gladly taken on the responsibility of looking after the four children that reside in our home. Without touching the “they are his kids too” argument, it is healthy for me to relinquish control (gasp) and depend on him.  The children will all see a man handling the household effectively and even though he will not clean the kitchen up when I think he should, it strengthens our bond because this act of leaving to climb a mountain indicates I believe in him and therefor US.  If you don’t have a husband, all the more reason to leave.  Your children may see you as too vital of a cog.  They need to know you will come back.

  • Mountain climbing reason #4:  It’s good for my ego.

Mountain

My husband helping me get my bags to the Delta check in

As most ladies, I am what my friend Molly calls “the vital cog.”  All plans, financials and food decision run through me.  I know where the extra toilet paper is and I am the one to remind everyone it’s garbage day.  I confess there are moments I “retire” to bed exhausted and feeling put out.  How would this world work without me, I wonder.  The truth is my household works just fine without me. I never had to do it all alone.  Leaving and climbing allows my family to very quietly and resolutely make that point.  Who knows, maybe I won’t take it all on myself when I return!

  • Mountain climbing reason #5:  It’s good for them to see me make room.

If you want to raise children who will grow up to be balanced and fulfilled adults, it’s best that you live that example.  If they never see YOU choose YOU as an adult, it’s unlikely they will choose themselves when they are your age.

  • Mountain climbing reason #6:  You define what is healthy for them.

This type of challenge required me to train extensively.  For those of you who think hours of training is overkill, I ask you, isn’t working 10 hour days excessive?  Maybe we should take more time for fitness.  Particularly for my daughters, it’s important for them to see me choose a healthy life with workouts, healthy eating and good sleep cycles, and not to fit in a dress or bikini.  I am teaching them how to be a strong and powerful woman!

  • Mountain climbing reason #7:  They will see beyond their neighborhood.

We tend to move to places that protect our children, but with that protection comes a lack of insight into the vast, diverse and beautiful world we live in.  Combine that with the restricted collective conscious of their classmates and the parade of ugly stories on the telly and they will grow up not understanding the amazing variety of life choices around them.  Buying the ticket, traveling across the ocean, experiencing another continent- these things make the world real to them.  It’s not an answer to a test anymore.  It’s a place their mom has traveled.

  • Mountain climbing reason #8:  You will inspire them.

My children are inspired by me at the moment.  Not because it’s so revolutionary to travel to climb a

mountain

Nothing is better than inspiring your children!

mountain. It turns out everyone either has climbed it or is planning to climb it or know someone who climbed it.  The inspiration comes from determination, persistence, excitement, joy- all things I have been living for the six months I have planned for this trip.  I don’t know where the inspiration will lead them, but I do know it will be bigger, better and badder than what I am doing right now.

So leave those kids behind, ladies and gentleman.  Cut the ties, wipe away the tears, take a deep breath and board the plane. It’s good for them and it’s good for you.

If you want to know more about Liz’s climb, friend her on Facebook or go to http://iamlivingbig.org.

Ordinary Life Inspiration: 4 reasons I wish I was Oprah (sometimes)

“I bet they wouldn’t treat me like this if I was Oprah.”

That’s what I’ve been thinking a LOT lately.  I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on June 26th and fundraising for several charities.  As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of asking.  Sign up for the competition!  Will you be a sponsor?  Maybe you want to contribute!  Would you share my website/status/ tweet/ e-mail/ link?  

The way I see it, people are grouped into two categories: Oprah (or Ellen or whatever celebrity you happen to hold in very high esteem) and everyone else.  TheOprah weird thing is most of us aren’t celebrities so this process of only doing things for celebrity worship just means less is happening for the common good.

I don’t know what you think when you see me.  You might be thinking, good luck lady- that looks like a lot of work for nothing.  Or, you may be in the everything-looks-easy-for-her camp.  Here’s the truth:  Sometimes it’s easy and most of the time it feels like an uphill climb. One thing I know for certain: it would be so much easier if I was Oprah.  All I want to do is climb a mountain, launch a new coaching program, raise money for a worthy cause and inspire you.  Don’t get me wrong, some people have invested and promoted my cause, but many more will not be contributing, going or seeing anything- because of one of the 4 reasons below.  

  • Oprah Expectation #1:  Sure I’ll get behind you!  You just need to be PERFECT or a BILLIONAIRE.

Oprah is not perfect.  It’s part of her genius; she relatable and authentic.  For the rest of us, fighting a weight problem, not getting married, or starting big magazine and television projects without experience is a near impossibility.  We give Oprah a pass because she a sure bet with millions of viewers and billions of dollars.  I am not a sure thing.  I haven’t changed the trajectory of book publishing or created a frenzy for tee-shirt bed linens with my singularly expressed opinion. As a result, when I ask people to get behind my projects, they may acqueisce but often only if I’m willing to live in perpetual gratitude.  Or it’s a “no for now,” until I get my Youtube views up, lose a few pounds (yes that one happened for real) or get published.  If only I was…well never mind, let’s keep going.

The ordinary woman’s advice:  Look for opportunities to invest in people who deserve your attention, money and influence.  Instead of offering an immediate “not worth it” for us not-Oprah people, listen to the requests that makes sense.  Don’t pass on people who don’t have a lot of money, or don’t look exactly right for the opportunity.

  • Oprah Expectation #2:  Unless you can give everyone a car, I just don’t see how you will pull this off.

oprah

YOU get a car and YOU get a car and YOU get a car!  EVERYONE gets a car!  Maybe you remember the adrenaline-driven moment on the Oprah show or better yet, the Saturday Night Live skit starring Maya Rudolph (click on the photo to view the video).  After that, tickets to the Oprah show became impossible to get; you never knew if you might be the lucky audience member to receive something free because Oprah felt it was time to wave her magic wand.  I too have several events:  webinars, a Charity competition, group coaching sessions and speaking engagements.  Every year I grow my business, it becomes increasingly easier to get butts in seats.  But, I’ll never forget the enterprising few who attended those first events or signed up for a program purely for it’s value.  I don’t have a car to give those early adaptors but I have created a fantastical place called “Liz Island.”  On particularly discouraging days, I imagine making it big and  and inviting those who believed in me to my very own island to enjoy massages and private screenings and everyone’s favorite foods that I magically know because I’ve been watching and listening and I’m ever so grateful.

The ordinary woman’s advice:  As much as I would love to hand out cars like candy at my events, virtual or otherwise, it’s probably not going to happen for a while.  In the meantime, my causes are worthy and driven by purpose and passion.  I would also like to publicly state, I am already on the road to wild success.  Bet on my drive and focus, not my ability to give you a car.

  • Oprah Expectation #3:  The “oh, it’s only you” phone call or voicemail.

So happy because Oprah gave you something

Have you witnessed an Oprah phone call?  They scream, they repeat themselves, they share it on all social media websites known to man.  Any conflicting vacation plans are cancelled and new clothing is purchased (probably orange, O’s favorite color).  Needless to say, they are excited.  All from the potential in a simple phone call from the office (certainly not Oprah herself) of the Oprah Winfrey Network.  The rest of the voicemails, you know the ones from mere mortals, are returned out of obligation or sometimes not at all.  At this moment, I have no less than TWENTY unanswered voicemails, texts or e-mails.  It’s not that the respondents don’t admire my work or believe I’m grand; they just aren’t impressed.

The ordinary woman’s advice:  This suggestion is two-fold.  First of all, call people back.  It’s just the right thing to do.  And secondly,for those of you out there slogging away as non-Oprah-ites.  Just keep calling until they respond. It’s what us mere-mortals have to do to succeed.

  • Oprah Expectation #4:  If I can’t ruin your life, I must not be a big deal.

I’m sure plenty of people have underestimated Oprah since the Texan cattle ranchers in the 90′s.  I’m also certain a good many people treat the most influential woman in television with respect and civility because they don’t want to make her pissed.   Granted, she wields considerable power to shed light on your inequitable treatment of animals, plagiarism or undelivered political promises.  Non-Oprahs can’t ruin your life with a single statement on the Larry King show.  But, does this mean you can quit without notice, decide not to pay me for my services, change the rules of an investment or under-market me for a speaking event? Just because I don’t wield such terrible influence?

The ordinary woman’s advice:  With the advent of social media and the interweb, our global reach has transformed us into small-town gossips.  Every has a voice and as a result, everyone has power.  Everyone has influence.  It’s best to treat everyone with respect and consider what they might say about you and your behavior.  Long term respect is proliferated by grassroots connections not big and glitzy responses.

Oprah-like Liz

This is my best Oprah pose, don’t you think?

If I’m being completely honest, it’s my dream to be a sort of “Indian-Oprah.”  I would LOVE to have the influence and resources to change the world.  But until that moment happens, I will soldier on to extraordinary results with my ordinary life.  In fact, I’m stealing a page from her playbook.  Taking a stand for what I believe, giving generously, rallying others to do good, not waiting for others to take responsibility- it’s not such a bad thing to consider.  It’s not easy to command respect without the bank account or the television show but the world still needs us non-Oprah’s to make a difference, one step at a time, one mountain at a time.

Perhaps you are now guilted into responding to Liz’s e-mail or contributing to her Mt. Kilimanjaro climb.  Just click here and check it out.  She promises you won’t be disappointed.

Neighborly Inspiration: I challenge you to SMILE!

The elevator etiquette SMILE challenge:

Smile challenge

Do you know how to smile on purpose?

Have you ever been around someone who breaks “elevator etiquette?”  I have summarized the online wiki but the rules are listed below.

  • Make contact with whomever enters the elevator.
  • Offer a smile, quickly.  Extended eye contact or teeth and you will seem unnaturally forthcoming and stalker-ish.
  • Reorganize yourself to honor the social bubble established by others in the small space.  Crowding creates discomfort.
  • Make small talk as necessary, dependent on the length of elevator ride.

The elevator etiquette applies not only to  upwardly and downwardly mobile boxes but also simple walk-by and drive-by encounters.  As you drive down a street, particularly in the suburbs and even more particularly on your street, it is best to look at the people nearby and wait for the opportunity to smile.  Even more essential when  you are walking down the street.  Please note:  It doesn’t matter if it’s genuine, studies show it’s actually a way to reduce the amount of aggression and negative feedback around you.

Not even a smile?

Every so often you will encounter someone who breaks those rules.  I live near such a person.  Every day, twice a day, he walks his dog.  He’s a sturdy looking fellow and in contrast, his dog scurrying beneath his stride, a white and fluffy contrast. One thing in common; they stare straight ahead, not a look to the right or the left.

smile challenge

Now doesn’t that make you want to smile a little?

I always thought his smile-less habits were somehow related to me.  Perhaps he could sense my emotional and physical messiness even from across the sidewalks, someone who strains beyond his reserved sensibilities.  I know he could see me, a certain minority in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa.  My theories were blown apart a year ago when he resolutely and silently strode by me and a group of neighbors.  Not wanting to exclude him from the impromptu party, I cheerily said,

Hello!

He didn’t look at me and kept walking.  That action (or inaction) launched a flurry of neighborhood speculation about his stoicism.  Assumptions were made.  Conclusions were drawn.  He is unhappy.  His wife makes him walk that fluffy dog that doesn’t match him.  He doesn’t like me.  He doesn’t like anyone.

This is the reason for the elevator etiquette, the human process: One person projects and the other reflects.  He put out an energy of disinterest and self-protection.  And in return, he got a smile-less, disconnected response. According to author Christine H. in cracked.com, we made assumptions that because he didn’t follow the “rules,” his quietness indicated something negative.  

Now, I know there are some of you that want to tell me to leave him alone.  Why does everyone have to “run for office?”  Isn’t it more authentic not to smile?

To that I say, yes.  No need to be fake.  But it’s not about receiving a smile from me, as much as me NOT giving up my positive energy to smile and love those around me.  For ME to let go of my judgements and assumptions and  to cling to my intention to smile in the face of his blank stare.

The smile/ not-gonna-smile showdown:

smile challenge

Look closely! Walking on down the road just MINUTES after he smiled at me.

And that began my year-long journey with stoic-dog-walking-man.  Every time I see him, whether in my car or on the street, I smile and nod.  Sometimes I wave and if I am within earshot, I say hi.   At first, nothing.  Then, slowly, the glacial response gave way to returned stare to my smiles and idiotic waves.  A change in energy, as if he knew what was coming.

And last week, on Friday, it finally happened.  I drove by, too quickly and caught his eye with a toothy grin and waving hand that hit the car window.

Almost inadvertently, he waved.  And smiled.

I will likely never know what he was thinking.  My guess is he thinks I’m crazy, or needy, or just plain weird.  But what he knew, what I taught him to count on, was my smile.  You see, I broke the elevator etiquette.  I didn’t let him drive my response.  Instead, I drove his.

You are a powerful person.  I challenge you today:  How will you use your powers for good?  Offer someone love today.  Be joyful and loving.  Reflect what is in  your heart, now what is out there.  And see what happens.

And a special thank you to now-smiling dog-walking guy.  You made my day.

Six ways to handle emotional triggers: Release to take control

Good things come in small packages?

Normally my trips to the mailbox are predictable.  This day was different.  Buried in the assortment of catalogues, spring landscaping coupons and paper bills and statements, was a curious business envelope, missing a return address but covered in shamrock stickers, two on the front and three on the back.  My home address was handwritten so I assumed it was from a child,

Triggers

It was the shamrocks that got me.

one of the high school girls I met with every Wednesday night at church.  I brought it in, sat at my desk and tore the envelope open with a smile, expecting a nice note about the influence I am having in a teenage girls life.

So strong was the dissonance, it took me a few sentences to correctly identify the nature of the letter.  A few signals in the first paragraph, words like “constructive” and “feedback.”  I won’t bore you with the specifics.  In short, the writer, freedoms afforded her by either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights (I can’t remember which), considered my speaking services less than preferred.

A few days earlier I had spoken at a women’s luncheon.  I was pleased with the results, positive e-mails, a few phone calls, two new coaching clients and the possibility of another, bigger speaking engagement.  Don’t get me wrong, after a decade of working on stage, I am familiar with the mixed bag that comes with speaking.  It’s a bell curve.  A few really love you, most will smile when they think of you and there are always a few that can’t stand being in your presence.

This was a new one.  I had never been quite so ambushed by the distaste cloaked in shamrocks.  I had gotten constructive mail before, but not without a signature.  My trip to the mailbox had turned into a self-evaluating (you know what) storm.  There was no real explanation, except-

It was a trigger.  Here’s what happened.

  • I read the letter.
  • I looked at the envelope.
  • I read the letter again.
  • I almost cried.  And I never cry.
  • I read it again for the feedback, considering resigning as speaker, coach and writer.
  • And now I’m writing a blog.
  • About triggers.

I think I am a pretty positive person with a penchant for spinning difficulty into gold.  But even I, when taken off guard, spun out of control for a few hours.  Sure it hurt my feelings, but I was more mad at the envelope than the note inside. It just seemed so sneaky.

We all have triggers, even the most positive people.  There is a semblance of control and something sneaky, a shamrock covered envelope for instance, triggers a pile of what could only  be called manure and reveals an opportunity to improve.

So what’s your trigger?

  • TRIGGER #1:  THE SURPRISE MANURE BOMB:  You were expecting something, something good.

You gave your heart.  You did your best.  Blood, sweat and tears and all that.

Triggers

I didn’t realize I needed to bring toilet paper!

So sure of your performance, you would place your chips all on one square if there was a place to bet on this sort of thing.  It’s not reinforcement you crave, but you enjoy the feeling of safety that comes with a job well done.

You are blindsided by the feedback.  The package doesn’t matter, a voicemail, a letter, in person or an e-mail.   You open yourself in Christmas-like expectation, without armor and the knife goes in.  As sure as you were before, you are now off balance.  Your integrity, your abilities, your intentions are questioned and you sputter, weak and defenseless.  Without the shield of expectation, the poison goes right into your veins and ruins your day.

Release the trigger:  The “second” agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements is not to take it personally.  Don’t take the feedback personally.  Take your life personally.   It’s okay to be surprised.  The truth is, you will not please everyone all the time.  It’s important to believe in your efforts and live in continuous learning.   Search through the communication to glean whatever truth  you can find and release the rest.

  • TRIGGER #2:  THE WITCH IN THE MIRROR:  Facing something about yourself you don’t want to see.

It started so effortlessly, a simply conversation about Saturday plans.  Then, your friend asks you to spontaneously clear your schedule.  You dislike last

Triggers

Sometimes I don’t like what I see in the mirror.

minute requests, especially those that disrupt what you do love: a productive weekend.  You want to make her happy but you can’t, the routine is too tantalizing.  The disappointment written on her face makes you feel rigid and stressed.  You walk away from dinner with a sense you have weakened your relationship and it lasts all weekend.

Release the trigger:  Let go of the illusion.  Your friend and anyone else with regular interaction knows you are not perfect. Your trigger is telling you to accept yourself and stop pretending.  Trust the relationship and consult your gut.  You may need to release the grip on your control, but not out of fear, only self-love.

  • TRIGGER #3:  THE UNEXPECTED DETOUR:  The stuff that happens when you are busy making plans.

As usual, your brain is a few steps ahead of your physical location.  Waiting at a light on your way home from your son’s track meet, you planned to fill your

triggers

I hate when life interrupts my plans, don’t you?

 

gas tank and get a pizza from the grocery store.  You could see the gas station from a few meters away and you don’t notice the 83-year old lady as she runs into your front corner of your car.

Thankfully no one is hurt but you can’t shake the uncertainty of life and your general grumpiness over the unwelcome stress.  You yell at your partner and you smile a little less.  You feel a little afflicted and unlucky and you find wait for the other shoe to drop.

Release the trigger:  When you brain thinks it’s being robbed, it reacts.  It’s a gift really, when you see how uncertain life is.  No one is persecuting you. With everything good comes something bad.  You are living in constant uncertainty (who knows when your last day on earth is) but you are experiencing it right now.  Embrace the moment, express yourself, tell people you love them.  Do something good with that feeling.

  • TRIGGER #4:  I DON’T WANNA GO INTO THAT CLOSET! It’s a fear you didn’t want to think about.

You are talking with your girlfriends about a blind date gone wrong and one of them starts to give you the kind of tactical advice that makes you feel- well, stupid.  The unappointed matchmaker ignores your pursed lips and enlarged

Triggers

We all have things tucked away.

pupils while she presses you, reminding you of the difficulty of finding someone if you don’t keep pressing on into that murky sludge called adult romance.  You might end up alone, otherwise.  She said with a smile.   You don’t remember who took the first verbal swing but you find yourself arguing about what it’s like to b e single, something that your married friend doesn’t seem to remember.

Release the trigger:   Disappointing relationships are a common cause of anger for women. While your friend undoubtedly needs some lessons in discretion, she  put a finger on the fears you have around adult dating.  After a short stint of anger because you thought you were having drinks with your friend, not Dear Abby, it’s time to release your expectations.  She doesn’t understand what you are going through.  Take the best and leave the rest.  Deal with your underlying fear about being alone, and the uncertainty of your future.  Remind yourself of the truth- there is someone for everyone and you deserve the best.  Dating (or whatever else you are going through) is just a process.

  • TRIGGER #5:  POST TRAUMATIC STRESS RELATED TO THE OLD YOU:  It reminds you of something you thought you left behind.

You used to be different.  At some point, a very long time ago, you were unfaithful,  you forgot things, you were, well let’s say “irresponsible.”  Things

trigger

I thought I left that in 2006!

have changed since your wayward younger years and you are a new person.  Your spouse accuses you of having feelings for a co-worker and even though your actions have been above-board, you somehow feel guilty.  You have a sinking feeling you will never shake your role as the bad guy and  you find yourself over-explaining and arguing.

Release the trigger.  You still are the bad guy.  And you are the good guy.  You will always be what you were: fat, lonely, stressed out, (insert past here).  It’s all one long constant continuum called life.  Step into the truth and pay attention to what matters.  Honor your self who has made so many wonderful changes.  Then, turn your attention to that person you love and do what you can to reassure someone who feels they can lose you.

  • TRIGGER #6:  DON’T EVER CALL ME STUPID:  They touch a sacred space.

Have you ever seen that movie, A Fish Called Wanda?  The character, Otto, played by Kevin Kline, was brilliant evil strategist with one tiny problem.  He couldn’t be called “stupid.”  Most of us have a sacred space, money, religion, your mother, your bad fashion sense in 9th grade.

Every so often you trust someone enough to let them close and when they “go there,” you become unreasonable emotional- angry, sad, distant.  Your response doesn’t fit the crime, but they shouldn’t have done that.  Some things should just be respected.

Release the trigger:  We should all respect each others’ sacred spaces but humans are crafty and thoughtless at times.  Here is the question: Do you want to have a trigger that reduces you to a blubbering idiot or do you want to let it go, draw boundaries and move forward.  It’s up to you.  My suggestion:  Don’t take it personally.

We all have triggers.  Turns and twists in life.  Unexpected bends where you thought you were going straight.  I’ll never remove that shamrock envelope from my board, at least not for a very long time.  It reminds me that I am not doing this to get approval, I only need to respect myself.  Every time I look at the envelope I’ll remember that I don’t need to take it personally, but I need to learn something new every day.  And, I will always remember that bad things can come into good packages.  It’s just my job to learn the lesson and turn it around once again.

What are your triggers?  Have you taken a detour from an expected circumstance?  Tell me what they are and let’s work on releasing them?

Have you heard?  I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for the Wounded Warrior Project and Girls on the Run.  Will you support me?  Go to iamlivingbig.org!

 

Why I am climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…

Relationship Inspiration: 6 Reasons you should fight in public.

About a month ago my husband and I got “into it” at our daughter’s basketball game.  Don’t worry, no fists flying, or particularly angry barbs.  Just a little marital shadow boxing; a little jab here, a little jab there.  More sexy teasing than real fighting, in my opinion.  One of our friends and team parents, Matt Smith (name not changed to protect the innocent), made a comment.

“You aren’t fighting again are you?”fightingblogkenandliz

His comment jolted us out of our fighting foreplay.  Of course I had to inquire further.

“Last time I was with you, it didn’t seem you liked each other very much.”

My husband Ken’s response to Matt’s response was very male and predictable:  assume an glazed over gaze.  Whether Ken cared or not, you would not be able to tell.  So inscrutable was his facial expression, you might want to poke him to see if he did not just lapse into a emotional-deficiency coma.

I, however, hotly defended our exchange.

“We don’t like each other all time!”

“What, are you worried about us?  Fighting doesn’t break US up!”

“Maybe if more people fought…”

And then, as my husband retreated even further into the emotionless abyss, I decided to let it go.  Instead, I write this blog, dedicated my good friend Matt, who had only good intentions when he wanted to whip out a magical remote control and “turn the channel” on our fight.

Matt, here are 6 reasons why I think Ken and I will probably fight, IN PUBLIC, forever.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #1:  You learn how to dissent.

The goal of marriage, or long term romantic relationships is not harmony.  In fact, pre-marital advice states it’s best to fight even before you tie the knot.  Of course I hope you get along more than you don’t.  But, having that one person who doesn’t take your crap, challenges your ideas and doesn’t buy into the public version of you, can actually hone your character and make you a better person.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #2:  It’s kind of sexy.

I believe the sassy-Liz, while sometimes infuriating to my husband, is also kind freeimage-2331048-highof sexy.  A tension-filled banter that can only lead to…well I’ll get to that later.  When our buddy, Matt, encouraged us to pipe down, I was teasing Ken about the irony yelling at the referees, when he-himself is a referee.  I actually said (yes, out loud in front of Matt and other adults in the stands) I would make a digital short about his referee-self throwing his spectator-self out of the game.  Sure, Ken was irritated; he felt criticized.  But when I grabbed his leg to soften my words, there was something intimate about the exchange.  If you haven’t tried it, you should.  It’s electric.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #3:  A little skirmish might head off “the big one.”

It’s better to “have words” when you need to, than to wait until later and have one big displaced blow out.  If you focus on maintaining the peace, you lose the opportunity to voice your needs.  I’m not saying you should nag and nitpick your partner to death.  Just be honest.  While the emotional exchange might be uncomfortable, you are developing the skills to disagree and choose a variety of responses (ignore it, tease back, stand your ground, have it out).  At any rate, Ken and I are prepared for the natural disasters we will face over a lifetime together.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #4:  It helps you stop pretending.

You might actually stay together longer, if you admit you have some things to work out.  Pretending to be happy doesn’t equate to harmony.  Your Facebook feed reflects a perfect relationship, full of selfies, exotic vacations and grand gestures.  Sometimes an on-the-spot-exchange, “what’s wrong with you, you Golden maskslook irritated,” and the response, “I want to be able to cheer for my daughter without you criticizing me,” solves the problem.  I would rather spend a week in mud with my husband being real than to spend a lifetime being afraid to ask, “what’s wrong.”

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #5:  They need to see you work it out.

Have you ever been shocked by the “never-ever-fights couple” who suddenly gets a divorce?  Aside from the other four points I’ve made that may have led to what looks like an abrupt breakup, let me ask you a question.  Who do you see fight and get over it.  Where is THAT prototype for relational success?  When pen writing somethingyou fight in public, you are surround by crowds of  happy, laughing couples, having a grand old time.  You turn inward in shame, thinking, we aren’t normal.  No one is fighting but us.  Newsflash:  Everyone fights.  Anyone who is in a real relationship fights.  It doesn’t mean you should break up.  It means you should get your feelings out, listen and work it out, together.  Do your children a favor and fight in front of them too, once in a while.  They also need to know that fights are normal and can easily be worked out.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC Reason #6:  You get to make up.

I hope every person reading this post has been able to enjoy make-up sex.  There are actual studies about why it’s so good.  For a second, you rip off the mask and if you are really good at this, you rip your partner’s off too.  You stop making assumptions and taking your person for granted.  You decide, in a sort of recommitment, that you are going to work it out and then, the passions burn a little brighter.  There is kissing, a connection and the sex feeling all the more meaningful because that passion translates to the positive side.  Arguing shows you care.  Your person can rile you up because they have that connection with you.  And making up can be soooo good.

FIGHT IN PUBLIC disclaimer.

Matt, I so appreciate your concern.  I know it came from a loving place; you just wanted to make sure everything is okay, the subject of another blog post (should you confront couples in trouble).  I don’t think you should fight all the time. No matter what, it’s the open forum and open mind in both public and private that will foster long term bliss.   And I don’t believe that every perceived infraction is an invitation for public criticism.  But, I do believe that speaking the truth and working it out is the ultimate marital cement, and aphrodisiac.

 

Girlfriend Inspiration: 9 Life Mistakes Women Make

It was five years ago.  After a day of pushing and rushing I stood triumphant on my “to-do” mountain.  Yet in my flush of accomplishment  I was tired, depleted and to be honest, in a bad mood.  Why?  I was hungry, I wanted a glass of wine and it wasn’t 5:00pm yet, I was mad at my girlfriends and I felt fat.  In the midst of taking care of everyone else, I had become my own worst enemy.  I’ve made some of these life mistakes at some point in the last ten years, how about you?

Life Mistake #1:  You starve yourself.

Life Mistakes

Life Mistake #1: You starve yourself.

There are two models to American starvation in 2013.  Either you eat constantly while taking in very few vitamins and minerals needed by your body to thrive, or  option number two- you stingily count your calories, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee, triumphant as you reach the end of the day with the least number of calories possible. Food is your fuel!  Starvation and deprivation robs you of your future, in bone density, mental agility AND adds to the fatty congestion around your organs, even mental quickness.  The number on the scale, the size 2, 4, 6 cannot be worth the present and future health you deserve.

Be smart:  Figure out how many calories you actually need.  Start eating things that are high in nutrition AND taste.  Stop alternately eating and starving your feelings and figure out what your feelings are.

Life Mistake #2:  You try to keep up with other people.

Social media provides a constant stream of false-front updates, well-angled selflies, exotic vacations, high-achieving children and partners, accolades and achievements.  While such abundance could be cause for celebration, an underlying social darkness accompanies the light, creating what Belinda Goldsmith calls, “social envy.”    You were doing fine and then you feel you need to lose weight, your family trips are lackluster, your partner just isn’t measuring up.  You realize your need to clear your carpets, buy your husband a new wardrobe, get a haircut and grow your mane out, all at the same time.

Be smart:  Decide what you actually want and need and reach for it. Celebrate others’ success; it will raise the likelihood you will experience the same success and gratitude in your future.

Life Mistake #3:  You drink too much.

life mistakes

Life Mistake #3: You drink too much.

We ladies are the fastest growing binge drinkers in the western world, according to Wall Street Journal.  The reasons to drink are many, to smooth out the edges of those transitions, from home to work, work to soccer practice.  We celebrate with a glass of wine, birthdays, promotions, holidays.  We use alcohol to calm our social anxiety.  We have “just one” before dinner, at cocktail hour, even at lunch or brunch.  The reality is we are one of the fastest growing groups of drinkers and it shows.  And, it doesn’t work; the endless stream of empty calories leave you tired, depressed and wanting more.

Be smart:  Determine what is really going on. Drink socially, but watch those rules (I only drink with others, I only drink two, I only drink after 5).  Deal with your feelings first, drink second.

Life Mistake #4:  You won’t let things go.

Your drug isn’t food or drink, it’s righteous indignation.  You constantly decry the demise of humanity.  Why don’t they RSVP?  How could they say that?  How dare they?  You remember, in vivid detail the embarrassment, the betrayal, the disappointment and you are ready for more to come.  The truth?  It makes you feel superior to know that you are the best behaved.  And, you are scared that you will be hurt again so you anticipate the next wrong.

Be smart:  Focus on yourself, not others.  While you don’t need to be in overly negative relationships, learn to draw and enforce personal boundaries.  Look for the good in others.  No one ever died of a broken heart.  You’ll be fine.

Life Mistake #5:  You lose your personal ambition.

You used to be an HR executive.  When you were in your 20′s, you paid all your bills on your own.  You traveled extensively.  You lived in New York City.  Today you are focused on how your lawn stacks up to your neighbor’s greens, the nutritional balance in tonight’s meal, your children’s reading log and your partner’s Christmas party.  You can’t imagine working, you rarely read challenging material and you aren’t sure who the Prime Minister of Great Britain is, (not sure you care).  Even if you have a challenging job, you don’t have time (read: won’t allow yourself) to picture your future life.  In fact, you’ve made a switch from judging yourself for your accomplishments, to evaluating your success through the accomplishments of your partner or your children.

Be smart:  Ask any 90 year old woman and they will tell you, your time being the chief cook and bottle washer is only a small part of your life.  Make sure you are cultivating YOU and your vision of both today and the future.  Challenge yourself.  DOn’t worry- it will make you a better partner, mother, volunteer and colleague.

Life Mistake #6:  You keep trying to do it all yourself.

life mistakes

Life Mistake #8: You stop having sex.

I know, you don’t WANT to do it all yourself, it’s just the people in your life don’t do it right.  You hurry around loading dishwashers, paying bills, packing overnight bags, getting your nails done, cleaning out the car, managing a girlfriend trip, a girl scout meeting a the same time and triumphantly achieving it all or ending the day in a sad little puddle of stress and remorse.  Secretly, though, you feel the stress of the grind.  You train people not to help you and consequently reach the end of each day feeling resentful and exhausted. 

Be smart:  Don’t do it alone.  Figure out how to express your guidelines for success.  Be grateful for the help.  Learn to work as a team or you will burn out.  Don’t expect things to be perfect.  Perfect is boring.  Imperfection is accessible. PLUS, it’s bad for your daughters and your sons.

Life Mistake #7:  You avoid talking about political things, to the point where you aren’t involved.

You hate to argue.  You vote with your eyes and your heart (he looks like a good leader, she seems like us) and your body temperature rises when those around you get passionate about their political beliefs.  You talk a lot about kids and the latest book you read not so much because it’s interesting but because they are safe topics.  You also feel a little out of it, you tend to watch your DVR’d shows during a newscast and you read the local paper to cut out photos of the kids you know.  News is so depressing.

Be smart:  Cultivate the world you live in and do everything you can to leave it in better shape than you left it.  Teach your children and your friends how to gracefully approach conversations with intelligence and research.  Know what is happening, your loving heart may be provoked to make a difference.

Life Mistake #8:  You stop having sex.

Life Mistakes

Life Mistake #9: You rip on yourself in the mirror.

You have renamed your sexual organs Sleeping Beauty.  Your fat has further insulated the hibernation.  The lines, the wear and tear, the mileage.  Sex is another obligation and it’s been officially prioritized to the end of the list.

Be smart:  Sex is a vital, essential part of life.  Figure it out, whether you need to resolve some issues in your relationship or take yourself to the doctor.  Expect more out of life, for goodness sake.

Life Mistake #9:  You rip on yourself, especially in the mirror.

Every time you pass a mirror or try on something new, you lament the state of your physique.  This year, the Ponds commercials highlight the extreme unkindness we show ourselves.  The stomach has become a fat magnet.  The thighs jiggle, the arm flags wave.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, you only stare at the parts that aren’t measuring up and  compare yourself to what you once were.

Be smart:  Try not being the worst friend on the planet and treat yourself with respect.  Stop expecting you will maintain your youth forever.  Start valuing other parts of who you are.  Be willing to work towards healthiness.  

There is more, of course.  Not choosing friends that challenge you, financial illiteracy, constantly seeing approval, living in the past or the future.  I just chose the 10 I see most often, things I need to work on myself.  Go back, take a closer look at the list.  Open your heart and your mind for a second and make a decision that will transform 2014.  Choose to treat yourself with the utmost respect.  In the end, you will only have more for those around you.

Design a year you will never forget!  Sign up for the webseries begins December 17th.  

Nead Inspiration Fall Tour: Creating Inspired Vision!

It was an amazing, connecting time this Fall as I took a little tour of the midwest and encouraged people to acknowledge and live out their purpose and vision.  One thing in common:  The Nead Inspiration audience has a great sense of humor and is ready to jump in and take risks on their vision!  Enjoy the photos- it really was as fun as it looked!

Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota:  The 1440 Principle

I took a tour of Minnesota in the fall (absolutely beautiful!) courtesy of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota, traveling to Hutchinson, Worthington, Alexandria and Mankato.  The 1440 Principle took center stage as we explored the big question- what if we treated time like a currency?  The audience was so welcoming, ready to learn and pretty good at teasing each other!  I felt the power of my own vision as I stayed at the Arrow wood resort in Alexandria overlooking a golf course that was the location of a cross country race I ran over 20 years ago! How cool is that?

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