Dealing With Your Own Dry Spells

Red Rock CanyonLegacy Journal readers, like our clients, tend to be accomplished and successful, mid-career business owners and professionals looking beyond their current work to building “what’s next.” Not for retirement, that is mostly a foreign word and applies perhaps to finances but not to life and work in the world. While financial independence – minding your business – is definitely a part of what’s next, continuing to be productive – minding your profession – is as well. Some need to get businesses or professional practices set up in a way that frees them to focus on what’s next, and some have already done that or are in the process. Others feel stuck or lost, or just can’t see what’s next after being so immersed for so long in what has made them successful to begin with.

They can see milestones – like, my kids will all be in college or out on their own in the next few years, or my investments have reached a point where I can draw some of my income from interest, dividends, lease payments and the like, and not rely on earned income alone.  But they can’t see “what’s next.”  And considering stepping away from a business or professional identity they’ve long held can be a bit immobilizing – “who will I be then?”  

Does that resonate with you?  

I’ve been there; asked similar questions. And ultimately what I learned is that “who you will be then” is all you’ve ever been (you bring it all along with you) … plus. You get to use the best parts of it all in new endeavors about which you’re really passionate.  But getting there is a process, and sometimes that process starts with simply feeling lost.

So, here are some ways to address feeling lost, confused or like you’re dealing with a real creative or productive personal “dry spell” that you don’t seem to be able to see your way out of:

1.    Accept Your Current Situation. First, maybe foremost, is to accept that’s the way things are … for now.  Having the awareness of your situation, and then fully accepting it, are the only “ways through” to do something about it.  Denial or pretending things are fine don’t even get your started – the nagging feeling that you know the truth, that you’re ready for things to change – can start to eat away at you.

Doubt is part of the process. So, go ahead and just say so: “Whether things are just fine, or not, I’m ready for a change even if I don’t know what it is yet and I’m not sure if I’m capable.” There. How does that feel? Lightning didn’t strike. Like everything else, this too shall pass.

2.    Let go.  Start by dropping or at least temporarily letting go of the things you can’t control. Tune out the mainstream media, for sure, at least for awhile.  Let go of your current expectations – for yourself, others, or the direction the world is going (or not going).

There is an old saying that ‘expectations are pre-meditated resentments.’ Meditating on them, that is, holding them in your thoughts, takes energy. When that energy is of the negative form (a resentment) you are really turning your capacity away from what you could be doing something about – what you can control, like you and your life, and the consequences of your actions. 

Clean UpMaybe there are some things you need to clean up and get complete with. Maybe there are some things you want to do for you – like take the time to work out, read, write or learn something new. These are things you can do now, and finding the time is just about letting go of things that are not yours to do.  

This is not about abandoning responsibilities, though you may have to get yourself out of a few you’ve already agreed to and are ready to let go of.  It’s also not about being self-ish; it’s about being self-directed rather than other-directed.  Only from there, can you begin to engage in things that truly excite you. Remember, whatever they are they will benefit someone else in some way, too – so you can still be responsible to others.  But benefitting others without also benefitting yourself is choosing to play win/lose, and agreeing in advance to be the loser.

3.     Re-charge yourself. Recognize the ebb and flow of nature.  Like waves and tides, our creative and productive energies sometimes wax and wane. We can’t be at our peak all the time. To be our most effective, we may need to challenge ourselves with big meaningful goals. But that doesn’t mean we have to pursue them 24/7/365.  In fact, we can’t.  There needs to be a balance of self-care time for rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, fun, laughter, and enjoyment.  So when you don’t know what else to do, choose something that fits in one of those self-care categories and re-charge yourself.

4.    Focus on your spiritual nature.  When you’re ready to take some action, but are still not sure what’s next, focus on the spirit that moves you, whatever form that takes. Connect with what is meaningful for you. Visit environments you find soothing and inspiring, where you can breathe deeply and fully.  Engage in prayer and meditation. Spend some time simply engaged in the wonder of it all. (Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver to help you remember this). Ask for help from the powers greater than yourself you most resonate and connect with, by whatever name you call them. See what comes up for you when you do, and what shows up serendipitously in your world as a result of your requests. Keep track of this information in an idea journal.   

5.    Create rituals that comfort you.  Often when you are in that “space in between” – where you know you don’t want to stay where you are but have yet to devise a plan for where you are going next – it is most helpful to just relax, take one day at a time, and do things that you know are good for you and that you’ll feel good about. 

MusicDevelop and engage in pleasing routines you may not otherwise because it seems too indulgent. (Be a little indulgent!) Listen to soothing music and just relax and breathe and “just be” for a bit, without doing anything.  Fill the open space that appears in your mind with gratitude for all the good in your life. Create a new exercise routine, and stay with it. Walk in a beautiful park on a regular basis at a similar time each day and learn what nature has to teach. Visit a labyrinth and engage in a moving meditation – or participate with a group in a gentle yoga class. Now’s the time to be gentle with the current you, while the “new you” is forming and getting ready to emerge.

6.    Muster some courage. It may only take a tiny bit to begin considering what’s next. The English word courage derives from Old French, based on the Latin root “Cor” meaning heart.  So focus on your heart, and what you deeply need to feed you. Then consider what having courage really means.  It has three parts – one of which we’ve already addressed: doubt + commitment + action. That is, courage is to make a commitment to act even in the face of your doubt. The actions you choose can be small steps, and they will likely be at least a little uncomfortable – though they should be bearable. Getting out of your comfort zone is what making a change entails. Turn doubt into wonder or curiosity or exploration and just take one step.

7.    Interact with your communities. Get together with people you know care about you, who are nurturing, will listen and will help re-charge your batteries (not the ones who drain you!) These are supportive people who will lovingly tell you the truth, rather than just what they think you want to hear.  Engage with bigger groups who are doing something important in the world that you support.  Notice who you’re drawn to and what their qualities are.  What might you emulate? Where do you feel yourself wanting to be engaged?

When all else fails, just do something completely different. This doesn’t have to be a big change. Just engage in some things you’ve never done before – for an hour, an afternoon, a day, weekend or even longer. Go somewhere new. Stretch yourself. Immerse yourself in something you’ve wondered about. Take a friend so you can compare notes (and so you’ll actually do it).  
       
Or you could hire a coach (especially recommended!) who can help you explore your deepest desires and interests, shed what is no longer yours to focus on, design what’s next based on your gifts, talents and resources – and then begin actually doing something about them.  Finding that sense of authenticity and personal integrity, and then demonstrating it in the world feels great and can lead to amazing things you feel truly proud of. That will allow you to feel more like the “you” you are ready to become.  

The first part of the “7 Steps to Creating Your Legacy” program is built around these notions of defining, discovering and designing, and we utilize them in working with private clients one on one as well.  From there, we help you get into action on building what’s next when the gentle rains begin to fall and nurture the growth of both you and something that deeply interests you.  

I’d love to join you in that journey!
Cheers, Dolly

The Thanksgiving Gravy Recipe You’ll Need For Sure

If you’re a turkey eater, that is … I definitely am, though highly susceptible to the effect of tryptophan. Some debate its impact, but being sensitive to chemicals I know it has a significant relaxation and sleep promoting effect on me.  (I’ve even started eating a bit of turkey before bed … and it works better than anything else I’ve tried as a sleep aid!)

But this is about Thanksgiving, and a reminder about how to make delicious gravy to go with that turkey … yet I must digress for just a moment more to say:

This is my favorite holiday of them all!  It’s a time to gather with family and friends, have a shared feast and and opportunity to focus on all the things in life there are be grateful for.  For some, it’s football … but for me it’s knowing that whatever troubles may be bothering us, that practice of gratitude can always overcome them – and is available every day of the year, reminding us that in this moment all is well.  So at the end of November here in the U.S. we set aside a day to remember and engage in this important practice.  Happy Thanksgiving!! 

As I’m practicing gratitude and noticing all the blessings in my life, I find the need to dig out the instructions so I can remember how to make a good pan gravy to go with turkey and mashed potatoes and all the other yummy dishes to be shared with dear family and friends.  So here you go:

First, I like to roast the turkey outside on our Weber kettle charcoal grill.  Saves room in the oven and makes a roast that is crisp on the outside and incredibly moist on the inside.  It’s REALLY easy, if you’ve never done it.  If you have a Weber kettle, here’s a link that will get you started.  However you cook your turkey, though, remember to save the drippings in the roasting pan!

For the gravy:

  • Staring with the drippings, and either in the pan itself (across two burners on your stovetop) or in a separate pot.  Skim off any visible fat with a spoon, then bring these juices to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. 
  • Using the cooled stock you made earlier in the day from the giblets, or pre-made broth (you’ll need about 3 cups), add a small amount of this liquid at a time to ½ cup of flour, stirring to make a smooth paste with a pudding-like consistency. 
  • Add the rest of the stock to the drippings in the pan, and then whisk in the flour mixture – again, a little at a time to avoid lumps. 
  • Bring this back to a simmer and cook, stirring until the gravy is well-blended, thickens and loses its floury taste.  Lower the heat if need be so the gravy doesn’t scorch or burn at the bottom of the pan. 
  • Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and maybe just a smidgen more of ground sage.  Then keep warm for serving. 

Then enjoy – the feast, the company, and all you have to be grateful for in your life!
Oh, and please pass the gravy …

Cheers to all y’all!
Dolly

‘Tis The Season – Eat Well!

Eating healthy can also be a yummy way to take good care of yourself.  We know that’s a prerequisite to having the positive life energy needed to make the world a better place!

That’s all important, because you have big important work to do in the world.  So you might as well eat nutritionally healthy food with properties that are good for you.  Spicing it up can be a great way to do that and enjoy it, too!

We recently came across a great recipe for Ginger and Cinnamon-Spiced Pumpkin Muffins – a great way to make use of a wonderful fall fruit, the pumpkin (yes, it’s actually a fruit since it has internal seeds).  It’s from the site of women’s holistic health and nutritional counselor, Irina Wardas, HHC.  Her adapted recipe is full of nutrients like beta-carotene, cinnamon and ginger which are well-known anti-inflammatory spices, and vitamin C from orange zest – all of which might even help reduce inflammation and relieve related pain. 

Grab the recipe and make some for yourself, your family and your friends – it’ll make your house smell great, too, so we have to add credit for some great aromatherapy.  You’ll find some other great and healthy recipes on Irina’s site, too.

And oh, enjoy the fruits of the season!!

Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions & Sage Crumb Topping

Here’s A Yummy Recipe for Legacy Level Healthy Eating … Just For You!

Ingredients
3/4 lbs uncooked ziti or penne pasta
2 onions, sliced very thinly
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper and cayenne
2 cups pureed pumpkin or 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup vegetable broth

Sage Bread Crumbs:
2 1/2 cups bread crumbs, preferably fresh and homemade
1/3 cup walnut pieced chopped in a food processor until resembling coarse crumbs
1/4 cup Earth Balance (you can substitute olive oil, canola oil or a blend of these)
2 tsp dried, rubbed sage
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp ground paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cashew Ricotta:
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces (approx 4 oz)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt

Directions
To make the Cashew Ricotta: In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms. Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches in necessary, until the moisture is thick and well blended. Blend in the basil and salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 11-inch lasagne type baking pan with olive oil, or use two smaller pans.

Prepare the ziti according to the package directions, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, make the caramelized onion: preheat a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Saute the onions in oil until some onion bits are very brown and caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta in a large bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and mix. Add the cooked ziti and caramelized onions, stirring to coat the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press lightly with a rubber spatula to level it.

Make the Sage Bread Crumbs:
Melt the Earth Balance in large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bread crumbs, walnuts, dried herbs and paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the top of the ziti is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Number of Servings: 12

What Water Has To Teach Us

Nature is one of our greatest teachers, and water is one of the natural elements from which we can learn so much. In April, when there were abundant celebrations of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day (April 22),  many places observed water conservation month. The greatest of earth’s elements, covering almost three-quarters of the planet, is water. But did you know that nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise polluted and undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% of the Earth’s water can be used for all agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community and personal needs! By 2050, a third of the people on Earth may lack a clean, secure source of water. Want to learn more about freshwater resources and how they are used to feed, power, and sustain all life; and how the forces of technology, climate, human nature, and policy create challenges and drive solutions for a sustainable planet? Check out National Geographic’s great resource.

Like the earth, the human body is approximately three quarters water, with a similar salinity content and pH (acidity) level; and water is quite literally our life blood. We require fresh water to live, and really clean fresh water to maintain health. Learn more about the healthiest form of drinking water here.

There are many lessons in all that. Likewise, many legacy projects involving water could be undertaken to make a positive difference – cleaning it up, preserving its flow, creating access to it, using it for fuel as “HHO” (also called hydrogen on demand used to improve the poor efficiency of fossil fuel burning engines), developing it to generate electricity. You can consider how you might develop or support one of those projects. In the meanwhile, let’s explore why you might want to by examining this important element, and what more it has to teach us.

Water is magical. Two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, it is amazingly malleable. It can exist in solid, liquid or gaseous forms. Its atoms can be separated by electrolysis: the hydrogen stored in water can then be used as a fuel source for energy, and the oxygen can be used to keep living creatures alive. Those H2O molecules in our oceans, rivers and lakes combine with the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in an effort to modify that and protect us, producing carbonic acid which is increasing the acidity of the oceans and negatively affecting ocean life.

Water is powerful, an attribute we can embody when we remember that power is best defined as ‘the ability to do’ – to get things done. Water does have the ability to wear away rock and soil, shape coastlines and rivers – and tear things down, as do we. The movement of tides and waves and waterfalls has the ability to produce electrical power, and we can likewise be constructive instead. Water hydrates our bodies, giving us the energy and power to do just that.

Water makes ripples and waves – including storm surge and tidal waves or tsunamis. As fluid, water-filled bodies, we too can make waves and make change. And we must take care that the ripples we cause are not damaging.

Water will also completely support us, and can produce a very relaxed state. Most of us are buoyant in the water, or can be by virtue of an air mat or a boat. The sound of water lapping up of the edge of your body, mat or boat, like water flowing in a fountain, can be incredibly soothing. This is nature’s reminder to relax and enjoy, to surround yourself with support and extend the same to others.

Water flows; it teaches us to be fluid and flow, too. To move, change, let go. For centuries, humans have observed that “nature abhors a vaccum.” This idiom expresses the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics. So we need not fear letting go – open up your tightly clenched fists holding on to anything, and something will eventually flow in to fill your open palms. There is no scarcity, there is always more flowing in from the ocean of abundance.

In its planetary flow, water’s movement produces gyres that can form and trap debris, as the Pacific Gyres – also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” – illustrate. Here’s a picture of that – the yellow dots represent the trash, much of it plastics trapped in the largest landfills on the planet, located in the Pacific Ocean – the very water that is our lifeblood. This reminds us to clean out our own gyres, formed by our own personal tornadoes, from time to time – if not also to be gentle with the environments that support us and keep them clean and healthy.

Water connects us and reminds us of the importance to maintain our connectivity. The Gulf of Mexico illustrates. Fed by headwaters of the Mississippi way up in Minnesota, that river carries sediment and agricultural run off along its entire route southward through the United States. Entering the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans, Louisiana, it meets the Gulf Loop Current. See a moving graphic representation of this map here. Looks like blood flowing through arteries and veins, doesn’t it?

That current, fed by water flowing north through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, can flow northward along the Texas coast, eventually curving east and south along Florida’s coast or it can turn sharply east – in either case exiting through the Straits of Florida (between the Florida peninsula and Cuba) to meet up with the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic carrying warm Gulf and Caribbean waters to the Mediterranean and Europe. This flow of water brings animal larvae, plant spores and other imports from the south, which probably accounts for the many Caribbean species found in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, this current can pick up the same sorts of ‘passengers’ from the northern Gulf (and the upstream Mississippi River) to deliver along its route back to the Caribbean and Atlantic.

All these places are connected as we are connected to each other and our world. When asked during end of life planning where she wanted her cremains scattered, an elderly woman remarked that she’d like a few of her ashes dropped in a nearby river, thus ensuring she’d see parts of the world she never had a chance to visit.

Water that does not flow becomes stagnant and holding on to anything for too long can make us stagnant, too. Better to dance like the waves. The importance of flow to the earth’s water (and, metaphorically, to us) is illustrated by contrasting the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, separating Africa and Asia – with Saudi Arabia to the east and Eqypt and Sudan to the west. The Red Sea’s flow is through the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal at the north (into the Mediterranean Sea) and through the Gulf of Aden in the south and out into the Indian Ocean. Because of that flow, the Red Sea is a rich and diverse ecosystem with more than 1200 species of fish, about 10% of which are found nowhere else. This rich diversity is supported by about 1,200 miles of coral reef extending along its coastline, fragile living structures that are 5000–7000 years old, along with other rich marine habitats including sea grass beds, salt pans, mangroves and salt marshes. That flow supports great life making the area sometimes called the Red Sea Riviera a great attraction for snorkelers, scuba divers and other visitors.

Contrast that with the Dead Sea to the north. The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the mountains in Syria, and flows down through the Jordan Valley with Jordan to the east and Israel to the west. In the Jordan Valley, fertile soils and a mild climate make the agricultural region the food bowl of Jordan. The river flows into Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), almost 700 feet below sea level finally draining into the landlocked Dead Sea which, at approximately 1,335 feet below sea level, is the lowest point on earth. With no outlet to the sea – no flow – intense evaporation concentrates its mineral salts and produces a hypersaline solution, about 8 times saltier than the world’s oceans. This lack of flow thus supports no indigenous plant or animal life.

Consistent with this principle of flow, water reminds us that even a drop produces many ripples, which can have a magnified multitude of effects. We are those drops. As Mother Teresa tells us:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.  But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Thus, water reminds us to keep moving and affecting our world, and that each one of us is important to the world. That includes the unique being that you are. Keep flowing, connecting with others, and making waves and ripples with a conscious focus on your unique purpose, and you will make important differences that add up to your life’s legacy. Maybe you’ll even choose to create something tangible and lasting to give to the world and leave for generations to come.

What beauty will you leave in your wake? (DMG)

It’s Good For You

Research shows that approaching life from a spirit of giving and focus on making a contribution has positive health impacts including improved life-satisfaction, physical and mental health and even living longer. A great legacy created by Sir John Marks Templeton serves to demonstrate – and perpetuate – these benefits.

The name makes him sound like British royalty, and he was created a Knights Bachelor in 1987 for his philanthropic efforts. He was born in the state of Tennessee in the U.S., but lived most of his life in the Bahamas, and is probably best known as the Chartered Financial Analyst who became a billionaire by pioneering the use of globally diversified mutual funds – through his now numerous Templeton Funds for investors.

Beyond his work, however, Templeton’s great interest was in spirituality, and he built a great legacy based on it. In 1972, he established the Templeton Prize to honor individuals who make “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works” as stated on the organization’s website. He called recipients “entrepreneurs of the spirit,” and the first prize was given in 1973 to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received $85,000 for her charities. Based on sound management, the prize has grown to around $1.6 million annually.

To administer the prize, in 1987 Templeton established the John Templeton Foundation. It now awards around sixty million dollars every year to institutions and people for spiritual and scientific activities that explore values such as the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity – in an effort to reconcile science and religion without diminishing either. The Foundation made the prize and other grant-making activities sustainable, and though Templeton passed from this earth in 2008, his legacy is still very much alive.

In 2001, the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love was founded with a grant from the foundation. It studies unselfish love and the benefits of giving back. The institute’s most recent report “It’s Good to be Good 2009: Health and the Generous Heart” is available on the site. The report details that developing a generous way of being and then doing or giving from that state indeed has benefits for the giver.

I mention Templeton not to emphasize what someone with billions can do – most people readily get that, but think they cannot do something similar. Maybe not at the same scale, but you can do something that will be as important for the recipient of your efforts.

Rather, I provide this example to show how one person, during his lifetime, used his career and his wealth to really address the things he was passionate about. I also provide the example to demonstrate that there are funds available for all kinds of great projects to benefit people and the planet. Creating legacy is not just about disseminating wealth, but about your authentic interest and willingness to act from there. That’s the foundation from which all great legacies are built.

Heart 2.0 In An Era of Greater Chaos

Some time ago, we entered a new era of “accelerating acceleration.” It is an era that allows humans to provide a higher standard of living for everyone on the planet than ever before. It is also a time when things are being shaken up for purposes of being reordered – a time of greater chaos. It’s happening on a global stage: witness the world economy which isn’t so much of a disaster as it is a revelation of what’s real, and what wasn’t working. That gives us clear indications of what needs to be done differently.

This shake up is also happening on an individual basis. Considering that the world stage is too big for any one of us to handle, the question becomes what to focus on and what to do.

This brings us to the topic of stress. I want to address this topic because I see around me lately much greater incidence of its effects – in the forms of injuries, illnesses and ‘accidents.’ (I’m one who doesn’t believe in accidents or coincidences – things happen for reasons, which we can look for, examine and utilize to make progress in life). Just staying in focus, let alone making changes, doing things differently or taking new directions, requires mastery of stress and coping resources.

I have made requests of countless people lately to turn off the “news.” When it actually is new, it gets repeated over and over so you don’t get much more than the initial sound bite. And any good news immediately gets turned into all the bad things that could have happened instead or related disasters around the world or throughout history. Check the top of the hour report on the radio once or twice a day, scan the newspaper or watch a few minutes of television news if you must, but by all means don’t leave the TV or radio on all day on one of those all-news channels that rarely if ever has anything to say about the good in the world or what went right today.

If the stress of your own personal situation is not enough, taking on all the negativity that is being spewed out on the public airwaves can be damaging mojo. “They” say it makes people feel better to know that things are worse off somewhere else. I don’t know about you, but hearing about others’ misfortunes has never made me feel better. And in this energetic universe, it is difficult to avoid being adversely affected by the mere daily transmission of it all, whether you put your focus on it or not.

What seems to be resulting from all this negative noise, is that I see people literally tripping over their own good sense. People around me have injured joints, suffered house fires, scratched their eyes, gotten serious head colds, experienced back or arm pain. I recently checked on someone I know well and inquired how she was doing. “Great,” she told me. “Good,” I said. “Keep it that way. Take good care of yourself,” explaining that I saw the current negative atmosphere really having an impact on people.

The next morning I got an email from her telling me that overnight she had gotten up and fallen over a new barricade she’d erected to segregate a new dog in a particular room in the house. As she told the story she said, “I knew the barrier was there, and as I approached it I said to myself, ‘I should turn on the light switch.’ ” And in the time it took her to override that thought, she took her next step and landed on the floor – with a knee and rib injuries (fortunately no fractures)!

It’s time to slow down. As in mountain climbing, keep moving, but make sure you have a good foothold before you take the next step. In response to the pressure of negativity, too many of us are stepping forward too quickly on shaky ground.

I’ve written a longer article, called The Science of Performance, on the physiological effects of stress and the related subjects of emotional and heart intelligence. Understanding those effects, and mastering multiple intelligences as coping resources can be incredibly helpful. You can develop support that allows you to keep going despite the stressors in your life. You can access that article here.

In addition, there are other practices that can be helpful:

1. HALT. That’s right, just stop. Take a deep breath and notice where your feet are (that’s where you are). Right here, right now, not in the past or in the future, but in this moment. Now scan for the basics of how you’re doing. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Attend to those basics – whatever else you’re doing can likely wait (and may be adversely impacted if you continue with it in one of those states).

2. Identify Your Needs And Get Them Met. Beyond the basics, we all have other needs, whether we want to admit having them or not, and our needs are different from those of others. Often, they are things left from childhood that we somehow never got enough of. As adults, it’s our job to identify and fully address them. They are the potholes on the road of life: when filled, the road is a lot smoother.

3. Get Complete With Your Past. If you have unresolved issues from the past, they may continue to control or direct your present choices and patterns you create in the future. Identify them and get them handled. Work with an appropriate therapist if need be. Yeah, looking at this stuff may be a pain, but you’ll feel and be better for it. It’s time to get over it and feel strong.

4. Say “No.” A rule I like a lot: if it’s not a “definite yes,” it’s a no. If you can’t say no, practice saying nothing at first – to keep you from saying yes and getting involved in something before you have a chance to think about it. Find ways to avoid saying yes, like “Thanks for the opportunity, but I’ll need to check my schedule and get back with you” that buy you time to follow up and say no. That way you don’t spend your precious life energy on something you are not really jazzed about.

5. Design 10 Daily, Delicious Habits that are good for you and do them every day. They can be as simple as playing soothing music on your way to work, or taking an afternoon tea break to put your feet up. Make them easy and delightful so you want to do them. Do them every day, so if you have to miss a day, you pick up the next day. Okay, I hear you, if you cannot come up with 10, then do 5!

6. Stop Tolerating and Complete Incompletions. Just “putting up with” steals your life energy. Having unfinished business or projects does, too. It’s like having a hole in your cup of life: the universe can be pouring its abundance into your cup, but the holes created by tolerations and incompletions will allow it to drain out so your cup is never full … let alone overflowing. Don’t you want to be someone who can truly say “my cup runneth over” with things you feel good about?

7. Simplify Your Life. Use the 4,000 year old art of Feng Shui rule of thumb: if it’s not beautiful or useful, put it back out into circulation so someone for whom it will be beautiful or useful can find it. Clear out your space. Clutter has energy (like a toleration or incompletion) and robs you of yours. Spend less (better yet, no) time with toxic people. How do you know if they are toxic for you? Do you feel uncomfortable or uneasy around them? That’s an initial clue for you to look deeper at whether you want to spend time with them; limit it if you think you must. No need to explain it to them, just take care of you. Limit the number or length of extra activities, too, so you get enough rest and rejuvenation time.

8. Decide what’s “enough.” What makes each of us feel abundant and powerful is different. More isn’t necessarily better, it can add considerable burdens. Identify what’s really important to you. Do you really need “that” (is it a definite yes!?) or will it just turn to a form of clutter or something you have to clear out at some point? Mass market advertising that’s not really service minded or seeking to add real value (rather that merely seeks to part you from your money) will try to persuade you that you need things you don’t or that if others have it you should, too. Recognize that brainwashing for what it is and drown it out.

9. Create a Daily Ritual to Connect to the Universe. Practice stillness. Create your own rituals for self-renewal. Visualize your day the way you want it to be. Journal about it. Connect with the concept of something greater than yourself and your immediate situation – it is a vast universe full of amazing resources. Read something enlightening. Talk with the power you conceive God to be, if you have such a relationship, in positive terms. Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Light a candle and say a prayer – the easiest and shortest one may just be “thank you.” Ask for guidance and a sign to know it’s been given to you. Create a special ritual for yourself to practice everyday, to support you in remembering what’s important for you to get the most out of each day.

10. Get to Know Your Heart. Your heart has its own independent intelligence, even if your brain (and many institutes of higher learning) try to convince you that logic and rational/linear thinking are the only relevant ways to make decisions. Where do you think creativity, innovation and intuition come from? Okay, maybe the too-little-exercised right side of your brain, but remember that the brain is not totally in control. Yes, it sends impulses to the heart, but the heart doesn’t always respond – and the heart independently communicates with the rest of the body and even electromagnetically outside your body for several feet. 

You can learn more about all this at the website of a great organization called HeartMath. I particularly recommend reading about the Resonant Heart there.  Learn their “Freeze-Frame®” technique – a simple 5 step process that can be done in as little as a few minutes – in a fascinating book called The HeartMath Solution.

Learning to focus on your heart intelligence may produce results that seem coincidental, but are really important information you received because you were open to it. Synchronicity, serendipity and synergy are real forces even if they don’t have a logical explanation. This focus is a definite upgrade to Heart 2.0 – an operating system that does much more than pump blood.

Listen to your heart, and take good care of you while you explore your uniqueness and discover the important work that you came to earth to do. Come out of the chaotic shake-up ready to do the right things for the right reasons. That may well be the real reason you’re here in the first place.