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

What Will The Monday Morning Armchair Quarterbacks Say About You?

Another trademarked big football game (I understand I’m not to use its actual “super” name without permission) has come and gone.  Don’t know much about that, but this new decade, starting with the turn to 2011, started off with a bang for me.  After a great year in 2010, a quiet holiday season and New Year celebration, with some planning for where we would take Creating Legacy going forward, things got right out of hand. Okay, well save for having someone run a stop sign and T-bone the passenger side of my car just before the holidays.  (Did you know it’s gunpowder that makes air bags go off – and before you know it, too? Saltpeter, the critical oxidizing component of gunpowder has a very distinctive smell and covers everything inside the car, including you … but that’s another story.)

Not in any particular order, because the order somewhat evades me now, just after the new year I got food poisoning and was out of commission with fluid and electrolyte imbalance (I won’t go into detail) for the better part of a week.  Brain cells, among others, don’t work all that well without the right balance of fluids and salts available in the watery soup that makes up close to 70% of our physical bodies.

Just as I was coming back from that, I experienced the unexpected earthly departures of two friends and incredible members of one of my home communities. As with everyone, they both left incredible legacies – with varying degrees of financial structure and personal involvement – which were recounted by folks attending their memorial services.

My first experience of death was of a best friend in grade school.  I bring this up not to tie legacy to that subject, as many people do, but to reiterate that everyone has a legacy.  Even she did, departing at such an early age.  Some of the spark of how she defined herself and lived her life – which I got to experience and benefit from – lives on with me even today. 

One of my two community friends, while an amazing artist who produced a great number of beautiful paintings, also left the same sort of legacy – a memory of the day to day experience of her presence and its solidly supportive countenance, something she was constant about giving no matter where she was involved.  No doubt that is what each owner of one of her paintings will remember most, even if later only the beauty of the artwork carries on.  Both are significant contributions.

My other friend and colleague, who made a great deal of money during career had already established a trust to return some of those funds to cared about causes in an ongoing fashion.  In a new period of financial independence, he was working at other important projects without regard to whether they produced any income.  And making an incredible difference with both efforts, absolutely loving his life.

Both left too soon, and fortunately, quite deliberately left significant marks that will carry on.

It is the choice to consciously build such a legacy, born of experience, career, and success (financial and otherwise), contributed actively during the prime of one’s life, that fascinates me.  Particularly because I know, no matter whom you are or what your resources are, that everyone has the capacity to make a much bigger impact than they probably think they can. 

People notice and will talk about it after you’re gone, but will it be what you really want them to say about what you were passionate about and how you got involved?  For how many generations will that acknowledgment continue – will your grand- or great- or great-great-grandchildren (if you have progeny) know you and what you contributed? Will the communities you’ve impacted know what it is you want them to know about your choice to impact what was important to you – and for how many generations from now?

Yesterday would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. Yes, as an American President (a legacy building effort in itself) he was known worldwide, so we expect that people will talk about his political legacy on such occasions. It will be done, as usual, in that Monday morning armchair quarterbacking way, where different views will be aired.  A perfect example is a recent Miami Herald article which focused on a three way debate over his legacy on war, taxes and government.

But again, you don’t need to have been a sitting president with a large library of work to leave a legacy. Anyone can do their work and live their life with a sense of personal meaning, and consciously create activities that not only demonstrate what they care about, but from which they actually build something tangible – from an artifact to a charitable foundation, and many other forms in between.  It can, and will be something unique to them, the only real questions are whether they – you – will define it and participate in it, and how long-lasting the impact of that effort will be.

With the right mindset, information and actions, it’s quite possible for your personal legacy to be something you clearly define, concerning something you care about from the depths of your heart and soul, that brings you a great deal of joy and satisfaction to create, and that benefits many, many people for a very long time. 

You have that power.  How will you use it?

I’m excited about our comprehensive legacy planning program The 7 Steps To Creating Your Legacy that we’ll be rolling out in new forms in 2011.  It’s part of my legacy – and the mutual goal Eliza and I have set to help others create 100,000 legacies. It’s a big goal, so I’d better get back to work.  Please do be in contact if we can help you, or your clients, understand the full picture of what’s possible, and the steps to creating a legacy blueprint to make it happen.

Cheers, Dolly

A Living Legacy of Chocolate Chip Cookies Designed To Carry On

Over seventy years of chocolate chip cookies is a legacy project that most everyone can relate to.  Not seventy year old cookies, relegated to a museum.  Rather a process of serving warm, just out of the oven cookies for people to enjoy week after week over that time.

Just goes to show everyone can contribute something – and with the right planning, what lives on beyond your lifetime can simply be an extension of what was joyfully given during it.  Candace “Dacie” Moses provides us with an example of just how big even a small gift, made sustainable, can grow to be.

Dacie Moses was a librarian at the Carleton College in Northfield, MN, in the U.S., where she was awarded an honorary master of arts degree in 1969.  But her real claim to fame, both in the legacy she defined and lived, as well as what she left for future generations is the Dacie Moses House.  During her life, Dacie invited students to her house for freshly baked cookies, Sunday brunches (for up to 50 people), to hold conversations, watch TV or play the piano, snack from her refrigerator or call home from her phone.

Valuing the creation of community around warm chocolate chip cookies and conversation, Dacie did one more thing before she died in 1983 at the age of 97: in her will she donated her house to the Carleton Alumni Association.  She
instructed that it be used as it was during her lifetime – available as a hostel for students and alumni, that the upstairs apartment be rented, and that the rents received be used to maintain and improve the property.  In a separate trust, she provided funds to pay for supplies needed to make sure the freshly baked cookies remain available and to cover the cost of the Sunday brunches.

Two students still live there each year, overseeing and caring for the house, which continues to be a student and  alumni gathering place.  Her own bedroom and private bath are rented out as a hostel to Carleton visitors.  The legacy Dacie lived, lives on to benefit others.  It now even has its own website, a following on Facebook, and a video on YouTube that chronicles Dacie telling her own living legacy story.

The following tribute was written about this legacy:

“Let it (Dacie’s home) become a place of ministry, the rarest kind of ministry, a ministry not of preaching or persuasion or programming, but of simple hospitality – for this was the ministry Dacie performed over
all those long and faithful years… In the hospitable space of Dacie’s house we have always been free to be who we are without embarrassment, inadequacy or shame.” 
(from the Carleton VOICE, Vol. 46, No. 3, p.34, by Parker J. Palmer, alumni 1961)

From the conviction of her values, her joy in life and a little bit of property, Dacie Moses created a lot in her life that she consciously designed as an enduring legacy.

Doing something similar requires only that you

  • take stock – of what you value, what brings you joy and what you have to contribute,
  • develop a structure for it,
  • find and coordinate the advisors you’ll need to make it happen, and
  • get it going in a way will live on when you choose to step away. 

At Creating Legacy, we help you put that all in place.  From a local community project to a global enterprise, the difference is only a matter of scale built on your unique desires and circumstances.  Who would you like to impact, and how?  I personally take great joy in helping people make that happen.

Just what might your legacy be?