You Are Who You’ve Been Waiting For

Catching water reflections (3)

“You are who you’ve been waiting for,” the speaker said with joyful tears in her eyes as she addressed a group of leaders. My colleagues and I were hosting the final event for a program designed for talented leaders in our organization. Our last speaker was reminding them that the future of the organization was in their hands, and the time to act was now.

She had moved up through the ranks in the organization and discovered at one point that her success and her future rested squarely in her hands. New and a little unsure in one of her first leadership roles, she realized she had the opportunity to be the person she always aspired to be and that no one else was going to do the work for her. It was a scary but ultimately liberating feeling. She encouraged everyone in the room to not wait for anyone else to solve problems, make changes, or meet goals. We could all trust and believe in ourselves.

We’ve been told to dress for the professional role we want or “be” the person we want to date. I also recently heard the phrase “water your own grass” rather than always looking longingly over the fence at the metaphorical grass that is supposedly always greener.

That advice could also be ascribed to martial arts: Adopt a black belt mindset when you are a white belt. Develop the heart of a teacher while you are a student. Train your coaching eye while you are learning. Be the type of black belt you admire. Don’t wait for your next class. Begin now.

Sometimes it’s easier said than done to make that type of change when we are nagged by those pesky human emotions of doubt, fear, envy, anger, and attachment. Sometimes those feelings can be overwhelming, and it’s very tempting to be critical of yourself or of others. Sometimes I struggle deeply with those feelings although I choose not to share my pain with anyone–maybe denial is another one on the list, ha ha. It’s easy to blame other people or circumstances, and that doesn’t make you an inherently bad person. It’s just a natural part of being human.

…but…with a little self-compassion, patience, and practice (okay, a LOT of practice) you can begin to change your mindset from one of seeing the world as an adversary to seeing it as an ally. Focus on what you can do and control rather than what you can’t. Pause, observe without judgment, and find ways to get back on track when harmful emotions overtake you. Forgive yourself for not being perfect and doing what you “should” do or having what you “should” have. (I’m still working on that one.) You may not be able to change all the situations or people in your life, but you can immediately change your responses to them.

And isn’t that a wonderful feeling when it begins to take hold? Isn’t it awesome that the person who could change your life is looking out from the mirror at you? You don’t have to wait until the right person, opportunity, project, or amount of money comes along. Change and improvement can begin right now with you.

Water your own grass. Be the person you want to fall in love with. Wrap that proverbial black belt around your waist.

You are who you’ve been waiting for.

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You ARE Something (Other People Believe It, So It’s About Time You Did)

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I’ve recently changed job locations within the company where I’ve been employed for the last nearly 13 years. It’s a bit of a homecoming since I returned to the hospital where I first began my career with the company. After a six year stint at our corporate office in an adjacent city, it was time for me to come home. A few weeks in I got a life lesson in how our perceptions of ourselves, who we are, and what we deserved can at times be flawed at worst, underestimated at best.

Last Monday the director of the department (I don’t report to her but we work together, and she manages the department where I’m now located) offered me a bigger office that had just recently been vacated. My initial reaction was to say no—(1) I was pretty sick from an upper respiratory infection and was out of it when she asked (2) I was being too impulsively sentimental and attached to my first “real” little office, and most importantly (3) I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by looking like the new kid who breezed in and took one of the biggest offices. We’d all gone through a difficult work situation that left many people feeling sensitive and vulnerable. I didn’t want to contribute to that…which is ironically a bit arrogant of me to make the assumption that I was responsible for everyone’s feelings and moods. I worry too much about what other people think under the guise of wanting to take care of everyone. All that’s done is cause unnecessary stress and heartache.

The next morning I changed my mind, took her up on her offer, and by the afternoon I was all moved in. I love my new space. It’s huge. I can even practice a form in there (slightly modified but still) if I wanted to. It turns out my assumptions about my adopted work team were unfounded. They’d wanted me to have that big office from the beginning and were very happy that it was finally mine. Several of them even stopped by and said so. Due to the nature of my job I have a lot of meetings, and many of them are very private coaching meetings. I needed a larger space so my guests and I could be comfortable.

The afternoon that I moved in to my big office I hosted a meeting with one of my coworkers and a mutual friend, a hospital leader whom we’d both worked with on different occasions. My coworker mentioned a recent disappointment she’d had on the job. She was feeling pretty down when one day she was contacted out of the blue by a recruiter. She ultimately didn’t take the offer, having decided to stay where she was, but she was flattered by the attention.

“It just felt good to know that I AM something to someone,” she said. The other woman and I nodded and smiled in understanding. I thought about how important it is to feel that, and it often takes an outside perspective to remind us of what we were too blind, self-conscious, distracted, or even self-centered to see in ourselves.

“I think you underestimated the support you were going to get when you came here,” the department administrative assistant told me the next day when was helping me set up my phone. Maybe, but I think it was more of a case of underestimating myself. I didn’t think I deserved the big office. I didn’t think that the work I did was important enough or that what I did mattered to other people. It took other people pushing me into a new space (literally) for me to see that hey, I do make a difference after all. I AM something.

So take that opportunity. Take what is being offered to you on a platter. Take the big office. Enroll in a college course. Apply for that job. Sign up for your first taekwondo class. Tell that person you love them. What is scarier? Acting on what you want or continuing to live in doubt, controlled by fear and anxiety? Say yes. Take it. You are worth it. You deserve it.

You ARE something.

Turn Your World Upside Down

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Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude….

Tonight in yoga class I did a headstand for the first time since I was in my mid-twenties….sort of. About halfway through class our teacher did a mini-workshop on the pose, which he had promised us after a request in last week’s class. He walked us through the process, emphasizing that no matter how good you get, you should always follow the steps to ensure safety.

“I ALWAYS measure my elbows,” he said, tucking the space between his forefingers and thumbs into the crooks of his elbows, “and make my base. Then I make my basket. No matter how good I get I always measure my elbows and make my basket.” He laced his fingers together and made a base for his head. Slowly he lifted one straight leg into the air, and then the other, breathing deeply and seeming to move his his legs and twist his torso with ease.

“What are you afraid of? What happens if you fall over?” he said after a few moments of watching us grunt and tumble around like puppies. “It’s just tadasana,” he continued, referring to one of the most basic yet integral poses of yoga. Tadasana is a standing pose that engages the entire body from the toes to the core to the crown of the head. It provides the sturdy frame for standing poses such as tree, horizontal poses such as plank and side plank, and even inversions such as headstand.

He motioned for me to come to the front of the class and help him demonstrate. After walking me through tadasana, signaling me to tighten up and straighten my muscles from my toes to my head he was able to move me back and forth like a stiff piece of plywood. I was feeling more confident. I can do tadasana all day. Just don’t ask me to do headstand again.

He then had me turn around and mimic the foundation for headstand of the elbows and forearms over my head, complete with the finger basket. “Oohh, I’m glad we wore the racerback top, that will really show off our swimmer shoulders and back muscles,” my ego chirped, elbowing me in the ribs. “Shut up, I’m trying to concentrate!” I whispered back.

At my teacher’s command I pressed my forearms and elbows up into his palms as if I were inverted and pressing my arms into the floor. Okay, I’m still feeling just fine in tadasana, and okay maybe now I’m ready for headstand, but…no, wait, I’m not ready!

I returned to the floor, measured my elbows, snuggled my head into my finger basket, and lifted one straight leg into the air. “Tadasana!” my teacher whispered, smacking the sole of my foot so I would flex it. Tentatively I lifted the other leg. For a split second I felt myself tip backwards and gasped in panic.

“It’s OK, I’ve got you,” my teacher said, tapping the back of my ankle with his hand. Slowly he backed away and before I knew it I found that I was doing headstand all on my own, built from a foundation of trust and strength I didn’t know I had. I tried it again on my own and couldn’t quite get both legs in the air, but I was very satisfied with that one time I was able to fully express the pose.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” my teacher said as he walked around the room and gently guided other students into headstand. “That’s why this pose is scary, but just remember that it’s only tadanasa upside down.”

How often to we back away from projects, opportunities, and even relationships because of the fear of the unknown? How often do we freak out and run the opposite way because something seems so scary and different and foreign that we can’t possibly comprehend making that change? How often do we not trust ourselves to provide that solid foundation when things get turned on their head?

I thought about the last time I did headstand as a young twenty something. I had no idea that my life would take so many twists and turns into the unknown. I had no idea I would change careers or go back to school. I had no idea that a great love would enter my life.  I had no idea that when that great love left my life and my world was turned upside down I’d still be standing strong on a foundation of trust and faith in myself. And of course I had no idea that I would be months away from testing for my black belt in taekwondo.

What are those “unknowns” that you are afraid of? Build your foundation of safety and trust. Does it still seem scary? Just try one foot at a time, one step at a time. Still scary? Rest for a moment….And then take a deep breath and move into it again. You’ve got this.