Monthly Archives: November 2016

Make It Happen

By Melisa Portela, Simple Intentions Lead Consultant: LATAM Region

What if I don´t succeed? What if I cannot make a living out of what I want to do? What if I am not cut out for this? What if this is just the way things are? What if…?

Any of those questions could have prevented me from making one of the necessary life changes I’ve made so far. But the choice was mine, and mine alone, to consciously decide to take a different path in life – one that could bring me purpose and leave me more aware, more awake, and more connected with the joy of being alive. A path in which not every single thing I did was a struggle, but instead could be an enormous joy.

So often we find ourselves feeling like we have no options. We feel stuck, thinking that we have no alternative other than to bear with the relationship we’re dissatisfied with, bear with the job we dislike, settle for less than what we want, and the list goes on. It´s like hitting a wall: we don´t see what can be done to turn things around, and it is then that we fall into resignation. We turn to justification, and create a story to tell ourselves why we are not living the life we want, not in the relationship we hope for, or not going after our dreams. And there lies the risk.

When we live in resignation and say things like “this is just the way things ARE”, “this is the way I AM”, “this is the way my partner IS”, we block the tremendous potential for growth and transformation that we all have. We are the ones that can make things HAPPEN, and the main ingredients are simply: intention, willingness and action. With intention and willingness, we are able to start to create a future that is different from the past. To make that a reality, we need to take a different set of actions than the ones that led us to feeling stuck in the first place.

It is only then that a new horizon of possibilities opens up to us. All of a sudden, we see a ray of light where there used to be darkness, we see abundance where there used to be depletion. Finally, we can move into action. We leave our comfort zone. Maybe we leave a situation that brought us security but no satisfaction at all. Or maybe we hit the road (either literally or figuratively) with an intent on living the life we want for ourselves. From that moment on, everything falls into place. It is like finding a piece that gets us closer to completing the puzzle. We connect deeper with ourselves and start being more aware of the choices we have, and the consequences of such choices. We start living a life that is in alignment with our values.

Deep down, everybody knows what it is they need to create positive change. The distance between reality and our dreams lies with intention, willingness, and action. And the choice is ours to start anywhere, at any point in our life, and to create more awareness around the choices we make each day that either support or sabotage our desired outcomes.

What if I had not made the choice? What a life I would be missing!

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Assume Positive Intent

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post]

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It’s easy to get hooked in our modern world. Meaning many times each day we feel resistance when conversations, outcomes, projects and meetings don’t go the way we hoped they would go or as we had planned. Perhaps someone who works for you delivered an underwhelming performance, or you disagree on strategy with your manager, or a friend/family member holds views that are very different from yours – regardless of the scenario, the feeling we experience is similar.

Some common emotional responses when things don’t go our way are we feel wronged, invalidated, frustrated or at times angry, and likely our responses (conversations and actions) reflect that. This only compounds the feelings we are experiencing and creates a mirror reaction in the person or people with which we are engaged.

At times, we may feel as if the person or people who triggered us did it intentionally or on purpose -which rarely ends up being the case. Most people wake up each day with a desire to do good and be good in this world.

We live in a world composed of 7 billion unique people each with his/her own idea of what “do good” and “be good” means – none of which are more right or more wrong than the other – just different. It is true that at times we harm each other with words and actions, disappoint each other, miss expectations or plainly act as a jerk. And it’s also true that most times these choices are not premeditated – the intent of the action is not to harm, disrupt or divide.

There is a different choice each one of us has when we feel hooked or triggered and that choice is to assume positive intent. This doesn’t mean ignore your feelings of displeasure. Rather, address them from a different place – one that starts with assuming the others involved started with a positive intent that just didn’t land.

Next time you feel hooked or triggered experiment with making a choice to acknowledge that it was positive intent that created the situation and can get you out of it as well. The choice is yours.

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Enough

By Joanna Fuller, Friend of Simple Intentions

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In May 2014, after more than 20 years in the workforce, I decided my life was overdue for a change. And so, as any relatively sane, single person might do….naturally I ran away and joined the Peace Corps. I left my job, rented my house, packed two bags and boarded a plane for Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia.

Like the word Timbuktu, people often use Ulaanbaatar to mean the middle of nowhere, or a place so far away you actually have no idea where it is. But UB wasn’t my final destination – that was a twelve-hour bus ride west, in a small, provincial center called Bayankhongor, where I lived and worked for two years as a secondary school English teacher, helping prepare students for life outside the nomadic herding tradition of their parents and grandparents.

As a volunteer, life was stripped down. I lived with a host family and while I had my own small room—equipped with the luxuries of a twin bed, a small sink with cold running water, a single electrical outlet, a stove and refrigerator—I lacked both an indoor toilet and a shower. I washed clothes by hand and had heat from October through April, though it regularly snowed September through May. A big adjustment from life in America.

It’s funny, though, how adaptable we humans are. Soon, my tiny room became cozy and comfortable. Walking to work (we weren’t allowed to drive) became daily meditation. Cooking simple meals with the ingredients available became a creative endeavor, best enjoyed family-style, with my site-mates and our Mongolian friends.

I thrived in the simplicity: On the one hand, I did tire of wearing the same clothes every week; on the other, I stopped thinking about what to wear because with limited options, the decisions were few. Cleaning my home took ninety minutes or less, including time to hand-wash my clothes. And with nothing much besides food and school supplies to buy, there was little time spent shopping or tending to things.

I’d never before realized just how much of my daily life in America had been consumed with processing decisions about what and how much to buy. Being free of that demand was nothing less than a giant Hallelujah. So, when I came home this past August, I figured I was permanently enlightened. That, having seen the image in the Magic Eye poster I’d never again be able to un-see it and would easily fulfill my intent to bring this simplified life to America.

Nope.

Returning to America after two years was like booking a week at the swankiest, most decadent spa resort in the world. I could have whatever food I wanted, any time I wanted it. I could get in my car and drive (on paved roads!) to places where I could buy anything I desired. I could swim around in a queen-sized bed, throw my laundry into the washer and walk away, turn the heat in my house to the exact setting of perfect comfort. It was so good.

But it wasn’t long before I grew accustomed to those things, and needed more and more input to get the same rush as in the first few weeks of my return. Suddenly all the things I’d been able to live without in Mongolia became things I had to have, now that I could, in America.

I determined I needed new clothes for interviews and eventual work. I started going out to eat with friends—a lot. I decided it was time to replace my fourteen year-old car. I looked around my twenty-year old home that had seen better days, and it was “clear” that new carpets were in order, not to mention a full interior paint.

But after weeks of adding to my to-buy list, in one particularly anxiety-ridden moment, I simply stopped. I took a deep breath and reminded myself: You haven’t spent this money yet. And even better, you do not have to.

Maybe that seems obvious. Maybe it seems ridiculous that I even got that worked up, and maybe I just have a problem that no one else has. But I don’t think so. I think consumption is the air we breathe in America. I think I was simply sliding back into old habits and a culture I was used to: responding to advertising and the availability of goods and services (and free financing!) all around me, not to mention the way so many others around me were living. In some ways, wasn’t I just fitting in?

But I knew I didn’t want to live that way. I’ve come to believe that the question I’m answering almost every time I buy something new is not, “Do I have enough?” but, “Am I enough?”

  • Am I enough if my house doesn’t look like it belongs on HGTV?
  • Am I enough if my closet isn’t “fashion-forward,” or if I don’t look as hip as my friends and co-workers?
  • Am I enough if I can’t—or don’t want to—afford to meet friends at expensive restaurants?

The answer every time should be yes. But the culture here is strong, and the truth is, when I feel different from the people around me, I can also start to feel less than.

So that’s the work I need to do if I want to enjoy the peace and freedom I experienced in Mongolia.

But equally, I don’t want to lose the ability to enjoy the wonderful luxuries we have here in the States. New carpet and new paint in my home aren’t just indulgences, they’re also good stewardship, and part of my desire to have a home I enjoy and that’s a welcoming place for friends and family. A small, professional capsule wardrobe makes sense and can be invested in wisely. An occasional meal out can be a fun and relaxing way to connect with friends.

There’s an art, I’ve come to believe, in allowing myself to indulge often enough that it brings joy, but not so often that I become desensitized to the experience.

So of late, I’ve adopted a quick, two-part framework for guiding how and when I make purchases:

  1. The UB rule: In Bayankhongor, shopping was so limited that most purchases had to wait for the twelve-hour bus ride to the capital, which only happened every few months. If I ran out of peanut butter or popcorn, I did without until the next trip. So the UB rule is: With the exception of groceries, I can only make purchases after observing a waiting period of at least a month. Very often, I find I’m OK without. If I do go ahead and buy it, I usually treasure and enjoy it all the more because of the wait.
  2. The “What is it, really?” rule: If I’m tempted to break the UB rule, and to make a purchase in the heat of the moment, that’s usually an indication I’m trying to fill an emotional need, something another purchase won’t actually resolve. If there’s something I feel I absolutely have to have, right now, I ask myself what I’m really trying to buy, versus what I need. They’re not usually the same. Am I feeling lonely? Downloading and binge-watching a full season of Girls isn’t the answer. I need to reach out to my real-life friends. Feeling down about myself? New clothes might be a temporary salve, but more self-care is probably in order: I can cook a flavorful, healthy meal (even better with friends) or go to the Y for a swim. Usually the things I truly need don’t cost much money at all.

I’m no longer under the illusion that living simply is simple in America. But as I work through the complicating factors of culture and my own ego, I’m more convinced than ever that with commitment, community, and mindfulness, it’s more than possible.

By making a commitment to live with what I have, I’m finding time and space to enjoy my life at home more than ever before. As in Mongolia, my home is becoming cozy and comfortable as it is. I’m taking more time to enjoy simple meals with friends and family. My daily walks and bus rides to work have become cherished time for reflection and for just enjoying the beautiful scenery.

As Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast.” And I have—and am—enough.

 

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Stayin’ Alive

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in the Oct. 2016 issue of Mindful Magazine]

In 2007 I collapsed from exhaustion at an event that I was producing. It was the culmination of far too many hours working, the lifestyle choices I was making (and not making), and the always-present stress of trying to be “perfect” at my job.

My doctor said my body was in adrenal fatigue and that my career was killing me. His advice? Get a new job. I knew that wasn’t the “right” conversation – yet I didn’t know what was. I chose to stay on, but went deeper into my own mindfulness practice to try to understand what had happened. Over the next year, I discovered that the right conversation sits in the knowledge there is a choice regarding the type of relationship you want to create with your work.

For those of you flirting with burnout, you are not alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of people feel stress at work. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 75% of all doctors’ visits are stress-related. There is hope, however. And it comes down to being present to what’s happening in your life, and acting with mindful intention to make some changes.

Burnout is not so much about the specifics of your job. It’s mostly about the choices you make (and don’t make) about how you want to live. Being aware of these choices, and approaching the inherent stressors in any job with mindfulness and clear purpose can transform our relationship with stress – and put work in its place. To start, here are some actions you can take in the moment to redefine your relationship with work.

Define the core issues

Can you pinpoint what causes the overwhelm? Is it a capacity issue? Do you have more work than hours to complete? Is it a skill issue? Is there a gap in the skills you have versus what is required? Is it a communication issue? Are you able to share what’s causing stress? This is your first step: Collect all the relevant data so you know where to focus solutions.

Befriend your body

How do you hold stress? Maybe you grind your teeth at night, experience a knot of tension in your neck, or have trouble staying asleep. Now think about what helps you to unwind. Taking a lunch-time walk outside, going for a post-work run, or getting a weekly massage, as examples. Regularly tune into your body so that you can recognize the earliest signs that stress is present, and take the preventive actions you’ve identified to work through it before it overwhelms.

One step at a time

You didn’t arrive at burnout overnight, and the process to undo some of the habits you created will take time. Pick one behavior right now that you can consciously begin to shift. For example, create clear start and end times for work each day. The flexibility that technology and remote working offer can be overwhelming and contribute to burnout if boundaries between work and non-work time are not well-established.

Share what you need

Professional stress can be extremely isolating; we often withdraw in order to “deal with” work issues on our own. But letting the people in your life know what you need to feel supported is essential for putting things in perspective and managing stress. None of us can do it all alone. Your colleagues and loved ones won’t know how to help if you don’t tell them

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