Tag Archives: Reframing

Spring Hopes and Dreams

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I’ve always compressed this quote from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, jumping from April’s cruelty to mixing memory and desire. There’s something of that to Spring. There are faint stirrings and vague thoughts of things left undone mixed in with the hopefulness of crocuses and lilacs and daffodils.


April seems a time of hope and new beginnings. Both Easter and Passover contain that element of being saved. And if you are saved from something, shouldn’t you be going on to do great things? Or at least to feeling happy and fulfilled? Taxes aren’t the only inventory April brings. Do you have memories of paths not taken? Desires yet to be fulfilled?

April is a good time to let go of regrets. For years, I worried about missed opportunities and paths not taken. I mourned them. I saw them as indications that I was somehow unworthy. As I’ve been interviewing women over fifty, though, I’ve seen another side to this. What did I gain by losing something? How did my life change for the better because I didn’t take that job or move to that city or stay put for the sake of a pension? There’s a quote in my office:

Say no to good to make room for the great.

My Spring inventory this year is different. What was the “great”? I’ve spoken to thirty-four women so far as part of my book project, 50 Over 50. Many of them walked away from high-powered careers. Something else was calling them. Some found space to be themselves. Some found peace. Some found opportunities to serve. All found meaning. And joy.

So, back to Eliot. And the lilacs. It’s time to remember the lilacs. How have you created lilacs out of the dead land?

Are You Open to Synchronicity?

I had an interview for 50 Over 50 with the always-interesting author and consultant Shoya Zichy this morning and she reminded me of the importance of synchronicity in creating an interesting life.

The following comes from Wickipedia’s discussion of synchronicity:

One of Jung’s favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”.[12][13]
‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

What does this have to do with synchronicity? For me, synchronicity is all about being open to all kinds of things. It’s about looking at the world a little differently. It’s about expecting good things to happen – a parking space opening up, meeting someone who leads you to your next job or life partner or passion.

How many ways can you put the details of your life together in a different pattern? How many different groupings are there for your talents? Are you looking for new experiences? Open doors to walk through?


Speaking to so many women who have been open to possibilities has been a joy. Helping others along this path is my passion.

Now What? Feeling Stuck After the Storm

It’s a couple of weeks since the storm; less since the snow. And it’s a gloomy, drizzly day. Many neighborhoods are cleaned up. Some have a long way to go. I’m finding a lot of gloom in the people I speak to as well. Cab drivers, strangers on the bus, friends are all sharing disaster stories. Most of these are not personal. They’re about people we’ve seen on television or read about. Some are about friends and family. Few are about personal loss.

What all these story-tellers have in common is a feeling of frustration and loss without any feeling of being entitled to feel this way. It’s an odd sort of depression – and maybe a degree of PTSD. It’s hard to not think of earlier catastrophes – all those people trying to recover in Breezy Point are also living in the shadow of the plane crash ten years ago. Homes that survived that have now been leveled. Many who lost their homes and belongings are the bedroom communities that sent loved ones off to work in the World Trade Center. And now this.

We think we’ve moved on, but maybe not. After our earthquake experience last year, I noticed something interesting in people’s reactions. In midtown Manhattan, people were making jokes about the experience. One woman on the bus was telling a friend on the phone that yeah, she was buried under a heap of rubble, but she had water, so she was fine. In lower Manhattan, though, people boarding the bus were silent and ashen-faced. Too many memories, even ten years later.

As we try to help those who suffered the direct impact of the storm, we might also take a little time for those on the periphery – including, perhaps, ourselves. We’ve contributed to the funds. Packed up supplies. Donated online. Volunteered. And it doesn’t feel like enough. We can help, but we can’t bring back the little, most important things – the keepsakes, the photos, and in some cases, the loved ones. We’re helpless and many of us are sad.

Sad. And feeling like that’s wrong. What, some of us are asking, do I have to complain about? My problems are so small. There’s something flawed in that logic, though. It’s a little like cleaning your plate as a kid because children in China were starving. How did your finishing the vegetables help those kids? Acknowledge that you are feeling lost and stuck if that’s how you feel.

This is a good time to reach out and help everyone you can. And a good time to be happy about doing that. And to know that you can’t do everything, yet every little bit contributes to the overall rebuilding.

It’s also a good time to take care of yourself. Reach out to your friends who are feeling the way you feel. Be kind to each other. Celebrating the love around you puts more love out into the world. Being happy doesn’t steal happiness away from someone else – it expands the pool of happiness.

Down Time? Maybe it’s Up Time.

I’ve just finished reading Duanna Pang-Dokland’s Inspired and Prosperous. Her interviews with eleven coaches include some wonderful ideas for revitalizing your life, whether you’re a coach or not. One theme that stayed with me was the ongoing discussion of the ebb and flow of business.

Do you have down time? Is that what you call it? How do you view it? It strikes me that calling the lulls in my business “down time” is a bad beginning. Many people spoke about being resilient and keeping a positive outlook. Donna Karlin’s   response spoke to my heart. She doesn’t see it as down time. She sees lulls in client traffic as the perfect opportunity to write, to work on projects, to renew.

I loved this – a lull in traffic? It’s an up time! Shifting to the perspective of the gift of time for other pursuits epitomizes abundance thinking to me. I plan to look forward to those breaks in the frenetic pace of meetings and appointments to turn to my unfinished project pile. What a great opportunity to read more, to write more, to try that new recipe, clean out the closets, meet friends for lunch or a walk. I might even meditate. I might even finish knitting that sweater.

The possibilities are limitless.

Disappointment and Happiness

Yes, you hold your happiness in your own hands. I’m reading Chip Conley’s Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness and Success and was struck by this: Disappointment = Expectations – Reality. He quotes Alexander Pope.

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.


Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to remember that life does not always work out exactly as we might expect. Sometimes, altering our expectations can be a good thing. Conley suggests, as an alternative, altering our beliefs about reality. Lincoln, he reminds us, led a life full of disappointments and lowered expectations. He became pragmatic about outcomes. He continued to set lofty goals and moved on to the next if he did not achieve the original goal.

I think, this year, I’m going to continue to aim high, periodically evaluate my version of reality and, from time to time, adjust the target a bit.

Maximize … Don’t Compromise

A card from the business game Gold of the Desert Kings reads,

Maximize … don’t compromise. There’s a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose!

I think about risk often. And I think about ambition and winning and losing. Is there nothing in between those extremes? It sounds like that middle ground is compromise and that compromise is never a good thing.

Then I reread the card and realize this is a comment about attitude. Compromise is not the middle ground. Mutually beneficial is.  Play big or don’t play at all. Be overly enthusiastic, overly generous, overly helpful, overly productive and enjoy every minute of it.

Goals – Out of Fashion?

Robert K. Cooper wrote about goals in a book called Getting Out of Your Own Way. I worked my way through this book slowly, taking time to think about the content and practice what I’d read. I’m once again thinking about goals and Cooper’s notion of Open Space Goals.

Goals can be tricky things. Some experts say that the only way to get ahead is to have specific, measurable goals. Another advocates ditching goals altogether. Yet another focuses on intentions. Cooper does a nice job of resolving this issue by setting up a continuum.

Most people don’t get very far, he says, because their goals are too narrow. He calls the first level of goals “stop goals.” You’re familiar with these — I’m going to stop spending and zero out my credit card balances; I’m going to stop eating. These are limiting because there’s no new state. Once you’ve accomplished the goal, what’s Next?

Usual goals have outcomes, but are still very limiting. If your goal is to save $1,000, what comes next? The solution? Think of some sort of stretch goals — often called Big Hairy Audacious Goals — that leaves you plenty of room to grow. Cooper contends that this is not enough either and can still be limiting. Get thin … win the marathon … become a multimillionaire …. These all sound good, don’t they? These are BHAGs that could take a lot of time and energy.

Go even further, Cooper urges. Set what he calls Open Space Goals. Open Space Goals allow room for creativity and growth in many directions. Open Space Goals allow us to create whole new ways of being. What if your goal moved from becoming a multimillionaire to financial freedom? This would mean that you wouldn’t be limited to the pursuit of money; your goal would also include lifestyle choices. You might decide that riches are less important than quality of life. Or you might want both. Helping the victims of Katrina might grow into finding ways to sustain residents in safe housing in storm-prone areas throughout the world.

Cooper’s model makes me think harder about how far I can stretch. What if we all thought and worked as if there were no limits?

A Few Thoughts on Happiness

I recently attended the first World Congress on Positive Psychology, so, of course, happiness is on my mind. I check the dictionary. The first definition, “the quality or state of being happy”, seems pretty lame to me. The second is a bit better. “Good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy,” gives me something to think about.

Are we only happy when fortune smiles on us? Studies show that lottery winners actually are slightly happy than the general population, but not by a great degree. Happiness turns out to be much more complex. It’s not a single thing and it has to do with our adaptation to what’s going on in our lives. As you might expect, happiness is also not meant to be a permanent state. Euphoria can get you locked up. As in all things, moderation is a wise choice.

Ed Diener, in a presentation at the Congress, defined happiness as subjective well-being. This explains miserable rich people and others finding great contentment in reduced circumstances. Diener broke happiness into two major areas: life satisfaction and positive engagement.

This made such good sense to me! Life satisfaction – income, basic needs being met, conveniences – is important, true, but not everything. Absence of these things is probably more important than their presence. This is why more money can give us greater life satisfaction, but doesn’t actually create positive feelings.

Positive feelings, it turns out, come from positive engagement. Public trust, learning, flow, and social support – all factors in positive engagement – activate a whole different part of our brain.

Diener suggested another major distinction. He differentiated wanting and liking. Wanting is centered in the thinking part of our brain while liking is centered in feeling – in the pleasure centers. So, for a materialist, happiness might be having what we want, while for a positive psychologist, it’s liking what you have.

How can you be happier? Learn to WANT what you will LIKE. When you want something, make a list of what it will bring into your life. Make an informed decision by comparing that list (choice components) to a list of what you like (enjoyment list) and look for overlap. If there’s little or none, maybe you don’t really want this.

Why might you want to be happy? Happy people live about five years longer, earn more, are more creative, and have more family and friends. If there’s a tiger in your path, it’s no time to be happy. Otherwise, as the song says, “Don’t worry – be happy!”

Tired of Complaining? Try Reframing!

It seems that more and more people are spending more and more time complaining. And yes, some things are not going all that well. But some things are pretty terrific. This clip was posted on YouTube recently and serves as a great reminder of taking a balanced viewpoint: Everything’s Amazing – Nobody’s Happy. 

You’ll have to pop on over to YouTube to watch it – it can’t be embedded elsewhere – so I’ll ask my parting question in case you wander off into the wonderland of videos: What do you appreciate RIGHT NOW?