October 21st, 2014 by Katie Morton
First of all, I unapologetically love Oprah. I know that some people don’t feel cool saying they love Oprah, or they need to qualify it somehow, but no. Not me. My love is not ironic. It flows freely. I honestly don’t understand how or why you could not love Oprah. If Oprah made a Kool-Aid, I would buy it.
I actually did sample some Oprah Chai Tea at Starbucks during the weekend and this was as close to Oprah Kool-Aid as you can get; it was so sweet, I wound up using it as sweetener in my black coffee. And it was delicious. I felt closer to Oprah for having drunk it, as if I had consumed her essence. Okay, maybe now I’m joking, but only a little bit.
Above is a photo of me (left) with my friend, Laura (right) who flew all the way from California to hang out with me for the weekend. Laura and I had been emailing each other back and forth for a couple months before she entered my little contest to join me for the Oprah weekend. I had my daughter draw names to make sure the contest was unbiased, and I was thrilled when Laura’s name was picked. As expected, we had a fantastic weekend together, and I hope we share many more adventures.
When we first met up on Friday at my brother’s apartment, my mind was spinning in circles, and I’m afraid I wasn’t being coherent. (Poor Laura.) You see, I’d been invited to participate in an interview on Huffpo Live (I appear in minute 24 of the 28-minute interview if you want a peek.) And media interviews can sometimes make me a little nervous in the moments leading up to them.
The interview was with Oprah’s trailblazer, Life Coach and Author Iyanla Vanzant who was promoting the Life You Want Weekend and her TV show. I asked Iyanla if I should blog my book for free, and she said NO – ALL YOU GUYS SHOULD PAY FOR IT. So there you go. Iyanla said y’all need to buy my book. But I did blog the first chapter before Iyanla got to me, so that’s out there for your perusal. This is the second time a best-selling author has warned me NOT to blog the book. This brings me to my first lesson of the weekend:
1. When Life Speaks, LISTEN
Oprah says that this point is largely the secret of her success. She followed the signs. She stayed connected to God. She listened.
Life is always speaking to us. It starts with a whisper. Just a simple message. Our ears perk up. Yet, if you’re anything like me, there have been countless times when you have promptly begun digging a hole so you can bury your head in the sand to ignore the message.
If we don’t listen, and we raise our rumps in the air while we keep our heads down in the sand, then life is going to pelt your tuckus with a pebble. The pebble means you’ve got a problem. You didn’t listen to the whisper that could have steered you the right way, and now you’ve got something to fix. You’ve got clearer direction, but you also have a little problem to clean up.
If you still don’t listen, you get hit by a brick. Now you’ve got a crisis on your hands. And if you still don’t listen, you’re going to run face first into a brick wall. Now you’ve got trauma and disaster. Slow clap, genius.
2. What you put out is coming back.
Call it karma, call it the law of energy, what you put out there in the world – what kind of effort you make and towards what – is going to come to you, both good and bad.
For example, if I try to be of service and write helpful blog posts, good things come back to me. If instead I stay self-absorbed and I worry about what everyone thinks of me and I judge others and I gossip, then that’s coming back to me.
3. You get to choose your thoughts.
Oprah says, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” So are you. Choose your thoughts, choose your emotions, choose your actions, choose your life.
We often feel like we’re not in the driver’s seat. We wonder how we got here or what we did to deserve this. Your thoughts precede everything. Your thoughts are creative, and they create your emotions, which result in your actions. Your actions each day add up to your life.
You might think you can’t control your thoughts. Maybe you were conditioned by overly pessimistic or critical parents. We all have to train our brains, no matter our start in life.
Watch your thoughts as a dispassionate observer. My recommendation: try Headspace, an app that helps you learn how to meditate in a painless, easy, simple way. (No, I’m not an affiliate or trying to sell you something, I just really like that app. And if you don’t meditate, it’s a great way to start.)
4. You become what you believe.
I’ve seen this play out in my own life. If you want to have a certain belief – like I am strong, I am powerful, I am a success – you can look for proof, which will strengthen your beliefs and help you become more of what you want.
I won’t even get into all the negative things we tend to believe about ourselves, but it’s important you give that stuff the old “heave ho” and to create some empowering beliefs that are going to get you to where you want to go in life.
An old belief I had was that I can’t get up early in the morning to write. That was really unhelpful. I’m starting to understand that I can choose to believe that I love early mornings because they feel good and they help me get more out of life. I believe that using my early mornings productively aids in my success.
I think one of the most important beliefs we can hold for ourselves is: I am important.
Because we are! You have no idea the impact you have on people and the ripple effect this causes throughout others’ lives, for better or worse.
Sometimes I think back on old coworker who felt powerless and who used to attack her managers (myself included) precisely because she felt like a victim and like she wasn’t in control. She thought that she wasn’t the captain of her fate and so she struck out in nasty ways. That negative energy she put out still reverbs to this day. If she had put all that energy into positive actions and into understanding that she is important, and that what she says and does matters, then our time together could have been happy and fun and bright, as opposed to the frightening, psychotic, combative mess it was.
5. How to heal your relationships.
Like the last story – we feel so unimportant and this leads to our pretending our thoughts, feelings, and actions don’t matter.
You are worthy. So act like it. I don’t mean to go acting all demanding and like you need to be worshipped.
I mean when your daughter asks to sit on your lap, and you want to tell her no because you’re working on something you think is “important” – know that you are worthy of putting aside that work. And that you are so important that it matters whether you turn that child away or whether you gather that kid up into your lap.
You are worthy of that child’s love. And of your partner’s love. So act like it. Accept their love and give love back.
If you’ve got a difficult relationship with a friend or a parent and this person just sets you off in all the wrong ways, consider that maybe you are fumbling and scrabbling for a sense of worth. You want to be held with esteem in their eyes and it makes you angry that you don’t think they value you. You are coming at the equation from the wrong side; you need to see yourself that way. Hold yourself with a sense of worth. Then give love freely, regardless of their messes and neuroses and their floundering for self-worth.
6. Know what you want.
In one year, how do you want your life to transform? Tell the Universe what you want – give it clarity. If you’re confused and messy, that’s what the Universe gives you. Stand in clarity and decide what you want, because that’s what the Universe brings.
I wrote about this yesterday in my post 10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True: “…start collecting ideas for your life that make you feel excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities…Just keep some kind of simple record of what your dream for your life is.”
Go on, make a list!
7. Do all you can, then surrender.
Oprah admits that when you cling to a dream, when you want to force it, things aren’t necessarily going to go your way. You need to put it out there – decide what you want and go for it, but then surrender. Blow a kiss on the wind.
This reminds me of a story about Jerry Seinfeld. When asked how he is so prolific and successful, he said the formula is this: he writes jokes every day, and he marks a calendar with red X’s for each day he writes. No matter the rollercoaster of success, whether some of his projects do well while others bomb, he just keeps showing up every day and collecting those red X’s, and seeing that string of red X’s is all you need to worry about.
Choose what you want to do with your time, and make sure you love it. Make sure when you look at that string of red X’s, it was worth doing. If it’s a string of red X’s that represents self-destructive behavior or if it’s something doesn’t bring you to a state of joy or flow, then rethink your thoughts and actions.
I leave you with this quote from musician Jason Mraz that sums up the weekend quite nicely: “Life doesn’t come at you. If comes from you.”
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October 20th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo Credit: Valerie Hinojosa / Creative Commons
About a year ago, I was waking up before dark every morning. I had a set of rituals that I knew would put me on course to the life of my dreams.
The only problem was – and this was a big one – I was chasing the wrong dream. At the time, I was working at being a life coach, and I was thinking that I would write novels once I retired. I actually wrote this to a friend in an email a year ago, that I would write novels when I retire, and not long after that, my coaching business circled the drain. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, my prayers were being answered. The Universe always has our backs.
Cue the sound of a needle scratching a record. Is there anything you tell yourself you will do more of “when you retire”? If so, then there’s a big chance you should be making more time for it NOW – not some far off time that might never come.
There’s no final resting place during this life when you’re free to prance through a meadow. It’s imperative we make sure to have fun now, along the way, or we waste the whole shooting match on boring obligations.
Here are the 10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True – today!
1. What’s your dream?
This is honestly the trickiest step. We complicate the heck out of it. We think, “What’s my life’s purpose?” and then we break out into a cold sweat. Start with the easy stuff. What feels good to you?
If you aren’t sure, then pick up a magazine, and without thinking too hard, tear out pictures that speak to you. Now you’ve got the start of a vision board (or box – if the thought of hanging a vision board on your wall makes you cringe, just collect photos in a box. Easy peasy.)
You don’t need to decide everything right this instant, but just start collecting ideas for your life that make you feel excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities. If you don’t feel like working with images, then write some things down. Just keep some kind of simple record of what your dream for your life is.
Without having to consult a magazine, images that come to my mind are sunny nature scenes. I also like the idea of someone wrapped in a cozy sweater and sipping coffee while they smile at a laptop. (That’s me right now.) I’m a writer, so I’m now committed to writing every day. One day I will own a beach house. That’s about it!
2. Decide and believe.
Many of us will pick a delicious dream for ourselves and then immediately start pecking furiously at the edges with a list of ways it can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t work out for us. Stop that!
If there’s a word for both deciding and believing in one fell swoop, the word would be commitment. You have to commit to your dream. Don’t just put it in a box and close the lid, never to see the light of day. You have to take it out and fondle it…every…day. Take it out, play with it, give it some air.
Decision + Belief = Commitment
Decide you want your dream to happen. For real. Believe it will and can happen. For real. This is the magic sauce that will help propel your dream into reality. If you don’t decide and believe, and therefore commit, well then…as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
3. Release fear.
This next step isn’t a one-time event. It’s probably something you’re going to have to do over and over, every time you notice you’re stuck and you’ve stopped forward momentum.
We disguise fear under logistics all the time: “Oh, I don’t have time to go after that dream, I need to make money!” Sure ya do. So get up earlier.
“Well then I don’t have time!” Sure ya do. So get up earlier.
“But then I’ll be exhausted!” Here’s the thing. Last year, when I was getting up early, it was a bit of a battle. I was always feeling like it took heroics to drag my limp carcass out of bed that early.
It’s all in the attitude. This go round, I decided it was going to be easy and exciting to get up early to write every day. I decided it’s not going to be difficult. I decided to get the sleep I need, and not be so dramatic and sacrificial about getting up early.
Choose the right attitude. Release fear. Repeat.
4. Take action!
Eegads, finally, the part where we actually DO stuff. Figure out what you need to DO to make your dream happen.
Then go do it.
To sum up step four, take action daily.
5. Love yourself.
It’s really easy to lose the plot in the frenzy of daily living. Just slow down, pump the breaks, relax. Listen.
Take quiet time alone every day – again, early morning if need be – to reflect, read, write, and to hear yourself think. Give yourself the time and space to feel your feelings and organize your thoughts so that you may stay in touch with your own needs and desires for your life.
6. Use other’s success as inspiration.
When you notice someone more fortunate, practice saying to yourself, “You know what? I want that, too! I’m going to figure out how and make it happen!”
If we want good things to happen to us, we have to stop judging others negatively for the good things they bring into their lives. Judging and criticizing others is such a silly energy drain. I will go out on a limb here and say that the majority of people who judge others negatively for their success don’t realize they do it, or they don’t realize there’s anything wrong with doing it.
I saw a Facebook comment the other day that basically said all rich people are thieving, greedy liars and that all poor people are generous and would give you the shirt off their backs. Nonsense. NONSENSE. That’s a waste of breath right there. Bill Gates has donated $26 BILLION to philanthropic causes. I would rather imagine all the good Bill’s money is doing out there in the world than to take one second to consider accepting the smelly shirt off some guy’s back.
Instead of being Judge-y McJudge Pants, use others as inspiration: see what you want, and figure out how to make it happen. When you paint everyone who is rich with one brush (bad) you are going to repel money like it’s your job. Money isn’t imbued with magical good or evil qualities. It’s just money. It helps you live comfortably. Accept it without making bizarre value judgments.
7. View mistakes as lessons, not an excuse to give up.
This happened to me last year when my coaching business took a nosedive: I panicked, and then I gave up. Which was fine, because I realized that coaching wasn’t my dream after all. When things didn’t go well, I didn’t think, “Just a bump in the road, let me fix this.” Instead I thought about all the hours and days I’d spent on the administrative junk: the web pages I developed, the excruciating task of writing sales copy, and the PDFs I’d created, and I realized that this wasn’t my dream. I hated that stuff.
I just like writing.
I didn’t learn that lesson right away. Instead I spent lots of time saying, “Woe is me,” and panicking about money, and panicking about finding work, and just generally spending all of my time panicking. In case that’s not clear: I panicked.
It took me a really long time to simply view my mistakes as lessons. Instead, I did all the stuff I coached other people not to do. Like when you make a mistake, it’s not a reflection on your character. It’s just data about what you should do next.
Finally, after close to a year of panic followed by wallowing, I’m back!
8. Value tiny decisions.
The decision to get up early every morning is a momentous one. The tiny decisions happen every single day, when I look at the clock. Do I get up, or do I stay in bed? Every little decision, everything single thing we do, matters. Because what you do determines who you become. And who you become means either your success at achieving your dream or your failure. Choose wisely.
9. Don’t let bad habits win.
It’s so easy to blame our small lives, our tiny, chronic failures on our bad habits. We get sucked into the couch for TV marathons. We get sucked into pizza boxes and chip bags and some of us (ehem) even get into the habit (and then out of the habit and into the habit) of using beer or wine “to relax” when the going gets tough.
Then we spend all our precious energy on CRAP like trying to lose weight or break these bad habits. What you think about is what you get. If you spend all your time obsessing about your bad habits, your whole life is going to be a Sisyphean task of rolling the boulder up the hill while you resist, followed by getting steamrolled when you get tired and give in.
And yes, I’m speaking from experience. I say this with the utmost kindness and respect to both myself and to you: GET A LIFE. It’s only when our habits stand in the way of the life of our dreams that we will be compelled to chuck the now-annoying habits to the curb. Dream big, take action, worry about your habits some other day, like when they prevent you from getting up early.
Oh, and see step 3: release fear. Usually our bad habits are nothing more than a tepid attempt at escaping fear, but then we’ve really gone down the rabbit hole INTO fear when we do things that are self-destructive as an escape. Release fear, don’t try to numb it; it doesn’t work that way.
10. Believe the Universe is friendly.
Here are two quotes for you:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
– William Hutchison Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I could really boil this post down to 3 steps:
1. Dream big.
2. Act consistently.
3. Be amazed as the Universe conspires to help you achieve your dream.
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October 4th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo Credit: maf04 / Creative Commons
In Mark Nepo’s book, 7,000 Ways to Listen, he says that humans are the only species on Earth given the choice of whether to bloom into our highest potential or not. A flower can’t help but push up through the darkness to open into the sunshine, to reach the fullness of their beauty without having to debate the topic or wonder whether they should.
Most of us humans, with choice, as we’re given the free will to bloom into our highest potential, most of us stay down in the dirt, wondering whether it’s worth the effort to grow and bloom and feel the sunshine on our faces.
For me to bloom into my highest potential, I only have to write everyday — something I love doing anyway. (For you, it might be something else. Think about what it might be as you read this.) Yet, I complicate the living bajeezus out of this one simple act of sitting down to write every day. Instead, I research and read self-help books and spirituality texts and I brood and worry and I distract myself with Doritos. Your distractions might be different.
The point is, we all know of one activity, that if we just made just a little bit of time to do it every day, it would probably transform our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. It could bring us from seeds in the dirt into the full bloom of our potential, of living a life beyond our wildest dreams. Yet we lay in the dirt, debating the merits of blooming.
Why do we do this?
If I would just write every day…this for me is blooming. For you, again, it might be something else. If we do this one thing, all the other stuff will come: book sales, an agent, a publisher, a book tour, speaking engagements. I know this to be true.
Why Do We Fight Blooming Into Our Full Potential?
1. We are looking for proof before we do the work. A flower doesn’t ask if blooming — if pushing up out of the dirt — is worth the trouble. It just does it.
But as humans, we wonder, “What if we do all the work and we’re awarded all the accolades and the material benefits, and yet we still feel empty inside?” We will. But that’s a different issue that’s separate from living into our potential; solving the problem of feeling empty and not-whole begins with gratitude for your life, right now, as it is.
If you don’t appreciate what you already have, exactly as it is, then MORE solves absolutely nothing. So of course you wonder, “Why bother doing the work?” Because you know deep down that MORE won’t fill you.
However, when we learn to appreciate how much each of us already has, when we take the blinders off and get present to how great life is right now, then all of the awesomeness that comes from doing the work feels like the excitement of an Oprah giveaway!
2. What if I do the work, and I fail? Imagine a seed asking this question. Maybe there’s a rock blocking the seed’s passage to open air and it will have to grow a long shoot to get around the rock before it can burst through the soil. And maybe the flower succeeds at blooming, but there’s a drought and the bloom can’t be sustained and the flower will die. But even with all of this hanging over the seed’s head, it germinates and the flower still comes.
As humans, we use this kind of thinking to wheedle out of fulfilling our destiny. What if I bloom, but hit a wall eventually? So what? At least you bloomed. At least you made it out of the dirt and enjoyed the sun on your face before the drought hit. Imagine the alternative: you stay in the dirt, and then you die.
3. What if people don’t like me? Some people think carnations are cheap, dandelions are weeds, and roses are overplayed. Some people love mums or marigolds while others wouldn’t spend a cent on them. None of these opinions factor into a flower’s decision to bloom.
Yet people practically die with shame at the mere thought of putting their voices out there in world. “What if people think I’m stupid?” Who gives a sh** about their sh**** opinions, first of all. But secondly, the people who are drawn to your type of flower can only find you if you bloom.
4. I have the urge to bloom into a flower, but my parents told me that circus animals make more money. Imagine a flower seed saying this. It’s hilarious, right? But that flower’s parents were smart; their only job is to ensure the survival of their offspring and “circus animal” might be the hot occupation du jour — an easy way to make a living — the flower’s natural instincts, talents, and strengths be damned.
Circus animals must perform tasks they might not feel like doing on command almost every day of the week, but circus animals get fed. They are virtually guaranteed not to struggle for the natural resources they need to survive. What flower parent wouldn’t be proud…okay so the analogy breaks down at some point.
Are you following this analogy and what it’s done for humans? Where we go wrong might surprise you.
The problem isn’t that we become circus animals; it’s great to attract wealth and physical comfort via the material gains of a profession. The problem is that we forget that we’re flowers. We get caught up in the lights and the applause, and we forget that in our quiet downtime, in those dark moments before the lights come up, we need to cultivate the right conditions to bloom. We need to allow ourselves the time to come into our own, despite the flashing lights and the need to earn money and the external pressures of job and family.
It might be cool with you — and heck, I did the circus gig for years — I was fed very well, and I don’t take that for granted. My years in captivity at CNBC and AOL and Discovery allowed me to eventually become a freelance circus animal and I now make my living as an SEO consultant and a managing editor. I got that training by being held captive in a bright, flashy, fulltime circus for 15 years. And I’m still turning tricks for money, for which I’m unfathomably appreciative. Being grateful for my employment is part of my gratitude practice.
I can however — and we can all do this, no matter our station in life, from circus animal to living free in the wild — we can rise before the sun and we can BLOOM. We can do whatever it is that needs to be done in order to burst out of the soil. We can write, we can meditate, we can apply for our dream job, or we can just do whatever it is we yearn to do.
For me, it’s writing. So today I write. What are you going to do?
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