Category Archives: Getting Out of My Own Way

Failure and Success

I love this quote because it’s so true even though it may not feel that way.

I’ve noticed that the primary difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people fail more.

— Martha Beck, How to Turn Failure into Success

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Filed under Compassion, Getting Out of My Own Way

Cartooning – Crazy, Random Pictures & Captions

In this Cartooning course exercise, I came up with some captions based on prompts (“a catchphrase”, “something you said earlier in the day”) and combined the captions with pictures I drew based on an entirely different set of prompts (“the saddest thing in the world,” “something sexy”)

The exercise is structure so there’s no obvious relationship between the captions and images. The fun here is to play around with the words and pictures to see if you can come up with some good combinations. Here “good” means if not funny at least it evokes some kind of emotional response.

See what you think:

angryladylessperfume Just Do It nextthingyouknow sadkitty_goddamnitlaundry_CoffeeshopBraszombie



By the way if these are confusing or don’t make sense, don’t worry. They don’t necessarily make sense to me either!



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Half Giddy, Half Terrified: Goal Setting with Teeth

For years (seriously for years) I’ve been fascinated by the questions “what would help people to do what’s already in their best interest.” It’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a coach.

Using myself as an example, when it comes to setting goals and knowing what to do to get to goals, I’m pretty darn good. I’ve done all the Franklin Covey courses, project management voodoo, etc. There’s a certain poetry in a well-done project plan.

And yet, none of that means much when I don’t do the actions on my to-do list, right. I mean, literally, I have specific items on my to do list that I have been putting off every single day for years.

There have been some interesting studies done on the conditions required to keep commitments. In some ways there’s a lot working against human beings when it comes to working towards long-term goals: lack of support, lack of immediate feedback, being unable to gauge your progress, etc, etc.

So I was very excited to learn about Beeminder, a service which helps you set and make progress towards your goals and offers a special incentive when you don’t do what you promised you’d do: you have to pay money. As they put it, “Goal setting with teeth.”

Dang, that’s smart.

The reason I also suddenly feel terrified is because suddenly, it’s really in my face: I set a lot of goals. A LOT of goals which is probably why I blow so many off. As I contemplated setting a goal using Beeminder, it occurred to me that whatever I worked on, it better be something I really want to have. Like all the sudden there’s skin in the game and I can’t dink around doing a little here and a little there.

I also found myself feeling embarrassed because although I like to think of myself as a committed, no bs kind of person, I’m clearly pretty indulgent in a lot of ways when it comes to meeting my goals.

So the prospect of using Beeminder feels like a “in your face” kind of challenge. But because I like these kinds of challenges and I’m really curious to find out if Beeminder will help me make real progress on an important goal that I’ve been a little reluctant to dig into, I really want to give it a whirl.

And I’m only going to choose one goal. I’m not that crazy.

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Those “Feelings” I’m Running Away From


Every time I talk about my recovery or therapy or any type of self-improvement program, somewhere in the conversation, I’ll say something like, “I don’t want to feel those feelings.” The phrase “those feelings” seems to be a weird sort of shorthand that is universally understood but I’ve never heard anyone actually say what “those feelings” are in a way that really nails it for me.

I think at the heart of “those feelings” is the idea that I’m unworthy.

Unworthy to be loved. Unworthy to be a part of the family or tribe or team. Deemed to offer nothing of importance.

It’s the black terror every infant must feel when they’re wet or hungry or cold and that discomfort doesn’t go away and there’s an nonverbal understanding that “I need something and I don’t always get it.”

And at some point in our very early development, I imagine, we begin to try to understand why. In the small world of an infant or very young child where parents are almost godlike, it can only be because “I’m bad.”

I  used to believe that there were things parents could do to eliminate this pain. My husband and I used to carry my infant son around in a snuggly so he’d always be close to us. But I’ve come to believe that this separation is part of the human experience and defines what we think of as “free will.”

Because at some point in our development, my development, I learned that that terrible sense of separation wasn’t so much about connection with another human being as it was my longing to connect with God. My ego, which I see as a servant whose purpose is primarily to insure my physical survival on earth does everything possible to make those feelings go away.

And in our culture which reflects the combined input of many egos tells us the answer is have more of what will solve the problem from the ego’s perspective: distract yourself or numb yourself. Neither of which work for any sustainable period of time (which makes for a thriving consumer economy).

What’s interesting for me is the lengths to which I’ll go to avoid this feeling.

In December last year I wrote about online shopping as a way I avoided my feelings. But it can really be anything at all:

  • Spending hours messing around on Adobe Illustrator to create the perfect outline.
  • Hair pulling.
  • Too many margaritas.
  • Too much junk food.
  • Watching an entire television series over a period of two days.
  • Picking lint off a sweater.
  • Or simply obsessing about how wrong and bad other people are.

It’s Wack-a-Mole: deal with one addiction and another will pop up in it’s place.

That’s not to say it’s hopeless. The hope lies in when I realize my ego is once again trying to run things and I need to turn that responsibility over to my Higher Power.

The pain of separation and unworthiness doesn’t go away. I think it’s part of the standard operating equipment that comes with being human. It’s actually about choosing to focus on my heart and spirit the reality of which is unity. It’s about making that choice more often on a day to day, hour to hour basis.




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Letting Go Isn’t Giving Up


My biggest objection to letting go of my judgment and chronic dissatisfaction has been my fear that if I stopped seeing what was wrong and the compulsion to say “this is wrong and things shouldn’t be this way,” it would be equivalent to giving up all hope of having a better life.

In fact, a few years ago, while attending a spiritual practices conference, one of the instructors confided to me, “people come here because they want to be happier and more successful but the truth is [God] doesn’t care if you’re wealthy and successful. It can be really tricky teaching people something the application of which may have unintended consequences for them.”

I can’t speak to the instructor’s frame of mind when he shared this but I know I felt a pang of fear when I heard what he said. What I heard him saying was, “You can do these spiritual practices and end up losing all your money because that is what [God] sees fit. And even though this may cause you tremendous misery and pain, [God] is doing it because it’s good for you.”

I know for myself, that’s the reason I’ve resisted spiritual practice for so long. Because we tend to hold that [God] is like a drill sergeant at bootcamp trying to shape us lazy, worthless humans into something worth letting into heaven. “OK, I’ll give you cancer and if that doesn’t give you the character and moral fiber required to be an angel, I give up.”

It’s funny to me how I see my higher power as being such a total asshole. You would think an Being that created everything might be above such petty concerns as “shaping humans up enough to qualify as angels.”

The point I really want to make is that I’ve believed that by letting go of my ego-driven judgment and need to feel superior, I would doom myself to a pathetic life of misery. You know, “Well, if I don’t care if I have a better job, I’ll end up working at some minimum wage fast food job for the rest of my life.” Or “I’ll just be stuck with my jerk boyfriend who cheats on me and criticizes me all the time.”

And in defense of the ego (so often portrayed as the BAD GUY in spiritual teachings) those attitudes…the need to feel superior and to create something better…got us out of touch situations when we were children. If you grow up with parents who don’t like the way things are but won’t do anything (because if I rock the boat I’ll lose my job) you learn those beliefs. You learn this is our tribe’s culture and if you want to be a member, you believe these things, too.

What I am learning as I continue to shift my attention from my ego (not making the ego the bad guy so much as a part of me that no longer needs to run the show) to the voice of my higher power, I’ve learned that letting go of ,judgment dissatisfaction, and fear doesn’t transform me into either some helpless lump who just has to put up with the indignities of life or into a woo woo flake who thinks “it’s all beautiful, man.”

There’s a reason it’s called Mind-FULL-ness. Both of those extremes seem rather mindLESS.

Letting go is a type of giving up but not what I think most of us view as giving up. I think the type of giving up most people fear including me is the fear that “I’m just not going to try anymore.” That is despair born of the fear that we are truly worthless.

The giving up that occurs when we say I’m going to let my higher power show me what I need is giving up on the idea that our ego knows what’s best for us. In my case, I stopped frantically chasing solutions. I stopped thinking, “Well if I could just find a better strategy to deal with this problem I’ll be happy and have what I want.”

Instead, I said, “I’m going to be quiet and listen more to what that little voice inside me is saying and follow what that voice is suggesting.”

This is not always easy. That little voice rarely gives me directives. Which is why I am in profound appreciation for the spiritual teachings that offer some guidelines to help when I get confused. Things like:

  • Am I reacting from a place of fear or am I being attracted because it’s something I love.
  • Am I finding my identification based on what I dislike or am against? Which feels like separation. Or am I encompassing something which is love.
  • Am I judging and making something wrong or am I open and curious?

I could go on but I think the best guideline for my intentions are:

  • Do I feel contracted, separate, and up against something? This is fear and ego.
  • Do I feel expansive, connected, and as though my heart is open? This is love and trust.

One last thing I’ll mention is I often get caught up in the idea that “This is a lot of work.” The way you have to “work really hard” to become an Olympic athlete. The implication being, my life is going to totally suck until I achieve some kind of enlightenment. Like in 70 years or so.

But it is far more subtle and a lot more rewarding than that. I have more moments when something that once made me nuts now just slides off my back. Based on what I defined as “success” earlier this year, that is quite an achievement because for me, the greatest freedom is to be able to be with any person or in any situation and be in a place of peace and service.

And from a business and prosperity perspective, I am far more empowered when I’m calm and lucid and I make way better decisions.


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Day 28: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Letting Go of Judgment


One of the toughest things for me to do is to stop judging. For most of my life I’ve taken a lot of pride in what I like to call my “sense of discernment.” It’s like being a connoisseur of whatever I want to be. Mistaking my opinion for expertise.

By definition, an opinion is a judgment but it is a subjective judgment meaning a judgment without much supporting evidence.

When you write a scholarly paper, one of the steps you take is to do a survey of all the research done on the topic about which you’re writing. This is to make sure you take into account previous evidence other people have discovered.

This doesn’t mean opinions aren’t important or valid. I know my emotional responses are important and worthy of taking seriously.

The distinction is an opinion is subjective and usually the result of personal experiences and beliefs. Two people with different experiences and beliefs can see the exact same thing and form very different opinions about that thing.

The visual that comes to mind for me is throwing a rubber ball at a wall. One wall is relatively smooth while the other wall is full of protrusions and odd angles. I think beliefs and experiences are like those rough walls with all kinds of angles and protrusions and each person has a unique “wallscape.”

So how the ball returns to you will vary a lot depending on the wallscape against which you throw it. The way the ball returns is the opinion each person forms.

Judgment can be a delicious addiction. One of my favorite questions to be asked is “Judy, what do you think about …?”

Oh boy! My ego is is rubbing her hands together in glee. And I’ll happily hold forth on the topic. I’ll get indignant and self-righteous. I may not use the word “should” but that word is lurking right below the surface.

And not just when I’m talking about something I don’t like. It’s there when I’m holding forth on something I like because if I like it, everyone else ought to like it as well!

I don’t think having an opinion is a bad thing nor is offering advice and suggestions. One of the most beautiful things humans can do for one another is to offer solutions and advice because I believe we are designed to be interdependent on one another as a reminder that we are not billions of separate bickering little entities in the grand scheme.

The question is: what is the source of the advice or suggestion? Is it our ego which is the part of us primarily concerned with survival? Or is it the Divine working through us?

How do I know?

If my judgment is about making me better than someone else however subtle that may look, it’s ego. This is because my ego wants one thing and that is relief from fear. If I’m better, not just as good but better, there’s good chance I’ll keep, maybe even grow my power and stay in the tribe.

If my judgment is about love, coming from a place of plenty, it’s the Divine working through me. The Divine isn’t worried about my survival. Fear isn’t part of the Divine.

Here’s an example of a suggestion coming from a place of Divine Love. When asked about the conflict in the Middle East, the Dalai Llama said, “People are too emotional. They need to calm down.” I’m paraphrasing a little here but that, in essence is what he said.

Now, the Dalai Llama is not the first person who has said that people need to calm down. It wasn’t what the Dalai Llama said. It wasn’t even the way he said it. It was the place from which his words came.

It was interesting also that the Dalai Llama responded to the question quickly and directly. He didn’t take a minute to contemplate what and how he would answer.

I think this is partly because he probably does spend more time than most of us contemplating these issues but I think it’s also because he spends a good chunk of his day in prayer and meditation when he is open and aware of God. Making himself a clear channel for the expression of God’s Love.

So from my perspective, giving up judgment means not going through my life with my ego holding forth on why I’m so much better and everything and everyone else is so much worse. It means:

  • Noticing when I’m in judgment.
  • Not participating when other people are.
  • Forgiving myself.
  • Opening up to Divine Love (which is what I really want to begin with).
  • Repeat as necessary.



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Filed under Getting Out of My Own Way, Mindfulness

Day 27: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – The High Price of Avoidance

As I contemplate my circumstances, it’s clear that I’m here because I’ve been avoiding stuff.

I feel I’ve addressed the issue of avoidance before but I have a deeper awareness now of what I’ve been avoiding and why it’s important to stop avoiding.

What have I been avoiding? Reality. The reality? People in small business do things and I take those things to mean I don’t have value. It’s all about my ego. No actually, it’s all about focusing on my ego’s reaction which is valid but not that important.

It’s about my decision to give my ego’s response and interpretation meaning and allow that meaning to guide my decisions and actions.

At this point, I’m considering the following actions and haven’t yet tipped in favor on any one in particular:

Look at technical projects that sound interesting and that I’m qualified to work on. This action supports finding contract consulting work.

Talk with people about their marketing and messaging challenges. This action supports creating a business.

Doing some exercises to help me better articulate what exactly I’m looking for which would actually support both since if I can better articulate what I’m wanting, I’m open to different ways to having those things.

OK, based on the above, adding some words to articulate what I’m interested in sounds like the way to go.

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Filed under Choosing Joy, Getting Out of My Own Way, Mindfulness

Day 23: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Unconditional Happiness

Yesterday I was listening to the Marianne Williamson’s Letting Go and Becoming and in particular, the part about how many of us make our happiness contingent on getting something we believe we lack.

That something can be just about anything: a relationship, a better job, a promotion. Or it could be about getting rid of something we believe is making our lives miserable: an impossible boss, taxes (especially this time of the year), an extra 20 pounds, etc.

As I was listening, it occurred to me that so often I’ll look back on a particular time in my life and think, “Wow, I had a lot to be happy about.” But during the time period I’m thinking of, I wasn’t very happy at all.

For example, I took two years off to get my MBA. I look back at this time now as one of the best in my life. But during those two years I would say I was rarely joyous.  I definitely had fun and had enjoyable moments, but I was always worried about my future and that had a big dampening effect on my happiness.

There are a variety of reasons people get advanced degrees like MBAs: a big one is the ability to earn more money. I worked in advertising: a field that doesn’t pay well especially at the lower levels. I wanted to be able to make enough to live on my own. Another big reason was to get a more satisfying job with advancement opportunities. As someone in the marketing profession, most large companies required an MBA to qualify for positions in brand management. I wanted better options.

So during the two years I was an MBA student, I constantly worried about getting a job after I graduated. I think getting a job probably occupied my thoughts at least 75% of the time. The classes I took, the part time jobs I had…even the people I hung out with to some degree was contingent on “Will this help me get a job off?”

The point is, because I was so focused on a future event, I didn’t enjoy the present much. As an example, I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor is a beautiful town. The campus itself is really cool and there are a lot of neighborhoods with old homes surrounded by large shade trees and gardens. I would often take long walks and even though part of me was enjoying the sights, in the back of my mind there was still that endless question beating away, “Will I get a job offer?”

If I wasn’t worrying about whether I’d get a job offer I was fantasizing about how it would be when I did get my job offer: the clothes I’d buy, where I’d live, the boyfriend I’d have, the cool things I’d accomplish, and the accolades I’d get.

I was in my head not in my life.

So this made me think, “What if the time I’m living in, right now, is a time I’ll look back at fondly and I’m not allowing myself to fully experience it because I’m so pre-occupied with getting what I don’t have?”

That’s a good question to ask because it gets me out of my head and reminds me to appreciate the present moment more no matter what is happening. Appreciating means slowing down. Taking a moment to notice how things look, smell, and taste. Noticing my emotions, good and bad.

Some good questions and ideas to be with today.

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Filed under Choosing Joy, Getting Out of My Own Way, Mindfulness

Day 21: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Today is a Gift


One of the things I wrote about yesterday was how I can find all kinds of ways to lapse into unconsciousness.

After I stopped shopping online, I discovered I could also lose huge chunks of time by trying to create the perfect image to represent an idea I wanted to write about.

I love the trading card design I created for the post about Lack or Love AND I spent most of the day making it. I love the image I created. It’s really cool. I’m going to use it as a template for one of my projects. Still, I feel as though I spent a fair amount of time being pretty obsessive-compulsive.

I think there’s a middle ground.

The image created for this post took me about 15 minutes using Photoshop. It’s my “good enough” image so I really can have more time today to experience the gift today is.

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Filed under Getting Out of My Own Way, Mindfulness, Perfectionsim

Day 20: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Hitting the Wall & Finding Love


I started today by reading a selection from Rami Shapiro’s book, Recovery: the Sacred Art. This is one of my favorite books for spiritual practice because it captures a lot of what I’ve found to be true in a very simple way.

I also appreciate the gentle humor Rami uses. Addiction recovery and spiritual ideas can get really intense and serious and the humor in this book makes it easier to enter my day. Sometimes after an intense reading I feel like I’m emerging from a cave making it harder to step into the stream of everyday life.

Today I was reading about how events that feel like rude awakenings have been the most direct paths to getting what I wanted.

Continue reading

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