Tag Archives: life

Roland Behrends – An Inspiration

Roland Behrends inspires me.  I bet he would inspire you, too, if you knew him like I do.  Roland is a rancher in the Hill Country of Texas.  He mends fences and runs cattle and plays tennis.  I don’t know anything about fences or ranching, but I admire him for being on the court.  A couple weekends ago, I watched him playing hard, toughing it out over five hours to win mixed doubles with his granddaughter on an 84 degree spring day.  You might wonder why I picked Roland for inspiration, since there are a lot of people who play long and hard at tennis.  Well, for one thing, Roland has a lot of back pain, and another is he has a hard time running.  He can run forward, but stopping and running back is difficult.  There are other reasons to admire Roland, but one tying them all together is knowing he is in his 80’s.  It’s more challenging to play when your back and legs give you grief, and your opponents are often many decades younger.  He plays anyway. 

When I first started playing tennis a few years ago, Roland was already 80 years old and we played together every Tuesday night for over a year.  It was a round robin mixed doubles style of play, so sometimes he was my opponent and sometimes my partner.  I’m not a strong player, and back then it was hard for me to place a shot.  For a long time I worked on simply returning the ball inside the court.  It didn’t matter how hard, how well placed, or skilled the shot – my goal was simply to keep the ball in play.  One day when I came home from playing, my husband asked how well I had done.  “I’m getting better,” I said, “I got one past Roland.”

Roland has a hard slice serve that hits on the outside edge of the service box nearer the net than the far line.  When he lands it and the receiving player flails about and misses the return, he can’t help but smile and chuckle to himself.  I admire his serve too, until I lose three points in a game because of it.  One thing I quickly learned about some of the older, skilled, but less mobile players is this:  don’t hit it anywhere near them.  Just because they cannot run quickly, doesn’t mean they can’t move quickly.  Snap goes Roland’s wrist and racquet when a ball is anywhere close to him, and the ball is torpedoed back at you – or worse, back at a place on the court where you and your partner are not.  He can return a ball coming fast right at his feet, backhand or forehand.  How he picks it up off the court at those angles is beyond me.  And of course, if the ball in within reach of his racquet, he’s going to return it nearly every time. 

I learned to make Roland run, or to put it over his head and behind him, if I wanted the point.  Maybe that sounds mean, but it isn’t.  Another thing I admire about Roland is he wants to play a challenging game and he wants you to play better and better.  As I learned to place the ball more strategically, Roland was right there to encourage and congratulate me.  He even smiled and chuckled when he saw me deliberately place a ball out of his reach and win the point.  

Roland has no idea how much he inspires me.  I probably ought to tell him.  Recognizing he won’t know unless I say something reminds me how often we are role models or inspiration for others without ever knowing it.  Roland is simply living his life, playing tennis, and befriending other players in our association.  He is an inspiration just because of how he lives.

“How you live inspires others.”

I want to be like Roland.  I can do without the back pain, but I hope to play all out no matter what my age or how much harder it might be to stay in the game.  It isn’t Roland’s age I admire; it’s how he plays the game of tennis and the game of life.  As we often say from the sidelines when watching a skillful move, “Great shot, Roland, way to play the game.”

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A Life of Fashion

Recently, I’ve spoken at several fashion shows.  It might seem an odd match:  life and business coaching paired with runway models, however I’m a master at metaphor and it works rather well.  Last week, I realized my message is quite relevant to anyone that wears clothes, so I want to include you in the audience:

 Today is no ordinary day. 

Today, we are surrounded by beauty, by the faces of happy, hopeful people, by conversation between friends and new acquaintances, and by laughter.  Look for it, it is here.

Today is a gift. 

The gift of today is a gift of the present, of life, of being given this day, these moments.  Each of you can live this day in beauty and contentment, with aliveness and excitement.

Who is with me?  Would you enjoy finding more fulfillment in today then you expected?  Or would you rather let it be an ordinary day, one you waited to pass by so you could go to bed and prepare for another ordinary day?  Who prefers to only come alive for celebrating big events?  Not me, not you.  We let ordinary happen by accident, not on purpose.   

Let’s take full advantage of our moments here together, right now.  When we live on purpose, we embrace life fully and feel the gift of each day. 

You may wonder how fashion can be used for life change.  You may not expect to use clothing to tap into the pure simple beauty of being alive.  It can be done.  Clothing is a structure we use for many things.  It is a method of identifying ourselves, of conforming – or not – to society, of protection.  It is so many things.  Today, I will show you how to use clothing to be more present in your life.  It’s simple, and doesn’t require the purchase of anything new, although the idea can be a little more fun if you do!

Living a life on purpose is a beautiful way to live, and all it takes is focus and some gentle reminders.  We need gentle and frequent reminders to recognize the gift of today, to be purposeful in action, to stay beautiful.  Clothing can be such a structure.  A structure is a method for reminding yourself of what is important.  There are many other ways to remind ourselves to be alive in the moment, to see the beauty present in our lives, to be grateful.  Some people start their day with reflection, meditation, or prayer, but I’m going to use clothing.

Here is how it works:  before you dress in the morning, consciously decide how you want to spend your time, and what you want to feel like while doing so.  Let’s say you want to spend a day in the office being efficient and professional.  You want to project an image of capability and strength, but not feel like a workhorse.  If it were me, I would be deliberate in my clothing choices:  Yoga pants for flowing movement, comfort, yet professional appearance.  A blouse with a flash of turquoise to remind myself I can have fun, too.  Black knit jacket to cover my shoulders and project professionalism and task efficiency.  This is good for a start.  It sets my intention for business and comfort for the office.  While still in my closet, I can choose to set my intention for lunch as well.

Having flexibility to relax at lunch is important to me, so I choose a blouse that can be worn alone.  This way I can take a walk or sit outside at lunch, feeling the warmth of the sun on my arms while slipping away from the office pace for a few minutes.  When it’s time to return to work, I slip the jacket back on and return to work refreshed and ready for the afternoon.  The act of putting on my jacket reminds me to refocus on business tasks, while the respite keeps the day from feeling too long or difficult.  I’ve already dressed for success, but there is more.

Many times I have an event after work.  I bet you often go from one place to another in your day, too.  Sure, there might be time to go home and change, but why add the stress of having to run home?  Besides, my plan to go home usually fails and I end up going to the event in my work outfit, feeling out-of-synch with my friends and colleagues dressed to mingle and have fun.  Instead, plan an outfit for the day that can be dressed up for night by a simple addition or change.  If  going to a networking event, or even dinner with friends, my choice is to slip a different jacket over my work outfit, or change my office jacket to a flowing colorful evening piece. 

By using a simple everyday action like dressing, you can make yourself conscious of your intention for the day.  Think of the possibilities for the day and what you want from it, and bring your focus to the gift of today.  By choosing clothes that match your intentions and transitions, you have physical reminders of what you want from the day.  You can move freely from event to event feeling put together and beautiful and more alive in each moment.  You can be purposeful from the moment you dress for your not-so-ordinary day. 

Before I learned to make clothing a part of my transitions from one part of the day to another, I often felt restricted by what I was wearing.  Instead of embracing a dinner out with my friends wholeheartedly, I spent time worrying and debating with myself to either rush home and change, or risk feeling a bit dull wearing my business like clothes to a social event.  I noticed too, that just having a simple item to change my look also changed my attitude.  I automatically went from efficient, professional businesswoman, to a friendly, outgoing businesswoman at the chamber mixers, and relaxed, festive friend at dinner.

In life and business coaching, clients are encouraged to create structures for making change.  A structure helps hold you accountable for doing what you value.  Wearing a favorite piece of jewelry can be a structure, leaving yourself post-it notes in your car and on your computer can be a structure.  Setting appointments with yourself to focus on the gift of today, and writing it down in your calendar or making it a daily habit can be a structure. 

I think you will find beautiful clothing is one of the easiest structures of all.  Try it out when you choose your clothing tomorrow.  Open your heart wider to the gift of life and decide what you want from your day.  Then take it out and wear it.

          

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The Big Rocks

Remember last week I wrote about walking along a beach, picking up rocks and shells from the ocean?  The beach treasures we gather are like goals, activities, and wants we collect in a life of endless possibilities.  This week, I want to continue the story where I left off:  with my hands full of beachcombing treasures.

What happens next? 

I take them home, and look for a way to fit them into my life.  My intention is to keep them as souvenirs where they can remind me of the fun and openness of the beach.  I bring home lots of other stuff, too, like new volunteer roles, sparkling projects, and budding friendships.  These are worked into my life differently, but they all must fit into my time in order to keep them.  

I’ve tried a few different ways to keep beach souvenirs, but my favorite is to display them in a clear glass container.   Usually all of my treasures won’t fit in the container.    In an effort to put as many finds as possible in the container, I used to put the small and medium sized things in first…, but then my biggest treasures were always left out.

I tried to shove stuff around, wedging pieces here and there, but the big stuff just wouldn’t fit.  The same is true for those many little tasks and distractions we face every day.  They can take all our energy and time, leaving no room for more magnificent lives. 

If the biggest rocks and shells in my collection are like my most precious relationships and valuable goals, I am leaving the wrong things out.  Giving my attention to the little stuff first, means the big stuff doesn’t always fit into my day.  Eventually, I realize the volunteer role has become a burden, the project an endless task, and a budding friendship faded before blooming. 

How does this happen?

I let the wrong stuff go into my container first, that’s all.  It is a simple mistake, one born of an attempt to do the quick or easy stuff first, or a habit of allowing my attention to be distracted, or just plain not being purposeful in my actions.  I wouldn’t do it on purpose, and maybe you don’t do it at all, but most of us slip up and bog down in the less important stuff on occasion (and even consistently). 

I learned if I want to go after something magnificent, I have to fill my container differently.

My container and my time must be filled with the most significant things before continuing to the least.  Now I first place the biggest stones and shells, and then move on the middle-sized ones.  Lastly, the tiny ones are added.  It still takes some sorting and deciding, but it’s worth having a beautiful reminder of both the beach and the big stuff in life. 

If the big stuff doesn’t fit in your day, look again at what you give priority.  It might be time to rearrange.

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An Easy Life

A coaching friend and I were talking last week when I lamented that some of the most critical tasks on my list of business building basics were still undone.  Each incomplete task is pretty simple and relatively quick to complete.  Some are one-time projects and others are more like weekly projects.  I have the skill and the time, but haven’t done them.

“So, what’s stopping you?” my friend asked.  There really isn’t anything stopping me, although I do have a pretty strong procrastination habit.  We talked a minute, with my friend asking some excellent coaching questions while I whined about not knowing how to move myself forward in this area.  Then she told me she was going to call me out on what she thought was the real issue, and I said, “Sure, go ahead.”

She said my life was too easy.  I vacationed, studied, and worked without fear of losing the lifestyle I have now.  My bills are paid, my neighborhood is nice, my husband supportive, and my vacations plentiful.  “You don’t have to do anything you don’t like doing,” she said.  “For now, you can maintain your current lifestyle by doing only what you like.”  She went on, “The problem is, eventually you will be unable to keep it up unless you do some of those not-so-fun tasks.”

My friend is right.  I get by just fine – doing exactly what I want to do and avoiding what I don’t want to do.  My habits work for getting by, but they don’t take me where I want to go.  It’s like walking around the nature trail at our local park.  It’s pretty, interesting, and feels like you are doing something good for yourself, but very quickly you are back where you started.  That’s fine if you want to keep trekking around the same small park, but I want to walk through mountains and meadows I’ve never seen before.  When I choose to walk in my hometown park, I want it to be a refreshing respite from more challenging hikes, not a repetitive loop that keeps me off the road of bigger adventures.  My friend put it to me pretty clearly:

“If you are going to move forward in your goals, it’s time to start doing the unpleasant tasks that will take you there.”

Next she challenged me to spend at least thirty minutes, two times a week, doing something on my list of incomplete, critical tasks.  “Start with just thirty minutes,” she said, “it’s better than zero and you can grow from there.”

I accepted the challenge and have been thinking about it for several days.  It came to me that an easy life is what keeps many of us from living our potential.  It isn’t always a lack of resources and abilities that keeps us from achieving; sometimes having everything we need is what keeps us from trying for something else.

Think about how we often treat health and money.  Many people don’t take care of their bodies when their health is decent, but suddenly become fitness fanatics when health is in jeopardy.  I bet you know someone that has far too much debt and very little savings, but isn’t too concerned because right now they have good income.  The impetus to reduce debt and save comes when income is threatened.

I’m glad I have an easy life, but I want to look past its conveniences and work toward an even more satisfying one.  Working hard at the things I don’t want to do can be my way of showing I’m grateful for a life of ease.  It’s also a way of honoring the gifts I’ve been given – and they are many.  However, beyond gratefulness and honor lies one more truth:  it isn’t an easy life I seek, but a worthwhile one.

As we finish the last week of this year, I look forward to setting goals for next year.  To this year and next, I raise a toast:  “Three cheers for the life we have had so far!  And three more for making the life we are about to live even better.” 

See you as I hike a new trail next year.

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