120 Days. Yes. You can.

I didn’t mean to – and by that, I mean both events.   They both just happened.  The only difference is that one was out of my control, and one was within my total control.  Yet, both required complete surrender and a firm belief that I would make it through. 

So, let me ask you a serious question.  What is that thing you keep telling yourself you want to do, but never actually manage to accomplish?  No guilt.  No judgment.  Just your honesty.  What has been a New Year’s Resolution theme throughout your life that has repeated itself more than three times?  When you have identified your villain, ask yourself – is this something I am still curious about resolving?  OK – so do you have it in mind?  If yes, read on.  If not – keep thinking until you find yourself curious about the one thing you haven’t been able to quit or stop or resolve.  I’m serious!

7.8 miles, 120 days after having my stomach cut open.  No, not laparoscopic. We are talking a knife right down the center of my belly.  Yes, my days as an underwear model are over. 

A shower, a nap.  A trip to the kitchen, a nap.  A walk around the driveway to get some fresh air, a nap.  I wasn’t curious about a damn thing.  Why?  Because the hurdle to get better felt so big, so overpowering, and so insurmountable that it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning to try and act happy, so my spouse didn’t worry. 

Think about your one thing that you’ve identified.  That one circumstance/issue that you want to resolve.  How many times has it felt so big, so overpowering, and so insurmountable that after a few weeks, you start to slowly give up until you even forget you were trying in the first place?  Maybe, it’s so big - you don’t even know where to begin. Go ahead, talk some truth to yourself.  Get honest.

Three weeks after I came home from the hospital, I got on the treadmill, and 3 minutes later, I got off.  No way in hell could I walk on the treadmill.  So, I started walking my driveway.  As much as I wanted to lay in bed, I knew I needed to move to heal – and so I walked the driveway.  Slowly. 

So many times, we think we need to jump in headfirst to get traction on the struggle(s) we are trying to solve.  To do anything less would be failure……. right?  All you have to do is look at the gym on January 1st to know that everyone is holding themselves the same “all or nothing” story-line.   But what if I told you that I didn’t want you to go to the gym or start working on any kind of resolution around your circumstance/issue, until FIVE DAYS after you decided to do it?  Instead, I want you to spend five days building some mental anticipation, thinking about the outcome, and how good it will feel once you make a decision to start.  Then, once you start, I limit your participation to a narrow window of time.  If you are dieting, you can only diet for one meal.  If you are trying to lose weight through exercise, you are only allowed 10 minutes your first time doing it.  When you think about this restriction, what story runs through your head? What emotions do you feel? Go head, talk some truth to yourself. 

With my illness, I didn’t have a choice.  I HAD to start with 3 minutes of walking because it was all I could handle.  I knew two things:  1.  My stomach couldn’t take a lot of movement.  2.  I had to be within 20 seconds of a bathroom.  Trust me; I hated it.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that my illness was forcing me to become curious.  If the first day I walked for 3 minutes, I then wondered if I could walk for 5 minutes on the second day.  Day after day I added a few minutes, but I never changed my speed – and trust me – it wasn’t because I didn’t want to – I literally, couldn’t.  The gift was that I couldn’t judge myself on speed, so I just remained curious about how much time I could add. 

Did you hear that?  What would it be like to not judge yourself on how quickly you were progressing but just remained curious enough about the process that each day you found yourself wanting to do more, go more, get a little more committed?  What if you told yourself that you were going to suspend judgment on your progress and remain curious about how much further you could commit to conquering this circumstance/issue?  This would require you to limit your effort just enough to remain curious and want to do more. 

I know, I know – it sounds batshit crazy.  Us – suspend judgment of ourselves?  COME ON!  You probably think it isn’t possible…. but I am here to tell you it is.  Yes, I was forced into it by my illness, but it’s also the singular lesson I took from my illness and am consciously introducing into my life.

I didn’t go for a run until 60 days post-discharge, and when I did run, it lasted for less than two minutes.  I never intended to run, and it wasn’t even a goal.  My incremental walking had picked up to around 30 minutes a day, and one day I just thought to myself “I wonder what running would feel like” – and so I did.  It sucked, and I didn’t run again for two weeks. 

I got curious; I pushed myself a little too much, had some stomach pain and quit.  It would be great if when you pushed yourself beyond a reasonable limit you could also get a lightning bolt clap of pain across your stomach to tell you to knock it off – but that’s probably never going to happen.  However, I wonder, what could you become aware of to signal to yourself that you’re pushing too hard?  If it’s a diet, maybe your stomach cramping from hunger?  The gym; your hour on the treadmill where you can’t walk the next day?  How much effort is too much that it kills your curiosity?  When you’re no longer curious and feel nothing but dread when your eyes open in the morning ---- is that a good time to check-in with yourself?    

Two weeks later, I was out walking and got curious if running would cause the same stomach pain.  Eight minutes later, I stopped running and smiled right from my heart.  I have no idea how far I went or what I looked like running.  All I knew is that I had just run for eight minutes and it felt like I had run the Boston Marathon.  I had no intention of running for eight minutes.  I didn’t even know if I could run for two minutes.  All I knew was that I was curious enough to try – and didn’t judge myself when it was over. 

Dieting, giving up cigarettes, quit drinking, working out more; it’s the same process.  You recognize you want to change.  You plan.  You learn to get curious and hunger for change. This curiosity empowers you to start. You set small goals and continue to get more curious. You hunger for more. You achieve milestones.  And then one day, you claim victory.  Claiming victory doesn’t mean it’s over.  Claiming victory means you recognize your progress, you’re proud of yourself, and you went further than you thought possible.   The next day you still must get up and face it again. 

I had no intention to run 7.8 miles 120-days post-hospital discharge.    When I ran last week, I went out intending just to enjoy myself.  It was a beautiful fall day, my stomach felt good, my legs felt strong, and I had just found a new Spotify soundtrack.  That’s how it started.  I didn’t look at my watch once during the run.  I just ran until I felt like I needed to turn around so I could make it back to the house.  I just allowed curiosity without the expectations around time or distance or speed.  I wanted to run, and I just let myself do it.  What would it feel like for you if you just allowed yourself to get curious enough about the issue you want to resolve that you committed to the point that you could claim an unintended victory? 

How inquisitive are you about claiming your victory?  What do you need to do to get curious? 

"The best way to find out whether or not you're on the right path? Stop looking down and asking "Why." Paul Tripp

Why.  It was the only word I heard this three-year-old boy ask his mother from the middle seat on my flight from Boston to Seattle.  “Why, Mommy?”  “Why?”  At one point, I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs “Who the hell knows?” – But instead I turned up the volume on my Bose noise-canceling headphones and accepted the fact I would rather go deaf than listen to him ask “Why Mommy?” one more time. 

What is your Why?  You must find your purpose!  Why do you do what you do?  Why do you exist?  All of these seemingly unanswerable questions from life coaches cause the same full-throated scream reaction whenever I hear them.  My first coach asked me these questions, and I told her that if I knew these answers I wouldn’t need her.  She wouldn’t give up, but I did a few months later and found a new coach. 

I am finding your “Why” can’t be discovered by looking at it directly.  It’s kind of like the sun; it will blind you into wild insanity.  Instead, I like to work with my clients to understand the stories they tell themselves around a myriad of topics so I can begin to understand their mental landscape and they can begin to establish a verbal framework in where they are allowed to hear themselves talk.  Seriously.  When is the last time someone asked you open-ended questions where they listen to you without judgment, advice or mentoring? 

The approach of asking open-ended questions allows us to pump oxygen into the space between us.  It creates room for you to think, for me to hear and for us to see a way ahead.  It’s kind of like when we built forts with sheets or sleeping bags as kids.  We always had to use one arm, or a chair or the sofa so we could have some space to feel like the true secret spies that we were.  Now imagine how that feeling might have changed if the fort held itself up, on its’ own?!  The things we could have seen and thought!  That’s the power of an oxygen filled space. 

Once that space exists, magic can happen.  I always marvel at how clients express their “OMG; I didn’t even see that” once we get a few sessions in.  Because they can hear themselves, they can see clearer, and dream bigger; allowing them to wonder “Why” without looking directly at it.  The “Why” question becomes something they want to contemplate – a curiosity unlocked.  Clients realize that looking directly at the “Why” becomes a futile exercise because the answers are always on the periphery.  They are what you know, but do not see.

I had a client today who stated, “It feels disingenuous when people respond to my stated need.  I feel like they are responding to what I asked for when they should have already anticipated my need!”  It makes complete sense – doesn’t it?  How many times have you wanted the people around you to read your mind and fulfill your deepest desires without asking?

As we unpacked this story, what my client found is that they have an intuitive gift of delivering for others and feel fear around getting vulnerable by acknowledging how good it feels to be seen.  The story he tells himself is that he is weak if he asks for help.  This client also stated that by asking for help he believes he is causing undue stress on others and he gains his approval by finding and delivering solutions – so this “need” causes a “crack” in how he perceives his self-worth. 

That led us to resentment.  This Client was able to recount numerous examples of just how resentful he feels at work and home.  This resentment has led to rumination which has led to a festering of anger and a range of emotions.  With just a few more questions the dam broke open for him, and he was able to understand his “Why.”  Why he feels resentful, why he is scared to get vulnerable, why he feels like he needs to fix everything and make everyone else happy when he never feels seen….and the self-discovery went on.” 

If I had started with “Why” and probed for answers, this Client wouldn’t have been able to have a breakthrough moment because these answers were not consciously obvious. 

So, what creates a breakthrough moment?  The oxygen between us, the stories you tell yourself, the values you emulate, the vision you have for your life, the passion that you have to move beyond your current circumstance, and my ability to ask thought-provoking open-ended questions.

And then one day you know, doing nothing is no longer an option.  Are you ready to show up?

What Does It Mean to Find Your Passion & How Do You Find It?

For over ten years, every time I came home with a new promotion or a higher paying job I would ask my spouse what they thought, and I would always get the same answer: "Does it make you happy?" That response used to infuriate me. Dance like nobody's watching, sing like… blah, blah, blah. Who has time for that kind of nonsense? "Not me," I'd think, "I've got work to do." And with that, I'd be out the door and climbing up the next ladder, building my professional resume along with our bank account.

Then one day out of the blue, an executive friend of mine asked me what my intrinsic values were. "That's easy: IntegritySelf-Mastery, and Achievement," I replied.

It took me about a year after that conversation to connect the dots because I was so busy climbing the career ladder. I realized that the company I was working for only cared about money, while everything I cared about mastering was outside of my professional life. I was to the point where I was just managing a larger pot of money with more complex projects but I wasn't learning anything new. My job was ultimately out of alignment with my intrinsic values.

A scary personal moment turned into a deep appreciation for my spouse's question, "Does it make you happy?" Revisiting that question ultimately led to opening my own consulting/coaching business, and my career is now much more aligned with my intrinsic values.

Finding your passion happens when you align your intrinsic values with a profession or company that shares your same motivations. Once your intrinsic values are aligned, it becomes much easier to ask for the tangible rewards at work (extrinsic values) like pay, positions of influence, and unique rewards for a job well done. Then, once you have both of your intrinsic and extrinsic values aligned, the second-tier values related to lifestyle (i.e. travel, where you live, and how you live) become easier to give yourself permission to enjoy. Aligning your values can give you a renewed sense of purpose, which in turn provides clarity around finding your passion.

So, wherever you are sitting and reading this, I wonder – is what you are doing making you happy? If that question is too fluffy or vague, then take a look at your values: What are the top three values that are central to who you are? If that's too much of an ask, then Google "How do I know what my values are" and start there. Being curious enough to Google is a great first step.

For years, I couldn’t understand the purpose of the question, “Does it make you happy?” - I was too busy working on trying to achieve the next rung on the ladder so I could find time to find my passion. What I know now for sure is that my passion is providing conflict resolution coaching to organizations and individuals who require change.

What about you?

"You either walk inside your own story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness." Brené Brown

The first mountain bike ride of the season always reminds me that I’m human; just like the realization that doing nothing is no longer an option. A brisk 46 degree Tuesday morning with snow in the mountains and the sun overhead, I felt the tug of conflict. “Paul, you can ride next week buddy….what’s a few days? A little delay, a warm run on the treadmill, and you didn’t clean out your Camelback so there could be some really nasty bacteria inside of it and you don’t want to get sick just because you’re thirsty…do you?” Over and over the doubts and discouragements played in my head. I had been thinking about this moment all Winter long, the day the weather would finally invite me back onto my mountain bike and yet there I stood with my biker shorts in one hand, anticipation in the other and fear in my head. I was struggling with facing the physical pain and mental discipline my first ride would take.

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“Screw it. I’m doing this.”

I shut down every story except the one where I charted a route up one of the steepest hills I could start with and I loaded my bike onto the back of my truck. That’s me; a guy who needs to set his sights on the tallest mountain in order to motivate to start because anything else would feel like a failure. My classic story to motivate - some things never change.

Then, it started. I couldn’t find my riding glasses, my Lycra hoodie was pulling on my neck, the convenience store didn’t have my secret Powerade fuel and my hidden parking spot was taken. WTF! I sat in my truck and stared straight up the mountain while doubt played in my mind. Did I really want to do this - now? I ran 4 miles that morning in an attempt to rationalize the delay of my spring ride and used that accomplishment as a weapon of justification. I sat back, closed my eyes and visualized what I wanted. I mentally walked myself through the upcoming Summer months filled with warm days, me on my bike, alone in the woods, achieving new heights and pictured how good that felt - knowing I would accomplish something that could only be accomplished by taking the first step - getting on my bike. I wanted to feel that feeling again. “Screw it. I’m doing this” and with that, I got out of my truck.

Without Hustle

Your talent will only get you so far……

That’s what ran through my head as I began to pedal. “Oh, yeah. That’s what this feels like” I muttered to myself as I began to climb. That sweet pain went right to my legs and I remember grinning - it was going to be one hell of a ride. I turned up my music and settled in for the climb. Just like in life, some people waved at me, others ignored me and then the classic - some looked at me and when I looked at them, they looked away as if they didn’t see me. I thought about all of the people who have been beside me when I knew doing nothing was no longer an option; some waved me forward, some ignored my pain and others pretended that they didn’t see me. You know the one thing that never changed? Me, pedaling up the mountain of life. I cogitated on the thought that I’m the only person who can control the pedals, the power, the speed of the climb and the decision to quit. I kept peddling.

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EVERYTHING we WANT

IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR

I took this picture a quarter of the way up the mountain; breathing labored, legs stinging, sweat soaking my back and motivation blaring in my ears. There hasn’t been a single time in my life when I’ve worked to conquer my fears that the fines of my actions haven’t felt doubled. Vulnerability. That’s what I call it. My senses are always on alert, searching for a way back to safety and out of my fear. So it only made sense this sign would appear out of nowhere with not a single worker in sight.
”I SEE YOU” I shouted, and then I got back to work, put my head down, and peddled.

At 51….and I’m still not sure how the hell that happened…..I leaned into the gift of maturity. I began to switch up the cadence of my pedaling. Pulling with one leg while pushing with the other, I stood to give my legs a new way of understanding of how we would get up the hill together. Up and up, I began to switchback my front wheel to give myself a break. In my 20’s and 30’s I would have viewed these actions as cheating. I would have berated myself for not being able to sit and push my way up the hill; brute force in action. But at 51, I know better. I used every strategic tool at my disposal to ensure success. I stood, sat, leaned forward and sat back in the seat - and three quarters of the way I had yet to stop.

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Did I make it to the top?

When we make a decision to resolve internal conflict, the actions we take to face our fears and the perceptions we have while doing so are what becomes important. Reaching the top happened for me when I got out of my truck and got on my bike. With a vision of what I wanted for myself in three months, I took the first step, and now looking back on it all I can say is that it was one sweet ride. I am proud of how kind and conscious I was to myself. HELL YES!

How about you? What do you know for sure that you want in your life in where doing nothing is no longer an option?