Be the change

There are three quotes that I use to help me understand the people I work with—and to understand myself.

The first is from a Quaker friend: “People are the best they can be at the moment.”

The second has been attributed to Socrates during the trial that would end with his death: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The third is from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

How are these words helpful?

If you are the best you can be at the moment, and yet dissatisfied with the life you have, can you be hopeful of a better life?

Yes: by incorporating the second quote. Examine the path you took to get where you are. Look at the people, places, and experiences that have helped shaped you. Delve deeply into the role you played, the decisions you made, the opportunities you took or ignored.

The process (what Alcoholics Anonymous describes as a “fearless self-examination”) takes time and should proceed with a trusted, non-judgmental confidante. You will be looking into the darkest corners of your psyche. What makes relationships so hard? What is behind the compulsive eating, gambling, or other compulsive behavior? When you discover the unresolved issues behind the problematic behavior, emotions, and thoughts, it is time to resolve and develop replacement behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” We each perceive the world differently. Your perception of the world is a result of the filters of your experiences in life. If you would like a more peaceful world, look inside at the anger or other emotion that makes your life less than peaceful.

Your “fearless self-examination” helps you discover the root causes of your dissatisfaction in life. The work of resolving and transforming is not easy. There are, for example, few people who are not aware of the health risks associated with the use of tobacco products. Yet almost a third of people in the United States continue with this self-destructive behavior—because change is difficult.

And yet, change is the only constant in life. We cause ourselves undue pain by holding onto our dysfunctional pasts.

Be the change.

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Celebrating year’s end


We’ve recently gathered with the people who are important in our lives to express our gratitude for the many blessings in our lives. The celebrations continue with Kwanza, Hanukah, Bodhi Day, and Winter Solstice as we hunker down for winter.

Fast on the heels of our celebrations of family and faith comes the New Year and an opportunity to reflect on the passing year and our hopes for the next twelve months.

Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions? Did you make progress in achieving the changes you had outlined for yourself? What worked? What seemed a mountain too high?

Continue on the path

Life is a process and not a destination. It is not so important that we have reached our goals but that we continue on the path, living our lives one day at a time. Where we have succeeded, we will find new purpose and direction. Where we have come up short, we dig deeper for resolve and determination to continue in our efforts to improve our lives.

Marie Kondo, in her popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, describes how people gain a feeling of lightness and renewed freedom simply by purging their closets and bookcases of the accumulation of possessions that serve no purpose but continue to take physical and psychic space in our lives. She writes:

“Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy. . . [W]hen we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

We can take the same approach with our “emotional closets.”

Attachment to the past, fear of the future: these are the stumbling blocks in achieving our goals.

Move forward

We can let go of the past that’s holding us back. We can face our fears, find resolution, and move forward in our lives.

What emotional baggage do you have stored away that serves no purpose but to block the path to lightness and freedom? It will be worth the effort to rummage through your closet and “Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy…”

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Ground Hog Day: Lessons in Acceptance


Ground Hog Day marks the mid-point between the Winter Solstice of December and the Spring Equinox of March. It’s also time for the annual pilgrimage to Punxsutawney, PA, where we pin our hopes for an early Spring on a rodent.

Phil Connors—Bill Murray’s character in the 1993 film Ground Hog Day—is an unwillingly pilgrim. He holds himself apart from his co-workers, apart from his job, and apart from life. His pessimism has isolated him, and none of his manipulations are getting him into the game. His craving for the world to be different only alienates him further.

Getting stuck

Phil is stuck in his life. Then he goes to Punxsutawney and gets stuck in the day. He escapes from Ground Hog Day only when he learns to work past his self-limiting behaviors and his craving for life to be different.

Phil was fortunate. Time stood still for him. The rest of us are not that lucky. Time is not going to stand still while we find our place. We have to do it on the run. But we can do it.

Craving keeps us from participating in life

Craving is the source of our suffering. Craving keeps us from fully participating in our own lives. Despite what the commercials say, you won’t be more attractive, or have more wealth or friends or . . . whatever your fantasy of more might be, if you only had that new car, new hairdo, or hot fudge sundae.

Acceptance is the key.Accept yourself as you are. Being touch with your true needs will help to reduce your cravings. Your life partner doesn’t need to change; your boss doesn’t need to change. You don’t need to win the lottery. Accept that the universe is not going to change to accommodate your desires. Live life on life’s terms.

See life from a different perspective

Does that mean life is a bowl of cherries? Hardly. Acceptance helps you see life from a different perspective. The unhappy boss is not about you. The boss’s unhappiness is his or hers to own, not yours. Not winning the lottery simply means you live within your means with no regrets that you cannot afford that luxury car.

Acceptance means you can meet your needs with realistic approaches. You won’t feel hopeless because the universe is not cooperating with you.

On Ground Hog Day, you won’t be left hoping for an early end to winter. Instead, you’ll be confident in your knowledge that the Spring Equinox is only 6 weeks away.




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New Beginnings

The New Year’s celebrations have come and gone. Lists of resolutions have been written. Diets have been planned, and gyms joined. Will this be like last year and the year before? By mid-February, will the list of resolutions be forgotten in your top drawer? Will your gym bag be moved to the back of your closet?

This year can be different from last year. Resolutions can be achieved, and you can become the person you want to be.

What undercuts New Year’s resolutions is the focus on the rear view mirror. We get in our own way by continuing to define ourselves by old behaviors and old thought patterns. Weight loss, for example, is difficult when we continue to define ourselves as overweight.

Change is hard

Our brains like order and consistency. So our days are a series of routines that we have become comfortable with. Any disruption in those routines becomes a source of anxiety, and the new behaviors—no matter how positive they are—are left behind in an effort to eradicate our discomfort.

Change is hard but not impossible

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An achievable goal
  • A plan to move you towards your goal
  • A series of identified markers towards your goal
  • A safety plan for those times when the discomfort of change becomes intolerable

Your plan should identify the day-to-day behaviors needed to achieve the long-term goal. Begin each day by reminding yourself that the old behaviors were counter-productive. Then, identify the specific behaviors needed to get to the end of your day successfully.

Change your mindset

You are not an overweight person getting skinny. Redefine yourself as a person at the right weight. (Or physically fit. Or a nonsmoker.)

See yourself as the person who has achieved the changes you want to incorporate into your life.

It will be easier to maintain the new behaviors if you stop looking in the rear view mirror. Your new behaviors will redefine who you are. Be the person you want to be, and your behaviors will support your positive identity.

You won’t need to wait for another New Year, because every day will be a New Beginning.

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A thought from the Buddha

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.Buddha

Are you ready to concentrate on who you are right now?


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Hungry Ghosts

The term comes from the Buddhist tradition.  In Buddhism, it is one of the Six Realms of existence; Hungry Ghosts are beings reborn into that realm because of their jealousy, greed, and envy. Hungry Ghosts are associated with compulsion, obsession and addiction.

In a consumer-driven economy, the Hungry Ghost is a welcome visitor. In your personal life, being a Hungry Ghost can be frustrating and painful.

  • When the latest electronic gizmo is released, do you have to have it?
  • When you are stressed at work do you spend the day anticipating a stop at the local bar on your way home?
  • When you need a mood adjustment, do you go shopping?
  • When you are alone do you feel uneasy?

In this culture, when we feel empty or lonely, we often look outside ourselves for completion. Without that newest electronic tablet or the new car or the box of chocolates we feel apart from the world, separate and outside. We are like the child on a rainy day with a full toy chest looking longingly out the window wishing we had something to do, somewhere to be, someone else to acknowledge our existence.

How to transform a Hungry Ghost back to a Human? The answer is twofold.

First, learn to sit with yourself. Accept who you are with all your faults and limitations—as well as recognize your gifts and talents. Introspective practices like prayer and meditation are helpful in gaining insight and comfort in being with yourself.

Second, refocus away from possessing and towards sharing. As you become involved in helping others you will find a sense of fulfillment. Being a part of the whole is not found in owning the latest and greatest consumer product but in participating in the functions of society that support human life.

As you leave your obsessions behind, you will leave the Hungry Ghost Realm and come closer to the Human Realm. You will still experience  aspects of envy, jealousy and greed—but you will find balance as you also experience equanimity, generosity and satisfaction.

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You can follow a new path

Farm pathJanuary. The time of the year when we all think about resolutions: making changes to our lives.

What kinds of change are possible? Your ability to transform your life is limited only by your own imagination.

You can explore:

  • your talents, skills and gifts
  • opportunities for new careers and vocations
  • your relationships and how to make them more meaningful
  • your own confidence and sense of self-worth
  • your beliefs and how they may be holding you back from change
  • your enjoyment of life and all it can offer

Do you need help getting started on your new path? Many people turn to a life coach, a professional who’s “on your side” to offer encouragement, support and guidance.

When you work with a trained and licensed therapist as a life coach, you are working with a professional who is sensitive to your psychological and social well-being.

  • Helping you explore your personal or professional potential
  • Offering an objective perspective on your goals
  • Encouraging you to address your goals realistically and productively
  • Ensuring that your transformation is focused and enduring

Ready for a new path? Contact me for an appointment.

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