In the Pursuit of Mei-Li
Mei-Li has a Ph.D. and works for one of the biggest communication companies in the world. Originally from China, she has been in Silicon Valley, California for the majority of her adult life. Married with two children Mei-Li is very happy. However, she has been facing a very challenging dilemma for many years: Though she is happy, successful and fulfilled in her life as it is, she’s concerned that she should do more – be more.
Mei-Li observes her boss focusing most of his attention on getting ahead; she sees other women at her level of management working for the next promotion, the next level of leadership and responsibility. “I don’t want an increase in responsibility; I don’t want to work that hard; I don’t like talking with people that much that I want to move to the next level of management. But, should I want to? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want to do that? I’m afraid there’s something very wrong with me.”
As Mei-Li shares with me over many coaching sessions, her consistency of feelings and truths about what’s true for her has me coach her to see the dilemma she is currently constrained by. On the one hand, Mei-Li loves her job and the team she manages. She has the free time she needs to be available to her children and to her husband in a way that fits best with her sense of the quality relationship she wants. She isn’t stressed and unnerved by unmet deadlines. She’s actually one of the 10% of the workforce that actually is fulfilled in her career.
On the other hand, Mei-Li’s culture married with our Western culture attempts to move people into work that isn’t their’s to do. Mei-Li watches people spend more time being people pleasers than effective employees of this company and she finds this frustrating and confusing. “People aren’t getting their work done while they are schmoosing for a promotion. Should I be doing that? The fact is, I don’t like schmoosing; I don’t like going to cocktail parties, playing golf or any of those other social things that you are supposed to do if you want to get ahead. I’m a pretty reclusive person who enjoys my life the way it is. But, I feel like I should be doing more.”
Many of us face this dilemma of being more – doing more; at the same time actually finding fulfillment in what we are doing right now. But, aren’t we supposed to want more money and power? Aren’t we supposed to want the bigger office, more contact with the more influential people of the world? Aren’t we supposed to want more?
My sense is, and I shared this with Mei-Li in our session, that what people want is to get to a place where there is fulfillment in their work and personal life – that there is balance with health and happiness. I believe that most people want what Mei-Li has. She already has it. Though the current within the corporate structure drags many people in its undertow toward some fantasy life that is wrought with a lot of what they don’t want to do and perhaps aren’t really cut out to be with, there are few who willingly choose health and fulfillment with what they have, what they do and how they be.
Mei-Li laughs as she begins to see a bigger picture – one that allows her free choice to choose for herself what’s hers to do. She laughs to hear that what people are struggling for is what she already has. She laughs as she realizes that she is presently free to choose to be happy in the life she has created and if in the future she feels inspired to grow her career toward greater degrees of leadership and responsibility, she can do that.
Mei-Li isn’t out of the current, and as long as she is in the corporate environment there will always be that field of influence. The degree to which she can stay aligned with her commitment to well-being and fulfillment in her career, the stronger her dedication and the less pull this will have on her.
Christopher, who I spoke of a few weeks ago, shared with me that if he could do anything he would work with inner city kids, teaching them math and computer skills. Then, the litany of “Why I Can’t Leave My Job and Give Up Everything I Worked For” began. There was no stopping him; the who would pay the mortgage, who would take care of my parents, I’d have to give up my addiction to Siamese cats; on and on, fully engaged in the undertow of a make believe reality, for too many, is actually real.
Mei-Li has found an eddy for now where she is out of the stream of influence by others. She is finding herself – the one she believes she has to continually pursue. It takes strength and courage to step out of the normal way of being for the sake of what we are all striving for – well-being and fulfillment in our careers. Kind of crazy when you think about it! Perhaps the pursuit of Mei-Li has come to a happy ending; right here where she has been, but now enjoying it to a much larger degree!
Success: Where does it lead?
Harvey, a client of mine for over four years, lives and works in LA in the television industry. Brilliant, creative and kind, he makes everyone feel appreciated by his character and presence. Harvey has finally arrived at his dream. Not only does he have the dream job for himself, he’s also getting paid what he’s worth. He is in the groove!
Harvey grew up in the bible belt of Texas. Allowing himself to be worthy of a salary that reflects all of what he brings to his career was a huge undertaking since it went against the primary tenets that money is evil, and that we shouldn’t want material comforts. The underlying conflict between being spiritual and making enough money to thrive has been an underpinning of Harvey’s financial demise for all of his adult life. Now, in his mid-forties, he’s taken the steps required to receive the full benefits and reap the rewards of all he brings to his work life. Success!
This all within the past two months; so Harvey has been adjusting to a whole new reality – money, prestige, a new BMW motorcycle and more. And …
What I love about Harvey is that he is very much awake when it comes to seeing that having arrived at his desired destination doesn’t mean the journey is over; he knows that in many ways, a new journey has just begun.
I was unsure what would show up in this coaching conversation once Harvey fully owned his worth, asked for a raise, got it and so much more. What did arise had me breathe a sigh of relief; for what Harvey brought to light was the realization that the money, the position and the motorcycle does not bring an individual to a sense of fulfillment but for just a few brief ecstatic moments.
To see that the striving for more money, prestige and power as just that, takes a breaking through of a reality that we believe to be the only reality. To see the striving as a spiritual practice changes the attachment to the outcome to something that is accumulative and builds something greater over time; we find ourselves with more wisdom, clarity and strength.
It’s not the destination but the journey
Harvey certainly wanted to enjoy the increase in income, prestige and position, as we all do; but the significance was what he had to shift in himself in order to bring this level of success to fruition. He had to dig deep beyond bible belt beliefs and family circumstances in order to truly honor his gifts. It required him to recognize all of what he brings to the workplace – just as he’s always wanted and provided for others. He had to reframe spiritual tenets to see that it’s not about the money or about worthiness; it’s about breaking through belief systems that don’t serve one’s awakening. He had to think outside the box of a very seductive context in order to realize himself more fully.
Now that he has come to this part of the journey he asks: “What do I have to do to feel comfort and security? I don’t see it as a possibility for myself.”
I wanted to ask: “Why did you get this raise and position if it wasn’t for the comfort and security that comes along with it?” It wasn’t a question to be asked out loud, not yet, because to Harvey, there was so much more going on.
Up until this moment, the edge of Harvey’s comfort zone had been receiving equal payment for the value that he brings to his work. Now that he has expanded his comfort zone to include this he is now, once again on the edge of his comfort zone – how do I allow myself to actually enjoy my life, experiencing the comfort and security I’ve created for myself. This is a whole new world he is opening up to, because he was able to get the value/worth dilemma complete – at least to this point.
There’s a point where one realizes that there is no end or finish line. Those who pretend this is so tend to mask the physical discomforts that arise when living inside a box that will consistently feel smaller and smaller. What’s the point if we never arrive at our final destination – we never get to fully reap the rewards of our labor? Why not just settle for less – less stress, less effort, less personal abuse …?
The questions lead us to ask: What is success? What is fulfillment? What’s it all about? If it’s not about stuff and winning, then what’s worth the effort?
For many people, especially men, the crisis in the mid-life crisis means coming to the edge of one’s reality, peering over, and saying “there’s nothing there!” Illnesses, job loss, collapses of the economy all bring us to these same moments of realization that reveal there’s no security, there’s no money, there’s only nothing! What’s that about?
Go forward – there’s nothing.
Stop - and there’s nothing.
The reason so many of us choose to not choose is because, whatever dilemma we face, choosing to choose brings us to the edge of our comfort zones. It requires that we be uncomfortable, that we be open to seeing ourselves and our reality different and that we be willing to explore and experiment with the countless facets of the achievement we’ve come to be, already, in this life. The edge of nothing is the same edge as thing. The practice of walking both sides of this edge, fearlessly, well, it’s pretty darn scary.
Harvey has gone forward, found that it’s not about the money, about winning or about things. He’s now onto his next big adventure, knowing that whatever he finds, it won’t be about that either. Fortunately he sees the humor in it all and we both laugh our heads off. Being in business is a very fun venture!
Ignoring What We Know to be True
I deny aspects of me that I know to be true – those dark shadowy aspects that if people were to find out about – well, it could mean rejection, humiliation and annihilation. It’s best that I pretend they don’t exist.
On the other hand I have a knowing of certain things to be true, yet I deny myself these knowings too. I live in doubt and uncertainty as strategies that diminish my potential power in the world, diminish my light and visibility. In past lives, I’ve probably been murdered or tortured for standing out beyond the norm. “Won’t do that again,” we say; yet living within the protective cocoon of our disguise and pretending is also torturous.
Many of my executive clients over the years have gone through a 360 degree evaluation process, whereby they ask for feedback from lots of people they work with and live with. An enormous about of information is generated, assessed and then returned to my clients so they can see how they show up, what they bring and what they perhaps want to consider bringing to the party.
These 360 processes are really valuable, and yet, my clients share that most of what is said isn’t new to them; they are already aware of what they do well and what they need to enhance, grow and develop.
I always find this fascinating that we know what we know, yet live and work as if it weren’t so. We wait to have our internal wisdom, knowledge and experience validated by the external world. WHY?
When people are doing bad things and are caught and brought to justice, they say “I knew it was wrong and is punishable, but spare me, please.”
This is crazy making; that we have the wisdom to know right from wrong. We have a knowing beyond what makes sense in the reality of the cause and effect world; we know this and yet we choose to deny our culpability and our God-given powers to be the fullest expression of the gifts of our being.
I finished a novel last week by Michael Sky, called Jubilee Day – A Novel. It is about our current circumstances regarding those who hold the power in the United States, how they use that power and the opportunity to choose differently. It’s a brilliant book!
Most of us use our power for egoic gains. We don’t stop ourselves. We also use our power to distract ourselves from the internal knowing that, if nothing else we are violating our own integrity and the dignity of our soul. We know and we pretend we don’t know.
For those of us who attend church every Saturday and Sunday, hearing over and over the importance of using our power in support of all people, not just our little ego self, too often we ignore opportunities to practice what we preach when we enter our Monday through Friday Church of the Almighty Dollar.
We are faced with a dilemma.
Do I do what I know to be in the highest good of all – my company, employees, my own soul, or do I act in alignment with my personal desire for safety, security and control.
There is so much at stake!
Each individual is teetering on the brink of personal devastation. It is only a reflection of the devastation that we witness in all aspects of our Global system. Where current and flow of the Universal and natural unfoldment is ignored, diverted or stopped, in service to our insatiable hunger to be powerful and invulnerable in every way imaginable, we will come face to face with the consequences of our choice-making. Funny how it works that way!
If you’ve ever been around adolescents, you’ve noticed that they have that attitude of invulnerability, impenetrable to attack – They have become a super power unto themselves. As parents of adolescents, hopefully we remember our own teenage years when we knew that we knew everything, and no one could tell us any different. As adults we know it’s a stage in the learning process and that someday there will be a day of reckoning when these teenagers will fall off their pedestal and realize they are just human, just like the rest of us.
I think about the European Countries who have been around far longer than the US. In their youth they built their empires and have been super powers; and all have been demolished, have fallen into ruin, only to be rebuilt from a more mature perspective. I see the more dignified and wise ones smiling at the US, knowing of our youthful attitude of “no-one will take us down.” It is part of the process of maturing that we lose what we’ve not rightfully gained, in order to cultivate right-relationship with our currency of resources – the earth, our people, all of it.
The dilemma we face as individuals is that we are committed to holding onto our super power ideation, yet, at the same time being conscious of the cost of ignoring that fact that we can no longer build skyscrapers in the air. We hope we’ll get away with it, but …
Pretending that choosing to choose not to choose will keep us invulnerable to our human frailties is adolescent thinking at best. Inevitably, our commitment to avoiding mature and wise choice-making will lead us to a phenomenal human experience called despair. Despair is when we realize that the reality of our own creation – our skyscrapers in the air, are coming down, detonated by our own ignoring – not ignorance.
All of us face dilemmas that inevitable puts us in the line of fire of our own humanity. It’s your call to make life-choices consciously or unconsciously. From my point of view, it’s far more fun to powerfully engage in life fully awake, conscious and mature – willingly acting from a ground of wisdom and knowing … you already know what I’m talking about. Enjoy the adventure!
M is for Money and Mindfulness
Money is very much a spiritual issue. Some think that the pursuit of wealth couldn’t possibly be a path to enlightenment or spiritual serenity. We never know what our path will look like, what’s in store for us, or where our greatest learning opportunities will lay, awaiting our arrival so they can ambush us when we least expect it.
It’s not money per se but our attitudes and action in relation to money that harm us and others. Fear, not money is the root of all evil, and when we fear that we don’t have enough, who knows what antics our survival mechanism will concoct to give relief from the incessant anxiety of “I NEED MORE!”
It’s okay to want money, to have money and to spend money. All businesses are designed to manufacture or produce goods and services in exchange for currency of one form or another. This is a very good thing. We need this interdependent relationship to thrive. It’s when those “G” words come into play – greed and gain, that a healthy dynamic can turn dysfunctional. This is when abuse of power rears its head and resources such as people, animals and the Earth itself become taxed, stressed and depleted of life force. Work environments lose their soul, and so do those whose lives depend on these environments.
The balance of wealth and power takes mindfulness. Mindfulness cultivates awareness of how our actions, our thoughts and our being impact the environment within which we live and work. It’s obvious Mother Nature is beginning to demonstrate her lack of appreciation for how she has been ignored, plundered and taken for granted. And because we are all part of this living system I believe that She’s indicating that we as a species, and also, we as individuals, need to become mindful of our relationship with our selves.
I heard the other day that the extraordinary natural disasters that are occurring in this planet are just a causation of the inner turmoil of every living system on the planet. We need to include our businesses, corporations, religious and financial institutions as living systems too. The lack of mindfulness within each system is the responsibility of us all, because all of us participate in the exchange of goods and services and want what we want when we want it. We can’t keep passing the buck onto those who appear to be in charge. We are all in charge and the practice of mindfulness will make that clear.
The Personal is the Political
We have no idea the degree to which our personal power can transform the world. To mindfully engage at work with integrity and a compassionate heart – you will move mountains.
Stress, disease and illness are caused, generally speaking by a lack of mindfulness. Healing brings about wholeness and awareness of the power to which we can shift and change ourselves and our environments – acting in my highest good is acting in the highest good of everyone.
Mindfulness requires intention to be attentive to what you are committed to – enough that you’re willing to practice bringing awareness and focus to how you be, to what you do, to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, witnessing it all in service to fulfilling that which you desire. There’s nothing to give up. There is nothing to lose. And, the gain in this circumstance is self-empowerment, self-honoring and the honoring of the sacredness of all that surrounds you.
Mindfulness also keeps us in the moment, present to what is within. We learn to be present and attentive to which impulses we follow – moving us toward fear-based choices or essence-based choices. There is so much more going on than you can imagine. And, it is so accessible.
As I write, I realize that M also stands for meditation. I’m not one to sit cross-legged on a pillow staring at my navel. My form of meditation is practiced throughout the day staying focused and mindful on the agreements I’ve made to myself and to others that are mine to keep. I emphasize, again, the notion of practice as a way to gain mastery, letting go of the idea that perfection will ever be reached.
Enjoy the adventure!
Chasing Ideas to Somewhere
Hello Dr. Kuhn,
Here I am to ask you something again.
How do I put ideas into action? You know, I find so many ideas great and even practical, but many a times I get carried away and do not act on them. Why does this happen? I want to start acting on my ideas, how………help? I feel I am sounding like my 7 year old kid asking for help but seriously, I find this a huge problem. Is it that I feel the need to be guided always to act upon something?
Looking forward to your wonderful and very insightful thoughts,
From Dr. Rosie
Thanks Usha for your questions. It’s great to hear what’s coming up for you as weeks go by. Your questions reflect what many other people are confounded with – Choice-making!
You’ve heard me talk about this already and you will hear me talk about this again, because every dilemma we face is based on having to make a choice between at least two desires, wants or commitments.
How do I choose? As a coach, I find that one of the most challenging moments my clients face is having to make a choice between many great ideas – how do they know which one to choose, which one will be most rewarding and fulfilling and which one’s they’ll have to let go of, for the moment.
Think about it this way: Each idea that comes through you supports the unfolding of you, Usha, or does it? Here are some questions: What is it you are wanting, Usha? What is the vision for your life and your work? Which ideas support this vision and the work you want to bring into this world? You see, it’s time to get strategic about which ideas you want to follow in service to what you want.
Traveling as a great analogy for this choice-making process. Let’s say I want to go somewhere. I can say “I’d like to go somewhere,” and just leave my house and go. I have an idea to turn left, so I turn left. I have an idea to turn right, so I turn right. This is a wonderful way to travel if I’m not attached to where I want to go.
So, this time, I say “I want to go to Los Angeles, California. Now, I have to assess my ideas and choose which ones are going to get me closer to my destination. An idea to get on a cruise ship that’s going to Alaska pops up. “Boy, that would be fun!” I say to myself. At this moment, I have to choose to either go to Alaska, because it would be fun, or to stay with my original destination to go to LA, and create ideas that will take me in that direction. I have to ask myself what I’m committed to in order to choose to choose what I’m going to choose.
A couple of months ago, when you first wrote me, you wanted to create a thriving business teaching yoga. Is this still true, or is there something else that’s emerging? This is a choice-point. Too often, though we confuse ourselves by following too many masters – having too many wants and not enough time and energy to invest. Sometimes we create ideas to actually sabotage ourselves. If I’m trying to follow lots of ideas I can avoid being successful at the one I say I really want, for you it was a yoga practice.
Perhaps, Usha, all of these ideas are in alignment with your goal to teach yoga. Then, it’s a matter of sitting with all of these ideas and discern which one or ones are most valuable to generate now, and which ones will be more valuable later on. This is where the seven-year old matures into a grown up, making grown up choices.
Putting these ideas into actions
So, the first step was assessing which ideas serve your vision or your destination. Now, to take action is the scary part for many people. Stepping into action means moving towards success. What happens in that moment of stepping into your idea? Notice what shows up when you go to take that first step. Do you get excited or anxious? Do you distract yourself from taking that step by coming up with another idea? What other thoughts and ideas show up. Sometime, self-criticism arises: “Oh, you can’t do that – you can’t make anything happen. You’re too scattered, confused and flaky.” Fear of failure also is a great distractor. In my book, there is no failing; there is just the choosing to succeed at not fulfilling your dreams or goals.
The bottom line, Usha, is this: are your committed enough to take that step? If not, what are you committed to that has you not take that step? Sit with this question and the answers that arise. Write them down, then decide again what it is you are wanting and which steps would take you in that direction. Do you want what you want enough to take action? If not, I encourage you to be patient and compassionate with yourself. You’ll be ready when you are ready and not a moment sooner. As a practice, notice where you do step into action – getting out of bed, taking care of your seven year old child, practicing yoga daily; these are all steps you take in service to your commitments. Just notice that you are already in action. What are you committed to enough that has you take these actions? Keep noticing and acknowledge yourself for accomplishing what you set out to accomplish!
And remember: Choosing no action is as empowering as choosing action. It’s just a matter of what you are committed to.