lean forward, get upside down, and set a resolution.

“live with intention.

walk to the edge.

listen hard.

laugh.

play with abandon.

practice wellness.

continue to learn.

appreciate your friends.

choose with no regret.

do what you love.

live as if this is all there is.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher, Lean Forward into Your Life: Begin Each Day as if it Were on Purpose

Recently, my friend Jess confided in me that she was yearning for change in her life.  To the outsider, she had it all: fantastic and attentive husband, a blossoming career in a fulfilling vocation, a spacious urban loft, supportive girlfriends, two dogs, and several active hobbies that keep her healthy and strong.  On the inside, she was shifting slightly, looking for one decision that would “shake up her life” and lead to a transformation of happiness.  Jess wanted to change her career (she spends five days a week with third graders… most of us would want to change that, even if we were a super-excellent teacher like she is) in a way that would add more time for her hobbies and passions.  “I’m really thinking about it,” she said.  “But really scared that it won’t work, and maybe it’s a dumb idea… but I think I could be happier.”  I mean, who leaves a well-paying, salaried, stable job-with-benefits to follow our dreams of finding an utterly fulfilling vocation (piecing together two, three, sometimes four different jobs in order to make ends meet, but having a blast along the way)?  Answer: Lots of us do.   (read my friend Bonyen’s blog Series: “Uncuffed.”)

The more I thought about our conversation, I started thinking:  in a performance-driven society where competition is inherently necessary for our social and economic survival, it’s no wonder we are scared to take a leap into the unknown.  It’s no wonder we are afraid of failure.  On January 4th, I asked my favorite barista about her New Year’s Resolution.  She shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Yeah… I don’t really do that.  I don’t want to be held accountable… you know… if it doesn’t end up happening.”  I laughed uncomfortably.  (With her… not at her… hopefully.)

The next day, I asked one of my yoga students about her New Year’s Resolution.  “God, no!” she exclaimed.  “I don’t make resolutions because I know I won’t keep them!”  I smiled, knowingly, uncomfortably.

The next week, I taught a yoga class to a group of university students in Iowa.  A sophomore basketball player approached me after class, with obvious apprehension. “Ok, here’s what I want to talk to you about,” he rambled.  “I’ve got this big fear, of like, failing, and I know that like, you know, whatever happens, happens and I’ve got this motto of ‘It will be as it will be,’ but I don’t think I really believe that because I’m pretty nervous and pretty scared of failing all the time. And do you think yoga will help me with that? And what do you think I should do?”

Well, here’s what I think you should do Jess, barista, yoga student, and nervous 19-year-old:

1.       Get upside down.  You will, literally, see the world from an entirely new perspective. Things look much easier and goals look more manageable when you are standing on your head.  Try it.  (You will also activate your parasympathetic nervous system which heals your body, massage your endocrine system which regulates adrenaline and other stress hormones, strengthen and tone your shoulders/arms/head/neck which gives you the physical and energetic stamina to meet the world ‘head on’ with personal power and will… Need I go on?)  If you are new to inversions, check out the Step-by-Step Instructions from Yoga Journal Online.

sirsasana

photo cred: JanaMarie

2.       Lean Forward into Your Life.  Life is now.  It’s never too late or too early.  Right now is a good time.  Mary Anne Radmacher wrote an incredible book titled Lean Forward into Your Life.  In it, she talks about beginning each day as if it were on purpose.  Her advice is basically this:  do what you love and act as if this life is all there is.  (And also: start now.)  The poem at the beginning of this post is Radmacher’s personal life motto.  It pretty much sums up my advice, too.

3.       Stop Caring about Failing.  Social psychologist Brené Brown never thought that her TED Talk at Tedx Houston would be viewed by more than 12 million people.  In her speech, Brené shared a startlingly personal and uncomfortably vulnerable narrative about personal failure.  Listeners loved it: we connected with her on a personal level and empathized with her feelings of failure, because we, too, have failed (heartbreakingly?) at something in our lives.  Brené’s work is based on decades of research answering the question: Who is happy?  Her research found that, unequivocally, men and women who are extremely vulnerable are in fact happier and more fulfilled in life than those who are not.  In her research, vulnerable’ is defined as being honest, open, and forthright about the magnitude of your yearning to attain goals you’ve set, even in the face of failure.  Vulnerability is about living to the fullest, loving to the fullest, being present with both happiness and suffering, so that you can experience ALL that life has to offer.  Stop caring about failing.  And also start realizing that if you DO fail, others won’t stop caring for you. Listen to Brené’s TED Talk here and download the intriguing conversation she had with On Being’s Christa Tippet about the her research into the qualities that distinguish lives with a strong sense of worthiness here.

4.       Set a Resolution.  We’ve all heard about goal setting, the tried-and-true advice of ‘write a goal which is measurable, quantifiable and realistic’ should, in my opinion, be retired-as-false.  Reason?  We are afraid of writing a goal and then not attaining it.  (See 3, above).  Five years ago, my cousin gave me a book titled 5: Where will you be five years from today?  by Dan Zadra.  It is an inspirational book-turned-journal, which guides you through exercises to define your life values, write your 5-year goals, and strategize your next steps to realizing your life’s greatest dreams.  The book is terrifyingly motivating; it includes all sorts of facts and quotes that are really, truly inspirational.  It also includes this fact, attributed to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech (who I do not know, but I trust that he did a study on goal setting), “people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as the people who don’t, and yet 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.  Sixteen percent do have goals, but they don’t write them down.  Less than four percent write down their goals, and fewer than one percent actually review them on an ongoing basis.”  Guess what?  My book is completely, utterly, embarrassingly un-written in.  I open its pages annually (mostly because I move houses every year and have to pack this book) and re-read all these inspiring quotes about following my dreams and making a difference and following in the footsteps of modern American heroes… and I pick up a pen to write down my life-changing goals, and then I trade the pen for a pencil (does it have to be that final?)… and then I trade the pencil for a good day-dreaming session… because I’ll be mortified if I write down a goal like, “I will finish grad school in 2014” and then January 1, 2015 rolls around and I’m still three credits (and one degree) short of reaching this goal.  Mortified.  (Note to self:  see 3, above.)  So this year, I did something completely different.  I stole a third-grade-teacher trick (from my friend Jess, coincidentally… remember her from the beginning of this post?) and made a Resolution frame.

IMG_1851

Mounting blank paper in a regular 4×6 wooden picture frame and leaving it on my desk means I can write my goals in dry-erase marker on the glass, and then erase them in a month when I’ve accomplished them (or in two months when I haven’t… no evidence!).  It also keeps my Resolutions in the forefront of my mind, because I see them every day and am reminded that transformation is entirely possible.  It reminds me that I want to live with intention.  (See 2, above).  Personally, my resolutions are organized into four quadrants because my goals and interests are varied.  I have personal goals related to which yoga asanas I want to master, I have professional goals related to improving my skills as a teacher, and I have conscious living goals related to my spiritual and relational growth.  They can be changed, altered, and deleted instantly.  But they are there.  They are written and they are set.

So, yes, nervous 19-year-old basketball guy, I do think yoga could help you overcome your fear of failure.  And yes, yoga student, I do think you should make resolutions because doing so will teach you HOW to keep those resolutions.  And yes, Becky Barista, I think that accountability does inspire transformation, so you should hold yourself (somewhat) accountable to dreaming big.  And yes, Jess, I think you should Lean Forward into Your Life and walk to your edge and learn to find ease in risk.  And yes, all of you, get upside down.  Trust me on this one.

-lisa

“live with intention.

walk to the edge.

listen hard.

laugh.

play with abandon.

practice wellness.

continue to learn.

appreciate your friends.

choose with no regret.

do what you love.

live as if this is all there is.”

– Mary Anne Radmacher, Lean Forward into Your Life: Begin Each Day as if it Were on Purpose

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