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What is beyond the known?

I’ve been afraid to even speak of the changes that seem to be coming, lest I impart some weird cosmic vibration and mess it up.

However, I’ve told some and things still seem to be on track for the most part. Much insecurity, but even my horoscope – which I mostly read for fun, and usually after the day is done just to see if it was close to being accurate – has been telling me good changes are coming for at least a month now.

I’ve been wanting to do something different with my career life for a long time. I tried my own enterprise, but I didn’t have the energy to invest. Even so, it taught me much about myself. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to “run the show”, as the case may be. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and my choice of a positive attitude in the face of difficulty has been noticed. Long ago I decided to rethink my purpose at work, trying to make it more of a practice of selfless service than a career or job. The opportunity to serve people is there on many levels… serve a coworker in the normal course of business, serve a coworker who is in a jam, serve a friend who needs a favor, ultimately serve the customer way down the line – the one who has no idea I exist or stops to wonder how the drug they’re taking in an effort to save their life makes it into their veins, as it should be (they have bigger fish to ponder). Changing my perspective this way has made it much easier to get out of bed at 5 am every day.

I have chosen to live my life by this quote:

Peace: it does not mean to be away from noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.

So simple. So difficult.

Anyway, the opportunity has arisen to do something else for a living. A short hop away from my present role, but a huge leap in knowledge base and responsibilities, a change in the people I would serve. I’ve been told by everyone I’ve whispered it to that I’d be very good in this job. I believe that, too. It still scares the crap out of me.

Another favorite quote, this has been taped to my desk for years:

Knowledge is the antidote to fear. ~Emerson

With that quote in mind, I’ve set up a plan. People to mentor me, people to shadow. Classes to take, learn how to listen and pay attention. I can’t control headcount, and Corporate America is notorious for dangling a carrot one minute and hitting you with a stick the next. Expectations are there to be demolished and disappointed, so I shall forge ahead with my plan yet still take the tack of letting the path lead me.

Perhaps, if it’s in the cards, and I’ve made the right choices, and karma is in my favor, and the stars align… maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to make a definitive statement and not talk myself into spirals, worried that the cosmic gate will slam in my face or hit me in the ass.

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Every minute of every day, from the day you were conceived, you have been changing. Cells are born to replace the ones that age and die. Your senses are constantly bombarded with stimuli, providing new experiences that change our minds and our muscles. Thoughts arise in our minds, changing the way our neurons connect.

So why do so many of us fight change? Change can be scary. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, our minds are set and our bodies want to do things the easy way. Change means something will be different, and it may be worse than what was before. But change can be exciting, too. Learning something new makes our minds expand, setting off those fireworks of ideas that get us charged up. Change means something will be different, and it is may be better than what was before.

Sometimes change is frightening because it is unexpected. And while sometimes there is no way to plan, there are many times when there are subtle clues that something is going to happen. The trick is to pick up on the clues and prepare. This is difficult, because we’re all rushing about living our supercharged lives; we miss the clues because we are moving too fast to see them. Some people use the phrase, “Tapped with a feather or hit with a 2 x 4” to describe how the concept works. 

Joe is an incredible high school student and athlete. Playing multiple sports at varsity level, he has had coaches and recruiters watching him since his freshman year. This year, Joe has been plagued with low-level illness: a cold here, a sore throat there, a pulled muscle or two. A trip to the doc, some antibiotics and a good night’s sleep usually made him feel well enough to continue with his college-prep studies, sports practices and events. These little illnesses were the taps with the feather, but Joe and his parents didn’t pick up on it. They were so involved in the day-to-day, they couldn’t see the overall pattern. Last week the 2 x 4 hit him: Joe was diagnosed with Mono. Thoroughly exhausted, Joe has had to make special arrangements to take his finals. Sports are off limits for at least a month, and he can’t attend the three prestigious sports camps that he was signed up for; missing camp means he misses the college coaches and recruiters.

Pushing, pushing, pushing, it was inevitable that change would be coming to Joe. One hopes it would be good change like a college scholarship. And that will probably still come, but first an unwelcome lesson. Had Joe and his folks been living a little slower and made different choices when his body showed signs of fatigue, perhaps Joe wouldn’t be so sick right now. Change is inevitable, but sometimes we can soften the blow. Listen for the little clues to avoid being hit with the big stick.

I don’t generally do New Year’s resolutions. I never understood waiting for the calendar to tell me when to change. If I’m not ready, it’s a sure recipe for failure. I can feel when my energy is building towards a shot of self-improvement and habit-building, and that’s my best chance to get it to stick. However, I can sometimes use the magical “New Year” energy to boost me into a positive state of mind.

In 2008 I tried some mindfulness work, which was actually pretty successful. I printed out little “SLOW” signs – like you’d see on the highway – and taped them up in my car, in my office, on my bathroom mirror. It was a reminder to slow my life down: slow eating, slow speaking, slow driving, slow moving, slow thinking. Just generally being more mindful in every way. It worked very well. Whenever I stressed out, got pissed off, or was rushing around, I had a little reminder to take a deep breath and take a break. A reminder that if I’m stuck behind a cement mixer for half my commute, it’s the Universe telling me I’m supposed to be a little bit late that day and don’t question why. And can you guess what I learned? When you slow down, it’s easier to make decisions, to focus on tasks, to not mumble some nasty words to the person who cut ahead in line. People wish they could slow down time, but I’m here to tell you that you can.

My efforts in 2009 weren’t as successful. The goal was to learn to keep my mouth shut. If you listen objectively to the conversations going on around you, you’ll learn that an awful lot of what we all talk about is nothing but useless blather, gossip, or stories about ourselves. I was doing pretty well for a while. However, when things started getting busy at work I fell right back into, ahem, “venting”. Which is pretty much a nice way of saying you’re back-talking about whomever is making you lose your cool. I will admit to slipping a little at home, but the workplace did me in.

The theme for 2010 is Be the Buddha! A nice, short, easy-off-the-tongue mantra that is in the same vein as that What Would Jesus Do? mode of thinking. Building on the “SLOW” and “QUIET” campaigns, this is just my way of refocusing what I’ve tried to do all along, giving those habits more time to establish themselves and adding another element or two. I find this kind of resolution the easiest to succeed at: keep on doing the same, but nudge it to the next level.

What are your resolutions for 2010?

Wishing you a new year full of peace and love….

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