Cleaning Up Shop: How Simple Things Can Change Your Life

A few months ago I decided to go on a mission and clear out the 30,000+ emails that had accumulated in my inbox (sounds fun, doesn’t it!?!). Easier said than done—this process took hours to complete! I vowed to keep up with a clean inbox—never again would I subject this myself to this kind of torture, but lo-and-behold, last week I found myself looking, once again, at an inbox that was full to the brim—to the tune of 15,000 emails.

The problem was that I was being inundated with stuff I did not want to be receiving. And initially, I had only dealt with the surface problem—deleting. When, in fact, what I needed to be doing was taking the time to unsubscribe. This process is much more involved, but upon embarking on this process I had a profound realization—that I was actually missing out on so much good stuff by allowing all of the crap to continue to infiltrate my life. I was missing out on inspiration and opportunities I wanted to participate in because of the excess and overwhelm that I was allowing to creep in.

I love what Marie Kondo says in her life-changing book, The Magic Art of Tidying Up, “Focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of.” In my initial sweep through the inbox, my focus was on what I want to get rid of. This time around, I took a different approach and focused on what I want to keep. And the results have been revolutionary—there is SO MUCH good stuff coming my way that I had failed to see.

I wondered, where else in my life was this occurring? I found it:

  • In my relationships—hanging onto certain things that needed to be let go of, so that I could focus on the good, what I love about these relationships
  • In my lack of focus career wise—following every interest, letting that puppy in my mind sniff around anywhere and everywhere that intrigued me, left me scattered and working on a million different projects and kept me from diving deep and focusing on the good stuff—the things that really spoke to my heart
  • In my day-to-day life, allowing myself be continually distracted cluttered up my brain, and had become a really bad habit, again, keeping me from that which truly brings joy to my life
  • In my organizational system—I had sticky notes everywhere, a planner, note pads, journals—I was all over the place

In his book, How to Be Here, Rob Bell states, “Our external environments mirror our internal lives…it’s extraordinary how even small changes in your exterior environment can deeply shape your interior life. Clean, intentional physical space can dramatically affect how calm your mind and heart are.”

I consider my technological life to be an important aspect of my external environment as I spend so much time on the computer. And what I was seeing—my inbox, my Facebook account, the files on my computer were all a cluttered mess! And I can see how this had mirrored my internal environment as well. So I cleaned up shop! The results have been tremendous. I now find myself focused, organized, inspired, and full of joy as a result of the great things that are flowing into my life (and inbox!) simply because I cleared out the clutter. I made space for what I really want.

Where in your life are you feeling overwhelmed by the clutter? Perhaps it is your house, your closet, your desk, your car, or…your inbox…

Choose ONE place to start. It can be tempting to want to dive in and deal with it all, but this will just lead to overwhelm. Focus on the one. What one area do you want to filter through?

When dealing with this one aspect of your external environment, remember to focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to discard. What elements in this space are speaking to your heart? Tune into your body’s response when you handle each item. When you are reading an email from a company you have subscribed to, scan your body. What sensations are you feeling? If you feel open, light, expansive—it’s a keeper! If you find yourself tensing up, shutting down, tight in certain areas, it’s one to discard. This same process applies to material items. If you’re cleaning out your closet, touch every item and tune into your body’s response.

Marie Kondo says, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life.” The results are nothing short of phenomenal and effects will be felt in all aspects of your life.

 

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The Key to Mastery is Failing First

The 2016 Summer Olympics have got me thinking about the concept of mastery and how I can take my pursuits to the next level.

If you are anything like me, you have probably dreamed of success, but your fear of failure has been standing in your way. We tend to think things such as:

  • “If I fail, what does that mean about me and my value as a person?”
  • “What will people think of me?”
  • “Will I be able to withstand the shame of being seen as a failure?”

The fear of shame is what has held me back: Fear of being seen as “bad” or “incompetent.” The result of this fear is that for the better part of my life I have tried to play it safe: Taking calculated risks, but never risking greatly, nor often. The problem with this strategy is that it keeps you small, and it also prevents you from attaining mastery.

Over the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to have had a lesson drilled into my thick head from our kind and benevolent universe: Failure is the path to mastery. We must walk this road to attain that which we seek.

But it’s not simply just failure that we need. It’s failure combined with deep, deliberate practice. I just recently finished reading Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code. He talks about how deep practice is an interesting paradox: We have to practice by operating at the edges of our ability where we are going to make mistakes, and that to master something we must struggle—but it must be a targeted struggle. This means working at your edge, making a mistake, and diving deep into that mistake to find strategies for improvement. So basically, we are practicing making mistakes—we are seeking them out—which seems counterintuitive.

Be willing to suck. That is how you learn, but only if you pay attention to where you are failing.

It’s been said that practice makes perfect, but that’s not entirely accurate. We must practice smart: Finding the sweet spot where we are operating at the edge of our ability. And we must stay at that sweet spot, which means constantly evaluating where that spot lies in relation to our practice.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to take to the next level, and it’s my ability as a yoga teacher, coach, and writer. At one point, my list included about 10 of my various interests, but let’s get real: We can’t achieve success or mastery at everything. We’ve got to hone in. We have to narrow our field of vision to dive deep.

I learned through my studies that mastery is the result of myelin insulating neural circuits, and it grows according to certain signals that are sent as the result of your practice. And luckily, myelin is like a muscle: When you use your muscles in a certain way, they respond by getting stronger. Similarly, myelin is also a living tissue that responds by getting faster and more fluent when we are using our skill circuits during deep, deliberate practice. But to build that precious myelin we must fire these skill circuits in the right way by trying to do things that are hard—things that we can at this moment barely do. We need to be at our edge to build that myelin!

Such relief! A light bulb went on when I realized that it is myelin that creates mastery and myelin is like a muscle that I can build. This means that through deep, deliberate practice I can become the yoga teacher that I have always dreamed of being—skillful, intuitive, responsive, and dynamic—through intentional, deliberate practice and immersion in this skill.

If you’re ready to take your practice (whatever that may be!) to the next level, consider the following:

  1. Hone in and be willing to make mistakes.

You’ve got to narrow your focus. What is it that you want to master? What skill is it that you are seeking to improve greatly? Making mistakes and struggling is a necessary component of building myelin, and thus, attaining mastery. In the myelin building process, struggle is not optional—it’s a neurological requirement for your skill circuit to fire optimally. It’s a paradox in that the circuit must fire sub-optimally as well: Mistakes must be made and we must pay attention to those mistakes to get those circuits firing in a way that leads to mastery of our skill. If you have a fear of failure or a fear of making mistakes, dig into why you have this fear before moving forward. Are your desires important enough to make you willing to face your fears?

  1. Immerse yourself in the field.

You must immerse yourself in that which you seek. If you desire to be a master yoga teacher, train with the masters: Seek them out, take their classes, watch classes online—every day. Absorb the picture of the skill until you can imagine yourself doing it.

  1. Break it into chunks.

Break the skill into its component pieces. Memorize those parts individually, then link them together into larger groupings. To use the yoga teacher example, break the class into its component pieces. Take just the opening, then deliberately study and practice the opening postures of the class you plan to teach. Practice many variations so that you can responsively and intuitively adapt to the needs of your students. Next, move onto the next chunk of your class, and so on and so forth. Then link it all together. Master teachers in the making often record themselves teaching and then take their own classes to determine what worked and what didn’t so that they can fine tune.

  1. Slow it down.

Slowing it down is vital because it allows us the time and space to closely attend to our errors. When we attend to our errors in this way, we are creating a higher degree of precision with each firing of the circuit. In his book, Coyle talks about how precision is everything when it comes to growing myelin. This means taking your time when you deliberately practice.  You don’t have to practice at the speed you would teach—slow it down to find that precision and those neural circuits will fire, allowing you to teach effortlessly and with ease after your many hours of deliberate practice teaching.

  1. Embrace failure.

Be willing to suck. That is how you learn, but only if you pay attention to where you are failing. Hone in on the failure. What exactly wasn’t working?  Slow it down and find a way to remedy that which wasn’t working. Then practice again.

  1. Learn to feel it.

This deliberate practice can’t just be done all in your head. You must feel it.  It must be an entire-body mode of practicing. There are many yoga teachers out there who have thousands of hours of class and a lifetime of knowledge—but they live in their heads. I can always spot these teachers versus the teachers who are living in their bodies. They feel the pulse of the class—they know the feeling their instruction is trying to convey. I have a more profound experience in classes where instructors have learned to feel it.

  1. Stay in the sweet spot.

Once a section of practice finally becomes easeful, there’s no need to practice over and over and over again. Yes, practice makes perfect, but only deliberate practice within the sweet spot. Find your next sweet spot, where you are making mistakes and operating at the edge of your abilities and repeat steps one through six.

  1. Be patient and kind with yourself.

Keep in mind that it takes 10,000 hours of deep, deliberate practice to master a skill. It is not going to happen overnight. But with this deep immersion, you will continue to improve and be well on your way to success. Don’t give up—believe in yourself. The world needs YOU—and it needs you out there offering up your very best.

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Check out this article on Yoganonymous!

 

 

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Commitment: A Container for Manifesting Your Best Life

I recently attended Wanderlust, a four-day, fun-filled, transformational yoga festival in the beautiful Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, California. The last class I was to participate in, before making the seven-hour trek home, would be the longest class of the festival—a three-hour Kundalini practice with the talented Tommy Rosen.

In class, we engaged in a powerful meditation, and at the end, we were guided to call to mind a word that we wanted to embody in our life. As a result of the lengthy meditation, I was in tune with and connected to my body. The word swiftly emerged, and knowing that it had originated from my open-heart, I embraced the word with open arms: COMMITMENT.

Many years of my life have been spent lacking commitment. I dabbled in sobriety, took classes on any and every topic (quitting if I lost interest), and lived life more or less in reactive mode, caving to the whims of my ever-changing mental preferences. And, not surprisingly, I was unfulfilled. I realized it was my lack of commitment in several areas of my life that was producing this dis-ease.

At this point, I was already engaged in a commitment to my sobriety. I had completely burned that bridge, vowing never to drink again and doing whatever it takes to stick by that commitment. I can see the amazing, beneficial results that directly stem from making this commitment, so why did my unconscious bring forth this word, I asked myself? Where else did I lack commitment? The answer immediately came—it was my lack focus in regards to my professional life. Zig Ziglar says, “The majority of people are ‘wandering generalities’ rather than ‘meaningful specifics.’ The fact is that you can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

I knew I was a “wandering generality” and this was not what I wanted to be. I had to commit. I had to burn the bridge of dabbling in anything and everything that catches my attention in the moment, and whole-heartedly dive in if I truly want to be of service and turn my years of learning into action. So I wrote my commitment down, signed and dated it.

The thing is, I used to view commitment as a cage, something that would prevent me from exploring and experiencing the many dimensions of life. But this thinking is false. Commitment is a container for manifesting your best life. There is freedom in commitment.

Ask yourself: What in my life needs attention? Where in my life am I feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled? Where do I lack commitment? Next, explore the following:

  • Decide What Needs Your Commitment.

Do you want to change a habit? Decide to commit to change. Is your yoga practice only getting attention when you find the time? Decide to commit to a regular practice. Is there a project you want to start or need to finish? Commit today.

  • Be Specific.

Clearly define what you are committing to, and for how long you are making this commitment. You need a clear plan of action. Maybe this will just be a trial run, and you are only committing for 10 days. If so, great! If you want a regular yoga practice, get specific. Will I practice three days a week? Five? Commit to making that happen. You must be specific. Otherwise, you will be easily derailed.

  • Have Clear Intentions.

Without a meaningful “why” it will be hard to maintain your commitment. Why are you doing this? What feeling are you hoping to attain? What do you want to see happen? What do you want to achieve? Your “why” must be powerful. Otherwise your commitment will be easily shaken as soon as the going gets tough. Write your commitment and your intentions down. Sign and date it.

  • Accountability is Your Friend.

Writing it down is the first step–accountability to yourself. However, it is helpful to share your commitment with others, with those you love and trust.

  • Know That the Universe Will Test Your Commitment.

There will always be something that comes up to make fulfilling your desires a challenge. An event you want to go to that conflicts with your commitment. A thought that tells you it’s not worth the hardship. This is the universe testing you and is the reason behind having a clear intention and a powerful “why.” When the going gets tough, refer to your signed and dated contract that outlines your commitment and details your powerful “why.”

  • Believe in Yourself.

You can do this. Recall other times you have done hard things. Remember that commitment=LOVE. Although it may be tough at times, your commitment is based on self-love, you are doing this for yourself. See this commitment as one that is not a running away from something that you don’t want, rather; it is running towards that which you LOVE–A run towards your best life. You can do this. You can do hard things.

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