This Is Why Your Definition of Success Might Be Keeping You Stuck (And Here’s a Better Definition)

success stuck

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One morning, I won a bunch of gold medals on my first try.

When I ride my bike, I use a social app, which tracks your route, distance, speed, and other metrics. Usually, other riders have created “segments” along your route—specific stretches of road or path in which your time is recorded and then ranked against your past rides.

On the day of the gold medals, I was bored with my typical routes, so I chose a new route with new segments, and I began. My legs felt heavier than usual, and the humid late-summer air was thick in my lungs. It was clear from the outset that this morning would be a long, slow, slog of a ride. So, when I finished the route and looked at my results I was, at first, incredulous.

Four segments. Four gold medals.

Then, as the dawn turned into day, it slowly dawned on me: it had been my first time riding this route, my first time completing these segments. So, no matter how badly l performed, it was my best performance of all time. At first, this was exceptionally unsatisfying. But then I realized why it was so unsatisfying:

My definition of success is all messed up.

My definition of success has to do with being the best, rather than being determined. My definition of success emphasizes conquests instead of courage. My definition of success focuses on the completion of projects, and it neglects the bravery required to begin them.

What if the first time we do something is always our best performance, regardless of how we perform, because getting started always requires the best kind of courage?

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Week 42: Don’t Try to Be More Extraordinary (Try to Be More Human) [Loveable 043]

“Yes, the extraordinary is a gift some of us receive at rare, fleeting moments. But our humanity is the ordinary gift we are, all of us, always receiving all the time.”

In Episode 43 of The Loveable Podcast, we are once again tackling the voice of shame, which undermines the practicing of our passions by convincing us that those passions must feel extraordinary, look extraordinary, and produce extraordinary results. By the end of this episode, you are going to be closer to discerning a path forward for yourself that looks ordinary and beautiful.

loveable podcast episode 43

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Awareness of our passions doesn’t happen in a moment of epiphany; it dawns slowly, like a sunrise.
  • We don’t build resilience, self-esteem, and identity through uninterrupted success, but through failures that we learn how to survive.
  • Quit chasing an extraordinary life; embrace your ordinary one, and discover a better kind of extraordinary.
  • When we embrace our worthiness, our shame doesn’t die; it goes into hibernation until we begin embracing our passions, then it wakes up and tells us our passions must be extraordinary to be pursued.
  • There is a simple joy in practicing our passions, not necessarily an extraordinary accomplishment.
  • Embracing the ordinariness of life might not mean you will do something different with your life, but it will mean that you do it differently.
  • When someone tries to shame your passion, responding with compassion for the shame out of which their condemnation arises can disrupt the cycle of aggression.
  • Even when you’re hiding your passion from the public eye, the voice of shame within you is watching and ready to discourage you with a reminder of how extraordinary you “should” be.
  • Real success is not excitement about what you’ve done but contentment about who you are.

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Week 41: How Five Senseless Days Could Make Sense of the Rest of Your Days [Loveable042]

In the words of Frederick Buechner, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

In Episode 42 of The Loveable Podcast, we are focused on cultivating a healthy sense of urgency, not by becoming more aware of what we aren’t living, but by becoming increasingly aware of what we are already living, and how precious this one chance life really is…

loveable podcast episode 42

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Each time you journey through the three acts of your story—worthiness, belonging, and purpose—what you discover about each of them will be different, more challenging, and more rewarding.
  • A passion may look like it changes over time because we are in different stages of life that produce different insights about it, but really, as we grow, we just discover new angles on it, and a more complete vision of it.
  • Our thoughts usually revolve around a sense of scarcity; our senses usually reconnect us to a sense of abundance.
  • Most of us have multiple passions, and at times, they may feel incompatible with each other. That’s okay. Learning how they can co-exist is part of the journey.
  • Accomplishment is often incompatible with presence; attention to doing is often incompatible with attention to being.
  • Paraphrase of a great quote: “We cannot be grateful for all things; but we can be grateful in all moments.”
  • Mindfulness requires patience with oneself; while you learn mindfulness, you also learn patience.
  • Oftentimes, “success” is a painkiller in disguise.  True success is being connected with one’s true self and living in alignment with it.

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School Is Back in but It Was Never Really Out (and This Is Why That Matters)

back to school parenting

Photo Credit: yarruta (Bigstock)

It’s nearing the end of summer vacation, and I’m out of ideas.

For my kids, ages eight and ten and fourteen, the early thrills of summertime have lost most of their thrill. Riding fast on a bike has turned into riding sweaty on a bike. Free time to read what they want has turned into free time to read Big Nate for the hundredth time. Sleeping in has turned into, well, sleeping in and then waking up to nag your siblings.

It’s all wearing a little thin for everyone.

So, on a Friday afternoon, I tell them we’re going to do an experiment, and if they choose to participate, there is ice cream in their near future. I tell them each to grab a piece of paper and a pencil. I grab a book, and out the door we go.

We drive to a local park, which sprawls out along a river floating by at the same languid pace that everything else seems to be moving during these dog days of summer. We choose our places on a bench, in the grass, and on a tree stump. The kids are itching with curiosity about what we are here to do.

When I tell them, they stop acting curious and start acting furious.

We are going to do a ten-minute breathing meditation, I am going to do a poetry reading, and then we are each going to write our own poem. Surprisingly, my oldest and youngest surrender quickly. The middle child resists but then gives in, angling more for ice cream than for peace. But, whatever. I’ll take it.

After ten minutes, I read the poem. It is from Mary Oliver’s Red Bird, and it is entitled, “Mornings at Blackwater.”

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Week 40: How Hopelessness Can Become Our Best Hope [Loveable041]

“Hope can be a beautiful thing, because it gives us direction and imbues our lives with a sense of purpose and meaning. But hope can also be the worst of things, because sometimes we settle for having a direction, rather than walking in that direction. Sometimes, our numbered days are spent hoping and waiting, instead of acting and living.”

In Episode 41 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about how the thing that is supposed to sustain us, actually detains us. We talk about how the thing that is supposed to inspire us, actually conspires against us. That thing is called hope. By the end of this conversation, you’ll be done with dreaming about what you love to do, and you’ll be more interested in pursuing what you love to do.

loveable podcast episode 41

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Fear of success can create as much resistance to practicing our passions as does fear of failure.
  • Don’t wait for authority to ordain the practicing of your passions. Practice, and maybe someday you’ll earn your ordination.
  • Don’t just do what you’re good at, do what you love to do, and you’ll get better at it.
  • Don’t just ask what you want to practice; ask yourself why you are practicing it. Practice it for joy, not gain.
  • Practicing a passion can be pleasurable; practicing it with the intention of redeeming something in the world becomes purposeful.
  • There is an important difference between having a direction, and walking in that direction.
  • Conditions will never feel right to practice your passion, because resistance will always be present. All we can do is get walking anyway, with resistance coming along for the stroll.
  • When you start practicing your passion, your resistance won’t go away. At first, it will increase. Oftentimes, in the form of shame and self-doubt.
  • Suffering isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re walking the wrong path; usually it’s simply a sign that you’re walking.

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How to Stop Chasing What Won’t Make Us Happy

He’s growling and twitching and aging way too quickly.

I’m sitting in my reading chair, trying to enjoy On the Road by Jack Kerouac. (For some reason, I’m convinced the title of my next book will be found within it.) But I can’t concentrate, because our dog Cole—a miniature schnoodle who is all shnauzer—is standing on red alert at the window and salivating at every creature of the land and air that passes by.

Mostly birds. An occasional squirrel.

loveable study experience

Photo Credit: Yastremska (Bigstock)

A yellow finch lands in the fountain outside the window. Now Cole is silently apoplectic. Shivering and shuddering with desire and frustration. I watch him and I laugh to myself, thinking how silly he is, how silly dogs are. He’s made this bird the center of his universe. At this moment, he believes catching it is the only thing that really matters. His instinct tells him it will satisfy him. Will it? Probably, for a minute or two. Then there will be another bird to bark at, another squirrel to chase up a tree. I think again about how silly it all is, and I return my attention to the book. But my eyes won’t focus because my stomach has just sunk.

My whole life I’ve created birds to chase.

For a while—a long while—my birds were grades. Also, I chased friends. And girls. My birds were gadgets to save for and restaurants I couldn’t afford. I chased attention. Approval. Love. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I look around, and I see bird chasing happening everywhere. We chase youth and immortality. We chase image and Instagram. We chase righteousness and victory.

I sit there and watch Cole shake as he watches the finch splash, and I know that I’ve chased a lot of birds in my life, but the yellow finch in my life has always been success. I’ve twitched and trembled and shuddered and salivated at the window of my life, growling at success out there just beyond my reach, splashing around in the fountains of the world. Once I catch my yellow finch, I tell myself, I’ll be able to finally relax, settle in, enjoy this ordinary life. It’s silly, of course. The way to live the simple bliss of an ordinary life is not to chase an extraordinary one; it’s to quit chasing an extraordinary one.

Because in order to truly enjoy what you have, you have to release what you don’t.

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Week 39: The Blessing of Being Unfinished [Loveable 040]

“We have a list of things we think must be accomplished inside of us before we can start taking risks outside of us. We think, Once I’m more confident, I’ll start dating. Once I’m more patient, I’ll have children. Once I’m wise enough, I’ll start a blog. Once my insides look as orderly as everyone else looks on the outside, I’ll follow my heart and my passion and start doing the things I want to do in the world. To live the things we love, we have to live them with our hearts feeling a little unfinished.”

In Episode 40 of The Loveable Podcast, we tackle one of the most common kinds of internal resistance to practicing our passions: the feeling that we are not ready yet, that we have to somehow grow more, be more transformed, feel more like we’ve arrived. By the end of this conversation, you’ll be wanting to get started sooner rather than later on the living of your passions…

loveable podcast episode 40

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Passion must always be balanced by a paycheck, but too often it gets eclipsed by our pursuit of a paycheck.
  • Shame operates on the assumption of scarcity; grace operates on the assumption of abundance. Which partner will you choose to dance with?
  • As our clarity about our passions increases, so will our internal resistance to them.
  • Clarity about our passions often comes in a quiet moment of surprise.
  • The secret to practicing your passions is the same as the secret to improv comedy: in the words of Stephen Colbert, you have to learn to love the bomb.
  • You’ll never be “finished” enough to practice your passions without bombing at least a little, so you may as well start now.
  • Happiness comes from success; resilience (and thus joy) comes from failing, and then continuing.
  • Most of us have more than one true passion.
  • Creativity that is perfect doesn’t exist; creativity that is shared is called art.

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Week 38: What If a Resurrected Life Isn’t as Impossible as It May Seem? [Loveable 039]

“Sometimes the simplest, most elegant, most life-changing solutions are right in front of our noses. But we can’t see them, because we are locked in to old schemas. A schema is a mental framework that helps organize and interpret information in the world around us. Schemas are essential when we need to act quickly and decisively. But schemas can also be a problem, because sometimes they’re outdated. Or worse, some of our schemas were never correct in the first place…”

In Episode 39 of The Loveable Podcast, we examine the outdated mental rules and practical hurdles that get in the way of us discovering our passions, practicing them, and cultivating a sense of purpose in our lives. By the end of this conversation, you will have greater clarity about what are the actual barriers that stand between you and your passions, and which ones are simply in your head…

loveable podcast episode 39

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The way to overcome impostor syndrome is not to try convincing yourself that you are not an impostor; rather, try to embrace that we are all making it up as we go.
  • Procrastination is almost never a sign of laziness; rather, it is almost always a symptom of fearfulness (in disguise).
  • We need both passion and ambition, but we also need to be sure that our ambition is subordinate to our passion.
  • Where our passion leads us is relatively inconsequential; it’s the practicing of them that matters most.
  • Practicing our passion requires embracing our worthiness even more fully, and leaning on our people even more heavily.
  • The things you are wired to do and here to do and love to are all the same thing. That is good news!
  • You can ask “What if?” with fear and shame, or with bravery and hope. The former blinds us to possibility; the latter opens our eyes to it.
  • Asking ourselves both “What if I fail?” and “What if I succeed?” can reveal limiting beliefs about success and failure that are inaccurate and preventing a resurrected life.
  • Asking “What if?” helps us to become a more objective observer of our thoughts and our inaccurate “mental rules” about life.
  • A passion is something we are so extravagantly fond of doing that we would be willing to suffer for it if necessary.

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The Question at the Heart of Every Parent-Teen Relationship

His silence is driving me crazy.

For two months, we’ve been dropping him off at the local community theater for rehearsals. He has performed in the theater before, and always the routine is the same. For months, we wonder what sort of role he is playing, and for months, he refuses to even read lines with us. He won’t reveal the show as it is being formed, because he wants us to first experience it when it is finally performed. Maybe that’s a teen thing, but probably it’s just a human thing: at some level, we all wish we could present ourselves to the world finely polished and finally finished.

Now, it’s opening night. The spotlights are on. The seats are full. His mother and I sit in the front row, looking slightly upward at the stage. The waiting, for us, is over. I will finally hear my son speak. The play begins.

For about fifteen minutes, there is no sign of him at all.

parent teen relationships

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Then, he enters stage left. However, immediately, his character becomes frightened by the anger onstage and he runs wildly offstage again. The crowd titters. The scene changes. We wait. The scene changes again. We wait. Finally, he enters stage left once again. But once again, he becomes frightened right away and retreats offstage. The laughter at his antics is louder this time. I don’t laugh. I’m too busy wanting to hear my son speak.

His silence is driving me crazy.

A long scene follows, with no sign of him, but we get a little more information: his character has been mute since the age of five. Might we go through this whole night without hearing him speak? Then, once again, he is on stage. And, once again, he is silent, this time smiling, and handing an apple to another character, as the spotlight fades and the first act concludes in darkness.

His silence is driving me crazy.

After a brief intermission, the lights brighten once again, and he is sitting cross-legged, at the corner of the stage. From the front row, I can almost reach out and touch him. He listens to the dialogue of the other characters. Occasionally, one character will raise their voice, and he will flinch, but this time he does not run away. He sits quietly. The scene goes on for five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. He sits, listening. Flinching.

His silence is driving me crazy.

As I sit and watch, I become aware that I have not felt this way in a while. On this night, I’m desperate to hear my son speak, but I have not desired that so much lately. He is almost fifteen years old, and these days, I am more likely to wish him silent than to wish him speak. In the last couple of years, his words have become increasingly challenging, in one way or another. Challenging because they test the peace of our home and the peace of my heart. Challenging because they test my patience and my boundaries. Challenging because they test my character and my love and my deepest convictions. In the midst of all that challenging, I’ve begun, from time to time, to wish him silent.

And yet, tonight, his silence is driving me crazy.

Tonight, I remember a night when my almost fifteen-year-old was almost fifteen seconds old. Then, too, his silence drove me crazy. I held my breath, waiting for his first screams, his first howls, announcing that his lungs worked. Announcing his life was intact. Announcing my life was no longer intact; announcing that everything I had worked so hard to become was now subordinate to something he had just made me: a father.

There was a time when I longed to hear his voice.

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Week 37: When You Think You Don’t Know How to Live [Loveable 038]

“Sometimes, joy is simply undone things finally lived. We need to keep the door of our hearts open, so we can listen to our urges and our wants. Many of them are trying to lead us into joy. Yet, when we’ve been shutting the door on them for so long, it can be hard to break the habit and keep it ajar.”

We all want to find our passion and discover our purpose, yet many of us have difficulty doing so, and so we think our passions are hide to find. They’re not. They are usually right in front of us, but we simply fail to see them. In Episode 38 of The Loveable Podcast, we will move you one step closer to seeing them, with five familiar questions…

loveable podcast episode 38

Here are just a few of the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Pursuing your passion may not involve a huge overhaul of your life; it may just require a few tiny tweaks. The magnitude of change is probably correlated with the magnitude of the false self you have been living from.
  • The false self robs us of our passions by infusing them with too much ambition.
  • Discovering our passions is not about arriving at clarity, but gradually increasing our clarity.
  • The ultimate barrier to pursuing your passion is inside of you. It is called Resistance. It also goes by another name: Shame.
  • Our passions don’t need to be great; they just need to be lived.
  • The right action will occur to the relaxed mind.
  • When it comes to pursuing our passion, the only way to fail is to not get started at all.
  • Our passions wait on us; it is never too late to discover them.
  • Maybe our grade school teachers were on to something when they taught us the “Five Ws” of information gathering: who, what, where, when, and why. Who do you want to reach out to? What do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to go? When will you let yourself listen? Why not now?

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