Monthly Archives: January 2016

Windows of Opportunity

We all have them: windows of opportunity. Often, though, we are looking at them in hindsight with regret, only recognizing their potential once the window has mostly, if not completely, closed.

Why does this happen?
Why don’t we see it, or trust it, when it first opens?

I believe that much of the reason why we don’t jump at the opportunities presented to us is because we simply aren’t ready, and these windows of opportunity arrive in order to help us become more ready over time.

Seeing life in this way instantly turns regret into gratitude. It opens us up to progress, rather than spending our time in process.

When we’re open to progress, we are fine-tuning ourselves through mindfulness and awareness. We’re eliminating the noise of that which no longer serves us in order to make room for the joy of possibility for that which is wholly aligned with our soul.

And that’s when the magic happens.

Once we start shifting our perspective to one of possibility and progress, we allow for more and more windows to open. In fact, we actually start opening them ourselves.

Finding Your Reason Makes ALL the Difference

Toward the end of last year, I received the same advice (inspired message) from various sources, so I decided to take note. Sometimes, when the Universe is trying to tell you something and you aren’t hearing it, it wisely makes the decision to be repetitive until you take note.

Such was the case for me throughout much of November and December. What was the message?

Routine.

I needed to create routine in my life in order to be more in the flow, to be more inspired, and to accomplish all I have set out to do. And yet… routine? Really?

Previously I had subscribed to Paulo Coelho’s statement on routine:

“ If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.”

Coelho-routine quoteAnd yet.

And yet… here was this repeated message, being shared with me from various trusted sources (think: colleagues, friends, mentors, doctors). There was truth in what they were saying, and I knew it. Routine, for me, wouldn’t be lethal, but the lack of routine certainly was proving otherwise.

It was lethal to my productivity, my ideas, my stability, and hence my innovation and creativity. A lack of routine made it harder for me to achieve my personal wellness goals as well.

So, as the new year approached, I muddled through the holidays trying to establish the baby steps of a routine. After about 2-3 weeks of trying and not exactly succeeding, I took stock. What was I missing? That’s when it occurred to me:

I had never been taught how to design, create, and establish a routine.

Now, for those of you who seem to know how to do this, this may seem like a weird conundrum, but it’s true. Not knowing the basics of establishing routines makes it actually quite difficult to get started.

Of course, the Type A side of me had an internal dialogue akin to the Nike slogan “Just do it,” but that wasn’t enough. My reply, invariably went something like this:

Honestly, if you think I could “just do it,” don’t you think I would have DONE it, by now?

So, I had to start from scratch through trial and error.

As it turns out, and as I’m learning (it’s an ongoing process), it’s really hard to establish a routine if you’re not actually invested in the reasons why or the activities themselves.

Duh.

I can look back on decades of schooling and say with 100% certainty that if I wasn’t interested in the topic, it was like pulling taffy to get me to do any work (I did the minimum). This is how I am. I know it, I work with it, and I embrace it. Because the reverse is also true: When I’m invested in something, you can be sure I will be all in. I just needed to find the right reason.

So, how do I get invested in something that I don’t fully understand, that I was never taught how to do, and that felt daunting and overwhelming from the word “go?”

I want to say: “Here’s how! Here’s the magic answer. Now, go forth and change your lives with this magic wand I created and/or stumbled upon.”

But it’s simply not the truth.

The truth is, I don’t have the answer. However, I do know what not to do, and that’s actually proving to be more than enough.

I know not to use the four diversionary tools I mentioned in my book to rationalize, justify, generalize, or explain/judge my way into excuses. I know that if I’m making excuses to NOT engage in a new behavior (one that I actually want to do), it’s because I believe (wrongly) that I’m more comfortable in my current state than I will be if I try to do something else. And that’s the basis of all change, isn’t it?

The argument between the seeming comfort of the status quo and the unknown discomfort of doing something different often creates a cycle of inactivity. The problem is, both are subjective and unknown. And when something is unknown it often leads to feelings of fear. And fear, I know for certain, is NOT how I choose to live my life, nor is it an energy with which I wish to align. Boom! I had my reason.

Just as I teach my clients, when you drill down past the surface level of any problem, you can usually arrive at a baseline of energy or emotion. Typically, the choice is fear or hope (many say love, but at that deep baseline, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s actually hope). When we get down to that level, to the underlying energy behind our choices, we get to decide which energy is in alignment with who we are and our values. And, as it turns out, that awareness is often enough to propel ourselves forward into the unknown. In my case that meant doing something I was never taught, didn’t understand the value of, and had no investment in… until I did.

New This Month: Greenwich Magazine

New this month: I am featured in the January issue of Greenwich Magazine Greenwich Mag - presentation

“Martina specializes in trying to upend that kind of negative mentality, encouraging her clients to take their thinking to a more positive place. “The crux of my work is about trying to teach people to live more deliberately and less by default,” says Martina, a Greenwich Academy graduate now based in suburban Chicago. “While some people are limited by circumstances, a lot of life is about choice. A lot of what I do is getting them to see, “Hang on, I really can participate in my own life.”

In her new book, aptly titled What if..?, Martina shares pragmatic strategies for approaching life decisions with an in-the-driver’s-seat mindset.” by Beth Cooney Fitzpatrick

 

The Importance of Discernment and Taking Pause

This week I want to share an experience with you that I had just a few days ago, and why it reminded me of the importance of discernment and taking pause – especially online. It’s actually a bit long, so I’m trying something new. Here are the practical highlights from the story. (If you want to read the full story in context, it will follow.)

  • Generalized or sweeping statements (especially if they’re extreme), about any segment of the population or subject, are often not based in data and facts. They are a tool used to underscore someone’s opinion.
  • Engaging someone who only wishes to argue and prove their opinion is “right” is a waste of energy. Use your energy elsewhere to create positive change.
  • Practicing discernment is part of self-care. Knowing when to engage is just as important as knowing how to engage.
  • Taking pause before speaking allows you to assess how best to engage.
  • Attacking someone based on their opinion or manner of speech is still an attack and proves worthless in the end. Using facts and data to rebut a generalized claim is a healthy approach.
  • Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. Everyone is not entitled to spread lies based on their opinion. Knowing and understanding this difference is important.
  • Practicing discernment and taking pause is a key component of healthy connection, both with others and with ourselves, especially in heightened emotionally-reactionary situations.
  • Never underestimate the power of choice and the role it plays in the quality of your life.

That’s it. That’s the basis of the story. But if you want the context, and to know what actually happened and how I handled it, then read on. Plus, there’s a great new announcement at the end of the email that I am tickled to share with you! xo

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THE FULL STORY

I was on Facebook, and a friend had shared a political article. It was about Muslims or refugees, the specific details don’t matter with what I am about to relate. In the comments to my friend’s post, a person (unknown to me) shared her opinion on Muslims in America. Actually, she shared her opinion on Muslims around the world.

She made some sweeping generalized statements that are unverified, such as “none of them (the non-violent Muslims) are speaking out” about the violence and terrorism, “which means they condone the actions,” none of which were based in facts or research.

I had two options.

  1. Reply to her comment and provide actual facts with regard to her statements, or
  2. Stay silent.

Lately, with the escalation in hate-speech and fear-based language that I have seen bantered about so freely on the internet, I have chosen to disengage somewhat in order to preserve some measure of my own sanity. For me, it’s Self-Care 101: Be Discerning. My discernment meant being much more in control over my online presence, both in what I was posting, but also what I was reading.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about this, actually. She had read the comments on a thread and became immediately disheartened with humanity. I can relate. So, I told her that I have done my best to only read those types of things when a) I am in a good emotional place and can practice discernment, and b) when I feel like I need to take a measurement of things. In other words, when I want to get a temperature of the emotional climate.

In last week’s instance with regard to this woman’s extreme statements, I was in a good place, and it was a friend’s thread so I read the comments. Subsequently, I chose to respond.

I did not attack the woman. Attacking serves no purpose, and it’s the fastest way to assure that your argument will not be heard. Nor did I attack her values and opinions – they’re hers. Who am I to judge? However, I did decide to correct her on facts, which I think was important.

Where she made sweeping statements not based in fact, I offered data and examples. I shared how I located this information, and suggested that the blame for the lack of widespread knowledge of such (which she had placed elsewhere) resides more with the mainstream media, who seem to choose to focus on the sensational.

Specifically, I mentioned one example of non-violent Muslims speaking out against violence and terror using the campaign Not In My Name to refute her claim that “none of them are speaking out.”

I am sharing this story for two reasons:

  1. We all have choice. Always. It’s one of the basic premises of what I teach. The power of choice directly impacts your life. One of the ways in which to strengthen the power of choice is by practicing discernment. As I said, at other times I have also chosen not to say anything in response to some inciting statements. I have discerned when I think it is appropriate, based on whether or not I can meaningfully contribute. (In other words, if someone just wants a fight, engaging them in that process is often a waste of energy.) I call it seed planting. That also means that I don’t have a specific expectation or investment in the outcome. My goal is to share truth where there are lies, hope where there is fear, and give it time to take root. If I am able to do that, I have done well.
  2. How we choose to engage matters. As I mentioned, if we are employing the same fear-based or emotionally reactionary tactics that we are responding to, then we are perpetuating the situation and potentially escalating it. This holds true whether it’s politics or personal relationships. Reacting from a place of shame, blame, or attack inevitably results in further breakdown.

In this example, I was worried that I would end up in some back and forth with this woman, which caused me some distress until I reminded myself that I get to choose to engage or not. Discernment.

In the end, she actually deleted her comments, which also deleted my reply. I can speculate about what that means, but I am choosing not to. My hope, however, is that I planted some seed of truth that will cause her to pause before making generalizations against any segment of humanity going forward.

And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? That we practice discernment, choose to take pause before we speak, and ask ourselves a simple question: Is this true? And if we can’t answer it with 100% certainty, I would hope that it would prompt more research, thought, and discussion.

In this day and age of reactionary armchair politics and vicarious virtual reality, we have all but removed discernment and taking pause from our interactions. Yet, it’s this power duo that actually allows us to connect, not only with one another, but, perhaps more importantly, with ourselves.

Resolving Resolutions

By now, we’ve had about 5 days for our New Year’s Resolutions to settle into our minds. How is that going? Have you been to the gym? Cleaned out your refrigerator? Started that novel? Written in your journal? Meditated daily?

Years ago I wrote a piece on the difference between New Year’s Resolutions and New YOU Resolutions. We often use milestones, such as birthdays, the start of the month or week, or the beginning of a new year to serve as the catalyst for change. Typically, however, a date on a calendar is not inciting enough to create lasting change. That has to come from within. It has to come from YOU.

Which brings me to the point of this week’s writing:

If your resolutions list isn’t in alignment with who you are and doesn’t come from within you, you are setting yourself up for failure before you begin.

Another way to say this is that expectations, as we know them, are based on who we are, and not who the other person (or situation) is. It’s an internal desire, imposed on an external person or thing. A recipe for disappointment, frustration, and suffering.

New Year’s Resolutions are the same in the reverse. Resolutions typically involve some external input or measurement that we then choose to impose on ourselves internally in much the same way we use expectations – only now it’s a mirror image.

In both instances we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure. So, how do we set ourselves up for success?

The key to creating achievable results is to start with goals that come from within and are aligned with

who you are, not who you think you should be;
what you want, not what you think you should want; and
when you can do something, not when you think you should do something.

Externally-derived resolutions are exercises in will-power not pathways to change. Sometimes will-power can result in lasting change, but often times the reverse is true. And even if it does result in change, it typically involves feelings of frustration, deprivation, and lack. Not the most positively reinforcing experiences.

Change has to come from within. The strongest most long-lasting ember or catalyst is the one that burns deeply inside your soul, the one that emanates 100% from within you. Change derived from an internally-vetted desire has the greatest possibility for success.

So, now that you’ve had 5 days to try on your resolutions – and now that you have a new perspective on how to approach them – what are you going to change?

Is it really time for you to create a to-do list that makes you feel further away from your center, in pursuit of some externalized goal? Or is it, perhaps, time for you to create a road map that is in alignment with who you are inside, to honor your inner knowing and voice, and find strength, peace, wellness, and happiness from an internal place of Self.

One last thought: The beautiful thing about all of this is that you get to decide… every moment of every day. Change, growth, and alignment are not tied to a milestone on a calendar.