Archive for January, 2011

Criticism and rejection are inevitable but I don’t have to like it

January 28, 2011


Rejected for change, not always a bad outcome

I’m a powerful successful person with a proven track record and I operate with great skill and confidence. I operate independently with a results focused attitude and don’t care what other people think.

I wish that was true. It certainly appears to be so but it’s really only a well fortified facade. I look at successful people and admire their confidence and self belief. I wonder if they too are different on the inside.

My upbringing programmed me to believe that I could never be good enough. It certainly fuelled me with a frenzy to prove this wrong as I set forth to slay a path to success, prosperity and material wealth.

What I really wanted was acceptance. From others, but mostly from myself. To believe I’m good enough and feel the freedom of contentment. How much do I have to do and have for me to believe it? I wish I knew.

With success comes even more pressure. There is no safety in numbers at the top and the glare of the spotlight is blinding. I may have ‘shown them’ but now they expect more, always more. They don’t want to wait.

I had many supporters to a point. They pushed me to be better but when the gap between us grew beyond their comfort zone they wanted to reel me in. Apparently I needed to be brought back to earth and to understand what the real world was like.

I was careful to keep any arrogance in check and underplayed the situation. The spotlight shone even brighter as they looked for and revelled in any sign of weakness.

Suddenly people were enjoying telling me of my weaknesses. They must have been enjoying it as they make a point to tell me each time we met. They’d do so with such obvious delight. Not perfect after all then. If only they knew what was really going on inside that they couldn’t see.

Criticism and rejection hurt. I still care far too much what others think. I don’t want to care but I do. I crave the confidence, personal belief and freedom of being master of my mind. So what is to be done?

When we take rejection as ‘proof’ of our inadequacies it’s hard to allow ourselves to risk being truly seen again. How can we open ourselves to others if we fear they will discover what we’re trying desperately to hide: that we are boring, incompetent, needy, a fraud, or in some way deeply inadequate?

The fear of rejection becomes understandably intense when it taps into our own belief that we are lesser than others or lesser than the image we feel compelled to project.

We may believe that the person who does the rejecting or criticising is automatically superior to the person who is rejected – us. Relationships are not some sort of bizarre competition in which the person who attacks first, refuses to attach or suffers less is proclaimed the winner. Rejection can reveal just as much and often more about the insecurities and fears of the person doing the rejecting.

We may wish to don our armour to protect us from the feelings of self-loathing, depression, anxiety, and rage that rejection and criticism can evoke. None of us is immune to the pain of rejection, but the more we grow in maturity and self-worth, the less likely we are to take it quite as personally. At least that’s the theory.

The fact of the matter is that the ones we listen to so intently have rarely walked in our shoes. They hide in the masses, safe in their mediocrity: a small dog barking from behind the fence. Intellectually we know not to take their derision to heart but emotionally it cuts us to the core, pushing the buttons of our own perceived inadequacies and fears. We’ve been found out. The paradox is the more we say ‘I don’t care what they say’ the more we actually do.

I have a group of friends who do understand, and we meet regularly. They are the only ones to whom I can speak openly and honestly. They’re neither jealous of the wins nor dismissive of the failures. They are supportive, caring and motivating. These are my true friends and I’m fortunate to have these great people in my life.

When we acknowledge that criticism and rejection is not an indictment of our being, but an experience we must all face again and again if we pursue our dreams, it will become easier to accept.

The only sure way to avoid rejection is to take no risks. If we choose to live courageously we will experience rejection and survive to show up for more. As painful as it can be I choose to walk this path.


Find contentment by helping, not by just craving it for yourself

January 23, 2011

Getting more from wanting less

The secret to success and contentment is to look beyond our selves and provide value to the world. This is not a new concept. We often hear about the value of ‘giving back’, helping others or transcending the ego to see the benefit, or purpose, of our existence to serve others. It’s a logical step beyond personal success and contentment and goes a long way to answering the question of ‘What’s next?’

Giving back does not mean giving up or giving everything away. Neither is it an apology for success. As a logical extension of success, helping others provides a level of personal satisfaction that underlines our own achievements. So there is something in it for us whether we want to admit it or not.

We’re selfish by nature. And we like to have stuff. That’s because our primary point of reference of the world is ourselves. If we can step away from the delusion that it’s ‘all about me’ and manage to see things from other peoples’ perspectives, our view of the world, and our relationship to it, changes dramatically.

By understanding another person’s view, we broaden our own. In doing so, we become aware of not only our own actions, but the consequences of those actions. Understanding both action and consequence can lead us to strengthen our sense of responsibility because nothing is then assumed and we are forced to consider all sides of a situation.

This leads us from ‘me’ to ‘we’, which allows us to help others, which ultimately provides us with a much higher level of satisfaction and personal reward.  People like us more, collectively we achieve more and we feel contentment.  Paradoxically, the very contentment we were searching for when looking out for only ourselves.


Freewill and finding meaning

January 18, 2011

Finding meaning

Recently I was going through some stuff I had in storage and looking back at my history, trying to find where I had put the box marked inner peace, contentment and fulfilment.

In that box is a map showing me the way to my path in the world. I know it’s in storage somewhere. I have certainly kept a lot of rubbish that I should have thrown out years ago.

To find peace we need to stop following the plan set out for us years ago by someone else based on their needs, and start listening to our own voice. We can’t rely on instructions from years past that formed our assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works.

Those assumptions drive self-perception, which, in turn, sets the control points for how we need to operate in the world. They are often formed in childhood and perpetuated by society as the accepted way that life must be lived. But these assumptions are also very often not valid.

Often the way we actually operate in the world is different because of our unique make up and circumstances. Our default is to realign with the external control factors of our past.

These deeply seated programs can be run again and again until they appear normal, but yet simmer an overall nagging sense of unease that leaves us misaligned with what we really want. And often, because these programs are running in the background, we don’t even know why we’re dissatisfied.

If we can bring ourselves to recognise that we are valuable and deserving then we’re going a long way to finding the authenticity that leads to acceptance and fulfilment. This is about trusting ourselves and moving past the external influences of the past that weigh heavily on us.

Then we understanding who we are and recognising our value as people. Not as the roles that weplay in society, what we have or what we do.  Just for being us.

Zen and the art of surfing

January 11, 2011

Zen and the art of surfing

I find surfing a wonderful metaphor for life.

Surfing requires balance, agility, speed and courage. You can’t control the ocean or enforce your will on the waves. Success comes through adaption. And so too does life.

Lao-Tzu the great Taoist sage wrote “What is malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaption.”

In Zen practice one is taught not to try to do anything, to surrender, to just be with what is happening in the moment, to let the present wash over you. The key to success is not to blindly throw yourself into every situation simply to prove that you can.

When the next wave is beyond our skill we must allow it to pass. What purpose does attempting such a wave serve, only to have the force of it hit us, hold us down and drag us along? We have to fight to reach the surface, struggle to breathe and expel a great deal of energy just to get back to our starting point in the line up.

Yet that is what so many people do in life. They believe they can impose their will on the uncontrollable, hold back the ocean or control the power of the waves. This only serves to waste energy and put us in the wrong place so that when the perfect wave does come, we miss it.

This doesn’t mean we should stay only within our comfort zone. We need to challenge ourselves by taking waves that test our skill, allow us to grow and provide a magnificent ride. Professional surfers achieve success as much through wave selection as surfing skill.

Once you have assessed the situation and decided to go for it then you need to be totally committed.. Confidence in your ability and reliance on you past experience will help you take the drop. If you hesitate or question your ability you will surely fall.

It’s best to catch the wave just as it’s setting up, when there’s enough incline to catch it, but before it goes concave. In the take off, and throughout the entire ride, the surfer, like the Zen student, must constantly find the middle way.

But once you’re beyond a certain point, there is no turning back. Hesitation can make things far worse than commitment. And to anyone who has looked down the face of a big wave, that commitment is impressive. Success requires the surfer to perform, as in Zen and life, instinctively with full focus and commitment, and without hesitation.

We must have faith in our ability. If we do, we’re up and away.  Our thoughts impact our performance. A good take off causes a chain reaction of proper technique and flow, so influences the dynamics of the entire ride.

In Zen the philosophy is simple:

The body moves naturally, automatically, unconsciously, without any intervention or awareness. But if we begin to use our faculty of reasoning our reactions become slow and hesitant.

In 16th century samurai training:

Try not to localise the mind anywhere, but let it fill up the whole body, let it flow throughout the totality of your being. When this happens no time or energy will go to waste.

 We can apply these concepts to our life for a transformative effect.

Transform your awareness to discover your own natural style. It’s a direct, simple, intuitive approach to life. This leads to a place where you can be fully present in the moment. This is where success is found.

When you release yourself and relax things change. The steep sections that previously seemed impassable, you suddenly pass. You feel where the wave is going and keep your eye on where you want to be.

Enjoy the ride.

Defining success (or failure)

January 3, 2011

How do you define success?

Happy New Year! The festive season is drawing to a close and we’ve been wishing each other a safe, happy and successful new year.  It’s a lovely sentiment but what does it actually mean for you?

Have you ever tried to define success? It’s an elusive target and it means different things to different people. And success today may not be success tomorrow. Life’s like that. Our journey to success isn’t linear and our destination can change, perhaps several times along the way.

Is failure the opposite of success or a necessary milestone along the way? Is it true that we only fail when we give up? Or does it make sense to re-evaluate our results and accept that we can give up on something that no longer makes sense, or that we have proven to be impossible? What value can be derived from continuing to strive towards a goal that we know to be no longer of value to us?

There are no absolutes in success or failure – they only exist in terms of perspective. For a professional golfer, falling below the top 10 ranking in the world may be massive failure. For me, just getting the ball on the green is success. The external judgement of the result may be absolute but our reaction to it may not be. In fact, one person’s failure may be another’s success. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Here’s my belief of how we may define, find or perhaps accept our journey to success:

Know yourself. Know what is truly important for you and seek this independent of the good graces of others. Be connected to your family and others in a meaningful way.

Have the freedom to do the work you love and that which provides meaning in your life.

Be aware of the needs of others and don’t focus solely on your own existence.

Enjoy health and happiness. Find love. Seek self acceptance, wellness and gratitude. Leave others better than you find them. Take responsibility for yourself.

Seek wisdom. Wisdom brings happiness, fulfilment and contentment.

Reject the need to satiate the desires of your ego. Don’t judge yourself on what others value.  Success comes from within.

Define your success by what you most value. If that’s material gain and that brings you peace, happiness and wellbeing then believe in what you value and follow that path. If it’s teaching, giving and helping others then follow that path. Neither path should lead to guilt or a sense of superiority.

Know your mind and what is important to you. These are the markers of a successful life.