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I was mesmerized watching the Chicago Police Department’s face-off with the NATO Summit protesters. It was a hot, humid day and officers were heavily clad in protective equipment weighing approximately 30 pounds.  The officers were taunted by the protesters and at times pelted with unpleasant objects, but they remained calm and patiently inched (literally!) the protesters toward the buses that would carry them out ofChicago.  Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was there, in the midst of his officers, demonstrating true leadership.

Like clockwork, officers were rotated so that those who were face-to-face with the protesters were relieved frequently by those who were refreshed and calm, ready to deal with whatever may happen.  They successfully moved the protesters to the buses with a peaceful ending.  It was brilliant.  Later, I realized it was also the perfect inspiration and model for making changes in our lives.

In today’s hectic world, most of us are frantically multi-tasking with the weight (probably more than 30 pounds!) of our own burdens and challenges.  We keep plowing ahead focused on the goal, never taking a break because we don’t think we have the time. We have big dreams, but take no action to make them come true, or we or our detractors have a million reasons why it can’t be done.  We are tired, stressed, and frustrated and already thinking about what’s next, or we’ve just given up.

Starting today, let’s learn fromChicago’s finest.  Refresh and relax on a regular basis, you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges.  It may be as simple as getting yourself a latte, or visiting your favorite website, practicing your golf swing, visiting a colleague or a quick walk around the block. It can be as easy as taking a few deep breaths.

Set your intention and take small steps to achieve your goals. By ever-so-slowly moving forward, theChicagopolice were able to peacefully move a large group of resistant protesters.  Take one step to making your dream come true, a phone call, a class, some research it will move you that much closer to success. 

Be a leader in your life.  Superintendent McCarthy inspired his officers and millions of people around the world because he met the challenge face-to-face.   It’s easy to sit back and let life happen to you, instead take the initiative to meet your own challenges and succeed. It’s easier than you may think,one inch at a time.

Life always seems to have a way of challenging our decisions, as if the Universe is testing us to see if we really mean what we say. My test came via email as I was eagerly and happily taking action to begin my coaching business, an email that triggered days of internal conflict and mental anguish.

The email simply invited me to an interview.  However, it was for a position, company, and location I was not interested in, I would once again be the square peg in a round hole if I got this job.  I made the decision to go because we should always explore and be open to opportunity; we never know where great things will come from. I committed to myself that I would end the process immediately if it was not a good match, even if my fear gremlin was saying”no job, no money, better find one quick!  Do you really think you can make it as a coach?”

During the interview, I did such a great job of rounding out those square edges, of numbing my inner voice so it would not cry out in protest, that my resume was passed on to the hiring manager for consideration. Instead of sticking to my commitment to end the process right then, I kept silent and spent a week hoping that they would not find me worthy of a second round of interviews.  Of course, the dreaded email came; I was invited back for additional interviews.

The next four days were filled with an anguishing internal battle between my fears about $$$$, security and the safety of the known versus the unknown; and my inner voice urging me to take the path that will lead me to happiness, a path on which I had just begun but from which I was already benefitting!  If I followed this comfortable pattern, if I landed this job, I would once again have security and my $$$ gremlin would be happy; but I would be miserable, professionally unchallenged, and stuck in traffic for three hours a day.

I am not alone in this.  At the gym this week, a woman in her late twenties told me that she and her friends had just been questioning how they had gotten to where they were.  Each of them is in a job they don’t enjoy, a far distance from the careers they had dreamed of, and many of them considerably unhappy.

How many of us are in this position? How many of us have a passion and a purpose that we have not honored?  How many of us have taken jobs we knew weren’t right for us? (Yes, we do have that feeling deep inside when things aren’t right for us, we just choose to ignore it.) How many of us have stayed stuck in relationships, not followed our dreams whatever they may be?

Why is it so difficult for us to stand our ground, to believe that we can create the life we want?    Why is it so difficult for us to make it happen?  Many of us are hostage to the safe familiarity of daily routines, the $$$$ gremlin, or perhaps we spend our time watching mind-numbing television,  but even more challenging are the assumptions we make, our limiting beliefs, our inability to say no, and FEAR.

FEAR can be crippling and prevent us from learning and growing.  As a child, I was incredibly shy with no self-confidence but longed to be an actress.  My lack of confidence and fear prevented me from participating in the school theatre groups. Finally, in my thirties, I became an extra in the chorus for Three Penny Opera produced by a nationally recognized opera company.  I was very excited; my dream could possibly come true! But after all those years of fearing to pursue my dream, I finally realized that I didn’t enjoy it. If I had faced those fears earlier in my life, I would have had more time to focus on finding my true passion.

By taking risks big or small, we open our world to new opportunities for joy and happiness. As kick-boxing was about to begin, a women asked about the class and I provided a description.  “That’s not for me,” she said as she started to run off.  “Why not try it?” I said.  She paused, and then made the decision to stay.  She loved it, and was grateful that she had taken that risk.  By resisting her immediate response, whatever it was that made her say no, she found something that she enjoyed.

So how do we battle these challenges, how do we change and begin the path of being who we want to be?   Scientists in the film What the Bleep Do We Know tells us that we can break these patterns.  We can start simply by interrupting them, and then observing.

Exactly what my kick-boxing friend did.  Exactly what my morning practice of meditation and yoga has proven to me. Now I am going to have the courage to replicate these small steps, interruptions, observations in other areas of my life so that I can face my gremlins. Now I am focused on being the square peg in the square hole.  I was presented with the prefect opportunity to do so, I graciously declined the interview.

What about you?  What risks (big or small) are you willing to take today to find happiness and joy?  Please share your thoughts and comments.

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