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Archive for January, 2010

Sometimes the toughest decision to make!

I am indecisive.  It’s actually hard for me to admit but it’s true.  I wait till the last minute to make decisions, even small ones like where I’m going on Friday night or whether I am training in the morning or late in the day.  My parents say I can’t commit and even though I totally understand how it appears that way, the irony is that I believe I am a very committed person.  When I finally do make a decision, I am full on about it and often find it hard to let go of a commitment quicker than I should when the commitment no longer serves me. 

So I wonder, if I am a committed person, why is it so damn hard for me to figure out what to commit to?  Are there too many options?  Am I unfocused?  Do I actually know what I want?  And what are the implications of me being this way? There must be a benefit, or I wouldn’t be doing it, and on the flip side, there is clearly a cost.

I actually truly believe that we are a culture of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  I personally find myself multitasking all the time – I will be hanging out with a friend, listening to music while responding to a text on my personal phone and reading an email on my work phone.  And I think I do it well 🙂 .  Studies have actually shown that human beings are unable to focus on more than one thing at a time.  It’s why we can no longer use our phone while driving – when our mind has to retrieve information or engage in a conversation, we reduce our attention to other details in our environment to allow for that brain activity.  It’s also why we can be in a noisy apartment unable to sleep one night and two nights later we are used to the noise and are fine – our body can “tune out” that which doesn’t help us do the most important task.

I realize that it is important to multitask- there are so many things on my plate, as most people feel, but, but at what point do I need to zero in – focus on the one important task? My brain, I’m pretty sure, doesn’t even know what that is, which is perhaps why I stay in the land of indecision for so long, NOT taking action, and not getting results.

There is a really great quote that I came upon recently that said this:

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives”.

It’s true.  The best in the world are committed.  They are decisive.  They are FULL ON.  Everything they do is towards one clear goal and for that reason, decisions are a lot simpler.  For me right now, I’m decided where to play this next season, with whom, with which coach, and which league.  I’ve been sitting on the same decision for the past 4 months, and am really no closer to my final answer.  Actually, I would even say that I am further from my answer as I have put more options on the table, which has confused me even more. 

I went to an awesome seminar on Monday and then talked to a couple of great friends, and here’s how I now intend to make my decision…. from my gut.

 I have information, advice, options.  The one thing I am missing is what my gut is telling me.  Not what I should do or think is the best choice, but what I feel the best about.  And I think I am worried about following that feeling because it’s hard to justify, hard to explain to others, and hard to understand myself.  BUT, one thing I know is that trusting my gut and taking risks have always led me to something great – an experience, a place, a person…. so to say that it is risky isn’t really accurate – I actually have relevant information and my experience is my data.  100% compliancy 🙂 .  It’s like the guy that looks great on paper, or that makes sense, but that you don’t have that feeling about.  You never buy in because deep down you know, and 2 years later you break someone’s heart and realize that you knew all along and just never chose your heart over your head.  In the end, the heart rules right?

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So I was reading a newsletter that I got called “Dating without Drama”.  I know the husband of the woman who writes it, and so it’s been interesting reading about her theory on how to find THE ONE.  It goes something like this:

1.  Get busy, get interesting – fill your schedule with friends, hobbies, interests.  It’ll keep you busy so you don’t pine away for HIM to call you, will make you much more interesting to be around, and will keep him wanting more as it is much more attractive to a guy when you are a little hard to get (legitimately hard to get, not pretending to be).

2.  Follow some basic rules within the “dating phase” including some of these:

  • Only return phone calls, until you are comfortably dating him
  • Do not get physical until you are exclusive
  • “The Conversation” –  never a good idea
  • Keep dating other people until you are exclusive

 3.  Determine if he is boyfriend material (as in, take off the rose coloured glasses!)

Okay, so I know that some of this seems fake, seems game-like and seems inauthentic.  And it is!  Kind of.  Today I’m going to talk about #1…

 I got to thinking about me and my friends.  I think when we are single we are usually in one of  three situations:  1.  We are into a guy that isn’t into us,  2. A guy we aren’t into is totally into us, and 3.  We are totally single WAITING for the perfect guy (I’ll talk about this one some other time).

How backwards and frustrating is it that the guy that we are NOT into just becomes more and more interested in us?  WHY can’t the guys we want to date do that? 

I have a friend, we’ll call her Jenna.  She is totally together and knows what she wants.  The only problem?  She gets really really into a guy when she starts dating him, regardless of whether or not he is worthy of that kind of attention.  I would say that she dates down .  It’s totally obvious to all of us, but she does not see the truth about him because she decides she likes him right away, without really getting to know him.  See, she doesn’t really like him, she likes THE IDEA of him. So what happens?  This guy that should be so stoked about dating somebody like her turns it around and does a 180 or starts treating her shitty. 

The other day I overheard her talking to a guy that she is definitely not into (but likes her).  She was cool, a little nonchalant, relaxed and was explaining how she couldn’t go out with him that night.  It was perfect.  It was exactly as per “Dating without Drama” rules go!  Was this a coincidence?  In my opinion, the answer is NO.  The fact that she wasn’t really interested in him allowed her to be herself, to keep her priorities and committments (rather than cancelling plans to hang out with him), AND she had a lightness about her that if he called again or never called again, she would be fine.  This is the secret! 

So I think there is a difference between gameplaying and playing the game.   When I go into a beach volleyball competition, I would never go onto the court without a strategy.  The strategy comes from knowing my strengths and my weaknesses, as well as my opponents’.  I usually have a strategy that involves hitting one way at the start of the match in order to open up a shot for the end, when it matters.  

Basically, in sport we strategize to get what we want – a win!  And if our strategy isn’t working… ahem girls, listen up… change the strategy!  In dating, don’t just hope that you can keep the same one, which hasn’t produced results, and the “right guy” will just magically appear.  Go from bench player to tournament MVP by practicing, stepping up your skillset, your strategy and your ability to make the right play when it matters (also know as being clutch). I think that the key attitude is FUN.  In anything, when there is a sense of heaviness, and things getting tense, it’s a sign that you are on the wrong path.  You are taking yourself too seriously, and how fun is it to be around a person like that? 

Now I’m not advocating being emotionally distant from people, I’m just saying that perhaps some of us need to change our game plan- ditch the bench, ditch being  a player.  It’s time to BE THE MVP!

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Running in the Zone

One thing that I know in my sport, and that most athletes know, is that we play best when in the zone.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s this mental place where time seems to sit still, everything feels like it’s moving slowly (like in my sport, I see every cue a hitter gives me as to where she will hit the ball), I feel “on”, the game feels instinctual, and there is flow.  It is creative and though the game changes as I go, I just mold my game plan to it (I’m not attached to my plan), finding opportunities and ways to score no matter what I am given.  The one thing that always strikes me is that when I’m in the zone, I don’t seem to remember every single play that happened and I don’t think about every play that will happen… I am mindless, in some respects, but at the same time, totally mindful. Simply put, I’m present.

In a work situation, I notice the same thing. There are days where everything just works.  People are positive, documents get finished, time flies, yet all is accomplished, solutions are found.  And in relationships, it doesn’t feel hard.  You know where you stand, you may not know where you are going, but you trust the future.  We are in the zone and making things happen. 

 There are hundreds of books, writers, and sport psychologists making shitloads of money showing people how to get into the zone.  They give you tricks, processes, ideas, and yet it’s all to get to this coveted place “the zone”.  So what if it is actually simple?  What if the trick is actually to not TRY to get into the zone, but to LET yourself go into the zone.  But how?  What can we do to turn our minds off, so to speak?

Last year, I had one of the profound opportunities of my life.  I was face to face with  my favourite writer, Eckhart Tolle.  I actually had the chance to ask him anything I wanted, and here’s what I asked:

“How, when I believe that something matters and I want an end result, do I not think about it and just play?”

The reason I asked that question was because I found that when I was playing I would struggle with thinking too much about the outcome or the past when the game mattered.  I knew it wasn’t a state that allowed me to perform to the best of my abilities.  Simply put, my mind was getting in the way.

So what was his answer?  Well, he just stared at me.  Seriously.  He stood 1 foot from me, face to face and just looked at me. 

So here’s a little peek into what my mind was thinking during this time: 
“What’s he thinking? What is he going to say? Was my question good? Did he understand what I was asking? Am I supposed to be doing something?  Do I look away? Is this awkward?  Yes.  This is awkward.  No, this is nice.  Hmmm…”.  And then, I thought of nothing. 

Almost at that moment he finally spoke “Leah, do you know what I was just thinking of?”    No.     “Nothing”. 

Why?  How?

He said that when he was younger he spent loads of time thinking, analyzing, considering, and as he got older, he realized that he had more truth in BEING than he had in THINKING.  He was not his thoughts.  Truth was not in thoughts (and I just gave you a glimpse into some of my crazy thought patterns so this is a good thing for me!!) .  And it reminded me of a great stat that I learned about some of the top athletes in the world.  Compared to the 10,000 thoughts that normal human beings have a day, those elite athletes only had 2,000.  And they are experts in performance.  So then… less thinking = better performances?  Seems that is the answer to my question. 

So this is what I did (care of Eckhart) – for 1 hour a day, I practiced presence.  Every movement, touch, smell, taste etc. I focused on.  If I was washing dishes, I felt the hot water on my hands, smelled the soap, felt the coldness of the plate, and I took my time.  My eye was on the prize, and the prize was the moment.  If my mind wandered, I gently brought it back.  And I’ll tell you how surprisingly relaxing and refreshing this was (and I thought it would be boring!).  The notion was that if I practiced “turning on” my presence doing mundane tasks, then it would be more accessible when I needed it on the court.

If you agree that the only path to the future comes from the present, then shouldn’t we  focus on every present moment?  Like the dishes, for example.  I focus on washing them, putting them away, because later that night I will cook a meal, serve it on the clean dishes, the meal will be digested, and used for energy which will then allow me to perform on the court.  So washing that dish IS important in the chain.  Eckhart said this “either everything is important, or nothing is important”.  It’s a mantra that sticks with me. For me, EVERYTHING is important.

So, let me know if anyone has any other suggestions and ideas with how to be present and practice presence .  And is everything or nothing important?  I’d love to share and discuss!

www.vivvos.com (presently the best under?wear in the world)

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The infamous crop shot... signs of happier times???

So after my last blog https://leahallinger.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/no-you-dont-complete-me/ I said that in order to be successful we must be completely fulfilled regardless of the outcome.  Yes, a little altruistic, and a very simple ingredient to probably a much more complicated recipe.  Ali left me a comment that read

“so think you are on to something – but all I can think of after reading this is HOW. Yes, it all sounds great to live as “fully complete and fulfilled people” – but HOW do we do this? I would challenge that this is the hardest thing to do in relationships, as most people are significantly more emotionally invested in relationships than work. How do you retrain yourself from thinking that you do have something to win (happiness with someone else) and/or lose (confidence, a support system). Tackle this for your next blog”.

So yes, I’m tackling that question on this next blog – thank you for the inspiration Ali 🙂 

I want to start with my disclaimer… The truth is, I don’t know the answer to this question.  If I did, I’d save my answer for writing a book, it would be made into a movie starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Grant, and I’d be able to fund my beach volleyball career, sponsor free for the next decade…  BUT, I am committed to trying so here goes!

I think that the answer to this question comes from another question.  Are you playing life to win, or are you playing life not to lose.  It’s the same situations, same people, maybe even the same words and actions, BUT there is a different intention behind it.  I remember the most significant volleyball moment in my life.  We were in the semi-final at the National Championships.  I was in my 5th year playing for UBC and we were down 14-11 in the 5th game.  I was up to serve and my coach signalled for me to jump serve (a really risky but effective serve).  I really felt like I had nothing to lose – the game seemed out of our hands as we were one point away from defeat.  So I went for it – I hit the ball as hard as I could and I scored an ace.  14-12.  I did it again and they passed it over the net where one of my teammates hit it straight down back at them.  14-13.  And then something happened.  I started to think about what may happen if I made the serve, and what would happen if I missed.  And I tossed the ball up in the air,  a perfect toss- jumped up, and decided to take a little bit off the speed, just to be safe.  Just to make sure the ball was in.  So what happened? When I “took a little bit off”, the ball topspinned a little bit higher, which caused it to fall an inch out of bounds.  15-13 Manitoba.

Ironic that the one thing that I tried to prevent is what happened.  And it’s like this in EVERY aspect of my life.  That which I focus on, I create.  Good or bad, positive or negative.

So if you are afraid to be hurt, you will be hurt; if you are afraid you will fail, then you will fail; if you believe you have good parking karma, you will get the last spot.  This is the law of attraction, right?

So how does it apply to real life – how do we change our minds so that we play to win, rather than playing to serve the ball in the court?  While there are many ways to transform our thoughts, I’m going with a tried and true method called “fake it till you make it”.  Act AS IF you are the way you want to be and AS IF you feel that way.  Pretend your life is a play or a movie.  You are the director and you are the star.  What would the ending be, what type of conversations would you have, and what type of action would you take to get the job of your dreams or find the love of your life?  Would you be driven by risktaking, having fun, inspiration?  Or would you be worried about what someone thought of you, and how hard something may be and what you might lose if you didn’t succeed?  Remember that it’s YOU that has to watch the movie, so what would keep you sitting in the theatre?  The characters in the movies that I am moved by are not perfect and do not have it all figured out, but they always go out on a limb and they often fail before they succeed.  It’s not because of the job they get or the girl they marry… it’s that they played full on and there’s something so  real and so powerful about that. 

And if your life is a movie, you can always make a sequel, or a prequel if you prefer 😉  The movie is just that… 2 hours out of your life, and then more life comes.  It’s hard to take something so temporary seriously, right?  And that’s a good thing because the second we get too serious and too intense we lose perspective and that is when we start to play not to lose.  It might be like that Biggest Loser episode I saw last night where the girl was 3 steps away from immunity then started to think about it, and fell into the water; or maybe you are like me with your very own “Jacob” and you start to notice all of the things that may not work out in the future, so you kibosh the whole thing. (https://leahallinger.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/twilight-the-metaphor-for-the-modern-day-relationship/)  

As for the question about how to not get emotional about things that have an emotional investment in, I don’t think that’s possible.  Emotionally connecting with somebody is natural.  But the key is in remembering that moments come and go and change… it’s easy to remember an old flame and all the awesome memories and it’s easy to look at someone and imagine all of the possibilities, but that is only part of the story.  That’s the part of our brain that keeps us coming back for more!  Because if we really thought about the shit we go through in relationships, would we ever want to be in one??!  It’s like we have an erase button on all things negative about love – which, I believe, is a good thing in the long run but we have to keep perspective so that we aren’t disillusioned when we are dating and building a relationship.

So, after all this, my final answer to your question is:  Make sure, in every situation in your life that you ask yourself if you are Going For Gold or if you are  just trying not to be 4th.  And if all is aligned, go for it, and if not, force yourself to make a different choice, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

* check out the amazing things that are happening at www.vivvos.com.  We are going for gold in sexy brazilian swimwear!

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Better together than apart? Maybe not for long...

I did some really great work today with a sport psychologist named Erin (www.navigo.ca).  She actually does a lot of corporate work as well and I think that the parallels of sport and business are uncanny.  There is a team, there is individual work, there are leaders and coaches, performance expectations, financial rewards, and relationships.  There is what you expect of yourself vs. what is expected of you; who you think you are vs. how others perceive you; what others around you view as success vs how you personally experience success .  

After thinking about it a lot today, I believe that a  job, a family and a team are all driven by the same fundamental truth.  Our success, or perception of success is directly relational to how fulfilled we are.  If we are not happy, free and complete, it doesn’t matter what we accomplish- we will taint it with our incompleteness, if that makes sense…maybe we will fear that it will go away, or that it comes with an expectation we may struggle to fulfill. Perhaps we don’t feel we deserve it, and we do these self-sabotaging things to affirm that belief.  I have a good friend, “Stacy”, who is one of the funniest, brightest, most interesting people that I know.  Almost every guy she comes in contact with loves her and is drawn to her.  At first it is her beauty, without a doubt, but she backs it up with so much more!  So she starts dating one of them, it’s fun, playful, things are going well…UNTIL.  Until what, you may ask?  Until anything.  Until he says the wrong thing or doesn’t text at the right time, or is too much like her ex, or not enough like her ex.  If he doesn’t like her enough, OR likes her too much…Our group of friends calls these things “dealbreakers” and I’m not lying when I tell you that we have compiled a list that is probably 100 bullet points long of our dealbreakers.  It ranges from the obvious (smoker) to the obscure (wears spandex shorts at the gym)! Yes it’s funny, but the problem is that we have fallen for it as a means of determining if he is a yes or a no, and I think it’s actually a defense mechanism to keep these guys at an arms length. The question is, if she wanted to be in a relationship, then why sabotage it?

The thing is that Stacy is no different than pretty much every one of my friends.  And I wonder, if we were all complete and genuinely happy with who we were, never looking to another person to fill a void or complete a fantasy we have of the perfect life which (of course)would include the perfect husband, then would we actually be able to develop meaningful and powerful relationships?  I think the answer is YES.  If we had nothing to prove, nothing to gain or lose, nothing to change in ourselves then how would we be? It’s like in volleyball when I play just for the love of the game – when I don’t care what the result is, I play full on with power and passion, never caring about what a fan in the stands thinks or what would happen IF _______ (fill in the blank).  And I do well.  Always.  The result takes care of itself somehow because it truly is all about the process.

One thing I know for sure is that if we lived as fully complete and fulfilled people we would be free of games because there isn’t a game.  There is no end result, there is no winning.  And the irony is that we probably would win.  And it flows into sport, into life, into relationships and into family.  If we simply were okay with who we are and what life is right now then we would probably approach our life and the people in it much differently.  I think I’m onto something 😉

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Today was a long day.  It’s Wednesday and the 3rd day of my new job, which, along with training, has somewhat kicked my ass 😉  I need to figure out how to… a.  get up at 5:30am so I can train in the morning or b.  be able to unwind enough after training at night to fall asleep at a reasonable time… any suggestions?!

I think that in the past in times where I have felt stretched to my max, I’ve sometimes found reasons to give something up – to stop doing some of the things I know I need to do to feel great.  Reasons why I should be feeling stressed and why it is justified.  I think we often do that when we take on big projects or multiple projects- we want people to understand why we are a little moodier, a little more tired, a little more flaky, a little uncommitted to the “extra” things like eating well, working out, returning calls, and making time for the people we love.  And then we get into this spiral of feeling crappier, and doing more of the things that are making us feel crappier, and feeling more and more justified in feeling crappier each day as we are working so hard!

So I was swimming today for a workout -it was supposed to be 45 mins and 60 minutes later I realized I had been completely lost in thought the whole time – I could barely even remember the past 10 lengths!  In my life, this has been the signal that I am distracted and that my priorities are geting mixed up.  It usually is followed with giving up something that is important for me to be successful.  I was “thinking” about what I did today, what I needed to do tomorrow, who I needed to talk to etc. etc. etc. and it masked the mindlessness that my workout was.  I needed to be thinking about my strokes, my times, my rest and my program for that one hour, which would have refreshed and revived me, getting me ready to tackle whatever problem would come my way in the future.  Instead I spent the hour consumed in the “what ifs” of the future. 

I know that to be successful, both in beach volleyball and in my job, I will need to be able to create balance, to focus in on exactly what I need to focus on in that moment.  Forget what happened, and what is coming.  Do what I need to do right now.

I saw this really cool quote that I am going to stay true to…

“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”
Bruce Barton

When things are busy, or difficult, or trying, we have to remember that there is an opportunity to be great.  It’s an opportunity to be great in everything we want to be great in, no matter what the circumstances, and these long days of work and training and designing with www.vivvos.com are a perfect way for me to develp the opportunity at hand 🙂

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So I went out tonight to the Festival of Lights, which is a light show at Van Deusen gardens.  It was just as beautiful as I remember, and though the person I was with changed, the atmosphere was repeated- people smiling, couples holding hands, children sipping hot chocolate- the magic of Christmas at its best.  A very special Vancouver moment that I feel really fortunate to have been a part of.

The date ended at Cactus Club, where we continued our nonstop talk over green beans and fish tacos and I have offically determined one thing.  He is a Jacob 🙂   (https://leahallinger.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/twilight-the-metaphor-for-the-modern-day-relationship/)  How do I know?  I guess there are a multitude of small reasons but there was one thing that confirmed it for me –  I dropped one of my chopsticks on the floor and he didn’t hesitate for a second, handing me one of his.  Yep, he was willing to stab at his green beans with only one chopstick so that I had two.  Small thing, I know, but it reminded me of that Adam Sandler movie “The Wedding Singer” when Drew Barrymore’s character realizes that her douchebag fiance won’t give her the window seat because he wants to see the view.  Remember that part?  It’s small, but significant… no?

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