82. In truth lies freedom.

Last week’s blog about Gail, my friend who has been sober for five years, inspired a number of folks to share the stories of the changes that occurred in their lives when they reached the realization that “the truth shall set you free.”

I have heard several stories, similar to Gail’s, by folks who arrived at a point when they understood that before sobriety could ever move into their lives, truth, with all its ugliness, would need to take up residency first.

As I listened to their stories it occurred to me that if it is true that “pride goeth before a fall,” then the very act of acknowledging you have a problem, and that you have repeatedly conducted yourself in ways that have inconvenienced, or even harmed, you and others requires a great deal of courage.

In order to adopt, and commit your life to, The Habit of Being True to Yourself it is necessary to look deeply into the mirror of truth and recognize the reflection staring back at you is a mirage that you’ve shaped through repeated self-deception.

If you stare into that mirror long enough you will find yourself hidden behind the illusion you have created and in order to give that illusion even the smallest glimmer of hope of coming out, you need to release the false pride that has played such a powerful role in in your own self-delusion.

Each of the people who shared their stories with me this week talked of how their biggest fear – the fear of being exposed for who and what they truly were – turned into the most cathartic moment in their lives the very instant they spoke the truth to themselves and reached out for help.

Not only were their worst fears not realized, they were overjoyed to learn how much encouragement and support was available to them and how the people they reached out to reached back to them with love, not judgment.

One lady explained that The Habit of Being True to Yourself can only begin after a thorough “cleaning out, clearing out and throwing out of all the lies, fabrications, exaggerations and distortions that got us into this mess in the first place.”

She further explained that for this to happen it is necessary to realize the courageous journey to a new life often causes those whose opinions of us we value to view us through a new and critical lens, and if we harbor any hope of successfully sticking with The Habit of Being True to Yourself then we must accept that we cannot reach for great heights while being pulled back by what others think of us.

I learned a great deal from these “honest” conversations and the more I listened, the more I realized that, for many of us, the fear of confronting the truth, and dealing with the pain that truth may bring, is indeed a tiny price to pay for the freedom that The Habit of Being True to Yourself brings into our lives.

One of my callers put it most succinctly when she pointed out that assimilating The Habit of Being True to Yourself into your life eliminates the need for a good memory as you no longer need to remember which lies you told, and to whom.

That, by itself, has to be an enormous stress-remover.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

81. Shakespeare got it right.

It was more than a lunch, it was a celebration.

Five years in the making, the day had finally come. Gail and Paul, her new husband of three months, had invited me to celebrate this very special day with them.

And an event worthy of celebration it certainly was. That day Gail was revelling in five years of sobriety.

Yes, five years prior to that day Gail had finally surrendered and admitted that the demons controlling her life were more than she could manage and, for the first time ever, she reached out for help.

I have known Gail for 10 years and along with many of her colleagues and friends had been concerned about her incessant drinking. It had seemed the only person who did not see a problem in Gail’s drinking habits was Gail herself.

I remember that day so very clearly. She had come to my office late for her appointment and fighting a painful hangover. She had slept in and called in sick to work – not new behaviours for her – but something got through to her that day and she finally realized that after years of self-delusion, she was living a lie and the person most affected by her continual lying was herself.

While in my office she called a long-time acquaintance and told him that she was finally ready to go to an AA meeting but didn’t trust herself to get there. Would he please come to my office and take her to the beginning of her new life?

In the ensuing months, whenever we met, she would tell me of the years of constant lying to herself, to her family and friends her colleagues and even strangers in the street. She told me that the lying had become as natural to her as breathing and she laughingly told me that she had taken a taxi to my office that day because she could not remember where she had parked her car.

That was the moment when she finally realized that this was not a way to live.

After the first meeting she made a commitment to myself – an irrevocable, nonnegotiable pledge – to never ever again lie to herself which also meant never lying to anyone else.

That was the day she adopted The Habit of Being True to Yourself. She realized that her only hope of overcoming this and future challenges rested with her commitment to being truthful to herself at all times. She had lived a lie – many, many lies – for more than 25 years and The Habit of Being True to Yourself, more than anything else, played an enormous role during the early days of sobriety.

She never once fell off the wagon, but she came close many times and it was only her fierce commitment to The Habit of Being True to Yourself that forced her to disregard the rationalization process she was using to try and convince herself it was okay to “just have one little drink.”

Unbeknownst to her, Paul had invited 20 of their closest friends to join us for lunch and they all showed up to share in the “Surprise Celebration.”

I have always greatly admired those who overcome adversity and those who defeat the demons of addiction have a special place in my heart.

Gail frequently quotes a famous line from Hamlet:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Her willingness to confront the truth, face the truth, admit the truth and stay the course of truthfulness is an inspiration to us all. While many tears were shed during our celebratory meal, they were all tears of joy.

Gail, I am so proud of you.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

80. Simple and effective.

Why is it so important to celebrate success?

Perhaps this question can best be answered by recalling a conversation I had with a friend several months.

He was lamenting the fact many of us spend a great deal time harshly blaming ourselves when things do not go according to plan.

According to him, a history of failures can very quickly provide a filter of doubt through which we view possibilities for success when we are contemplating taking on new challenges.

He pointed out that many of us have adopted, and become adroit at practicing the habit of self-criticism and so ingrained is this habit that it feels quite normal to both expect, and then criticize, failure in our lives.

And the act of criticizing failure, which normally takes place after the failure has occurred, becomes so habituated within us that it severely erodes our own self-confidence and we sabotage our chances for success by taking a sense of impending doom into everything we do.

If it is true that “energy flows where attention goes” and we bring thoughts of imminent disaster into the pursuit of our goals then it stands to reason that by so doing, we are contributing to the flow of negative energy that ensures repeated failures in our lives.

He further explained that by doing this consistently, we are celebrating failure and the more failure we celebrate, the more failure we experience.

This epiphany came to my friend after “more than 50 attempts to quit smoking.” After several false starts and many relapses back to smoking, he approached each new attempt at quitting with the conviction that this too would fail.

And he never disappointed himself. His expectations were met each time and he continued to smoke year after year.

Finally an article in a magazine convinced him to try a new approach. He decided to celebrate each hour of success with a small act of kindness to himself – a coffee break, a snack or simply a reminder of his success.

At the end of each day the celebrations became bigger and after three or four days he began to experience an inkling of belief that this might be the time he quits for good.

After three weeks he knew he would not slip because the act of celebration had become so important to him that he knew he would jeopardize its continuation by lighting a cigarette.

More than 11 years have passed since his celebration of that first smoke-free 60 minutes and while the need for regular and consistent celebration no longer seems important, he has used The Habit of Celebrating Success to enrich many other areas of his life.

He is not only a devoted practitioner of The Habit of Celebrating Success, he also shares its importance with everyone he meets. He’s come to believe that small celebrations of small victories will lead to large celebrations of large ones and gigantic celebrations of gigantic ones.

To him, The Habit of Celebrating Success has become a no-brainer. He explains it this way: “it just feels so much better to celebrate your worth than to criticize your being.”

Wise words to live by.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

79. Good job, Damien.

Damien called to tell me that The Habit of Celebrating Success has played an enormous role in transforming him from a mediocre performer to the top producer in his division.

Damien earns his living by selling high-end technical products to folks in the energy industry. He has been doing this for seven years and spent the first four of those years “hanging on by his fingertips”.

He attributed his struggle to two trials he faced daily:
1. He was not seeing enough people.
2. He was buying more than he was selling.

His first challenge – not seeing enough people – is one that is commonly shared by many salespeople. Like so many of us, Damien does not handle rejection very well and a good way to prevent it is to not place yourself in its path.

No salesperson can be successful without customers and Damien’s discomfort with rejection prevented him from making calls, attending networking events and avoiding social functions which could place him in a position where he could face negative or critical responses to this approach.

Naturally, not having many potential customers to call upon, led to Damien having few client interactions and therefore, very few sales.

When Damien did find himself in front of a potential customer, he frequently made the mistake of “buying more than he was selling.”

When Damien had begun his sales career his initial trainer had taught him that in any sales presentation there is always a sale being made. Either he was selling the customer on why he/she should buy his products or the customer was selling him on why he/she shouldn’t.

Damien had developed the habit of accepting any and every objection the customer presented without any attempt at rebuttal. If the customer told him that was too expensive, Damien accepted this. If a customer told him they had no need for the product, Damien accepted this too. And if the customer told him his products were inferior to those of his competitors, Damien offered no retort.

Which put Damien in the role of being the buyer far more often than being the seller.

One day, in confiding his despair to a friend who was experiencing great success in a different industry, Damien received a piece of advice that changed his life forever.

His friend pointed out that Damien did not create enough causes for celebration in his life. He explained to Damien that each and every time something good happened in his career – he secured a meeting with a new potential client, he did a presentation and felt he had excelled, he closed a sale, large or small – he always took time to celebrate his success.

Sometimes the celebration was nothing more than a figurative pat on the back, other times it might be treating himself to a long wanted gift or a much desired break.

He explained that it was not how he celebrated each success that mattered it was THAT he celebrated each victory that mattered.

Damien immediately decided to adopt The Habit of Celebrating Success into his everyday work life. He exchanged his fear of rejection for the anticipation of celebration and started to celebrate each tiny success as a gigantic victory.

It didn’t take long before no day was complete without experiencing the joyous rush of celebration three times, then five times, and even 10 or more times each day.

Then a strange thing happened. As Damien contacted more and more people, he booked more and more sales appointments and at each of those meetings he constantly reminded himself that he was there as the seller and not as the buyer.

And his sales began to climb, and climb and climb. Within eight months he was the top producer in his office and eighteen months later, the top producer in his division.

He has remained in that position ever since and his sights are now firmly set on being the top performer in his company by the end of this year.

He passionately celebrates every victory in all areas of his life and has encouraged his young children to do the same resulting in them bringing home glowing report cards from their teachers.

Damien playfully explained to me that he really changed very little in his life. Whereas before adopting The Habit of Celebrating Success he used to celebrate every failure by feeling miserable, he now celebrates every success by feeling wonderful, “so really, all I changed was the direction of my celebration.”

If that’s all it takes – just a simple change of direction – let’s all do it.

Deal?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.</strong>

My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.

78. A toast to success.

I ran into a neighbor of mine as he was walking into the lobby of our condo building carrying a spectacular bouquet of flowers.

Naturally curious, I asked him what the occasion was. His answer really got my attention.

The “occasion” was a celebration of success.

The previous week his wife had completed her first 5K run in a quest to complete a marathon by the end of next year and while this may not seem like that much of an accomplishment my neighbor pointed out that both he and his wife have long sought opportunities to celebrate any and all victories because, “Most of us spend so much time in self-criticism that we overlook the things that are working well.”

He went on to explain that this habit was instilled in him by his maternal grandmother who used every occasion – his first words, his first steps – as an opportunity for celebration.

It dawned on me that this is indeed a powerful habit and we would all benefit by embracing The Habit of Celebrating Success.

As my neighbor stepped into the elevator and disappeared from sight, I realized how potent his words were. We truly do “Spend so much time in self-criticism that we overlook the things that are working well,” and only a few of us spend nearly enough time celebrating the successes – small as some of them may be – in our lives and in the lives of our friends and colleagues.

A few days later I was relaying this conversation to a long-time client who told me she too had, in recent years, developed The Habit of Celebrating Success after she ran into a neighbor walking up to her front door, arms pumping the air in celebration of having completed a whole week of 20 minute after-dinner walks – something her neighbor shared she had been putting off and playing at for a very long period of time.

Interestingly her neighbor has maintained this habit and it has spread from a 20 minute after-dinner walk to also include two-mile runs three times weekly, first thing in the morning.

The neighbor enthusiastically shared with my friend the impetus for starting to run came from the powerful feeling of accomplishment she enjoyed each time she walked back into her driveway, arms thrust in the air in victory, having completed her short 20 minute stroll. She pointed out that when we practice The Habit of Celebrating Success those feelings of accomplishment become stronger and stronger until “they reach the point addiction” and we will do almost anything to recapture them which means we will sustain and repeat the very behaviors that we are celebrating.

It has long been known that “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” All too often we minimize or disregard the scale of our accomplishments and by so doing we lose the opportunity for self-inspiration that is so important to our overall well-being.

As you adopt The Habit of Celebrating Success you will begin to realize how nice it is to give yourself a pat on the back – how good it feels – and how good your friends and colleagues feel when you make the time to celebrate their successes with them.

As my friend so succinctly put it, “if we don’t celebrate our successes we will become quite used to not having any.”

I think she has a point.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.