Surviving setbacks with ambiguity

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?

I had this happen to me just this week. I was working on a presentation, doing a lot of research, writing a lot of notes (and I had a zillion tabs open in my browser), when my PC decided it was just too much for it. I would type in a word (and I type fast) and it took 10 minutes for just one letter of the word I had written 10 minutes ago, to show up on the screen. I was desperate (and that is putting it mildly!) I fixed what I knew how to fix. Threw out programs and apps and stuff I didn’t use anymore, defragmented my hard drive (it was 0% defragmentation, but anyway ….). I closed tabs and saved stuff to external drive. My hard disk was only by 34% usage and still…. It did not want to work for me again. I will spare you all the other stuff I did in my attempt to get it to go like I was used to it working again … but I did everything I knew how to do, and I let myself be helped by other people who knew how to do stuff I didn’t know how to do. Same result.

So I was upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried … all kinds of things were going on inside me. I had tantrums, I went silent and pouted, and I decided that I should move to the south of France and become a sheep farmer – as far away from technology as I was able to imagine at that moment.

Then I recalled my own “how to set your New Year’s Resolutions” guidelines that I posted at the end of last year. And the one that kept rising to the top of my consciousness was, “what do you want to feel like the most in 2018” – and that certainly wasn’t “upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried”. I liked this internal dialogue and so I continued with it:

Me, Question: “What do I want to feel like?”

Me, Answer: “Happy.”

Me, Questions: “So what has to happen that would make you happy?”

Ta da! The answer was obvious.

I was, at first, so happy (!) that I did not dwell on my negative feelings, and that I wasn’t allowing myself to be anxious and worried, and that the solution was already there when I asked myself the question that shook me out of my self-pity and back into control. I was in a position to make a decision, simply based upon a process that I had already decided would work for me and which I came up upon months ago: I will ask myself some questions and then base my next actions upon those answers that I had already chosen as best for me.

So maybe this seems trivial for all the supermen and women in the world out there, but in the heat of the moment, all I could think of was how bad and unfair and …. <insert victim role description of choice here> is.

Just knowing that I want to feel at peace, and what I would do (and allow myself to do) if things didn’t go my way (which is another one of the questions in the New Year’s resolutions postings), helped me to move on and get out of my funk – granted after a few hours of despair – but not for days.

What this has to do with ambiguity? Well… I had to accept that there may be other solutions than those that I originally thought I had; and that I could adjust my response to the situation and could take on a different perspective. Sure, my vacation budget took a hit because of this – but without a working PC there would be no vacation anyway.  I had to be adaptable here, to the situation – and then think how I could expand my options.

Summa summarum: being adaptive supported my self-confidence, and I know that self-confidence is the trust in yourself that you can solve problems and challenges. If it is one thing I know about me, it is that I can adapt (sometimes it is a curse, but in this case, I consider it a blessing).  I just had to remember that and whammo: I felt self-confident that I could find a solution. It occurred to me then, that this is what ambiguity is all about – it is the ability to stay calm in the face of the unexpected and to trust that there is a solution.

So back to my original question at the top of this post – with just a slight change: I put the emphasis on a different word:

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?

Gratitude. How can you get it to “really work”?

After posting the article from a German magazine on the question of “does gratitude really work” (and they came to the conclusion: yes! it does contribute to success!), on my Facebook Group page,  I got inspired to share with you how I keep track of what I am grateful for… and to testify that yes, expressing gratitude and becoming aware of what I am grateful for, does work for me!

I keep a journal. Simply because I can go back and read what was going on in my life at a certain time, what was bothering me, where I was making progress and how I felt that I felt. That in itself is something I am grateful for. If I didn’t have the journal to check back in with, I probably would not remember all the good things that happened to me… and I probably would not remember – or relate the cause and effect of results in my life – for some of the things I did.

There are plenty of options available to choose, on how to keep track of what you are grateful for. Just Google it  – I got over 5 and 1/2 million links. Find what fits best for you and your style. Like I said, I keep a journal, because that works best for me.
So – in case you were wondering (hah! hah!) what I write in there, then let me share my structure with you.
Now I don’t always answer all the questions, and sometimes the answer from one question is actually the same answer to another question.
Feel free to copy this practice for yourself if you like. After a while, it gets to be second nature and you don’t think about “how to do it” anymore.
I find for me, at least, that having a standard format makes it easier for me to not go off on a rant or beat myself up over things.
Debby’s Journal
Day, Date
– “this <event/conversation/experience> was magical today. Totally surprising (as in serendipitous), beautiful, magical! “
– “this <event/conversation/experience> was my absolute best “grateful for it” moment today.
– “this happened today that I need to reflect on / think about / ponder over some more”.. I know this, but I need to write it down to make it happen.
– “this is the lesson I learned today” Where do I stand in the “big picture” right now, in light of my goals.
– What is working for me (overall, learnings I have implemented and taken from past experiences. The “Good” part of “Good or Grow”?
– What still needs work- (where can I grow? (This is the “Grow” part of “Good or Grow”)?
– Where/which areas would I be better off, if I did more of this?
– Where/which areas would do me better if I did less of this?
Today’s overall rating
On a scale of -10 to +10, give this day a rating on the “Ego vs. Spirit” scale. After giving it a number, I write down next to the number what it was that made me want to take this number. If I am feeling very amibitious, I even put down what I think I could do to change that number to the next one or two higher levels. 
Ego = -10 (minus 10).
Those (exceptional) days when life seems to be a struggle, energy is not flowing at all through me, I really just feel hopeless and lost.
Ratings between -10 and 0;
Generally downcast, not feeling good about myself, judging myself (and probably others) …
Neutral = 0 (zero)
Those days when I am using my free will, I am living with intention / with intent.
Ratings between 0 and +10
Those days when I am living with intent, feeling pleasant recognition and tuning into my inner power. I am not tuning into my ego-based self-talk.
Spirit = +10 (plus 10).
Those exceptional days when I sincerely feel complete reverence for unity and spirit. Nothing in my life that my ego wants to accomplish.
Today’s overall value:
Give this day a value – in one or two words
(i.e. “patience”, “growth”, “clarity”, “daring”, etc.etc.)
How do you personally exercise gratitude? Do you do this daily, hourly, weekly, or … never?
Do you keep a journal? If so, would you care to share what your process is, if you have one?

Alternatives vs. Choices

There is a subtle but significant difference between “alternatives” and “choices”.
An alternative is something that is offered to you – outside of you, the person, they are external to you. Choices, on the other hand, are alternatives that fit in with your internal map of how the world functions (or, in your opinion, how it should function, what fits best to you).

You may be offered many alternatives – or options, but still think or believe that you have no choice. Choice involves actually being able to select from those alternatives, to find the most appropriate one that fits in with your own beliefs, your internal capabilities – your “world”.

In a discussion today, it came up that if there is only one choice that fits for you, then that really is not a choice at all. It is a “given”.
When you have two choices, well that is actually better defined as a dilemma.
Only when you have three choices – or three possibilities that would work for you and your internal beliefs – that is when you are actually able to “choose”.

Even if you are given good alternatives, these are not necessary the choices you have.

How could you broaden your choices, so that you’re not stuck in a dilemma?

How could you evaluate if the alternatives are really choices for you?

Something to ponder the next time you are offered alternatives. Not only when you stand in front of the ice cream vendor, or are trying to decide on a new color of wall paint at the selection counter.


I was reflecting on a presentation I saw today on resilience and how a person best builds it up … The ideas presented were good, yet I still think they overlooked the most basic things that are at the heart of having resilience: trust and faith.

Trust as in:
trust in yourself,
trust in your abilities to bounce back – regardless…,
trust that the universe has your back;
trust that in the end, everything will work out.

To me, resilience means, that although I may not know right now how it will end, I am just sure that I can cope with the outcome. Be that a burned dinner, a botched sales pitch or a broken leg …

Faith: Resilience also means having “faith” to me.
Faith in myself, as well as in the faith I put in trust.

Resilience to me, isn’t overcoming the bad, but knowing that I can handle whatever I set out to do.

Dealing with criticism

We live in a world of freely shared criticism. Because the barriers are down and almost everybody has the means to criticize almost everybody else– at least it seems that way with social media. Yet I do wonder where all these folks that freely exercise their ability to criticize, get the impression that they have the right to criticize anyone that they take their fancy to.

Are we just plain stupid? I mean, those of us that put ourselves “out there” and go public with our ideas and thoughts and opinions? Opening ourselves up for those critics – getting a hard left swing, while we have our cover down?

I think not.

Although it seems like we, the open ones, are vulnerable, I prefer to see “putting myself out there” and expressing my thoughts (or choice of whatever it is) as a show of my strength and my individuality.

Yes, as we say something or do something that is not in line with general public stance at the moment, we could get verbally beat up. Yet we are also being ourselves, the incredibly valuable individual that we are. (I saw this on a T-Shirt somewhere and love this saying: “If I were you, I think I would rather be me.” How is that for not-so-hidden criticism?)

If I mess something up – then, ok, stuff happens. Nobody’s perfect. Tell me in a way that will help me to make myself better the next time – don’t bump me off my tree stump just so you can stand over me, dwelling on your self-righteousness.

Oh, so you know more than me? Well, you and about a billion or so other people on the planet do, I’m sure. Not in everything though – especially not about me. In my life, I am the Chief Experience Holder. And that means my logic or reasoning is a bit different than yours. I could reach different conclusions, see things differently, feel differently about things than you do. That is just another one of those quirks, about me being me and you being you.

There are all kinds of reasons to criticize. It is the easiest thing in the world to do, to find fault with someone else.

So how can you cope with criticism?

Here are some not-so-good coping options:

The iceberg. Go cold. Stop all communications. Do not look at the critic and do not reply or respond. Ever. Again.

The argumentative type. These are the ones that really get down to defending themselves. Even as far as getting very personally demeaning with the critic.

The justifier. These folks can give you a lot of reasons why they did what they did, said what they said, wore what they wore, or even why they danced a walzer to a fox trot beat.

The ridiculer. Put that critic down! Minimize their intelligence, their research ability, their IQ, their EQ! They are total nincompoops! The school they went to and the music they listen to, the car they drive and the dog they have… it is all so, so “ugh”.

Do you waste a lot of words explaining to someone who doesn’t care why you did what you did, or what you do what you do (if they even bother to listen)?

Or do you “roll with the punches”and put on your shiny armor and fake smile and at the next best opportunity slip away to cry in the bathroom?

When criticized, what is your go-to coping mechanism to manage your feelings about the criticism? How do you manage your relationship with the criticizer?

Here come my favorite coping options – and believe me when I say that I have learned these hard way:

Ask – always stop and always ask – yourself: Do I believe this criticism? Is it really true?
The answer will generally be “No”. Because the critic is not in my skin, and their neurons aren’t firing like mine.

Ask again: Can I fix it? Whatever “it” is. If it is in my power to fix “it”, then I just go do that. End-of-story.

Just one more thing: if what you think I said is criticism, then tell me how you feel about it. I sincerely hope that the words that came out of my mouth or (through my fingers) was intended to be loving, constructive feedback, because that is how I want it to be for me. I appreciate to be helped. Because without good feedback, I will not be able to grow (you probably neither – but you are the Chief Experience Holder of your life – so maybe you are different).
This part – about loving, constructive feedback helps me to grow – holds especially true if one of us automatically tends to take on one of those not-so-good coping options mentioned above.

What’s your relationship with “power”?

I’ve been thinking a lot about “power” lately: who has it, who is not using their own, where does it come from, how is it being used … and also about what the different meanings of “power” could be for each individual.

Because I am bilingual, German and English – I am also aware that the word, even though it is used in everyday language here in Germany, could mean something different than what the original, English term, is used for. Here (to clarify: I do live in Germany) it generally is used to describe a person as energetic.
As in “Ich hab’ heut’ richtig Power!” (loose translation here): “I have power today” and the generally accepted meaning for this statement is: “I feel really energetic”.

We all have “power”. Power over <enter who or what here>, power to <enter what or how here>. At the very least, we have power over our thoughts and actions, and we have the power to do or to be.

What meaning does “power” have for you? Where are you using your power? Does power mean energy for you, too?


Silence can lead to better answers

How long can you wait after asking someone a question, before you give the answer yourself? Or before you ask another question – that supposedly clarifies your first question? Can you just sit and wait for the other person to answer your original question?

Sometimes just by asking a following question, that, in itself, changes the original question. I have found that a stance of “friendly curiousity” is my key go-to strategy, when I have asked a question and find myself wanting to rush in with a probable answer to that question, or to offer “support” in how to understand my original question by asking even more questions.

Being curious and attentive helps me to stay quiet (ok – granted – not all the time! But hey, give me some credit,  I am trying to be mindful of this, and trying very hard at that!) because that way, I am really, sincerely, truly interested to find out how my inital question was received.  Who knows what kind of good thoughts could come out of an answer that was allowed to be reflected upon before I hijacked their train of thought until it jumped its tracks.
Imagine what kind of a resulting discussion that could lead to! 

Do you leave the other person time to give you a thoughtful answer? What do you do if you feel like the answer to your question is taking a “long” time? How long is “long” for you? Can you extend that time and just wait it out to see what happens? What answers could come if you just let your question “sit” with the other person for a while?

Do you know it all?

*Quote by Madeline L’Engle

Offering advice instead of asking questions? Jumping to conclusions?
The best questions asked, are those of ourselves.
This has nothing to do with not trusting yourself or your judgement, by-the-way. This has to do with “awareness of yourself” and paying attention to what is really going on inside of you when someone else is speaking.
I have found that the best way to listen, is to simply be curious. Curious about the person that is talking to me, about the words being said, about the story being told, and a little bit about the emotions I sense in my body.
I don’t have to have an answer to any of these things. It is simply sufficient to just be there, in body and mind, with the other person. That makes a much more lasting impact than any solution I could come up with. Because, as we all know: what is real – their reality – is in the “beholder’s eye”. Agree?

It takes courage to be a leader.

To be a leader, someone that others follow, you need 5 things:
1. Clarity about yourself. Do you which values are driving your decisions?
2. Clear language. Are you willing and able to engage in the difficult conversations?
3. Clarity on the “price” of the risks you take. You know the chances and the risks -and you can move forward?
4. The knowledge you have gained from your mistakes. You know you can trust your judgement (and not your emotions?)
5. Your behavior is one of courage. Are you moving out of your comfort zone?

Where are you demonstrating courageousness in your life? In your work? Are you initiating the difficult conversations and helping others as you do so?
Where are you leading?

Neujahrsvorsätze: Frage 5

Heute ist der erste Weihnachtstag! Ich wünsche dir ganz herzlich „Frohe Weihnachten!“

Wir kommen heute zu unserer fünften und damit letzte Frage, und die ist heute ganz im Sinne von Weihnachten und Geschenke. Und dabei meine ich nicht Schmuck, Bücher oder Ringelsöckchen.

Vor einigen Jahren habe ich selbst die Entdeckung gemacht, dass worauf du deine Aufmerksamkeit richtest, davon wirst du mehr bekommen. Einfach weil du, was auch immer es ist, es bewusst wahr nimmst. Bewusste Wahrnehmung, oder Achtsamkeit, ist ein Geschenk den du dir selbst machen kannst.
Ganz besonders wenn du eine Dankbarkeit in dich trägst, wirst du die Geschenke wahrnehmen, die dir das Leben gibt.
Heute möchte ich dich auch um etwas Bitten: sage einfach mal “Danke!” zu dir selbst.

Die Frage für diese Woche – und die letzte Frage in unserer Neujahrvorsätze-Liste für 2018 Challenge:

Wofür bist du dankbar?