Life Lessons in Focus and Choice

You may have noticed I have not been posting as frequently in the last few months.  For those of you who follow me on social media I have been much less active. I have gotten enough nudges from people that I thought it was time to let you know what was happening and let you know that while I have been missing I have by no means checked out.  In fact I have really missed writing and engaging with you.

Since February I have been challenged by a health issue.  I am clearly moving in the right direction, but I do not know how long it will take to get back to 100%.  My new mantra is “be the tortoise”.  This has slowed me way down so I might as well embrace this new pace!  Besides, what I have lost in terms of energy temporarily, I am hopefully gaining in wisdom permanently.  Our circumstances can always provide a great access to learning the lessons we have resisted learning.

In the spirit of not wasting the learning opportunity of a breakdown here are a few of the lessons life has been teaching me lately.  My experience reminds me of a wise saying: “if you know but you don’t do then you don’t know”.  Hopefully these lessons will finally stick!

Focus is Essential to Managing and Leveraging Our Energy

When we have unbounded energy it is much easier to live in the illusion called we can do it all.  My energy level has been very unpredictable from day to day and week to week.  So I have had to choose more carefully what I will and will not do.  As a result I have had to create a VERY short list of commitments and stick to them.  At times it has been a list of just one thing.  I have also had to change some of my habits and preferred ways of doing things because I have not had the stamina to keep my commitments the way I have typically done it in the past.  I have had to learn to ask myself often, is what I am about to do really necessary and does it serve what matters most right now?

I got to experience in technicolor the incredible pull to do “business/life as usual”.  I have been all too frequently reminded of the cost of not resisting that urge.  Yet I am grateful for those reminders actually because unless the cost of “business/life as usual” seem bigger than the payoff of doing what is natural and comfortable change is a lot harder.

Questions are a great way to help us be mindful.  These questions have helped me to consciously choose how I am investing my energy day to day and moment to moment.  The results in my life have actually been amazing.  I have been far more present.  And I have a renewed sense of optimism about what I will be able to accomplish when I am 100% again, not despite this illness, but rather because the lesson it taught me.  In some areas I am actually making more progress because despite the circumstances I have been so focused.

Don’t Just Say No, Choose No

I have realized just how hard it is to say no when you would prefer to say yes.  For the first few weeks I was just putting things off as much as possible thinking I’d get to it when I was well believing that was just around the corner.  I was resisting (more like kicking and screaming actually) the idea that I needed to scale back my commitments to the outside world so I could focus on what should be every one of our primary commitments – our well being.  Even the thought of taking things off of my plate made me very unhappy and uncomfortable.

At first explaining I was sick to a select few gave me freedom, but that feeling was temporary because on the other end was an ever increasing to do list that just added to my anxiety.  Then I had that aha moment.  I took an honest look and realized way too many things on that list did not have anything to do with my core commitments.  As a highly capable professional I was startled by just how blind I was to something so fundamental to my success.  This is something I thought I knew and even coach people about, but was not doing for myself.

This has taken my understanding of what it means and what it takes to choose based on your commitments rather than based on your circumstances to a whole new level.  One things that has become abundantly clear to me is just how important it is to accept your circumstances FIRST.  Saying no because of your circumstances feeds the experience of being victimized by those circumstances.  The same is true with our fears.  Until you accept your current circumstances (and/or fears) it is incredibly difficult to choose based on your commitments.  What feels “right” or natural may pull us to make choices contrary to our commitments.  For far too many of us saying no feels wrong and that gets in our way of choosing no.

Choosing based on your commitments is an access to our real power.  It not only affects our own sense of our power, it also affects how we occur to others.  Saying no as an act of survival costs us our power.  Choosing no in service of our commitments fortifies our power and propels us forward to accomplish what truly matters most to us.

What lessons has life taught you lately?


Enter A Comment

Mike Henry Sr.   |   17 May 2010   |   Reply

Good to have you back. I think that’s a great point about choosing no instead of just saying it. My problem exactly. Thanks.

Susan Mazza   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

Thanks Mike. Your support makes such a difference for me,

ALAN   |   17 May 2010   |   Reply

“Focus is Essential to Managing and Leveraging Our Energy” very nice, gives me a ring in my head that I should stay more FOCUS!!!!

Susan Mazza   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

It helps to add a voice that helps us choose to what can be a very noisy conversation going on inside our head that tempt us to choose the distractions! Thanks for stopping by and commenting Alan.

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

Dear Susan, I love your wisdom in sickness and in health. 🙂 A little time away from the madding crowd is the message that may come to us when we listen inside. And, if we don’t act on the message, we can find the message acts on us. whether we like it or not. And guess what, we end up liking it, because it serves to serve us. Be with you and what matters most – health, love, caring relationships, for we are with you. Enjoy now this beautiful time of year to nurture your beautiful soul.

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thanks for you kind words Robyn.

“If we don’t act on the message, we can find the message acts on us” – well said!

CV Harquail   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

Count me in as one of those reader/followers/ who’s been missing your posts & tweets.
I appreciate your distinction between accepting vs. resisting, and your clarity about this being the first step in making choice possible. I often get frustrated by the limits of my time, and energy, since it’s so much harder to reduce your expectations as you reduce the absolute amount of time you have available. It’s hard to have ‘full time’ expectations on a reduced, work-life fitted schedule.
It’s especially helpful to see you modeling in your behavior what you ‘know’– limitations can be enabling.
Glad to see you back on track, Ms. Tortoise. Hope you keep feeling strong(er).

Susan Mazza   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

Thanks CV. One of the things I look forward to doing more of is reading blogs and yours is one of the ones I have missed reading.

Great points. Your comment about having “full time” expectations on a “work life fitted” schedule is a really important point. And full time seems to have expanded to 24/7 availability and productivity for so many these days which makes balancing/integrating life and work even more challenging.

Pam Wyess   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

Sorry to hear of your health challenges. Sending you energy for healing and mindful choosing. Great post with universal application. Love “Choosing No.” So many life lessons shine in the face of adversity–thanks for sharing your insights.

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Pam. Now to make sure I continue the practice of mindful choosing.

Gwyn Teatro   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

I’m thinking that life has a way of naturally creating interventions that lead to certain lessons. For you, it is your health issue. For me, I expect it was my husband’s stroke last year.
There are many things that I have had to change and learn since then. Believe me, I am not thrilled with all of them. But these natural interventions do have a way of pointing us to what is truly important. For me, that makes saying “no” much easier.
I learned a new expression this week from @landoncreasy, a leadership student (like me) and a naval officer. This expression illustrates really clearly what can happen when we allow our boundaries to ever expand. It’s called “Mission Creep” Choosing to say “no” is a way of staying focused on the “primary mission” or, priorities, whatever they might be.
My thoughts are with you as you continue your recovery, Susan. Thanks for sharing your insights and for causing me to think…once again 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Life’s interventions certainly do take many forms. Somehow the lesson always leads us back to what matters most. You are a wonderful role model and inspiration to me in so many ways.

“Mission Creep” – love it! With your words “what can happen when we allow our boundaries to ever expand” I have this image of a balloon expanding. As you reach the point where you are putting too much air in you can see the “boundary” thinning out, making it fragile until at some point it breaks.

Marion Chapsal   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

This is one of the most moving post I have read for weeks, Suzan, and I do read many.
Your words make my heart beat faster and I can only recognize this aha feeling.
I had it last week when I realized how life could be simple and much lighter if I “just” accepted its limits and dealt with what given to me the best I could.
I admire your courage and humility facing illness and wish you re gain your energy and find a new balance.
I was “beating myself up” for not writing during 10 days on my blog, not being present on social media as much as I used to, then surrendered because with our five children,a husband, a training business, a house to take care of…I had to choose to slow down and re focus on priorities.
I am doing that right now, closing the laptop and saying good night.
My gratitude to you for this gift, coming just at the right time.
Warm hugs, Marion

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thank you so much Marion for your kind words.

Glad to hear you have stopped beating yourself up! Not only can it be challenging to keep up with the core commitments surrounding family and running a business, but also with all of the opportunities that entice us to make new commitments. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy store with all I am learning and all of the amazing people and opportunities that are presenting themselves. Makes choosing BOTH that much harder AND more important than ever.

Eric Werner   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

Susan, you really hit it on the head for me with choosing no. That is so clearly a challenge worth addressing. I hope that you can manage well – so glad that you are willing to share this with us.

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thank Eric. It is ironic that as I was writing this I received a call to speak at a conference about choice. I think I will now have a fresh take on the subject!

Eden Haiku   |   18 May 2010   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

Someone on Twitter posted a link to your blog (or was it a RT?) and I’m reading you for the first time. I subscribed to your blog for I enjoyed your ‘choosing no’ concept. You make me see how choosing by focusing on our priority commitments can lighten the whole process of having to say no. I opened your page this morning but I’m reading it only late at night, as I had to make a choice for attending or not an event the day after tomorrow. It is always difficult to say no but now I feel empowered to say so.

Thank you and take care 🙂


Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Eden for stopping by, subscribing and for taking the time to comment. Great to hear you are empowered to say no. I think the best part is that choosing no creates a lot more room to choose yes to the things that really matter and light us up.

beth parkhill   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

Saying NO…you are so right about how crucial it is. This is a great reminder that we can all be more thoughtful about our choices. We are fortunate to have so many, men and women of all ages. I think it helps to have smart, caring people in our lives to see new perspectives and have hope, courage for tomorrow regardless of our level of health. All the best to you right now.

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Surrounding ourselves with smart, caring people is a great strategy for ensuring we choose wisely, yes or no! Thanks for stopping by and sharing Beth.

Dorothy Dalton   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

Susan – welcome back at any pace ..it doesn’t matter. We are a generation of women who feel compelled to do it all and do it well ( remember Jerry Hall’s famous quote! )We have to understand that limitations are OK for whatever reason and working within them, or around them is fine. We have to do what we can, as well as we can, when we can. This power to take a conscious decision is empowering and that includes saying “No!” when the occasion is demands.

With all good wishes for a full recovery and brava for your courage to share.

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Love what you say here: We have to do what we can, as well as we can, when we can. And that doesn’t mean sacrificing our commitment to excellence and to making the biggest difference possible either. Actually if you are really doing it all, chances are there are a lot of things you are not doing very well. Perhaps it is time to put the myth of “doing it all” to rest.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom Dorothy.

Paul McConaughy (@minutrition)   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

I actually missed you so much that I asked Anne about you. Of course, as you would expect she vigorously guarded your privacy.

I’m glad to hear you are making progress and honor your expression of limits. With your skill and talent, even with less trips you’ll hit your target more than most!

Always glad to see you in my Tweet stream. Take care of yourself!

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Thanks Paul – it is really nice to be missed. Although it is much more enjoyable to actually write and engage!

Monica Diaz   |   22 May 2010   |  

oops… the link to that post is
http://www.e-quidam.com/theblog/?p=503 in case you want to take a peek. Pressed SEND too quickly there 😉

Landon Creasy   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

My first visit to your blog and I am impressed! Impressed by your open and honest admission that you can’t do everything. Impressed by the idea that not only can you choose to slow the pace, it’s OK to do so.

Hope you continue to feel better.

Thanks for giving me something to think about!

Landon Creasy

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2010   |   Reply

Welcome Landon! Thank you for your kind words and will look forward to learning more about you on twitter.

Alison   |   19 May 2010   |   Reply

Hi Susan – I was recently made aware of your blog in a weekly newsletter sent out by the guys at Results.com. I’m a novice blogger but passionate entrepreneur so your recent blog was more timely than you will ever know. I don’t know what your health issues are, but as a ‘coming up on five years’ cancer survivor, I can absolutely relate to the concept of ‘strategic energy conservation’, particularly when it comes to running a business. My experience gave me a new perspective on life that I like to think has made me a better person, a better business partner and a better mentor. And as a newbie to your blog, I just want to wish you the best of health because you are obviously a person with wisdom worth sharing.

Susan Mazza   |   22 May 2010   |   Reply

So glad you found your way here. For the record, I am not facing anything so serious or life threatening.

Thank you for sharing about your triumph over cancer. Facing cancer AND using the experience to make you a better person in all dimensions of your life is extraordinary.

Please feel free to leave a link to your blog here so we can stop by. I am sure we all have much to learn from you. All the best with your new blog!