This week, I’m bringing you a slight respite from a long topical thought-piece. My intention was to write a post about understanding the difference between living a life of "shoulds" and living a life of "musts." As I was looking through my old posts to see if I could pull some quotes for this piece, I landed on the very first post that I wrote on March 21, 2017. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I re-read it, and for some reason I decided then and there to re-post it for you. It's also a perfect prelude to next week's piece on "should" and "must." Given my penchant for Proustian-inspired writing (i.e.: long-winded), I was happy to see that I wrote a post that was both thoughtful and concise. I fear those days are long gone, so I hope you enjoy this short piece that includes an insightful article by Prudence Sinclair.
(originally posted on March 21, 2017)
A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with an old friend on one of those crazy spring-like days in February, enjoying a brief respite from the snow and cold. We spent the day strolling through the West Village, window shopping, people watching (always an interesting past time in Manhattan, for sure) and chatting casually about this and that.
As the sun began to set with its warm pink glow in the western sky, our conversation turned to more serious topics. We walked to a local restaurant for a drink and a bite, and it was there that she finally filled me in on some life events that she had alluded to earlier. As it turned out, she was going through a major transition on all fronts, and frankly, was having a very tough time dealing with it. I offered up a few coaching tips; and one, in particular, resonated for both of us. It was a concept that I've used in sessions with clients, and was also well-articulated in an article that I recently read, Are You Pay Attention to What You’re Paying Attention To?. I told her that I would include the article in this week's offering just for her.
Are You Paying Attention to What You’re Paying Attention To?
by Prudence Sinclair
"The Buddha once said, what we think, we become.
It’s a very simple concept to understand and yet a very difficult practice to master. Most of us are aware that we feel a certain way or that our lives seem to be going in a certain direction, but we have no idea how we got where we are. We always get where we are because we focus our attention on certain things and then experience the results. If we don’t like the results we are living, we’d better shift our attention onto something better.
Letting Go of Fear
Are you spending most of your life focusing on things that scare you? Not having enough to cover the mortgage or wondering if you marriage is over? If you focus on these things long enough, you start to dwell on them, meaning you live there, inside of the negativity and fear. Negativity and fear become as real and solid to you as the four walls of your house.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was scared out of my bleeping mind! How can you not be terrified when doctors are telling you you have 3 months to live? But if I had chosen to spend those 3 months living in that fear, I would have created the very thing I feared — my demise — when what I wanted to do was create health. I could not have created health by paying attention to my illness. I could not have created joy if I was paying attention to sorrow. And I could not have created gratitude if I was paying attention to the ‘oh woe is me’ voice that was chirping away all of the time in my head.
Letting Go of Anger
How much time would you say you spend every day going over and over the things in your head that pi** you off or make you feel disrespected? Do you spend most of your commute time preparing yourself for a day filled with angry interactions with your boss and coworkers and then replay those interactions all the way home? Why do you suppose those interaction happened in the first place? Could it be because you were so focused on them to begin with? You were so focused that you FULLY EXPECTED those angry interactions to happen. And they happened. And now you will expect more angry interactions and those will happen too, which will cause you to fully expect even more interactions to happen. The only way this vicious cycle will end is if you start paying attention to what you’re paying attention to. In this case, your anger.
Anger helps to bring about dis-ease. If you’re spending a majority of your life angry and aren’t even aware of it, you’re setting yourself up for bad, bad things — trust me.
Show Your Ego Who’s Boss
Most of the negative emotions we give our attention to are a direct result of our egos running our lives. It was our ego that became defensive when someone at work disagreed with our idea. It was our ego that got bent out of shape when that idiot on the highway cut us off. And it was our ego that got its feelings hurt when our spouse didn’t notice we got a haircut.
Getting control over our egos starts by paying more attention to what our egos are feeling every day. When we feel angry — we can either quickly react to it — or stop, breathe, and figure out where that emotion is coming from.
If we feel scared or apprehensive about something — we can either react to it — or stop, breathe, and figure out why we are feeling this way.
Here’s what I know from personal experience — we have the power to transform our lives and create what we really want — whether that’s superior health, wealth, relationships. But the first step to all transformation is awareness, and that means paying attention to how you act, and what you think and feel throughout the day.
Just the simple act of paying attention to our thoughts and feelings empowers us to change our lives.
Stop giving so much focus and attention to the things in your life that are no longer serving you. Once you start paying attention to what you’re paying attention to, you change who you are being in your life and how you are experience the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Stand guard at the portal of your mind.” The most important component of creating success and moving forward is through our thinking. If we are impeccable about anything in our quest to achieve our dreams and goals, we need to be impeccable about our thoughts. The subconscious mind doesn’t have a sense of humor, it simply believes what the conscious mind is telling it. Paying attention to what we’re paying attention to is a powerful tool for increasing our awareness and shifting our outcomes.
And in the words of my mentor, Mary Morrissey, “Where I place my attention, I am placing my intention.” This is truly an essential part of the process of creating any type of change.
As for my friend, things are already looking up with a possible new job, a new love interest, and a new, more positive outlook. Onward and Upward, my dear friend!
Cooking for Joan
This recipe is a favorite that I make frequently — Spicy & Sweet Asian Chicken Breasts (or Thighs). And as a bonus, I'm also including the side dish that I make with it — Sticky Ginger Rice with Peas. The chicken is always moist, the flavors meld well together, and it’s really easy to make. I serve it at casual dinner parties and it's always a hit. Enjoy!
Spicy & Sweet Asian Chicken Breasts (or Thighs)
Prep Time: 10 | Cook Time: 40 | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy
• 4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or thighs
• 1/4 cups Sriracha
• 1/4 cups Mike’s hot honey*
• 1 TB honey
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
• 2 teaspoons soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest (optional)
• fresh basil or chopped green onion (for garnish)
• olive oil/cooking spray
Preheat oven to 425°F
Line a baking pan with oiled or sprayed aluminum foil for easy clean up.
Combine all the sauce ingredients.
Place chicken into pan and season with salt and pepper.
Pour ½ the sauce on top
Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Lower temperature to 375°F
Remove from oven and pour the remaining sauce and bake for 15-20 more minutes.
Garnish and serve over sticky ginger rice with peas.
*This recipe is for large pieces, so cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken breasts.
*I like spicy food, so if you’d like it less spicy or you can’t find Mike’s Hot Honey, just use regular honey.
Sticky Ginger Rice with Peas
Prep Time: 5 | Cook Time: 20 | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy
• 1 cup uncooked medium-grain white rice
• 1 TB minced fresh ginger
• 1 cup frozen petite peas
• 1 cup miso or chicken broth
• 1 cup water
(use 2 cups of water if you don't have or want to use stock)
Place rice in strainer. Rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Drain well.
Transfer rice to heavy medium saucepan.
Add 2 cups of liquid. Stir in ginger. Bring water to boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 17-20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Sprinkle frozen peas over rice (do not stir into rice).
Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir peas into rice.
Season rice lightly with salt.
Transfer to bowl and serve.