3. Mind Cleanse: BREATHE. Download a meditation or mindfulness app and using headphones, commit to at least 5-10 minutes of quiet each day. Spend time in nature. Nothing clears the mind like a beautiful landscape and some fresh air. Be mindful of what you are feeding your mind through books, TV, etc. Surround yourself with things that feel expansive, creative and inspiring. If you're feeling weighed down by anxious thoughts, saturate yourself with uplifting music and information. Even reading one positive paragraph from an influential book/author can change the tone of your entire day.
4. Relationship Cleanse: Experiencing drama in some of your relationships? Knowing that it's impossible to change someone else, take a moment to think about what reactions you might release? Are there repeated interactions that feel like chronic weight? What would happen if you created some new relationship rules for yourself from a "peace begins with me" perspective? Here are just a few options that can help you to feel lighter but come up with a few that work for you!
NOTE: These approaches are for those relationships that are, for the most part, in alignment with you and what you want for yourself but may just need some attention. Occasionally, we might find that a relationship has served its purpose yet we hold onto it longer than it's comfortable. If you feel a relationship is causing extra weight for you, it's likely the same for the other person. Consider talking to a trusted friend or professional to work through next steps.
Just like Liquid Gold enhances the natural beauty of wood.....Taking even small steps to cleanse your space, body, mind and relationships will enhance the natural beauty of your life.
You really are that powerful.
You really are that powerful.
During one of the most recent beautiful days, I took my dog for a walk along the Cape Cod Canal. As always, I bring her over to the woods before we get our exercise. Typically, I enjoy practicing mindfulness while taking my walks and almost never listen to music or use my phone. On this particular day, I decided to try out (unsuccessfully, might I add) a new music app I had just installed. As my dog climbed under the fence to sniff the perfect spot to do her business, I fiddled with the perfect playlist. At one point, I turned to look towards the water and noticed a woman staring at me as she was walking. I couldn't hear anything with my ear buds in but I assumed she was talking to her family members and that she must be a dog lover if she's stopped to watch us.
Sila, my black lab, took her sweet time as we continued to walk at the edge of the wooded area. She finally climbed under the fence, into the thick brush, under some thorny branches and pooped. Once she was done, we began to move towards the paved walkway to begin our exercise. As I turned, I noticed the same woman had continued to walk at our pace. She was stopped and I could see her lips moving as we made our way closer and suddenly I thought, "Is she talking to me?"
I pulled out one ear bud, expecting that she was one of the many dog lovers on the canal and instead realized she was actually yelling at me! I didn't catch a whole lot of what she said before removing my music but what I did hear is how sick and tired she was of people who didn't pick up their dog's poop! I realized that as my dog had been taking her sweet time to find the perfect spot in an area where no one would ever walk, this woman was policing me, waiting to see if I would do her idea of the "right thing".
I calmly and politely said that I purposely took her to the woods where no one would ever walk so that I didn't need to pick it up. After all, the last thing our earth needs is one more plastic bag that will be around forever and just like the deer, coyote and raccoon poop, I assure you, Sila's poop will be gone in a matter of a few weeks. Now had I let the dog go on the grassy area where kids often play and certainly on the paved walkway, her yelling at me would have been absolutely warranted, but in the woods, under the thorns and behind the fence?
I put my ear buds back in to enjoy the rest of our walk.
It got me thinking.....what makes some people step onto the beautiful Cape Cod Canal on a nearly 70 degree, sunny New England day in February and take a deep breath of gratitude for such a gem of a moment and others choose something so very different? In the 5 plus minutes it took Sila to pick a spot, this woman chose not to focus on the incredible beauty before her or take the opportunity to spend precious weekend time with her family members to instead stand in expectation of of a perfect stranger disappointing her. I have no idea how many others she decided to police that day but I felt compassion for her and her inability to see another perspective or put aside her deep frustration with others and simply enjoy the moment.
This experience also got me thinking about how long we decide to hold onto other people's judgment. If this had been you and your dog, how might you have responded? Would you have let this woman ruin your walk or your own ability to see the gift of such a beautiful February day?
Where we put our focus is our choice. It can be on peace or it can be on frustration. It can be on beauty or, if you so choose, it can certainly be on dog poop. And where you put your focus will yield the kind of day, week......life you will experience.
You really are that powerful.
We are often attached to beliefs that have been held for a very long time. They influence our most frequent thoughts which then lead to a set of typical internal
and external reactions. It is these reactions that lend quite significantly to our everyday experiences.
We often seek to change external circumstances or hold a desire for the people around us to change. Although, at our core, we instinctively know the truth. We must examine the underlying beliefs we hold and determine which ones serve and which ones do not.
One of my repeated, unconscious beliefs is that I need to protect my children in all ways and at all costs (in other words, over and above what is healthy and/or necessary). This leads to me overcompensating, getting into conversations that are out of alignment with who I really am, stifling my kids' abilities to take responsibility for their own growth and development and all sorts of other unattractive reactions and results. Over the years, I am increasingly becoming aware of those moments when this belief is leading me and all the ways it does not serve me or my children and I try to consciously shift to higher ground. It continues to be a work in progress.
Imagine that an underlying belief is that you are not as smart as other people. If this is your repeated internal story, you'd likely compare yourself to others or try and overcompensate or maybe you'd avoid situations that might reveal your perceived inept abilities. You then may appear as passive-aggressive, defensive, uninterested, aloof or abrupt. You can imagine the experiences these reactions might create for you in your life and work relationships.
Now imagine shifting consciously and repetitively to a new perspective, like this one: We each have strengths we bring to the table. How might this new and frequent thought begin to influence your behaviors, reactions and experiences?
What are the stories you tell yourself are true? Any of these sound familiar?
Through self awareness and reflection, we can learn to recognize these limiting beliefs and how they impact our lives, work and relationships. What experiences are you ready to improve? Then dig up those beliefs and try on a few new perspectives.
You really are that powerful.
5 Ways to Manage Anxious Thoughts
Many of my clients experience anxious thoughts that disrupt their everyday lives. I recently lost my mom and I have become aware of the increase in my own anxious thoughts over those following months. There are many life events and situations that can bring about feelings of imbalance and uncertainty. Here are 5 ideas to help you navigate through those challenging times.
1. Create a Boundary Word, Phrase or Image: When you catch yourself feeding your anxious thoughts, imagine a mental image such as a stop sign or a mental sound like a heavy garage door slamming down on cement. Pair the image or sound with a word or phrase that resonates with you. When you become aware that you are perseverating or ruminating or engaging anxiety, imagine feeling that word (such as an affirmative NO!) along with the image and/or sound. Allow it to serve as a solid boundary, a declaration to yourself that this moment need not be spent in fear.
2. Focus on the Present Moment: When you are worrying or anxious, you are either upset about the past or you are fearing something in the future. When you become aware of anxious thoughts, bring yourself into the present. Remind yourself of what you are doing in that exact present moment and only allow your focus to be on that. Repeat the words, "Right now, I am doing ________ and in this moment, I am ok."
3. Detox: This need not be severe or even structured. Commit to looking at how you can release both physical and mental toxins from your mind and your body. Make some healthy shifts in eating and drinking, drink more water, try detoxifying exercises like yoga, stretching or jumping on a trampoline. Detoxify your mind by shifting what you feed it. Take a break from politics, news and toxic negativity and replace it with music, books on CD (home or car) and positive conversation. Detoxify your spirit through meditation, connection and letting go and allow yourself to feel peaceful, even if it's just for a brief amount of time.
4. Honor where you are: Often when we become anxious, we speak to ourselves harshly. This feeds the darkness and only serves to increase the negativity. We sit far too long with thoughts like, "What is wrong with me?" or "Why can't I get past this?" You are human. Life can be challenging and we all experience peaks and valleys. Honor the ebb and the flow of life and remind yourself, this too shall pass.
5. Do not give anxiety all your power: It's just anxiety. You are stronger than anxiety. Even if you're experiencing panic attacks. You've been here before and you've survived it. Breathe, and remember that you are in control.
You really are that powerful.
One of the challenges I see quite often among many clients is the refusal to engage in behaviors that might possibly lead to embarrassment or judgment by others. Countless surveys taken on the
subject of fear have illustrated that those social situations that risk us feeling humiliated or not accepted can be more terrifying to us than death.
Recently, I was eating lunch at a local store. Lately I’ve been encouraging myself to practice mindfulness and being in the present moment. Instead of reading, checking texts or emails on my phone, I was acutely aware of everything going on around me. At one point, I noticed a man nearby get up from his table. He made eye contact with me but then quickly ran off across the parking lot to the other side of the cars, out of sight of everyone sitting down. His friend and I exchanged glances and I asked, “Is he ok?” The friend, as he rose from the table himself said, “I think he’s choking.” I quickly looked for my phone in case I needed to call 911 but by the time I could react and get up, the friend was giving me the thumbs up sign that all was well. Eventually, he made his way back to the table and confirmed his suspicion. The choking man, although now ok, did not return to the table, leaving his friend to collect his things so they could leave.
It got me thinking about my last few weeks of coaching and the detrimental ways in which some of my clients allow this fear of embarrassment to hold them back in truly significant ways. This man, instead of staying in place to receive the help and attention he might have needed, chose the possibility of grave danger over the humiliation of choking amongst the group. Just in the past few weeks, I have personally witnessed several people who had also experienced a fear of embarrassment so deeply that it literally put their lives at risk.
You may not be able to identify with such extreme examples however not too many people escape fear all together. Take a moment to do your own fear assessment. How might your conscious or unconscious fears be creating significant obstacles in your life? If you were to be completely honest with yourself, what might you identify as your most prominent fear? What makes you so uncomfortable that you are willing to do anything to avoid this feeling?
Below are some common examples:
•Fear of embarrassment or judgment
•Fear of rejection, not fitting in or being ostracized
•Fear of being seen as weak or needy
•Fear of losing control
•Fear of illness or death
•Fear of failure
•Fear of people knowing the truth about you
•Fear of the unknown
•Fear of lack or not having enough
What would improve if you worked towards releasing this fear? What might it open you up to experience? How might your life or relationships transform without that fear?
You really are that powerful.
I truly believe each of us has all the power we need within us to experience a life we love and to create beautiful relationships.
However, there are definitely times when we give that power away to our judgments. We tend to operate based on a lifetime of our foundational beliefs and experiences. Many scientists and experts in the field of psychology call these beliefs old programs and compare them to the software of a computer that has been downloaded and runs automatically. Some of our long held beliefs or judgments can make it difficult for us to see ourselves clearly and how we might be contributing to our own challenges. For example, many of my clients report that they are beginning to realize that they take what people say and do very personally. This leads to the belief that they need to protect themselves which is often carried out unconsciously as a passive-aggressive, defensive or argumentative act. This automatic program often causes problems that did not need to be created.
We go about our days and these patterns of habitual thinking and reacting feel so natural to us that they feel like the truth, so we continue to feel justified in our beliefs and behaviors. As a result, conflicts occur as we decide that the only way to feel better in a relationship or situation is for someone else to change.
What might happen if we began questioning these beliefs?
We are wired to believe that our emotional discomfort comes to us externally. I have come to learn and understand that in fact, the opposite is true. Often times, it’s our perception of people and circumstances that causes us pain. As the saying goes, our perception is our reality. Having a full understanding of this concept allows us to realize that just because something feels like the truth to us, doesn’t make it true for others. We all see the world from our unique lens. We’ve all heard people say things like, “Hey, I tell it like it is” or “I’m just being honest.” We live as if we believe that our opinions are universal fact.
In a talk recently, a great mentor of mine, Dr. David Krueger (www.mentorpath.com), was discussing the importance of regulating our states of mind. He said that there are two forces behind all behavior: the need to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure. How might this help us to shift perception and better understand ourselves and others?
If the real truth is that inner peace will always begin within each of us, how does that lead us towards the choice to bring awareness to these judgments or programs? How can that help us to take responsibility for our own happiness and to begin exploring new ways of processing and responding to our experiences?
Dr. Krueger reports that one of the fastest ways to begin making these shifts and to change a low emotional state is to make a change in our physiology. For example, engaging in a deep breathing or relaxation exercise allows us to create some space between a situation that is stressful or challenging and our automatic reaction to it. It is in this space that we can change our focus. We always receive what it is we focus on, which may be very different than what it is we actually desire.
In identifying the ways we give away our power to feel fulfilled and peaceful, we invite opportunities to strengthen. It allows us to see more choices to create our experiences rather than be victim to our circumstances. It allows us freedom.
So today, choose your focus wisely. Take back your power and rather than judging yourself, someone else or the experience, step back, take a breath and ask yourself some thought-provoking questions.
Then try on a new reaction to an old problem.
You really are that powerful.
Our research offers neurological evidence that the brain cannot effectively do two things at once. -
Rene Marois, PhD, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University
I've been taking a class that involves teaching children mindfulness techniques and strategies that build inner strength and resilience. The philosophy of the class is built around the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and encourages the participants to practice mindfulness ourselves. As the work has evolved, I've had some interesting insights.
There is a challenge in finding choice in even the smallest of moments. Those moments of unawareness where we are not mindful of the present because we are so busy in the past or future. I have come to slowly learn, we are not prisoners of our minds. We are creative, thoughtful, self reliant and empowered beings. We forget this often. But being part of this class has challenged me to take my mindfulness practice to a new level.
While blow drying my hair one morning last week, I caught myself mid-spin. As I rushed through the routine, my mind was swept up in the spiral of all the "to-dos" that needed remembering and all those forgotten or missed. The judgment of myself during the spin was in full rotation when, literally like Tarzan on a vine, a thought came swinging into my awareness....You. Have. Choice. The accompanying voice said, "Be here. Just here."
In that moment, I suddenly became aware of the racing of my heart, the heightened anxiety in my body, the constriction in my stomach, the tenseness of my jaw, the flightiness of my thoughts and inevitably, the ineffectiveness and consequence of the choice. This reminder prompted me to let all of it melt and just enjoy the simplicity of a warm blow dryer on a freezing cold morning.
My computer, planner, phone, pen and paper that record and aid my necessary "to-dos" are quite capable of their tasks. Right now, my brain can just focus on right NOW.
Do you think our importance is measured by how much we do, accomplish and achieve? Think multitasking is the mark of the effective? Think mindfulness and focusing on the present moment is taking a lazy or weak approach to life? I challenge you to be present. In this moment. For a day. For a week. Then decide.
You really are that powerful.
This is now my 3rd year teaching the Powerful Women 6 Week Class and after over a decade of coaching, one of the concepts I've observed to be so challenging is that of inner resilience.
How can we own this strengthening characteristic if
we are so busy taking everything so personally?
This comes up so often in my work and it's become clear to me just how much energy this draws from us. Think about when you're focused on a relationship where you are angry or upset at how you've been treated. Maybe you believe that someone else should think or behave in a different way towards you. Whether this is actually true or false is not the real issue here. Focusing on how you choose to allow the situation to affect you is what will create your experience moving forward.
We are so programmed to label everything we see and experience as good and bad. We believe that when we label something bad, it just needs to go away. When we label something good, then we can be happy. This pattern hinders our ability to be creative problem solvers and to see the enormous potential to learn and grow in any situation.
Next time you're pointing fingers at someone else and believing that your happiness is dependent on their choices, try asking yourself a few questions about your decision to take the situation so personally and then notice how you feel as you answer.
Is this thought or reaction one that strengthens me or weakens me?
Is this reaction or belief empowering or dis-empowering?
Does this reaction or belief move me forward or keep me stagnant?
Am I matching darkness with darkness or does this thought shed light and lift the situation?
Albert Einstein said, "No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it." Next time you catch yourself ruminating and spinning and taking something personally, be intentional of what it is you want to create next and try consciously
choosing inner strength and resilience.
You really are that powerful.
According to the research of Dan Britton, Jimmy Page and Jon Gordon, authors of One Word That Will Change Your Life, at the beginning of each New Year, 87% of adults will create New Year's
resolutions. The exasperating facts are, over 50% of us will not carry out our goals past 30 days. As the year goes on, that percentage gets even more grim. The overwhelming majority of us will not
hold our resolutions to the end of the year and will likely create the same list of "doing" the following January. According to the authors, there is a simpler, yet more profound way.
In 2014, let's reflect on a specific way in which each of us could stretch, grow and create a year that would bring about increased personal strength and happiness. Join many in choosing just one word that, when you choose to focus your intention, moves you towards profound personal growth.
What if one WORD could have a powerful effect and move you towards a new way of being, and therefore experiencing?
What if your choice to commit to one WORD could change your life?
You really are that powerful.
1. Make your relationships your priority.
There always seems to be a lot to do this time of year. Decide this year that relationships will be more important than unnecessary obligations. If you typically spend a holiday in a place where there's tension and drama, do something different. Create a new tradition. If you don't want to go to your co-worker's Christmas party, don't go. Snuggle up with your family and watch It's a Wonderful Life instead. If you have limited money yet still buy presents for people on your list that you buy for just because "it's the way we've always done it", reconsider. Spend those resources on an outing with the kids or go to the theater with your best friend. Life is short. Spend it nurturing your most treasured relationships.
2. Focus on Intention.
Your experiences will be determined by where you place your focus. If you focus on the dread of seeing or "dealing with" a particular relative(s) or situation, your experience will match your dread . This year, let your focus be on who you intend to be regardless of the choices and circumstances happening around you. Let your intentions lead you towards inner strength, wisdom and compassion and note how your experiences change as a result. Consider letting your focus be on how you want to show up rather than wishing others were different.
3. Challenge Yourself.
Challenge yourself to look at the difficult situations and relationships in your life with a new set of eyes. If you could feel totally at peace in the presence of this relationship or situation, what quality would it mean you have developed within yourself? How would that quality benefit you in the rest of your life? What if you chose to see this situation as a way to practice a more empowering belief or behavior? How would this perspective change your life experience?
Set a goal to notice and release some beliefs and patterns that no longer serve you. For example, I am always on the lookout for when I am needing to be right. This is a long standing behavior of mine and brings me out of alignment with who I intend to be because it's wasted energy needlessly trying to make someone else wrong. When I catch myself engaged in this pattern, I pull myself back. Sometimes I catch myself after the fact and I make a note to hold myself to a higher standard next time. Releasing old patterns and beliefs opens us up to create new and more peaceful experiences.
When all else fails and you're having a moment, breathe. Three deep, meaningful, cleansing belly breaths. Often. Before speaking. Before reacting. Breathe deeply for better health, less anxiety, less stress and more clarity. Notice how you feel in these moments and how your choices are more empowered afterwards.
I have come to learn that if I want a more peaceful existence, peace will always begin with me. If we want to experience something different, we must think different. A peaceful and beautiful holiday season is our choice.
We really are that powerful.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~ Dalai Lama
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. ~Joseph Campbell
Over this summer, the theme I've noticed come up again and again with clients is how often we set the expectation for perfection. Frequently, we focus on all the ways we, ourselves are not perfect which makes our life more difficult. Of course, this sets the standard for what we expect from others as well. So we set out on our daily journeys wishing we were somehow different and focusing on all the ways we could be happier if only other people were different, too.
When we're stuck in such limiting thought patterns, there's quite literally no room for us to think something more self-supportive. Especially in a time of expanded technology when we are building improved electronic communication (texting, emailing, Facebook, etc), real, wholehearted communication has taken a hit. An increase in social media has the tendency to support the self sabotaging mantra that everyone else is better, smarter, stronger and more interesting. Or worse, it's a place to hide as we show only our own better, smarter, stronger and more interesting sides to the world. This of course does not make social media bad, yet to be aware of the challenges it creates for authenticity is critical. We must know that face to face and phone conversations where the nuances are apparent and the tone or body language clear are more vital than ever. Most important, we must continue to be aware that a strong, beautiful life is fully dependent on the quality of the relationships we cultivate and create.
But how do we create happiness when too often, we're so hung up on perfection and expectation. The deepest and most profound relationships will only come through compassion and love and the willingness to see our own humanity and the humanity in others. It's when we sit across from one another, hear each other's voices, giving time and energy to a relationship, that we can see ourselves in someone else. We must begin to understand that to be human means that we are imperfect. Our life's focus need not be about what we achieve and accomplish, but instead about who we choose to be each day. Similarly, our focus need not be on expecting other's to change so that we can be happy and instead taking responsibility for creating our own sense of inner peace.
So as the summer winds down, join me in embracing our humanity....flaws and all. Let our focus be on doing the best we can with the tools we have in each moment. Let's set an intention to give love freely and fearlessly and receive love gracefully without expectation that it be in a certain (perfect) way. Let us understand the humanity in others, knowing they too are doing the best they can with the tools they have in their own personal tool belts in each moment. Let us look for opportunities to build inner strength during chaos. Above all, let us embrace the sometimes confusing, stressful, overwhelming, enlightening, awe-inspiring ride trusting that our biggest task in life will always be to just be ourselves.
We can all be that powerful.
Life is short. Time Flies. Time and tide wait for no one. Carpe Diem. Enjoy the moment.
We've heard them all.
When my children were very young, I would often be told things like, "Enjoy this time now. It goes by so fast!" It was incessant frankly and I definitely did a few eye rolls, brushing off the well-intended clichés as over-used and un-important to me in the moment. "Of course I was enjoying my children," I thought.
Now, with a recent high school graduate and a second just entering the teen years, I find myself looking at those younger moms, and I feel the need to pass on the wisdom so many tried to pass along to me. I hear myself saying to many, "You are going to blink, and they will be grown. Love this time with them!"
They really do grow up so fast. On this side of the parenting coin, I've learned a lot; like not to sweat the small stuff, that "this too shall pass" and above all, love is always part of the answer.
As I watch my oldest transition to soon becoming a college student, I'm even more keenly aware that life really is short; and beautiful and awe-inspiring and meaningful and joy-filled..... and if we choose, we have ample opportunities each day to create peaceful experiences and fulfilling relationships. And we do have choices.
We have a choice how we respond to the people in our lives; those we see every day and those with whom we share fleeting moments. Too often, we give our power away to be peaceful to our perceptions. We make assumptions about what others are thinking and feeling, we create unrealistic expectations of who we are and what we should be. Too often, we speak loosely and listen feebly both internally and externally. I am certainly no exception but I'm learning.
I'm reminded of what I want to create moving forward by taking an honest look back. I've learned that being right isn't necessary but being loving is. I've learned that an alternative to being annoyed is to be compassionate. I've learned that judgment is exhausting and acceptance is freedom. I've learned that shame is constricting and honor provides expansion. I've learned that defensive walls are draining and healthy boundaries are energizing. I've learned that what I resist gets bigger and surrendering to what is brings clarity and opportunity. I've learned that scarcity is a dis-empowering mindset and gratitude is always an option. I've learned that fear and anxiety will consistently keep me off balance and trust and faith are centering forces. I've learned that vulnerability and a willingness to be seen is strength personified. Above all, I have learned that in every moment, I have everything I need to make strong choices and that my individual choices really do have the ability to affect the whole.
I continue to learn.
In reflecting on the "Life is Short" mantra, this summer, more than ever, I choose peace.
We are all really that powerful.
I'm running into a lot of women lately who are feeling like they're in a rut. They have come to a point in their lives where they are finding themselves lacking clarity and a sense of direction.
As women, they are expected to carry on but life feels different for some reason. It's not necessarily a good different but it's not a bad different either. They just simply feel compelled towards
The problem is, they can't quite label what that change might look like.
If this is you, you are not alone.
Suddenly (or gradually), you feel challenged to do or be something more than who you are in your current life. You may be wondering what is next or you're simply searching for more meaning.
This inner turmoil feels like you're trudging through the mud with no real destination and no clear path. You can't quite put your finger on exactly what and why you are feeling the way you do but you know there is something shifting within you.
This shift can feel downright uncomfortable. Really, really uncomfortable. But remember this, in the words of author, Dr. Tom Barrett, "It's just a stretch of the road."
It's difficult when we are smack in the middle of a transition, especially one we can't quite identify, and it's easy to forget that we won't be sitting in this dark space forever. Try to remember that what you place your focus on will determine how long you stay in the dark. We can focus on resisting the shift and force ourselves to stay safe on the "way it's always been" path , or surrender, trusting in the doors that will most definitely open before us.
A few tips that may help:
Keep a journal. Date and record your thoughts, your fears and even your dreams when you wake up in the morning. Be aware of any intuitive moments when you seem to be attracted or guided towards a specific direction.
Be open and willing to accept that your possibilities are endless and that you are capable of creating new realities in your life in ways you haven't even dared yourself to imagine.
Communicate your thoughts to a trusted friend, spouse, partner, counselor or life coach. When you reveal your fears, they become smaller and the extra support can make this space, however vast it might be, easier to endure. Be willing to seek wise counsel if you need it when you are ready to explore a new way of thinking, being or doing.
Be patient. Trust that when the time is right, you'll figure it all out.
Lastly, focus on knowing that there is beauty in the darkness, because without it, we will never truly know the light.
You really are that powerful.
You know when you just feel like screaming....when you are over-flowing with feelings of being overwhelmed, and if you don't release them, you'll either explode or drown?
Though they don't feel it, times like these can be blessings; opportunities to see more clearly. Some of my best moments of clarity and wisdom were born from some of my most ugly. For example, I remember a time one December when I had just put up all the electric candles in the windows to begin my Christmas decorating, one of my favorite past-times. My husband arrived home and made a sarcastic comment related to our house looking like Fenway Park that he meant to be funny. Let's just say that electricity can be a hot topic in our house so I took his comment that was meant as an innocent joke to the extreme and I lost it. Not just a little lost it. I lost it big time.
I ran through the house like a crazy drama queen, pulling out the lights, muttering how I was sick and tired of not being able to have any lights on in the house....ever (insert dramatic tone here). Other rants included how I should buy him a ticket to the island of darkness where he'll be very happy there because there are no electric bills....he can then keep his money in his pocket where he at least can feel it because it will be too dark for him to see it. I continued to mutter the ridiculous as I stalked around the house un-decorating like a crazed wild-woman on the loose. I can still remember my husband and kids, lined up, immobile, cautiously amused by my behavior yet no one daring to speak or move. An alien had invaded mom's body and they weren't dumb or brave enough to question its madness. Uncharacteristic of me, I then got in my car and drove away. In a nearby parking lot, I called one of my closest friends and through my tears, I vented to her about how aggravated I was and how I was sick and tired of this and that. When I was finished with my rant, instead of a compassionate response, my friend cracked up. Not just a little chuckle. She cracked up big time.
Her response was exactly what I needed. Suddenly I started to feel more grounded and the real me began to return to my body. Now on this particular night, I identified the "alien" as hormones run amok but sometimes the "alien" can be stress, illness, not taking care of ourselves, putting everyone's needs first or all of the above.
I arrived home less than an hour later to a beautifully lit up house, every candle returned to its window. As I reflected on the situation I had just created, I couldn't help but be fascinated by my own humanity and imperfection. Of course, I was well aware of both before this day but the extent to which my emotions took over me really got me thinking. Although it certainly wasn't the first time I had "lost it", for some reason, I was able to be a keen observer while in the moment this time. Even though I couldn't seem to reach my own "off button", it was like I was an outsider, watching myself go though my own little mini self-destruct session, releasing venom yet simultaneously, I found myself curious and interested in how out of control we can all feel at times.
Sometimes it's these ugly moments that opens doors for self understanding. I continue to be in awe of the cycles and rhythms of the human body and their effect on our behaviors and choices. That moment reminded me that it's impossible for me to handle myself in an exceptional way at all times. Years ago, I would have beat myself up over an outburst like that and I certainly wouldn't have gracefully accepted it coming from someone else. Now I know better; there are days when our behavior will be stellar, there are days when we hold it together and then there will be those rare days when any sense of harmony has escaped us and.....yikes.
I'm not advocating making excuses for repeated bad behavior. However, it's wise to not allow those out of balance moments to define us, giving us the freedom to own it, fix it and move on quickly. Learning to accept the good, the bad and the ugly in both ourselves and others is seeing the humanity and therefore the inescapable imperfection in each of us. So when you're tempted to take life too seriously, sometimes a good laugh at yourself and embracing the visiting "aliens" in others is a more effective way to respond to the chaos.
You really are that powerful.
This past Mother's Day, my family and I attended a baseball game. Several rows in front of us, sat a beautiful mother - in all senses of the word. Her grace overwhelmed me at times as she cared
for her seriously disabled child. As she appeared to enjoy the game and her time at the park, her gaze never stayed on the field for more than a few seconds. She lovingly checked on the adorable
child beside her, suctioning his lungs every 5 or so minutes and attending to his many needs. She appeared at ease and light-hearted, smiling often at both of her young children and her
I caught my own children watching this mother on several occasions and at one point, my daughter looked at me with her big, brown, compassionate eyes and said, "Mom, that's what you mean when you say to me, 'How blessed are you that you get to clean and vacuum your bedroom', isn't it?" I nodded yes and asked her, "How might that little boy feel about jumping out of his wheel chair, no tubes attached to his body, with healthy legs and arms to clean his room?" No answer was necessary as we continued to be graced by the presence of this beautiful family.
Later in the evening, my daughter and I were impacted by another strong woman. We entered a public bathroom and was greeted warmly by the attendant responsible for keeping it clean. She diligently wiped down the faucets, walls and counters as she sang and hummed happily. As we walked out of the bathroom, we couldn't help smiling at each other; more evidence from the day that happiness is not a result of external circumstances but a conscious choice.
For the rest of the night and up until this very moment, I think of these women and the lessons they shared with my family and I and it brings to mind the incalculable effect we all have on each other. There's a universal law I learned about from a favorite author, Andy Andrews in his book, The Butterfly Effect. The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions confirms that when a butterfly flaps it's wings, it moves air molecules which in turn moves other molecules of air, which affects other molecules of air and others, and so on, having the ability to affect molecules of air on the other side of the earth.
The law insists, like a butterfly, we all affect each other, just by being ourselves, in ways we can't imagine and will never even realize. My family and I were both greatly and gratefully impacted and our thoughts and decisions will be different in various ways as a product of these "chance" encounters on Mother's Day. How our resulting choices might positively affect others, maybe even you, we'll never know. But the point is more usefully applied to the realization that each of us is like a butterfly and we never know who might be watching and influenced by the flapping of our wings.
You really are that powerful.
As a former manager in the sales industry, one of the many things I came to learn about myself was that I wanted to be a leader nobody needed; although it took me awhile to get there.
I aspired to be the kind of coach that, instead of showing people the way, would show others their strengths so that they could see the path for themselves. I succeeded with some and failed miserably with others but each person I mentored brought me closer to understanding the truth that I now know: all the power we will ever need to be successful, happy, fulfilled, peaceful and content is within every single one of us and accessing that power is, without question, a choice.
After many years, I now seek to incorporate this concept into everything I do, including parenting.
Let me be clear, if the term "powerful parenting" means never losing your temper and being consistently calm, level-headed, controlled and balanced at all times, then I declare that I am completely unqualified to write another word here. Luckily, it's my belief that although the powerful parent demonstrates and encourages many significant values, perfection is far from one of them.
With good reason; we are human beings raising human beings. We are imperfect by our very nature. An important perspective for our children to be exposed to as it points out that there is not a person alive that exists without personal weaknesses and imperfections. At the same time, we want our kids to see that what makes them special and unique, exists within others as well. Armed with this knowledge as a foundational belief, our children are inspired to be different, to be quirky, to be themselves....and be perfectly okay with that.
Powerful parenting also requires that we grow in our own self awareness, willing to see those characteristics within ourselves that no longer serve us or our family. This willingness models for our children one of the single greatest traits they will ever learn to develop; responsibility.
Powerful kids understand that they are responsible for their thoughts, their actions and their reactions. They know that they matter and that they make an incalculable difference in their families, in their communities and in the world.
Here are some questions to ponder as we seek to raise powerful children:
How can we influence our children to care about who they choose to be and how they show up in the world? How can we use these concepts to help them learn to self regulate their own behavior?
How can we give our children space to make decisions and to make mistakes in an effort to encourage strong minds and independent thinking? How can we approach those mistakes in a way that kids perceive them as a learning experience versus an opportunity to be ashamed?
Instead of following the status quo and teaching our children that "words hurt", how can we help them to build a personal arsenal? How can we urge our children to understand that strength comes with learning self compassion which provides the ability to not take anything personally? How can we support the perspective that someone else's choice to bully, insult or control is in fact showing signs of great weakness?
How can we place more focus on empowering our children rather than consenting to the belief that their happiness or success depends on someone else's choice to be "nice"? How do we help kids forgo the underdog status and embrace more empowered and self supportive belief systems?
In what ways can we encourage resourcefulness and resilience in our children?
In a world of technology where the latest gadget is a must have, how do we instill an attitude of gratitude? How do we take that concept to the next level and help our children to learn to perceive problems as an opportunity to practice a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives?
My goal here is to stimulate thought-provoking conversation between parents and their kids and to challenge us all to view our instrumental roles through a different lens. In having these discussions with my own children, I have slowly come to learn that the simple question, "Who will I choose to be as a parent" keeps me focused on my desire that my children know just how powerful they really are and how important it is to me to lead them in a way that encourages them to lead themselves.
Who will you choose to be? Your loving influence is without question the greatest gift your children receive from you.
You really are that powerful.
It's here again. Goal setting time. We get geared up, we look at all the things that aren't working and remind ourselves of all the things we need to accomplish; eat better, make more money,
acquire more stuff, finally fit into the skinny jeans we've been saving, exercise, achieve, achieve, achieve. We each have different ideas on what it is we want to be different in the new year but we
all share the challenges that come along with making it happen. Let's face it, if it were easy, we would have achieved it a long time ago. If it were easy, we wouldn't be ready to give up by
I believe it's important to go deeper with our goals. Figure out what's behind our aspirations. Often, a feeling of worthiness is ultimately the underlying motivation behind many of the goals we set for ourselves. If we achieve ______, we'll be more important, liked, prosperous, respected, etc.
What if this year, we decide we are already worthy. We are valuable regardless of our accomplishments and extremely important apart from things like weight and financial contributions. Happiness is a choice that we make in spite of outside circumstances.
What if this year, we focused most on taking personal responsibility for who we will be each day and how we will show up in our families, work place and communities. How about placing emphasis on strengthening relationships as a partner, spouse, parent, daughter, son, co-worker, employer, employee and/or friend. In controlling our thoughts and reactions, we will come to understand how it supports our quest towards external goals, as those come easier when internal harmony exists.
This focus is the ultimate in stepping into your power as it allows you to step back and see your life from a much higher perspective and to prioritize in an effort to reach the most important goal of all; the goal that will serve all....a clear, purposeful, self-assured, confident, influential and graceful YOU.
You really are that powerful.
It's time to be thankful, right? Thanksgiving is that holiday that urges us to stop and look at all that we are grateful for but for many, sitting across the table from a family member that pushes
your buttons, says things that bother you or makes choices that offend you is a challenging way to spend what is supposed to be a joyous occasion. For some people, this time of year can bring forth
difficult memories and painful feelings of inadequacy as families come together.
In my work with private clients, I ask them to look at these challenging relationships from a new perspective: a perspective of gratitude.
Think about what it would be like to be in such a space and not feel the need to react. Think about what it would feel like to understand that someone else's choices are a reflection on them and a lifetime of their experiences and has nothing to do with you. Think about what it would feel like to not be bothered or offended at all, enjoying yourself, regardless of who shows up for dinner.
Try focusing your energy on what you can learn from these interactions and from those people who you allow to aggravate and dis-empower you. In other words, think about challenging yourself to grow as a result of this person's choices. If you were able to sit in the presence of one of the chronic offenders and choose to see clearly that they are someone who is doing the best they can with the tools they have in their own personal tool belt in each moment, what trait would that build for you in your own life? Would it be patience? Would it be compassion? Perhaps forgiveness? What would it be for you?
Take that one step further and ask yourself, how would that one trait affect the other areas of your life? How would having more patience improve your relationships with your children, your co-workers or your spouse for example? What would forgiveness free you up to do and think as you live without such a heavy load? How would that one trait help to empower you to live your best life?
With that perspective in mind, can you see the value of this relationship in that it gives you an opportunity to see yourself better and to practice a quality that would most assuredly lead you to a more powerful existence.
This approach does not mean that we bottle up our feelings and keep our mouth shut. It means that we understand that trying to control someone else is a waste of our precious energy and that focusing on drama, builds and creates more drama. We are aware that too often perfection is expected of each of us yet not one of us is able to live up to such expectations and more often than not, fear is at the root of all poor behaviors. When we absorb the negativity of someone else's choices and we let them affect us in ways that cause us frustration, guilt and defensiveness, that is giving away our power. So how do we not dread these interactions this year and decide to enjoy the holidays? A little perspective goes a long way.
You really are that powerful.
Recently, I was speaking with a 5th grader about an incident that occurred at dismissal time. She boarded the bus and a few minutes later, an 8th grader sat in the seat across the aisle, looked
over at her and said, "Ah, you do know, that's my seat, right?" She made a few other comments that made it clear that that was her seat. Not knowing what to say, yet knowing that there were no
assigned seats, the 5th grader stayed put and just ignored the girl.
In many similar instances, we choose this same reaction and there are many times where this serves us well. It seems to have served this 5th grader well. But what if there's an even better way to handle certain situations? What if we just chose to ignore the daggers someone throws our way yet not ignore the person?
What if the 5th grader said confidently yet with a humorous tone, "Gee, I didn't realize there were assigned seats?" or "Hey, I don't care where I put this heavy bag of books so tomorrow, the seat's all yours!" Regardless of the exact words used, if we examine a situation a little deeper, we find new paths to explore.
For example, after further discussion, the 5th grader let me know that this older student actually lives in a motel room with her entire family. This sheds new perspective on the situation, doesn't it? It's easy now to see what's behind such a comment and why this child would feel the need to stake a claim on a bus seat. Most of us would just write her off as an insensitive bully but what if there's more to the story? There almost always is.
The point is, we always have a choice to live from a place of compassion, figure out what might make someone tic and to look for ways to bring light to dark situations. Ignoring someone who is behaving in such a way might work and it is certainly better than giving your power away by becoming defensive, becoming someone's victim or engaging in a heated debate and may actually be a perfectly acceptable and necessary way to handle a situation.
However, it does nothing to lift the energy of the moment. It does nothing to inspire someone to make a better choice.
A final example; I was in the grocery store, walking down the aisle headed straight for a man walking towards me. We stepped to one side simultaneously, then stepped to the other, then to the other, and the other. We've all had that experience when finally one person just stops so the other can walk by. Well this particular time, the man got totally aggravated with me, rolled his eyes back and gave out a large sigh as if to say, "You are wasting my time!"
It would have been totally appropriate to ignore him and keep walking since certainly I did nothing wrong BUT why not take the opportunity to infuse a little much needed light? As we were side by side, I whispered, "I think you just wanted to dance with me!" Immediately, his face softened, he looked me right in the eye and laughed out loud.
I have no idea what makes this guy tic and what was behind his grouchy state but I do know that we all have bad days and that I can choose to ignore the person or just dodge his dagger.
This can apply to all relationships, not just those with passing strangers. Some might argue that it's giving in to someone or making excuses for someone else's behavior. I hear your argument loud and clear. I stress that with this approach, it's all about the confidence and the power you exude through your body language and tone of voice. Your response says without words, "I will not absorb your negativity and I choose to be a strong and positive influence on others ."
What are the situations in your life where compassion and a light-hearted, humorous tone behind a confident demeanor could infuse light to darkness? Is it with a co-worker who may not be skilled in interpersonal relationships or maybe a controlling mother in law who struggles with letting go? Is it a demanding boss overwhelmed under the weight of unrealistic expectations? Where in your life might you sideswipe the sword while encouraging brighter outcomes?
You really are that powerful.
Oprah Winfrey had a troubled childhood that included being sexually abused repeatedly by several different men from the ages of 9-14. After much trauma, she would later become one of the most
powerful and influential people the world has ever known.
Immaculee Ilibagiza lived hidden for 3 months in a 3'X4' secret bathroom in the home of a pastor with 7 other starving women. Her entire family was brutally murdered during the Rwandan holocaust; some just inches from her, outside the bathroom window. She would later speak for countless audiences worldwide on the power and necessity of forgiveness, marry a supportive and loving husband and have 2 beautiful children. Her life-changing book has sold more than 250,000+ copies worldwide.
J.K. Rowling began writing her famous Harry Potter series as a single mother, while suffering from clinical depression and suicidal thoughts and while on welfare and is now leading an over $15 Billion dollar industry.
Andy Andrews (one of my favorite authors), went from being homeless and broke, living under a pier on the Gulf Coast, to being personally invited to speak at the request of 4 US presidents as well as many highly ranked military leaders. His influential novel, The Traveler's Gift was turned down as a manuscript by 51 publishers before it went on to become a New York Times Bestseller and translated into more than 20 languages.
Imagine you were given the knowledge of who these people would become and you were given the opportunity to tell them this information during their darkest moments.
As Oprah fought back the demons as a young teenager, imagine you told her she would one day be one of the greatest influences and one of the most powerful people of all time. Would she have believed you?
Or, you arrived under that pier on the Gulf Coast to find a young man who lost both of his parents too young, and you let him know that one day he would become an empowering communicator that would inspire countless audiences with his messages of hope and perspective, including some of the greatest leaders in the world. And what if you told him that he would take what he learned from those biographies he was reading under that pier and use it to write books that would sell millions of copies, influencing countless people to make better choices for themselves. Would he have believed you?
What if you were one of the women who shared that tiny bathroom with Immaculee and you let her know to just hang on because she would one day be a force that would change the world with her message of forgiveness. And, what if you told her she would be honored with numerous humanitarian awards and regarded as one of the world's leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness by sharing her universal message with world dignitaries, school children, multinational corporations and churches. And if you told her that her story, Left to Tell would be mandatory reading at such prominent institutions as Villanova University, would she have believed you?
What if you sat beside J.K. Rowling on that train as the story of Harry Potter began to materialize in her head and you let her know that her ideas would grow into a series of 7 books that would sell about 450 million copies and would be translated into 67 languages, entertaining and serving millions, making the Harry Potter brand worth in excess of $15 billion, would she have believed you?
Really imagine what these people must have been thinking in those dire moments. Did they feel alone, empty, scared, stuck and unsure? Perhaps unsuccessful, unimportant and unfulfilled? Were they confused, bewildered and broken?
My guess is that you are also aware of people who have been in such a state to only turn around and create a life of amazing success. I could have written pages and pages of people I have read about or have known who have weathered their own personal storms and done just that.
Let me fill you in on a secret. I have information about you.
You have that same potential for greatness within you right now.
That idea in your head, that inspiration you push aside, the story that only you can tell, that vision people tell you isn't possible, that thought you have about helping that group or person or that business you dream about has the ability to change your life.
You have the power to change the world.
Do you believe me?
Do you have any idea how smart you are? I don't mean the kind of "smart" that lands you on Jeopardy or grants you a full ride to Harvard. Sure, this kind of knowledge serves us in ways but I'm
thinking of the everyday brilliance that exists within you.....actually, within each of us.
I'm talking about intuition.
This is one of the most important qualities I seek to develop in my clients and it's the single greatest tool I rely on in my coaching. If you've ever researched great leaders, philosophers and hugely successful people you know that one of the most prominent traits they share is a trust in their own intuition. They make it a habit to develop it, listen to it and take action on this built in, inner guidance system.
You have this same compass inside of you just waiting to be consulted. Most of us often forget and go through life confused and frustrated, relying on outside sources to help us navigate challenges. This mistake often costs us and even if these outside sources work for us in one instance, we unfortunately learn to become dependent on them when the next challenge appears.
Our intuition is that "still, small voice" within that has the ability to answer any question you will ever ask yourself.
Is it a yes, or is it a no? Should I or shouldn't I? Does this decision serve me or not? What should I do next? Is this relationship right for me? What choice should I make? How can I......?
Making a firm, strong decision is difficult for many people. Next time you are faced with such a dilemma, consider consulting your intuition. You already have all the answers. You just simply need to ask, get quiet and then listen. The more you consult within, the easier it will be for you to hear and feel a solution. Start practicing with small decisions and then build up to more complex challenges. Soon, you'll learn to utilize this always present tool all day long. Your intuition is your constant source of inspiration.
Tips on developing your intuition:
Commit to regularly practicing relaxation techniques such as sitting quietly, clearing your mind of distractions and focusing on only the present moment.
When faced with a problem, stop to reflect on it and then pay attention to any hunches, thoughts, images or feelings you might experience. Pay attention to how your stomach area feels (your "gut") and even physical sensations.
Keep a journal and record your intuitive experiences.
Follow your intuition. The more faith you place in your own inner wisdom by acting on it, the more you will notice it's benefits.
This was a very difficult newsletter for me to write because it's so unlike what my readers expect from me. I'm compelled to sway from the normal tone in my writing for just this month in order to
address an important topic. If it makes a difference for even one person who reads it, it will have been worth the heaviness for all of us.
About a month ago, I was heading out of state for a funeral. The days before leaving, as I tended to my responsibilities, I felt intense sadness that the world had lost such a beautiful beacon of light and I was devastated for her family who had lost a devoted wife, daughter and mother. At different times throughout the day, I needed to share with others that I was leaving town. Some asked the expected questions such as, "Where are you going?" and "Why?" When I shared that I would be attending a funeral, it naturally led to the most difficult question to answer, "How did someone so young die?"
In my mind, there is no stigma attached to suicide. To me it's a no-brainer that anyone who has resorted to such an act, must have been suffering in ways many will thankfully never comprehend. According to national statistics, 90% of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Therefore, I choose to believe that most people who take their own life are not capable of thinking clearly in that moment. Quite literally, the chemicals in their brains are not functioning as they should. As a result of such beliefs, I became disheartened by the knee-jerk reactions and opinions of others as I went about my day.
"I can't help it. I think that is so selfish!"
"She won't be accepted into heaven!"
"How could she have done that to those that love her?"
"That makes me so angry!"
"How could her family ever forgive her?"
My question back to them was, "Have you ever suffered from anxiety and/or depression or any other type of disorder of the brain?"
Each of them said, no. Some even said things like, "I guess I shouldn't judge because I don't understand."
Let me be clear. I'm not a doctor or a therapist. I don't have clinical knowledge on anxiety, depression and suicide beyond my own limited research and experience. What I do know is that we can't just wish for that pain to go away. And although not everyone depressed and anxious will go on to take their own life, people who face such disorders are truly suffering in incomprehensible ways.
My intent in addressing such a difficult topic is to create more awareness surrounding just a couple of its many facets. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, about 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide. Depression does not discriminate....anyone is at risk.
Oftentimes, those suffering, do so in silence. Over 8 years ago, during the time of my own encounter with anxiety and depression, nobody knew. When I did finally talk to my doctor, I was not completely honest about the intensity of my symptoms. I was angry at myself. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I kept yelling at myself to just snap out of it and I reminded myself constantly that I had no reason and no right to be feeling like I did. I "acted" as if I was fine, yet secretly, I was panic stricken, suffering from terrible insomnia and sad to the point of despair. I was confused and embarrassed and asked every day that God would just give me a sign that I would make it through the month, the week, the day and sometimes even just the night.
Leading to my second area of concern is that, without question, my own struggle was brought on as a side effect of a medication. I was prescribed a drug to treat a different and common, benign, physical problem and I suddenly found myself dealing with something so much bigger.
Medications can be a life saver for many, including those who suffer from anxiety and depression. However, it's important to be aware that the side effects of certain drugs could actually make such disorders worse. In fact, in a small subset of people taking certain types of medications, there is a risk of increasing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, even in those who have never experienced such thoughts before.
All we need to do is watch TV for a few days to learn about how many medications (for all types of ailments), carry the warning of this very concerning side effect.
Please, if you or someone you know is suffering, TALK. Share how you are feeling with others. When we share our stories, we realize that we're more alike than we know and our experiences and compassion may serve as a life saver for someone else.
Seek help from a professional and support from family and friends. Regardless of how difficult that conversation might be, do not be embarrassed and be sure to divulge all of your symptoms. Many leading suicide resources report that a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication is the best treatment for severe depression. If you are considering taking a medication for any reason, FIRST educate yourself. Know and share with loved ones the risks of ALL medications you are taking and ask to be closely monitored by a doctor AND family members while on such therapies, especially as you begin something new. And if you do choose medication, find out in advance how you would need to wean yourself off safely in the event that it becomes necessary.
Again, I do not claim to be an expert. I am not against the use of medication nor am I qualified to give such advice. My intention is to encourage thought-provoking conversations and what could be, life saving awareness. Most of all, my intention is to do my part to help remove the stigma and shed light on new perspectives regarding suicide, which plagues far too many families. Sometimes it's those uncomfortable subjects such as this one that leads us to consider just how powerful an impact we have the ability to make, both for ourselves and others. In the words of Maya Angelou, "When we know better, we do better."
He's so irritating!
She drives me crazy!
I cringe when he walks in the room!
I can't even listen to her talk!
Does this sound like something you hear yourself saying at times? Is there someone in your life that just pushes your buttons? Is there a person in your family, workspace or circle of acquaintances that you find yourself avoiding because they simply drive you nuts?
YOU are NOT alone!
This is a very common theme that I hear from both my private clients and those in my workshops. I invite you to consider a perspective adjustment that may change the way you think.
In such a situation, what is really the problem? Many would say, "It's the irritating person! We must figure out a way to change him or her!" The powerful person would say, "I'm the problem!"
Using myself as an example, many years back, I had a particular person in my life that drove me nuts. I will not go into detail for privacy reasons but suffice it to say, I found myself thinking about her constantly, wondering why she acted the way she did. I allowed her to frustrate me on a weekly and sometimes daily basis to a point where I found myself complaining about her to my husband, my mother and my best friends. My thoughts about her could often be translated to "Why doesn't she listen to me?" which further boiled down to the embarrassing, "Why doesn't she think and act just like me?"
I finally realized, I was giving away my power to be happy in far too many moments....wasting it on complaining, avoiding, dwelling, and aggravation. I finally realized that there was a lesson to be learned in such a relationship and in fact, this amazing person, without even knowing it, was trying to give me such a gift.
When I jumped off my high horse, leaving my ego on the saddle, I was able to ask myself, "What is she trying to teach me?" From such a perspective, the answer was obvious. She was putting a mirror in front of me, showing me who I was choosing to be in this relationship. This choice, from a deeper level, was not okay with me and a part of me knew that all along. I was trying to save her. And it wasn't for HER benefit. It was for mine. I wanted her to see that I was the all-knowing. I wanted her to know that I could fix her. On an intuitive level, I knew this was my motive and it was not in alignment in any way with who I am and how I think about people. So really the irritation was never actually with her in the first place. When in her presence, the reality was that I was irritated with MYSELF!
Now, many years later there is NOTHING this person could ever do that could possibly frustrate or irritate me. I am grateful for the role she served as I have a new appreciation for people and I have learned to accept them for who they are and where they are on their own personal journey. I believe that people do not need to be fixed but may just need help uncovering the greatness that already lies within them. I have learned that my desire to help others is not something to be forced but to be offered without strings. I have accepted that I can not help everyone because not everyone wants or needs my help! And lastly, I have learned that when someone evokes such a response in me, it's time to ask myself, "What is it about ME that I am allowing this person to affect me in such a way?" and "What is this person unknowingly trying to teach me about myself?"
Are you giving away your power to be happy in too many moments? Is there someone in your life right now trying to teach you something about yourself?
Will you continue to expect them to think like you or will you
access YOUR power and search for the gift?
In life coaching, there's a common theme that runs amongst many clients.
People are distressed in a relationship because they perceive that another person is treating them badly. Maybe they are tired of the way their spouse, mother/mother-in-law or sister treats them. Some will talk about being taken advantage of by their grown children and under appreciated.
Some will talk about being the only one at their job who does all the
work or stays late. These are just a few examples that many people commonly experience.
A Few Questions to Ask Ourselves When Faced With Similar Challenges
Do I speak up directly and respectfully when there is a problem or do I stay quiet, breeding resentment?
Am I taking responsibility for my part in a challenged relationship?
Do I respond to difficult situations after thinking it through or do I react with defensiveness?
Do I reward my grown children or spouse for treating me with disrespect by continuing to tend to many of their daily wants or needs or do I clearly communicate my expectations and boundaries?
Do I say no gracefully and without guilt when I don't want to do something or do I reluctantly give in and do it anyway?
Who's responsible for my happiness?
Our answers to many questions like the ones above will determine
the state of our relationships as well as the state of our lives.
The fact is, as the common phrase goes, we teach people how to
treat us. We are the reason our relationships will involve mutual respect or a
one way street to misery.
The fact that we are responsible is GOOD NEWS! It means we have the power to change what is no longer working in our lives.
An important lesson in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Nobody has the right to make you feel inferior without your consent."
Until we choose what we will and will not tolerate for ourselves,
blaming someone else is simply a useless way of continuing to live exactly the same way
The most effective and long lasting
way to change a relationship is through intention, responsibility,
compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.
Contemplation For A Different Outcome
What is my intention in confronting change with this person? Is it to make the relationship or situation better for all involved? Assuming that it is, how can I approach this person while aligning with that intention? Compromising our worth does not serve us and playing small is a huge dis-service to others. If we've determined our intention is to get even, be judgmental or to force our views on someone else, the outcome we are likely to receive may involve more drama and chaos than not .
When we take responsibility for our part in the challenged relationship, what we are saying is, "I'm done focusing on obstacles, limitations and excuses and I'm ready to take on a different approach." It's not about blaming ourselves but instead acknowledging that we can always do better. It's understanding that it's up to us to hold higher expectations for and from ourselves and our relationships and now is the time.
When we hold the thought that the other person, like us, is not perfect and that they are doing the best they can with the tools they have in their own personal tool belt in each moment, we are bringing an energy of respect and compassion to the relationship and conversation. It's not about making excuses for the way someone behaves but learning to handle the situation from a more empowered perspective.
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It's not saying what someone may have done is okay with us. It's saying, "I understand that you are human and that your actions are a reflection on you and your values. I will no longer choose to carry around your choices and views in the form of anger, hatred, shame or guilt." We have two choices: Hold a grudge and stay still or empower ourselves to drop that heavy weight, forgive and move forward.
We always have the choice to complain about all that's wrong with our life or to look for what's right and to seek out the natural strengths of others. A focus on Gratitude is a powerful way to see ourselves, those around us and our life from a whole new perspective.
Recently, I had a memorable experience at the grocery store, of all places! It was not the store I typically shop at, as it's about 20 minutes from my house, however on this particular day, it was conveniently located on my way home from an appointment. It was the store's busiest day and time of the week so there were at least 8-10 people working at the deli counter. I pushed the button for my number that would determine when it would be my turn to order and fortunately, there were quite a few people ahead of me so I was forced to wait.
As I stood there, I watched all the employees busy at work but only one stood out, clearly ready to fulfill the true role of the job. Only one was there to serve. If I had to guess, he was probably somewhere in his late 50's or early 60's and I couldn't help but stare at him as he worked. I quickly motioned to my children as they wandered the produce aisle, close-by. When they were at my side, I whispered to them, "Just watch." I knew they would pick this guy out just as quickly as I did.
He looked each of his customers in the eye. He smiled so sincerely that anyone he waited on knew, his only mission for that moment was to make them happy. He moved quickly, respectful of his customers' time and he asked each of them cheerfully, "How can I serve you?" He exuded an inner happiness and joy that just made you smile watching him. When each customer said thank you at the close of their order, he took the extra time to stop everything and thoughtfully and with intention, say, "Thank you. It's been my pleasure to serve you."
As I watched, none of the other employees were rude or disrespectful, they all were doing their jobs with effort but only one was working a mission, not a job. I secretly hoped when it was my turn, I would have the privilege of being his customer. Sure enough, it was him who called my number.
What makes some people use their job as a means to just a paycheck and others to use their job as a means to make the world a better place for themselves and those around them?
It was amazing how his energy and attitude rubbed off on both my children and I. In his own small way, he shined his bright light on each and every person he came into contact with and it was an honor to watch the effect he had on each of his customers.
I know for my 15 year old son, my 10 year old daughter and I, the impact was beyond what he could have guessed. We talked about him the whole time we shopped and all the way home. Almost a month later, we are still using him as an example of who we choose to be each day. When my children or I are grouchy or frustrated, one of us will say, "Remember the guy at the grocery store. If he can choose to be that happy when he's serving people deli meat, you can choose to be happy, too!" Just thinking about him changes our attitude.
Consequently, when it's time for me to go grocery shopping, suddenly a 20 minute drive doesn't seem so bad.
Most of the time, we never know how much our actions have the ability to positively affect others. A choice, a smile, a compliment, an attitude, an action or a gift -- everything we do really does matter.
I'll admit it, I'm a pretty lucky woman. I have two children who make me smile when I think about who they choose to be each day. I have a husband who has loved me unconditionally with his whole
heart since I was 15 years old. The support I have from my parents and the parents of my husband literally makes me cry in gratitude when I stop to think of all 4 of them, which is constantly. My
husband and I have incredible memories of times shared with family members at various events throughout each year. I have a large support group of friends whom have enriched my life in ways I could
not possibly measure. I have 3 very special friends....best friends....each so different and amazing in their own special way and they do nothing short of feed my soul.
I've been told so many times, "you are so lucky." One can easily deduct from what I've written above that I am immersed in gratitude but is my life really the product of just luck? I don't believe so and there is never a day that goes by when I don't have a full understanding that I hold a big part in creating my life. I have to believe that in the work that I do so that I can help others to see how much power they also have to create.
Parenting is tough work. It's constant guiding, teaching, disciplining, reminding and patience-testing all while loving unconditionally. So how did they get to be kids who actively go out of their way to make other people's day better and independently look for activities that make the world a better place to be? Is it really just luck?
Marriage is tough work. It's constant negotiating, compromising, accommodating, adapting and sharing all while loving unconditionally. So how did we get to a point where, after almost 25 years, we still can't wait to see each other at the end of the day? Is it really just luck?
Relationships are hard work. You can't build them, whether with family or friends, without acknowledging the effort that goes into how we choose to show up around each and every person in our life. If we choose to react to others in ways that constantly elicit drama and stress, our relationships, or lack of, will reflect that choice. If we choose to adapt, support, forgive and have compassion, while acknowledging the other is always doing the best they can with the tools they have in each moment, strong relationships grow. So should I assume that my relationships are a result of luck?
It may sound like I'm boasting, but let me be very clear; I am FAR from perfect. I yell at my kids just like many of you! I'm exasperated by my husband's mere breathing at times and I have plenty of traits and qualities that he'll tell you MORE than drive him crazy! I am constantly forgetting important things. I have time management and focusing skills that my best friends will tell you are comparable to most toddlers, and I allow myself to continuously thrust my tardiness on anyone unlucky enough to be awaiting my arrival. Yes, at times, I get defensive, irritated and frustrated, choosing behaviors that can only be described as ugly. I will not bore you with the rest of my faults.....I own every one of them.
The point is, we are human. With that understanding, we are able to take responsibility for those qualities in ourselves that can use improvement as well as incorporate compassion for the lack of perfection in others, which is the foundation for relationships that are more deep and fulfilling than we could possibly imagine.
So, in evaluating the lives of the "lucky", we can choose to see "luck" or "creation and choice". If we focus on how lucky others are because they have great relationships or more money or whatever it is we wish we had, we end up in roles that will never make us quite as "lucky" as those we admire. Roles such as the victim, martyr and such are roles we take on as the result of certain challenges or events but it's our choice to stay in those roles or to create new ones that allow our powerful inner wisdom to shine through. We have the ability to choose new reactions or not react at all, to the choices of those around us. It's our choice (one might say responsibility) to seek out the multitude of ways to become better parents, better spouses, better children, better sisters and brothers, better friends and better members of our community. It's our choice to either see mediocrity as a life sentence we can't change or to instead seek out the greatness that is already inside each and every one of us willing to claim it.
It's our choice to be powerful.
A consistent theme that comes up with many of my coaching clients is the fear of what other people think. Those fears range from, "what will people think if I make a mistake, or if I don't do what
they think I should do," to, "what will people think if I'm not perfect," to everything in between.
Allowing these fears to stop us from living our life on our terms is giving away our power. Why do we do this?
Many people believe someone else's opinion of them more than they believe in the power to create their own opinion of themselves. They fear that they are not smart enough or strong enough or whatever enough to possibly be the expert on things that are truly important in life.
Living our life focusing too much on what people will think about our choices and decisions does not serve us. When calculating our next move, if we are left to consult only our own inner navigation system, regardless of how big or small that move is,
many of us would rather do nothing at all in fear of being "wrong". This fear hinders us in ways we can't even imagine.
When we base our decisions on what we perceive the judgments of others will be, we lose the unique value that only we can bring to all of life's situations and challenges.
Here's a few reminders to help you take back your power:
What someone else thinks about me is none of my business!
What someone else thinks of me is based on a lifetime of their values and experiences and really has nothing to do with me.
Someone else's opinion of me is just that- their opinion, their "stuff" and not fact.
So if you're worrying about someone else judging your next move, stop.
Stay focused on your intentions and the fact that you are doing the best you can with the tools that you have in each moment. Decide right now that the most important opinion for you to consult is yours.
Over the last several months, I've found myself frequently giving away my power by doing a lot more "running around" than usual and I know it's time to re-focus. I don't necessarily mean the
running around we do when we're tackling the endless errands or while tending to the high demands of stressful jobs, a home, children and their many activities. Yes, all of that can be challenging,
but far more stressful is the imbalance we create in choosing the thoughts we allow to "run around" inside our head's.
It's that constant inner battle of, "I can't believe I didn't get to XXX today!" And, "I have to remember to do YYYY tomorrow!" And, "I didn't accomplish nearly what I needed to do," which leads to the inevitable, "What is wrong with me? Why can't I be more effective?"
We've all felt blessed with that sigh of accomplishment when we finish a necessary task and we long for the high we'll receive from that next check mark on our list. For many of us though, we cross one item off and our very next move is to create a new and sometimes, even more pressing task, leaving us to wonder, "Does it ever end?"
The answer is YES! All that we have is this very moment. We can use it to fret about yesterday and earlier today and we can create anxiety over later and tomorrow, but do we need to do that?
What if we used this moment to take 3 deep breaths and to appreciate the ability, freedom and motivation to choose what we'll do next and how we'll allow ourselves to think about that choice and its consequences? What if we used this moment to decide what is really most important to us and in the best interest of our family? What if we used this moment to take something OFF the list? What if we stopped our thoughts from "running around" and allowed ourselves to remember that perfection is impossible and we are doing the best we can with the tools we have in each moment?
Fighting the obvious by forcing ourselves to think we can be superheroes is energy we could be using to enjoy the moment exactly as it is. We can use that energy to remind ourselves of our intentions, our priorities and how we really want to show up in the world. No, it doesn't change the fact that we have much to do each day, but it does change the level of stress we feel and how we affect those around us.
So do yourself a favor, stop right now, and if possible, close your eyes and BREATHE. Three big ones through your nose and out through your mouth. Ahhh! So what will you take off your list?
As April approaches, it is a time of re-birth and renewal. One of the ways we can step into our power is through self-evaluation and determining which of our behaviors and thought patterns serve
us best and which ones do not.....sort of a spring cleaning for the soul! If you polled many of my coaching clients, they would tell you I'm always sharing my philosophy on the importance of taking
100% responsibility for our thoughts, actions and reactions in order to reach our personal and professional best.....But it's not always easy!
To quote the late philosopher, Jim Rohn, "The key to your better future is you." When we allow ourselves to think that other people, circumstances or situations are always to blame for our misfortune, unhappiness or lack of success, it renders us powerless.
We may not always be able to control what happens to us, but we have all the power we need to control how we choose to think about what happens to us. When we take a moment to acknowledge our own responsibility in how we choose to resent, dwell on or regret (we all do it from time to time!), we are able to realize the limitless alternative ways of thinking that serve us far better. There is nothing more powerful than taking responsibility for how we choose to think, as it always leads to how we choose to show up in the world.
Over the last few years, when I'm disappointed or upset with a situation or person, I've found myself asking such questions as, "How can this situation make me a better person?" Or, "What can I learn from this situation/person?" I'll admit, sometimes it takes me awhile to get from a place of judgement /bitterness to a place of true strength, but when I finally arrive, I know I'm far better off because it allows an immediate shift of energy on the entire situation from negative to positive.
When relationships or circumstances get challenging, as they do for us all, I seek to remind myself of the many inspirational people I've known or read about who have battled illnesses, or lost limbs or suffered unthinkable losses, only to choose to turn around, inspire others and change the world with their attitudes of forgiveness, gratitude and grace.
Now that's power!
Many years ago I was grateful to have attended a presentation by a motivational speaker from Australia named Amanda Gore. One of the biggest things I took away from her energetic talk was her
analogy of the sack of potatoes!
She encouraged her audience to create a visual of how we carry around a sack on our back and every time someone we know or even someone we don't know drops a comment, an opinion or an action that offends us or makes us feel bad about ourselves, it's like they are dropping their own potatoes. Instead of acknowledging that the potato has nothing to do with us and actually stems from the values and experiences of the person who dropped it, we pick it up anyway and we choose to put it in our sack. After picking up other people's potatoes and carrying them around for a lifetime in the form of limiting self beliefs, remorse and guilt, eventually our sack becomes so heavy, we are hunched over, depleted and resentful.
We can simply choose to drop the sack.
Do you carry around the effects of other people's choices? When other people insult or offend you, how do you react? Do you swallow it and hold it in and then build up anger and resentment? Do you yell or talk back and demand that this person respect you, as you experience their defenses rising as a result of your preaching? How would it feel to instead stand in your power, knowing that someone else's opinions and choices are simply not "your stuff"? How would it feel to take a deep breath, let it bounce right off you, knowing that your opinion of you is the most important one of all?
How heavy is your sack and are you ready to lighten the load?
This month, how many of those old potatoes are you willing to drop from your sack? Starting today, create that awareness of your power and acknowledge those big and small spuds that other people drop in your path by smiling, standing tall and stepping around each one. You may still trip over a few, and that's okay........accessing your power takes practice!
It's a new year......a time when we all decide to try and live up to those expectations we set for ourselves only to be disappointed yet again by our lack of ability to hold onto our convictions
even until the end of January. We are all the same, aren't we? So why do we get so angry with ourselves when clearly we are not alone in our struggles? Why do such a small percentage of us actually
ever stick to those New Year's Resolutions and accomplish those challenging goals?
This year, rather than put the main focus on New Year's Resolutions and goal setting, place your primary focus on letting go. Yes, let go......of those self defeating thoughts, of the emotional stress you put on yourself, the pressure, the guilt and the shame. Let go.
We often overlook the necessity of letting go of those subliminal thoughts about ourselves that have never served us but most of us hold anyway, such as, "I can't, I'm not good enough, what will they think and I don't deserve it". These are the underlying beliefs that hold us back without our even realizing it and lead us to the illusion that the reason we fail is because we're lazy and undisciplined. In fact, the real reason is that we are not willing to see or accept how strong and powerful we already are, and how everything we will ever need to succeed, already lies within us. I was fortunate enough to attend a talk given by the influential speaker, Sarano Kelley, and one of the many wise questions he posed to his audience was, "Would you ever let anyone speak to your child the way you speak to yourself?"
With all of that said, it's important to address that having goals is essential. Setting goals and writing them down in order to crystallize that energy into something tangible and attainable is one of the pre-cursors to achievement. I am a big believer in the importance of responsibility, discipline, organizational skills, time management, persistence and consistency.....all the necessary ingredients for society's definition of success both personally and professionally. However, if we don't choose to focus first on identifying the reason behind the goal, the absolute core of what's truly important, we likely end up disappointed, guilty, frustrated and worse off than before because it leaves us with the impression of defeat.
For example, why do so many people set out to lose weight and so few actually reach their goal? Yes, it's hard work but perhaps it's because the underlying reason for the goal is not identified or addressed. For many, it may be to feel better about the person who looks back at them in the mirror, to feel comfortable in their own skin and be truly happy with themselves on the outside. Maybe it's to feel deserving and loved by others. Identifying the hidden motive is imperative for success because otherwise our strategies for achievement will be geared in the wrong direction. We can lose all the weight we want and hire the best plastic surgeons money can buy, but if we don't feel happy about who we are on the inside, we're missing the most rewarding achievement of all.
Often when we set goals, it's with an end result in mind. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing if we know why we are setting the goal in the first place. In other words, if the goal is "I will earn XXX amount of dollars by June 1, 2010" do we first stop to ask why and listen for an honest answer? For most, when we set such a goal we think on the surface, meaning we think about all the things we want or need to buy with that money, the bill's we will pay, the stuff we can own and even how it would improve our status in society. However, are we also thinking about gratitude for all we already have and how money doesn't and will never define how valuable we truly are to those in our lives? Are we setting that goal because we feel insecure, because we compare ourselves to others and are trapped in a thought pattern of not having enough and not being enough. How would it serve us to first focus on what's behind our need to have more money and more stuff?
Believe me, I'm no different than most and having more money is typically in some way on my list of goals each year, too. I truly believe that there is more than enough prosperity in the world and that to set forth responsibly to enjoy abundance in all forms is our absolute birthright. But I'll be honest, when I put "make XXX amount of dollars" on my goal list in years past, it was because I lived in fear that I would never have enough. Therefore, no matter how much more money I made, it was never adequate to make me feel successful. As I've grown personally, I have developed a feeling of security, not because of what's in my bank account but because my focus is on gratitude and self assurance, rather than fear.
Another way to illustrate this point is when we set a goal, such as, to build a business, we might set small sub goals as well. In other words, the heading goal may be to build a business but the sub heading goals or strategies might be something like: 1) Explore the opportunities of using social networking sites to build exposure and a contact list. 2) Read one new book a week on related topics of such business. 3) Consult with a mentor. 4) Network with likeminded people, Etc. Those are all examples of necessary and important aspirations but if those types of surface goals are the first and only focus, as the weeks go by, it's too easy to get caught up in the traps of thought that sound a little like the following: "What if I'm not smart enough? What if I can't do it? Who do I think I am? What if nobody wants my product or services?"
For many of us, it comes down to our self worth. When we start to question how valuable we are, we become diverted and are faced with the following thoughts: "Am I really worth the effort of doing what it would take to make sure I achieve my own personal best?" "Am I truly capable of what I have set out to do?" And then there's the all encompassing, "What will other people think of me?" Our level of success is 100% based on our answers to those types of questions.
For me, by focusing on the true intention, which in regards to building my own business, is, "to use my strengths to make a positive difference in the world," I am placed in a position where I am reminded beyond a shadow of a doubt WHY I have set this particular goal in the first place. This focus gives a new importance to my mission and allows me to not get swallowed up by the "what ifs" and instead be confident in my motives and the positive effect I seek to create, opening me up to a more successful result overall.
So this year, whether you call them goals or New Year's Resolutions or both, as you crystallize them onto paper, first identify what's behind each of them, let go of those feelings of inadequacy and know that everything you desire is most definitely within your reach. Decide that from this moment on, you will appreciate others for their own individual strengths but you will let go of the need to compare yourself to them or worry what they may be thinking about you. From this moment on, decide that your goals will come from a place of power and intention and let go of the fear. From this moment on, decide to believe that you are worth the effort and deserve everything you aspire to achieve. Don't forget to enjoy the journey!
It's the time of year where we are reminded of all we have to be thankful for. For many, this time of year can also be very difficult as it sometimes brings forth difficult memories and painful
feelings of inadequacy as families come together.
Do you ever ask yourself, "why do I behave that way when I'm around certain members of my family?" Do you ever walk away from an interaction with someone and think, "I don't always like who I am when I am around that person?" Do you ever wonder, "What is it about me that I allow that person to get under my skin?"
You may also be discouraged by the fact that you have to spend a holiday with a certain person or people that rub you the wrong way, say things that bother you or make choices that offend you.
When we focus our energy on someone else's choices, whether it be a parent, a sibling or a friend, and we let them affect us in ways that cause us frustration, guilt and defensiveness, that is giving away our power. If we could consider that this person is doing the best they can with the tools they have in their own personal toolbelts and their choices are a reflection on them, their experiences and their values and not on us at all, it would remind us that how we react to others is a choice that only we can make.
As much as we want to believe that controlling the actions of others would make our lives easier, in fact it's really the other way around. Being in control of our own actions and most of all, reactions, is a characteristic of true power.
Being in control does not mean that we bottle up our feelings and keep our mouth shut. It means that we truly realize that the way others act towards us or in general is not our stuff, so to speak. We understand that focusing on drama, builds and creates more drama. We are aware that too often perfection is expected of each of us yet not one of us is able to live up to such expectations.
When we finally decide that our positive opinion of ourselves is the most important one of all, we learn to become less affected by the opinions, actions and choices of others and to simply ignore such negativity. We learn to access our own inner power and accessing that power is, and always will be, a choice. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Nobody has the right to make you feel inferior without your consent."
I am reminded of a conversation with my 15 year old son (one of the most powerful people I know!), who is constantly picked on because of his uni-brow! He cracks us up at the dinner table, telling us of one wise crack after another from the kids at school and I am consistently in awe of how he handles himself. Rather than sinking inward and absorbing those negative opinions, he chooses to focus on how clever some of the kids are and how they make him laugh. He also chooses to focus on what's important to him, where he excels and the positive effect he does have and wants to continue to have on others. He says, "We all have something, Mom and so we might as well learn to laugh at ourselves!" Out of the mouths of babes!