Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Life in a ‘both/and’ world

I have a confession to make—I am a recovering either/or thinker! I don’t know how or why it happened but I’ve spent a lot of my life in all-or-nothing thinking. I first became aware of this many years ago when I joined Weight Watchers to lose some extra weight.

I noticed that if I went off my plan for a meal, I got discouraged and thought, “Well, I’ve ruined today. So I might as well just eat whatever I want. I’ve screwed it up anyway.” Oh, yeah, that was really helpful! Not so much ….

The more I became aware of how my either/or, all-or-nothing thinking hindered my weight-loss efforts, the better a change to both/and thinking looked to me! Sometimes I still struggle with either/or thinking. But more often than not, I’ll be invited back into the expansiveness and joy of life in a both/and world when it happens.

Possibilities open up
When you are stuck in either/or thinking, things are either one way or the other. There is no room for ambiguity or for the gray areas of life. Either you are strong or you are weak. Either you are on a healthy eating plan or you’re totally off your plan. Either you are perfect or you are a failure.

However, when you switch to both/and thinking, you can see many sides to an issue. Many possibilities open up. Solutions you didn’t see before appear. You can acknowledge all the facets of your personality. Several realities can coexist.

You can be a strong woman—and you can have a scared little girl inside. You can eat that forbidden snack—and you can acknowledge that you ate something not on your plan while still deciding to get right back on the plan with your next meal. You can love your husband—and still want a weekend away from him and spent in the company of your female friends.

Where do you spend most of your days—in either/or land or a both/and world? What helps you sustain both/and thinking?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Feel the fear, move ahead anyway

In my last blog, I talked about living from a place of love rather than fear. To do that, you need to be honest about your fears. You can’t simply ignore them. Once you face them, they lose power. You get your personal power back again.

So how do you face fears? Start by naming them. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change. Then, examine them to see just how true (or untrue) the beliefs under them might be.

Of what are you most afraid these days? What do you desire? And what fears keep you from getting there?

Look ‘em in the eye
Take one fear at a time—examine it, look it in the eye, as it were. What would you like to say to that fear? Can you go toe-to-toe with it and talk with it? What’s the worst that can happen if you look at the fear close-up?

Several years ago as part of my job, I led occasional workshops. Initially, I felt anxious and fearful. One of my fears was that I would forget something I wanted to say, have one of those brain freezes many of us experience from time to time, or lose my train of thought. As I looked more closely at that fear, I knew it was about looking incompetent or stupid. For an Enneagram 8, that’s really not pleasant! However, the more I examined that fear, the more I realized that it wasn’t completely based in reality.

Were I to forget a point I wanted to make, people wouldn’t automatically think I was stupid or incompetent. Most audiences are pulling for a speaker or presenter and want them to do well. (Have you ever silently prayed for or encouraged a speaker who forgot a line or stumbled over something?) Most people respond favorably when a speaker looks human!

And further, if one or two people thought I was incompetent, was that so awful? Could I survive that? Of course.

Once I examined the fear, I could also make a plan for what to do if I did forget what I intended to say. I could just be honest and tell the group that I lost my point. In fact, I did have that happen a couple times; I simply admitted it and moved on to the next point. It wasn’t the end of the world after all. The sky didn’t fall!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Choose love

I’ve heard it said that we act either from love or from a place of fear. Does that resonate with you?

Think about how you feel inside when you feel loved and loving. What are some of the things you notice? I feel it physically—my heart feels expansive and full. I feel softer inside, and my facial features soften as well! I smile more easily. I feel generous toward others, much more forgiving and accepting. How about you?

Now think about how you feel when you’re fearful. What is that like? I tighten up, my heart shrivels, and I get irritable and less open and welcoming.

Feel the difference
One interesting way to demonstrate this for yourself is to say aloud, one at a time, a list of very negative words: Violence. Attack. Jealousy. Abduction. Murder. You’ll have other words of your own. Notice how you feel as each word is spoken.

Now say words that are loving and positive: Beloved. Sweetheart. Gentle. Compassionate. Think of other words that work for you. Again, notice how you feel.

Here’s the deal: You do have a choice. True, things will happen that are difficult to see in a positive way: the death of a loved one, a tough medical diagnosis, job loss. You need to be honest as you process such difficult things in life. Once you’ve done the grief work, however, you can choose whether you want to stay stuck in grief and fear—or whether you want to move on.

You felt the difference in your body as you said negative words and as you said positive, loving words. So what’s your choice?

If you choose love, make a plan today to live from that place. Face your fears—and move on. Live in the joy. We’ll talk about how to do that next time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

People as gifts

Yesterday we attended the funeral of a friend in our congregation. In his sermon, the pastor invited us not to focus on the fact that death had snatched Ron from our midst. Rather, he urged us to spend time thinking about what a gift Ron was in each of our lives. The pastor didn’t want to be dismissive of the necessary grief and the feelings of loss. In fact, he encouraged us to do the grief work. He also wanted us all to frame our lives in a positive way, however.

Anger about losing loved ones is a natural place to spend some time. But it’s not a good place to stay. The pastor realized that after the anger and sadness, a new focus would be necessary—a focus that permits the good memories to emerge.

Do you see the people in your lives as a gift? I know I sometimes lose sight of that with my fiancé, my sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. I forget that my friends are gifts to me. I certainly didn’t always see my former work colleagues as gifts.

What would change?
How might our lives be different if we remembered, more often anyway, that we are blessed by the presence of those who are in our lives? Would we be more gracious and open? Might we forgive more easily?

I don’t know about you. But I’d like to try living this way—at least more often than I do. When I live with more gratitude, my heart feels more expansive. I feel much more generous, giving and forgiving toward all those I meet. I like the way that feels so much better than when I’m negative, angry or complaining.

Try keeping a Gratitude Journal; write even just five things every morning for which you’re grateful. Or just think about five things each morning when you’re in the shower—or sipping your coffee. Do it with real intention and thoughtfulness.

And think about the people who surround you as gifts to you. Treasure them—and tell them that you do. See how much different you feel inside! Feel the joy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

‘Fake it until you make it’

Yesterday we talked about negative self-talk and limiting beliefs—and we discussed two steps to move forward: awareness and affirmations. Today let’s take things a step further.

Once you’ve become aware of the self-talk that holds you back and have begun to affirm the things you like about yourself, what’s next?

Action. One small step at a time, create actions that will move you forward so you can leave negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs behind. You’ve heard the saying, “Fake it until you make it.” And you’ve heard about the importance of “as if” thinking. All of this means that we try on attitudes and behaviors that reflect where we want to be until we actually become that which we have desired.

Suits and a briefcase
I remember that, in the first position I secured after my divorce, I bought and used a lovely briefcase to carry my papers to and from work. As I could afford to do so, I bought a professional-looking work wardrobe—several suits, as I recall. Somehow this reinforced in my mind the image of where I wanted to be: I knew I had the skills for management positions in my field of journalism, but at first I just didn’t quite have the confidence.

I had to “fake it until I made it.” Not too far into my journalism career, I ditched the briefcase and the suits, even while still dressing like a professional. But in those early years, those purchases were important actions for me to take. It may sound silly, but dressing for success helped me to catch a vision of where I wanted to be.

You will have different actions from mine. Whatever you determine will help you get where you want to be, make those things part of your action plan. One day at a time, one step at a time. Soon you will notice that you have moved beyond the negative tapes and have replaced them with more positive messages about yourself and your abilities. And then you will have come to the acceptance phase. Since personal growth is a process, you may still occasionally go back to an old message. But you will notice it so quickly, and now you’ll know what to do about it! And soon you will have lived into that place you dreamed of one day being.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stopping negative self-talk

Do you have any beliefs that limit what you do? Do you engage in negative self-talk? How do you hold yourself back?

It’s been said that we are our own worst enemies. And as women, we often see the truth of this.

Years ago I noticed that I gave myself messages such as, “Why do you think you can do that, Sonia?” or “Who do you think you are to apply for that job?” Or: “See, you did it again. Why did you do that?”

I knew instinctively that these messages weren’t going to help me move through my fears after my divorce and move into a new life and new career. But what could I do?

Awareness first, then affirmation
Before I could replace the old limiting messages with new ones, I needed to stop the old tapes. So each time I heard the familiar old voice with any message that wasn’t positive, I imagined a stop sign popping up inside my head. That was enough to get my attention. Whoa, what’s going on here? Just by taking those moments to become aware of the negativity, I bought myself some time—time to realize that I didn’t want to go down that old, familiar path. It never took me to a good place!

Then I needed to learn how to affirm myself, how to believe in the gifts I’d been given. That’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But you can start today. Begin by listing five things you like about yourself. Write each item on a post-it note, and place those notes where you will see them daily. Repeat those messages aloud daily (or several times a day, if you can): “I like that I am a good strategist.” “I like that I am loyal and caring.” “I like that I think well on my feet” (or whatever your messages are).

We’ll talk more about this in other blogs. And I invite you to add your experiences by commenting below. Have you been in this negative place? What have you done to move forward?

Monday, January 23, 2012

What? Ask directions?

What’s on your mind now that you’re nearly one month into a new year? Do you have a hope or intention for this year—or a resolution or two? And how is that working out so far?

If you have a hope, a dream, an intention or resolutions—have you actually made a step-by-step plan to get there?

If not, why not take the time today to do this? When you plan a trip to a new place, you can’t get there without getting directions and making a plan. So it is with an intention.

I don’t need a plan
Men are often teased for not asking directions. In truth, however, many of us are guilty of not creating a plan to get where we want to go.

This is a great time to change that. The year is still new. You still have time to ask what needs to change so you can reach your heart’s desire. What is it you really want for 2012? What will it take to get there?

And how can you break that down into bite-sized and manageable pieces?

Maybe you still have some letting go to do before you can move forward. What do you no longer want? Write it down. What do you want now? Write it down. What one thing can you do to move closer to that goal? Write that down. As you think of more actions to get you to your hope, your dream or goal, add them to your list.

We all need inspiration from others. I invite you to share with us in the comment box what works (and doesn’t) for you.

I’m pulling for you! I’d love to see you attain that for which you most yearn this year!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Carrying a grudge? Still angry?

I thought I’d let go of my anger. But when I heard myself answering a question from a new acquaintance about my job loss, I caught the heavy emotion in my words. Whoops, I thought, I guess I’m still pretty angry with my old boss. Guess I still have more letting go to do. I guess I need to practice some more forgiveness.

Back to the drawing board again. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, letting go is a process. Well, so is forgiveness.

Typically, we need to let go, let go again, and then let go some more. Same with forgiveness. Have you noticed that?

Bless, don’t curse
Back to my job loss. My mentor coach told me about her “Bless and release” program some time ago when I told her I still felt anger toward my old boss. She said that when she feels anger toward someone, she sends a blessing their way and then lets go. And she keeps repeating that process—as long as it takes. Sort of like the “catch and release” of fishing, right? Catch that feeling, change it to a blessing, then let go.

I will confess, this has taken me longer than I thought. And I will tell you right here and now: Even when I think I’ve really forgiven and let go, sometimes pieces of my anger still come back and bite me. And then I “bless and release” all over again. Don’t worry about counting how many times you do this. Do it as often and as long as needed!

So here’s my way of practicing “Bless and release:” Each morning in my Gratitude Journal, I wrote how grateful I was to my former boss for RIFing me and essentially kicking me out of the nest, because I learned how to fly on the way down! I was now soaring in a whole new career! Many days when I wrote this in my journal, I didn’t necessarily feel thankful. Over time, however, I began to feel what I wrote on the page. In time, the blessing felt more authentic.

Now I feel so much lighter, so much freer. Yay, I can soar like that butterfly that emerged from the cocoon.

Does that sound like something you’d like to try? Add it to your “tool kit” today, and let us know how it works for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Me? In a cocoon?

What happens for you inside the cocoon? Yesterday we talked about what happens when something in our life ends and before the new beginning occurs. We talked about time in the cocoon—or what author William Bridges calls the “neutral zone.”

So what happens to you when you’re in the cocoon stage of transition? It’s a time of inner work. You might be one of those who love to spend time in reflection and inner work. Or you may do anything to avoid it. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of doing inner emotional work, try to find some way of doing what’s needed so you can move beyond the cocoon and into that new beginning. New dreams cannot begin until you let go of the old ones.

Grief—and letting go
In yesterday’s blog post we spoke of the ending, the neutral zone and the new beginning that happen when change occurs. All change involves some loss, even when you choose that change. When you decide to move to a new home, for example, no matter how excited you are about that move, you will still experience some loss as you leave your present home.

Losses need to be grieved. I encourage you to do that in whatever ways work for you. Then you will want to let go. Is it a person you need to let go? A role? A place? First determine which of those you must tend to. Then think of the feelings associated with the loss. Are you angry? Sad? Let go of those feelings, too. When you carry around anger or strong emotions about an old situation, it holds you captive. It’s impossible to really move on when you’re still tied to the old.

I recommend a book that I use frequently when I find myself stuck with the letting-go process: How Can I Let Go If I Don’t Know I’m Holding On? by Linda Douty. This is an extremely practical and insightful book. In addition, I’d be happy to talk with you in a complimentary, no-obligation phone consultation to discuss the value of “cocoon time.” Please click on Contact Me to schedule a consultation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Before flight, the cocoon

We often fear it. We experience it on pretty much a daily basis. We often resist it. It’s as much an inevitable part of life as death and taxes. Yup, it’s change.

Have you experienced big changes in your life recently? Or several small ones? When you do, it’s natural to wonder how you will live in that different world. A question we hear often these days is: What will the “new normal” be?

In his book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges says that the changes don’t do us in; the transitions do. He says the change is the situation (the new job, the new roles, etc.). Bridges defines the transition as “the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.” In other words, the change is the external event. The transition is the internal work we do.

He describes the three parts of transition as the letting-go stage (which begins when something ends), the neutral zone, and the new beginning. Bridges says, “People make the new beginning only if they have first made an ending and spent some time in the neutral zone.”

Cocoon time
What Bridges calls the neutral zone (the land between what has been and what is to come) I see as the cocoon stage of a butterfly’s transformation. From caterpillar crawling on its belly to soaring butterfly—that metamorphosis only happens because of time spent in a cocoon.

You might see your transitions that way, too. After you acknowledge (and grieve) what is no more, it’s time to let go, time to enter the cocoon—what Bridges calls “the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new.”

Once, to note a big change in my life, I bought a butterfly kit. It underscored for me what an active stage the cocoon is. So much is happening inside that tiny space. It has to if the caterpillar will emerge as a butterfly. You are no different. In that cocoon or neutral stage, that reflective and quiet time when things are sifting and sorting inside us, much is changing. Take the time to stay in the cocoon, the neutral zone, and embrace the inner work that needs to happen before you emerge on the other side—and soar!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is this all there is?

Have you ever wondered whether this is all there is? Is life more than the daily grind? Do you wonder whether you can actually feel intoxicated with life?

Even though my position as a magazine managing editor included many challenges and gave my life meaning, I still wondered whether there was something more for me. It wasn’t until I was Reduced-In-Force from that job that I really began to look at all the items I had written in my Dream Journal, which wasn’t about night dreams but about dreams of things I wanted to do some day.

What I discovered I’d written in that journal through the years led to my coaching career, and I realized that in so many other ways (as a mentor and a friend), I’d been coaching for much of my life. And I absolutely love doing it.

What’s your passion?
What do you love doing? What more would you love to have—or do—or be in your life?

You don’t need to do as I did: wait until you lose your job. Perhaps you can fulfill your passion in the job you already have. Perhaps that “something more” you desire in your life can be a hobby. Or as a volunteer for some organization about which you care deeply.

You might find joy in joining a yoga class or an exercise group. Or simply in creating more time for yourself—or more time with your partner or a friend. Maybe you want a primary relationship—or deeper relationships.

What more do you want for your life? And what stops you from having that?

Go get it. Just imagine how joyful and powerful you would feel if you created that life you so desire. You can, you know. Take one step today to move closer to the life you want. Want help? Sign up for a complimentary, absolutely no-obligation consultation today to see how you can let that inner butterfly soar!

Monday, January 16, 2012

When losses pile up

Have you ever over-reacted or completely lost it when some minor loss occurred in your life? Perhaps you misplaced your spare keys or you lost some papers that you need and are so certain you put into that safe place. Now you’ve been driving yourself crazy trying to find them. You’re at the end of your rope, and you’re either dissolving in tears or raging at no one in particular.

I’ve been there. It has happened to me many times throughout my life—and it happened more frequently than I care to admit during the year after I lost my job of 22 years.

This can happen when you don’t take time to notice (and grieve) even the small losses in life. The grief can pile up and build up energy not unlike that of a volcano—just waiting for something to happen so it can all spill out—or perhaps more like it, so it can all erupt.

More than one loss
I knew losing my job was a loss. I raged. I cried. I talked with others. I journaled. But what I didn’t take time to do right away was to acknowledge the multiple losses embedded within that one huge loss: all the smaller losses such as a daily routine, the meaning my job gave my life, workplace colleagues (it didn’t matter whether I necessarily liked being around them or not; I still lost the connection!), a certain status (I was “employed;” now I was “unemployed” and that can invite dismissive attitudes from others), plans and dreams for my work, and so much more. I had a long list of losses.

I needed to break that large loss (my job) into all its smaller pieces. And grieve each one. I needed to spend time thinking about each loss. I journaled. I did some rituals around several of the losses (I’m big on creating rituals to notice what I’m feeling and to think about what I need in order to move ahead). I talked with my life coach about the various losses and about my anger and sadness. I let go of things. I let go some more. It felt like pulling thread from a spool; it just seemed to keep coming. But I finally felt much cleaner and clearer inside. (Since grieving and letting go is a process, pieces can keep coming even after we think we’re finished!)

Check out what you might have experienced lately as loss. Grieve it. Let it go. Replace what can be replaced with new experiences, new dreams, new communities. It’s good to clear out the clutter—even when it’s emotional clutter. Make room for the new. Prepare space for that inner butterfly to soar!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is self-care a priority?

When your life gets really chaotic, is self-care one of the first things to drop off your to-do list? Be honest now.

I confess that, as much as I’ve come to value self-care, I still allow that to happen sometimes. The to-do list is long, I am trying to meet deadlines and obligations, and I think, “Well, maybe I can just skip exercising today.” Or “Gee, maybe I don’t have time to fix that healthy salad for lunch. Let me just grab something quick from the frig.” Maybe it’s, “What? Quiet time (or time with my friend)? Wow, I have way too much to do today. I’ve got to stick to my list.”

Or here’s another reaction I’ve used sometimes: I will take that time for self-care and then I’ll feel guilty that I did. I’ll beat up on myself, thinking I should have used that time to get my work done. Do you ever do that? “Should” on yourself? “I should have done this.” “I should have done that.”

You’re worth it
Let me encourage you (and myself!) right here and now to get your priorities straight! Take that time for self-care, whatever that means for you. That may mean a spa treatment, coffee with a friend, regular exercise, a good soak in the tub, a good night’s sleep regularly, or perhaps just quiet time at the end of the day. Whatever relaxes or re-energizes you, go for it. You absolutely are worth it.

And whatever is on your to-do list, that’ll most likely get done in less time and with better spirits if you do take the time for self-care. Even if it doesn’t get done when you had hoped, no doubt it’ll be there waiting for you.

It’s so easy to put yourself last. Give your all at work. Give to your partner, kids and friends. And if there’s anything left (often, there isn’t!), you get something. What if you did what we’re told to do on flights: Put your oxygen mask on first and then help someone else put theirs on? What if you fill your cup? Maybe then you’ll have enough to share with others.

I invite you to share your best self-care tip with us. What do you keep as an absolute priority? And what does that do for you?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Letting go is tough to do

One of my favorite books—to which I return again and again—got to my bookshelf quite by accident.

I attended the annual conference of a religious journalists’ organization, registered, slapped on my nametag and grabbed the ubiquitous convention tote bag. Later in my hotel room I checked the contents and discovered a free book: How Can I Let Go If I Don’t Know I’m Holding On? by Linda Douty. Interesting title. But life was busy, so it went on my bookshelf. Until I needed it—and it called to me from my shelf one day! (Do you ever have that happen?)

I cannot tell you how many highlighted passages, underscored phrases and notations I’ve added to that book in the years since. It is a wonderfully practical book for letting go: letting go of hurts, of ways of thinking that no longer work, of grief that weighs us down, of roles and so many things.

What holds you back?
Think of what you most long for right now. What would you love to have in your life that isn’t there now? Then think of where you are right now in your life. Is there a gap?

What would it take to have that something for which you yearn—to be at that place you long to be? The chances are really great that one or several obstacles hold you back and keep you where you are. I know that’s often true in my life.

The chances are great, too, that some kind of letting-go process might be needed to move from here to there. Do you have restricting beliefs that hold you back? Or perhaps old hurts and resentments keep you stuck. Sometimes it’s even a person, a relationship you have that isn’t healthy. Maybe you need to let go of the way you act in that relationship—or perhaps you have to let go of the connection entirely.

Think about what letting go you may need to do. Decide what actions you’ll need to help it happen. Remember, it’s a process.

I invite you to share with us what has worked for you in the past. What letting-go experiences have you had, and how have they helped? Or is this a tough one for you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When you don’t feel ‘juiced’

I just had one of those days where I completely lost my “juice.” Ever had one of those? They’re no fun. But let’s face it, we all have days when we don’t feel that we have our groove on—when we’re just a bit out of synch.

It might be one day, or two—or it might last longer than that.

What do you do when that happens?

Here’s what works for me: I need to pay attention to what I am feeling. To be with what is real.

Get over it!
I tend to be a positive person and don’t like to spend much time in pity-parties or at low ebb. I’ve been known to tell myself, “Get over it!” But when I do that, I miss out on what I might learn from my body and my heart—something I likely need to hear. I really do need to stop and listen to my heart.

So the other day when I lost my groove, I took the time to sit with my journal, my pen and a cup of coffee to sort out what was happening inside. Sure enough, as I wrote whatever came up for me, I discovered some things that needed tending in my life. Working on those issues will help me in my personal life—and will make me a better coach.

I also reached out to a couple friends to share my discoveries—and, wow, did that ever help me sort things out even more! Coaches need coaches, too, you see. In fact, it’s been said that no one needs coaching but that everyone can benefit from coaching.

So the next time you’re out of steam or low on energy, stop. Listen to your heart. Listen to your body. Reach out for help. Be ready for new discoveries.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does size matter?

Are you obsessing on your body weight or self-image now that we’ve begun a new year? So many women are.

I confess that my Christmas indulgences (oh, those sweets were delicious!) are coming back to haunt me right now. And I am hearing the same messages you are about going on a diet, starting a Weight Watchers program or ordering NutriSystem.

It’s all making me wonder whether we can have a healthy self-image no matter what our dress or pants size. Does size really matter? Can you maintain your self-confidence no matter what the scale says?

Healthy or sexy?
We women get so many media messages about being svelte and sexy. It’s all a bit overwhelming at times.

We also receive media messages about being healthy—about eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Have you decided where you fall on the continuum with good health at one end and having a model’s figure on the other? You can be healthy even though you have a larger dress or pants size than you’d like. And being a size 6 doesn’t necessarily mean you are in good health.

I encourage you to try clear out all society’s messages, all the ads and media messages that tell us (subtly, of course) that we aren’t lovable or won’t be happy if we aren’t size 6 (or less!) or 100 pounds dripping wet. Consider what it takes to make you feel your best. What foods make you feel good? What amount and type of exercise is best for you? What do you need to feel great about yourself? What would it take to feel healthy and energetic?

I’d love to hear your ideas on this. What are you doing to create a healthy self-image? Please share your comments and tips so we can all be inspired.

Monday, January 9, 2012

From the heart and onto a page

It’s winter where I live. This is a time for hibernating, for staying inside (or going inside), for comfort foods and for reading books or indulging in those quiet, indoor activities. Here in Illinois when spring comes, I can’t wait to get outside, go for walks, plant herbs and flowers and open my windows to let in the fresh air.

Today I’ve been thinking that I want to take advantage of this indoor time and get back to journaling. I keep several journals—sometimes writing in them regularly and other times, more on an as-needed basis. I have a journal in which to write what’s going on inside and around me. I have a Dreams Journal to keep track of those things I long to do someday. I have a Gratitude Journal to remind me of how thankful I am for all life’s blessings.

And I have a “Value Journal” recommended to me years ago by my spiritual companion at a time when I felt especially devalued in my workplace. She encouraged me to make entries into this journal when I received affirmations and compliments, to note the person, the date and the situation as well as what was said. She invited me to check in my VJ whenever I needed a boost. And, believe me, I have gone back to read some of the entries and gotten that shot in the arm I needed.

What do you need?
Do you have some inner work you need to do? Would some type of journal help you? There are so many types in addition to those I’ve named—and so many ways of journaling. Some people draw pictures rather than write, and these don’t have to be professional artwork. The art can be a simplistic drawing that represents what you’re feeling. Some people just write words or phrases rather than full sentences. And although I’m a trained journalist as well as a life coach, I do not edit my journal writings. I simply let my thoughts flow onto the page.

Journals are for your eyes only. These aren’t for publication, so you need not worry about grammar and punctuation. Let the thoughts flow onto the pages without censoring.

If this interests you, find yourself a lovely journal that appeals to you and feels good in your hands. Or just buy an inexpensive notebook. The important thing is to start—and to express the deepest longings of your heart. You might be surprised what you’ll learn about yourself and about life!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Balance

As a journalist, I worked in an office—in a cubicle surrounded by other workers. I was on the phone a lot, and I traveled a lot. I had to be vigilant in carving out solitude for myself. I exercised care in scheduling even the fun activities of my life so I could have some balance for my extroverted and my introverted sides.

Now that I’m a life coach, I work from home (most coaching is done by telephone). And I have more solitude than ever before. Now I need to take care that I get enough social time each week. I carve out enough time for my fiancé, my friends, my kids and grandkids—and for the groups and activities I choose so I have balance in my life.

I don’t want all solitude nor do I want my days and nights filled with group activities. It’s about balance.

So much to balance
You need to balance solitude and group time. You also will want to get enough rest and relaxation to offset the high stress of your career. You want balance or equity between the various parts of your life: intellectual, social/interpersonal, emotional, physical, vocational, spiritual and financial. You may design a circle that has different aspects in each of the pie-shaped areas inside it; that’s your choice.

Keep in mind that balance doesn’t mean spending exactly the same amount of time on each aspect of your life. You know what your needs are. Remember, too, that you’ll need to tweak the balance. Life changes. You change. What you need today may not be what you need a year from now.

What you need to feel centered or grounded is not the same as what I need. It’s different from what your partner or kids need. It’s important that you determine what feels right to you—you’re the only one who knows what that is.

Start today. Draw a circle with the different parts of your life as pieces of the pie. Or journal or simply list the various areas. Then determine how much time you now give each aspect of your life—and how much you want to give it. And go for it! Make the changes that work for you.

Taking charge of your life feels so good, doesn’t it?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Have you come to a crossroad in your life? Perhaps you’ve had some changes—changed careers or jobs, lost a job, retired, married, divorced, had some health changes. You are wondering what to be when you grow up.

It doesn’t matter whether you are 30 or 70. Big life questions can emerge at any age. What are yours?

Perhaps you’re more aware of the time that remains. You want to make it count. You don’t want to spend any more time doing what’s expected of you, playing a role others set for you. Now it’s your time—time to be and do what you were meant to be and do.

Now what?
So what do you need to do for that to happen? How do you discover what you want?

You might keep a “Dreams Journal.” I have done that for years, and it really helped me be creative after I lost my job. I applied for several new jobs, but nothing came of those attempts. One day I remembered to check my Dreams Journal. I discovered things I’d forgotten I wrote … and it led to a new career and self-employment.

You see, the Dreams Journal isn’t about night dreams (though it could certainly include those that speak to what you might want to do). Instead, it’s all about things you enjoy, gifts others have seen in you, talents you’ve wanted to express but haven’t—things you dream of doing someday. It’s about passions you’ve noticed in yourself, yearnings you haven’t yet followed. Write these down so you won’t forget.

When the time is right, you’ll have lots of ideas from which to create new dreams when an old one dies. Or when you think it’s time to pursue new ones.

My father took up stained glass art in his 70s. And learned how to use a computer in his 80s. Why not?

Go for it. It’s never too late to start new things. By bringing your unique and special gifts into the world, you’ll feel deep joy and happiness. And you’ll bring more light into the lives of others—and the world. How much better does it get than that?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Listen to your longings

For what do you most yearn at this point in your life?

Is there something you’ve long wanted to do? Would you like to change careers—or do you want to move up in your present field?

Are you ready for a new relationship—or do you need to make changes in a current friendship or love relationship?

Or is it balance you long for—or a better self-image?

Just know that, whatever your deepest longings are, you are worth it! Let this be the year you give yourself the gift of expressing and meeting your longings.

Small steps
Is something holding you back? Perhaps you hear yourself giving excuses: I don’t have time for that goal. I can’t do that; it’s too selfish, and my family needs all my time. I don’t have what it takes to do that.

Really? Is that true? Be honest.

Do you still want to go for it? OK, then determine how you will get there. What needs to be done to reach for longed-for desire? Break the goal down into small steps. Bite-sized pieces are easier to swallow than the entire pizza!

What one thing can you do this month to get there? And after that? Imagine how it will feel to get what you so desire. Can you picture it? How do you feel? How does it change your world—and your outlook?

What resources might you need to get there? If you need support from family or friends, just ask. If you need encouragement and coaching, email or call me today for an initial conversation—or to schedule a complimentary and absolutely no-obligation sample session.

Listen to your heart. Follow your yearnings. Make this the year you take action!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An alternative to resolutions

Do you make resolutions for the new year? Do you keep them? Some statistics say that 25 percent of people drop their resolutions within the first week of the year—and 36 percent ditch them within the first month. After six months 54 percent have not maintained their resolutions.

Having said that, it’s also true that making resolutions is better than not making them—if you want to reach goals in your life.

Give the year a name
Here’s another alternative: Consider doing an informal review at the end of the year or the start of a new year. Include a look back at the past year to see what was good and not so good. Reflect on the past year’s highlights (and lowlights!) and what you learned from them. Then look ahead to imagine what might happen in the coming year. What would you like to have happen? What manageable goals can you set—and what small steps can you take to get there? Reflect on what strengths and resources you have (include your own skills and strengths and think about family and friends) that you take with you into the year that will help you get what you most want.

Then think about what name you might give to the coming year: a single word or perhaps a short phrase. What word or phrase might you hold in front of you that will energize you and fuel your passion in the coming year?

Two friends and I have done this on New Year’s Eve for 10 years now, and in the past three my fiancé has joined in. We have been amazed at what can happen during the year when we do this.

Prepare for surprises
For example, one year I chose “authentic” as my word. I determined that, in my workplace, I wasn’t going to let the behavior and attitudes of my coworkers determine my actions. I wanted my words and actions to be authentic. Most days I was very conscious of that intention and really did bring my positive thinking into my workplace. That word still lives in me to this day.

Interestingly, at the start of 2009 I chose “break free” as my phrase—intending that I would break free of things that held me back from being all I could be. Little did I know that in October of that year I would be Reduced-In-Force at a workplace I’d been in for 22 years! Further, for my 2010 word I chose “adventure,” again not fully realizing just where that would take me. My adventure turned me onto a career I absolutely love and for which I feel I’ve trained all my life.

What word or phrase might you give to 2012? Try creating one—and wait to see what happens! It just could replace New Year’s resolutions in your life.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It’s your choice

Happy New Year! Don’t you just love opening a new calendar and seeing all the empty spaces in each month—each day beckoning with possibilities? It’s exciting to know I can fill them (or not fill them) as I choose.

Yes, we do have some “musts” that fill those spaces each month. Some of us have 9-to-5 jobs that leave only nights, weekends and vacation days with actual choice involved. We have families to tend and friendships to nurture. We have appointments and commitments to keep. However, some choice is still involved in adding things to our calendar.

How are you choosing to fill your 2012 calendar? Are you doing so with intention? Or are you simply allowing things to fill up? And how do you make your decisions?

Ask questions first
For too many years, I let my calendar fill up with little thought to what gave me life and energy. Will doing this bring more light and life into the world? Will it matter to someone’s life? To mine? Is it something that is really someone else’s task? Or is it something that is mine to do?

So many questions need to be asked before filling your days. Be clear about your goals. Get clear on your desires. Be clear about what tasks are really yours to do—and not someone else’s. Have clarity on how you want to spend your time. We each have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We each have the same number of days in a month and 365 days in a year. No more, no less.

If you haven’t done so already, why not make a list of what you really want to do with your time. How do you want to spend your days? What are your priorities? Once you have a list of things you want to do and have prioritized it, you can make choices about filling your calendar that really feel like choices. Doesn’t that feel energizing and powerful?

Make intentional choices, starting today. You’ll be so glad you did. And I invite you to share comments with us to tell us how that works for you.