Friday, September 28, 2012

Staying calm and serene

As I write this blog, I am waiting for the furnace repair person to come do a pre-season check. My time slot was from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. It's now after 5:00, and I just got the call that the repairman is on his way. The previous job was much extensive than he'd planned.

I don't consider myself the most patient person in the world, and I did have tentative plans for an event that begins at 6:00 p.m. However, I decided to employ what I often encourage clients to use: the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." Acceptance. Courage. Wisdom. And the end result can be serenity? Sounded good to me.

I couldn't really change what happened. I could, of course, have canceled the appointment. But then I would have had to reschedule for another day. I'd already stayed home all afternoon waiting for this appointment. Once I thought about the situation and accepted it, I felt calm and serene. And I was even able to write my entire October e-newsletter and prepare it to be published next Monday. Maybe instead of my plans for tonight, I can read that novel I've been wanting to start. Hmmm, perhaps this turned out all right after all. Maybe I'll learn patience and acceptance yet!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Letting go of friendships

Friends mean a lot to me. I call some of my dearest ones "chosen family" because that's how important they are in my life. Because I treasure my friendships, I find it difficult to let go of old friends.

There have been a few times in my life, however, when I've simply had to let go of an old friend because I couldn't be around the negativity or toxicity that had entered the relationship. It was beginning to affect my attitudes and behavior.

A client recently asked me what she should do about a relationship that had become fairly toxic for her. She and her friend hadn't been in touch for a few months, and now the friend was trying to contact her again. I asked whether she had really missed the friendship in those months—and if so, what she had missed. My client admitted that she honestly hadn't missed the connection. She was feeling more of a "should" or "ought to" about reconnecting. I invited my client to spend a few more days reflecting on the situation and then see what she felt. What's at stake? What are the losses? What are the gains?

Letting go is difficult work. It's especially tough when it involves people in your life. Sometimes, however, it's the healthiest thing to do. If you have such a situation in your life, take your time before deciding what to do. And once you do, move ahead decisively, knowing you've done your discernment and that you're taking care of yourself. Although you may feel sadness about the loss of what once was good should you need to leave the relationship, you will also feel empowered knowing you've made a tough decision—and that you've opted for your well-being. Know, too, that sometimes friendships have seasons; and they come and go in our lives.

Have you had to make such a decision? I invite you to share how that was for you and what the outcome was. Do so in the Comment box below. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life's essentials

Many years ago I tried online dating—just for the fun of it. Though it's been a good thing for many people, it didn't turn out to be much fun for me. And as it happened, I met my fiance through dear friends many years after those experiences anyway.

In the process of online dating, however, I learned a lot. About others. And about myself.

One of my friends, who many years previous had tried to meet someone in this way, encouraged me to think about my "non-negotiables." She urged me to make lists of those characteristics I would really like to have in a partner and those I absolutely could not handle. Then of the list of what I'd like, she urged me to boil down to those that were essential to me—those non-negotiable traits. This process turned out to be a good learning experience.

I encourage coaching clients to do something similar when considering life or career decisions as well. It helps to have a broad-strokes vision of what you would really like—and then make a list from that dream or vision which things are truly essential for your well-being and happiness. What do you really need?

Do you have a Big Life Question you're pondering right now? Try sketching out your dream of how you'd like things to be after you live into the answers. Then make a list of those things that are essential and non-negotiable from your dream. That will make your action plan so much easier.

I invite you to contact me if you'd like to discuss any of this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who are you—really?

"Men are defined by their jobs and careers." Didn't we hear that often in the past?

While that still may be true for many men, it can also be true for women now. In the past several decades, careers have taken on much more importance to women as we've been able to attain access to positions never before thought possible. That's a good thing. I count myself among those women who have fought hard for the right of our gender to go where we'd never gone before, to do what we never dreamed possible.

The same down side to that is what has plagued men forever: We can become too identified with our jobs or careers. I discovered the truth of that when I was Reduced In Force from my long-held position as managing editor of a magazine. My question then became: Who am I now? And it took me a year or more to find the answers. Actually, I'm still discovering them as I continue moving toward authenticity.

That's the question I pose for you, whether you have a career or not, whether you are retired or are a stay-at-home mom (that's a career!) or however you spend your days: Who are you if you are not defined by a job or career? Who is the real you?

Who are you? What's important to you? What do you require in your life to be content and happy? Who and what defines you? The less we allow others to define us (or approve of us), the happier we'll be. We really are the only experts on our own life.

I'd love to hear in the Comment box below where you're at with these questions. Perhaps you have a different take on this topic? Please share it with us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The blame game

Blaming others when things go wrong for us—that's so easy to do, isn't it?

What's more difficult is to see, and acknowledge, our part in the dance that occurs between us and another person, whether that happens to be a boss, a partner, a child or a friend.

When we can take a deep breath, however, and step back from the situation to really see the dance as it is, we see that it does "take two to tango." Or to tangle!

I have done plenty of blaming in my time. And I've sometimes seen myself as the victim. That kind of thinking simply sucks away my personal power, however. So when I can change that thinking and behavior and see my part in a situation or relationship, I can make choices about what I want to change. Do I need to change how I think about the situation? How I react to someone? Why does that person get to me? What triggers set me off—and how I can avoid reacting to those same triggers? Do I need to leave a relationship or job? Or can I make the changes necessary for me to stay but without reacting in the same old way?

I can learn so much about myself and about life when I can step back and really examine the situation. I can set boundaries if I feel someone consistently walks all over me. I can choose to ignore unacceptable behaviors rather than react to them. When I change my part of the dance, it can't continue in the same way it has. That's a pretty powerful move, isn't it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Face fear with small steps

"Move the needle a bit each day," my oldest son advised me back when I was starting up my coaching practice.

We were having a conversation about how my fears sometimes got in the way of my moving forward, whether it was with marketing or with planning my website or some other aspect of the business. I could come up with lots of reasons why I couldn't work on it that day. Or the next. But what it really boiled down to was my fear. (Or at times, multiple fears!)

Peter was right, though: Move the needle a bit each day. Even if I couldn't create my entire marketing plan that day, I certainly could come up with one or two points for the plan.

Peter knew. He had started a business himself more than a decade earlier—and he's told me about the fears he felt initially, too. And how he pushed through the fear with small steps, moving the needle.

I think of that whenever I am immobilized by fears. Sometimes it even takes me a while to get past all the "reasons" I can't do something that day (excuses, really) and recognize that it's actually about my fear. Once I acknowledge the fear, I can come up with one or two small steps to move myself toward the larger goal. I can move the needle—even if it's only a little bit that day. And when I do, I feel so empowered and energized. Often that even spurs me to take more than a couple small steps.

Are fears holding you back from something you long to do? Let's talk about how you can move the needle. Contact me today for a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Staying present

In my recent trip to Phoenix, I had time in airports to observe people as I waited for my flights. What I noticed wasn't something new to me. It's just that somehow it struck me in a different way this time.

I observed a real difference in how people respond to kindness. Someone opened a door for another person or let someone else go ahead in line. Another person offered to lift someone's bag into the overhead bin on the plane. You know, those random acts of kindness that we see every day—and that, I hope, we also do often.

Sometimes the receiver stopped to thank the person who offered a seat or opened the door. Other times the receiver simply walked through the door, never even acknowledging the person who opened it for him or her much less thanking for the favor.

It could be simply that the person who received the act of kindness was rude or felt entitled. That can sometimes be the case. But I wonder if it isn't often just a matter of the receiver not paying attention. Being on auto pilot and not even noticing others and what's going on around them.

Perhaps it's as much about staying awake and aware, staying present, being grounded "in the now," as it is about rudeness or entitlement.

I know it was a reminder to me to stay "in the now." It was another wake-up call for me to not live in the past or in the future—but to keep my feet firmly planted right here, right now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quiet the chatter

Meditation takes many forms; it means different things to different people.

To some, meditation means simply sitting quietly and trying to clear your thoughts and either reduce or eliminate the inner chatter for a while. For others, it can be a time of reading something inspirational such as the Bible or a book with encouraging and positive messages. It may be a time of prayer. Some people use it to set aside stress and enjoy a time of quiet relaxation. Still others try to reach a different state of consciousness.

Much has been written about various forms of meditation. I would love to hear in the Comment box below if you have some experience with one type or another—and what it does for you. Perhaps you can introduce us to something new.

Most of us are on overload with messages and stimuli around and outside us. And we have no shortage of inner chatter going on inside our heads, too—what some call "monkey mind" (a mind constantly chattering and on the move).

It can go a long way in reducing stress and helping you to live more awake and aware if you can find five to ten minutes a day to sit quietly, using whatever form of meditation you find helpful. It can be a trick to find that time each day, or even to find a place in your house where you can be assured of quiet and no interruptions. It is worth the effort, though. And once you have done this a few times, you will likely find yourself craving more of it. Soon it will become a habit you won't want to give up. It will become part of your self-care routine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Be here now

Are you a "what if" thinker? If so, you spend a lot of time trying to imagine what might happen. What if I don't get _________? What if so-and-so never calls me back? What if my test results show I have a terrible disease? On and on it goes, right?

I've done that myself. Still do sometimes—and regret it. Most of what I've worried about has never happened. I've lost a lot of time and energy thinking about what might happen rather than tending to life right here, right now. That also means I've lost a lot of contentment and joy—the kind that comes from savoring the only time I really can be sure I have: now!

It helps if I can stop myself as soon as I hear the words in my head: "What if?" That's the first step. The second step is to examine the thought: What's the likelihood of this happening? And can I actually do anything about it ahead of time? If there is nothing I can do, it's wisest to simply let the thought go. Shake it off. Move on to something that's happening in the present. Focus on that. Enjoy the moment right now.

Many spirituality gurus and writers speak of living "awake and aware." Some, such as Eckhart Tolle who wrote The Power of Now, delve deeply into the topic. Whether you are interested in writings on the topic or in simply living in a more present way, I invite you to try eliminate "what if" thinking. I'm committing to do the same whenever it crops up in my life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What nourishes you?

I spent the last several days with my youngest son, daughter-in-law and two small children. What a delight! When I visit them, I share all the hugs I can and read and play with my two grandchildren; and I enjoy time, conversations and activities with my son and daughter-in-law. I am going home nourished and fed. My tank is full to overflowing right now.

What nourishes you? What activities give you energy and warm your heart? Which people in your life fill your tank?

It's important that you know what feeds you—and make sure you get plenty of time for those people and things that do. Self-care is essential in lives that are busy and stressful, and that pretty much includes everyone these days!

Don't try to run on an empty tank. It doesn't work very well. You can't operate that way any more than your car can. So make a list of what feeds you and be sure you get your minimum daily requirement!

Friday, September 14, 2012

One step at a time

My oldest son has taken up distance biking this past year. It reduces his stress levels and is keeping him fit and healthy. He participated in a 90-mile race recently and told me he felt "awesome" afterward. He said he was in the race to "complete it, not to compete." He had set a goal and met it—and though he was exhausted after the race, he was jazzed and energized.

I once asked him how he kept going on his 60- or 80-mile biking excursions, especially in the face of high heat or strong wind. He said, "I set small goals. I urge myself to just get to the top of the hill or to the next tree. And when I get to that goal, I urge myself on with the next goal: one more hill, one more tree to pass."

That's a good way to approach life, isn't it? Rather than looking at the huge mountain of work ahead, take one small bit at a time. Several small steps add up to something big.

Do you have something looming large in your life? A career or relationship issue? A health challenge? Losing weight or starting an exercise program? Start small. Feel the success of that. Then pick another small step. In time you will feel "awesome" just like my son. You will know the infusion of energy that success brings!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

See possibilities, not failures

"I'm such a failure." Have you heard those words before? Or even said them yourself? Me, too.

The messages we give ourselves matter. If we tell ourselves enough times that we're failures, and if we always focus on what we perceive to be our faults, we will see ourselves in a negative way. We will see ourselves as failures. And that surely will not motivate us to be all we can be!

If, on the other hand, we give ourselves encouragement and positive messages, we will see ourselves as empowered and strong. We will become that which we admire and desire.

What if, instead of seeing yourself as a failure for something you've not been able to achieve, you instead saw possibilities? What if you examined the situation in which you feel you failed—and looked for what life lessons you might learn from it? How might that make a difference in how you're able to move forward? In how you see yourself?

Years ago I was in a difficult work situation where I felt disrespected and devalued. I needed to stay there, at least for a while, until I gained some financial stability. In time, I began looking for what I could learn from the situation. It was a helpful shift. I did learn (with help from others) new ways of handling difficult situations, for one thing; and I learned to value and respect myself.

Try seeing possibilities—not failures—in your life experiences. While you're at it, try giving yourself praise just as you would give your best friend. See what a difference it can make.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Look back—and celebrate!

Being present right here, right now is a great way to live. Sometimes it is helpful and necessary to look back, however.

I often ask clients to remember back to how they felt when we first began the coaching process. Many of them come to me totally burned out, in a stuck place, unhappy with themselves and/or their life situation, afraid, or absolutely unfocused. No problem. That's what coaching is all about: helping someone access their own solutions in order to move forward. Listening someone into a new and better place.

So I like to take time occasionally to have my clients remember where they were when they began—and to celebrate their progress. So often when progress is gradual, as most of it is, we aren't even aware that we have moved forward. It is good to see how far we've come and stop to celebrate those victories, for they definitely are victories! When we do that, we receive new impetus to continue on the path toward our bigger goals.

From time to time, I like to do what I call "harvesting my journals." These are the times when I'll look back in my journals to see where I was one month ago, one year ago, five years ago. Often I will have completely forgotten that some challenge was weighing me down then, and I am so surprised by how far I've moved beyond that. However, sometimes I see that an issue continues to plague me and is more of a neuralgic problem. OK, time to get down to work on that one. Looking back really can help us move forward.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life as art

If your life is an artwork, what are you creating? What style is it, what colors are included in your palette, what textures do you imagine? Is it something that brings you joy?

If you are a visual person and if you enjoy art, you might savor spending some time with these questions. Journal them, paint them, draw them, sculpt them, dance them. Whatever floats your boat. You might even wish to create a representational piece of art to show what you wish your life to be.

I often ask clients to imagine their life as they really long for it to be, to flesh out in great detail the broad strokes of it and the dailiness of it. I ask them to include sights, smells, sounds, textures and as much detail as they can imagine. Paint me a picture, I say. And what delightful dreams and goals often emerge from that exercise.

I invite those women who truly get into this exercise to take it a step further and create a collage that they can see regularly, something that spurs them to keep going on the days when they are discouraged and lose sight of the dreams and goals.

I'd love to hear from you in the Comment box below if you have done such an exercise and what it revealed—or if you're interested in doing so and what you are interested in creating.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Real courage

Last Friday I quoted Nelson Mandela talking about our fear of success. When I looked up that quote, I saw another by him that goes to a topic I often hear raised by clients, too: courage. Some of my clients simply don't think they have it. But they do.

I'm guessing courage is something you've thought about more than a few times as well. Most of us are aware of those times when our fears get the best of us and hold us back. We often think that fear and courage don't co-exist.

But here's what Mandela said: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man [or woman] is not he [she] who does not feel afraid, but he [she] who conquers that fear."

Or put another way that's often said, "Courage is facing your fear and moving ahead anyway." Yes!

I still have moments when my fears get the best of me. I am getting better at looking them straight in the eye, but some loom larger than others for me. And it takes me a while to move through the fear to the point where I feel I've triumphed over it. What I do know is this: When I openly face my fear (the huge gorilla in the room)—and talk about it—the fear shrinks to a manageable size. The gorilla becomes more of a monkey!

What's your experience of courage and facing fear?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Let your light shine

These words from Nelson Mandela really struck me when I first heard them, and recently I had a client say something very similar to me. How do you resonate with them?

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.

"It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

"Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

"We are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

"And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

As a woman who worked many years within a patriarchal institution, I know about "shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure." In the end, it didn't make a difference. And it surely didn't make me happy nor did it allow me to soar in the same way I might have.

What do you need to do to "let your light shine"? To be out there in a big way? Are you being urged to something more in your life—to move from fear into joy? Let's talk. Contact me if you want to explore this.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comparing isn't helpful

I wish a had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say, "No one else is this messed up" or "Nobody else could possibly be as indecisive as I am." Or perhaps it's "No one can understand because others wouldn't have let this happen"—or "Everyone else has it together." In the past I have said similar things myself. Have you?

I've learned something along the way, however: Everyone has "stuff." Every person on the planet has issues, difficulties and challenges. No one's life is perfect, no matter how it looks on the outside. And that's the key phrase: "on the outside."

My wise friend Gayle often reminds me, "Don't judge your inside by somebody else's outside." And she is so right. If you look at the turmoil going on inside you over whatever is most challenging you right now and compare it to another person's life as it appears on the outside, you're not making a fair comparison at all. That's not even apples and oranges; it's more like cucumbers and chimpanzees!

Let's just accept that everyone has "stuff." No exceptions. And then let's get on with what to do about our own issues. Are you at choice about something today? Do you need some change in a relationship, attitude, your job or career choice? What holds you back? You do have a choice: Make today the day you move forward.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More than a career

As I write this, I'm remembering my bi-weekly massage that I had this morning. When I got off the massage table, my heart was filled with gratitude for my massage therapist and her "healing touch." She approaches her work as a ministry, a gift she gives to others, a calling. While she enjoys what she does, she also takes it very seriously. It's far more than just a job or even a career for Judy.

I remember once when I came to her for my usual massage, in our pre-massage conversation she learned that I was in the middle of an extremely stressful situation. Judy gave me extra time that day just because she knew I needed it. That's just how she is. I'm so grateful I found her years ago.

Judy loves what she does and is following her passion. Years ago she had been in a completely different career—as a real estate agent. She enjoyed that, too, and saw herself serving others. But what she does now is absolutely her passion, and she's so suited for it. It shows.

Is that how you feel about what you do every day? If not, would you like to follow your passion? To see where your longings lead? What would it take to do so?

Let's talk. Contact me if you want to pursue your dreams.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is it selfish to pursue desires?

Do you feel selfish for pursuing your desires and longings?

After my divorce, I asked myself what I really wanted. I had absolutely no idea because for years I'd been focused on my husband and three sons and what they needed and wanted. Once I began to explore what I desired, I started feeling selfish for pursuing it. I was still in caregiver/caretaker mode. (We women know that role!) It was through talking with other women, attending workshops, reading books and other methods of gaining insight that I finally began to realize that it is not selfish to follow my yearnings and pursue my dreams. Far from it.

The more I'm in alignment with what I really desire, the more content and joyful I am. And the easier it is for me to reach out to others and to share my gifts with the world. The easier it is to be open and loving to all those around me. I wasn't much good to others when I was in a place of resentment or when I felt invisible and unfulfilled.

"As women get friendly with their true yearnings, which are constantly changing, they see that their pleasure doesn't destroy but creates: energy, beauty, community, love." This comes from a book I've used as a workbook for years and absolutely love: The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life: Create All That You Need With Just What You've Got by Jennifer Louden, who does incredible work with women.

Are you where you want to be with your career and relationships? For what do you most yearn? What are you willing to do to get there?

Please contact me if you would like to explore this.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Change is a possibility

I really like the way author Joan Chittister puts it in The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman's Life: "Change and loss, it must be realized, are two different things. Loss takes something away from life. Change adds something to it.... Loss is not an option; it is a necessary and inevitable part of life. Change, on the other hand, is only a possibility. It can be resisted or embraced."

Last Friday I talked about the transformation that's offered when change occurs in life. I admit there are still times when certain changes strike fear into my heart. However, I can also say that, having experienced many changes over my lifetime so far and having survived them—even thrived because of rather than in spite of them—I resist change much less these days.

Not only do I resist it less, I actually embrace change more. I can see what wondrous transformation some of my life changes have brought to me—things I could never have imagined. As profoundly devastating and painful as my divorce was, I now know that I would never be who I am today without having experienced that. I learned to stand on my own feet, I learned so much about myself and life, and I have a rich and full life that I never dreamed possible. I learned to accept and embrace my gifts and talents—and I learned to claim and use them. And much more. My divorce was an incredible loss. But change was a possibility, and I was able to move into it.

Are you resisting some changes in your life? Can you imagine the possibilities offered if you move toward those changes? If you would like to explore the possibility, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.