Friday, January 30, 2015

Play not push

Have you ever worked so hard to make something happen? You've had this strong desire, and you move heaven and earth to bring it to fulfillment. Only it just won't come together. And then you loosen your grip on the dream or project (not totally letting it go, though)—and, voila, it does come together.

That doesn't always happen. But sometimes it does. We can really wear ourselves out struggling to make something happen, and it feels like such hard work. It is hard work. While it's not always true, sometimes it can be helpful to stop, take some breaths, loosen your grip, perhaps even invite others in to help, and then see if the dream or desired outcome won't come to life. The wisdom is in knowing just when to do this and when to keep pushing, of course.

I'm an Enneagram 8, and we tend to keep on keeping on. Sometimes that's a good trait. Other times, not so much. So I'm trying to learn to loosen my grip. Everything doesn't have to be such hard work. To do that, I'm starting to learn how to be creative in a playful way. My journaling can include colored pencils, crayons and newsprint as well as my bound journals and a pen. My exercises can include dancing and not just the treadmill and resistance bands. Get the idea? I'm trying to add some play into my life.

If this issue is something with which you struggle, I invite you to contact me for some conversation. And I'd love to hear your comments in the Comment Box below.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

We're not taught self-love

Most of us aren't brought up believing we should love ourselves first. But yesterday I learned about a woman in Houston, Texas, who married herself. She had vowed that if she didn't find love by the time she became 40, she would marry herself. She had an elaborate wedding and a "spiritual service" performed by her minister that included 10 bridesmaids.

No matter what you think of the idea, it is a reminder of the importance of loving yourself. The woman who married herself believed that loving yourself for who you are completely is essential before you can fully love someone else.

I don't know about you. But I didn't pick up that idea from society, my church or my family. The messages I received were more about loving God first, loving others and then self was at the bottom of the list. In fact, self-love wasn't mentioned but somehow I picked up the idea that it was selfish and narcissistic. I have learned through life's experiences, however, that it's so important to learn to love myself. When I can love, accept and forgive myself, I'm far more open and loving to others. Does that resonate with you, too?

So when things go wrong in your life, be compassionate toward yourself. Be loving toward yourself. Forgive yourself. Treat yourself as you would a good friend. Self-love, self-compassion and self-care are all part of being human and being healthy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Focus on positives

Somewhere recently I read this wonderful statement: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

I really like that. I don't take it to mean we shouldn't grieve when important things are over for us. It's essential that we grieve death, loss of ability, loss of job, serious health issues and so much more. We really can't move on properly until we do our grief work. And that includes grief over small losses as well as the larger ones of life. If we don't tend to our grief over what we consider small losses, they build up over time and deliver a blow just as deadly as large ones. So tend to your sadness and grief.

What I hear this saying is that, when all is said and done, focus on the positive. Live in gratitude that you had a person, an experience, an ability—whatever the "it" is—at all. That's really the glass half-full rather than half-empty. There's so much more life-giving energy in a focus on the positive. The energy that results from always focusing on the negative doesn't move us anywhere. It keeps us immobilized. Fearful. Stuck in a rut.

If you have thoughts on this—or an experience to share—I'd love to hear about it in the Comment Box below. I'm guessing other readers of this blog would love to hear your wisdom, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why are you here?

"I heard the other day that there are two days in our life that are most important," my friend said. "One is the day we are born. The other is the day we figure out why we were born."

Well, OK, there likely won't be an exact day when a thunderclap will sound and we'll have an instant aha-moment revealing the purpose of our life. I'm sure that isn't what the person who developed that idea had in mind. I know for sure it isn't what my friend had in mind. It's more likely a long process of growth and transformation, isn't it?

However, the thought is there: Discovering our purpose is as important as the fact that we were born at all. Why are you here? Why am I here? What gift or gifts do you bring to the world because of your unique personality, talents and outlook on life?

Psychiatrist, author and speaker Jean Shinoda Bolen put it like this once when I heard her keynote a women's convention: What's your assignment? What were you put on earth to do?

As my friends and I discussed the idea of why we were born, we agreed that this may not necessarily be a huge, world-changing assignment. Some people are here to start movements or organizations that have far-reaching effects on society. Others of us are here to encourage all those around us to reach their best selves. Or to share our joy of learning with little ones. Or to write stories or articles that inspire others. Or to help people heal in some form or another.

What do you think? Why are you here? Do you know? Don't worry if you haven't thought about it before. I invite you to give it some thought, however, and see whether it affirms what you've already been doing—or perhaps even suggests some other focus for you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 'secret sauce': Helping

Earlier this month, I turned over another page on my desk calendar to find this quote: "Helping others is the secret sauce to a happy life," by author Todd Stocker.

I like that. It's an interesting way to remind us of what we have heard so often and what we know to be true: We really do feel happiest when we know we are of help to others. If, in fact, it's true that we each want very much for our lives to have mattered, then it follows that we need to be about helping others. That's how our lives matter.

Does that mean we don't engage in self-care? That we become doormats and give of ourselves until there's nothing left and we're filled with resentment? Of course not.

It does mean that we don't remain in a state of self-absorption, though. It seems that a lot of today's marketing and advertising encourages us to be selfish and get what's coming to us, to take and take, to build up our own supply of "stuff." But we know that isn't the path to contentment, deep joy and happiness.

Look around. Do you see anyone in need of a helping hand? In need of some encouragement? Some love and support? You don't have to look far, I'm sure. Go ahead. Reach out—and find that "secret sauce." Share yourself (and your "stuff") with others. You will be so glad you did.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fire in the belly is powerful

Do you remember those times when you've felt that fire in your belly to do something you really wanted to do? Perhaps it was a dream you pursued? A project that really engaged you? Joining an organization that really fed you? Do you remember the power of that fire in the belly?

A French military general during World War I, Ferdinand Foch, said, "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." Isn't that the truth?

To turn that into language that isn't about weapons, we can say that the most powerful incentive and motivation is the human soul on fire. You know when you see people with that fire in the belly, with deep-felt passion. You just know. You see how they get where they want to go. They get things done.

This quote can help you reflect on what sets your soul on fire—and then see how you can incorporate that into your life. Unleash the power of your passions and follow your dreams. See where that takes you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

'I think I can'

If you think you're going to fail, doesn't that often become self-fulfilling prophecy? Yes, it does for me, too.

Henry Ford was correct when he said, "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way, you're right." It's also like the children's story about the little train that could. When it tried to get up a hill, it kept repeating, "I think I can, I think I can." And sure enough, the little train did scale the hill.

So when you have a goal, a dream or a passion you want to follow, check your attitude. Is it positive and confident? Or do you need a nice boost to your confidence level? If you need that boost, don't feel any shame about that. Simply ask a trusted friend or loved one for what you need—until you feel positive enough to say you can do what you wish to do. And do those things that always help you get in touch with your most confident self.

Attitude makes such a difference. Perhaps we can't be positive and confident 100 percent of the time. But we certainly can talk things over with someone else, immerse ourselves in inspirational literature or engage in yoga or meditation until we feel a shift in our attitude. Whatever will help us gain a positive attitude—that's what we need to do.

What would you like to do today? Go ahead; charge up your attitude and go for it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The first step is important

Although you won't read this until Wednesday, I wrote it on Monday—Martin Luther King Day. We have been left with many inspirational and thoughtful ideas and quotes by this civil rights leader.

One that is so fitting as we think about making changes in our personal (or professional) lives is this: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."

When anything begins to pinch in your life, and you think about making any type of change, large or small, this is good to remember: "Just take the first step." You need not worry about each action step along the way. Nor do you even have to see the whole picture or end result. You do need to know what's wrong now (what isn't working). You need to have some idea of where you'd like to go or what you'd like to feel. But you needn't know the full picture (the whole staircase). For example, if you are feeling resentful because you're always doing things everyone else wants (saying "Yes" too much) and never getting your own needs and wants met, you may want to make changes. You may not know what that will look like at the end. You just know you don't want to be so resentful anymore. You just know you want others to take your needs and wants seriously, too. It's OK to not see the whole staircase.

Just take that first step toward setting boundaries and learning to say "No" to others. Many of our important changes and transformations occur in incremental steps. So just take the first one—in faith and confidence that you can do it. One step and goal at a time. Before you know it, change has taken place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Healthy bones

Now that I learned I have osteopenia (a possible precursor to osteoporosis), I pick up on any mention of bone health and bone care. I'm looking at what type of exercises are best for bones, what kind of foods, etc.

So when I read about the four essential symbolic bones in our body in Angeles Arrien's book The Second Half of Life, I was intrigued. She is talking about something very different from the bones on my skeleton. But still I was drawn into her descriptions and am thinking a lot about the importance of each of these four bones and what needs strengthening or realignment in my life:

• Backbone: Arrien calls this "the quality of courage," saying it means "to stand by one's heart or core."
• Wishbone: "the quality of hope, to stay open to dreams, blessings, and possibilities."
• Funny bone: "the quality of humor, to foster joy and maintain flexibility."
• Hollow bone: "the quality of trust, to maintain openness, curiosity, and faith."

Isn't that fascinating to think about? I agree that those four bones have important roles to play in a healthy life. So as I think about the bones on my skeleton and how to keep them healthy, I'm also going to reflect on strengthening those four symbolic bones.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Forgiveness is essential

Relationships are complicated, aren't they? They require hard work at times. They provide us with places of peace and rest, secure in the knowledge that we are accepted and loved. They can sometimes be places of pain and conflict, too.

While love is essential to any relationship, there's one more thing that just has to be part of any healthy relationship: forgiveness.

That includes forgiving yourself so you can be fully present in any relationship with all that you are—the positive and the negative. You know your strengths. You know your weaknesses. You accept them. You forgive yourself for those things you did but didn't want or intend to do. You love yourself. You have compassion on yourself. That allows you to show love and compassion to others in your life.

It also includes forgiving the other person for things she or he has done to us. And it means requesting forgiveness for the ways we have hurt that person, too.

No way around it: Forgiveness is essential to healthy lives and relationships. If you have any work to do on that score, perhaps now is a good time.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Look at yourself

Do you know people who constantly lash out at others when things go wrong in their lives? They always look for someone else to blame for everything that happens to them and for everything they don't like about their lives. Perhaps you've done that yourself at times? I know I have.

Placing blame seldom solves the problem, though, does it? It's kind of a dead-end. It makes us feel anxious and helpless. If we're not to blame, there are few choices and options to solve things. And we miss an opportunity for growth as well. Who knows what we'll learn when we step up? When we do the inner work required from stepping up?

Choosing to take responsibility is actually a sign of self-love. We love ourselves enough to encourage our acceptance of ourselves and to want change, personal growth and transformation. We love ourselves enough to know that we are strong enough—and able to be vulnerable enough—to examine what we do and our motivations for doing it. And we are strong enough to make changes, if that seems necessary.

Blame really isn't the point, is it? More important is what will you do now that this happened? What can you learn from it? What changes do you need to make to ensure that it won't happen again—or at least to reduce the chances of it happening again?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

'I don't even know the questions'

I've had some potential clients approach me saying they think they could use some coaching but that they don't even know the questions to ask. They simply feel some deep need to talk with a neutral person but aren't sure yet of the issues. That's not at all odd. Ever feel that way yourself? You don't even know the questions. But somehow you feel un-ease or even dis-ease. You have some niggling feeling that things aren't just what you want them to be.

Inevitably, once we begin talking—starting with "What's going on for you right this minute? What are you feeling? What's catching your thoughts right now?"—we get down to pay dirt. And then we can get going on laying out the issues and begin creating incremental steps to address them.

I've certainly had times in my life when something deep inside me has known I needed some help clarifying an issue or issues, and my mind hasn't even registered it yet. The discovery process can be such a rich and enlightening time. It's normal to fear that time because we don't always know just what will come up and what its implications will be. But if we can tell ourselves that we are enough and that we will surely grow once we dig into the process, we can perhaps summon the courage to look any fears in the eye and surmount them.

Remember, you are enough. And you don't have to live with un-ease or dis-ease. Change is possible.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What have you learned?

Yesterday we took a look back at our younger self to see who we were then and what we desired. We asked what the younger you would tell you at the age you are now. Today let's think about all the wisdom we've gained in the years since we were that younger self. What would you say to your younger self from your current vantage point?

If you met yourself as you were 20, 30 or 40 years ago, what advice would you offer? What have you learned in the intervening years that you wish someone could have told you back then? Would you advise your younger self to be authentic? Would you encourage curiosity, openness and taking risks?

Or would you tell her to err on the side of caution? Or tell him that he shouldn't be so trusting and naive?

Would you advise more play, more time for friends and other loved ones? Or more focus on career?

Both these exercises are fascinating and can help you and me to think about what's important to us right now. If there are things to be changed, today is better than next week or next year. Or never! It's also valuable to see all the wisdom we have gleaned through life experience. Appreciate that. Be grateful—even for those difficult experiences from which you learned invaluable lessons. Celebrate where you are now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A look back

Here's a good question upon which to reflect as you still find yourself at the start of a new year: What would your younger self say to you now? Would she be thrilled at what you've done with your life and your talents? Would he be disappointed that you let fears hold you back from some pretty important dreams? Any regrets?

It's not as useless an exercise as you might think. It can be helpful to look back at who you were 20, 30 or more years ago. What excited you then? To what did you look forward? What did you imagine your future would hold? Do you remember that person?

It may not be too late to recapture some of those dreams and longings. At the least, there might still be a way to recover the real you. Sometimes we follow what others want for us ... or simply take the path that's set out in front of us (the path of least resistance). If you cannot have now what you wanted then, are there pieces of any of the dreams of the younger you that are still important and that still represent who you really are?

If there are, I invite you to reflect on what you might want to do about it now. Are you able to make some changes now to fulfill a dream or be all you were created to be? If not, are you able to put to rest any regrets or lost dreams? It's not too late. Think about it and see where you are.

Monday, January 12, 2015

In praise of listening

Are you a good listener? It's a skill that can be developed—and requires lots of practice to refine. In some ways, it seems to be a lost art today. If you watch any talk shows, you realize more people are talking a lot and doing very little listening. And politicians? Well, we don't even need to go down that road, do we?

Even if we're good listeners, though, one thing we women don't always excel in is listening to our bodies. If you listen to yours, what is it telling you? Does it tell you when it needs rest? When it needs for you to slow down a bit? Does it tell you when you're sending it the wrong type of food? Perhaps too many starches or too much fat? Does it tell you it needs exercise and movement?

And do you listen to your spirit? Are you in need of some time with yourself? Or time with close friends? Do you need renewal of some type, whether a spa day or an inspiring workshop or retreat? Do you need a few talk sessions with your favorite therapist? Or some coaching sessions, perhaps?

Perhaps it's time to raise your awareness and ramp up your listening skills—especially those that involve your own body and spirit. It could make such a difference in your joy quotient!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Life's rhythms

Where I live, winter means cold weather, snow and shorter days—more darkness. Although I'm not a real fan of winter anymore, I can appreciate its gifts.

Winter is a time for hibernation, going quiet, resting, waiting in the darkness to see what's changing and growing inside. Think of all the things that happen in darkness: babies grow inside a dark womb, seeds sprout and grow inside the dark earth, plants rest up so they can be renewed and come back in full beauty once spring arrives, butterflies form inside dark cocoons. Indeed, I have even read about people who walk through dark times of depression and how transformation and new growth emerged from that darkness.

When I complain about winter or long for spring's arrival, I need to remember that winter can be a rich time that can lead to high productivity, dreams fulfilled, transformation and new birth. Winter can provide us with times for reflection and dreaming if only we take that time—times that can lead to creativity and new experiences. It's all part of life's rhythm.

What's growing inside you right now? Any new dreams? An old one that keeps returning and calling for your attention? A project that calls forth your passion? A career change? Pay attention.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time for action

Have you ever felt that you could use someone with no "skin in the game" to just listen to you and give you feedback on something you're facing? Me, too. It's absolutely wonderful to have close female friends, to have a partner or a sibling who knows you so well and with whom you can talk things over.

Sometimes, though, you just need an outside ear and voice to hear your story and help you explore options.

That's what life coaching is about. A coach is trained to listen deeply, to ask questions that help you go deeper, sometimes to turn questions or ideas upside down so you can see them in another way, to help you create a bridge from where you are now to where you want to be (no matter what the issues and obstacles) and to assist you in developing action steps so you can get there. I've needed coaching several times, and I know I will again at some point.

If you have something you'd like to discuss—whether that's about career, relationships, health concerns, or the bigger life questions of who you really are and where you're going—I invite you to contact me. We'll start with a complimentary strategy session and see where it needs to go from there.

It's the start of a new year—a great time to move forward on whatever dreams and passions call to you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Look for the gifts

So this week we finally got snow in the Chicago area. Not that I was anxious for it. I wasn't. I could live quite happily without ever experiencing it again, thank you.

Having said that, however, I do admit it was lovely to look out at the landscape all frosted with white. Picture pretty. Not quite so pretty to drive in it, though.

And here's the deal: Along with the snow we also got stunningly beautiful sunshine. We hadn't seen the sun much at all in December, so this is a real treat. In the mornings I just stand transfixed at my east window watching the sun stream in and seeing the street, driveways and trees blanketed in a light coat of snow. And, oh, the sight of cardinals in the frosted trees—yes, beautiful!

However, we got something else with the sunshine and snow: very cold weather.

So was this change in weather good? Or bad? Like so much of life, it contained a bit of each—at least from my perspective. It was a reminder to me that inside some of the things in life I don't much like to face or experience lies a gift of some type: a new learning, the support of friends, or perhaps even a brand new friend I hadn't known before. Sometimes it might even end up bringing a change to my life that's a good change.

Look for the gifts. You never know where they'll appear.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Be here now

You are here now. I am here now. We don't know whether we will be here tomorrow. I say this not to be morbid but to be realistic. And to be grateful, truly grateful. Today is gift. This very moment is gift.

So what do you need to say or do that is essential to you at this moment? What do I need to say or do? Often there are things we think, "One of these days, I'll have to ... (fill in the blank)." Perhaps that day is now?

If you and I can somehow live with the awareness that all we really have is this moment—and still keep the tension of living in hope and making plans for the future—we will be able to make the most of our moments and our days. Perhaps then we'll be even more alive, even more grateful for the things we tend to take for granted each day—the people we love, sunshine, beauty, warmth, color, texture, words on a page that can inspire, and so much more.

You have this one life, this one moment. How will you spend it?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Healthy new year

How many of you were told by friends to have a Happy and Healthy New Year?

Last week, The Week digital magazine ran an article on seven things to do to stay healthier and live longer. You might be surprised at some of what's on the list.

• Exercise. No surprise there.

• Coffee. Really? Hmm, works for me. But apparently not too much coffee. The equivalent of one cup of strong coffee is sufficient, the article says (not for me, sadly).

• Standing up. Too much sitting is a health hazard.

• Eating vegetables. No surprise there either.

• Living in the Midwest or the West, apparently not in the South. That finding came through a poll with more than 500,000 interviews. Who knew?

• Fist bumping. It spreads less bacteria than shaking hands.

• Low expectations. This didn't surprise me, and I talk about it often in blogs and in my coaching. We get in more trouble and experience more disappointments when we have expectations that are too high.

There you have it: a recipe for a healthy new year. Well, perhaps there's really more to it than that, isn't there? Still, it's fascinating to hear what polls show about health and happiness.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking for career options?

If you are searching for career options right now, you just might want to think about your personal experiences. Sometimes, necessity provides clues and training. Sometimes, the things you do quite apart from your work life can lead to new and fulfilling ventures.

For example, Stephanie Tilenius, former Google commerce chief, oversaw her parents' medical care while she held her demanding job for the internet search giant. That led her to start a company that would help patients combat chronic disease. And now her company has launched a mobile application so patients can consult with a whole team of professionals—doctors, nutritionists, nurses and others—from their smartphone. All of that grew out of her necessity to help her parents and the extensive knowledge she gained from that.

One woman I've heard about learned the hard way how to deal with creditors and how to dig out of the deep hole of debt in which she found herself. Once she got her own financial life back on track, she used that hard-won expertise to start a business so she can help others out of their financial holes. She learned lessons from her own experience that simply don't come from books or a classroom. 

Are there things in your life about which you've gained expertise simply through necessity and experience? Might it lead to career options? Or even a small business start-up of your own? If you want to discuss this, I invite you to contact me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Facing a new year

Happy New Year!

Some of you will be extremely happy to turn over a brand new page on the calendar and start fresh. Perhaps 2014 was a rugged year. You're glad to say goodbye to it.

Others of you may have experienced 2014 as an amazing year. Perhaps even life-changing and transformational. You are filled with gratitude for what it contained.

For most of us, however, 2014 was likely a mixed bag. So perhaps we enter 2015 with a wait-and-see attitude of expectation and fear—hope coupled with the knowledge that we'll likely face some real challenges, too. It's maybe a good thing that we have no crystal ball. We don't know what's ahead.

What we do know, however, is that we want to develop our resilience and our ability to face whatever comes, good or bad. That being the case, perhaps this is a good time to reflect on those things that most help us get through all that comes our way. We can strengthen those qualities in any way we're able. What's one thing that will help you face the new year?