Thursday, June 30, 2016

Compassion for your Inner Child

What he told me has stuck with me all these years. A former work colleague many years ago told me that when he had interactions with a particular person in our organization, he often felt like "a small boy in short pants." Wow, that spoke volumes. And I resonated at that time; that particular authority figure did have a strong persona.

Do some people have that effect on you? Around them, you feel like a child again. Scared. Afraid to say what you think. Not quite daring to be who you really are.

It's OK. That's not unusual. And as is so often the case, simple awareness of the phenomenon helps. Be aware of what type of person draws this response in you. Be aware of how you want to respond as an adult. And show compassion to that little child inside you who shows up from time to time.

Clearly, part of you has a body memory from long ago that comes into play. Just be gentle, kind and compassionate to that little you! And at the same time, remember who you are now. You are an adult, in charge of your own emotions and responses—fully capable. So just tell that little you to relax. Just say, "I've got this, Sweetie. It's OK."

No matter how old we are, we'll have an Inner Child. She has her own story. And now as an adult, you have a new story. Know the difference.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Enough with the self-righteousness already

Her advice makes so much sense, but it isn't always easy for those of us who learned to be people-pleasers as we grew up. We women seem to have special problems with that.  Anyway, here's what research professor and author BrenĂ© Brown says about boundaries and resentment in her book Rising Strong:

"The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries—blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want. ... I need to take responsibility for my own well-being." Further, she says that self-righteousness is dangerous—and that "I'm better than you" and "I'm not good enough" are "two sides of the same coin."

Wow, that's huge. Or at least it is for me. I need to let her words really sink in for me. I know boundaries are important, and I am aware that I need to ask for what I want and need. Acting on it is quite another thing. And avoiding self-righteousness and judgment, those are downright difficult. But Brown is correct: Self-righteousness is dangerous. It definitely puts a huge barrier between us and others.

Recently I saw the question posed: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be in relationship? That really sums up the problem with self-righteousness. It's a relationship-killer. As always, you and I have a choice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reassessing dreams

Are you facing transitions in your life? Career change? Retirement options shifting? Are you wanting something more than what you have now? Something different to spice things up?

Change can be good. It can refuel us again. It's not at all unusual for people between the ages of 40 and 70 to question the meaning of their lives and think about success and happiness. It's always good to stop and reassess achievements and dreams, to reevaluate and reflect. Have you reached your goals? Do you have new goals and dreams? Do you feel fulfilled? What's next for you?

These are big questions to face on your own. AARP has a fascinating website devoted to helping people think about new possibilities and preparing for changes—it's called Life Reimagined

If you want some coaching help as you work through these questions, I'm always happy to help, too. I invite you to contact me if you would like a complimentary strategy session.

Happy dreaming and reimagining!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Practice compassion

It's not just the massacres and mass shootings. It's the economy. It's the political scene. It's all the violence and wars globally and here in our country. So much these days raises our fear and anxiety levels to new heights.

So how do we counteract that? No doubt, you have some tried-and-true methods that work for you. We all have go-to practices for those times when we feel overwhelmed by fear, anger or anxiety.

My take on this is that we should do everything possible to avoid getting caught up in the hatred and anger. It doesn't help. It only digs us deeper down into the pit.

Rather than worrying about who's to blame, perhaps we might all be better served and be more serene if we practice compassion—compassion toward all people. Start with yourself: Be compassionate toward yourself for whatever you're feeling. Spread that compassion in all directions. Counteract the negativity you see, whether it's inside you or around you. And be willing to look at yourself and ask questions: How can I be healthier? More loving? How can I have a more positive attitude? Are there things in me that need healing so that I don't harm others? Even if we wouldn't pick up an AR-15 and shoot into a crowd, perhaps our unhealed hurts are harming others as we lash out. Heal your hurts and find those things for which you are grateful. Such things can go a long way toward counteracting the anger and hatred surrounding us today.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Forgiveness is complicated

Forgiveness is complicated, isn't it? It's tough enough to forgive the ordinary things of life, much less the truly horrific experiences.

We're not quite two weeks out from the massacre in Orlando. And it's been just over a year now since the terrible shootings in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in  Charleston, S.C. And we can recite several other terrible events that would make forgiveness a real challenge.

In reading interviews with the families of those killed in Charleston, it's clear to me that they're like all of us—moving through or toward forgiveness at their own pace. It's such an individual experience.

One woman whose mother was killed said she's still grieving too much to forgive. Another woman who lost her father in the shootings cited the fact that the Bible study group welcomed the stranger (the shooter) and asked, "Who am I not to forgive?"

Grief and forgiveness don't occur in a linear fashion. And they don't happen on a firm timeline. Each person experiences the event and the attendant grief and forgiveness process differently. And we do well to remember that both those things—grief and forgiveness—are processes.

Pay attention to what you're feeling now. If there's some unresolved grief work or some forgiveness needed, you'll feel so much better tending to it. And remember: grief isn't just for the large losses of life. Loss is loss.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Older is happier? Really?

Happiness is about engagement and meaning and progressing toward your goals, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. She is author of a best-seller, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, a book of strategies backed by scientific research.

Lyubomirsky also addresses the issue of whether money will make us happy. She says research suggests that it's not about having money—it's about how we spend it. If we spend it helping others, interacting in relationships or in learning new things, that can make us happy.

Interestingly, the professor and author also says that people tend to get happier as they age, perhaps because older people are emotionally wiser and know what makes them happy. Many mature people know it's not about things but about relationships.

If you want to increase your level of happiness, she reminds us that it's highly dependent upon attitude. So let's take a check of our attitudes and see whether some adjustment is needed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Empowerment: Yes, it's important

The gender gap. Discussions about Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Always, always concerns about who's in and who's out and about everyone getting a fair shake. A lot of talk about "the other," whoever that represents to each of us. These issues are of huge importance.

And since I'm extremely motivated to seek justice for all people, I paid special attention the other day when I received a flyer from the American Association of University Women, an organzation that's all about empowering women and girls.

The flyer pointed out that our "representative" democracy isn't really representative. It featured these facts:

• The U.S. population is 49 percent men and 51 percent women, including 20 percent women of color.
• The U.S. state legislatures are 75 percent men and 25 percent women, including 5 percent women of color.
• The U.S. Congress is 19.4 percent women, and it has 6.2 percent women of color.
• Of the 50 state governors, 42 are white men and 2 are men of color; 4 are white women and 2 are women of color.

Undeniably, there's a lot of anger in our country these days. I wonder if we'd get further if we did more to empower others rather than attack them. Just something to ponder....

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Does happy mean thin?

Yesterday we talked about improving mood and increasing our happiness quotient. Today, let's explore what weight has to do with happiness. If you're like most women, weight is something you think about often.

Although it's true that 69 percent of Americans are shown by studies to be overweight or obese—and 33 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight—studies also show that weight loss doesn't necessarily make people any happier. That said, for those who lose large amounts of weight and are then able to participate more fully in life, those study results may not apply. Who doesn't want to be active with their young children, for example? If it improves quality of life by a large degree, weight loss may well increase happiness. But it's not a guarantee for everyone.

Studies do show that people who lose 5 percent of their body weight over four years were more likely to report a depressed mood than those who stayed within 5 percent of their original weight. That's surprising, isn't it? We always seem to think we'll be happy once we take off a few pounds.

For me, what many of these study results say is that perhaps in the end, moderation is the best route. Eat in a healthy way, exercise as best you can and monitor all your health issues. Happiness isn't necessarily found at a certain weight—or at a particular level of workout activity each day. We each need to find that place where we feel good and avoid that place where we become obsessive about either eating or exercise. Let's not peg our happiness to weight loss. It's much more complicated than that.

I'd love to hear your reaction to these studies. What's been your experience?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Up your happiness quotient

Do you sometimes find yourself feeling down even when there's nothing specific that looms as a cause? It's not at all uncommon. Interestingly, studies show that people who make "happy movements" actually feel happier. Jump up and down. Throw your firsts into the air. Smile and use positive facial expressions. Swing your arms. Put a spring in your step. I know it may sound fake and silly—but studies do show that it can improve mood.

Of course, we know that laughter is good for us. It increases immune activity and decreases stress hormones. It enhances mood. It raises good cholesterol levels (HDL). It lowers blood pressure and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL). So watching a comedy show or funny YouTube video might be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise is good for reducing stress and overcoming feelings of sadness, too. Walk. Bike. Swim. Do some cardio or aerobic exercises. Practice some yoga moves. Whatever you're able to do or whatever floats your boat.

Walking in nature can lift spirits, too. I've mentioned before the practice of "forest bathing" (contemplative walks in the woods) that began in Japan. In fact, the Japanese government recognized that in 1982 as a way to improve quality of life. It's been shown to decrease feelings of stress, anxiety and anger. Who couldn't use that these days?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Serenity vs. knowledge

I don't know about you, but this has been a tough week to stay grounded and hang onto the joy! We began the week with news of the absolutely horrific massacre in Orlando. Add to that all the vitriolic comments online. Pump that up by several times with the awful comments by a "Christian pastor" in Arizona, who said he celebrated the killings of people from the LGBTQ community. Top it all off with the nominee of a major political party insinuating that our president is sympathetic to terrorists. It's all a bit too much.

I feel so torn. I want to keep up on world and national news. I also want to stay grounded and keep a positive, hopeful attitude. What's a person to do?! I want to find some balance between staying informed and feeling serene.

I need to take a break from news for half a day or a day. I need some quiet time. Perhaps a walk in the woods. Or a bike ride on a nature trail. Read some inspirational literature. I need to refocus—and reset my compass to true north. A little less knowledge via current events and a little more serenity—coming right up.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Feel the hurt, don't stuff it

The painful experiences of our lives, if examined and processed, can become the fodder for much of our growth and transformation. If we just stuff them down and tuck them away, however, we never get the opportunity to experience the lessons that likely are embedded within the experiences.

As Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins say in their book The Feminine Face of God, "If we lock away the fearful, painful experiences of our lives—the death of a loved one, a betrayal, or a passion that is not approved by society—we cut them off from their natural cycling. They are not washed by our tears. They are not exposed to the warmth of our heart or the light of our consciousness. And so these old emotions and memories can not break down to become sources of new life."

That says it all. I really don't need to expand on that. Don't be afraid to feel the hurt and pain, examine it and work with it until it can be transformed into some type of new life for you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trust yourself

I have often found that women don't trust the truth of their experiences. Believe me, I have spent many years feeling that way, too. Slowly but surely, we can learn to trust what we feel, what we experience, what we know deep inside to be true for us.

For me, trusting my own experience came as I spent time in the company of other women. As we shared our stories and received validation, affirmation and encouragement from one another, we empowered each other. As they say, we "listened each other into life". We helped each other find our voices and speak our truth. We began to trust our own judgment, our own experiences, our own opinions.

Because of that, I always encourage women to support each other. It's so important to have each other's back, to support the cause of women. We don't want to return to those days when we were young and in competition with each other for that date to the prom. We still see lots of instances of women sabotaging and putting down other women as they vie for male approval. Having said that, I want to clarify that we need not set up a women vs. men atmosphere either. But we also don't want to simply focus on pleasing the men in our world. We want to learn to trust ourselves—and each other as women. There's nothing like a strong female support network to help us build self-esteem and self-confidence.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The choices we make

I'm part of a women's group that will meet tonight. The hostess asked each of us to come with a list of our five favorites in three categories: books, movies and TV shows.

Oh, my—only five in each? That is really difficult. I could easily name at least 50 books, perhaps more. And lots of movies, too. Perhaps fewer TV series or shows, although I might surprise myself. I'm still finalizing and tweaking my list.

I have no idea how we'll use this information when we gather tonight. But I have no doubt that we'll have a fascinating discussion with some deep meaning once we discuss what it is that makes these choices rise to the top of our lists.

I'd love to hear what choices you would make. Such decisions say a lot about what we value and what we enjoy. What do you think?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Looking for delight

I know I talk a lot about savoring each day. But it's so important. It's all too easy to sleepwalk through our days, not even noticing all the wonderful things around us.

I like what British playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham said, "Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last; but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it."

Yes, oh, yes. Delight. The word is simply delicious to me! Delight. Doesn't it just make you smile, too? Just stop right now, look around you. Or even step outside your door and look around. What do you notice? What do you see? Smell? What's changing? Is the light falling on the tree leaves changing even as you watch? Are squirrels playfully chasing each other around? Have you noticed the bright and blazing colors of flowers in the gardens around your home?

Wake up. Notice. Delight in what you see and experience. Delight in those people who are in your life. We are surrounded by amazing blessings and gifts. All we need to do is notice—and enjoy.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Avoid dwelling on the negatives

Have you ever had a bad experience and then replayed it in an endless loop in your mind afterward? Perhaps even for days after? Yup, I've done that at times, too.

It really doesn't help the situation at all to dwell on it like that, however. In fact, if there's anything in the situation that needs solving, forgiving, letting go or any other type of action, that's less likely to happen when we obsess over the experience repeatedly. Our minds are so full of the negatives that we can't even be creative when it comes to a solution. And if forgiveness is required, we won't come close to that if we continue dwelling on how horrible the experience was.

Try to shut down the "repeat" and "play" buttons in your mind. Do something constructive and challenging that will take all your focus. Throw yourself into some new project. Let yourself have a feeling of accomplishment when you complete something challenging. Spend time with people you love. Let your focus be on good relationships and friendships. Totally switch your focus.

Then you can return to the situation with a better ability to assess it and determine any action you need to take. You'll be far more creative and far more willing to let go and move on.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Give voice to justice

Did you hear the sound of shattering glass this week? It doesn't matter which political party you're in or what your feelings about any of the candidates—something historic happened this week. It's the first time in U.S. history that a woman became a presidential nominee for a major political party.

I've spent so much of my life and energy fighting for women to be at the table, and I'm so aware of women across the globe who don't even have half the rights we've slowly gained here in the U.S.

I also keep thinking of my beloved mother, who left this earth in 2008. When she was born, women didn't even have the right to vote here in the U.S. And although she was a staunch Republican, I think she would have been elated to hear the sound of a glass ceiling shattered by Hillary Clinton Tuesday night, too. She always wanted my sister and me to have any opportunities we could and didn't want barriers to be put in our way.

This week has been one of reflection for me. We women have come a long way. On the other hand, things should never have been the way they were in the first place. Injustice everywhere. African Americans enslaved. No rights at all. Women unable to vote. The poor falling between the cracks. Struggling so hard just to get rights that should have been there in the beginning. But that's life, isn't it? When justice is important to us, we just keep speaking up and working to change the systems—and we don't just do it for ourselves. We do it for others, too, particularly those who have no voice. That's using our personal power for good in the world.

Who needs your voice today? What will you do about it?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It's OK to not know

In conversation with someone recently, we discussed that point at which we aren't sure what's ahead for us and don't even always know the questions to ask in our discernment time. It's an uncomfortable time, a time of not-knowing. Sometimes it's a time of paradox, of holding two different things to be true at once. But it's such an important and fruitful time.

I like what poet and author Mark Nepo says in his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: "It seems our capacity to withstand the tension of opposites is key to entering paradox, and key to that is becoming comfortable with the space of not-knowing. Understandably, most of us are uncomfortable when things are undefined, when things are not clearly to or fro, up or down, left or right, or right or wrong. But the deeper truths always take time to reach us, and it is our job to enter a practice of waiting openly—which involves enduring the tensions of not-knowing. This requires a crucial, ongoing effort not to prematurely name or define what we encounter in life."

Wait. It's OK to just be. To enter into the not-knowing phase. Take your time. Transformation doesn't happen overnight. Think of the caterpillar-cocoon-butterfly process. It can't be rushed. Soon you, too, will be ready to soar!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

7 Principles of self-care

Today I flipped over a bookmark I'd been using for one of the inspirational books I'm currently reading. I was delighted to find there the 7 principles of self-care for wellness by Janet Mentgen, founder of the Healing Touch program.

They are:
1. Physical clearing (taking care of your body)
2. Emotional clearing (expressing your emotions, both joy and pain)
3. Mental clearing (creating new habits)
4. Sacred space (creating a sacred space for yourself at home)
5. Experience silence (finding time for quiet and meditation)
6. Holy leisure (balancing and restoring yourself through leisure)
7. Holy relationships (committing to yourself and others).

Perhaps these sound simple. But I think it's more difficult than it might seem to commit to doing all these things. Each one sounds so important to well-being, doesn't it?

I plan to take stock and see what I need to tweak in my life for these 7 things to happen. Wellness and self-care are important, and I commit to them. How about you?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Patience is not passive

I'm not the most patient person on the planet. I'm not proud of that. But it's really true. And as much as I try to do otherwise, I'm also not great at staying in the moment. I keep trying, though.

So when I came across this quote from the late Henri Nouwen, Dutch theologian and writer, I wrote it out and kept it on my mirror:

"Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand."

Isn't that wonderful? ..."trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand." I like that.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Celtic blessing for you

Every day the news is filled with more sad stories. Refugees from Syria crossing the water in leaky boats. And from Libya. More people killed in Iraq. In Afghanistan. Threatening actions by North Korea.

Shootings in Chicago. A child falling into the Cincinnati Zoo area of a 450-pound silverback gorilla—and people venting anger on the parents after the gorilla had to be put to death. Political candidates hurling comments back and forth as the election season drags on and on.

It's difficult to stay calm and serene, to keep one's grounding in the face of all this news. And we haven't even mentioned whatever personal stresses we face in our daily lives.

So when I came across a Celtic blessing the other day, I latched on to it immediately. I offer it to you here, too. It's suggested that you use an index finger to draw a circle around yourself and then repeat this:

Circle me, O God, keep hope within, despair without.
Circle me, O God, keep peace within, keep turmoil out.
Circle me, O God, keep calm within, keep storms without.
Circle me, O God, keep strength within, keep weakness out.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Listen to new voices

I just read about research done by the University of Notre Dame on mergers and acquisitions at U.S. public companies, comparing how often acquisitions occurred before and after the boards of said companies added one or more women. Interestingly, acquisition rates went down 18 percent after a year at firms that had no women on the board but then added one or two. Merger and acquisition spending fell by an average of $97.2 million.

What was the point of the study? It wasn't necessarily about women on a board as such but about diversity. The lead author of the research analysis said that the addition of women to the boards changed the dynamics of the board interactions. Discussions about the challenges of a merger were more likely to occur. This analysis is supported by other research, too. It all points to more in-depth discussions in diverse groups—and thus, better decisions. Having people of different backgrounds on a board, whether that's about gender, ethnicity or race, helps to break up groupthink and homogeneity. I find that fascinating. And believable.

What it underscores for me as an individual, too, is that in my personal and professional decision-making, I want to listen to different voices, gather different views. We all love to hear from people who think like we do and agree with us. But sometimes we need to hear new and challenging voices.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Thanks for listening

My internet was extremely slow toward the end of last week. I wasn't sure whether it was a problem only at my home or perhaps an area problem. But when connectivity got spotty, I called Comcast. A technician came out a day later, determined it wasn't my modem but, in fact, was something with the outside cables and connections. Another technician was needed, and it would be within 72 hours.

I'm still waiting. And I'm not proud to say so, but I'm not waiting very patiently.

It's a reminder to me of how dependent I've become on technology. I wish it were not so. But it is. And I need to remind myself that this really is a "first-world problem." Many other people in the world are dealing with far more serious issues. They might wish the only thing they had to face today was a computer connectivity problem.

So I'm taking some deep breaths right now. I'm reminding myself that I don't have a terminal health problem. I'm not in pain. My loved ones are safe. And, in fact, I have so many blessings. It's a beautiful day as I write this—and I'm about to have lunch with one of my granddaughters to celebrate her high school graduation. Life is good, right?

It's all about attitude. I began this post with a bad one. And already I feel better. Thanks for listening!