I've recently shifted my coaching practice to focus on youth and family coaching. With my background in education, I have always had a heart for kids. I've taught middle school and community college, and I love witnessing the growth and development as kids grow into adults, step by step.
In addition to my own passion for working with youth, life coaching is well-suited to this age group. Imagine if you learned to set goals and make authentic decisions in middle school or high school. I don't know about you, but I was often simply going along with the crowd or the expectations of my parents or community. I didn't really understand my true self until well into adulthood. I'm still working to counteract patterns of self talk and behavior that don't serve me. It's powerful to coach my young clients into greater self-awareness and confidence. The benefits of coaching for youth are numerous and far-reaching and I'd like to outline a few of them here.
If you are interested in learning more about coaching for your child or your family, please contact me. I offer a free informational call and would love to answer any questions or set up a time for a trial session.
I’m quitting facebook at the end of the month.
This has been a long time coming. I’ve thought about it often. I started taking Sundays off a few months ago. A week or so ago I had a bit of an existential crisis. For about 48 hours, I was a wet mess of frustration, restlessness, ennui and mild depression. However, since my default emotion is anger, I was also explosive and unfair to my family. It was ugly. I'm not proud of those moments, but I know that something good always comes out of them.
After I had lost my temper and vented all over my sweet family, I settled into my guilty, but rational self, repetent and proactive. My husband was forgiving and kind, wanting to solve a problem I couldn’t define. “We live in anxious times,” he said. “Everyone is anxious and uncertain.” I don’t know if he used the word toxic, but it was implied. Our world is toxic. We can’t trust anything we read. We can’t compromise. Technology is moving at a faster pace than our psyches can keep up with. We have not evolved fast enough to absorb the bombardment of information (much of it false) in a healthy way. Most of us don’t have the satisfaction of completing survival activities: hunting, growing food, building shelter, gathering water and chopping firewood. Instead, we live in a world that makes it easy to survive but hard to feel satisfied. We are disconnected from the land, from nature, from logic, from each other. We can text somebody on another continent but we have lost the ability to talk to the person sitting right next to us. We can be constantly entertained but have lost our ability to entertain ourselves. We can choose from 50 types of cereal, but have forgotten to be grateful for the bowl that nourishes us.
I’m not blaming this on Facebook, at least not exclusively. And I’m not a technology or social media teetotaler. I think technology enhances as much as it hinders. But I am running out of excuses to keep Facebook, while the reasons to quit are piling up. I want to lay out my main reasons for quitting, not to convince you to quit, but to be transparent.
Reason 1: Wasted Time
If I could limit my time on Facebook to five minutes a day, perhaps I wouldn’t need to quit. First of all, five minutes would be plenty, but it’s never enough and it’s so easy to check it over and over. I go down rabbit holes of reading comments to controversial posts, watching funny animal videos and following links to mediocre blogs. And after I post a picture or status update, my desire to check it goes up even more, to see how high the little red number goes. I read somewhere that our brain on Facebook is similar to our brain on drugs. The likes and comments feed our addiction but ultimately leave us unsatisfied. I can relate to that.
Reason 2: The Stuff People Post
I have convinced myself over and over that the pictures of friend’s kids and the ability to see what good things people are up to and the chance to keep in touch with aunts and uncles I would never see otherwise outweigh the oversharing and political nonsense and passive aggressive memes and actively aggressive comments, but I’m starting to realize that isn’t true. What stays with me isn’t the cute kids; it’s the nonsense. That’s what I stew on. That’s what takes my mental energy for the rest of the day. And while nice comments and shallow connections via social media offer a short-lived kind of validation, the rush is fleeting and false, not offering any real solace for the human condition, but instead feeding crumb by crumb all the worst parts of us: the need for attention, for fist bumps when we make funny but uninformed statements, for comparison to others however limited and false that comparison might be. Facebook is not an innocent place.
Reason 3: The Worst of Me
Facebook brings out the worst in me. It encourages the part of me that wants to be judgmental, that is easily influenced and that tends toward insecurity, jealousy, and ungratefulness. What we see and what we show are but fractions of any real life. They are curated specimens, the artwork that serves as a facade to cover the troubled life of the artist. I’m not saying that what people post isn’t genuine; I’m just saying it isn’t a true representation of the whole. Consequently, what we see makes us ripe for judgment and jealousy. Somebody oversharing? Judgment. Somebody looking amazing? Jealousy. Different political views? Judgment. Promotion? Jealousy.
I’m really glad we didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up. Kids don’t just hear about the party they weren’t invited to, they see pictures and read comments talking about how awesome it was. Cowards can be bullies and I see this as an adult and can’t imagine what goes on for impressionable adolescents.
I was talking to a friend over coffee, and we were discussing facebook and she said something like, “I don’t like how it changes the way I look at people.” Ultimately, we want our opinions to be based on real connection and experience, but with Facebook, a lot of other factors are at play.
Reason 4: The Power to Corrupt
I try not to get political in my blog, so I’m just going to leave this one with little explanation. Suffice it to say that there is evidence that Facebook has been a player in the corruption of individuals and whole systems in our country. Facebook continues to influence elections and feed the fires of hatred and division. Even with the current Covid-19 outbreak, which shouldn't be political, I have found it difficult to get a hold on what is really happening with all the uninformed commentary.
I’ll stop here at the risk of this post getting too long and preachy. This has been on my mind for years, but I’ve convinced myself to stay for several reasons. First of all, I don’t live close to my extended family. They are mostly out on the east coast, and it’s hard to feel so separate. As many of you know, my mother died 17 years ago, and I’ve convinced myself that Facebook is my only link to her side of the family. Secondly, I have made connections, found old friends and gotten to know people in a way I simply wouldn’t without Facebook. Finally, I’ve convinced myself I need it for my business marketing. The Facebook audience is large and plugged in, after all.
The list of reasons to stay is meager compared to my list of reasons to leave. And I have solutions. First of all, I will find ways to market locally. I don't desire to have a million followers, just a small circle of people who trust me and benefit from my services. Secondly, I will remember that the shallow connections on Facebook don’t make friendships. My friendships happen in person. If I want to catch up with an old friend, I will make time for real interaction, not just a handful of likes and comments on the pictures they post. The desire to keep up with family is the biggest draw, but I have an idea for that as well. I will gather email addresses and send out monthly updates, requesting updates from them in return.
I’ve been a member of Facebook since 2008. If I assume I’ve spent 30 minutes a day for the last 12 years (and believe me, that’s a lowball estimate), I’ve given almost 2,200 hours to Facebook. Imagine what I could have done with that time. I could’ve written a book or two. I could’ve contacted every person I’ve ever considered a friend and spent hours catching up. That time is gone now, and while it wasn’t all wasted, most of it was not well spent. As of September 1, I won’t be giving Facebook any more hours of my time. And I’m pretty darn excited about it.
If you like my blog posts and would like to stay updated, please send me the best email address to contact you. I also have an instagram account @goldenlifecoach. I'm not super active on it, but plan to be more so in the future. Finally, send me your e-mail address and or phone number if I don't already have it and we can keep in touch. This is by no means goodbye...it's simply goodbye to Facebook.
Yesterday I had to opt out of Facebook for the day. I was on it in the morning and my feed was full of conspiracy theories, arguments over the relevance of masks, stories about a black man who was shot while jogging and just a whole bunch of BS and sadness that made me feel depressed and aggravated. So I noped out. I even posted it on my wall because I wanted to stay accountable.
You would think and you would hope that a worldwide pandemic would bring humanity together, but I see the opposite happening. The world and particularly our country are as split as ever. A pandemic is apparently powerful fodder for conspiracy theories and I’ve seen and heard everything from it being planted purposefully by the Chinese government to Bill Gates having a patent for it as far back as 2015.
I could go on and on about the lengths people go to sew mistruths and avoid inconveniences, and a pandemic is certainly full of “inconveniences” but that would be sapping my energy to argue with futility. And that’s why I got off Facebook for the day. I need my energy to support my children and work on meaningful projects, not try to debunk the youtuber with no credentials except for a good handle on photoshop.
It’s hard--but so important--to recenter with yourself when you are bombarded with the cacophony of discordant voices, especially if you have empathy for people and the desperation they might be feeling at a time like this.
When the world is full of uncertainty and mistruths, knowing who you are and what you value becomes crucial. I sat with myself and my core values because I needed a reminder to stop going down rabbit holes and engaging with anything that doesn’t feed my sense of wellbeing. I needed a reminder that I am a value-driven person and no amount of nonsensical babbling can take that away from me.
Do you know what your 5 strongest core values are? If not, I have an activity you can complete to figure it out. It is harder than you might imagine, but also fun and insightful. Most people want to identify with 8 or 10 values, but whittling down to 5 helps you really hone in on priorities. If you want to try it, here are the instructions. You will need to print out and cut out these Values Cards. I do recommend using the actual cards although you could also write out a chart. There’s something about the tangibility of each card that makes it more powerful, at least for me.
The point of this activity is self awareness. What is important to you? What filter are you using to sort through all the information and opinions out there? When push comes to shove (and we are in a push and shove situation for sure), what will you stand for?
I will leave you with one more thing. My mother-in-law gave me a book called The Daily Stoic. It has short daily readings around monthly themes. I love it. The stoic philosophy resonates with me. At its core, stoicism believes that knowledge and reason lead to virtue and that humanity must live in harmony with the natural world. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Anyway, after the disheartening from Facebook and the consequent grounding in my values of yesterday, this morning my reading started with the following quote: “Where is Good? In our reasoned choices. Where is Evil? In our reasoned choices. Where is that which is neither Good nor Evil? In the things outside of our own reasoned choice.” -Epictetus
Meditate on that for a while and see what comes up for you.
Here’s to a day of good reasoned choices and staying grounded in your core values.
We’ve been in quarantine for over a month. My family has settled into something of a rhythm, but we take it day by day and sometimes moment by moment. I’ve been keeping a personal journal to commemorate the events of this strange time, but I have felt almost completely blocked when I think about writing for public consumption. This quarantine has brought up so much that I can’t sort through it to get to any coherent message. I’ve let over a month go by without publishing a blog post at a time when I should have more blog fodder than ever. I have no excuse, simply that I have started several posts, but failed to finish any. Until now...here’s my attempt to make sense of some of this.
Have you seen this meme or some version of it?----->
Like everything nowadays, it has been controversial. Even within myself, I have been warring with how I feel about it. If I had to guess, I would imagine the person who wrote this doesn’t have children and has a job that is either on hold or much decreased due to the quarantine. But even if this is written by a a mother of 5 with a full time job, it doesn’t matter. The message doesn’t change.
I have been struggling with this idea that I should capitalize on this time and create something important and meaningful. Write a book (or finish one of the many I’ve started), create an online course, start a coaching group or program. And it’s a nice idea. I admire the ambition. But on the other hand, I’m finding that it takes a lot of energy and effort to support my kids through remote learning, make healthy meals, get everyone active and outside, all while maintaining my own health and sanity. And I recognize that my kids are fairly independent and low-maintenance, my family is not facing financial ruin, and we have the resources we need to weather this turbulent time.
People are sick, with Covid and cancer and alcoholism and any number of other diseases. People are out of work or low on funds or uncertain about their future. Some children are stuck in unsafe homes. People aren’t sure how they will afford their next meal. And to make it all worse, we look at the people who are supposed to lead us and we don’t know who to trust and what information is true. We are living in an unprecedented, historic time and the collective anxiety and grief is tangible. So sometimes I look at this “motivational” message and the conceit of it blows me away. I think how UN-empathetic it is. How privileged it is. How presumptive it is. To start a side hustle through all this requires resources, mental health, ALONE time, and so much more. How many people are really experiencing those prime conditions during a pandemic? So when I saw this revision, I was like, hell yeah. It felt validating.
Yet the pull of my mind takes back over. I should be doing more, creating more, producing more. Most of us DO have more time on our hands. Few people are commuting or working at their normal capacity. We aren’t going skiing or eating out or having long happy hours with friends. So yeah. Maybe everyone should be reading up on something or learning a new language or picking up a new hobby.
And I have picked up a few skills. I’ve been baking all different kinds of bread. I’m learning a couple new and challenging songs on the piano. We’ve done some house projects and yard work. I’m volunteering twice a week with a program that feeds the residents of our town while helping keep restaurants afloat. I’m definitely doing things I wouldn’t have had time for if life was going on as it usually does.
But my efforts toward my coaching business have been sparse. I have a couple clients I’m working with virtually, and I’d love to have more. However, I struggle with sales at the best of times, and trying to sell my services now seems a bit insensitive, even when people could really use some coaching. This is the first blog post I’ve written in over a month and it has been like pulling teeth to complete it. I have ideas for online videos and coaching groups, but I haven’t been able to follow through and make the ideas come to life.
So where does that leave me? I’m going to use the words of my very wise and beloved aunt-in-law. In talking about the fluctuations in her energy, she wrote: “[It’s] sort of like swimming in the ocean - i am just trying to relax as I get tumbled about, and let myself enjoy it when a swell lifts me up.”
That’s where I am. Allowing for all of it. For the spurts of energy and productivity. For the confusion. For the occasional wallowing. For the time and energy it takes to support my family and make this a time of happy memories. For needing to take a long walk BY MYSELF to avoid feeling trapped. For feeling proud when I exercise and being gentle with myself when I need to just sit and read a good book. For the uncertainty and the moodiness and even the dread of life eventually going back to normal.
I’ll continue to use my aunt’s metaphor for the ups and downs, realizing that while life is uncertain, the swells will keep coming and the dips are temporary. It’s all part of life and it’s all okay.
Can you relate to this? Where are you? Are you feeling productive or just getting by? Are you feeling steady or experiencing rapid fluctuations? How can I support you?
School is closed for at least the next two weeks because of the Covid-19 virus. I still don’t know anybody who has gotten it, so it all seems very surreal to me although I’m definitely not a conspiracy theorist. On Friday morning, as we prepared for the last day of in-person school for an indefinite amount of time, my children were bundles of emotions. They couldn’t help but be excited by the prospect of sleeping in and learning from home. But rather than cheerful exuberance, my youngest was a mean and grumpy mess. We tried joking with her but that just fanned the flame. Finally, I went over to her and gave her a big hug and said, “Hey, I know this is all very strange. The school is doing what they need to do to help stop the spread of the virus. You probably don’t know what to think. But we are safe, and we will all be together, and we will have some fun.”
She cried for a minute but then her mood changed completely and she was joking around and eating breakfast in good spirits.
Similarly, thousands of people have been stockpiling toilet paper. The memes are endless and the pictures of bare grocery shelves are everywhere. Why toilet paper? Covid-19 doesn’t give you diarrhea. It doesn’t make sense if you think about it. But clearly it isn’t just a handful of doomsdayers, and I refuse to believe that the majority of them are now selling toilet paper for $50 a roll on line (shame on those who are!). Still, every grocery store in my town has sold out, restocked, sold out again and on and on. This means that the average Joe is buying well more than a month's supply.
What does this have to do with my daughter’s breakdown? Control. People are feeling out of control so they are exerting control in places they can. They can't control the virus or the lockdown, but they sure as hell can stock their closets with toilet paper. This is an unprecedented situation and we are being bombarded by information and misinformation and convoluted messages. I’m an adult whose husband works in the medical field and I still can’t wrap my head around what’s going on and what’s the best course of action. My 8 year old daughter is hearing snippets of news and I’m sure she’s picking up on the universal anxiety that’s everywhere, but she doesn’t understand why her school is closing and why we are joking about a toilet paper shortage.
I’d argue that most of our problems come from a lack of control or a feeling of such. What can we control, after all? We can’t control the actions of others. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the coronavirus. We can’t control whether or not somebody loves us. We can’t control corrupt politicians or the opinions of others or the actions of criminals or how long somebody lives. The only thing we can control is ourselves.
I’ve never understood people who seek out positions of power and greed for the sake of power and money. But while I am not wired that way, I think I’m starting to get it. It all comes back to control. If you are in a position of power, you have more control. If you are rich, money gives you control over a lot of things. Crime is all about control. In fact, I can’t think of a crime that isn’t about control of people or resources or money or government.
I don’t have an answer to this need for control that pushes humanity to start cults and bully each other and create toilet paper shortages. I think growing your own food and raising kids (or pets) and creating something (ie. making art, writing, baking, building) help give us some sense of satisfaction and control. I’ve been thinking about it a lot with at least 2 weeks of limited social activities ahead and here are some things I’m going to try and want to share with you.
Control in the Time of Covid-19:
If you have any other ideas about how to exert control in these uncertain and unprecedented times, please share. We will get through this.
My oldest daughter goes to middle school next year. Students in her elementary school have two public options: the default neighborhood school (School A) and a lottery-based choice school that has smaller classes and more traditional academics (School B). We visited both and my daughter chose the default school, which has a more hands-on and established STEM program.
The 5th grade class is split, most into three groups. Some are going to School A. Some got in to School B and some are on the waiting list for School B but will end up at School A if they don’t get in. Within Aleida’s little circle of friends, she has representatives from all three groups. Her best friend is on the waiting list for School B, and as you can imagine, my daughter is torn between wanting her friend to go to the school she wants and wanting to have her at School A with her. As a mom, I am proud of both of them for choosing the school that felt best suited rather than simply going where their best friends planned to go.
Still, this is an uncertain and scary time and the division of students adds to the high emotions. A couple of times, Aleida has come home upset, saying that the School A people and the School B people were talking trash (my term, not hers) to each other, each claiming that they had chosen the better school. It made me sad to think that their last couple months in elementary school would be tarnished by this rivalry, but it isn’t exactly surprising.
My daughter, who would truly prefer to stay in her sweet little elementary school, chose School A because after the information night, she was excited and energized. School B made her weepy, which said a lot to me about what gets her going about education. Still, they are both great options and on the other hand, they are both middle schools, so no matter which she chooses, she’ll still be going through the trying years of high hormones, friendship drama and emotional chaos. As she was coming to terms with her choice, she was trying to justify it to herself:
“School B doesn’t have a great STEM program and I’m really more of a STEM kid.”
“I heard School B gives out more homework.”
“School B doesn’t do as many projects. I like projects.”
“School B just seemed kinda…”
I stopped her there. “Look,” I said, “I know you are trying to convince yourself that you made the right choice. I’ve been doing it, too. I agree that School A is a better fit for you and your interests and your learning style. But School B doesn’t have to be a bad choice. They can both be good options and you can still be happy with the choice you made.”
Doesn’t this translate to any choice we make? How often do we try to villainize the alternative to justify ourselves? I see this (and have been guilty of this) in everything from parenting to politics. This is the basis of judgment. We get so attached to our way or our beliefs or our choice that we can’t see any other way of looking at it. We can’t accept that any other option is acceptable for somebody else. Or we feel insecure about our choice, uncertain about who we really are and what we want, so we try to make the choice more clear by seeing only the bad in the alternative.
My daughter is on the brink of middle school and trying to figure out how the world works and how she fits into all of it. It’s confusing and scary. She’s a pretty unaffected kid, but still, she doubts, she has lapses in confidence and struggles to make sense of it all. And all the kids around her are doing the same thing. Part of me knows that this is what it means to grow up. These tough decisions and strains on friendship are rites of passage. We all went through them and here we are...adult citizens of the world. But part of me mourns her loss of innocence. She’s seeing the world through increasingly knowing eyes and it changes things. Yes, the world is full of wonder and excitement, but it is also full of hard truths and contentious people. I don’t want her to be overwhelmed as her awareness increases and the balance shifts.
It’s been a couple weeks since Aleida has talked about the School A/School B kids rivalry. They have settled down now that most decisions have been made and kids are coming to terms with it. She has about two and a half months of elementary school left before her life changes in a pretty major way. I want her to be confident to make hard decisions and feel strong in her sense of self. I want her to be fair to other people and to allow for differences without judgment. I want to do this myself and be a model for her. I have started listening more closely for the inner voice around my decisions. I’m trying to hear the judgment and tame it. I’m trying to make sure that my choices are based on authentic motivation and not some skewed rationale.
The next time you make a choice, listen to your thoughts around it. Are you being fair? Are you villainizing the alternative? Did you choose from a place of authenticity? Can you make the decision and then sit with it peacefully? If not, perhaps you need to dig deeper and really get to know yourself and more importantly, be okay with it.
Yesterday, I listened to an episode of This American Life called “The Show of Delights.” Prefaced as being counterprogramming for all the crappiness in the world right now, the show was a mosaic of short stories about delightful things or people who focus on finding delight. From the poet who spent a year documenting what delighted him to the night zookeeper who took great delight in caring for the wild animals, it was a refreshing hour that left me focused on all things delightful.
I inherited a sense of delight from my mother, who died almost 18 years ago but whose penchant for being delighted lives on in myself and my daughters. My sister and I have many stories from childhood of being on family vacations and going on outings that might not have seemed delightful to us, but of hearing our mom’s catch phrase, spoken with breathless enthusiasm, “Isn’t this fun girls?!” You see, one of the best things about delight is that it begs to be shared. “Isn’t this fun girls?” was an invitation for us to see the fun, to be delighted by the wind in our hair and the simple fact of being alive. I am grateful to my mother for passing on this ability to notice the delightful and bask in it...to first open myself to the feeling and then reach out to others to share in it.
My mom used to tell the story of me during the first snow storm we experienced upon moving to Colorado when I was 8. I was sitting on a couch with my head bent close to the window. I was watching the snowflakes land and swirl. At one point, I burst out with delight, “They really are all different shapes! Come see!" Being delighted means noticing the uniqueness of each snowflake. It means seeing the little kids splashing in puddles and jumping in piles of leaves. It means taking a moment to pet dogs and notice how grateful they are for the attention. It means appreciating the first bite of your favorite food and the changing colors of a beautiful sunset. While delight can come from something grand, the beauty of delight is that you can find it in the smallest, most common things. I’ve been delighted by an ant carrying a large crumb. I’ve been delighted (many times) by watching my cats wrestle. I’ve been delighted by my daughters’ maturing sense of humor. I’ve been delighted by seeing an old couple holding hands. I’ve been delighted by the scent of a candle. Focusing on what is delightful is akin to keeping a gratitude journal. It’s putting on rose-colored glasses and seeing the world through a generous and enthusiastic gaze. And gratitude journals have many benefits to your well-being, so I assume that focusing on feeling delighted does too.
If you are not prone to delight, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be. You can train yourself. As always, it starts with awareness...being observant of the world around you and mindful of your thoughts about what you see.
Do you want to join me for a month of delight? Starting in March (you can start earlier if you need the practice), I will post a daily delight and encourage anyone else to do the same. At the very least, it’s a fun experiment. At best, it will change your outlook for the better and increase the joy in your days.
A couple weeks ago, my husband’s friend was visiting. They don’t see each other much, and the bromance is strong between the two of them. One evening, they were downstairs playing video games. My girls were down with them.
I went downstairs to ask a question about dinner. Dave and his friend were facing the television and the girls were off to the side holding the small switch game, occasionally looking up to see what was happening on the big screen. My husband was playing a 1st person shooter game. When I came down, the scene was just the inside of a building. My husband, as the player, was searching around with a gun out in front.
“You aren’t shooting people in this game, are you?” I asked.
Both Dave and his friend looked over a little guiltily. “Uh…” Dave hesitated. “No...of course not.” But his tone and sideways glance gave him away.
My oldest looked up and said, “This game is kind of violent.”
I started fuming, but didn’t want to make a scene. So I swallowed it and said, “Can’t you play something else?”
They agreed to turn off the game and were deciding what to play next. Dave’s friend said, “Well...if you have a hard and fast rule against violence, we probably shouldn’t play that other game…”
That other game turned out to be a virtual reality fighting game where you fight off pixelated, monochrome beings who come at you. For some reason, this was totally different in my mind, but I think they ended up playing MarioKart.
Anyway, the evening progressed. In my head, I was still angry...or at least I was defaulting to anger. Anger was my coverup for confusion and discomfort. I was projecting all this on my husband, and I was preparing to tell him how poor his judgment was and how I couldn’t believe he didn’t think that was inappropriate and so on and so on. But his friend’s words came back to me: “If you have a hard and fast rule against violence…”
We don’t. We’ve never talked about it. We have discussed the appropriateness of different movies and games, but we’ve never set up general rules. My girls have watched all the Harry Potter and Star Wars movies. Definitely not free of violence.
They play Super Smash Brothers which is a game in which cartoon characters fight each other, but still that doesn’t bother me. As I’m thinking about what we allow, I realize that something about the realistic first-person shooter games crosses a line for me. But considering our lack of boundary around it, I couldn’t berate my husband for what I saw as a lapse in judgment.
Eventually, my husband came up to help finish dinner. He didn’t say anything about the game and we worked side by side amiably. I had another choice here. I could have left it. I could have said nothing and just let the slightly negative interaction downstairs dissipate. But then we still wouldn’t have had the conversation.
So I said, “So...hey...about the video game?”
“I’m sorry if I overreacted a little. But I think I’ve realized that first person shooter games--especially realistic ones--are a hard line for me. You can play them, of course, but I’d rather you not in front of the girls.”
“I get it. And I agree.”
Now I should take a second to note that my husband is one of the fairest and most level-headed people I know. I am fortunate in this, especially since I can be overly emotive. Setting a boundary isn’t always so easy, but it can be that simple. This highlights one of the important rules when setting a boundary: You have to communicate it. We often set boundaries in our minds and are appalled when they aren’t recognized. Boundaries are personal for a reason. There is no given that others will agree with your boundary, and our ideas around boundaries depend on many factors including our culture, our past experiences and our unique personalities. Our comfort level with different boundaries can also change as we age and life happens. Relationships require an ongoing conversation around boundaries and this is magnified if you are coparenting and have to make all those decisions about how to raise children.
A second guideline when setting boundaries is to keep it about you. This means waiting until you are feeling calm and rational. If I had tried to set a boundary downstairs after I had just seen the game, I would have made it about my husband. I would have said all the unfair things in my head out loud. It would have been a more charged conversation at best, an argument or fight at worst. By waiting and getting to the bottom of my anger, I was able to speak calmly and it was well received.
If it sounds like I’m bragging, it’s because I am proud of myself. This interaction is evidence of the past couple years of coaching and mindset work I have done. A few years ago I would've jumped right in and made a scene. I would’ve picked a fight. It was nice to realize that I have grown.
Back to boundary setting. Here’s a simple way to remember it:
The final step is perhaps the hardest. You have to decide what you will do if somebody crosses your boundary. Again, make it about what you will do. You also need to be sure that you are prepared to follow through. If somebody breaks your boundary without any consequences, then what you have is a paper fence. Build your boundary out of steel. Here are some examples of ways you might honor a boundary:
I don’t like it when you tell racist jokes. If you do so, I will leave the room. (and then you have to leave the room...every. time.)
Unexpected visitors throw off my schedule and make me anxious. If you show up unannounced, I will ask you to leave. (and then you have to ask them to leave….every. time.)
The good news is that once you have made a practice of establishing and upholding your boundaries, it gets easier. In a trusted relationship, you don’t have to set a consequence. I didn’t have to tell my husband what I would do if he played that game in front of the kids because I trust that he won’t.
Also, remember that I am speaking within the realm of life coaching, not therapy. This process works well with rational, thoughtful people. If you are dealing with somebody who is toxic, abusive or mentally ill, you might need support from a mental health professional or perhaps even law enforcement.
Like all changes worth making, this is not easy work. If you have a habit of holding loose boundaries or if you feel overwhelmed when you think about where to start, remember that one small step at time will eventually get you where you want to go. No steps will keep you exactly where you are.
For help with this, contact me. Sometimes a little support goes a long way.
*Disclaimer: This post is about the frustrating but benign and temporary anxiety that comes when you are worried about a specific event or feeling stressed/overwhelmed. Prolonged, chronic and/or excessive anxiety, anxiety that is accompanied by physical symptoms or anxiety that results from past trauma is something different and more serious and might require help from a medical professional or therapist, which I am not
As many of you know, we do martial arts as a family. Last weekend, we participated in a black belt test that started at 8 am on Saturday morning and ended at 1 pm. These tests are hard. We are going almost non-stop, with only short breaks to change, grab gear, hydrate and eat a quick bite. For a couple days after, we are tired and sore. It’s hard, but it’s also really fun.
The night before the test as we were eating spaghetti and preparing ourselves, the girls were talking about how nervous they were. We’ve done a good handful of these tests by now, so we know what’s coming, which is both good and bad, I guess.
As the girls were getting worked up thinking about how hard the next day was going to be, I said, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
This led down a rabbit hole of scenarios where people were passing out and breaking arms and losing their lunch during the test. The extent of their imaginations made us both giggle and grimace.
“Okay,” I said after a particularly morbid anecdote, “What’s the worst thing that might actually happen?”
My oldest daughter, Aleida, got serious. “Master Stites could ask us to do Twilight Zone.” Twilight Zone is an extremely difficult form that Aleida learned about a year ago. Set to the music of Twilight Zone, it is fast and furious with a double tornado kick and other challenging combos. It isn’t a form in the normal rotation, so Aleida hasn’t kept up on it.
“Okay, so what if he does?”
“I won’t be able to complete it. I won’t remember all of it. It’ll be so embarassing.”
“Yes,” I reply, “it would be embarrassing for you, but we’ve seen this happen to other people, and honestly, you wouldn’t be the only one in this situation if he does call it. I think many people have forgotten it. And if you forget that one form and do well on the rest--which you will--you won’t fail. You’ll probably just get told to practice Twilight Zone before the next text, right?”
She nodded, took a bite of dinner, and seemed a bit more at ease.
The day after the test (which went great--no Twilight Zone), she was worried once again, this time about a speech she had to give in class in front of her peers. Obviously, if public speaking is the number one fear of Americans, she is not alone in her anxiety. She practiced for the family and we all agreed she had an interesting topic and was prepared and well-informed. Still, she sighed and furrowed her brow, clearly scared and picturing disaster.
Again, I said, “Okay, what’s the worst that can happen?”
And once again, the family had fun with this one, imagining everything from passing out to farting loudly. When the hilarity settled, I again asked, “Okay, but what’s the worst that might actually happen?”
“I’ll forget what I’m saying or I’ll miss a big part of my speech. Or I’ll have to start over.”
“Okay, so what will you do then?”
“Look at my note cards…? Keep going…?”
“Yes! Exactly! The notecards are there if you get stuck. If you forget what’s next, just take a breath, look at your notecards, and keep going.”
She still looked worried, of course, but the furrow in her brow relaxed just a bit.
She rocked her speech, by the way. After school she even said, “I was really nervous right before, but once I started, it wasn’t so bad.”
We all know from experience that anticipation and not knowing is far worse than actually being in the middle of something difficult. Our minds almost always imagine a much worse scenario than what happens in reality. And even if the very worst happens, we just live it. Anxiety is never happening during...it happens before, when our minds mess with us.
This is my new favorite strategy for anxiety. Something about the question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” followed by “Okay, but what’s the worst that might actually happen?” puts things in perspective. First of all, once you imagine pooping yourself in front of your peers, forgetting a few lines doesn’t seem so bad. Often, our worst case scenarios simply aren’t likely. Secondly, when you verbalize the worst thing that might actually happen, you demystify it. It’s similar to naming your emotions. When you call anger “anger,” it takes a bit of the edge off and lets you move forward with presence and intention. Likewise, when you get to the heart of what you are afraid might actually happen, you can name it and understand why it is causing anxiety. My daughter wasn’t really afraid of forgetting her form at the karate test; she was afraid of the embarrassment she would feel if she froze up in front of her fellow martial artists and her instructors.
The other benefit of naming the worst thing that might actually happen is the ability to strategize and focus on preparation. Anxiety is the enemy of proactivity unless you allow your awareness to move you into action. If you are anxious about freezing up during a speech, think about what you can do to avoid that happening. Practice more? Write better notecards? Have a friend cue you if necessary? Role play what you will do if you do forget what you were saying? Role playing or talking through what you will do should minor disaster strike gets you one step ahead of the fear.
Anxiety has the habit of building like a snowball rolling down a hill, taking a little issue and growing and growing until it is unrecognizably huge. You lose perspective once the real issue is hidden in a ball of anxiety. As always, awareness is the first step. If you can catch it early, if you can recognize when your mind starts to skip like a broken record, returning again and again to an anxious thought, you can begin to break the pattern. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Have some fun imagining bodily functions and natural disasters. But don’t forget the important step of bringing your mind back to reality. “What’s the worst that might actually happen?”
Anxiety is a normal part of the human condition. We just have to make it work for us, not against us.
On Monday evening, I held my word of the year workshop. I went in thinking my word would be GROWTH. I want to grow my business and continue to grow as a person and coach and parent. I mentioned this idea to a friend and his reply was, “Wow. That sounds heavy.” He was right, of course. But I think that choosing any word to guide your year comes with some weight and commitment. I didn’t end up with growth as my word, however. As I went through the process, I changed my mind.
The process entails answering some important questions, meditating on your best day, brainstorming a long list of words and then narrowing down to three and contemplating each one before choosing your final. My three finalists were EXPLORE, CONNECT and CONTRIBUTE.
As I spent some time focused on each word, I realized that I already explore a lot and to be honest, my proclivity to explore has gotten me spread a little thin. If anything, I need to explore less (I won’t) and focus more (I’ll try). When I focused on connect, I felt a little spark and immediately came up with a half dozen ways to apply this word to my life. When I wrapped up with contribute, I realized that to do so, I had to first connect, so I chose CONNECT with confidence. Unlike last year when I settled on DECLUTTER, I feel excited and ready to make this my mantra.
Here are just a handful of ways that I will work on connecting this year: