Friday night at karate practice, my oldest, Aleida, was complaining about nausea and a stomach ache but ate a good dinner and seemed fine at bed time. At 1:30am, yelling kiddos woke me and my hubby, and we found Aleida doubled over with stomach cramps. My youngest, Cici, had heard her crying and was calling us on her behalf. I won't go into the details, but that was the beginning of a long night. Aleida definitely had a stomach virus, and even with Imodium and anti-nausea meds on board, she was still up every 30-40 minutes until about 6am when she was finally able to sleep peacefully.
In addition to feeling helpless to ease Aleida's pain and exhausted due to lack of sleep, I was also taking an inventory of all the plans that were being thrown off course and how I would deal with that in the morning. I was also worrying about the transfer of germs as I cuddled my daughter through the night. I won't lie; it sucked. Now, a stomach virus is just a little blip on the "things that suck" radar, but still, when your stomach is cramping and you're bent over the toilet for the 5th time (or watching your child suffer through this), it feels like a major moment of suck. And of course people deal with much worse situations.
I have friends going through cancer treatments and painful divorces and messy custody battles. I have friends with sick parents and crappy jobs and financial problems and bodily injuries. It all sucks.
And let's be honest--the stomach flu sucks.
As I was lying next to my shivering daughter some time between the hours of 2am and 5am, feeling sorry for her and myself, I started thinking about the idea of abundance and particularly what it takes to cultivate it during less savory times in life. Abundance is one of my Big A words, but it's perhaps the hardest one to grasp. Put simply, abundance means that you look at the world from a lens of gratitude and positivity. It means that even when bad things happen, you realize that you have a choice in how you think about the situation and you have the resources to take action toward a more satisfied existence. An abundance mindset means that you don't resent others for their success or good fortune and you understand that for all the circumstances outside of your control, you have many options to live a life of your own design.
Living with abundance DOES NOT mean that you suddenly have to see the stomach flu or cancer or heartbreak as a good thing, as a blessing, or as a gift. First of all, your brain is smarter than that. If you try to tell yourself that getting the stomach flu is a blessing, your brain will call BS on that. No, you don't suddenly have to love all the suckiness in your life. The sugar coating or euphemistic spin on badness has always seemed false and unsustainable anyway. Ignoring a wound does not make it heal. Rather, it will fester and grow.
Awareness and acceptance are the keys to abundance during tough times. Denying, complaining, fighting against or worrying about situations beyond your control compound the problem. These habits focus on your lack...of health, of control, of love, of whatever...and feed a mindset of scarcity, which leads to feelings of helplessness and stuck-ness. On the contrary, accepting the truth of the situation allows an openness to learning from it and a resolve to take action to make it better. Again, acceptance does not mean you have to LIKE what's going on, but it frees up the mental energy you were using to fight against the unwanted situation so that you can channel your thoughts to creative problem solving.
I'll use my own experience with the stomach virus. I did not WANT my daughter to have the stomach flu. But spending my thoughts on wishing she didn't have it or worrying about the rest of the family getting it were futile...wasted energy. Once I accepted it, I realized that it would pass, and I was able to comfort my daughter better. Instead of resisting my reality, I was able to shape it into a more positive experience. Rather than trying to will away the illness, I focused on making my daughter more comfortable. Rather than pining for the end of the long night, I became more present and connected. Rather than hating the stomach flu, I spent my energy loving my daughter. It was still a long and sleepless night, but that shift made a huge difference for me and for Aleida.
When you find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation, take a few minutes to realign your thoughts toward a mindset of abundance, and I know you will feel the difference. Try this process:
For help cultivating a mindset of abundance, contact me for a complimentary session.
I bought a $20 Instagram Marketing course because I'm at a point in my business where I want to expand and my current marketing outlets aren't providing that growth. When I announced my business last year, I set up an instagram account, created a profile, and then did nothing. A few weeks ago, I started going through the course. It started out pretty basic, talking about how to post and follow people, etc. I felt a bit uncomfortable when the instructors started teaching strategies for getting more likes and followers. In short, it's a lot of tit for tat. Like and comment on other people and hope they return the favor. Seek out similar businesses and see what they are doing, and then see who is following them and start interacting with those people because they are your target audience.
While this might not be my style, I didn't really have any objections to it, and I could imagine how it might be applicable. I found some businesses and accounts in my home town, liked and followed them. I tried using hashtags to expand my audience. I noticed I got quite a few new random follows, and I assume they found me via my hashtags. Still, it felt false. Are they really enjoying my content or are they just trying to build their own followers?
This week, I watched one of the course's bonus modules. It introduced me to an app that is meant to increase social proof. Social proof, when applied to instagram, is the credibility you get from having a high number of likes, comments, and follows. If other people like it, then I'll probably like it, too, right? While I understand the concept and the importance of it in marketing, it brings to mind the peer pressure and social cliques of my teenage years. Still, even though I don't like it, I get it. Anyway, the app in the module is called "Magic Likes Meter." Here's the gist: You sign into the app under your instagram account. Then, you can either buy or earn stars. To earn stars, you are taken to a stream of photos from other instagrammers and you proceed to "like" those pictures as they come at you in random order and completely out of context. 1 like = 1 star. What do the stars get you? You guessed it..."magic likes" from other app users. Tada! You now have 30 likes on your post and therefore instant social proof.
Gag me with a spoon. Seriously...YUCK! This is so false and icky to me that I wish I didn't even know it existed. Perhaps I am overreacting, but as a life coach who stresses the importance of authenticity, this totally revolted me. And it started me questioning instagram as a tool for my business. I am a small, community-oriented business with mostly local clients. My non-local clients have found me through common connections...so organically and authentically. While my growth has been small and slow, I am proud of it.
I do not hate instagram. In fact, I love the visual aspect of it and the small doses of entertainment and inspiration it provides. But I don't want to spend my valuable marketing time mindlessly liking pictures and trying to game instagram for a few more followers. This exercise is making me consider my own journey and what it means to be authentic as I grow my business. Yes, I want social proof, but I don't want to buy it or scam it. I want it to mean something. And a bunch of faceless yahoos using a silly misleading app and liking my pictures to earn their own stars doesn't mean anything. It's not REAL social proof. I guess that's what bothers me most. Like fake news, fake social proof looks a lot like the real thing. It's not real, though, and to me it wouldn't feel real, and I'm not okay with that.
On the flip side, this has made me rethink marketing and how I want to proceed. I'll keep my instagram account, but that isn't going to be my focus. I want to remain small and authentic. I want to be a positive force in my community. I want to help people live their best lives. As I focus on those goals, I start to see creative and meaningful ways to reach out. Stay tuned.
Last Tuesday evening, I led my latest in a series of free monthly workshops that I hold at the local library. The topic was "Writing your Personal Mission Statement."
I had six lovely participants and I walked them through a series of activities to get them thinking about when they act and feel like the best version of themselves. What are they doing? Where are they? Who are they with? What is essential to their idea of "living on purpose"? What themes and commonalities could they identify in those important moments? What words came to mind when considering how those moments related to their overarching purpose in life?
This is a challenging activity and a deeply personal one. We had an interesting mix of people with a wide range of interests and passions, so their "on-purpose" moments ranged from showing compassion for others to driving a fast car. After the self-searching and brain-storming phase, we got to writing the rough drafts of our statements. I showed the following examples:
One of the things that I love about my job is that I am constantly learning and incorporating new ideas into my already existing framework. These questions and the ensuing discussion made me think. Does a life purpose have to have a service or altruistic component? I decided, fairly quickly, that it does not. One of my "Big A Words" is AUTHENTICITY, after all, and forcing an idealism that you don't feel would never work anyway. Furthermore, by being honest with yourself and others and pursuing a life that makes you happy, you might just inspire others to live in line with their true desires, thus indirectly giving back and making a difference.
This was the first workshop I led on this topic, but it was not the first time I'd completed the activity. In fact, I plan to make a habit of reassessing my "purpose statement" every year or two. It is never set in stone, but going through the process helps me solidify what's important and therefore live more by design than by default. My purpose statement will be a compass for my daily decision making, pointing me toward a more productive and meaningful life.
While it's a work in progress, this is what I came up with:
My purpose is...
The discussion with the group provided some clarity and freedom for me. I sometimes struggle with feelings of guilt or worry that I am being selfish. I have many (time and money-consuming) hobbies, you see. I catch myself thinking that perhaps instead of going to ride a horse I should spend those hours working on curriculum for a coaching program or volunteering at my daughters' school.
Being able to non-judgmentally conclude that someone else's desire to have fun and seek new experiences was a perfectly acceptable purpose freed me up to give permission to myself to pursue that part of my own journey. I am happiest when I am active and enjoying my many adventurous pursuits. I also thrive on the feeling of giving back and supporting others, and those two parts of my purpose are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I like to think that my personal lifestyle gives me more credibility in my professional life.
This is the take away: Spend some time on this. Be honest about what sets your soul on fire. Write a purpose statement and refer to it often. Revise as needed. Live with intention and see what happens.
Last summer, we did a major overhaul of our backyard. We hired a crew to take out a wooden deck and play structure, replacing them with a decorative concrete patio with a fire pit and outdoor kitchen, a new walkway, and an in-ground hot tub. It was a big deal, requiring the workers to rebuild a red flagstone wall that spanned the whole width of the yard, destroy and re-sod the majority of the lawn, demo the old, dig pits for the new, and get it all into working and attractive order. Of course, like any project, it took longer than expected. I watched in dismay as our yard became a construction zone. We wanted more from our yard, but it had been decent and serviceable before, and for a large stretch of prime summer days, it was nothing more than a huge mess, full of muddy holes and scattered pieces of rock and wood…ugly and unusable for several weeks.
I remember thinking and saying to friends, “I wish I could just see the before and afters…not the whole gross mess in between.” It was hard for me to look out on the carnage of my yard and imagine the oasis of outdoor fun that would ultimately be there.
We live in a before-and-after-picture world. Who doesn’t like to see the photos of the people who lose 100 pounds? Why are makeover shows so popular? Going from frumpy to fashionable in 30 minutes is inspiring. From flabby to fit on one magazine spread…spectacular. When people win the lottery, it's fun to imagine what we would do if we were so lucky. I am not immune to this fascination. I love before and after pictures. I love stories of transformation. I love the side by side comparison of then versus now.
But this mentality--this overwhelming desire for quick transformation--has set up unrealistic expectations about what real change looks like. It undermines the hard work that goes into reaching worthy goals. It also ignores the continued hard work required to stay fit or rich or successful or happily married. Quick fixes, get rich quick schemes, overnight successes…we think we want that. But do we really? If the answer is yes, then we are focused on the wrong things.
As a life coach, I want my clients (heck...I want everyone) to accept and apply two major concepts. First of all, I want each of you to hold yourself to a high standard. Set big goals. Believe that you can do impressive, meaningful work. Start that business. Plan that trip. Go for that relationship. Run that marathon. Create your ideal life!
Secondly, I hope that you can find joy and satisfaction in the process. Whatever your goal is,
you will have setbacks. Life will not always go as planned. The saying "no pain, no gain" is popular for a reason. But there's another saying that goes, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." Many circumstances are beyond our control, but the way we show up, keep trying, and enjoy the ride is completely up to us.
I like before-and-after pictures because they show progress. They show a goal set and reached. But I dislike them because they imply an end to a story...a met goal and a hard stop. In life, however, there is no such thing. An after picture is just one snap shot along the journey.
I remember looking out at my yard as the workers went about their tasks. One very meticulous and skillful guy was rebuilding our red flagstone wall. I watched as he carefully placed stones, checking each one for fit and balance with the other pieces. It turned out beautifully, and while it is not the first feature you notice, it spans the whole length of the yard and is one of the key elements that brings it all together. Observing the long, difficult process of hauling the stones, matching the pieces and cementing it together gave me an appreciation that I wouldn't have gotten from a simple before and after view.