My whole family does martial arts, from my angelic-looking 7-year-old Cici to my handsome 6'5" hubby. We're a bit of a scene (see below)...but I LOVE IT! It's been good for each of us for different reasons, and it's been great for our family to have a goal-oriented activity that we do together.
This past weekend, we started "Prep Cycle." Prep Cycle is a 3-month period of extra training in preparation for earning our conditional black belts. We train 4 extra hours a week: Friday nights from 6-8pm and Saturday mornings from 7-9am. I am no stranger to long hours of physical effort, but even still, it's hard. For many of these kids, it's their first experience with struggling through the pain of a challenging workout. My oldest daughter, Aleida, is 6 months ahead of the rest of us in training, so she is already a conditional black belt. Prep cycle helped her overcome some of the anxiety she struggles with when faced with new and difficult events. It toughened her up, and she's extremely proud of spear-heading our family's martial arts efforts.
On Saturday, after prep cycle, I was texting back and forth with some friends (a married couple) I've known since high school. It is a happy coincidence that their son is going through prep cycle with my family. The first weekend is always the hardest (the instructors like to set the standard high), so I wanted to see how he'd fared after his first weekend of training. His father responded via text: "He said Cici was super encouraging to him when he could not breathe [during the mile run]."
After I got the text, I asked my daughter what she said to him. Her answer: "Well...I told him that my mom is a life coach, and she always tells me that if you believe in yourself, then you CAN do it."
I'll admit, I cried a little. First of all, my sassy, willful daughter DOES LISTEN! While I often feel like my attempts to coach my kids are completely futile, this was evidence that some of it is sinking in. Not only that, she passed it on to someone else.
Secondly, without realizing it, Cici hit upon one of the foundations of the life coaching philosophy. As a coach, I believe that you are the expert on your life and that you have all the tools and resources that you need to succeed at your goals. Coaching is about improving your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, and therefore remove any obstacles to doing it...whatever "it" may be.
Cici's statement was simple, but it made an impact. My friends' son felt encouraged and he completed the run. Likewise, coaching is simple. At its basic form, coaching is a conversation. But that conversation makes an impact. Another belief among coaches is that the real coaching happens between the sessions. How do you implement what was discussed in a session? You will be amazed at how a minor shift in mindset or focus can yield major changes, especially with the support and accountability that comes with a coaching partnership.
Coaching is not therapy. Coaching does not dwell in the past. Coaching is about forward movement, about tapping into the best version of yourself so that you can lead a productive, meaningful, and satisfied life.
I'm looking for a few good clients, so contact me to set up an introductory session. "If you believe in yourself, you CAN DO IT!"
I ride horses. I love them. In addition to being beautiful and sensitive creatures, horses teach me so much about life. A couple weeks ago, my riding instructor was talking to my friend about her daughters' pony, who can be a bit naughty...but can also be very nice. She said, "It would be nice if horses were always the same, but they just aren't. And we have to work with that."
In an earlier post, I talked about the danger of waiting for somebody to behave a certain way to make you happy. Horses, like people, have good days and bad days. However, when horses have a "bad day," most good horse people will question what they are doing wrong or how they could improve their riding to elicit a better response from their equine partners.
We don't do this with other people very often. We go straight to blame or frustration because the other person didn't meet expectations or behave a certain way. "It's his fault that I'm upset," or "Why can't she just be more kind, responsible, organized, punctual, thoughtful, etc?"
This leads me to boundaries. Many people falsely think that effective boundaries put limits on somebody else's behavior. "You can't call after 9 pm," or "You have to treat me with more respect."
But setting a boundary with the other person as the focus is once again giving up control to somebody else. And you can't, can't, can't change somebody else's behavior.
You can set boundaries, but you have to make it about YOU and your limits, not anyone else's. This is very true in parenting. You can tell your kids to stop fighting over a toy. They might stop, or they might keep fighting. However, if you say, "If you continue to fight over the toy, I will take the toy away and give it to charity," that sends a different message. The boundary isn't defined by what they do, but how you will react to their behavior.
Let's look at the examples above. Telling somebody not to call after 9pm does not guarantee that they won't call. However, setting a boundary for yourself gives you control if you keep it about your reaction. "If you call after 9pm, my phone will be off and I will not answer it." That's a pretty simple example, so let's move on to the next one.
"You have to treat me with more respect." Do you feel this way about somebody? Have you even said it to someone? And what was the result? This is a challenging one because we have so much emotion wrapped up in the idea of respect. You can create a boundary here, but you have to clear a few things up. First of all, you have to define the behavior that you find disrespectful. Do you want this person to stop calling you names? To respect your time and communicate when plans change? To let you follow your dreams? To be faithful to you? And what boundary are you willing to set and follow through with if the disrespect continues? A boundary only works if you are committed to following through on it. For example, if I set the toy boundary with my kids, but they continue to fight, and I just roll my eyes and walk out of the room, that boundary is broken and my kids will not respect it. If I take the toy away and give it to charity, my kids will understand the boundary. They can choose to continue fighting over toys, but they know what they are risking with that choice. So when you set a boundary, you have to be willing to enforce it. What boundary are you willing to set in the face of disrespect? Are you willing to have a serious conversation? Are you willing to follow through on a consequence? Are you willing to stop seeing somebody? Go to counseling? Get a divorce? These are not easy questions, but they are important when you are dealing with a boundary issue.
With the pony at the beginning of the post, the boundary was set that the pony must behave and be safe around the little girls. When the pony fails to do this, she gets bigger, stronger riders to remind her of the expectation, thus resetting the boundary. Eventually, the little girls will learn how to set clearer boundaries for the pony so that she knows what to expect when she doesn't behave. Until then, she will continue to get those training sessions by riders who make her work harder than the little girls do.
It comes down to this: You cannot control the behavior of others. Likewise, a rider cannot control a horse that outweighs her several times over. However, like a rider can set a boundary for the horse, you CAN set clear boundaries to let people know how you will react if they do something you don't like. And in my experience, people who set clear boundaries are more confident, induce more respect, and have better relationships.
If you struggle to set boundaries or still don't know how to go about doing so, contact me to set up a session to talk about how life coaching can help.
My youngest daughter, Cici, is very good at saying, "I'm sorry." If she behaves badly, she will...eventually...admit it and apologize and give hugs. She gets this from me. If I lose my temper and overreact to something (I slam doors and yell sometimes...not proud of it, but it's true), I can suck it up and apologize to whoever witnessed the bad behavior. I take responsibility for my actions...after the fact. And while the ability to sincerely apologize is an important one, I think it's also overrated. Words are easy. Changing behavior is hard.
The other day, Cici did something that upset me. It was the end of a long day and it was a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. I can't even remember what behavior made me react, but I did.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," Cici said.
"I accept your apology, Cici, but here's the thing. You keep behaving the same way and then apologizing for it. I'm glad you're able to apologize, but saying you're sorry is easy. Changing your behavior is the hard part. But that's what I need you to work on."
Sometimes, I am so profound. As these words came out of my mouth, I had a moment of clarity. I had just spoken a truth that I needed to hear as much as my daughter did.
When I am calm, I can objectively look at my behavior and see where I went wrong and even come up with alternative ways to react. Cici is the same way. She can be calm and rational and we can come up with strategies for dealing with her very big emotions. "I can take three deep breaths," she'll say. And then when she's getting riled up and I tell her to take three deep breaths, she'll tell me to leave her alone or she'll stomp up the stairs instead. And I can totally relate to that. When I'm calm and rational, I don't want to let anger or frustration take control. I don't want to yell or cry in front of other people. But once I've crossed a certain line, I am convinced that I DO want to be mad. I get attached to my emotions and fall into a pattern of bad behaviors that go along with them.
Can you relate to this? Perhaps anger isn't your issue...perhaps it's sadness or low self-esteem or self-pity. And maybe your behavior isn't overt like mine and my daughter's...perhaps yours is a negative internal voice or an inability to motivate. Maybe you close off to those around you. Whatever the emotion and resulting behavior, what can we do to stop the cycle?
Here's a process I've been working on to break my own pattern of behavior:
If you'd like to be more accountable for making positive changes, contact me to set up a complimentary intro session. Or, if you're local, come to my informational session on Sept 5 at 6:30 at the Golden Library to learn more about life coaching and what it can do for you.
If you are paying attention, you will sometimes get complementary messages from unrelated sources. This happened to me last week, and now that I've ruminated on it a while, I want to share it with you.
The first message came from a session with a client. One of the goals this client is working on is scheduling time to write and being accountable to that time. Writing brings her great joy; it allows her to create worlds and explore her more imaginative side (she's also really good at it). Finding time for it is challenging, however. She has a demanding, high-profile job, a husband and two children, a desire to stay active and fit, as well as a handful of other familial and social commitments. But writing makes her happy. And one truth I've learned from my life-coach training and personal experience: Happy people are more productive, more present, and more fun to be around. My client realizes this, and is trying to align her calendar accordingly. In our session, she said something that struck me: "We can't help what makes us happy, right?" So simple. So true. But that was the first time anyone had ever vocalized that truth, and it keeps popping up in my mind.
A couple days later, my husband's aunt (who I have taken on as my own because she is so amazing) sent me a link to a video she took while on a retreat in Scotland. She was captured by the soothing words and lyrics of the Taize prayers, and her friend at the retreat allowed her to capture a couple on video. Take a moment to watch this one:
The words are from a Sufi couplet by Rumi, the 13th-Century Persian poet. Here's the phrase I can't (and don't want to) shake: "Let the beauty you love be what you do." How wonderful is that?!? What if we all just filled our lives with what we love, what we find beautiful, what makes us happy? After hearing this, I quickly circled back to my client's powerful quote: "We can't help what makes us happy, right?" No. We can't. We can't help what makes us happy or what we think is beautiful. So what then?
We need to find more time to do what we love, to do what makes us happy. But how do we do this? In a world full of obligations and distractions, how do we hold sacred that which brings us the most joy? Here are a few ideas, some of which I must attribute to my fabulous client in the story above:
This week, a friend e-mailed me with the following question:
"How do I go about teaching a 4 year-old to be thankful for the things that she has? I think she’s at this developmental age where she’s really starting to notice that other people have swimming pools in their backyards and other people have this and other people have that. I didn’t know if something like a thankfulness board would be a good idea or what but I thought you might be able to give me an idea or two of something that would be beneficial. Any input or ideas you could share would be much appreciated."
First of all, I LOVE that people are sending me these kinds of questions. Thank you and keep 'em coming!
Secondly, gratitude is near and dear to my heart. Research shows that practicing gratitude can enhance physical health, boost self-esteem, strengthen relationships and even improve sleep habits.
Did you notice that I said, "practicing gratitude"? Like anything else, practice can make you better at it. And why not get better at something that is so good for you?
So back to my friend and her daughter: how do we teach gratitude and practice it ourselves. Here are some ideas:
A few weeks ago, my family was camping with my sister-in-law, her fiancé, and his two children. We are all pretty excited about the upcoming wedding because in addition to many other awesome things about the match, my girls will have insta-cousins in their age range, and they all get along swimmingly...most of the time.
One afternoon while we were having some down time at the campsite, my oldest daughter, Aleida, came out of the tent, where I'd assumed she'd been reading or napping. I smiled at her and she gave me a very somber look, almost as if she was on the verge of tears.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"The other girls don't want to play with me," she replied, clearly miserable.
"Did they tell you that?" I asked, drawing her onto my lap (she barely fits anymore).
"Then why do you say that?"
"Because I've been sitting in the tent for 20 minutes and nobody came to get me and ask me to play," she explained with tears filling her eyes. "If they wanted to play with me, they would've come found me. Since they didn't, it means they don't care."
"Oh love," I said, smoothing her hair, thinking about the twisted logic in her conclusion. "I don't know about the other girls, but I thought you were in there napping. It doesn't mean they don't care about you."
How do you explain the danger of putting that kind of emotional control into the hands of others? How many times do we do this as adults? We wait for friends to call. We wait for spouses to apologize. We wait for coworkers to admit wrong-doing. We wait for our kids to grow up and be responsible. We make our sense of well-being contingent upon the actions of others.
Aleida is 9 years old, and starting to show the capacity to understand complex human behaviors, at least sometimes. So I attempted to talk to her about this. I told her that if she waits around for somebody to act a certain way that she has imagined in her mind but not shared with that other person, she is setting herself up for disappointment and the other person up for failure. She's also putting her emotions into the hands of somebody else, rather than taking control of the situation herself.
"If you wait around for somebody to behave a certain way, you will spend a lot of your life waiting and feeling disappointed." She listened and seemed to understand the basic concept. I continued, "If you want to play with somebody, go ask them to play."
It sounds so simple, right? And in this story, she did ask and they did play. Happy ending. As adults, relationships are not so straight-forward. However, that simple truth remains: When you allow somebody else's behavior to affect you, you are putting your emotional life in their control. And we do this ALL the time. Think about the last time you said something like: "He made me so mad!" or "If only she would..." or "Why can't he just...?" or "She ruined my day!"
Do not put your emotional well being into the hands of others. If you want to have that conversation with your spouse, pick a time to start it. If you want to see your friend, call and invite her out. However, if you allow others to hijack your emotions and don't know how to stop that, contact me for a complimentary mini session and to discuss how life coaching can help with emotional control and stability.