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.
It's cold in Colorado today. Everything is frosted over by a relentless, bone-chilling sleety snow. I made my kids walk to school anyway so that they can have the "back in my day..." stories to tell their own children and grandchildren who will no doubt be hover-boarding or flying by drone to school.
The cold has me wistfully thinking about our time in Jamaica. A week and a half ago, we were wearing swim suits and swimming with dolphins.
I love dolphins...who doesn't, right? I also feel a particularly special bond with them based on some sightings I had while visiting my mom when she was fighting (and ultimately losing) her battle with cancer. If my mom has an animal totem, I'm convinced it's a dolphin.
Therefore, when my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to schedule a family trip to swim with dolphins, I was all in. Our whole family was excited, but I admit that I was a bit worried about the "animals in captivity" aspect of the adventure. I have mixed feelings about zoos and even feel guilty about owning a bearded dragon who stays in a tank in my daughter's room.
Still, we went. As we walked toward the staging area we spotted the dolphins swimming around in the netted-off bay. Of course we knew we would be seeing dolphins, but the first sighting was still thrilling. As the dolphins swam around and we stood on the walkway above them, they came to check us out, circling and rolling to the side to get a good look at us. The dolphin trainers said they were excited to have new playmates. I was a bit skeptical, but they did seem curious and even happy to see us.
The encounter was amazing. I know it's a tourist trap, but for good reason. Our group was taken into one of the pools and we stood on platforms in the water. We got to pet the two dolphins assigned to our group, Alex and Starsy, and learn about their features. The trainer told us that in the wild, the average life span of a dolphin is ~25 years, but in captivity, it's closer to 45! After the introduction, we went in pairs out to the middle of the pool where the dolphins came and presented their fins to us. We grabbed on and got a belly ride back to the platform. We also got dolphin kisses and the chance to dance with them. The dolphins knew their job. They were focused, friendly, and funny. Honestly, their comedic timing was impressive. They were working for little fish snacks, but I swear that they were having fun, too. Any concern I had about seeing depressed and enslaved animals was dissipated by the pure joy they exhibited in their work.
So here's the metaphor...be like the dolphins. These dolphins were clearly victims of circumstance. They didn't apply for the job. They didn't surrender to a life of entertaining humans. Without a doubt, they were captured or bred by humans, trained, and subject to a life they didn't choose. But there they were, doing it with joy and to the best of their ability. They weren't half-heartedly flopping out of the water. They weren't moping around and wishing things were different. They were showing off. They were working hard. They were BRINGING IT and I have no doubt that they do that with every single group of bright-eyed tourists that come into the pool.
I realize this isn't a perfect metaphor. I fully recognize the difference between the human condition and the situation these dolphins are in. On one hand, we have more choice and control over our world than dolphins do. And yes, on the other, we are more aware of all the different manifestations our lives could take. However, I think we can learn from dolphins. We can try to emulate them. Dolphins play. Dolphins enjoy their connections with each other and with other species, including humans. One study of dolphins in captivity found that they look forward to playing with a familiar human. Dolphins (perhaps out of ignorance, sure) make the best of their circumstances and they show up with energy and enthusiasm. And whether they know it or not, they bring joy to others. Our whole group left the encounter full of gratitude and energy and excitement. I'm sure the dolphins aren't considering their long-term effect on everyone they encounter, and similarly, we cannot know the entirety of our influence. Still, as I sit here on this frigid morning in Colorado, I can feel a glow of love and appreciation as I recall my interactions with Alex and Starsy, and that type of influence is something to which we can all aspire.
Wow. I just returned from a week in Jamaica. The main purpose of the trip was to take part in my sister-in-law's wedding. I was a bridesmaid, my hubby a groomsmen, Aleida a junior bridesmaid, and Cici a flower girl. We were all in the wedding...so of course we HAD to go to Jamaica. We decided to make a week of it. We rented a car and spent a few nights in Negril, then met up with the family for wedding and resort fun in Montego Bay. First of all, I completely support destination weddings. Secondly, February is a great time to take a tropical vacation from Colorado. Thirdly, Jamaica is awesome. I could go on and on about the scenery, the people, the food, the vibe, but I want to get to the point.
My mother-in-law relayed to me a conversation she had with a native. She was commenting on how nice and welcoming and humble the Jamaican people are as a general rule, how kindness and the laid back vibe seem to be embedded in their culture and mindset. She wondered how that came to be. The native woman's reply went something like this: "I was taught from a young age that being nice to others feels good to me; it serves me. On the flip side, being mean to or angry at others only really hurts me. So we learn to be kind for kindness itself, yes, but we also learn to be nice because it feels better than being mean."
What a lovely concept. It stuck with me...so much so that I asked my mother-in-law to repeat the conversation a few days later so that I could embed it in my memory to share with all of you.
I often talk about "coming from a place of love or kindness" in my coaching conversations. After all, you cannot control the actions of others; you can only show up and act in a way that allows you to go to sleep feeling good about who you are as a person. The older I get, the more aware I am of this. At the end of the day, I want to be able to stand behind my own actions. I want to be proud of how I behaved. Whenever I feel "icky" about an interaction, it is due to my own actions. If somebody is rude to me and I meet it with rudeness, it doesn't make me feel better. Maybe in the moment I feel justified, but in the long run, I never wish I had been ruder or angrier. On the contrary, ickiness lingers because I wish I had met a situation with more kindness, empathy, patience or calmness. I wish I had "been the bigger person." When I remind myself to come from a place of kindness, I can protect myself from the remorse and guilt that follows bad behavior AND I can better empathize with and forgive the other person. Even if a hard conversation or confrontation is inevitable, I make a lot more progress when I come from a place of love and good intention.
If we can be nice for the sake of our own well being then everybody wins. It is not selfish. It is not weak. It is humane. Can you relate to this? Let me know in the comments.
By the way...the wedding was BEAUTIFUL!!!
Every month or two, I plan to give you an update on my Word of the Year since my 4th Big A word is Accountability. Also, I'm hoping to inspire some conversation around your words of the year and how they are going (or not).
My word of the year is Declutter. Honestly, it was the least attractive of my front runners because I knew it would be the most challenging. I see this word as focusing on 3 major areas:
The physical space aspect is going well. I've gotten my whole family involved, and we made some improvements. I've taken 3 bags of clothes and 2 boxes of toys and other items to Goodwill, and I've thrown away almost an equal amount. Here are some before and after pictures because who doesn't love those? Cici's closet before and after (hamming it up for effect...):
My desk before and after (yay! I have a lovely workspace now!):
And a couple more after only pics...believe me, the before was impressively bad. The first two are my older (and messier) daughter's closet, and the last picture is of the youngest's book shelf.
Turns out that decluttering the way I use my time is much, much harder. I'll admit it, though it is hard to, but I am addicted to my phone. My pattern is this: grab my phone. Check my personal e-mail. Check my work e-mail. Check facebook. Check headlines (and occasionally follow one to the whole article). Rinse and repeat...an embarrassing amount of times per day.
I know I could be using my time better. I could read books. I could write more blog posts. I could do more marketing. I could create a coaching curriculum for kids. I could get started on writing a book. I have so many ideas, and yet I default to my useless cycle of checking and rechecking my phone. Blah.
I recently gave a workshop on creating (or breaking) habits. Oh the irony! In my research, I learned that your environment and your systems are more important than your "will power." Will power waxes and wanes, but if you have good systems in place, you don't have to fight with yourself so often.
Again, easy to understand in theory...harder to put into practice. Despite all the logical reasons to cut down screen time, I am resistant to the change. However, knowing I was going to be writing this blog post inspired me to implement a new system...this morning. And I think it's going to be a game changer.
I have a morning ritual. I wake up before the kids. I feed the dogs, make the coffee, let the dogs out and sit and drink first cup in solitude. I also complete a round of Duolingo (if you haven't hear of this, it's an awesome language learning app--I'm trying to learn Spanish) and the daily mini crossword from the New York Times app. Then I let the dogs in and complete my first cycle of e-mail, facebook, headlines roulette. After that, it's usually time to wake up the kids. I enjoy this, but does it serve me? I can justify the Spanish lesson and crossword--if you don't use it, ya lose it, right? But this ritual is almost giving me permission to start the vicious cycle that repeats all day long.
I was listening to a podcast about routines and rituals and while it wasn't all applicable, one idea stuck with me. One of the speakers was talking about the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (which I now have on order) and one of the recommendations in the book is a 5-minute journaling exercise. You respond to 3 prompts: 1. 3 things you are grateful for. 2. This day would be great if...(complete sentence with 3 things you'd like to do) 3. I am...(complete with 3 personal affirmations).
This morning, I tried it. I didn't touch my phone. I came down, drank a big glass of lemon water (another added healthy ritual), fed my dogs, made the coffee, and sat down to journal. It literally took 5 minutes...maybe even less. Then, I allowed myself to complete the Spanish lesson and crossword, but I didn't look at my e-mail or social apps until after breakfast...and then, I did it on my laptop, not may phone.
I won't say it changed my behavior for the rest of the day. I still checked my phone several times, but definitely fewer than the day before. And I completed the 3 things that I defined would "make this day great." I made a big pancake breakfast for the first snow day we've had in years, finished clearing my desk, and I wrote this blog post. Writing those intentions helped declutter my mind so that when I had some time, I went to work. I'm going to keep at it and I'll let you know how it goes in my next update. In the meantime, I'd love to know: How are you honoring your word of the year so far?
For the past four weeks, I've been collaborating with my friend, fellow martial artist, and personal trainer extraordinaire, Christine Eldridge, on a program called Whole Life Solution. It's a mix of fitness training and life coaching topics aimed at bringing about sustainable healthy changes. We have 10 enthusiastic participants, and I'm loving every minute of it. What happens in WLS stays in WLS, but let's just say that I'm learning a lot and enjoying the process of creating and delivering this program.
One concept that I'm teaching in both the group and with my individual clients is that of Limiting Beliefs. Here's the gist of it:
Consider this: Your mind is like a web browser. What you put into the search bar is extremely indicative of what you will get out. Think about cats as pets (I'm going for something controversial, but not political...haha). If you put "Cats are the best pets" into your search bar, you will get tons of pictures of cute and cuddly felines. However, if you put "Cats are the worst pets," you will get plenty of images like this:
Our brains are similar. For instance, if you think "I'm not an athlete" and that's how you identify, you will notice every time you stumble, get out of breath, miss a catch or do something clumsy. In fact, you probably won't even attempt physical activities because you have this limiting belief about yourself. All of this equals evidence that you are not an athlete, and the limiting belief becomes more solidified. However, if you start to think, "I can do this" or "I can become more athletic" or "I've got skills," you will flip the search and start to notice when you coordinate all your limbs or when you run up the stairs without feeling light-headed. You will be more likely to try athletic endeavors and you will be more forgiving of yourself when you do make mistakes.
We often tell kids that when they say "I can't," they are probably right. On the other hand, if those same children say "I can," they are also probably right. This is the power of your beliefs--what you believe about yourself, your abilities, and the greater world around you. As adults, we don't always take this to heart. We get jaded by negative feedback. We get set in our ways. We get trapped in a default version of our lives and fear the effort and response should we try to change things up. But the idea that we have to continue to live how we are currently living simply because we are adults is itself a limiting belief. It is NEVER too late to make positive changes. What limiting beliefs are holding you back? Start with your thoughts. Let me know if I can help.
Life coaching has changed my life. Honestly, I stumbled into it because it seemed to fit with my interests, skills, and lifestyle. I liked the idea of helping people live their best lives, being my own boss, and flexing my creative muscles to create workshops and exercises for clients. I know that some people think life coaching is a joke. One stranger on a facebook group we both belong to called life coaches "control freaks who bilk other people for money" or something along those lines. And to be honest, I don't blame him or anyone else for their skepticism. Because I once thought that life coaching seemed frivolous or even silly. Even as I signed up for classes to become one, I still found myself thinking, "Do people really need a coach to figure out their own lives?"
But I'm a believer. I've seen the power of spending time on self improvement. In my own life, I've become more compassionate and patient with myself and others, raised my awareness about my inner voice and the way I process emotions, and gotten better at setting meaningful goals and working diligently toward them. It truly works.
However, I believe another myth exists that life coaches are able to tackle all challenging circumstances full of positivity and self control, somehow immune to negative emotions. Yes, my mindset has gotten better, but I still struggle. Like last night...
My youngest was having a day. As you may know by now, she is the challenging, emotional one. I always joke that we've been dealing with the terrible twos for 5 years now. She's wonderful, but she busts my butt on the daily. Usually, she can have a melt down, stomp and slam and scream her way into her room, pet her cats to calm down, and come back downstairs with an attitude adjustment that lasts a while. Last night, however, she would reset only to come back and get all wound up again, for reasons that remain a mystery to the rest of the family. By the 3rd major fit in less than an hour, my sympathy and patience pots were nearly empty. I raised my voice, I got angry, and I told her that I was tired of her taking what should be a nice, relaxing (and rare) evening at home and creating fight after fight after fight over nothing. Now, I know that for her sensitive 7-year-old mind, it isn't "nothing," but I was done trying to understand.
Now I was stomping and sighing my way around the house. My husband came by and I started to air my grievances and worries about our youngest. She's only 7, after all, in a supportive and well resourced family. Her life isn't going to get any easier, and I want her to learn to cope and process before middle school homework, hormones and heartbreaks kick in. And as a life coach, I feel like I should be able to give her some tools. Goodness knows I'm trying. But on days like yesterday, I question my parenting, my ability to coach my daughter, and my ability to coach myself to handle it all better.
My husband is more stoic, patient and collected than I am, and he basically started coaching me about not engaging with her when she's in these moods and not letting her get to me and ruin my own good mood. Mind you, he's an ER doctor. While he was in no way attacking me and was actually accurately representing the situation, I didn't want to hear it. I was fighting to find ground to stand on that would allow me to default to my annoyance and anger. It didn't feel good, but it felt familiar and justified. And since I couldn't continue to argue with my daughter, I transferred my aggression to my husband. I tried to make my current anger my daughter's fault, and when he logically disputed that, I tried to make it his fault. Being angry was easier than admitting I was wrong.
"You're not helping," I finally said, exasperated.
He laughed it off, didn't engage, and walked away to let me process. That annoyed me too. He was handling me in the way I should've but failed to handle my daughter.
With time comes more rational thinking, and I can identify at least 5 better ways I could've handled the situation last night. My husband is right: it serves no-one when I get drawn into my 7 year old's drama. And when I let her ruin my day, I'm giving her more power than a 7 year old should have. I have coached a couple of clients to use the thought anchor "I've got the power" when they feel like their moods are easily influenced by the behaviors of others...yet there I was, giving all my power to a 2nd grader.
The point is this: Self improvement is damn hard. As I picked a fight with my husband, my rational mind was telling me, "He's right, you know." My emotional mind, however, was goading me: "You are justified. You should be mad. Show everyone how frustrated you are!"
I did reach some clarity through the process. I tend to exaggerate the importance of small moments. In the throes of my frustration and worries about my daughter, I felt like a parenting failure. Forget all the lovely moments we have, all the rave reviews from her teachers, all the growth I have seen in her...at that moment, everything was wrong.
"I hate to see you getting all mad and depressed over this," my husband said.
"I'm not depressed! This is just how I process!" (Loudly and with large gestures and tears in my eyes.)
You see, I'm coming to terms with the fact that emotions are not good or bad. They are simply emotions, and the human condition requires us to feel the full gamut. Fighting, ignoring or shaming the less pleasant ones just compounds the badness. I know myself pretty well by now, and I know that I have to let the emotions happen. My self-coaching work isn't in quashing the emotions. My work is in recognizing, feeling, and channeling the emotions into less destructive behavior. I don't need to scream and slam when I am angry. I can be angry and learn from my anger without throwing a fit. And ultimately, that's what I want to teach my daughter. Anger isn't bad. Anger is trying to tell you something. Allow the anger, but learn how to react in a less explosive way.
Finally, behavioral changes take time and practice. We come out wired a certain way, and our experiences solidify that wiring. Changing our wiring, especially if it's been there for decades, takes a lot of hard, uncomfortable work. Every time I feel angry, I have to practice feeling it without reacting to it. It is not a quick fix, but I know that it is one well worth pursuing. And fortunately, with my emotional child, I will continue to get a lot of practice.
Last week, I led a free workshop at the local library to help participants choose a "Guiding Word of the Year." This is one strategy to begin 2019 with intention. The idea is that you choose a word to focus on for the whole year. As you make big decisions, you think about your word. As you go about your daily business, you think about your word. The word becomes your compass as you decide what direction you will take throughout the year.
To prepare for my workshop, I tried a simplified version of the exercise with my daughters, ages 7 and 9. I asked them what they wanted to work on in 2019. What do you want to be better at? What kind of person do you want to be?
My children, while far from perfect, are somewhat self aware. So it's fitting that my smart and talented, but overly cautious and easily distractible eldest chose: DETERMINATION. My charismatic and social, but over-the-top emotional youngest chose SELF-CONTROL. While this is no magic fix (cue the stomping, screaming fit less than 20 minutes after we completed the activity), it does give us a common focal point and a place to start the discussion on making positive changes in behavior.
My workshop at the library was a fun one. I led seven women (where all the men at?!?) through a series of exercises to bring awareness and encourage brainstorming about areas of their lives that could use more intention. If you want to try it out, here are the steps you can take (adapted from this post):
1. Jot down answers to these questions. Do not edit or censor yourself.
-What could I use more of in my life?
-What could I use less of in my life?
-What characteristics would I like to have?
-How do I want to feel (more often than I do now)?
-What kind of person do I want to be?
*Funny side note: I completed the activities along with the others, and totally stumbled on the first question. I wrote what came to mind, and the first two words on that list were horses and vegetables. Ha! While I always want more horsey time and certainly don't eat enough vegetables (I mean, who does?), I knew that neither of those would be my word of the year. But that's the brainstorming process for you...anything goes. I eventually got to some more useful concepts such as organization, motivation, and planning.*
2. I led the group through a guided meditation and you can do this on your own. Spend some time in silence, thinking about your perfect day. It can be one from memory or a theoretical one that hasn't happened yet. Spend some time here. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What do you hear and see and smell? Most importantly, how do you feel? Consider what it means to be the best version of yourself in the best version of your life. Finally, take some time to just ponder the question: What word do I want to guide me through 2019?
3. Do a mind dump! Looking at the lists from the questions in #1 and thinking about what came to you in #2, write all the words that come to mind. Don't hesitate. Don't judge or revise. This is the google idea board phase...anything goes! Allow yourself to be surprised by your own ideas. Don't stop when the flow ceases being easy. Wallow in the writer's block for a few moments and see what else surfaces from the depths. If you need inspiration, you can check out this list.
4. From your hopefully long list of ideas, pick 3-5 words that call to you the loudest. Star or highlight them. Then, spend a minute contemplating each word separately. Notice how it makes you feel. Excited? Scared? Peaceful? If you just came out of a stressful time, you might want to go with the more calming word. If you are bored or restless, pick the one that excites you. Don't overthink it. Listen to your inner voice.
5. Make yourself a visual reminder. At the workshop, we made rearview mirror hangers. My oldest daughter is using hers as a bookmark. Make a sign to put up in your bedroom or office. Set a reminder on your phone. Whatever works for you.
My final three words were AMBITION, COMPASSION, and DECLUTTER. I settled on DECLUTTER. It wasn't my favorite word...not by a long shot. I chose it because 1) It's necessary. I need to declutter my physical space and my mental space. I need to declutter the way I spend my time so that I can focus on what's important. I need to declutter my mind chatter and get in better touch with my inner voice. I need to get rid of junk, organize my spaces, and simplify. 2) It's challenging. Of the words I brainstormed, declutter presents the greatest challenge. It will take time and intention. I will need to do a lot of decluttering just to tackle the process of decluttering. 3) It has the potential to bring the most benefit. If I can really focus on this word, I can streamline my life, my thoughts, and my space. I'm nervous, I'm excited, and I'm motivated.
Other great words came out of the workshop. Some participants came in with an idea and stuck with it. Others changed their word, a couple to their own surprise. Everyone had excellent reasons for the words they chose, which include: FEARLESS, AUTHENTICITY, LUMINESCE, WISDOM, PEACE, THRIVE and LOVE.
Choosing a word is a great start, but to keep it from remaining just a vague or abstract idea, here are a few extension activities to help you apply it.
I would love to hear what word you choose and how you implement it in your life. And if you want help setting goals or applying ideas, contact me to schedule a complimentary mini session to explore how a life coach can assist you in making positive changes.