Forget. Me. Not

IMG_5939I was so tired, I almost missed them.  Pretty little periwinkle kisses abounded.  Their tiny faces inviting smiles. Snuggled between the shrubs and hostas, their beauty peeping and winking.

Forget-me-nots.

Like a hand to the forehead.

Forget.

Me.

Not.

Spring has sprung

Spring is a busy time for our family, with 2 children between 10 and 12 years, multiple sports and after-school programs, homework and practices, and my work schedule – it’s been hectic to say the least.

It’s been a fun time too, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every game – both the cheering for the kids and the chatting with the parents.  But by mid-end of May I noticed I was flagging, feeling weariness and less joie de vivre.

Noticing old patterns

IMG_5938I was about to brace myself, adopt the ‘stiff upper lip’, just ‘work harder’ and plough through, exhaustion be damned.

But I know better.

Forget.

Me.

Not.

Those little winking beauties grabbed me by the eyeballs.  I realized that in the frenzy of goodness, even though activities were intentionally planned and enjoyable, the balance was tipped to over-busy and my body was letting me know.

With some curiosity and acceptance of the tiredness, I was able to search for insights and look at what was needed – renewal – even if it was renewal on the go.

Because, if I am depleted as a mother, wife, friend and business owner, how can I be of service and bring my unique blend of strengths, values and genius out into the world?

Forget. Me. Not.

Start with YOU

Start with yourself.  Figure out how to nourish and renew yourself, in the ever-changing whirlpool of a world we live in.  It’s not selfish.  It’s self-ful.

It may be in small ways, like taking a great book to practice so you can read while between drop off and pick up.  Or calling a friend for a chat on the fly.  Or watching a YouTube video that cracks you up.  Or slowing down and hugging those you love.  Or finding meaning in the ordinary.  Or planning your meals so you can eat nourishing food – even if dinner is at 4pm as you have 2 games to drive to/attend that night.

Heart on Your Hand

photoMy dear, wise and beautiful friend Bethany gave me another image to ponder.  Drawing a little heart on your hand.  As a reminder of love for yourself in all that you do.

My daughter asked if I had had a tattoo.  I said no and explained what it was.  She thought that, if I was going to get a tattoo, that seemed like a good one to get.  I notice that she often draws a heart on her hand now too.

As my garden eases into summer, the forget-me-nots are fading, the sea of blue is now green and so I’ve taken to drawing a heart on my hand.  It’s a reminder to practice self love – whether it’s time for renewal, good food, saying no, saying yes, an early night, laughing, walking, quiet time, fun time – because knowledge of what helps you only gets you so far.

Awareness, Exploration, Application

It’s what you do with the awareness, how you explore it and apply it that makes the difference.

I realized that I need the reminders as I have a tendency for over-busyness.

To remember to tend to myself.  To fill my cup so that it is full to overflowing and I have plentiful reserves to serve those in my world.

What do you do to remember to take care of and love yourself?

I’d love to hear your comments below.

What Are You Reaching For?

IMG_5444With aching fingers and wobbly legs, I looked down to see the ground far below.

Queasy tendrils of fear swept up my body.  I took a breath.

In that mini pause, I allowed myself to feel the fear without reacting.  I allowed the emotion to pass through me rather than take hold.  I know from experience that rampant fear unacknowledged and dodged causes me to freeze or stuff it down causing me internal tension and pain.

I was the climber in a pair team – one climber and one belayer – one person climbs and the other belays (holds the rope) and ensures the safety of the climber as they ascend.

IMG_5492I had not climbed in over 15 years.  Another breath.  I was able to look up.  Only 4 or 5 moves to the top of the climb.

Focus and Goal

I remembered my goal.  To get to the top of the climb.

Courage in the face of vulnerability

The wave of fear had stopped me.  I could feel my hands getting sweaty – not ideal as it makes the small holds hard to grasp.

Yes, I could stop now.  Yes, I could feel good about getting back in a harness after so many years and taking myself up a rock wall rather than just helping others climb. Yes, I could rationalize that it was OK to quit early and I’d made it most of the way.  I’d put in more than a little effort.

But I wouldn’t have reached my goal.  The top.

And the only thing holding me back was fear.

IMG_5490Fear and playing small

And the fear was not helpful.  I was not in danger.  I was in a harness, attached to a rope, and being belayed by an experienced person, who also was being helpful and encouraging from the ground.  I knew he had my safety covered.  Back in the day I had climbed much higher graded and more challenging routes.

A part of my brain did not get that.  Thoughts of catastrophe and disaster swarmed my psyche, and my emotions and physiology reacted accordingly.

I looked down again.  I saw my children gaping.  They’re so used to me being  ‘Mom’ or the ‘safety chick’ (they not-so-fondly call me that when I insist they wear a helmet while riding their bikes).  They can’t believe their eyes that I’m straddled on funky multicolored holds on a rock wall 25 feet up in the air.

Re-grounding on the go

I re-grounded (as much as you can, in that position!) and decided that the fear was not helpful in that situation.  I was actually safe.  Fear was trying to keep me small.  I decided to go for the top.

I took another breath, and reached for the next hold, then the next, and before I knew it I was touching the top of the wall and checking for a tight rope before sitting back in the harness to be let down to the ground by my trusty belayer.

I was elated.

It was just one climb at a rock wall but the metaphor was rich.

How many times do we stop before the goal because of fear or discomfort?

How many times do we play small and not stretch that extra few feet?

How many times does fear rule the roost, unquestioned?

I’m not saying ignore fear, or any of the emotions that are less than comfortable to feel.

I am saying it’s important to allow space to seek the truth in the thoughts that may stop you in your tracks.  To notice and allow space for your ensuing emotions.  This allows you to make the choices to lead from an informed, creative and empowered place rather than a reactionary stance.  

This is the space where focus is rewarded, where goals are achieved, where possibilities are born and mature, and where inspired action abounds.

And who knows, you may even have fun in the process, as I did.

Where have you stopped short or gone for gold?  I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below.

Is Worry Your Kryptonite?

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”  Winston Churchill

Is Worry Your Kryptonite?Do you have the worry gene?  Is it expressing?

I confess. I do.  And it does.

Last week an old business contact made mention that since I was a life coach now I must have my life ‘all set’ and ‘be perfect’.  Oh, how I laughed!

It’s true that I have made many changes in my life, and I have an awesome array of tools and strategies to help, but when I choose not to practice the strategies, then I’m in no better shape than I was before.  It’s a daily, sometimes hourly, choice.

Interestingly, I caught myself in a worry frenzy this week.  It used to be that I didn’t question worry frenzies, I bought into all of the noise and saw the whirling thoughts and pictures as absolute possibilities that I needed to plan around, fix, fix, fix and brace myself for.

I’d walk around, alternating between stiff as a board and twitchy as a caffeinated squirrel, wearing my shoulders as earrings with a background of whirring worry thoughts of what could go wrong at any time?  And was I really good enough? And is that option safe? And don’t get me started on how worry functioned around risk or approval….

After having children,  the worrying was even more exacerbated.  At times it debilitated me, sending me into cold, wet anxiety and frustrating indecision.

I am blessed with 2 beautiful and resilient children.  However, the early years were peppered with medical intervention  – both had allergic colitis from 5 weeks and were bleeding from the bowel for weeks, my son had brain surgery at 7 months, both went into respiratory distress with each sniffle or cold making me a huge fan of nebulizers and albuterol (and a frequent flyer in the Emergency Room), and 2 hospitalizations for my daughter before the age of 2. And then the usual strep throats, sinus infections, 2 extremely frightening flu episodes, oh and let’s not forget resuscitating my daughter after she choked on a grape at 4 years old.

Many of those memories deeply, viscerally terrifying, and, left unquestioned, funding the worry machine.

Life can be joy-filled on many levels and there are no guarantees that it will be skirmish-free.

Worry can keep imagined skirmishes bleating, throughout the joyful times, taking the gloss off the fun and goodness.  Unattended to, worry can become a huge energy drain and is rarely, if ever, helpful.

So if the worry churns catastrophe in the background, or foreground, how do you live  a full potential and joyful life?

Here are some strategies I use for busting the worry cycle:

Awareness – I notice the worries rather than getting right on the worry train.  I try to view them with curiosity and see what is there to be learned.

Kindness and Compassion – I stop beating myself about being a worry wart. It doesn’t help.

Acceptance and Reality Checking – I stop arguing with reality and get back on my yoga mat (in my business). I remember Byron Katie’s words, “When you argue with reality, you lose—but only 100% of the time.” It helps me ground myself in what is happening and what’s in my control – centering in my business, choices, values and desires.

Find a mantra that helps – in Joan Borysenko’s wonderful book, Pocketful of Miracles, she gives a beautiful mantra for worry “What is is and I can handle it”. I find this very helpful as I have handled many emergencies in my lifetime.  In most situations I have been capable, resourceful, and, after all, I am still here.  Great evidence that I can handle it.

Space / Allowing time for worry – on the basis of whatever you resist persists, giving yourself a part of your day, say 10-15 mins, where you allow yourself to worry and mine the messages for meaning and potential action, and then let them go.

Take care of yourself – if I’m nourishing my body with good food, sleep and movement, I find I’m more resilient to worry overload.

Thought sanitation – if I’m doing thought work and spending some time in mindfulness, I find it helps decrease my worried whirring.

Gratitude – Being in a place of gratitude is a wonderful antidote to fear and worry.  The bonus is that gratitude practice is linked to more joy too.

Play and Laughter – having fun, being playful, laughing out loud are such soul soothers and creativity boosters.  They also help me connect and be present – worry often skips the present, hanging out in the past and mired in potential future difficulties.

Faith and Trust – if you feel a spiritual connection – with the Universe, God, Great Spirit, or your spiritual belief of choice – then there can be peace and comfort in leaning in, and surrendering or allowing ourselves to be with whatever our circumstance is, that there is meaning, even if we can’t see it at that moment.

That’s my list.  What’s yours?  Are you a worrier?  If so what do you do?  I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

Baggage Check – What are you carrying that you no longer need?

Baggage Check - What are you carrying that you no longer need?I was bullied in school.

Not beaten up or physically harmed.  It was all taunts that hurt on the inside.

I was at an all girls private church school.  Enough said.

Sometime during or after puberty, with my DD cups, high grades and obvious desire to learn, I became the target for mean-ness, nasty comments, and name-calling from a handful of girls.

Memories

I would dread gym class – changing in a frigid, brick building next to the hockey field, with the sneers and snickers from some girls as I unrobed and curled up to hide myself as quickly as I could.

I remember the elation of getting 100% in a mathematics exam, after much study and practice, only to sink in shame and humiliation at seeing the drawing of myself on the blackboard that a classmate had done of me as a square, and the giggles from some of the other classmates.

Armor up

Another girl might have been able to armor up.  Not me.  Each barb hit my sensitive and tender heart despite good friends and their support.

As I left for University, I left everything about high school behind, except for a few dear friends.  Or so I thought.

Body Realization

Now, at the age of 45 years old, I’m experiencing The Alexander Technique with the brilliant and talented Imogen Ragone.  It occurs to me how my body has shaped according to all it has been through.

I’m not just talking about aging or my impressive stretch marks from carrying my beautiful children.

I’m talking about old stuff that still resides in my body, long after the thought work and other coaching techniques have dissolved the painful stories.

Through the Alexander Technique, with my increased awareness to my body and it’s open-ness and stature, I have realized how much of the physical remnants I still hold on to from those early memories.  And still carry in my body.

Still Carrying

My shoulders droop, my first protection to try and hide my ample bosom.  My spine curls around my belly – perhaps a way to protect my soft parts.  Physical habits that served a purpose but continued long after they were needed, if ever needed, and even causing strain and tension in everyday movement.

Even after all these years.  I’m amazed that these physical tendencies are still here.

Even after all of the love, joys, and successes of my life, relationships, and career.

Unfurling

As I stood in the shower this morning, I noticed my shoulder droop and thought “open and wide” and my body adjusted accordingly.  Something I’ve learned from the Alexander Technique.  It felt good.  Strong.

A new dawn, a taller, open and less tense body.  Ready to do my work in the word for those I serve.

I’m ready to stand to my full God-given height and potential.

I’m ready to walk open.

To lead my life in a way that feels good to me, without the physical remnants of trying to fit in and approval seeking.

Me.  Fully me.  As I am.  Loving, kind, funny, intelligent, imperfect me.  Free to be who I am. Unfurled.

What are you holding on to, in any form, that is no longer serving you? 

Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Kindness, Community, and Action

This summer I wrote about my 9-year-old daughter’s loss of vision in Don’t Dim My Light.

Thankfully, Sophie’s sight has almost fully recovered in that time.  In the same way as there is no clear answer to why this happened, there is also no clear answer to how it has resolved, and so we continue to follow up with medical practitioners, mindful of the still scarred retina and thankful for the gift of returned vision.

In looking back on this time, there have been many loving gestures and kindnesses shown to us, from friends and family reaching out to us via Facebook, email, or phone to pass on experiences, contacts, recommendations, offers of help, consultations and advice.  All deeply appreciated.

I want to single out one of these experiences to share, as it touched our whole family so deeply.

My niece, Charlotte, an energetic, fun, loquacious 16-year old, when hearing about Sophie’s loss of vision, was so upset she felt moved to do something.

As talented as Charlotte is, she could not single-handedly renew Sophie’s sight.  She could not take away the scar on her retina, and, an ocean away from us in England, she could not even reach out and hug and comfort her cousin in person.

And yet that didn’t stop her from figuring out how she could help.  She knew Sophie was  having a hard time patching her eye – so she handmade beautiful patches and mailed them to us so Sophie could have cool, one-of-a-kind patches, with love in every stitch.

Beautiful, practical, and thoughtful gifts.

And then, as if that was not enough, she took it a step further.  Even though she knew we had medical insurance, she understood that without a National Health Service in the USA (as she has in the UK), and with the second opinions and specialists, there would be a fair amount of out-of-pocket costs to do with Sophie’s medical treatment.

Unbeknownst to us, she set about a sponsored silence to raise money for these costs.

Now when I say Charlotte is loquacious, I am not kidding (Charlotte, you know we love you!!).  She is smart, social, bubbly, chatty and talks a million miles a minute.  And yet, for her cousin, she set up a sponsored silence and gave up talking for 3 whole days.  Her high school classmates, teachers and community sponsored her.

This summer, when she came to stay with us, she presented us with the money collected.  It was several hundred dollars.  By some strange coincidence, it was pretty much the exact amount to cover 4 specialist visits and tests that Sophie had had up to that point.

It touched me to my core and brought tears to my eyes.

I feel such pride for my young niece and her thoughtful and heroic efforts.  She cared so much.  She sent messages, prayers and healing vibes, and she also created opportunities for inspired action.

She engaged her strengths and super-powers, her creativity and kindness, reached out to her community and made something happen.  Something deeply meaningful, something that has etched a groove in our minds and hearts and touched our children deeply.  What an amazing example and mentor.

In this ever busy, multi-tasking, crazy-paced world we often find ourselves in, there is always, ALWAYS, room for more kindness, creativity, community and inspired action.

Currently, two of our extended family, my sister-in-law’s mother and my husband’s cousin, are in hospital with serious injuries from motor vehicle accidents.  I have been awed and inspired by the 2 sets of communities stepping into action – cooking, delivering food, organizing support, helping with car pooling, sending prayers, being there for the immediate family.

When there a people facing challenges around us, we often ask “what can I do to help?”

However, many of us when in tough or traumatic situations don’t know how to ask for what we need, or don’t know what to ask for, or feel like we can’t ask, or that we can soldier on alone.  Sometimes the offerers of help don’t want to intrude, or mean to do something and get tied up in their own busy lives.

It’s such a gift when you are in need and someone assesses your situation and out of love and care figures out a solution that could help.  And then acts upon it.

It’s changed the way I think for those around me facing challenges.  I’m more likely to research what may be needed and rather than offer help and wait to be asked.  If appropriate, help can then be surreptitiously delivered – a food delivery or hot dinner here, an inspirational card or book there, a call, some yard work.

Wholehearted intentions grounded in kindness, community and action.

Simple gifts we can all bestow.

Grace in action.

Is there someone in your world that could use some acts of kindness? Could it be you?

I welcome hearing from you in the comments below.

Don’t Dim My Light: 9 Tips to Deal with Dimming

“Sweetheart, please can you put on your sunglasses so we can go to the store?” I asked.

“I don’t want my light to be dimmed,” my daughter sobbed through huge rolling tears and heaving chest.

I stopped dead.  The words soaked in.  My throat choked up.

She had dealt with a lot these last couple of weeks.

Somehow she went from 20/20 vision in December 2011 to little or no vision in her left eye. 20/20 to 20/WTF.

She’s only nine.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much I want to get to the bottom of why this has happened, and 3 different medical opinions have not helped other than vague… infection…. virus… scarring of retina….

It doesn’t seem to matter that I feel helpless to prevent her losing all her sight if I can’t understand how she lost sight in one eye.  I can let the ‘why’ scream in my head all day, I can continue to advocate, research, ask questions of the medical experts who are taking care of her but it does not change the facts.

The fact that she has a scar on her retina causing her to lose her vision and it’s relegated to ‘just one of those things’.

So as my baby girl looks at me with her huge baby-blue, beautiful eyes, beseeching me not to wear her sunglasses to go to the store, the words “I don’t want my light to be dimmed” still swim around my mind.

With pupils the size of soup bowls, following dilation, she needed to wear eye protection, but something reached deep within me with her words.

“I don’t want my light to be dimmed.”

Yes, it was her distinct and powerful reaction to a request she didn’t want to follow, but it struck me as a core truth in life.

Who wants their light to be dimmed? In any area of life?

Who amongst us (and I have my hand up here too) recognizes dimming and is too stuck, struggling, or plain exhausted to figure out how to get their spark back?  Anyone with their light under a bushel or so starved of fuel that it’s barely a spark? Or, is fear strangling any flame you have?

Are any of us immune to shitty circumstances?  No.  Would be nice.

But, as I could feel myself sitting in the passenger seat driven on a catastrophic road, with disaster and fear roughing up the ride, I realized this is a journey I’ve been on many times for myself and with my kids and I want to do it differently this time.

Yes I can be an advocate for my daughter.  Yes, I can do whatever it takes to get the best care and outcome for her.  But I can’t change the circumstance.  And spinning in catastrophe was sapping the life out of me.

Tips

It’s been an emotional few days and I wanted to share some of the strategies and practices that are helping me in case you are also dealing with some light-dimming yourself:

1. Honor feelings – after I put the kids to bed, the first thing I did was reach for a large bag of chips.  I wanted to eat my feelings rather than give space to the fear, panic, sadness and confusion slicing my throat and squeezing my neck.  I’ve learned that you can stuff all the feelings you want, but it doesn’t help, and they don’t go away.  Giving space to the feelings and allowing them to pass through you, with love and compassion, can lead to a more peaceful and chip-less existence.  Tears allowed to flow can truly heal.

2. Breathe – another obvious – right?  Have you ever noticed when you’re in catastrophe mode that your breathing is shallow and barely there?  Taking time to really breathe into your abdomen and focus mindfully on your breath, even for a few breaths at a time can take you out of fight or flight and back into parasympathetic, or peaceful, mode.

3. Get the facts – fear can be immobilizing and can put you in a spin cycle where you are not able to access your brain’s executive functioning that is needed to deal with complex issues.  Once you have taken the time to feel your feelings, and breathe, you will be more able to gather the facts – tapping resources and populating the full picture.

4. Ask questions – don’t be intimidated to ask the difficult questions – to medical professionals and of yourself.  There are no stupid questions.

5. Look after yourself – it sounds basic and obvious, but at times when you are mentally and emotionally challenged, self-care can go by the wayside.  Listen to your body and honor your instincts.  If you’re tired, sleep.  If you’re rested try and get out in nature or  move your body, fuel it with fuel and don’t forget to water it.  Write if it helps.  Meditation helps (even as little as 5-10 mins a day).  Walking with friends has been a saving grace.

6. Stay on your yoga mat – Sophie’s daily drama about wearing the eye patch as she adjusts is quite spectacular.  Her tears literally flood the patch causing a minor dam bust as it collapses off her face from the immense pressure of salty water behind it.  If I can be a calm, loving and compassionate presence while she cries and not get pulled into the ‘crappyness’ and ‘not fairness’ and ‘this sucks-ness’ of the whole situation, I can provide a safe haven for her not a screaming banshee partner.  Easier said than done, and so worth practicing.

7. Lean:  Lean on your friends and family, allow yourself to express your emotions with trusted loved ones and friends or professionals (therapist, coach, medical professional) in a safe setting.

8. Identify the gifts: I’m not trying to be glib here, but looking for the gifts in any situation is time well spent, no matter how dire you feel it is.  For example, in my current situation malignancy was ruled out.  She has one eye that sees.

9. Gratitude – throwing in a medical challenge in the sometimes harried rush of multiple spring sports schedules, homework, food shopping and preparation, mothering, wife-ing (is this a verb??), laundry, running a business, I had temporarily overlooked the multitude of gifts residing in the ordinary.  Warm showers, roof over head, loved ones close, smell of fresh-cut grass, eyes that see.

Without gratitude, my light can be dimmed.

The shade on my eyes filtering out all the goodness that surround me in the most ordinary, yet beautiful and meaningful times.

In the present.

If you find your light dimming – what strategies do you use to bring yourself back to your birth-right brightness?

Lessons From A Chip Bag

As my fingers scrabbled at the bottom of the bag to collect the crumbs in my hot little hands, I realized I’d consumed a family size bag of chips at one sitting.

Who Did That?

I looked accusingly around the room.  Surely someone else had eaten some.

I already knew that I was alone in my office and this was not the case.  Interesting how blame became an easy first option for dealing with the empty chip bag.

Sitting there, with the sparkly salt crystals and translucent potato crumbs decorating my mouth and a minor snow fall adorning the continental shelf of my chest, greasy fingers twitching, a sickly feeling in my stomach, the first washes of mean thoughts and less than pleasant emotions started to wash over me….

Here Comes the Meanness…

Sometimes, it’s just one word, spat internally with venom:

 “SerIOSLY???”

“REALly??”

And other times their in full sentences, taking my breath away with their cruel tone:

“Call yourself a wellness strategist???  What the heck was well about an entire bag of chips?!”

“You should be better than this – you know better than this – what the bleep were you thinking?!”

“How can you teach this if you’re not ‘living it to give it’?!”

Feelings, nothing more than feelings…

Then the wash of emotions – guilt, shame, disappointment, frustration.

And then a smile.

Yes, a smile.

As I saw all the old patterns, deeply ingrained in the matter of my brain, firing – as if to help me – but doing harm along the way.

In years gone past, perhaps the chips would have been the first item on the list, and fueled by my less than helpful thoughts and challenging emotions, I would have inhaled many more items before my body was screaming stop and the day was done.

In my dieting days, tomorrow was always a new day.  Fresh and clean with glittery promise.  Mess-ups in the current day could escalate to ridiculous proportions, always with a fresh start planned just around the clock.

Not any more.

As I sat at my desk smiling, I noticed the chip bag was ironically labelled ‘reduced guilt’ chips, and as if on cue, I could laugh.  I could look at the consumption as a scientist looks at an experiment.

Lab Coat On

Pulling on my metaphorical white lab coat, pencils, pens and shiny spatulas protruding from the pocket, donning my safety goggles, pulling on the tight, powdery gloves, and stepping to the bench, lab book in hand ready to investigate the findings.

These days I also bring a sense of compassion and kindness to my investigation.

By looking at the circumstance, thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing before the chip bag was ruptured open and ravaged I learned some important information.

I was creating a program for a new in-person coaching group.  I was excited about the content creation and program planning following requests from several clients.

I noticed that I was having some thoughts about how great this was going to be, and also some sneaky, shadow thoughts “What if no-one signs up?  Are you good enough to do this? Who do you think you are?”  Old thoughts.  Old patterns.  Triggering emotions of anxiety, inadequacy, vulnerability, shame, frustration, fear, and sadness.

Enter the chips.  And exit the chips, as internalizing the salty crunch became the ultimate decoy for dealing with my painful thoughts and emotions.

It’s Only Feedback 

I can still look now and see where a common human belief of not enough-ness unquestioned and where fear of stepping out and being seen triggered an action and result (empty chip packet).

Process, Practice and Commitment

This noticing, self compassion, self kindness is not a one-time thing.  It’s a process and a practice and a commitment to our self worth and health.  Remembering that perfection does not exist, and accepting ourselves and our imperfections with courage and love can open the door to a life well lived.

So, despite the chip incident, and my associated inner critic’s commentary, by mining for insights and adjusting my path, I can avoid the ruts where one chip empty chip packet could turn into one empty chip cupboard.  Where damaging patterns repeat day by day and week by week until you’re wearing your challenges in a body that no longer feels like your own.

So it speaks to why I am so committed to helping as many people as I can feel supported as they walk their path to wholehearted well-being.

Delicious Lives.  One step at a time.

Are You Making Things Harder Than They Need To Be?

Have you heard the term “over-efforting”?

I first heard it from Master Mind-Body Coach Abigail Steidley on a teleclass one day.  I did a quick Google search on ‘over-efforting’ and there were almost 80,000 hits.

I so relate to this term – over-efforting.

Why?  Because I do it a lot of the time.

My go-to answer for “too much to do” has been to “just work harder”.  And harder.

Has it worked?  At times, yes to make professional deadlines (especially during my corporate days).  But as a long-term strategy and for my well-being – not so much, unless you count exhaustion as a bonus.

Deeply ingrained, and under-the-radar, beliefs were still churning  – “you HAVE to work hard… harder… harder to get there” and “laziness is very, very bad”.

What if we could we could notice the legacy beliefs that are churning like a huge background program in our minds, directing us to act a certain way, using up lots of energy, often slowing down processing times, not at all in service to our goals or dreams?

What if we could shine a light on those beliefs and release them, reducing brain over-efforting, and in effect physical over-efforting?

As last year came to a close and I started setting goals for 2012, I decided to try something new.  I decided to intentionally play more and over-effort less.

It sounds simple, but like many simplifications, it’s not always easy.

I have worked hard my entire life.  If I was required to push rocks up hill, I got my shoulder to the ground and did it, no effort spared.  In the rain and mud.  No problem.  “Where there’s a will there’s a way” was uttered through gritted teeth.

When I discovered coaching, I was like the proverbial pig in you-know-what (both as coachee and coach).  Here I was, having found the most amazing fit for my strengths, values, and experience and suddenly ‘work’ began to feel much more like play.

Not over-efforting.  Not struggling.  Not rocks up hills.  It was somewhat startling.

However, as I opened my coaching practice in 2009, having had a successful consulting practice for 4 years before that, and with corporate and academic successes in the bank, I set out with great expectations and legacy programs playing in the background.

While I completed further certifications and studies, and grew my practice, I devoted very long hours.  This new work was such a joy, I hardly noticed the hours until it was pointed out to me by my lovely husband and patient kids.

I was over-efforting.

It’s so easy to do.  And the cost is high – fatigue, exhaustion, lack of focus, backache, headaches, getting rundown…. and while the output may be still high quality, there may not be much of you left to enjoy your achievements.

So, this year, I’m noticing as the over-efforting starts to kick in.  I have set an intention for well-being, flow, playfulness, and restfulness, and while the over-efforting cycle pops up from time to time, I have hard evidence on the benefits of this revised way of being – I feel lighter, more energized, and I’m enjoying the sense of ease.

While I continue to be committed to my practice and clients, I’ve noticed that in the absence of over-efforting and struggle my practice is filling up with much less effort than I’ve ever made before.  Almost magical really.

What’s your experience of over-efforting?

What could be better if you dropped over-efforting?

Are there areas where you could bring in more rest and play?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

It’s The Simple Things – Presence or Absence, Not Both

“Be absent, or be present, but don’t be both.”

In early December I was honored to take facilitator training for i2a Strategic Thinking and the Energy Rich Leadership Course.  This was the ground rule delivered by one of the fabulous course leaders, Gretchen Pisano (who writes beautifully about it here).

Be absent, or be present, but don’t be both. (Yes, it’s so good it’s worth repeating.)

Simple, elegant and brilliant.  Not always easy.

Within the context of training, I see how disruptive it can be when people are reading email, texting, tweeting, or facebooking on their smartphone during a training session.  It’s understandable that at times during a training event you may need to step out and take a call or respond to an urgent request.

It’s when we think we can do both concurrently that we get into trouble.

And so it is with life.

Over the holidays I found myself thinking about this in different areas of my life.  It was a quick grounding reminder when multiple and layered distractions abounded.

I practiced being present with my children, only to realize how many times I reach for my phone, or the ingredients to cook dinner, or even noticing that my mind has raced ahead and I’m elsewhere, physically in place but otherwise engaged.  Blind multitasking while being ‘present’ with those I love.

What an eye opener.

At a party, I was talking with a couple of smart, engaged women who are also mothers of elementary-school-age children, and we were talking about this concept.  One of them mentioned a mobile phone company tag line of “be here now” and how she had used that as a reminder to being present in her everyday life.

We all agreed about the importance of presence, and also how very challenging it can be in this world we live in.

It’s a choice and a practice.

What I am also now seeing is the value in absence.  Taking time to step away and either tend to a new priority, clearly and with focus, whether it’s for business or pleasure.

In loving and caring for my children, I realized that I, perhaps like many mothers, was tending to their every need, available 24/7, fueled by love, and yet this high-contact parenting was somehow resulting in me being less truly present when I was actually with them.

By giving myself the permission for absences, short periods of time where they were safely cared for and I could step away and take that time, even if the choice for that time was a nap, that my true presence with them when I returned was enriched.

It was more fun and playful – instead of me juggling multiple balls, hair on fire, burnt on busyness, and trying to meaningfully connect with my loved ones, I was able to simply do one thing at a time.  And do it well.

In order to do this, some choices were to be made.  Some items were dropped from my to-do list.  I asked for help with other items.  Expectations were set, modified and managed.

What I chose not to do was as important as what I chose to do.  

Result = meaningful presence or (and not +) guilt-free absence = love, peace, fun and freedom.

Are there areas of your life where you could do with more presence?

Are there areas of your life where a little absence would help?

Where are you doing the detrimental concurrent absence / presence dance and what could you choose to do to simplify?

So here’s my goal for 2012 – to be absent, or be present, but not be both. To exercise choice management.

Want to join me?  What values and principles have you chosen to honor this year?

Why Not Trust?

My eyes were wide and terror ripped through me as I clung to my seat for dear life.  I  was on a flight to Phoenix where the turbulence was so rough that I was airborne within the cabin – even with my seatbelt on.  It was like a roller-coaster with no end as people around me screamed and general panic filled the air.

After a rocky landing, I remember getting off the flight literally trembling, having pulled a muscle in my neck holding on the the seat in front of me so tight and having been so thoroughly and viscerally shaken.

It just so happened that the storm I had reluctantly ridden on the way in to Phoenix was still there 2 days later as I flew home.  As the ride began, I decided to take another tack.  I decided to trust the pilot and his plane and relax.  I was a captive audience.  Why not?

So as the bumps and dives started (and there’s nothing much I hate more than roller-coasters), I breathed deep and let myself go with the flow. Before long I was giggling.  It was quite fun and much less terrifying, and then it was over and it was plain sailing after that.  No frozen neck, no strained face, no trembling.  My seat neighbors may have wondered what I’d been drinking, but even the fear and panic around me had not effected me.

That day I wondered if the ride through life’s inevitable ups and downs could be every bit more fun if I let go of trying to control it, fear what I couldn’t see, and lean in assessing the truth of any given situation, with the best guidance I could muster and simply trust.

Is Trust your friend?

Do you walk hand-in-hand with trust or do you try and control as much as you can effectively kicking trust to the curb and white knuckling it through life?

Perhaps your relationship with trust is healthy and reality is your friend, and you have a fast-track lead to your intuition and all the wisdom available to you, and all is going swimmingly well for you.

If so, I wish you well.  Really.  I do.  I’m happy for you.

However, if you, like me, have a very sensitive or finely tuned vigilance of all things risky and dangerous, and this observed information is magnified by a very loud mind, whose desire is to keep you safe but can at times keep you frozen in speculation and fear, then you may have a rusty connection to a wonderful friend, Trust.

This year, as I have navigated some health challenges and multiple changes within our family, the word trust has come up over and over again.  Sometimes in relation to myself (self-trust) and for others (trusting those around me including medical resources).

I read this brilliant article on Faith by Amy Pearson and was reminded of the Brene Brown quote on courage.

“You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”

As I read Amy’s post, I was inspired to think of ‘trust muscle’ in the same way as Amy drew the parallel with the practice of faith.

What would you need to do to develop Trust Muscle?

What if you regularly tuned in to your inner wisdom, intuition, true desires and goals and leaned in to this rich life experience, with Trust by your side?

Years ago when I rock-climbed, trust was an unquestionable essential.

Your very life depended on trusting yourself, the move you were planning to make, the hold you chose, the gear you would place, your equipment, and your partner holding the rope.  You were grounded in reality while leaning in to trust.

So as a new year is upon us, trust is certainly the muscle I will be looking to flex and build.

What’s a muscle you’d like to build this year?  Is it Trust? Faith? Courage? Love?  Connection? I’d love to hear in the comments below.