I’m in on one of those when it rains, it pours phases. Yes, it’s monsoon season in my life!
In the last 45 days:
- Gems, my miracle cat, finally ran out of miracles.
- My mother, who lives alone on the other side of the country, was in a serious car accident that surfaced issues she’d been masterfully covering up.
- My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
- And yesterday Elsie, my 90-pound dog, had surgery.
My twenty-something self would have been in an OMG, OMG, stress-pouring-out-of-every-pore state. Thankfully, my years of practicing the skills of choice, awareness, and perspective, as well as lots of yoga, are keeping my fifty-something self a bit more grounded.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m feeling the stress. The fact that I’ve had laryngitis for a week is proof of that!
But what I know, learned one painful lesson at a time, is that while nothing’s going to make this easy, there are ways to make rough patches either more or less hard.
I’m going with make-it-less hard :-).
And so I’m using these seven tactics to increase my sense of control and keep myself grounded. You don’t have to wait for a monsoon to use them. These tactics work anytime you need them.
- Make a conscious choice to make things less hard.
The physical and emotional torment that comes from letting stress and worry spiral out of control doesn’t help anything.
Yet in the moment, it’s easy to forget that you can make things either more – or less – hard.
- Strategically share what’s going on.
This is not the time to use your energy pretending nothing out of the ordinary is happening. There are better uses for that energy!
I’m not suggesting you share every detail with everyone you know. But for the people who will notice something’s up, you’re better off giving them an explanation instead of leaving them to make assumptions (which are rarely connected to reality).
Plus, those people can offer support – even if it’s just a sympathetic ear.
- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do.
That’s a combination of redefining good enough, intentionally deciding what’s just not going to get done right now, AND giving yourself permission to be human.
- Amp-up your commitment to self-care.
In times of overwhelm, crisis, or simply too much going on, the first thing to go is usually self-care. And of course it’s the last thing that should fall off the list.
That’s why it takes an even stronger commitment than ever to make sure you’re doing something to replenish yourself.
These last 45 days my normal workout schedule has been blown to bits. And I’ve made it to exactly one yoga class. But I’ve dragged my butt (that’s exactly how it feels some days) onto my yoga mat for at least ten minutes a day every day to sit and focus on my breath. And there’s not been a day that the return on those minutes hasn’t been tenfold.
So remember to replenish yourself when you’re tempted to let self-care fall by the wayside.
- Breathe, breathe, breathe.
During times of stress, it’s an automatic response to hold your breath.
At least once an hour take 3-5 deeps breaths. It will help tremendously.
- Control what you can.
Even in the midst of things over which you have little control, there’s always something you can
For instance: spending a few minutes getting organized in the morning, intentionally choosing your mindset, making conscious choices, and that hourly deep breath.
The more you focus on what you can control, the more you’ll increase your sense of control.
- Practice gratitude
Even in the deluge of the monsoon, I’ve been amazed at how much good luck we’ve had.
My mother’s accident was a blessing in disguise, as it surfaced issues that could have resulted in a far worse outcome. Plus, we’ve found amazing resources to help her. And my sister is going to be fine.
And it’s all given me a great appreciation for how many monsoon-free years I’ve had. Gratitude has been a gigantic umbrella during this downpour!
Where in your life do you have the opportunity to make things less hard?
Monsoons don’t last forever, nor do thunderstorms or rain showers. But if it’s raining in your life in any way, commit to the seven steps above and I promise you’ll feel less stressed and more grounded, and you’ll have a greater sense of control.
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. ~ Gilda Radner
Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
January is prime time for “how to” advice on pretty much everything. Whatever your New Year’s resolution might be, there’s a how-to solution floating around.
You’ve probably seen the basic summary a hundred times.
Clearly articulate your goal. Define small steps. Have a timeline. Measure progress.
It’s good advice. Without those pieces your resolutions will quickly fall by the wayside.
But it’s not enough.
There’s no shortage of smart, committed, successful people who set clear goals and have a solid plan but aren’t seeing progress. Within a few months (or even weeks), they’re frustrated and wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
Sound familiar? I’ve certainly been there!
It’s the inner game that gets in the way.
The clearest goal and best plan on the planet aren’t enough.
Your thoughts, attitude, and choices are the foundation for creating what you want.
If you’re not making the progress you want, or if you’re just flat-out struggling to even get started, it’s time to look at how you’re getting in your own way.
Do any of the following seven internal barriers to success strike a chord?
1. Deep down inside you don’t really believe you’ll pull it off.
Your friends give you a million reasons why you can do this. But you’ve made this resolution (or something similar) umpteen times before, it’s gone nowhere, and you’re not confident this time will be any different. Or you’ve set a new goal, and you’re feeling anxious about whether you can pull it off.
Either way, your inner critic is whispering (or shrieking), “Oh come on, what makes you think you can do this?”
Committing to a goal is a leap of faith. It’s choosing to trust and believe that you’re fully capable of getting where you want to be.
Without faith, you’re defeated before you begin. Yes, you might have to choose to believe five, ten, even twenty times a day. And that’s okay.
2. You’re scared.
Most goals will require you to let go of comfortable patterns, habits, and mindsets. Stepping outside your comfort zone can be scary.
Chances are the resolutions you’ve made are about moving into an even better version of yourself, more fully inhabiting your potential. It’s exciting and a tad (or a lot) frightening.
So, acknowledge the fear, take a deep breath, and give yourself permission to keep going.
3. Your focus is on the outcome.
Of course we all want that feel-good moment of “Yay, I did it!” But too much focus on the outcome sets you up for a win-lose situation. Accomplish your goal – “I won!” Miss the mark – “Sigh, I failed.”
When the only two possible outcomes are succeed or fail, it’s far too easy to quit when it gets hard.
But here’s the thing: the path is rarely a straight line. It doesn’t matter if your goal is super tangible (run a 10-K, grow your business 20%, make a career change by X date), or a bit more broad (have more balance, improve your leadership skills, be more organized). There’s a 99.9% chance you’ll hit tough spots.
Instead of focusing on the outcome, focus on the process. Then your attention is on learning and growth, not success or failure. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, when you shift from outcome-focused to journey-focused, you’re much more likely to achieve your goal.
4. You’re all head, no heart.
Obviously, not literally ;-). What’s real, though, is that your intellect has been the major driver of your success. But there’s tremendous wisdom that lives in your heart and your intuition. The information that comes from those places is just as important – sometimes even more so – than what comes from your head.
As you work towards your goals, give as much credence to what you’re feeling as to what you’re thinking. You’ll be amazed at the brilliance you can access when you get out of your head.
5. You never stop moving.
You’re running to meetings, slamming through your to-do list, flying from place to place with barely a moment to catch your breath. “Stop moving? Are you kidding? I don’t have time for that, I have goals to achieve!”
The irony is that slowing down helps you create what you want. You need quiet time to access your inner wisdom and to clear your mind. Ten minutes of quietly sitting, a meditative walk, yoga, a long soak in the tub … anything that creates a sense of calm, space, and stillness will boost your success.
6. Your internal conversations are filled with negative self-talk.
“Why am I so undisciplined, lazy, unmotivated, [fill in your favorite]? Who am I kidding, I can’t do, be, change, [place your word here]. Oh bleep, it’s only a matter of time till I’m busted and everyone realizes I’m not smart enough, good enough, ____ enough.”
Say things enough, you believe them. Good or bad.
Choose the thoughts you want to hold, the ones that will support you. Otherwise, your thoughts will kick your goals to the curb.
7. You don’t make time for self-care.
Taking care of yourself – physically, emotionally and spiritually – is an act of love. It’s an act of love for yourself, for the people you care about, and for the impact you want to have.
Self-care is what fuels you. It keeps your passion alive, gives you the energy to focus on what’s important to you, and keeps you healthy and grounded so you can take on new challenges and stay the course when things get tough.
Are you unintentionally sabotaging your success?
It’s an essential question.
Your inner game is the key to creating what you want, to having and doing what’s most important to you. The work you do to get out of your own way is the best investment you can make in your success.
“The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it. ~ Charles DeLint
Fear less, hope more
Eat less, chew more
Whine less, breathe more
Talk less, say more
Love more and all good things will be yours.
It’s hard to believe (at least for me!) that 2014 is now in the rear-view mirror and the New Year has arrived.
The transition from December 31st to January 1st is just a single second, as is the changeover from any day to the next, but energetically it’s far from an ordinary changeover.
For the briefest of moments, we experience a clear demarcation between an ending and a beginning.
The confluence of endings and beginnings isn’t unusual; it happens all the time. But other than birthdays and anniversaries, they don’t tend to happen on predictable, recurring dates. And that makes the changeover from one year to the next special.
So before you fully leave last year behind and bound, saunter, slink, leap, scurry, or skip into the year that’s just begun, take a few moments to do so intentionally and lovingly.
And yes, I did say intentionally AND lovingly!
Without an intentional transition, you miss the opportunity to honor all that happened in the prior year, so you can step into the New Year with focus and purpose.
And without bringing love into the equation, it’s far too easy to look back at what you didn’t accomplish and the ways in which you didn’t get your *%^$ together. And that tees you up to start the New Year thinking not-very-nice thoughts about yourself or coming up with a list of correct-my-flaws resolutions or (gasp!) both.
Let’s try something different this year, okay? :-).
Honor, celebrate, learn.
And then set the stage for what you want to create this year.
And to help you do that, here are a few questions to help you create the conditions for an intentional and loving transition into 2015, setting you up for a successful and happy New Year! Spend some time reflecting on both the questions and your answers … it’s a lovely gift to give yourself!
Honor, celebrate, learn
- How did you grow in 2014?
- What’s different today versus the start of last year? What did you let go of? What did you create space for?
- Who did you become?
Creating what’s next
- What do you want 2015 to be about?
- What are you bringing into the New Year from last year? And what are you leaving behind?
- How do you want to experience the year?
- What do you want to create in your life this year? What do you want to learn, and how do you want to grow?
- How will you honor all of your learning and growth this year? (Not just the pieces that come wrapped in pretty packages. All of it!)
And last, but most certainly not least …
- Are you willing to give yourself permission to be YOU in all your glorious, messy, flawed, and perfect humanness?
From my heart to yours, wishing you a 2015 filled with success, joy, and sweet surprises!
… and forget the New Year’s resolutions, which are likely already drifting towards oblivion, buried under mounds of to-do lists and ingrained habits. Which is just as well since the overall success rate on New Year’s resolutions is abysmal!
So, now that they’re out of the way it’s the perfect time to reflect on the year ahead and choose a theme.
Though this may have been the year you were (really, truly) going to … be more focused, less intense, have more fun, work harder, live a healthier lifestyle, whatever you were going to do more of, less of, or improve … resolutions rarely do the trick.
And that’s where the theme comes in. It gives you a structure on which to hang your actions, reactions, and mindset, the “magic” combination that creates the kind of change that lasts.
For years, I had a recurring New Year’s resolution (sounds a bit like a recurring stress dream!): “This year I will be more organized.”
People who know me now fall over laughing when I share that; they can’t believe it’s not my natural state of being. But in fact it doesn’t come naturally, and year after year I’d whip myself up in a frenzy of setting up systems and processes, vowing to keep my office organized and my desk clean. Despite my best intentions, by February the receipt for purchases made in Staples’ organizing aisle was the last vestige of that goal.
And then thirteen years ago, in one of those duh! moments, I realized organized wasn’t what I really cared about; it was wasting time looking for stuff, getting distracted by all the things on my desk and worrying I’d forgotten something.
My theme for that year became “flowing smooth and easy.”
I said it out loud every morning, stuck it on my monitor, and looked at what was really needed to keep things flowing smoothly and easily. There were still plenty of action steps to get there, but it was also a huge perspective shift, and that’s what made the change stick.
There are an infinite number of themes. Which one will make the biggest difference in your year?
Take time to reflect on the year just past and consider what you want for yourself this year. Choose a theme that paints a picture of your desired outcome. Write it down; say it daily, whatever will keep it top of mind for you.
It won’t take long for your actions and thoughts to align with your theme … and with the way you want to live your life.
My client Joanne is in the midst of a difficult professional decision.
The option she knows is best for both her career and her happiness also happens to be the one that scares the *^&# out of her.
I have no doubt she has the courage to walk through her fear.
Joanne, however, doesn’t have quite the same level of confidence in her “courage capacity” as I do. So we’ve been working on building a courage habit – which, like any habit, comes from practice.
When I first suggested she start with small acts of courage, her response was, “You mean I should practice so I can really be courageous?”
Um, not exactly :-).
Doing anything that feels scary, uncomfortable, difficult, daunting, or intimidating is courageous. Doing those things regularly is practicing courage.
There’s not one iota of difference between practicing courage and being courageous.
Why practice matters.
This past year I’ve had clients who have courageously made big life changes – the kind of changes that call upon deep wells of courage and the faith that you’ll be fine no matter what. These are the changes that come from choosing to believe that you deserve to be happy, you don’t have to settle for less than your full potential, and that it’s not just okay to be who you are, it’s why you’re on this planet.
We’re talking bold, courageous choices.
But these choices didn’t happen overnight. They grew out of many small acts of bravery: day-to-day choices to get out of comfort zones, commitments to building resilience and grit and to practice courage.
It’s in these small acts of courage that you build your capacity to be the person you’re meant to be and to make the choices that lead to success and happiness.
The good news is that there are infinite opportunities to be courageous. And yes, that really is a good thing!
Here’s a tiny sampling of what “practicing courage” can look like.
- Offering up a different opinion or perspective despite worrying that you’ll be judged or dismissed.
- Asking for and accepting help when the very thought makes you feel vulnerable and you can barely refrain from saying, “No thanks, I’m fine.”
- Letting your colleagues, boss, and / or clients catch a tiny glimpse of the part of you that you fear they’ll find flakey, intense, weird, silly, nerdy, airy-fairy, or whatever it is you keep hidden.
- Taking care of yourself even though something else won’t get done and you struggle to justify why you’re more important.
- Saying no when no is hard and yes when yes is hard.
- Getting on your yoga mat, sitting down to meditate, and finding stillness knowing you’ll come face-to-face with yourself.
- Telling yourself the truth about how you’re getting in your own way – and then taking itsy-bitsy baby steps to get out of the way.
- Planting your butt in the chair to write every day when you’re in the midst of your worst case of writer’s block and your three-year-old self is screaming, “I DON’T want to do it.” (Okay, so maybe this is how I’ve been practicing courage recently :-) ).
- Taking a first step towards something – anything – that feels scary, uncomfortable, difficult, daunting, or intimidating.
I know you’ve practiced courage, because there’s not a chance you’ve never done anything outside of your comfort zone!
Because you deserve success AND happiness. And it takes a habit of consistent courage to have both.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”