two door Honda

Accept Yourself

The car I drive in Mexico, is not built for Mexico. I manage ok, but there are certain things I can not do. I can not take the short-cut dirt roads because they may not be smooth enough for my little two-door Honda. I need to take topes – oversized speedbumps – at an angle or I hear the scrape across my undercarriage. Down most roads I look like I am playing the old video game “Frogger” as I move right and left to avoid potholes. I can drive down here, but I just do it very differently than the people flying past me in their 4×4 SUVs which are meant for off-road driving.

two door HondaOur bodies are like our cars. They are our means of moving in the world, yet we need to also accept that not all bodies are built the same. Like our cars, we need to accept what our body can do, we need to adapt in situations that are not ideal for our bodies, and we need to uncover and accept the superpower our unique body was built for.

Accept Yourself

This past year I have written a lot about my battle with yoga. I tried to be something I wasn’t. I pushed my body to do things my body was not made for. I put myself down because I thought I should be able to do what the instructor 30-years my junior could do. This unacceptance of my body began as I grew up in the 1970’s when tall thin models like Twiggy were the ideal – and very different from my Rubenesque shape. I often felt “wrong” and “bad” because I did not fit someone else’s definition of ideal or beautiful.

My body is not imperfect. It is like saying my little Honda is a horrible car. It is not!  It is the most awesome car in the world, in my mind. I accept and love my car very much, even though it is not ideal for the driving conditions in my area. I need to accept and love my body, even though it is not meant for high impact yoga and I can not slam dunk a basketball. My body is mine and is perfect for me.

I love this article about the “imperfect” yoga teacher and how she accepts her body and what it can do. My guess is that she empowers her students of varying shapes and sizes maximize what their body can do and love the shape they are in.

Accept your body as it is. Don’t try to be someone else’s ideal. If you decide to improve your body, make sure it is based on your goals and capabilities, and that you are not making changes to try to match someone else’s definition of “perfect.”

Adapt

Due to the road situation where I live, I have to adapt how I drive my car. I can not take the dirt road shortcut, and I have to slow down for potholes and topes. Same goes for our bodies. There may be things we want to do, but we can not do them in the classical or regular way.

I ran across this video the other day about a man with no hands who does card tricks. He loved magic and wanted to do magic, but all the magic books explained the tricks using hands, i.e., sleight of hand. Instead of giving up his passion, he created his own tricks based on what his body could do. And he managed to fool two of the most well-known magicians with his skill.

What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you think your body is holding you back from accomplishing your dreams? How can you adapt and adjust how you go about things so you can do what you want?

Find Your Superpower

Although my little Honda can not maneuver some of the rough roads surrounding where I live, it does have superpowers. It has quick acceleration which is needed for merging into fast traffic or avoiding the unexpected action of a fellow driver. Plus, it has amazing gas mileage those SUVs can only dream of matching.

Many years ago I wrote an article about Lynne Cox. On paper, her body is less than ideal and is, in fact, considered obese. But Lynne has a superpower. Her body is uniquely built for swimming, and swimming in extremely cold water-temperatures. She can do what others can not do, no matter how hard they try, because she is built for it.

I may not have a supercool superpower like Lynne, but I know my lack of height has gifted me with not constantly hitting my head on things and I never complain about airplane seats being too close together; leg room is not a concern. Think about what makes your body unique. How has it gifted you with talents that others find difficult?

Instead of being angry that you were born with an imperfect body. Spend some time loving and accepting the body that helps you move throughout your life. Learn to adapt how you approach things so your body can do for you what you want it to. And uncover and embrace your superpower.

planning

How to Change

I have been listening to John Siddique on Insight Timer. One thing he shares is about how self-help articles often tell us what to do – we should have more self-esteem, we need to treat our bodies better, we need to release our past – but they don’t say how we accomplish these things. I believe if I asked you each right now what you should do to change your life for the better, you could easily come up with a list of things you should do. And if I asked you how you were going to make them a reality, you may come up short. Or if you do have a plan to make them happen, you probably find it hard to follow your own program.

Below are a few tools I use to create change which help me and many of my clients to accomplish our goals.

Ask Why Change is Important

planningWe know what we should do. We know what is best for us. We read the data; we know the facts. However, many times we don’t really buy into it because we are fearful, feel unworthy, or just think we can’t accomplish it. As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough.” Knowing what we should do is not enough. We need to dig deeper. We need to get down to the real reason we want change. I found a great TED talk that recommends that we “start with the question.” I often do this when I coach people; I call it being the two-year old. I ask “why” and then to each of their answers, I ask “why” again. With each “why” we get closer and closer to the real truth. The real desire. The real fears. It is not what we think should do but what we are driven to do from the deepest part of our being that empowers us to make change. We have to get past our lies or others’ expectations, to the truth of what we really want. It is in this vulnerability that we can choose and stick to what we really want.

Stop Looking for the Reason

We use “why” to help us get to our personal truth, but asking the bigger “why” – the reason behind our situation – is not helpful. The other day I was learning about indirect objects in my Spanish class. In a few situations, verbs are not handled like they are in English. Instead of saying “I like chocolate,” the direct translation in Spanish is “Chocolate is pleasing to me.” In the Spanish sentence structure chocolate is take the action, not me. Because the concept is so different, I wanted to know the “why” behind it. I wanted to use logic and knowledge to help me learn. Truth is, there is no logic per se. It just is. It is a fact of that language. Personally, I spent many years trying to find the reasons in my past of why I act and think like I do. Some of this reflection was good and a little bit of understanding is helpful. But knowing the deep-down sole reason “why” things are like they are is not necessary for change and does not always exist. Don’t get stuck in trying to find the why. It only keeps you from moving forward.

Don’t Be Rigid

When we want to make changes in our life, we often create a plan we are going to enact – a daily diet plan, the number of times we will go to the gym, or other resolutions – and we try to force ourselves to adhere to that said plan. And to which we usually fail. The reason why is that we think we know the right answers today for what is going to happen tomorrow. We don’t. Life changes and we need to adapt to it. What we think will work may not and we need to adjust. Instead of creating a rigid plan to follow, have some simple goals like “I choose to be healthy” or “I am deepening my relationships.” Then in each moment ask yourself if the belief or action you are choosing is making you more healthy or is improving your relationships. If not, choose differently. After choosing for a few weeks, you will see a pattern of good choices arise that will then become your new way of being.

Be in the Moment

As mentioned above, instead of following a plan, change is best accomplished by making moment by moment choices. To make moment by moment choices, you need to, obviously, be in the moment. Throughout your day, try to focus on the present moment. Steer away from replaying the past or worrying about the future. As Ram Dass wrote, “Be here now.” Use meditation and mindfulness tools to help you retrain your mind to be in the moment. You can not change the past or control the future. Change only happens in the moment.

Choose, Don’t React

You are empowered to change. Really. You may not be able to change circumstances or the actions of others, but you can control your reactions to people and situations. One other benefit of being in the moment is to that you can learn how to choose your thoughts and actions, instead of having them be unconscious reactions. First, strive to be aware. Next, discern the thought/action which will serve you best.  Finally, act. A friend once told me, “You are responsible for your second thought and your first action.” Our first thought is usually a knee-jerk reaction based on fear and past experiences. This is human and part of us all. The key is not acting on this first thought. Take a breath, think about options, and choose the healthiest thought you can. Then act on that second thought. Breaking out of a reactionary way of being empowers us to make better choices.

I hope one or more of these concepts will help you create the changes and life you want to live.

dog on tightrope

Achieving Balance

Here is a dog on a tightrope. Really. It. Is. A. Dog. On. A. Tightrope. I don’t usually share cat, or in this instance, dog videos in my posts, but better way to get your attention about what balance really means. As you watch this talented guy, you will see that he doesn’t get on the rope and stand perfectly still. He is in constant motion. He is constantly readjusting. To balance on the rope, he is moving and adapting in every moment.

dog on tightropeIt is the same with our balance. To be in a state of balance takes continual readjustment.

I think the pain many of us feel is that we expect to one day reach a state of perfection; to find the perfect way to be and handle our day – and that it is repeatable in the same way every day. We believe there is one perfect state of being and once we find it life will be steady.  This steady state of perfection does not exist. As life constantly changes, so too do we need to continually shift. Balance is not a point on a graph, it is not a timetable to be adhered to, it is not the perfectly planned execution of our day. Balance is our ability to constantly shift and adapt to the ever-altering and ever-changing way of life. When things are not shifting and changing, they are dead. To be alive is to be constantly moving, shifting, changing, and growing.

Somewhere along the line, work-life balance was assumed to be a steady-state. It was assumed there was a mythic point were the needs of our personal lives meet perfectly with our work responsibilities; 8.75 hours at work, 10.2 for personal care, and 5.05 for our family each and every day, not shifting, but uniformly working like clockwork. Sorry folks, a perfect ratio of time does not exist. Work-life balance takes constant readjustment. Child gets sick – life needs a bit more time. Deadline for your work presentation is tomorrow – your career gets the focus. Unexpected guest pops by – plans are dropped and redeveloped. Throughout the week, day, and each hour we are constantly adjusting our focus and efforts to maintain balance based on the changing world around us.

To gain balance sometimes we need to add one thing, sometimes another. As I tend to lean towards being a stressed-out Type A, I often write about bringing calm and self-care to my life. But sometimes I need deadlines, focus and concentration. Perfect balance is not just adding one thing. It is the pendulum swinging from surrender/peace to concentration/effort. Back and forth, and back and forth, in a continuous state of movement.

As you head into this new year, do not set resolutions to bring you what you think is perfect balance. No one formula exists which will work every day and in every situation. Instead, set a resolution to go about your day in a state of constant readjustment. It is in the moment by moment choices we make that we find happiness, good health, and success. The plan you make now for the rest of 2019, will be foiled by the gifts, glitches and unexpected changes which will happen over the next 365 days. Focus on the next 24 hours, not the next 12 months. See how focusing on the moment will give you the power to find as much balance as you can each and every day.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!

building blocks

Building Blocks

I work with a lot of perfectionists. The reasons they became perfectionists may differ, but they do share a few challenges because of their desire for perfectionism. First, they have high expectations for themselves and others. This can be a good personality trait when used with realism, otherwise it can be very detrimental. Second and surprisingly, sometimes perfectionists give up too early; we lack persistence. If we are not immediately perfect, we quit and stop trying. And finally, we perfectionists lack patience for completion which can affect our happiness. By focusing on the building blocks instead of the overall achievement, perfectionists – and others – can accomplish what they desire without unnecessary stress and hopefully also find joy along the way.

Expectations

The other day I spoke to a driven overachiever who had just taken on a new challenge. She was attacking herself for not perfecting something new immediately after setting the goal. I compared it to deciding to start running and berating oneself for not winning the Chicago Marathon the next weekend.

Building Blocks: It is important to have realistic expectations for what we c

building blocks
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

an accomplish. If we decide to take up running, winning the next marathon is not a realistic immediate goal. However, waking up the next morning, stretching our legs, and putting on our running shoes is a good first goal. Trying to do too much too fast will only hurt us (and maybe others) and we will probably not achieve what we want. Analyze what you are capable of doing in this moment and set realistic goals. Then as you master each level move on to the next, but only when you are ready.

Persistence

Another aspect of expecting immediate mastery is that if we can’t achieve perfection on our first attempt, we attack ourselves for incompetence and stop trying. If we are not first, we are last so better to get out of the game before we are labeled a “loser.” A recent client had this all or nothing attitude. Either she was amazingly accomplished or she was a failure. She saw no middle ground. She gave no credit to her progress. Her success at the overall goal determined her self-worth.

Building Blocks: By breaking down our goals, we can celebrate our wins during each step. Instead of thinking we are a failure because we don’t have our degree on our first day of class, we can celebrate showing up for that class. Then we celebrate passing each test then passing each class then finishing semesters then completing years, until finally we can celebrate our degree. The key to persistence is constant recognition of how far we have come.

Patience

I heard you perfectionistic Type A’s laughing. Patience is not part of our vocabulary. Even if we create realistic expectations and break them into smaller goals that we persistently work through, we may feel very impatient with how long things take. I ran across a story the other day about how it took Ann Dowd until her 50’s to really make it in acting. This article is a great read for many reasons. For us, it is a lesson in staying in gratitude and joy throughout the process, even if it takes decades.

Building Blocks: Focusing on the end goal creates impatience and disappointment. Achieving the goal gives you 30-seconds of satisfaction. The processes leading up to that goal may give you years or even decades of enjoyment. When we stop looking at the accomplishment, we can tune into how blessed we are to experience the journey that takes us to our goal.

I agree with Daniel Burnham when he said, “make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” And . . . I think we have to cut ourselves a bit of slack. Mr. Burnham didn’t say one had to accomplish those plans immediately or perfectly. He didn’t say that failing was the end of the world. And from what I can tell, he had a pretty good time accomplishing what he did. Look at your goals. Are they realistic? Are you trying to accomplish too much at one time? Are you berating yourself for not doing as much and as perfectly as you would like to right now? Slow down. Accept what you can truly accomplish in the moment. Celebrate where you have come from and how far you have progressed. And please, enjoy the ride.

exit sign

Change, Accept or Leave

Often when I work with those frustrated by their current position, we come to the point of choosing between Change, Acceptance, and Leaving. When you are in a situation which is not working for you, you have three choices:

Change: What can you change about the situation to make it better? What is within your control to adjust to make the circumstances a little bit easier to handle? What bigger challenge can you take on to make things better, not just for you, but for everyone? What can you do to make long-lasting improvements?

Acceptance: If you can’t change the situation, accept it. Much of our stress occurs when we want something to be other than it is. By accepting the reality of the situation is what it is, you can find relief and strength to persevere.

exit signLeave: If you can’t change the situation and it is truly unhealthy for you mentally or physically, leave. This is not throwing in the towel or giving up, but it is consciously choosing to move into a better space.

A couple of notes on this subject:

Leaving is Not Your First Option: When we are hit by adversity, it seems like the easiest route is to walk away. At the first sign of discomfort or disagreement, we may want to bolt. This is never the right choice. Every challenge we have is an opportunity for growth. If we constantly refuse to face challenges, we will only get bigger and bigger challenges to handle. Have the strength to face adversity so you can move through it.

Acceptance is the Last Option: I always used to say change, accept, or leave. But I think I had the order wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that acceptance is one of the tools we should use daily to minimize our stress level, find compassion, and have a happier life. But we also have a right to be happy. We shouldn’t rush to acceptance to make it easier for others, when that means it is making it more difficult for us. A better option is to first try to change the situation. This is going to be the best option in the long run, but unfortunately it is not always available. Second, leave. If it is not working for you and you can’t change the situation, move into a situation which is better for you. You deserve it. Finally, if you can’t change the situation or remove yourself from it, accept it. This acceptance will give you strength and power to handle your adversity.

You Deserve to Be in the Right Space: Leaving doesn’t always solve your problems, but sometimes you need to literally move into the right place. You deserve to be where you are seen and appreciated. You deserve to be respected and considered. You deserve to be in a place that feels right to you. Don’t make decisions solely based on the needs of others. Consider your needs first. You are the one person in the world responsible for them. Trust that others will take the responsibility for their needs as well.

What is a less than desirable situation in your life right now? Do you need to change, leave, or accept it?

love it or list it

Love It or List It

Working with a client the other day, we were trying to get to the heart of what she needs in her life right now. She was dissatisfied but had a hard time defining what she wanted, what would fulfill her. To get her unstuck, I tried approaching the subject from a few different angles. Finally, she said, “oh, I get it, like Love It or List It.”

Love It or List It is one of the ubiquitous home remodel shows currently filling the airwaves.  The concept is to help couples whose homes no longer work for them. The couple lists everything that is not working with their home. Then one of the hosts sets to remodel the home with this list in mind while the other host searches for the perfect new home. At the end of the show, the couple decides to either love their newly remodeled current home or to list their current home and buy a new one.

love it or list itWhen one buys a home, it is perfect for them in that moment, but then things change. Children are born, grow up, and leave an empty nest. The home that was perfect in the beginning may not be perfect as things shift. The same goes for our life. A decision we made 10 years ago, which was the right decision, may now leave us with something that no longer works. When we realize we have outgrown our life, it is time for a change.

When we are considering changes in our life, we often think we have to list it. We are frustrated and unhappy. We think we need to quit our job, get a divorce, and move to Patagonia. The result is either we become stuck because those changes are too large to contemplate. We know that things need to change but we only see the all or nothing options which stifle us against any change. Or we throw caution to the wind and jump blindly into a major change, many times when we didn’t need to. We throw the baby out with the bathwater and lose the good things in our lives trying to rectify some of the not so good things.

Using the show as a premise, here is a three-step process to changing your life.

  1. Make a List: Look through your work, home, relationships, finances, and all of the aspects of your life. What is not working? Where could you use more space? Where are you having trouble functioning easily? What feels old and worn out? What does not express who you truly are? Instead of looking at that one thing which is not serving you, take a full inventory so you truly understand how your current life is functioning and where it could use improvement.
  2. Remodel: Look at the list you made and prioritize it by what would be most impactful. Then determine how you can make adjustments to the top priority areas to improve them. This is a remodel, not selling and moving. What tweaks can you make in make your life to make it a little bit better?
  3. Love It or List It: Allow some time after your remodel and see how things have shifted. Have the smaller changes in your life given you the joy you are looking for? Do you feel more comfortable and fulfilled in your life? If so, acknowledge and embrace it. If not, begin to look at larger changes you may need to make.

Sometimes we need some time and a blank slate to look at our lives without our responsibilities and previous choices so we can really analyze what is going on. Sometimes we need bite-size changes to give us the courage and momentum to move forward into a necessary transition. And sometimes, we do need to walk away. However, in much of my life I have seen more positive shifts in tiny changes. What do you need to remodel in your life?