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.

doing a headstand

Embrace the Challenge

Before moving down to Mexico, I would occasionally go to a gentle yoga class or do a few poses suggested by the Wii video game. When I first moved to Cabo, I had a practice of my own, for about a day. Truly for the first two years in Mexico my practice was non-existent. Finally, just after Christmas 2017, I knew it was time to get back into yoga.

Let me tell you, the first month I started back up, I was surprised at how bad I had become at yoga. Ok, so there is supposedly no good or bad to yoga, so let’s say that I had very limited flexibility, balance, and strength. It was a struggle for me. And I was angry at myself for slacking and at my body for not cooperating. I was disappointed at my abilities and was really hard on myself.

The 8am classes I attended are challenging, and I often felt like a floundering walrus doing the moves instead of a graceful swan. Toward the end of this style of class, the focus is on backbends and inversions. I remember the first time I heard, “If headstand is in your practice, go into it now.” I can imagine the incredulous look that passed over my face.  Needless to say, headstands were not in my practice. When I looked around the room however, most of the class had their feet in the air before I realized what had been said.

doing a headstandAs the morning class was the one I attended, my nemesis – the headstand – was ever present. The first few classes, I didn’t even try. I hid in child’s pose or tried to blend into the corner. Eventually I realized that headstands were part of the usual routine and that I could not get away from them, so I started to do the beginner version, the rabbit. I felt stupid with my tush in the air and my head and knees on the ground looking less like a rabbit and more like a discarded wad of gum. But it was more progress than not trying at all.

And, as usual, when I am hard on myself, I push myself to get better. I continued going to classes. I participated in the 30 days of yoga challenge in March. Little by little my strength, flexibility, and balance started growing the more I practiced. I started to learn that yoga was more of a mental journey than a physical challenge. I learned that getting well sometimes means getting sicker first and that there is strength in letting go. I learned the importance of balance on and off the mat and how to let go of self-judgment.

As I started to see my physical ability improve, I gave myself a challenge. My goal was to be able to do a headstand by my 50th birthday. This gave me over a year to reach this goal. My yoga instructor laughed at me. “Headstands are easy. You won’t need that long.” I mocked her. Did she not see my age, strength, and physical inability? I thought this was a Herculean task and she saw it as easy as tying my shoes.  Little did I know at the time that the issue was more mental than physical. The instructor thought fear was holding me back, but it was actually due to disbelief in myself and a tendency to keep myself down (in this case, physically as well as mentally).

It took me from April until June to do my first, albeit assisted, headstand. It was ugly, but I did one. Afterward, I started to do them with more strength and poise. I was no longer flinging myself in the air, but I was controlling my movements as I got into and out of the pose. Yes, I had strengthened my neck and core over the months, but the real reason I was able to do the move is that I took advice from my friend Catherine Johns and spent time outside class visualizing doing it. I overcame my body by first overcoming the limiting beliefs of my mind. The achievement of doing the pose gave me a strength in my body and mind that I don’t think I have ever felt.

What do you think is impossible in your life right now? It is time to take baby-steps toward your challenge?

carry water

Walk the Talk

A friend introduced me to an author and the founder of a new system to activate the use of our whole brain. After reading weeks of his posts, I don’t think there is validity to his system which is another get-enlightenment-quick scheme. But I did find one of his initial posts poignant.

In this post, he talks about how “awakening is our beginning – not our end.” Awakening or enlightenment is the transcendence of our human minds and existence. Meditation, prayer, and numerous other tools help us transcend our physical lives and get a glimpse of the deeper meaning of life. The point he brings up is that this glimpse does not mean we are transformed forever. Enlightenment gives us the information for a better life, but then we need to choose to live that way each day.

carry waterIn my 20’s and early 30’s, I worked with a psychologist. Early on he put me on a medication. It was a very low dose, but it was enough to help me feel what life could be without stress. It didn’t, however, take my stress away. It showed me that life could be different, but it didn’t make my life different. The medication showed me that it was possible and then I had to work every day to maintain that stress-free feeling. My daily actions, the daily habits I created and utilized were the things that made a difference in how I experienced life. The medication showed me the possibility, but it did not alter my long-term experience. I had to do that.

Many experiences in Peru gifted me with amazing insight into the beyond, how we are all one, and the truest meaning of life. It was there that I also learned the old phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” We may glimpse the amazing truth beyond our human existence, but then we still need to live on earth with traffic jams, bickering families during holidays, and irate managers. Having a moment of enlightenment does not changes us. Trying to live our lives based on what we gleam from that moment of enlightenment is what changes us.

The first book I wrote, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, was designed to help you wake up. It was meant to show you that there is a different way. Hopefully in using the tools in the book you can experience a pop of transcendence here and there, or at least begin to see that there is a better, more joyful, move loving, more peaceful way to live. Currently I am working on two new books, one that is meant to help us learn to walk the talk of enlightenment. The difficulty is not finding enlightenment, but to experience a higher form of living each and every day, no matter what is going on around us. And sorry, but this takes work and effort, it is not found in some new age tool that will automatically leap you into this new way of being.

Have you had a moment of transcendence? If so, share with us here. As you go about your day, be aware of how often you are in – and out – of that loftier way of being. How often are you triggered by situations or individuals? How often do you fall into depression, anger or resentment? Can you pull yourself out of these negative experiences and back into the transcendent experience you desire?

airplane above the clouds

Rise Above

As my plane approached Chicago and I enjoyed the warm sun streaming through the porthole window onto my face, I remembered that Chicago was in the midst of intense rainstorms. Where was the rain? Perhaps the forecast was wrong.

After a few minutes, the captain began the descent and the plane went below the beautiful sunlit clouds plunging into darkness. Rain poured. Lightening danced. Here was the rainstorm that the forecasters had portended. Interesting how that storm was not apparent, and was not a worry, when we were above the clouds at a higher altitude.

airplane above the clouds
Photo by Thammie Cascales on Unsplash

We spend most of life under the clouds. We are in the midst of the storm of life dealing with issues, challenges, sorrows, and conflicts. From where we are, we can’t see anything besides rain. We only see the storm. We only see the pain. We only see the issues. We only see the challenges. We only see the sorrows. Life is hard. This is only true because we are keeping ourselves at this lower altitude, this lower vibration. We soak in the negativity. We resonate with the pain. We don’t expect better.

It is possible to rise above the storm. Since we don’t have our own planes and a pilot’s license to take us to a higher level, we can use these tools to help us rise above into a higher vibration.

Gratitude: Our minds automatically go to the bad, to the danger so we can protect ourselves. It is a biological, survival technique handed down generation to generation. And it is necessary for our survival. It is not necessary, or conducive, to our happiness. When you feel stuck below the clouds replaying your pain and woe, take time to list at least five (5) things for which you are grateful. This act refocuses our brains and our attitude to see above the clouds.

Act: When we are down, we tend to wallow in the negativity. We stare blankly at bad television while mindlessly ingesting our vice of choice. We have low energy. Instead of taking a nap which will not recharge us, take action. Muster whatever energy you have. Clean the pot that has been in the sink for a week. Pick a weed or two. Go for a walk. Waking up our bodies will also wake up our minds, taking us out of morbid reflection.

Connection: Talk to a friend. Talk to a stranger. By reaching out to another we get out of the loop of sadness replaying in our minds. We are listening to another. We are connected to someone else. We are no longer in the mind-storm and once more connected to a larger world.

Service: A step further than just connecting is to actually serve someone else. This could be helping at a soup kitchen or smiling at the cashier who appears to be having a bad day. When we give to another, when we wipe away someone else’s storm clouds, we receive the same joy in return, and then some. In giving to another we are not just affecting them but are healing everyone they touch, including ourselves.

When you find yourself in a storm, remember you can rise above the clouds. You can find your joy again through gratitude, action, connection, and service. Through these tools you can rise above the rain clouds into the sunny skies.

taking action

Power in Action

Job transition is very emotional for the job seeker. Losing their job is often unexpected and makes them feel insecure. They are heartbroken to be let go after decades of service or recent 80-hour weeks of dedication. They are concerned they are too old, too inexperienced, or don’t have enough education to land their next job. Added to all of these emotions, is the truth that they are not in charge of the outcome. They can not determine when a job is posted. They can not ensure they will receive an interview. They can not guarantee they will receive an offer. All of this lands them into a state of depression and hopelessness. The result is many job search candidates feel powerless and disheartened.

To help them feel empowered and strong enough to make the effort, I help them release and refocus.

taking action
Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

First, they need to release their focus on the outcome. Many candidates say they want a position by a certain date or at a certain company. It is not ideal to have these as goals because they can not affect the outcome. Focusing on things we can not affect only creates worry, stress, and tension. Together the candidate and I work to let go of what they can not affect.

Second, refocus. Instead of looking at the end result, we look at what they can affect during the process. We work on fine-tuning their resume and LinkedIn profile; both things are very much in their control. We focus on having a strategy for their search; they can control their strategy. We focus on their efforts to network; they can control their outreach and we release the outcome from that outreach. We focus on preparing for interviews; they can not control the interviewer or the results of the interview, but they can control how well they prepare before and perform during the interview.

By releasing what they can not control and by controlling what they can, the candidates find much more power and peace in their search. And they are also much more effective. Instead of spending time worrying about things out of their control, they are working on the things they can affect and therefore progress faster and better in their search.

This reminds me of the serenity prayer attributed to theologian-philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” For the job seeker, they need to release into the truth that there are certain parts of the job search they can not change. Then they need the courage to take action on the things they can affect. And, during our coaching sessions, I usually help them to navigate between the two.

What in your life is currently making you impatient or upset? What parts of the situation are beyond your control? What would it take for you to release your focus on these aspects of the issue? Then investigate what you can change. What is in your ability to affect? How can you summon the strength and courage to take action? As you explore your challenge, reach out to me or another for some support in determining what you can affect and what you can release.

Whether for one specific issue or in navigating the complexity of your life, take some time every morning to categorize your worries into accept and act. Then summon the patience and trust to release what you can not affect and the courage to affect what you can.

nighttime routine

The Necessity of Daily Habits

Throughout my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, I enforce again and again the importance of Daily Habits. “Because life changes, it is necessary to have Daily Habits to keep us centered and focused on the life we want. This is why they are Daily Habits, not one-time tools. The work in this book is not to be completed and then forgotten. It is one thing to know the road. It is something different to walk it.”

If you have read my blog for any time now, you must know that I am not perfect. Because of this, sometimes I forget to take my own advice. Recently, I fell off the Daily Habits bandwagon. “I got this,” I think. “I wrote the book, literally, on stress relief and living joyously. So now I don’t have to put any effort into it. I can just get on with living.” Wrong.

nighttime routineIt is ok to take a break from our Daily Habits. Maybe on vacation or during an emergency. A few days here or there. Or perhaps we take a bit of time off, so we can consider which Habits are helping us and which need to be revised. But taking off weeks or months at a time can be detrimental. After being away from my Daily Habits, I first notice that I reach for bandage solutions to handle difficult situations. Instead of being centered and having the ability to think clearly, I look to quick-fix pacifiers for issues. They make me feel better in the moment, but they don’t resolve the issue. Then, over time, I notice that I am not handling non-difficult situations well either. I am irritable, resentful, and triggered by the smallest things. I find myself having tantrums like a three-year-old who is not getting their way, feeling out of control and powerless. Then finally, I hit whatever bottom I need to in order to snap out of this phase and go back to my Daily Habits. Within a few days I am more centered, have clearer focus on issues, and just enjoy life better.

If you do not already have Daily Habits or if perhaps it is time to revised and reinvigorate your Daily Habits, let’s review the components of a Daily Habit routine. First, create your personal Daily Habits by what feels good to you. Absolute right and wrong don’t exist. Some things will work for you, and some won’t. Consider it okay. Create your habits from your center, your heart, and your core. Ensure your habits are in alignment with you. Here are some components you can choose from for your Daily Habits or create some of your own. Find two or three that resonate with you and that you can commit to doing daily.

  • Every morning read from the inspirational book of your choosing. What you read and even how much you read is not as important as the text being something that makes you feel calm and centered, and that it helps you see your life, your relationships, and the world more objectively.
  • Do something to feed your soul. Whether it is something creative, cooking a wonderful meal, or playing Sudoku, spend a little time doing something that stirs your soul.
  • Before getting out of bed think of five (5) things for which to be grateful. These gratitudes can be as simple as having a nice bed to wake up in and air to breathe.
  • At the beginning of the day write your intentions and goals to focus your efforts.
  • Spend at least fifteen (15) minutes in the State of Gray or meditation.
  • Move! Take a walk, practice yoga, or go for a swim. Whatever gets your blood pumping.
  • Google some different breathing techniques and find one that calms and centers you.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to check in with your mood, stress level, thoughts, and attitude. If you are headed down the wrong path, try to get back to center.
  • Take some time to write, say or listen to positive affirmations.
  • At the end of the day, journal about the good things that happened to you throughout the day. We tend to focus on the negative so purposefully calling out the good can shift our mindset.

Remember to use these Habits daily. They are not something to learn, have your life changed by, and then move on. The key to making permanent changes in your life is by using Daily Habits to help you through everyday stress. These habits also give you a solid foundation to manage when major stressful events occur.

Share with us here the Daily Habits you are going to commit to for the next thirty days.