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!

soccer ball

Get on the Ball

At a lovely breakfast with Marlies, a dear friend of mine, she told me about an issue she had with a recent boss. The analogy she gave to describe the situation was brilliant, so I asked if I could share it will you all.

Marlies was very frustrated with her boss. The manager was not very focused. Marlies’ told the manager to stop treating her like a soccer ball – telling her to do one thing, then minutes later redirecting her to do something else. Like a soccer ball she was sent right then left then backwards then diagonally. Either the manager didn’t know what needed to be done, was reactionary, or maybe she was just on a power kick to boss people around. Whatever the issue, Marlies requested that she be treated like a golf ball not a soccer ball. A golf ball is focused on one result and is continually sent closer and closer to that goal. No distractions. No side trips. No confusion over the goal to be accomplished.

soccer ballDo you have a manager that treats you like a soccer ball? How frustrating is it to never know the goal, to never be able to complete the task? With all the changes of direction it is hard to do our best work and to feel fulfilled.

If you run your own business, are you treating it like a soccer ball? Are you distracted by a new technology, a sudden opportunity, or the next best way to run your business? Often businesses, especially in the early stages, are running in circles on the soccer field. A clear strategy is not put to paper and followed. Perhaps the owner does not know the right course and is jumping at whatever comes up in the hopes that it will lead to success. Success, however, is usually the result of focused and consistent efforts.

For us personally, the soccer ball analogy is usually the cause of overwhelm and stress. We are the old juggler trying to keep fifteen plates spinning. We are running from one commitment or emergency to another. We are trying to do too much because we have over-committed and won’t ask for help. We have put the importance of the tasks above our own health and run ourselves ragged. Instead of finishing one task before moving to the next, we are inefficiently switching between tasks.

Besides being a soccer ball – those of us being pushed or pushing ourselves in multiple directions – sometimes we are a ball in a pinball machine. We are floating through life, failing to act, and being sent this way and that depending on what we bump into. We do not act. We are only reacting to things around us. The result is the same as the soccer ball and is even more harmful because we are completely out of control of our personal goals.

Where in your life are you unfocused and constantly shifting? What is the result? How does it feel to constantly change directions?

How would things shift if you focused on a single goal? You don’t have to make a hole in one. It is not speed but efficiency we are after. Being focused and not changing course constantly gives us the power to more effectively achieve our goals.

Take some time to review your work and home life. Are you a soccer ball or golf ball? How are ways you can become more focused?

time pieces

Sorry, I’m Not Available Right Now

Part of my day job is to make engagement calls to my career transition candidates. Sometimes I reach them. Sometimes I leave a voice-mail. The one situation that always intrigues me is when someone answers my call and then says in a huff tone, “I’m in a meeting.” Although I’m pretty brilliant, I am not yet psychic. I don’t have the foresight to know what people are doing when I call. The onus is not on me to not call, but on them to not answer.

The issue is not when to call or not, but one of control – or lack of control. Is it a badge of pride in our busy-ness that we have to take a call during a meeting? Is it the feeling of overwhelm that compels us to answer messages immediately to prove how much we have on our plate? Is it the lack of self-respect that we put the caller’s needs above our own? Is it feeling the victim of technology instead of using it for our benefit?

time piecesWhen we reduce ourselves to mindlessly answering calls, texts and emails when we are in the middle of something else, we are not only rude and unprofessional to those we are meeting with, but to me, more importantly, it means we are not being present. If we were 100% present in the meeting, we would not answer our phones.

A friend had the honor of meeting Sir Richard Branson on his private island. Here is a man who heads more than 400 companies. If anyone had to take a call during a meeting, we could understand why he would. But he didn’t. My friend mentioned how Sir Richard was solely focused on the individual speaking. No distractions. No impatience. Just a solid concentrated focus.

It is the same state I can get into during yoga and am trying to bring fully to the rest of my life. When I am “in the zone” during yoga, I am hyper aware of my breath, conscious of my movement, actively relaxing and deepening the pose. I am at one with the pose and there are no other thoughts or actions. Imagine what life would be like if we could approach everything that way.

Imagine being 100% present when your child tells you about their day. Imagine being fully with the one you love, without thinking of how the laundry needs to be done. Imagine focusing solely at the task at hand instead of being tormented by the other things on your to-do list.

One cool thing I have learned about being present during yoga, is that time expands. A 90-minute class feels like two hours. In fact, the first few times this happened, I got worried. I thought the instructor went over time and that I would be late for my client. But nope, same recorded amount of time, just a different experience of it. As I slowly bring this singular focus into my daily life, I find that my work day is less hectic. Time expands with my clients and between clients. What used to feel like constantly being behind the eight-ball, is now a work day of expansion and extra time. Nothing has changed except my focus, my ability to slow down and be in the moment.

Start taking control of your day by first controlling your phone. Turn it to silent and ignore it when you are working with someone else. Then, as best as you can, focus solely on the task or person at hand. Give them 100% of your attention. Then see how your efficiency, joy, and time all increase.

three leg stool

Three-Legged Stool

Yoga is part of my current daily practice. I have been learning many new lessons through the practice which I am bringing into my daily life. Today I would like to share with you three elements of yoga which can be the foundation of how you approach your challenges – on and off the mat.

A decade or so ago, I went briefly to a weekend workshop focused on finding your “one thing.” After the opening two-hour introduction, it felt like a cult and I high-tailed it out of there. The basics of the book and workshop were that if you found your “one thing” then you built your life around it. What I found funny was that some of the participants had been attending these workshops for years and either could not find their one thing or had changed it many times.

I think one of ththree leg stoole issues of the program was the focus on results and the physical world. The idea was to find a singular purpose, something tangible and achievable, and then create your life around that making it happen. Instead, what I have found in yoga and in my own life, is that a focus on ways of being allows a purpose to be revealed, evolve, and lead us on an amazing journey.

The three ways of being I am learning through yoga are: strength, balance, and flexibility.

Strength

For me, this one is easy. My Type-A personality is all about strength, perseverance, and making things happen. What I have had to come to accept about strength, is that I am not strong in all areas and that leading with strength is not always the best choice. I am learning my limits; where can and should I be strong, and what is not in my ability. As I flow more into Type Me, I also am releasing strength as my go-to tool and am learning to find other ways to approach life.

Balance

I write a lot about work-life balance, but balance is more than juggling the things in our lives. It is also about being centered. I am learning to be physically centered in my body on the yoga mat and out moving in the world. I am also returning to being centered in my mind and thinking. Balance is an inner strength and confidence no matter what is happening outside. It is calming the mind.  It is remaining still in the center of a storm.

Flexibility

When I think about flexibility, it is not giving in and bending over backwards for others. Flexibility is about remaining open; it is being a young branch swaying in the wind not an old brittle hardened stubborn branch susceptible to damage because of its rigidity. To be flexible is to be open to what we know and what we don’t know; being open to new opinions, personalities, and ways of living.

Strength, balance, and flexibility work together to create a powerful way of being. If we are only strong, we may become exhausted or rigid. If we only focus on balance, we may never move forward. If we only choose flexibility, we may be swayed too much by the wants and needs of others. When we use all three legs of the stool, strength, balance and flexibility, we create a strong foundation for living.

practicing yoga

A Bit of Self Care

I almost didn’t write a blog post this week, but then thought I would share what I am experiencing.

practicing yogaAfter a two-year hiatus, I started practicing yoga again. I love it. I enjoy it. It strengthens me. It helps be more flexible and centered. And, for those of you who do yoga, it can also be cleansing. After two months of dedicated practice, I am now experiencing a healing crisis. Basically, the yoga is doing such a great job helping me detox, that my body can’t keep up. My body can not release the toxins as quickly as needed. The result is a sort of a cold. Aches, pains, sneezing, and a host of other trying-to-detox symptoms.

At first, I thought I had a new food or environmental allergy. I tried to power through it. Then, with a friend’s help, I realized it was a healing crisis. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to label something so we can then deal with it? The first step to fixing issues is to step outside of the pain and look at things objectively. Once we can really understand what is happening and why, then we can address the problem and fix it.

The next step is to change our beliefs. At first, I resisted slowing down. Things are busy right now and I felt compelled to get everything done. But then I took the time to evaluate the responsibilities to which I committed myself. I looked at my to-do list and determined that no one was going to die if I didn’t take a day off. I changed my belief about what had to be done now and by me.

Finally, I granted myself permission to take care of myself in the way I was called. Friday was an afternoon writing for me, not for work. Saturday was my latest binge show (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), a nap, and the treat of a massage. Giving myself time and permission to heal has, you guessed it, helped me heal. The result is a clearer mindset and a healthier body.

We Type A’s, caregivers, and overachievers have a hard time with the concept of self-care. Taking care of ourselves is an afterthought, if a thought at all. We look at our to-do list and try to power through it. We feel obligated to perform at a certain level no matter how we feel. We are weighed down and allow ourselves to be defined and controlled by our assumed responsibilities.

What is overwhelming you right now? Take a moment to determine if it needs to be done, if it needs to be done now, and if it needs to be done by you. Release unnecessary obligations for now, or assign someone else to complete them, or release them all together. Then grant yourself a bit of self-care, whatever that means for you. To serve others we need to be at our best. Therefore, we have to ensure that we are the first person on our to-do list. Once you are consciously choosing your responsibilities and ensuring proper care for yourself, see if you aren’t happier, more productive, and healthier.

balance

Give and Take

Recently I wrote about living for yourself versus living for others. A lot of people contacted me about how difficult this was for them. Some said being raised Christian, they were imbued with a mission of giving to others as an act of Christian sacrifice. Others asked how to receive when you are a natural “giver” not “taker” kind of person. I hope to give some tools and support to my fellow “givers” so they can learn to give without depleting themselves and hopefully also learn to receive.

Redefine Sacrifice: Sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” The question to ask is why is someone or something always more pressing than your needs? Yes, sometimes others have a more pressing need than yours. Say for instance your child breaks their arm – I think we could all agree that their medical needs are more pressing than your daily needs at that moment. But look at how often you view your needs as less than others. Is it a weekly occurrence? Daily? Hourly? The other definition of sacrifice is “a loss incurred in selling something below its value.” Are you selling yourself short? Are you continually devaluating yourself? Helping others and the occasional sacrifice are wonderful, but if it becomes your normal way of living you are negating your value as a fellow human being.

balanceGive Without Giving Yourself Totally Away: The key is to give to others without giving away yourselves. As a coach this was a very important concept to learn. Throughout the day I give to others, but I do so without giving away myself. I exist. I desire. I receive. And I am able to give to others. Giving does not mean disappearing into others’ needs. Just like we give presents to those who love, the gift of giving should be something outside of ourselves. It adds to their lives without taking away from our own.

Create Boundaries: Determine who you give to and when you give. We do not need to be paid back for things we freely provide, but we should also not feel like we are being taken advantage of. Give only when it feels good to you. You should feel better and more fulfilled after you give, not drained. Giving should be as Ghandi has been reported to say, selfish. If your giving feels as good if not better for you than the person you gave to, then it is worth it. And remember, if it feels bad when you are giving, what you are giving out has bad energy as well, no matter how well intentioned your actions.

Release the Guilt: Nothing in the world requires you to give to others. It is a choice. Release your guilt and sense of obligation. Cut the emotional cord you have to others. This emotion is what ties you to guilt giving. Whether you think that others will not like you or that it would make you a bad person if you don’t give, recognize that you are not given for authentic reasons. Give freely and from the heart. Release any sense of duty or compulsion.

Model How You Want Others to Be: Many of the mothers I work with feel compelled to sacrifice for their children. However, what does this sacrifice teach your children? As a constant giver, you are showing your children that they are not worth as much as others. Be a mentor and model the ideal behavior. Show your children how you can give while still existing and receiving.

Be a Mentor Not a Fixer: Find the balance between giving and doing for someone. If we tied our children’s shoes for them and never taught them how, they would grow up to be adults who could not handle this simple function of adulthood. This is the old adage of “give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry.” Allow the other to take responsibility for themselves and be there to teach and educate, not to do it for them. Sometimes it is hard to watch those who are struggling, but remember you had to learn on your own too. Challenges educate and build character – don’t make it too safe or easy as you may actually be doing them a disservice.

You Are the Only One Taking Care of You: You are the only one responsible for taking care of yourself – accept the responsibility. Just like charity begins at home. Giving starts with giving to yourself.

Replenish Yourself: Large or small, giving and caring for others can deplete us. Find ways to give to yourself to help you recharge. Flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask before helping others. Be sure you are receiving adequate self-care before you give to others. This will ensure you are taken care of so you have something to give to others.

Stop Thinking All or Nothing: Release the notion that you can either be a giver or a taker. Sometimes you need help and sometimes I do. Focus on who needs the support at the moment and just make sure you get a turn. Or if it helps, wear the badge of giver – but be sure that one of the people you give to is yourself.

I hope these tips on giving have been helpful. Try a few out and let me know how is has shifted how and when you give.