There’s something about the month of January and the New Year that has us all setting goals and new intentions for our health, our careers, and our relationships. Some call it resolutions, others say it’s a lifestyle change. Call it what you will, you will need two elements to make it happen: Commitment and a beginner’s mind.
Here I am, on my yoga mat unable to even touch my toes. Again. Huffing and puffing halfway through my second sun salutation makes it hard to believe that fifteen years ago, I would do 4 hours a day of yoga at an ashram. My inner dialogue is quickly taken over by my inner itty-bitty-shitty-committee. “You’re getting too old for this. Look around you everyone here is gracefully sliding through to the next pose. It’s been ten minutes and you can barely breathe, obviously it’s time to quit. Maybe, if you weren’t two-ton Sally and a size zero like the rest of them you’d be able to actually stay in down dog and not have to collapse into child’s pose instead. This is embarrassing, you are embarrassing. Just give up already.”
Have you ever heard that critical voice in your own head?
It happens to all of us and in a variety of different situations. Cutting out sugar from your diet will make a donut literally talk to you. Choosing to get up earlier to run before work makes 5 am darker and colder than it ever was before. The self-doubt as you sit in front of your keyboard ready to write that book you’ve been meaning to write for years can immobilize your fingers and freeze your thoughts into a block of jumbled words. These are the things that stop us dead in our tracks when it comes to resolutions and lifestyle changes. So how do we mere mortals overcome that inner critic that lives inside every human being on the planet?
The beginner’s mind
It can be very humbling as a grown adult who has the rest of their “stuff” together to find themselves in the start position. You can be very successful in other areas of your life like leading a team at work, running a business, or managing a household with children and a spouse’s schedule to maintain. And suddenly there you are fumbling around without a clue.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to say to my children, “If you would just do what I suggested the first time you never would’ve gotten into this mess.” Preventing a mistake is easy when you know all the steps and have practiced them a thousand times before, but the whole point of learning (for our children and ourselves) is to actually make the mistake. Adults don’t like to make mistakes.
Part of the reason we quit on resolutions and change is that we want to get it perfect right away. We don’t want to take the time to learn and we don’t want to look stupid or clumsy while we’re learning. But if we could just embrace that innocent curiosity of a toddler exploring the world and allow ourselves the time and mistakes we can see the beautiful dance unfolding in our inability to march in step with the experts.
It’s been said by many a great motivational speaker, “Are you just interested in (fill in the blank) or are you committed?” I have to admit, I’m interested in learning to mountain climb. Me, who is afraid of heights and can’t breathe through two sun salutations. I would love to scale those majestical beasts here in the Canadian Rockies and take pictures of the vistas from the top of the world… But am I committed to purchasing all of the climbing gear, including harnesses, climbing shoes, helmets, ropes, and carabiners? Am I committed to climbing in the bitter cold? Am I ready to let go of my other hobbies and focus my time and attention on learning this new skill? Not really, not at this point in time. I’m not saying never, just not now.
What are you committed to? What do you want so bad that you can taste it? That you can see yourself in it that you can feel the emotions it will create? The best way I have found to stay committed to something is to know WHY I want it in the first place.
Here’s a great commitment exercise
(which, by the way, you can do on any day of the year multiple times of the year not only on January 1st)
- Take a journal and write out the goal you want to achieve
- Write out why you want that goal. What purpose does it serve? Who will you be when you reach that goal? What will be different in your life and/or in the world?
- What do you have to do or say Yes to in order to reach that goal? What do you have to stop doing or say No to in order to reach that goal?
- Take a piece of masking tape and laying down in a door’s threshold or lay a broom handle on the ground. Read what you wrote in your journal out loud to yourself or a trusted friend or partner and then cross the line. Just like jumping the broomstick in the African and Celtic cultures you will be married and committed to your goal.
Here I am again, on my yoga mat pushing through my shortness of breath inching closer to touching my toes allowing myself to be a beginner and embracing my commitment to my health and wellbeing. Who knows, maybe a year of practicing mountain pose will lead to a commitment to climb a mountain one day.
Are you looking for a little extra support to reach your goals this year? Drop me an email and I would be happy to offer you a complimentary discovery call to see if coaching with me will get you there.
I can’t tell you how many people ask me what coaching really is, or how often they misconstrue it for therapy or consulting. That being said coaching is also quite difficult to describe and much easier to experience. Through a couple of examples I’ve drawn from real-life coaching situations, I’m going to try to show you what coaching can be.
Relationship coaching: My client, we will call her Sally, came to me feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and resentful at her husband and three teens. She recently returned to a fabulous career after being a stay-at-home mom, and the family was not pitching in with the housework, cooking, or laundry, leaving everything for her to do in addition to working full-time. You know that feeling ladies, when you walk into the kitchen and it’s covered in a huge mess to dig through just so you can find the counter space and pots you need to cook in!
First, we looked at the chores and meal preparation from the perspective of being overwhelmed and angry, and decided that creative or warm and fuzzy solutions were not coming from that perspective–just more frustration. So we turned the chair and faced a different side of the room, and I asked Sally to tell me about her favorite vacation spot. Her shoulders dropped and serenity washed over her as she described a family vacation at the beach. She recalled how she felt and who she was as a person while there, and even how meal preparation worked better at the beach house. And from that clearly resonant perspective, she brainstormed solutions to her current situation: She wanted to use the slow cooker more often, buy pre-cut vegetables, and re-institute Kids Cook Sundays which used to be a lot of fun for her family. In the end, I suggested a metaphor she could bring to her teens: Think of the family as an orchestra playing in the symphony, if the whole string section doesn’t show up, the piece just won’t sound the same and it is impossible for one person to play every instrument at the same time. The family needs to run like a symphony in which each person plays their part.
Sally left our Skype call session transformed and motivated to move forward with a plan that worked for her.
Career Coaching: My client, let’s call her Jane, wanted to launch a brand new product in her business but she was stuck in the “wait until it’s perfect” phase of her launch. She was paralyzed by her own inner critic. We all have that voice in our head that sabotages our biggest plans, the one that says: “Who do you think you are?” and “What will people think?” or “What if this is a total failure and you lose all the customers you have?” So I asked Jane to build a caricature of that voice in her head to personify him or her, to describe what the gremlin looked like and sounded like and to give it a name.
By really shinning a light on this saboteur, Jane was able to dissociate from the voice, recognizing that it was not her opinion but the saboteur’s opinion. From there I asked Jane questions that connected her to her true self, her wise, compassionate, courageous, and certain self and we explored the purpose of launching this product, how it was meant to affect people’s lives in a huge positive way, what her intention was behind it all, who she was becoming by serving the world through this product, and what was possible.
Jane ended our phone call empowered and successfully launched her new product.
I hope these examples gave you a small glimpse and a better understanding of what coaching is all about and how it can help in your life. Coaching is support from someone (like me) who takes the time to listen to your situation and draws on experience, and mastery of skills to offer unbiased focus (or re-focus) that helps you reach your own conclusion, solution, goal, or objective. Lastly, I often hear “I don’t have any problems and I’m comfortable with my life, why do I need coaching?” THAT is why you need coaching. Coaching is for leaping out of the comfort zone and going after your big dreams. If you are bored, not quite satisfied, and looking for big changes you need a coach like me.
Have you ever walked into a boardroom where you stood back and could see the tension in the air, smell the feral competition, and feel the labels being mentally slapped on people’s foreheads? Have you ever dreaded going to a social event for fear of being judged as soon as you walked in the door? Have you ever measured yourself against the “ideal” yardstick and walked away head drooping?
In honor of NaNoWriMo I would like to talk about archetypal stories, legends and myths.
If I ask you to name off some high school cliques, it’s pretty universal (in North America, at least) that you know what I mean. You will list off: the jocks, the nerds, the rockers/bad asses, the debate team, etc. Some of you might even have a label called the “in crowd” or “the cool kids”. These are categories of people that are expected in every story we set in a high school, that is what makes it an archetype.
What about your romantic life? Were you ever told in storybooks or on television shows that if the guy really liked you he would defy his father’s ban on seeing you? That he would serenade you from outside your bedroom window? That he would make you the center of his universe? You know that is fiction and not what goes on in real life—well, at least not in my real life… or anyone that I know personally. Yet, we can all picture that “ideal” romantic relationship that romance novels are made of. Why is that?
Humans learn through story, we relate through story, and we entertain through story. Story is at the cornerstone of who we are as a species. It is part of Being Human. Problems arise when we can’t tell the difference between story and real life. When we are panicked walking into a social event because we think we need to be part of the “in crowd” instead of our authentic self, when we think that coming to a decision at a board meeting has to look like a Hatfields and McCoys standoff, when we expect our husbands to “play the piano” as well as Christian Grey.
Yes, media can be to blame for perpetuating many myths around what is ideal, and you also need to hold yourself accountable for testing your beliefs, for asking yourself if the standard you are holding yourself to is realistic or just a story. It does take work to examine your thoughts and your actions, to ask yourself what’s working and what’s not, and it can be difficult to be objectionable about your own drama. That’s why you need a life coach holding you accountable. (Call me!)
Image courtesy of www.bewareofimages.com
So my challenge this NaNoWriMo month is to Look for stories in my life, test my beliefs and watch for when I am being authentic or trying to impress others.
What is an archetypal story you once believed and tried to emulate?
Ever have one of those weeks where you just wanted to crawl under a rock and cry? Have you ever really messed up and knew there was no one else to blame?
I just did.
Early Thursday morning I was reviewing my notes from a recent online business program I took with Lisa Larter for 10 weeks. She is re-launching the Pilot Project for a new group of students and I learned so much the first time around I decided to take the class again. One of the biggest lessons I learned was on measuring the numbers in the business. Her Cash Flow Excel sheet is invaluable. So after reviewing my business cash flow I decided to apply it to my household cash flow.
Have you ever looked up your bank statement online to find very different numbers than what you expected? Red ones?
I do tend to be fiscally responsible. Really. There was a time that our household budget ran like a Swiss watch. But, I have been a little distracted with my business since March with the book launch and the subsequent interviews, and speaking at Live Your Best Day—the pre-Oprah extravaganza, and then my website remake. I have been checking on the family bank account but not holding myself to account, if you know what I mean.
And so Thursday was a massive reality check (pun intended), when someone chose to hoard and cash six cheques I had written over the last four months, it was hello overdraft.
And then, the Universe decided to push my lesson a little further and threw in some “speak your truth” tests in there too. My husband called from work asking if the whole family could meet him downtown for the Rib Festival near where he worked. I tried implying that we couldn’t afford dinner out, but I didn’t assert myself. I also didn’t say out loud that I was tired from crunching numbers all day and really didn’t want to drive downtown.
But, my husband doesn’t ask for much. So I obliged. And I got caught in traffic for an hour and a half on a drive that usually takes, at most, 30 minutes. I got there Angry and Exhausted and Stressed out! As soon as we got home I dug into my coaching bag of tricks. What would I tell a client to do in a situation like this? I went for a run, I soaked in Epsom salts and I meditated.
And I woke up in just as foul a mood the next day, and the day after and the day after that. In fact, I woke up Sunday morning to my 8 year old whispering in my ear, “Mom, I tried to tie-dye my t-shirt by myself. I will clean up the mess.”
Have you ever been woken by those little confessional whispers promising a huge mess to clean?
I didn’t get a picture of Sunday’s mess, nor did I laugh it off as I normally would. Instead I was in tears on my hands and knees scrubbing dye out of the grout of the tile on the kitchen floor. After I cleaned up the mess, I turned to my husband and said, “I am not coping.” He got the kids dressed and took them out.
And I sat there with my cell phone in hand debating if I needed to place a call to a friend. You see, I don’t care what you do for a living, how many certifications you have, or how much you have “done the work” there comes a time where we all need support. A hairstylist gets someone else to do her hair, the heart surgeon gets someone else to perform surgery on her, and I lean on my team to hold me up when I am down.
But before calling anyone, I chose to go for a run—again. And that half hour of running changed my whole perspective.
I can credit the endorphins. I can credit the alone time to just think clearly. I can credit the positive messages I was getting from my mp3 player. But I would like to credit time.
The Universe is always on time
You see, the Universe only ever sends us what we need at the time we need it. Part of my most recent struggles has been patience; patience with myself, patience with my book sales, patience with the growth of my coaching practice.
And specifically this week, patience with my bad mood.
I wanted it gone. I wanted to feel better right away. I wanted to be happy again, now! But I needed to sit in this misery for a while, I needed the little reminders over the last three days that I have been working too hard, pushing too fast, and spending too much. I needed three days of anger with myself to realize that I am only human, I have made a mistake, and I can learn from it and try not to repeat it.
The same goes for you. You mess up too some times, because you are only human. But we are an adaptive species, and you will learn and move on.
Have you received any lessons from the life lately? Are you growing through your lessons? If you need a little extra support beyond a blog post, don’t forget that I am always here for you. Just drop me an email I would love to set up a call.