We move forward on a daily basis in our lives and to do that we make hundreds of decisions. Most of them are made automatically as it’s impossible to analyze each option.
But recognizing that we do have choice is a huge factor in our continued growth. There are many junctures in our lives where something changes and a decision is needed to move forward.
We often notice this juncture when the impact is big. But when the impact isn’t felt so intensely we may not even register that the way we move forward is an option.
We hear a lot about consciousness these days. One definition is “the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings.”
Living consciously allows us to be more in touch with our everyday experiences. And when we hit those junctures where we need to make decisions, we have more information at our fingertips.
The choice to live consciously causes us to tolerate discomfort, delay gratification, practice patience, stay present and aware of our feelings and thoughts, ask questions, tolerate taking risks, communicate effectively and assertively, and trust that we will know when to take action and what action to take.
So, when an aspect of our life changes how conscious do we really want to be? Do we want to be open to the various permutations that may be available? Does it make sense to replicate what we had or to reflect and discern what is now needed?
Living consciously allows us the gift of choice. And the gift of continued growth and understanding of who we are in the whole of our lives.
I’m reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and I love this sentence, “The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.”
I work with a lot of clients who struggle with staying the course. They come in, feel really clear with what they want and where they want to go. They move in that direction for a period of time but then something happens. A situation comes up that stirs up a lot of emotion and they then begin to question their direction. Sound familiar?
This is where your skills pay off. This is what you have been practicing for. Take that step back and breathe. Look at the facts. Has anything really changed or have you just been triggered by something? Chances are it’s an old scenario that has played out countless times.
This is where it’s important to just stay focused on your goals. Make sure you have a plan mapped out that will lead to your goal. It’s not rigid or inflexible but it is a path. A path leads us in a certain direction. When you’re on a path, it’s not necessary to constantly reassess where you are going. It’s been mapped out thoughtfully. It allows you to just focus your energy on moving forward.
When something dramatically happens that alters the path, reassess and create a new plan. But until that happens just follow the path. Have check points where you assess your progress and create the next leg of the journey.
But in the meantime just keep moving forward and stay focused on what you want.
How can I shift my mood quicker when I feel frustrated or overwhelmed?
I received this question earlier in the week and I’m sure most of us can relate to it.
Shifting your mood is a skill and it takes practice. But as you practice and become more able to do this, you will be amazed at how freeing it is!
Emotions come and go all day. When we give attention to an emotion and begin to attach thoughts to it, it grows bigger and can get stuck, like a big black cloud. We might be thinking, “This always happens to me, Why me, Of course this would happen to me”… These type of thoughts almost always guarantee the black cloud will grow larger and will not budge.
Have you noticed how animals tend to just let things go? They don’t linger over situations but just get back in the game.
Here’s a few ideas to try out –
Start the day with an intention – “I am looking forward to this day and my goal is to maintain a positive and optimistic mood.” Say it out loud, write it down, and keep referring to it during the day. It is your compass.
Begin to pay more attention throughout the day to how you are feeling. You can set your phone to vibrate every 20 minutes. Just check in to how you are feeling and make a small shift if needed. If you are feeling down, is there a reason? If nothing has happened, try to improve your mood by getting up, moving around, get a drink, refer to your intention and start again.
Use humor – If you begin to notice repetitive thoughts or emotions that you feel in certain situations, it can be fun to bring a little humor to the situation. “Oh, here we go again, LOL, I should have figured they would say that LOL.” The difference is you are taking charge of the emotion, putting a spin on the situation in your favor.
Lastly, start bringing more attention to your emotions and thoughts. Begin to notice patterns and make some changes if they aren’t enhancing your life.
It’s the end of the month and an opportunity to look at the progress you have made toward your dreams. I loved the quote from Belva Plain, “Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality”.
What did you choose to work on and what’s happened over the month?
It’s so easy for most people to answer “nothing” to this question and to feel bad. But what about recognizing that in the space between your dreams and reality, there is a lot of reality! Some of that reality changes our game plan, can slow it up quite a bit, or even stop it.
So, if there wasn’t a lot of concrete progress from last month to this month take the time to understand why and identify what actually happened. Unexpected situations, time limitations, last minute schedule changes, exhaustion, loss of motivation…?
Reality is reality. If we want to accomplish our dreams we have to work with reality and continue to modify our plans but not give up our plans.
If you weren’t able to achieve what you wanted, did you stay firm in your belief that your dream was attainable? Did you continue to keep it in your mind and dream about it?
There are three articles at the end of this newsletter that look at the topic of visualization - our ability to effect change simply through the power of concentrated and focused thought. In one study, the subjects use the power of their thoughts and imagery to increase their muscle strength without lifting any weights in real time.
So forward motion doesn’t always have to be visible. If we aren’t able to concretely achieve all we have set out to do, we can continue to hold strong thoughts and beliefs in our ability to accomplish the task. We can see ourselves doing it in our mind’s eye. It’s a critical piece of the work that is often overlooked.
If you made progress this month – YAHOO!! I hope you took the time to feel satisfaction and pride.
What did you learn about how you work? Is there a best time of day, mindset to get into before you start, clean off your desk before you start paperwork, make sure you eat and have energy? Keep revising how you work to capture what works best for you.
Before you start the new month reassess your goals and create your next steps.
I posted about beginning to tackle a work project I had dreamed about for years. With the help of my accountability partners I made some good movement on it. I am now looking at the next steps and will pick the next priority.
I also tried something out of my comfort zone. I have had a dream for years about learning to sail or at least being on a sailboat. For me the first step was learning to swim to feel more confident and comfortable. So I literally took a plunge last night with my first swimming lesson. Wahoo!!
Feel free to email me about the places where you get stuck in working toward your goals and I can post some ideas next month.
Here are the articles;
Can you build strength with visualization exercises?
I had a thought after I saw how popular Howie’s post was. Why is it that he received 264 views, 55 likes, 5 shares, and a comment?
I started to think about how our mind works. There is so much information that it filters on a daily basis that is based on our past experiences. It filters out what it thinks we don’t want, what we don’t need, what we don’t like, what doesn’t feel comfortable. It filters in what is familiar, what we know, what we’ve done before, what it thinks we want…
It may be that Howie’s post is perceived as safe, recalls good things, creates a good feeling, and it gets a lot of clicks.
So what we’re looking at is our minds ability to quickly filter information based on past conditioning in order that we can move through the day efficiently.
Howie’s post didn’t seem to trigger any red flags, didn’t slam the door. In fact the door was wide open when I compared the results of his post to the majority of my posts.
Here’s the food for thought.
So who actually is giving your mind its operating instructions?
Are you clearly setting the agenda on a day to day basis, learning to increase your awareness of your thoughts/feelings so you know what is going on upstairs, or is it on automatic pilot, based on old experiences and conditioning?
Are you missing out on opportunities by allowing old unconscious conditioning to filter out what may not be comfortable, new, unfamiliar?
Are we living today based on what we knew yesterday and is it really accurate today?
Take a look at my post, “Step I”, to get back in the driver’s seat.
Do you sometimes agonize over small tasks before finally feeling satisfied with them?
Try to bring attention to your tendency to make things “perfect” and begin to develop a practice of assessing how “perfect” it really needs to be.
Here’s a scenario - I have an A average in a class, have a ton of things going on in my life right now, and have a paper due this week. Let’s figure out which scenario is the better fit, A or B.
Scenario A - My normal tendency might be to work really hard on this paper, do a ton of research, take hours going over the phrasing, make many changes before turning it in, feel really good about the paper, get in bed at 2am, be exhausted at work the next day.
Scenario B – Realize I have an A average in this class, identify what other priorities I have right now, identify how much time I have for this paper, plan accordingly as I do the research and edits, feel good about the paper, recognize I could have done more but realize this covers the topic adequately, hit send, get to bed at 11am, feel rested and satisfied the next day.
Without attention we will apply the same level of energy and diligence to all of our tasks. Learn to move through tasks more quickly by assessing which ones really deserve your utmost attention.
Understand how an “all or nothing” approach can leave you exhausted. Practice being in that middle area and get comfortable with doing less when it is called for.
If you are working toward a goal this will be really helpful to keep moving you forward rather than getting stuck on the small details.
So what’s in the space between your dreams and reality?
The first step is to get to know that space in a concrete and factual way.
Let’s use the image of a puzzle to explore this space. Imagine the puzzle is your life. There are already pieces in place – your reality – but let’s focus on the new pieces – your dreams.
Take a piece of blank paper and begin to draw puzzle pieces with your dreams written on each piece. Maybe a relationship, job, greater self-confidence, friendship, more effective parenting, a project, improved finances, less stress, improved health, more positive emotions, travel, less conflict, better work life balance. These are the dreams that we will bring into the existing puzzle.
When I created my website I chose puzzle pieces as my logo because I realized that the pieces of our lives continually change. Creating your best life is about recognizing what fits at what time, not forcing, and letting go when it’s needed.
Step One – Choose one piece and ask this question. What do I need to develop this piece? Begin writing and just stay there. Compile a list of what is necessary to bring this piece into reality
Here’s mine – a project I have been dreaming of for years. What do I need to develop this piece? Stay focused on why it is so important to me, dedicate time to it, have accountability partners, know when I’ve gone off track, pay attention to emotions that block my progress and know how to shift them, learn how to access the resources I need for the project, set monthly goals, get help when I don’t know how to do a task, step out and take a break when I feel overwhelmed, maintain boundaries to keep it a PRIORITY, learn to say no in order to meet my goals, see my dream becoming a reality and feel it, eat well, exercise, take breaks and have fun.
Step Two – Begin to look at the list of what is needed to complete the piece and start to brainstorm how it will happen. One step at a time. As you move through this step you will develop greater insight about what blocks you, where you may need to develop more strength. Keep going down the list, who will I be accountable to, how will I find the time, and what might I need to say no to…
I was visiting with my 94 year old aunt and cousins a few weekends ago. My aunt who still lives independently never ceases to amaze me.
She is an active member of the senior center and over the years has enjoyed zumba, chair yoga, crocheting, luncheons, and socializing with friends. Within the past fifteen years she has learned to use the computer, email, continues to cook daily, enjoys trying out new recipes, reads, relaxes with old movies, and her favorite - visits from friends and family.
She had a major setback days before her 90th birthday – a fall which required surgery and Hurricane Sandy. She had to take a step back for over a year, worked hard in physical therapy, lived with her daughter, and waited for her house to be rehabbed. She came back, no longer driving, but in her home, living independently. Her dream. During our visit, my cousins and I were talking about our lives and life changes. The phrase that popped up and has stayed with me was challenge and change. I realized I thrive on challenge and change. I had recognized many years ago that I have always enjoyed variety; trying new activities, new jobs, meeting new people. I am at my best when there is variety in my life. Challenge and change felt like my mantra!!
It’s also the place where people come to work with me. They have been doing a lot of talking about the job, the relationship, the … but have continued to run in place. They recognize now is the time to move and seek support, clarity, the plan, accountability. They desire movement. It’s about choices, taking the first step, facing fear. It’s about gaining satisfaction in their lives, it’s moving away from STUCK.
I tended to be the cousin who took the challenges, made the changes, and crossed the lines. At times it didn’t really feel like a choice, it felt more like survival. It was a recognition that I could continue to do the same and be unhappy or explore the change. I spent thousands of hours in the stuck place before moving on to take the challenge.
And it wasn’t always a straight line. There are often many twists and turns as you navigate the path, feeling your way to satisfaction. But without taking those twists and turns you would still be at the starting block. And each turn gives me more information about my map. It’s not to say that some of the turns took me to dead ends, but it’s also about recognizing you won’t know that until you get moving. And when you hit a dead end, develop Plan B.
Many might look at that as failure. I look at that as receiving more information about the path. Further clarification and definition, new options, renewed belief in what you want.
My aunt encountered many twists and turns in her path. Loss, betrayal, good times, hard times. And what I have come to learn in my journey is that what matters is what we do with what life brings us. Do we continue to grow with it, do we continue to be who we are with it, do we take the information and use it wisely, or do we close up and give up?
Dreams don’t die.
It’s never easy but I have come to realize that in my life movement is essential. Not just any movement but movement in the right direction.
One step at a time.
Sometimes that one step is the sweet spot and sometimes that step lets me know to try another route.
Ideas for the New Month
As we close the month of September I’d like to introduce an easy to use idea. This month’s theme has been movement – are we going in the right direction, are we keeping our dreams alive, are we just running in place. As I think about the end of September and the change of seasons, the word auspicious comes to mind. This word was often used during my yoga training and I loved it. It was used to mark special days. In its usage with dates, it means opportune, favorable, a good time to begin something. This can be an auspicious time of the month for you to move forward on the changes you wish to bring into your life.
Try using the last days of the current month and the first days of the new month as an opportunity to start anew. In the last days of the month review your actions.
· What goals had you chosen to work on this past month?
· What action did you take during the month?
· Did this action advance your goal?
After answering those questions, think about these questions in the first days of the new month.
· Where are you now in your movement toward your goal?
· What do you want to accomplish now?
· What are the next steps to achieve that?
Use a dedicated notebook or a computer file so that you can continually review your progress.
· Block time in your calendar for this activity each month. Let it become a ritual that you enjoy.
· Think about friends who are working towards a goal and consider meeting/talking with them to share your movement, plans.
Remember to reinforce where you want to go, not where you currently are.
“You can waste your life drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them”.
I love this. It’s a quote from Shonda Rhimes. She’s a television producer, screenwriter, and the creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy.
We live in a world that can move fast, sometimes at breakneck speed. So how do you make sure you are actually advancing your goals and not just spinning your wheels?
A colleague recently asked me that question. Was my action advancing my goals? That phrase has been stuck in my mind ever since. It’s a great litmus test.
Another colleague sits for an hour on a Sunday afternoon and determines if she has advanced her goals or spun her wheels. It’s a ritual that she has not missed in a long, long time. Because she knows it works. It insures that she crossed the lines.
If you want to make changes in your life try these two questions.
Has your action over the past week moved you closer to your goals?
Are you clear on what your goals are?
Your answers will determine your next steps.
Keep moving but make sure you are crossing the lines.
Falling into a routine is easy. This week I realized I had fallen into a habit that wasn’t producing good results but I kept repeating it. I didn’t become conscious of it for some time.
I consider myself a pretty aware person so how did that even happen?
Apparently it’s pretty easy.
Habits are just repetitive behaviors and are wonderful when they are effective and serve a purpose. I consciously develop routines that turn into habits that support my goals. It feels great to stay on track and get things done that are important to me.
But there are also habits that we don’t pay attention to at all. We just repeat them. Sometimes we may be moving too fast and not paying attention to the results of our behavior. Similar to what happens when we’re driving and not paying attention but don’t notice until we miss our exit.
In my case something grabbed my attention that made me ask “Why have I been doing this???”
When scientists conduct experiments they pay careful attention to any changes they introduce and they carefully record the results. They want to assess the changes that occur with each new behavior.
Learning to slow down and pay attention to the results that occur as a result of our behavior will keep us on the right path. As well as taking the time to understand why we are choosing to do something at the onset and what we are hoping to achieve.