7 Reasons to Journal

writing-828911_1280Journaling is one of the best tools to make meaning out of the chaos of life and if you aren’t already doing so, I highly recommend you keep a journal.

While a computer journal will work, hand writing has several added benefits. It helps us learn and retain information, engages motor skills and memory and is a good cognitive exercise if you want to keep your brain sharp.

Here are seven reasons to journal:

Vent

We’ve all had a day like this. You forgot to set your alarm so you’re running late. In your haste you end up spilling coffee all over yourself so you have to go and change. To top it all off, there is an accident on the freeway and traffic is at a standstill. By the time you get to work you’re wound up like a rubber band, ready to snap.

Or you’re replaying past events or conversations in your mind that left you stewing, feeling disrespected or unappreciated. Lay it all out in your journal. Labeling and acknowledging your feelings lessens their impact. A good venting will help clear space in your head for what you do want to focus on. Writing it out will help you let it go.

Problem solving

Why is it that you are so tired during the day but the minute you crawl into bed you have that one thought – “How am I going to…?” “What am I going to do about…?”  – that derails any chances of sleep? Our brains like to feel like we are in control and writing it down can help us gain it back. Journaling helps you think through a problem, weigh pros and cons, and come up with solutions.

First, define exactly what the problem is. Let’s say you’ve been hit with some unexpected expenses and you’re worried about money. Put it on paper. Make a budget, brainstorm some options and come up with a plan. Maybe think about preventative measures for the futures, such as setting up an emergency fund.

Find patterns of thought or behavior

Take a look at where you tend to get stuck. Does your interest start waning on a project when things get tough?  Do you start getting careless when you are on the brink of a promotion and end up sabotaging yourself? Notice what patterns come up. Awareness is the first step to change.

You should also be aware of the words you use. Words let you know what your mindset is. For instance, when something goes wrong (it happens, that’s part of life) do you use words like “always” (I always screw up) and “never” (Good things never happen to me)? Do you “should” on yourself? Observe the language you use to describe your world. Is there a better way you can phrase something?

Acknowledge Successes

Humans are a negative bunch. We tend to focus on what’s wrong, exaggerate our weaknesses and downplay our strengths. We all have things we do well but often take them for granted because if we can do them easily, surely everyone else can too, right?

Wrong! Just as it is important to learn from the things that don’t go as planned, it’s vital to celebrate and acknowledge when things do go right, when you’ve mastered a new skill, achieved a milestone in your career or managed to fix that leaky faucet all by yourself.

The satisfaction of accomplishing something, breaking out of our comfort zone, seeing the results of our hard work are part of our growth process and should be celebrated. Remind yourself of all the things that you have achieved to counter balance your not-so-successful attempts.

Sort out your feelings

Have you ever had one of those days where you just felt…off? You’re snappy with your family, feel restless or anxious. Or there’s a big lump sitting in the pit of your stomach, slowly rising up to your throat. Your body is sending you a message and writing can help you decipher it. Go for stream-of-consciousness writing, just let whatever comes to you spill out onto the page. Maybe something will show up and you can deal with, maybe not but the act of exploring it will help calm your limbic system, that part of the brain that deals with emotions.

Creative expression

You can do whatever you want in your journal. Write out your hopes and dreams, bucket list, make plans for your ideal home, business ideas, doodle, collage, tell stories, keep track of quotes or sayings that inspire you and anything else that you can think of or don’t want to forget. It’s yours to do as you please.

Say it with confidence

If there is a conversation that you want to have but are having a difficult time starting it, rehearse it in your journal. Your emotions are likely to get in the way of any logical thought unless you can clarify what you want to say and rehearse it.

Here are a couple of don’ts when journaling

  • Don’t make your journal precious, in the sense that it has to be “perfect”.
  • Don’t worry about scratching stuff out or making it look “pretty”.
  • Don’t worry about spelling. Use shorthand or come up with your own abbreviations.
  • Don’t share it with anyone (unless you feel comfortable doing so). Let it be your safe haven, where you can let everything hang out.

5 tips to stay motivated

motivational-1177435_1280It happens to all of us when we are pursuing our dreams, trying to be engaged in and passionate about our lives. The excitement and novelty wears off, you hit a roadblock, you’re tired. You start questioning if this is the right path. Doubts creep in. You procrastinate and start using avoidance tactics (this is when cleaning out the fridge seems appealing…) It can show up in a million different ways.

I know because it happened to me recently. It isn’t always obvious either, sometimes it just sneaks up on us.

This is normal. It’s all part of the journey and how you handle it can make or break you (or slow you down). Here are some guidelines for this tricky period.

1. Keep your vision in sight.

It is inevitable that we will hit a road block on the path to our dreams. This is when we need to remember why we’re doing this in the first place. Make a vision board, write down in detail what your end result will look like, feel like, smell like, taste like…whatever. Who will you become at the end of this process? Remember the compelling reasons why you started the journey.

2. Seek balance.

If you’re anything like me, when you are pursuing a goal, you tend to focus on it to the extent of ignoring other aspects of your life. All work and no play makes us…cranky. Not good.

We need balance in our lives. Like a car, if we are constantly driving, we will eventually run out of gas. We need to stop and refuel, get our oil changed and batteries charged. Rest, spending time with friends and family, blowing off steam, pursuing a hobby or just getting goofy will fill our tanks. Anything but doing our “work” seems frivolous but it’s not. Perseverance and discipline are good but they can lead to a rut or burn out if we’re not careful.

This is a particularly hard concept for women. We are socialized to put others ahead of us. We nurture everyone but ourselves. Figure out what works for you. It may be something as simple as a good book and hot cup of tea. Or a pedicure. Or a walk. I had to think long and hard about what I needed and a class popped into my head. I love taking classes so I started looking for something creative and fun to do.

3.Try something different.

You’re working hard. You’re hustling. You’re giving it all you got. You’re doing everything by the book but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere…

Maybe it’s time to throw out the book.

Mix it up, switch gears, try something different. If nothing else, just to make things interesting. You never know what will produce results so keep trying.

4.Throw yourself a pity party.

Who says we have to be “up” all the time? Working on our dreams is hard! There are going to be times when you are in the flow and other times you feel like the universe has made you its punching bag. You’re frustrated, disappointed, scared and tired. The last thing you want to hear is another “Be positive, this too shall pass” platitude. Give in to those emotions (I prefer to do this in the privacy of my own room…). Let loose, throw a good old fashioned tantrum, have a hissy fit, shake your fists at the sky at the unfairness of it all, scream into your pillow, or stomp and pout around like a bratty five year old. Really exaggerate it and blow off some steam. Get it out of your system and let it go. You’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to go.

5. Make it fun.

We are pursuing our dreams because we want to come alive, feel energized, engaged and excited about out life. It is serious business but who said you can’t have any fun?

I had a seasonal position in a tax office. I don’t know about you, but ‘filing tax returns” and “fun” aren’t two things I’d associate with each other. However, that was one of the funnest jobs I ever had. It wasn’t the job so much as it was the people I worked with and the atmosphere in the office.

There are always way that you can inject some humor into your day, even if it’s during a break. Can you make a friendly competition? Crank up some music? Turn parts of it into a game? Don’t turn your passion into something that you dread. Make it fun.

What ways do you stay motivated?

Formula for Success

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I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, to create my own business that had flexible hours, aligned with my talents, strengths, values and passion and let me choose which projects I wanted to work on and who I wanted to work with. I’ve explored many ideas and much to my frustration and disappointment, none of them really worked out.

My biggest obstacle? Me.

One of the problems was I made these ridiculous plans that not only ignored my own natural tendencies but overwhelmed me before I even got started. I had schedules where I literally thought after a full day of work, I would come home and devote a full 3 hours to my venture-du-jour – everyday! And I expected to spend all of my weekends on it also. Not sure when I was planning on eating, sleeping, spending quality time with my family and friends, showering or dealing with all the other stuff life threw at me.

Finally I took stock of the things that were going right in my life. I’ve been a runner for nine years, practicing yoga for about 3 – consistently. Exercise has become a daily habit. So why have I been successful there and not other areas of my life?

Find your compelling reason for committing.

Motivation is the key to success. If we decide to do something because we were told to (by our doctor, spouse, boss, etc) or because we “should” (all good leaders should have an MBA) then we’re starting out handicapped. To increase our chances of achieving our goals, it should be our choice.

I started paying attention to my diet and exercise when a friend was diagnosed with cancer. She is the type to research everything and found that her daily soda habit was probably not helping. Even though I’ve always been a healthy eater (I was the kid that actually liked snacking on celery and carrots…) I had a 2-liter soda as well as some other unhealthy habits. Being over 40, I wanted quality in my years, not just quantity.

I have a strong commitment to a healthier lifestyle because there is so much more I want to do with my life and I want to be in good health to do it…hopefully for decades to come.

Start Small

Once I made the commitment, I decided to start exercising again. I eased into it with small steps. After I walked my son to school, I took a 2 mile brisk walk around the neighborhood. Nothing drastic. Then I started adding ankle weights. Walking became a habit.

Small steps are a great way to start anything. It helps us to overcome inertia and start, which is often the hardest part. It’s easy to commit to something small and easy – say five minutes. Five minutes can easily turn into 15, 30 or 60 if we get engrossed in a project. Five minutes doesn’t raise any alarms or bells in our brains (if it so much as gets a whiff of something stressful, it will go into survival mode and do everything it can to eliminate that stress and shut down our efforts to change) so it slips quietly under the radar . For me, walking was my “five minutes” because it’s something I know how to do and it fit easily in my schedule. It was non-threatening. I wasn’t demanding that I put my body, which was more used to being a couch potato than a track star, through some torturous “Biggest Loser” exercise-till-you-barf routine. I just opened my front door and walked out.

Another thing about small steps is that it allows us to grow into our goals. I often made schedules without taking into consideration that I was a beginner. We don’t expect a baby to come running out of the womb. That’s a good 1-2 years down the road. There are a lot of other little milestones that need to take place first. She needs to build muscle strength so she can hold her head up, sit up, roll over, crawl, walk and eventually run. I needed to take a step back and start at the beginning instead of trying to jump in at a higher level. Small steps help advance us through various skills and learning so we are mentally and physically prepared for the next challenge.

Find a buddy who will help you with your goals

Next, I was “dared” to do a six week boot camp with my co-workers. Five of us signed up for the 5:30 am class and I never missed one. At the end I was the strongest and healthiest that I’ve ever been. I didn’t want to lose all my hard work so when one of my co-workers suggested I run with her, I accepted.

I suffered those first couple of months. Fifteen minutes into the run and I’d be gasping for air and waved her on as I stopped to walk. But in a short time, I was able to keep up with, if not surpass her. The thing that kept me going was being accountable to someone. I didn’t like getting up at 5 am but I knew she’d be there waiting for me and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I know she’s part of the reason I developed the habit.

Having a buddy who is trying to reach a goal too and being accountable to each other can make things a lot easier. You have someone who can give you another perspective, you have someone you can commiserate with (it was either too hot or too cold – we complained about it but we still ran), you have someone cheering you on, you have someone who keeps it real. My running partner did so much more for me that just help me run, our running connected us on so many other levels and made the experience richer.

Find the formula and repeat it.

Once I saw the formula for achieving my exercise goals, I realized I could apply it to anything I did with the same success. I expanded my workout routine to include yoga. I may have been a yoga beginner but my running habit easily transferred into a yoga habit with little effort because I had already developed the “exercise” muscle.

When I applied this formula to other areas of my life, I found I had less stress, enjoyed the process more, moved forward quicker and saved myself a ton of time and aggravation.

I spent way too much time listening to the “experts” instead of looking at what actually worked for me. Take stock of your own success, those times you achieved your goal, and find the pattern. Test it out on your next goal. I’d love to hear your success formula.

 

Celebrating Failure

flagon-1331087_1280Failure has gotten a bad rap. It’s one of those charged words and often a fear of failure is cited as a reason why some people can’t move forward. And that’s a HUGE problem, especially if you want to pursue a fulfilling, meaningful life.

Failure is defined as the lack of success. It’s nothing more than a way to evaluate our progress. Without failure, we can’t grow. Success teaches us nothing. Failure always teaches us something.

The problem is that at some point we started making a judgement about failure, attaching a negative connotation to it when, in actuality, it’s a neutral event. All failure means is you didn’t achieve the outcome you wanted.  This is how children (and everyone else…) learn and grow. The square block didn’t fit into the round hole. So we tried a different hole.

Somewhere along the way we started getting a different message. That success was right and failure was wrong. And we lost the distinction between an event/outcome and our very identity. Instead of thinking “that try was a failure”, we tend to think “I’m a failure”.

I like how Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour reframed failure in their book Introducing NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

“There is no such thing as failure, only results. These can be used as feedback, helpful corrections, a splendid opportunity to learn something you had not noticed. Failure is just a way of describing a result you did not want. You can use the results to redirect your efforts. Feedback keeps the goal in view. Failure is a dead end. Two very similar words, yet they represent two totally different ways of thinking.”

Failure is our teacher. Maybe you didn’t achieve what you had hoped but find the lesson and try something else. Eventually you will find something that does work. And as a result you will have grown and learned and changed in ways that you never could have imagined.

So from now on, celebrate failure!

 

 

What makes you come alive?

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I think it’s only fitting that if I devote a post to energy drainers that I do one on energy gainers.

Balance is important for living a fulfilling life but often, when we are chasing a dream (i.e like starting our own business), we become so focused on it to the detriment of other areas of our life. Maybe it has something to do with our puritan work ethic, that we should be putting in 60-70 hours a week but the truth is working longer hours doesn’t mean you’re being more productive. And it’s a recipe for burnout as we all need to recharge our batteries. As I said before, change requires energy so swap those annoying activities you’ve been tolerating for ones that energize you.

It’s time to make a list. What do you want more of in your life? What do you like to do? How do you like to be pampered? Put everything down that you can think of – small pleasures like a good cup of coffee to big indulgences like a spa vacation.

Now look at your list – what are some of the things that you can start doing right away? One of my favorite things to do is to sit in the sun and just soak up the warmth. It costs nothing but just taking five minutes rejuvenates me for the next task at hand.

What about some of those bigger items on your list – the ones you don’t think you have the time or money for? Is there a way to get the essence of what you want on a smaller scale? For instance, if you can’t afford a week at a spa, what about an hour massage, a facial or a pedicure?

Don’t tell me you don’t have the time. If you can find the time to watch TV or surf the internet, you have time to take care of yourself. Our brain can only take about 45 minutes of focused attention before it needs a break. Walking away from our desk for five minutes will enhance our productivity, not hinder it, so start incorporating those energy gainers into your routine and recharge yourself.

 

Energy Vampires – What’s draining you?

face-800192_1280Pursuing our dreams, meeting challenges head on, moving forward…notice that these are action words. They require energy.

Energy is defined as: “the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.”. Synonyms include: vitality, vigor, spirit, enthusiasm, zest, spark, effervescence and exuberance.

When we decide to pursue our passion and live life on our own terms, it’s important to examine how we are living life now. Change is not easy, we are creatures of habit. We need to look closely at our habits to see if they are energizing us or depleting us. The same goes for people in our life – are we surrounding ourselves with people who lift us up or bring us down?

A good place to start is by taking inventory of the basic areas of your life:

  • Family and friends (your community)
  • Finances/money
  • Recreation
  • Health
  • Home/environment
  • Personal development and growth
  • Spirituality
  • Work/career

Common energy drainers include unfinished projects, lack of boundaries (learn to say “no”) and clutter. For instance, is your work environment conducive to your best thinking and productivity? I might be accused of being a tad OCD…I can’t stand clutter. I was that kid that had a clean room. I want things organized, put away in their place. My work space is tidy. I know where everything is and as a result I can focus on the task at hand. I don’t have any superfluous decorations…just what I need within reach.

Go through each area of your life and identify the little annoyances and your big complaints. Why the little stuff? Because little stuff can quickly snowball out of control. Handling them now could save time and aggravation later down the road.

Once you’ve got your list, what is each of these energy drainers costing you? Time? Money? Emotional well-being? Health?

Finally, how will you resolve them? Can you:

  • Eliminate them?
  • Come to a compromise?
  • Find the learning/growth opportunity? Some things you can’t change but you always have control over how you respond (not react) by taking time to examine your choices.

Creating the life of your dreams means being aligned with your talents, strengths, values, and passion. It means being protective of your time, money and energy. You should only be using it in a manner that benefits or supports your life goals. Taking care of the energy vampires now will free up the space – emotional and physical – in your life so you can devote it to the things that really matter.

 

 

 

 

 

Are reasons just another excuse?

My friend had an interesting conversation. She wasn’t able to attend a class and when a friend texted her with the homework, she replied with the reason she wasn’t able to attend. Her classmate said she didn’t have to give an excuse. In which she replied that it wasn’t an excuse, she was just explaining why she wasn’t there or, then she asked, “Is that the same thing?” To which the classmate replied “Yes”.

(A disclaimer here, when we make a personal choice/decision, we don’t owe anyone an explanation.)

As a coach, I listen for the words that my clients use. Language is powerful and it tells a lot about a person and their mind-set. Changing our language can also help change our mind-set.

So is a “reason” just another “excuse”?

One of the definitions of excuse is: attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify

Reason is defined as: a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event. Another definition is: the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. I think this latter definition is integral to the first definition.

Some people might use the two words interchangeably but I think there are several distinctions that should be pointed out:

  • An excuse is used to deflect blame and avoid responsibility for our actions. It is outer-driven, we are victims of unforeseen circumstances. Reasons don’t avoid responsibility. A reason shows, and here’s where the second part of the definition is important, our thought process and how we came to our decision/conclusion.
  • An excuse is not aligned with our integrity. When we give an excuse, we usually know, deep down, that we are at least partially to blame. Reasons are in alignment with our integrity.

A good way to tell if you are giving an excuse or a reason is to notice how your body is reacting. When I give an excuse, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach which travels up through my body, like an electric current, to my ears. I feel a sense of…shame is the word that comes to mind. I am uneasy.

When I am explaining myself, giving a reason, my body is at ease. I feel a sense of lightness. I am speaking from my “truth” (based on my beliefs and values) and it resonates with me.

The bottom line is this – what is your intent behind these words? Is it to deflect blame and responsibility or are you owning up to your choices?

 

Book Review: Do One Thing Different…by Bill O’Hanlon

This book came to me at a good time (when the pupil is ready the teacher will appear). I was stuck in a rut and while trying to change course, old habits kept pulling me back into repeating old patterns.

By nature, I’m an introvert. I’m constantly in my head, thinking. A lot. Sometimes I think too much and this book gives sound advice for breaking out of patterns that aren’t serving you by taking action.

Problem-Oriented vs. Solution-Oriented Approach

The premise behind this book is that there are two basic approaches to problem solving. The standard one that most of us fall back on is a problem-oriented approach. The problem-oriented approach:

  1. stresses explanations (why you do/did something) not solutions what you need to do to solve the problem.
  2. focuses on what can’t be changed (the past or personality characteristics)
  3. encourages victim mentality
  4. sometimes it creates new problems

O’Hanlon advocates a solution-oriented approach. His methods fall in line with a lot of what I learned in my coaching training.

“Solution-oriented therapy is different: while taking into account that people might have a wide variety of problems – including biochemical, personality or thought disorders or traumas from the past – it focuses on discovering what people are doing that works and helps them deliberately use that knowledge to eliminate problems. It encourages people to move out of analyzing the nature of the problem and how it arose instead to begin to find solutions and take action to solve it.”

We all have patterns of thought and behavior. Some of those patterns serve us and some don’t. If you are trying to change, then there are definite steps you can take to do so:

  1. Awareness – to solve a problem you first have to recognize you have a problem
  2. Acceptance – what we resist, persists. Acknowledge your feelings and others feelings and point of view without judgment. Understand that the past shaped you but you do not have to let it DEFINE you.
  3. Change one thing – Patterns of behavior are merely habits. Analyze your patterns. how do you “do” X (gain weight, smoke, start an argument, procrastinate, etc) Now, do one thing different that deviates from your normal pattern. The more ridiculous or silly, the better to break the cycle.
  4. Focus on what WORKS – You can draw on similar problems that you worked out or times when you felt competent, ask “Why isn’t this worse?” or notice what happens when the problem starts or starts to end and use those actions earlier in the process.

O’Hanlon mentions that he gets a lot of feedback about how “positive” his approach is and wants to clarify that in the solution-oriented approach, you have to acknowledge you have a problem and then DO what you can to change it. He warns that positive thinking without action can just lead to more problems. It’s an ACTION oriented process.

Focus

Focus is really the underlying theme of this book. You get what you focus on and it’s the driving force of self-fulfilling prophecies. The book offers several tools to help you refocus (or reframe) to open up the channel of possibilities to be more productive:

  1. Shift your attention – search for aspects of the situation you never noticed before. We tend to focus on the negative parts, so look for the positive aspects.
  2. Focus on the present – the past can’t be changed, bring your attention to the here and now. Don’t project the past onto your present or future. Leave the past in the past.
  3. Focus on what you’d like to happen
  4. Focus externally if you are too internally focused. Get out of your head. Helping someone else is always good, whether it be helping a neighbor or volunteering for a good cause.
  5. Focus internally instead of externally. is your “busy-ness” a way to avoid a problem. The only way you can solve it is to admit you have one.
  6. Focus on what works or has worked. This is a major component of my coaching training. What worked in the past? What do you think will work? These questions get you moving and focused on solutions.
  7. Shift from thinking/feeling to action. Take small steps, any steps. In my training, one of my teacher’s mantras was “small and crappy”. Just do something, anything, because action builds momentum.
  8. Ask solution-oriented questions. “As a general rule, questions that ask why can lead you in the wrong directions, seeking explanations and going over the same territory again and again”. Why me? Why do I always do X? Why am I such an idiot? None of these questions do anything to move you forward, they shut you down. Instead ask what or how questions. What can I do to change this situation? How can I avoid repeating this? What am I doing to contribute to this situation? See how these questions open the door to possibilities? Don’t you feel different asking them? I’d also like to point out that you should avoid using words like “should”, “never” and “always”. They keep us in a problem-oriented mind set.

Stories

What we focus on has a lot to do with the stories we tell ourselves. Look at your stories. Are they compassionate and helpful or do they limit you? If our stories focus on blame (either ourselves or others), invalidate our feelings and thoughts (“I have so much, I shouldn’t feel this way”), are impossible (“I could never do that”) or leave you unaccountable for your actions (victim mentality) then it’s time to change your story. To do so:

  1. Acknowledge and describe it
  2. Find or create counter evidence
  3. Realize you are not your story
  4. Create compassionate and helpful stores.

One other thing I’d like to address about this book is the chapter on solution-oriented spirituality (not religion, though religion is certainly aspect). Spirituality is defined as a connection beyond yourself. I think this is an important chapter not only for helping us deal with our problems but to truly live a happy, purposeful life in general.

Spirituality can take many paths: connecting to your deeper self (meditation), connecting through your body (yoga and other forms of exercise), connecting to another (intimate relationships), connecting to community, connecting to nature, participating in or appreciating art and connecting to God or a higher power. The point of spirituality is to develop compassion, service and faith (the commitment to keep moving through difficult times).

I think the last paragraph of the book sums it up nicely:

“Solution-oriented therapy recognizes problems and barriers and keeps trying experiments until the desired results are obtained. In order to do this, it is important to both attend to results and focus on what works. In order to be solution oriented, you must be willing to make mistakes, to correct your actions to produce results, and to avoid the paralysis of perfectionism and always having to know why things are or aren’t working. You can’t be satisfied with merely having a good explanation of why you don’t or can’t get certain results. You can’t be attached to your beliefs or stories about yourself in the world if they get in the way of changing the things you hope to change. And you can’t even get too attached to a particular way of accomplishing the results. Stay open to new possibilities. When in a dilemma, do something different!”

 

5 Unproductive Habits to Quit Right Now

1. Quit thinking that help/advice is criticism.

I was not good at asking for help. And apparently I really SUCK at accepting it. So much so that people stop wanting to help me after I open my mouth.

I recently had a situation where a friend had a connection who could help me. When we met to discuss it, I stubbornly held onto the belief that what I was doing was right. Needless to say the conversation didn’t get very far. My friend later pointed out how defensive I was and it shut the other person down. She was right. I was defensive because until that very moment I hadn’t realized that I took help/advice as criticism. Of ME!

Sigh.

Old thinking patterns are hard to change. I spent the majority of my life assessing my own worth by other people’s approval. This thinking was deeply ingrained in my being. I’ve worked hard to loosen it’s grip, but it still rears it’s ugly head if I am not on my guard.

How do I combat it? There are two thoughts I try to be aware of. The first is that I am trying to improve, grow and be my best self. That means seeking  advice, help and feedback from others who have more experience or a different perspective than mine. And secondly, my worth as a human being isn’t tied to my being “right” or having people agree with me.

2. Quit asking why.

Why did this happen? Why me? In this context, asking why is not a productive question. What and how are better choices as in “How can I make this work?” “How can I use what I have?” “What can I do to make it better?”

3. Quit judging your work.

I spent a lot of time not doing my work (i.e pursuing my dreams) because I told myself that I didn’t have the experience or compared myself to others who usually had WAY more experience and practice than I did.

But you know what? Our work is not for us to judge. Sure, we can have an opinion about it but that should not stop us from doing our work. We are never going to improve if we don’t practice. Our job is to do the work to the best of our ability, put it out there, be open to feedback, evaluate and repeat process.

4. Quit blaming yourself.

I stubbornly stuck to a goal-setting system for years but rarely got started, much less completed, any goals when I used it. I thought I was the problem. I was lazy. I lacked will power, dedication, discipline, perseverance, passion, etc. I needed to dig my heels in, work harder, get more focused. In other words, I need to fix ME.

I finally realized I wasn’t the problem. My system was. It’s not like I NEVER achieved my goals. I have accomplished a great deal but in those instances I wasn’t strong-arming myself into submission with unrealistic demands. Running is a good example. I’ve been running regularly for about 8 years. If that isn’t discipline, I don’t know what is. I’ve added yoga to my repertoire and I’ve been doing it consistently for over 2 years.

Funny thing is I never set out to be a runner but I did have a desire to be healthier. I eased into it, one small step at a time. I started out walking. Then a co-worker “dared” the rest of us to join a boot camp. I never missed a class. And even though I said I hated running, once boot camp was over I didn’t want to lose what I had gained so I agreed to meet a coworker 3 mornings a week to run. And it wasn’t fun the first couple of months. But I kept at it because I wanted to be healthier and I had made the commitment to my coworker. She held me accountable. I didn’t want to be THAT person.

Same person, two different systems. One worked, one didn’t. If something’s not working, quit blaming yourself. It’s unproductive. Try something different until it does work.

5. Quit thinking it’s about you.

As I mentioned before, I thought my worth was dependent upon other people’s validation of me. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove myself and win “their” approval. Doing so while trying to pursue my dreams was counter-productive, to say the least.

I got nowhere.

It finally occurred to me that this hyper-focus on myself (“Do they like me?”) was getting in the way of what I really wanted – a life filled with meaningful work and relationships. So I shifted my focus from “me” to “you”.

The weird thing is, all that time all I really wanted was to be acknowledged and appreciated. And then it occurred to me that we reap what we sow. If I wanted appreciation then I should show others appreciation.

It stopped being about me and I took on the mantra of how I could be of service to others. I can’t even describe what this shift in thinking has done for me. It’s not about getting approval anymore, it’s about sharing my gifts, even if it’s just listening or smiling at someone.

If you find yourself stuck, see if any of these habits of thought are tripping you up.

Practice Makes Perfect – Process vs. Product thinking

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When I set goals for myself, I used to make the mistake of focusing on the product, not the process.

So what is the difference between process and product thinking and why is one better than the other?

When you focus on the product you have…a product, a thing, an inanimate object, an end result.

When you focus on the process, it affects and changes you. You struggle, learn, practice, improve, grow. You come out of it a different person than going in.

If you have a goal, say to write a book, the writing it is the process, the book is the product. Most of us get caught up in the book. We want it to be good. We want it to sell. We want the prestige being an author brings. We want approval and adoration.

There’s nothing bad about wanting any of those things, but it doesn’t have anything to do with actually writing.

Most goals/dreams (however you want to label it) require knowledge and skill of some sort and the only way to get is it to do it. In order to learn and improve, you’re going to have to practice.

Let me remind you of the definition of practice (verb):

  • to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
  • Carry out or perform (a particular activity, method or custom) habitually or regularly.

That’s the process. It’s that simple and that hard.

So, to continue my writing analogy, if you want to write, quit focusing on the book and focus on becoming a writer. In the beginning you will probably be spewing out a lot of crap. That’s OK. Keep writing crap because if you’re focused on the process and try to improve (take classes, read books, ask for feedback) eventually you’ll write something good.

And one day you’ll be a writer who sells books.Or poems, articles, songs, plays..

The product ends, the process is ongoing. You never know where the process will lead you.