A Heart to Heart with my Ego

I don’t remember where, but I read that if you treat your feelings as if it was a separate entity and talked to them like you would a friend, it would be a good way to manage/lessen them.

I’ve been working on self-acceptance, trying to purge the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough unless someone tells me I am. Being rejected has always been a huge fear. Maybe, it’s because, as Helene Brenner says in her book, I Know I’m in There Somewhere, that my parents defected instead of mirrored my “wonderful sparks of life that announce, ‘This is who I am.’ “. It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that I’m aware of it and how it’s constraining me. I want to let it go.

So while I was stuck in traffic, I decided to have a talk to my ego by imagining that she was sitting in the back seat. (My ego is a little spoiled child and she speaks in a high pitch, whiny voice…if you have kids, you know the voice…)

The conversation went something like this:

Me (M): Why are you being all pouty? I’m trying to concentrate on work and you’re diverting my time and energy on something irrelevant and you’re making me feel like crap. I need to focus.

Ego (E): I want everyone to like me!

M: You have lots of friends, lots of people who love and adore you.

E: But you don’t love and adore me. Have you heard how you talk to me?

M: I mean, sometimes I get down on you…

E: Do you ever have anything nice to say to me? NO! You have no faith in me. You don’t think I can do anything. You’re constantly doubting everything I do, comparing me to other people, worrying about my weight…

M: Wow, is that really all I ever say to you?

E: Feels like it…

M: Are you telling me that all this acting up and diverting my focus is because you need to feel loved and appreciated?

E: Exactly!

M: What would I need to do to make you feel loved and appreciated?

E: I don’t know. Remember when we were kids?

M: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I was just looking through some old photographs. I love the picture of us on Grandma’s chair. It must have been some sort of holiday. We’re wearing a party dress and our hair is curled. I love our smile. It’s one of my favorite pictures. Why can’t we take cute pictures like that now?

A heart to heart with my ego

E: Because you’re all judgy, that’s why. “No, don’t take my picture, I’m not photogenic.” (read with a mocking, sarcastic tone, again, if you have kids…)

M: Well it’s true

E: So not only can’t I do anything right, you don’t like the way I look…

M: That’s not what I said.

E: That’s what I heard!

M: O.K., sorry, I feel like we’re getting a little off track. What about our childhood?

E: I don’t know, it just seemed like we were friends back then. We played and laughed and now it just feels like you’re always criticizing me. I feel anxious and unloved.

M: Well, we were kids then. We were carefree. Life isn’t like that now. I have responsibilities. Don’t I take care of you? I exercise, eat right…

E: So the only thing you care about it how I look?

M: No! I’m doing this for your health. We’re not young anymore and I want us to be active and healthy for however much time we have left. It’s not about looks.

E: You are such a liar!

M: OK, it’s kinda about looks. I’m not going to lie, I like being thin.

E: Kinda? Pfft. You wanna know why I’m so needy? Wanna know why I’m in a constant state of anxiety, wondering what other people think of me? Hoping I’ll get some sort of appreciation? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY?

M: (in a very small voice) I know why.

E: SAY IT!

M: (at this point I’m crying and hoping the other drivers didn’t notice) Because I think the only thing special about us is being thin. Sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing I’ve ever gotten any attention for.

Dear readers, this is a very deep and personal revelation for me and it wasn’t easy to share it but if telling it resonates with just one person and helps them, it was worth it.

We all have stories we’ve told ourselves. Some expand us and some keep us small and trapped. It doesn’t matter where they came from, but over time we’ve reinforced it to the point that it becomes buried in our subconscious and when triggered, we react. The problem is, this habitual pattern of behavior keeps us trapped in the past. Our reaction is not a reaction to the present moment, where we are always free to choose, we are reacting to a story from our past.

Here’s my takeaway from this “conversation”. While in reality I am a fairly well-rounded/balanced person if you consider the “life” wheel (family, work, spirituality, personal growth, etc), in my mind (the things I say to myself) I’ve been hyper focused on only one thing – my weight. It’s like everything else I’ve ever done was insignificant. I clearly remember the events in my life that created this story, pivotal moments that sent me down this unfortunate path. As a child who felt invisible, having people comment about my weight suddenly got me attention. Now that I am aware of this, I’m making an effort to restore some balance, to focus on the other things I’ve accomplished  as well as my talents and gifts – my creativity, my compassion, my sense of fun and play, my discipline, my mad cheesecake making skills…

I also realize I’ve built up a protective wall around myself. But I can see now how the only thing it was protecting was my self-limiting story. I’ve been told I’m hard to read and I always thought that just my introvert personality. And maybe that is a part of it, but maybe it’s because I never felt safe sharing my feelings. That people would judge me, see me as “less than” so I just buried them, walking around with this poker face. Slowly I’ve been letting my guard down. And no one’s run away screaming yet.

I’m trying to pay attention to how and where I dishonor myself. Every time I do something I really don’t want to do or don’t speak up for myself, avoid a conversation and continue to bury my feels only validates, in my mind, that what I think, feel or believe isn’t important, leaving my ego on the constant search for someone “out there” to make her feel worthy and appreciated. It’s about taking care of myself – not just physically, but emotionally. To bring myself peace and joy.

The fact is sometimes our pain can be our greatest source of strength. This personal discovery has cracked me open, as Rumi would say. It’s given me perspective, understanding and compassion for myself and others. We don’t know what stories other people are telling themselves but we always have a choice on how to respond in the present moment. We can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt, that they’re dealing with demons we can’t imagine and to show some compassion.

 

Qualities to Foster for a Positive Mindset

Creating a life that makes us happy and is fulfilling takes a lot of courage, dedication, introspection, perseverance and fortitude. We thrive when we are aligned with our passions, strengths and values, find challenging work, and build meaningful relationships. Deliberately designing such a life requires a lot of effort, but the results are worth it. The starting point of this journey is to examine your mindset. It’s important to scrutinize and question your thoughts and beliefs, are they helping or hindering you, and weed out the ineffective ones. Five qualities of a constructive mindset are: self-acceptance, a belief in yourself, optimism, resourcefulness and curiosity.

Self-acceptance

In I Know I’m in There Somewhere, Helene G. Brenner Ph.D. writes, “I believe that living a fulfilled life comes from learning how to listen to your inner voice, to the truth of your inner being in all of the ways that it speaks to you and live from it.”

According to Brenner (my own journey mirrors it), many women don’t live from their genuine self. We let other people’s desires, expectations and opinions govern us, finding fault and constantly reminding us we aren’t “enough.” When we listen to our authentic voice, we realize that we don’t have to fix, change or improve anything to be happy. There is no test to pass, conditions to meet, or anything to prove in order to pursue the life we want.

I spent most of my life as a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. When I failed, instead of thinking “This is not the right hole for me, I need to try a different one,” I thought, “Something’s wrong with me, I don’t fit in this hole.” I got stuck trying to “fix” myself to fit into the round hole. In my journal, I wrote:

I had this mindset that square was ‘wrong’ and round was ‘right.’ No wonder I had a lack of confidence in myself. I didn’t trust, believe in or accept myself. I thought I had to be ‘fixed.’ There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve ourselves. Learning from our experiences and striving to be better is a positive and energizing experience as you try to fulfill your potential. You are aligned with your strengths, values and passions. I was trying to fix myself which implied that there was something inherently wrong with me. I followed external standards because I didn’t value own my wants, values, passions and lacked faith in my abilities. I was constantly at war with myself.”

It was a shocking revelation. My pattern in relationships was no better. I dated men because they liked me (like I should be grateful to have the attention since I was so lacking). One day I thought, “I should be asking myself if I like them.Change happened quickly when I started listening to and trusting my voice, honoring and respecting my desires and values. I finally found self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance isn’t about sugarcoating your faults or a “this is how I am, I can never change,” defeatist type of attitude. You have a realistic picture of your strengths and weaknesses. You don’t minimize your successes or blow your mistakes out of proportion. You accept yourself as you are; a perfectly imperfect human being. It’s called “being human” for a reason. You accept who you are, trust your instincts, are guided by your values, allow yourself to be vulnerable so you can ask for help when you need it and most importantly, stick up for yourself. Your needs are no less important than anyone else’s. You’re not trying to measure up to anyone’s standards but your own.

Practice self-acceptance by being compassionate and forgiving yourself. Beating yourself up isn’t going to fix anything. Ask yourself, “What if a friend came to me and told me she did this? Would I beat her up for it?” Often, we are harder on ourselves than we would be with a total stranger! We make mistakes, we say stupid things, we act inappropriately at times, we get angry, depressed, lonely, etc. Make amends where needed, forgive yourself and move on.

Les Brown said it eloquently, “Forgive yourself first. Release the need to replay a negative situation over and over again in your mind. Don’t become a hostage to your past by always reviewing and reliving your mistakes. Don’t remind yourself of what should have, could have or would have been. Release it, let it go and move on.”

A Belief in yourself

One of the tenets of coaching is we believe everyone is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. They have the answers, we just help them uncover them. We aren’t here to tell our clients what to do, we guide. When you believe in yourself, you have the confidence and faith that you are capable of doing what you need to do. You believe you have control over your life and you accept the responsibility and consequences of your actions.

We all have varying degrees of confidence depending on our interests and experiences. I’m a confident public speaker but not so confident in my computer skills. Competence breeds confidence, the more practice you’ve had doing something, the more confident you’ll be.

Here are several ways to boost your confidence:

  1. Make a list of your accomplishments – everything from “made the cashier smile” to the big stuff, like getting a degree or landing a big sale. We take some of our biggest achievements for granted, like learning how to speak, read and write. Language is complex, and we mastered it at a very young age.
  2. Be prepared. If you have to give a speech or take a test, the best way to be confident is to practice and study.
  3. Finish a project. There is nothing like crossing something off your to-do list.
  4. Focus on how you can be of service to others. Humans are self-centered. We get wrapped up in wondering what other people think of us, and that creates anxiety and stress. Not good for our confidence. When I am at an event where I don’t know anyone, I focus on how I can be of service to them. It can be as simple as smiling at someone, opening the door or sincerely listening and acknowledging them. Another tactic I use is to see everyone as my teacher. What fascinating thing can I learn by striking up a conversation with someone? By taking the focus off of myself (“will they like me?”), I am able to relax and genuinely connect with others.
  5. Act as if…” If you don’t feel confident, act as if you are. Think of someone you know who exudes confidence and model their behavior. Watch their body language, notice how they stand up tall, offer a firm handshake, etc.
  6. Set and achieve small goals. Little wins make us feel competent.
  7. Groom yourself. Looking and feeling good about ourselves makes us feel more confident.

Optimism

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life; it means you choose to remain confident that things will work out. As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Studies show that optimists live longer, are healthier, and are more committed to and likely to achieve their goals. Dreaming about a better future motivates you to work towards it. This is why it’s important to make your goals positive. Let’s say your doctor recommends that you lose 30 pounds. Say each sentence aloud and notice how each makes you feel.

  • I need to lose 30 pounds because I don’t want to be fat.
  • I want to have more energy, be fit and feel better.

In the first sentence, you’re trying to avoid being fat, yet fat is what you’re focusing on. In the second one, you are working towards and focusing on health and vitality. Which one is motivating? Most people would say the second one. Don’t make your goal a chore. Give yourself something positive to focus on and move towards instead of something you want to avoid. While fear may be a powerful motivator, it’s a negative one and often results in paralysis (Chapter 7 talks more about dealing with fear).

Be more optimistic by:

  • Practicing gratitude. Every night before going to bed, write down at least five things you are grateful for or that made you happy. Put down everything, no matter how little.
  • Looking for the lessons in difficult situations. What did you learn? Was there anything positive that came out of it? Look for the silver lining.
  • Giving up the blame game. Things will go wrong. Accept responsibility where needed and focus on what you can do to correct the situation. Blame is unproductive, if not downright destructive. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Hang out with optimistic people; it will rub off.

Resourcefulness

The ability to skillfully and imaginatively deal with difficult situations or life in general is a valuable skill. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. A person’s mettle isn’t tested when things are good, it’s when the shit hits the fan. So many dreams have died a premature death, not because of a lack of money, but a lack of resourcefulness and creativity. They put all their eggs in one basket and hope it works. People who succeed will always have a plan B, C…Z, if needed. They may not have a contingency plan for every scenario, but they are proactive, open minded, persistent and optimistic. They don’t focus on the problem or the limitations. They focus on what they want and how they can accomplish it. It’s about making do with what you have, as the U.S. Marine Corp says – improvise, adapt, overcome.

The benefits of being resourceful are:

  1. It builds resilience. Resourceful people don’t let failure stop them or take it personally. They keep going until they find something that works. Their creativity gives them the confidence to keep moving forward.
  2. It saves money. Throwing money at a problem is easy, but most of us don’t have deep pockets. Resourceful people find a way to work around the money issue.
  3. It strengthens problem solving skills.
  4. It gives us a sense of control over our life.
  5. It gives us a sense of confidence, fulfillment and growth. When you create something, not only is it extremely satisfying – “I made this” – but what you learn helps you grow and gives you confidence in your abilities.

I think resourcefulness and creativity go hand in hand. Creativity is a skill that can be practiced. It’s about seeing things in a new light or coming up with connections you wouldn’t normally make. You build your creative muscle by:

  • Asking if there is another way you could accomplish what you want.
  • Asking if there is a better way.
  • Asking “What if…” questions.
  • Brainstorming or making a list. The only rules are: don’t censor your answers, and go for quantity – aim for a 100 or more ideas. Usually you have to get the banal ideas out before you hit real gold.
  • Read – about creativity, creative people, as well as a diverse assortment of subjects that have nothing to do with your topic. Creative people are curious. That’s how connections are made.

Curiosity

Resourceful people are inquisitive. They want to learn about everything. They’ll take things apart to see how they work, ask lots of questions and like to explore and investigate. They have an open mind and are willing to see other perspectives.

Beware of the curiosity killers:

  • Assumptions. When you assume you know something, not only do you cut yourself off from possibilities because you stop asking questions, but, what if you’re wrong? Question your assumptions. I kept assuming I had to have a journalism or communication degree to be a writer, like a diploma is a magical piece of paper that will make you an instant expert. Yet, I worked for several magazines and was offered a job, unsolicited, as a copywriter for the catalog of a major retail company. Never was there a discussion about my college education. Everything I learned about writing and the magazine business I learned on the job or through books. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Value judgments. We tend to label things as “good” or “bad”/”right” or “wrong” because it (or they) don’t match our beliefs, when in reality, it’s just different. It’s easier to satisfy your needs when you view the world as different rather than bad. Labeling things as “bad” or “wrong” limits your options and wastes valuable energy in unproductive behavior (arguing, preaching, etc.), which may satisfy your need for power but won’t provide results.
  • Jumping to Conclusions. Language can be imprecise, and unless you ask questions or get clarification, it could lead to you judging or deciding something without having all the facts.

Authenticity

What does it mean to be authentic?

I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought lately. At its core, being authentic is being true to yourself. Easy, right?

Not so much, it turns out.

Children are the most authentic humans I know. They freely express their emotions – from sheer joy and delight to downright defiance, speak their mind (the wisdom that comes from these wee, little beings is mind-boggling) and have an innate belief in themselves, their abilities and the possibilities of life. “Reality” is not going to interfere with their dreams.

Of course I can be a superhero-dragon-training-fairy princess!”

And if these children grow up with parents that mirror their joy and genius, chances are they’ll continue to listen to their inner voice into adulthood. We should all be so lucky.

But if they have parents that deflect their fragile truth, who don’t affirm their gifts and talents, then slowly it becomes buried as they conform to whatever norms their social circle embraces.

I fall into the latter category. This isn’t about blame. You can’t teach or model what you don’t know and chances are these norms and behaviors have been passed on from generation to generation. I can look at my family dynamics in a detached manner and understand why people acted the way they did. And I can also be incredibly grateful because I broke the mold. It took me 50 years to realize it – I’m the maverick in my family!

Listening to our inner voice is complicated for women because our brains are wired to connect. It’s a survival tactic. In a study that examined the effect stress has on men and women, men went into the typical “fight or flight” mode. Women, on the other hand went into a “tend and befriend” state – protect the children and make friends. There is safety in numbers.

The combo of being disconnected from your authentic voice and the biological drive to connect with others can create a perfect storm – we feel like we are losing ourselves. I know the feeling, I’ve uttered those words. When we aren’t living from our truth we tend to rely on these connections to define us. It’s why we find it hard to end a relationship even when we know it’s wrong for us. We give the connection priority. How can it be any other way? We don’t have the wisdom of our inner voice to balance us.

In me, this imbalance created a need for approval. I feared rejection because without the guidance and support of my inner voice, I didn’t know who I was so I relied on others to validate me. I accommodated their wants and needs even if it went against my own truth (even if deeply buried, your inner truth will make itself known, usually physically – headaches, butterflies, muscle spasms, etc). I felt like I was slowly sinking under.

They key to authenticity isn’t to give up our connections. It doesn’t mean never compromising or accommodating someone else’s needs over our own. We have room to grow and our truth will change. The key is to reconnect with our inner voice.

How do you do that?

Listen.

If you’re truth is buried deeply, chances are that voice in your head is your inner critic so you’ll have to listen to your body. How do you feel? Do your actions or decisions resonate? Do you feel heady with excitement? Are you engaged and losing all track of time? Do you feel expansive? Or, does it feel like you’ve got a mud brick sitting in your gut? Are you dragging your feet? Does it feel like drudgery? Are you unable to focus on anything because you’re too upset? Do you silently stew?

Pay attention to what lights your fire and what dampens your spirit. In order to connect on a meaningful level, you first need to connect with yourself.

Question your thoughts.

Instead of assuming you know what the other person wants and trying to bend yourself in a pretzel to accommodate them, ask. If you find yourself disagreeing, that’s OK. You don’t have to nor should you, agree on everything. If you want a real connection, you’re going to have to dive deep and not just skate on the surface. If you can’t negotiate your differences or you don’t feel safe speaking your truth, you don’t have a real connection and the sooner you learn this, the better. Give up being the designated compromisor. Real, lasting, meaningful relationships are a give and take for both parties.

You’re not for everyone.

Get over the fact that everyone has to or is going to like you. It’s unrealistic. Focus on the people who you like and like you instead of wasting your time on trying to convince someone otherwise. Life is too short to be giving away your energy to someone or something that will not enhance your life.

Accept yourself.

You have nothing to prove. There are no tests to pass. Your mere existence is proof that you are enough. You don’t need anyone’s approval. We are works in progress, accept and acknowledge your gifts and flaws. No one is perfect so quit pretending you are. Our willingness to admit vulnerability is our strength. It’s what makes us human. Personally, I give mine a blankie and some hot chocolate so they’ll be quiet, curl up in the back seat and quietly watch the scenery and while my strengths take the wheel.

When we reconnect with our truth, an amazing thing happens. We mirror and acknowledge other people’s truth, no matter how different it is from ours. We may even be influenced and grow from the experience.

The irony is when we connect from a place of authenticity, it’s deeper and more satisfying than anything we could ever imagine

At the Edge of Discomfort

I’m at a place right now that Elizabeth Gilbert describes  in her book Big Magic as “interesting”. It’s that spot right on the edge of your comfort zone where if you take one more step forward – WHAM! you are in uncharted, scary territory.

“Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding. Because that moment? That’s the moment when interesting begins.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve been teetering on the edge of this precipice for a couple of weeks now. And let me tell you, it is a disconcerting place to be. There’s no peace or calm. My stomach feels like any moment one of those Alien spawns is going to pop out like a Jack-in-the-box. There’s this unsettling, undefined thought hanging out in the back of my head like some premonition of horror awaits me.

I’m going to be honest, I am not familiar with this constant discomfort. In the past I’ve made an easy retreat right back into the safety of Mediocreville. I don’t like it. I’ve walked up to this edge so many times that there is a well worn rut and this time – THIS TIME – I am stepping forward.

O.K. stepping might be the wrong word, I’m inching my way out, daintily putting my toe in the water to see just how cold it is. This is uncharted territory for me.

Let me be clear – it’s not like I’ve never stepped outside of my comfort  zone. I mean, life isn’t like that. Shit happens and you have to deal with it. We discover we can persevere, even thrive, in situations we couldn’t even imagine. When the going gets tough…

But there has been this one BIG THING hanging over my head, literally stopping me  in my tracks from successfully creating my own business for decades and I have been frustrated beyond reason at my inability to overcome it.

Why?

Because with this one BIG THING, I’ve always retreated back to my comfort zone. Because I continued to reinforce the idea (hence the ruts) that this BIG THING was insurmountable. Because instead of examining my fears, I gave in to them. Because I felt like my very existence – my worth as a human being (literally, I’m not kidding!) – was at stake!

Because I never tried to think differently or do anything different about it except “try harder”.

I know now that this was all in my head. But habits of thought and unexamined, misplaced beliefs don’t just disappear overnight when you become aware of them. It’s not that easy. It requires constant diligence – being aware of what you are thinking and catching yourself. It requires creating a new – healthier – perspective.

So how do you do that?

We stay in our comfort zone because it’s comfortable, boring, but comfortable. We let our fears get the best of us – fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of making a fool of ourselves.

How do we move past these fears?

Don’t take it personally.

How many times have you tried something and it didn’t work? What did you do? Well, if you’re like me, you think something is wrong with you. Then you get caught up in this endless loop of…failure. And you think you’re a failure instead of putting the blame squarely where it belongs – on the process! There are many ways to achieve a result and there are many ways not to achieve a certain result. Keep testing the waters until you find the way that works and feels right for you. This isn’t personal. It’s called trial and error.

It’s not about you.

We get so caught up in worrying about what people think about us. What do we try to do? We try to impress them. Even people we don’t like! It’s too much pressure.Some people will like you, some people won’t, so what? Focus on the people you like and want to make a connection with.

It’s all about you.

I’m being contradictory, aren’t I? First I tell you it’s not about you but then I tell you it’s all about you.

Stay with me.

When you are trying to impress someone, trying to make them like or approve of you, are you being genuine? No. When I say “it’s all about you,” I am saying it in the context of being authentically you. Be yourself. Honor and respect yourself. The only person’s approval you need is your own!

I’ve wasted too much of my life worrying about what other people thought of me because I didn’t think much of myself. Not a belief system that helps you move outside of your comfort zone. It created a vicious cycle. Every time I tried to get someone else’s approval it reinforced the belief that someone had to validate me in order for me to be worthy.

This is bullshit.

We are all worthy. We are all enough. What’s my argument or evidence for this? You exist. Period.

I realized that when I was living my life looking for outer validation, I wasn’t living my life. I wasn’t living much at all. I wasn’t accomplishing much, I wasn’t learning. I wasn’t growing and I certainly wasn’t contributing.

I’m learning to reframe my thoughts. Being authentic means being mindful, present and open. It means living my life on my terms and allowing others to live their life the way they want. It means dropping the judgmental attitude. I’m not living my whole life for others to validate me. I’m just living- following my passions, finding my purpose, sharing my gifts and talents and trying to figure out how I can be of service and contribute to the greater good. I’m searching for ways to align myself with the universe instead of trying to force things to work.

We all have a BIG THING that gets in our way. The question is – when you are on your death bed, do you want to remember your life as being “safe” (i.e mediocre, boring) or do you want to remember it as interesting?

 

 

 

Stop Feeding Your Ego at the Expense of Your Self-Esteem

Stop feeding your ego at the expense of your self esteem.

Ego.

It’s only three letters but those three letters can wreak havoc on our lives.

The ego is a mean-spirited bully. It always wants to be right at the expense of making others wrong, makes us live small, is arrogant, untrustworthy, judgmental and most of all, this whole facade is because it is scared. The ego is all about “me, me, me” and it always has something to prove. It believes there’s only so much to go around so it better grab its share before someone else does. When we live by our ego, we are living in fear.

We all have an ego problem but we can lessen it by tapping into our higher power. I don’t mean this in a religious way. What I mean is we all have a spiritual side. Maybe you call it “intuition” or a “gut feeling”, whatever you want to call it, it is that voice or feeling that nudges us toward the good and warns us about the bad. At some point in our lives, we’ve all had that feeling that something or someone wasn’t quite right or felt so “in the moment” and joyous that time seemed to fly.This is when we are living from our spirit.

When we are connected and listen to our spirit, we become aligned with our true nature and life tends to flow and seem effortless. When we are living from our spirit, we are living in love. We are joyful, we see the abundance and beauty around us, we can tap into our creative energy, we are excited and engaged. When we are operating from our spirit instead of our ego, we feel safe and secure in who we are. We are enough. We can shine our light knowing it takes nothing away from anyone else. We become a light for others to shine. We seek to serve, to share our gifts and talents as only we can.

Obviously the better place to be operating is from our spirit, so why do we get trapped in the ego? Because the ego is sneaky. It plays on our fears and insecurities. It’s subtle. It’s hardwired into our brains.

For instance, I’ve seen this situation play out many times, with myself as well as my friends. You end a relationship because it wasn’t a good fit. No one did anything wrong (cheat, steal, was abusive, etc), it just wasn’t meant to be. But even if you were the one who ended the relationship, it still might take awhile to let go. You or the other party still try to maintain contact. Often, it’s because we don’t like being rejected. Rejection is the ego’s domain. We continue to engage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it gratifies our ego.

But at what cost? Our self-esteem, self-respect and dignity.

We give in to our ego because we fear rejection. It’s a very real fear as we are social creatures and in the early stages of mankind, being rejected from your “tribe” often meant death. There was safety in numbers and we are wired to connect.

But we can’t be everything to everyone. We don’t like everyone we meet so why should we expect everyone to like us? We are not suited to every job that is out there so why do we get depressed when we don’t get the job we never wanted in the first place. We are so concerned about being liked and wanted that we lose sight of what we like and want. 

When we operate from our ego we remain focused on our fears – we want to be validated, we want to win, we want to prove ourselves and as a result, we end up with a bunch of stuff we never really wanted in the first place. We settle for mediocre relationships, jobs that numb us and spend most of our days disengaged – “living for the weekend”.

When we live from our spirit, we live from grace, joy, empathy, compassion and authenticity. We focus on who we are, what we love and how we want to live. We honor ourselves and others by sharing our gifts and uplifting others.

Shifting from an “ego” to a “spirit”  mindset doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong journey. It takes awareness, patience, a sense of humor, compassion and a commitment in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of progression. It’s a balancing act of looking inward to love, accept and forgive ourselves, warts and all, and know that wherever we are, we are enough.

And looking outward with kindness, compassion and gratitude at the wild, messy sea of humanity that we share this planet with and not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, judge others or take things personally because every one of us is acting out from our own fears and desire to be accepted and loved.

As I see it, there are really only two paths in life – love and fear, ego or spirit. Our ego keeps us small but our spirit lets us step into our light and shine.

 

 

 

Invest in Yourself

Invest in Yourself

Everyone talks about investments, but how many business owners invest in themselves?

We have this Lone Ranger attitude in this country, that we’re suppose to know it all and be all. Asking or seeking out help is a sign of weakness. We put on a mask of confidence yet wonder why it’s so hard to get clients.

While working on homework from my coach, I had a HUGE revelation. To make a long story short, what I realized is when I am aligned with my passion, strengths and values, work is effortless and enjoyable. All those times when I struggled, I blamed myself – “I’m not trying hard enough”, “I’m not smart enough” or some other self-flagellation.

The problem wasn’t me, the problem was I was pursuing the wrong work. I can’t begin to explain the effect this had on me. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  Self-limiting beliefs that had been haunting me – literally for decades – were dislodged and wiped away. The clouds parted and the angels sang. Progress came quickly. All because I decided to make an investment in myself.

Coaching is an investment. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles or prestige of a fancy new phone. But unlike that phone, which will become obsolete within a year, coaching will only continue to add value, letting you take control and create a life aligned with your values, passions and strengths. What I’ve spent on coaching and other professionals has shortened my learning curve by years. The ROI has always been in my favor.

By all means, run your business lean but don’t skimp on your most important asset – YOU.

 

Change Begins by Changing Your Mind

Change Begins by Changing Your Mind

I made a commitment to myself. It’s a pretty significant investment in myself and my future. I have no doubts that I hired the right person and it will change the course of my business as well as be a growing experience. When I signed on the dotted line, I was thrilled. This was happening.

And 24 hours later I am terrified. Terrified that I am an impostor. Terrified that I don’t have what it takes. Terrified that I’m going to “blow” it. All over a piece of paper with four questions on it.

And so it goes.

I sit here quietly in my discomfort. What other choice do I have? It’s not going to go away anytime soon so I might as well get used to it. Because there is one thing I know, nothing’s going to change unless I do. 

I want this change.

Change is uncomfortable. Change triggers all sorts of fears, beliefs, resistance – my brain is literally screaming for me to stop – the red light is flashing – “DANGER” as this fear raises my stress level.

Change helps expose some chinks in the armor. If we bring awareness to our fears, expose and examine them, we learn what we need to attend to.

Just writing that last sentence helped calm my mind. It’s shed some light on an area that needs my attention, my compassion. It’s reminded me how much I have undervalued and taken for granted my gifts.

The four questions are innocuous. It’s the thoughts and self doubts that emerged when I read them. This is usually the case and luckily I’ve had enough practice to know just because I think it doesn’t mean it’s true. If the thought isn’t serving me, I can choose to think something different – something that will benefit me, help me move forward towards my goals. What a revelation!

Any change we make begins by changing our mind – getting rid of self-limiting thoughts and beliefs and replacing them with beliefs that empower, energize and excite us. As with so many things on this journey, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. Our thoughts often lie below the surface, silently running the show. It takes practice to bring them to the surface and expose them to the light. It’s a process, but one that will pay off big for us in the long run.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some questions to answer.

 

 

 

Inner Knowing vs. Not Knowing

I recently wrote a post “Not Knowing is the Path” and then came upon a paradox of sorts. As a coach, we believe all the answers are inside of us, a coach merely helps uncover these truths. So how can “not knowing” be the path when we are suppose to already have the answers inside us?

Inner knowing, whether you want to call it instincts, intuition or gut feeling, is about our inner wisdom. Inner knowing is our North Star, our guidance system, not knowing is our map.

Clear as mud, right?

I spent a good portion of my life believing I had to know it all first and then I could act. As a result, I suffered mega imposter syndrome and given my acting skills are horrendous, my discomfort and false bravado didn’t win me any friends. When I had my epiphany – not knowing is the path – I realized action precedes learning. It’s a path you go down, not a stationary place. I’m not suppose to know it all and it allowed me to relax and be genuine.

You have to do something, evaluate the outcome and reflect on it. Did you get the results you wanted? If not, try something different. It’s like the navigation system on a plane – you are constantly making course adjustments to get you to your final destination.  We grow into our goals as we walk down this path. It’s a process and through this process we create our life.

But how do we know if we are on the right path? We need some sort of guidance system and that is where our inner knowing comes in. Our life is a series of choices – what to eat, what to wear, whether to exercise or not, who we associate with, what books to read, what to do in our free time, where to live, what to spend our money on, what career to pursue. How do we choose?

We choose based on our inner knowing. Our inner knowledge comes from action (things we’ve tried and liked or don’t like), our DNA (a preference towards introversion or extroversion for example), as well as on a deeper, spiritual level.

The takeaway is to be in tune with our inner knowing. Your body will always give you a sign if you are on the right track. The key is to listen. Sometimes it’s obvious – something resonates with you and you’re constantly drawn to it. Other times when you’re doing something that conflicts with your true self, it shows up in physical symptoms – lack of energy, stress or getting sick. Or you try to mask it with alcohol, binge eating, surfing the internet…you get the idea. No judgement, we’ve all been there.

Despite my insatiable desire to learn more about personal development, I didn’t trust my inner knowing. I was very aware of what made me tick yet I let myself be swayed by other people’s opinions. Probably because my opinion wasn’t really asked for so the message I got was it wasn’t important. Anyway, this can lead to chaos because everyone has an opinion. I was constantly chasing other people’s and as a result I was frustrated – a lot.

I’ve had to take a step back and slow down. I’m bombarded daily with offers about how I should live my life and run my business as I mentioned in the previous post. Only when I started following my inner knowledge, only when I make choices based on what I love, what really resonates with me, did things start to change. It gave me focus, it gave me direction. I feel assured that I am on the right path.

 

 

 

 

Authentic Marketing

authentic marketing

My inbox is flooded with offers – webinars for turning pinterest into a business, how to use Facebook groups to make money, how to be a six figure author and speaker, etc. Then there’s the calls from telemarketers who can get my name at the top of a google search (for the right price) or “radio” producers who want to interview you for their show, give you 10 minutes (which never airs), lavishes you with praise (“You’re just what we’re looking for!”) only to try to sell you a slot (for a ridiculous amount of money.). One so called internet radio station called me and when I looked them up they had only been around for 3 months yet they claimed to have “millions” of listeners. When I ask for names of other people who have done it, somehow we got mysteriously disconnected. With one station, I actually found some people who had paid for a “show” and contacted them. It was unanimous that they didn’t get a good ROI on their investment.

The amount of promotional materials and marketing calls I get is overwhelming, not to mention, it could get pretty expensive if I bought into every webinar, online class and promotional stunt out there.

I’ll confess, I have bought into some of them and they were fine. There were others I thought about buying but the price tag was a little too big for me. I want my books to be bestsellers. I want sold out workshops. I want financial, emotional and intellectual success so these offers are enticing. So should we succumb to their siren song?

At a recent NAPW meeting, Jean Berry came to teach us the Miracle Manifesting Formula. She is fun, energetic and smart. Check out her game Angels, Peacocks and Butterflies – 100 days of Miracles. But then again, I think play should be a vital part of our business and our life. I’m certainly working to incorporate more play into my business.

Anyway, the big takeaway for me was:

“You need to do what you need to do out of inspiration and that’s how your business will grow”

I already knew this but it was validating. So many “experts” are out there telling you this is how you’re suppose to run your business:

“Facebook marketing is the way to go”

“You need to have an Instagram account”

“Have to have a website”

All these “have to’s”, “should’s”, “musts” – it’s enough to make your head spin. The problem is I’ve tried my fair share of things and you know what? My follow through has been crap. Why? Because they didn’t feel right to me.

This is my business and I can follow the “experts”, try everything, drain my bank account as well as my confidence doing things that don’t feel right to me. And that’s the key word – feel. Does it resonate with you? Are you excited and energized? Or does it feel like one more thing you have to do?

We live in a world where we have lots of options and for that I am grateful. But I learned I have to shut out the external noise about what I “should” or am “suppose” to do and listen to what my gut tells me. And that’s what you get to do too. If something doesn’t feel right, if you can’t seem to make yourself do it, then do something different! Pick something that makes you sing!

 

 

Not Knowing is the Path

Not knowing is the path

I’ve taken up meditation. I’m horrible at it. But at the end I say a little prayer to acknowledge the blessings in my life. I don’t have a set prayer, I usually just say something off the top of my head and yesterday I said, out of nowhere, “Not knowing is the path.”

Whoa! This struck an immediate cord with me.

Not knowing is the path.

Maybe there’s something to this meditation stuff after all. But what does that even mean? A couple of things came to my mind.

  1. Our strength lies in our vulnerability.  Do you think you have to know all the answers before your begin? That’s how we’re trained, isn’t it? But none of us know it all. NO ONE. In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says that mentality weakens us as individuals because “the search for understanding, knowing there is no ultimate answer, becomes a creative process.” He goes on to say, “Then curiosity, previously buried under the belief that ‘I know the answer’ is free to surface. The fear that ‘I don’t know, but perhaps he or she does,’ or ‘I don’t know but I should,’ dissolves”. Not knowing makes us curious and open. When I tried to hide my “not knowing” (that includes my lack of experience) it always backfired on me. I was wearing a mask and it wasn’t fulling anyone, least of all myself. But when I admitted I was a beginner, that I didn’t know but I was willing to learn, a lot of supportive people showed up. People like to help and it takes guts to say “I don’t know.”
  2. Not knowing leads to growth. For me, part of the appeal of being an entrepreneur is exploring new ideas, developing new skills, facing new challenges. I am easily bored. I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over and over again. Not knowing is the path because when you choose to go down it, that’s were the magic happens. That’s where we stretch outside our comfort zone (sometimes we are dragged there), where we learn about ourselves and our ability to grow into our goals. That’s what this whole journey, at least for me, is all about.
  3. Not knowing keeps us open to the possibilities. I told a friend I never would call myself an “expert” because once I did, I was closing my mind off to new possibilities. No matter how far I come, there will always be something new to learn, areas to grow. It’s never ending. I never want to be at the point where I say “I know it all, there is nothing more to learn on the subject.” Life is continually changing and we can move forward with it or we can stop. I’ve seen first hand what happens when people stop. It’s tragic. I want to stay engaged in life.

The takeaway is don’t let not knowing stop you from doing what you want to do. Creating a business is a process, a journey. It’s not plug in and go. There will be parts you feel confident about and other parts you don’t have a clue to how to do. And there are still parts you don’t even know you don’t know – yet.

It’s good to have a starting point, know what you want to do, who you want to do it for and how you’re going to do it but there’s still a lot of leeway and flexibility. You don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t so try something. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not knowing is the path.