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

The F-Word You Need to Succeed

The F-word you need to succeed

Entrepreneurship is simple, not easy by any means, but simple. The more questions I ask, the more women I talk to, the more entrenched I get into my own business, the more I realize that creating a business can be summed up with a few key words. One of those words is focus.

Focus

When creating or running a business, your first focus should be on your mission. What are you trying to accomplish? You should have a clear statement of your intent. For instance, my mission is to educate, empower, inspire and support female entrepreneurs in creating financially, intellectually and emotionally rewarding businesses.

Why is a mission statement important? So you have criteria in which to:

  • define your ideal client
  • evaluate all your opportunities,
  • create your brand
  • coordinate your marketing efforts to reach your ideal client,
  • design all your products and services

Everything that I do in my business falls under one of the four categories: educate, empower, support and inspire.

Defining my mission statement was actually the easy part. Lately it’s been my day-to-day focus I’ve had problems with. It’s easy to get caught up in things like worrying about money or get sidetracked with stuff that doesn’t effect your bottom line (i.e. fancy office space when you could work at home) or taking course after course on various topics. Not that any of these things are bad, per se, but when you are just starting out, your focus should be on making sure you are adding value by solving some sort of problem and finding the people who have that problem and are willing to pay for it.

Let’s look at a couple of these distractions individually.

  • Money – I’m not discounting the fact that money is one of the reasons we create a business. After all, part of my mission is about creating financial success. But part of the planning process of a new business is to have a financial cushion. That means either starting your business part-time while you’re still working full-time or having enough in savings you’re willing to invest in yourself and your idea. Money’s been a top distraction creating my business but I realized that when I am focused on my lack of income, first of all I am focused on scarcity, which creates a desperation mindset. Since I believe that we all emit energy, this negative energy attracts only more negativity. Creativity doesn’t do well in such an environment and closes me off to new possibilities as well as people who could help. Second, thinking about money takes my creative energy away from creating value (i.e. products and services), which is what’s going to make me money!
  • Courses – My inbox is full of people hawking their courses – everything from creating podcasts to using video to create a six figure income in three months. While I’m a big fan of learning, I’ve become more discerning about following my own path and choosing what works and feels best for my business. I still read tons of books and take courses but they need to fit my criteria. Be aware if you are signing up for every course you get an email for. Sometimes it’s an avoidance tactic. The best education is getting out there and doing it. There is no way you are going to know everything you need to know before you start your business. As I’ve said before, not knowing is the path.
  • Fears – Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, so many fears. Often when we are avoiding something it’s because we are focused on our fears. The best thing to do is get them out in the open and address them. Fear of rejection was my biggest fear but I learned to stop focusing on me and focus on how I could be of service. Fear of failure is another one. Failure can be a terrifying word. Quit using it. You didn’t fail, you got feedback. Failure is a dead end while feedback is information you can use to move forward.

I’ve come up with a little trick to get me back on track when I lose focus and start worrying – I have three questions I ask myself:

  1. What did I learn? How will I apply it? Who can I teach it to?
  2. What value did I add?
  3. Who did I connect with?

These questions remind me that learning is a vital part of building a business. Adding value keeps me focused on activities that are the core of my mission: empower, educate, inspire and support. And at the heart of a business is connecting with others – even those that aren’t your ideal client.

What are you focusing on?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Emotional Intelligence

I recently attended a presentation on Emotional Intelligence  given by leadership expert and author Dr. Joe Serio.

Emotional intelligence is understanding and recognizing ours and the emotions of others and managing them, according Dr. Serio. The “game” (of job hunting, relationships, life) is about feelings. “It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you feel about what you know.” Your thoughts and beliefs often determine how we feel so emotional intelligence is about how you can better yourself and achieve your goals.

There are four parts to emotional intelligence. The first two are about you and the last two are about how you interact with others.

  1. Self-awareness – What are you telling yourself? What do you believe? What stories are you carrying around? Introspection can be painful as we hold onto past hurts and let them spill into our conversation.
  2. Self-management – how do you behave? Can you control your emotions or do you fly off the handle at the slightest offense?
  3. Social awareness – I have a friend that called it social fluidity – the ability to adapt to different personality types and find common ground in order to make a connection. Are you aware of social cues such as body language?
  4. Relationship management – How are your relationships? If you don’t know, ask them.This can be scary but listen even if you don’t like what they say ask what you can do differently.

As with everything else, it starts by asking yourself: who am I? What do I want? How am I going to get it? Clarity and focus is  the key. Once you’ve answered these questions, the next thing to figure out is your strategy for getting it.

You do have a strategy right? (Winning the lottery is not a valid strategy). Here’s the thing, as Dr. Joe said, in order to have something you’ve never had you have to do something you’ve never done. Nothing is going to change by playing it safe. If you’re not getting the results you want then do something different (I’ve said this multiple times).

Even when you have a strategy, we get stuck in a rut. “Everything happens outside of your comfort zone,” Dr. Joe reminds us.

What keeps us inside our comfort zone? Fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, so many fears. Dr. Joe calls it a “what if” life when we give away our energy and power by mentally playing out negative scenarios.

So how do we manage our fears? He gives us a seven step process as follows:

  1. Acknowledge your fears. What we resist, persists.
  2. Identify it – As Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscience researcher and author of The Upward Spiral, listening, labeling and acknowledging our emotions lessons their impact. It has such a powerful effect on the brain that it is used in mediation, mindfulness and by FBI hostage negotiators.
  3. Measure it – how afraid are you? We let our fears get away from us by being hyperfocused on it and believing it’s real.
  4. Imagine the worst case scenario. Is it really all that bad in the grand scheme of things? If it is, at least you’ve identified the situation and the first step in solving a problem is identifying it.
  5. Gather information and support. Ask other people how they handled this situation. Not only does this help you get ideas on how to deal with the situation, but also let’s you know you’re not alone. Other people have faced what you are and gotten through it.
  6. Contemplate your past success with change. You’ve made it through other problems, changes, etc, you can get through this too.
  7. Celebrate!

The bottom line is – events are neutral, it is our response to them that determines our outcomes. What we believe about ourselves determines how we think. We rarely examine our thoughts and beliefs, they’ve become habit, we aren’t even conscious of them. Awareness is the first key. Listen to what you tell yourself and question whether it is helping or hindering you. You always have a choice to think differently which will affect your emotional state.

Scorecard for Success

success is consistently doing the right things

I’m working with a client who wants to start her own business. Her idea is solid; she spent a lot of time researching it and putting together a business plan and website. But when it came time to implement it, she suddenly found herself distracted and losing interest. Her enthusiasm waned and she ignored it for a year. She hired me after she was laid off from her job and the thought of looking for another “soul-sucking” position (her words) made her sick and depressed. She realized it was time to go for it.

With coaching, she saw how her lack of confidence, self-doubts and fear of rejection were holding her back from marketing and promoting her business.

Marketing and self-promotion are vital to the success of any business. It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one knows about it. This was the problem my client was running into. She was focusing on her fears and doubts it triggered and stopped her from doing anything.

I’ve been in her shoes. When I created my business I wasn’t getting much attention. I knew the next step was to promote it and I procrastinated. I suffered from the same self-doubts and fear of rejection many of my clients have. (It’s a common issue with many woman). Suddenly it dawned on me. Building a client base is nothing more than consistently taking the right action. It’s a numbers game and a scorecard is the perfect tool. Not only can you track your progress, it also diverts your attention away from all those imaginary goblins in your mind (that trigger your worst fears) by giving you concrete steps to focus on.

Scorecard for Success

Here’s how it works. Write down all the steps needed to achieve your goal. In my client’s case, it’s increasing traffic to her website. How do you get traffic to your website? There are a number of things you can do:

  • start a blog and post regularly
  • offer a freebie for subscribers
  • build a presence in your industry’s community (think Linkedin or professional associations)
  • guest blog
  • be a podcast guest
  • give a speech
  • submit articles

Pick a few things you think will give you the best results and be consistent in your efforts. If you don’t know where to start, look at what other successful people did and start there.

Marketing is about building a presence and trust. It’s not a one shot deal, you need to do it consistently and this is where most people fail. They are impatient, want results too soon and give up. But if you are patient and consistently take the right action, eventually things will tip in your favor.

Create your Scorecard

Create a spreadsheet (or just write it on a piece of paper, it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated) and write down in one column all your steps. Every time you do something on your scorecard, mark it. I find a weekly scorecard works best. At the end of the week tally up how many times you did each step (i.e. wrote a blog post, articles submitted, etc). Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things. Start with three things and re-evaluate after a couple of months.

Keeping score accomplishes a couple of things:

  1. Weekly “to-do” list of action items. We tend to complicate things. Having a scorecard creates a system. All you have to do is work it.
  2. Stay focused. In the beginning, you will expend more effort and energy on your goal because you haven’t gained any momentum. Ideally, after consistently taking the right action and things are moving, it will take less effort to maintain your momentum. Focus on your action steps and give them time to work instead of jumping all over the place and wondering why nothing’s working.
  3. Feedback. How do you know if you’re taking the right action? Numbers don’t lie. Try something and give it sufficient time (three months) and if you aren’t getting the results you want, try something different! When you have quantifiable data you can properly asses your progress and switch gears where needed.
  4. Build good habits. When you do something consistently, you end up creating a habit. Good habits simplify life.

The scorecard was a game changer for me and my clients. It’s simple and effective. Give it a try for one of your goals.

Self Confidence Tips

Tips for Self-Confidence

My clients often ask me “How can I become more confident?” Lack of confidence appears to be a major stumbling block for many women. The problem is we think confidence is the source of our success when it is the result of our success.

Self-confidence is a trust in our abilities. We have faith we are capable of doing what we need to do. Where does this trust and faith come from? Experience. Think about something you’re really good at, for example, cooking. Chances are you weren’t so good in the beginning. But it held your interest and you kept at it, practicing it until it became second nature. Over time you became confident enough to experiment and create your own recipes. You didn’t begin confident, but you grew confident with practice.

So what do you do in situations when you’re entering new territory, moving outside of your comfort zone and learning new skills? Situations where your confidence is low?

Confidence is nice to have but it isn’t required to proceed. When we were toddlers, learning how to walk and talk, we weren’t concerned about confidence but we were motivated. We just kept practicing until we became proficient.

As toddlers, our efforts were praised, no matter what the outcome was. Later on, especially in school, we learned mistakes were “bad” and to be avoided so many of us developed an aversion to going outside of our comfort zone lest we look stupid. Right around this time we start developing the Voice of Judgement.That’s the voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough, we’ll be laughing stocks, etc. Unfortunately you’re not going to get rid of that voice but you can choose to refocus your thoughts and drown it out. Here are some tips for cultivating confidence:

Self Confidence Tips

Acknowledge your Successes

Often we take for granted the things we are good at and what we accomplished. Recognize all you have already succeeded at – and by succeed, I mean know how to do proficiently – both personal and professional. Mastering language (reading, writing and speaking) is one of the most complex things we had to learn and we did it at a very young age. No matter how good you are at something, you started out as a beginner. Remember that the next time you take on a new challenge. You may not have confidence specifically in this new area but you do have the confidence of knowing you were able to learn and become proficient at other tasks.

Focus on your Desired Outcome

Fear of speaking in public is suppose to rank higher than death. What causes people to get up in front of an audience, sputter, go blank and generally mess up? They are focused on…drum roll please…sputtering and going blank! Focus on what you want to happen. Visualize yourself confidently giving your speech, remembering all your points with ease and the audience listening attentively and clapping enthusiastically when you’re done.

Prepare & Practice

Confidence comes with practice. If you have to give a speech, write out what you are going to say and practice it. Practice it in front of family members, practice while you’re stuck in traffic, practice it while you’re showering. Even if you’ve never given a speech in your entire life, preparing what you are going to say and practicing it will breed confidence.

Think Positively

You’ve heard the saying “garbage in garbage out” as it relates to computers. Well, the same thing can be said for your brain. What we say and think will be literally translated by our brains. If you constantly tell yourself “I can’t…” your brain will follow your instructions. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Beware of the negative self-talk and the Voice of Judgement. If you catch yourself saying “I can’t…”, challenge yourself – “Who says I can’t?” Take the confidence you have in other areas of your life and use it to assure yourself that if you can master knitting (car repair, baking, etc) you can master this too.

Ask for Help

If nothing else works, ask for help. This can take on many different forms – finding a mentor, taking a class, reading a book, joining a group, asking someone who’s done it before. Ask in a respectful manner, being cognizant of their time. Some people will say no, thank them and move on until you find someone who can help you.

Lies we tell ourselves

girl-worried-1215261_1280

Everyday we tell ourselves lies that limit our potential. Here are some of them:

1.”It’s not my fault”

If you are talking about the weather or another person’s actions, then you’re right. But we often say these words when we have been called out on our behavior. In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey talks about our birthrights and one of them is freedom of choice. We all have the power to choose and as a result, we need to take responsibility for our actions.

When you apologize for your words or actions, try to right a wrong, suffer the consequences, make amends, fix your mistakes, etc, not only do you have a chance to learn and grow, you release yourself from the pain and memory and can move on. You are able to take that failure and make it a win. When you play the blame game, you end up holding on to all that negative energy and carrying it with you, letting it eat at your confidence and self-esteem.

2. “I can’t…”

At 53 my chances of becoming a prima ballerina are slim but nothing is stopping me from taking ballet lessons, watching ballet, photographing dancers, creating a movie about ballet, hosting a fundraiser for the ballet or writing a book about it or in any other way expressing my love for ballet.

There are some things that aren’t realistic anymore but there is a difference between accepting reality and fighting for our limitations. Don’t let your age, circumstances or physical abilities define what you can and can’t do. Ask yourself “Why can’t I?” “What if I did?” Maybe you don’t want to…but that’s OK, you’re making a choice which is different than accepting defeat before you even tried.

3. Letting your past determine your future.

The beauty of being human is that we are capable of learning and growing. What happened 1, 5, 20 years ago is inconsequential to what we are capable of doing today. Ten years ago I said I hated running and totally sucked at it. But today I am a runner and I can run an 8 minute mile. I’m not going to win any awards but my vitals (i.e. pulse, blood pressure, etc) not to mention my physique, have changed over time due to my commitment to running. The choices we make determine our future. If we want our future to be different, we do so by making different choices. Personally, if I’m still the same person in ten years as I am today, I’ll be disappointed. Living in the past is not living.

4. Life’s a bitch.

This isn’t a lie because life can be a bitch at times. As I write this post, it is my brother’s birthday. He passed away almost 20 years ago, leaving behind a wife and two-year-old son. That sucks, because if you ever met my brother you’d be instantly struck by how fun-loving and optimistic he was. He got sick when he was visiting me and I remember saying how it sucked and his comment when his wife brought him a bowl of soup was “Yeah, but I’m being taken care of.’ He wasn’t focused on how sick he was, he was just so grateful for the love and care his wife gave him.

People are probably tired of me saying it but it’s true – you get what you focus on. If you’re going to focus on the misery in life, that’s all you’ll see. And how does that make you feel? Not so good, I bet.

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident 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 optimists live longer, are healthier and more committed to and likely to achieve their goals. Dreaming about a better future motivates you to work towards it.

Personal control is one of the traits of happy people. When we feel we are in control of our life, we are happier, more productive and have more confidence. We can pursue our dreams and have a sense of purpose in our life, which gives us meaning and more fulfillment. Stop the lies, quit putting limitations on your life and take control of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Questions to keep you on target

4 Questions to keep you on targetSo you have a goal – lose weight, start a business, get over your fear of public speaking, learn new software – whatever it is. That’s wonderful! Life is really just a series of goals – growing into our full potential. Before you dive in, it’s time to do a quick assessment of where you are at. This is not a one shot deal, you should check in with yourself often. Asking these questions will help keep your impulses/emotions from side-tracking your progress.

Am I hungry?

“Wait,” you say, “that’s great if I was on a diet but that’s not my goal…” Have you ever heard of the word “hangry”? It’s actually in the Urban Dictionary and is a composite of the word hungry and angry and defined as:

“When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.”

Since I mention diet, I will bring up two cases to illustrate the importance of this question.

First, I had a client who’s goal was to lose weight. She tried every fad diet, which are usually full of restrictions and create a deprivation mentality. Her enthusiasm would be high in the beginning but sooner or later (usually sooner) her hunger would become unbearable and she’d end up gorging on junk food. This would put her in a cycle of shame and blame that got her nowhere.

My second client wanted to finish her degree and start a new career. She was working full time and enrolled in night classes. Three nights a week she was driving from work to class and would be there for 3 hours. Her first semester grades weren’t good. She questioned her commitment and her intelligence and came to me as her one last hope before giving up. One of the things I discovered is that on the day of class, she didn’t eat dinner until she got home, usually around 9 pm. She would snack on soda and a bag of chips or a candy bar.

The problem was that both of my clients were hungry! Food is both a need and a basic pleasure in life so eating a well-balanced, nutritionally dense meal is important for mental and physical performance. I worked with both clients to develop healthy options so they were getting the nutrition they needed to function at an optimal level while also feeling satisfied. I knew why my first client couldn’t lose weight – she thought she had to eat salad all the time and hated every minute of it! After some research, she was able to come up with some healthier versions of her favorite meals as well as some snacks that satisfied her but were still nutritious.

My second client started planning some time into her schedule to have a light, nutritious dinner or pack a healthy snack that would still keep her focused during class.

Are there any emotional issues that need to be resolved?

I’m not talking about childhood or other big emotional traumas here. For those you should seek the appropriate help, such as a licensed therapist. I’m referring to those little emotional blips that we get caught up in a daily basis such as being stuck in traffic, oversleeping or dealing with a grouchy child. Little things that just seem to yank our chain and get us angry or frustrated. It’s best to clear the air before you try to do anything else.

Especially if you need to deal with someone else, one of the best tools is to write it out. Journal your feelings and frustrations. Have a little hissy fit on paper, rather than doing it in person and escalating the situation. Most of us get tired of our pity party and when that happens you can sit back and look at the situation objectively and do what you need to do to get back on track whether that means laughing it off as just one of those days or apologizing.

Is your social calendar bare or overloaded?

We are social creatures but we all need downtime. Is there a balance in your life? Is every spare minute filled up with work and social activities that you have no time to yourself? Or, are you starved for a little social interaction? Extroverts are rejuvenated by spending time with others. Introverts recharge by withdrawing into themselves. Know which works best for you and make sure that you schedule enough time so you don’t feel deprived and drained.

Consider your preferences when you are setting your goals. I had a client who was taking online courses but as convenient as they were, she often made excuses instead of doing them. Turns out she preferred the interaction of being in a classroom. Once she switched over, her motivation and enthusiasm returned.

Are you tired?

According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Not enough sleep can result in difficulty concentrating and remembering things as well as lower reflexes resulting in vehicle crashes, industrial accidents and medical and other work related errors. People who are regularly sleep deprived also have more medical problems such as depression, obesity and hypertension. The amount of sleep we need depends on our age but the average adult should be getting 7-8 hours a night.

Trying to make changes in our life requires energy and it’s hard to stay on track if you aren’t getting enough sleep. It helps to establish a regular bedtime, turn off the electronic devices, avoid caffeine and alcohol and avoid large meals before bed.

Working towards our goals is part of what makes us happy but in order to give them our full, focused attention, we need to make sure some of our basic needs are taken care of.

One model for creating change

One model to make permanent changeIn my last post, I talked about how our subconscious mind, where our thoughts and beliefs reside, can sabotage our efforts to change without us even realizing it. It’s often the reason most new year’s goals are abandoned within the first month. Our beliefs and habits (including habits of thought) are so ingrained in our minds that no matter how much conscious exertion we put on trying to change (i.e. willpower), we often fail because we aren’t addressing underlying beliefs. The biggest problem is we usually aren’t aware that it’s our beliefs stopping us. We are trying to create change by using the wrong tools.

I’d like to share with you one model for making change.

Before I get into the specifics, I’d like to point out that change is not going to happen overnight, in most cases. It’s going to take practice so don’t be hard on yourself if you slip. Please don’t give up because it didn’t work the first time. You’re working against some pretty powerful forces.

Cognitive behavior therapy offers one model for change. It’s called the ABC model and this is how it works:

A = Activating event

B = Belief or perception

C = Consequence

So let’s say you decided to lose weight and just inhaled a whole quart of ice cream. You’re feeling a little disappointed in yourself (to say the least…) Here’s what you do. Get a piece of paper and write down the activating event – “Ate a quart of ice cream”. Stick with the facts.

Now write your belief or perception. You might write something like “What’s the use of even trying, I have no willpower.” “I’m a big, fat pig! I don’t deserve to be happy!” Get it all out. Often we’ll use absolutes (always, never) or words like “should”, “must”, “have to”, “ought to” which are indicative of irrational thinking.

What’s the consequence of those beliefs? Write them down. These are self-defeating emotions – guilt, anger, depression, a sense of worthlessness, self-pity, etc. These emotions don’t serve us, they leave us stuck and put us into a cycle of shame and blame.

In order to change you need to challenge/dispute your original belief. It could go something like this “I was stressed and hungry from skipping lunch. There are plenty of times when I’ve made healthy choices. I’ll ask my coach for some stress relieving tactics  and make sure that I make time for a healthy lunch so I’m better prepared.”

Now note the effect that this has on you emotionally. Do you feel differently than when you described the consequence? This part of the exercise elicits more positive emotions (disappointment, concern, sadness, hope). You recognize that you had a set back and have come up with some proactive solutions to keep it from happening again. This gives us a feeling of control and we often recommit to seeing our goals through.

Give this a try next time you’re having trouble making changes in your life

 

The Intellectual vs. Emotional Mind

The Intellectual vs. Emotional MindIn a recent post, I talked about how I knew, intellectually, that I wasn’t a fraud, fake or a failure. I have accomplished a lot in my life. I graduated college, raised a phenomenal human being, mastered various skills, created tons of stuff with my own two hands, became a certified coach, formed some fabulous relationships, am a dedicated runner and yoga practitioner and have overcome an eating disorder, just to name a few. I have plenty of proof to know that I am a capable, intelligent, resourceful, compassionate and ever growing individual.

Intellectually, I know this, yet I still occasionally have feelings of doubt and inadequacy. Like I don’t have anything worthwhile to offer and will never be good enough. I turn into an emotional basket case.

It’s a battle between my intellectual and emotional selves.  Can you relate?

It’s no surprise that this battle is fought in our mind. There are actually 3 parts to our brain. The reptilian brain handles our vital biological functions such as breathing and pumping blood. It’s “largely unconscious, automatic and highly resistant to change”, according to Integrated Wellness Therapies article “The Role of Three Brains”. 

The limbic brain handles our emotions. It’s where we make value judgments that influence our behavior and form social bonds. It connects events with feelings. It is “active in situations that arouse fear, anger, frustration and pity.” It also operates mostly on a subconscious level.

The neocortex is our thinking brain (our intellectual self) and is responsible for abstract thought, imagination, higher reasoning and language.

These three separate parts of our brains don’t operate independently of each other, they are connected and the limbic and neocortex “influence each other via ongoing communication, linking emotions with thinking and voluntary action…Whilst we like to think of our neocortex or thinking brain as being the conscious decision maker, it is, in reality only selectively conscious. Psychologists generally agree that at best we are only 15% conscious of our emotions and behaviors. This means that even when we think we’re being rational and conscious, we’re largely being driven subconsciously by previous similar experiences and emotions.

Here’s the thing you need to know – “our subconscious brain is the ultimate decision maker. It always wins.” If it’s a matter of survival, our reptilian brain takes over – the fight or flight response. If it’s not a life-threatening situation, then emotional memories that have become ingrained, will triumph. The challenge, then, when making changes, is to overcome that emotional conditioning to create new habits or patterns of behavior. When we sabotage our efforts to change, it is our subconscious mind merely trying to keep the status quo.

Growing up, I believed that mistakes were bad and determined my worth so I played it safe. I gave in and reinforced my fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy over the decades. I’ve taken jobs that I was overqualified for and settled for less than I was worth.

I grew up in a household that neither encouraged or modeled any type of risk. It was an environment rife with control and rewarded “good” behavior – doing what you were told and not questioning why. Looking back with some maturity, a fair amount of counseling and perspective, I now understand the dysfunctional dynamics and have compassion for what we all went through.

That’s all fine and dandy except it doesn’t change the fact that I’m now stuck with these subconscious emotional responses that no longer serve me and what I want to achieve.

As I strike out on my own, forging an unconventional path (at least compared to what I grew up in) and challenging my beliefs, I often find my intellectual and emotional minds at odds. I get caught up in the excitement of learning new things, the freedom of being the master and designer of my own life and helping others do the same but inevitably, like clockwork, my emotional side starts getting nervous and shaking things up because I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone.

It’s a pattern I’ve come to know over the decades. I’d get excited about doing something and would make all sorts of plans. I am a Master Planner. After some progress, I’d often lose interest. Sometimes it was legitimate, it just wasn’t my thing. More often, though, I had my first challenge and I was scared. Having taken the easy way out most of my life, I wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it, so my brain kicked in and did what it does best.

After my divorce I realized that I had spent my life living in fear and decided to use this as a rebirth, if you will, to live my life in love. It’s an ongoing process which I liken to peeling an onion. Just when you think you’ve tackled one issue, you realize that you just scratched the surface and have to diligently be aware of your thoughts and habits, constantly reinforcing new ones to replace those that are counterproductive.

It’s a two step process really – being aware and questioning your thoughts and then taking SMALL steps outside of your comfort zone.

Awareness is probably the hardest part because most of our thoughts and behavior is reactive – that 85% of our brain that works subconsciously. And once you question a thought, belief or assumption, you have to replace and keep reinforcing it so it becomes the go-to response.

Taking it one small step at a time helps you ease into new behaviors, gain momentum and prevents the warning bells from going off in our brains, activating those old patterns. For instance, if you want to start an exercise routine after you’ve been a confirmed couch potato, telling yourself you’re going to go to the gym for an hour everyday is going to raise some red flags. Start small, maybe 5 minutes, or a walk after dinner. Grow into your goals slowly and you have a chance of achieving them rather than trying to strong arm your way to success.

It won’t be easy. You will have set backs. But you will also have triumphs. Show yourself some compassion, let your emotional mind know that you understand and just keep moving forward.