The New Year - Need a Boost?

My goodness - already! We are almost a month into the new year.  Maybe you made some resolutions, maybe you didn’t, as so many of us have read that “resolutions don’t work”.  You’ve probably at least had a thought or two (or a 5-page manifesto) about how you’d like to improve your life in the new year.

If you’ve implemented those changes and are sticking to them, congratulations - that is awesome!  

If not, here are 7 steps to getting rolling again, right now, regardless of what day it is.  It does not have to be January 1, or a Monday, or the beginning of any month to begin again.  Today is a perfect time.

1. Seek help.  You don’t have to do this alone.  Even if you started great on your own, if you’re finding yourself flagging, get some help.  Hire someone to help - with personal training, housecleaning, wellness coaching, writing, etc.  Find a friend to join you and work on your goals together.  Create or join a group. Set up a text message system with a buddy where you support each other through the tough spots.

2. Master and embrace the small step.  This is the hardest thing for me and for my clients. Why? Because you really want to do your new thing for 30 minutes a day or an hour a day.  You envision a future with all kinds of wide-open time to be able to do this.  You don’t want to start doing a new habit for only ten minutes a day.  How do you write a book in ten minutes a day?  However, the best steps are very small ones taken consistently.  If you had planned to spend an hour a day writing and have only done that twice in the past 14 days, you would have been ahead by 20 minutes of time invested had you just spent 10 minutes each day.  Crazy but true.  And wouldn’t 10 minutes a day have seemed easy?  And then you wouldn’t have had to berate yourself the other 12 days, which leads us to…

3. Have compassion for yourself. Nothing kills a goal-setting program faster than meanness toward yourself.  Just stop it.  Direct all that energy back toward your goal.  See above and take the tiniest little step.  Then do it again tomorrow.  And remind yourself you are awesome.

4. Return to the big picture.  Ask yourself why?  Why did you decide this shift in the new year was important?  Why are you doing this?  What is your long term goal or outcome?  How will your life be fabulously better as you embrace this new routine, goal or habit?  Remember to imagine the long term result of what you are working on and why it is important to you. Imagine it as you drift off to sleep.  Come back to your why.

5. Prioritize your feelings. It is much much much easier to make change from a positive feeling state.  Focusing on your big why can help you get back to that warm feeling of why you were making this change in the first place, and give you some energy to keep going.  Allow yourself to be in a positive emotional place now, while you work toward your goal.  You don’t have to postpone your happiness.

6. Wrangle your thinking.  Your mind has a terrible habit of ballooning any missed day as the end of the world.  It will then throw every other failure in your face.  It will remind you that you are not worthy or capable.  That is OK.  Minds are just like that.  Be gentle with your mind.  It is trying to help you and protect you with these thoughts and keep you safe in “no-change land”.  Soothe your mind with a gentle word or two and then keep going.  

7. Tell the truth.  Your mind also loves to twist around circumstances and blame something else.  The weather.  Another person . An unforeseen circumstance.  Gently stick with the truth.  You can run when it’s 30 degrees.  You can write when it’s dark.  You can stay off social media between 10 pm and 7:30 a.m.  even when you’d prefer to stay up all night watching David Bowie tribute videos. (This one is mine- call me out if you see me on social media after 10 p.m. central!)  Be gently truthful with yourself.  You are capable of making these changes, big or small. You do have what it takes. You are worthy. You are amazing!  

Need a little boost? Email me your tiny daily step (try for something 10 minutes or less), then go do it, then email me when you complete it.  I will be thrilled to cheer you on!

One Word That Changed Things For Me And It's Not What You Think

We spent a beautiful Thanksgiving at the beach and at the beginning of the trip I asked for amessage of guidance. The next morning I woke up with the memory of one word: 

Satisfied.  

I was fascinated - why did this one word feel so good? 

What if I went through the rest of the vacation allowing myself to feel satisfied in each moment? I had so much goodness around me - could I be satisfied? All weekend I kept repeating the word in my head. Satisfied. Satisfied. Satisfied. It felt so "just right" - not wanting or seeking, not overloaded with too much. Satisfied.   

We are surrounded by so many messages, especially at this time of year, encouraging us that there's something more we need. Under no circumstances should we feel satisfied, ever. There's always more possibility, more potential, something bigger and better up ahead. 

Our brains are actively scanning for the next thing. On our phones, on our computers, as we're driving or shopping. No sense of closure. No spot to mentally rest. So many demands on our attention and so many possible solutions to our dissatisfaction. 

Have you noticed this too?   

I've been continuing to play with the word "satisfied" now that I'm back home, and seeing how I can apply it to my actions, my state of being, my experiences.   

What I'm describing sounds similar to a gratitude practice, but for me right now the word "satisfied" feels even more powerful than "grateful". We can be grateful about the absence of bad things. Satisfied implies that all is well.  

It doesn't imply that there is no change coming - we can be satisfied with our approach to a problem, or satisfied with our desire for a change. It's different than contentment as well - we can be satisfied with our discontent, without needing to jump right away. Satisfied feels like a place to breathe. 

I do have plans, things to be done, the tree is up but un-decorated, and there is much going on in my life as I'm sure there is in yours. I'm still making space, physically and mentally, for what I'd like to create in 2016.   

But in the midst of the planning and the doing, wow - what a lovely thing to be satisfied with myself and where I am in the process of my life. To be satisfied with my efforts, with my approach - with what I get done and don't get done each day. To wake up satisfied, to go to sleep satisfied, to be satisfied with the arc of my experience- that just feels like peace. 

If this feels intriguing to you, I encourage you to try it. Spend the rest of today and tomorrow feeling satisfied. See how that shifts your energy.  

Stepping Beyond Your Fear

I stood alone at the base of the granite rock face. I’d hiked over 1,000 miles, but nothing I’d encountered was as challenging as the trail in Maine. I was more than a little afraid.  If I was going to climb over this rock, then I would have to do it on my own.

I had come this far and I wasn’t going back. I took a breath, cinched my pack straps and folded my poles. Now, I could use my hands. I climbed forward, one foot at a time. I grabbed for roots when I could and I trusted my shoe wouldn’t slip on the tiny ledge of rock. Little by little I climbed, up and down, over and over. Twenty days later, I made it. I stood atop Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.

I had no choice but to pull myself out of my fear. Each time I find myself stuck in a scary place, I go back to that moment to rediscover how I can learn and grow.

Start with one small step. Let yourself make the smallest step you can. Confidence grows by taking action. Small steps over time add up. Once you’re moving you can make adjustments to your path.

Review your successes. Find the part of your problem that looks like something you’ve tackled before. When I gazed up that steep rock in Maine, I realized I had already learned everything I needed to know. I had climbed every mountain on the AT since I began the trail. Recognize how your accomplishments have given you the skills you need for your new challenge.

Widen your perspective. Back up and see the big picture. Whenever I reached a viewpoint on the trail, I stopped to see how far I’d come. Three summits away, I could see where I had breakfast. Step back from your project for a broader view. Even better, go for a walk to clear your head.

Envision the completion. Take a few minutes each day to envision everything working out perfectly. Be detailed and specific. Add in sights, sounds, smells, color and emotion. Relish the feeling of success. I pictured standing at that Katahdin sign many times when I was still huddled in my tent miles and miles away. Allow yourself to savor the moment. Then get back to your journey.

Gather your allies. Ask for help from those who know you best. They’ll remind you why you’re meant to achieve the goals you’ve set. The support I received via letters, calls and Facebook messages from friends and family during my 2,000 mile journey was invaluable. Your friends and allies will give you energy and renew your hope. They see your capabilities and believe in you.

When you’re facing a challenge, know your fear will not disappear. Once you realize this truth, you will be free to move forward and accomplish your goals. Georgia O’Keefe said it best:

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

Following the Trees After the Storm

A month after the storm, my husband and I drove back to our home. The house was still standing, but our trees were devastated. The trees we had planted with our own hands were now toppled over our fences. The tops of our neighbors’ tall sycamores had broken off like snapped toothpicks. Hundreds of oaks fell in the winds. Thousands of magnolias drowned in the floods.

Our trees couldn’t evacuate. They couldn’t relocate. If they made it through the storm, and they had fight left in them, then they came back. They sprouted new leaves and new branches. They found new directions to grow.

On the other hand, I had options. I could have moved, started over somewhere else, but my husband and I came back. We had jobs to return to and a home that required only a roof replacement, electrical work and a new fridge. We didn’t have a house full of soggy furniture with walls and belongings covered in mold. 

I tried to live bravely as one of the lucky ones. I did the work of four teachers, going from teaching just eighth grade to teaching fifth through eighth. I went to the store even when I couldn’t stop crying because it was closing at six and I needed supplies for the next day at school. I volunteered, gutting houses, replanting wetlands, dragging my friends’ soaked possessions to the curb. I planted new trees.

I met a woman named Monique Pilie. She had lived my childhood dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and now she was leading an organization called Hike for Katreena to replant the trees lost in the storm.

One day, I walked through the New Orleans meditation labyrinth, and found this quote:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

Then I began to weep.

What was I doing? I had seen lives swept away in a moment – what did I need to stop waiting to do? Why hadn’t I hiked the Appalachian Trail? Why was I still dreaming but not doing?

I quit my job. I went on a six-month journey hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, finally living a treasured dream. I returned full of courage to start my own business. I studied to become a life coach. I built a practice I am continuing to grow today. I took chances I’d never considered taking before.

This week I took a photo of my neighbors’ sycamores and laid it on top of my scrapbook. The broken trunks can no longer be seen. I’ve watched the trees grow for the last ten years, and I am truly amazed at how far we have come. I can’t wait to find out where we are in twenty.

Stop Waiting, Choose Happiness, and Success will Follow

A fortune cookie in New Orleans told me, “Be happy, it’s a way of being wise.”

Happiness comes first. At some point I was taught happiness comes from your achievements, but that is not true. It is your default state. It leads to better health, less stress, better decision-making, stronger relationships, and more solid business practices. When you choose to be happy, then success will follow.

Trust the process. It is less daunting than it appears. Here are five steps to begin your happier life:

1. Act in your own sphere of power and influence. Much of what causes distress comes from trying to control people and situations you don’t have power to change, be it the stock market or the weather. Focus on what you actually can control and take action in those arenas. Then you will gain freedom to spend your time where you have a genuine impact.

2. Seek truth to find meaning. When you are truthful about what you really want, when you stop pretending something is ok when it’s not, when you really listen, then you will find clarity and peace. Happiness comes from living a meaningful life, and your work is to determine what holds meaning. It takes courage to hear your own truth and follow it, so trust that this is the path to fulfillment.

3. Practice gratitude and kindness. Reading about kindness or knowing about gratitude is different than putting it into practice, just like knowing about nutrition and exercise doesn’t automatically make you healthy. Challenge yourself daily to show kindness to both strangers and people you know. Begin as a seven-day game and get creative. Let it be fun, and feel the shift in your energy.

4. Seek connection. When you are unhappy, your natural instinct is to withdraw, and connection is what will bring you back into the world. Connecting with people, nature, or your deeper self is more important than your fear of being seen as vulnerable or in pain. Take the time to reflect on a moment when you were happy, and see what connections made that possible. Seek out those connections every day.

5. Stay in the present moment. Take this moment to find something to be happy about. Our senses are designed to absorb the present. Look around and see all the colors. Then listen to the sounds. Feel that you are absolutely fine in this moment. You probably have had enough to eat, have a roof over your head, and are surrounded by incredible abundance. Sometimes the simplest awareness can return you to a place of gratitude and peace.

All of the emotions, including fear, anger, and sadness, have an appropriate time and place, though happiness is different. When you choose to be happy, you will find yourself being a better friend, being a more loving family member, and being more confident in your career.

Stop waiting, and move forward.