Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck, Still: How to tell if you're doing enough.


Are you doing enough? Recently I've heard so many people - clients, fellow coaches, friends, me sometimes - despairing that they aren't doing enough.  They aren't as awesome as their peers.  Or as some internal ideal. Everyone else is so much more PRODUCTIVE. I've been reading books like Today Matters and Die Empty, which are inspiring and motivating and remind us to get off our butts and do something - to stop hemming and hawing and just go... But these books don't actually tell you to "just go." Because just going isn't necessarily what you need to do.  There are two kinds of "just going".  The first is desperate going so you can say you're moving.  So you don't have to feel like you're being too much of a lump.  So you can jog along and say, "See?  I'm doing something!"  It feels jangly.  It feels electric, but in an uncomfortable, static-y way.  It feels like too much caffeine.  It feels like an out of control spring, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.  It feels frantic.  Sometimes it feels aimless - either like a hamster running in a wheel or like a pinball ricocheting off of lots of light-up bumpers, racking up "points" but getting nowhere.  Let's call this kind "spinning." Spinning can feel exhilarating at first, but it quickly devolves into unfulfilled exhaustion.

The second kind of "just going" feels fresh and adventurous.  Maybe there's a slight tinge of fear, but it's more like anticipation.  It feels solid and grounded but light at the same time.  Like setting out on a hike on a sparkling summer morning. Or picking up a paintbrush and beginning to cover a canvas with color. It feels like possibility.  It feels creative and it feels fun. It's connected to something bigger. Let's call this kind "Sauntering".  Sauntering is moving forward but without hurry or stress - in a relaxed, but purposeful manner.  Not frantic and fast, but at a comfortable pace.

What about not going, you ask?  When does that make sense? Is it always time to move?

Not necessarily.  There are two kinds of "not going" too. The first kind is fear-based.  It feels frozen, heavy and scared. It feels cut off.  It feels like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth, or tires mired in mud.  It wants to climb back under the covers. Maybe watch some TV.  Let's call this kind "Stuck."  Stuck is just how it sounds.  And it feels awful, even when we try to avoid the feeling by snacking, napping, hiding, or distracting ourselves.

The second kind of not going is peaceful and restful.  It feels clear and conscious. Being present and not doing makes more sense for the time being.  It's sometimes paired with planning or visioning.  It's sometimes gearing up for something big.  Let's call this kind "Still."  Still is quiet on purpose.  It's realizing that some of the best ideas only happen when we give ourselves time to percolate, marinate, meditate - time to relax and dream.

I've felt the effects of Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck and Still in recent weeks, and what I know is that I'm so much happier when I'm shifting between sauntering and still.  When I'm spinning and stuck, not so much.  Here are four simple steps to help you recognize spinning and stuck and move toward sauntering and still.

1. Pay attention. Look closely at exactly what you're doing.  Keep a log of your actions (or inactions) - in 15 minute increments, just for a day or two. Be honest!  I can get stuck in a Facebook vortex faster than you can say, "kitten video!" And if there's printed matter in front of me, I can read until an hour or two has drifted past.  It takes brutal honesty to confront where your time is actually going.

2. Ask yourself if you can align enough of your actions with your larger vision or purpose.  If not, then you're probably spinning or stuck.  If you don't even know what your larger vision or purpose is, it's probably time to get still and focus on that first.

3. Check in with your body and your emotions.  If your feelings are positive and your body feels light, you're more likely sauntering or still.  If your feelings are negative and your body feels heavy, you're more likely spinning or stuck.  *Warning:  Sometimes stuck and spinning can feel positive at first - kind of like the initial sugar high before the crash.  Be attentive to your overall emotional state, and the feeling in your body.

4. Reflect at the end of the day, each day for a week.  Are you content with the way you spent the day?  Can you point to some action or some experience that feels like it's connected with your big picture goals? (Back to #2!)  Do you have a nice mix of happy action (Sauntering) and relaxed recharging (Stillness)?

Just having these four categories helps me be honest with what I'm doing.  Once I'm aware, I can choose to make a change.  It feels great to climb into bed after a day of engaging Sauntering mixed with restorative and reflective Stillness. And it feels like enough.  Days like that remind me of the quote I used to have on the wall of my classroom: "Vision without action is only a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world."

How about you?  Where do you find yourself spending more time - spinning, sauntering, stuck or still?  When you're spinning or stuck, what strategies do you like to use to move back into sauntering or stillness?  How do you like to address the voice that says you haven't done enough?  Share your ideas in the comments, or email me, and let's continue the conversation!

New space, new energy!

We have a saying in coach-land - your outer world reflects your inner world.  So if you're feeling stuck, jumbled, overwhelmed or otherwise out of sorts on the inside, there's often a part of your living space that reflects this. I see this with clients - they have a breakthrough and then they clean their entire home, or totally change their hair and clothes, or redo their bedroom, or toss all the old Tupperware in their kitchen.  And over the years I've seen it with myself.  Things that seemed so important to keep are suddenly needless clutter that is sucking my energy and making my space less livable.

My favorite example of this shifting is my new work space that I'm so in love with I can't even express it!  I now have a real place to work in my home - dedicated to just that!  The creation of this space has been in process since summer 2008.  That's when we converted the "junk room", which was basically like an indoor garage, into a serene space with French doors going out to a brand new deck.

Here's the transformation in pictures:  Before any changes, this space was a clutter repository and place to store the bicycles, cat food, tools, cleaning supplies and any and all other stuff we didn't know what to do with.  And it looked like this:

blue room
blue room

Talk about blocked energy! Then, when I quit my teaching job in 2008 and began working from home, the space became this - a complete transformation!

bamboo room 1 web
bamboo room 1 web

It was still where we stored the bikes, but there was a fabulous futon where I could work. I was always a person who worked on a couch or on the bed, partly because my "official" desk in our house looked like this - still surrounded by the piles of teaching materials that I hadn't yet given away, sorted through or chucked.  It was a repository for papers and stuff I didn't want to deal with.  If you could do an "energy reading" of the space, I'm sure it would read something like BLOCKED, BLOCKED, BLOCKED!  STUCK!  BLECH!!!


It was the Hoarders nook of the house.  I felt the energy suck from me every time I walked past it.  It didn't always look as bad as it does in this pic - sometimes the piles were small and there was nothing on the floor, but it was still a place for papers and other junk to go to die.

Interestingly, I've had a space like this in my life for as long as I can remember.  My childhood room grew messy fast.  Sometimes I got super-organized and fixed the room up just right, but it quickly deteriorated into paper piles.  The same thing happened in college. I had a place for everything in my little dorm room, but the desk was often the place where the disorder would start.  And I wouldn't ever sit there to work.  I would work from my bed or couch.

I had a friend in college who teased me about being a witch, because I could take my dorm room from completely wrecked to neat and orderly in about half an hour.  I just didn't have habits or routines to keep it that way. This continued once I was on my own.  I always had a dysfunctional desk space somewhere, and a whole lotta papers and junk around it.

So what's changed in the past week or two? Well, finally I have created a place to sit  and work, for real.  I have made a room I already love into a beautiful work space!  I feel all grown up and productive!  And my old desk area where that messy accumulation of papers was?  It's disappearing.  Nothing will be there soon, so it can be the new storage place for the bikes.

This transformation didn't happen overnight.  I had images of  beautiful work spaces on my vision board. I began collecting some little items that would eventually decorate the new area, like two ceramic bird candle holders in colors I loved. I just needed something to pull it all together.

Then everything changed with the big catalyst:  A table. My friend Elizabeth gifted me a beautiful round painted oak table that she no longer wanted.  Months before that, I had carted a bookshelf off the street, and added another piece of furniture to hold art supplies and other creative goodies.  But the table shifted everything.  Suddenly I had a place for those ceramic bird candles. And a place to sit and create.  With a view to the hummingbirds and blue jays outside.

Getting rid of the old desk space has shifted the energy in this house in amazing ways.  And having a place to "officially" work, that I LOVE, is making all the difference. I'm excited to sit down and get started, and then put it all away at the end of the day.

Here's the new space with the French doors open - it's almost like working outside!

sunshine windows
sunshine windows

And being a person who loves re-purposing and saving things from landfills and consuming consciously, I love the story of the table before I received it.  Elizabeth rescued it too, from a relative's porch where it was languishing.  She did the hard work of cleaning and painting it, and used and loved it in her home for years.  And when she was ready to let it go, having rearranged her space (she's an excellent re-arranger of spaces) she passed it to me.

Want to make space shifts in your own world?  Here are some easy steps.

1. Find a space in your home that you're currently not happy with.  Imagine that space just as you'd like it - no holds barred.  Cut out images, draw pictures, collect color swatches - just imagine away!

2. On a regular basis - daily or weekly or whatever feels good to you - take away one thing that doesn't resonate with you in the space. Something that doesn't belong, that no longer serves you, or that you just don't like anymore.  Toss it, recycle it, sell it, donate it, relocate it.  Then replace it with something you love.  Or sometimes, just as effective, enjoy the open space of having nothing there! My little ceramic bird candles nested among the clutter for over a year while they waited for their perfect spot - but seeing them there reminded me that eventually I would fix a space for them that was just right! Little by little, one item at a time, you'll transform your space.

3. If you come from a long line of savers (as I do) be patient with yourself.  Take your time and just keep paying attention.  Something you thought you had to keep a month ago might now be clutter and ready to be released. If you rearrange and toss items more easily, you may be able to speed up the process and make a big change in a weekend!

4. Watch for big items (like my table!) that will catalyze the change and help your vision from step one become your reality!  And when you have a personal breakthrough, note how your space might not reflect the "old you" anymore, and be open to making the new space meet the needs of your new self!

5. If you need to, seek professional help.  Find someone who can help you gain some momentum.  If you're in the New Orleans area, try Stasia with Clear the Clutter - she comes highly recommended!

I'd love to hear your stories of shifting space and energy in your home or work space.  What have you done to create a space you love?

Tackling tricky to-dos

Do you ever have something on your to-do list that you really want to do - deep in your heart you want to do it - you just know you do - yet day after day it doesn't get done?  Something you value.  Something you know will make you feel great once it's done.  Something that will benefit you, or someone else. Something that will make your heart feel warm and glow-y.

What the heck?  Why does it sit there, day after day? This task or project - this call to make, this card to send, this blog post to write (ahem!), this creative fun thing you've been dreaming of for weeks - why does it remain on your list - undone, un-checked-off?

Why would you not do it when you really want to?  What's happening?

Well, perhaps you've made it so important in your mind that you've made it difficult to start and finish.  Or maybe it's a task with too many steps - pick the right card, find a stamp, find the address, say the meaningful thing from your heart that you want to say (will you be able to express the contents of your heart clearly enough?), get it out to mail. . .  so it stays undone.

Or maybe it's so easy you keep thinking you'll do it later - it won't take long to make that call, write that blog post - but then you wait and  it's the wrong time in the zone you're calling - it's too early/too late, too close to tomorrow (as in midnight) - so you put it off one more day.

Maybe you finally do it.  And it FEELS SO GOOD to get it done.

So you ask yourself, "Why??  Why can't I remember how fantastic it feels next time this situation happens? Why will I find myself in the exact same boat-- at midnight, looking at a list of happy little tasks, none of which are that complicated, and none of which I did today? Why does my mind toss out the 'doing it later will be fine' line?  Why do I fall for it every time?  How do I ever change?

Hmm.  I can think of a couple of possibilities.

1. Recognize when your mind is lulling you into avoidance.  And when it does, really listen.  Sometimes your mind is making a solid point.  Sometimes you've really loaded up your list - sure they're all cute little lovely tasks, but there are thirty of them!  Come on!  No wonder your mind is encouraging you to take a nap!

2. If it's not because your to do list is overloaded (but I bet that's the reason, I'm just saying) then picture how it's going to feel when the task is done.  Put yourself there, in that brief Nirvana of glowy-heart-ness.  Then set your timer for five minutes and start.  Find the stamp, the address, the card.  Sit down to write.  By the time five minutes are up, you'll be riding the momentum of doing.  You'll easily finish the job now.  Congratulate yourself!  Pat yourself on the back!  And promise that you'll give yourself no more than three other happy little to-do tasks today.  Not thirty.  After all, there's have-to do things too - like taxes, job emails, whatever.  They gotta get done too - and if you're also avoiding them, well-- we'll deal with that in another post!

Now go sit in the grass in the sunshine for a little while.  Buster would approve of that being on your to-do list...