Independence Day Rewrite

Independence Day

I was seven years old when my parents divorced and my mother went from being a housewife to the main provider in the home while battling her first stage III diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Disease, a lymphoma.

I got a clear message from my mother at that time, not sure if it was said, or simply implied, or both, but she was determined that her three girls would not be dependent on anyone, they would be independent women! Even after she remarried, her theme was clear and consistent, you will learn all the skills and capabilities you need to not be reliant on anyone.

True to form, when I got my license, like any teenager, I was anxious to take the car out and feel my newfound freedom. My mother had no problem with that, but of course, I first had to demonstrate that I could remove and replace a flat tire if need be.

This is one of the many examples of the teachings that I received. Being raised to be independent has some great freedoms with it; I know I can do anything I need to do to get where I want to be. Unfortunately, I can no longer change a tire, because of those darn air guns that put the lug nuts on so tightly I don’t have even enough weight to jump on a crossbar to get them off! That said, I am rarely left stranded in a situation because I was raised to rely on myself to figure it out and get it done.

The other message that I never quite picked up on clearly enough at the time was that in life you’ll get further by building a team and asking for help, or even just comfort when needed. While battling her illnesses over the years, my mother had regular trips into the city for radiation, chemotherapy and numerous appointments. She was often too weak or tired to cook or maintain the home and of course there was the time spent in the hospital, complicated by single parenthood and what to do with the kids!

Everyone that knew my mother recognized her as a force! She was well known in our community as a “get it done” and independent woman. She was smart, driven and capable, however these traits did not stop her from accepting kind gestures of meals being prepared, driving trips into the city or even carpooling so us kids could get to where we needed. It took years for me to recognize this skill is not only important in life, but makes the journey better.

Let’s face it, the human race was not meant to exist alone. We are community-based creatures with need for connection and interaction. So many people are trying to “do it on their own” this relates to everything from work to entrepreneurship to life’s trials and celebrations.

It took me such a long time to figure out how to reach out for help, accept or invite assistance with anything I was trying to do – even when it was just trying to survive! All this has taken even longer to put it into practice, and let’s face it, I am still working on it, but I am convinced inter-dependence is the one of the keys to happiness.

As wonderful as independence is, our lives are more fully lived when we have connection and inter-dependence. The feeling one gets when they help someone is a gift we give to each other. The distance we can go when we work together is much further than what we can cover alone.

I’m not saying not to develop your own talents and skills, nor am I saying rely on others for everything. What I am saying is that you don’t have to know it all, do it all and manage it all alone.

I encourage you this month to look at what you want to accomplish over the upcoming month, and see where you might reach out for assistance or develop a team. One of the beautiful benefits I see each day as a coach is what can be accomplished together.

I know there are amazing dreams, big goals and everyday tasks that are on your plate, I wonder how much easier, faster and enjoyable they will be when you stop trying to do it all yourself and ask for someone to join your efforts.

 

The One Question To Start Your Day

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

IMG_9953I’ve been speaking with a number of people lately who have been in one stage or another of overwhelm. You know the feeling when you just don’t know which way is up or which direction you need to even point yourself. This can be exhausting and you’re not even moving!

Imperfect Action

In the space of personal development there is a lot of talk about taking imperfect action as a response to this “feeling stuck” or overwhelm. I am not sure how you are supposed to know if it is perfect or imperfect action until you take it. So this advice is rather unhelpful in my opinion.

In the case of my clients I use my life experiences to give insight to what worked for me. This is not scientific or a certified process developed by some guru. This is just my simple practice that I have used when I am feeling overwhelmed or unsure. It has gotten me through some pretty tough times and brought me to where I am today. I continue to use this method as I continue to dream big and have NO idea how I’m going to make these dreams come true, but I know that I must pursue them. It has become a habit and a way to check in and stay present in the midst of all I aspire to create.

The Process

I take a few moments, usually in bed at the time I wake up and I just lay there with my hands extended and open, my eyes closed and just revel in that perfect moment. I often use this time to think about my gratitude, simply for waking up (a gift we often take for granted) and for whomever might be next to me (these days it’s my dog) or in my world at the moment who brings me energy and joy.

After gratitude comes my talk with the Universe or God or whomever you talk to when you are in your space and simply ask, “What is the next step?” I don’t ask how I’m ever going to do what I’m wanting to do. I don’t ask for the full picture or to see the whole staircase or the money, energy or capability to take the next step, I simply ask to know what is the next step.

Why it works for me

I don’t know if I developed the process because I just couldn’t handle looking at all the steps or more likely because there was so much to do I just had to look at the one next step because that was all I could manage at the moment. I knew I needed to keep moving but wasn’t sure what the next move was and staying where I stood was not an acceptable option. I had to find a way to clear the overwhelm to be able to begin to move.

Here is the deal, you might see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s damn dark where you stand today. Truly you can only take the next step, you can’t take the 3rd step in front of you, only the next step, so ask what that is. You might surprise yourself and find, as I have, that over the course of time this simple process takes you exactly where you are meant to be and you didn’t even notice how far you had gone.

Why it will work for you

Simply by taking the next step you continue to move. By asking each day what the step is for you today, it gives you the possibility to course-correct if necessary. This process provides you focus on today. It helps you reduce anxiety about step number 45 because day 45 will come and you’ll deal with that step then. Today your only need is to know what you need to do today and then do it, knowing that you get another chance tomorrow.

Keeping your mind on your overall goals, but focusing your attention on this moment, this day allows the actions you take to be exactly perfect for today. You will learn something by what you do today and it will benefit you along the journey.

So tomorrow morning when you wake up, instead of going through your “to do” list in your mind and trying to figure out how you’ll get everything accomplished, and anything else that comes to your mind upon opening your eyes I ask you to pause. Take the first few moments of the day and give thanks and gratitude for all that you have and quietly ask, “What is the next step for me to take today?”

To the enjoyment of your success and the journey that brings you there.

-E

Finding your Inner Compass

I remember the day that it all hit me – I really don’t want to do this. It wasn’t until that moment that I could find my clarity. It was in the moment I figured out what I really, viscerally, didn’t want to do, that I could identify better what I did want to do.

It all started when I decided to hire a life coach for myself. I had never done anything quite like this before. Sure I had been to counselors or therapists before at various times in my life, but I didn’t feel like I needed therapy, just help with direction of what did I want to do next in my life.

I was about 40 years old at the time and had raised my children, created a good career, not one that I loved, but I thought, who needs to love what they do? I was good at it and that felt good and it paid well, so it was really good enough. However, good enough was no longer how I wanted to live my life.

I wanted the life I saw Richard Branson living. I wanted to be in love with my job and career as much as he was. I wanted time and space to be able to travel and do the inspired things that made me come alive. I wanted to give my energy to those causes that I felt deeply connected to.

The Flail Before The Fail

So I began to flail – I tried all sorts of ways to make my career more of what I thought I wanted. I created groups, I began speaking at conferences and I found that I was no more happy then I was originally and I realized I was thoroughly stuck!

It was at this point I decided to hire my own life coach to help me figure out how to make my career more fulfilling. It turned out through a couple sessions of chatting and running various tests that my personality and desires did not match what I was doing. No wonder why I could not find a way to make it better! But then where do I go from here?

 

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Ahhh, Direction

After a few more sessions we worked out a direction for me and I must admit I was pretty excited. We developed a plan and a path but the more steps I took, the less excited I became – was this normal? My sessions with my coach ended and I kept moving forward because this was the path my coach and I had decided I should take to get to where I ultimately wanted to end up.

My lack of excitement soon turned to procrastination, then to dread then to pure avoidance of any of the steps on the identified path. In one moment of complete clarity sitting in front of a stack of unopened mail related to my chosen path it hit me.

I Don’t Want To Take This Path!

I don’t wanna take this path, I don’t have to and I’m not gonna! The wash of relief came over me. I just couldn’t go through with the path laid out by me and my coach. I didn’t get any clarity at that moment of how I was going to get to where I wanted, but I sure knew how I wasn’t going to get there and it felt wonderful!

When I took a moment to look at my behaviors, it was completely clear that the path was completely out of alignment with what I truly wanted. The end goal was right on the money, but the path was way off.

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Gut Check

When I thought about the career move I wanted to make I was still excited. When I thought about how to get there I was unsure, but I just felt like I would figure it out because the goal just felt so right for me.

This was a new discovery for me that once I recognized this strong procrastination I was creating, I actually felt I was off balance. Once I recognized the off balance feeling, I could easily identify when that feeling went away and therefore what felt right.

 

I Know This Isn’t It!

I think this takes some time to develop, but it might be more present in your life already than you think. Right now you’re probably reading this article identifying with some part of the story. You know that nagging feeling that says, “I’m not sure what is right, but this isn’t it!” You’ve had those moments when you were not sure how you were going to do something but you just knew you had to move forward on it. Some people call those hunches, intuition, or gut feelings – but whatever you call them, they are there to be heard.

Some Ideas For You

I encourage you to take a moment to review anything you procrastinate. Take a moment to think about why you procrastinate this item. There are many reasons for such a behavior, but this is a good marker and it was a key marker for me.

Another idea you might consider is to review the feelings you have around various decisions you are making. Take some time to journal or meditate or do something active with this decision in mind and listen to where your mind goes, to your body’s reaction, your emotional response. I think you might surprise yourself at the answers that are trying to reveal themselves.

I truly believe we all know what is in alignment for us however, most of us have been taught to ignore what we’re feeling and move forward on our path. Ever see a young child fall down and begin crying? The parental reflex  response is “brush it off, keep going.” Although there might be nothing wrong with that approach sometimes, other times it is worth exploring while you’re down if a different option is better. Sometimes you find your compass while you’re telling yourself to get back up.

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7 Ideas To Keep The Sparkle In Your Holidays

Holiday Sparkle

When did the holidays become something to survive? When did holidays get to be things filled with to-do’s, rushing around and fulfilling obligations?

Sometime between childhood and today I have learned that not everyone likes the holidays. Lately, I’ve heard quite often how some people even “hate” the holidays.

I don’t happen to be one of those people (I know, you’re probably not surprised) but I am curious where the sparkle went out of the season for some. I’m sad to hear some answers, there are too many errands and not enough time, I have to go to parties with people I don’t like because it’s expected, I don’t like my family, or I miss my family. I can’t erase the pain of missing family, but for the rest I can share the way I preserve some of the joy of the season.

I’m not saying that I don’t have some sadness during the holidays because I miss people who are no longer here. I don’t claim to have all my decorations done just so and presents bought and wrapped before I prepare my Thanksgiving dinner (which by the way this year was steak). What I have done is altered my focus for the season from being movie perfect to perfect for me.

For me, the holidays are all about slowing down and spending time with those you treasure and love. This is not about buying the perfect present for the distant uncle or making sure the tree has more gifts than last year. This is about the gift that cannot be bought, the most precious gift; time.

I have a small family, I’m fortunate in that way, however each of us have extremely busy schedules and our distance makes time spent together even more precious. I suspect over the next year it’s going to become even more difficult with my speaking schedule, my son’s photography business taking off and my daughter’s travel schedule.

Some of the things I have done to maintain the joy of the season:

1. I have, for the most part, omitted gift giving for friends. I schedule time to get together instead and work this in over December and January so as not to add to people’s already stretched schedules.

2. I ask my children for a single big item they would like but can’t afford or that they have been saving for. Granted, my children are grown now and this works for us because of their age. My son has a particular lens for his camera in mind this year. Last year for my daughter it was a headboard for her bed that she had wanted for a long time. I could have gotten her another red sweater and other small things but it turns out, she doesn’t even like red sweaters!

3. I am flexible with traditional holiday meals. This year Thanksgiving dinner was just for my son and me, my daughter stayed back East. A turkey for the two of us might have been a bit ridiculous mostly because neither of us is overly fond of turkey; it’s just what you do. I asked him what he wanted and he said steak. I can tell you so many people were jealous of us…it’s not a hard switch to make!

4. I pull out all the stops to get the family in one place for a couple of days no matter what. This is a foregone conclusion that wherever you are, Mom will be flying you home for Christmas – wherever home happens to be that year.

5. I say no to invitations that seem obligatory but are not part of the list above. I refuse to be busy doing things I don’t want to do in my “free” time. That is what we call a job and can suck the joy right out of the season in a heartbeat!! Remember, to say no does not require an excuse (real or made up) it simply requires you to do it unapologetically but politely.

6. I send out handwritten cards. Yup, it’s totally old-fashioned in this digital age, but since I’m not at the malls buying gifts, I have time to thoughtfully write out cards to those I am grateful to have in my life. I do this for both my business and my friends and family. This is both a gift to myself to celebrate these people and how they have touched my life over the year, and a gift of gratitude to them.

7. I have pared down my holiday decorations a lot! Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one of those houses on HGTV, but not enough to take time away from the other things I love – the non-things! Besides a ton of decorating means a ton of undecorating, packing and storing after the holidays. I have a few meaningful items that I always put out and forgo the rest. It doesn’t change the festivities, those are created by the people inside the home sharing memories.

These ideas may or may not work for you. For some the idea of serving steak on Thanksgiving is blasphemy! These are simply ideas to ponder if you are one of those people who seems to have lost the spirit and are looking to put some more joy back into the holidays. Some simple changes to consider to help you align your most precious gift with the most precious people in your life.

Sparkle on!
-E

Sharing Joy