Stand Tall on the Changes You are Making

Are working hard to make life changes only to feel defeated by those around you or yourself? It may be time to look beneath the surface of the change process and find the deeper meaning in the struggle.

For each obstacle from Thursday’s change plan worksheet consider 2-3 options for coping with each on the way to your goal.

Maybe it is changing location, moving away from particular people at a party, going a new way to work, having dinner at a different time, saying a particular phrase, etc. There are many ways to address and deal with your challenges – and they will come up. So plan to meet them with grace and confidence.  

The Spirituality of Change

This brings an aspect of living your essence and spirituality. As you work on changing, you must face yourself – sometimes this is the hardest person to face. You must take an honest look at who you are and who you want to be. Then do the difficult work of change. Through this process we often find parts of ourselves we do not like, want around, or understand. It is in facing these aspects of our being that we become a better version of ourselves. If you find yourself lost in the struggle, it may be worth finding a support system for your change process – a group, class, or therapist to help you navigate the steps and set you up for the best possible results.

Finding your voice

Sometimes explaining your desire to change to others is hard. Sometimes they work against you – like crabs in a bucket, pulling you back into old patterns and behaviors. Remember, you do not have to explain your changes to anyone else. You do not have to justify your new behaviors or work to get the to understand your reasons, purpose, or dreams. Your change is all about you and you can chose who to share it with and when.

A few simple statements go a long way, like:

  • I’m the DD tonight
  • I am working on a new fitness plan
  • I am trying a new meal plan out
  • I am working on shifting my sleeping pattern
  • I’ve been reading about _____, and I want to try some of the suggestions
  • I have a friend who did ____, I am hoping to have similar results
  • I noticed I feel better when I do _____

You can create all sorts of simple statements that give enough information but do not require you explain or rationalize your new behaviors. Just make sure you are creating statements you can back up if they ask later – i.e. if you are telling people you are working on training for a race, you might want to make sure you are planning to run a race. When people ask how’s the racing going you don’t want to be “aaaaaahhhh …” and stumble trying to make something up on the spot.

In the end, relax into the change process, enjoy the ride, find yourself, and become a better version of you. It is here you find your spirit and strengthen your soul.

Make Yourself More Happy … Turn the other cheek

Think you have to meet violence with more violence – physical, emotional, or spoken? Think again. By using effective communication skills and the art of grace, you can be happier regardless of how the people around you are acting. Practice finding the light in everyone you meet today.

Turn the other cheek is something many of us have been taught as we grew up in a society that works to have moral rules, laws, and structure.

Today give someone the benefit of the doubt. Offer them grace as you find yourself frustrated, stressed, annoyed, or irritated by another person or situation. Look for the light in the situation and in the other people involved.

If this is hard re-read last week’s conversation on communication here

Finding Peace with Death. Flowing Through the Lifecycle, Change, and Difficult Times

Many of us do not want to feel pain, we do not want things to change, and we do not want to lose. Yet change and loss are a part of life. Here’s how you can move through your grief and find light within loss.

When we have a loss of any kind – person, pets, jobs, homes, communities, partners, children it can be one of the hardest places to find the light. Many people have the hardest time finding light in death of a person. Death is a difficult event for many of us. In the United States of America culture, we work hard to push death off, stay connected to our youth, and discount the value of aging. Death becomes a difficult topic as a result. In addition, many people struggle with change. This creates difficulty when “death” involves the loss of something they felt should remain in their lives, like a job, home, or partner. 

Discussing the Death of People

Depending on one’s spiritual beliefs, or lack there of, the death story and expectations around death may be different for each of us, however the experience of loss is one we all share. As we discussed earlier this week sadness is about loss and about recognizing what matters to you. When death occurs it helps us remember what matters most to us. It gives us a chance to reconnect to those still living and make sure we are communicating our care, love, and desire for deeper relationship while we are both still here. 

The loss of a child is one of the most difficult events one can go through. During this time it can be very difficult to understand the reasons or make sense of what is happening. However, many who have gone through the death of a child report they are stronger, learned something important, and/or the loss helped them refocus their lives into something more positive. Difficult but doable when focus remains on honoring our emotions and moving through the grief cycle. 

The Grief Cycle

The grief cycle has 5-6 stages. First we are in disbelief/doubt, then we bargain. When we cannot change the reality of our situation we typically become very angry. Sometimes angry at God, others, communities, social systems, people. Anger is ok. It helps us find injustices and do something about them. It helps us set boundaries and say no. However, if one is using anger to hurt others (verbally, emotionally, or physically) it will lead to other problems we have to clean up (shame, guilt, broken relationships, more loss). 

After anger comes sadness. Usually deep sadness. It is heavy and cloaking. It shrouds our desire to engage or can keep us isolated and focused on ourselves and our pain. If sadness is not allowed to move through it gets stuck. It often underlies depression (as does anger), chronic pain conditions, and anxiety. When it is allowed to move through we are better able to recognize what the loss means to us and how to honor it in the present. Maybe we deepen relationships, we might change our habits to be more healthy, we make embark on things that enhance our lives: adventures, move, or start a new job as a result of learning gained during the period of loss. (Note of caution, embarking on these things in the middle of the process may be a bad idea. We may not be truly acting from a place of new learning, instead acting from a place of pain)

Finally we come to acceptance. We move into a state of understanding around what the loss means to us, what we want to change as a result, and how we want to continue to grow and evolve. At this point we are able to form new connections to our loss and have gathered information about growing from it. Then we move into a sixth stage (not all models speak of this one). This stage is categorized by the new life we have created as a result of the loss. It may be the way we have decided to do holidays or honor the person(s) who have passed from this human experience. In this stage we own our learning and have incorporated it into our being as a true part of who we are. From this place our life has new meaning, purpose, and we are congruent in honoring the past and focusing on the future. 

Moving Through Change Associated with Loss

If you are moving through a difficult time of any kind, grief is often a factor. It may be the loss of a person, pet, job, home, community, physicality – we need to grieve all sorts of things. If you can allow yourself to feel the grief and the “death” of the experience you were having, you will find the richness on the other side. When you allow yourself the option to move through all of your emotions and cycle through them as needed (FYI: the grief cycle is not linear, you may bounce around at times) you gain a greater sense of yourself and what matters to you. Embrace your feelings and grow. Learn and implement the changes you are experiencing. Take an honest assessment of your experience and allow it to shape and change you for the better. 

If you are stuck or struggling with your grief, can’t seem to find the other side of it, or need help understanding your experience it is a good idea to seek a professional. As noted above, getting stuck can bring on other mental and physical health issues. Plus, many struggle with acceptance and cannot move into implementing the changes and learning as a result of the loss experience. Remember acceptance does not mean you like it, want it, wish it, or approve of what has happened, just that you are honestly looking at what is truly going on in your world. This is a difficult stage and it can help to have someone guide you through this difficult process. 

Finding the Light in Others

Ready to challenge yourself to let go judgment and negative thinking patterns? Read on to take the challenge and make your life better.

One of the hardest things is finding the best qualities of those we do not like. However, if you can muster this level of compassion, empathy, and kindness your life gets better. One of the reasons we struggle so much to show a high level of acceptance is judgment. Many of us are plagued by judgment. We judge ourselves, others, situations, places, you name it we judge it. 

Now judgment is not all bad. I am grateful I am able to judge how another driver is driving. Not to call them an asshole and flip the bird, but so I can determine how to pass, if to pass, or just move away from them. We need judgment to help us navigate the world without being overwhelmed by every decision we have to make to get through our day. 

Judgment becomes problematic when we use it to shame ourselves and others. The more we judge, the more scared of authentic connection we become. We shut parts of ourselves down so we do not become vulnerable to the judgment of others. We hide pieces of ourselves to fit in. We eliminate potential experiences to stay safe in what we know and avoid being judged by others for being different. Thus our unique gifts are marginalized and the world loses out on our full expression of ourselves. 

Today work on finding the light in others. Start with those you like (can be yourself) and move toward those who are neutral in your life – like the store clerk you see regularly. Finally, try and find the good in those you do not like or even hate. Remember it is not all or nothing. You do not have to like all of them or even the majority of them, just aim to find something positive about them no matter how small. Aim to practice this for a week or so and notice the changes in your life. I guarantee (I do not do this often) if you do this for a period of time, life gets easier and your negative self/other talk gets quieter. 

3 Steps to Overcoming Difficult Times and Increasing Your Joy

Life is full of setbacks and hard times. It’s not about avoiding the experiences. Instead focus on living fully and navigating the difficult times by cultivating resiliency in these 3 steps.

As we continue to turn around the sun and move closer to the spring equinox the natural light continues to lengthen each day. Metaphorically we can capitalize on this concept and work to increase the “light” in our own lives. 

Finding the light in our own lives requires that we practice activities we enjoy. This can be difficult during hard times and many struggle to allow themselves to feel joy at all. Joy can be the hardest emotion to feel because people worry “this good thing” will end. As a result they cap the enjoyment they can feel. They fear the pain of disappointment so much they contain joy. Doesn’t that sound awful … but most of us do it. 

I have worked with so many people who work to never feel sadness and disappointment. They have been operating in a numbed existence, the middle between joy and sadness, “to be safe” and “not get their hopes up” thus making sure they are protected. Problem … by protecting themselves from the pain of sadness and disappointment they are also protecting themselves from the full feelings of joy. Life becomes mundane, lackluster, and boring. The fix? Stop being afraid of engaging fully – in every emotion that shows up. 

Sadness and disappointment are about losing. They help us see how much we cared, what we value, and as a result add richness to our lives. This is why life becomes lackluster when we cap them off. We lose the vibrancy all experiences can provide by holding back full emotional engagement

Joy, different than happiness, comes from within. By cultivating practices we enjoy we build a deep wellspring of contentment and joy bubbles up. We begin to find small things that contribute to “living the good life”. We find pieces of each experience, no matter how painful, that bring lessons and some good (even if tiny) into our lives. Happiness follows as we continue to engage in activities where we find positive aspects. Happiness tends to be fleeting based on external factors and experiences we are engaged in. When we cultivate the activities that bring us joy and work to find the positive in every situation happiness follows regularly. 

eMeals

Now let’s talk about when awful things happen. So many people I work with and see in my office are going through difficult times. Something has happened, they grew up in difficult situations, or have been taught to negate good in their lives. Over time this leads to feelings of despair and thoughts like “what’s the point anyway” and “it’ll never work out the way I want it to”. Soon they are repeating the mantra of “play it safe” directly and/or indirectly. As outlined above this just decreases the ability to feel joy and find vibrant exciting experiences in life. They hunker down and just get through it. 

Some people struggle here because they are going through a very difficult experience that has shook the core of who they think they are and how they view the world. Thus making it hard to focus on anything good happening right now, and forcing them into the pain of loss and disappointment. Although, not easy, these experiences offer rich ground to work with joy, sadness, disappointment, expectations, and personal empowerment.

When something difficult strikes it is important to honor how you feel. Maybe you are angry, sad, guilty, disbelieving, or feeling shameful about the situation. Honor those difficult feelings and allow yourself to feel them. They exist to tell you this is important and you need to pay attention. Maybe a loss has shown you that you need to pay more attention to the relationships you are currently involved in. Maybe your guilt is telling you never to behave like that again. Shame is harder as it involves a belief system that you are “bad” and often comes as a result of external factors (childhood emotional trauma, emotional neglect, social system paradigms, etc) and may need therapy to help shift old messages about what is right, wrong, good, and bad as they relate to your personhood. Disbelief is part of the grief cycle and can shake our sense of safety and reality in the world while we go through the grief cycle itself. 

As you work with the situation at hand, the first step is to honor where you are, then accept the situation as it is. this is very difficult and many struggle with this step. Often the situation is not one they wanted, expectations shattered, future plans destroyed, however it is important to work on accepting to the best of your ability. Once you can accept the situation as it is, right now, right here, you have more choice on how to deal with it. Again, you do not have to like the situation, want it, agree with it, or approve of it, you just have to accept it. 

The position of acceptance creates room to respond in the most healthy way you can muster. This creates a sense of personal empowerment and taking steps with empowerment builds self esteem and confidence. As you build self esteem and confidence you build your ability to deal with difficult situations. The cycle becomes a positive one to help you deal with life on life’s terms in the most healthy ways possible right now. 

This week, while we move toward longer days of light, work on cultivating your joy. Work to build activities into your life you enjoy. Then allow yourself to fully and wholeheartedly enjoy them. If you are going through something difficult work on honoring, accepting, and turning toward choices that empower you to move through in the most healthy way you can. Whatever your situation right now, work to be fully in it, without capping it off to “play it safe” and avoid negative feelings. Allow yourself the gift of vibrant and intense human experience. 

Spiritual Sunday: Communicating with something larger than yourself

Good communication begins with us. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and build a strong sense of self that doesn’t fear differences. This allows others and ourselves to show up authentically without feeling judged, attacked, or invalidated just because someone has a different opinion. Very difficult, but worth the try.

For us to be really good at communicating with other people we must be able to communicate well with ourselves. We need to have a strong grounding in our own values, viewpoints, and opinions and a strong sense of self. These allow us to stand tall in our own truth while allowing others to stand tall in their own. To build this strength it is important to cultivate practices that allow for reflection and communication with something larger than ourselves. 

The concept of something larger than ourselves exists in many paradigms and practices. These range from ideas related to spirit, the earth/nature, to the psychology of how mammals communicate somatically. In the end it does not matter what you chose as your paradigm of existence. 

What matters is how you cultivate your practices to maintain connection to something larger than yourself. What matters is that you recognize that we are all connected and how you act in your private life influences other humans and other systems (like water supplies for example). What matters is understanding that there is a shared aspect to everything we do. By taking time to recognize our connections to something larger than ourselves we relate better to those around us. 

When we are better able to relate to those around us, the environment we are in, and be open to the differences between us we are more grounded in ourselves and less susceptible to the vulnerability created when someone has a different opinion, value, or viewpoint than we do. This creates easier conversations and more effective communication for everyone, thus creating more acceptance, less judgment, and more openness to those around us. It also helps create a sense of responsibility for our personal role in helping to create a healthy, vibrant, and just society. 

Friday Flow: Road Trip Conversations

Ever had that road trip where all you heard was “how much longer”? Today work on flipping how you interact in the car. Use this time to connect and get to know each other better.

I’m road trippin’ today in one of my many forays following my kids (or taxiing them) around for sporting events. We are working to beat the next snow storm headed into the Rockies. Since we are on the topic of communication this week, let’s talk about the beauty of being present to people in the car with you, because that is not always easy.

There is something pretty special about these private spaces for developing relationship and working through aspects of personal communication, building deeper knowledge of each other, and finding new music to jam to in between random topics that arise as a result of exploring the world from behind a windshield. Here are some of the fun topics that have arisen within my vehicle as the miles pass by:

  • What beef jerky is the best & why
  • Books we are currently reading
  • Levels of snowfall
  • Tiny homes
  • Salt lakes
  • Music choices
  • Work tasks
  • Dinner options 
  • Finding friends
  • Places to visit when the kids move out
  • Ways to do said travel – RVs vs Camper Vans vs Air BnB, & which countries
  • The benefits of shaving with shaving cream
  • And … How much tea is left & where to get more ice

Of course you can always engage in a variety of other road trip activities. I’ve scrapbooked, we’ve enjoyed a variety of movies, coloring, playing I Spy, and my personal favorite … the license plate game. One time I got all but one state. That was a long ride and quite the accomplishment … I still hold the family title, and I do not think they’ll ever beat me.

3 Ways to Make it Through Difficult Conversations

Struggle to make it through difficult conversations? Here are 3 ways to make it through a difficult conversation with ease.

So with this week’s theme being communication AND our political pundits all over the snippets of communication between our highest leaders, it is worth a comment or two on how we can make our communication effective even in difficult situations. 

First, remember it is ok to disagree.

Just because someone does not agree with you does not make them wrong and you right … or … them right and you wrong. Many people get stuck here because of personal values and past experiences. We have strong feelings about our values, however the space between right and wrong is very wide. Nearly every point can be argued from different angles. If one can stay with the argument long enough, without feeling judged to really hear the other side, they often find themselves with more understanding. This understanding allows us to connect with others and our own communities. Acceptance is key here. This means you accept what is really going on in the moment. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, want it, or approve of it. Just face it with honesty and openness, that this is really what is going on right now, right here. 

Second, The idea is not to convince the other person that you are right.

It is to be effective. Many struggle with this one, too. The idea that no one is right or wrong is discombobulating to some. It means that each of our opinions have value, even if we do not agree. See #1 above. The truth is, yes, both views have value and are somewhat right in their own respective. 

Now some may say “WHAAAAAT, some view points are just wrong, evil, and unjust”, but the truth of the matter is every view point comes from some past experience. It may not be lived experience, rather cultural learned and passed down values and viewpoints, but it comes from somewhere. At one point that viewpoint served a purpose to survive an environment. We might say that some of those environments are not the kind of world we want to live in, be a part of, or feel move humanity forward, but they are there due to some reason. And remember you do not have to agree with it, like it, want it, or approve of it, all you have to do is accept that this is what is right now. 

When you hold that openness, it gets easier to work on discourse without the need to be right. A solid model for working with difficult issues is to scale each participant on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 and 5 being extreme opposites of a viewpoint. The goal in conversation is not to bring the other participant to your number, it is just to shift them 1 up or down. 

To do that you must be willing to listen. I mean really listen. You must be willing to hear them out and attempt to empathize. Again, this does not mean you agree, just that you can see where they are coming from and why? Without forming your rebuttal (to win).

The reason this is so hard is … in order to really listen and empathize you have to make yourself vulnerable to their ideas. As a result you might find your view also changes some. Most of us do not like this idea, so we dig our heels in and tighten our own view in order to mitigate the potential that we will be vulnerable to someone else’s differing ideas.

The very nature of being vulnerable is to have the courage to open up and allow myself to be influenced by you – from research done by Brené Brown. 

From Brené Brown’s research on Shame & Vulnerability

Third, remember it is about conversation not conflict.

I love this quote I got from my friend Elizabeth while we were leading a therapy group on interpersonal communication. Keeping the focus on conversation helps you stay present to conflict when it arises and the uncomfortable (or exciting) feelings it can bring. 

As you recognize your physical sensation changes you can decide to take a break from the topic for a bit, move physically, or distract yourself in some way for a bit. This allows you both to stay present to the conversation however not tip over into argument and other difficulties, like ghosting because you do not want to deal with a difficult topic. By focusing on conversation as the goal, tone of voice, body language, and eye contact can all be manipulated to keep escalations at bay and breaks can be had as needed to stay focused on your goals. 

Increase Your Skills By …

In the end, the more exposed you can be to differing view points, different cultures, and different experiences the easier the above steps are. Our personal communities have shrunk because we can more effortlessly control who we are exposed to and it has become harder to feel more empathy for differing people. As a result of our self selection (and the brilliance of advertisers marketing to us based on our preferences) we can live in a bubble where everyone we know and most of what we see are people who look like, think like, appreciate, and honor the same things we do making it harder to give value to another point of view. 

Today see if you can work on allowing yourself to open up to something different than your normal view point. See if you can listen just a minute longer to the pundit, channel, radio show host, the guy across the table, or person on the street speaking different ideas, concepts, and values from what you believe to be true and worthy in the world. 

Do Your Communication Skills Need An Upgrade?

I see so many people in my practice fighting about being right in communication … when it’s not about being right, it’s about being effective. If you feel like you always have to win, you’ve got other problems. It might be worth exploring your need to be right, your sense of self, confidence levels, ability to be a member of a team, feel valued, honored, lovable, and worthy. Being right in communication is not the end game for a healthy life, being effective is.

Good Leaders Are Kind …

Afraid if you are not “tough” enough people will not follow? Being tough does not mean dominating or bullying. The most effective leaders are those who express compassion. They just know sometimes compassion looks like “no”. They do not berate, belittle, steal ideas, or micromanage their team. They trust them. They get quality followers because they are a quality leader. Go be a great leader today.