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 Life More Interesting

Want to feel more engaged in your life? Finding your personal flow by examining your patterns and being open to change.

As we move through change it can be helpful to track and notice patterns. In the tracking we find how we build our personal flow. What works, what does not. From here we can create ways to build more flow into our daily routines. Check out this post for help tracking your patterns and organizing your life changes.

This awareness lends itself to offering you more opportunities to bring flow into your life, thus creating a positive cycle to make your life more engaging and interesting to you.

And wallah … you begin living a life in flow more often than not. 

Small Steps Make a Big Difference

So many people bite off more than can chew when it comes to habit changes. They know the big goal they want to accomplish but it is too big, too overwhelming and they never start or stop too soon to see the change happen. Don’t be that person. Just start small and keep going.

Create Your Life

Are you creating the life you want? Some of us use play as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating the life we really want. Not that all of life has to be hard work, but rather than avoid taking the next step by playing, overusing substances, or skirting responsibliites – get out there, have fun, and take action to get what you want.

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. 

5 Ways to Increase Your Effective Communication: Understanding Influence and Impact

Have you ever wondered why people do not seem to take you seriously, hear you even when you are yelling, or pay attention to your ideas? It may be your communication style. Here are 5 ways to take control of your communication and increase your ability to influence and impact in positive ways.

Each week I spend quite a bit of time working with people who struggle to communicate effectively. They are either passive, passive aggressive, or aggressive in their communication style in efforts to get their personal needs met. For many they have never been taught effective communication patterns and are relying on old observations of role models. These old observations are well learned in a system (i.e. your family) that uses them, but not effective when you want to communicate in a different system (i.e. your work place). 

In addition, I see many people who feel using a style, say passive aggressive, will get them what they want without conflict and are frustrated people around them haven’t picked up on the needs yet. Today we are going to talk about 5 effective communication tactics and why it is important to understand influence and impact, while also recognizing you cannot change anyone. You only have the ability to change your behavior and thus your results. 

Number 1: No One Can Read Your Mind.

Recognize that no one can read your mind. Many of us were taught that if we dropped enough hints our loved ones would pick up on our needs, and this means we are loved and lovable. Not True. They may come close, yet we are often left feeling like something is missing, we are not important, or we do not feel seen and heard in our authentic expression. This is partly because we compromise our authentic expression trying to get them to really “see” us by using passive aggressive communication styles and partly because they cannot read our minds. Instead of dropping hints, martyring, or silently hoping someone will notice what you need, just ask for what you need and want. Say what you mean and mean what you say. 

Number 2: Shaming, Blaming, and Criticizing are not helpful.

I cannot shame you into long-term compliance and keep the relationship going. I can shame you into submission for a bit, but eventually shaming you, tearing you down, criticizing you, or blaming you will destroy our relationship. The more I nag you, the worse you may feel about yourself and more likely you are to leave. In addition, the more you feel put down and shamed the more likely you are to rebel, get angry, aggressive, and push back on me. This creates an explosive pattern where people say hurtful things that break apart the relationship. 

Number 3: Intensity Matters

Honor the power of intensity. If I am always yelling at you, soon I will be heard no better than if I wasn’t speaking. People get used to intensity levels and they begin to tune them out. Usually leading to more frustrations, more intensity, blame, projection, and shaming tactics, which also do not work long term. Instead, realize that I control my intensity. I can shift my voice, word choice, and body posture to help me emphasize and communicate intensity. In addition, to choosing the right intensity, I must be aware of my non-verbal communication, which is about 80-90% of what I am trying to communication. Remember the saying “action speaks louder than words”, well it is true. People pay more attention to how you say something, than what you say. You can increase or decrease your emphasis by shifting your posture, eye contact, space use, and gestures. I am sometimes more effective when I use body posture and say nothing than when I scream and yell. 

Number 4: Timing

Timing matters. My children were famous for waiting to ask me about eating candy until I was on the phone. They knew I was distracted and it would be easier to get me to concede to their request while I wanted to finish my conversation. To get them to stop, I would lock myself in the bathroom. They would get louder and more expressive. It took a bit, but I was finally able to shape their behavior away from asking for things while I was on the telephone. 

If you want to be successful with a serious conversation, pay attention to the other person’s energy levels. If they are tired and stressed it will be less successful than if you give them a break or help them relax. You might be better off to plan your conversation when you are both feeling ready, have an environment without distractions, and are able to focus on each other. It is ok to say, “I want to talk about _____, when would be a good time to meet and discuss?” 

It is also ok to write out your ideas, desires, and thoughts, opinions about a matter. It can be helpful to review your notes during a difficult discussion. It gives a moment of breathing room for everyone and shows you cared enough about the discussion to put some forethought into it. It helps decrease or increase intensity when used well. And, above all it is ok to say, “I need a break”. I see many couples who do not use this technique. They escalate, escalate, escalate until one of them has had enough and leaves the room. Be proactive and say, “I need a break, let’s take 10 minutes and come back to finish our discussion.” This is perfectly ok. I advise people to set a timer and come back together when it goes off, even if you are not ready to pick up the conversation yet. This helps each member feel important, part of the process, and no one feels abandoned or like it will never get resolved. If you have to agree to set another 10 minute timer or maybe you need to table for another time. Just make sure you both follow through on the commitment to finish the conversation. 

Number 5: No Projection, Instead Understand Your Own Issues

Many people use this to help themselves feel better. They project their own discomfort, limiting beliefs, values, opinions, and goals onto the other person. They say things as though it is the other person’s problem, when it is really their own. The other person may share a part of the issue, however this tactic is often used to dismiss the other’s thoughts, opinions, values, and emotions in efforts to avoid dealing with their own personal issues. When people have done their own work they can avoid yelling at the kids because their boss yelled at them or picking on their partner because they feel small and insignificant. They can own personal anger and deal with it effectively instead of misplacing it on something or someone “safer” to be upset with. It is easy to blame someone else for something you feel uncomfortable about, but in the end you will eventually have to deal with your own shit. Do not emotionally vomit all over someone else. 

Above all else, remember what people say and do is about them. You cannot control what comes out of their mouth, how they hold their body, or what they choose to focus on/care about. What you do is all about you. If you verbally bully someone, it is you who feels small, insignificant, demeaned, or hurt. If you steal someone else’s idea it is you who feels you cannot create your own. If you have not explored why you think, feel, value something it is no one else job to change their thoughts, opinions, values to be like you. 

Now … I often hear, but words hurt and do change things. True. We have the power to impact and influence others with our communication. So why not use it to be effective rather than destructive (to others or ourselves). 

Delicious, Stress-Free Paleo Meals

Impact & Influence: 

We do impact and influence each other very much. I can wreck havoc on my family’s day by throwing a fit during our morning routine. I can also make their day better by uplifting them during said routine. I can help shift focus, belief patterns, and actions by my word choices. I can role model effective behavior and patterns of relating I want them to incorporate as their own. I can help them see themselves as powerful, capable, willing, and connected just by interacting with them effectively. 

Many people do not realize when people come together into relationship they are greater than the sum of their two parts. Instead they feel threatened and overwhelmed, thus become less than the sum of two parts by tearing each other down, gossiping, blaming, shaming, projecting, and criticizing. 

While making sure we are aware of our impact it is important to have grace with those who are not there yet. Many people have been taught to use ineffective communication tactics as ways to control, contain, manage, and feel powerful. They are not aware that their style is actually getting in the way of something better than what they have now. They spend a lot of time ruminating, focused on, and plotting against “attacks” whether they be real or imagined, and often find themselves surrounded by others who are just like them, making the threat of being negated in communication even greater.  Give them grace, while clearly and honestly setting a firm boundary. This is part of how we eliminate ineffective communication from our lives. We set boundaries over and over, with grace and teach people how to treat us. In our ability to speak clearly about what we will accept and not accept in our space with compassion (which sometimes looks like a firm and solid no) we tell people not to speak to us that way, not to expect we will comply, and not to assume we agree. 

When we recognize the power of influence it can help us choose our words carefully, pick appropriate timing, do our own work so our emotions, values, opinions, and beliefs are not being projected onto the other making our communication much more clear. We can ask for what we want with tact and effectively say no without tearing apart a relationship or ourselves. We can set boundaries that keep us moving down our path with success and focus, while staying in connection feeling part of something larger than ourselves. 

Effective Communication Today: 

Today make a commitment to step back from negative communication patterns and work on taking ownership of your role in the relationship. Everything you say and do is about you. Even when it feels like they “made you mad”. Nope you got mad because you impacted by something they said. You chose to get mad or not, to let your feelings dictate your reaction, rather than address it objectively with a statement like “that hurt my feelings, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use those words with me” or something like that”. Believe me, it takes some practice and can feel silly at first. 

When you can effectively address slights, hurts, bullying, etc in the moment objectively and in a responsive (vs. reactive) manner you will be more effective getting what you want and need. You take ownership of how you show up in the relationship, even when they show up ineffective. If you are the bully in the situation recognize that you cannot use force to make a relationship work long term. You cannot put people down and expect them to give you their best. They will defend against you even if not in obvious ways. You do not win by breaking people down, everyone loses what could have been greater than the sum of two parts, ideas, or solutions. You are not stronger because you “were in charge”, people do not respect titles – they respect people who are respectful. See last week’s topic on leadership for more information on being a good leader.

Today, work to make your communication style open, your body posture available for positive communication, and your words, timing, intensity, and tone fit the situation you are in – not the one you wish you were in. Work to be clear, say what you mean, mean what you say, ask for what you want with confidence and style fitting of the situation, and say no to what you do not want with grace and strength.