Aging: The Inside Story

 

I saw an ad today for a “beauty” system that looked like a torture device. Picture a tiny paint roller with fine needles projecting from the surface. When you roll the device over your face the needles penetrate your skin. The fine print says “No known negative side effects.” I guess pain isn’t considered a side effect. Granted I haven’t tried it, but it sure looks like it would be painful.

I went onto YouTube to listen to reviews expecting to see people screaming in agony as they “beautified” themselves. The first reviewer I watched mentioned she had put a numbing cream on her face for 25 minutes before use. She said not to be afraid of the device. I’m afraid of anything that requires me to use numbing cream.

The theory behind the roller is that it “might” stimulate the production of collagen, reduce wrinkles, cellulite, etc. The holes it puts in your face also help you absorb serums and creams better.

Looking for Youth in all the Wrong Places

beautiful older womanWhat strikes me about this (and many other beauty treatments that are uncomfortable, expensive, and potentially dangerous) is the amount of focus on trying to look younger on the outside. I’ve known people that forgot about their “inside” life because they were so focused on the external.

I’m all for looking vital and healthy. I would love to have the same skin I had when I was 30. But I’m not 30. I’m 59 and happily counting. (There are more senior discounts in my future.) While I want to look vital and healthy and make choices that help me with that, I’m much more interested in FEELING vital and healthy.

Everyone makes his or her own choices about how much time and energy (and what type of time and energy) they want to put into looking “good.” And we also get to make up our minds about what we think looks good. We don’t all love purple hair, tartan plaid, or pearls. Thank goodness for that because it makes people watching much more interesting.

But there’s something disturbing to me about the hunt for pseudo youth. Dying your hair back to its original shade does not, after all, make you that age again. I believe it’s possible to do things like laser treatments, Botox, hair dye, even torture devices for your face because you love yourself and love looking your best. If getting your butt Botoxed makes you feel great then Botox away. But I think it’s equally possible (maybe more likely?) that many women are rolling torture devices over their faces because they don’t like who they see in the mirror. They don’t like the changes that aging can bring.

Embracing Change

You are changing. We all change. We don’t expect the tree we plant as a sapling to look the same in five years. We don’t expect our toddlers to stay the same or the oak tree to keep its leaves all year. Change is part of the beauty of life.

I’ll be honest. I don’t love all the changes I see in my body. I don’t obsess about aging and I’m grateful that I’ve very healthy—no medications, no arthritis, no high blood pressure. I don’t mind that my hair is gray because it’s thick and healthy. BUT I would love to have fewer lines and tauter skin on my face. I WANT to love all the changes including those lines. I’m working on that. My goals are to 1) accept the changes 2) love myself and 3) look and FEEL as vital and healthy as possible.

I do, however, love some of the changes that have come with age and maturing. I love that I’m more direct than when I was 25. I love that I don’t fall into victim mode anymore. I love that I don’t drink alcohol. It saves money and calories and I feel better. I love the community of friends I’ve gathered over the years. I love that I’m strong.

Being Edith-like

Cousin Edith

Edith at 100 years old with her Chevy

I’ve had the good fortune to have some outstanding role models for vital aging in my life. My
grandfather’s cousin Edith stands out. Edith lived to 108 years young. She lived independently until the last few months of her life. The year she turned 100 she was invited to be the Grand Marshall in her community’s annual Arkalalah celebration (yes, that’s really the name.) She walked to the DMV to renew her driver’s license so she could drive her 1950 Chevy, the only car she ever owned, in the parade. Not only did she get her driver’s license for the event, but also she bought a stylish modern dress that I would have been happy to wear at the time and I was in my early 30’s.

But Edith didn’t look 30. While her erect posture and lively movements belied her 100 years, she looked like an older woman. That didn’t seem to bother her. She was able to garden, take daily walks, play bridge, live on her own, and participate in a book group. She stayed active mentally and physically throughout her life. I never heard her complain about saggy skin, gray hair, or achy joints. She was far too busy for that. Maybe far too happy would be a better description. She once said she realized she could choose to be miserable or happy. She chose happy.

The theme of my coaching and retreat work is living a life of purpose well. Spending time trying to rewind time or focusing on what you don’t like about yourself takes time away from living that well life of purpose. I want to invite you to a life as rich, full, and happy as cousin Edith’s for as long as you live.

Your Vital Aging Challenge

1.    What do you value about your aging or maturing process?

2.    What about your maturing process do you want to learn to embrace or accept?

Here’s what I would love: Share your answer to #1 here. I think if we all start celebrating the wisdom of maturing instead of fighting against aging we’ll have more energy for what matters to us. The world will be a better place. And if you share here we can all celebrate each other’s awesomeness. Ready to join me?

Dreaming as Self-care

dare to dreamDuring my final months of college I read What Color’s Your Parachute?  In case you’re not familiar with this classic it’s a subtitled “A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.”

That book changed my life. It gave me permission to find work that fit my values, my interests, and my skills. Up until then I knew I wanted to be a social worker and help others. I knew I liked working with kids, but beyond that I didn’t have many specifics.

Wishlist

When I finished the book I had a long wishlist for my dream job. Here’s part of my list:

  • Time in nature, including hiking
  • Opportunity to do crafts
  • Able to dress casually
  • Not a 9-5 job
  • Working with kids
  • Non-traditional program
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Chance to travel
  • Vacation time
  • Place where my skills of teaching and counseling would be helpful

Let Your Dream Find You

Now with the list I had clarity Unfortunately I didn’t have any job prospects or any ideas of how to find my dream job. But clarity, focus on what I wanted, and trust paid off. (And maybe a healthy dose of 20-something naivety didn’t hurt.) Through a series of serendipities my dream job found me.

I had worked at a summer Girl Scout residence camp between my junior and senior years of college. I loved working with the kids and planned on returning for one more summer after graduation. My parents, who had been supporting me during college, strongly suggested I get on with a “real job” hunt instead. I agreed.

One morning in the late spring I woke up from a dream that told me I needed to work at camp again. I don’t have any memory of the dream, but I remember that I “knew” I must return to that summer job. I called the camp director to tell her I had decided to work at camp. I knew I had missed the deadline for signing my contract. Would a position still be available? Turns out she thought I HAD decided to work at camp and already had me on her list. Yeah!

That summer, in between s’mores, hiking, and swimming, I sent off resumes for all the job listings my mom sent me. I scoured the want ads in alternative magazines like Mother Earth News and applied for jobs that sounded like they might match my wishlist. But with only a few weeks of summer left I hadn’t lined up any job interviews.

One day the camp director invited me to ride with her to the Girl Scout council office about 30-minutes away. They had offered her a temporary job as director with a day camp for a new program. She wasn’t interested, but thought I should apply. So I put on my cleanest jeans and headed to Bloomington with her.

That position had been filled, but they hired me on the spot as a counselor for a three-week stint with the day camp for that new program. I was glad to have a job, even if it was temporary and I didn’t know where I’d stay.

After returning to the resident camp I told my friend and tent mate, Thumper (we all had camp names) and she invited me to housesit for her and her boyfriend Jim as they headed out of town. They’d be gone a week, but I could stay for the three weeks.

That temporary position led to a full-time position as a youthworker/trainer with that new program. It was the start of my coaching and truly my dream job. It ticked every box on my wishlist and then some.

How Do You Dream?

Some of my clients automatically bypass the dreaming phase. You might relate if you’ve ever gotten in trouble for daydreaming. Or if you’ve taken a risk going after your dreams only to be disappointed. Who wants to risk that again?

Maybe you’re a detail person who hasn’t learned how to go big with your vision. (Hint: your vision is made of details.) Or you’re afraid of getting caught in airy, fairy, fantasyland, never taking action toward your dream.

Like some of my clients you might be choosing the known, afraid to admit what you REALLY want. Or maybe you’re not even sure what you want.

Allowing yourself to dream does have risk. You could get your hopes up and be disappointed. But by going for what is safe and known, you risk not living your dream.

Dream-mode

Staying in “dream-mode” all the time won’t get you a free ride. When you step onto the path of your dreams it’s helpful to pack some reality to help you make plans, to help you take action. I had to go to the interview when it was offered. I had to take a temporary job that felt right. There’s a time and place for both dream and “reality.” If you’ve been all action or living someone else’s dream then you’re overdo for some “dream time.” Here are a few ideas to get you going.

How to dream

  1. Pretend you’re a kid. Remember lying on your back under the clouds? Let your mind wander as you make up an “imaginary” tale about your life. What would super hero, super-model, or super-confident you do? What would you ask the genie in the bottle for? Which vision gets you excited? Which one seems to have a life of its own?
  1. Notice bits of other people’s lives that you’d love to copy. And yes, copying is allowed. Do you envy a friend who travels to exotic locations? Or melt when you see the woman down the street with her 3 kids? Are you in awe of your friend who’s set up her business so she only works 3 days a week?

Do find yourself wondering how a friend published a book or landed a new job? Remember you don’t have to take their whole picture into your vision. The woman who travels might seem exhausted. You can incorporate the travel and leave the exhaustion out.

  1. Make your vision more tangible and present by recording it. Depending on your tastes and talents you might want to keep notes in a journal, paint a picture, or collage a dream board. Having a touchstone helps keep that dream alive as you take action.
  1. Hire a coach. I’m personally a fan of this one. : ) Hiring a coach provides wings to this process. A coach will hear things in what you say that you might not pick up on. A coach can lead you through the process guiding you when you get stuck and then helping you take that dream into action. Sometimes the other people in your life, like your partner or kids, have a vested interest in you staying the same. A coach can be a cheerleader for exploring change in your life when those around you feel unsure about that change.

When I hear someone say I’ve always wanted to… my ears perk up. If you think there might be a “dream” in you then you take the time to explore it. I believe that acknowledging and going for your dreams IS an overlooked and important piece of self-care. That’s gold on the path to a big life of joy.

Share a bit of your dream here.

Measuring your Goals

When working with my coaching clients one of the first things we do is to look at yardsticktheir values. When we’re finished with the process they’re often surprised by what their list ends up being.

I work with people who are pretty self-aware. It’s not like they haven’t thought about what’s important to them. They have. But few of them have peered so closely at their values. Those top values end up being the yardstick they use to make decisions as they move closer to their goals.

Values in Action: 59 Shades of Gray

I recently received a friend request from someone on Facebook who then proceeded to try and sell me cosmetics for reversing aging. At 59 I probably looked like a good candidate.

But I wasn’t a good match. I may have gray hair, but my values weren’t aligned with the company she represented. I do want to look healthy and vital. But I’m not willing to use a bunch of potentially harmful chemicals on my skin or hair in order to try and appear younger.

For me optimal health has a high value. I’m willing to sacrifice other things to live that value. I’m willing to not dye my hair and am willing to potentially look older than my peers who do dye theirs. I’m willing to forgo the latest skin care regime because the products contain mineral oil (or PEG 4 Laurate, Propylparaben, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate…) I’m not perfect in my quest for a high level of wellness, but it is a daily part of my life.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of my client’s “yardsticks” has fun at the top of her list. Any time she starts to resist something she asks herself if that something is fun. If it doesn’t sound fun to her we look at how she can shift it.

For example, going to the gym didn’t sound like fun to her. In fact it sounded like torture. But dancing on the deck gives her a thrill. Now her exercise includes deck dancing, something that she’s willing to do on a regular basis.

Another client values learning. Her job, a “good job” with benefits and stability feels like torture to her. A truly “good job” for her is one where learning is integrated, even rewarded.

What Do You Value?

How would your choices (and therefore your life) be different if you used a values “yardstick?” Your first step is to know what your values are. You can make a list on your own, but having a guide or coach enhances the process. That’s because we swim in our own sea. Having someone swim alongside you pointing out that you are, after all, swimming in water gives you a different (and more complete) perspective.

I’d love to know your top value or values. Would you be willing to post them here?

And if you’d like a “values guide” maybe it’s time for coaching. You can schedule a free consultation here.

Multidimensional Mindfulness

labyrinthI had finished a swim and was standing in the locker room when I felt a familiar twinge in my back. “Oh no. The pain is coming back.” It was the early 90’s and I had injured my back while finishing up massage school. My back would feel better after treatments like chiropractic care and massage. But a year after the injury the pain would still return. I felt like I would never be back to normal.

While that familiar twinge had returned many times, this time was different. I realized that what I was feeling was the tightening of a muscle, not pain. I breathed and focused on relaxing. The twinge left and the pain did not reappear! I realized my fear about the pain had been causing my muscles to tighten hence restricting the blood flow and ultimately causing more pain. You mean I could control this? Wow.

I wasn’t new to yoga, but this was awareness was new.

I’d dabbled in yoga since the 70’s. Regular yoga became a part of my routine after other treatments weren’t healing my injury. I’d started a consistent practice to help my body. I hadn’t counted on the“side effects” of yoga including increased awareness.

Your Go-to System

Awareness is a powerful tool. What do you notice right now? Your achy neck? Your breathing? A distracting thought? A feeling of happiness?

Most of us have a go-to system that we check in with WHEN we’re being mindful. We are not mindful all of the time, nor do we want to try for that state. Our habits and patterns serve us well by freeing up focus and energy. For example, I don’t have to think about how to type. I’ve done it enough that the neural pathways take over and I can focus on what I’m writing instead.

As you develop your mindfulness skills through meditation, yoga, chi kung, art, hiking, gardening, knitting, etc. you usually have a system you go to first. You notice your body. You pay attention to your breath. It’s gives you a starting point. Noticing everything at once would be too hard.

As you build your mindfulness muscles you can start to access more information. If you’re new to the gym a trainer will introduce you to a few pieces of equipment. You don’t need to lift every weight, try every machine. Over time you build your repertoire. It’s the same with mindfulness.

You are Connected.

Your body, mind, spirit, energy, and emotions are connected. Think a happy thought and you will feel differently. Your body will shift to meet your emotion. But sometimes the message from the different levels of your wholeness will conflict.

Your body aches from too many hours of sitting in front of the computer. So you commit to prying your butt from your chair on a daily basis and hitting the gym. Great plan, right?

While your body might be screaming for movement your emotional body might be singing a different song. Maybe you’ve recently had a loss and your emotional body wants nothing more than to sit in that chair and eat a daily pint of Hagen-Dazs.™

If you listen to your physical body and ignore the call of your emotions you will end up sabotaging your efforts at the gym. And the bummer is that you’ll probablyfeel even worse because you didn’t succeed.

What’s a Whole Person to Do?

  1. Acknowledge and celebrate whatever awareness/mindfulness practice you do have. When I say “practice” I’m not referring to a formal practice. Every time you pay attention to some part of you you’re practicing mindfulness. To be mindful you don’t need to travel to India and sit at the feet of a guru.
  1. Add another layer. You notice your body is tense. Check in with your breathing. What do you find? When you get comfortable with that layer, add another. What is your mind focusing on?Eventually you’ll be able to check-in with a wide range of awareness. It’s like being a painter and starting with only red, yellow, and blue in your paint set. Over time you add burnt sienna, orchid, sea foam green… And you get different results with a bigger tool kit.
  1. Honor the discrepancies. Find creative ways to honor the different messages you get. How can you nurture your grieving heart while getting your butt out of that chair?
  1. Look for themes. When I coach clients we sometimes do an exercise where they listen to a number of different levels. The cool thing is that there are always themes. Those themes help direct the course of your life. Those themes can lead you to a path that will be supported by yourwhole team.

So what’s your go-to mindfulness system? Are you noticing any themes? Would love to hear your wisdom.

Embracing Overwhelm: Finding the Blessing in the Stress

Overwhelmed womanOverwhelm. It’s a word I hear a lot from clients and potential clients. Maybe you’ve experienced overwhelm at some point. That sense of having what feels like an impossible number of tasks on your to-do list. Or feeling like something too big to handle, too painful to live with entered your life.

When you experience overwhelm your nervous system gets triggered. Your muscles tighten. Your blood pressure amps up. You start to feel unsafe, perhaps a little irritable. You might even shut down.And with all of that you become less productive and more inefficient.

Before Strategy and Ohming

I’ve been in overwhelm and I know the last thing you want to do is take a break to hash over the situation. After all, you have a pile of stuff with your name on it and, tick tock, time keeps moving. In fact your adrenal glands, detecting danger, have shot out a nice dose of chemicals to help keep you moving.

Before you start to solve the problem of overwhelm, before you decide that yes, meditation is your ticket to calm or that you really should stop procrastinating, you have to decide IF your overwhelm is a problem. 

What if the sensations you’re feeling are actually a blessing? What if overwhelm is really your inner wisdom come calling?

What Would the Dalai Lama Do?

I remember having a quick conversation back in the mid-90’s with one of the counselors at the wellness center at which I worked. The conversation was quick because that’s all I had time for. I was busy, yes, overwhelmed with all that was on my plate.

I was a massage therapist with a full time busy practice, teaching yoga plus an occasional non-yoga class. And I was living life, taking care of a home, navigating a new relationship, etc. This counselor told me a story about the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if it’s true, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The story went like this. The Dali Lama was being advised of his schedule for the day, which was especially full. The advisor suggested maybe His Holiness should shorten his meditation time. The Dali Lama, being extra wise and lama like, said he would instead increase his mediation time.

I heard the message and started to look at my reasons for cutting back self-care to finish the “really important and necessary” stuff on my to-do list.

That story stuck with me. Now when I get tempted to do more or to shorten my workout or meditation time I do my best to listen to the message of my overwhelm rather than pushing through it to more action.

Signposts

I don’t think overwhelm is a bad thing. Nor do I think it is always about procrastination or being disorganized or inefficient. In fact, I think it is a blessing (even though it can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.)

Being in overwhelm tells you that something is off. It’s worth pausing and making space to discover what underlies your particular brand of overwhelm.

Here are a few possible nuggets I find lurking in my own and my clients’ overwhelm.

  • Self-esteem issues
  • People pleasing
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues
  • Fear
  • Money issues
  • Distraction from what’s really important
  • Not enough information

Of course coaching is one option to getting your arms around overwhelm. So is a retreat. But there are lots of ways to handle overwhelm. I’d love to know your go-to solutions.

Down with Self-loathing!

Woman & mannequinI grew up chubby and have often seen “fat” when I looked in the mirror, even when the scales said differently. Only in recent years have I begun to accept, even like my body.

No wonder I love the trend toward accepting one’s body— curvy hips, belly rolls, the slope of one’s nose, cellulite, freckles… I applaud the women who say,“I’m not covering up these jiggly thighs for your pleasure. I will wear skintight yoga pants if I choose. I will shake these hips and let my flesh spill out in celebration.”

Self love=Self care

Self-love is healthier than the self-loathing that has been the norm. For years I’ve listened to females from pre-pubescent to elderly “dis” their bodies. Too short, too skinny, ugly knees, and the most prevalent, “too fat.” Along with scores of “sisters” I’ve looked in the mirror and asked the proverbial question, “Does this make me look fat?”

All that self-loathing takes a toll. It takes time and energy, which could be spent doing something you love—painting, hiking, snuggling, reading, growing a business… But instead that time is spent putting yourself down or worrying about how your butt looks.

Plus there’s the emotional and energetic toll. Your body, mind, and spirit register that mean spirited talk. And that registering, even for a comment that might seem small and insignificant, takes a toll. It’s a punch in the gut. A kick to the heart.

It’s self-abuse. So you can see why I’m heartened to hear and see the trend in the opposite direction.

I believe in self-love.

For years we’ve been “fed” images by the media of thin, too thin, and photoshopped lovelies. Many of us received the message loud and clear that we too should look just like the women in the ads. And we don’t.

As the pendulum swings to the other side we’re getting messages that it’s acceptable, maybe even preferable to be as Meghan Trainor says in her popular song, “all about that bass.” If you’ve worked long and hard to get your body to look like Kate Moss, only to feel like a failure, you’re probably ready to embrace the current trend to love every bit of you. Love away.

BUT…

Here’s my concern.

I think for some self-acceptance has come to mean “I can eat a bag of Doritos because I love myself and I’m not punishing myself any longer. Rather than watching what I eat I’m learning to love all of me.”

True that punishing yourself is not self-love. Lose the punishment. Yes to loving all of you. But feeding your body foods that cause you to be obese, to be unwell, to not feel good, or have energy is NOT self-love. No matter what you look like.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the well-documented risks of making poor diet choices and being overweight. Stroke, heart attack, cancer, osteoarthritis, mobility issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, reproductive concerns, gallbladder problems, back pain… Self-love does not include behaviors that put you at risk for these kinds of issues.

Pendulum dilemma

In my perfect world:

  • We all learn to accept, even cherish our precious bodies. They are a miracle. (Isn’t it amazing that your body can take a peach or a Big Mac and turn them into energy?)
  • We all make choices that support, honor, and grow the miracles that we walk around in. I’m talking about that body of yours. You know, the one that feels love, can drive a stick shift, and fills out government forms. Okay, so maybe you never learned to drive a stick shift. Still you’re amazing and deserve to be treated that way.

So maybe you’ve ridden the pendulum to one side: “I need to wear a size 2 or my life is over” or the other “My curves are beautiful so I don’t need to worry about what I eat ever again.” Seek your perfect balance point. That point will let you, on most days, love the body you have. And because you love that body you treat it accordingly, discovering what it loves, what nurtures it, what heals it.

I hear some of you saying, “But my body loves sour cream and onion potato chips.” You might love the taste of those chips. (I do too.) But I’m asking you to go deeper. How do you feel when you eat them? How do you sleep? How easy is it to move? How much energy do you have for the things that you really want to do?

I find that I don’t feel or look as amazing if I eat lots of chips and sugar. I think more clearly without them in my world. I sleep better. I stay healthier. And all of those things help me live the life of my dreams.

My goal is to make a self-loving choice with food more often than not. (If you see me in line at my favorite health food store with a pint of Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica Coconut Bliss and a spoon you might not want to take that moment to suggest that I make a more loving choice.) But stalk me at my favorite health food store and you’ll find my cart is usually filled with healthy, non-sugar, non-chip foods.

But not always. I’m not saying be perfect. I’m saying be loving. To your cells. To your heart. To your head.

The pendulum swings. Riding it to the middle can be challenging. Having the support of a coach can make a world of difference. Coaching can help you find a place where you feel like you’re making choices rather than being driven by your cravings, your habits, or your emotions. You can find a place where you accept yourself AND learn to make healthy choices your way.

What do you think? Are you on one side of the pendulum? What are your ideas about finding and managing your balance point? I’d love it if you’d share them here. Might help me or someone else on one of those less than balanced days.

 

My Wedding, Your Decision

Sharon & Theresa's wedding

Sharon & Theresa

Do you ever struggle with making a decision? You just don’t like any of the options. Seems likeyour choices are to do nothing or pick a solution that you’re not in love with.

Speaking of love I got married on June 22, which means I’ve been doing some wedding planning. When I say “wedding” don’t think church, large crowds, or white gowns. Think backyard, a couple of guests, and yoga pants. My partner and I have lived together for 15 years. But when it became legal for us to marry in Oregon we decided to it was time.

But Not Urgent.

There wasn’t a deadline. We’re not having a baby, we already live together, and there wasn’t any family pressure. But my sister was scheduled to visit from Washington D.C. so it seemed like the perfect time.

Bridezilla?

Of course planning big weddings with mucho decisions about caterers, bridal parties, dove releases, and champagne toasts create big stress. But you wouldn’t think a teeny weeny wedding would create any decision making stress. Especially a wedding where you can wear yoga pants.

But it did. You have to understand that my partner and I are very different people. If it were up to her she would gone to the courthouse and been done with it. She wanted to marry me. She didn’t necessarily want others involved.

I, on the other hand, wanted witnesses. My community is really important to me. I knew I wouldn’t be inviting 100 of my closest friends. But I wanted someone there.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, NOT

One of the advantages of a non-traditional relationship is that we don’t have traditional roles. I’ve seen plenty of relationships where the bride decides what the wedding will be like with some to little input from the groom.

Not so when you have two opinionated women. In our relationship when it comes to important decisions (or decisions we care about like which rug to buy) we wait until we have a choice with which we’re both happy. As you can imagine there is often a waiting period. Sometimes a long waiting period. But interestingly enough we always find a perfect choice whether it’s a wedding or rug.

How about your “wedding?”

I bet you have a decision you need to make. Maybe it’s a fun one like where to go on vacation. Will it be Tahiti, Seattle, or Kokomo, Indiana? So many possibilities…

Or maybe you’ve been putting off a decision like how you’re going to loose weight. It seems so overwhelming. So many choices and you’re afraid they’ll all involve deprivation.

When I work with my coaching clients I sometimes hear angst when there isn’t a clear decision. The conversation goes something like this. “I know I don’t want to stay where I am, but I don’t know where I want to go.”

Or “Where I am isn’t quite right, but I don’t like any of the other options.”

“Where I am” can be a physical location, a job, a health status, a relationship… If you’re stalling on a decision does that make you a procrastinator? What if it just isn’t time to make a decision? What if by waiting you allow the perfect choice time to show up?

To decide or not to decide

One of the great things about consciously tabling a decision until more data becomes available is that your stress gets reduced. Allow that potential decision to perch on your shoulder and it takes energy every day. But when you stick it in a box in a closet and promise to come back to it you can focus more freely on what’s at hand.

Your Assignment

Pick one decision that you know you’ve been needing or wanting to make. Got it? Now feel into whether it’s time to make the decision or park it.

Notice how you feel with each option. Does deciding feel better? How about waiting? And if you’re waiting what do you need to know to make the decision?

I’d love to hear what you decided and how you feel about it here.

Don’t “Just Do It!”

Since 1988 Nike’s Just Do It slogan has been adding zeros to Nike’s bottom line. No one can argue that old shoesit’s a great tagline for them. Well known, easy to remember, and inspiring to athletes and coach potatoes alike.

Even though it’s served Nike well, I don’t think it’s a great tagline for how to “do life.” Honestly, I only take issue with three parts of it: just, do, and it.

Wait a Minute

Who am I to argue with the genius of a large ad agency that represents clients like Facebook and Coke Cola? Who am I to argue with a slogan that has been inspiring the masses to buy shoes (and socks and sunglasses and water bottles…) for 27 years?

The phrase sells shoes. I’m not interested in selling shoes. I’m interested in connecting people to their most inspired (and inspiring) life. I don’t recommend “Just Do It” as the best way to get there.

Being “Just”

Just, among its definitions, means “actually or really.” In other words “really” do it.

As opposed to dreaming, thinking about doing it, talking about why you can’t do it, having a snack, calling a friend, filing your nails, browsing Facebook, having another snack…

Sometimes we need that kick in the butt to get off our butts and make our “it” happen. Sometimes action IS what’s required. But when we jump to the assumption that “just” doing is the answer when we haven’t even figured out the question, we’re premature in our process. I see people pushing, busy, busy, busy, doing stuff day after day, yet not feel successful.

“Just” marginalizes what needs to happen, as if doing or not doing was the only problem. As in, if you just did “it” life would be wonderful. If you just got out and ran (wearing Nike’s, of course) you would be healthier, heck maybe even an Olympian.

But if this is something worth doing, if this is the thing you feel called to do, then your “it” deserves more focus and intention than a dismissive “just.”

Do, Be, Do, Be, Do?

So what about the “do” part? Taking action is at some point essential. But it must be preceded with some “being,” that place where divine inspiration comes in, where ideas gestate. Maybe some taking stock, some listening and sometimes even some waiting.

It’s okay, even necessary to take some time before doing. There’s your timing. And there’s divine timing. Sometimes we need to make ready. Sometimes the universe needs to line things up. If you’ve ever pushed, worked, and plodded to make something happen only to feel frustrated as the project ground to a halt, then you may not have laid your groundwork. It also might not be the “right” time. No amount of “just doing” will unblock the logjam.

The “just do it” attitude implies that it’s all up to you. That there isn’t a greater power at work here. But there is.

That “Just Do It” stuff can keep you busy all day. What about right action? To have right action you must first have inner awareness. You must listen. You must wait for a puff of divine inspiration to blow your way.

Sometimes the most fearless thing you can do is wait. Don’t confuse making excuses, distraction or your delay tactics with waiting for right timing.

When is the time for doing? Good question. It goes back to the awareness piece. You’ll feel clear. You’ll feel excited about your next step.

Here’s the really cool thing. When you’re not pushing yourself to “just do it,” when you’ve waited for that inspiration, for knowing, then you don’t have to push. You want to move. And move you do.

Your “It”

Before you do “it,” you have to figure out what your “it” is. Tricky territory. Sometimes we go after an “it” that belongs to our parents, a boss, or our culture. To live an inspired life you must have a taste of what your “it” is. Doesn’t work if you’re driving to someone else’s it.

Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to go on an inner expedition to find your “it.” It takes space. It takes quiet. It takes commitment.

Your brain is a valuable resource. It usually remembers your address, your route home, your favorite brand of tennis shoes, be they Nike or other. But your brain isn’t always the best place to source your “it.”

Better Places to Check for Your “It.”

Try your heart, a repository of wisdom of what moves and motivates you. Gosh, maybe you’ll be so moved that you won’t need a catchy slogan to inspire you to action.

Trust your gut. Those twitchy, slippery ever-present feelings sandwiched between yesterday’s pizza and your morning corn flakes can inform you about what matters to YOU.

You may have to build your awareness muscles. If you haven’t been listening you have to relearn/learn those skills. But do 15 awareness crunches a day and pretty soon you’ll find yourself with flat awareness muscles. And looking proud, balancing right on top, you might just find your “it.”

Be patient. You’ll know it’s yours because you’ll feel a sense of excitement coupled with a feeling of “this is it.”

Your “it” calls you for a reason. It helps you to heal, to grow. It helps you to offer your gifts to the world, to have more joy. And in order to be up to speed with your “it” you probably need to do some inner work. You might need to shift some beliefs.

I know “Just Do It” is much simpler than my process. My tagline would suck. Something like “Know what you want. Get aligned with it. Wait for inspiration and then act.” I won’t be selling many shoes with that baby. It probably won’t turn you into a world-class athlete either. But you might just have more success and be happier in the process too.

Do you know what your “it” is? I’d love for you to share it here.

All Play and No “Work?”

Art Feeds My SoulBack in the 90’s thinking about doing art would trigger a stress response for me. I’d feel my muscles tighten, my breath would become shallower, and I would sweat.

Sounds like fun, huh?

So I Took An Art Class

You might be surprised to hear that I’m currently taking a yearlong art class and loving it. I used to say, “I can’t even draw a good stick figure.” But I surrounded myself with supportive artists friends, not on purpose, but because I love to be around creative people.

Over time these lovely women took me under their wings and helped me find my path with art. One of my artist friends who used to teach drawing classes told me that anyone (yes, even me) could learn to draw. And with their guidance I was able to draw something that was recognizable.

For my current art class I get a weekly online lesson. The mixed media lessons come from various teachers using a variety of mediums-paint, stamps, collage, inks, lettering, etc.

Lesson Learned

What I learned from last week’s lesson was priceless. While I had a bit of a learning curve using some new markers, a birthday gift from two of my artist muse friends, the important thing I learned was about having fun.

I didn’t expect my project to look perfect. I didn’t expect me to be perfect. And because of that it was play, not work. Because of that I stayed in the present moment. That’s how I’ve learned to approach the art classes I take.

My ah-ha moment came when I realized how often I expect perfection from myself when it comes to my work. I expect my coaching to be perfect. I expect everyone in my classes to have a stellar experience. I expect every idea I have to be executed perfectly.

But it’s not possible (sorry if you saw me as perfect and I spoiled the illusion) for perfection to be my norm. And holding onto that dream certainly sucks the joy out of the process.

More Fun Please

So I’m vowing to have more fun with my work, make that my “play.” Don’t get me wrong. I often do have fun with my work. It’s just that sometimes I don’t.

In February I lead my second Purposeful Yoga retreat in Mexico. I had fun. Lots of fun actually. I got to use my skills, be creative, hang out with incredible women, swim, hike to a cave, connect with locals, walk a deserted beach… All while I was “working.”

Fun has a high vibration. It can help you be healthier and happier. It can help you attract more of what you want in your life. So how can you have more fun in your life? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Five Common Self-care Traps

You’ve made efforts, maybe even heroic efforts toward improving your self-care. Maybe you set a New Year’s resolution or intention. But you’re just not feeling that successful. Doesn’t seem fair.

Real self-care can be slippery. You may have fallen into one of these common self-care traps. (Don’t worry. It’s not like the commercial. Even if you’ve fallen you’ll be able to get up.)Trapped

 

  1. Random Acts of Self-care

 

A mani-pedi. A day at the spa. A luxurious morning in bed with your favorite book and beverage. A quiet walk in the woods. A week of vacation.

If these activities feed your soul, then bring them on baby.

The problem comes with confusing random acts of self-care with the ongoing self-care practice you MUST have in order to sustain yourself.

Random acts of self-care are fun. They feel good and fill you up. But they won’t sustain you for the long haul. Short-term solutions get you short-term results.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these things can be part of your self-care plan. Don’t throw them out if you love them. Just know they don’t automatically equal a self-care practice.

  1. Template approach

You see something that works. Your bestie drops 15 pounds from her recent diet. You hear about a celebrity that lost her baby weight while doing zumba six days a week. Your boss, who looks 20 years younger than her age and manages to stay oh, so Zen-like all the time, talks about the wonders of her morning kale smoothie.

So you try the diet, shake your booty at a zumba class, and drink your weight in green smoothies. Problem is the diet leaves you feeling deprived, you don’t like dancing, and you despise kale.

Putting on someone else’s self-care, be it a diet plan, a fitness regime, or a week at a spa might work for awhile.

But only for a while. You’ll find yourself dumping the regime and often feeling like a failure. It worked for them. Why not you?

Because, beautiful, you’re not THEM.

  1. Discipline, deprivation, and hard work

You “know” you need to knuckle down, to “get with the program.” Your brain figures out the “solution” to your overwhelm, clutter, anxiety, or food cravings. The problem is you forget to check in with the rest of you.

You might need some discipline in your self-care program. It might even feel like work sometimes. But without some of the other key ingredients like pleasure and joy, your plan will collapse in on itself.

  1. Wake up call

Whether your wakeup call sounds like a tiny child knocking at your door or a bulldozer running into your home, something gets your attention. A series of colds, a call from the doctor suggesting you come in for more tests, a bounced check, a foreclosure, a diagnosis of a scary disease, a divorce, ten pounds that you don’t recognize…

You pay attention. You attack the problem. Make big changes. Get great results. But too often once the high blood sugar stabilizes, the new relationship appears, or those mystery pounds go away you fall right back to pre-wakeup call habits. And with those habits you get pre-wakeup call results.

A wake up call can be powerful. But if the wake up call is your only call to self-care, your solutions won’t last.

  1. That Still, Small Voice

You listen to your inner guidance. And because it sounds so wise you follow its directions.

Do you want to know a secret? That wise voice may come from your brain. To create a sustainable approach you must listen to more than your big, beautiful brain.

You have a wealth of wisdom. Everyone I work with is surprised by the wisdom they bring forth. And that wisdom helps create your plan.

And how about another secret? Your inner wisdom may give you conflicting advice. Part of you needs to rest. Another part needs to run. Which part do you listen to? In order to arrive at a solution that feels good and is sustainable you must listen to the whole of you. Your head may say you should go out for a run today. But your body feels fatigued because you are fighting off a cold. The best solution for you, the one that will give you the most vitality and balance, isn’t necessarily the first one that comes to mind.

  1. Rinse and Repeat

It’s not that you’ve never tended to your loveliness. It’s not that you’ve never eaten a healthy meal or moved your body in ways that delighted you.

You’ve probably even had moments of flow with your self-care. Moments where everything was bright and beautiful. You knew what to do.

So you do the same thing that worked before only now it’s not working.

You are not the same. Different you, different plan needed.

Be not discouraged!

You just haven’t learned the hows of crafting YOUR sustainable self-care plan. I’m not saying you can create THE PLAN for your self-care for the rest of your life. Who you are today is different than who you’ll be tomorrow or in six months or 30 years. And because of that your self-care plan will shift and grow. (In fact, trying to stay the course with your self-care is a common self-care trap.)

Why Are You Making a Big Deal Out of This?

Self-care is at the heart of a life well lived. Purpose offers you reason for being. If you want to live a well life, a life with meaning written all over its face then you will need to tend to you, the purveyor of that big life purpose.

And by the way, living a life of purpose IS self-care.

A sustainable life of purpose requires focus, energy, enthusiasm, and wellness to pull off. You get that from self-care that’s a regular and integrated part of you life. You need an approach that you can endure. Not one that keeps falling down and skinning its knees. Not one that you bury in the backyard because it quits breathing.

If you’re ready to have the vitality and wellness you need to live your BIG dream then sign up for a no-obligation, no-cost chat. I’d love to help you find your way.