a.k.a. The Blog – tools, ideas, and stories to inspire you to align your ACTIONS with your PURPOSE
Saturday: My girl has been si-i-ick the past few days. An aching, feverish?, joyless lump on the couch. That’s how you know Kim is sick. The joy factor decreases significantly.
I had been gone all morning judging at a local DECA competition and as I drove home I could feel the anxiety of cabin fever in my chest. Even though I’ve been healthy and had been out in the world all week, I also felt like I’d spent a lot of time on the couch with her while she was sick. I couldn’t go back to the house and just hang out. The sun was out. I wanted to be out in it somehow. I wanted to be out in the world…with her, if possible.
So, rather than show up at home with that anxious energy, I called her to warn her. LOL. When she answered she was a little out of breath. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Sweeping. I had cabin fever ” she said. That was a good sign. She was up and moving.
“I’m feeling antsy. I want to get out in the world with you, but not if you’re not feeling up to it. I was thinking I could take you out to lunch at our first ‘public date’ spot and take things from there.”
“Sounds great!”, she said. I could have expected that response. That’s her response to everything. I double and triple checked that she felt up to it before ending our call and drove home with a smile on my face.
I came home to find that she had taken down the outdoor Christmas decorations. It took me a few minutes after coming inside to figure out why she’d been sweeping. The Christmas tree we had undecorated last week had been removed from the house. She was obviously feeling a bit better, but I was worried that she’d blown her energy on that housework and that she really wouldn’t want to go out to lunch now. Not to mention the fact that there was the telltale sign of lunch dishes on the coffee table.
I popped my head into the bathroom while she showered. “You ate lunch already, silly, we don’t have to go out.” I said.
“It was over an hour and a half ago, I’m fine. I want to go.”
So we did. We went to the place where we had our first “public date” 3 years ago. We call it our “public date” because it turns out we had been dating for a bit before that, just in private.
We had known each other for a few years. First professionally and then as distant friends/acquaintances. In the summer of 2015 I started taking voice and guitar lessons. Kim and I reconnected that fall after I had committed to a December recital where I would sing AND accompany myself on guitar. She saw that I was still in shock from agreeing to this recital and said that she had picked up guitar again recently and proposed that we try playing together. So we did. Over the course of a few months she helped me practice guitar and I helped her become a more confident singer. The recital came and went. Through it all we became good friends and, eventually, fell in love. All of the first date kind of stuff happened over a long time and in the privacy of our own homes.
Once we figured out that we, like, really liked each other, we decided that we should go out on a proper date. A “public date”. We went for brunch at Anthony’s Beach Cafe in Edmonds. We had delicious Bloody Marys, a great lunch, and engaging conversation. It was a sunny winter day so after lunch we strolled along the waterfront.
We were walking North along the water when we saw a ferry coming in. I don’t know what got into me, but suddenly I said, “Wanna go on a ferry ride?” “Let’s do it!” she said enthusiastically.
We realized that the ferry was coming in awful quick and we were still a ways from the dock. So we started jogging to the terminal. Kim in her cute gray sneakers, me in my black boots with heels. That was the day that she decided that she would take me boot shopping for cute, casual boots.
My boots didn’t slow me down too much. We made it to the terminal, bought our tickets and walked onto the ferry. We went outside and limbed up to the upper deck. We held hands. We listened to Beyonce. She danced. I giggled. We snuggled. We smiled, a lot. I looked adorable in her knit cap that she let me borrow. We even snuck a kiss or two. It felt excited being out in the world with her.
It was also very scary. I was nervous being out on a date with a woman and being so bold as to hold her hand, much less kiss her. That’s how I knew how much I cared for her already because I did it anyway.
Fast forward 3 years and there we were again. Having Bloody Marys at the Beach Cafe. A great lunch. An engaging conversation about our future. We watched a ferry come in, but I knew I was pushing my luck to keep her out of the house this long. I could tell she was tired. We did drive to downtown Edmonds and strolled the shops for a bit. We held hands. We laughed. We shared memories. We bought a gift for a friend. I tried on reading glasses and she gave a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
She got tired so I took her home, smiling again as I drove.
Tell me: What do you want that you aren’t saying to those who matter most? What are you willing to do in spite of the fear you may feel?
Let me just cut to the chase. My word of the year is Shine.
OK, now let’s start from the very beginning.
In January of 2016 I went to what is called the “White Stone Ceremony” at Seattle Unity Church. I was going through a big transition in life and when a friend invited me to the event I thought “Why not?”.
The minister gave a brief sermon and then a guided visualization to help us imagine the year ahead. I wish I could remember exactly what she said and the questions she asked, but I was so in the moment that I didn’t hold onto any of that.
At the end of the visualization she had us sit in silence and meditate on the year we imagined until we could come up with a word that could be our guide on the journey through the upcoming year.
My word was actually two words: Bold and Brave. I knew I’d be navigating a divorce that year and I was going to have to be bold and brave in order to hold onto myself as I went through everything involved in and surrounding that process.
I didn’t go to the White Stone Ceremony in 2017, but I knew that I needed to follow a similar approach and come up with my word for the year. I decided to look back at the lessons from 2016 and see if there was anything that could help me in 2017.
My word for 2017 was three words: Every Day Matters.
In going through my 2016, when the times were the worst, I realized that it was the every day stuff that filled me up. I knew that as I rebuilt my life and business in 2017, I needed to do so in a way that focused on what I could do every day and what could give me every day joy. I didn’t want big moments and to achieve major milestones if my every day life sucked.
Rolling into 2018 I once again looked back at what I could learn from the previous year. I saw that throughout my work I had created a variety of tools, programs and services. It was time to pull them all together into a more cohesive message.
The same could be said for other aspects of my life. I had tried different ways of working out, eating, socializing, etc. I needed to start pulling the best of what I had experienced together.
My word for 2018 was just one word this time: Gather.
I knew that if I gathered all my greatest hits in life and work, I would become stronger. Just like strands of fiber can be pulled together to make a rope that can anchor a ship.
This brings us to 2019.
Once again, I look back at my past to see what I can learn and apply to my year ahead.
I spent a lot of time last year on stages or in conference rooms in front of people. I was presenting really solid content. I was sharing some of my favorite wisdom I had learned from all of my studying and living.
But I still wasn’t really sharing me.
My favorite coaches that I’ve hired are a lot like me. They have an expertise and a focus AND are also just very skilled coaches who can help you with whatever you bring to the table.
I’m a lot like the latter half of that statement. I can help you with whatever you bring to the table.
But sharing my specific expertise? Well, I wasn’t always leading with that. I wasn’t sharing my experience so that people knew that I knew what I was talking about.
I’m an expert at creating systems and strategies to move forward your most important goals, ideas and dreams.
I’m an expert at bringing clarity to your purpose, values, vision, and goals.
I’m an expert at helping people communicate what matters most to who matters most.
I need to let all that shine.
And there it was, SHINE. My word for 2019.
It’s kinda perfect. 2019 will bring about the 10th anniversary of my coaching business. The original name for my coaching business was “Shine A Light Coaching”.
My business name was inspired by this quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Course in Miracles:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Back when I started my coaching practice, my goal was to help other people shine their light and then I spent the next 10 years truly learning how to shine mine.
So that’s what I’ll be doing in 2019, shining my light…and helping you shine yours.
I’m a “one holiday at a time” person. I get irate when I see Christmas stuff come out before Thanksgiving, but as soon as I click into holiday mode, I’m IN. I start making my list and checking it twice. I love having the tree up with its twinkle lights and star on top. I listen to Christmas music (not 24x7, but often).
Some of my favorite songs are based in the Christmas story of Jesus, Mary, mangers, etc.
I’m not Christian. I’m not religious. But I love a good story.
One of my favorite stories is told in the song “Do You Hear What I Hear”. My favorite version of this song is performed by Whitney Houston. I’m open to other options here, I’ve explored a bunch and I am still with Whitney on this one.
Anyhoo, the story.
It’s about the hope that the birth of a child brings to the world. It’s about the world coming together to take care of this child and to pray for peace everywhere.
Yes, the story the song tells is about a very specific child, but to me it’s about the hope that every child brings to the world.
It’s actually a story about all of us. We are all capable of bringing hope, goodness and light to our world.
Fine, maybe not ALL of us. I’ve lived long enough to know that there are some full blown sociopaths and narcissists out there. (Uh, Happy holidays!?)
What I’m trying to say is…
I believe in you.
I love your goodness and light.
And I hope you have a very happy holiday season.
This time of year can be very busy. Lots to do. Lots of invitations. Lots of feelings.
I don’t know about you, but I have a shopping list for all the presents I want to buy.
I have the events I definitely don’t want to miss. Like a handful of parties with my favorite peeps and watching my niece and nephew open their stockings and presents on Christmas morning.
The only way to make the things happen that I want to have happen this season is to be intentional. This is something we talk about a LOT in my GYST groups.
One way to talk about this is to look at the 3 Types of Work.
At any given time you could be doing one of the following types of work:
- Planning your work: Deciding what actions need to be taken in order to move your most important projects, goals and initiatives forward AND capturing those actions in your #BonusBrain so that you are reminded take those actions at the right time.
- Intentional work: Doing the work you planned.
- Unintentional work: Doing work as it shows up.
I’ve done all 3 Types of work this season. I planned my work by making a shopping list for all the peeps I wanna buy gifts for.
I did intentional work by going to the mall and buying gifts for those folks.
I did unintentional work by buying gifts for people that weren’t on my list.
I’m good with all those decisions I made. It was a good balance of the three types of work. I had a couple of people who weren’t on my list, but I happened to see the perfect thing for them so I bought it. I’m looking forward to giving those gifts to them.
The three types of work isn’t just about holiday shopping. It’s about everything you do.
So, how much time should you spend doing each type of work? There is no magic ratio, but after coaching entrepreneurs for almost 10 years I’ve found that people tend to spend too much time doing the unintentional work. Just doing the work as it comes into their email or as the phone call comes in or as the text is received. I know I did (and sometimes still do).
And it’s totally understandable. When you are a business owner serving people, there’s stuff that comes up that you gotta deal with and you want to be responsive to your clients. And if you are responsible for managing your household, stuff comes up there too and you want to responsive to your family and friends.
But there’s a difference between being responsive and being reactive. Being responsive means looking at the swirl of activity around you and deciding what immediately needs your attention and is in line with what matters most to you. Then doing that stuff and putting the other stuff aside until you have time to decide what action you need to take, if any.
Being reactive means letting yourself get constantly caught up in that swirl of activity. The swirl of activity can come from the outside in the form of emails, phone calls, texts, mail, in-person requests, etc. and it can also come from your own brain and all the thoughts that can randomly fly in.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and worried that things could be slipping through the cracks then you are being reactive and are likely spending too much time doing unintentional work.
To get back to being more present, peaceful and productive you gotta do more of the other two kinds of work: Planning your work AND Intentional work.
There’s nothing wrong with doing unintentional work, but if you are doing it more than the other two kinds of work, life tends to be more frantic and overwhelming.
So, when you find yourself replying immediately to an email that just came in when you are in the middle of finally working on an important project that matters to you and has been too long neglected, ask yourself: “Is this more important than anything else I could be doing right now?”
If the answer is yes, then keep answering the email. If not, save the email to draft and get back to the work you planned. Your intentional work.
If you need help with any of this, you might want to check out our next GYST Group.
You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about their “word” or their “theme” for 2018. Some of you might be annoyed by all this chatter and some of you might be inspired by it.
Heck, by the time this is published, some people may have forgotten all about those words they picked for the year! Possibly not. You see, picking a theme or word for the year isn’t the same as a New Year’s resolution.
Resolutions are usually about stopping something or starting something. Something specific.
“No more chips for me!”
“I’m going to quit smoking.”
“I’m hitting the gym 5 days a week from now on.”
Resolutions are often about habit change.
Finding a word or theme for the year is about creating, through any means possible, the year you want to have. It’s about finding the word that will inspire you when you’re down, that gets you back on track when you feel lost and that you rally around when you achieve a milestone.
So, how do you do it? How do you find your theme or word? How do you focus your year?
As with most paths to success, it’s a matter of pattern discovery. Take a look at the patterns of your past. Look at the patterns of what you want to create and what you’ll need to do to make it a reality.
So, how do you find the patterns? You can’t get patterns without data. When it comes to creating your focus for the year, data can be the memories, thoughts, feelings, and goals rolling around in your head.
There are 3 questions I encourage people to ask themselves in order to surface the data they need to find the patterns that will point them to their word, theme or focus for the year.
But first, it helps to do a little dreaming.
The first time I came up with a word for the year was in January of 2016. I was fresh off the break up of my marriage. I had been separated for a little over a month and was sitting in a pew at Seattle Unity Church. Besides weddings and funerals, I had been to church only a handful of times in my life. On this crisp Sunday morning it was not lost on me that this was my third time in that church in three weeks.
My first visit was on Christmas Eve. Due to the separation, my ex-husband was with our niece and nephew at my sister’s house. All of my friends were out of town. I was alone. I had never been alone on Christmas Eve. Then, a new friend aware of my situation invited me to go with her to the Christmas Eve service at Seattle Unity. My limited experience with church meant that I was a little nervous, but I was glad to be around people. And to sing. The singing felt good. At the end of the service they invited everyone to the Burning Bowl Ceremony the following Sunday.
So there was I was the next Sunday. As we entered the sanctuary, attendants handed everyone a piece of papyrus and a pencil. There was a thoughtful sermon and then we were asked to reflect on our year and think about the things we wanted to release so that we didn’t carry them into the next year. We then wrote those things down on the slip of papyrus, walked up to the front, had the papyrus lit on fire by one of the attendants and then we dropped the flaming papyrus into the bowl. Voila. Release.
OK, releasing those things wasn’t that easy, but having the intention of letting things go was helpful for what they invited us to the following week. The White Stone ceremony.
Yup. There I was again. At church for the third week in a row! We were warmed from the glow of Christmas. We had cleansed the past year with flames. It was now time to think about what we wanted for the upcoming year. As we walked into the sanctuary this time we were handed a small white stone, the size of a domino, and a small pencil.
After another thoughtful sermon we were asked to close our eyes for a guided visualization. A little dreaming. The the exercise was one I have experienced before, but that didn’t lessen it’s power.
We were asked to imagine ourselves at the end of this new year. We were asked to look back and see what we had accomplished in those 12 months.
I can’t say that my vision was all that exciting. I mean, I knew that I was separated from my husband and probably headed to divorce. So my year was going to be full of hard conversations, finding a lawyer, tallying up our marriage on a spreadsheet and dividing things up, building my part-time business into something that could sustain me, opening new credit cards and bank accounts, etc. But I knew I wanted to get through all of that. I wanted to wrap up the year knowing that I survived all of that. I also knew I wanted to deepen my relationships with those that mattered most to me.
“So, what would you need to do or be in order to create that year for yourself?” the pastor asked us. We were then told to open our eyes and write our word on the stone in our hands.
I wrote the following words on my stone: “BOLD & BRAVE”
In order to get through the coming year with my most important relationships deepened I was going to have to be bold and brave. Bold enough to take the steps forward that I (heartbreakingly) knew I needed to take and brave enough to be real with my most important people. Even if “real” meant angry, sad, confused, broken down, depressed and scared.
And I made it through 2016. It wasn’t easy AND I had moments of fun, passion, excitement, pride, joy, and silliness. Bold and Brave brought me those things too.
The lessons I learned in 2016 led me to pick “EVERY DAY MATTERS” as my theme for 2017. As I made my bold and brave moves in 2016, I made room for goodness to happen in my everyday life. I realized that while the big events and trips and surprises are great, I wanted every day to feel good. Like cooking dinners with my girlfriend or reading books to my niece and nephew before bed. I also knew that getting where I wanted to go in my life and business was going to require me to have some every day practices like journaling, gratitude, reading books for growth, etc.
It takes reflection on your past to determine what you want your future to look like. I did just that at the end of 2017 to come up with my word for 2018. I looked at what went well, what I loved, and what was missing from 2017.
I looked at what I wanted to bring forward and create in 2018. In 2018 I will:
- Create spaces for people to learn and grow
- Find support for what I’m not good at and don’t like
- Increase stability in my income
- Find ways to stay connected with my people
- Shore up my systems
- Bring all the ways I work with clients into one place
The image that surfaced when I started searching for patterns was me in the eye of a hurricane with strands of ideas, projects and people all around me. I needed to bring all of these strands together. Alone, each strand might not make it, but if I could bring them all together, they’d be stronger together. They’d reinforce each other.
So my word for 2018 is “GATHERING”. Gathering people. Gathering ideas. Gathering data. Gathering support. Gathering strength.
This year, whenever doubt or roadblocks get in my way, I will ask myself how GATHERING can help me through. When I get frustrated and tired, I’ll think about how gathering can restore my faith or energy. When it’s time to celebrate a big win, I’ll look at how GATHERING helped make it happen.
Did you catch those 3 questions?
1. What went well in 2017?
2. What did you love about 2017?
3. What was missing from 2017?
Answer those questions. In writing. Get everything in front of you and see what you discover. Look for patterns until you can find the word or phrase that will be your compass, your focus, and your anchor for the year.
There are more questions that can help you. Click here if you want a copy of my Focus Your 2018 worksheet.
Here’s to you and all you want to create this year!
I hate affirmations.
Now, “hate” might be a strong word. That’s usually a word I reserve for spiders and water chestnuts. And really neither of those things are all that horrible, I suppose. I do HATE hearing the sounds of people eating. It’s a thing. You can read all about it here.
Anyway, affirmations aren’t my favorite thing. They are something you learn early on in the personal development world and I just never took to them. There was just something about them that rubbed me the wrong way. They have always felt like a little too much talk and not enough action OR just enough talk to keep you taking action that might be helpful.
You know what affirmations are, right? They are “statements that we tell ourselves in order to spark self-change. They are designed to alter our beliefs about ourselves such that they are more positive.” People who use affirmations in their lives often use them daily.
Some examples of affirmations:
“My life is fun and rewarding.”
“I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything.”
“I am grateful for everything I have.”
Now it might seem weird to not be a fan of a tool that seems so positive. I mean, what’s the harm of saying those statements above?
If affirmations work for you, then I encourage you to keep using them. Stop reading right now and go back to your affirmations.
However, if affirmations have never been your thing either, keep reading. I have thoughts on a different approach. But first, let me explain why I don’t like affirmations.
1. Affirmations are not enough
That’s not to say that other tools in the mental health toolbox are enough all by themselves, but affirmations are so “easy” to do that they are often the only thing that people do.
Do you know that saying by Abraham Maslow?:
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
When it comes to the self-help world, affirmations are one of the first things people learn. Everything else after that is much harder so often times people’s mental health toolbox just has the affirmation tool in it.
So when they approach problems, they just see another affirmation they have to say to overcome that problem when perhaps additional tools may be necessary or more useful.
Behind on your mortgage and foreclosure is pending? Try this one: “Money is coming to me with little or no effort.”
Broke up with your boyfriend? Try this one: “I know with every fiber of my being that the Universe is bringing me only the most supportive, loving and awesome relationships.
Unexpected and unwanted pregnancy? How about this one: “I welcome the changes in my body.”
While I made up the scenarios above, the affirmations are recommended affirmations for these kinds of topics. I mean, really? If I’m heading to foreclosure, I’m gonna DO something to make sure the money comes to me and it might take some effort.
Maybe these affirmations could be helpful, but there are lots of other tools that could be helpful to have in your toolbox to help you with these scenarios much more effectively:
- Personal reflection
- Asking for feedback
- Talk therapy
- Seeking the help of qualified professionals
Bottom line. Make sure you have more tools in your toolbox in order to make affirmations a more useful tool.
2. Affirmations reinforce the “you just need to change your mindset” myth
Sometimes your mindset is just fine and your circumstances are shitty. It’s ok if you don’t have positive feelings about your circumstances. That doesn’t mean you have a bad mindset.
If you are excessively beating yourself up in your head or excessively blaming everyone else for your problems (where excessive = any amount that is not productive) then mindset adjustments are necessary.
But if genuinely shitty stuff is happening in your life, it’s ok to not feel great about it.
I have a client going through a really hard time. If I listed out everything they were dealing with you’d be like “dang, I don’t think I’d even get out of bed”. And they were worried about their mindset because they weren’t feeling great about all the shitty stuff that they were going through. They were feeling sad, angry, scared and frustrated. And anyone looking in from the outside would say “Yeah, that totally makes sense, I’d feel that way too”.
Of anyone I’ve ever worked with, this client has one of the most positive mindsets I’ve ever encountered. Not because they are a Pollyanna looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but because they are willing to try things, to fail and to learn and grow. They don’t judge themselves for their failures and they don’t blame others. They take responsibility for their actions.
In other words, you can have a great mindset AND still feel like shit.
You have to remember what our brains are doing on a regular basis. On the daily your brain is trying to scare the shit out of you. That’s it’s job. It’s supposed to keep you alive and that means that it’s going to blast doom and gloom messages at you all the time. For early homo sapiens it was screaming “Watch out for that saber tooth tiger” when you heard a noise. Now it’s screaming “They’re all going to realize that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You’re a fraud!!!”
And then you bring affirmations into the mix and it’s like blasting a “positive mindset” radio station with “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves on endless loop in response to your brain’s doom and gloom radio. It just creates a lot of noise.
Lives worth living will have low points that will lead to hard feelings. When those low points hit, do yourself a favor and back off the affirmations. It’s ok to just feel like shit for a minute.
Which takes me to my third reason for hating affirmations…
3. Affirmations encourage you to keep charging ahead when a pause might be best
So you aren’t getting where you want to go in your job no matter how many times a day you say “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything”?
You start your day every day with that affirmation and just keep getting after it just like you did the day before.
Maybe when you are trying really hard at something and it’s not working, just saying “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything” while you keep banging your head against the obstacles doesn’t really make sense.
It might make sense to pause and take stock of things. Ask for help. Consider other solutions. Ask yourself if this is the path you really want to keep going down.
That client I mentioned earlier, they had to pause. They took a beat or two to take stock of their feelings. They let those feelings wash over them. It sucked. It didn’t feel great. It was scary because they didn’t know how long they’d feel that way.
They could have just pushed forward screaming out their affirmations in order to block out the “bad” feelings and “fix” their mindset, but that would have just been denial. Those feelings would surface eventually, so they might as well be intentional about feeling them.
This pause helped them move forward in a much more intentional way than they were when they thought they had to change their mindset and just push forward.
It’s OK to pause. You don’t have to keep pushing. Sometimes rest is best.
When it comes down to it, any tool could be ineffective by itself. Any tool could make you think there’s something wrong with your mindset. Any tool could lead you to think that pushing forward is best when a pause might be better. Affirmations are an easy target because they are often the first and, too often, the only thing people learn in their personal growth journey.
As I said before, if affirmations work for you, keep doing them. In fact, make them the best you can. There are lots of resources out there to help you write effective affirmations.
And if affirmations don’t work for you, it’s ok. They don’t work for people for lots of reasons. If you are one of those people consider another approach:
- Make room for the unpleasant feelings rather than suppressing them
- Take a moment to pause and take stock of your current reality…without judging what you uncover (If your current reality is big ol’ mess, consider joining me on the GYST journey)
- Tap into your values…who do YOU want to be regardless of how everyone else is acting?
- And then take action in line with those values
It can take time to learn how to pause and sometimes people need help uncovering their values and figuring out what it looks like to take action in line with their values. If you are already on this path of self-discovery and personal growth and need help with some of this, it you might be ready for coaching with me. You can go here to learn more about what that might look like.
Do affirmations work for you? Tell me all about it in the comments below.