Do you suffer from decision fatigue?

My friend was moving back to Costa Rica to enjoy raising her kids with less stress. I asked her, “Why is it so much more relaxing to live there, than here?” We’ve got nature. We’ve got time to play and relax. What is it about living in Costa Rica that makes such a difference? Her answer surprised me. She said “There is less to choose from. Having fewer decisions to make, makes life simpler.” In her small town in Costa Rica, she knows she will be eating rice, beans and fruit, everyday. On the weekends, your kids will be surfing or playing with the neighbors. There’s no “keeping up with the Jones’s” because there is only one store in town and Amazon does not deliver there.

My ears perked up when I heard a story about Barack Obama was moving into The White House, he told his kitchen staff, “Don’t ever ask me what I want to eat. I want to save my decision making energy for more important matters.”

Have you ever taken your kid to a toy store and said, “You can have anything you want in the whole store!” Only to watch them melt down 5 minutes later?

Teens have a lot of decisions to make with long-term consequences. Should I smoke pot? How hard should I study? Should I hang out with different friends? Should I post that picture? Where should I go to school? Who should I live with? Should I use a condom? There is a way to cut through the chaos and help you and your kids, make decisions that are right for you. With this one question, you can get perspective and tune in to your higher self.

“Would my future-self be proud of this decision?”

It was interesting at my Getting What You Want summer camp how easily the teens could answer this question. We used the example of quitting something. “Would my future self be proud that I quit soccer/girl scouts/changed schools?” These girls KNEW if they were quitting for the right reasons (to move on to something better, reduce stress, etc.) or the wrong reasons (fear of success or failure). Think of something you are debating: Should I go back to the gym or pick up tennis? Should we put our kids in private school or pay off the car loan? What should I eat for dinner? Big or small, this question “What decision would my future self be proud of?” gives us clarity and perspective.

If the answer isn’t clear, it’s time to develop a closer relationship with your future self. This person is your greatest ally, your biggest cheerleader and mentor. To get to know her better, imagine her FAR into the future, looking back on her life with pride and satisfaction. What were her favorite moments? What accomplishments is she most proud of? How did she overcome the hard times and stay focused on what’s most important? Write a page in your journal as though you are your 90 year old self and you are telling someone about your amazing life. Then work your way backward to your 70 year old self, 55 year old self, until you really get to know the future you. Help your kids start forming a picture of their future self as well. So they have someone to turn to when their friends, their parents, and the media are all telling them different things to do.

You don’t have to live in Costa Rica to reduce your options and eliminate the stress of making so many decisions. Peace and clarity is available to you anytime, you just have to know who to ask.

Finding your calling

You are getting warmer….

I just finished up my “Getting What You Want” summer camp with some lovely and boisterous teenage girls. So much fun. One of the games we played was the old, “You are getting warmer….” Do you remember that game? You try to find a hidden object while getting clues about whether you are “warmer or colder”? I used it to demonstrate how your life tells you if you are on the right path to who you are meant to be, or getting further away from your destiny. They loved this game but of course when we are navigating our way through life, our clues are not as obvious as a bunch of screaming girls so they were only allowed to give silent hints. (Although you’d be amazed how loud silent teenage girls can be!)

I used to hear words like “gut instinct” and “intuition” growing up but no one ever explained what they were exactly. My goal with these girls, is for them to know how to listen to this “voice” of their higher self. I taught them many methods for tuning in, but this game was one of their favorites. We play this game our whole lives with choosing different groups of friends (some are warmer….some slightly colder) different subjects in school, what kind of music we like, romantic relationships, careers, jobs, political views, when to have kids and where to live. Sometimes you don’t know which direction to step or where your journey is taking you and it gets confusing and frustrating.

One of the girls decided to take a break from her sport because she was feeling too much pressure and stress (cold) and yet without it, she didn’t feel any warmer. Good to know! Sometimes, you have to take action, commit to something, until you get feedback (still cold). Betsy was a stay home mom but didn’t like it (cold). She went back to her old full time job and didn’t like that either (still cold). Just like in the game “You are getting warmer” this is the time to slow down, take stock, think about where was the last place you felt warm, and try again.

You will go through your whole life this way. You don’t have just one destiny or one linear path. Life will take you into many interesting places and the more experiences you have, the more you will know which direction feels warmer and which feels colder. Don’t get caught up on making the right or the best decisions. The most important thing these teenagers are here to remind us, is that life is a game and it’s supposed to be fun.

getting along with difficult family members

How do deal with difficult family members.

As we sink our toes into the warm sands of summer and listen the sounds of happy kids playing, many of us also listen to the bickering, complaining and passive aggressive positioning of extended family members. If you’ve got family members who drive you crazy and drain your energy, read on for summer survival tips for dealing with those annoying extended relatives.

In many families, there’s at least one family member who you dread being around. Whether it’s their passive aggressive communication style, their judgmental opinions, or their tendency to binge drink and swear at your kids, family gatherings are a challenge for many people. When my clients have a challenging relative, they always want to tell me about all their flaws, but it doesn’t help me to hear it. If you need to get it off your chest, write down everything that bugs you in your journal. Then let’s get to work changing the one person you have control over, YOU.

I know it seems like THEY are the problem but the bigger problem is you don’t like who YOU become when you are with them. Either you bite your tongue and smile when you don’t mean it, or you snap and lose your cool, or you get defensive and mirror their passive aggressive ways. All of it feels uncomfortable so the first step to dealing with relatives who bring out your ugly side, is to realize where your power lies. You get to decide how you want to feel, what you want to think and how you want to behave. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel, while he makes his sexist comments?” “How do I want to feel when he scolds my children inappropriately” You probably don’t want to be happy about this so choose something like “I want to feel proud of how I handled it.” or “I want to feel calm and in control of myself.” When we take responsibility for our own emotions, we keep all our power instead of giving it away to someone who hasn’t earned it. “If they behave, I can be happy” means your happiness is in their hands. Stay connected to you by paying attention to how you feel.

It’s really tempting to think of all the ways they should change their behavior that would make the world a better place. Although you may not like it, the truth is people get to behave however they want. They can be stupid, mean, bellegerent, judgmental, racist, sexist, drunk, controlling, worried, whatever, it’s their decision. Try this, give your relatives PERMISSION to be who they already are. You’ve had some experience in dealing with them, you’ve made suggestions and tried to change them but it hasn’t worked. When I ask my clients “What can you trust about this annoying relative?” They say “I can’t trust him at all!” I offer that they CAN trust this person to be unreliable, to say one thing and do another, to be inconsistent. Instead of trying to change them and arguing that they should be different, recognize what you can already trust about them. The FREEDOM lies in accepting the facts as they already are and recognizing that we can trust ourselves. Some of the a-ha’s my clients have had with their families are:
“I can trust my sister to be dissatisfied.” “I can trust my Mom to make comments about my appearance.” “I can trust my Dad to dismiss my opinion.” “I can trust my uncle to repeat things he heard on FoxNews.” “I can trust my brother to one-up me.”

When sunny optimism and ‘hoping they will change’ doesn’t feel good, focus on who you want to be, and how you can trust them to behave. Giving people permission to be who they are, doesn’t mean you like it or condone it. It means you are choosing to bring more positive energy into the world, instead of letting the negativity bring you down.  Good Luck!

If you want to sign up for a coaching session before your next family reunion, go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me

pressure to be perfect

The pressure to be perfect

I got to spend last week with a group of delightful 12-13 year old girls at my leadership camp. When I asked what stresses they had, they summed it up beautifully with these words: “pressure to be perfect”. Perfectionism is a big problem for kids and parents in today’s culture. I never thought I was perfectionistic because my house wasn’t clean, but that’s not exactly how it works. The medical definition from Merriam Webster is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” In my clients, and in kids, I see it as black & white thinking. If I’m not good, I must be bad. If I’m not “liked”, I must be disliked. If I’m not smart, I must be dumb. When we believe there is only one right way to do things, the stress and pressure we feel is overwhelming. Perfectionism, as I see it, is the fear that the real me isn’t good enough. But if I put on a performance, look or act a certain way, then you will think I am worthy.

Perfectionism is not a healthy striving for excellence. It is the belief that if I act good enough, I will be. It shows up as meltdowns and temper tantrums (at all ages). It inhibits creativity and innovation because perfectionists are less likely to take risks or try things they know they won’t succeed in. It’s a primary cause of depression because it distances us from our genuine emotions and sets us up for unachievable goals. “I have to be the best at everything.” “I have to look perfect.” “I have to make everybody like me.”

A lot of my “SuperMom” clients yearn for their old school days when the measure of success was very clear. In school, you know exactly what needs to happen to considered successful. Motherhood is frustrating for those of us who want to “do it right” but can’t find a system or checklist to know if we are being successful. There are no metrics, no measure of better than/worse than, no way to gauge if you are a good enough Mom and it sends our insecurities into a tailspin.

With kids, perfectionism shows up as early as age 4-5 with not being able to lose gracefully, being inflexible, giving up easily, and emotional drama. You can watch them beating themselves up for mistakes and not wanting to be seen as vulnerable. Perfectionistic kids will deny any wrong-doing, use dramatic language “everybody, always does this _____.” Some perfectionistic kids can put others down as a way to feel better about themselves resulting in social isolation (perceived or real). Some kids develop a fear of success, avoid ‘being seen’, and strive for mediocrity, in order to avoid making public mistakes.

Whether we are overachievers or underachievers, our goal is to make up for the inside feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. You can spot perfectionism when the emotional reaction doesn’t match the event (Your kid is devastated over coming in second. You ate too much ice cream so you throw your whole diet out the window. You fear people not liking you so you mold & adapt yourself to convince them you are worthy of their friendship.)

I used to stress out while running late. Racing in the car, my kids would watch me be frustrated, impatient and get really mad at myself, just because I was late. I had beliefs running through my brain like “Being late is rude & disrespectful. I can’t believe I messed up AGAIN.” It wasn’t until I watched my 5th grader STRESSING OUT over forgetting his spelling book that I started changing my ways. The good news and the bad news is that kids learn by imitation.

If the following remedies freak you out, chances are you’ve got some perfectionistic ideas running your life. Click here to schedule a free discovery coaching call with me.

– Say the words “Oh Well” often and out loud. Let it became a daily mantra for your mistakes as well as your kids.

– Celebrate mistakes. “Who made the best mistakes this week? Let’s go around the table and see whose blunder wins the prize!”

– Model self-compassion and forgiveness in front of your child. “I had a goal to exercise three times this week and I didn’t do it. Oh well. I’ll do better next week.”

– Watch your words. Be careful not to use black/white dramatic language around your kids “If I don’t meet this deadline, they’re going to kill me”. “I looked so horrible I thought I might die of embarrassment”.

– Let your kids see you fail. At the roller rink yesterday I had so much fun watching people of all ages and ability levels, fall down, repeatedly. (Only the 13 year old girls made a big deal out of it). Let your kids see you fall, fail, get up and try again. Find an activity you all stink at and fail together. Failing=vulnerability=connection with others.

– Make sure you are praising your kid’s effort and process, not the result. “I love how hard you worked.” “I was so proud of you for trying something outside your comfort zone.” Avoid praising the outcome “You got straight A’s” or “You’re the winner!”

– Tell them that no matter what grades they get, who their friends are, or how they perform on the court, they will always be loved and accepted for who they are.

emotions anger depression joy

The Downside of Optimism

We aren’t meant to feel happy all the time. Some kids are born with a naturally sunny disposition (I always wanted one of those) and some, not so much, but when I talk to clients who want to be happy all the time, it’s a red flag.

Of course we all prefer to be happy, it feels much better than sadness, anger, fear and embarrassment. But we don’t get to only have the good emotions, we are human. If we deny ourselves access to the negative emotions, we actually distance ourselves from all of them. The movie Inside Out did a great job of demonstrating this. (If you haven’t seen it yet, go!) The character was fighting desperately to be happy during a time of turmoil. While trying so hard to be happy, our heroine was losing access to her silly/goofy side, her imagination, her connections with family and friends. It wasn’t until sadness showed up that she could feel better. Sadness made her feel better because it was the truth of her experience. She was sad. When we deny ourselves the truth of what we are feeling, we begin an internal struggle that is EXHAUSTING.

I see this in some of my SuperMom clients, continually running away from their negative emotions makes everything harder. They so badly want to stay positive that they end up in denial. From denial, they stay in jobs and relationships that aren’t healthy for them, make financial mistakes, overlook problems with their kids or their health. Denial does not serve anyone.

When your dog dies, you want to feel sad. When someone betrays you, anger feels appropriate. When you worry about something bad happening, you are going to feel fear and that’s ok.

It’s still important to allow the feeling you feel, even if our thoughts are illogical. Little kids will give you lots of practice in this because so few of their emotional reactions are logical. Next time your child has an illogical, highly emotional response, practice using these three magic words: “You feel __________.”

“I want a cookie!”

“It’s 5 minutes before dinner.”

“I want a cookie NOW!”

“You feel frustrated.”

 

You will be AMAZED at the calming affect these three words can have on your child!

“I don’t have anything to wear!”

“Your closet if full of clothes.”

“Nothing fits me. Nothing looks right. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wear. I don’t even know whose going to be there. Everything sucks.”

“You feel overwhelmed.”

Now practice using them on yourself, “Right now, I feel _________.” We need to validate emotions before we can think logically. Ask yourself, “What am I trying not to feel?” You’ll know you got it right when you feel RELIEF. “I feel angry and that’s ok.” “I’m disappointed.” “I feel embarrassed.” A feeling is always one word so if you get “I feel like I wish my husband would just…..” that is a thought. Look for one word.

If you really want to be an optimist, you must allow yourself to feel the negative feelings when they show up. Then, when you do feel joy, it will feel richer, truer, and you will feel a deep sense of relaxation. Learning how to allow negative feelings, and becoming familiar with your full range of emotions, is a wonderfully empowering feeling. It feels awful when we think “I should be happy” and we don’t.  “I should be over this by now” is just another way of putting ourselves down for having a feeling. When you aren’t afraid of your feelings, you give your children permission to feel theirs as well.  Their happiness depends on their ability to feel the full range of human emotions: shame, disappointment, sadness, anger, excitement, joy, curious, etc.

The truth, even if it’s yucky, will still set you free.