The World is Waiting for You

Everyone has a calling.  Something they are put on this planet to do.  Your mission, while here on Earth, is to figure out what that is, and DO IT.

How do you know what your calling is?  It feels fun, easy, exciting.  You have an aptitude for it, a passion for it, it makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and keep doing it until your eyes close at night.  You have a ridiculously good memory for things relating to it and when you think about doing it, you get a nervous kind of thrill about it like, “I couldn’t really do that…….could I?”

Everybody knows what their calling is, they just might not KNOW they know.  So much of what I do while career coaching is getting people out of their own way so they can first, find their calling, and second, uncover what obstacles stand in their way.  The obstacles sound something like this:  “Who would pay me to do that?”  “Anybody could do that!”  “There are already plenty of good people already out there.”  “I don’t have the right degree/education/experience.”  “I might fail”  “What would my family think?” “Who would pick the kids up after school?”

Whether your mission is to make things beautiful, improve lives, care for animals, communicate effectively, create practical solutions, or help others enjoy life, you have an obligation to do it.  Having doubts is very normal but we can’t let them dictate our life’s choices.  If you were made to be a mom, an artist, an editor, a builder, a party planner, a dog trainer, it is time to do it.  The world needs you!

Imagine this for a minute….every person you give your money to, LOVES what they are doing.  Your waiter is fulfilling his dream by serving delicious food with amazing service.  Your child’s teacher knows she is changing lives and loves having an outlet for her creative ideas.  The gas station attendant is thrilled to be able to touch so many lives every day and help them enjoy the freedom to go where they want in life.  Your babysitter is so grateful that you trust her and allow her to share the joy your children exude.  Isn’t that the kind of world you want to live in?  Can you imagine every time you pay someone money, you are helping them fulfill their life’s purpose?  Disneyland would no longer be the Happiest Place on Earth, Earth would!

Who are YOU to get in the way of living your dreams?  You have gifts, you have talents, you have a calling, now DO it.  The world is counting on you.

What’s the deal?

What’s going on with kids and stress?  Today, children are reporting more anxiety, depression, and worry than ever before.   If you Google “stressed out kids” you will find advice to rearrange your child’s schedule, improve diet and increase exercise.  While this is valid, it’s not enough for me.  I like to understand the big picture and have tools I can use anytime, anywhere, especially when I see my own kids showing signs of stress.

My experience coaching stressed adults, leads me to agree with Psychology Today‘s description of two “Waking states of awareness, Conceptual and Embodied.”  When our brains are in a “conceptual” state, they are busy thinking, evaluating, judging, questioning and worrying.  When we shift to a body focused awareness, our thinking takes a vacation.  Sensing movements and emotions engages the brain so fully that one cannot be aware of their five senses and worry at the same time.   Have you ever noticed that you cannot think yourself out of worry?  But when you engage in a “sense drenching” experience like rock climbing, dancing to music, or cooking, the worrying takes a break without effort?

Our brains cannot be in Conceptual and Embodied states at the same time.  This is why child development experts cringe with the “academic” focus pre-schools and Kindergartens take today.  Since I entered education 17 years ago, I rarely see puppets, felt boards, or  similar tools that help children engage their senses.  Singing, music, storytelling (with props rather than pages), time in nature, art and free play have all but disappeared from primary classrooms.  During the same time, anxiety and stress in children is increasing year after year, surpassing the complaints of stressed out adults.

Our schools praise these “left brain” thinkers and work to re-focus our “right brained” spacey, doodling kids.  I was proud of my “left brain” son who was so bright, so “conceptual”, that he learned quickly, memorized facts, asked a zillion questions and was always aware of what was happening around him. My husband and I considered putting him in a Waldorf, Sufi, or Montessori School (whole brain focused) but it so went against his nature that we chose a traditional school where his natural abilities would be rewarded.  Seven years later, we question that decision, as we are now homeschooling him to due to a stress related illness called Adrenal Fatigue.

The remedy for all types of stress is to re-engage the “right brain” or “Embodied Self-Awareness”.  Martha Beck has some great exercises in her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  (Join me for discussions about this book in an over-the-phone book club starting in March.) For now, just try this “sense-drenching” exercise:  Remember the last time you had a moment of bliss where you allowed yourself to be completely present.  What sights did you see?  Recreate the scene (write it down or tell your child about it).  What smells were present?  What tastes do you remember? Sounds?  Remember what textures you felt against your skin?  Immerse yourself in this sensory experience and you will shift your brain state to the part of your brain capable of joy, peace, calm, and relaxation.  Read My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor to see how blissful life can be when you lose function of your left hemisphere.

We are naturally programmed to use both halves of our brains.  Providing our children opportunities to lose track of time and immerse themselves in art, music, imagination, nature and storytelling is the best way to reduce stress.  Throw out the reading log and let your child snuggle in to you while you tell them a story.  Throw out the clocks and schedules and dedicate a day to mindlessly wandering in nature.   Throw out the TV & video screens (which increase the stress response and help disassociate us from our bodies) and celebrate boredom.  Exercise reduces stress because it releases cortisol and can shift us to an embodied brain state.   If the exercise is listening to directions, running to point A, throwing to point B, and moving your body like this to point C, it can aggravate kids’ attempts to shift by continually being brought back to their thinking brain.   Keep exercise playful and unstructured when possible.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I just have to say it:  GO PLAY.  YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU. Kids learn by imitation.  So get up from your computer and do something that feels like play to you.   Put on music and dance, sign up for that creative writing class you’ve been wanting to take, take your dog to the park, or play a round of golf…….it’s for the children!  What’s your favorite way to shift into your right brain, embodied self awareness?  Share it below.

Need more convincing?  Listen to the fabulous Christine Carter‘s persuasive argument that when adults have sex, it increases their children’s capacity for happiness!

2012 is gonna be easy!

I love a New Year.  A fresh start.  A clean slate.  Everyone working to improve their bodies, their finances, their relationships, their careers.  Hope, optimism, belief, determination- a life coach’s dream time.

But where does it go come February?

Here’s my list of the biggest killers of New Years Resolutions.

1-    Perfectionism:  I don’t mean my house is immaculate kind of perfectionism.  I mean the black & white thinking.  “I’m either on my diet or off”  “I’m either saving money or spending it”  “I’m either a good parent or a bad one”.  If you give yourself a label “I’m lazy”, “I’m an idiot”, “I’m impatient”, “I’m a loser”, “I’m fat” then you are playing a game of perfectionism you will not win. A better way to stick to your resolutions is to see yourself in a constant state of flux.  “I am moving closer to my goal right now or away from it.”  “I am becoming more fit or less”  “I am learning to be kinder to myself or I am forgetting to be kinder to myself.”  The truth is, life is not static, and pretending things are set in stone, will suck the motivation right out of you.

2-    “It’s too hard”:  I catch myself saying this all the time.  “Keeping the house clean is hard”,  “Being a solo-prenuer is hard”, “Dealing with health problems is hard”. Hello, pity party!  Do you want some whine with that?  If I look back in human history, or right now in cultures all over the globe, my life is pretty damn easy!  It is a ridiculously untrue thought that my life is hard and when I believe it, it doesn’t serve me.  If you are like me and you hear yourself complaining about things being hard, try changing it to, “this is easy!”  Eating healthy is easy.  Exercising is easy.  Making money is easy.  Raising twins is easy.  Balancing work/family life…easy!  The more you think it & say it, the more you will find evidence to prove it’s true.  Isn’t it just as true that change is easy?

3-    “I deserve a reward”:  Most people use this as a way to cheat on their resolution.  (Often in combination with ‘I worked hard, therefore, I deserve it’).  We think this is self care, but really it isn’t.  It’s usually said defiantly, as though we are rebelling against our own desires to feel better.  What we are really saying is “I deserve to be overweight & unhealthy”,  “I deserve to be broke” or “I deserve to be unhappy”.  Try using the same sentence in support of your resolution “I deserve to work out & feel healthy”, “I deserve to have a tidy home”, or “I deserve to spend less & have more money in the bank”.  I believe you ARE deserving, and that you deserve to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

4-    Be open to more & better:  Take a look back at 2011 and write down what worked for you and what didn’t.  Even if you didn’t complete your resolutions, spend time thinking about how your life has changed for the better.  What improvements were planned and which weren’t?  Even if you had some real difficulties, think about positive things that came from it.  Now imagine yourself one year from now.  Even if you don’t accomplish your resolutions, what by-products might you enjoy as a result of the attempt?  Might I make a new friend, even if I quit the gym?  Might I make some new connections, even if I didn’t get that job?  Might I learn something about myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way?  There is always opportunity for growth and increased joy in our lives, and we don’t always know where it will come from.

So take some good guesses, make those resolutions, be kind to yourself whether you stick with them or not.  2012 might just have some wonderful plans in store for you.  If working with a life coach is on your list of ways to improve your life, email me today to take advantage of my special New Years offer of 5 sessions for the cost of 4.

Your parents have all the answers.

Your parents are judging you.  And there is nothing like spending time with your family over the holidays to remind you that you have not yet achieved perfection.  Whether it is said out loud or completely unspoken, we know what our parents want and expect from us.  “What do you mean you aren’t going to church?”  “How can you even think about leaving your job in this economy?”  “How did you pay for this new car?” “What happened to that weight management plan you were on?” “Don’t you think my grandchild should be wearing a jacket, eating healthier, playing fewer video games, respecting others?”  “Shouldn’t you just ……”

The problem isn’t that parents judge, the problem is that when they do, what we are hearing is “I’m not good enough”.

No matter how old we get, we still want our parents to be proud of us.  We want our Moms and Dads and in-laws to believe we walk on water.  Because if they believe we are awesome, amazing beings of perfection, maybe we can believe it, too.

But when the holidays roll around and we are reminded that we’ve gained weight, grown wrinkles, have unflattering hairdo’s, mismanaged our money, careers, marriages, and children, it’s pretty hard to believe we have achieved perfection.

But we have.  Because life isn’t about doing everything right.  It’s about making mistakes.  It’s about using those mistakes to move closer to being your most authentic self.  It’s about realizing you were perfect all along.

My children, right now, are specimens of perfection.  Gorgeous little angels.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.  In fact, I can tell you exactly what they should wear, eat, and play.  I know who they should play with, how they should study, how to treat their friends, other adults, and each other.  I know which shoes go with which outfit, how to shave 10 seconds off a mile time, and how to point your toes in a cartwheel.  I am an expert on what my children can do to achieve “perfection”, and yet they already are.

So how do we untangle these ideas?  How can we be both perfect and flawed at the same time?

1-    Accept the fact that your parents will judge you, but recognize that it’s your parent’s way of wanting the best for you.  When they see you happy and enjoying your life, it will help them let go of their little instruction book of how to achieve happiness.  Unless……..

2-    Your Mom or Dad is the kind of parent who isn’t happy unless everyone around them is suffering.  In this case, living well will only annoy them. Realize their inability to accept you and your choices, is about them and their need to be needed and need to be right.  Choose happiness for your own benefit and thank your parents for catalyzing your personal growth.

3-    Imagine how you would react if your parent told you:  “I really think you should become a puppet master.  I saw this great show about it and it sounds like such an amazing career choice and would be so perfect for you.” Can you notice how little energy you have around it? Notice how it doesn’t bug you AT ALL that they think this?  Now imagine they are telling you:  “You really aren’t making wise choices with your money.”  Or, “I really think you are screwing up your kids by treating them this way.”  Why does this piss you off more than the other?  When parents tap into a fear that is already there, we get angry and defensive.  Defensiveness is your clue that something is misaligned.  Set the intention to feel good about yourself by this time next year.  Hire a coach, create a vision board, fight through the resistance and get it done.  There is no substitute for the ease and satisfaction that comes from living aligned with your best self.

4-    Perhaps you believe you aren’t good enough because you haven’t yet decided for yourself what it means to live a successful life.  Define it for yourself.  How will I know when I’m happy?  What does success look like to me?  Who determines whether I’m perfect or imperfect?  If your answer to these questions is, “I will be happy and successful as soon as everyone else tells me I am”, it’s time to do some soul searching.  I consider myself successful if I am using the gifts God gave me to make the world a better place.  Spend some time thinking about how you determine successful living, and let your parents do the same for themselves.

I am hoping some of you more enlightened parents will help me tear up the little instruction book I’ve been writing for my own children.  I’ll give a few tips but I’m gonna need advice from those of you who are relaxed in the areas I am not.

My first suggestion is to repeat these phrases often, out loud and to yourself.  “I have no idea what is right for my kids.”  “I could be totally wrong here.”  “I love you and trust that you kids will make the right decision for you.”  “I’m sure you will figure it out.”  “When left on their own, my kids make good decisions.”  “I have no way of knowing where their journey is leading them.”

When you think and talk this way, your brain will look for evidence to prove that it is true and your kids will rise to this expectation.

Second, look around at other parents who are relaxed and letting their kids make their own choices.  I watched my nieces prance around in tank tops and shorts in while I was in agony trying to force my daughter to wear ‘weather appropriate’ clothing.  My sister was relaxed, her daughters were happy, perhaps I can let this one go?  I know parents who could care less about their kid’s grades and test scores.  They don’t make their grades mean they are a success or a failure, in fact one Mom told me “The A students will work for the B/C students.”  If you find yourself stressing you and your kids out, trying to achieve perfect report cards, maybe this is an area to relax around and let your kids experience life their way?

Just noticing that these little instruction books for perfect living exist, is a big first step. When I chose to major in family life education and accepted a job with Planned Parenthood, I ignored a pretty big chapter in my parent’s book. What chapter in your parent’s book have you decided not to abide by? I’d love to know what page in your book is your child not reading?  I’ve got a whole chapter on social graces I’m still hoping my kids will read some day.  Thirty years from now you might hear me say “Honey, did you hear Mrs. So & So ask you how work is going?  What do you say?  Look her in the eyes when you answer.” HELP PLEASE!

What I learned from a smelly, underwater, pothead.

In one week, I had four clients tell me that their work environments are going through rapid changes:  finance, government, health care, and pharmaceutical sales. If there is an industry that isn’t experiencing these kind of changes, I don’t know what it is.  Real estate, education, retail, computer engineering:  between outsourcing, budget cuts, and automation, it’s easy to assume the jobs you or your spouse hold today will not be around, or be dramatically different, by the time your kids are in the job market. When the world seems to be changing fast there are a few ways we tend to cope with these changes.

A common reaction is to panic.  When we see changes happening around us, we look for familiar structures to cling to:  “If I have an 8 month emergency savings, then I’ll be safe”.  “If I just work harder, I’ll be safe”.  We look for rules and systems to believe will make us feel secure.  This leads to generalized anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, and health problems.  Worrying about an uncertain future and placing your security in rules that are constantly changing, can turn “making a living” into “making a dying”.

Another common reaction to change is denial.  (Imagine high pitched voice here) “Everything is great and peachy, nothing will affect me, I’ll just keep drinking, spending, overeating, blaming and whatever else it takes NOT to notice that I feel scared.”  This helps people by giving them something else to focus on “I need to lose weight, spend less, get my kids grades’ up”. This method distracts from, but doesn’t resolve the core issue.  Believing scary thoughts like, “I have no choice but to stay in this job I hate” causes you to feel fear.  Ignoring this fear by focusing on other problems, just leads to a lifetime of feeling crappy.

When panic and denial fail to solve the problem, there is one method left.  I learned this personally from a smelly, pot-smoking, scuba diving instructor who was the last person I expected to gain such wisdom.  (The stench of his body odor was so profound that they are embedded together in my memory). In order to get certified, I had to remove my face mask and snorkel, 30 ft. underwater, and put them back on.  To say I was scared was an understatement.  I reassured myself that I new “the rules”, I had memorized the procedure and was prepared.  But as soon as it was off, I started to PANIC.  I frantically swam toward the surface as fast as I could, crazy, flailing around in a terrible state.  My dive instructor firmly grabbed arm, held me down, and tapped the side of my head.  Somehow, that tap on the side of my head, ignited another part of brain:  my instincts.  I calmed down immediately, cleared my face mask and snorkel, and was fine without ever thinking about it.  It was weird, like “how did I just do that?” All it took was someone else to grab my arm and tap my head.  We are all built with these innate instincts to help us through times of fear, the problem is we don’t have access to them when we are in panic or denial.

My work as a life coach is similar.  I hold my clients down by making them relax and stay calm on the phone. Then, I tap into their instincts by asking them to question the thoughts they have been thinking. “Is it true that security comes from your job?” “How do you know the changes that are happening are bad ones?”

Once we let go of the old ideas that are no longer working for us….

”Government work is stable”      “No one quits in this economy”      “It’s ok to suffer if you are close to retirement”,

then, we can allow in some quiet wisdom we didn’t even know was there.

“I’m more capable than I thought.”    “Now’s the time for change, everyone else is scared.”   “I only have to please myself.”   “The possibilities for my future are endless.”

Think about times in your life when you have been genuinely scared.  (Being robbed at gunpoint, seeing a bear in the woods, crashing a car).  How did your instincts step up to help you?  Maybe in our cushy lives, we don’t encounter enough real fear and we forget that we have this built in, instinctual system to help us out.  Look at the difference between fake fear (stress, anxiety) and real fear, and tell me about times when you felt your instincts kick in.

-Instincts are quiet and easy to ignore.  Anxiety is loud and takes over your ability to think about anything else.

-Instincts offer a clear, actionable step to take.  Anxiety suggests pacing, eating, general yuck…oh, I just hate anxiety!

-Instincts can be a thought that pops into your head but usually just one (not 1,000) and it’s often funny and always clear and calming.

-Instincts can be a physical sensation in the body (hairs go up on back of neck, goose bumps, nausea, etc.) but again, easy to ignore.  Anxiety is a runaway train that you can’t get off until your brain thinks it is safe.

If I can find wisdom from a smelly, underwater, pot head, I am confident you can find your quiet wisdom, too.