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.

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.

It’s not the job; it’s who you get to be.

It’s not the job; it’s who you get to be.

This line really stuck out to me years ago when I was reading Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Own North Star.  I could see the truth in it and how it applied to people around me, but it wasn’t until this summer that I was able to really experience it for myself.

I saw it with Maggie, a general practitioner, who chose her field because it was the trend of the time.   It was a practical, intelligent decision to make while in medical school, but it wasn’t HER.  Every interesting case that came through her door, she had to refer out.  She was a natural born specialist.  She loved to know everything there was to know about one subject.  She had a passion for expertise.  And yet, she found herself in a career for a generalist, someone who likes to know a little bit about everything.  There was nothing wrong with the job; it just wasn’t a match for her personality.  She went back to school and is now highly specialized; enjoying complex cases she can really sink her teeth into.

I saw it with Evan, an easygoing, effective employee who makes friends wherever he goes.  Managers and co-workers appreciate the peaceful work environment he creates.  Evan, on the other hand, is not feeling so peaceful.  He bites his tongue, stifles his true self, and tries to make peace for everyone but himself.  What Evan needs most is to express his creativity.  He needs autonomy and trust from his supervisors, but he’s too much of a pleaser to ask for it.  He has an amazing vision for how to optimize his role in the company, increase productivity and create an even better work environment.  He isn’t enjoying his job because he hasn’t figured out how to bring his true self, innovative and in charge, into his current role.

In my life I get to wear many hats:  Life Coach, Mommy, Teacher, etc. but this summer I spent a lot of time wearing my “Landlord” hat.  We have a rental property that became vacant and I spent a lot of time cleaning, repairing, advertising, interviewing, filling out paperwork, doing background checks, etc.  None of these activities I particularly enjoy, but through this process I thought a lot about, “It’s not the job, it’s who you get to be” and I looked for opportunities to be myself.  It was not always smooth.  I had tenants ruin property, lie to me, break agreements, and refuse to pay money they owed me.  I had to remind myself that I can still do the right thing, even when others’ aren’t.   I had to remind myself that I can still trust people, just not all people.  If I had to spend every day filling out paperwork, showing houses, and making repairs, it wouldn’t nourish my soul.  But if I could fill out paperwork, show houses, and make repairs while believing that I am helping people, then I get to be me.  I tell myself that I am helping people by being a good landlord and providing a nice, safe, clean home during a time when many people are looking to rent.   My favorite part of the job is when I get to connect with people who are going through difficult times.   During an open house, I got to listen to people grieve over their beautiful, big home they lost is the mortgage crisis.  I listened to their anger and resentment over their poor credit score.  I witnessed sadness about an upcoming divorce and hopefulness with starting a new life.  I know that I was not born to be a landlord. I was born to connect with people in important areas of their life and do what I can to help them feel better.  As long as I can find ways to do this, I can be happy ANYWHERE.

It’s easy to drown in a job that doesn’t nourish your soul.  What’s hard (but SO worthwhile) is finding ways to still be you, while living amongst crazy people in a crazy land.  Start with where you are.  How can you bring more of YOU into your job and your life?  If you aren’t sure what’s right for you, try reading Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck or give life coaching a try.  If your job is a match that was never meant to be and you feel clear about what your heart really longs for, perhaps now is the time to make that change.  It’s not the job, it’s who you get to be.

 

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