abstract-heart, Love the One You’re With (That’s You!)

Love the One You’re With (That’s You!)

Yesterday my client Rochelle showed up to our call on a bit of a high.

The first words out of her mouth were, “I know I keep saying it’s time to stop selling myself short but until today it’s been conceptual. I now finally get it.  

As long as I keep selling myself short, I’ll keep trying to make everyone else happy at the expense of what I need and want. And if I don’t stop trying to please everyone, I’ll never have the life I want. So, I’m done!

I love that she’s had this shift. It’s a huge step forward in opening up space to create what she wants in her life.

And I had to laugh at the timing of our conversation. Every few years, right before Valentine’s Day, I get a prompt to rerun an article on exactly this topic.

So, without further ado …

Love the One You’re With (That’s You!)

In the last few days I’ve had three clients declare that they’re done with selling themselves short. While the same themes always come up with my clients, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the exact same words in such a short timeframe.

Add to the mix that exactly four years ago I wrote an article on the exact same topic, I decided the universe was sending me a message. Clearly, this is an article that bears repeating. 🙂

When I first sat down to write this article, Valentine’s Day wasn’t anywhere on my radar screen. Even if it had been, it wouldn’t have seemed relevant, because I’d already picked my topic: Don’t sell yourself short.

In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it?

But then I started writing, and realized that love has everything to do with it.

In order to not sell yourself short, you have to take a stand for yourself. That’s not always easy. (An understatement, right?!) Taking a stand for yourself is an act of courage … and an act of love.

To confidently and authentically take a stand for yourself, you have to believe you deserve it. And that takes some serious self-love.

You’re up against powerful forces trying to get you to sell yourself short.

Those forces aren’t part of an evil empire. They’re the part of you that says:

  • I can’t … 
  • I don’t dare … 
  • What if … 
  • Who am I to … 
  • What will they think if …

Powerful forces indeed!

My friend Courtney just vanquished those forces with love. 🙂 

She took a bold, courageous stand for herself over a recent job offer. 

Courtney’s early in her career and between full-time jobs. So this job offer was a big deal.

The position had the potential to be a great learning opportunity and resume-builder. But it also came with long hours, compensation that felt unfair to her, and some red flags about the company’s culture.

Bold courageous stand #1: she decided to counter-offer.

And that meant believing in – and loving – herself enough to step around, through, and over “I can’t or don’t dare ask, what if they get mad, who am I to ask for more, and what will they think?

Yes, it was uncomfortable. And scary.

But saying “yes” to a job she felt was underpaid would be selling herself short.  So she showered herself with love and asked for more money.

She was blown off with a terse reply of, “Take it or leave it.”

Hmmm, that’s an inviting reply!  The red flags about corporate culture started looking a lot bigger.

Bold courageous stand #2: Courtney declined the offer. 

Did I mention bold and courageous?!

She emailed me after she made the decision to turn down the job.

“I have your thought about not selling myself short ringing in my ears. I think I’d been molding the job in my mind to make it seem like a good fit, but I really don’t think it is. I feel quite confident that turning down the job is the right choice even though along the way I was full of doubt.”

Courtney is seriously committed to being successful and happy. She deserves both. And she chose to take a stand for herself. 

Oh yeah!

Next time those powerful nay-saying forces show up and tempt you to sell yourself short, remember that you have something far more potent.

Love. 

Here’s what the self-loving part of you knows, even in the midst of doubt:

  • Yes, you can – because you have choices. 
  • Yes, you dare – because you have courage. 
  • The what-ifs probably won’t happen, but if they do, you’ll be fine – because you’re resilient. 
  • Who you are is worthy – because we are all worthy. 
  • And what they will think is … uh, wait a second. Who the heck are “they”?!

When you take a stand for yourself, you send a message to yourself AND to the universe that you are worth it.

And that’s a fabulous way to shower yourself with love. 

“If your definition of success has little or no love in it, get yourself a new definition.” ~ Dr. Robert Holden

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Five Ways to Navigate Your Year as Smoothly as Possible

Imagine this:

It’s a new year.

You’ve set some goals.

You have the same busy life you had last year.

You’re confident you can make progress on those goals and intentions … as long as nothing in your professional or personal life gets bumpy or goes sideways.

Now it’s almost the end of January and …. when will the universe, not to mention the humans in my life, make it just a little easier for me to focus on my goals?!!!

I’m guessing it’s not a big stretch of imagination. 🙂

With rare exceptions, this is the way of the world. Bumps are part of life, things don’t always go as planned, our goals and desires are ours (not anyone else’s), and we don’t control the universe or the other humans inhabiting this planet with us. (I frequently have to remind myself of this!)

This isn’t a pitch to stop setting goals or to simply let life carry you along. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Goals are valuable. They help you become the person you want to be, put you on a path of learning and growth, and support you in creating what you want in your life. But when goals become an all-or-nothing proposition – black and white, success or failure – you’ve set yourself up to never start, quit too soon, and end up feeling worse than if you’d simply started the year without them.

Whatever’s on your goal list this year, here are five suggestions to help you stay on track, get back on track if you derail, and navigate your year as smoothly as possible.

1. Focus on the “er”

All goals come with some kind of change: habits or patterns, learning new skills, doing something differently, etc. (If no change was required, it wouldn’t feel like a goal, but rather “just” a thing to do.)

And change is all about “ers” …

… clearer, calmer, happier, faster, healthier, closer to a new job, organized-er, confident-er, focused-er (I know those last three words don’t really end in “er,” but in this case they do), or whatever change or goal you’re working towards.

Each week that you’re a little more “er” than the last, you’ve made progress.

Aggregate enough “ers” – today I’m calmer than I was yesterday, which was calmer than last week, which was calmer than last month, which was calmer than six months ago – and you’ve created substantial sustainable change.

2. Exercise your courage muscle.

If something is big enough to feel like a goal, it usually means meaningful progress requires you to stretch out of your comfort zone. And that requires courage.

The more you practice courage, the more capacity for courage you’ll have.

3. Ask for help. 

Yes, it can feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to ask for help. But in fact, it’s a sign of strength and an opportunity to practice getting out of your comfort zone.

Everything is easier with help, goal-related and otherwise.

4. Carve out time for reflection.

Change is the result of hundreds, even thousands, of tiny choices and actions.

We get better through practice and awareness of those choices and actions. That’s what “er” is all about.

And we make even more progress when we combine practice and awareness with reflection.

Sit quietly and reflect on your choices and actions, write in a journal, voice-record your thoughts … whatever works best for you. Consistency is key; perfection isn’t required.

Yes, in a perfect world you’d have a daily reflection practice. But if that’s not viable in your world, five minutes a few times a week will make a difference.

5. Recharge daily. 

If your reaction is “Are you on crack?!!! Every. Single. Day?”, take a breath and stay with me for a minute. 🙂

This isn’t self-indulgent or selfish, nor does it have to be time-consuming.

One minute of conscious breathing three times a day works wonders. So does a five-minute walk, a 10-minute chair massage, a short meditation, or a few minutes outside gazing at the stars.

Recharging daily, instead of waiting till you’ve hit burnout, creates greater capacity for patience, resilience, persistence, grit, and the ability to navigate the inevitable bumps and obstacles smoothly.

“Each morning, we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” ~ Jack Kornfield

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Woman at Pottery Wheel

Practice, Pottery, and Comfort Zones

I’ve been on a mission to purge my house and office of anything I don’t need, use, or love. It’s been liberating (out you go!), horrifying (where did all this stuff come from?!), and gratifying (my long-lost favorite gloves :-)).

Also unearthed was a stack of bowls I made in a pottery class 20+ years ago.

The bowls couldn’t have been more ordinary. But the class ended up being about much more than learning to make pottery.

At the time, my MO was to avoid situations where I might not excel.

If something didn’t come naturally, it wasn’t for me.

That changed the day I flipped through my local Parks and Recreation catalog of classes and saw this:

Pottery: Throwing on the Wheel (9 sessions)

Discover the joy of creating functional clay vessels such as mugs, bowls and vases. Beginners are introduced to basic wheel techniques such as wedging, centering and throwing.

Spatial skills aren’t my strength. But I love ceramics, and was so entranced with the idea of joyfully creating pottery that I registered for the class, even though I knew I might not be good.

Hmmm … might not be good? How about WORST in the class!! And no, I’m not just being hard on myself.

By the 3rd week, everyone else was producing bowls and vases that ranged from lopsided to solidly good.

My special talent was an ability to stick my thumbs through every item I attempted to make.

But I was still hanging on to my romantic idea of making pottery. So despite my embarrassment and frustration, I kept at it. At a minimum, perhaps I’d become more open to trying things outside my comfort zone. 

And hopefully I’d get better. Ha!!!

Despite showing up for class every Wednesday and taking advantage of the weekly open studio hours, another three weeks passed with virtually no improvement. I was stressed, frustrated, and hated feeling so inept.

It was time to stop torturing myself.

I gave myself credit for sticking it out for six weeks, breathed a sigh of relief, and scurried back into my comfort zone.

Turns out the universe had other plans for me. 🙂

The next evening I got a phone call from the instructor saying she’d be holding extra open studio hours. When I told her I was dropping the class, she burst into tears and said, “I’m a horrible teacher, this is my fault. Please give me another chance.”

Seriously!!

No matter my assurances that it wasn’t about her, she pleaded with me not to quit. I finally agreed to try one more class, but only if she’d try a different teaching style. She agreed and I dragged myself to class the following week.

We did figure out a new approach, and over the next three weeks I made eight thumb-hole-free bowls. Yay!!

While the bowls have been collecting dust for over two decades (and are now in the donate pile), the lessons I learned in those nine painful weeks have been well used and rarely out of sight.

  • Your ability to create the life you want is 100% correlated to your willingness to regularly expand your comfort zone. 

    I’d never have imagined that my foray into “Throwing on the Wheel” would activate my willingness to step into the space of not knowing whether or not I’d excel. But that’s exactly what it did. 
  • You can’t stretch your comfort zone without expanding your capacity for discomfort.

    That’s what those nine weeks were really about for me. While everyone else was practicing basic wheel techniques, I was building a discomfort muscle. The beauty of practice!!
  • When you ask for what you want/need, you increase your odds of success and reduce your suffering.

    And yes, asking is often uncomfortable. One more opportunity to practice discomfort. 🙂

    Only because my teacher burst into tears on the phone, did I ask for help. And because I got what I needed, I stuck around for the full nine weeks … and the “if you don’t think you’ll excel, don’t even bother” wall began to crumble.
  • Stretching out of your comfort zone is an act of courage.

    We’re all braver than we think we are. And that includes you!

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

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10 Stress Reducers and Happy Thanksgiving!

My two favorite things about Thanksgiving are being with people I love and eating pumpkin pie.

It’s my favorite holiday, but that hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when Thanksgiving was served up with an extra helping of stress and by the end of the weekend I’d not only eaten too much but consumed far too much emotional energy.

Years ago, I finally decided it was time to create a different experience and took an inventory of all the ways in which I was adding to my stress. It wasn’t a pretty list!

No, I can’t control anyone else, nor do I have control over the lines at the grocery store, the airlines, traffic, or the weather.

But I do get to choose how I show up and that goes a long way.

So, in addition to my shopping list, I now also have a stress-reducing / how-do-I-want-to-show-up list:

  1. Let go of “shoulds”
  2. Forget perfect
  3. Ask for what I want/need
  4. Be present
  5. Choose how I want to engage
  6. Set realistic expectations
  7. Be kind to myself
  8. Make conscious choices
  9. Breathe
  10. Practice gratitude

It just so happens that the same list works every other day of the year as well :-).

What’s on your holiday stress-reduction list? If you don’t have one, feel free to use mine as a starting point and modify it in whatever way is right for you!

And in an ever so slight shifting of gears …

I’m grateful to have you in my community. Thank you for your thoughtful, smart, and funny comments on my articles. Thank you for sharing your experience when a topic resonates with you.

Thank you for inspiring me.

And most of all, thank you for your commitment to living a life of choice and growth, being bold, and being you.

You make a difference.

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Pushing a boulder up a hill, What to Do When You’re Struggling to Make Progress.

What to Do When You’re Struggling to Make Progress

I’m certain you’ve achieved challenging goals. Yes, that’s plural.

The kinds of goals that stretched you out of your comfort zone, required new physical, emotional, and mental muscles, and / or called for changes in your normal routines.

I’ll pause while you think of just one. 🙂

I don’t have special knowing-things-about-other-people powers, but what’s true for everyone I know who’s pursued challenging goals (including me) is:

  • There were plenty of moments, days, or even weeks that were hard, uncomfortable, or both.
  • Slowly but surely you built momentum.
  • Progress looked like a loop-the-loop, not a straight line. 
  • And it feels great to know you navigated a challenging path, stayed the course, and (bonus!) grew in the process.

It would be lovely if all our goal stories shared that happy ending. Except that wouldn’t be real life. 😉

Because in addition to the goals we achieve, most of us have also had a second kind of experience. We start working towards something we want, but never gain traction. There’s no loop-the-loop of progress, just a sense of pushing a boulder up a hill.

My client Amelia was in this situation when we started working together.

Amelia’s a Human Resources leader, and for the past year she’s wanted to develop a new leadership program for mid-level employees. Her goal was to flesh out the idea, present it to her boss, and get the green light to run with it.

Problem was, she’d made virtually no progress. And she was equal parts frustrated and baffled: frustrated by feeling like she was all talk but no action, and baffled because she’s used to making things happen, in both the professional and personal parts of her life. She commented, “I feel like I’m pushing a boulder up a hill, except I’ve barely even touched the boulder. And I can’t figure out why.”

It didn’t take long to figure out the first reason why she was stuck.

She hadn’t shared her idea, so there was no external pressure for her to deliver. Which meant that if she abandoned it tomorrow, no one would care, because no one would know.

She had a super-secret goal.

And that made it hard to make it a priority. There was always something more pressing.

That wasn’t the only obstacle in her way, which wasn’t a surprise. More often than not there are multiple factors at play.

If you’re in the midst of a going-nowhere goal, here are the six questions that helped Amelia get unstuck and moving with her goal:

  1. Are you doing what you need to be doing?

    In Amelia’s case, the first thing she needed to do was get on her boss’s calendar. That simple task transformed her “secret” into a commitment. Knowing that she now had just two months to flesh out her idea gave her the structure and accountability she needed.

    What actions do you need to take to move your goal forward?

  2. Are you showing up the way you need to show up?

    Your energy and attitude impact everything.

  3. Are you clear on what you want?

    If what you want is murky, it’s really hard to make headway. Ditto for when you’re driven by a should, rather than an actual desire.

  4. Are you stuck in patterns that aren’t helping you get where you want to be?

    Most of us have habits, behaviors, and patterns that get in our way. The more awareness you have about yours, the better able you’ll be to create new ones.

  5. Are you stretching out of your comfort zone?

    Most of us can’t create what we want without getting uncomfortable!

  6. Are you climbing the wrong hill?

    When you can’t get traction no matter what you do and things never get easier no matter how long you try, it’s time to consider whether you need a new hill.

You have plenty of successful goals under your belt. These six questions will help you create even more of what you want!

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”  ~ Anatole France

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Fear, Courage, and Getting Unstuck

My pets never cease to amaze me with their ability to deliver human-applicable lessons.

Most recently, Elbee, my cat, and Jasper, my dog, taught a master class on fear triggers.

Elbee and Jasper are great buddies. They can usually be found wrestling, snuggling, or just happily hanging out.

But a few months ago, Elbee shook things up with a new game: stalk and chase, which he thinks is the best thing ever. Jasper, who’s normally enthusiastic about everything, loathes the game.

 

The routine of stalk and chase goes like this:

Elbee (the cat) lurks behind a corner.
Jasper (the dog) walks by.
Elbee leaps out.
Jasper freaks and flees to safety, which means finding a human.
Elbee chases after.
Jasper leaps into the nearest lap and buries his head.

After a few minutes, Jasper lifts his head, glances at Elbee sideways, then quickly looks away.
He buries his head a little deeper.
He starts to move, as if to get up, but thinks better of it and re-buries his head.

No matter that he’s packing 4.5 times as much weight or that Elbee adores him. I remind him that nothing bad is going to happen. Of course, he has no clue what I’m talking about. But even if he did, it wouldn’t matter.

Logic isn’t the issue. Fear is. And Jasper’s fear response is firmly entrenched.

Enter the human parallel.

We too get triggered by fear and stuck in a cycle of indecision and inaction.

Any time you start to push out of your comfort zone, fear flares up. We all run into walls of what if, who am I to, or I can’t take the risk.

We flee to, or hunker down in, what feels safe and comfortable, the equivalent of Jasper seeking the safety of a human. We bounce between I wish I could, I can’t, I should, I will, I won’t, and I’ll try, adding indecision and judgment to the emotional stew.

And with one final ingredient to the stew, we convince ourselves that the only way to move forward is to vanquish fear.

All of which is a perfect recipe for staying stuck.

Why?

Because none of us can banish fear from our lives, nor is fearlessness the goal. Rarely can we talk our way out of feeling scared, freaked out, or uncomfortable. Just like in Jasper’s case, logic isn’t the issue.

So if becoming fearless isn’t the goal, what is?

To make space for your fear and to expand your capacity for discomfort and courage.

The next time (or right now!) you’re stuck in fear and indecision, work through these six steps:

  1. Calm your nervous system. 

    Five minutes of focused steady breathing works wonders. Ten minutes will do even more. 🙂

    Sit and breathe. Or do a yoga practice, take a hot bath, or go for a walk. As long as you focus on your breath, your nervous system will start to calm down.

  2. Name your fear.

    Whatever comes up, don’t judge.

  3. Make a decision.

    One of the worst parts of being stuck is indecision. You’re neither moving forward nor letting go of what you want. 

  4. Identify ONE small step to move forward. Not a leap, but a baby step.

    What’s the tiniest action you can take? And know that with each tiny step, you’re expanding your capacity for courage.

  5. Sit with the discomfort that comes up before, during, and after you take that first baby step.

    If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know, the urge is to get away from discomfort as quickly as possible! Don’t give in to it.

    There’s no better way to get comfortable with discomfort than to practice.

  6. Rinse and Repeat. Take a second baby step, then a third, and keep on stepping.

    Take enough baby steps, and you’ll travel the distance between being stuck and creating what you want.

“Fear is the raw material from which courage is manufactured. Without it, we wouldn’t even know what it means to be brave.” ~ Martha Beck

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25 Lessons I’ve Learned About Success and Happiness/flow-dynamix.com

25 Lessons I’ve Learned About Success and Happiness

June is my big celebration month. It’s the month I was born, got married, and started my business. And this June comes with a BIG anniversary: 25 years ago my business and I began our adventure together!!

I can tell the story of the last 25 years in a way that sounds like a lovely straight line. But in reality, it’s been more like a loop-de-loop, with stretches of straight lines and periods of two steps forward, one back, and another one sideways. And every one of those steps has been a necessary part of this amazing journey.

I’m so lucky and grateful that I get to work with incredible clients and colleagues who inspire me with their courage, brilliance, compassion, willingness to be bold, and commitment to being successful and happy.

And I never imagined that my business would be one of my greatest teachers.

In celebration of 25 years in business, I’d like to share the 25 most powerful lessons I’ve learned – the ones that have helped me be more courageous and resilient, bolder, and have had the greatest impact on my success and happiness.

  1. Professional development is personal development.
  2. NEVER ignore your intuition. 
  3. Self-care is critical to success. You operate at your highest mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacity when you take care of yourself. And that will boost your success and make you happier! 
  4. Breathing makes everything better. Yeah, really.
  5. Life is too short to worry or stress about things that won’t matter in a few years, let alone a few days or weeks.
  6. If you have to pretend to be someone you’re not, you’re in the wrong place.
  7. Make friends with Eb and Flo. Life, professionally and personally, has ebbs and flows. I personified them by giving them proper names. It makes it easier to welcome each of them when they show up and to truly embrace the notion that both are necessary. 
  8. When you’re clear on what you want, the universe will align with you as long as you do your fair share. 
  9. Success and failure are 100% dependent on where you draw the timeline. Always.
  10. There’s learning and growth in everything. It just doesn’t always come wrapped in a pretty package!
  11. It doesn’t matter how other people do things. Figure out what works for you. It’s the best way to set yourself up for success.
  12. Cultivate extreme self-awareness.
  13. Gratitude is good for the soul and has a positive impact on success. It’s one of the few things in life where there’s no such thing as too much.  
  14. Mastering the skill of saying NO is the only way to say YES to what’s important to you and stay sane. 
  15. A little bit of stretch in a goal is motivating. Too much of a stretch sets you up for feeling frustrated and stuck. 
  16. Be willing to ask for, and accept, help.
  17. Mindset matters. Your mindset creates your experience, not vice versa. Action follows thought. And whether through words, actions, or vibe, your mindset impacts everyone around you. 
  18. You can’t grow without getting out of your comfort zone. That’s why change, whether by choice or not, takes courage. As do bold moves, getting unstuck, and anything else that requires you to stretch.
  19. Ask for what you want or need – it’s your best chance of getting it. Waiting, expecting, or hoping that your partner, boss, colleagues, friends, family, or [fill in the blank] will read your mind is rarely a successful strategy. 
  20. Any time you tip-toe, step, or leap through fear and discomfort to reach for something you want, you’re being bold, no matter how large or small your move looks to anyone else.
  21. You are the only one who can give yourself permission to be you, to be human (which means beautifully and perfectly flawed!), and to want what you want. Don’t wait. Give yourself permission NOW.
  22. None of us can make things happen because none of us are controlling the universe. But you can create the conditions that allow things to happen. 
  23. Be open to amazing things. 
  24. Show up – fully. It’s often hard, and it’s so worth working through the discomfort. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you have something to offer. Allow yourself to offer it. That’s what showing up looks like.
  25. The way you live your day is the way you live your life.

You are braver, more creative, and more powerful than you can possibly know. Trust me on this one!

And you deserve success and happiness!!!

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others. ~ Aristotle

On the topic of a little bit of stretch in a goal is motivating (#14) …

For years I’ve been treating my Facebook business page with benign neglect. Yes, I’d occasionally post, but it’s random and infrequent. No longer!

You’ll now see a new post on Mondays and Thursdays with links to TED talks and articles, book recommendations, quotes, questions to reflect on, and other curated resources to support you in making courageous choices to create success and happiness.

I invite you to “like” the Flow Dynamix Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Sherry-Essig-Flow-Dynamix-Get-Unstuck-Stay-Unstuck-133590366659989

Looking forward to engaging with you in the virtual world!

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Shrine Ridge/Would You Follow Your Friends off a Cliff/Flow-Dynamix.com

Would You Follow Your Friends Off a Cliff?

Much to my surprise, I did just that while hiking Shrine Ridge near Vail, Colorado.

Shrine Ridge is a fantastic hike that I’ve done many times. You start at 11,000 feet, climb to just over 12,000, and end on a summit with spectacular views. Although the last mile is a bit of a huff-and-puff, the path is mostly hard-packed dirt and easy to navigate.

At the top, you have a panoramic view of the mountains, including a large, craggy rock formation across the valley.

On this trip, we were with friends who were hiking Shrine Ridge for the first time. We took a break at the top to eat lunch and enjoy the views. So far, so good.

But what I hadn’t considered is that my friend Lori is part mountain goat. Seriously.

As soon as I looked at those rocks, I knew she’d be scampering down the steep valley wall and back up the other side. She can’t help herself! But the thing I hadn’t expected was that her partner, bad knees and all, would take off after her, and my husband would then hop up and say, “I’m going too.”

Okay, what you need to know about me is that I have NO mountain goat in me, and I’m not a physical risk taker. In a normal state of mind, there’s zero chance I’d have followed them.

But when they all took off, I got triggered.

I felt like I was being abandoned. (Not rational, but triggers aren’t.)

We had no meet-up plan.

All I could think of was that I had two crappy choices, and I had to make an instantaneous decision before they were out of sight.

My crappy choices?

Follow them, which felt insane and more than a little risky; or stay behind and end up back at the car with no idea where they were, when they’d be back, or if someone got hurt. (Yeah, I get how neurotic that sounds.)

My choice, made with a great deal of grouchiness? Stay with the pack and go over the cliff.

On very shaky legs I made it down to the valley. (Hallelujah!) Lori did indeed scurry up the rock formation while the rest of us rambled around the valley. Eventually, we all started climbing back up towards the path.

And then, about 20 feet from the top, I got stuck.

Totally and completely stuck … and terrified. I was on a patch of loose dirt, couldn’t get a hand- or foot-hold on anything, and all I could do was stay crouched on all fours so I wouldn’t go tumbling down.

I did make it back to the path, fortunately, unscathed and with nothing more than a bruised ego, but I was pissed. At myself.

I’d backed myself into a corner by thinking I had two unacceptable choices and not hitting the pause button to give myself time to come up with other options. Truth is there were at least two other options: ask my husband to stick with me or establish a meet-up plan if I hiked back to the car on my own.

All these years later the lessons of that day still stay with me:

  • There are always options, but you might have to hit the pause button in order to see them.
  • Just because the rest of your pack wants to go in one direction doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for you.

Even if you never find yourself standing at the edge of a physical cliff, the reality is that you’re likely to bump into a similar choice in everyday life.

When you’re ready to make a bold move, pursue a dream, set new boundaries, show up authentically, stand in your power, or any other scenario in which you feel pulled between what you want and what everyone/anyone else thinks, you’re standing at the edge of a metaphorical cliff.

It’s normal to feel that pull, and there’s nothing wrong with considering advice, input, and concerns from people you trust and respect. But ultimately, it’s your life and your choices.

So next time you feel stuck, torn between sticking with your pack or staying true to yourself, give yourself time and the mental and emotional space to get clear on what’s right for you.

It takes strength and courage to forge your own path. You have enough of both!

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Meg Cabot

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Be bold be brave be you

Five Reasons to Make a Bold Move Now

Twenty-five years ago I lost my best friend Paul to AIDS. A piece of my heart will always be broken. The rest of me though is filled with gratitude for his years of friendship, our many adventures, and his life-changing impact.

A few weeks before Paul died, he told me he was struggling with a decision: whether or not to discontinue his treatments. He was ready to go, but feared that rather than hastening his death, he’d just get worse (as unimaginable as that was) and continue to linger.

As he spoke, it struck me that this is what it looked like to be down to your absolute last choice. The force of that realization felt like a physical blow.

For years I’d wanted to pivot away from my career in finance and accounting, but couldn’t answer the question, “Pivot to what?” I was a single woman in my thirties with a mental list filled with reasons why NOW wasn’t the right time to contemplate that kind of change.

But in that moment, my mental list disintegrated.

Suddenly, what had previously felt uncomfortable, scary, or downright impossible, paled in comparison to the thought of ending up never having had the guts to find a more satisfying career.

I’ve never lost the clarity of that moment of choice. I could choose to get out of my comfort zone, or I could choose regret.

A few hours later, I told Paul that I’d decided to take a six-month sabbatical and figure out how I really wanted to live my life. And yes, I was still that same single women in my thirties (with a cat who was never going to seek gainful employment to support me). 🙂

Although I didn’t know it then, I was forever changed for reasons well beyond that one decision.

Far more profound was the discovery that making a bold move doesn’t mean instant dramatic action: the time to start a bold move comes long before it’s time to leap.

Truth is, most bold professional moves don’t actually start with a leap, but with a series of small steps and lots of practice.

My first small step, broken down into even tinier steps, was to put together a serious savings plan that would enable me to leave my job in eight months. As for practice – there was no shortage of things I needed to practice: getting comfortable with discomfort, saying no to my short-term desires in order to say yes to my savings goal, and choosing trust over worry.   

When the moment arrived to actually resign – to leap – it didn’t feel like standing at the edge of a cliff, but more like having already hiked partway down the mountain, facing a manageable jump I knew I could take.

So if you’ve been holding off on making a bold move until you have more time, space, courage, knowledge, confidence, or all your ducks in a row – waiting for the perfect time to leap – you can take off that pressure. 🙂

Whatever your bold move (new job, get promoted, shine in current role/business, show up differently, take a leap, transition to your next career step or professional move … if it feels bold to you, then it’s a bold move!), how do you know when NOW is the time to get started?

  1. You have a bold move you’ve been wanting to make/dreaming about, and the desire hasn’t lessened. No matter how often you push the thought away, it keeps coming back.
  2. You can’t shake the feeling that you’re capable of more – more impact, responsibility, fulfillment, [fill in your word] – but fear holds you back from going for it.
  3. You’ve been in an extended cycle of “getting ready to be ready”, either waiting till you have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed, or everything else off your plate before you can begin.
  4. Your inner critic shouts, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” every time you entertain the idea, or point a toe toward the path, of truly owning what you want. Our inner critics hate it when we listen to our wise selves, the part of us that knows our desires. 
  5. You can’t shake the question, “If not now, when?” 

Are you ready to get going with your bold move? It starts with a choice to begin.

Be brave about it. Be stubborn about it. Be the hero of your own story. But most importantly, begin. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

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Moving in and out of alignment

 

One of the many things I love about yoga is that virtually everything I practice on my yoga mat is just as relevant in my daily life.

Awareness
Making conscious choices
Managing my mind monkeys (just as hard on my mat as in the other parts of my life!)
Staying with discomfort (ditto)
Noticing my stories about what I can and can’t do (triple ditto!)

And this prompt that my teacher Jill gave at the beginning of a recent yoga class:
“Pay particular attention today to how you move in and out of each pose. Too often we move in and out of poses so fast that we lose, or never find, our alignment.”

Jill was talking about physical alignment, but the same holds true for life: living in alignment with your values, priorities, and with the way you want to show up in the world.

It would be lovely if physical alignment in yoga “just” happened. But it doesn’t, for three reasons:

  1. While every pose has a general shape, none of us have a general body.

You have to learn what alignment looks and feels like in your body.  Not the body demonstrating in the front of the room, or on the mat next to yours, or in a book.

  1. When you make one shift in a pose, there’s a domino effect because …

The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,

The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone …

  1. The way you move / flow from one pose to the next matters.

When you’re rushing from pose to pose, there’s no time or mental space to be aware of how you’re moving. You’re on auto-pilot.

Alignment requires the opposite: slowing down enough to be aware of, and intentional with, your choices.

And what about alignment in life?

It doesn’t “just” happen there either, and for exactly the same reasons.

  1. No one has a general life. Even if you know someone with a life that looks virtually identical to yours, no one else has your exact personality, values, or circumstances.

In order to live in alignment with what’s important to you, the impact you want to have, and what makes you happy, you have to know what that looks and feels like in your life.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like for your friends and / or colleagues – they’re not you!

  1. What you do in one part of your life affects all the other parts.

Sometimes it’s obvious.

Transition from a work role with limited travel to one where you’re on the road half the month, and it impacts your family / friend time, workout routine, volunteer commitments, and all the other ways you spend your time.

But it’s often a more subversive effect.

Stress at work shows up at home, in your relationships, and your health. Become bolder in one part of your life, and you become bolder elsewhere. Increase your awareness in your yoga practice, and your awareness increases in all other areas of your life. And on and on goes the list.

  1. When you rush from one activity to the next, there’s limited mental and emotional space to make conscious choices … choices about your mindset, actions and reactions, assumptions, and trade-offs.

When you’re not making those choices consciously, you’re at high risk of losing, or never finding, your alignment.

Of course all this would be a lot easier if alignment was static – figure it out once, and you’re good to go. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

Living in alignment is a daily practice.

So, where to start?

With the three following steps:

  1. Take time to reflect on your values, priorities, and how you want to show up in the world. Put your thoughts in writing and review them daily.
  2. Pick one aspect of your life or your day. For the next 30 days pay attention to how it affects the other parts of your life or day. Don’t judge, just notice.
  3. Slow down just a wee bit by taking three breaths between meetings, tasks, and activities.

We’re always moving in and out of alignment. The point of practice is to gradually spend more time IN alignment than out!

Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. ~ Francis Bacon

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