Drowning Out The Noise

When life goes sideways, and you’re not sure what to do next, it’s human nature to turn to people you trust for advice.  After all, they care about what happens to you, right?  And they all have something to say!  For the most part, they mean well.  Their intent is to guide you in the ‘right’ direction.  But have you noticed that you keep going from person to person, gathering advice, but not doing anything about it?  In fact, some of them may have called you out on that already.

Maybe that’s because none of it feels quite right.

You have to remember that these people are just as human as you are, and are operating under their own system based on their experiences and their beliefs, and those might not be the same as yours.  Not only that, those experiences are subject to interpretation, and that can change over time.  What feels like a tragedy right now, you might look back on in five years and realize it was the turning point that propelled you into a better life! And those beliefs they live by may have been handed down by others, without ever having been examined.

Besides the advice we get directly from other people, there’s a lot of information that gets downloaded to us by the media/advertising/entertainment industries.  How many of us get our ideas about what a relationship ‘should’ look like from those romantic movies?  Or what success ‘should’ look like from TV?  Or what we ‘should’ want from all those commercials?  Or what we ‘should’ care about from the news.  Or what talent looks like from all those competition shows?  Oh, and then there’s your social media feed, where everybody posts the most awesome things going on in their lives!

So with all those competing voices in your head, it can be difficult to weed out what sounds like somebody else, and figure out what belongs to you.  To do that, you’ll need to spend some time alone.  Disengage from all those other sources, and spend some time tuning into your thoughts.  Get out a notebook, and start writing down your thoughts on life, relationships, work, money, health, everything!  I suggest doing this over the course of few days, because as you dig into this, other things will come up that you hadn’t realized were there.  You will likely find some conflicting ideas as well.  Write it all down.  All those thoughts in your head about how things ‘should’ be.  Putting it in list form can be especially useful.

Done?

Now, go back through that list, and think about where each of those ideas came from.  When you hear that thought in your head, whose voice do you hear?  Or what experience comes to mind?  If it sounds like somebody else, where do you think that belief comes from?  Based on your own experience, does it feel true for you?  If those thoughts are based on a personal experience, think back on that.  What happened?  Where were you?  How old were you?  What belief did you form about it?  If you formed this belief as a child, with a child’s understanding of the world, when you look back on it as an adult, do you see things differently?

With a fresh understanding of where your ideas about life came from, what do you consciously choose to hang onto, and what are you ready to let go?  As you let go of those beliefs that no longer serve you, mentally thank the source of them, whether that be Grandpa, or Aunt Susie, or the neighbor across the street, or your childhood self, for trying to protect you.  Keep only those beliefs that feel helpful and true for you.  And see if you don’t have a much better idea about what to do next!

Need some help on this?  My Self-Guided Solo Retreat guide is a great place to start!  This 30+ page workbook is loaded with information to help you plan your getaway, and a comprehensive coaching format based on the same program I use with my one-on-one clients, starting at $497.  Download the guide for the introductory price of $67, and start creating a better life this weekend!

Celebrating Your New Life!

So, you’ve decided to go for it.

You’ve reflected.  You’ve researched.  You’ve meditated.  You’ve prayed.

Whatever your method, you’ve figured out what you want, or at least what you want next, and you’ve decided to act on it.

First of all, YAY!  That’s so awesome!  And even though it feels scary right now, you’re also super excited to be moving in the direction of a life you love!  When those fears creep in, and they definitely will, think back on all the things you’ve done that were once scary.  Chances are, they are some of the most rewarding times of your life!  And probably also provided the most growth!  No matter how they turned out, you learned something about yourself, and that’s always useful!

Secondly, it’s okay to not know quite how you’re going to pull this off yet.  You made a decision to go after something you really want, and that has merit all its own.  When you make a decision, things happen.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles to test your resolve along the way.  But if you keep moving in the direction of your dreams, you’ll find all sorts of little coincidences, if you pay attention.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you aren’t going to get something new by doing the things you’ve always done.  So keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities.  A friend you don’t see very often invites you to dinner at a new restaurant?  Go!  You never know when the exact person you need to meet is sitting at the next table!  You hear about a class that sounds interesting, but your friends don’t want to go?  Go anyway!  You might learn something that gets you one step closer to your dream!

And one very important step you should never skip?  Celebrate!  Don’t be tempted to put this off until you’ve reached your goal.  Celebrate your decision to go after something that’s important to you!  It doesn’t have to be some grand to-do.  It can be as simple and private as buying yourself some little trinket that represents your goal, or as big and public as throwing a party!  But celebrating signals to the universe that you are committed and ready to take this next step.  Declaring it starts the process of turning it into a reality.  Keep it to yourself or announce it to the world, but take action.  Put yourself on the path, and the road will rise up to meet you!

Go on!  Celebrate!

You’re worth it!

Outgrowing

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn

We generally choose our friends and companions based on what life stage we’re in when we meet them.  It’s human nature to congregate with others who we perceive as being like us.  You hang out with other single gals because you have that common bond.  Or you sit down on the park bench with that other mom, and strike up a conversation while you watch your toddlers play.  Or you have a standing pizza and board games date every Friday with your other broke college friends.  Or you and your spouse have dinner twice a month with other couples you know.

Have you ever noticed that when one of your single friends gets married, you don’t see much of her anymore?  Or when one of your group of broke college friends lands that great new job, you just don’t seem to have much in common to talk about?  Or how your childless friends, secretly (or not so secretly) roll their eyes when you break out the baby pictures?  Or when one of those couples you socialize with is going through a divorce?  All of a sudden, somebody doesn’t ‘fit’.  And although you try to maintain those relationships, everything just feels awkward.

So what happens when you decide you want more?  Well, it can feel a bit like breaking the tribal rules.  All groups have this ‘agreement’, be it conscious or subconscious, that members maintain a certain status.  Whatever common bond brought them together, if someone steps outside those lines, the group feels threatened.  One of two things is likely to happen:  the group will attempt to bring the errant member back in line, or will distance itself from them.

While it’s very noble to want to remain loyal to your friends and family, at some point you have to objectively ask yourself ‘Are these the people I want to be like?’  If the answer is no, that doesn’t mean you have to cut these people out of your life!  It’s perfectly okay to maintain your relationships with them!  And it’s also okay to find other people you align with.  Some of these friendships may drift when you no longer have that commonality, and that’s okay, too.

The point is not to stunt your own growth, just so you can fit in!  If people only accept you as long as you are like them, then it’s not YOU they care about, but the persona you’ve taken on in order to please them.  If you have to be somebody you’re not in order to keep them around, what have you gained?  And more importantly, what have you lost?

So, be YOU.

Grow.

Find your more

It may make people uncomfortable at first, but those who are meant to stay, will.  And those who don’t?  Well, you know where you stand.

Why NOT Love You?

Love yourself.

It’s the mantra of every self-help guru out there.  But most of us have a laundry list of reasons why we don’t.  We’re not thin enough.  We’re not smart enough.  We’re not pretty enough.  We’re not successful enough.  We’ve made too many mistakes.  We don’t make enough money.  We’re not in a relationship.  We get impatient and yell at our kids.

We focus on all the things we are NOT.  And somehow we got the idea that we needed to be perfect in order to be loved, especially by ourselves.  Those ideas are often rooted in our childhood, when we took everything around us so personally.  The world revolved around us, and everything that happened in it, good or bad, was because of us.  That’s how kids are wired.  As we get older, we usually figure out that we are not the cause of everything around us, but we don’t necessarily unlearn those early perceptions about ourselves.  And so, that idea that we are unlovable because we aren’t perfect lingers.

But let’s do a little exercise.

Think of someone, or several people, whom you love very much.  Now, make a list of all the things you love most about them.

Got it?

I’d be willing to bet that nowhere on that list is ‘she’s so thin’, or ‘he’s so intelligent’, or ‘she’s so beautiful’, or ‘he’s so successful’, or ‘she’s never made a mistake’, or ‘he has so much money’, or ‘she’s in a great relationship’, or ‘he never yells at his kids’.  Any of these things might be true about this person, but those aren’t the reasons you love them!  And chances are, you never think ‘I would love you more if you were thinner, or prettier, or smarter, or richer.’  NO!  You love them exactly how they are!

So, if you can love those other people who don’t fit your ‘perfect’ mold, why not love you, too?  Next time you catch your inner critic bashing you because of what you’re not, remind yourself of someone you love who isn’t that either.  You’re not a perfect size 6?  Neither is your best friend, but you love her anyway.  You didn’t graduate from Harvard?  Your grandma didn’t even finish High School, but you love her, too.  You’re not in a relationship?  Your favorite cousin isn’t either, but she’s still enjoying life!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself.  Who doesn’t have things they’d like to improve?  It’s okay to want a more fulfilling career, or a nicer house, or to go back to school, or to get healthier.  But don’t let the fact that you don’t have them yet stop you from loving yourself!  These things don’t determine your value.

If you want a happier life, start by loving yourself.  As you are.  Just like you love other people like you!

Need help figuring out what makes YOU happy?  Start Here!

Stepping Up

When asked who their heroes are, may people list pioneers in their career field, or religious leaders, or military figures.  Others may mention celebrities or sports players or philanthropists.  Me?  My heroes, the people I look up to and want to be like, are all everyday people.  Few might think of them as heroes (or heroines, in many cases), but to me, they are priceless.

One was my elementary school English teacher, who also lived in my neighborhood.  Because of this, I got a chance to know her as a person, rather than just in her role as a teacher, and she was one of the most unique, multi-faceted, open-minded, positive, and adventurous people I ever met!  She’s been gone many years now, but is still one of my favorite people!

Another is my Aunt, quite an independent gal herself!  She’s a petite 5’2”, but that didn’t stop her from ruling the roost in a house full of boys!  Might have something to do with being the oldest of nine children!  She has never felt intimidated by anyone, nor cared what anyone thought of her.  She and her husband, both in their 60’s at the time, used to take road trips on a motorcycle.  She took flying lessons at 70.  She’s always been a bit of a rebel, but I didn’t really realize it until long after I was grown!  She turns 86 today, and is still a feisty thing!

And then there’s my Uncle, who lost his third battle with cancer last month.  Always such an upbeat, playful, gentle soul, not what you’d expect from a career soldier.  As much as he loved saving souls, he should have been a chaplain!  He was a singer and songwriter, an artist, a devoted family man, and never met a stranger.

My dearest friend ever passed away earlier this year at 91.  She lived next door to me in Italy, and spoke no English.  I learned Italian so we could have those daily conversations about anything and everything without her son having to translate.  She didn’t drive, so I took her grocery shopping every Thursday.  She was a wonderful cook, and I ate lunch at her table nearly every day.  Whenever there was a holiday or family event, we were always included.  We served them their first ever Thanksgiving dinner, and years later, they were still talking about it.  She was the kindest soul I’ve ever met, and the one person who thought I was wonderful for exactly who I was.

As these people I so look up to reach advanced age, and pass on, I am realizing that it’s time for me to step up.  I don’t think anyone seeks to be a role model.  If we’re lucky enough to figure out that we have a choice, we’re just living our lives in whatever way feels right for us.  That’s what my teacher did, and my Aunt, and my Uncle, and my neighbor.  They were just being themselves, living their lives, having no idea what an important example they were.  But for me, it was everything, and I would be honored to carry on their legacy.

It’s time.