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Why does it matter to free yourself from some of your beliefs?

 

 

Most beliefs that are composing our belief systems originated from the meaning we gave events that occurred in our lives. Once we attribute a certain meaning and hold a belief about the world or ourselves as the Truth we consistently seek evidence to prove this belief true. Before we know it, these beliefs integrate the background of our daily thoughts. Imperceptibly, we build our entire approach to life and mindset around these beliefs.

 

Some of these beliefs can be painfully restricting and confine us into unnecessary fears. Some even say that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We are utterly convinced the world is a certain way. We continuously supplement this belief with what we hold for evidence, shut down all other possibilities and it becomes a cognitive bias.

 

As open-minded as we would like to think we are we all have biases. They are the result of an automatized association. This way we process a massive number of pieces of information faster. It is a natural way our brain has to form conclusions. The only problem is that when there is a bias, the conclusion is slightly or hugely slanted. The only way to rectify biases is to become aware of them and that is the hardest part. Identifying biases as well as identifying any one of our beliefs requires a lot of awareness and a thorough work of inquiry. Undoubtedly, it would be a colossal task to submit all and every thought to such a process.

 

Nonetheless, an indispensable place to investigate is the belief system we apply to ourselves. To wholeheartedly question what we hold to be true about ourselves has the potential to give us access to immense progress in our personal growth. Why? Because a number of beliefs we have about ourselves hold us back. They feed fear and self-doubt. We believe ourselves to be too much “this” or that we cannot do “that”. We hold on strongly to that belief because it provides us with an excuse for not being more successful for instance or happier. The way we operate within our belief system is comparable in many ways to the filter bubble; we find more of what we came across or looked for in previous researches on the Internet. Our mind tends to work in the same way.

 

Definitely, our most deeply entrenched beliefs are the hardest to beat. The longer we lived with them and the more real they seem to us even when they defy plain logic. Here is an example: I was reflecting on my experience on quitting smoking as I was answering a question on Quora about what was a major realization in my life. Aside from realizing that my smoking habit proceeded greatly as a coping mechanism to manage my emotions and that it would more certainly affect my health than dealing with the emotion itself, I recollected the fight I had to put up with myself to believe I could quit smoking.

 

The struggle was not so much in dealing with the chemical addiction. It had more to do with picturing myself as never smoking again. I could not believe I could “survive” without ever smoking again. I had all the evidence on how damageable to my health my habit was. I was clear on the toll it was taking on my finances. Yet, for the longest time, I could not convince myself I could be free from my smoking habit. My belief that I could not quit remained stronger until I challenged the deeper and more hidden beliefs I had about myself. Our own beliefs have a strong hold on us, especially when we are unaware of them.

 

Furthermore, the beliefs others have about us may just as well hold us back. Have you ever noticed how you are more easily irritated in the presence of certain relatives? Especially when they persist in categorizing you a certain way or that they endlessly bring up that same anecdote from the time you were four years old for instance? There is an amazing and sometimes frightening freedom in finding yourself in an environment devoid of any individual who knows anything about you. Travel in a foreign country, in a complete different frame of reference and you will surprise yourself. You may even think “so and so would never believe I am doing this!” That is one major added value in traveling. Encountering different cultures and people is also a lot about discovering oneself all over again. It expands your mind and brings renewed insight on your what you may take for granted and hold as obvious on your skills, views, and approach to life.

 

Yes, it is egocentric to a degree. I say there is no virtue in denying oneself. On the contrary, I think there is great value in knowing oneself well. How else can you evolve and develop without an honest and accurate assessment of yourself? And if you are ignorant of your traits how can you relate and connect with the world that surrounds you? Rigorous honesty is challenging. Yet, it is indispensable to live in reality. Our beliefs tend to lull us away from reality. They distort our perceptions. We bend our interpretations to fit our belief system. We come to confuse our beliefs with evidence. We consistently pay attention to what reinforces our beliefs. The meaning we attribute to events is one of the sources to our beliefs.

 

All this to say that there is great value in questioning our belief system. It gives us keys to expand beyond our limitations. It is hard to let go of certitudes, even if they are unfounded. We pride ourselves in having answers and we fear to appear dumb or inadequate if we fail to produce an answer. We think it may come off as weakness if we seem undecided. For some of us admitting that we do not know something feels downright shameful. Sometimes we want to be right at all cost or we assume that there is only one way.

 

Let me share these words:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi – 13th century

 

We may feel very passionate about a certain issue. Just taking a moment to pause and think what we are basing this feeling on and question the origin of our position. Fact checking may be tricky at times as well. What sources are we using? Where is the piece of information coming from and how reliable is it. Without entering in the detail or in any form of debate on where the Truth may be I merely invite you to challenge the point of origin of the emotions you experience or the thoughts that are crossing your mind.

 

There were some beliefs that I held for true. Questioning them and checking in with their relevancy has freed up a lot of space in my mind to open to other views and grow as a person. It does not mean that I buy into everything I hear or that I change my position on certain issues based on what the last person said. I have fundamental views and ideas that I am glad to enrich with additional nuances of reasoning or inspirations from external sources. I merely find it indispensable to go check in once in a while with the thoughts that participate in building my belief system. I may observe that it is merely that, a belief. It is not a fact. It is not a universal truth. It can be opposed by contradictory examples. Then it is for me to decide what I want to do with that belief.

 

What is the purpose of challenging one’s belief system? Empowerment for one thing. If I free myself from my limiting beliefs I have access to a more proactive approach to life. If I believe economy sucks and there are no opportunities for my career I will most likely maintain a passive and whiny attitude combined with little to no action. Also, freeing oneself from the hold of certain beliefs opens up new avenues of thinking. The mind expands and where the mind goes the body follows and so do our actions and attitudes towards life in general.

 

Also, do you have pleasure having a conversation with a person who knows it all and who will just raise their voice when you merely venture an idea of your own? Did you ever witness a conversation where someone is in agreement with you yet they have to be “more right”. It is just sign they are not listening. If there is no listening then there is no exchange. We grow from connection. There is no way around it. When we hold on tight to our beliefs we deprive ourselves of a possible opportunity for growth.

 

In order to grow we have to be willing to bridge our knowledge gaps, be curious and inquisitive about the world that surrounds us as well as ourselves. The exercise of challenging our beliefs has for result to build trust in ourselves. Instead of solely relying on a belief, which places us more often than not on the effect side of the cause/effect equation, we are empowering ourselves in gaining awareness on what we do and why we interact with the world the way we do. As we gain a clearer understanding we have more choices and that places us on the cause side of the equation. This empowerment leads to more confidence and therefore to more trust and peace with life.

How To Get Lucky And Adopt An Empowered Approach To Life

lucky

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” said Seneca about 2000 years ago. The concept that being lucky is not just chance that happens to knock on your door is far from new. John Maxwell offers a more detailed formula in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth:
Preparation (growth) + Attitude + Opportunity + Action (doing something about it) = Luck
Let us take a closer look at some components of that formula.

Preparation:
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear one of Bob Kittell’s talks. He covered many themes and made a powerful delivery that was not only informative but also very genuine. One of the nuggets I took away was the value of being prepared. Prepared for what you will ask. Prepare for your ultimate career, your optimal relationship, your best health, you name it… All that we do today is in preparation of the future. We are in constant position to invest one way or the other into our future self. Every decision we make has an impact on tomorrow. Being prepared is about gathering the knowledge we want to apply in a certain area of our life.

It is taking action, however small, towards a desired outcome. It can be choosing to make time to rest and replenish ourselves after or before a particularly demanding time period/event in our life. Sometimes we may not be clear on how the preparation will play a part in the greater scheme of things but there is no such thing as a waste of time when we are determined to see the value in each experience.

Opportunities and Action:
In The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason, the author states that luck can be enticed by accepting opportunity and that men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck. Moreover, “no man can arrive at a full measure of success until he hath completely crushed the spirit of procrastination within him”. In other words, we generate more opportunities for ourselves when we take on a proactive approach to life. It entails curbing a natural tendency to procrastinate that we all have to some degree. It is unnecessary and counterproductive to beat yourself up for it, we all have to battle it. One of the most potent antidotes against procrastination is action.

Opportunities do not always present themselves in the best of lights. They may occur in midst of a crisis. “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict” wrote William Ellery Channing.
In order to recognize opportunities, especially in times of duress, and select the ones that have the most potential we have to be open-minded. That is where our attitude comes into play.

Attitude:
Michael Singer points out in The Untethered Soul that being happy is a decision we have to make. When you commit to seek the silver lining in all situations and adopt a constructive attitude you make things much easier for yourself. Granted there are events that are painful, even traumatic, and they require from us a tremendous effort to work through them for sure. Nonetheless, we are not under no obligation to set camp in negativity. We will have to process emotions and take the necessary actions.

In most cases, when we hurt we feel a need to isolate or lash out. That is the place where we get to exercise our self-control and select a response over reacting to what is thrown at us. The truth of the matter is that we have hardly any control on external circumstances but we always have options as to how we choose to respond to any given situation.

Ultimately, to realize that luck is provoked and honed is empowering. Once you wrap your mind around this idea, sincerely and whole-heartedly, you give yourself one of the most significant gifts available in life: to lead the life you want. No more excuses, just choices and decisions to improve your own life. I attended a seminar and the speaker made a great point that impacted me tremendously. He said that if you want to insult someone and their success, tell them they are lucky. Think of something you are successful with in your life: your career, your home, your marriage or anything else. Then, think about the energy, time, money, care, love you invested in achieving this success.

Marriages that have lasted decades are the product of two people who overcame incredible challenges together. Success in a career comes to the price of repeated efforts and work. Nothing comes for free. You can choose to weep about it or accept the challenge. If you are currently wondering what area would be a wise idea to invest in is personal growth. It will support you in generating success in all the other areas of your life. With regular deposits on that account you can expect compounded interest beyond your wildest dreams. Lucky you!

New Year’s Resolutions, Goals and Other Banana Peels

Stack of book and Open hardback book on blurred nature landscape backdrop against sunset sky with back light. Copy space, back to
© Roman Motizov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

New Year’s resolutions are simply the January trendy dress to goals. Whether it is a good resolution or a goal it may either fall into oblivion or we may fail to follow through. I would like to take a moment to look at some hurdles that may stand in our way to achieving that which we aim at.

New beginnings:
There is nothing wrong in following trends providing that they truly resonate with you. A number of people conceive January as the starting point of the year. It is a chance to take inventory of the past year, catch up with what was unachieved, change or confirm the direction we want to take in life.
It is a great time to affirm our intentions and share them with those who surround us. Creating some accountability increases our chances of success. January is also the opportunity to encourage one another in take more risks and design new plans. There is a value of collective effort and understanding that occurs at this time of the year. Let us take advantage of that.
Nonetheless, in case we miss that train, there are other times in the year where we can just as powerfully form our goals. As a matter of fact, each and every minute is a suitable time to make a new start, each minute has the potential to a new beginning and there really is no perfect time to set a new goal or refine an existing one.
After all, it is the present moment that truly carries the potency of success. The decisions and actions we take at each moment are the components that contribute to the success or failure of our endeavors.
Keeping this in mind and checking on a regular basis where we stand is what supports us in staying on track with achieving our goals. “Though you can’t go back and make a brand new start, my friend, you can start from now and make a brand new end.” (Anonymous) Granting these goals also the possibility of being malleable in reframing them as needed is indispensable to succeed.

Malleability:
Goals are stepping-stones to the accomplishment of a vision. The vision is the bigger picture and the goal is a stroke of the brush in the picture. It is a gear in the machine. Allowing a certain degree of malleability is necessary to success.
Being too rigid and sticking to a goal simply for the sake of achieving the goal may be detrimental to the greater purpose we care to realize. This is one of the pitfalls of being goal-oriented. When the goal becomes the purpose in itself regardless of its impact it may lead to delays, dissatisfaction or even counter-productivity. It may down right suck out the joy of a project and generate unnecessary stress.
Plus, there is something fundamentally unfulfilling in living from the achievement of a goal to the next. It contributes to the illusion that achieving the goal is key to happiness. We all heard “it’s the journey not the destination”.
Happiness is in the process and in enjoying experimenting, observing and adjusting, as needed, the parameters of the goal. Be capable of fluidity. Attributing some degree of malleability to our goals allows us to be process-oriented instead of curbing ourselves into a goal-oriented approach to life that can turn out to be stiffing and discouraging.

Realization:
Goals are stepping-stones to the realization of a larger project, a vision and or life purpose. And how do you eat an elephant? You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Goals are bites. As we edify our lives we need to break down our efforts into areas, areas into projects, projects into goals.
Goals can be like the stars in representation of constellations, they are independent from one another but once they are linked to each other they create a picture. When they are inscribed in a bigger picture they carry more power and recalling the big picture may provide a little extra motivation in darker times and keep the momentum going.

The word goal is used and abused. At a time where numerous people make resolutions and set goals they fail to make a true assessment of their passions. Also, they confuse this word and use it interchangeably with intention, purpose, design and such. They end up setting goals and making resolutions based on what they perceive to be appropriate and what they should do but it is not in touch with what they truly want. Then, they lose motivation quickly, if the motivation was there at all to begin with, and burden themselves with guilt and shame for not reaching the goal they have set or forgetting about their resolution.
A goal is just a tool that can be used efficiently or not. It is truly the go-to tool. More effort is made in designing the goal (who has not heard of SMART goals yet?) rather than contextualizing it and align it with what we want. For this tool participates in our development in the sense that we need to grow to reach them. As John Maxwell puts it in The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: “If you focus on goals, you may hit goals … If you focus on growth, you will grow and always hit your goals.” He emphasizes the necessity of developing a plan for personal growth rather than simply expecting life to deliver lessons at random. In other words it is being intentional. How about designing a few goals dedicated to your personal growth to support your achievement goals?

To Realize

 

 

Realize is the name I chose for my life coaching service company because it expresses the most significant aspects of the coaching missions in my eyes. On one hand it is to cause awareness and the other hand to effect concrete results.

As we are entering a new year I am taking inventory of my realizations. In parallel to that exercise I am considering the direction I want to take and the use I want to make of this blog. I have clearly neglected the exercise of writing articles over the last past year. My heart was not into it for the simple reason that I saw it only as a means to an end. Let me share with you some components of that process. You may relate, find some use to reading my words and gain some awareness regarding an analog situation in your own life.

Running a business is not solely about providing your services or products. There is all the administrative and fiscal dimension of it. You also have to inform your fellow human beings that you exist, that you do what you do and why they want what you have. They call it marketing I was told. Long story short, the blog was a necessary exercise of producing content to bring traffic to the website in order to generate leads. Notice how this last sentence exudes enthusiasm. Just to be clear, it does not. This is where I was coming from. Today, I view “the blog” in a different light. I realized what thoughts I had that kept me in a place of reluctance and stagnation. I also realized certain shifts and gained different perspectives on blogging over the last year.

I was encountering obstacles both regarding form and content. I mentally assaulted myself with plethora of objections that I allowed to slow me down to the point of inertia. I compiled my top five thoughts that echoed my doubts and fears and associated them with my newer perspectives.

Regarding the form:

“I am not a writer”. Granted I have not trained myself in forging a style nor do I have literary talents. The objective of this blog is not to write a novel but to communicate ideas. It is a communication exercise. I am willing to do my best to seek efficiency in articulating these ideas. Moreover, I think it is beneficial on every level to train one’s communication skills in whatever form.

“English is not my first language”. I was concerned to produce clunky sentences that would seem weird to an English reader but then again I realized that it is a great place for me to improve my English. Writing is a little more demanding than speaking therefore it provides me with a little extra challenge that in turn will benefit me.

“It will not be perfect”. Here is an opportunity to exercise letting go of perfection. Perfectionism in my observation leads more often than not to crippling individuals into inaction rather than support them in achieving excellence. I can do my best with the tools and knowledge I have and seek improvement any chance I get. I can strive for excellence rather than waste my time and energy with the mirage of perfection. Doing my best requires to set certain criteria and standards, and then respect those the best I can.

Concerning the content:

“What am I going to talk about? I have nothing new nor earth-shattering to say!” I realized there was hardly any idea that is truly new under the sun and that novelty was not the primary objective. A better use for me of this platform of expression is to share the tools, concepts and insights that have impacted positively my quality of life and participated in my own development. I can also answer the recurring questions and misconceptions I come across regarding coaching.

“What if they criticize me?” It is never pleasant to be made fun of or to be attacked. I came across a comment that said: “If you walk on water, haters will say that it is because you can’t swim.” I have made my peace with the fact that unless this blog is perfect it will receive a certain amount of criticism and we have established that perfection is not an option. I decided to get over myself already! I will do my best to use constructive criticism to advance and refine the quality of my work and where nonproductive comments are made to avoid taking it personally.

Needless to say that there were many other objections that I have faced but these five ones were the most tenacious. Like most thoughts, once they are identified they can be reasonably counteracted or eliminated. They may lead also to realizing bigger or deeper issues. In this case, I have assessed for myself that there is value in many ways in writing this blog. I see how writing connects with my purpose and my passion. I thrive on sharing the good stuff. I love to share what gives me joy and participates in accessing peace of mind. I am now clearer on what the benefits of this blog are for me and for others.

It is also a display of what coaching is about: unearthing, bringing to one’s conscious and attention what is playing in the background. Putting “it” into words rather than dealing with an obscure discomfort that is hidden in the darkness and the recesses of the mind where lurks the self-sabotaging thoughts. All that we accomplish requires realizing our perceived limitations, realizing breakthroughs and take action wherever possible to achieve that which participates in our betterment and development. My aspiration is to effectively share my processes, experience and tools that I have gathered to contribute to your realizations.

 

FALL IN LOVE with your life

FALL in love with your life. Whether some areas of your life bring you discontent or you are not sure how things could get any better, one way to move forward is to find joy and enthusiasm for the present moment. To discover and to build resources and tools that will allow you to put a spring in your step, design a meaningful life.

Contact us to find out about our offers and more specifically our 3 months package. Take advantage of your complimentary discovery session and find out how coaching can support you in realizing yourself.

Call Florence at 954 826 9172 or send an email at florence@realizeunlimited.com .

Fall colors
Fall colors

Visions

Visions
What is 2015 going to be about for you?

Visions

A new year is beginning with its load of good resolutions. Most of which will be abandoned before the end of the month. To avoid that it is time to affirm one’s vision. It is only natural to wish for improvement from one year to the next and we all are motivated at first to loose this extra weight or quit our nasty habits. The worst part is that we give ourselves such a hard time when we fail to keep to our promises. So, not only did we not achieve our goals, we also end up more miserable then when we started.

There are two main reasons why these good resolutions do not stick. Firstly, we may not be as committed to the end result as much as we would like to. Secondly, we may fail to incorporate our goals into the bigger picture. In both cases the risk of failure is higher due to a lack of clarity on one’s vision or to a lack of authentic attachment to one’s vision.

To begin with, let me clarify what I mean by vision. A vision is a mental picture of how we see our future life. It is composed of elements that we have at heart to be and accomplish. A vision is a translation of our core values and deepest desires. It is the projection of our inner life to the outside world. It is the expression of our inner voice.

The more accurate and complete a vision is and the more likely we are to reach our goals. Jerrold Mundis points out that it is obvious that it is more difficult to get what we want if we are not clear about what it is in the first place. Let us say that I am starting to look for a new car. The more precise my description is the better chances I have to find my ideal car. It may seem counter intuitive at first. One would think that by keeping an open mind the chances of being happy are bigger. I say that if I have a clear idea of what I want I do not waste my time on checking out less satisfactory options. I save my energy by being specific and selective to begin with.

The place to start is by defining what it is that we want. It happens to be the most difficult phase for a number of us. Once again, we may let our desires be contaminated by our friends’ opinions or society’s standards. Being crystal clear and honest with ourselves is not that easy. We all are, to some degree, influenced by our surroundings. All this to say that creating an authentic vision of our life can be a little more challenging that what one may expect and a lot of times we fail to achieve our goals simply because our heart is just not really into it. We may unintentionally embrace others expectations for us rather than give ourselves permission to follow our own desires.

There are more than one way to build ones vision. Among the numerous techniques and methods, something as simple as talking and sharing our thoughts with someone else may be most effective. Having to articulate our thoughts and to hear oneself put it in words begins to give these mental constructions some validation and vividness. Journaling also helps to clarify our priorities and sort out what feels important from the more trivial. Vision boards provide us with a recurring reminder of our plans and desires. It is not a mere artistic project to pursue a rainy Sunday afternoon. By compiling pictures and phrases that really speak to us, inspire us and bring us joy we create new pathways in our brains and reinforce our commitments. We become more prone to take action when we have this constant reminder of what we want to achieve.

It is key to maintain a certain level of clarity on what we want. It may evolve and change with time but we need to set our inner compass in a certain direction and set a process into motion. Sadly, we all know how easy it is to let ourselves get swamped in our daily routines and to just “get by”. That is why holding up our vision for ourselves is critical in order reach the next level in our lives. It conveys a sense of purpose and when chasing our goals becomes a game it lightens up our everyday life.

For this reason, the goal of loosing our extra pounds has more chances to be reached when it is strongly anchored into a broader vision of a healthy life that allows us to enjoy and enhance the quality of our existence. It helps to overcome cravings or to let go more easily of the little slips we may have. By inscribing it in the big picture of the person we want to be and the happiness and freedom we gain by achieving this or that objective then the obstacles may become less discouraging or the challenges less overwhelming. The vision, when it is strong and well aligned with our authentic self will carry us through any hardship and add texture to our daily life.

To thine own self be true

Stay true to who you are

 

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare

 

This is the whole point of coaching; accessing this deep part of us and being in alignment with our heart’s desire. It is often difficult to hear our inner voice. We are often deafened by other people’s opinions or what we perceive to be our obligations. The non-stop litany of “woulda”, “coulda”, shoulda” simply numbs our listening skills.

 

There are also these roles we embrace: provider, rescuer, parent, teacher, big sister, boss, doctor, rebel… You name it! We then tend to behave in certain ways to remain congruent with these roles. A parent ought to do this this way. Being the boss requires to do that that way. We adapt consciously or not to these roles.

 

Also, we may want to please or appear a certain way. We want to cover up what we believe to be terrible flaws. We think: “if they knew this about me they surely would reject me”. There is what is fashionable or not, peer pressure, society’s approval, culture, credence, belief system, family structure.

 

Let us not forget all the labels that we get stuck with and that we apply to others. It is human nature to categorize, compartmentalize and sort out. She is good in sports, he is brilliant, they are lazy, fun, driven, talented, obnoxious… The list is endless. We are constantly in a process of assessing and describing. At times we give more credit to others opinion over our own and we simply adopt the labels or we work very hard at contradicting them.

 

The debate of culture over nature is an ageless one. It is difficult to say how much we are the product of our environment and how much is our fundamental personality. We are to some extent the crucible of circumstances and events. We get to be influenced and inspired by other human beings.

 

Some of us got lost when our inner voice got stifled. We censured ourselves to the point we no longer were capable to distinguish clearly what we really wanted. It is never to late to recover our voice. It is sometimes difficult in the sense that people around us are now used to seeing us in a certain way and they do not appreciate to see their boat being rocked. Other times there may be great surprises to find support where it was not expected.

 

One thing is for sure; there is no peace in playing a part. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep up appearances and to act rather than be. Moreover, there is no possibility for true connection with others. Brené Brown, among others, claims that vulnerability is the gateway to authentic connection and communication. Clearly, if the mask is on and the guard is up where is the exchange? It is only two people paying parts and putting on a show. What can come out of this?

On the other hand, when we dare to express ourselves and show our true colors what is the worse that can happen? Some will not like us? We may not fit in a certain place? Then should we be around these people or in that environment in the first place? I am not saying that a little compromise once in a while is not necessary. Once again it is as usual all a matter of balance. A certain adaptability is indispensable because we get to challenge ourselves, evolve and grow from certain experiences but only to a certain extent. It is for each one of us to set the limit of where we are in integrity with ourselves.

 

At this time of the year where we get to be around our family members it may be a little challenging to stay true to who we are. We can be thrown back into out old roles, confronted to the old labels that we worked hard to overcome. One minute at a time! It is also interesting to turn around the table and observe the assumptions we are making about these special people who have been there since childhood and for better or for worse. What filters are we applying to them? Cleaning up our own lenses is complex process because it challenges some of our oldest and most deeply rooted beliefs and certitudes.

 

My wish for all of us is that we may access this part of ourselves from which we get to be our true expression. And from this place I wish you to enjoy thoroughly deep and rich connections with your loved ones and share with them this most exciting adventure that is life.

 

 

From Gratitude to Appreciation

 

Appreciating the beauty of a sunset
Appreciating the beauty of a sunset

 

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, millions of people will be invited to observe and bring attention to what they are grateful for in their lives. What a beautiful exercise. Gratitude is an amazingly powerful tool. It allows us to focus our attention on what brings joy in our lives. No matter where we are on our path we are constantly facing challenges. Gratitude helps us to remember that there is always something beautiful, good or positive to support us.

 

When we choose to see the positive in a given situation we are then more likely to see the positive in general. For instance, when someone you know just bought a new car, chances are that for a certain period of time you will be noticing the cars of the same make. In this respect, gratitude enables us to bring attention to positivity and to be more likely to notice it.

 

There is a stage beyond gratitude that is appreciation. Gratitude and appreciation are often used interchangeably. For the longest time I did not pay attention to the difference between these two words and now that I do I must admit that I was missing something.

 

Since easy does it, here are the definitions of these two words given by Wikipedia:

“Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

“Appreciation: The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. A full understanding of a situation.”

 

The way I read this is that there is an intellectual quality in gratitude. I think of something someone did for me or how a situation turned out favorably and I am thankful for it. There is a mental process of recognizing a cause and effect process. Moreover, that process anchors us into the “negative” that has been avoided. I am grateful for you sharing your food with me or I would have gone hungry. Therefor, there is still an attachment to the experience that has caused me suffering or that may have caused me difficulties.

 

I find it interesting how this definition brings forward that gratitude is readiness to show appreciation. For that matter it is not only readiness to showing appreciation it is also experiencing appreciation. Can I appreciate someone’s kindness towards me if I cannot acknowledge their part and am grateful for how they showed up in my life? I see gratitude as the access to appreciation.

 

There is something profoundly delicious in appreciation. It is beyond a mental process. It is a state of being. When I am appreciating something or someone I am experiencing happiness and a true sense of bliss. It is like being in love. When I am in a state of appreciation I am in love with life.

 

Just pause for a minute and play with these two words. Do you not experience them differently? Do you feel a difference between hearing someone saying to you “I am grateful for your company” and “I appreciate your company”?

 

Furthermore, when you are in a state of appreciation there is no longer any attachment to that which caused pain or suffering. When I appreciate the warm sun I am no longer in the experience of the cold rainy day of the past week. I get to be fully present to the enjoyment that light and the warmth of the sun has to offer me in that moment.

 

Appreciation anchors us in the present and in a state of well being. Just as gratitude has the power to shift our attention to more positivity, appreciation has the key to experiencing more positivity, to calm, sooth and help us detach from what may cause us worry or pain.

 

I appreciate your making the time to read these words and I wish you to find appreciation in what you are experiencing and for who you are on a daily basis.

 

Fear

Fears

 

I was struggling to find an idea for this month. Then I realized that one of the highlights of October is the celebration of Halloween. What is one of the central themes of Halloween? The answer I came up with is Fear. As kids we all love the excitation that fear brings along. We enjoy the occasional ghost story, the scary movie and the thrill of the roller coaster. Some of us stay hooked on adrenaline seeking speed, jumping off planes and taking risks in general. Scaring oneself is something we grow out of or not.

 

Regardless of how daredevil one may seem we all have deep ingrained fears that we need to overcome in order to live life to the fullest. For example, one may be perfectly comfortable with the rush that comes as a consequence of racing a car full speed and yet have a strong fear of commitment. We tend to measure bravery and courage through outstanding accomplishments that put us in danger or require strength and certain skills. For sure there is an element of courage in embarking on certain adventures but courageous does not mean fearless. Courage is to do something in the face of the fear that we are experiencing.

 

Fear can be obvious such as a fear of heights or spiders. We have a choice whether or not we want to conquer these fears. There is also a wide range of fears that are far subtler, embedded in our subconscious and that end up running our lives. The first step is to become aware of those fears. Some of them stem from our core beliefs. They are so inherent to our experience of life that they are invisible. Before we know it we make a whole set of decisions primarily based on our fears. It can be anything from a fear of looking stupid, making a wrong decision, failing, getting stuck, being betrayed and the list is endless.

 

We all react differently in the face of fear. Some get mildly challenged, others seriously slowed down in their progression and sadly some of us become utterly paralyzed. Our minds are powerful and can play some serious tricks on us. We become skilled at proving ourselves right by focusing on all that serves as evidence. An acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Before we know it we whip up a very convincing story that our original statement is the Truth and we nurture it with more and more evidence: X cannot be trusted, snakes/cars/teddy bears are dangerous, Xs are all liars/crooks/dishonest and etc.

 

Fear gets to us on every level. It has its toll on our bodies. More than a study has demonstrated the immense impact of stress on our health. It cripples our mind as well. It is impossible to think straight when all we rehash is the negative fear-based self-talk we run on most of the day. It also harms us spiritually. We shut ourselves to the experience of life by trying to protect ourselves from physical and emotional pain.

 

Fear is not a harmless enemy. It is powerful and sneaky. It is the source of the blocks we encounter in our lives. We easily blame others and circumstances for not being exactly where we want to be in life but in truth we often are the reason why we are not as fulfilled as we could be. As scary as it is, when we decide to be 100% responsible for the life we have we experience empowerment. And in order to change our lives we need to become aware of what is stopping us. That alone requires an honest and demanding self-examination. Then we get a choice to stay where we are or to take on the challenges to transform our lives.

 

No matter what choices we make it is fundamental to confront our deepest fears. Where there is fear there is no place for growth or fulfillment. We cut ourselves from the beauty of life and we condemn ourselves to an existence of suffering where we feel powerless and victimized. Fear is the antithesis of love. Fear is a tough enemy and it possible to surmount it.

 

One of the numerous pay offs of tracking our fears is that on the other side of those we often find our true desires. When we overcome our fears we become more of who we are in essence. And as we reconnect with those desires we access a life where we live by our passions and from our hearts. Also by grounding ourselves in what makes our hearts sing we become stronger to face our remaining fears. We step out of a vicious circle where are fears run the show and constrict our lives to a place where we follow our passion and expand to who we want to be and align with our life purpose. Then we become unstoppable. It is a process that requires work and it is worth it.

The Edge

Putting your world on the edge: finding the delicate balance between uneventful comfort and worthwhile risk.
Putting your world on the edge: finding the delicate balance between uneventful comfort and worthwhile risk.

 

There are more than one meaning that can come to one’s mind when we refer to “the edge”. Here, what I will be referring to is that zone in our lives that requires for us to stretch. When we get to stretch and challenge ourselves we then have an opportunity to grow. If you are curious about what it is, the edge is made crystal clear in Baron Baptiste’s book “Journey into Power” and how it applies to the practice of Yoga. Let us explore what it looks like in a broader context.

 

You probably heard the expression “comfort zone” already several times in your life. You are also probably aware of what that comfort zone is for you, or maybe not. As much as this concept sounds appealing if you think about it for a minute you can see that it has also its limitations. The comfort zone is a restful and peaceful place where undoubtedly it is good to spend some time to recharge our batteries. We cannot be all about slaying dragons and conquering the world 24/7.

 

However, we have a tendency to get restless. Not everyone dreams of experiencing the daily humdrum. Life feels meaningless to many of us when there are no challenges, no projects or opportunities. We all come to dream laying in the sun on a white sand beach or take a short nap on the couch. Especially when we are caught in a frenetic life of numerous activities. Yet, only a few people would find it truly satisfactory to build a whole life based on fare niente.

 

Also, the more time we spend in the so-called comfort zone and the more it tends to shrink. The less we challenge ourselves to expand outside of what we know well and the more our lives become constricted and uncomfortably small. It only creates a false sense of security and lulls us in a form of sleepiness where we fade and disappear. Our self-esteem dissipates and our fears grow. This is because we confuse peace with “uneventful”. We believe that if we retreat in quiet lives we will enjoy inner peace when inner peace is a state that needs to be cultivated and where we can remain in the face of most of the events that occur in our lives. The way to cultivate that inner peace is by finding our own edge and spending some time in it.

 

What is this edge you may ask. Well, it is like in yoga or any physical activity for that matter. There is a place where you are comfortable and the move or pose feels effortless. If you stay there you will never progress. However, you do not want to push yourself TOO hard either. If you never run it may not be wise to go out and run a marathon. Such an extreme choice would have no benefit. You would injure yourself and most probably discourage any future attempts to go for a run. So, what would be the point? On the other hand, by challenging yourself to get out of the house for a walk, then run and progressively increase the intensity of your efforts following a program that takes in consideration your strengths and weaknesses you will be on your way to build a practice that conveys to you a sense of accomplishment and that participates in keeping you in shape.

 

Personally I do not run. I love yoga. It teaches me to listen to my body and where are its limits at a given moment. In every posture I look for that edge where I push myself just enough to progress, gain flexibility or/and endurance and at the same time I have to accept that I may not do as well as the day before or that I cannot do the full version of the pose yet and avoid hurting myself.

 

Finding the edge definitely applies to life in general. We are meant to express ourselves, grow and evolve. It is by getting to know ourselves and challenge what we think our limits are that we grow stronger. We become more confident that we can not only manage our lives but also create the existence that is most meaningful to us. It comes back to the living a life by design rather than a life by default.

 

As you have understood by now, the edge is where you challenge yourself without harming yourself. You take some form of calculated risk, you dare to be creative and express something personal. Whether you seek new clients for your business or suggest a new activity to the members of your family it will move some energy. It can be also the opportunity to seek answers from deep within and confront unresolved matters. There are many ways of stepping out of the comfort the zone and finding the edge. The only requirements are a willingness to grow and acknowledge the limits. If you find a way of enjoying the process you will be living an extraordinary life.

Inspiration

It was pointed out to me the other day that there is a major difference between being motivated and being inspired. Motivation is an intellectual process. I am motivated to do something because I can see the sense in doing it, it is logical and I acknowledge the necessity of taking this or that course of action. What about inspiration? Is it not solely for artists? I can imagine the poet begging the muses for inspiration for instance.

Now that I come to think about it I have experienced inspiration in endeavors that were not necessarily artistic. I can recall several instances when I have been inspired. I guess inspiration speaks to the heart or maybe even soul when motivation speaks to the mind. I find that inspiration is somehow more powerful and sustainable. I can talk myself out of my motivation when it is impossible to take away inspiration. Inspiration may happen to be overshadowed by other strong experiences but it resurfaces as soon as it is given a chance to do so.

The reason why I am spending a little bit of time on the theme of inspiration is that it is only recently that I came to see it as yet another tool to access a more meaningful and thrilling life. I have for many years been an adept of “to do” lists. Not that I particularly like them but they happen to be most useful to me. Lately, I have come to see how weaving inspiration into my daily life has made a world of a difference. It is a most powerful driving force and activities that appeared dull or even irritating get to be ticked off my list almost effortlessly when I am inspired.

From now on I make a conscious effort to cultivate my inspiration and I devote a portion of my time to occupations that I find inspiring. It can be reading, listening to music, viewing Ted Talks or meditating. Also, I came to see that it comes far more easily when I am relaxed and my mind is opened. Cultivating a sense of awe is key to succeed in developing some level of sensitivity and receptivity.

It is my hope that these few words have inspired you to seek what speaks to you on a deeper level. So, what inspires you? Let us end with this quote by Joseph Campbell: “Just as anyone who listens to the muse will hear, you can write out of your own intention or out of inspiration. There is such a thing. It comes up and talks. And those who have heard deeply the rhythms and hymns of the gods, can recite those hymns in such a way that the gods will be attracted.” (The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work)

What Inspires You?

Enjoy the ride being process-oriented

The Journey

As I was reading “Journey into Power” by Baron Baptiste I came across a concept that blew my mind: “shifting from being goal-oriented to being process-oriented”. I could not say how many times I have heard over the last past years “it is not the destination but the journey that really matters”. I did understand the idea but it remained just that to me, an idea, a concept, something hypothetical.

In coaching, we provide our clients with a safe space to express themselves, brainstorm and put their ideas together. As we co-create this relationship we bridge the gap between where the clients are in the present and where they want to be. To do so we identify goals, assess what are the resources and obstacles at hand, build tools along the way, strategize and design actions. All this contributes in moving the individual forward. There is of course a great sense of victory in achieving one’s goal. It is also fundamental to acknowledge and celebrate the milestones. Sometimes, in the process of achieving the goal, we evolve and may become more ambitious or circumstances change and for whatever reason the goal needs to be adjusted or modified.

There is a distinction between having a goal and being goal-oriented. When we stay focused solely on the goal we may loose track of other aspects of our lives that may be meaningful to us and compromise “too much”. We then derive satisfaction only as we achieve this goal and may enter a “tunnel vision” mode. To me, that is what I call being “goal-oriented”. Having a goal on the other is like establishing a vanishing point that offers a direction to set the compass on. It allows a little more flexibility in the sense where as we reach the intermediate milestones we can assess if the goal is still desirable as it is or at all. Like I said earlier, we are in constant evolution and it is only natural that our goals evolve with us.

I believe that in addition to supporting my clients in developing and reaching their goals it is essential for them to enjoy the process. It is a process! This process may include rediscovering oneself, making changes, gaining awareness about what they tolerate, what are their needs and their values, redefine their boundaries and raise their standards, learn to have fun and relax, step out of their comfort zone or build their self-confidence. No matter what the process implies it has to be pleasurable on some level and feel good.

Any of the actions listed above require effort and dedication and rather than coming from a place of brutal self imposed will it all flows so much better when it comes from a place of authentic growth that is to say in alignment with the true-self and a sense of purpose. It is easier to follow through with an authentic commitment of being healthy finding an physical activity we enjoy rather than forcing ourselves to go run at 5am when you hate to run and getting up early just because you read somewhere that it is the thing to do. In one case you will find enjoyment, stick to it and be inspired to implement other healthy habits to complement and support your choice and in the other case you will torture yourself until you drop it all and beat yourself up for not keeping your commitment of running 3 times a week at 5am in the slush when it is still dark and cold. I am caricaturing but you get the idea.

In other words, being process-oriented is to implement habits, tools and resources that contribute in generating joy, energy and enthusiasm on a daily basis for us to attain our goals in the best possible manner. This way we get to truly relish every minute of our lives instead of the quick fleeting moment where we have reached “the” goal that we had set especially if it is no longer what we truly desire or that the price for it was too high to pay. A goal, destination, finishing line needs to be offering an orientation and it is all the more pleasant to remain free to wander on the way there and enjoy the ride for the only true final destination in this life is death and one of the things life is about is our chance to grow and contribute. Most importantly, as we shift from a goal-oriented life to a process-oriented one we shift from a life of “doing” to a life of “being”.

Standards and Boundaries

We often struggle to find balance between our standards and our boundaries. As a result from this struggle we feel frustrated, misunderstood or disrespected. Standards and boundaries are essential to achieve a happy and healthy relationship with others and also with the self. The first step is to discover and assess what they are.

 

We define our own standards and boundaries. They are unique to each and every one of us. Of course we can endorse or take on societal and collective ones but we want to make sure that we do so authentically and consciously. I will choose to embrace a given standard because it aligns with my values and I set this boundary because this is where it is comfortable for me to do so. Before I identify what they are for me I need to understand what defines them.

 

Thomas Leonard summarized Standards and Boundaries in a way that I found most eloquent. A standard is a “Yes” and a Boundary is a “No”. He says: “Boundaries are what you have determined that other people or environments cannot do TO you. So, Boundaries are basically a No! “No, you cannot be rude to me.” “No, you cannot ignore me.” “No, you cannot dump that task on me. Standards, however, are the behavior/excellence that you naturally hold yourself to. So, standards are basically a Yes! “Yes, I treat others well.” “Yes, I am honest.” “Yes, I am someone who learns quickly.” “Yes, I do not tolerate much.”

 

It is hard work to set healthy boundaries that truly serve us without becoming too rigid or letting them be too loose and also it takes time and patience to set them especially around those who have know us for a long time for they may welcome this process more or less easily. A lot of us were raised to serve, obey, be nice and we were taught that saying no is not polite. It can also be seen as a sign of weakness because if I am strong I should just bite the bullet until things get better. Well, I do not know for you but I am not a mind reader and I do not expect others to guess what my thoughts are. Therefore, my primary responsibility is to express what is acceptable or not for me. I can make compromises when the situation requires it and that is what boundaries are about. They can be physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual or sexual. It is crucial that I understand where they are for me so that I can effectively teach others how to treat me and believe me it is a work in progress.

 

Standards are a bit of a different beast. As I define who I am I assert and raise my standards when I am ready to do so. Standards are where we humans have been given the opportunity to become great, to develop into our highest selves. They are how we choose to behave and our lives get better as we raise them. It is important to invest efforts and challenge ourselves in raising standards that truly reflect who we are otherwise it only becomes another “should” to the already long list we may have. It is interesting to match our standards with our needs. As we do so, our needs that tend to drive us will disappear and be replaced by peace of mind and a strong sense of self. If you choose to live by your standards and raise them on a regular basis you become a more authentic you.

 

Like any work that we do on ourselves it may appear tedious at first but sooner rather than later we acquire new automatisms. This type of work is essential to feel good in one’s own skin. We no longer get confused by trying to become who we imagine others want us to be. We affirm what is important and meaningful to us. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and I believe that living within my highest standards is the way to participate in being that change.

Transformation or the Butterfly Analogy

For some odd reason, under some form or another, butterflies have been recurring for me this month. Although I am not an entomologist I can never the less appreciate their obvious beauty, their grace, lightness and above all they symbolism; they transform from a crawling caterpillar state to the free flying butterfly.

 

It is interesting to note that as the butterfly is breaking out of its cocoon it is strengthening its wings. If it were not for this struggle to come out of its protective envelope its wings would be too weak. It is this process of breaking free that then allows it to fly whether it is for a day or to cover thousands of miles.

 

This brought me to think about what transformation means to me. I came across the word transformation in many seminars and books. Transformation to me means transitioning from one state to another. So when I am offered “transformation” I come to wonder what that really implies and what is the promise that is made.

 

I guess that there may be as many answers as there are individuals. We do not share the same goals nor the same needs therefor I will merely express my thoughts on what I understand to be “transformation”. In my humble opinion “to be transformed” would mean living in a state of joy as well as freed from old and useless beliefs.

 

To achieve such a state of joy it requires from me to achieve a certain level of integrity. I need to be in good health and my mind needs to be clear. I want to live in alignment with my standards and my core values, which I need to discover and assess. Attaining and remaining at a high level of awareness and take the necessary actions to be highly functioning so that I can reach my goals and create the life I have designed is the work of pushing the edges of the cocoon apart.

 

Once this work is advanced enough it needs to be maintained and perfected on a daily basis. I am clear though that there is a plateau where life is simply more gratifying and delightful. That is when we are out of the cocoon “living by design and not by default”. This when I understand that I cannot change the past and I am not yet in the future. What I have is “Now” and this is the place where I enjoy being where “I am”.
papillon-rouge

Support system

 

 

With a little help from my friends

 

 

No man is an island. Apart from a few individuals who cultivate solitude at its highest-level most of us need and want to create a network. There is so much growth and enjoyment to have from connecting with other people. Developing a real support system is crucial to avoid staying stuck in ruts and to move beyond small and big breakdowns. Denying oneself that resource is only another form of self-deprivation.

 

But honestly, out of your X number of friends on Facebook and other social media, how many do you know really well? Can you count on? And do you truly appreciate? I am not going to get into the whole “Internet is drawing us apart as we cultivate only superficial relationships” story. I just know that it is how I choose to use it that is making it into a remarkable communication tool or a hiding place.

 

I understand that being self-sufficient is only a myth. Unless I can integrate several lifetimes of savoir-faire and knowledge there is no way on earth I can repair my car, practice surgery on myself, have the knowledge of a lawyer, and grow and hunt for my food. Plus, I prefer to focus on things I enjoy doing than learn whole sets of skills in domains that do not provide me with any pleasure.

 

There is such great value in having the possibility to pick up the phone to talk or make plans with someone whether it is just to catch up on the latest events, vent the troublesome thoughts or share a good laugh. I tend to forget that in the past when things became difficult. I probably went through both extremes: from always having a plan of some sort to isolating completely. As in every other area of my life, I am finding some balance between social time and “me” time.

 

When I spring from one activity to another it is just a way for me to avoid dealing with certain issues. I lose track of time or I enter into the world of people pleasing, turning a deaf ear to my own needs. Being in the “over activity” mode just brings me to confusion and exhaustion. On the other hand, when I let myself isolate I stay stuck in negative thoughts so I have learned to pick up the phone.

 

It used to be very hard for me to accept, or even to admit, that I needed help. I used to think it a sign of weakness. I would feel too vulnerable. And what if this person said “no,” how humiliating! I finally saw that most of it was taking place in my head and in my head only. I am stronger thanks to my network of friends which makes me a happier and more effective human being.

 

It is also true in the context of the workplace where delegating, assessing people’s strong suits and weaknesses and sharing the effort are essential in order to reach goals. When a team enters state of symbiosis, not only the work atmosphere is more pleasant but also it has a positive impact on productivity.

 

Let me just add that a support system is not limited to friends and family. Depending on the nature of the issue we are facing it is easier to share it with certain people rather than others. There are support groups to join whether you are in a grieving process, working through painful relationships, struggling with addictions or to develop a professional network. Seeking help with a therapist or moving forward with overwhelming projects with a coach also participates in building a strong support system. When confronted to particularly challenging chapters of my life I found that a combination of most of the above has been essential.

 

It may take some time to find the most adapted means to bring support in one’s life. We are all different and our needs vary depending on the period of life we are going through. One thing is for sure though is that we all grow from connection. I am so happy when I get to lend a hand to others and participate in them finding what are resources to their wellbeing. Why deny that to the people around me? Nothing feels better than enjoying reciprocity and true fellowship. Today, I feel supported, appreciated and loved. It is in the spirit of the gratitude that I am experiencing that I am putting these words out there. This past year has been so rich in so many ways and the most beautiful gift is that I have a deep sense of belonging just as I am. Thank you to each and every one of you who have been a part of my life. Thank you for being teachers, inspirations, models, hope, fun and love.

Creating a vacuum

Creating a vacuum

March evokes to me spring and spring, among other things, evokes spring-cleaning and that is a great opportunity to create a vacuum. Imagine a clutter-free life, the peace and the freedom it may bring. I am always amazed at how much I can accumulate and that even on a short period of time. Over the last decade, I moved around a lot for personal and professional reasons. Sometimes I would stay in place only for a few months and yet when time came to pack up and leave I would need to throw or give away an incredible amount of objects.

There are the things that I was given and did not really know what to do with. The things that I keep because I tell myself that it may be useful someday, except that “someday” never really comes but the “thing” continues to haunt my closet. There is also the thing that I bought but that did not really work out the way I wanted to and it joins forces with the thing that could be useful someday. I get caught between “I am going to get this and it will make my life so much better” and “I cannot get rid of it that would be such a waste”. As a result, my space gets all cluttered.

How Clutter can weigh us down?
How Clutter can weigh us down?

Therefore, to me, spring-cleaning is not only about dusting, vacuum cleaning and washing all the little corners that I do not bother with on a regular basis, it is also about sorting out and reorganizing. When I am done I feel freer and so much lighter. Things that I need are easier to find. It makes me more efficient. I believe there is also a mental dimension into this process. As I clear up the physical space around me I also clear up my mental space. And as much I am not fond of moving because that means a lot of adapting to a new environment and so on and so forth but it is also a chance to get a fresh start with the “things” that were valuable enough that I selected them to come with me.

The funny thing is that when I really apply myself to this cleansing exercise, newer and better things come along. A while back a friend of mine said to me: “if your hands are full you need to put something down so that you can pick up something else”. Since I cannot push the walls nor do I function well when stuff is all over the place and I do not want to pay for extra storage the only alternative is to sort out my belongings on a fairly regular basis or at least as needed. I am also far more selective in my shopping and I got better at saying no to people, which helped a lot. I am pretty sure I am not the only one to deal with such issues. I read that more or less 60 % of the content of storage units end up on flea markets or at good will because people just forget about them or stop paying for their storage.

Although it is still a process for me I can honestly say that I have made some progress. Then I saw that there were other forms of clutter in my life. As much as I can clutter space I can also clutter time with an endless list of meaningless details. When I was between two jobs I noticed that after a week of not working I was so busy that I wondered how I managed before to study or work. My days just filled up incredibly fast. The same occurred on vacation. I start off the week thinking that I have plenty of time to relax and do all the other things I did not get to and before I know it I cannot find an hour to have coffee with a friend.

Clutter comes under all shapes and sizes.
Clutter comes under all shapes and sizes.

There too I had to create a vacuum. It was somewhat scary. In a way, if I stopped running around my thoughts would catch up with me and then what would happen? I could get bored. I could feel lonely. So, at least if I am worn out I am too tired to think but it only works for some time. Actually, it could last for a long time it is just that it did not feel quite fulfilling. I believed there could be more to life than this constant running around and I found out that there is. This also is a work in progress for me. I am learning to find balance between chores, work, self-care and fun.

Last month I talked about self-care. In my coaching classes I was given an assignment: Implement 10 daily habits. It was an interesting exercise. I got to see that I could really make time if I chose to and that when I implemented these habits into my routine it made my life more enjoyable and I felt I had more energy. Over time I modified this exercise. I now have 25 habits on a grid and my goal is to achieve at least ten of them but this way it brings some variety and I can be more flexible with my schedule and it leaves me some space to deal with unexpected events.

One thing after another.
One thing after another.

For me, the cue is when I start to feel constricted, asphyxiated or overwhelmed. I make the time to take a good look at how I can create a temporal or spatial vacuum. I can promise that it always came through for me. The result is that it makes my life more enjoyable and richer with the activities, objects and people I really want around me.

Self-care

Self-care

This month I would like to share about the importance of “self-care”. You may also find interesting information on this subject reading articles on “positive selfishness” or “selfhood”. Why this topic? One of the main events in the calendar for this month of February is Valentine’s Day. Of course it is a beautiful thing to celebrate love and show a little additional attention to those who make our life special. I am taking the risk of saying something that is awfully commonplace yet little observed: we do not take care enough of ourselves. We forget or deny ourselves and turn a deaf ear to a lot of our most fundamental needs. So, in parallel to honoring our loved ones let me also make a reminder of the importance of treating ourselves well on a daily basis.

Self Reflection

Undeniably there are periods of time when we want to make a special effort to reach a specific goal. It takes time and awareness to achieve balance between the multitude of activities we want or feel we have to accomplish. Yet, even when things are crystal clear, that we have time at hand, that we know what we want, have the means to do it and how to get it we postpone or cancel a lot of possibilities to enhance our lives.

Self development

My guess is that part of the problem is that a lot of us have a negative view of self-care and associate it with self-centeredness or selfishness. I worked for several years as a massage therapist and I cannot count the number of times when I had anxious moms feeling guilty to use the gift certificate they were offered on Mother’s Day because it meant that there were a ton of other things they could be doing at that moment and it felt truly uncomfortable for them to take a break and enjoy an hour for themselves.

Love Yourself

It took me a lot of time and it is still a fierce battle with myself to allow my little person to rest when I am tired, take a break to eat when I am hungry, get in bed when I am sick or play when I still have items on my to-do list. I observe once again that I am far from being the only one. Yet, I am clear that the days when I make time to take care of my physical and emotional well being I am far more efficient, I am more focused, more energetic and I enjoy myself a great deal more. Do you think that having experienced that on a regular basis it is now an automatism? Certainly not is the answer! Why? There is always something important or urgent to do! I do not feel in the mood. I am too tired etc.

Self

There is no such bargaining in other areas of my life. If I do not put gas in my car, if I forget to change the oil or constantly delay any of the regular maintenance the next sure thing is that it will breakdown. And just like a car nothing is maintenance-free. To be efficient I need maintenance. How can I truly be efficient, happy and have healthy relationships with others if I am hungry, exhausted, depleted, and lacking sleep, physically in pain, overwhelmed and/or at the end of my rope? Obviously, I cannot. And as Richard Moss said “The distance from another is the distance from ourselves”.

Sense of Self

It is as simple as that. Self-care is no more or no less than maintenance. It is fundamental to any sustainable efficiency and meaningful relationships with others. ”Charity begins home,” they say. And I work on a daily basis remembering and applying this to my life. Using others as an excuse is so easy. Then we delve into many other areas such as “people pleasing”, chronic incapacity to say “no”, wanting to be nice, helping out others instead of taking on our own personal business and the rest of the list is long. It is a long process to become aware of such behaviors since most of them are so deeply rooted in our everyday lives. It takes time, acceptance and patience to identify them and modify them. It is uncomfortable as well but the reward is worth it. The reward is a healthier and more authentic existence. Self-care is the indispensable maintenance to ensure a smooth ride.

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Fresh Start: Do not let Procrastination get in your Way!

Fresh Start: Do not let Procrastination get in your Way!

Let us talk today about procrastination. We are in January and in the culture in which I was born, it is the beginning of the year. It usually is an opportunity to make a fresh start as well as the occasion to commit to changes in one’s life. For example: go to the gym, go on a diet, meet someone are the classics. I could go on and on. What I observed though is that many of these promises were dropped sooner or later.

Starting another year is seen by some people as a chance to take on projects with a new eye, from a different perspective or they may experience a sense of regained energy and develop a certain enthusiasm for new challenges. There is a quote that I love and I used it as the first post on this blog: “Though you cannot go back and make a brand new start my friend, you can start from now and make a brand new end” (Anonymous). It is never too late, is it? To be perfectly honest, I had planned on writing this post quite a while back, when my friend Dennis finished creating this website. He even guided me step by step through all the technical aspects and patiently taught me what to do. I was ready to get started and yet the other day I realized that the entry “create a new post” had been on my “to do” list since July!

As many others, under the impulse of this New Year I felt it was time to get started. My idea is to share observations, raise certain questions on a different subject every month in 2014 and provoke awareness in best cases. So, I guess it starts with me. Looking more closely at the reasons why this entry on my to-do lists had not yet been taken care of many reasons and excuses came up. Definitely, a lot took place and I did cross out many other items from my lists. Again, being perfectly honest I was forced to admit that I could have made the time and that there were opportunities I did not seize.

Seize the day tomorrow
Procrastinator’s philosophy

I could see that there were other instances when I lost my focus and I would end up feeling utterly overwhelmed. I grew aware of how frequent it had been in my life as well as in the lives of the people surrounding me. I observed how often we postpone taking actions although they would be tremendously helpful, healthy, fun, necessary and even vital. We all put ourselves through painful moments of frustration or in deep trouble because of delaying completing certain tasks. I do not mean to be indulgent towards my past choices. Again, I merely observe that this phenomenon is broad and in certain cases quite destructive. This phenomenon has a name: Procrastination.

I will find a picture tomorrow
The empty frame symbolizes the consequence of procrastination

Procrastination is taken more and more seriously in the field of psychology. Clearly, in order to overcome a problem it is necessary to understand what it is about and what impact it has. I will not engage in extensively describing or commenting on Procrastination when there are many very interesting articles written by specialists. This is the reason why I chose to share a few links to articles I found interesting to start with.

It appears to me that one’s degree of Procrastination can be put on a scale. Where most people experience it from time to time or in only a certain area of their life others suffer from it to the extent they are paralyzed and it cripples them to the point they dramatically sabotage themselves. It can be very subtle, often misunderstood and confused with laziness, lack of ambition or plain carelessness. Yet, a lot of times, delaying certain tasks does not necessarily mean doing nothing. I could not count the amount of times when I delayed my concentrating on a paper in favor of doing the dishes, re-organizing my emails or anything else that was not fundamentally urgent. Now I see that it was merely easier for me to launch myself in something boring yet comfortable than in an activity more challenging and stressful. Paul Graham outlines that very well in his article where he qualifies good and bad procrastination (see attached link). At any rate, procrastination of any sort clearly stands in our way to being fully efficient and it may take a physical as well as an emotional toll on us.

Procrastinate now and panic later
Procrastinate now and panic later

I strongly believe we are all affected by episodes of procrastination and it has various impacts on our lives. That is why I think that gaining awareness on how we do it, to what frequency and in what circumstances is a key to leading a more effective and comfortable life. There is no point in beating oneself up over it and from what I have seen so far I doubt it can be fully eradicated. Yet, from what I read it we can progressively overcome it. We can trick ourselves to procrastinate effectively (see article on structured procrastination). By implementing strategies to get around it, we can progress in a less painful manner than by pushing ourselves brutally with what we think to be self-will.

What I find to be efficient is first of all to know myself well enough. That is where neutral observation and acceptance come handy. It is a difficult exercise yet necessary to make an accurate assessment in order to determine strategies and actions. In addition to creating awareness I have experienced that when I am pulled by a goal and excited by a certain outcome, my motivation enables me to overcome the fear and the discomfort that usually take me right in “procrastination land”. Therefore, creating a vision by depicting as accurately as possible the life I want for myself is the best way I know to muster the necessary energy to deal with some steps that I do not qualify as interesting or enjoyable and to arm myself for the battle against my doubts and fears.

Temporal Motivation Theory
How to remain motivated and defeat procrastination

Moreover, with time I created for myself tools that help me to stay on the top my to-do list. These tools correspond to my needs and to my personality. They are tailored for me. I had to try on several approaches. There are still tasks that I am more or less enthusiastic to perform. I try to bring a certain balance between urgent missions, long-term projects, interesting work and compulsory chores. My point is that I try to make my day enjoyable and efficient. I never missed deadlines and using my tools I progressed at meeting them with more ease and effectiveness.

Making fun of one's procrastinating habits
Making fun of one’s procrastinating habits

I would like to end this text wishing you a productive and fulfilling year. I also invite you to consider what tools and resources could support you in bringing to fruition the projects you have at heart to develop this year and that procrastination may end as just another funny sounding word in the dictionary.

The following links and resources may be of help if you want to gain a better understanding of what Procrastination is about:

PDF: Belonging to Tomorrow: An Overview of Procrastination by Brian A. Wilson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination: Wikipedia definition.

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/05/procrastination-is-not-laziness/: defines and describes procrastination. Some of the origins explained by Neil Fiore’s “The Now Habit”.

http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/: on how to deceive oneself in using a flaw to counter act on defeating habits.

http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html: Good and bad procrastination. How errands can kill good work.

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/: self-control, notion of laziness.

Failure

Overcoming Failure

Successful people are not magicians who managed to get it all right but people who tried over and over again learning something new after every attempt. What are you going to experiment with today? How powerful will you be when you overcome your fear of failure? “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius.

failure

Reactions

“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” Hans Selye.

It is only natural to react to a given situation but then there is a space where we react to the reaction and it is there that we have choices. Are you willing to make a conscious effort to observe the existence of that space and notice your reaction to the reaction?