Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath oh Fresh Air

Who Am I?

So I was doing one of those Facebook quiz things – you know, the ones that tell you who you are in case you were wondering (and since I play along I guess I wonder!). I was taking a character trait quiz to find out what (Facebook thought) my dominant trait was. One of the rules for this particular game was that you were to make a quick choice (not really my strong suit…) based on whatever answer (yes or no) seemed right first. No problem, right? After all, this is a quiz I am taking about me, so no one knows the answers better. But then a question popped onto the screen that STUMPED me (like my screen faded back to black because my phone thought I was done using it kind of stump).

The question that got me  was:  “Are you afraid to do the wrong thing?”

My brain spun into a spider web searching for my answer. It took a while before I finally settled on “no”.

Here’s where I got stuck – I am afraid of doing a lot of things, and also not afraid of doing a lot of things. It depends what it is, it depends on the day, and sometimes I am afraid and then I am not afraid and then I am again (my poor husband…). Many times I end up at fearless, and you usually hear about how I got there in this blog; but (as with everyone’s), the path to my better than my day before has many obstacles of my doubt and my daunt that I have to get around and over on my way from my fear to my fearless.

(In my natural state of over-analyzing,) I continued to think about my “am I afraid” answer long after Facebook identified my dominant trait (you’re going to have to wait for it… sorry!). If “not afraid of being wrong” is my truth, then what am I afraid of? Obviously something caused my stump. I know it’s not because I am afraid of failure, because it’s a given that we all are a little bit, and also I am one of those people who feels she is a winner for just showing up (aka trying). So I pressed harder to figure out why I paused, and then – then I dealt with my truth:  I am afraid to disappoint. And because of this, by extension, it could mean that I am afraid to do the wrong thing, because obviously in my head, sometimes someone has a say on what the right thing is, and sometimes somehow that someone isn’t me.

But here’s my thing – this external pressure is completely internal. Meaning, it’s my truth in that I feel it, but in reality, it doesn’t really exist. You see, the someone I feel the perceived pressure from is also (one of) my biggest cheerleaders. I internalize someone’s good intention to protect me as pressure. The truth is, I can do no wrong in someone’s eyes / heart / world / you name it. Someone just wants me to live my best life, and that’s what I want too… but when those paths aren’t parallel, I feel pressure. And I hesitate. And that’s my afraid – my afraid of doing what someone thinks is the wrong thing, even though someone doesn’t think in terms of right or wrong; what is more true is that someone offers more colors in the rainbow for me to consider. But sometimes those colors clash with what I want to hear, so I declare a right and a wrong. But in the end, when I find my fearless and go for it, even if someone stands on the other side of my decision, someone will love me no matter what. Even if I end up in my end being wrong in my own right but with a lesson learned. I don’t get an “I told you so.” I get a hug.

And my dominant trait? strong

Assertive.

No surprise, but maybe some irony – but it’s something I learned from someone.

(The only one in my (your) way is me (you).)

 

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Hope: Where My Heart Lives

Marcus Aurelius said: “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill will and selfishness” (via Barker, 2017).

Seriously? ICK!!! This seems to be the antithesis of everything I stand for and hope for from people … but the statement struck my curiosity. After all, there are two sides to every story, and that doesn’t mean there is a right and a wrong. So my question wasn’t “is he right?” as much as it was “what does this mean – to me??”

I believe in people; that they are born good and baked bad. I choose a half full cup, and to wear rose colored glasses and to see only what I want to see, and that includes not watching the news, or even the weather for that matter. But to put action behind my beliefs, this year I have also been working on strengthening my mindfulness muscle to give people the benefit of the doubt first before judging their actions or inaction. Meaning, when they don’t do what they say they are going to do, or act how (I think…) they should, I am trying to train my brain to first assume that they had a good reason, instead of that they just suck / are irresponsible / selfish / ignorant – or are just an asshole. But taking into consideration what Mr. Marcus says – am I am setting myself up for disappointment by expecting something instead of nothing in the first place?

If I were to wake up every day and expect all the worst instead of the best, then it follows that anything positive I experienced would be a bonus. So, does it also follow then that waking up expecting the world of the world is setting an unrealistic expectation from the start, leaving the only place to go from there down? If it is, logical or not, I am just not sure I want to buy into that. So where might my mind be here? Psychologist Albert Ellis offers an interesting perspective to consider:

“Albert Ellis … led a war against the words ‘should’ and ‘must.’ Anytime you use those words, you’re probably in for some unhappiness because you’re saying the universe is obligated to bend to your will” (via Barker, 2017).

Now, this is something I can get grounded on; it is a less extreme approach to managing expectations than Mr. Marcus’. I like the idea of eliminating the words “should” and “must” from my vocabulary, as they do imply that there is an obligation to me (we) personally if I say them. So instead, I propose we practice replacing both those words with the word “hope” – because I do hope that people have a minimal obligation to treat each other with civility, and employ all its extensions like respect, do unto others, acting with integrity, etc. Now, I realize this hope has a hopelessness to it, because my hope that they “should” and “must” do these things doesn’t automatically come with accountability, but I choose not to focus on that. Remember my half full cup and my rose colored glasses? Right or wrong, this is where I live. Meaning, Mr. Marcus can wake up expecting the worst if he wants to; but I… I will continue to hope for the best. hope

For me, it comes down to this:  the disappointment from being let down doesn’t compare with the contentment created when people come through. And the people I surround myself with do try their best to live on that “do-unto-others –come-through” side of the street.

So, while I do think people “should” be good, and that they “must” do what they say they will do, etc.… I choose to settle for waking up each day just hoping they do.

Disappointment be damned.

 

References

Barker, Eric. (Sept. 23, 2017). Take a cue from Buddhists and Stoics and ask yourself these 5 questions to get through stressful times. The Washington Post. Retrieved from  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/09/23/answering-these-five-questions-can-help-you-navigate-stressful-times/?utm_term=.bad517a19145 on Nov. 16, 2017.

 

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Choosing Sexy

I have shared many moments about the constant battle between my Gemini twins: React and Respond. Mostly I blog about instances when React wins and what Respond learns. But this week … the win goes to Respond! This week, I found myself being very…

Reasonable! ?!! ??!! ?!!! (one of Respond’s best traits!)

I know, I know, this doesn’t sound like something to celebrate, but really for me (and maybe for most of us?) it really is.

Let’s start this story with a summary of where I have been up till now:

It’s no news that I am not the best with new news. I am all for changes that I choose and the circumstances I create (even my bad ones because those lessons learned lead to good ones). And I am very proud of the many changes I chose in the last 5 years, and as a result, of my new (and way better than my before) circumstances. But, I (and I speak for most of us I imagine!) am not crazy about:

  • Changes (or choices for this and that matter) that are “surprises”, aka without warning (us over-thinkers – we don’t roll this way);
  • OR changes that are made for me or to me;
  • OR when someone else’s choices place me in circumstances that are crappy and or that I can’t control (aka fix; us over-thinkers tend to also be over-fixers).

Again, I am not special on any of these accounts; I envision this as a bonding moment with most everyone reading me – we have all been there!

Now, getting on to my Magic Monday (yes – did I forget to tell you that this reservoir of reason was released on a Monday?? Extra points!)

The story (most stories…) starts with shit hitting the fan. And while it was spinning everywhere, there I was, in the middle of it… standing still. Now, I am not saying I was emo(ji)tion-less; it was actually the opposite. The difference was that this time I was hyper-aware of everything I felt; I could see in slow motion that everything I said and did in those moments (and the next) would have impact. And I was determined to make sure it was the right impact.

So the words I spoke were reasonable whereas my normal would have been reactive. (This time) I responded, and I could actually feel the difference. And it felt freeing and f-king amazing. To have control over my chaos (not the chaos, just mine), was liberating. So much so that I wanted to harness this new happen for my future freedom to choose to respond over react.

This led me to examine what the difference was in this situation compared to my (so many) others. To do this, I needed to uncover the cause of my result.

So I started thinking about the actual shit that hit the fan; where it started, whose it was, and how it started to spin. And then I saw the path that helped me steer clear.

Turns out, this situation wasn’t really without warning, aka a surprise; this element was missing from this moment. Don’t get me wrong, I love the surprises that are wrapped regardless of how big the box is, but the rest (those changes in disguise)… well, you’ve got a 75/25 shot of pleasing me or pissing me off. I admit that doesn’t sound amusing (and my husband would agree that this particular part of me isn’t), but trying to be better than my day before means I know that I am sometimes not all sugar n spice or anything nice. WIP, and okay with that.  But in this case, even though it was a change I didn’t create or choose or pre-meditatively preview or plan, the shit itself that hit the fan didn’t surprise me. My subconscious must have seen it coming and preemptively set my senses to steady (aka defense mode; I can be the rock [star!] in a crisis). So since I wasn’t surprised, Reaction wasn’t released.

Another difference in this dance was that it wasn’t just about me. Sure, I was affected, but so was the person whose shit this was (and trust me, that person felt worse than anyone), and so were the others in vicinity of the fan. This is another reason why Response showed up and Reaction sat out. I showed up in my reasonable / “it’s all going to be alright” mode.

The last variation here was that I didn’t try to sweep this mess up like it was mine. Because it wasn’t. So by not taking ownership of someone else’s shit, I had boundaries that prevented this from getting to the best of me.

This is the trifecta that caused my positive result and made this different from my many previous moments.

clint 2

I really, really liked seeing Respond; it had been too long. And it turns out, being reasonable makes me feel super sexy (choose it and see for yourself!) So, if I want to choose sexy and harness this happen again, my tasks now on this path to being better than my day before are to:

  • Try (harder) to go and let God (aka let life surprise me less);
  • AND to see the whole picture (including who else is in it besides me);
  • AND to let pass what isn’t mine to possess.

If I set this structure to my next situations and stories, then Respond will show up with her reasonable more often.

And she is soooo invited.

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Don’t Step In It

I blog about what is on my mind and or in my heart, which usually correlates to my latest lesson learned. This week is no different… but, this story starts with shit.

Literally.

To some of you, this might sound gross. But, give me a minute before you get off this pot. I believe it is a topic most of you will relate to.. More importantly, I think we can all agree (usually on nothing) that life. needs. more. laughs. So I am going to lighten my load. (Pun[s] totally intended – because if we are going to go there, let’s go all in and have some fun!)

I used to be one of those people who was afraid to poop in public places. I think it’s a girl thing. I didn’t go for a whole week when we went to Camp Hastings in junior high. And I had a friend in college who used to drive 45 minutes home instead of pooping in her dorm. Seriously, to some, pooping is a big deal*. And for the guys out there, let me tell you – if you think that when a girl leaves a toothbrush or asks for a drawer at your place she is really serious about you, think again. The real defining moment of any relationship is when / if she will poop at your place (or in the hotel room you are sharing while on vacation – while you are in the room). Yep, movements are really milestones. Personally, I am over the fear of where I will poop, and way past avoiding (all!) stinky situations in front of my husband. Eleven years in, sometimes that’s dinner conversation! (Married peeps out there don’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about!) But I do still have poop concerns. And yes, I am going to share them. (You already know this whole post is TMI – so [let’s get into some] shit or [you should] get off the po{s}t!).

My first poop concern is the capability of the toilet to flush adequately, or at all. I have (and so have you) been a victim of my “cuppeth running over”, and this is always terrifying! And now, the potential for overflow paralyzes me. So, my lesson learned is to test the toilet of anywhere I stay or work before I drop my kids off at the pool. And if there isn’t a plunger nearby, I will likely buy one. (I actually had a plunger in my car for a while. Yep. That happened.) Ironically, I have no problem pooping in a port-a-potty or in a non-flusher (like when we camp), because the fear of the flush is removed; these are show stoppers for many, but not me! (Yay! ?? !)

Poop concern number two is the bigger concern – when. I eat right, take probiotics, and drink a lot of water, so my system now is fairly regular. This means you will usually see me on Facebook between 5 and 530 a.m. winkBut sometimes life interrupts this routine; like when I have to coach at the gym at 445 a.m. Now, some of you have never had a job where you can’t just walk away from your desk and drop one. But, if you have waited tables, taught classes, coached, or been in another position that can’t continue without you there, then you know why the when is an issue. Now, the gym has a plunger (you’re welcome), and if I have to, I can make my move(ment) during a 2 minute rest. But the reason poop is so present on my mind now is that I have TWO new situations coming up to plan pooping around: teaching a 6 a.m. CARDI-YO class** (dangerously close to my “Facebook” time!), and somehow stimulating my stomach before the half-marathon I just agreed to do (Chicago, 9/24).

This crap crisis is really stressing me out. I can’t just excuse myself mid-downward dog by saying, “Do 40 cat-cows on your own while I drop a deuce.” So after losing (way too much) sleep over this, and hearing myself spinning out strategies for these situations with a girlfriend yesterday morning (thanks K!), I knew I had to blog about it. Because sharing my silly is as important as leaving you with lessons learned. But don’t you worry… as promised initially, I can deliver on both.

Tying this back to my mission to be better than my day before:  I am knee deep in this “shit” situation because I am trying two new things. Pooping is just an obstacle on my path to progress. And obstacles are temporary.

Michael Jordan said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” In my case, working around it means as long as I don’t step in it, I can and I will continue on my path to progress.

poopSo the lesson learned? Don’t let shit stop you.

(Literally.)

*Season Two, Episode Two, of Life in Pieces. Watch it (the Colleen and Matt story). Hysterical.

**CARDI-YO – MY new class (!) coming to Pulsation Yoga in Arlington Heights every Wednesday and Friday morning at 6 a.m. starting 9/13! 45 minutes of energizing yoga sequences integrated with heart-pumping cardio and body weight strengthening movements. Expect to leave feeling highly energized and harmonized! Keep your eye on my Facebook page for more details.

 

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Cracking Circumstance: Are you the Master or the Puppet?

“You can’t control what happened, but what you can control what happens next.”

(said [something like this] by Tom Selleck during an episode of Blue Bloods. Really!)

I love, love, love this re-frame, and I use it all the time in all things coaching; this approach / understanding is also an integral part of what fuels my mission to be better than by day before. It pushes perspective forward towards the power of positive change, instead of tempting us to try to turn back time. Sure, there are lessons to be learned by rewinding our minds, and time should be taken for that; but no matter how much replaying we do, there are no do overs, so our next steps must be forward, from what was to what’s next.

This is the case whether we made the bed we are lying in, and is still the case even if the bed just fell on us.

All things that happen to us, or because of us, present an opportunity to make a choice. We either choose to play the role of the victim and become a product of our circumstances, or we choose to be the champion, and own being a product of our decisions (some Stephen Covey, some me). But when this is happening, it often feels like we are being controlled instead of being presented with choices. This is a real feeling, but it is it important to realize this feeling is actually temporary. It (always…) goes back to perspective, which is sometimes buried beneath the collapsed feeling that circumstances can carry. But slowly as we dig out from this initial blast, we can start to see our choices more clearly. This clarity doesn’t mean we acknowledge these choices right away; we might stay stung for a while depending on how deep we went down, and that’s okay. Healing isn’t harmful, and it is a process, not an event. But that process begins AND it ends; and at that end are our choices, and those choices are packed with our power (our choice!) to persevere.

Exerting this power to persevere unleashes our inner super-hero. It establishes our accountability and results in our owning and celebrating our ability to control our choices. That’s right – (each and every day) we get to choose our attitude and approach; to decide to see the glass half-full or half-empty. When we choose to think “This sucks!”, then by default, it sure as shit will. When instead we choose that it is (we are!), going to be okay, we get the ball back and start to rebound. And our choosing determines that we are in charge and in control; when we choose we are saying F-U to circumstances.

covey

Our choices can make us the master or the puppet (part Metallica, part me). Our super-hero power to persevere lies in our choice to live in our next instead of in our what happened.

So next time there is an opportunity – what will you choose?

Do you (are you?) want to be a product of your circumstances, or a product of your decisions?

 

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Get Growing: What’s Your Excuse?

Why are our own excuses called reasons, and someone else’s just called bullshit?

In order to answer my question, I first had to define the difference between an excuse and a reason. Since no one named Alexa lives with me, I had to go old fashioned and just Google it. Google introduced me to a leadership expert named Dave Anderson, and his article called “The Difference Between An Excuse and A Reason”. Anderson’s take-away is this: “Reasons become excuses when they are used to avoid responsibility. That is the key difference between reasons and excuses.”

In my words then, an excuse is a type of reason that averts our accountability. So any statement that starts “It’s not my fault because _______________” counts. Anderson accounts for circumstances, but reminds us that our “behaviors and my decisions are also part of the equation.”  So when you engage his model, “I was late because of the weather” becomes “I was late because I didn’t leave early enough.” This means that how we choose to deal with the circumstance is always a choice that belongs to us.

Okay. So with respect to my initial inquiry – how come we hold others accountable for their “why-nots” and “I can’ts”, but not always ourselves? Shouldn’t we want to see and be the other way around? I know I do.

Anyone who has talked to me knows I have a “no excuses” mentality. That makes me a good coach, and, I would like to think, a good (but sometimes annoying…) friend and partner. I have no tolerance for inaction. I will question the stand out of your stance and sit on your excuse if I see any softness in your reasoning. I am trained to hear your excuses, but not my own. And this is a problem.

Why?

Because on my path to be better than my day before, excuses are (wo)man-made obstacles in between me and my success. They are piles of poop on my path, and even if I manage to walk around them once, sooner or later, my shoe (I) will be full of shit.

I work hard to do what I say I am going to do. But I don’t work as hard to question the things I don’t do. I am quick to accept my own excuses as right reasons. But usually time tells, and eventually I start to hear my story differently. If I could retrain my brain to automatically challenge my subconscious constraints (my ego!), then my changes (my growth!) could be quicker to come. And if we all did this… the world would win, because our strengths would be quicker to surface.

This calls us to action to be more accountable. We live in a world where we (should still) strive to “do unto others”… but in this instance, we need to do to ourselves what we do to others. We need to judge… our justifications. So, how do we make this happen?

My example is to start here, by calling myself out on it. Now. In front of all of you. Because I really, really don’t want to live a life that has room for excuses; I want to create a life that is limitless. So the next time we are talking, and I tell you I haven’t started the Life Coach certification process because I am sick of school or the money or my whatever … call my crap and see what I say. Help me retain my brain by bringing up my better. Because my subconscious is silently screaming an old song – the “why (would they want) me” single:  the closer I get to fine, to my puzzle pieces all being in place, the more I employ excuses to step off the starting line. Which is a step back. And sometimes even a step in another direction (really, really good at that one!) But this all leads to more stop, less start, and I get farther from any finish. And that SUCKS! finishing

I changed my conversation to “why not me?” a long time ago, but it is clear I am living only half of that high life, and that is not living limitless. I need to commit to can, to will, and to when – and then do it. But if I choose not to do it (and it is all a choice if your live by reasons), I need to own why I am not doing it by rallying reasons instead of excuses. It’s time to follow through to (one of my) finish(es). My path might sometimes be on pause, but at least it stays clear and I stay aware. My take-away is this:  the second I step anywhere but forward, I need to check my stand before I wreck my shoes.

 

So – what about you? What could you do if you stopping stepping in (your own) shit?

References:

Anderson, Dave. (March 23, 2017). The Difference Between An Excuse and A Reason. Retrieved from http://www.andersonleadershipsolutions.com/the-difference-between-an-excuse-and-a-reason/ on 7.17.2017.

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Break on Through (extended version)

So last week I wrote about the difference between our fantasies and our facts. In that post, I alluded to my recent attempt to get something I wrote published (and failing [for now]). I want to share with you all my submission, because regardless of what the Elephant Journal said, this is still a part of me and therefore it has value; my successes AND my failures are pieces of my heart and my journey to be better than my day before. I enjoyed drafting this revision based on their feedback; but what I learned is that you can’t turn a cookie into a cake after you bake it. Meaning, I should have started fresh with new ingredients for this new goal. So next time I will start from scratch; I have the will so there will eventually be a way! But in the interim, I hope you enjoy reading this follow up to my fantasy versus fact to find tour. This is the revised version of a post I initially shared on January 21, 2016 called “Break on Through”.

My alarm clock is either set for 5:16, 5:21, 5:36, or 5:46. Yes, a.m.

This is the best way for me to describe my mania of making the most of all my minutes. Each day my (ironically anti-structure) self carefully plans how to not to have any idle (aka wasted) time. Since waking up in October of 2012 (aka giving up alcohol), my version of living life to the fullest is negotiating something out of nothing and going past all to everything – I call this my magic middle. Charged with fitting more live into life, I changed my conditions to allow for will over won’t.

So, at this minute, I was getting my Masters in Organization Development, studying to get my personal training certification, working at a (miserable) full time plus job, searching for a less suck of a job, and capping my week off working Saturday mornings at a gym. And there were still the regular routines, including working out 8 days a week and working “down” 2-3 times a week with yoga. This was me bending my time; and it worked (until it didn’t).

My head didn’t see it until my soul started to feel… slow. Then I realized something was missing: I had gone from practicing yoga 2-3 times a week to once a week… maybe. This took a toll; my body, mind, and spirit missed the peace and energy my practice generated, leaving me too depleted and too full all at the same time. Without yoga, I wasn’t breaking out of the world and into the part of my brain from where all these words come from.

I needed a new method to my mania; to make more of my middle without more hours in my day. I couldn’t further bend time; what had to bend was my approach.

There was an obvious answer – online yoga; yoga that could come to me when I wanted. But the idea didn’t appeal to me; I liked being in class: the attention, the adjustments, the guidance, and the community. And most of all I loved letting myself be mindlessly led to mindfulness and positioned to be patient in my present. I didn’t think I could get any of that by watching someone online, practicing alone in my living room.

But here’s the thing: I hadn’t tried it – I just took it as my truth.

Now, let’s stop and let the mind-muck of this scene set in for a minute:  this is ignorance wearing the Emperor’s clothes.

Not sure where I wandered off my path of purpose and into a distorted version of “I think therefore I am,” but my mind was sure shortsighted under some sort of matter. Why do we do this? Jump away instead of toward even though we haven’t even dipped a toe in to test the water?

And this, this was so NOT me working to be better than the day before; this was me forgetting flexibility in favor of “F” it. ICK! My choices were to practice online or to not practice as much, and in my right reflection that isn’t a choice – it’s a (get your head out of your donkey) done deal. If we don’t try to best our best; if we don’t test our “truths” – how can we ever become our betters?

So, I let go of my limits (aka my untested “truths”) and finally tried it… AND – I liked it!

Letting go let me be aware of and break through barriers to my best that I didn’t know I had.

Letting go eliminated distraction, allowing me to discover that my motivation to practice yoga had shifted to something intrinsic – a mindfully magical thing in and of itself.

So, as it turns out, my “truth”, not my time, was my trap. My middle wasn’t (isn’t!) maxed; my perspective was predicated (prevented!) by my self-imposed limits.

I don’t want to limit my life (so therefore I won’t).

breakTake your test by breaking through your “truths”; transcend from assumption to awareness; from absence to accountability; from ignorance to intention.

Not later. NOW.

Where could your life g(r)o(w) if you let go of your limits?

Where could the world g(r)o(w) if you let go of your limits?

And… most importantly… what are you waiting for?

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