As we collectively navigate this time of heightened uncertainty, it’s especially easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by the (social) media frenzy and lose “our center.”
So, here’s a practice that recently crossed my radar to help all of us anchor to the present moment, which, in reality, is all that exists. I know, sometimes way easier said than done.
It’s called 5-4-3-2-1 and it’s a super user-friendly way to reconnect to the here and NOW. I’ve been doing it, myself, and appreciating how grounding it is.
Wherever you are, look around and name 5 things you can see. I see my chiweenie, Rocco. My purple spiral notebook with my orange liquid gel pen hooked onto it. The cat brush. The old-growth tree outside my window. My coffee mug.
Now, name 4 things you can hear. I hear birds tweeting in my backyard (pretty much my favorite sound in the world.) Rocco snoring (also, pretty much my favorite sound in the world.) Kids down the block yelling (not one of my favorite sounds.) Neighbors’ dogs barking (also, not one of my favorite sounds.)
Name 3 things you can feel. My fleece beanie on my head (hey, I live in the Pacific Northwest. 🙂 ) Tightness in my jaw. My heart aching over a friend who unexpectedly died from complications while undergoing a simple surgery.
Now it gets a little harder. Name 2 things you can smell. The jasmine outside my window. The fresh air coming through said window.
Lastly, 1 thing you can taste. The banana I ate.
*Do* try this at home (!) and let others know about this simple way to hit the pause button and take a mental break while we weather these stormy times together.
The tough-talking Queen of Vulnerability, Brene Brown, refers to the predictable pattern of New Year’s Resolutions and it goes like this:
January 1 This resolution is going to be awesome! January 5 I’m awesome. January 10 This sucks. January 20 I suck.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. For many, the new year is about a renewed sense of hope – this is the year we’re going to have more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. More courage/less fear. More productivity/less procrastination. More genuine connection with ourselves and others/less worry. More creativity/less stress.
But wanting something badly enough isn’t always enough. Most of us know from experience that – good intentions and all – traditional goal-setting, alone, doesn’t always work. So many things are competing for our attention these days – we often feel torn between our responsibilities at work and at home. Between taking care of others and taking time out for our own physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being, which is often the first that gets left behind.
Some of us make a list of resolutions at the beginning of the year, give it our best shot, and hope for the best. Then real life happens – everyday distractions, frustrations, obligations, disappointments and other challenges. And not much changes.
One of the reasons this happens is we haven’t taken the time to ask ourselves what values we want to be honoring. A value is a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable. Values provide the foundation on which the things we consider important are built. They help guide our decisions and motivate us to take action, achieve balance, and gain a sense of satisfaction in our lives. They help us to create the future we want to be living into.
Many of us don’t take the time to think about our values until we experience a crisis or personal challenge. But you don’t have to wait until the sh*t hits the fan to align your values with your actions. By focusing on what’s important to us, we can reaffirm our sense of identity and empower ourselves to live a more authentic and courageous life.
When times are stormy, values are like a lighthouse, preventing us from drifting off course and anchoring us to our sense of self. In good times, values are the wind in our sails propelling us to live fully and with purpose. So, before you go straight to goal-setting, take some time to connect with your values. Try this: think about the year ahead and have your future December 2020 self describe to your NOW self what values you aligned yourself with and WHY.
Ayn Rand spent her life developing her “philosophy for living on earth” and emphatically concluded that, “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” I second that.
At the end of each year it’s pretty typical for most of us to celebrate (or not) another year gone by and get all hopeful (or not) for the one to come, but we often skip over saying goodbye to the previous year in a meaningful way before greeting the new one.
The closing of a year can be a perfect opportunity to review the past 12 months and reflect back on all that we accomplished, experienced, contributed, missed out on, made happen, didn’t make happen, were surprised by, and grateful for. And no good annual review would be complete without including the disappointments, losses, and fears.
We oftentimes get so focused on forwarding the action, but forget that deepening the learning is just as valuable. The more we learn and grow, the more in tune we get with our true nature, which then allows us to make choices that genuinely reflect what really matters most to us. And the the more we make authentic choices, the happier, more relaxed, and productive we become. Sometimes we need to slow down in order to become more efficient and effective.
The best way to look back is to get grounded in the present. Give yourself permission to take time out to focus on your year. 2019 was yours, and yours only, and the best way to connect with your year is to connect with yourself in the here and now. Make it a priority. Make you a priority.
I posted a Year in Review blog last December that I’ve been doing with my coaching clients, and myself, for several years, and find it a helpful way to give structure to looking back.
A few tips for reviewing your year:
I go through my calendar to refresh my memory of all that went on – the events I attended, the places I went, the people I coached, the friends I spent time with, the people I did activism with, the conferences and trainings I attended, colleagues I collaborated with, the workshops and trainings I gave. And then I do some journaling on what shows up from reviewing my cal.
I also go through my Facebook where the bulk of my social media hangout is, and it’s a huge resource for my year. I go through my morning pages (journal), my Amazon and Audible order history for books I bought, and my library for the ones I borrowed.
You might have apps or notes you keep that are good to mine as well.
My theme for 2019 was, “Important Not Urgent”, which is one of the four quadrants in Stephen Covey’s principles of effective time management matrix from his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” This is the most overlooked quadrant despite its power to transform your life. This is where creativity and flow happen. This is where coaching and learning live. Also relationship-building, increasing our emotional intelligence, preparing and planning, introspection, focus, meditation, and mindfulness hang out here. All great leaders make quadrant four a priority, even if they don’t use this language or this matrix. This is The Zone, so make time for it.
I haven’t decided yet what my theme will be for next year, but I’m heading to a cabin in the snow next weekend and bringing my poster paper and colored markers for mind-mapping. That, along with some journaling, and taking long winter walks with the pooch to stir my imagination and connect with my inner world.
After you reflect on and close out your year, take time out to get in touch with what you want for this coming year. For a fun and powerful exercise filled with prompts, check out my December Holiday Letter from last year. Then you can start setting your intentions for 2020 as well as deciding on a theme. It can be a word or phrase – something you can anchor your year to as you go along.
As you unpack 2019, it’s ok to get emotional. In fact, it’s a good time to practice taking time out to feel your feelings. We often forget that even if we’re disconnected from our emotional life, we’re still having feelings. So, go ahead and put your heart into this time of introspection. Allow whatever wants to come up to just surface.
Start with the fundamentals by noticing when you are mad, glad, sad, or scared and know that if you actually feel the feeling, it will pass – the good ones and the hard ones. They all pass through us.
We are emotional beings, but it takes effort and practice to connect with our inner world. And if we don’t allow ourselves to have our feelings, then our feelings will surely have us, which can result in generalized anxiety, lack of focus, a state of reactivity, procrastination, depression, perpetual frustration and anger, and frequent misunderstandings with others.
In memory and honor of the profoundly observant Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, who died this year, her simple words are some of the best advice around:
“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
Back in the beginning of the year I posted a blog Write Your December 2019 Holiday Letter and one of the prompts to help you write your letter one year from now about your desired future was to ask yourself what were the values that guided you in 2019.
More often than not, when asked about our values people kind of draw a blank and then say something like, “Uh, well, honesty and integrity, for sure. And probably _______.” (fill in the blank with one other value that comes to mind and that you identify with.)
But it usually stops there. Not because we don’t have core values – we all do, but because we may not ever have been given the guidance to explore what they are, why they are, and the structure to live into them. Many of us would say we value honesty and integrity, but most of us don’t really think about what that really means for us, personally, day to day.
I spent New Year’s day at a meditation and journaling retreat called, “2019 The Year Of Integrity”, and when we talked about what integrity means to us, for as many people as there were in the space, there were that many definitions. Not that we didn’t all have similar notions, ideas, and variations of, “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” but the deeper dive on what that meant for each of us was where the juice was.
My all-time favorite experience of integrity is “Doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” It lights me up just thinking about it. Why? Well, for starters, because it feels liberating (another value) when I “do the right thing,” whatever the means to me, regardless if anyone’s ‘watching.’
Our values give us our sense of individual identity. They help guide our decisions and motivate us to take authentic action.
Living our values highlights our natural abilities, talents, and strengths and provides the foundation on which the things we consider important are built. Living into and honoring our values is a lifetime labor of love.
Helping the folks I coach to clarify their values is one of the first and most important activities we do together because when our actions and decisions align with our values, we experience harmony, flow, and deep fulfillment. And when they’re not in alignment, we experience an inner dissonance and disconnectedness, even if we’re not fully conscious of it.
There are many ways to clarify our values, but, for now, let’s start with one. Discovering what our core values are isn’t so much an intellectual exercise as it is an exploration of who we are and what really matters to us.
DO try this at home:
1. Think about a moment in time when you felt on top of the world, exhilarated, in the zone, lit up. What was happening? Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? Now keep probing what values were being honored during this Peak Experience.
2. After you’ve identified one of the values that really stands out, ask yourself, when was the last time you were honoring that value. The value might have been “adventure”, “connection”, “nature”, “love”, “freedom.” Or maybe a phrase comes to mind, like, “Fire-Breathing Dragon”, “We’re In This Together” – one of my TOP core values:), or “Brave-Hearted Warrior”, you get the picture.
3. For 5-10 minutes, journal the following inquiry: What does my value of _______ mean to me and how am I (expressing, living, creating) this value?
4. Use what shows up and then, each day, for seven days, ask yourself, “Just for today, how will I express this value?” The expression may look bold or “ordinary” – however it shows up, enjoy playing with it.
Cliche, or not, as Gandhi has been known to have said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”, really comes alive when we are living into our values.
Have fun and feel free to share what shows up for you!
One of my coachees recently said to a friend in a joking way, “Are you going to take 2019 by storm?” and he replied, “No, more like a gentle breeze”. She then said to me, “I think this is going to be my mantra this year: Getting things done using a gentle breeze.”
Whether you decide to take the year by storm or take the gentle breeze approach, here’s a cool writing exercise that will set the stage for creating authentic goals for the coming year. It will help reveal what’s really important to you and why. Creating the year you want to be living into and then working backward is an exciting way to live life.
I once heard it said that having goals is just another way to fall more in love with life. For me, it’s a reminder not to take the term ‘goals’ so seriously. Make (and sometimes break) them in the spirit of giving some thought, structure, and follow-through to meaningful ideas, hopes, plans, wishes, and dreams.
With that in mind, here goes…
Imagine it’s the holidays of next year and you’re celebrating another year gone by. Take a moment to reflect on everything you lived through and experienced over the past year. Notice where you are and what’s alive inside of you. Really allow yourself to get present with yourself and connect to your inner world.
Looking back over the various areas of your life – best case scenario, what did you experience over the last year? What did you accomplish? What did you contribute?
What were some of the highlights? Thrills? Milestones? What made it a successful and fulfilling year? What values guided you? What were you committed to in a “no joke, no kidding” kind of way?
Who or what motivated, inspired, and supported you? How did you stay focused on your “important, but not urgent” commitments?
What helped you stay grounded during challenging times?
How was your aliveness and energy throughout the year?
How was your sense of belonging?
What experiences filled your heart and made you smile?
What did you embrace and what did you let go of?
What was the theme of 2019? It may be a word or a phrase. Mine a few years ago was Badass Wholehearted Renegade.
Now, here comes your December 2019 Holiday Letter:
Write a letter to someone that’s not meant to be sent – unless you want to – or to your future self and, using these prompts, describe your most positive year, one year from now.
Most importantly, have fun with it!
“Imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~Albert Einstein
This reflection exercise is something I do every year with the folks I coach and I just did mine this morning. Have a look and give it a whirl.
The end of another year can bring up both challenging and wonderful times for many of us. It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-blame and self-criticism when reviewing what we think we were supposed to accomplish. Whatever our saboteurs/gremlins are, we tend to easily forget a lot of what happened that led us to make our decisions. So let’s take a look back at 2018.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that will give you a fresh perspective on this past year. Feel free to add any of your own.
1.) What experience/situation caused me to grow?
2.) What accomplishments am I most proud of?
3.) In what area of my life did I make some progress?
4.) What was missing from my life last year?
5.) Whom did I help?
6.) What am I most grateful for and why?
7.) What were the most fun times I had?
8.) What advice would I give myself for 2019?
Despite the impossibly super-human standards we set for ourselves, it’s important to take a moment to realize what went well, what worked out, what we gave to others, what life lessons we learned, and what hidden gems appeared that we could not possibly have predicted 12 months ago. There are times for action and times for reflection. Have fun looking back in preparation for creating your year ahead!
Whether you’re a savvy business owner, an enthusiastic entrepreneur, or just a plain old hard-working professional, ’tis the season to take stock of the wins and challenges of another year gone by.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what you think didn’t work out or not feeling like you accomplished nearly enough and, while it’s always a great idea anytime of the year to ask yourself what you learned from any disappointment or “failure”, we tend to easily forget about or dismiss our wins and successes.
So, in the spirit of getting a “reality check” on your year, here are five great questions to ask yourself while looking back:
1. In what areas of my personal and professional life did I make some progress? Take a good look and expect to be pleasantly surprised. It’s easy to shrug off many of the “little” things we did because we’re still focused on the never-ending big picture. Make sure you acknowledge what you know now as a result of your commitment to your success that you didn’t know a year ago. Chances are, you’re much more of a pro than a year ago!
2. Who did I lend a helping hand to? It’s not only good business or “karma” to bring value to others, it just plain feels great! You can never do too much of this one so give it all you got. As personal and professional development coach Brian Tracy says, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”
3. What am I most proud of? Whether it’s an against-all-odds project you completed, a promising new collaboration you developed, or the day you helped out at the soup kitchen, really take time out to acknowledge ways in which you showed up that reminds you how great it feels when you’re at your best.
4. What were the most fun times I had? This is an obvious, but often easily overlooked one: if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Look for the laughs, the smiles, and the good times. If you’re not finding any, make it happen – starting now!
5. And then top it off with: What advice would I give myself for a successful 2015? This is a terrific way to mentally tick through the past year and note what habits slowed you down and which ones gave you traction and momentum – you are the expert on you so take your advice to heart and use it as a call to action!
And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t throw in a juicy challenge: take one BOLD action before the year ends. Pick something bordering on “crazy and outlandish” – that thing that makes you think, “No, not that!” – yeah, that one – and then go do it! Yes, just do it. What have you got to lose? Doing the same old thing gets stale. Jolt yourself by doing something that gets you out of your comfort zone and just see what happens. If nothing else, it will make for a great ice-breaker at a holiday party.
Even better, while sharing your bold action story with some unsuspecting reveler, encourage them to do the same before the year’s up. Who knows, you might even pick up a new customer, business contact, or friend just by having fun playing this game with a fellow traveler on the road to success. As the saying goes, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”
Now, put a big fat bow on 2014 and get ready to ring in a great new year!!
I have always been one to take risks, follow my heart, pursue my dreams, and not wait for love or life to find me. So, nine months ago, after getting out of a dead-end relationship, I left California for new beginnings in Portland, Oregon, a place I knew almost nothing about, and am excited to say I have completely fallen for this gem of a city that I now call home. Rocco, my super rad chiweenie, is adjusting like a champ and we both agree the future looks bright!
And, as hard as it’s been to let go of a dream, I will never stop living wholeheartedly. Every heart-wrenching disappointment is a messy opportunity to fall even more in love with myself, my friends, my passions, and my life.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing – sometimes joyfully, sometimes not, but always passionately and with my whole heart. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for my nearest and dearest – my extraordinary friends and my amazing coach who have all been there for me, as always, like angels walking the earth.
And, for all of the amazing humans that I coach – past and present (and future!) – who endlessly move and inspire me with their fierce courage and indomitable commitment to living their best life. You all ROCK, and I am so honored to be a part of your wholehearted journey.
And, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t invite all of you to ask yourself, how are you living wholeheartedly today? Whether there is heartbreak, a loss of someone you love, a high-pressure job, no job, compromised health, challenging kids or family members, a too-full plate, a fledgling business, a betrayal by someone you loved and trusted, or any of the other challenges that come with being alive – how are you showing up for yourself and your life?
Hint: If it’s with a compassionate and courageous heart, a curious and open mind, and a willingness to lovingly and authentically connect with yourself and others, then, I believe, you’re on the right track!
Thanks to everyone who, just for today, is showing up wholeheartedly – we’re in this together!
Have fun playing with this new approach and email me what you notice!
I didn’t see it as a gift when I was told that my shoulder needed to be operated on if I wanted to get back to my racquet sports and swimming – not to mention if I was interested in a remaining lifetime free of chronic and acute pain from a torn rotator cuff that would only get worse. Upon getting the d-date for late May, I broke down and cried.
There’s nothing like having surgery on your (dominant) arm and then being told you can’t use it for 6 weeks to get your attention – well, there are so many things much worse, but this was enough to get mine. The worst part was this meant I had to reach out to friends and ask for help. For some, this isn’t hard to do – for me, it’s excruciating. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years, but, given a choice, I prefer not to ever have any needs – that’s how I roll.
At the eleventh hour, I made a few calls, stopped by a few friends’ houses, and wrote a few emails, letting people know I was heading into surgery and could use some help. In less than 24 hours, friends were sending out emails to my other friends and, before I knew it, I was inundated with support.
Between everybody, everything was taken care of: from day-of hospital logistics to post-op in-house movie nights – it was a revolving door of friends cooking for me, taking care of Rocco, doing my laundry and dishes, bathing me, taking me to dinner and to cool events, driving me to doctor’s appointments, downloading audio books, and checking in on me 24/7. My aunt and uncle even made a special visit which was reminiscent of when my dad came out to be with me for a minor surgery I’d had 25 years ago, armed with what seemed like a year’s supply of my grandma’s chicken and matzo ball soup and homemade Mandel Bread.
Although I’ve had the good fortune of having many close and very special friendships throughout my life, I was, once again, overwhelmed by the generosity and support that was so freely given by so many and I am forever changed by it. And, with the exception of a couple fast and furious meltdowns, I have been in exceptionally good spirits from the moment I left the hospital.
While I don’t recommend having to have surgery that renders you relatively incapacitated in order to have a shift in perspective around being vulnerable, it’s been said, when the solutions to our problems come, they are often difficult for us to receive. Life has a way of giving us the perfect people and situations to help us do something different so that we can actually have the things we say we want. Someone or something will show up in our lives that is the most challenging to our specific, deep-seated, fear-based beliefs that will take us out of our comfort zone – and it’s our choice whether to be open to receive the gift of that opening, no matter how uncomfortable it feels when it happens. Or to refuse it.
This is one of life’s many moments of truth – are we going to welcome a challenging opportunity in order to evolve beyond our self-imposed, internal barriers or will we resist and then still feel victimized when we continue to not get what we’ve been saying we want. All the while, turning our backs on the very people and situations that show up to heal us and bring us the love, connection, and affinity we so deeply long for.
Now, having spent six weeks in a sling, I can’t imagine not having had this fortuitous opportunity to let my friends be there for me – it’s as if they were waiting for it all along and I finally woke up. I can be stubborn so an injury would be an obvious wake-up call for me.
And, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you to identify one thing, however small, that you are resisting because it feels too hard – and do it! Most of us know what we need to do, and what we need to stop doing, in order to have what we want. Simply decide to do one thing differently and see what happens. You might be surprised by how good it feels – maybe not right away – in fact, at first, it’s likely going to make you feel disoriented, anxious, and put your stomach in knots. If so, that’s the one you should stick with! Learning how to do something differently requires the willingness to tolerate discomfort. And remember, you wouldn’t be considering changing things up if what you’ve been doing was getting you what you want so you’ve really got nothing to lose by breaking up a long-held habit that has been leaving you empty-handed.
In one of her poems, Mary Oliver asks, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”. See what shows up from asking yourself this question. And then, enjoy the freedom and peace and aliveness that comes from bravely choosing your truest path – it’s called authentic happiness and time waits for no one.
Have fun playing with this new approach and email me what you notice!
The speech that Charlie Chaplin gave on his 70th birthday: As I Began to Love Myself
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody as I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT.”
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health— food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and, ever since, I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY.”
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!