Better Solutions Through Awareness

How does your stress manifest? Maybe it’s not so much “stress” as it is mental or emotional clutter that elicits a physical response from you. How do you work through that? Do you even realize that you are responding to what’s happening internally? In other words, are you aware?

Here’s an example. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful new opportunities and possibilities this month…to the point that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. So many thoughts swirling around in my head and the realization that some things are out of my control for now. My internal clutter manifested in the need to clean. For almost 7 hours on Saturday, I wiped down cabinets, washed light fixtures, and scrubbed floors. I was very aware that my physical response matched my mental need…the need to organize my (head) space. Who knew vacuuming could be therapeutic?!

At the end of the day, I was tired, but having my outside space clean and organized left me free to organize my inside space. And somewhere between swishing toilets and washing rugs, my thoughts pulled together and I realized I do have a strategy for how to proceed and that I’m not overwhelmed. Now this is a long story to say, had I chosen to just say “I’m stressed out” and have a couple of drinks, it is highly unlikely that I would have dealt with my mental clutter. Instead, I was aware that my physical act of cleaning was making room for my mental cleaning as well.

Now I’m not going to tell you how you “should” respond, but I think awareness is such an interesting topic and one that could improve your life. I know, that seems like a big statement, but here’s another example. Do you know someone (or maybe it’s you) who’s an emotional eater? Does eating solve the problem? No…and it usually adds to the original problem because afterward the person regrets what or how much was eaten. Being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a more productive external or physical response. In this example, if the person is aware that he/she is so bored or frustrated with work, then he/she could choose to go for a walk and get a change of scenery. And maybe while on that walk think about if this is momentary boredom or frustration or if it’s time to talk to the boss about a new role.

While choosing healthier coping mechanisms is great, being aware is more about solving the problem. (But if you’re also healthier, BONUS!) The point is that being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a response that empowers you to deal with the root cause rather than cover it up or numb it. Finding better solutions through awareness starts with two basic questions: What am I feeling? Why? If the answers aren’t clear right away, try talking it out with a friend or journaling.

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A Detour Is Not a Stop Sign!

You know the song “Life is a Highway” and the inspirational words “life is about the journey not the destination.” I’m going to throw another travel metaphor at you: A detour is not a stop sign.

Imagine you’re on a road trip that you’re really excited about. A few hours into your drive, you see a detour sign. What do you do? Do you say, “Well, I guess I’ll turn around and go home?” No! You follow the detour (and most likely hear your GPS say, “recalculating route”) and eventually end up at your desired destination.

So why when facing a detour or road block on your personal or professional journey would you stop? You’ll hear some people say, “It was a sign…I’m not meant to be doing this.” Right. Or maybe, your cosmic GPS is course correcting you!

Here are 4 reminders for maneuvering your detour:

1. Revisit your “why.” Maybe you’ve gotten a little off course and this detour is occurring to teach you something. If you still believe in why you’re working toward your personal/professional goal, then figure out how to get back on track.

2. Go to your support system. Your people who know your goals and your passion will help get you back on course. They won’t let you give up too easily!

3. Stick to the facts. Don’t let your mind go overboard and make the detour more dire than it really is. (Avoid words like “never.” As in, “I’m never going to be successful.”)

4. Remember that success is not a straight path and there are no overnight successes.

When driving toward your goals, learn along the way and enjoy the ride. Know where you want to go, but have some flexibility in how you get there. Embrace the phrase “Recalculating route…”

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Handle the Comparison Trap With This One Question

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote by Theodore Roosevelt is one of my go-to reminders because I, probably like many of you, fall victim to the comparison trap somewhat often.

Here’s my scenario from this morning: I was in a good mood, going about my routine, checking social media…when photos of a gorgeous fitness model popped up in my feed as I scrolled through. You know, pictures that make you want to throw on a large parka and hat, stay hidden in the shadows, and never post a picture of yourself again? Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point.

So in a matter of minutes, I realized I had a choice to make. Referring back to one of my takeaways from Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop, I asked myself, “Am I willing?” Because if we are going to compare ourselves to someone else, we will either be sad about it or DO something about it. If we are not willing to do what it takes, then be ok with it and move on. Stop comparing and go back to the happy mood you were in before the comparison trap snagged you! (In my case, I decided that no, I am not willing to drastically cut my calories and workout like it’s my full-time job. And let’s face it, there’s also metabolism, heredity, and other characteristics I can’t control.)

So I am NOT willing to go all in and change my life as a result of a few sad moments of comparison. But what I AM willing to do is be honest that my workouts have been more “going through the motions” than really going for my goals. And I AM willing to cut out that late night snacking habit that crept back in with college football season…the habit that would otherwise continue all the way through March Madness.

To summarize, when you find yourself on the sad end of the comparison trap…because at some point we all do…ask yourself what, if anything, you are willing to do about it. Don’t let that trap hold you! Either decide, “nah, I’m good,” and go on with your happy self, or decide what actions you are really willing to take to achieve YOUR realistic version of what you’re comparing yourself to.

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Get Out of Your Own Way

I hesitate to post this book recommendation. Not because I’m unsure of its content and not because I didn’t like the direct writing style. It’s because my last post was about How to Be a Badass at Making Money and this next recommendation is for Unfu*k Yourself: Get out of your head and into your life by Gary John Bishop. I’m a mother for goodness sake! And I keep reading and writing about these books with profanity in the titles!

Seriously though, I am recommending this book. I like that it’s straightforward; it’s an easy read; and it’s content delivers one light bulb moment after another. Here are my four favorites…

  1. Chapter 2: “I am willing.” Be honest with yourself about what you’re willing/unwilling to do (instead of saying what you want/don’t want). Example: You say you want to buy a house, but you’re unwilling to sacrifice and save money. Be honest about what you are willing to do and adjust the view of your life from there. Stop feeling negatively about not having the house and start enjoying your apartment.
  2. Chapter 5: “I embrace the uncertainty.” Get out of your comfort zone. Life is supposed to be an adventure. Live life; don’t just survive it. “…what causes most of your worry is trying to predict the future and then refusing to accept things when they don’t or aren’t going to go your way” (p. 112).
  3. Chapter 7: “I am relentless.” Some people may tell you that your dream is silly or your goals can’t be attained. That’s only true if you believe them. You may fail and be discouraged, but the dream is only over if you quit. Keep moving forward, even if it’s “failing forward.” Keep your head down and work toward your goals and when you look up later, recognize your progress. “Even when you don’t see anything happening, it is. Even when you’re not quite hitting the mark, you’re making progress” (p. 158).
  4. Chapter 8: “I expect nothing and accept everything.” (This chapter contained the MOST light bulb moments for me!) Basically, we are unhappy when our expectations do not match our reality. Simple example: you had to work late and you expect to walk in the door to your children greeting you happily and your spouse having dinner ready for you. Instead, the family is annoyed that you are late and waiting for you to make dinner. Instead of being unhappy in that gap between what you expected and what was reality, just accept the situation. Don’t waste time on an expectation; take action to achieve your desired result. “Don’t expect victory or defeat. Plan for victory, learn from defeat…Free yourself from the burden and melodrama of expectation; let the chips fall where they may. Love the life you have, not the one you expected to have” p. 183.

So there you have it. Read Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop if you are ready to challenge some of your current thought patterns. What you discover might be the change that gets you out of your own way and clears the path to a happier life.

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments too!

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Another Badass Book

Back in October, I wrote Learning to be a Badass, a post about Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass. Well today I have another badass Jen Sincero book to share with you: You Are a Badass at Making Money. I could make this a very short post and just say, “Trust me. Read this book. It’s awesome!” But that feels kind of lazy, and if you’re going to invest your time in reading a book I suggest, you probably want to know why I’m recommending it.

Similarly to You Are a Badass, You Are a Badass at Making Money is a book in which Sincero describes how she applied the Law of Attraction to improve her life, specifically, her financial life. But it’s not just about the Law of Attraction. Sincero explores how our thoughts and beliefs about having money impact our success.

After reading just the Introduction (I’m talkin’ only 10 pages in!), I noted the following:

We have been taught to work hard, even if we don’t want to be doing what we’re doing; basically, we’ve been taught to settle for a mediocre life. The real key to success is not to work harder at the jobs we’re settling for, but to…

  • “Listen to the hollerings of your heart instead of your doubts and fears” (p. 9).
  • “Not only admit to desiring, and commit to creating, wealth, but most important, you must allow yourself to do so” (p. 9).
  • Agree to getting “really really really really uncomfortable. Over and over again” (p. 9).

If we apply the Law of Attraction, then we believe the resources we need to create the lives of our dreams are already out there waiting on us to claim them. For some, beliefs about money are huge obstacles though. Sincero lists negative money beliefs such as we feel shallow if we want money, we feel undeserving or not special enough to make a lot of money, or that making money is hard. She then offers really insightful thoughts to counter those negative beliefs:

  • “You living your fullest life and making all the money required to do so doesn’t take anything away from anyone else any more than you refusing a ham sandwich because someone, somewhere, is starving helps them” (p. 19).
  • “Understand that your gifts, talents, and desires were given to you because you are meant to thrive and share your youness with the world as only you can” (p. 24).
  • If you believe making money is difficult, then it is. (Many, many sections on the Law of Attraction and being mindful of what thoughts you send out into the universe.)

One of the Law of Attraction concepts is that what you focus on, you create more of. Sincero explains how this applies to your financial situation. If you have a scarcity mindset, then you are always worrying that you don’t have enough. So guess what…you’ll never have enough. Instead, be grateful for what you have, give freely to help others, and focus on the abundance in your life. And then, what will you attract into your life? That’s right…abundance!

To wrap it up, if you are interested in improving your relationship with money and your financial situation, read You Are a Badass at Making Money. Jen Sincero offers tips and money thoughts/mantras at the end of each chapter, and she sprinkles in short quotable nuggets of insight throughout. There are few books that I want to read more than once, but this is one of them. There’s so much to absorb and practice!

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments too!

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Are YOU on Your List This Holiday Season? Two simple self-care tips

A week into December already! If it’s not yet, I bet your December calendar is filling up fast. If you’re like me, you have a variety of lists started…the Christmas card list, the presents list, the Christmas cookie list, the grocery list of what to buy in order to make the Christmas cookies on that list, etc. But let me ask you this: Are YOU on your list?

I know, I know. So many things you have to do. So many people to take care of. Enough already! Stop being a martyr about the holidays and include you on your list. How? I’m glad you asked. I have two simple tips for you:

  1. Review your “have to” items, and
  2. Schedule some “me time.”

Tip #1, Review your “have to” items, actually has two steps. First, review all of the things on your to do lists and determine if they are “have to” items or “want to” items. If they are “want to” items, keep them. Be realistic though. If you want to go to 5 tree trimmings, 4 Christmas parades, 3 cookie exchanges, 2 different Christmas Eve services, and drive to Pittsburgh for a par-tee, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, make sure your “want to” list contains the items that make the holidays special to you; the things that if you don’t do them you’ll be feeling really regretful on January 2.

The second part of Tip #1 is to get rid of your “have to” items. Hear me out. I think part of our self-imposed holiday stress comes from telling ourselves we have to do certain things. Telling yourself you have to do something just makes it unpleasant and creates a negative mindset. Instead, what if you changed all of those items to “want to” items? Here’s an example: You are currently telling yourself and probably others you talk to that you have to go to your office holiday party, at least make an appearance. Why did this make your “have to” list in the first place? Is it because it could be beneficial to your success with the company? Isn’t being a success with your company something you want? Or maybe you at least want to socialize a little with some of your close peers or people you appreciate working with all year long? So now that you’ve identified some “want to” in that item, start telling yourself and others that you want to go to your office holiday party. Now you are creating a positive mindset and looking forward to some part of that party which creates less stress. Apply to an item on your own list. Repeat until you have a list of “want to” items.

Tip #2, Schedule some “me time,” is self-explanatory. Stop being a holiday martyr. Yes, your friends and family are thrilled to be the beneficiaries of your labor, but not when they know you’re killing yourself all month to do it. They don’t love you for your cookies; they want to spend time celebrating with you! That won’t happen if you’re so tired by Christmas Eve that you’re curled up in a little ball sleeping in some corner while they are all full of energy and celebrating.

Try this. Why not combine some “me time” with some “want to” items? If you want to celebrate another year of friendship and be festive with your besties, go out somewhere low key for an evening. It’s low stress and you don’t have to cook or clean your house because you’re not hosting! Or, consider this: there are so many great deals on spa and fitness activities right now. It’s okay to snag yourself a spa gift card and get a massage or facial this month or to buy a yoga class package…whatever sounds like good “me time” to you.

The holidays are a special time and we want to pack in as much celebration and enjoyment as we possibly can in a month’s time. Just don’t do it at the expense of your sanity. Make sure you are also on your holiday list and practice keeping that positive mindset. Happy holidays!

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Two Takeaways from Bohemian Rhapsody

Have you seen the Bohemian Rhapsody movie yet? If not, I highly recommend seeing it, especially while it’s still in theaters so you can get the big screen and full sound of the music. Writing about a “rockumentary” of Queen and Freddie Mercury might seem off topic for my blog about personal and professional development. I promise Bohemian Rhapsody fits right in.

I saw the movie a couple nights ago. While driving home from the theater, processing what I’d just learned about the life of Freddie Mercury, two themes that are totally in the scope of personal development stood out:

1. The importance of knowing and living your purpose despite people trying to deter you in the beginning, and

2. Loving your true, authentic self.

In Freddie’s case (at least the time frame we see in the film), Freddie knew his gift was music. He was passionate about music, and he knew his purpose was to perform. I won’t spoil any of the movie, so I’ll just say that in one really bleak scene he says, “I’m a performer,” with an air of “of course I’ll perform, sillies, nothing could stop me from performing!” That line struck me. “I’m a performer” is just one little line in this movie, but it is exactly what I write about…knowing your purpose! Know it. Own it. Don’t let anything get in the way of it.

However, the piece that Freddie was missing was accepting and loving himself as he was made. He spent most of his life trying to push down his feelings of not fitting in and numbing his pain with alcohol, drugs, and sex. The movie reveals that once he faced and accepted his truths, he was able to be happy and have genuine relationships with his partner, family, and friends.

I believe very much in the value of living your purpose and loving who your Creator made you to be. Bohemian Rhapsody affected me so strongly because I wasn’t expecting these two foundational personal development tenets to appear in this film about a rock star. I love that these themes were developed in this film and that we can examine them and apply the lessons to our own lives.

If you’ve seen Bohemian Rhapsody, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the film and how these personal development themes came across to you. Thanks for reading!

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