Archive for The AB…Zs of Self-Care

Are You Playing the Tapes All the Way Through?

Last night, as crazy as it sounds, I set my alarm for 4:00 am, and actually I got up when it went off. You may remember, in a previous post, I wrote about how, even though I hate getting up early in the morning, I love being up while most of the rest of this part of the world is sleeping.

But today was different.

You see, once I got up, had my steaming hazelnut coffee in hand, and sat down in the (not at all sunny) sun room, suddenly all I could think of was going back to the comfort of my bed instead. I felt as though it was calling to me in that ghostly-yet-angelic-singing kind of way, “Laaaaaura… Laaaaaaaaaura…”

I was conflicted.

On one hand, I could imagine how nice the bed would feel: the sheets so cool, the mattress so welcoming, the blanket so soft. And, of course, there was the additional three and a half hours of sleep to consider…

The name-calling got louder.

Then, instead of marching right back up those stairs, as though to the tune of a pied piper, I paused. Aware that I had at least two choices here, I leaned in for a moment to the idea of writing and meditating in my favorite chair, Dogberry loyally lying by my side, and the pitch black of not-yet-morning surrounding us, just past the many windows on three sides of the room.

First, I imagined how good it would feel to do what I had set out to do, and the reward I’d get from honoring the promise I’d made to myself. I also thought about why I wanted to be up in the first place: to honor my desire for quiet time (while awake) and to connect with myself in a way that I so seldom do in the light of day.

Ahhh.

Then, I thought of how I’d feel when I got up from having gone back to bed, and having not followed through on my promise to myself.

Ick.

You see, after I had thought through the choices to their likely conclusions, I knew what to do. I knew what I wanted for myself. I knew how I wanted to look back on this seemingly small yet pivotal moment. I also knew how I didn’t want to look back on it – as yet another time when I said I wanted to do something, made a promise to myself to do it, and then let myself down by not doing it after all.

So, how did I come to this decision, especially with the bed was calling to me like a beautiful Siren, singing her mesmerizing songs and luring me toward the rocks?

I “played the tapes all the way through.”

(I know, we rarely listen to tapes anymore, but bear with me. Instead of the looking at the literal meaning of the practically obsolete words, let’s explore their metaphorical meaning.)

I see the concept of “playing the tapes all the way through” as similar to how I might view an invitation from a friend, or narrow down what activities I might take on over the weekend, or on any particular work day. It’s an opportunity to fully consider my options, and to make the best decision for myself at that time.

How exactly do we do this?

There are just three steps:

1. We accept the opportunity presented to us as an invitation to create our lives more consciously rather than doing so by default.
2. We take a breath or two, and ponder the action or actions we’re contemplating taking.
3. We consider – and this is key – the likely eventual outcomes for the choices before us, and how we expect we might feel about those choices once we’ve acted on them.

It’s that simple!

Sure, in some instances, we can’t possibly know what the outcome of each choice might be. Most of the time, however, when we’re honest with ourselves, we can make a pretty darned good guess. And that was the case for me with this morning.

After I “played the tapes all the way through,” it was clear what the better choice was. As I said, I chose to stay up. It’s not that going back to bed was a bad choice. There were certainly benefits to follow the call of the bed. But staying up was right for me in that particular set of circumstances. How can I be so sure?

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

I was honoring my values.

By staying up and writing, dreaming, thinking, and feeling, I was aligned with my values of authenticity, connection, contribution, courage, creativity, integrity, and spirituality. Frankly, it’s not very often that all of my top values meet in one decision, but here they did,  hence the relative ease of this decision. More often, my values are separate from each other, and in an order of priority. It’s my job, then, to figure out what that order is. And sometimes, they are in direct conflict with each other. “Playing the tapes all the way through” is an excellent tool for me to use in that particular situation, too.

Can you see how remembering to “play the tapes all the way through” can be helpful to you, too? I hope so. And my assignment to you is to use this tool right away, no matter how large or small the decision. This way, it can become a habit, and eventually, even be second nature to you. And won’t that be nice?

But what if I don’t know what my values are?

Don’t worry! I’ll be writing soon about what values are (and aren’t) and even more about how we can use them in our lives. For now, though, know that I’ll be back tomorrow with seven more strategies for arriving at the best choice for ourselves in situations of internal conflict.

Until then, don’t forget to imagine that we still use tapes, and then “play them all the way through!”

A Post Script of Two More Things to Remember:

1. This is just one example of how our world, our circumstances, our thoughts, and feelings offer us friendly invitations. They invite us to  to dip below the surface of the actions we take without thinking. And thus, by taking this deep dive, we can live fuller, more meaningful lives.

In the example above, I had a choice to make. It wasn’t a life or death situation, but I answered the invitation to go deeper. As a result of that process, and of doing what was revealed to me as the right course of action, I know myself better. In addition, I felt rewarded by my decision to listen to myself and for my motives, and raised my levels of self-trust and self-esteem.

2. And finally, know that these invitations do not demand our attention, nor are we expected to answer them. There’s no need to put that kind of pressure on ourselves. They’re there for us, however, should we choose to remember the age-old adage of  “watch, look, and listen,” and then step out into the world more confident, knowing that we are aligned with authentic selves.

I look forward to hearing what you think, and to seeing you tomorrow!

Forgiveness Day

… just a quick note to let you know that today is Global Forgiveness Day.

Is there someone you need to forgive or even want to forgive, but just haven’t had it in you? And if you did finally forgive, how would that affect your relationship with that person or group? Even more importantly, how would it affect your relationship with yourself?

The great, late Nelson Mandela said,

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

It’s true that when we haven’t forgiven someone or some group, anger turns into resentment, resentment festers within us, and eventually it becomes like an open wound, going with us everywhere we go, and quite possibly poisoning everything we do. Yikes!

Forgiving doesn’t mean that we condone another’s behavior. The Greater Good Science Center has this to say about what forgiveness is and is not:

“Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

“Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.

“Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.”

Although it’s not pretty, I’ll admit that I, too, have succumbed to the temptation not to forgive. And don’t worry, I won’t ask you to report in on whether or not that’s true for you. My only request is that you take a risk and join me, if only for this one day, and do yourself the giant favor of forgiving just one person or group, and just as GreaterGood says, empower yourself to… heal and move on with your life.”

If you’re wondering how in the heck to do that, go back to that Greater Good page, and look at the column on the right. It has additional articles on forgiveness, even one called “How to Cultivate Forgiveness,” as well as book recommendations, videos, and a quiz.

While it’s certainly vulnerable, and it may not be very fun for us to do this, both the relief and release will be liberating, won’t they? And just think of how much energy we will free up. What will you do with that energy? Whatever it is, I hope it allows you to be all that you are and to have the positive impact on the world that only you can.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll feel so good that we do it more than one day a year. 🙂

 

PS FYI: In the spirit of multi-purposing, I’m calling this post on Forgiveness Day the “F” installment in the AB…Zs of Self-Care series of blog posts.

Emotions: The Water’s Fine

I don’t know about you, but I never learned anything in school about emotions, except, of course, that I shouldn’t have any. I’m sure it was easier for the teachers that way, but it wasn’t such a great lesson for me, or you, either, I’m guessing. So, over the last several decades, I’ve been doing the work of (1) learning to identify my emotions, (2) allowing myself to experience them fully, and (3) sharing them in situations where it is important for me to do so. And let me tell you: sometimes, it’s just plain ‘ol not fun.

In fact, there are times when identifying, experiencing, and sharing our emotions is excruciatingly uncomfortable. It’s no wonder the majority of us are addicted to something, diagnosed or not. Addictions work. They take the edge off, protect us from discomfort, help us forget for a while, and give us something to deal with that we think we can control… unlike our emotions.

Unfortunately, however, these seemingly benign behaviors – the ones we get into to get out of experiencing our emotions – only work until they don’t. And then, guess what we’re left with? The havoc we’ve caused by engaging in these destructive behaviors, and, our emotions – the new ones and the ones we were trying to avoid! So, as much as we might not want to, it’s in our best interest to get in there and get a handle on these things called emotions, even if our teachers shied away from the task.

Now, before I go any further, let me also say that there are volumes upon volumes written on emotions, and I won’t come close to addressing all there is to say about the subject here in this little blog post. What I will say is that if you will give yourself the gift, as uncomfortable as it may be, you won’t be sorry in the long run.

Even if you’re starting at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start), with learning to identify which emotions you’re experiencing, you are embarking on important, enlivening work. I’ll never forget when I began to be able to make distinctions between emotions that I’d previously thought were interchangeable. Discovering that guilt and shame aren’t the same things, learning how they felt different in my body, and that they called for different responses was liberating. Also, I used to believe that rage was “anger on steroids.” Now I’ve come to know that rage and anger are worlds apart; one being about crossed boundaries, the other being about invisibility and powerlessness. (A little test: can you identify which is which?)

I tell you all of this not because I’m sitting all high and mighty on some mountain top, with it all figured out, and therefore living a perfect life. Far from it! I tell you this to invite you into the pool of learning about emotions with me. If you’ve not yet dipped your toe into the water, come on in. It may be chilly at first, but soon you’ll see that “the water’s fine.” If, on the other hand, you’ve been aware of this work for a while, and feel called to learn even more, I invite you to wade a bit further out, perhaps even swim into the deep end. Sure, it’s scary there, but you can always just dog paddle until you get your bearings. Besides, it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

See you in the pool!

D is for Dancing

Welcome to the letter D in my blog series, The AB…Zs of Self-Care!

According to Dance.com, there are four health benefits to dancing: flexibility, strength, endurance, and a sense of well-being (physical and social). This makes good sense, and you can read more about them, if you click here.

I would add a fifth reason to dance. It shifts my energy, and frees my mind. When I am tired, or bored, or really stuck on a decision, or even stuck on what word to use in a sentence I’m writing, if I’ll just put on some music and dance, it makes all the difference. And what’s cool about this kind of dancing is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. There are no steps to follow, and there’s no audience to please. Truly, this is some of good medicine. In fact, I don’t know why I don’t do it more – it always works!

Sometimes we don’t have to dance at all to get benefit from dancing; we can just watch, and it moves us in a different way. We can go to the ballet, our nieces’ recitals, or we can just go to the movies! Some of my favorite dance movies are the Gene Kelly classic, Singin’ in the Rain, the stereo-type busting, coming of age stories of  Save the Last Dance, and Billy Elliot, and last year’s intense and glorious Silver Linings Playbook.

What are your favorites? Are you an 80s dance movie fan, with Flashdance, Footloose, and Dirty Dancing leading the pack? Or are you more of a 70s dancing fan, with Saturday Night Fever topping your list? Or do you forego the movies altogether and get into the excitement and competitition of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance?

Regardless – whether it’s by flinging ourselves around our offices, getting your grooves on at the movies, or cheering on our favorite football players and childhood celebrity crushes, I’d like to suggest we “get on up on the floor ’cause we got to boogie oogie oogie ’til we just can’t boogie no more!”  (Uh-oh, I think I just gave away my growing up era – I even sang that song at my prom!)

So, why is D for Dancing? ‘Cause not only is it good self-care, it’s great FUN!!!

Three, Three, Three Cs in One Post!

For the last several days, I’ve been at the farm – walking, writing, dreaming, and planning. A large part of my work here has been creating content in preparation for delivering discussions, workshops, and retreats on the ground-breaking work of Dr. Brené Brown. As you probably know, I’ve been studying with her and her team since September of 2011. I’m currently authorized to offer her work, and soon, I’ll be Certified!

You may know of Dr. Brown from her best-selling books, I Thought It Was Just Me, The Gifts of Imperfection, and Daring Greatly, or from seeing her TED talks from 2010 and 2012. Or maybe you’ve come to know her more recently, perhaps from seeing her two appearances on SuperSoulSunday with Oprah Winfrey.

What does all of this have to do with the AB…Zs of Self-Care series? Well, because of this immersion into her work, I’ve decided that in this blog post, I’ll have not one word inspired by the letter C, but three! And these three are… Courage, Compassion, and Connection.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that these words were already of huge importance to me, even before I started working with Brené.  That’s one reason I’m so excited about delivering offerings based on her research for a long time to come.

Today, I’m  excited about simply sharing with you one of the many powerful tidbits from Brené; one that includes the three Cs. I think it’s probably meaty enough for us to ponder a good while. Brené says,

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Barking As An Act Of Self-Care?

Welcome to the letter B in the series, the AB…Zs of Self-Care!

It was a gorgeous Autumn afternoon here in Atlanta. I was sitting on the deck with my partner, and the dogs were playing in the yard. They were running and romping, and seemingly involuntarily barking with glee. It was then and there that I decided that Barking (or making noise of any kind) had to be one of the Bs in the AB…Zs of Self-Care!

Too many of us go through life being quiet. Maybe this is because we don’t believe that what we have to say is valuable. Perhaps we don’t want to cause trouble or be a burden to anyone.  Maybe we don’t feel safe to make noise or call attention to ourselves in any way.

But finding a safe place where we can bark, speak gibberish, cry, and/or speak our truths, can be liberating. We  can gain access to emotions and opinions we didn’t even know were in there. And once they’re out in the open, we can start to understand them and decide how we want to act on them.

It’s also quite healing to make these noises; for us to give voice to parts of ourselves that are rarely if ever heard, whether or not anyone else ever hears them.

So let’s take a risk and take a lesson from Little Bit and Dogberry, shall we?  Let’s give ourselves the gift of full self-expression, regardless of what others might think. After all, it’s what we think that matters most!

 

Other Bs in the AB…Zs of Self-Care:

  • Bathing
  • Beauty
  • Being
  • Books
  • Bowling
  • Bragging

Accountability: Not a Dirty Word

Welcome to my new series… The AB…Zs of Self-Care!

I think it’s only fitting that we start this series today, on the first day of a brand new year.  Many of us set intentions, if not make resolutions, to be kinder to ourselves and/or take better care of ourselves when starting a new year. But, regardless of what we really want, as the year rolls on, life happens; and honoring our commitments of any kind becomes harder than we imagined. Therefore, I am starting this series with a reminder of something that can make that easier…

Accountability

My clients receive a lot of valuable things from working with me, their coach – clarity, confidence, and greater access to their own wisdom, to name a few – but what I’ve been told they pay the “big bucks” for is the accountability.

Too often, we humans (and I’m certainly including myself here), know what it is we want to do, sometimes even know how to go about doing it, but when it comes to truly going for it, this is the place we falter. Accountability can be the lynchpin that ensures that we reach for and attain the goals we set for ourselves.

And believe me – we coaches need this tool, too. Even as I am writing these words, I am acting on a commitment I made to a coaching friend that I would write, today, and on this topic. And when I am done, I will let her know that I did it.

Whether or not you have a coach, you can use this tool by partnering with someone in a similar situation, and asking each other these three questions:

  • What will you do? Be as specific as you can.
  • By when will you do it? Again, have a specific time in mind, and state it out loud and/or write it down.
  • How will I know? Determine the means of sharing this task’s accomplishment with each other, and then get busy!

If you’d like to help each other think it through even more thoroughly, ask each other these two, additional questions:

  • What is important about achieving this goal? Reminding yourselves of why you want to do these things in the first place will equip you with extra motivation when things get difficult.
  • What might get in the way of fulfilling this promise? Once you know the answer to this one, you can take steps to remove any obstacles on your path so that it’s even easier to reach your desired outcome.

And one more note about accountability: When life intervenes (and from time to time, it will), and it becomes difficult or impossible to honor your original commitment, simply renegotiate the terms of your commitment with your accountability partner, clearly and without self-condemnation, and you are right back on track.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to alert my accountability partner that I wrote this post!

Other As in the AB…Zs of Self-Care:

  • Acknowledging What’s True
  • Apples
  • Art
  • Asking for What We Want