7 Tricks to Ease the Melancholy of the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving

“Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

It’s hard to not look back on your life or certain memories especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it always gets me to thinking about the past even if I think only about the year that is almost ending. I think about family, the people I can still share the holiday with and the people that are no longer part of that tradition. I’m grateful for the memories of past family gatherings during the holiday season and I get a bit emotional when I dwell too long there but I find that as I get older I long for the new experiences to start so that I can add them to the list of things I’m grateful for.

A few times in my life I’ve been the host for Thanksgiving dinner, the most I’ve entertained at one time was for 23 people. Our family really isn’t that big but I never believed in putting a limit on how many were welcome to our table. We lived in a condo at the time and although it was a 3 bedroom unit the living space was small and so it was quite a feat to figure out how to seat 23 people for such a huge dinner. Funny that I was more concerned with how to seat everyone comfortably and not worried about what to serve and how to serve. My children were all under the age of 10 at the time so it took probably close to 2 weeks to prepare not only the menu and the seating plan but to prepare the house comfortably for those guests that were staying for an overnight .

The anticipation building in those 2 weeks was volatile. The kids were excited every day to count down to family coming over to their house. The smells in the kitchen radiated throughout the entire house for days on end. To this day my daughter associates certain foods that I cook throughout the year with Thanksgiving such as caramelized onions, sautéed apples, homemade bread, anything made with nutmeg, etc. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“Hunger of the heart is much stronger than hunger for food.” Amanda Comer

I can’t help but think back to the craziness of preparing for Thanksgiving because the celebration is so different now. I definitely have a hunger in my heart to relive those crazy holiday times. I was busy, I felt purposeful and I felt needed and important. That is the magic and the power of family.

I have to admit right here that although it was a lot of work and I enjoyed the anticipation as much as the kids did not every ounce of it went smoothly or happily. I felt stress and I’m sure at one time I murmured to myself how I would like it if just one year we could be the guests and just show up to eat and schmooze.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Many years later, kids mostly grown, family moved away and/or defected I find myself melancholy about the holiday season for different reasons entirely. My soul feels alone. On the one hand I’m not alone because I am blessed to have my husband and almost all of my children still living at home to share in the celebrations of the season but the enthusiasm and anticipation is tempered to an extreme and I feel the emptiness of that. I don’t know, there is just something magical in cooking for more than just my immediate family; listening to different kinds of conversation; getting lost in someone else’s life for a while; listening to the children get involved around the table and really noticing them blossom into adulthood. It’s just the 4 of us now, no friends, no family and oh how I wish I could cook and bake and fuss over a house full of family now that I actually have the living space for them all to come over and spread out. Even with all the family members and their issues it would still be nice to fuss.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

Life is funny that way. It is my “life is backwards” theory. The theory is that things that should be obvious and make sense, don’t. When we had hardly any space to entertain, people came over in droves to spend time. Now that we moved up a bit I hear crickets. When I felt overwhelmed at entertaining I wished it would not be so stressful and now I’d give almost anything to have just one stressed out, manic, family crazy, I-hate-you-but-I-love-you Thanksgiving. I’m sure you can think of a few examples of life being backwards for you as well.

But what I’m realizing as time goes by is that we are in a transition phase. I will have family to cook and fuss for again someday because the children will bring new people to my table and one day I might even become a grandma and then not only will I have someone to fuss over but I’ll have someone to teach and play with and pass on a part of me to. I can look forward with anticipation to that.

In the years since the “great big Thanksgiving” we have enjoyed a few Thanksgiving meals away from home like the time we spent Thanksgiving in Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was cold and it was a beautiful grayish day with the smell of snow in the air. If you have never been there in any season, please try to go around Thanksgiving time. The village encases you in the past and helps you feel what it was like to live around the time when the pilgrims came to America. During our day long tour, before our dinner reservations, it did indeed start to snow. It was probably the most beautiful snowfall I have ever experienced. The snow blanketed the outdoor sounds and made me feel more intimate and connected to my surroundings. As the snow was falling it seemed like it was just for effect. The roads home stayed clear but the village was awash in seasonal holiday cheer made ever more magical by the snowfall. I let myself get so caught up in the holiday lights and spirit, the smells in the air and the historic feeling of it all and the snow just brought more coziness to the village and the warmth of a good meal waiting for us by the open fire.

We have created new traditions within our little clan. I have enjoyed experiencing Thanksgiving in many different ways with our children. I try to find new ways to anticipate the holiday season and to try to hold on to the magic of it all. For example we started watching the movie Scrooge and also the movie Elf as after dinner family time entertainment; and while cleaning up from our large holiday meal we get ready for the winter holidays by playing seasonal music and singing out loud. That’s always fun because not all of us have a singing voice. I’m happy for having had the experiences of holidays of the past but I consciously now choose to look forward to what could be. I try not to let my heart get too heavy for what is missing.

If this holiday season finds you with a melancholy heart or a yearning for what used to be, here are some tricks that might help ease the pain:

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at least 2 weeks before the holiday. Sleep keeps your body regulated not only in its basic functioning but also emotionally.

“Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch–there’s not a chance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Follow a healthy eating plan. While this is something you need to do all year long, at least one month before the holiday reset your stomach and hormones by eating better before the emotional stress sets in.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet, Boston Marriage

As best as you can, try to do some physical exercise even if you go for a walk for 30 minutes every day before the holiday. Physical activity just for yourself is soothing, refreshing and empowering. It naturally reduces stress and sets your brain to a more positive way of thinking. Exercise increases creativity.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Ellen DeGeneres

At least one month before the holiday purposefully allow yourself to enjoy activities that make you happy. Enlist some friends if you can but it is okay if you go alone. Having happy experiences to bring to the conversation at dinner time will be a big boost for you and the people around the table.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

If, like me, your table will be short a few more people than you would like perhaps setting their pictures around the table as decoration would help. Include photos from holidays past and let the reminiscing begin. Before you know it laughter will take over and the trip down memory lane will feel like you traveled somewhere for a little while.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved.”Ansel Adams

Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, coach, clergy or family member and talk through the melancholy you are feeling. Maybe ideas will pop up and help ease the pain and infuse hope. If talking to someone is not comfortable for you then consider writing out your thoughts just for yourself. Twenty minutes for 4 consecutive days does wonders for the soul.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus

Take time to force yourself to do relaxing things leading up to the holiday. Go to a spa for a massage, sit in a steam room or Jacuzzi, play soothing music while falling asleep, light candles around your space instead of turning on lights, burn some incense, meditate, anything to help create an air of relaxation and peace.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a massage you’re the star. And you don’t miss anything by falling asleep!” Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mr. Wrong

perspective change

I know it can be a tough situation at holiday time for many reasons but in the whole of each person’s situation is the truth that our own attitude and perspective can make or break the moments we experience. The undisputable truth is that when things get really dark in my life I always have the choice to be afraid and sad or I can choose to see the stars more clearly. I am trying to train my perception of what appears to be a negative and find the hope that lives in the positive.

I wish you all peace, happiness, renewal, and an abundance of reasons to be filled with gratitude this year. Thank you all for your support and friendship. Happy Holiday Season!!!

Call to Action

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

How do you bring newness to the holiday?

Where can you try to see the good in the perception of bad?

If you are disconnected as a family this year, why and what does the disconnect mean for you?

Images by afieldofblessings.blogspot.com and simplereminders.com

10 Times Gratitude Annihilates Entitlement

 

 

entitlement

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

What is up with entitlement? Why do so many children and teenagers feel entitled to stuff like trophies of accomplishment in sports without much effort put into it or a student allowed to not do homework because the parent complained and said it was too much? Why do kids and adults feel deserving of good grades and accolades if they didn’t sweat through the hard part of a study session or project? Why do teenagers feel that doing something for someone has to be a chore or a high school graduation requirement in order for it to get done at all?

Let’s take a deeper look.

Entitlement is defined as the condition of having a right to have, do or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something. The only right that human beings have is the right to stay alive. How they do that is up to them.

Here is a small but powerful example:

My youngest has just graduated from high school. To hear him talk about his entire school career you would think he was imprisoned for the first 18 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit and has finally made parole. He is taking time off from school and academics and is going to try his hand at working for a while. He feels he deserves to have money but not necessarily because he earned it. He just thinks that because he needs money for something he should just be given the money.

Here it comes…..ready? He refuses to look for a job or take any job that pays minimum wage.

Wait, what? “You come from a middle class, hard-working family with not one ounce of a sense of entitlement ever shown to you. You grew up with the philosophy that anything you want badly enough is worth working hard for.” How can it be that he feels it beneath him to work for minimum wage when he has absolutely no expenses weighing him down ( that could be entitlement, I’ll have to really think about that one), no working world experiences to offer any employer and not even a decent enough education to see him through? And let me just say, he is not alone. He has a graduating class full of peers that feel the exact same way.

Where did this come from?

So, ok, I can almost kinda, sorta sense a reason for such a statement (and I’m not really reaching too deep to find this). It costs a whole lot more to be a teenager these days than it did when it was my turn. I know, my parents said the same thing but truly, our cost of living is not slightly left of center it is on another planet.

Just look at how much 2 movie tickets cost now, forget the fact that we have IMAX. For $20 my husband and I not only saw a movie but we put gas in the car that same night and went for ice cream or a burger and fries at the diner. Not so much now. And there is the new reality of a depressed economy that is just about shutting out the teenagers from getting any kind of start-up job because so many late twenties through eighties adults need the jobs to pay the real bills so I suppose you could argue the point of how is he supposed to get money if he can’t even get a job. But that’s where I draw my sympathetic line in the sand. Just like we all had to work for the money to joy ride and live it up so does he. Although life costs a crazy amount to live and breathe now there are also waaaayyyy more income options than when I was a teenager.

“Sometimes I just want to paint the words “It’s my fault” across my forehead to save people the time of being pissed off at me.” Christina Westover

This is what I do best. I blame myself for all the failings of my children. Somehow, some way, I must have showed him that it’s okay to skip a step in his evolution but I can’t for the life of me figure out how I did that. Okay, is it possible it wasn’t entirely my fault? He didn’t grow up strictly under my roof. He was influenced by the outside world; TV, music lyrics, peers, and oh yeah, those trophies awarded to all the team members just for showing up regardless of if they played or how they played. Silly, that something seemingly so trivial and touted as “fair” could wreak such havoc on the growing and developing psyche.

What was there to strive for anyway, everyone was getting a trophy and going to hear their name announced. He’d get his 15 seconds of fame for every team he played on and for every year he played. Oh but wait, when he got to high school not everyone got a trophy, suddenly not everyone got in the spot light unless they did something news worthy (good or bad). Oh man, now he had to actually work hard for something. As the reality started settling in he withdrew instead of standing tall and decided, sadly, nothing was worth that much effort. No matter how often we all rallied and tried to show him all the gifts he was blessed with he turned away. He turned away from family, away from his core of peers and coaches and teachers, away from himself. Academics were too hard to work through so he did as little as possible. He actually chose the school of hard knocks and manifested the two things he felt entitled not to put up with, minimum wage and a hard life. When this truly becomes his past I hope he remembers it as a lesson learned toward inner strength, not regret.

All I can do and have been doing is pray for him and hope that not only by me remaining an example but that one day he will understand that all the power he ever needed has been inside of him all along.

How can he and kids like him begin to turn things around?

“Those who have the ability to be grateful are the ones who have the ability to achieve greatness.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

What does gratitude feel like? It feels good. Good feels gratifying. Good feels like giving and grace.

Gratitude doesn’t feel like entitlement (a sense that everything should be coming to you without effort on your part). Gratitude doesn’t feel like anger or responsibility or indifference. Gratitude doesn’t feel deserving and it kicks butt to just about every negative that exists.

So if gratitude can annihilate entitlement how does someone go about cultivating, practicing and making gratitude a key player in their life? According to Dr. Robert Emmons and his awesome book, THANKS!, he outlines his top 10 practices toward leading a life of gratitude (pg. 189). I’d like to share my take with you on what he outlines:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. This can be in any form you can create. You can journal in words, in cut out pictures or photographs or drawings that help you remember what you saw that sparked gratitude. This can be written in a formal bound book or you can create your own kind of personal journal book. Dr. Emmons says, “What is most important is to establish the daily habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.” My daughter loves to take pictures with her camera phone. She chronicles the best moments of each month and saves the pictures by the month. When she looks back she is able to see all the best of her life moments that she is grateful for having experienced. How awesome is that?!
  2. Remember the bad stuff. In looking at our story earlier we can see how a person with a negative perspective about their past would want to forget what happened but by remembering the bad and practicing gratitude the negative story can be mined for grateful experiences that propel good feelings going forward. Should we experience bad feelings or circumstances again it will help us to remember what we don’t want to go through and seek ways to make this bad experience not as lousy as before.
  3. Look inside yourself. Dr. Emmons suggests asking yourself 3 questions to help keep you grounded in gratitude seeking keeping in mind that this kind of inner searching helps us to always be aware that we are part of our gratitude and the gratitude we can affect in others. In other words, we are part of the solution to our own problem:

What have I learned from________________________________.

What have I given to ____________________________________.

What troubles and difficulty have I caused___________________.

       4.  Prayers of gratitude. This might be uncomfortable for some people but as someone who ends every day with prayers of gratitude I can attest that not only does it help make a bad day better upon reflection but it helps set up a better day to come. I often find myself in tears while speaking of the things I am grateful for, not realizing just how much it affected me to have gone through whatever experience the day brought. Your soul has needs just like your physical body and that spirit needs the intimacy of prayer and accountability. If you find it hard to pray or hard to find what to be grateful for you might like to just pray for the ability to recognize what to be grateful for. No rules, your heart and your words are all that matter.

         5. Sense it. Take notice of each of your senses. Think about each one as you contemplate your gratitude for each one Dr. Emmons says, “Through our senses, we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human, of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive.” If your senses are not enough incentive please visit the website of Nick Vujicic. You will instantly learn exactly all that you have to be thankful and grateful for.

        6. Display it. All around you are reminders of what you are grateful for if you take the time to notice. Why not bring it home to you every day. Here Dr. Emmons remarks that “We cannot be thankful for something of which we are unaware. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves and to become aware.”

       7. Swear to it. Make a vow either to the universe, G-d or a treasured friend or partner that you will consciously include gratitude in your life every day. Dr. Emmons says, “A vow, when made before others, constitutes a public pronouncement of an intention. Breaking a vow thereby becomes a profound moral failure.” Keep it simple. For example: I vow to express gratitude to someone who has been influential in my life.

      8. Say just what you mean. How you say something or describe something is a mirror to how you see and interpret your life and your surroundings. Using the right language and emotion can take a day that was just all right all the way up to a day that was so blessed.

    9. Ape it. According to Dr. Emmons, “when people mimicked the facial expressions associated with happiness, they felt happier. Going through the motions can trigger the emotion.” Even if you force the smile or the happier attitude one feeds the other.

   10. Get creative. In my twisted mind I truly believe that life is backwards. Things that we think should be a result of something often times are just the opposite. In that light get creative in what you are grateful for. The guy that cut you off on the highway for example. Why ever would you be grateful for that? Well, you aren’t feeling as high strung as he is and that is to be grateful for. How about you didn’t get hurt by his knucklehead move. You are fine and the car is fine and if the kids are with you the kids are fine. Think about what you might not look at as something to be thankful for and find the silver lining. It’s deep and it’s so amazing to see something you couldn’t see before by practicing gratitude. And as always remember to pay it forward.

And just in case gratitude didn’t quite do it for you there is always humility.

Call to Action

In what ways can you bring gratitude into your life more?

Where have you noticed a sense of deserving or entitlement in your day to day?

When was the last time you were brought to your knees through feeling grateful and humble?

 

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com or email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Keys to Understanding our Response Ability

 

The dictionary defines the word responsibility as a state or fact of being answerable, accountable, or responsible; of being reliable or dependable; morally right or legally required.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” —Spiderman

In my coaching world responsibility is akin to evolution. If we are in tune with our deepest selves we know when we are facing a crossroads and we also know when that crossroads feels like mud. In order to evolve and grow and become who we want to be we need to face the resistance and hold ourselves accountable/responsible for the decisions we face at the crossroads. The resistance we feel is the one strong emotion we need to make something happen. We tend to lose momentum when we perceive responsibility to be too cumbersome or obligatory.

“The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel.” – Steven Pressfield

I say play the odds. Welcome the resistance because at that moment you know you are about to learn something very important and essential to your happiness and well-being. What I have learned most in being a life coach is the mirror effect. Holding up a mirror to my clients and leaving them no room to escape or deny their responsibility to their agenda or their life. A client comes to me most often in order for me to help them with a sticking point on their journey through life and I then have the pleasure of holding them accountable/responsible by holding up that mirror so they can see exactly what I see and so much more by showing them their hidden potential that will help them get through to the other side of that sticking point.

Many times I know when responsibility is being evaded simply because the answer to most questions that I ask is in my answer of ”I don’t know.” The “I don’t know” answer is a safe place to hide, a safe place to put off dealing with what we fear facing. We do know the answer to most questions asked about ourselves but at times we feel shame, fear or denial about admitting the truth of ourselves to ourselves much less to other people.

A great way to alleviate the pressure of an “I don’t know” answer is the one thing I am a huge fan of and that is the idea to “let go of the outcome”. It isn’t the outcome that matters as much as the struggle and education to get through the decision making, soul baring, or truth telling process.  By not attaching ourselves to any specific outcome we are free to journey through endless possibilities and learn with an open mind. Your only concern is to take responsibility for the learning and the doing.

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” –Sigmund Freud

Responsibility or rather our ability to respond to all that life throws at us is a major component toward overall happiness. In his recent blog post, “4 Life Lessons That Lead to Happiness, Success and Longevity

Blogger Eric Barker talks about key components toward happiness. One question he researched for his blog post asks, “Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?” In other words, if you are having a hard time with your response abilities, who can you turn to  help shoulder the process toward your ability to respond to what life is throwing your way?

To see Eric’s full post click here

We all know that feeling irresponsible most of the time feels like a ten ton weight on our shoulders and at times it feels like we are throwing our cares out the window but sooner or later we all have to face the life we designed for ourselves and all that comes with it. So what are we afraid of when we are asked to step up and man up and take up the gauntlet of our responsibilities?

In her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt speaks of freedom, strength, courage and confidence. Those are some of my favorite success characteristics by the way.

Here are some ways to live a more responsible kind of life but without the burden that the word responsibility carries. See how much of this list you can embrace and honor and engage of your own Response Ability:

1-      “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I didn’t think I could get through some of the tougher coaching classes that I had to take to get my certification. That led to not fully believing that I could change my career path. What I learned by facing those fears was that I was made of tougher more determined stuff than I ever imagined. Now I know that the next time I have an uphill battle to face, which will always include the responsibilities that go along with plans and pathways toward my own happiness, I can get through it.

2-      “It’s your life but only if you make it so”. There are things I want to accomplish in my every day and my life as a whole. I am the only person that can make that happen. I do believe in divine intervention and I do yield to that higher power but I forge ahead where my thoughts and emotions lead me because they are my inner compass and I know that by not ever trying how am I going to know what I am capable of? I am the only one that can take responsibility for me.

3-      “There is no human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.” As a life coach I help guide the digging deep process with my clients. They know I am that person they can call at four in the morning to tell their troubles to. It is rewarding to give of myself in that way however it is also easy for me to at times to hide behind helping someone else when I know that I myself need to face a digging process. If I am not willing to do the hard work for myself how can I possibly be successful at helping someone else? I am ever so grateful for all the people put into my life and onto my path to help me dig deep. Each person serves a unique purpose with the strengths they have that help me to become my best self in handling the responsibilities that come along with the life path I’ve chosen. With other people’s help I can help someone else.

4-      “If you can develop the ability to see what you look at, to understand its meaning, to readjust to the information, you can continue to learn and grow.” I always tell my children, “Let’s see what we can see”. Lots of times we are so conditioned to pre-conceive what we will see when we get “there” that we miss a lot of what is actually revealing itself to us. Keep an open mind, let go of the expected outcome. Allow awe and wonder to permeate your mind and thought process. You’ll be amazed at what more there is out there to learn and how much happier you will be for the freedom. Take responsibility for the learning and growing and you’ll be amazed at the things you see around you.

5-      “Love can often be misguided and do as much harm as good, but respect can do only good.”  In his blog post Eric Barker talks about how  love manifests itself through large, active social networks, physical activities that create flow and engagement, giving back to those in need, enjoying your career, and cultivating and nurturing healthy friendships and marriages. When these elements are in play and working well we are taking responsibility for the way we want to live our lives. On the respect side when I take responsibility for my perspective, my actions and my emotions I am showing respect for not only me but for those around me. I am teaching others how to respect me. From that respect love can grow; love of self, love toward others, and love from others. It’s a win-win situation!

So, what is your ability to respond when your life is calling you?

Call to Action

What is the great power/responsibility that you hold in your hands right now?

How does this power/responsibility feel? Is it one of obligation, constraint, guilt, burden or an albatross and if so how can you make it one of accountability, dependability and/or freedom?

How can the truth of who you are handle the duty, care, charge, contract, engagement and importance of this responsibility?

What are you not facing head on right now that you know deep inside is something you can handle but just don’t want to because it is too much work?

What do other people know about you that make them believe in your abilities but you choose to shy away from?

What is the fear?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

6 Strategies To Be Kind To Yourself

“I met someone that was unkind to me. He treated me as if my life and my feelings and my essence did not matter. I felt used, abused and trashed. I felt like dirt and I felt dirty. He lured me in with pretty words and he made sure that I was as hooked on his bait like a fish to a lure. I didn’t see it coming. I was in such desperate need to have those words and thoughts said to me that I didn’t see what was really happening. I became unkind to myself.”

A client came to me a few months ago and this is how our conversation started. She was devastated and feeling down on herself. Since our initial coaching session there have been tiny breakthroughs and the breakthrough that seems to be helping pull her out of her sense of worthlessness is kindness. My client discovered the power of kindness when I asked her how she expresses kindness to herself. How was she expressing kindness to herself , her essence when she allows someone to have such influence over her emotions and thoughts?

We all need reassurance and validation. It’s okay to fall off the top of the “I like me” cheerleader pile. Making sure you get back up is the hard part but no matter what you have to do, get back up. We have to find a way to restore ourselves to rights when we get knocked down. How do you show kindness to yourself when someone has not been kind to you, even if that someone was you?

I think Plato said it best and true when he said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” In the months following my initial session with my client, she has come to realize that along with forgiveness of self and of this unkind person, comes the realization that her self-worth would benefit from not being wrapped up in someone else’s actions. This guy that was unkind to her was definitely dealing with some deep personal issues regarding women and she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The question now is, what lessons can be learned strongly and deeply enough that compassion and kindness become the rule and the norm?

American humorist and writer Sam Levenson understood what women really needed when he wrote what I have come to refer to as the Bobby Brown commandment book of becoming an awesome woman:

“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it at least once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. As you grow older you will discover that you have 2 hands; one for helping yourself and one for helping others.”

There have been too many times in my life that I have let a low sense of self-worth get the better of me. As I’ve gotten older I have realized that one quick way to help alleviate the pain of that personal despair is to help someone. Getting out of my own way, getting to the business of kindness toward others is a sure fire way to leave myself behind and make someone else feel like a winner. It’s very simple really and you have heard me say this so many times before, other people matter. So ultimately someone else is going through just what I am going through therefore I am not alone. And because I am not alone I will reach out, share my story and heal, not only my heart but the heart of someone else.

Recently I committed to volunteer and teach a creative writing class to a group of middle school children through the Boys and Girls Club of America. I am so excited to work with them. It is an uplifting way for me to give not only of my time but of my passion. It gets me out of my own head and into the thought processes of children that carry hope and possibility through their veins. For me, this is an exercise in kindness; the giving of myself to the betterment of others. I like that….

“When you are feeling bad about yourself or your life, do something you love. Make sure that the thing you love to do is good for you. Make sure that it will not hurt anyone else. Make sure that while you are doing it, you remind yourself of all the ways you can be more loving, more supportive, and more encouraging TO YOURSELF.” – Iyanla Vanzant

One great step in helping my client through her awareness of kindness was to start her on a personal kindness journey. Here is a small list of personal kindness steps you can take right now so that you can spread kindness from the inside out:

Speak patiently and lovingly to yourself: Whenever you start to feel like you want to berate yourself for a job not done so well, stop, take a deep breath and turn the words around. Take it one word at a time. Think in baby steps about all of the great things that happened along the way toward the end of the job. What did you accomplish? What do you like so far? What personal values are you bringing right now that let you know you are worthy? How did you forgive yourself for falling short of your values today?

“If I knew your thoughts, I would know what you are, for your thoughts make you who you are. By changing our thoughts, we can change our lives.” – Dale Carnegie

Smile: We have tried this exercise before. Look in the mirror and force a smile on your face. It will feel awkward and strange and weird and silly. Good. Play around with different ways to smile. Then go out and smile at people at the grocery store. How many times did you notice a smile in return or kind eyes staring back at you? How much more at peace and how much more happy do you feel because you smiled? How did you appreciate yourself today? When were you filled with pride for yourself today? How many times did you catch yourself feeling love for yourself today? Self-compassion is as important as compassion for other people. Practice on yourself and it will be natural to show to others.

This quote can easily be read and adapted to be personal….

“One of the most spiritual things you can do is to embrace your humanity. Connect with those around you today. Say, “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “I appreciate you”, “I’m proud of you”…whatever you are feeling. Send random texts, reminders, write a cute note, embrace your truth and share it…cause a smile today for someone else…and give plenty of hugs.” – Steve Maraboli

Create an encouragement jar: Lots of people have a bad habit of using foul language. In an attempt to break their bad habit they put the nasty word in a jar each time the nasty word is spoken out lous and create a fine or punishment in order to help them turn it around. The opposite is just as helpful. For each time you start to get down on yourself, quickly think of something encouraging to balance the negative personal thought. Put the encouraging word in a jar and see how many times in one week you broke the bad habit of discouragement. Before you know it the encouragement jar will be so full you might need more than one.

“Encouragement from any source is like a drop of rain upon a parched desert.” –Claire Gillian

Forgive yourself: This is a hard one for sure and the angel and devil have at it when forgiveness looms. Forgiveness starts with learning. Did you know better and ignore it? Did you learn something from a negative experience? Allow forgiveness and it will be easier to forgive others too.

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim; letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” – C.R. Strahan

Show gratitude: Gratitude can show up in many forms. Gratitude can look like giving, listening, stillness, meditation and acceptance. Speak out loud all that you are grateful for in any moment, day, week, month, or year. The more you hear your own voice sincerely speaking gratitude the more your body will start to relax and build self-worth.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” — Epicurus

Activate you soul: Go for a bike ride, spend time in nature, read a book that makes you happy, listen to your favorite music while you make dinner or do laundry, end your day with a laugh, wash your face at the end of the day, take a bubble bath by candle light, grow something, learn to play an instrument, clean a room, bake your favorite cookie….

“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” –Walt Whitman

Call to Action

How do you show kindness to yourself and/or to others?

How do you feel when kindness reveals itself?

Where in your body do you feel kindness first, strongest?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building character strengths, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

Image by Simplereminders.com

4 Home Grown Humility Lessons

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” –C.S. Lewis

Humility has been playing a major role in my life this year. Humility is lowly and meek on the outside but courteous and respectful throughout. Humility puts others first.

Maybe I’m more aware of courtesy and respect or the lack thereof than ever before because I’m getting older or maybe it is just a bi-product of the way our society seems to be so self-centered. Whatever the reason I find myself so much more open to learning from others no matter where I am or with whom. Every new learning opportunity and every word I take in I am more and more aware of this feeling of humility and of paying homage and of being grateful.

I recently joined my local Chamber of Commerce and as a result of attending networking events through the Chamber I have been meeting a lot of new people this year. I have found myself feeling humbled by a few people I have met. Their natural way of speaking set the interaction between us on a different level and I was aware of how I have never experienced that before and I found my mind opening up in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I want to hear everything they have to say, I want to ask questions I’ve never asked before, and I want to understand things I have never had a need to understand before. It feels right to feel humble. It feels right to honor the people that make me take notice. It sets them apart from other people I have met. Their uniqueness is so evident that I have to pay attention with awe and humility to all that I do not know. The conversation is richer and has more colors to it.

I’m sure there were humbling moments that have occurred in my life but I don’t think I was aware of the blessing of feeling humbled. I don’t think I ever made that connection until now. For me the blessing of humility is in the ways in which I can bring a smile to someone’s face or help through my coaching. It’s a blessing to be of service to others. The late, great psychologist Christopher Peterson said, “Other people matter.” The end.

If you ever want to feel instant connection to humility watch a child share a toy with another child knowing that no one asked the first child to share that toy. The innocence, the love, the honesty in that moment of sharing could very possibly bring a tear to your eye. Humility is in deeds and silence.

Today I tried to be very aware of my sense of humility. I have been working part time at a local public library for a little over 6 months now and every week I work with young children in a story time program that the library offers. I only see the children the one time per week so it has taken a while for them to feel comfortable and safe with me. Today one of the children told me he loves me as he waved good-bye, “I love you Miss Lisa” and another child said that I was a great reader of stories. Keep in mind that these children are 6 and 3 respectively. I was so thankful and speechless at the same time. Oh yea, a tear fell.

I don’t run story time for accolades. I do it because it is so fun working with the little ones. Every week I am nervous as a butterfly wing hoping I don’t mess up the words I am reading or nervous that the kids will like the craft we are doing that day. Just to let you in on a little secret, I do mess up the words I read sometimes and the kids are just fine about it. That is humbling. I am always so surprised to come to the end of the story time sessions and feel filled to the brim with happiness for the fun they all had. A smile truly is worth a thousand words.

This has been a year of changes for me mostly by way of perspective. My mini-series on change started out wishing you all a happy YOU year  By the way, if you would like to see those posts please visit my website, www.journeyoncoaching.com or email a request to me and I will send the posts to you.

I have, for some reason, been witness to quite a few incidences lately where I have felt humbled by what I have seen. Let me just say right now that I am beyond grateful for not only the experiences but for the blessing to recognize how I’m feeling and how it has affected the way I interact and the way I stay present every day. The humility I feel with each experience has been so powerful that at times it has brought me to my knees. The result of all of these experiences has found me wanting to pay forward my changed perspective. (I encourage you to please read The Noticer by Andy Andrews for a deeper meaning to a changed perspective. It is an incredible book.) I’ve noticed that I am calmer, more even tempered, more forgiving, I listen deeper and I notice more around me. I want to share with you some insights I noticed in reference to humility that have been coming to the surface of my awareness as I let myself truly feel the changes that are coming over me.

*Be Grateful“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leave no stone unturned in your approach and reverence toward being grateful. Feeling grateful is humbling. Dr. Robert Emmons writes in his book, Thanks! “Grateful thinking fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations.” When you are showing gratitude you are being humble in the presence of the experience and honoring your awareness.

*No Contest. We are each unique. We are one of a kind. There is no one on earth like us. Celebrate your unique status. Don’t compare yourself to someone else. Celebrate the fact that we can each learn from one another at any moment in our lives. Our soul’s purpose is to help each other grow and learn and reach and become and achieve.

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone in this world; if you do you are insulting yourself.” –Bill Gates

*Learn for life.  We were not born knowing everything there is to know. True, our experiences solidify certainties that we hold on to with fierce determination but what if what we believed to be true wasn’t really the only truth? Wisdom comes from learning and bending and experimenting with many perspectives. Stay open in your mind and soul to always learn from every experience. Don’t close a door because the lesson was hard the first time around. Take a deep breath and see what you can see.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell

*Kill with Kindness. Do good work and people will notice. Do great work and people will wonder who you are and how to be like you. Do great work always. Let your kind acts speak for themselves. Don’t boast or brag and don’t be kind to be noticed. Be kind because everyone is need of kindness every day. Let go of the self and be the selfless.

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council

*Let Go of the Outcome. More times than not life will interfere with the plans we make. The outcome of any hoped for situation will invariably end not as we expected or wanted. Exchange the word expectation to something much more real and soft and usable like hope, surprise, awe, wonder, magic, or magnificence. Humility lives in these new words. Work hard, follow your heart, do what you need to do but then let go of the outcome. The results will be what they were meant to be because you had a hand in it. We don’t know everything so let the energy of your great work and the energy you put out into the universe help to decide the ending.

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”  Samuel Johnson

Call to Action 

Share with me the answers to these questions. Your stories are everything to me.

Where were you kind today?

What are you grateful for today? Is there something you are grateful for that hasn’t happened yet?

Where did you leave ego and self at home?

Who did you humble yourself to today?

What caught inside of your soul today that made you stop breathing and fall to your knees with humility and honesty?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, creating awareness of humility, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

Metamorphosis

Whispers from my Wallpaper

Metamorphosis

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On my very white, unpainted wall behind my desk top computer, surrounding my children’s elementary school art, rests taped rectangles and squares in myriad colors of inspirational and motivational words, phrases and quotes that resonate with me in a deep, personal, spiritually uplifting way. It is my wallpaper. It greets me every morning and whispers to me throughout my day.

Call it a mid-life crisis, or whatever crazy notion you can relate it to but I started thinking about all of these whispers of hope and empowerment that greet me every day and how I could start living the words, how could I start making all of these magical streams of consciousness apply to my life? Maybe it is the change of seasons affecting me but I had a need to transform, to change, a shedding of old skin, a metamorphosis. This need for change really started back in 2012 when so much of my life seemed to be at a precipice. I wanted to redesign my life, adapt it to the changes that were taking place all around me and within me.  So how was I going to start my metamorphosis and keep my spirits up and feel like I could move in a forward motion?

A few months ago I made up my mind to set out to metamorphose myself. I began with my wallpaper whispers yes, but I also asked myself some tough questions:

1)      What makes me come alive?

2)      What are the obstacles holding me back?

3)      What are the possibilities?

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering because it is familiar.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

When I first read the above words I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was one thing to know deep inside that I was unhappy but it was another thing entirely to see that someone had actually articulated the exact reason why I was staying unhappy. For many years I hated myself for feeling what I assumed was helpless unhappiness and yet when I read this quote I was comforted to realize that if my feelings were on paper then I was not alone in how I felt.

What would it take for me to break free of whatever “suffering” I was going through? What changes needed to take place in order for me to stop suffering?

The season of winter is a good example of using time to create a metamorphosis; to create a cocoon. Winter is hard. It keeps us coiled up like a snake trying to stay warm, to horde food and wood for those harsh, cold days ahead. Winter is lifeless on the outside and it’s quiet. Winter brings its own kind of suffering that we acclimate ourselves to. We hunker down, dig in and wait for it to end. However, winter is also reflective and it rejuvenates us and makes us contemplative if we allow ourselves to be. How can we use this down time to our advantage? We need some kind of cocoon we can hide in, contemplate in, and transform in so that when we emerge we will be a shiny, new person.

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“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”

Thank you so much Mr. Henri Bergson. You have given me my banner, my high flying metamorphosis flag to anchor in the ground of my new soil in which I can sow and grow. I allowed these words to whisper to me, wash over and through me and to push me.

I wanted to choose to courageously change and exist and find meaning to my life. I know I am changing all the time just by existing, every day that I am allowed to get up and start anew. My body ages; that is my significant outward change. However, a consequence to change is the development of maturity. If I never learn anything then my maturity is stunted but I know I am learning every day so therefore I am maturing not only in my body but in my mind. As my mind matures so does my creativity, my courage, my perspective, my authenticity, my perseverance, my gratitude, and my spirituality. This is true for you too, no matter what kind of change you are seeking. I realized that if I expand a bit further on this thought then the thought becomes like a road map for change and helps me set a course for whatever my mind can dream up.

On March 20, 2013 at 7:45am the spring equinox occurred. Not much to see in the way of a seasonal occurrence; most northern states ushered in the new season with snow. Winter prefers its suffering; it is afraid of the rejection by the masses to yield itself to the warmth and the longer sunshine filled days and the hope that spring brings, but it knows its time is coming to an end. While the darkness of winter grips us in its quiet, lifeless hold, the promise of spring creates a natural metamorphosis that takes place inside the earth, the trees, inside human beings. There is a co-evolution going on as we begin to emerge from winter to spring. According to www.morning-earth.org, “Co-evolution is the process in which species slowly transform together toward a mutual fit. Evolution is mutual, and it takes place in communities or groups.”

We are all familiar with the caterpillar that changes into a beautiful butterfly through the scientific process of metamorphosis. Similarly our own lives mimic nature in so many ways. One way is in how we are collectively ready to let go of the “suffering” of winter and step into the individualism and the welcoming hope of spring. We successfully adapt to the change of seasons. We are ready for our renewal, ready to blossom like the flowers.

I wanted to bloom like never before; I wanted to take a leap of faith. I was tired of watching my life from the side lines and not risking getting fully involved. I had reached a saturation point with my fear, my unhappiness, my negative frame of mind and my idleness.

Author and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky refers to our saturation point as our set point. In her book the “How of Happiness” she talks at length about her research which suggests that we all have a happiness set point. No matter how happy we are we will level out to our set point; the happiness high doesn’t last forever. I took this idea and flipped it around, realizing that I had reached my unhappiness, my loneliness and my negative frame of mind set point.

Each of us must take a leap of faith to courageously walk into the new season of our lives full of hope and strength and energy to make the most of ourselves, for ourselves and for the world while the world starts to feel open and full of promise.

What did your winter metamorphosis yield? Are you ready to answer the tough questions? Are you ready to finally say YES or NO and declare your own happiness? Will you hold on to familiar suffering for fear of the unknown happiness you could have by letting go? Will you choose your natural, evolutionary right to change and see what you are made of, where will your journey take you…..will you take a leap of faith? Journey on……

lisa@journeyoncoaching.com