Posts tagged ‘motivation’

June 3, 2011

The Last-Minute Rock Star

At the moment I’m preparing for a road trip that will take me from SC to PA to NY and back again in the space of two weeks.  In my mind, someone who is truly great at this sort of thing would have a comprehensive checklist prepared, have a detailed to-do written (at least mentally) and would have had all the items that aren’t necessary to everyday life packed and ready to go by now- the minivan clean and maintained and ready to roll, home tasks that need completion before leaving nearly up to date and be ready to simply, calmly and joyfully put the stuff in the van and leave when the time comes.  Oh, and they’d definitely have the conference talk they’re giving in less than 2 weeks at least in a completed rough draft state.

My experience of this process is rarely anything like this.  Usually I experience a combination of procrastination and panic, with an underlying and continuous monologue of reprimands and reminders of how insufficient I am and how I’m doing it all wrong and how much of a loser I must be for not just doing the freaking stuff that needs doing, that culminates in me yelling at everyone to “just get the *&%$#! out of my way so I can get this stuff done and get at least a few hours sleep!” at about 11pm the night before we are planning a 5am departure.  Not an ideal situation, in my personal opinion- especially when I do not function well on less than 8 or 9 hours of sleep.  Any wonder last year’s incarnation of this trip had us all craning our necks along the highway to find a Starbucks? (when, of course, a green smoothie would be MUCH more of a help!)

So in the midst of my procrastination and panic this week I decided to do a little self-coaching on this subject.  In the process I remembered that I am a last minute person.  I function well doing things last minute and I rarely fall short of my own expectations no matter how much I’ve delayed and put off.  I recognized that what I dislike most about my usual pattern is not my last-minute nature, but the lack of trust I hold that I CAN do what’s needed in the time I have (I’m amazingly efficient when I’m motivated- a great illustration that tasks take as much time as we allow them!) and my lack of calm and peace in the process.  I don’t like being unkind to my family.  And I’m downright afraid of how unkind I can be to myself.  My “deer in the headlights” feelings of panic and inability to act are mostly about how much I’ll berate myself as I’m losing much needed sleep and yelling and then trying to fuel myself on sugar and caffeine.

I’ve decided that this year, I’ll prepare for our road trip in the usual way- acting as I feel the motivation.  Except this time, I’m choosing to trust in the fact that I always get it done.  I’m going to trust that I can do this calmly and without yelling at anyone, or mentally abusing myself.  I am going to invest in my well-being by saying no to others’ requests of my time and attention when they don’t align with my goal of a peaceful and calm packing process and departure.  Many of my children’s requests WILL align with this goal- they’re as excited about this trip as I am, maybe even more!  Some of them might not.  But I can feel good saying “yes, but not right now” knowing that we all benefit from peace and calm and trust that everything works out.  Ultimately, I’m going to step up and be a last-minute road trip rock star- flipping the bird at the reptilian voice in my head that is not really me, but an amalgamation of cultural expectations and past criticism that I’ve allowed to remain.  I’ll be kind and loving and roll on the wave of adrenaline I get when the time comes.  I’ll enjoy it.  I’m actually pretty great at this last minute stuff.  Time to own it.  Time to rock my last-minute capabilities and evolve them to a more peaceful and loving place.

So anyway, take what you can from this story and apply it to your own life.  Where do you berate yourself for being who you are, and what is the real problem with the situation?  How might a different thought change what you do and how you do it?  How can you be the rock star of who you are and bring it?

I’m off to do what I’m inspired to do today- just like I was inspired to write this post.  Rock on and let your stars shine!


December 30, 2010

The gap between the sofa cushions

When I came to my notebook to write today, I was feeling rather scattered and depleted.  So I decided meditate briefly, to quiet the buzz of my scattered thoughts, refill my well of peace, and to see what would rise to the surface.  The phrase that popped into my head was “the space between desire and action”.  I think of this space like the gap between sofa cushions.  It’s where we tend to lose the small bits that make up the whole of our selves, where we lose our dreams.  Everyone has dreams and desires, but how many of us fall into that gap where we see only the darkness, think it’s too hard to get out and never take action towards what we want our lives to be?

 In that gap between desire and action we are living among thoughts and ideas that we’ve come to believe- but are the ones that limit us and create feelings of hopelessness.  These beliefs tell us how much safer we are to not take action, and how likely we are to fail if we do.  What we forget is that the world outside this little hidden place isn’t as scary and unfamiliar as it seems when you can only see a small slice of it.  That big place outside is nothing more or less than where life takes place.  It takes action to get there. But those thoughts and beliefs swirl and make noise and keep you distracted so you can’t think of what your first step could be.  They say “It’s too hard”, “Don’t bother”, “You’re not good enough” and “But you’re safe here!”  Luckily there are some things we can do to get out of that gap.

 The first is to take action anyway.  Stop thinking, just do it.  I love this most when it’s the action I can’t not take, but it does also work to say to those thoughts, with determination, “Yep, I hear you.  But I’m doing this anyway”.   I admire the people who seem to only need this approach.  I’m not one of them.  The second way out is to look at and listen to the cacophony of thoughts and beliefs and pick out just one.  Then look at it.  Ask it why.  Ask yourself if it’s true.  Step outside of it and see if it’s serving you or if it’s holding you back.  One thought at a time you can turn them into the rungs of a ladder into action. 

 There are so many approaches to this practice of examining our thoughts, this process of inquiry.  I’ve written about some of them before- The Work of Byron Katie and Self-coaching 101- but one thing I’ve learned over this past year is the value of reaching out and getting the help of someone well versed with these processes and with working on thoughts.  For me this was a life coach.  A life coach, from my experiences acting as both a client and a coach, can help you pick a single thought from the swirl of many that are creating the distracting background noise in your life.  A coach can walk you through your inquiry process- figuratively holding your hand as you look into the impact this thought has on your life and gently keeping your focus within the process.  My own tendency is to distract myself, particularly when I’m looking at a thought that has a strong hold on me, and turn to the nearest shiny object or fall back into a loop of my story so that I remain stuck.  A coach can gently, or sometimes firmly and lovingly, say “let’s set that aside for now and come back to it later after you’ve finished exploring THIS thought”. 

 The results of this process have varied from instantaneous “WOW!  I never thought of it that way!” to getting only tiny, almost unrecognizable shifts, that with continued exploration of a thought and it’s many companions and shape-shifter forms, looking from many angles, lead to the experience of a larger shift.  Those are the ones I find most life changing- when I can’t see movement from one day to the next, but over time find there’s been a complete change.  It’s like a force of nature. 

 Honestly, I didn’t know when I started writing this that it would end up being about coaching, but it’s wonderful that it did.  Tomorrow’s post will be more about coaching and I will be making a very limited offer to my readers, friends and family.  But it will not be entirely about coaching.  It is also about some shifts I am making in my writing focus, and changes to make your experience as a reader more enjoyable and valuable, regardless of your interest in life coaching.

 With love to you all,


December 27, 2010

If I had one wish

Be the star cookie man!Just a quick note to mention that I’m finishing up this year with daily blog posts, making some updates and changes, AND a big announcement and opportunity on Friday.  Subscribers will get this announcement first- so if you’re curious go ahead and subscribe. 

And Happy Birthday, Mom!


“If I had one wish this holiday season…” – Steve Martin

 Okay, so I’ve now proven that I’m truly scarred by a lifetime of SNL viewing.  And my one wish has nothing to do with singing children, swiss bank accounts, all encompassing power, revenge or orgasms.  If I’ve lost you here, I can only hope to catch you up with a youtube clip

I have a holiday tradition of wrapping gifts while watching movies.  I love this time alone.  I love making my gifts look beautiful.  And I love holiday movies.  My favorite gift wrapping movies for the past few years have been Love Actually and The Holiday- because they are ones the rest of my family scoffs at as “chick flicks”, which results in them somehow being magically repelled from my presence for a couple of hours.  Brilliant.   

As I watched and wrapped this year, I noticed something I hadn’t consciously noticed in the past.  At some point in the story line, the characters are overtaken with the urge to do something unusual.  Something that’s out of character.  Something bold and daring.  Even something that everyone else thinks is completely nuts.  Or that actually is kind of insane.  And they don’t have the urge to do these things simply for the expected result.  They have the urge to do these things because they can’t *not* do them. 

 This is the magic in these holiday movies- watching the characters being overtaken with a completely illogical urge to follow their hearts.  They become unflinchingly honest.  They admit to their mistakes. They panic and nearly back out.  They say “What the hell am I doing?” then do it anyway.  You get the sense that the result is irrelevant.  They seem to be saying “Hey, this may work out, and it might not.  But the only thing worse than it not working out is not taking the chance”

 There really is something like magic in that feeling.  Just following your heart, or your inner being, or your essential self.  Just doing what feels perfectly right.  It might be a little crazy.  It might be a little scary.  Or it might be a lot of both.  But it feels absolutely and perfectly right. 

 That is my one wish this holiday season.  That everyone, myself included, live a life of heart inspired action.  To experience that wild-excited-scary feeling and to follow through, knowing that the thing much worse than an unexpected or unwanted result is to not have taken the leap of faith at all.  I wish this for individual moments, this season, and for the new year to come. 

 A somewhat belated happy holidays and a very, very happy new year to all.


November 18, 2010

Almost Affirmations

Affirmations feel kind of stupid to me.  When I think of affirmations, my first thought is always of the character  Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live back in the 80’s.  This said, after hearing of how many people find affirmations uplifting, helpful, inspiring and well, affirming, I’ve made some attempts at using them.  The first step is usually coming up with a statement that doesn’t feel completely fake and silly (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”).  The second step is to generally repeat this statement to yourself over and over and over.  Some suggest saying it out loud while looking in the mirror (a la Mr. Smalley), some just suggest saying the affirmation out loud, some suggest writing the affirmation repeatedly- which makes me alternately giggle and feel queasy because it makes me think of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and “I must not tell lies”.   While participating in a group coaching program this summer I came up with the idea of using a bracelet as a form of “prayer beads”- which are used in many religious traditions throughout the world for the recitation of mantra or prayer.  I used my beads to repeat my affirmations.  Repeating your affirmation is supposed to have the effect of something like self-brainwashing.  After much repetition the hope is that you now believe this new uplifting thought and that this new belief creates a new reality. 

 Now, I’m a very logical person who happens to also believe in the Law of Attraction.  I agree with the observations made by many that people’s lives tend to reflect what they believe.  I also don’t think of this as anything that’s particularly “woo-woo”.  I just consider it simple observations that seem to hold true in my life and that I’m able to see at work in the lives of those around me.  People tend to get what they expect.  It explains pretty well why a co-worker back in my first set of college days, who was a financial and intellectual equal and had very similar life circumstances- newly married, finishing her degree, same job, husbands in similar fields- was moving into a luxury apartment with no apparent financial distress and without any more financial support from her parents than I had, while I was living in a “good enough” apartment and just making ends meet.  She came from a white collar background and had certain expectations.  I came from a blue collar background and my expectations were different.  She expected financial ease and a certain standard of living.  I expected struggle and “getting by”.  At the time it puzzled me.  But now I think it makes sense.  This is probably why I’ve tried to work with affirmations.  It seems to me if I have more satisfying expectations, I’ll have a more satisfying life.  Affirmations are touted as a sort of way to change your default beliefs.  I just can’t say they’ve been a particular success for me.  The whole idea of affirmations tends to leave me flat. 

 But I’ve also recently been working with a model of thought work that I find pretty useful.  It’s called Self-Coaching 101 and was created by Brooke Castillo.  This model also creates a more nuts and bolts, pragmatic take on what I think is the same thing as the Law of Attraction.  You have a circumstance.  You have a thought about that circumstance.  This thought results in a feeling.  What you’re feeling influences your actions, which create your results.  As it happens, your results tend to reflect your thought or belief.  The incredibly powerful thing here is that if you find a thought about the circumstance that results in feeling better, you quite literally do things differently.  Doing things differently gives you a different result.  That result tends to confirm the new belief.  It’s beyond empowering. Absolutely. Life. Changing. 

 So here I was having a panic attack of sorts about all the things I need and want to do, including writing this blog post, which I’ve wanted to do for weeks.  (well, not necessarily *this* blog post, but *a* blog post).  I decided to sit down with my journal and play around with Self-Coaching 101.  And I whittled down my thoughts a bit until I realized that I wasn’t avoiding this post simply because I’m afraid of what people will think of me- I was telling myself that caring what others think makes me a pathetic loser.  (I’m really only this mean to myself- I KNOW most people care what others think, at least from time to time, and I don’t think that makes THEM pathetic losers, just me.  And yeah, YUCK, right?).  This thought was feeling bad.  Very bad.  And the result was that I was just not getting to my writing.  And I love writing.  So, I played.  I played with some alternate thoughts and some turnarounds (a la Byron Katie ).  And I did come up with some really wonderful feeling new thoughts.  Like “Caring about what others feel makes me a well-respected success” (in my own eyes).  Opinions can differ greatly and others’ opinions are really none of my business.  But I can still care about someone’s feelings if they have differing opinions.  It doesn’t make me responsible for their feelings, it doesn’t mean I have to share their feelings or their beliefs, it just allows me to come from my deepest self and a place of understanding.  And it feels good.  And I’m writing. 

Then it occurred to me that I’d like to keep a record of the better feeling thoughts that are working for me at the moment.  I considered a notebook, but not having a fresh one on hand I settled on index cards.  I wrote down 2 new thoughts, each on their own index card.  I can reference them when I like.  I can check in with them and see if they feel better than what I’m thinking at a given moment.  I can throw them out if they no longer have any resonance for me.  Nothing heavy.  No big expectations that they need to transform my life forever.  Just some play with ideas, with thoughts.  They’re almost affirmations, but not quite.  Because it’s not so much the thoughts that matter.  It’s the feelings they bring, and what I do when I’m feeling those feelings.  And I really do prefer feeling good to feeling bad.

So, what are you thinking about yourself today?  How does that thought feel?  Play around for a bit.  And if you’re up for it, go ahead and share your almost affirmations and insights in the comments. 

 Until next time,


October 21, 2010

You are enough

I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to write lately.  It’s not that I don’t have things to say.  I have nearly 2 pages written that I intended as last week’s post- about bullying and about loving & supporting teens where they are, for who they are, and making things better here and now for those who are hurting.    I haven’t finished it.  And I haven’t even sat down to allow the muse to carry me off into “Writingland”, or whatever I was trying to do when I made myself sit down to write every day. 

 I think I know why.  I was feeling inadequate.  It actually makes me want to laugh to realize this.  Here I am, wanting to encourage people to be entirely themselves because it’s the best thing they have to give to the world and the best thing to promote their own joy.  But I’m not accepting myself as enough. 

 I was getting caught up in the shoulds of writing, blogging, preparing to start a business, living healthfully- and even the shoulds of keeping clear intentions for myself and creating my life.  It’s funny how I can use anything as a weapon against myself (and I don’t think I’m alone here). Somehow, even in focusing on what I want in my life, I lost sight of those very things.  I was doing what I thought would bring me joy, would feel like freedom and result in happiness instead of doing things that are joyful, acting in ways that feel free and embracing happiness.  And being just me- whoever that is in the moment- is enough.  That *is* my path to what I want and need in my life.  It *is* my life. 

 Now, it’s not like I’m going to leave my kids hungry because I don’t feel like making dinner (see my last post…), but I can choose to leave behind the shoulds and the driven-ness, focus on the joy and move in that direction.  It feels so much better than berating myself for not following the plan that worked for me last month.  That was then, this is now. 

 My point, however, is that I didn’t lose my motivation because I’m inadequate.  I lost motivation because my true self moved beyond that particular set of externals- the particular form of daily schedule and the set of priorities that had been working for me previously.  I think this is something many of us are in the habit of doing.  When something external in our lives is no longer working, we come to the conclusion that we are the factor that is defective.  So if we can just be better, more disciplined, more driven, more focused then the problem would be solved.  Yuck.  I’m getting depressed just thinking about it. 

 What happens when we realize that we aren’t defective?  How does that idea feel?  Here is where we can find the freedom to examine our thoughts about the things we think we have to do.  If my goal is to feel joy, freedom and happiness, why do I feel compelled to do things that feel constricting?  Because they’ll bring me joy, freedom and happiness at some point in the future, even if they aren’t joyful or freeing now?  Maybe those things don’t feel constricting, and do feel joyful and free, once I realize that they fit with my deepest values and truth.  Or maybe they’re simply things that others have said are the path to joy, freedom and happiness.  Maybe they don’t apply to my life.  And then I can open up to alternatives and allow my joy and feelings of freedom to guide me to a more satisfying place. 

 The simple fact is that I far from inadequate.  I have everything I need within me to create a life of joy and embrace my happiness.  I am enough.  And I’m sharing my own path very openly to remind you as well.  Your answers are within yourself.  You are not defective or inadequate.  You are enough.

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