Taking Care of Fall Maintenance
Being Versus Doing
If ever there was a season when we risk getting whipped into frenzy, it’s autumn. Now’s the time to practice balancing active achievement (doing) and introspection (being) – so you maintain ample reserves going into winter. These two “energies” in harmony keep you dynamic. Out of sync, you become stressed from too much on your plate.
Especially in North America, equilibrium is vital. Yes, the “hurry up sickness” that characterizes our daily professional and personal worlds has become common-place; it’s virtually unquestioned. Feeling stuck on a never-ending treadmill, many get trapped in constant doing. We forget we’re here to have a ‘human experience’ (not to mention humane). Not the other way around!
In coaching, we use the term extreme self-care to describe this critical need for regular renewal. I know, as soon as they hear it, many clients jump to the (false) conclusion the term means “selfish”. Not so! It simply refers to caring for yourself, if you’re to be of service to others. When you continuously put everyone first, isn’t this a surefire recipe for burnout?
Why do you think airlines encourage you to put on your own emergency oxygen mask before assisting a fellow passenger? Because if you don’t, you may die before rescuing the next person! By extension, making time for your nurturing – first and foremost – results in you being more present (i.e., available) to your loved ones, friends and colleagues. On the other hand, when you forever sacrifice your very-legitimate needs, they feel it through your bubbling resentment.
The Top Ten List
At this point, are you intrigued by the possibilities extreme self-care offers? I wish so! But I also understand if you’re wondering where and how to start.
The answer is both simple and complex. You decide to free your self. You create your own permission. Others won’t necessarily grant it. After all, if you’re not strong enough internally to dedicate some portion of your day to just you, how can you expect external leeway? If anything, others may try to blame you – because they feel too guilty to make time for themselves!
Here’s my Top Ten list for remembering my center – in the hopes it helps you generate yours:
2) Take walks.
3) Play with our cats J
4) Listen to music.
5) Take a bubble bath.
6) Enjoy the corner of my office decorated with objects that calm mind and spirit.
7) Engage in journaling and reflection – if even for 5, 10 or 15 minutes a day.
8) Begin and end each day with an expression of gratitude.
9) Make choices around what’s important using both my head and heart.
10) Learn to say no to involvements that aren’t aligned with what I value.
In case you conclude I find it easy to dole out all this advice, think again. Like you, I struggle to stay connected to my interior. Like you, I need to consistently remember to set aside opportunities for activities that nourish me.
I’m now looking upon self-care as oxygen…a matter of survival. I now choose to fiercely tend my priorities (what Stephen Covey calls the “Big Rocks”). The pursuit of busyness no longer gets to override the people and commitments MOST important to me. They go in my calendar first!
How about you? On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how ready are you to place your self-care ahead of the countless demands that compete for your attention?
|“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans…The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now!” (Goethe)|
How “Lucky” Are You?
About the Shamrock
One of the oldest Celtic symbols, this three-leafed gem was revered in Victorian times for its medicinal qualities. To many throughout the ages, it has represented past, present and future. Today, we prize the shamrock’s quintessential good luck meaning. Just listen to Irish blessings oft- repeated: “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun warm upon your face.”
Is It Luck or Success?
Well-intended as they may be, these sayings subtly suggest our fate resides in the hands of outside forces that either decide to rain or smile upon us. So, why not just surrender the power to direct our lives?
On the other side of the fence, reside opposing believers like Einstein, who is famously known for asserting: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” According to Albert, we must seize the reins of control and make our own “luck” happen through the application of our skills and talent.
To compound matters, when we turn to current thought leaders, we learn from Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 best-seller The Outliers a fascinating blueprint for making the most of human potential. For instance, one of his more provocative theses is the requirement for 10,000 hours of practice (roughly ten years) to attain the “magic number of greatness” in any profession. It seems it takes the brain this long to assimilate all it needs to achieve true mastery.
Then, there are Cherie Carter-Scott’s “rules” in If Success Is a Game, These Are the Rules. In her 2000 volume, she reveals each person has their own definition of success – an individualized version of what it means to be fulfilled. There is no universal description. No wonder things get complicated!
What Is Stopping You?
Carter-Scott goes on to state that wanting success and self-trust are key ingredients to attaining it. However, if it were as simple as that, we’d all presumably be “successful” by our own standards.
Here’s where we start to butt up against all manner of blocks. Blocks can include negative self-talk, limiting beliefs and fears of risk-taking. Ironically, the number one reason success becomes derailed is self-sabotage. Had you ever considered that if you’ve been thinking of yourself as a “failure” and you now become successful, you’ll need to change your identity? True. This point is not as obvious as it first appears.
Yes, all setbacks provide valuable lessons. There will be inevitable disappointments and perceived failures along the way. Learning from these experiences offers precious insights that lead to future milestones.
And, even if you reach success (on your terms) every new level brings unexpected challenges. Each accomplishment alters your reality, either slightly or dramatically. As such, success is a process that never ends. Once you’ve reach the so-called top, there’s a new peak to embrace.
The Top Ten List
To change up things a little, I entice you to respond to this list of 10 fill-in-the-blanks. Don’t over-think your answers. Complete the statements with your first response:
1) For me, success means ____________________________________________.
2) The people I view as successful are __________________________________.
3) I feel successful when I ____________________________________________.
4) I will feel like a success when I ______________________________________. (different from #3)
5) My symbols of success are __________________________________________.
6) The barriers I need to overcome are ___________________________________.
7) The actions I’m called to take include __________________________________.
8) The people who will be happy over my success are _______________________.
9) The people who will not be pleased over my success are ___________________.
10) I defined myself in the past as _______________________. I define myself in the present as _______________________________. I want to define myself in the future as ____________________________________________________.
To borrow from Cherie Carter-Scott a last time, the process of moving to “I have everything I dreamed of” has five distinct steps:
Step One: “I don’t know what I want and I can’t be it, do it, or have it.”
Step Two: “I know what I want, but I can’t have it.”
Step Three: “I know what I want and I can have some of it.”
Step Four: “I know what I want and I can have it all.”
Step Five: “I have what I want.”
As your unofficial coach, this information leads to these follow-up questions:
- Where do you place yourself on this spectrum of steps right now?
- Where do you want to be?
- What’s it going to take to get you there?
Finally, you get to decide for yourself whether my parting wish is a mark of success or luck: “May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.”
Getting Rid of Distractions
Do you lack a clear approach or desire to start moving in the direction of your dreams. Let’s go there next in the form of some “standard” steps to follow:
- Decide what you want. Brainstorm ten goals you’d like to achieve in the coming year. From your list, ask yourself: What one goal, if I were to accomplish it, would have the greatest impact on my life?
- Write it down – clearly and in detail. A goal that isn’t in writing isn’t a goal at all. It’s merely a wish and has no energy behind it.
- Set a deadline. A deadline acts as a “forcing system” in your subconscious mind. It motivates you to do the things necessary to make your goal come true.
- Make a list. Itemize everything you can think to do to achieve your goal. As you come up with new tasks/activities, add them to your list.
- Organize your list. Writing out your plan is like developing a blueprint to build your dream house.
- Prioritize. Highly productive people work steadily and smoothly – rather than waste time and risk to siphon their efforts through low value activities.
- Take action. Do something related to your goal each and every day – even if it feels minor. Maintain the momentum!
Develop a Sense of Urgency
When you work on high value tasks at a continuous level of focus, you can enter into an astonishing mental state called “flow.” At this highest performance state, you function on a higher plane of clarity, creativity and competence – often coming up with brilliant ideas that enable you to move ahead rapidly.
Developing a sense of urgency is one way to trigger flow. Urgency is about an inner drive to get on with things. It’s an impatience that motivates you to get and keep going. And, it’s a commitment to make your heart-felt desires come true, no matter what.
The Top Ten List
There! Easy as pie, right? You’ve got the goal-setting steps and know how important urgency is. So, you’re all set. Good luck with gathering the harvest of your dreams!
What’s that you’re saying? “Not so fast, Carol-Ann. If it were that simple, I’d have already done it by now.” OK, I admit to playing with you a bit. It’s to make the point that overcoming procrastination or other ways you stop yourself cold is not quite so basic. That’s why this issue’s Top Ten list is aimed at setting you up for success to manifest and reap what is rightfully yours:
1) Gather all the information and materials you need to do your goal-setting.
2) Clear your work space so it’s free of competing “demands” for your attention.
3) Make your work area as comfortable and attractive as possible.
4) Assume the body language of high performance. Sit up straight.
5) Adopt the attitude of “let’s get going!” and resolve to plunge in.
6) Consider what support you need from others to be successful.
7) Honour your personal limits. Do not over-extend yourself – even on meaningful “work” like moving forward with your life. When you’re done any one sitting (for, this will take more than one), stop for the day.
8) Try to keep scratching off your list those activities that drain your energy or take away concentration from manifesting your dreams.
9) Have some fun with this process!
10) Celebrate and reward yourself for keeping your promise to self to stay dedicated.
Here’s an interesting related factoid:
It has been estimated that the tendency to start and stop a task, to pick it up, put it down and come back to it can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500%. On the other hand, the ability to work single-handedly and with focus on a task can reduce the time to complete it by as much as 50%.
So, do you now see how any “clutter” really resides between your ears? You’re the only one standing in the way of having whatever you want.
Until we reconnect, I hope you’ll treat your further “dates” with yourself to pursue your harvest with as much respect as you would an important business appointment. Toward that end, I encourage you to keep a Time Log for the next month – not the type you’re expected to keep at work to record every 15 minutes but directed at carving out ample blocks or slots to accomplish your goals. If at month’s end, you haven’t given yourself enough attention physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, what can you do to re-apportion your time to be in greater harmony with your deepest needs and values?
The best question of all is: “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?” It will do more to keep you on track, hour by hour, than any other single question.
Yes or No?
How Are You Responding to Life?
Let me ask you: Do you consider the impact of what you say yes and no to? I suspect not – fully.
Unfortunately, many of us too easily fall prey to a martyr-like belief in a never-ending productivity curve. As if we could forever keep saying yes to commitments, people and opportunities without eventual burnout.
On top of it, we’re affronted when we feel victimized! We shouldn’t be shocked. For one, we didn’t take on all these obligations while “awake”. We did it while “asleep”. The traps we fell into were caused by not knowing we could consciously choose where to devote our precious energies. Now, we have new information to make informed choices.
Instead, for every yes (new possibility) you take up, there needs to an equal and balancing set of no’s. For instance, assume you’ve declared work-life balance a critical part of your well-being. If you say yes to working overtime every night, you’re saying no to rest. Reversed, if you say no to ‘needing’ to work until midnight to retain customers (an edict once commanded by an employer), you’re saying yes to standing up for yourself.
Talking About Tolerations
In the coaching world I travel, we regularly speak of tolerations. Tolerations are energy drains; the things you put up with but don’t really want. The (client) goal is always to increase what enhances energy and to reduce or eliminate altogether those factors which deplete it. The latter may include environmental annoyances (messy house, broken dishwasher, car problems), health issues (tiredness, low immune system), financial woes (not making enough money, too much debt), relationship vampires (as well as broken relationships) – and more.
By engaging in regular deliberate reflection through coaching or other means, you’ll come to see where you operate on “auto-pilot”. You’ll then be better able to ask yourself with focused awareness: “Do I really want to say yes to that?” (Do you also see why mindfulness is a vital daily practice? Aha!)
The Top Ten List
Be aware. I didn’t say learning to say no is easy. As soon as you even think of it, doesn’t all that stored negative self-talk jump out of the woodwork? “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t be rude.” “How dare you be so selfish?” Can’t you just hear all the internal nattering now?
Yet, learning to say no can be such a valuable life skill. You elect to say no to people and situations that suck the life force from you (tolerations). You opt for a resounding “Yes!” to what brings you zest. To help you strengthen your yes/no muscles, I hope these provoking fill-in-the-blanks will prompt clear new decisions. No more living by others’ “should’s”!
1) I need to say no to __________________________________________________.
2) I want to say yes to _________________________________________________.
3) I want less of ______________________________________________in my life.
4) I want more of ___________________________________________in my world.
5) I need to rebalance in the area of ______________________________________.
6) I intend to revisit my commitment concerning ____________________________.
7) I consciously choose to devote my energy to _____________________________.
8) I now must alter or release the attitude/belief/behaviour/habit of _________________________________________________________________.
9) I will immediately stop ______________________________________________.
10) I aim to start ______________________________________________________.
It should come as no surprise that this first Action Exercise invites you to practice saying “no” five times a day for a week. Start with easy commitments. Work up to those requiring more effort. Observe when you feel compelled to see through a particular yes – even though it creates stress. What’s that all about?
Another inquiry would be to generate your own Yes/No list for all parts of your life. If you want to add extra oomph, read it aloud! Very powerful…
As Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling asserts: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Can you make the leap? I wish it for you. You’ll find putting yourself “at choice” an uplifting way to come alive.