“If you judge people, you have no time to love them” Mother Teresa

You are angry because your coworker hijacked the project near and dear to your heart.  Who do they think they are?  One of your favorite singers is a lot heavier since first appearing on American Idol.  Geez, put down the Twinkie, will you?  Your child needs financial help…again.  How many times do I need to bail you out?  You blew off that exercise class…again.  I’m a lazy, flabby slob.

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This is judgment.  When you are wrapped up in judgment you cannot love; even yourself.  We are taught judgment from a very early age.  For me, it was not having an expansive vocabulary (what do you mean you don’t know that word?), not achieving straight A’s or not having the physical prowess of my siblings.  I judged myself for not measuring up.  This judgment and comparison robbed me of my joy and will rob you of yours. Stop judging.

Here is how to let go of judgment:

Catch yourself.  First, you need to be aware that you are judging.  It is so easy to fall prey to a constant stream of judgment of yourself and others.  How to change it? It starts with awareness.  I make an effort to be cognizant of my judgments.  When I notice that someone has gained or lost weight or is wearing something I don’t find appropriate, I think to myself, “This is judgment.”  I have found myself passing judgment all day long.  Whoa. Whether it’s my getting on the scale in the morning to an additional five pounds or rolling my eyes at the screaming kid throwing a tantrum in the grocery store.  Hmmm.  This is judgment.  The first step is to be aware that you are judging and then label it.

Whose path is it? “Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” Anonymous. This is a profound quote for me.  I don’t know where you are in your book and I don’t have any idea how many pages have preceded the current chapter.  We are all on different journeys. I don’t know if your path has been rocky and straight up hill or if you have been on the couch for the last ten years.  Comparison of your path versus someone else will rob you of your joy.  Focus on your path.  On your happiness.  Stay on your path.

Find admiration.  I have several friends who are expert yoga instructors.  They are in fabulous shape.  I could live in jealousy of their expertise and physical prowess and compare my somewhat klutzy self to their elegance.  I am so much more at peace and happier when I just admire their expertise and power.  Wow.  What an amazing dedication of being outstanding at yoga.  I admire them and am proud to call them friend.  Find admiration for what you think you lack. And get beyond yourself.

Compassion for yourself and others.  Let go of the mistakes that you and others have made.  Depending on the depth of the wound this may take more time and involve going through rather than around the feeling.  I can get wrapped up in what my parents, teachers, spouses and friends should have done differently.  In the end, history cannot be rewritten and the regrets that are harbored in your heart help no one, especially yourself.  Having compassion for that egotist at work, or your fickle client, or your ex’s addiction is, in the end, freeing.  Compassion is finding love for friend or foe.  It is holding that special space of love and forgiveness.  This compassion starts with yourself and can help you change with others

Thoughts become things.  You do get to choose your thoughts.  It seems at times that your mind is blasting you with uncontrollable thoughts and judgments.  You can choose instead to choose thoughts of love.  I have recited affirmations for years to help develop a more positive outlook and results. It is a practice of centering and focusing on happiness and love.  I have been following Mike Dooley for years and am subscribed to his Notes from the UniverseEvery weekday I receive a message from the Universe helping me push forward on my wonderous path. His tag line is “Thoughts become things, choose the good ones.”  This is a powerful message and keeps me mindful of trying to focus on possibility and love rather than blame and judgment.

If you are constantly judging yourself, you don’t have time to love yourself.  Take a breath and be ok right now. You will love it.

Taking Flight

I have wanted to go indoor skydiving for the last decade. It’s been on the proverbial bucket list waiting for the stars to align with the right set of people and circumstances. Well, it finally came together the last week of 2017. My daughter was home from Seattle and my son from Miami. The weather was too cold to see the Christmas Lights at Busch Gardens (the original plan), so we decided that our last day together as a family would be spent trying something indoors and adventurous. This more than qualified!

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If you live in Wayne County, North Carolina, you see billboards for Paraclete XP when you’re driving along the highway. It’s an indoor skydiving facility west of Fayetteville, NC, in the town of Raeford. Due to the long drive and an early flight time the following day, we had to get on the road by 7:15 AM. Comfy clothes and sneakers were a prerequisite. We arrived as requested 45 minutes before flight time at 9:15 AM. Prepared for the unknown.

This is what I learned about taking flight:

Be prepared.  Comfy clothes are a must. It’s not like you would show up for indoor skydiving in heels and a skirt, but sweatpants and a t-shirt were the right clothes, regardless of the temperature outside. I didn’t realize we would be suited up in a jumpsuit, so dressing in layers that could be removed was important. We were also advised to take off any jewelry and watches. Had I realized that, I would have left my watch and jewelry at home. There were lockers available for storage, but not having to keep track of something and recovering post-flight would have been one less thing to think about. Keep it simple and be prepared.

The right instructor.  I don’t know if it was just sheer luck or if the universe aligned us with Manny. By his accent, we figured he was an Aussie or a Kiwi. Manny was at least 6’ 2”, engaging and optimistic. There was a couple ahead of us in the flight chamber and their instructor was a petite man. He did a fine job, but I couldn’t imagine him trying to corral my bulky weightlifting son or reigning in my 5’ 8” frame. I was completely confident in Manny’s abilities and I feel like I wasn’t apprehensive because he seemed in full command. As expected, he took control and did an excellent job herding us flying kittens. Make sure you are matched with the right instructor.

Sign language.  I had not realized it, but you cannot communicate once you are all suited up with earplugs and helmet in the waiting chamber, let alone in flight while in a loud wind tunnel. We watched a short instructional video that taught us the basics of keeping our chin up, our legs straight and arms stretched out. The most important hand signal was that of an extended thumb and pinky for “relax and breathe”. The other important thing to realize is that you really can’t communicate once in the flight chamber. All the communication is coming from the instructor. If you want to bail because you are terrified, well then All. Bets. Are. Off. I hadn’t realized this before entering the chamber. No one had given me the “Ah, hell no, I want out of this” sign. Turns out, it wasn’t necessary. Just know that once you are in the flight chamber, you are in.

Every move counts.  We had one other person in our flight group besides my children and me. Our impression was that he had been indoor skydiving before. He was the first one to fly, then my son, Benson, my daughter, Natalie, and then, yours truly. I was glad this kid (he appeared to be in his late teens) was first. He was a gangly mess. His knees were bent for most of the first two-minute flight and he seemed to bounce all over the chamber. As they say, we were schooled of what not to do by this young chap. If I knew one thing, I was going to keep my legs straight. My son was next and made it look easy.  He was calm and purposeful. My daughter was next and then I was up. Gulp.  I covered my chest with my arms and slid into the chamber. The sheer volume of air being shoved up my nose felt like a fire hose. You would think I would realize that stepping into a wind tunnel would, by definition, be full of wind. I had not anticipated the amount of wind, which is crazy, in retrospect. The first flight in, I realized that even a millimeter of change in one’s hand or chin could cause a sudden directional or altitudinal change. Manny kept signaling for me to take a breath. Somehow, with all that air rushing around you, it’s instinctual to not breathe. I finally started to get a handle on relaxing, breathing and making small adjustments by the end of the first flight.

New heights.  We each had had our turn and now we were up for our second flight in the chamber. The gangly kid went first and then, next up was Benson. Towards the middle of Benson’s second flight, Manny latched onto Benson and gave the wind operator a nod. Suddenly Benson and Manny lifted off and went up about 2 and half stories above us. We all ran to the glass. I thought. Well, that’s cool. Benson was so rock solid at this, he got to fly high. Next up was Natalie. Sure enough, she and Manny went flying two and half stories up. I figured. There’s no way Manny will take this old, uncoordinated lady up into the stratosphere. Well, I was wrong. Check out the recording on YouTube. First of all, when I went for my second flight I went higher than Manny’s head without realizing how I had done it. I had found my wings. Next thing I knew, Manny had latched on and into the high reaches of the wind tunnel we went. I have to say, I wasn’t scared. I really was relaxed and just enjoyed the ride. Stressing out over whether I would hit new heights didn’t change the outcome.

Exhilaration. I hadn’t expected that each time I left the flight chamber, I would become light-headed and my heart would race. Again, seems obvious in retrospect. I was so focused on the experience that I wasn’t paying attention to my vital signs. It was an amazing sense of wonder and exhilaration. I had just flown for upwards of 4 minutes total and it was life-affirming. I think most of us have had dreams of flying but to actually do it…for real? Amazing. To leave the restraints of gravity and to float above the ground;I will have that experience forever.

When we were all finished and basking in the glow of our accomplishment, I asked one of the instructors on how indoor skydiving compare to free-fall skydiving. I asked how long free-falling normally lasted. He said one minute. I had just been flying for close to four minutes. Hmmmm. Actual skydiving was never on my bucket list. It is now.

Fixing your New Year’s Resolution

You’ve told yourself a million times you would start going to the gym. But it’s 7 AM and you still haven’t put your running shoes on. You roll over and hit snooze again. You’ve promised to eat a salad for lunch, but you decide that the drive-through at Hardee’s looks a little bit easier and you don’t even need to walk in. Double cheeseburger it is! You tell yourself three years ago that you were going to start writing that book. But you binge watch Gilmore Girls instead. This is the effect of most resolutions on most people. We fail. Over and over and over again.

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There are many reasons why resolutions don’t work. Here they are:

 

  • It’s just too big. Resolving to lose 20 pounds, write a book, or run a marathon is pretty BIG. It’s daunting. It’s overwhelming. It’s so easy to get discouraged and give up before you even start. You can’t eat a 24-oz Porterhouse in one bite. And when you don’t, you give up your resolve and throw in the towel. You’ve got to break it down into itzy bitzy pieces.

 

  • There are a million distractions.  As Beverly Flaxington wrote in Psychology Today, “Even the most minor distractions slow you down, wasting your energy and time – consequently adding more stress to your everyday life – and keep you away from things that you really want. Distractions cause you to miss many opportunities in life. They make you feel busy and tired all the time, and frustrated at the lack of progress despite your best efforts.” These distractions are stressing you out and keeping you from achieving your higher goals.

 

  • You don’t write them down.  Believe it or not, keeping your new resolution in your head is not that effective. It’s difficult to keep it at the top of head all day when you don’t have it memorialized somewhere. In addition, you have a world of distractions (see the bullet above) that are constantly taking you off course. As a coach, I write my clients goals down and then they make a copy themselves, or my clients write down their goals as we talk. Writing them down helps embed it in your head.

 

  • You don’t clarify what is at the heart of the resolution. Resolving to lose weight or quit smoking isn’t really the heart of the issue. It’s probably more about feeling energized, having a more positive outlook, or regaining your confidence. What is at the core of this new resolution? Knowing what is at the core will help you see it through when your willpower is waning.

 

So what do you do about it? It’s the New Year and you have a whole new clean slate. I’ve got the solution for you and it’s free.

Try out my 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits. Just click here to receive your free copy.

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No one outside of you has your answer

This was the prompt for Day 114 of the Project 137 by Patti Digh. This idea really sets me adrift, like someone put me in a rowboat without oars and cut the towline. Go figure it out, Cathy. I feel like I have measured myself my entire life by living up to other people’s expectations; other’s dreams and wants. This comes down to me and what I want. My expectations of myself. Gulp.

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I run into folks who are either followers or are curious about this blog. This is my sanctuary to work things out. My colander to strain out the unnecessary to find the good parts. I gave my card to someone at a conference last week and she asked about the blog.  I said, “It helps me work out my stuff.” The hope is that the byproduct of me working out my stuff is that someone else gains some wisdom or thought-provoking question that propels them forward. But really, at the heart of it all, is me working out my stuff.

So here are some insights of looking inward:

  • Shoes. No one else really walks in your shoes. And I don’t really walk in anyone else’s shoes. I can make assumptions about a loved one’s journey or what my colleague aspires to or if that mystery man is unattached. While I can identify with someone else, I really can’t live in their shoes and they really don’t know what it’s like in my shoes. They probably don’t even know my shoe size! So, the answer is taking care of your shoes and throwing out the ones that don’t serve you anymore.  I recently decided to hike Machu Picchu this summer. I will need new boots and will have to break them in. That answer is in me.

 

  • Advice.  I have spent the last month grilling friends and family about the fate of a huge financial decision. I sought advice from almost every trusted resource I have. It’s fine to get advice. To be informed. To find a devil’s advocate. To weigh out all your options. I feel really good that I have heard all the pros and cons of my next move.  I’m glad I have trusted friends and family to confide in. In the end though, it really comes down to me. I need to make the decision. The answer is in me.

 

  • Faith.  I realize now that serendipity is always conspiring to help me. The Universe is in my corner and some pieces have fallen into my lap to help me forward; actually leaps forward. As they say, “Let go and let God.” So, while I was gnashing my teeth in worry and fear, I learned to embrace the idea that there is a greater plan and I am at the center of that plan. It is freeing to release the pain of fear and uncertainty and know that, if I have faith in myself, the Universe will conspire to help me. The answer is in me.

 

  • Willingness. As Benjamin Foley writes for Medium.com, “Wisdom, in my opinion, is the willingness to live the questions of life with an acceptance of no immediate answer. In a world of immediacy, this is a difficult accomplishment, but one that is enormously important if you are to create anything of value.” As my trusted friend Janine says, “You don’t need to make a decision until you need to make a decision.” This means I need to be willing to be patient. Not my strongest suit, but knowing that the decision will appear before me, when it is needed, is powerful. The answer is in me.

 

I have said over the past year that “you can’t push a rope.” What will be, will be. Trust your intuition, listen to your gut and find the answer in you.

Are you alright…right now?

I bet you are. Mostly because if you are reading this you are not being chased by the police, or an elephant or even a shark. If you are in the middle of a major medical procedure like heart bypass or having your gall bladder removed, you are probably not reading this. The truth of the matter is, most of the time you are alright right now.

I’ve been reading Just One Thing by Rick Hanson. It’s a book of simple practices to add to your life to develop a buddha brain. A buddha brain, as defined by Dr. Hanson, is using neuroscience and emotional balance to create happiness, love and wisdom. Couldn’t we all use a dose of that? Well, this is lesson 42, which is titled: “Notice that you’re alright right now.”

Here is how to implement this into your own life:

PauseAs I write this, it’s ten days before Christmas. I’m busy putting up the Christmas Tree and I can’t seem to get one strand of lights to work. I’m not sure if I have bought enough presents for both my kids, my house is getting repaired, and I have huge financial decisions looming on the horizon. I know you have similar preoccupations. It may be a medical decision or the unknown leak under your car. There is something preoccupying your head. Press pause. Stop. This very instant. You may think you don’t have time, but unless you are in the middle of performing brain surgery, you have time to pause. So pause.

Sense.  Now that you have stopped your monkey brain from ping ponging from issue to problem to disaster to worry, scan your body. How is your big toe doing? Still there? Any pain? What about your ear lobes? Still hanging in there? Slight pain in your back from that workout yesterday? Ok. But you are doing okay for the most part. Sense it. After I read this lesson last night, I was snug under the covers of my bed. That’s a wonderful feeling. Sense the moment. Right now.

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Stock.  Take stock in the moment right now. Is there a roof over your head? Do you have food in the fridge? Shoes on your feet? People you love and care about? When you take stock, you figure out that it’s not so bad. In the past few months, I have gone down the rabbit hole of catastrophizing my financial situation. When I do that, I am diminished. Reduced. Small. A victim. But when I take stock in the moment? I am a badass. I have the tiger by the tail. How would you rather feel? I thought so. Grab the tiger by the tail and take stock in how much you have.

Relax. As Dr. Hanson writes in Psychology Today, “This background of unsettled-ness and watchfulness is so automatic that you can forget it’s there. So see if you can tune into a tension, guarding or bracing in your body. Or a vigilance about your environment or other people. Or a block against completely relaxing, letting down, letting go.” This is going to take practice. We are so hardwired for scanning the environment for threat that relaxing into the moment is against our biology. Feel your shoulders, let them sag. Relax your jaw. Let your thoughts go like balloons into the blue sky. Breathe. Try it. I’ll wait. There is no rush.

 

So how did that feel? Pretty good, huh? Check in throughout the day. Is everything alright right now? Maybe it’s at the top of the hour. Maybe it’s when you wash your hands. The important thing is just to notice

Gate B4 at Hartsfield International

My son, Benson, and I arrived at our connecting gate to Raleigh-Durham. We were about an hour and 15 minutes early for our connection and sat down next to each other pretty close to the gate for our final leg home after spending Thanksgiving in Seattle. Benson settled into his iPhone and I sat skimming Facebook. Then a woman in a wheelchair was placed next to my seat. The wheelchair agent looked at the woman and said, “Are you all set?” The woman in the wheelchair was silent. The wheelchair agent looked at me with an expression of Well, I guess that’s it and left.

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About 5 minutes later, the woman in the wheelchair started speaking in Spanish. I wasn’t sure who she was talking to but there was no one around responding. I spoke up and asked, “¿Hables ingles?” (Do you speak English?). She replied: “No” and asked where the wheelchair agent was. I responded in Spanish that she had left. The woman then explained that she could not see. So there I am, sitting at gate B4 next to a blind, Spanish-speaking woman in a wheelchair. I felt, at that moment, that I was the only one in the world responsible for this woman and that I needed to make sure she got where she intended to go.

Here are my lessons from that experience:

Language.  It’s been over a decade since I had to speak Spanish on a regular basis as the Human Resource Director for a Mission Foods tortilla manufacturing plant. My Spanish is rusty. It did not matter. I had enough to figure out that she didn’t speak English, she could not see and that she was headed to Raleigh-Durham. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the perfection of speaking another language, reminding yourself to use the correct tense and the proper form of “you” (tu is more familiar and usted is more formal). It didn’t matter. Language is language, and any form of communication was better than what the rest of the folks sitting at the gate could provide. I know if I was in Miami, I could have found someone to help me out. But messy and imperfect or not, we were able to communicate. Use the language you have right now and quit worrying about whether or not it’s perfect.

Information.  It was important to relay basic information like what time it was, what time the plane would leave, and where it was headed. I was glad that she was at least headed to Raleigh-Durham. I wasn’t sure what I would do if she was at the wrong gate. I kept updating her with the time and what was going on at the gate. As soon as the gate agent was there, I walked up to her to let her know that: A. This woman did not speak English and, B. She was blind. This was important information and the gate agent thanked me. She said that it was not indicated on her ticket at all which would have helped everyone to make sure she got where she wanted to go. Be sure to relay important information.

Connect.  The extent of my airport Spanish was exhausted in about 2 minutes. So, I decided to ask where she was from, where she was headed, and what it was for. Turns out, she was headed to Burlington, NC and lives in Veracruz, Mexico. She was headed to Raleigh-Durham to meet her brother, her niece and her sister. They were coming from various parts of the United States for a reunion. Her journey had taken her from Veracruz to Mexico City to Atlanta. Now she was hoping to make it to Raleigh-Durham to meet her family. I was astounded that she had traveled so far all by herself. I was glad that I connected to her story. If I had not spoken Spanish, I would have thought she was a crazy woman, because it’s not necessarily obvious when someone is blind. She didn’t acknowledge people because she couldn’t see them. Take the time to connect.

Responsible.  As soon as they started boarding the plane, the gate agent came over and took the woman in the wheelchair onto the plane. I was relieved that she was on the plane. I never saw her when I boarded later and never saw her get off. I saw several wheelchair agents by the airplane door with various names written on paper as I exited but I had never asked her name. I felt responsible for her. How would I know if she met up with her family or not? I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I got to baggage claim and I saw her surrounded by family as we all waited for our bags. It’s amazing how we can feel responsible for something completely out of our control. I wasn’t that woman’s daughter or sister. I was just another human who happened to speak Spanish.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that this had a happy ending. I’m sure she would have made it to Raleigh-Durham without my help but it felt so gratifying to be a part of the end result. It also made me appreciate that we don’t always know if someone is disabled or doesn’t speak the same language. It’s so easy to jump to conclusions and not investigate further. I’m glad I did.

Thoughts on Seattle

My son and I spent Thanksgiving in Seattle with my daughter and her boyfriend. It was a first-time trip for my son and probably my fourth. My daughter moved to Seattle this July and it was fun to have her as the tour guide for her new stomping grounds. To see the city as a resident rather than a tourist.

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Here are my observations about Seattle:

Rain.  This is by far the rainiest it has been on a trip to Seattle for me. Cold, windy rain. It’s funny but because of the rain, I realized how the city is built around rain. There are coat racks and umbrella racks by the doors of most of the establishments we went into. It reminded me of Phoenix with its covered parking spaces; obviously used for different reasons. Seattle has set up the infrastructure that works with its weather. Somehow it makes it all more tolerable. By the third day, I was just expecting rain at some point and carried along my umbrella. This apparently, is a sure sign of a tourist. Seattleites usually just wear raincoats. By the end of my visit, I had purchased said raincoat with a hood because carrying an umbrella is a wet, messy drag. Adapt to the rain because you know it’s coming.

Coffee.  I have been to plenty of cities with ample coffee shops but in Seattle coffee is an art. It’s where the gourmet coffee industry started. Whether it was a freshly brewed pour-over coffee, a latte or a cup of coffee at a local diner, it was all terrific. You can’t serve Maxwell House in Seattle, only the best will do. There are the ubiquitous Starbucks everywhere, but we found a place called La Marzocco Café, which was a coffee shop inside a radio station studio. It was amazing. The kind of place to sit down and relax while you watch it rain outside and listen to great music from KEXP. It is a must-see in Seattle. My son and I ended going there several times to chill out and relax. It’s within walking distance of the Space Needle, so even tourists can make their way there. My daughter’s boyfriend, Kevin, made several pots of delicious coffee at their apartment. Be sure to relax and enjoy the coffee.

Transit.  There are many modes of transportation in Seattle, and my son and I used Lyft for most of our journeys. Walking is another popular mode, and once you have purchased a raincoat (see bullet one), it’s really not that bad. Plus, walking with an umbrella becomes a game of strategy on crowded streets, so I highly recommend wearing a rain jacket instead, just so there isn’t collateral damage as you make your way on foot. Kevin and his brother Brian suggested we take a bus from Pike Place Market to their apartment in Ballard. We had a whole afternoon together with no rush, so I was game. I have to say I was skeptical. I can’t remember the last time I rode a bus, but it was cheap ($2.50) and took us to within a half mile of the apartment. There is a certain Zen to riding a bus, as the world rolls past and riders stare blankly ahead, or intently at their phones. I was glad I had the experience, since my daughter rides the bus to work every day and I now understand the appeal. There is this transition from home to work or vice versa that frees up time for thought and reflection that driving doesn’t.

Food.  We had amazing food all week. Whether it was a diner near the Space Needle, pho at a local Vietnamese restaurant, or tacos at a Mexican spot. When we were walking around Ballard one night there must have been twenty plus restaurants we passed. I would have eaten in any one of them. There is something comforting about walking in the rain (again see bullet 1) and ducking into a cozy spot for some delicious food. Pike Place Market (with the world-renowned fish throwers) has an amazing assortment of everything, from chanterelle mushrooms to Dungeness crabs to moon drop grapes. I’ve always thought of the San Francisco Bay Area as the food mecca of the world, but Seattle could give it a run for its money. It was ironic that several of the places where we ate were Southern in theme. Whether it was shrimp and grits, biscuits or collards, I didn’t feel like I was a 6-hour flight from home. I think the cold rain makes food taste better. The pinnacle of food was our Thanksgiving meal with Brian and Natalie at the helm.  There is a peace in letting go and not being responsible for the biggest meal of the year. I don’t need to worry about whether the turkey is carved. Turns out, it is still delicious, regardless of how it is carved.

It was a great trip with the highlight being a trip to the Japanese gardens at the Washington Arboretum and spectacular Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. There is always something fascinating to do in Seattle, regardless of the weather. What are your favorite spots in Seattle?

The Obstacles You Face are Moving Your Story Forward

I’ve been taking Patti Digh’s Project 137 for the last few months. Project 137 has activities each day to help live your life to the fullest. This is what came up the other day:

Where are you, right now, in your journey? Be fully there.

                     Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

                     Be fully where you are. The obstacles you face there are moving your story    

                     forward. Embrace them.

This was really enlightening. I have written about staying off someone else’s path before, but actually viewing obstacles as moving myself forward was completely new to me. It’s so easy to get discouraged by an obstacle and letting it demoralize you. Put your hands up in the air and throw in the towel.

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Here are some thoughts about how having obstacles can move you forward:

Re-frame the obstacle.  I received some life-altering bad news yesterday. I was angry. I felt deceived. I felt like I just could not catch a break. And then, as I do with many of my coachees, I re-framed it. This news was not a death sentence. It wasn’t even a health issue. It was just about money. I realized by the time I went to bed that it was just money. I didn’t lose a loved one, my health was fine and my career in tack. So it’s just a challenge I need to get past and will be stronger for it. Put the obstacle under a new frame.

Take stock.  I write in a gratitude journal every day. This is incredible helpful when life throws you a few challenges. I had a serious scare earlier this week with a loved one. I took stock in the fact that the loved one was just fine and how happy I was that they were fine. I’m happy my dog is safe when I return home from being on a business trip. I appreciate that a friend took time to speak to the class I was facilitating. I am grateful that my career is so successful. I write five things (sometimes more) that I am grateful for every day. It helps me realign the universe to having my best interest at heart. Take stock.

Take the turn.  Have you ever used the GPS to get through something like the Hampton Roads area of Virginia? I cannot make it through the Norfolk/Newport News area without taking the wrong exit, or being in the wrong lane while my exit is three lanes over. So I have a choice. I can get angry and beat myself up or I can take the next turn and get back on track. Just because it didn’t go as planned, just adapt. Be flexible and don’t let your inner critic hijack your emotions. Just relax and take the next turn.

Stay positive.  As Patti writes in Project 137, “Don’t let your struggle become your identity.” When I went through a huge life pivot point some 6 months back, I defined my entire life by the pivot point. All my worthiness was wrapped up in a decision that someone else made. I was not moving forward. In fact, I was trying my hardest to move backwards. I was living in the space of constant struggle. It took a few months, but I finally figured out that forward positive motion was the only answer. I couldn’t live in self despair. I had to see what was possible instead of wallowing in grief. Staying positive lets you see what is possible.

Understand your story.  Brene Brown writes in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. Mean making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.” Knowing that you are filling in the blanks for data that is missing is important to recognize. It’s amazing how paranoid I can get when I am missing a few data points. When I acknowledge that I am “fabricating data” for the story in my head, it brings me back to reality and helps me redraft the story with more positive data. You are the author of the story in your head, and you are allowed, actually encouraged, to rewrite the story for the happy ending.

In an era of constant change and ambiguity, it can be overwhelming when a challenge arises. It’s important for all of us to remember, including myself, that it’s our response to the obstacle that is what’s most important, rather than the challenge itself. What obstacles are you facing?

Setting Boundaries to Build Trust

This seems counterintuitive. Why would having firm boundaries increase trust? This is a concept I learned about from Brene Brown in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness. I imagined that if you have firm boundaries that you have created an impenetrable fortress around you. You don’t let anybody in, and in turn, certainly don’t let anybody out. Keep everyone at arm’s length.

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By Brene’s definition, it means making clear what’s okay and not okay. But this is really hard for those of us who just want to please everyone. Go along to get along. I’ve been in this camp for many years, whether it was giving into crazy rules and regulations of a relationship (i.e. no music while driving, no lemon, only foreign films, etc.) or making excuses why someone is late or not being respectful. Regardless, I haven’t been very good at setting up boundaries. So, this is something new for me and about 80 percent of my coachees.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take responsibility. There is only one person who can set up your boundaries and that is you. Your Fairy Godmother is not going to come down from on high and Prince Charming won’t arrive on his stead to set up your boundaries for you. Don’t play the blame game for someone else walking all over you. There is only one person who needs to take responsibility, and that is you. I know this is hard to swallow because it is so much easier to complain about how someone treated you, instead of owning it. Take responsibility for your boundaries.

 

  • Know your boundaries. Take some time to articulate your boundaries.  Write them down. I don’t stay out after midnight. Never travel for business on a Sunday. Always request a booth at a restaurant. Only 25% of my business is pro bono. I agree to deadlines that are attainable. No phone calls after 7 PM. No technology at the dinner table. No more than three text or emails without a response. No committing to more than two events per week. I don’t leave my dog with a dog sitter for more than two days. Whatever they are, write them down. Know them. If you haven’t written them down then they might get blurry. Establish your boundaries.

 

  • Just say no. Brene writes about choosing to be uncomfortable for eight seconds when you turn something down, rather than the resentment that will eat at you if you say yes. When you can’t live with the uncomfortable eight seconds to say no, then you will end up living with resentment that will eat you up. I have done this many times. I’ve said yes to serving on boards I had no time or desire to be on. I don’t want to look like I am selfish. I’ve said yes to obligations that did not line up with my passions. The regret that comes with these decisions is a much heavier load than the eight seconds of being uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort and say no.

 

  • Let go of the guilt. Guilt is an inside job. Maybe my mother is carrying a load of guilt on my behalf, but besides that, all the guilt I might carry is completely created by me. I carry guilt for other folks. My daughter made the decision to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event instead of a family event. I started picking up the guilt and carrying it with me. It was not my guilt to carry. She had set a boundary and I needed to respect that. Sometimes the guilt is attributed to someone else’s boundary. Respect that and let go.  Don’t drag yours or anyone else’s guilt behind you. It is weighing you down.

 

  • Hold the line. Brene calls this accountability. Don’t back down once you have set your boundaries. I’ve been meditating for 30 minutes for the last 5 months. It is non-negotiable. If I have a 6 AM flight, I’ll get up at 4 AM to make sure I get my meditation in. Make sure your boundaries are non-negotiable. At this point, this boundary in my life is a habit, similar to brushing my teeth. If you hold the line long enough, it becomes second nature.

 

Establishing boundaries builds trust. In many ways, it is trust in yourself in that you know what is best for you. Isn’t that what it’s all about. Knowing what is best for you? What boundaries do you need to establish?

Learnings from the Escape Room

I was not familiar with an escape room experience but having just survived one, I figured I’d enlighten my readers so that you can be forearmed in case someone convinces you to take part. When someone on my employee activities committee suggested we go to an escape room, I was hesitant. It didn’t sound very appealing. Why be locked up in a room with some co-workers to try and solve puzzles for an hour while hoping to outsmart the puzzles? Perhaps I overthought it. It turns out it was fun. And in the process, some hidden talents of my co-workers were uncovered.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of an escape room: “An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms. Games are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons and space stations, and usually the various puzzles and riddles themselves follow the theme of the room. Escape rooms are great activities for families, friends, students, and even businesses because they rely on team building exercises.”

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Apparently, these escape rooms are cropping up all over the country. I mean, if they have one in lil’ ole Goldsboro, North Carolina, they must have them everywhere. So, before you turn up your nose at the experience, let me share some of my learning.

  • Think outside the box. When the six of us were given the instructions before entering our room, “The Heist” escape room, our guide told us to think outside the box when we were trying to puzzle our way out. This was really important advice. While pursuing our escape, we had a bunch of pieces to what seemed to be a picture frame. My immediate impulse was to make a rectangle (er…a box). It turns out that if we followed some color-coding, we actually extrapolated some numbers instead of the form of a box. I had a really hard time not just making a rectangle in my head, instead of seeing the numbers. This prompted a reconsideration on my part. Are we all just assuming that what we see is accurate or that following the status quo is the only correct path? It might stretch you and be uncomfortable, but think outside the box.

 

  • Pay attention to details.  We were in a room full of art pieces and paintings. We were instructed to count up all the rowboats as part of our escape solutions. I remember one or two of my coworkers kept wanting to count every boat, which included sailboats and canoes. The important detail was that there were only a few actual rowboats with oars. We could not move ahead in the puzzle until we counted the rowboats instead of every boat (and no, we could not use our cell phones). It’s important to know the difference, and if you don’t, then maybe you need to figure out someone in the group who does. There were several times when we burned minutes by ignoring the details and not really looking for the answer. Make sure you look at the details.

 

  • Take risks. One of my co-workers is a huge risk taker. She has always taken matters into her own hands and tested things out. I mention this only because it was a huge advantage for us as a team in our escape from our escape room. There were two puzzles that I can think of that she single-handedly figured out. She didn’t ask for affirmation from us for solving the puzzle. She just charged ahead. Here’s a perfect example: at one point we had a blow dryer and, well, wow. I saw no reason for a blow dryer; and honestly, I didn’t see the light going on for anyone else. I figured it was a joke of some sort. The blow dryer solution ended up catapulting us forward because she took a risk with the interpretation. This taught me to remain open to the reality that those around us are looking for solutions and finding them; I need to remain open and risk. Are you taking any risks, remaining open to interpretations, or playing it safe?

 

  • Sometimes you don’t need everything. If someone gives you a puzzle challenge and you are given ten puzzle pieces, you would want to use them all, right? There were several times during the hour-long escape that we didn’t need all of the objects placed in front of us. Sometimes just eight pieces, or six, or even two would work. Just because you are given something, doesn’t mean you will even use it. Getting wrapped up in using everything in front of you can bog down the process. Remind yourself of this.

 

  • Take the clues as you go. We had the option of getting three clues during the hour-long game. I had it in my head that we should get one every 15 minutes or so, and it ended up being one of the best ideas. So, we would try to figure out a few puzzles and locks and then request a clue. We would go for fifteen more minutes and then request another clue. The puzzles sort of build on each other, so if you had all the clues at the start, it wouldn’t be as helpful. By taking them over time, they were of the most benefit. So, don’t wait for the last minute for help and don’t ask for all the help up front. Assess and use it over time.

 

We did not escape in the time allotted. Our guide told us we were about 75% complete. That’s really good since it was the first escape room experience for all six of us. I think the biggest takeaway is that I now know my team’s strongest attributes. I got to witness a process that they each go through. So, whether a risk taker, willing to get down on the ground or someone patiently trying a padlock for 10 minutes; we could never have done it alone. Together we had terrific progress and learned wonderful things about each other.