Change it or Choose it. Stop Complaining
Mo buys two tickets to the symphony for herself and her husband, Joe. Joe sits miserably throughout the concert, ruining the experience for Mo. Mo complains about Joe’s behaviour for the next 6 months.
Why Do We Complain?
What About Things We Can’t Control?
Like, politics, the weather and commitments. Of course, there are many avenues available to become involved in community, national and global affairs, but if you are not lit up wanting to become an activist, then a first step can be to choose where you place your attention and energy. If your blood pressure is going up while watching the news, you can choose to turn it off and focus on something you can do in your immediate environment. Buy some cool rubber boots for those rain days; a cozy blanket or sweater for snow days; think of a reason to enjoy the current weather conditions. I do my best running in the rain. There are many creative ways to make your commitments feel like a choice. (see Bag It, Barter It, Better It)
Choosing is Always More Satisfying/Empowering Than Complaining
There are many options for Mo and Joe. Mo could have asked if Joe wanted to go with her before she bought the tickets. In this case, Mo would have to change her assumed expectation of her husband and ‘allow’ that he has a choice. In this she also has a choice. Her enjoyment of the concert does not have to hinge upon Joe enjoying it too. She can choose to go by herself, ask a friend or enjoy herself even though Joe is miserable.
Joe too has many choices. Joe could have said he didn’t want to go. Here his choice is to accept his wife being upset with him, but he’s off the hook for attending the concert. Or he can choose to go and show up fully, be present, participate fully not acting passively-aggressively while seeming to go along.
Use Complaining as a Clue
When you notice yourself complaining about your job, your boss, your spouse, etc. get curious. What exactly are you frustrated/unhappy about. What is making you feel helpless? Where can you take some of your power back? What complaints can become choices? Also notice when someone is complaining to you. Ask them these questions.
Change it or Choose It
The antidote to complaining is choosing. If you don’t want to do anything to change things, then accept that you’ve chosen the circumstance and stop complaining. If you do choose the current situation, show up. Be present. Find ways to enjoy yourself.
Advice columns, self-help formulas and a list of ‘hacks’ for a happier life can sometimes feel, if not overwhelming, then, defeating. Sometimes too much information can trigger the opposite of inspiration and motivation. The offerings can seem to suggest that there is always something you can improve or that there is something wrong with you. I have to lump myself in with the advisors and self-help givers, because I serve this stuff up as well as study it. I apologize if I’ve ever made you feel ‘less-than.’ So, I present: Advice…erm ….Suggestions for:
How to Take Advice
1. Consider the Source’s Motivation
What does this ‘expert’ stand to gain? What is their motivation for offering you advice? If you feel any sort of ‘ick’ factor, you know that the advice is not coming from a place of having your genuine best interest at heart.
2. See Every Piece of Advice as an Option
Just because some ‘expert’ in a field presents a compelling case does NOT mean that you must take the advice. You always have the option.
3. Timing is Everything
Sometimes the advice is just not for you at this time. We are all in different places on our journey and it is completely ok to be exactly where you are right now. You are always growing, even if you can't see it. The advice that is showing up for you may be helpful at a later point in your journey.
4. Use Your Imagination
Before you invest energy or time in something, imagine yourself taking the advice or performing the self-improvement exercise. How does it feel? Does it feel exciting? Soothing? Pleasurable? Comforting? Relaxing? Open? Or does it make you feel tight? Compressed? Shut down? This is all important information. Our logic and reason are not always the best methods of deciding things.
5. Develop Your Own Inner Guru
Trust yourself; your knowing, your past experiences, your body signals. Just because something got Oprah, or your favorite yoga instructor all jazzed up, does not necessarily mean you should get jazzed up too. Be happy for them, bless them and go on your way.
Everyone is here to have their own unique experience and only you can decide what that is.
As a coach, I encourage my clients to try different advice or self-help exercises, in the hopes of sparking some inspiration or movement into new possibilities. ‘Should’ and ‘have to’ are not helpful when offering suggestions (See “Fighting the Evil Shoulds”). Homework is always optional.
Ultimately life is about growth and expansion and advice is a way to encounter someone elses' experience and consider it for yourself.
How does that feel?
Awakening; Stage One: What it Actually Looks Like
Holly shares that she’s going through an extremely difficult time. She’s decided to leave her 29-year marriage. Dealing with the process of divorce is hard enough, but the dissolution of such a long-term relationship is proving emotionally overwhelming. On top of that, one of her parents is gravely ill and one of her adult children has moved home. They both need her focused attention. Holly is surprised to be assailed with never-before-experienced anxiety resulting in daily panic attacks. She cries often. She is certain that she is not handling this episode in her life as well as she should be. She apologizes for needing to vent and is searching for some insight into how she can handle herself better.
Holly does not need to handle herself better. Holly needs reassurance from the many who have already experienced exactly what she’s experiencing, which is; Holly has entered stage one of awakening.
When you search on-line and find “The Signs That You’re Awakening” they most likely will not include: 1) the life you worked to build becomes impossible to live in 2) sudden onslaught of anxiety, depression and insomnia 3) crisis in all relationships 4) severe self-doubt 5) obsession with finding where you went wrong 6) an impossible amount of crisis, and then one more.
Holly, and possibly you, are awakening from role playing. All the roles that women adopt—wife, mother, daughter, employee/entrepreneur, etc.—to fit in and to get love. I talk a lot about this. The awakening, that seems sudden, has been steadily growing inside until it can no longer be contained within the constraining roles. Like birth, we need to burst out of the womb-like existence that our roles provided for us to realize our true selves.
Holly needs a compassionate witness to her unsettling awakening. She doesn’t know who she really is. Most of us don’t. She needs to talk, a lot (Women We Need to Talk). Holly needs to realize that she has been constricting herself, probably since her actual birth, so that her loved ones can feel comfortable and therefore accept her, but at a terrible cost to herself and to them. Holly needs to be taught how to nurture her true self; to be the all-loving, only kind, attentive parent to her new, emerging self.
We seem to imagine awakening in reverse order. We picture a beatific expression on the face of an awakening soul as she opens her arms to a holy light and peace descends upon her forever. That is more like the end of a lifetime of awakenings. In the beginning, awakening, like all birth, is traumatic, it is messy and it is inevitable. Occupying life inside our roles was not a mistake. They were not wrong or bad, they were a stage that is now over and the next has begun.
What Really Happens When You Rest?
Do you wish you had the time to get a proper rest? Or that your schedule would slow down already , so that you could fit in a regular meditation session, a yoga class or even massage? Does the idea of a weekend retreat or week long get-away seem so out of reach that you can’t even entertain the idea? Have you actually tried any of the above and it didn’t go so well or you just didn’t enjoy it?
The thing with resting, meditation and getting away by ourselves, is that when we do these things, what really happens is that our shit comes up! Meaning, everything that you just don’t have time to think about and/or all the emotions you avoid feeling. I struggled with this for a long time. I wore myself out doing and trying all the things that were ‘good’ for me and then I would force myself to go away, to be alone and to rest and meditate and I would hate it! I did not know what to do with my thoughts and feelings that were waiting so patiently for me while I was busy.
The Beginning of Self-Love
And this, my friends, is the beginning of self love. We are just starting to get ‘it’ (self-love) when we make the effort – and it is no small effort – to listen to our buried fears. This is the ‘secret’ that no one really talked about or explained to me. And, it wasn’t until I began to just listen to myself, did changes in my life happen. At first the thoughts and emotions were completely overwhelming and truly unmanageable. And my worst fear really did happen. Once I allowed the light to shine into the darkness within myself it was a nightmare. The journey within really does take courage. It is as epic as any heroic feat.
There are many methods and techniques for processing emotions and thoughts. I spend many coaching sessions with my clients teaching them. I recommend Byron Katie: The Work and anything under ‘emotions’ in the Perception Trainers Videos on YouTube. Once you start, it takes consistent practice.
The Light Is Within
Like a bundle of tangled wires, with patience, diligence and lots and lots of rest (!) I was eventually able to untangle and deal with each knot. I emphasize ‘eventually!’ It was over time. I did not untangle the whole bundle at once. I kept going back, one knot/tangle at a time. And like those wires, the knots have left some indentations, certain, but just a few, thoughts and feelings want to default back into their knots. But, now when I go into my quiet time, these knots are much easier to untangle. The wire kinks smooth out quicker. This is the way I’ve crawled out of years of depression and anxiety. The more I practice this, the more what I thought were my dark thoughts and emotions have become sources of great information. I am discovering that within the darkest knots and kinks is my true light.
Once you can greet your thoughts and emotions with curiosity and eventually welcome them with love, you will be able to sit in silence and have peace within it. When this happens you will make spending time in silence a priority. You will begin to notice great shifts in your thinking, your problem solving and in your routine. Much of your busyness will vanish. Your priorities will be easy to maintain. Drama will simply not occur.
Or, you can stay busy.
Do We Really Need Another Workshop?
Jen (Spoiler alert! Names have NOT been changed…It’s me!) want to grow a garden. She envisions radiant, full bodied flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours and can already taste the carrots, beets and tomatoes bursting with flavour and textures. Jen’s purchased every gardening implement, tool, hose, fertilizer and soil that the gardening center sells. She’s read up on the proper way to plant and grow every seed she’s chosen.
She looks out upon her not-yet-staked-out garden patch and sees only an expanse of grass, weeds and dirt. There are no borders, no organization and no control. She pulled up weeds and attempted to stake out a patch for flowers and vegetables. She got tired. She took a break. For days, then weeks. She returned to find the weeds returned and her patches no longer defined.
Just having the tools, reading the manuals and watching the videos are not going to grow Jen’s dream garden.
This is how we are with all the information and tools we’ve gathered from all the growth, coaching, vision board workshops we have attended; with all the on-line courses we have purchased; with all the videos and blogs we have read. To produce what we truly desire takes employing the tools and the techniques that the ‘gurus’ claim really, really work. We don’t realize until we start, exactly how much work it is to change what already exists and grow something new. We seem to also gloss over the parts in the seminars, the books and the teachings that tell us that we will fail, we will go back to square one many times, we will feel intense frustration and quit many times. If you sit through a session of any kind, where they are selling you something, and they don’t tell you it will be difficult, and you will fail before you succeed, they are lying to you. The weeds in Jen’s garden are her thoughts, emotions and habits. The undefined space is her future.
Self-Empowering Workshops are our New Church.
Which reminds me of a story I was told in church; A congregation of ducks waddle into their Sunday morning church. The motivational speaker, a.k.a. preacher, gives an oration convincing the ducks that they can soar like eagles. When he punctuates the phrase “soar like eagles,” the ducks squawk and flap their wings. Each time, they squawk a little louder and flap a little harder. They do this to the point of actually gaining elevation and some ducks even flap around the room. There is much ‘amenning.’ At the end of the sermon, they all WADDLE out.
Is that you? Do you get entranced, empowered, motivated and then waddle out?
By all means, go to the workshop if it is something you are truly interested in, but promise yourself to take at least ONE tip, tool, suggestion and implement it!
I’m watching my friend Deb rebuild her life using every self-recovery tool she’s studied. I see inspirational athlete, Charmaine, transform herself and turn everything she’s been coached on into an entrepreneurial empire. I’ve witnessed my sister, Jocelyn, work, sacrifice, stumble and rise again and again using every available and some not so available resource to achieve her career goals. I’ve witnessed my daughters, Ali and Samantha empower themselves mentally, emotionally and physically—reaching far beyond what we, their parents provided. I follow and study these people, as well as do my daily tending to the creation in progress that is me—My Garden
Take note of whom you’re following? Does what they say line up with what they do? Good Coaches (What Does A Life Coach Do?) do not just get you ‘hopped up’ on motivation, they walk you through the tools until you have mastered them and can use them on your own, because that’s what they have done.
Where’s Your Energy?
There are many reasons our most common complaint is we are ‘just so tired!’
We Are Moving into a Connected, Energetic Reality
Whether you believe in cosmic energy affecting us physically or not, we are in a time of leaving a very physical, three-dimensional, individualistic reality and moving into a connected, energetic reality. I’ve heard it said that we are becoming solar and SOULAR. We are gaining a better understanding of how, not only our bodies, minds and souls work together, but also how we, as a collective work together for our individual and group benefit. (or don’t, to our detriment). This transition is affecting us physically. We are experiencing more and more ‘energetic’ type dis-eases. Conditions such as chronic pain, attention deficit and autism were cited less than 75 years ago—attention deficit was identified in 1980. Our physical bodies are struggling to catch up to energy shifts that have occurred and are occurring all around us.
Your Energetic Power
We, however, have a say in where our energy goes. Unfortunately, many of us are unaware of our energetic power and how we spend it or how we allow it to drain. I’ll give you an experiment to try on your own;
Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed. Lay on the floor, or sit comfortably in a chair in a way that you are supported and can close your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths, releasing each fully. Relax into your resting pose on each exhale. On your next inhale, visualize bringing yourself, a piece of yourself or a strand of your energy back from all the people you encountered today – each one, bring a piece of yourself back into where you are seated/laying. Then, bring yourself back from each item/activity you accomplished on your to-do list. Next, bring yourself back from everything you are worried about. After that, locate each area of the body where you are experiencing pain, inflammation or discomfort; bring your energy back from each of those areas. Can you feel it? Are you feeling more whole? Less scattered and drained?
Now, imagine how much of your energy you have stored up in any ‘dramas’ that are currently happening in your life. How much energy, that is you, exists in all your past hurts, unresolved conflict and or childhood trauma? Think about multi-tasking. How often are you distracted by your phone when a real person is present with you?
You Get To Choose
We, as a collective, used to be able to push through, chin up, carry on in an age when our environment was much more physical. We don’t seem to be able to do that anymore, without consequences to our physical bodies, our emotional bodies and our states of mind. Everything is energy and we are energy. Our thoughts are an energetic resource as are our feelings. These energetic forces create our reality.
What if you started seeing your energy as a resource, like money, that you can spend or save? You choose where you direct and invest it. You also, as a responsible resource owner, need to measure if that energy has been invested wisely. Is a situation costing you? Every unresolved conflict and/or past trauma is an energy drain. If you want to make a change in your life or desire to create something new and your energy bank is depleted, you have an energy deficit. If you keep drawing on that energy at a deficit you WILL create an energy crisis.
Do you have a practice of calling your energy back? You are better able to make decisions, changes and create when all of you is present in real time. You ultimately decide where your energy goes, no one can take it from you.
Your Mindset is Ruining your Future (and possibly mine)
Jody feels stuck. She is a creative, artistic person and has more than fulfilled her duties as a wife and mom. She now has free time and is feeling the urge to spread her wings a bit. We toss around ideas about what she could do. One suggestion is to rent a space of her own, away from her family home, to use as a creative art space; to indulge her creativity uninterrupted and more importantly, privately. Jody gets a faraway, dream-like look on her face and there is an energized pause while I watch her visualize that space. Then suddenly the shutter comes down over her eyes and she declares she can’t do that, her husband would never allow it. I feel sad as the energy dips. I toss out a few more ideas, which she quickly shoots down. Finally, I suggest she entertain the idea of making a room in her house a creative work space and she could spend a small amount of time in there whenever possible and try a few things. She agrees this is doable and thinks she might explore painting.
The Greatest Tool to Realizing Dreams and Visualizations is the Mind
It is also the greatest barrier to dreams and visualizations coming to reality. On one hand, the imagination is brilliant at conjuring possibilities. Our greatest inventors and innovators were excellent at imagining possibilities. On the other hand, part of our brain is wired to keep us safe and alive. Anything new and unfamiliar is greeted with reaction ranging from suspicion to out and out panic. When it comes to entertaining possibilities for our future we far too often dismiss them because of this part of our brain—the future picture just does not fit with our current view (mindset) of familiarity—therefore, precluding some wonderful experiences.
As I outlined in the last post, You Cannot Get There From Here, we simply can’t know what will happen when we set do decide to venture out. Our creations may not be what we think they will be. Chemist Dr. Spencer Silver intended to invent a super powerful adhesive, but instead made a weak one. Turned out that there was a use for a low-tack adhesive that could be repositioned many times without losing it’s sticking ability. That use became Sticky Notes. Often we don’t know the purpose of what we create until a good while later, if ever. We need to create while letting go of having to know why.
We All Have a Mindset and are Unaware of Our Filters
It is my job to toss around possibilities with my clients. It is also my job to spot a mindset that is keeping one stuck. I watch, always in amazement, how we automatically shoot projections into the future and arrive at conclusions without taking one single step. Our thinking mind gathers and searches for all past data to convince us of a reasonable future outcome. But, we leave out infinite possibilities by not at least entertaining creative imagination. Our logical, survival brain jumps in with why things not possible and especially points out that your actions will disrupt the lives of others. This is keeping us safe, but it is also keeping us stuck.
Jody might have encountered some wonderful experiences in her creative work space away from home. She might have even created a beautiful masterpiece, but for now, she is continuing to experience what she’s always experienced.
Maya Angelou went to a rented hotel room every morning and smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey and wrote. Those writings became, books of poetry, autobiographies, essays, plays movies and television shows that touched and changed peoples’ lives. Do think she set out to “change peoples’ lives?” What if she had believed her many doubts and not rented that space?
You Cannot Get There from Here
“The World Will Be Saved by the Western Woman,” said the Dalai Lama in 2009 at the Peace Conference in Canada.
In my tiny (compared to the Dalai Lama’s) world, here in Western Canada in 2017 so many of my contemporary friends are having very personal “awakenings.” Let me list their names here;
Ha, ha! Just kidding! Joking aside; this awakening, aka; mid-life crisis is exciting and frightening, but mostly confusing.
My Personal Awakening
2009 was my personal awakening. I crashed hard. I walked away from my marriage. I renounced my religion, I left my church and I purged my community and inner circle. I went in search of anyone and anything that could give me language for what I was experiencing. I was literally plunged into the depths of despair seeking medical help for serious anxiety and moderate depression. I was completely disoriented. Everything I thought I knew no longer made sense. Everything I believed would make me happy didn’t. I am still on this awakening journey.
Signs You May Be Awakening
My past came back to visit me in so many forms. People, memories and situations that seemed to have time travelled to my present reality appeared. I found myself constantly saying things like “I wish I had known how talented, awesome, capable I was.” “I wish I had known that there were so many more possibilities/opportunities for me.” “I wish someone had been able to explain to me how the world really works.” This, I believe is exactly what we will be saying to ourselves 20 to 30 years from now if we do not consciously create the next phase of our lives.
Just like in adolescence, we again find ourselves facing the next phase of our lives not really having a clue what to do with what we have learned and who we’ve become. We just know that it is time to leave the life that has, up until this point, provided for us. Many of us have lives that look a great deal like the lives our parents built and we are stunned to discover we unconsciously created it – we honestly believed we’d be different.
Self Actualization, Integration and Service
We “western women” are experiencing awakening whether we like it or not so that we will rise up and save the world. The way we do that is by saving ourselves. If you are worried that you will become a self-centered egomaniac, know that SERVICE IS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE of self-actualization. Service to others is what happens when there’s integration of all the selves!
We save ourselves by self actualizing. This happens when;
We get clear on how powerful, capable and talented we really are.
By stepping up and no longer waiting for a sign, permission, accreditation or blessing that gives us “authority” to do what we have strong desire to do.
We forgive ourselves.
We stop hating ourselves.
We become our own safe place/cheerleader/supporter/”Hell Yesser!”
We let go of every outside and inside voice that tells us no and to stay safe and small.
We surround ourselves with only those that see us, that hear us, that encourage our greatness.
We redefine life as experience and not right/wrong, good/bad and even happy/sad.
We let go of our resistance—resistance to change, resistance to experience, resistance to desire. The very things we are resisting are the bread crumbs that are leading us to the change the world needs.
The best way forward is to first go within. Our instinct, intuition, guidance, whatever you want to call it, speaks to us in metaphor. This transition time in our lives—moving from one state of being to another (read about transformation stages here) – looks and feels very similar to past transitions. In the cases I’m surrounded by, this looks suspiciously like our adolescence.
If this is resonating with you at all; if you feel that your past has come back to you and you are remembering ‘the feisty girl’ you used to be, then this is exactly an opportunity to do this next phase of your life consciously.
How is this time in your life like that time in your life?
What do you wish someone had told you?
What do you wish you had known before?
What do you wish you had done had you known?
What do you wish you hadn’t done?
Be honest. Dig deep. Put your feet to the fire. Gather with your friends and discuss. DO NOT JUDGE yourself. The purpose of this is not to make you wrong or bad. Your life and the life you created is not a mistake. This exercise is to get conscious before you move any further. It is so that you become all the parts you may have left behind or forgotten about.
Once you have some deep insight into your past 20 – 30 years, imagine you are 20 – 30 years older than now. Look back on this life that you have yet to create. Now ask yourself;
Did I live without regrets?
Did I express my whole self even if others disapproved?
Did I live with passion? How happy was I every day? What did I create?
Did I contribute to saving the world? How do I feel about that?
I do not regret the ‘blow up’ in my life. Was it easy? Not at all. Is everything perfect now? Absolutely it isn’t. In fact, I’m very much still in transition. It is messy at times and exhilarating at others. I am expanding. I am becoming my true self. I now have tools to navigate change that I did not have before. I have a language to describe and understand what I am experiencing which is now the service I provide to others.
You expanding, integrating all the parts of yourself that are still you, dropping all that you are not and becoming your true self is what we all want. You, being fully you, saves the world.
Read Part Two: You Cannont Get There From Here