The Challenge to Fit In
Fitting in. As I have said many times before, as humans we have a strong desire to belong to groups and causes bigger than ourselves. Even the most introverted person feels lonely without a few meaningful relationships. The question becomes how do we make these connections? Often we spend time wondering what other people think, what their day looks like, and how we relate to their experience. But the irony about belonging is that the more we understand ourselves, our strengths, and the areas we want to improve, the more authentic our connections become.
I’ve spent the last few days intensely coaching my youngest to approach situations in life with confidence. He didn’t want to go to a camp that, although I knew would be challenging for him, I also knew he could handle it. The challenge skills balance was appropriate for his growth. As long as we go into new situations willing to listen and learn, results shouldn’t be the first thing on our mind. Most of the time though, when we try, results follow. Often the reason we feel like we don’t belong is because we excluded ourselves with our own mindset first. He calmed himself, trusted me, listened and learned...and came away with the first honest award he’s ever won in his life, “most improved” voted on by the other campers. A little step towards belonging and a huge confidence builder. The game of life rarely lets me down... thankful for these experiences that bring theory into practical growth in their lives and mine.
I sat chatting with a doctor the other day. She has five kids and a thriving practice so naturally our conversation drifted to the challenges that can come with a big family, professional goals, and the general craziness of life. She asked about my kids…two college athletes, a kid who got into Stanford, two more teenagers behind them.
“You seem so chill about it all, it’s such a big deal,” she said.
“You take all of this for granted, it doesn’t always work out like this.” she tried to tell me gently.
Oh man I thought, trust that in a back and forth few minute conversation, even when I am as open as I could be, you will never get the whole story. No, I definitely don’t take any of these things for granted. They have been woven through a story of early mornings and late nights, committing to things when they are hard, swinging and missing, winning, losing, and being able to take something from either one, and difficult conversations that I would have rather never had to have. But through all of that, what emerges is the hard fought small victories that add up to crushing big goals, and then being able to celebrate them when they happen.
It’s crazy to realize that we have been doing this for almost 20 years. It starts with the middle of the nights when I didn’t have much left in the tank, when Luke was asking why our baby cried so much, but we somehow stumbled through it. It’s the moments when they wanted to quit but we said no, to that day when my gut tells me that a mental health day is exactly what they needed. Successful parenting is both a game of consistency and example but also earning trust that overrides their own young stubborn instincts (ones that I remember having too) so that we can guide them along. Beyond providing love and safety, everything else is an instinct we have to hone for ourselves with each child we get to raise. Each one has a story good enough to be its own original screenplay, and as parents we get to decide the role we want to play in it. Every day I’m thankful it’s not done yet, but also what I have in the rear view mirror to take me into the next chapter...and that’s growing more exciting by the day.
These days, my mind examines all the different sides of freedom. In the current environment, it’s fair to feel the loss of certain privileges that we most likely took for granted before this time, like swimming in the ocean or sitting down to be served in a restaurant. While I have felt the loss, I have also settled into a new normal that has freed my heart and mind. With less on the mandated calendar, the room to breath and express ourselves is the unanticipated benefit of quarantine life. This unprecedented ask for adaptation that we have had to manage has been a confidence builder for me. Yes, there is stress coming from an incredibly weakened economy, but also a tenacity that I feel rising to the surface that keeps me getting up early, squashing my limiting beliefs, and moving forward to figure things out. Once we know we can trust our own gut, without hesitation, freedom becomes a mindset that nobody can take away. In many respects, with the current COVID situation, we are being asked to challenge new limits and when we are out there on the edge of our capacity, things can feel scary and uncomfortable. Getting that challenge/skills balance right is the key to finding flow and happiness in our lives. If we overshoot and aren’t equipped for the task at hand, we find anxiety. If we undershoot and aren’t challenged enough, we are bored and even depressed. If we always value certainty over the unknown adventure, we will never fulfill our greatest potential. From relationships, work situations we find ourselves in, to finding the motivation to make the most of our days, embrace the challenge, and then look for the little skills that you need to shore up to be able accomplish what you set out to do. Chip away at them one by one, and build your confidence as you do. For all of the stress that the world may lie at our feet today, we have the freedom and the opportunity to emerge more skilled, clear headed, and stronger. Silence the noise. The answers, and the freedom, lie with what matters most to you...and that answer can be different from anybody else.
The Water and It’s Ways
Matthew and I walked down to the water Wednesday evening, the first day we were allowed back in the ocean to swim. I’ve been grateful for the ocean from my very first trip to the beach and enough to make me follow it to college. My favorite sound is the waves breaking at night. But after this COVID-19 shutdown, I will never take a simple swim for granted again. For both of us, the water clears our minds and makes us feel more alive. While we were down there, we swam and watched the surfers catching some especially great sunset waves.
“I was never that good.” Matthew said, referring to the surfers we were watching.
I assured him his skills would come back quickly when he tries, but not if he talks to himself like that.
“But I can’t be a pro.”
Man, the pressure we put on ourselves, even from younger ages. I stood and explained two things to atthew:
1) It doesn’t matter if you are ever a pro, surfing is a lifelong activity that will add peace and happiness to your mind and body without ever being paid a dollar to do it.
2) All I expect you to do in this life,despite the obstacles and the challenges you face, is try.
At 13, and with so little structure in the day to form habits, we get to choose what we want to work on everyday. We’ll do it with consistency to help him lay the groundwork for life long habits over time. Now that the water is open again, it’s going to be a little bit everyday, for clarity, peace and health...for both of us.
Flip The Script
Yesterday I talked about overcoming limiting beliefs, that voice in our head that holds us back from our biggest and best life. This topic plays a huge role in whether we create the life we really want. As much as I would like to say cleanses ourselves of limiting beliefs is a quick reset, like most things that make us successful in life, changing the way we talk to ourselves takes conviction and consistency. My limiting beliefs crept in quietly over time, so until I was dissatisfied enough to pay close attention to the way my life was going, I wasn’t even aware of how my confidence had plummeted. When I was honest with myself, I realized that I saw life on two different playing fields, and the one that I had myself playing on was infinitely smaller than where I wanted to be. That honest process of identifying and then replacing those beliefs with affirming words helped me transform the beliefs that were holding me back from writing, speaking, and living my truth. We have to determine if the story in our head is giving us energy to create, or draining us and leaving us frustrated. Once I did this, then I was quicker to send my negative voice packing. When the voice would creep in I could identify it without letting it send me off course, and I created a comeback line, a new belief, that silenced the negative and made me shift. I started with the words
“the past doesn’t equal the future”,
and when I would say it over and over again, my energy changed, and I could work on the practical steps of making that statement true. The trick to creating the right empowering statement is to make sure it is useful to your process. Our mind has to believe that it can lead us to the life we want to create, it always can, even though it often comes with some hard choices. When we know that failure is not fatal, but instead an opportunity to learn about ourselves, and then change course, our options in life become infinite. History only repeats itself if we choose not to reflect on why things happen. It can be hard to look at ourselves honestly, but that pain breaks through to progress if we stick with it. We all have it in us to replace our limiting beliefs with limitless power, do the deep dive to identify what is holding you back, let yourself consider what life would be like if you flipped the script. Everyday is a new opportunity to write a better story. Why not start today?
Knockout Limiting Beliefs
Self awareness is the base layer of maximizing our human potential. In my younger days, most of my awareness centered around observation of others. As an introvert, I usually preferred to watch and learn, but competing in sports was what brought me out of my shell.
As I grew older though, I made the decision to ask some direct and even scary questions about myself and what I believed about the world and my place in it. Over time, I had trapped myself under a layer of limiting beliefs that made my life smaller and less impactful than I wanted it to be. Limiting beliefs show up as the voice in our head, telling us why we can’t do something, or how we should play life’s experiences out in a way that keeps us comfortable, less autonomous, and risk averse. Attacking these beliefs looks like goal setting, 10X ing those goals, and then breaking them down into bite size pieces to execute. It looks like trusting our own gut instead of worrying about other opinions, which frees our mind to follow the path uniquely meant for us. This time we have been given is well spent on reflection. Do you have limiting beliefs about yourself that you need to put to rest? Make the plan for your best life, we are all capable. Then put an optimist's lens on it, it creates the energy to make it all happen.
The Physiology of Stress
Stress. Often it seems the message is that it’s something we should spend our lives trying to avoid. As I see it, based on experience, life is a training ground and we can learn to handle it’s stresses in ways that grow and strengthen us. If we haven’t trained to manage it, stress can wreck our sleep, diet choices, and decision making processes. Not to mention, a stressed version of ourselves is no fun to be around.
We all have things that matter deeply to us, relationships, the safety of people we love, the security of our home or our job to name a few. The truth is, caring deeply about something can activate some level of stress. We are only triggered by things that are meaningful in our lives.
Having raised a child on the autism spectrum for 13 years, I understand the physiology of his fight or flight nature. His heart beats faster, and his emotional regulation can knock our home of kilter quickly. But over time, I’ve learned to use breath practices to mitigate stress that is activated when situations and people I care about are threatened in my life and I have been able to start to teach Matthew to do him do the same. Next time a stressful event happens in your life and you feel that place between feeling and your response start to close in on each other, stop and take three deep breathes, in through your nose, out through your mouth. While you breathe, picture your brain relaxing...let go of the tension. Our stress is unique to each of our lives, but our physiology isn’t. The more we learn about our own biology, the more struggles we can overcome to live our fullest life.
Pearls of Wisdom
When we step away from the idea of perfection, there is freedom. These days we are facing situations that are far from perfect, but even before this unparalleled time, perfect was never the deal anyway. Every time we get close, the bar moves just a little, and we find ourselves desiring something that continues to be out of our reach. Until we learn to look inward and be amazed at the strength and resilience that lies within us, independent of anyone or anything else, we won’t find joy and contentment. It’s not a lazy contentment, it’s the kind that wakes you up in the morning, wondering what you can learn about yourself and your place in this giant world today. Just like an oyster only makes shiny pearls out of an irritating grain of sand, we find our own shine when we have learned to transform ourselves through life’s pain. There is no ignoring it, it will find it’s way out somehow. But with the right recipe of reflection and support, we have everything inside of us to master our days. Don’t bury the pain, study it, make sense of it, and watch as it transforms your life, and the lives of future generations. Your diligence will pay off in dividends.
Seize the moment
I am grateful for the people in my life who remind me who I am when I forget. My cousin commented on one of my Facebook posts just the other day. She reminded me of how we met, when she lived in College Station, TX and I was looking at grad school at Texas A&M. I stayed with her and went out for a run...I was gone a long time (before cell phones!). I probably made her worry, but I came back with the best story. While on my run, I spotted a fraternity house that had a beach volleyball court on their front lawn and they were out playing. I ran up to them and asked if I could join...they said yes and I stayed and played until it was almost dark.
I had forgotten about this amazing afternoon. I wasn’t scared to ask to play, wondering if I was good enough or if they would say no. I just had confidence and seized every moment of those days. I lived out loud without apology. What strikes me today, although it’s taken some time, I’ve come full circle. No need to protect, or defer. We make the choices that lead us down our paths, but more than anything, with self awareness comes course correction. We are always works in progress. Stop and take that time to assess and remember who you have always been. The power is always within us, even if we forget about it for a while.
Full Teenage Immersion
Maya Angelou said she never struggled with aging because with each decade she was grateful...when she was younger, she never thought she’d make it that far. We have had a far easier ride through life thus far than she did, even with some bumps and bruises along the way, but her thoughts show us the power of perspective.
Today Matthew turns 13 and my house becomes an all teenage zone...on so many levels I never thought we’d get here. Everyday I wrestle with and stare down the hard choices that even good teenagers put at your feet. How much to let go and when, how to communicate and be strong, allow them to explore who they are, while they also trust my voice. Matthew has come such a long way and he never ceases to amaze me with the challenges he overcomes. Happy Birthday Bubs! You are loved more than you know. Keep working and listening to that mystic intuition of yours (and me too!). I’ll always have your back.
My New Golden Rules for Sleep
Sleep. The older I get, the more I appreciate how everything is better when we get ours right. From the decisions we make, to our ability to regulate our emotions, to having a better memory, sleep improves it all. With the beach and water closed near me, It’s harder to get the workouts I was accustomed to before (it seems my joints are allergic to concrete now), and my sleep was suffering because of it.
There are simple techniques I have learned to bring my sleep back into balance. These days, I make sure I am outside within 20 mins of waking up to get my circadian rhythm synced with the rising sun. At the end of the day, I take a walk or sit outside and let my body tune in to the changing light. Over a few weeks time, it’s had a profound effect on my sleep pattern. I feel it and I know because of my Oura Ring, which gives me a readiness score every day based on my sleep. If you are having trouble settling your mind, lock into these routines to help you naturally improve your sleep. If you’re up for it, invest in an Oura Ring...can’t recommend enough, simple fit and the information it provides is priceless.
Most days, the trainers on Nike Training App put me through a good workout, but it’s rare that one of them talks in metaphors through the squats and sit ups that are routine on this highly useful app. But today, the trainer encouraged throughout the workout:
“Let your body write the story.”
Our bodies hold on to experiences, and the more difficult ones store tension and stress in our muscles and tissues in ways that have adverse effects on our longevity. We can feel it in our tight necks, in our gut when our digestion is off, in our shallow breathing patterns that are keeping us stuck in fight or flight. I have always used exercise to reverse some of these effects…whether it’s been running miles, swimming fast into the wall, or pounding volleyballs into the sand, as I move, the tension releases and calm and clarity take over. This is a time of great unknown, but one thing we can control is how we move. Be intentional, set the time for movement, whether it’s a walk, a swim, or something far more difficult. Trust your body to support you, give it what it needs, and it will return dividends to your strength and balance.
Motion Creates Motivation
I’ve talked to a lot of productive people who, since we’ve been staying at home, struggle with finding structure in their day. It’s not like our goals have gone away, it’s just that we have to find ways to accomplish them on new ground...without going to the office, with less social stimulation and immediate feedback. In many ways, i think we are being offered the chance to become more intrinsically motivated and find out what really gives us purpose in life. One thing is for certain, movement always beats stagnation. If you are feeling stuck, don’t sit and think about it, just move. As Thomas Jefferson said:
“If you want to know who you are, don’t ask, act. Action will delineate and define you.”
Clarity lies on the other side of movement. Even if you head the wrong direction, there will be something to learn in the course correction. Explore your limits, set an exercise challenge, take a class, keep learning and moving and watch as your passion and purpose reveal themselves.
Stability or Mobility?
Life is a balance between stability and mobility. Movement and yoga have taught me that what applies to the physical body, also applies to our emotional and spiritual body. For some, stability can be boring, and so we go looking for mobility to reach new heights and experiences to keep life interesting. For others, like me, stability is the greatest peace…routine, advanced planning, knowing what to expect, ahh, heaven. And yet, this stability inclination can keep my life in a very tight little circle and make me afraid to step up to create mobility that inspires growth. Those who know me would vouch for my stability, some might even call it boring. I have realized though, that I can leverage that stability to find sustainable mobility, even flow, which is the most amazing feeling. Learning to harness the right amount of stability and mobility teaches me not to be afraid to act but not run too fast and burn out. It’s a work in progress but I’m getting better at it every day, and with each breath, I feel more free.
Optimism is both a state of mind and a skill that we can learn and continually improve. You will be hard pressed to find a person who rises to the highest levels either personally or professionally who isn’t an optimist. If we don’t have a deep belief that things are going to get better when life is at its most challenging point, what will give us the energy to do the work to make that way?
It can be hard if we have been burned or let down to trust and flip our outlook to believe that the best is yet to come. But when we train ourselves to know that how we respond and choose to perform is largely dependent on us, we realize that optimism is the only choice that gets us to our best future. It’s never a case of fake it until you make it, but it is a diligent moment to moment choice to keep going, and ask for the help you need along the way to build your strength and your optimists lens.
Focus On Your Form
So much of the way I do life I have taken from sports. As a sprinter in the pool, I am fast for a short period of time. My coach would work with me to correct small techniques that would increase efficiency and little by little I would become faster and less fatigued. Most of the time, the new things I learned slowed me down in the short term, and I had to stick with them through the frustration to see the gain that came with increased efficiency. But as I cut time and felt like I was gliding over the water, my confidence grew.
What I have discovered is that without good form, whether in the pool or in life, the race becomes unsustainable. Good form is about consistency, and being able to stay the course with the small things that are important. In life these look like boundaries, values, and habits that honor the unique person you are. Sometimes what we can do for a short time isn’t sustainable over the long haul. We have to break things down and learn what proper function looks like for us, to build habits that will carry us through life. If we don’t, we risk fatigue and burn out, and become frustrated when we can’t reach peak performance. If you recognize frustration or lack of efficiency in your day, don’t just grind harder against it, focus on your process. Where can you improve your form? Even if it means slowing down to learn something new to make the long haul more autonomous and smooth, it will be well worth the effort.
An Optimists Confidence
There are many things in life I believe we have to learn for ourselves. As a parent it is one of the hardest truths. Whether it’s learning to chart your own course, independent of what the crowd thinks, or learning that lasting confidence comes from within, there is a learn by doing feel to it. To have confidence we have to trust ourselves that we will consistently do what is right for us regardless of what other people think or the praise that may or may not come our way. We have to know that when we bump up against fear in life, we will push through. This quarantine has been an amazing time to test and build both our optimism and our confidence because there is no growth pattern that comes without a struggle. If you are fearful, can you identify exactly what you are afraid of? When you put a name on it, then you can see how to work through it. Self awareness, optimism, and confidence go hand in hand. Define, believe, and act. It can definitely be easier said than done, but it works for me every time.
Confidence and Optimism
As we have seen over the last month, life can throw us some crazy curve balls. Sometimes we can feel them coming, others are out of nowhere. In March of 2016, The Optimists Journal was just a concept that popped into my mind as I sat on my patio couch on Luke’s 14th birthday. I could feel deep in my soul that I was headed for uncharted (and terrifying) territory that would alter the course of life the way I saw it. I knew that writing would offer me clarity to work through what was coming down my pipeline whether I liked it or not. Optimism was the outlook that gave me the energy to keep going and believe that my future was going to be great. Then I could set out to make it that way. At that point, I had no idea about the science that supported optimism and its relationship to grit, perseverance, and confidence but these days there is nothing I like more than learning about the hard science that supports optimism as the best perspective for a big and healthy life. This podcast with Sage Steele hit home for me this week ...and aligned beautifully with this conversation I had so much fun being a part of on The Developing Athlete Podcast. True confidence is built on the back of our ability to be vulnerable. Knowing that your story is worthy doesn’t mean it is for everyone, but I say go ahead and put it out there. People can take it or leave it. The ones who try to understand will be the next trusted relationships that help you grow. Take that step and put the real you out there and watch as your confidence and your freedom begin to soar.
The Confidence to Adapt
For so long, I thought confidence was built on what I knew and how many facts and methods I could learn so that I was sure I could handle whatever situation came at me. What I have learned though, is that while seeking mastery is an ongoing effort for any meaningful life, mindfulness has taught me that my confidence comes from my belief in my ability to adapt. When we know the level of calm we can manifest when things are uncertain or unknown, we find a new place of mental and emotional freedom. For me, this confidence is born both from my faith and in knowing how to access a quiet mind where I can call on my personal values, and also what I know practically, to respond to the crazy situations life throws our way. What I have found is when we know our values and seek meaning in our life, the right people surround us, and when we need our people, we look up and they are there. No one fulfills their greatest potential on their own, even if it’s behind the scenes, there is always a team. I’m so grateful for this fact because without it, life wouldn’t be half as fun.
That Voice in Our Head is Louder Than We Think
“Nothing is more important than the story we tell ourselves every day...it’s the one that inevitably comes true.” From my book, 365 Day of Optimism
I look at my book often, and while I enjoy it, my favorite thing about it is to see how my mindset has grown in the last few years. The thing about self realization is that it’s always a work in progress...the more you learn, the less you realize you know, which just makes me want to keep learning. The words I spoke to myself for a long time were limiting. They kept me in a place that didn’t come close to scratching my potential in this life. Luckily, love of learning is one of my top five character strengths and it keeps me reading, listening, and thinking all the time. What I know now is that my love of learning is one of the qualities that gives me great things to pass on. I look for open ears and invitations, it’s not my style to press people too hard or step on anyone’s toes. But the words I speak to myself now are “use what you have learned to teach.” Never heavy handed, but today with confidence in my process that what I know and continue to seek and learn will end up in the right places. And I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead to be able to teach and inspire with people who also inspire me.
A Little ‘Perspective’
“We’re all more than what we seem, we all require some give.” - Peggy Noonan
A sweet friend of mine asked last week, “Have you lost it yet?” I quickly answered no, I’m good, which is much my go to answer most of the time, despite whatever is weighing on my busy mind, because I trust that my optimism will carry me out of my lower moments. But the truth is, yesterday I lost it. The immensity of what the world faces when we come back from this, the way our consciousness and our feeling of safety has been rocked from the inside of our homes, to our ability to keep our jobs and businesses and thrive in an uncertain economy, to the feelings that I want to help process in my own home had me feeling alone. It can be so difficult to bridge the gap between our perspectives, especially between generations...they are all real, vital perspectives, but they are also relative to our age, life experience and so many other factors that make each of our lives unique. Even the most empathic person will struggle to grasp it all. That’s when I sat down to read my favorite column, and there it was. Understanding. It reminded me what the best writers do, even in this age of video and shorter attention spans, they grab you and put words on the feelings that swirl in your head and ground them to collective consciousness. As the conversation rages on about opening things up or keeping them shut down for awhile longer, as the conspiracies and protests show up in the news, there is no better solution for us right now than to give each other the space to say what we need to say, and remember that there is always more story that lies beneath the surface. How can we offer more give and less judgment in our perspective to make this collective isolation feel more connection and less fear?
The Days are Long but the Years are Short
Older moms always used to tell me the days are long but the years are short. Now I understand what they mean. We had a family Zoom call this week and I watched my big kids' faces fill the screen as my cousin’s and sister’s little ones raced around their backyards. It’s the cutest but most labor intensive stage of parenting and my heart has been with the moms of little ones since this quarantine began. As the sunsets every day, I have the realization that my days pass quickly, even now, I’m grateful for the memories that I have but I’m also excited for the next stage...in my life and theirs. These quieter days have made me realize that intense labor in the early days creates the laughter, talks and meaningful conversations in the later years. I’m grateful for the memories of those long days because they have created the relationships that we have to enjoy during this time. Hang in there parents with little ones, laugh when you can, sleep when you can and know that every last tired moment is worth it in the end.
Connection vs. Comparison
Social media connects us in powerful ways these days. It motivates us to get up and move, and shares powerful stories that inspire us to call upon our own strength and resilience. But it’s important to remember as we take it all in, what inspires us already lies within us and our unique genetic makeup that makes us who we are, it’s our job to uncover the gold. With social media, just as in life, we never know the full story or have the inside scoop. Trust that there is always more behind a picture, and that everyone is doing the best that they can with the cards they have been dealt. Focus on your own hand. Whether on social media or in life, create instead of compare…that’s where real connection and infinite possibility are realized.
“It’s not what I had, it’s what I have.” - Old Dominion
Perspective comes from where we choose to focus. The times that I have the most trouble are when my gaze has shifted to what’s missing, not what I have. I’ve learned from experience that gratitude doesn’t develop from having a lot, it comes from finding what means most to us, and locking in on that path. This is the place where other people’s opinions fall away and we find very little distraction to deter us from what we know we want in life. We do this for ourselves, and then our sense of purpose creates a ripple effect for the people around us. Safety, purpose, meaning, connection...none of these come from possessing extraordinary wealth but from asking the right questions in our own life that lead us to these answers. When our vision and our values intersect, we find personal freedom, and when we have that, we can always find so much to be grateful for.
Marvel in the Mundane
“A wise person marvels at the commonplace” - Confucius
True. This quote has made sense to me since I used to climb to the top of a hill behind my house in college to watch the sunrise. I always woke up so much earlier (and was ready for bed earlier too!) than the roommates I had around me...the same is still true today with teenage housemates! Although we may all be dreaming of different days, the travel that awaits us when this all ends, and a return to the sports, events, and places that we miss right now, the things I miss most are still the simple things like sand under my feet, swimming in the ocean and the way my body feels when I can exercise in these places everyday. Knowing this, I wake up looking for appreciation of the simple things we can access today...even if that means saying thank you that I hit the grocery store at a time when I didn’t have to stand in a long line outside. Perspective and gratitude are game changers for our hearts and minds. As a habit, I count three things a day that I am grateful for, and wind up finding so many more than that because my eyes are open for the possibilities.
Do you have any experience with the 2am demons? This is the name I gave to those thoughts that occupy your mind in the middle of the night if a sound or a child wakes you. I have always had a strong faith in God, but I could never put a finger on why saying a prayer wouldn’t put me back to sleep. It wasn’t until I uncovered a gratitude practice that I could drift back to sleep easily. Our minds can’t focus on positive and negative thoughts at the same time. So, when I wake up now for whatever reason, I immediately start counting my blessings, from the roof over my head, to the people in my life who care about me, to the freedoms that I have to follow my own path.
Our health...everything from our immune system to our daily decision making is built on the quality of our sleep. When sleep is compromised or interrupted frequently, our moods, relationships, and even our diet choices are negatively impacted. Today I see gratitude as the ultimate game changer that always shifts my perspective...for the 2am demons and for the quieter days of quarantine that give us more time to think.
The Energy We Create
As an empath, I absorb the energy in a room on a deep level quickly. When I moved into my new home last June, I resolved to keep the vibe calm and the pressure low...I’ve even been known to burn some sage when things take a more intense turn to bring it back to peaceful. We live in a world with so many choices, distractions, and backstories...all of these things weigh on us everyday and many of them are out of our control. Despite the chaos we might be feeling in the world and in our hearts right now, it’s clear to me that this is a time we are being asked to simplify...and with simplification comes calm. An important step to finding real calm, is to acknowledge what we feel. That’s always a work in progress at my house. I come from a long line of grin and bear it mentality...but slowly we are learning that this place is safe to admit, struggle, and feel...and come out calmer and more self aware on the other side because of it. We are being given a chance to strengthen our relationships if we have the courage to be vulnerable in these close quarters.
Memories & Music
Memories are set to a soundtrack. Remember when we had to save our favorite tunes by recording them onto a blank tape? Now we have Spotify, Apple Music and a million other ways to have instant access to the songs that make up the timelines of our lives. Music has been a pastime and a source of strength and laughter since I had a clock radio sitting on my bedside table as a kid, but my favorite thing about songs and songwriters are when they connect us. I thought about this connection a few days ago when a long time friend of mine threw out a recommendation to listen to...grab some Hootie and the Blowfish or maybe Toad the Wet Sprocket he said, and immediately I was transported back to the dorms at Cal Poly and that free feeling that came with that time of life. Music has been one of the highlights of our quarantine house as well. Whether it’s singing on our own or taking it in on social media or TV, we bond over our similarities and have fun poking at our differences...not everyone is a big of a country music fan as me and Lauren in my household! No matter the differences, it ties us together, Hootie was a college favorite for me, and brings Lauren to tears today...he was even Kate’s first concert when she was 11. What are you listening to these days? Will you have a playlist that helps you remember the brighter spots of this time?
All of our relationships stem from the one we have built with ourselves. My cousin and I had a conversation the other day about the choices of past generations and perhaps the luxury we have today to take a deeper look at the meaning of our lives because so many of our basic needs are met with greater ease than in the past. Do we have an increased awareness today to ask questions and find out the why of who we are and discover why we make the choices that we do? Choices, both conscious and subconscious, create our patterns, and add up to the stories of our lives and this groundwork is laid for us even before our lifetime. Do you know the stories from generations past in your family? Could this be the time to find out more?It makes great dinner table conversation. Some questions to ask: What were the greatest memories of your childhood? What is a time you remember feeling scared or alone? Has anyone in past generations written down anything I could read about what it was like back then? It’s so important to know our backstory to live our best story...here are some more words on that about why I believe strongly in generational learning, why I write, and how I wish I could find a journal from my family way back when.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” - Mary Oliver
Our days are filled with distraction, from emails, to social media feeds to the goals we have and want to accomplish. There is time for all of it...but not all at once. Our relationships and our flow suffer when we can’t sustain attention, one person or task at a time. One thing that the great pause is teaching me daily is how to improve deep attention. To take the time to sink into a task or a relationship...to do what I mean to do, or say what I mean to say, without being pulled off by an incoming thought, sight or sound. Often we allow ourselves to become distracted, even beg for it, because we are uncomfortable with what we are feeling, or aren’t sure what to say in that conversation that is absolutely worth having. Sitting with our feelings does not have to make them greater than what they are, or give them power over our reactions or our moods. There is freedom and peace when we learn to experience without judgment. Set a schedule, lay out your goals, both human and technical, and give them each their proper time. Let that phone ring or that text come in and trust that you will get back to it in due time. Each experience is richer because of that choice.
VIA Character Assessment Interview with Lauren Turner - Watch This!
Understanding your gold. The VIA Character Assessment is a great way to begin this process. It’s a scientifically validated survey that illustrates how the 24 positive psychology traits are represented in our unique selves. The cool thing about positive psychology is that it’s grounded in optimism, so I’m a big fan. These 24 traits are a part of every human personality in various degrees. My favorite thing about this survey is that it’s fluid, we have the power within us to change things that we want to see improve in our own nature. If it’s bravery, challenge yourself to do one thing that scares you. If gratitude is low, look around for simple things in your day to be grateful for, like a cup of coffee or a friend who called at just the right time. It’s a great tool to use with your family to build self awareness and help understand each other better. Since these days we are looking to fill those hours after dinner, we cracked up and learned more about each other as we each took the survey around the table. Try it with your kids, see what you identify with, what surprised you, and how you can use your strengths to work better together as a team. When we think of ourselves as one of a kind, we understand why we have no need to compare ourselves to anyone else, and the meaningful path for our life makes itself known.
The Golden Buddha - Watch This!
This video is a beautiful metaphor for life. As I stood in my kitchen watching them joke with each other, a college freshman and a senior in high school, I think two things. The first is that I see them little, her in one of her zillions of princess dresses, and him dressed up as his favorite character Thomas the Tank Engine on Halloween. The second thing I think is I remember being their age so vividly. It’s always easier for me to put myself in her shoes since, well, I’m a girl too. It feels like I was just 19, like she is today, and the sweetest memories come flooding back like when I hear Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows, and it brings back falling in love on a Mexican beach in one night during Spring Break on a trip my mom was so nervous to let me take. So often parenting is leaning into the discomfort so that they can learn and experience on their own. These are the kinds of experiences they have ahead of them, the big and the small, and how they find their gold. No matter what has been altered in their lives today, there are moments in life that are still to come that will knock their socks off and what we experience today will just be perspective. This is true for all of us if we have the courage to keep peeling back the layers of stone to find our gold.