Don't Treat People The Way They Treat You

How often do we let other people's actions determine how we act?

I don't know how many times I have heard a client say,

"Well, if she's not going to respect me, then I'm not going to respect her."

How other people act is their business.  When you hinge your behavior on that of another person, you are handing over your power. You are not being the person you want to be. You are not acting in line with your values. You are missing out on an opportunity to add meaning to your life.

If being kind is important to you, then you can practice kindness toward others who are unsupportive and even mean.

If you feel judged, you can still be accepting.

Even if you have been hurt, you can act loving.

And when others are hiding and perfecting and presenting, you can still be authentic.

You can be the person you want to be no matter what others do.

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Do You Get Irritated with People?

We all become irritated with others. Some of us walk around in a general state of irritation. I was thinking about what causes this irritation.

It's the words in our heads.

He should...She shouldn't...

The baby shouldn't scream. The kids should clean up.  The teenager shouldn't talk back. My hair should be straight. My husband should appreciate me. Katie should put down her phone.  Larry shouldn't say anything. They should know better. Johnny should agree with me. Old Sally shouldn't write checks at the busy grocery store checkout.

To life coaches, the word "should"is a red flag. It is the root of so much mental angst.

What can help?

Just noticing the reason (the stream of words in your mind) for your irritation can help. Find the words interesting. Recognize, as Byron Katie famously notes, that getting caught up in  the "shoulds" is "arguing with reality."

All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is. -Byron Katie

Stepping outside of and observing your mind allows you to handle challenging situations as your best, calm, non-irritated self.

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Happiness = Plants + Pets + Photographs

Something that distinguishes happy families from less happy ones? Happy homes often have many plants, pets, and photographs in common areas.  Plants and pets give us opportunities to extend care beyond ourselves. Photos can prompt us to savor happy memories, a research-tested happiness booster.

In our home, we have an extra large pet (see above) and plenty of photographs (this is why), but only one little plant!  As much as I would love a couple tall plants in the living room, our toddler (the subject of many happy photos) & plants do not  mix.

Despite our lack of greenery, the Captain house will be featured in a future home tour on Design Mom. I will be sure to let you know when!

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Quick Relationship Tip

What if, by some magical wave of a wand, your partner  started behaving exactly as you wish? What if your husband or boyfriend was your ideal mate with no annoying habits? What if your wife or girlfriend was always supportive of you, never critical?

If that was true, how would you behave?

How would you describe the sort of partner you would be? Think of three adjectives (ideas: supportive, engaged, grateful, compassionate, loving, forgiving, authentic, kind).

What thoughts would you have about your partner?

Be that person now.

Apply this to your relationships with kids, family members, or co-workers and notice if it's helpful. I am going to try this with my kids (because lots of time together during the summer is not always easy!).

Image via Geoff Captain Studios.

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A Letter To My Daughters

A year ago, I wrote a Letter To My Daughters, Ella & Maddie, to express my hopes for their lives.  I shared the letter on my blog because I have the same hopes for all of you. Since then, we added a third little beauty - sweet, cuddly, delicious Molly...

For Mother's Day, I re-visited the letter and tweaked it just a bit...

Dear Ella, Maddie and Molly,

First, I hope that our home is a place where you feel free to be yourselves – where you can proclaim your brilliance and awesomeness and also share your fears and doubts – where you know you are loved and accepted and always belong.

I hope that you take care of and love yourselves – that you nourish those beautiful bodies and you are kind to yourselves in your thoughts. As you grow older, I hope that you surround yourselves with people who reflect your kindness, encourage your growth, and extend the safe place to fully be yourselves.

Life is messy and imperfect and sometimes difficult. As much as I would like to protect you from all of that, I know my work is not to shield you, but to help you navigate the challenges, make room for mistakes, and believe in your ability to do hard things. Whatever life brings, you will handle it. God always has a plan for you.

I hope you discover work that lights you up, that calls upon your strengths and allows you to contribute to others’ lives.

Every day, I hope you do what is most important to you. I hope you define success as doing just that. I hope you give more consideration to being the person you want to be than to what others think of you. I hope you know that your worth is not dependent on titles or accomplishments, that you are always enough. I hope you choose growth over perfection. And that you don’t take it all too seriously.

I hope you enjoy peace and savor beauty.

I want you to know that Daddy & I and your grandparents, aunt, and uncles love you so much and are so happy that you are all here.

Finally, I hope that you continue to treasure the relationships likely to be the longest you will ever have – those with each other.

I love you, Mommy

Steps to Designing Your Ideal Life

If you were to set about designing your ideal life, you may consider where you want to live, who you want to love, what you want to do for work...But instead of starting with your ideal circumstances, start with who you want to be.

Instead of asking, "What do I want my life to look like," ask, "Who is the person I want to be in my life?" What sort of action do I take everyday in order to be that person? Take a look at  How To Live the Perfectly Unbalanced Life for tips on clarifying your values & describing the person you want to be.

You can honor your values and be your best self in almost any set of circumstances. I've had a few clients come to coaching with the question of whether or not to leave their marriages. This is no small problem and only my clients can decide for themselves. But what I suggest is this: First, let go of trying the change the other person and focus on being the person you want to be - perhaps that is someone who is loving, eats healthfully, and is engaged with her kids. When/if your marriage interferes with you being that person, then perhaps it's time to consider leaving. If a friend or partner was physically hurting you, then you would leave (this is an extreme example that does not apply to my clients). Your relationship would be keeping you from being someone who takes care of her health and safety - things you value.

So maybe you don't like your job. If you can't quit or you're not sure if you want to, how can you be your best self at work? How can you be the uplifting boss, the lifelong learner, the supportive co-worker? Be that person now, regardless of the details of your actual work.

Then, when you get to considering the circumstances or goals of your life, ask "What circumstances best support me being the person I want to be?" What supports my growth and what matters to me?

What career supports your value of being a present parent? What city or neighborhood supports your appreciation of beauty and nature? What friendships nurture your authentic self?

The things that are part of your right life support what you value and who you want to be.

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Photography by Geoff Captain.

Letter To My Daughters

Inspired by Michele Woodward, I wrote a letter to my daughters to express my hopes for their lives. I decided to share the letter here because I have many of the same hopes for you...

Dear Ella and Maddie,

First, I hope that our home is a place where you feel free to be yourselves - where you can proclaim your brilliance and awesomeness and also share your fears and doubts - where you know you are loved and accepted and always belong.

I hope that you take care of and love yourselves - that you nourish those beautiful bodies and you are kind to yourselves in your thoughts. As you grow older, I hope that you surround yourselves with people who reflect your kindness, encourage your growth, and extend the safe place to fully be yourselves.

Life is messy and imperfect and sometimes difficult. As much as I would like to protect you from all of that, I know my work is not to shield you, but to help you navigate the challenges, make room for mistakes, and believe in your strength and resilience. Whatever life brings, you will handle it. God always has a plan for you.

I hope you discover work that lights you up, that calls upon your strengths and allows you to contribute to others' lives.

Every day, I hope you do what is most important to you. I hope you define success as doing just that. I hope you give more consideration to being the person you want to be than to what others think of you. I hope you know that your worth is not dependent on titles or accomplishments, that you are good enough to do anything. And that you don't take it all too seriously.

I hope you enjoy peace and savor beauty.

I want you to know that Daddy & I and your grandparents, aunt, and uncles love you so much and are so happy that you are here.

Finally, I hope that you continue to treasure the relationship likely to be the longest you will ever have - that with each other.

I love you, Mommy

Are You in Someone Else's Business and Don't Know It?

Byron Katie says there are three types of business: your business, my business, and God's business. And when we think someone else should or shouldn't be doing something, we are out of our own business. If you hang out with any group of people - at work, around the TV, at school pick-up, you'll notice how often we are in others' business.

I'm in my kids' business when I think they should to listen to me, in my boss's business when I think she should respect me, in my husband's business when  I think he should understand me by now. We get into the business of our kids' teachers, our clients, other drivers on the road, our family members, the hairdresser, the server at the restaurant, the celebrities who seem unable to behave themselves (according to our rules anyway).

It's so normal yet so unhelpful.

Unhelpful because...if other people don't follow the rules in our heads (even after we've made requests or set boundaries), we are spinning our frustrated mental wheels arguing with reality. We make our peace dependent on something out of our control. And...thoughts about what other people should being doing provide no clear action implications, leaving us stuck.

To get unstuck, take the thought about what someone else needs to do, and change the words around so that you are the subject who can take the action of that verb. Instead of  "My boss should respect me," try "I should respect me" or "I should respect my boss." Ask yourself what the new thought means for you and how it may be true. This week, I had the thought that more people should sign up for my tele-class because they would find it so helpful (Ironically, the class was about how to handle unhelpful thoughts). When I turned it around, I came up with, "I should sign up for my class," meaning, I should practice the tools I teach to work on my own thoughts and get out of others' business. It was perfect.

Turning the thought around gives us something to do, which is so much better than being stressed and stuck.

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How Your Imperfection Makes You Beautiful

I have written before about the belief  "I'm not good enough." I have been fascinated by the fact that this thought seems to be in all of our heads. And, as a mother, I have also been wanting to figure out how to keep this limiting belief from forming in the minds of my beautiful little girls. Then last night I watched a Ted Talk by Dr. Brene Brown (A few of my wonderful coaching friends posted this video on Facebook) that spoke to my fascination (and desire to fix this). It's 20 minutes and well worth the time. I watched it twice to get a full understanding. Whether or not you watch it, I'll attempt to summarize Dr. Brown findings and mix it with my coaching perspective:

Dr. Brown believes that connection is what it's all about; it's why we are all here. Connection refers to meaningful, authentic relationships.

What unravels connection is shame. With shame, we believe we can't let others see pieces of ourselves, because if they do, it will cause disconnection. We keep others from seeing us because we believe we're not enough (not good enough, not thin enough, rich enough...). There's some irony here: Not opening ourselves to others (because we fear rejection and disconnection) keeps us from connecting.

On the opposite end of shame is empathy. What allows us to empathize with others is opening up and making ourselves vulnerable. We have to be vulnerable to experience connection.

Dr. Brown found that the difference between people who have a sense of worthiness, love, and belonging (people who connect) and those who don't is a belief: that they are worthy of love and belonging. Believing they are not worthy keeps people out of connection.

From the belief that they are worthy, these "wholehearted" people live like this: They have courage to be imperfect, compassion to be kind to themselves first,  and connection as a result of having authenticity to let go of who they "should" be in order to be who they are. They embrace vulnerability - putting themselves out there and taking risks in relationships, asking for help, losing a job.

The thing is that we don't like to be vulnerable. It makes us uncomfortable. So what do we do? Dr. Brown uses the word "numb" - we spend, eat, consume. I often use the word "resistance." We fight, ignore, distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. I have been talking a lot about resistance with my coaching clients, as it seems to the root of so much psychological struggle, not to mention the toll it takes on our bodies.

But as Dr. Brown points out, when we numb ourselves to the difficult emotions, we numb ourselves to the others - joy, gratitude, happiness...Then we miss out on feeling alive. This sends us into the search for purpose and meaning, but that makes us scared and vulnerable, so then we go back to numbing.  You can see the downward spiral.

This leads me to a place I didn't necessarily expect when I started this post. What I do in many coaching sessions is help clients work on those beliefs (I'm not____enough) and process/make room  for those uncomfortable feelings. When we do these things, our unhelpful thoughts & feelings have less impact on us. Then we can connect and do what's important to us. I plan to teach some classes on this in the new year, but if you'd like an excellent book for getting started on coaching yourself, I recommend The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, MD.

Photo by Geoff Captain. Words written by me (I will not tell you how many times I erased and re-wrote "perfection" in order to make it perfect).

For Everyone on Mother's Day

The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.             -Harold B. Lee

This - my favorite essay on motherhood by Anna Quindlen - has a message for everyone. If you don't have kids (and even if you do), pass this along to your mom friends & your mom...just be sure to keep the Kleenex handy...

"All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations –what they taught me was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language – mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were."

The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. –Jill Churchill, Crime and Punishment

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Thoughts on Love

With Valentine's Day approaching, the obvious topic for a post is something to do with love or relationships. Right?

Right.

So here I am, still trying to decide what exactly to write about those topics. I could talk about how the opposite of love is fear and recommend you always choose love; I could explain how loving yourself is the only way to love others, how having kind thoughts is the way to start loving yourself and how we don't realize how unkind we are to ourselves in our thinking. It's also interesting to consider that all of our problems (with relationships, weight, money, work) are just one problem: a denial of love. Or I could blame Jerry Maguire for screwing everybody up with the "you complete me" line and remind you that you are complete and people who love you simply give you back to yourself.

But here I go with what I hope is the most useful coaching advice on relationships. And, who knows, it may end up including pieces from above.

1. Let go of control. For fun, let's start with what doesn't work. From my experience with clients and in my own life, the biggest obstacle to forming deep connections is our desire to control the people we care about. Why do we do this? Out of fear, of course. Fear that they may hurt, leave, embarrass, disagree with or reject us. We try to control what they feel and what they think. We want them to be happy, we want them to accept us and like us and make this whole relationship thing less risky. Well, here's the thing: It is risky but that's o.k. and it's worth it.  People we love will leave, some will do foolish things, and some will even die before us.

How to choose love and stay sane with so much risk? Martha Beck recommends we love unconditionally and unilaterally. I love how she follows this recommendation in The Joy Diet:

"But doesn't this strategy virtually guarantee that you'll get hurt? No, silly. It absolutely guarantees it...But as long as you never react by cutting off your willingness to love, you will always - always -emerge from these situations with more capacity for joy than you took into them."

This does not mean that you don't honestly express your feelings, acknowledge uncomfortable truth, or never end a relationship. This is where I find it helpful to think about what love is and consider that we can do all of these and still love...

2. Define love. What does love mean to you? I know, it's too big, too amazing to describe in words. However, I recently re-discovered this definition by M. Scott Peck, M.D. (psychiatrist) in The Road Less Traveled: Love is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." This definition packs lots of implications. First of all, it implies that love is effortful and willful (a choice, and perhaps not always easy) and not merely a feeling but an action. Also, self love and love of others are the same, because we cannot be a source of strength without nurturing our own strength. To love myself is to love you and visa versa. I have clients who are making difficult decisions in their relationships. In the context of this definition, asking themselves "How can I choose love?" may be the same as asking "Which option best supports growth?"

3. Do nothing & truly listen. Here are a couple things that will deepen and enrich your relationships so much, that you won't even believe it. The first is to "do nothing," meaning: go to the place of stillness/your core of peace when with another person. Again, in The Joy Diet, Martha Beck describes its effect like this:

"I found that it is impossible to truly do nothing while interacting with another person and not fall in love with them...I see in each of them a being of such breathtaking beauty and value that I can hardly stand it."

When you do nothing, you detach from all of those judgments and personal agendas and "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts." You see every person as someone who is looking to find and show the best parts of himself. Misbehaving kids are just that. People who are unloving have simply forgotten who they are. You'll find yourself caring less about control and feeling more present, which will lend itself to true listening:

"...the temporary giving up or setting aside of one's own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker's world from the inside, stepping inside his or her own shoes" (The Road Less Traveled, p. 127).

What also happens when you do nothing and truly listen is that the other people feel loved & valued. Then they go on to love & value you and others. And there goes this beautiful upward spiral of love & growth.

Happy Valentine's Day!

"To the ego a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones. But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally." -Marianne Williamson in A Return To Love

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Can You Please Change So That I Can Feel Better?

Consider the title of this post.

Do you ever have that thought?

Yeah, my clients and I do too.

Jen thinks her husband should clean up after himself because he knows a clean house is important to her. Erin needs her kids to stop fighting so she can feel calm. Kate thinks that if her boss would just give her meaningful feedback and more autonomy, Kate can feel appreciated, purposeful, and productive.

There's nothing wrong with asking significant others, family members, and bosses to do things, but they don't always comply. Then what do we do?

We get to take responsibility for our own happiness. If I need my kids to keep quiet so that I can be calm, I am making them responsible for my emotional state. It's now their responsibility to keep me calm. I have handed over the management of my own emotions. It's not their job and if I leave it up to them, I will be riding an emotional roller coaster.

Not to mention that it is exhausting making sure everyone behaves so that I can feel good.

What really needs to change? Our thinking. I know, it may not sound fair. Maybe it isn't. Perhaps everyone really should follow the rules in our mental manuals. But they don't.

Changing our thinking is the way to feel better. It's also empowering. Instead of thinking, "You need to change so I can feel better," try "I need to change so I can feel better."

What do you need to think to feel the way you want?

Jen may consider that her husband's lack of cleanliness has nothing to do with how much he loves her. She might think "I choose to clean because it's important to me" (Or she can hire a cleaning lady). Erin reminds herself that her kids are being kids perfectly. She is going to try this thought: "I can be calm so my kids can stop fighting." Kate may not be able to choose her projects, but she can choose her thoughts. Her boss's thoughts are his business, but Kate can be kind to herself by thinking, "I am capable, valuable, and meeting my own goals."

When we take over as CEO of our own thinking, a funny little thing happens.  The people around us start behaving so much better...even though we don't need them to.

"When you think that someone or something other than yourself needs to change, you're mentally out of your business." -Byron Katie

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Be the Best Version of You in 2010

What if you didn’t need anymore time this year? What if balancing family, work, and yourself was less a matter of finding the time or scheduling and more a matter of figuring out what you value most?

Let’s play with this idea.

Are you bummed that you aren’t participating in a cheese-rolling competition in the UK this year? Probably not. Why? It’s not important to you. On top of that, it’s probably not important to your friends either, so you don’t feel like you “should” be doing it.

In a different scenario, imagine that you have a child or close family member who is seriously ill and hospitalized for an extended period of time. Might it be very clear to you what is most important in your life? You probably wouldn’t feel guilty for neglecting the soap scum in you showers, pausing your search for a new work project, or putting homemade meals on the backburner (so to speak). Why not? Because your priorities are crystal clear, there is no self doubt, no apologies, and no guilt. Your actions are aligned with your values.

When our values are not so clear, however, the waters are muddy. When there is no crisis (job loss, illness, injury) or big event (wedding, childbirth, move) dramatically structuring our priorities, all of the pieces of our lives swirl around in our heads. We question how we manage our time and energy (which drains time & energy) and feel like we never have enough of either.

For now (of course, I’ll have more on this later), I propose two pieces, or action steps, to address this problem.

The first: Identify your values. Here are a few ways to ask the same question:

  • What do you value?
  • What gives you meaning?
  • What matters most to you in your life right now?
  • What do you want your life to be about?

Need help figuring this out?

I heard this helpful suggestion from Coach Jeannette Maw:

Get someone to listen to you or record yourself telling two stories. One story is about something that happened recently that was wonderful. Pick out what (hint: what you value) made it so great. Then tell an opposite story and figure out what was missing (hint: values).

Also, check out my blog posts on Your Real Career and The Game of Life. I describe Martha Beck’s tools to identify your values and align your action with your values.

The second: Be aware of the thoughts about what you “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing. You may tell yourself you “should” be exercising more. But if exercising is say, fourth on you list of priorities, then it needs to be addressed accordingly.

Your values and ways of aligning with them are uniquely your own and not necessarily the same as your mother or neighbor. You get to the best version of YOU. Just because your mother makes homemade spaghetti sauce doesn’t mean it “should” be important to you. You and your friends may all value family. Perhaps one of you serves this value by helping with homework, another by providing income, and another by coaching soccer. It doesn’t mean that all of you “should” be doing what everyone else is doing.

I have a feeling that a secret to happiness is using your strengths to put your values in action. More on this in this New Year.

What’s Coming in 2010

Look for these topics to be covered in this year’s newsletters, blogs, and classes:

  • Getting clear on your priorities and what you want your life to look like
  • Cleaning up time, space, & thoughts to make room for what’s important
  • Plans for life balance
  • Improving your relationships
  • Energy (deciding how to use it, sustaining it)
  • Identifying & using your strengths
  • Designing living spaces

For All of You Parents

Parenting issues driving you crazy? Can't get your kids to clean up their rooms? Fellow Martha Beck coaches Susan Hyatt and Jackie Gartman offered a free parenting class using a coaching tool called Self Coaching 101.

Here is the link to the class so you can download it to your iPod/mp3 player. Enjoy!

http://tinyurl.com/ETM-free-call

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Free upcoming class: Blueprint For Happiness. Details to be posted in my newsletter!

The Game of Life

Now that you've described your real career (from last post), how do you choose activities to live and support your real career?

First, Martha Beck recommends that we think of almost every human activity (including most jobs) as a game we play. I have a friend who is currently taking a series of exams for certification as part of her new career. When she explained with certainty that she failed her most recent exam, I said, "That's o.k. It's all just a game." Now I was not trying to be-little my friend's chosen profession. I happen to believe that if she thinks of the whole process as a game, she will feel less attached to the outcome, and whaddaya know, probably pass her exams. It's when we think that our entire lives are at stake in a situation that we lose consciousness, awareness, and power.

For the games you play or consider playing, ask yourself these four Joy Diet questions:

  1. Does playing this game contribute to my real career or detract from it? Do not play a game that takes you away from your life's purpose no matter what the winnings. According to Martha Beck, "If you spend your whole life playing a game that is not your real career, you'll lose even if you win."
  2. Am I having fun? This doesn't mean there's no effort or hard work involved, but it's worth playing.
  3. Am I good at this game (or could I be good at if I practiced)? It's really hard to leave something you're good at. But if this is the only question that gets a yes, you may want to consider another game. There are plenty of games you can win and love.
  4. Do I like the other players? My teammates? My competitors? My coaches? This is such a great indicator of a game worth playing. Do you get to hang with your peeps? Your tribe?

Related to question number one is one of my favorite tools from The Joy Diet: Alternating between mouse vision and eagle vision. In the midst of a task or activity, call to mind the major life goals you listed in the last post (Your Real Career). Then, look at what you are doing in that moment. Go back and forth a few times between your real career (eagle vision) and your current task (mouse vision). Is your current activity taking you toward your real career? If so, how well is it doing this?

I find this fascinating because I have so many things I need and want to do, I often question my choices. Some activities are obvious in their merit. Running will help you maintain a healthy body. Studying will get you that degree. Writing on Facebook walls will keep you connected (in case you thought Facebook was a complete waste of time!). But what about all of the other things we find ourselves doing - cleaning the house, e-mailing, preparing meals, filing, shopping, showering? Martha calls this maintenance work and says it's fine as long as it supports our more goal-directed behaviors. However, doing maintenance work that keeps you from moving toward your goals may be a way to avoid "the scary, exhilarating work of your real career." So if driving, going online, cooking every night and cleaning out your sock drawer is taking time and energy away from your real life's work, it's time to bag it or barter it.

Keep in mind that it doesn't take a huge adjustment to change course. I tiny tweak in your mousy behavior (making a list, getting out your passport, writing down a phone number) done over and over will lead you to your eagle goals. Slight adjustments at the wheel of a boat or plane determine your destination.

Now go play!

How To BE with People

I was just listening to The New Earth classes with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle (These classes were held over a year ago, but I have them all on my ipod and listen to them every now and then for fun. Yes, for fun). During Chapter Two's class, a mother called in and asked how to apply the lessons in this book to raising her children. One suggestion stuck with me and I want it to share it with you.

Eckhart points to the importance of being present with our children. When we are present with them, we give them our full attention and don't want anything from them. We may do this by listening to children, watching them play, giving them space to just be. Now, of course, this is type of presence is balanced with doing. Afterall, kids need to brush their teeth, eat, etc.

I think this suggestion applies to being with people of any age. How great does it feel to be with someone who doesn't want you to be doing something different, being somene else, wearing different clothes, or even feeling a different way?