So, how is it going?
This is a picture out of my front window, frozen rain blurring the view. Is everything, especially the future, out of focus? Are your thoughts jumbled, jumpy, unclear? Mine certainly are. I want certainty, but as I look back at my life, was anything guaranteed to turn out exactly as I wanted it to? Not at all. I had a certain level of belief that my life would be okay. And it has been. It’s been better than okay. Great. Now. In younger days, I made decisions from a place of “something is wrong with me”. These decisions led me to a place of wanting everything to be different, to step out of where I was. The trajectory of my life changed more than once. Looking back, the steppingstones from one place to the next look purposeful. But they weren’t. Because the people in my life, even those I at one time blamed for the mess I had made, supported me in veering off the traditional track I was so angry with, into new ways of being, thinking and doing. I am now so grateful for it all. I could not have designed it any better.
“For all that has been, thanks.
For all that shall be, I say yes.”
Notice he didn’t say, “for all that I liked, for all that was easy, thanks.” It’s for ALL of it, even the stuff the world said was dumb, or a waste. The Academy for Coaching Excellence used this quote, and it resonated with me because I had spent far too much time regretting how I had done things. This made me realize that it all allowed me to be here. Imagine my surprise while in the Psychology of Eating training hearing (paraphrasing here) “you will never move forward, in body or any aspect of life, until you accept everything in your life as perfect for you.” (This is not about abuse or trauma.) That family I thought I didn’t fit into? We were perfect for each other; I learned a lot. The education I never fully took advantage of? Turned me into a lifelong learner! Trying to figure out what was wrong with me? Led me to wanting to support other people on their journeys AND learning and KNOWING that none of us need fixing because we aren’t broken. I learned that, as a coach, I don’t have anyone else’s answer. I don’t get to OR have to tell anyone what to do; all of my clients come up with their own amazing solutions. I just ask questions and share tools that were given to me in training to support them on the path I am privileged to be on with them.
In keeping with this, I offer that we never really know what is going to happen. We like to think we do, but life is always coming toward us full force, with its own spin on things. In this time of ‘stay at home’, I’m trying to be okay with not knowing and letting life unfold. I’m grateful now that all that will unfold will be its own best answer for me. I’m choosing to focus on what is happening in this moment. What day is it? Today. What time is it? Now. This time allows me to consider what is worth going back to, and if my life is aligned with my values. I learned from my mom that worrying doesn’t change what happens. What I can do and choose to be present to: be with the person I love and the sweet dog, wear my homemade mask on my limited trips to the grocery and wash my hands. I say thanks for all that is yet to be revealed. I send peace, contentment and courage to all.
What is your focus? What thoughts circle around in your mind frequently? What grabs your attention in the course of the day? If you were a transmitting station what’s your frequency? High or Low, Positive or Negative. Is ‘what’s wrong’ on your mind? Often? Do you think about how “hard” everything is? Are you criticizing yourself: how you look: too fat, too thin, too tall or too short? Are you not smart enough, not educated enough? Are you falling short in every area of your life? Maybe your thoughts are on someone else: your co-workers, your boss, your mother, that terrible boyfriend from college? Do they keep doing what they have always done, even if you have asked them to stop? In the midst of a global pandemic, we are worrying about our friends and family possibly getting sick, or worse. Jobs and the economy add to the swirl of fear and worry.
Do you realize you have a choice in what you are thinking about? At any time, you can choose your focus, change your thinking to something more interesting: what are some ideas you have that you take some very small steps toward. Is there something you could do to support or uplift someone else, like a phone call to check on a neighbor, a snail mail note or organizing a Zoom or Face-time call with your favorite people. Giving support and uplift to others is a great antidote for anxiety or fear. Maybe you just need to fold the laundry: what is the next, small, forward moving step?
This shift can be made at any time during any day. When you notice that you have drifted back into negative or fearful thinking, passing judgement on anyone or everyone, yourself included: Take a deep breath! And smile! Because you WILL return to old patterns of thinking. This old way of thinking is deeply ingrained in our brains. Even though I have been many years removed from an active eating and exercise disorder, I can fall back into worry about body and food. Getting curious about why these thoughts surface, I learned that it’s mostly a distraction. If I’m procrastinating doing something I don’t want to do or I’m writing and feel “stuck”, old thoughts about not being worthy, asking “who do you think you are?”, and “if you take care of this you won’t have time to work out!” raise their very familiar chorus. It’s been a learning curve, and one that I haven’t mastered…yet. It’s an ongoing process. I also wish I could say that I don’t get mad at myself for taking a step back into the fear, negativity and judgement. In life coach training I was taught that getting mad and/or giving up creates more of the same old pattern. Gently turn your focus to where you would like it to be in this moment.
Like learning anything new, it takes your attention and desire to do it. If you think this a positive change you would like to try, there is no time like the present! In this time of pandemic and uncertainty, it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is a gift you give to everyone as you release others and yourself from criticism, judgement, fear, worry and doubt. When the old thoughts come up, you can ask yourself: what is more kind, more peaceful, more proactive for me to think about?
This tool is a practice, and you will very likely have to return to your commitment to up level your thought patterns many times. Instead of seeing this as a good reason not to try, could you be interested in trying it for a day? Can you see the possibility that negative thoughts are exhausting you, making you feel overwhelmed or angry or depressed? Holding this practice lightly, not taking your yourself so seriously, can offer some light for your spirit during challenging times.
As Courtney Carver*, writer extraordinaire says: “you don’t have to believe everything you think”. Noticing, getting curious about what you’re thinking, weeding out thoughts or beliefs that are not helpful or positive, or false, that don’t serve you well, is a process, one that I find myself turning to over and over, as I allow myself to journey forward. Allow yourself to change your focus. Give yourself credit when you do and when you don’t because it’s a practice, you’re learning something each time. This is a tool I have found to be helpful as I journey along with everyone else.
*Check out Courtney Carver's blog here; I also highly recommend her books, Soulful Simplicity and Project 333
It should be obvious that 'one size fits all' doesn’t work. Most clothing cannot shrink or stretch to accommodate all, or even most. But how often do we notice where we are asked to fit in, to try to pretzel ourselves into the way it’s always been done. In my demographic, education started with the idea that all students had to “sit down and be quiet”.
Consider the rigid, invisible structures we create for ourselves. For so many reasons, we start on “self-improvement’ for body, mind and life. Around 8th grade, Seventeen magazine entered my life, and it targeted all the insecurities that most 8th graders had and still have. For me, it started with my very curly hair that wasn’t featured in any pictures in any magazine and that tug of war reigned for decades, only to be surpassed by the war I engaged in with my body and food. So much “self-improvement” leads to so much self-destruction. Even though we know that one size doesn’t fit all, so many of us buy into the idea that some expert has a system or a diet or a workout plan designed to make us smarter, thinner or fitter. Self-improvement comes from a sense that we’re less than everyone else, there is something wrong with me; maybe THIS program, diet, book, will fix it, fix me.
We lose sight of our “expert” within. We aren’t always encouraged to trust our body, our feelings, or our own experiences. True growth, in mind, body and soul comes from acceptance and love. Acceptance of what is, in this moment. And love is the only thing that will allow change. Client’s say: “If I love myself now, nothing will ever change!” thinking that the self-loathing is the motivation. But self-hatred doesn’t create change, it just generates more of the same. Life Coach training taught me that I can choose to shift my attention to what I want, instead of focusing on what I don’t want, what is wrong. We can all choose to focus on something more interesting. This takes practice. It IS a practice, one you can choose over and over. And instead of beating yourself up when the old thoughts come calling, remind yourself, gently, that you are going to focus on the positive, on uplifting your thoughts (and thus, your health, your life, your entire expression and experience). It’s practice, not a perfect. Beating yourself up for drifting into the old habitual thoughts is more of the same old negativity. Hold yourself and this practice lightly, with compassion for the you that you are becoming.
As for the idea that you will do everything you really want to do once you have the body, the money, the job, the whatever; instead “start with the end in mind” (a saying of Marc David, my teacher at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating). Identify those things now. It could be taking a class, travel, going to a concert, participating in a community play. Start small, and pick one, and very importantly, put a 'by when' date on it. If it’s someday, it’s just a wish. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare, but be specific. “I will go hiking at the county park with my friend Clare, by July 30, 2020.” Setting goals is also a practice: focusing on what moves you forward. Practices don’t make perfect, practices bring you closer to the expert on you: YOU.
As a graduate of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating’s Coach Certification program, I highly recommend Marc David’s book "The Slow Down Diet".
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A New Year brings articles and advertising about "a whole new you". Join this gym, start that new diet, declutter your house, find a new career, rearrange your whole life. In other words, don't be you. The "old you" makes mistakes: you eat too much "bad" food, you don't get enough sleep, you sleep too much, and your desk is a mess! You need to be different, new and improved, Where does this leave you emotionally, spiritually, physically? Feeling that you aren't good enough, that you haven't measured up, maybe you never will. This is definitely not a great way to start anything.
Discarding any part of the self is impossible: every thought, every experience is part of you, body, mind and soul.
Rather than trying to disown parts of your physical body or life experiences, try embracing it. ALL of it! By recognizing all parts of yourself, by welcoming all that you have been through, you give yourself room to breathe and space to acknowledge all you are, all that you have become and all you are willing to grow into. This is a practice--not a perfect. And like me, practice doing this, day by day... or minute by minute, if necessary. Through it all, allow You to be You: that's one way to start everything.
This is My Coaching for Life!
I hope this blog and site will help others to tap into their best self. I'll be sharing some of my own experiences, as well as delving into topics and tools from my studies in Transpersonal Psychology, Psychology of Eating and general Psychology that I find especially helpful while navigating life.
If you need more one-on-one help, please contact me so we can start our journey together.
Mary is a certified Life Coach in Omaha where she enjoys reading and sharing books, taking in nature and exploring all life has to offer with her husband Kurt, and rescue dog "Scruffy".