Are you a shop-a-holic?

The phone rang. It was Steve. He wanted to resume his coaching. It had been 6 months since his last session.

“How have things been going?”, I asked.

Steve had been to a chiropractor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a nutritionist, and an energy worker. He was feeling “better”, but still struggling with the things that originally brought him to coaching.

What is my purpose?

What can I do to find clarity in my next career move?

Am I parenting in a developmentally nurturing way?

How can I bring my best self into this marriage.

My observation was that he was bouncing between experts, asking for the answers, doing everything he was told. Why was he still suffering? He was behaving like a shop-a-lohic.

I am not talking about clothing. Or gadgets. Or groceries.

I’m talking about shopping for healthcare services.

They are always looking for what’s trending, the best review, a discounted service.

They would like a magic solution. A quick fit. A guarantee.

They will ask around for recommendations, try a combination of several providers at a time, talk it up with their friends about what their so-in-so guru said, but they never stick it out.

Here’s why…

Just like the thrill of shopping, scheduling with a provider and going to that first appointment where you get to share your complaints feels great. It’s a dopamine rush. Even trying something for a second or third time can give the immediate reward you are looking for be it relief, a connection, a new tool. When it comes to sticking it out, however, there is little to no commitment.

Excuses show up: “I have so much going on. I don’t think it’s working. They didn’t say what I wanted to hear.”

These can all be legit barriers to doing the personal work of optimizing your holistic health. It can also be a way of hiding. Doing the work is the hard part and can trigger resistance. It can feel more rewarding to back off and keep shopping. The problem with that is that there is no long term reward to putting it off.

I understand what Steve was doing. He was looking for answers. But, he was looking in the wrong place. Steve doesn’t have a health condition that needs special medical attention. He is experiencing life! He is asking himself all the right questions about meaning and purpose. Through our continued coaching relationship Steve began to answer his own questions. He began to feel empowered. He participated. He committed. He stopped shopping and really began to grow.

If you identify in any small way with this shop-a-holic profile, I encourage you to try coaching. Coaching places you in the expert chair, while the coach  provides the structure and process needed to move yourself forward. Coaching gives you insight into how your day to day habits create your holistic picture of long term health. Stop shopping. Get started on the path to the healthiest you can be.

 

 

Step 3: See a vision, take some action

The past couple of blogs have been about how to turn complaints into changes for improved health and wellness.

Step 1: You realize there is work to do.

Step 2: You start to embrace the opportunities to grow through your stress.

Now, what are you going to do with all of that spiritual consciousness?

You are going to apply it to step 3: See a vision and take some action!

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

– Joel A. Barker

Without bumbling through some growing pains, it can be impossible to clearly see what you want. There is nothing like a little (or a lot) of stress to help you connect to purpose. Putting together some action steps based on your vision for the future can make big desires for change feel manageable. Here’s a little story of how these three steps showed up for me exactly a year ago.

I was complaining that my body wasn’t feeling great. I was also complaining about not feeling focused. I had some time on my hands and wasn’t using it well. I wasn’t feeling especially rewarded for my efforts, across the board, in life.

That was the clue that I needed to see what I was hiding from.

Step 1: Stop hiding.

I wasn’t exercising regularly. I wasn’t allowing myself to see all the cool things I was doing with my life. I needed a new commitment, something systematic that could boost my self esteem. I needed to reach out for support. I was ready to try something new.

Step 2: See stress as spiritual consciousness. 

I know that taking on something new, making a new commitment, brings a mix of excitement and resistance. There are two forces at once – let’s do this thing and let’s do that instead. Whatever I was going to do needed to be big enough to push my edges and allow in some discomfort. I knew that in working with the pain, I would transform. I was ready.

Step 3: See a vision and take some action. 

My vision: Run a half marathon. Put in the time to build endurance. See what the sport of running is all about. See myself in a new way- as a runner.

The first action step I took was to find a race in order to pin down a time line. The next huge step was to hire a running coach. She and I mapped out the day to day action steps. Then it was time to do the work and evolve through the plan. I had just shy of 4 months to go from running 0 miles to running 13.1.

The types of stress I experienced in training were diverse. There was straight up not wanting to do it. There were competing priorities (ummm work?). There were some athletic challenges associated with how to fuel my body and allow for recovery between runs. There was the matter of boredom during the run and anticipation of the runs as difficult, time consuming, and physically taxing.

All of these stressors presented opportunities for growth. I deliberately focused on the rewards of the running, rather than the resistance. For example, the feeling of accomplishment becasue the workout of the day was complete. I experimented with strategies until I found one that worked. For me the winning combination was to run late in the morning, with a camelback, with plenty of time to cool down, eat, and recoup afterwards. I found a sense of belonging and camaraderie with others who were training for the run. This replaced the generalized sense of isolation that comes with being an entrepreneur. I had a greater purpose with the exercise. I was doing it for a specific and measurable outcome. My confidence as a runner was improving.

The day of the race I was super excited. All of the work had been done. All I had to do that day was show up and run. I learned that running is a practice in mindfulness. The mind and body are working together. There are messages to stop (so tired) and messages to keep going (you can do this). There are waves of emotion. My eyes filling with tears from excitement and joy. Anger at the limitations of my body (my hip flexors will never be the same). Relief and pride at finishing what I started. All of this, and you just keep going. Just like in life, highs and lows, acceptance and trust. Letting go. Doing the work.

Running this race was one of the best things I have done for myself.

It showed me that committing to weekly actions steps can lead to something so much larger than I ever thought possible.

The annual marathon is happening again this weekend. I decided this year not to train (to put the same committed focus into my business). The experience was transformational.

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Run completed just before a massive downpour! Time for brunch!

More of what we want

For most of us busy professional types, there are external drivers pushing our schedule. Meetings, deadlines, project management, task completion. We are familiar with the feeling of reacting to a stimulus- alarm goes off, baby cries, phone rings. We watch the clock. We are pressed for time.

How often do you allow yourself to be motivated by internal forces? To pause before automatic actions in order to feel into the impulse to stay or go, move or remain still. How often do you stop to ask yourself, “what do I want to do?” not “what do I need to do”, and then actually do it.

When you open your eyes tomorrow morning, notice what happens. Will you move automatically to jump out of bed, hit the bathroom, make the coffee…

Or, will you open your eyes and pause. Feel into an alternative. Wait for the driver of action to come from within. An intentional choice to act, or not. To see what you feel like doing. To see what can arise from moving outside of a habit.

Step 2: Stress as Spiritual Consciousness

When we hide from our pain, we hide from our potential. 

We may stay in hiding for years, and for good reasons! A sense of safety, comfort with the familiarity, naivety of how to adapt, lack of support…

Once we make the choice to come out of hiding, then what? Seeing all of the objects of our grief? Really, what’s the point? Where’s the fun in that? Isn’t it better to push the trouble aside, keep our nose down, and press on?

When  I was in The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) we talked a lot about fun. We learned two types: Type 1 fun is fun in the moment. Type 2 fun is not really fun at all, but after the fact (sometimes well after) you are glad you did it. Type 2 fun comes from those experiences of struggle and triumph, where growth happens, skills develop, and personal evolution occurs. Type 2 shows us what we are made of. There was a lot of type 2 fun on that sea kayaking expedition through Patagonia.

Coming out of hiding, identifying our pain and potential…type 2 fun.

Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of circumstance, and getting caught up in constant complaint, we can ask ourselves this: what are we here to learn?

Pain isn’t pain for the sake of hurting, but rather so we can find means of true healing.

Barriers point to the need for creative problem solving.

Pain and potential cause stress. Stress is the path to spiritual consciousness. It is only through stress that we have the opportunity to dig deep, to “do the work”, to connect to sources of strength around us and within ourselves.

If everything in life was type 1 fun we wouldn’t even know it was fun.

If everyday were rainbows and butterflies we would have no concept of beauty.

When we make the choice to come out of hiding, shift our thinking to growth potential, begin to recognize stress as the path to spiritual consciousness, we become the victors of our lives. We become more available to others.

Over the course of a wilderness expedition we have choices. We can be afraid and disengage which will lead to wet gear, no dinner, and letting your team down. Or you can show up, learn some skills, lead a team, and triumph through the journey.

 NOLS rock beach

This was a great day. Sun shining, lesson in back country laundry, time to experiment with campsite baking. At this point in the trip, the things that first felt like type 2 fun were now type 1 fun. We had developed some skills and a new perspective on how to be comfortable within extreme conditions. Working through the early stages of discomfort allowed us a more enriched and connected expereince later.

Step 1: Stop Hiding

Have you ever been given a gift of feedback that changed the course of your life?

When I was in an intense educational process a massive and unexpected change occurred in my life. It shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise considering the motto of the school was “learning that changes lives”. I guess I was naive to how the rug can get pulled from under you when least expected.

The change was a breakup. A big break up. Not being one to stick around after the “I don’t want to be in a relationship anymore” speech has been given, I packed my stuff and decided I would finish the program in my tent. Yep- I camped onsite for 4 months in order to complete the training. Lucky for me it was a beautiful farm, where healing and integration after trauma was the whole point.

The camping wasn’t the tough part. It was the fact that my identity within this cohort was in love, in this relationship, going to beat the odds and make a life with this person. I had a future ahead of me…with this person. So, when I had to come clean with my classmates, it was an admission that I wasn’t who I claimed to be.  Anonymity wasn’t an option. It was a bear your soul every step of the way kind of training.

My anger, heart break, and confusion manifest as sarcasm. As other students arrived for the day, I could be found in the bathroom brushing my teeth and wiping sleep from my eyes. Their love and concern for me was evident with gentle questions of “how ya doing Jess?”. My response: “f-ing great, how do you think I am?”

Well, that wasn’t in the healing spirit. My pain, evident to all, led to a one-on-one meeting with the administration.

“You’re sarcasm isn’t working for you Jess.”

That’s when I learned I was hiding. I was pushing people away. I wasn’t allowing myself to heal. From that point forward I dropped the sarcasm and embraced the love around me. I took the opportunity to fall apart and then rebuild a plan to move on.

The point to this story is to illustrate how we use tactics to hide from our pain, missing opportunities to embrace change and get closer to what we want.

To stop hiding is to acknowledge how we are doing- really. Sarcasm, complaints, avoidance, resistance- all of these keep us from pinpointing the pain. We have to know exactly what that pain is before we can create plans for health and healing. This can feel impossible without the gift of feedback, which is why coaching is critical for growth.

Try this: for one day commit to not complaining. Take note of the things that annoy you- the subject of the complaint. If complaining isn’t your thing, your challenge is to identify the points of resistance in your day- the thing you know you should do, but don’t. If resistance isn’t your thing, note where you feel judgment towards self and other.

The first step is to stop hiding. Make a point to connect with what feels too scary to face. From there step 2 is possible.

BTI

The cohort, on the farm, circa 2005.

After I heard this, life was never the same…

It took brutal honesty. It came from my college roommate.

“If you have things to complain about, you need to make some changes.”

This week I will be posting a series of blogs sharing some of the ways that this statement enables me (still to this day, all these years later) to rise above the complaining, the victim mentality, and the broken record of negative self talk.

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My roommate Caitlin is still an inspiration.

Here are she and Moonshine making a vision board.

Everything on my vision board happened!

There is power in intentionality.

What is your dream?

Do you know what you’re working towards? A paycheck, or pay out? To give your children opportunities? To buy or build that dream house? Success, esteem or recognition? Maybe you’re working a plan that will open up opportunities for greater joy and connection to purpose.

What is your dream? At the end of the day do you feel you have moved the needle a bit closer to achieving your dream? How much time have you spent thinking about what you’re creating for yourself today, and how that is a path towards your 10, 20, or 30 year future?

My dad has spent a lot of time thinking about his dream. It has been a gift to hear about it.

Dad is a story teller. He is one of those “let’s sit down and visit” types. When we spend time together, it is all about the conversation.

Many of his stories are about Arkansas, and the Buffalo River National Park. He moved to Arkansas when he was 24. A young man with a plan to settle on his own land, homestead a sustainable dwelling, and raise a family. I was 4 when we left, but some of my earliest memories are from there.

Life takes twists and turns- detours from the path of intention. So often my plans have “not worked.” At least that’s how it felt at the time. I began to call plans “ideas” to put less emotion into their actualization. It wasn’t fair to consider myself a failure because things didn’t work out the way I had planned. I can now see how every step along the way is meaningful.

This weekend my dad and I are on a trip to the place from all his stories. I am learning about the man who is my father, about his memories and visions for the future, and why these things matter to him. I am also asking what his “detour” away from Arkansas has meant to him, the meaning and experiences that are also part of his story. I have no idea what will come next…

Is dreaming enough? Does hope keep us going, even if we never reach the goal? What is your dream? Are you living it already?

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Me, in front of the Buffalo River. The river and surrounding parkland is beautiful. It is the nation’s only free flowing river, which means no damns.

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Daddy, back to his happy place. Tomorrow he wants to “float” the river (AKA canoe). I hope the weather improves. Today it is 34 degrees with a wintery mix falling. Snow is beginning to accumlate and there is a clear frost line showing along the mountains.

How do you know you’re afraid?

For the last 10 years of owning a business I have been afraid to write, to put myself out there for the world to see. I know I am afraid when I feel resistant, avoidant,  and defensive.

I know the only way to over come my fear is to just do. This is why, if you happen to notice, I am posting more blogs.

What will win? My fear of failing or my desire to succeed? How do you find courage to push past your fears? Do you even know you’re afraid?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

What would it take to make this choice…?

What arises within you when I say happiness is a choice?

It took me a long time to really connect with this truth. To know it in my soul.

It took  constant redirection of my thoughts and pushing myself into the behaviors I knew would provide the rewards worth working for.

It feels like two sides of my brain competing for power. Do you ever feel that way?

This struggle for control shows up a lot when creating new, healthy habits. For example, one side says let’s make a change. The other side says let’s stay the same.  Or, when deciding where to direct our thoughts; for instance, to focus on a piece of feedback as criticism, rather than as a gift for growth.

I have personally undergone a tremendous amount of interpersonal, emotional healing work. Participated in alternative and complementary therapies to build self awareness. Studied the mechanisms of the mind-body function that we undergo as humans. And it is only now, working both with a coach and as a coach, that I finally see the choice is clearly mine.

I choose to be happy. Healthy. Whole.

What would it take for you to make this choice?

 

 

10 Benefits of Impostor syndrome

I finally have a self diagnosis that makes sense. Impostors Syndrome. Thanks internet!!

Impostor syndrome is the inability to internalize achievements as meaningful; and, the doubt or disbelief that oneself is talented, capable, creative, smart, etc. despite evidence to the contrary. I thought it was just low self esteem!

I can clearly see the pattern. Yesterday, for example, a new client came in with a very unusual set of circumstances. She has been to multiple specialists. She was giving me a chance to help. Here were some of the impostor thoughts that showed up before the session: What can I possibly offer? She will see through to my incompetence. I don’t have the skills.

When thoughts like this show up I push them to the side and move into the work with presence. I just show up, so to speak. I lean on trust to carry me through.

But now that I have a more meaningful framework to understand these types of limiting beliefs, I can shift my focus to the positive. A process I like to call thought swapping.

I now I can actually see how this pattern of thought, and it’s adaptive behaviors, have served as an asset to advance my growth. Here are 10 positive traits of imposture syndrome just off the top of my head!

  1. It keeps me humble.
  2. It facilitates a beginner’s mind, keeping me open to curiosity and learning.
  3. It keeps me down to earth.
  4. I am able to work from a place of collaboration with my clients, neutralizing the power differential.
  5. My ego stays in check.
  6. It allows me to reach out for professional support from colleagues, mentors, and professional supervisors.
  7. My critical thinking remains sharp, enabling self assessment.
  8. It allows me to evolve and try new things.
  9. I only give advice when asked.
  10. It strengthens my sense of humor and keep me from taking myself too seriously.

These are characteristics I value, allowing me to see virtue in an experience that has otherwise felt limiting. From this perspective, integrating my sense of achievement and competency feels VERY possible!