The Power Of Perspective

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One of the many benefits of hiring a coach is having the opportunity to have your coach deeply listen to you and observe your emotions, struggles, and energy.  When I am working with a client, one of the things I listen for is what perspective she or he is currently holding.  At any given moment, each of us is coming from a perspective; it might be a joyful perspective, an anxious perspective, a struggling perspective, etc.  

But most of the time, we don’t have the distance from our own perspectives to realize that they are just that: perspectives.  And when we realize we are holding a certain perspective, it gives us the power to choose to keep it (if it is benefitting us) or change it (if it is limiting us in some way).

Changing our perspective is not always easy, but it is always powerful and important.  Here is an example from my own life.

Last winter my sweet little girl was hospitalized with a serious respiratory infection.  Normally a naturally joyful and active toddler, I saw her become more and more sick until she was lethargic and almost unresponsive.  I felt helpless and terrified as one of the people I love most in the world faded into sickness.  I am infinitely lucky because after a few days in the hospital she was much better, but the experience was very difficult and deeply affected me.

In the days after she was released from the hospital, I found myself feeling extremely anxious about my family’s health.  I felt scared, jumpy, sick, and sad.

After about a week, I started to recover from my sleep debt and my energy began to trickle back. I gradually began to realize that the way I was viewing our lives was making me miserable.  And even though I was trying to hide how I felt from my kids, it was affecting them, too. And as my energy continued to return, I remembered what I tell my coaching clients: each moment of our lives we are coming from a certain perspective. We have the power to stay in it or to change it.  

I realized that I desperately needed to change my perspective.  I was living from a perspective that was making daily living feel harsh, cold, and frightening.

I took some deep breaths, prayed, and thought about all I was thankful for. I thought about all the wonderful things in my life: my wonderful children, our health, our home, the love we have for each other.  Just these simple steps helped bump me out of a deadening perspective into a life-giving perspective.  I felt lighter, hopeful, stronger.  From this perspective, my goal was to eke all the joy out of every moment that I possibly can, to appreciate the beauty of each moment.  How different than my previous goal of trying to avoid a plethora of imagined health problems!

We can all change our perspective whenever we choose to do so.  The first step is to identify what perspective we are operating from, and what effect that perspective is having on us.  What is your current perspective?  Is it a helpful perspective?  How is it working for you?

Next, choose a different perspective.  Use tools to help you really explore it.  Breathe deeply, take a walk, talk with a loved one, watch an inspiring movie.

In my example above, I chose to switch from an anxiety-filled fearful perspective to a thankful perspective.  There are many perspectives we can choose: a hopeful perspective, a playful perspective, a compassionate perspective.

Again, it is not always easy to change your perspective.  There will almost certainly be times that your old one comes knocking on your door again.  But when it does come knocking, if you realize that you are in a perspective, you give yourself the power to change it.  Some perspectives are more ingrained than others, and I work with clients to help change some pretty deep-seated ones.  But it IS possible.  And you can do a lot of it on your own.

What perspective are you coming from right now?  How is that working for you?  From what perspective would you like to live?

Beyond Self-Help: The Secret To True & Lasting Change

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We live in a time of increasing consciousness about personal growth and self-help.  More self-help books, Oprah-inspired television shows, and inspirational blogs crop up every day.  There’s no doubt that these developments help millions of people overcome challenges and grow personally, and I am thankful to be living in this day and age.

But there is a flip-side to this trend that we don’t often talk about; that when these self-help resources don’t help us enough, we feel terrible about ourselves. New clients often come to me after they’ve read a lot of books on the challenges they are facing, and feeling as if they’ve tried to work through their challenges on their own, but it wasn’t enough. In fact, they sometimes feel they even know what they have to do to improve their situation, but the knowledge just isn’t enough.  They see these things work for people on Dr. Phil and read about success stories, and they feel the same things “should” work for them.  By the time they come to me, they often feel defeated, worried that their situation is hopeless, and as if something is seriously wrong with them.

The truth is that no situation is hopeless and the same instinct that inspired them to read those books will reveal the answers they need if they are given the space to interact with that instinct.  Knowledge and awareness are wonderful and essential.  But, most often, we need more than knowledge and awareness to grow and change.  This is particularly true with some of our biggest, most chronic challenges in life.

What we need in order to truly change and grow is to have learning experiences.  Not just insights, but experiences.  In my coaching work, I help clients put their insights into action during sessions and between sessions.  This is the way to gain effective tools that you can use for the rest of your life to overcome challenges and feel fulfilled.  You have to have experiences with your true self in order to be able to listen to it and live according to its wisdom.

Do you find yourself feeling angry a lot and taking it out on the people you love?  Do you wonder if you are just a terrible person?  You’re not.  And the wisest part of you knows exactly why you are angry AND how to help you heal that anger.

Do you find yourself avoiding something difficult in your life? Or maybe you’ve been avoiding something you really want?  Are you wondering if something’s wrong with you? There’s nothing wrong with you AND your true self knows why you are avoiding AND how to help you move forward.

Do you feel lost?  Overwhelmed?  Exhausted?  Stuck?  Your true self knows exactly how to remedy these situations.

The first step in changing is to believe that this is possible; that you have inside of you a wise, strong true self that can guide you through every situation. No matter what you’ve been through or how many unsuccessful attempts to change that you’ve had, your true self is inside of you, pure and wise, with all the wisdom you need.

If this seems hard to believe, don’t worry.  Many people feel that this is too good to be true at first.  But I KNOW from every client I’ve ever worked with (and from personal experience), that this is absolutely true.  The true self always speaks and guides, even for people who don’t think it will work for them.  That is how powerful the true self is!

Practice living with this idea and see what it evokes in you.

And if you are ready to live according to the wisdom of your true self, contact me.

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4 Ways To Understand & Move Past Procrastination

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One of the most common challenges I’m asked about is procrastination.  People often feel guilty, frustrated, and self-judgmental about procrastinating and want to find a way to stop doing it.

My best advice for working through procrastination is to first understand why you are procrastinating.  Without this awareness, steps taken to stop procrastinating may not be very effective.  Procrastinating doesn’t mean you are lazy or lame.  It means there is something getting in your way.  If you can find out what that is, you can take steps to move forward.  Here are 4 common reasons people procrastinate and tips to help you move past it.

One of the most common reasons for procrastinating is thinking that we have to be perfect. Often we tell ourselves that we have to “hit it out of the park” on the first try.  You may not even be aware that you are feeling this pressure until you ask yourself if you are. Here is a trick to work through this perfection pressure.  First, remember that every single project always has several drafts or attempts before it is finished.  Imperfection is a necessary part of every project.  Give yourself the challenge of creating the most imperfect first attempt at your project possible.  It actually should not be good at all.  Aim for mediocrity!  Doing this helps you move from a judgmental and frightened frame of mind into a playful frame of mind.  It also helps you get started and, in the process, you may find that what you have to do is not as bad as you feared.

Another of the most common reasons for procrastinating is fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not doing well enough, fear of how people may judge us.  Many people are not aware that they feel fear until they take a closer look.  Ask yourself, “What am I worried about related to this project I keep putting off?”  See what comes up as you think about this question.  You may find that you are having thoughts that are sending you into a state of worry that makes you want to avoid your project.  In order to work through this worry, ask yourself what you are most worried about, and then actually “counsel” yourself the way you would a dear friend in the same position.  For example, if you feel you are going to look foolish when you start your task, tell yourself what you would tell a friend who felt that way.  Maybe you would help your friend talk about what she needs to do to feel prepared and confident, and then you would encourage her.  Do this for yourself!  Keep doing this for each worry that you identify within yourself.

A third common reason for procrastinating is feeling overwhelmed.  A great way to help with this is to break down what you need to do into smaller steps.  It may be that the first step to getting your task done is to plan how you will do it.  (And often planning how you will do something is a less intimidating first step than actually doing it!)  Maybe your first step is thinking about the task for a while.  Many creative tasks require you to have some time to mull things over first.  This isn’t procrastinating; it is actually very productive mental activity!

To break your task down into steps, pretend you are telling a friend how to do your task.  Share what you would do to prepare, what comes next, and how you will know when you are finished.  You can also break steps down into smaller steps.  For example, if you are having trouble getting started on a term paper, set a timer for 10 minutes and only allow yourself to work for that amount of time.  You may find when it is over that you want to keep going!  You can also set up rewards for yourself after you finish various steps to keep yourself motivated. And just think how great you will feel when you are finished!

And finally, sometimes we procrastinate because we really don’t want to do something for a deeper reason.  If you are experiencing a lot of stressors in your life, you may find yourself procrastinating more.  The remedy for this is to examine your life and find ways to make your whole life feel less stressful and overwhelming.  This will free up your time and energy and you will approach things with a lighter heart.

Another deeper reason for procrastinating is that the action you feel pressured to take goes against your values.  Maybe you are in a job that clashes with who you are and the tasks feel more and more difficult to accomplish.  It may be time to examine other opportunities for work in your life.

These situations are more complex to resolve, but very important to pay attention to.  Sometimes, procrastination is a sign that we need to make some important changes.

Setting Goals That Inspire You

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As a coach, I work with my clients to support them in setting effective and inspiring goals for their lives.  There are many resources that give helpful advice on the mechanics of how to create effective goals.

For example, it is very helpful to create “SMART” goals with the following qualities:

  • S=Specific  (Who will achieve this goal, what will be achieved, where will it be achieved, when will it be achieved, what is the purpose of the goal?)
  • M=Measurable  (How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?)
  • A=Attainable (Do you have what you need to reach this goal?)
  • R=Realistic (What experience do you have with similar goals?  Do your goal and timeframe seem achievable?)
  • T=Timely (What is your specific time-frame for achieving this goal?)

There is no doubt that mechanics such as these are important.

But I’ve discovered that the most important part of creating goals is to make goals that truly thrill and inspire you.  If your goals don’t do this, they feel mechanical and you are much less likely to feel motivated to achieve them.  You have one life, so why not live it according to goals that feel truly compelling?

To create truly compelling goals, first allow yourself the time and space to explore how you would really like things to be.  If your goal is to clean your house more often, you might ask yourself questions such as these:

How do I really want my house to look and feel? (Really give yourself a moment to visualize and imagine how it would feel.)

If my house looked and felt that way, what would be different in my life?

What is it costing me to NOT have the house I envision?

What is my goal really about?  In other words, what is most important to me about this goal?

After exploring these questions you might find yourself moving from the goal of “cleaning my house once a week” to the more compelling goal of “cleaning my house once a week in order to create an environment of beauty and clarity in which my family and I can thrive”.   You are now in touch with the mental image of your completed goal, the feelings you will have when you reach it, and the true importance of your goal for your life.  Referencing these factors throughout your project will provide you with the focus and inspiration you need to complete it.

Try approaching your goal-setting from this perspective and see what shifts for you.  And if you find you need a coach to help you see things from a fresh perspective and help you articulate your ideas, contact me.

3 Ways To Cultivate A Healthy Marriage

couple-1432941-1279x1770Having a healthy marriage or other committed relationship is a subject that often comes up in my sessions with clients.  It is something we all need to work on on a regular basis and is crucial to our well-being and happiness.  Here are 3 perspectives that can be helpful in cultivating a healthy marriage.

 

1) Avoid The Comparison Trap 

When we are having a fight with our spouse or are going through a challenging period, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of comparing our relationship to others’ relationships.  We can put a magnifying glass on what is “wrong” with our spouse or our relationship and see around us examples of people or couples that we imagine have better relationships.  This comparing can make us feel even more discontent and dissatisfied.

But the truth is that *every* relationship has struggles.  Even the couple on Facebook that always looks so happy and loving in their photos?  Yep, even them.  Even the couple you know who’ve been married for 30 years and seem perfectly suited to each other in every way?  Yep, even them.  Even the couple that insists that their relationship is great? Yep, even them.  *Every* relationship has challenges.

I’m not sharing this to be depressing, I’m sharing it because I think it is crucial to take off the rose colored glasses when it comes to other relationships, and instead focus on the strengths in our relationships and the unique path we have to walk together.  We can’t see all the great things that are possible in our marriage if we are constantly looking at other people’s relationships.

2) Look For What You Love
When we are in the midst of a challenging time with our partner and we feel hurt and misunderstood, it can be very hard to bump ourselves out of that negative place and into a more positive, productive place.  But, I’ve discovered in my own life and in my work with clients that doing so can become much easier with practice.

So, for example, if I feel my husband hasn’t acknowledged something important to me, I will feel hurt.  It is very easy for me to act from that place of hurt and say things that will make him feel defensive.  For example, I could say, “You never listen to me the way I want you to listen to me!” or “Why can’t you be more considerate?”

But if I can step back, take a deep breath and remember that we are a team and need to work on things together, I can bump into a different perspective.  I can remember all the things I love about him.  I can remember all the times he does listen to me the way I need him to.  From this perspective, I can say something that is much more likely to result in what I actually want, which is to have him realize what I need and help me meet that need.  I could say, “You know, I really love it when you listen to me in a focused way.  When we are too busy and that doesn’t happen, I really miss it and I feel upset.  Can we try this again?”

3) Have Compassion For Each Other & For The Relationship
Being in a committed relationship is one of the most beautiful and growthful experiences we can have in this lifetime.  Because having a long-term relationship requires constant effort and growth, there are necessarily wonderful times and there are challenging times.  When we are in a difficult period, it can be very helpful to stop blaming each other, take a step back, and say, “Hey, we are having a rough time right now.  Every couple goes through rough times.  Going through this is hard for both of us.  Let’s take a minute to just have compassion for each other and for our relationship.  Since we have some problems to solve, let’s try to solve them together rather than being at odds with one another.”

Along with this, it can be incredibly helpful to do an exercise in which you see your relationship as as its own entity, in need of its own things to flourish.  So, for example when you are having a disagreement, and it feels like you are butting heads, you can try saying, “OK, this isn’t productive.  Our relationship needs some mending right now.  What does our relationship need?”  You may find it needs more compassion, more input of love and fun, or some help from a professional.  Taking the focus off of either one of the people in the relationship and onto the relationship itself can be a great way become a team again and have compassion for each other.