When I surveyed women about what they wanted help with the most, two things rose straight to the top of the pile—balancing all the many aspects of your life, and getting out of your own way. So I’m running a series of posts on both, starting with getting out of your own way.
I get why this is such a popular topic—putting myself in a little box that I couldn’t seem to break out of is something that I have experienced in my own life in a few different ways, and it comes up with my clients frequently too.
We all have these hidden beliefs that we don’t realize are behind so many of the parts of our lives where we feel stuck.
For example, I had a client who grew up in a poor neighborhood. Where most of her neighbors were dealing with addiction and poverty, she had a dedicated mom who kept the house spotless and three meals on the table every day. She grew up feeling guilty for feeling any kind of sadness or dissatisfaction, because she knew—and she had it drilled in to her—that she had it so much better than nearly all of the neighbors. Fast forward a few decades, and she’s still got that fear of doing “too” well and not feeling like she’s entitled to feel the way she feels. It makes perfect sense, right? Who wouldn’t potentially feel that way, given a similar upbringing?
When was the last time you felt churned up and raw about something that happened? Something you wished you could simply “let go”?
Maybe it was…
• a comment someone made that you can’t stop replaying in your head.
• a time of transitions and unknowns.
• a conversation that took a wrong turn and left a pit in your stomach.
There are certain instances that take up space in your thoughts and your heart and cast a shadow over everything. No matter how much you try to distract yourself, or how many times you tell yourself to ‘let it go,’ the unsettled feeling stays.
I had an experience this winter when I was trying to schedule a booksigning at a bookstore I know and love. The event coordinator was downright rude, and I got majorly irritated with her and the situation—the details are trivial now, but I was perturbed. My agitated emotional state colored a good three days (that’s a photo I took of myself during that time up top).
C’mon, I know you’ve got something on the tip of your tongue.
Helicopter parents? Man buns? Fake chit-chat at a networking event?
It’s so tempting to declare someone or something as bad. It gives you a chance to feel superior, maybe even righteous. It’s also a lot of fun to have a bitch session with someone else about whatever it is.
Some of the things I used to judge–big time!–are rich people, my husband’s dishwashing style, and know-it-alls.
But you want to know what my judgments of these things got me?
I was ass over teakettle, as the saying goes—I really didn’t know which end was up. For the first two months, the only reason I wanted to get out of bed in the mornings was to smoke a cigarette. True story.
The thing that saved me was the commitment I made to myself when I signed up for the teacher training. I didn’t have to spend much time thinking, wondering, or freaking out about what I was going to do with my life. I only had to show up to class. Once I was there, I knew what to do—listen, practice, do the work, repeat.
Over the course of that year, I got a very clear glimpse of what I wanted to do next. Funnily enough, it wasn’t teaching yoga classes, like I had initially envisioned. Even though it made no logical sense, the thing my yoga teacher training made impeccably clear was this:
I wanted to write.
Blog posts. Magazine articles. Books. I saw how one led to the other, and I thank God I had the structure and the accountability of that training program to sit with the vision long enough for it to become real in my mind. Read more…
Each year, I take a long weekend away from work and family to get together with two writer friends. We stay at an inn in the country, chatting over cups of tea and farm breakfasts. We talk about everything—relationships, money, work, dreams.
On one of our visits, my friend Judi was telling us how she loves the actual process of writing—she likes sitting down at her computer, thinking, typing, and refining her message. She said she even loves the feel of her fingers on the keyboard.
I don’t feel the same way.
While I sometimes have moments of having something flow straight out of my brain and on the to page, I actually sort of hate the act of writing. I do a lot of stopping and starting, re-writing and re-jiggering as I go. It feels more like the lurching steps of a toddler and less like a horse out to run.
I also often have to get pretty churned up to actually sit down to write—I feel the weight of a deadline growing closer, or a nagging to get something down on paper so that I can get it out of my head, or a desire to get something in the can so I can feel accomplished.
But enjoy the feel of my fingers on the keyboard? Not so much.
However, having written is a feeling I truly love.
When I first started working with a coach, I attended in-person retreats with my fellow coachees. Invariably, at some point during the weekend, our coach would pull out the legal-sized printout of a yearly marketing calendar.
<dun dun da DUMMMMM>
I would immediately start sweating. First, as a right-brained person, I have an allergy to color-coded spreadsheets. But it wasn’t just a temperament issue.
I also have a long-standing fear of planning. I’ve been gradually facing and easing this fear in the five years since this story took place, but let’s just sum it up by saying, planning does NOT come naturally to me.
I prefer to be moved by inspiration. To really get excited about something enough to spring into action, I’ve gotta feel it.
This post is for all the endurers out there. You know who you are: When your life starts going sideways, you hunker down and tell yourself things like, “I’ll get through this.” “I just need to hold on a little bit longer.” “One day, things will calm down and then I can relax.” Or, my favorite, “I can handle this.”
Listen, it’s a great thing to have tenacity; to be able to hang on during challenging conditions and come out the other side. Being able to endure is a strength.
The problem is that you can rely on your strengths so much that they start to become weaknesses.
You may be great at walking into a room and reading the energy of the people in it—so great that you then immediately launch into trying to make everyone happy, which is impossible and exhausting. And then you start wondering why you don’t want to be around people.
Or, you may be great at thinking critically. So great that at some point you stop taking in any new information because you’re so busy trying to poke holes in every new idea you hear.
“Hidden within every problem lies an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem.” — Albert Einstein
It’s only a couple weeks into summer temperatures here in Providence. And even though I’m swooning at the chance to pack away the sweaters and break out the sundresses, it’s kind of hilarious how quickly all the annoying aspects of summer have made their presence known.
Namely, the daily onslaught of wet towels and bathing suits that need hanging up, the numerous flies that find their way in to our house, and my hair, which takes on a whole new persona in the humid months—a persona named Roseanne Rosanna Danna.
I’m guessing you could pretty quickly name a list of things that are bugging you right now—whether they’re seemingly trivial (like frizz) or pretty important (like being owed money). How you deal with and think about these annoyances says a lot about your character and your energy.
Because here’s a truth for you:
The things that bug you aren’t here to drive you crazy. They’re here to help you grow. (Yes, even that thing.) (Click to Tweet!)
I hear women say, “I just can’t add one more thing to my to-do list” all the time. And while I get it—who wants to be busier?—that desire to have a shorter to-do list is keeping you from getting the stuff that matters to you done.
It’s all about the size of your tasks.
At one of the first writer’s conferences I attended over 10 years ago, one of the presenters used a metaphor that has stuck with me.
He said, “Imagine that your time is a big bowl, and your projects are rocks. A big project is a big rock, and a little project is a little rock.
If you put one large rock in your bowl, you might have room left for another little rock, but probably not. You’ve got to break your projects up into smaller pieces, and then you can fit plenty of projects in your bowl.”
Pretty simple, right?
Certain times of year are just busier than others. The holidays, for example. And also, spring. You can feel the unspoken urge to get as much planned and executed as possible before summer comes and slows down the pace. If you’ve got kids, there are seemingly endless end-of-year functions (I’ve already attended two this week, and it’s only Wednesday morning as I write this) and camp schedules to figure out. And if you are a gardener of any sort (I’m a novice but eager planter of things), spring is definitely go-time on the chores front—mulch, anyone?
I know how tempting it is to think that when you’re busy, you don’t have time to do things that help you stay sane. Anything self-care related can feel frivolous when your daily agenda is jam-packed. The irony here is that the busier you are; the more important downtime becomes. (I wrote more about this here.)