Keeping a Steady Aim by Adjusting Targets

This week I’ve gained valuable insight into what I’m aiming for and why, and how to get there.. even when I can’t fully get there.

archery

I took up archery this week (hence the inspiration for the name of this post) and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has nothing to do with my bow. New hobbies have a way of opening our minds to new ways of thinking and understanding. I’m just starting out with archery so it is easy for me not to expect myself to hit difficult targets, or any target at all for that matter (I’ve already somehow lost an arrow in the abyss of my backyard). Learning something new takes patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy when you are a beginner at something to accept that, and hand it over willingly. Unfortunately this willingness to accept where we are is not so forthcoming when it’s something that isn’t new to us.

The resistance we have to accept where we are is fueled by our good ol’ friend comparison. We compare to our own past performance, where others are, and where we think we should be. This leads to pushing ourselves too far, expecting too much, not giving ourselves what we really need, and ultimately setting ourselves up for failure. I have found this in many different aspects of my life.

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During yoga class I notice this when I automatically push myself to where I was able to get last class- without even paying attention to where my body is that day. I assume because I know where I was able to get last time, that I know where I should go this time. I’ve been mindful of this tendency over the last few days and instead try to approach it as though I’ve never done it before. It has been great practice for staying in the moment, honouring where I am, seeing the judgement that arises, and letting it go.

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Being mindful of where I am right now and responding to that non-judgmentally and with compassion is helping me with more than my downward facing dog.

I reached a low point this week after having a bad panic attack at ballet class, which forced me to leave early. I spent the rest of the night wallowing and beating myself up. I was extra frustrated with myself because ballet is one of my empowering activities, and now I’ve made myself afraid of it. I was petrified that this was the marker that the dragon is dead.

The next evening I was supposed to go to another dance class. All day I was anxious and contemplating whether to go. I was scared to go because I knew it was likely that I’d panic again. I questioned whether I should even go because if I had to leave again I’d only further perpetuate this panic response to dance. I almost had myself convinced that it would be healthier to avoid it. Thankfully that morning I had an eye-opening therapy session and the truth of how vital it is to my life to stay the dragon was clear in my mind.

My goal then was to figure out how I was still going to be a dragon, panicking or not. The first inclination was to set the target to where I was able to succeed before (go to class and don’t leave). Failing to be present and accepting of where I am was only digging the hole I’m in deeper. By looking at myself honestly and compassionately, I realized this was too much for where I am right now, so I adjusted the target.

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Just keep showing up. I decided that would be my mark of success. That will be how I’m still a dragon. I’ll measure my success by my perseverance in showing up. Not on if I panic, not on if I leave, just showing up.

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This was a light bulb moment for me. One thing about panic attacks is it feels like they control your actions. They feel debilitating because if you have a panic attack in one place, you will likely have one there the next time, and it becomes easy to assume you need to avoid these places in order to avoid the panic. This can feel like panic is forcing you to lose what you love, and can make your world very small. What I realized is with my “Show Up” rule I am taking control over my actions. Despite whether or not I have a panic attack, I am going to continue to show up. It also takes the pressure off my ability to not have a panic attack or to be able to control it once it happens. For now, I’ve decided I will just be in control of whether I show up. This felt doable and empowering.

Since establishing the “Show Up” rule I’ve managed to show up for another dance class and four yoga classes. As a bonus I was actually able to stay for all of them, but what I’m most proud of is showing up to them at all.

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I’m still aiming at targets, but now I’m being more mindful that they are targets I can hit.

I invite you all to try being mindful of where you are at any given moment and respond to that with compassion.

Are there targets in your life that may need adjustment?

Breaking the Silence

I’ve been quiet.

I want to be inspiring, I don’t want to be depressing.

So I’ve been quiet.

Silver linings and tales of courage are great to share, but thanks to my tribe I’ve been reminded that, above all my goal is to be authentic.

I’ve been judging where I am, and it’s been keeping me silent. If this blog is about my journey, then this is part of it. I can’t edit the scary parts out of life (though a girl can wish), so how dare I try to edit it out here. That clearly was not my intent when I started. I lost sight of that for awhile, but I see it clearly again now.

I understand if this sounds redundant, I’ve written about learning this lesson before. Apparently learning something once and writing it down doesn’t mean you will never forget or need to relearn it. From what I’ve been told this is a common trend, so I suppose there’s value in being openly repetitive.

I could chose not to share the darkness with you, stay silent, but this would only push me further from my values, and the more I think of why, the more important it becomes to speak up. If I give you half the story, cherry pick what truths to share, I might as well be writing a fairy tale, disguised as non fiction. And it makes me shudder at how harmful that could be. I know your story and my story will be different, but if there’s a part of you struggling, and my story depicts this rose-tinted view, it could leave you feeling more alone. Instead of pain, struggle, and setbacks simply being part of the journey, just how it is, we get the impression that they are indicators that we have failed.

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I think this happens far too often in society; where “I’m fine” is the only socially acceptable answer to “How are you?” and status updates and instagram photos show the bright shiny stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with sharing happy things – it’s just the other part, the stuff we don’t speak about or share – those missing details are distorting the picture. It’s an environment that fosters misconceptions of how life is; “Everyone else is doing great. Why can’t I be that put together? There must be something wrong with me”.

I realize now that my silence only perpetuates this and I regret it. I 100% believe that it’s perfectly okay for people to not be okay, which is why I’m finding my voice again.

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So, this isn’t going to be upbeat or particularly inspiring, it’s just going to be real.

Panic attacks ruled my life in my late teens/early twenties. I couldn’t go into stores, I was afraid to leave my home, to eat, to socialize, I was even scared to fall asleep – I wasn’t living, I was existing- and I was hardly doing that. Though anxiety and the occasional panic attack have stuck around over the years, I have not experienced the all-consuming debilitating panic since then – until this past month, that is. I feel like I’m stuck in a nightmare, being visited by the ghost of panic past, and I can’t wake up.

If you know me well, you will know that illness is a huge panic trigger for me. I panic about getting sick, I feel sick from panicking, and feeling sick makes me panic more. Lately I seem to always be sick or and panicking. I feel stuck in a vicious cycle of panic and illness and it’s leaving me drained and hopeless.

I feel myself slipping into old habits and mindsets, and even though I can see it, it’s hard to stop. I feel stuck. I try to reason with myself, but the fear that this will never pass is overwhelming and way too convincing in my heightened state.

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At these most desperate times I am grateful for my tribe.

I can’t stress enough how much difference healthy tribe makes. Having people who support you, whole-heartedly and non-judgmentally. They offer much needed understanding and compassion, “me too”s, as well as insight and encouragement. They help light up the darkness. No matter how weak I feel, I always feel stronger after connecting with healthy tribe.

There’s a resistance I feel at these times though; this belief that I should only connect with others when I can at least end my story with “but I’m okay” or “I know I’ll be okay”. I don’t think I’m the only one that feels compelled to end things on a high note; we’ve become accustomed to this. Is it pride, not wanting others to feel uncomfortable, fear of rejection, fear of being a burden, not feeling worthy of compassion? My guess is that all of those play a role. The problem of course is that the times when it’s the hardest to reach out is when you need people the most. We need to push past those fears at times like this, because our tribe is there for us, but we have to be brave enough to let them in.

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The dragon is an anchor that keeps me steady through storms; but my tribe are lifesavers in the stormy waters, for the times when my anchor slips and I find myself drowning.

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I’m treading water, I’m not okay, but I am still kicking.

Prying up Floorboards and Rebuilding the Puzzle

Lately things are feeling shaky. Some days I feel solid, other days I can barely keep my balance. It’s made me curious about how I can go from feeling stronger than ever, to lower than I have in a long time, in a matter of days..or hours. By leaning into this with curiosity I think I’ve had some insight.

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I am a puzzle.

Before my puzzle seemed complete but it didn’t make a pretty picture.
I always believed this was because my puzzle was inherently defective.
Now that I’ve looked closer I can see pieces jammed in the wrong spots.
Maybe it’s not a defective puzzle but a poorly constructed one.
Once you see the faults its uncomfortable to just leave them.
So I deconstruct.
Piece by piece I take it apart.
I’m now only a partly put together puzzle.
It’s terrifying to feel so undone.
But I have the sight and tools to build it better now.
To make the pretty picture that’s been there all along.
I’m still far from complete.
But the pieces that are in place feel more solid than ever before.

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In order to rebuild, we must first deconstruct. We need to be willing to dig deep if we want to see real change. This means being willing to see things you’ve been ignoring and others you didn’t even know were there. What I’ve realized lately is that there are things I didn’t just sweep under the rug – I tore up the floorboards, stuffed it in, nailed it down, covered that up with a rug, and walked away. Since I’m committed to see this life transformation thing through, it’s clearly time to pry up floorboards.

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The problem is this in between. I’m partly undone, while part of me is built stronger than ever. It can be great, it can be horrible; it is unstable and uncomfortable. But it is necessary.

I guess this makes sense why some days I feel I’m on solid ground while other times the ground shakes beneath me. In this moment I am both solid and broken.

The whole self transformation process has dug up more than I ever expected when I picked up the shovel. But I like to believe these pieces only come apart when we have the strength to endure it and the ability to rebuild.

I am a puzzle.

But I am not just falling apart. I am deconstructing. I am rebuilding.

The Trials and Tribulations of Life as a Dragon

I knew this week would be a challenge at work, and although I was feeling far from dragon-y this week, I did manage to coax the dragon to a meeting where I presented information about an unwelcome change. I have been better at being a dragon at work over the last year, but prior to that I was one pro-looking mouse, so it’s no wonder that some people found my dragon-stance a bit shocking.

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My first reaction was to beat myself up, assuming I did something wrong because of the response I received. I was back to obsessing; “If I had only done better, it would have gone better.” But the fact is, I spoke the truth (even though my voice shook) and they simply didn’t want to hear it – I can’t own their response, that’s their stuff. A valuable lesson that I’ve learned I’m learning is that we are not responsible for managing other people’s emotions, and we shouldn’t be trying to.

voiceI’m proud of myself for being a dragon even when it wasn’t easy. (Yay for commit stage – See here for more info on the stages of the readiness for change by Dr. E. A. Wilson: Wish-Want-Commit) Dealing with the consequences of doing so have been challenging though because I still struggle with wanting everyone’s approval, needing to make everyone happy, feeling unsafe when others are upset, fearing rejection, and the list goes on. It certainly helped me understand why I was a mouse for so long and why it’s so easy to get stuck in that role. However, by being a dragon and facing these consequences head on, and persevering, it has helped me challenge those beliefs and move past those fears. From this experience alone I already feel more secure with the idea of people being upset with me, and less like I need approval from everyone to keep my worth. It’s empowering to even entertain the idea that my worth could be unshaken by external forces, and I would never be moving in this direction had I kept my mouth shut.

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The dragon life is hard work, but nibbling on cheese never got me close to flying.

 

Put up the “No Bullshit” Shield and Strike with Courage

The role of courage has been a recurring theme for me this week. Just as the Cowardly Lion in the Land of Oz, I too have come to realize how being courageous is not about having no fear, but acting despite the fear.

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As adults we can avoid many things that we are afraid of or situations that may cause us embarrassment. We no longer have an outside party pushing us to join that soccer team or read aloud in class. It’s in our hands; we are the only one there to push ourselves to go past our comfort zone. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of avoidance – sometimes without even realizing we are doing it.

For example, I always have the best intentions of going to dance class (Ballet Wednesday, Contemporary Thursday). I make it to ballet most weeks; however, something always seems to come up on Thursday. The excuses always seem valid at the time – it wasn’t until tonight that I’m starting to see through them. Now, you would probably assume that I enjoy ballet more and that’s why I am more motivated to get there. However, it’s contemporary dance that speaks more to me; that I dream about, watch on youtube, and “practice” in my basement (when no one’s looking). All in all I get more out of it… so why have I been avoiding it? I’m afraid of it. Ballet isn’t better, it’s just a “safer” option. I’m less confident in contemporary class, so it takes more courage to show up, which means it’s much more susceptible to falling victim to the excuse-machine.

Funny enough I realized this after attending a Contact Improvisation Dance class (aptly named “The Art of Leaning In”) which is even farther outside of my comfort zone than a Contemporary class. Awareness is such a powerful tool. Sure, Contact Improv takes a huge amount of courage, but I’ve been aware and accepted that from day one. The hours leading up to class I still have to fight the excuses that bubble up and basically force myself to go (literally until I walk in the door- tonight it was hard to find parking and for a second considered using it as an excuse to go home); but the difference is I can see the avoidance for what it is and I preemptively put up my “no bullshit” shield. I know that being courageous is the strong and healthy thing to do. Even if I feel like I didn’t do anything right the entire class (thanks inner bully), I still feel stronger for having shown up.

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Courage is quickly becoming the most important ingredient in this self-improvement journey. Everything worthwhile seems to take courage, and having courage day in and day out is fucking hard!

Being brave enough to reflect on the areas in your life that need improvement, and having the courage to sit with unpleasant feelings and emotions that come up are no easy feats. It takes courage to take the blinders off, courage to lean into what’s there, and courage to take the steps to change. Courage, courage, courage..

Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage”. When we truly embrace vulnerability we can authentically connect with others and ourselves, which is a magical thing – one of the reasons life is worth living (in my opinion). The catch? Putting ourselves in situations where we feel vulnerable require courage, sometimes A LOT of courage.

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This week at an ACT group we did an exercise where we look into someone’s eyes, silently, for four minutes. I’ve known for awhile that I have an issue with eye contact, but WOW.. As soon as we started the defenses came out full swing; attempts to deflect being vulnerable with humour, the fidgeting, the fake smile, etc. Even writing about the experience, and sharing my struggles with vulnerability on here, is making me squirm. The courage that this required continued long after the buzzer went off; it’s taking courage to reflect on why it’s so difficult, and furthermore, it’s going to take courage to work on it. Knowing the importance of vulnerability is giving me the strength to continue to find that courage.

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I’m making it my mission this week to keep my eyes peeled for times I am avoiding vulnerable situations, and focus on being courageous instead. To start, this dragon’s dragging herself to dance on Thursday.

How will you bring more courage to your week?

 

Celebrating the Wins, Big or Small

What a week roller coaster. I never would have thought I’d end this week feeling like a strong dragon. Winter was being a relentless beast again, another illness took me out of commission, and an attempt at completing personal directives with my Mom went even worse than anticipated (which lead to more grief and guilt). I felt weak and was having a hard time not taking it as evaluation (“I must be worse, I’m not a dragon anymore”).

However, thanks to everything I’ve learned and the tools I now have, I knew to (at least try) not fuse with those thoughts and to practice self-compassion. After a few days of doing “strong and healthy” things I was starting to believe in myself again. And then I made a rash, super brave, decision. I scheduled an appointment to get a root canal done the next day. I decided I was tired of being afraid of it (it’s been almost a year that I’ve known I had to do this and every once in awhile the tooth starts to hurt and I panic- and obsess over it for days weeks.) For all you ACT peeps out there, I chose to use the “As If” technique to the extreme.

Still afraid and not sure I’d make it through (I am extremely claustrophobic with the dental dam and last time I had work done I was sedated), I found myself power posing in the bathroom of the dental office repeating “I can do this, I’m a fucking dragon”. Far from confident, but determined to give it my best shot.

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Check out Power Posing Here

 

It wasn’t a breeze, but I’m proud to say I made it through the procedure (without drugs) and now I am so happy to have this behind me, and more importantly, to know that I can handle it.

When the appointment ended I was super proud of myself, but then I quickly dismissed and minimized it. I sarcastically snorted at myself, “Wow you did something that everyone else would be able to do no problem”.  Thankfully the dragon was on fire so I didn’t listen to those thoughts long. I could not wipe the crooked smile off my half-frozen face. I felt happy, brave, incredibly proud, and strong.

I celebrated by buying myself banana popsicles, watching a comforting show, and walking dancing around my house the whole evening singing “I’m a motherfucking dragon”.

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So why celebrate?

As someone who uses the strategy of positive reinforcement with children on a daily basis (and sees the pay off) it still took a bit of adjustment to apply it to myself. Simply put, you do something good, you get something good. Being reinforced for listening to your strong and healthy self makes it more likely that you will continue to listen.

Celebrating is also important because it lets you truly appreciate the good job you’ve done. By taking the time and effort to celebrate, it gives you more space to really lean into the feelings of being proud and strong. Acknowledging and sitting with this strong feeling is important because the peaks are where we recharge.

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Had I let myself cut down my accomplishment and stifle that proud dragon, I would still be feeling weak like I was the day before.

I think it is difficult for us to acknowledge when we do a good job because we have this idea that doing good should just be a given. When we don’t live up to our standards we are quick to beat ourselves up; however, when we do well by ourselves we basically say “So what, you only did what you should have done – that’s nothing special”.

Well, it is special, and we can show ourselves by celebrating those victories, both big and small.

Making Room for What Could Be

When we hold onto ideas of who we are and what our life is (and what it’s going to be) too tightly we become consumed by those stories, leaving little room for anything else.

The way I learned this lesson wasn’t easy, but it has been invaluable. By realizing the constraints that these stories can put on us, we can begin to see beyond them.

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For me, having the motherhood card removed from my life was a big blow, but it helped me see other areas of myself that I had long forgotten because I had been so invested in that one story.

For many years I neglected many parts of myself, in fact I didn’t even see a reason to spend any time on them, since they weren’t helping me to complete this one storyline. It really hit home how much I have put aside parts of myself when I realized that most people in my life didn’t even know I enjoyed writing before sharing this blog. It’s funny how much we overshadow when we focus too much on one aspect of ourselves.

And the learning didn’t stop there – in my experience the more you delve into this the more you find. I’ve learned that there are many other ideas about myself and my life that I have been simply taking as truths -not questioning them or the possibility of anything different. Challenging these “truths” has allowed me to see hope for change in areas that I figured I would always be identified with that were certainly making me feel weaker (example: The story that “I’m an anxious person”). Through this process I have learned to let go, or at least loosen my grip, on a lot of the stories I have been holding onto.

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Lately I’ve noticed that I have more room to dream, more space for possibility in my life. For the first time in a long time I have a sense of excitement for what I can do with my life. I am starting to see possibility where before I saw dead ends.

Though it wasn’t so much of a “letting go”, as it was life prying it out of my hands, the lesson it taught me has set me free. I am no longer a character passively (or way too desperately) acting out a pre-written plot. Life is now an adventure – and I’m the author.  

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The first step to moving forward is being aware that these stories exist, and understanding how investing in these stories affects you (does it make you feel weaker or stronger?). When you stop seeing them as absolute truths, or begin to understand that they are only part of who you are, you can begin to see what else lies beyond them.

I encourage you to take a look at your life and the beliefs you have about yourself; is there anything you are holding onto a bit too tightly? Imagine what might be uncovered if you loosen your grip…

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Taming Your Inner Bully

After spending the week couch-bound due to the lovely influenza bug, engaging in nothing more than distraction behaviours (binge watching TV and movies), I found myself judging my worth and abilities.

“How can you miss so much work – you are letting so many people down – you’re such a horrible person! And how in the hell did you think you were suited to host a mindfulness challenge when you’ve spent the whole week trying to do anything but live in the present?”    

My Inner Bully was having a field day.

It seems inevitable that these bullies are going to keep showing up, but what we do with them is what matters most. By being more aware of them it gives me an opportunity to make a conscious choice – Will I let them beat me up or will I practice self-compassion?

Through my experiences these last few months it has become clear to me how important, and amazing, self compassion is –  yet it is still the thing I struggle with most.

Kristin Neff explains that self-compassion involves three basic components; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us notice our own suffering (Awareness is the first step to everything!). Self-kindness is being kind and caring in response to that suffering, and common humanity is remembering that suffering and imperfection is part of the human experience.

See her website for more of her work (including the self-compassion quiz)

When it comes to compassion, it is a lot easier to apply to others than it is to yourself. My default (and I’m sure some or all of you can relate) is to judge, harshly. I can easily get into the mind-set that “Sure, I’ll practice self-compassion, but only when I deserve it”. And let me tell you, if you are making yourself “earn it”, it’s not self-compassion.  True compassion is non-judgmental.

But it’s true what they say, old habits die hard.

In an effort to force this into the grave and replace this with compassion I’ve been trying the following strategies.

One strategy I use is to visualize myself as a young child. The distance this creates helps me see myself as someone who deserves compassion and protection from the Inner Bully. It sparks a strong urge to protect and comfort that child, which makes it easier to practice self-kindness.

Another strategy I try is talking to myself as I would a friend. When I remember to use this strategy the words and tone I use instantly change from my usual self-talk. This again helps with the self-kindness.

Self-kindness is by far my most challenging hurdle in the self-compassion triathlon; however, I also find it difficult to remember to extend the common humanity to myself. It’s easy to personalize our struggles and to think we are failing while the rest of the world would be doing just great in our situation. It’s become clear to me that I need a reminder of this (for the times that my healthy tribe are not around). So I wrote myself a message..

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I also found a mantra to help remember the keys to self-compassion.

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Imagine how comforting it would be to know that you always have someone (24/7) that will be compassionate and soothing whenever you are suffering. I’m sure self-compassion will be something I continue to struggle with for a long time, but I know the more steps I take in this direction will make me a stronger person dragon. 

I’d love to hear any strategies or tips you have for practicing self-compassion!

Tweaking the To Do List

I have been a list person for as long as I can remember. My lists ranged from the mundane “take a shower” to the extreme “pay off debt”. But one thing they all had in common was that they were lists of things I had to complete before I could do anything I wanted. As an obsessive list maker I also had a list for those other things that I’d like to do; go for walks, read a book, see friends, etc , but this list was my day dreaming – they were only to be realized after all the “To Do” lists were complete. The rational of course was that “Once I finish x,y,z, then I can do all of these wonderful things that will make me happy and healthy”. Funny, but no matter how hard I worked, that day never came.

For a long time I didn’t see the problem with this; I just accepted this as the way the world works, and continued to be frustrated with the amount of crap to be done, and my inability to get through it quick enough so I could finally move onto the good stuff.

Once I started concentrating on self-care, these healthy things (go for walk, meditate) were added to my To Do list. It was a step in the right direction, but they still ended up being things that weren’t “Have-To’s”. So, if I didn’t get the dishes done, they didn’t happen.

There was one day in particular that I remember. I was frantically cleaning the house all day and before I knew it, the day was over and I hadn’t finished in time to go for my walk. I had completed everything on my to do list, except for this walk. When my husband got home from work I proclaimed in frustration that “I feel like I didn’t do anything today”. Clearly, this wasn’t true, but what i came to realize is that because I didn’t get to do the one fulfilling activity, I felt empty.

At the time I felt like a failure because I didn’t make it through my To Do list in time to get to the healthy walk that I had been looking forward to. The real issue, of course, is that I should have been prioritizing my To Do list very differently. I have since learned that you need to start with the “make it or break it” activities; the ones that have the biggest impact on your well-being. Sure, having the dishes done is nice – but I now know that if I get to meditate and spend time with friends, I will still go to bed with a smile on my face- even if the sink is full of dirty dishes.

Replay the same type of day, but this time I was aware just how important that walk was to me. I knew I needed to prioritize it so I started my day by going for a walk. The result? I felt fulfilled and I was able to complete the rest of the tasks without the pressure to rush and the fear that I would end my day feeling depleted.

So first, make sure to add those fulfilling activities to your To Do list,  if you don’t already,  and then prioritize them.

Sometimes I make a “Have-To’s” category and now I make sure to add those “Make it or Break it” activities to that section. Is it just as important as paying the power bill? Damn straight it is.

The next thing to look at is the reason for doing anything on your To Do list. This is all about prioritizing based on VALUES.

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Now, before you can truly do this you need to clarify what YOUR values are. If you don’t yet have a good idea, I encourage you to take a look at InspiredLivingMedical’s blog posts: (Clarifying Values) and (What we all need).

Over months of exploration I have discovered that my values are; TRIBE, CREATIVITY, GROWTH, HEALTH, BEING PRESENT, CONTRIBUTION, as well as AUTHENTICITY, VULNERABILITY, and COURAGE.

So what do these things have to do with that list you scribble on a post-it Monday morning? The answer is EVERYTHING!

For every item I write on my To Do list, beside it I write the VALUE in it.

“What’s the value in this?”

Adding values to your To Do list highlights the importance of every activity; clearly marking them so you can see why you are doing the things you do, and this then helps you prioritize.

When you are dedicated to living your values, it’s harder to ignore those To Do items that may at first seem frivolous, but are indeed very aligned with your values – and therefore should not be pushed to the back burner.

For example, if you see “Go to movies with friends” and you are strapped for time you may think to yourself “Oh, I can just skip that”; but when it’s written “Go to movies with friends – TRIBE it’s harder to scratch it off because you know TRIBE is important to you.  By having the VALUE right in your face, you can make more informed decisions on how you spend your time, and ensure you are living your values.

Even if you choose to remove a valuable activity to complete a less valuable activity (washing dishes), you will at least be more aware of the choice you are making, and have a good understanding of why you may feel more depleted. The more aware we are, the more we can do about it.

Comparing your list of values to your To Do list is also helpful. If one of your values is CREATIVITY, but you either don’t have a creative item on your to-do list, or you never prioritize it, this gives you the opportunity to change that.

Here’s an example of one of my To Do lists from before Christmas. It’s messy, but it’ll give you an idea of what it can look like.

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If you have a chance to try any of these strategies please let me know how they work for you (perhaps even a To Do List show and tell??). I’d love to hear about your experiences and any other tips you have for making To Do lists.

 

Hard is Hard. Complain about Broccoli and Hang Up on Insurance Scams

Society seems to have caught itself in this web of lies that makes everyone feel like we are all competing for a limited amount of “real” and “justified” pain – and the authorized support that comes with it.

We compare ourselves to others, we compare others to others, we compare real situations to fantasy – we fucking love to compare. And depending on how that one person’s situation (or our idea of it) stacks up against whatever we are comparing, we judge whether we/they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way.

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People can be seen minimizing themselves and others all the time in this comparison war. Listen carefully.. it usually starts with “at least”.

One of the most clear, and repulsive, examples of this I witnessed was a discussion in an infertility support forum – an area that was specifically designed to provide support to those who were struggling. The desperate call for support was from a lady who recently miscarried, and the responses to her struggle went a bit like this; “Sorry you’re having a hard time, but at least it was early, let me tell you – miscarrying later is way more painful”, “I’ve had two miscarriages, be thankful you’ve only had one”, “I know of someone who had a stillborn, can you imagine how much harder that would be??”  When you see it laid out like that, it’s absurd! Why do we feel this incessant need to compare, judge, and only give support when it’s “earned”?

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Would it be acceptable to go up to a man who just lost both his arms and say, “Hey, at least you can walk”?

And if you think you don’t do this, double check with that voice in your head. So often we are our own bully. We don’t give ourselves permission to feel what we feel – we wind up down the comparison spiral in a heap of guilt, we try to rationalize with ourselves until we feel crazy (because despite our “logic” it doesn’t stop us from feeling), and we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve support because “it’s my fault” or “I shouldn’t feel this way”.

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There will always be something that could be called “worse” -but that DOES NOT mean you can’t feel shitty about your stuff. You have every right to own your experiences and you 100% deserve support.

Turns out you don’t have to feel guilty about hating broccoli just because there are starving kids in Africa.

Ash Beckham says it best – I strongly urge you all to watch her TED Talk

“..there is no harder, there is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard to make us feel better or worse about our closets and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.”      Ash Beckham 

The ridiculousness of this trap that we find ourselves in reminds me of my call centre days. My job was making cold calls to sell dismemberment insurance (you can just imagine the fulfillment this provided 😉 ). I remember having to explain to the poor fools who hadn’t yet hung up on me that they would only qualify for the money if they lost two limbs, “You can lose one eye and one arm, or one leg and one arm… and you need to lose them both from the same accident.. and it has to occur at the scene of the accident, you won’t qualify if they later remove your leg at the hospital.” Clearly, a scam. So why in the world do we buy into this  “you only qualify for support if you meet these ridiculous criteria” when it comes to our feelings? It’s no less of a scam, and it’s time to hang up.

We have to contest the whole premise of needing to earn the right to be upset. We can do this by giving everyone permission to own their feelings and provide genuine support and empathy. No more comparing. Furthermore, we need to tell ourselves that we have a right to feel this way and we do deserve support – despite what we’ve been told or what the voices are still shouting out from the background.

Go ahead, hang up on that sleazy insurance broker and curse your veggies without guilt.

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