Your Life Matters

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Your life matters.

In the last few weeks, many of my clients have expressed an increase of anxiety, worry, feeling a loss of control, and not taking care of themselves. Many have stated that much of their time is spent worrying about other people, other events and crises, and just about anything but themselves.

They often say that all these other things matter more than taking care of themselves and often add that if they do self-care or even think about self-care they feel selfish.

Self-care is not selfish. It is sustainability. It is resilience. It is rest. It is renewal. It is filling your vessel so that you have something to pour out to other people and things.

Self-care is immensely important. Especially in times like these. Just the overwhelming nature of anxiety and worry and adding serving other people and things is so great that we can easily find ourselves crushed.

We then feel hopeless, defeated, tired, empty, sick, and lost.

Many people push back at the idea of self-care because they think it must be some grand gesture or huge undertaking that they assume they have no time for. But self-care can be minutely small and still have a huge impact.

If you get up five to ten minutes earlier before anyone else and spend time alone just gathering yourself and your thoughts. You can have a cup of coffee or tea, read a short uplifting or motivational item, sit and watch the sunrise, meditate, deep breathing, a warm washcloth to your face, stretching, yoga, or anything you can put in just a short few minutes.

It can change your life.

If you schedule all this time for other people and their needs and events and other things or events and it is in your calendar of things you have to do, there is nothing stopping you from scheduling time for yourself in the exact same way except you.

Make time in your calendar for something just for you. Again, it does not have to be grand or huge and does not have to consume a lot of time. But it does have to be just for your, to serve to fill you up, to build you up, to give you strength, to reset your mind, to feed your body. Something to relax you or invigorate you as you need.

Plan for your self-care. Schedule it. Follow through with it. Accept it. Know that it is for your good and therefore the good of everyone and everything around you. When you are filled and cared for, it is so much easier to fill and care for other people and other things.

Vary your self-care to serve all the parts of yourself. Sometimes you fill the creative you. Other times you fill the physical you. Still other times you fill the mental or spiritual you. And even still other times you fill the you that just wants to take a power nap.

Try something you have always wanted to do but felt you had no time or that it was selfish to do so when so many other people and things needed your attention. Have you ever wanted to paint, or learn to crochet, or mix essential oils, or make a body scrub, or try a something active, or start a journal.

ANYTHING works for self-care as long as it is about filling yourself up in some way or replenishing some part of yourself.

Do not wait until you think you will have more time. If you have time for other people and other things you have time for yourself. Choose to love yourself because your life matters.

Feeling Untethered

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Many of us go through our lives believing we have control over them. We believe we control our day to day decisions and the decisions of those around us.

Many of us also feel that we are tethered or tied to our daily existence through this belief in our control. We believe that our daily life has routine and constancy. We do not feel as if we are an escaped balloon floating without safety bouncing from one place to the next and one event to the other.

More often than not, we feel relatively safe in our daily lives because of this belief in our control.

Welcome to 2020 and coronavirus. Everything about the effects of this virus scream feeling untethered. Our belief in control is shattered and we find ourselves frustrated, fearful, and lost.

All of the things we believed we decided are now being decided by the virus and the subsequent mandates, restrictions, and consequences. All of the control we believed we had has vanished and all ties we had to those beliefs and the lives we were leading are many times hard to see.

We feel constantly as if the skin of our lives is being ground away by the sandpaper of this new reality.

We are told how we can work, go to school, interact with others, recreate, and spend time with friends and families. We are told what we have to wear and how long we have to isolate ourselves.

We are told not to see family and friends as we would like to do. We are told not to celebrate birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, even deaths the way we would have in the past.

Untethered.

We feel disconnected from our lives, from our people, from our belief of control, from our safety.

So how do we manage this untethered feeling? We have to make connections in whatever way we can in this environment. Texts, calls, video calls with family and friends. Finding ways to continue working and going to school.

Recognizing what is happening in the moment. Are you safe? Are you doing all you can to manage your life and stay connected to others?

Realizing that this is not a situation that will last forever. Practicing meditation and breathing every day, even multiple times a day. Remembering your self-care activities that offer enjoyment and fulfillment. Finding ways to create tethering even now.

Understanding that most everyone feels untethered at this time in our society. That what you are feeling is what most people are feeling. Be kind. Let go of quick judgment, angry responses, and blame.

Some escaped balloons can find themselves entangled in trees and their out of control condition is changed. Find your tree branch and hold on. Find one thing to tether yourself and your mind in this chaotic world.

Deep breath in through the nose for 5 seconds and out through the mouth for 7 seconds and repeat and repeat and repeat. Say to yourself I am calm and I am safe in this moment with each breath. Repeat as necessary feeling your feet on the floor or ground. Becoming tethered once again.

We can get through this one moment at a time.

Until next time,

Deborah

Sharpen The Saw

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The last of the 7 habits of highly effective by Dr. Stephen R. Covey may well be the most important and the hardest for many to accomplish. We spend a great deal of time taking care of others needs and also trying to accomplish everything in our daily lives that we forget about the most important person – ourselves.

The phrase sharpen the saw is used to describe self-care or self-renewal. To be effective for others, we must take care of our own physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We cannot pour ourselves out onto others or into the other parts of our lives (work, school, family, friends) if our own vessel is empty.

We can attempt to pour from an empty vessel, but in doing so we will find that we are very ineffective and our own bodies, minds, and spirits become worn down, sick, and unable to function in a healthy way in any part of our lives.

Taking care of our physical self and renewing our bodies requires beneficial eating, exercising and resting. Choosing more healthy options over fast food, meal planning, picking nourishing foods with which to refuel ourselves. Exercising as much as possible and getting creative when we have less time such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away from where we need to go so that we walk more, incorporating yoga or tai chi into our office breaks. Adequate sleep is paramount in renewing our bodies and minds. But adequate sleep that is actually restful is even better. Finding ways to achieve deep, restful sleep such as meditation before bed, warm baths, herbal teas, or supplements.

In renewing our social and emotional selves we must make intentional, meaningful connection with others. Intentionally reaching out to friends or family to sincerely connect with them even if it is just for a few minutes of your day. Many people use texting as their only method of communication and it is connection, but what if we had an actual phone call, sent a hand written letter, or made time for lunch or coffee instead.

Renewing our mental health means not only addressing our emotions and responses to stressors and trauma, but adding learning about ourselves and our mental health. Reading about how to strengthen our minds and emotional resilience. Writing our emotions in journals. Seeking out therapy if needed. Being open to processing and working through things that impact our mental health.

Expanding our spiritual renewal by spending time in nature, utilizing meditation, music, art, prayer, or acts of service. Connecting with whatever our spiritual beliefs might be and being aware of our spiritual self and connection with the universe. Enriching our spirit through reflection and meditation.

These acts of self-renewal or self-care allow us to grow and change as individuals to be able to offer more to others and to the world around us. Renewal allows us to increase our ability to handle challenges that arise because we are fresher and stronger.

If we live our life in balance we take the time to renew ourselves. The four areas of renewal when practiced regularly have an overlapping center that contribute to our ability to be our best possible selves within all areas of our lives, and especially for our own self-care. Without this, we are unable to be effective anywhere else. A saw that is not sharpened will not be of any use.

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Seeking Synergy

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As we continue the exploration of the 7 habits of highly successful people as written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, we come to habit number six, synergy. The definition of synergy is as follows: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When we have differing points of view, as is the case in many aspects of society today, problem solving WITH others of different points of view becomes somewhat of a unicorn in communication. Meaning it is mythical and seldom seen. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to convince others to our point of view and synergy is nowhere to be seen.

Synergy requires creative cooperation. Working together, being open-minded, and working to find solutions to problems.

Synergy is however not the same as compromise. A compromise is rarely an even trade. One side will likely get more than the other. Synergy is one plus one equals three, or fifty, or millions or more.

If we are willing to be truly open setting aside biases, prejudices, past hurts and truly listening to what someone else has to say, we can find new ways of seeing things. New approaches to problems begin to emerge just from the addition of different points of view.

Synergy starts with differences to which the next step that must be added is be willing to listen. Clarify what the end goal needs to be. Explore the alternatives – all the alternatives. Seek first to understand (listen) and then to be understood (heard).

Being in synergy can be manifested in several ways. Having a change of heart, seeing things in a new way, feeling that the relationship has been transformed, and ending up with an idea or result that is better than what either one started with.

Do you truly value differences with others in the mental, emotional, and physical realms? Or do you just wish everyone would agree with you so you can all get along (on your terms only)? Are you willing to look at any of the things you say you believe most strongly in willingly, openly, with others who have differing opnions? Or do you wish only to drown out all opposing viewpoints?

Many people mistake everyone believing the same way as unity and sameness for oneness. If we expect everyone to believe, look, and live the same as we do, then we are not trying to achieve unity but forced compliance.

Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way. ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Understand and Be Understood

Habit number five in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It sounds complicated, but it is actually fairly simple in practice and absolutely necessary to effective communication habits.

How many times have you found yourself in conversation with someone and you are only thinking about what you are going to say when they ever stop talking? Concentrated on your reply and not what they are actually saying.

Often times, we may not even hear what they are saying, especially in highly emotional conversations. The reply in our heads coupled with anger or fear or sadness blocks out every word they say to us. We wait only to pounce with our heated reply or disagreement or accusation.

Many times, we seek only to be understood first. We want people to hear us. We want to make our point. What the other person has to say takes away from our time to be understood, or so we believe.

We can listen selectively, focusing on words that make us more angry, more sad, more afraid and leaving out the context of what someone is saying entirely. We can filter everything someone else is being said through our own frame of reference and experience. Not hearing anything about the other person’s personal story in the words.

We can jump to conclusions about what someone else means by their words before they even finish speaking. In today’s climate this is particularly true when what one person says does not line up with what another person thinks or feels, immediate judgment comes without ever taking the time to actually listen to the other person.

We respond usually in one of four ways when we are not seeking to understand. We judge what is being said and then either agree or disagree. We ask questions but only from our own frame of reference. We give advice or solutions to the problem. We analyze the other person’s motives and behaviors based on our own experiences or beliefs.

When we seek to understand we intentionally listen to the other person, even to the point of making notes if we have to in order to actually hear and see what they are saying. When they are finished speaking, we paraphrase or repeat back what we heard them say such as “I heard you say” or “I hear you saying”. And then asking them if what you say you heard is actually what they said.

Without intentional listening, repeating back, asking for correction if what we repeat back is not what they said, and then responding with I statements, we end up with reactive responses having actually heard nothing from the other person. This results in misunderstanding, blame, and repetitive arguments. Common ground is nowhere to be seen and no one understands anything about the other person.

Deep communication is intentional. It requires effort and the ability to resist being reactionary. But practiced over time this habit can transform relationships.

“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Put First Things First

I just realized as I was beginning to write this week’s blog that I skipped this habit last week and went right on to habit four of highly successful people by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. This is indeed habit number three, put first things first.

To put first things first we must be guided by the principles we set in place during the habit of begin with the end in mind. Our personal mission statement that includes roles, goals, values, and beliefs. To realize what truly is a “first thing” we need to measure each by our personal mission statement to see if it aligns and if it does where does it rest on the scale of needing to get it done.

In deciding what the first things are, we need to examine things in a four pronged approach. Things that are urgent, not urgent, distractions, or wasteful. There are things that are important and things that are not important.

In the category of urgent or necessary, we might find things like crises, things that are not planned for but just crop up, being assigned last minute projects or events, and emergencies. These are things that we must take care of to avoid very serious disasters, but are not things that we “imagine” will be serious disasters if they do not get done. Be careful how you interpret them, use facts, not theories.

In the category of not urgent or effectiveness, we might find proactively working, planning, building relationships, learning, self-care and recreation. These are the building blocks of being proactive about our lives instead of reacting. In order to avoid crises and emergencies, being proactive can help alleviate the likelihood that those things may happen.

In the category of urgent or distraction, but not important are things like needless interruptions, meaningless meetings, other people’s minor issues, unimportant emails, social media, texts, etc. These are things that need to be minimized or eliminated. They take away precious time that can be focused on what is important. They prevent us from doing first things first.

The last category is waste and it is both not urgent and not important. This is the category that interferes most with first things first. Falling into a rabbit hole of all day gaming or social media, binge watching for days shows on Netflix, avoidance of important things by doing any other time wasting activity, and drama involvement. These are things that should be eliminated if they are in the category of too much or unhealthy and if they are done specifically to avoid the important things.

First things first means you are living and being driven by the principles you value most and not allowing yourself to be influenced by the agendas of others or outside forces surrounding you.

First things first means also saying no to things that do not serve or align with your personal mission, values, beliefs, and goals. It is okay to say no, in fact it is necessary for the healthy, effective management of your life and mental health.

What are the things that are most important to you in your mission statement, beliefs, values, and goals? What things are preventing you from doing first things first?

Putting first things first is about physical creation, making things happen. Where will your focus be today?

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Think Win-Win

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Habit number four in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Think Win-Win. This may be the most difficult habit to do and to write about in our current climate.

Think Win-Win is about cooperation. It is about each person having mutual benefit. Agreements are made to support mutual benefit to both sides.

As I was contemplating what I would write, I could not help but think of today’s climate of very rigid sides of issues. It seems that many feel that any cooperation is unacceptable. It appears that many feel that mutual benefit is not possible.

In our current climate it seems that many feel there must be a single winner – one viewpoint must win without consideration of any other point of view. And this is on ALL sides of the issues. There is no win-win in the conversations I have heard lately.

To think win-win, a person needs these three characteristics:

  1. Integrity: Standing by your true feelings, values, and commitments.
  2. Maturity: Being able to express your feelings and ideas with courage AND consideration for the ideas and feelings of others.
  3. Abundance Thinking: Believing that there is enough for everyone.

In the second characteristic, consideration for the ideas and feelings of others is where I think in our current climate we struggle. Tolerance is a word that many use quite freely. Many claim to be tolerant of all people, all views, all beliefs, however, some of those very same people are intolerant of any view different than their own.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Meaning, you cannot have it both ways. If you claim to be all tolerant, then you must actually be able to consider the ideas and feelings of others with maturity and courage and believing that if everyone has some mutual benefit it makes for a happier society.

Unfortunately, our society has become a win at all costs and make sure the other person loses endeavor. There is no mutual benefit, only power and domination of singular viewpoints or nothing. This results in everyone being the loser resulting in distrust and resentment.

You can apply the think win-win habit to every aspect of your life. In your work life, in your relationships, in your family, in every aspect where mutual agreements are necessary and beneficial.

This habit can be very difficult to implement. It can be very hard to let go of the idea that if someone else wins you lose. With mutually beneficial agreements and courageous, empathetic discussion, both parties can win and perhaps reach a deeper understanding, peace, and happiness.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Begin With The End In Mind

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Begin with the end in mind is habit number 2 in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. We must have the end in mind in order to successfully navigate your goals.

It is unlikely that we would start building a house without a plan or at the very least a rough draft of design ideas. Why should our lives be any different?

If we do not consciously have a plan for our lives, we give the power to shape our lives to other people and other circumstances. Instead of being the hammer, we become the nail being forced into whatever someone else’s will or the force of other circumstances desires.

So how do we begin with the end in mind? We construct a personal mission statement. A blueprint for the building of our lives so that we are the hammer.

To start a personal mission statement, we must carefully, deeply examine what values, beliefs, and morals are. What is it that we want our lives to truly represent?

To fully understand that question, we must look very carefully at all the roles we play in life. There are many and over time they also change. A personal mission statement will also change based on the roles we are filling at the time. Some of those roles might be spouse, parent, child, sibling, entrepreneur, employee, writer, teacher, counselor, friend, etc. Whatever roles you fill in all aspects of your life.

Now take those roles and find the five most important ones in our lives at the moment, and this can change as time goes on. Write out what values we want those five roles to embody. The highest-level purpose for each one. The things we would want the people affected by those roles to say about us when we are dead. Be idealistic but always focused on aligning each role with our values, beliefs, and morals.

Refine each one, make them simple and concise. Do that for each of the top five roles currently. Put them together in one document and this results in our personal mission statement.

Review it frequently, daily actually. When making big decisions for our lives and when planning out our week. Do the things we are doing and planning align with our mission statement for our defined roles currently? Or are they being shaped by other people and circumstances? Do they align with our defined values and the end that we have in mind?

Keep a copy available to you at all times. Take a photo of it and have it on your phone so that it can be referred to whenever you need. Print it out and have it where you can see it every single day as a reminder to check your alignment.

Remember it is okay and necessary to amend your personal mission statement as time goes on. Roles change, new roles may appear (grandparent, retiree, etc.), different milestones are accomplished. Attune yourself to where you are in every moment and what roles are your highest priority and amend your mission statement accordingly.

In creating your personal mission statement and utilizing it daily, you become the leader and builder of your life. It is you who create your destiny and you who is working toward the future that you want.

Begin with the end in mind, every day.

Until next time, be well,

Deborah

Be Proactive

The first habit of highly successful people

Proactive — adjective — (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey was published in 2004 and has sold over 15 million copies. It is still one of the most highly ranked books for sale on Amazon.

This book has offered millions of people ways to change the way they think, respond, and create success in their lives. The first habit is to be proactive.

Most people are reactive. They skip right over the very few seconds between thought and response where the choice resides. Many believe that they have no choice to make and they are compelled to respond in the way they do.

The responses are attributed to everything from the weather to politics and every possible thing in between. People who are reactive feel that they are not responsible for their reactions.

It is raining and rain always makes me depressed.

Reactive people attribute their responses to things they cannot control. If they could control them, then they would not affect them, right?

Reactive people lack the ability to be response-able. Read that again. The lack of the belief that they are ABLE to respond differently. They are ABLE to choose their response.

All it takes is a very few brief seconds or moments to stop at the thought to make a choice before proceeding to the response. And after you make the choice to respond, being responsible for the outcome of that choice. You decided to respond in that way not to allow something or someone to make that choice for you.

Many people think that their responsive behavior is a choice and that they are making the choice. This is because for years of their lives they have responded to certain things in the exact same way over and over every time. This trains their brains to believe this response is their choice. When it clearly is just a reaction.

Reactive people live in the circle of concern — worry over things they cannot control. Their reactions are to those things they fear they cannot control. By reacting to these things their circle of concern grows bigger and bigger.

People who are proactive go from thought/event to critical thinking (choice) to actively making a choice. Proactive people live in a circle of influence — what things do I actually have control over.

He makes me so mad is reactive. I control my own feelings is proactive.

Building positivity into the circle of influence expands the circle. The more we acknowledge responsibility for our thoughts the more we can choose to control the outcome.

Proactive people decide what happens to them moving forward instead of allowing what has happened to them to keep them stuck. Proactive people realize it is the thought itself that needs to be acted upon not the outside force that is blamed for the thought.

Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~ Stephen Covey

According To Plan

planner

I am a big planner. I like calendars and planners and organization. I like knowing what I have to do on any given day and knowing what is coming in the future. Without this organization, I could not manage all the clients I see and other things I am involved in very well at all.

Pandemics are not friendly to planners. In fact, pandemics cause planners to feel very out of control and frustrated.

Planners during a pandemic often think they can carry on as they always have. School is starting soon and those with school age children who are planners are busily mapping out how the daily lives of all the members of their families will be managed.

Plugging activities and appointments into their master plan for the next few weeks in order to be sure they are organized and that all the family needs are met. There is just one problem – the pandemic can change everything you have written down in less than a second.

All it takes is for a school board or sports body to say that what we did yesterday is not at all what we are going to do today. Or even worse, what we did this morning, is not what we will do this afternoon.

All the planning is now erased. Wiped away with a few words by someone else. We are left feeling out of control and unprepared. How will we navigate this without a plan?

Living in 2020, there is truly only one plan that can work. One where you have an overview of what is available to plan for right this moment and a backup plan in case that changes. We have to be able to flex at a moment’s notice knowing that our only control is in this absolute second of time and what we know right now.

This concept is so hard for planners. It is hard for everyone these days as no one enjoys lack of control whether they be planners or not. But for planners it is so much more difficult.

I have begun writing in my calendars and planners with pencil and not pen or markers. This way, when things change, and they absolutely one million percent will, I can apply a fat pink eraser and readjust. This may happen several times a day, but it can be done.

When erasing the previous plan, I meditate on the thoughts of this was not mine to control, I can let this go, what do I need in order to meet the new or replaced piece of the plan, the new piece may also change, someone else is making these decisions, what do I know right now.

Incorporating into a meditation routine daily the ideas of being in control of only yourself and only in this moment can help alleviate the overall feeling of being out of control. Everything outside of this moment and yourself is out of your control. And breathe with it, abide with it.

I feel your struggle fellow planners. I know how uncomfortable you feel. But with a changed mindset and a good eraser, we can get through this constant flow of change.

Anything you cannot control is teaching you how to let go.

Until next time,
Deborah