Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Self Love on Valentine's Day


It is Valentine’s Day and while many are celebrating with their loved ones, some are either alone or in a relationship that is not loving.  The song “I Want to Know What Love Is” from Foreigner was likely meant about a budding relationship between two people, with all the fears of being hurt again, but still wanting to know love again.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raNGeq3_DtM

One could however, look at the lyrics and say them, (or sing them, if that’s your thing) to oneself, maybe even standing in front of the mirror.  “I want to know what love is.  I want you to show me…. In this life there’s been heartache and pain. I don’t know if I can face it again. I can’t stop now. I’ve travelled so far. To change this lonely life” (Written and Composed by Mick Jones, Performed and released by Foreigner, 1984).  

We often forget to love the most important person, ourselves.    We may hold onto guilt for things we have not done, or experience self hate or self loathing for missed opportunities, or actions not taken.  Sometimes, we are the ones who impose the most heartache and pain on ourselves and only we can forgive ourselves. We might sort of give up and decide that this is as good as life is going to get.  We may not want to face the pain of revisiting that which robs us of love, but it is only through revisiting and understanding that we can move towards forgiveness.  The journey may not be short or easy, but you can come through the other side with more self understanding and maybe, just maybe, love for yourself again.

That’s all great, but how?  Katie Byron wrote the book “Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life” (2002) that explores acceptance and loving what is.  The four questions she asks are:

  1. Is it True?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
  3. How do I react when I think that thought?
  4. Who would I be without the thought?

These are very powerful questions that ask you to look at your beliefs and thoughts that are leading to your inability to truly and fully love oneself.  The process follows paths seen in psychology such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).  CBT rests on some very simple fundamentals: thoughts create feelings, feelings create behaviour and behaviour reinforces thoughts.  Katie Byron’s book starts the process of questioning your thoughts and feelings asking if those thoughts are really true and how do you react to them.  The last question, who would I be without them, gets you to look at behaviour.  What would your life look like, and what would you be doing differently if you did not have and believe that thought?

  1.  Take a moment to think about something that might be holding you back from fully loving yourself or accepting yourself, just as you are.  Write it down.
  2. Ask yourself, is it true and can I absolutely know that it is true. Write down your answers. 
  3. Close your eyes and think about the thought.  What are you feeling, emotionally and physically? Again, write down the answers.  The act of writing it down uses a different part of your brain and makes you think about it in a new way.
  4. Now imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have that thought?  Who would you be?  What would you do different? 
  5. Write down the things you would do differently and pick one thing to do right now.  Put into action one small thing right now.  Break down the action into it’s parts so that there is something you can act on immediately, even if it is just to send an email or make a call. 
  6. Start to be the person without the thought you had.  One step at a time.  It may feel forced at first, but over time, it will be easier and more natural. 

This Valentine’s Day, take time to show yourself some love.  You are a good person.  You are deserving of love.  You are a unique and special person, worthy of living a great life.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reframing New Year's Resolutions and New Beginnings



Reframing New Year’s Resolutions and New beginnings

With the New Year, we often make resolutions.  It’s not a surprise to know that most people don’t follow through for more than a week or two, if they take any action at all.  I don’t know about you, but I have sat with my glass of champagne thinking “Oh yeah, I should make a New Year’s resolution”.  The usual suspects come to mind, such as getting more exercise, eating healthier, setting up a better savings plan, being more patient with ____, getting to work on time...

But why are New Year’s resolutions so, well let’s say it, useless!  They are just a passing thought.  They don’t have planning behind them or a real action plan.  They don’t strategize for the ups and downs that you will inevitably face.  But don’t despair.  We can take those New Year’s resolutions and make them useful.

1.       Write it down.  Statistically, you are far more likely to succeed if you write down your goal.  

2.       SMART Goals  Turn that resolution or vague goal into a SMART goal.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and with a Timeline. I know, you’ve heard about the pros and cons of SMART goals, but bear with me for a minute.  SMART goals are said to sometimes squash the bigger, harder to achieve goals, but I think that is a cop out.  You can have a BHAG -Big Hairy Audacious Goal- too.  For me, SMART goals are the smaller steps that get you to the BHAGs.  Your BHAG might be to own a Caribbean Island.  Right now, is that attainable? Probably not.  But someday, maybe.  So, let’s look at the smaller goals that will make it at least possible.  Maybe we need to look at some financial goals and some health goals, so you can enjoy the island once you have it. (This last month I wrote about SMART goals for different areas of your life.  You can go to my Advent Calendar and look at December 9 for Financial goals, December 10 for Health goals, December 16 for Career/Business, Dec 17 for Relationship Goals, December 23 for personal & recreational goals, December 24 for Contribution Goals and December 30th for BHAGs.)

3.       Brainstorm  Now you have a SMART goal (or several), let’s brainstorm action steps.  Write the goal in the middle of a piece of paper. Or cut out a picture that represents it.  You can copy a picture from the internet.  Now start thinking of the little things that you need to do to achieve that goal. Draw lines out from the centre with circles for all the things that form part of this goal.  From each of those parts you can draw more circles and break down the parts and steps to achieving the goal. (See AdventCalendar December 29th for more on brainstorming)

4.       Create a strategy document  Ok, this might be overkill for some goals, but others may involve many steps that need to be done in a particular order.  If it is a complex goal with lots of steps, you can use a project management software, or a spreadsheet or maybe just get a white board and draw out the flow of what needs to happen

5.       Dates!  Give action steps a date to be done.  Take your timeline and start adding the actions into your calendar.  Don’t make the mistake of putting too many things in one day.  I’m guilty of getting really excited in the planning stages and wanting to do everything now.  Then when the day is done, and you haven’t done all your actions for the day, you are disappointed and may drop the project and goal all together.  Be very realistic.  Add them to your calendar.  If there are tools you need, things to buy or pick up to take that action, be sure to schedule that in the days before.

6.       Daily list of 3-5  Before bed, look at the next days schedule.  Write a list of 3-5 things you must do the next day.  This will include the action you scheduled to help you with your goal. There may be other things that are important related to your family or work.  This list is the 3 to 5 things that you must do no matter what.  Cooking dinner is not on the list.  You probably should cook dinner, but you could order out if time is short and you don’t have the things on your list done.  That is, unless cooking at home is an aspect of your goal to be healthier or to spend more time with family to improve your relationships.  Then by all means put cook dinner on the list. Make this list your priority and make it things that move you towards your goal.

7.       Daily review  At the end of the day look at what you didn’t get done.  Again, we are being realistic, and we are human. We get sick or we have an off day. You could get down on yourself, but that doesn’t help.  Look at the list and reschedule those things you didn’t do today.

8.       Weekly review  At the end of the week, look at your lists of 3-5 things each day you were supposed to do.  If there are several things you didn’t do, look at why?  Is there something you are avoiding?  Are you being unrealistic and need to schedule less in a day? Is there a pattern that you can see?  Are things scheduled for a particular time of day being missed?  Maybe you need to re-think when you do them. Did you get everything done?  If yes, celebrate!  Did you get more done than you would have without the lists and scheduling? If yes, celebrate!  The goal is not to perfectly schedule everything, but rather to help you do more to reach your goals.

9.       Monthly review  Now we get down to the big patterns.  Is there a day of the week where you consistently don’t get things done?  Look at that day and decide maybe not to schedule things for that day.  I don’t schedule anything for Friday evenings because I know that me and my family are usually tired and just like to wind down after a busy week.  If we do have lots of energy-Bonus!  We do something fun and spontaneous!  This is also the time to go back to and review your brainstorming or strategy document and tweak anything that may need to be changed based on the last month’s experience.  Don’t give up. Go back, review, plan and keep taking action.  

10.   Schedule it  Add dates for new actions that come up.  Sometimes you know the steps to a goal, but not exactly how long certain things will take, so your dates for secondary actions may have just been a month. Now you look at month 2 items and schedule them in on a specific date.

New Year’s is a new beginning for many people. It is like rebooting or restarting your computer.  You start with a fresh screen.  Just remember like a computer with a virus causing problems, rebooting your own life on New Year’s Eve won’t get rid of the underlying issues.  You need to look a little deeper and evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, then make goals and follow through with the above steps to make real change.  

Send me a note with your goals at Stacey@Richconnections.ca.  I would love to hear your goals!  If you need help with this process, let me help. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Choice

Have you ever had something you committed to do, but over time it fell off your radar?  Did you plan to start exercising, eat healthier, write a book, spend 30 minutes a night reading with your kids, write in your journal, meditate or one of the many, many things we try to add into our days.

We know they are good for us or will fulfill us, but somehow we fall off the wagon and weeks, months or even years may go by and we don’t get back into our desired habits.  If we commit to something and then we don’t do it, the main person we hurt is ourselves.  And how are we hurting ourselves?  Because when we don’t do what we set out to do, we feel guilty or like a failure.  We avoid thinking about it, but there is always that little nagging feeling in the back of our mind that there’s something we are “supposed” to be doing.  

I would recommend being gentle with yourself.  Re-examine the habit or activity and see if it is really something you still want to do at this time.  When I went back to school, I made a decision that workouts were going to be a lower priority.  School, family and sleep would trump any time working out because there were just not enough hours in the day, especially when you add in my full time job.  Yes, exercise is great and necessary, but I made it a lower priority.  Then when classes were done, I put it back on the priority list.  

Now there is a difference between quitting and re-prioritizing or deciding not to do something.  You quit because you think you can’t so something.  Deciding not to do something has nothing to do with whether you can or cannot, but rather a choice to do it or not.  When you make a choice, you can later make a different choice.  I chose to exercise less often (okay sometimes, not at all) because I was choosing sleep and school work.  

You do however need to be careful not to allow fear to be the motivation behind your decision.  You have to think about how you will look upon your choice 20 years from now.  Will you regret not writing every day or will you be happy you spent that hour every day with your kids while they were young and waited a couple years to devote yourself to your writing.  The choices are not always easy and sometimes if we are passionate enough about getting something done, we will get up earlier to fit in an hour of writing or exercise.  Sometimes we will hold off.  Just be sure that whatever you chose, that it makes you happy today and is unlikely to cause regret later.