How to Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best SelfHolidays aren’t always “Jolly” days.  There are more errands to run, tasks to do, lists to make and follow through. We get stressed out trying to “get it all done” so that we can actually enjoy the season. Then there are the social gatherings, some mandatory and not always pleasant.  Sometimes it’s our own family interactions that put a damper on our best intentions to have a “Happy Holiday”.  

How can you shift this scenario and bring the “Happy” back into the holidays?  Try being your “Best Self”.

Carolyn Hax, a columnist for the Washington Post was recently asked how to define “Best Self”.  Here is how she answered that question in her column of Dec. 13th. “It’s when you like yourself. Or, when you’re getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses.  It’s highly personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strength:

  • Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?”  (This is also the key to joy in your chosen work)
  • “Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don’t inspire persistent doubts about whether they’re dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?  Are you that person to those you love?
  • When you are impressed by, grateful, or concerned about someone, do you show it?
  • Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences?”  (This is hard for many, but if you can consistently operate this way, you will stop blaming others/external circumstances for your life as it is, you stop being or feeling like a victim and instead begin feeling and being empowered)

Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Four Agreements; “Be impeccable with your word” and “Always do your best”.   Similarly, Hax asks the reader; “Do you honor your promises and commitments, to yourself and others?” and “Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others?”

How about dealing with your weaknesses so that you can be “your best self”?  Here are some of the questions Carolyn asks her readers to consider:

  • “Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?
  • Do you understand the boundary between you and others’ business, and stay on your side?
  • When you’re unsure, do you admit that and seek help?
  • When you’re about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing?  And imagine how its target will feel?”
I challenge you to consider these questions and be honest with yourself in your answers. This doesn’t mean berating yourself or wallowing in regret.   Forgiveness is a powerful activator for positive change.  Forgive yourself and others for not being their “best selves” and move on.  In every moment we can choose to be our “best self” and by doing so, we become more mindful and sometimes even “JOLLY”.
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!  — Dee

(To view Carolyn’s full article in the Washington Post on 12.13.2013 click here

Making Enlightened Career Choices

Roads in the forest

Are you making enlightened decisions about your career?

Are you doing work that is fulfilling and rewarding? Does your current work give you an outlet to make a difference, to feel alive with purpose? If not, you might want to consider making some changes. You don’t have to do a particular job, work in soul deadening surroundings, or be “chained” to a desk in a cubicle. YOU have CHOICE! If you want to create a different career path you need to make choices that will propel you to new actions.

How do you typically make decisions? Are they based on:
• Shoulds – doing what you believe you should do
• Pleasing others – doing what others want or expect you to do
• Fear – choosing the safe route, or being afraid to make changes
• Habit and reaction – you don’t even think about what you’re doing–you’ve always done it this way

Or, are you consciously considering each decision and maintaining an awareness of these factors:
• Feeling empowered – to choose truly for yourself, not to please others
• Authenticity – you know who you are and choose in alignment with your core values
• Creative expression – you have talents and skills to share, and seek to express these through your work

To make more enlightened, conscious choices:

1. Clearly define your wants and needs. Get in touch with your sense of purpose. Listen to your intuition. Ask yourself; “Does this choice feel empowering or disempowering?” “Is this decision in my highest good?”

2. Consider your current situation and ask yourself; “Why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?” It may be helpful for you to write down your answers and ponder them. Be more conscious of how you are spending your precious time, because this is your life passing by.

3. Stay out of the victim mindset. You alone are responsible for your life. When you accept this, you will claim your inner power and make better choices. Change often comes from nothing more than a shift in perspective.

4. Be open to new possibilities for yourself. Select one area of your life where you are unsatisfied, and choose something new, something more for yourself.

5. Simply notice opportunities as they show up. We miss so many options because we just don’t see them! Wake up and look around. You have an opportunity right in this moment to choose something new or different.

If you find you spend a lot of time in a job that leaves you tired, frustrated and discouraged at the end of the day, it may be time for “Plan B”. You have gifts, talents, work and life experiences, skills and expertise to create your next career! Identify them and search out how who needs them. Then you can make a plan to move in a new direction.

Gremlin Taming: how to free yourself from your inner critic

Picture of a garden gremlinI’ve been revisiting a gem of a book; “Taming Your Gremlin A surprisingly simple method for getting out of your own way” by Rick Carson. I’ve worked with this marvelous material with my coaching clients over the last few years to help them overcome self limiting beliefs and negative self talk.  I’ve found Rick’s book so useful that today I registered for a 3 month tele-course with him to learn more “Gremlin Taming” strategies and techniques.  Here’s why I like his work and this book in particular:

  1. It is written simply, no esoteric detail or religious dogma.
  2. The author personifies the “narrator in your head” as a Gremlin who influences you. (My concept of a gremlin is like the picture above.  I found this little gray guy at my son’s house this summer just hanging out in the garden.)
  3. It is flat out full of laugh out loud bits especially the stories from the author’s personal experience.
  4. There are fill in the blank pages, like a kid’s Big Book of Fun, to help the reader with self discovery.
  5. In describing the “acts” we put on, he uses such terms as “Back to the Land Woodsman, Red Hot Mama, Pious Puritan, Hard Rocker, Damsel in Distress and Macho Man”.  (Have you met some of those folks?  Yeah, me too!)
  6. Lots of pages have hand drawn illustrations, most of which are quite humorous.
  7. The definitions are clear and easy to understand;

“Your Gremlin: is the narrator in your head.  He has influenced you since you came into this world. He’s with you when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night.  He tells you who and how you are, and he defines and interprets your every experience.  He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal, from moment to moment, day to day is to squelch the natural, vibrant you within….your Gremlin wants you to feel bad.”

The Natural You:  is the one inside that miraculous mass of matter out of which you are now peering.  The natural me is inside my own body, which is at this moment holding a pen.  From inside this aging sculpture of hair, eyes, teeth and limbs, the natural me is writing the words, “Hello in there”.  You just pulled in through your eyes the words, “Hello in there.”  The natural you understands the essence of my words. Your mind is busy making sense out of them.  Your Gremlin, meanwhile, is gnashing his teeth and screeching something like “This is ridiculous!” or “You’re just going to get your hopes up and end up disappointed.  Nothing’s going to change, least of all you.” Or “You need another self help book like a hole in the head.”

“Beliefs: are just opinions that we develop loyalty to, so that we can pretend that the world has at least a modicum of predictability.  Doing so helps us feel safe.  Ironically, we sometimes fight to defend our beliefs, creating anything but a safe situation.”  (so true!)

Taming Your Gremlin is both playful and powerful.  It emphasizes self inquiry and self acceptance as the keys to higher awareness.  If you are looking for liberation from your inner critic, check out this book.  And come on back and visit this blog.  I’m sure I’ll post more on Gremlin Taming as I go through the tele-course.  Here is the author’s website:

In relationship to your (spotlight of) awareness, you can be a passenger or a driver, a victim or a participant, a pawn or a player  You choose.  Not once and for all, but in each moment of your precious life.”  –Rick Carson

From Chaos to Consciousness

One of the characteristics of my Myers-Briggs type (ENFP) is that I thrive on possibilities. While this is exciting and often leads to glorious bursts of creativity, it also means that I frequently find myself awash with multiple interests and too many uncompleted projects. This is also characteristic of “Scanners,” as described in Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose.

In his post this morning, Jonathan Fields asked, “are you building a body of work or a cornucopia of chaos?” My natural tendency toward pondering the possible rather than concentrating on the concrete leads me toward the chaotic side of the equation. In explaining the difference between the two, Jonathan listed several dichotomies, here are a couple that hit home for me:

• One is about progressive, conscious building within a well defined area of interest, the other is about bouncing to wherever the next perceived opportunity lies without regard to growth and consistency.

• One is about being mindful, present and proactive, the other is about being disconnected, frenetic and reactive.

I often find myself “bouncing to perceived opportunities” and “being disconnected, frenetic and reactive.” These tendencies inhibit productive work and lead to greater confusion. Here’s my take on how to handle it:

1) Recognize what is happening. When we run around trying to keep too many balls in the air at once, we may think we are being productive when we are really just being way too busy. When you find yourself being forgetful, running late, or struggling to keep track of everything, you’re doing too much.

2) Stop, look, and listen. When you notice you are in the midst of frenetic activity, stop whatever you are doing, look at your surroundings, and listen to your breathing. You will naturally shift into a moment of mindfulness. From that place of centered awareness, you can regain your perspective and chose a less chaotic path going forward.

As Jonathan reminds us, “powerful legacies rarely if ever occur in the form of scattershot, piecemeal efforts…cornucopias of chaos… no matter how fun, windswept or purposeful they seem when we’re adrift with them.”

When you find yourself moving into chaos, what do you do to shift out of it?

Entrepreneurship: the Path to Ultimate Fulfillment

According to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow, our unfulfilled needs make themselves known through feelings of restlessness: “the person feels on edge, tense, lacking something.” When we feel this way, we are motivated to act to fulfill those needs. This is what propels us to make changes in our lives and to seek greater fulfillment in the things we do.

Many of us have felt this kind of restlessness in relation to our jobs and the work we do. When you feel restless, tense, or on edge at work, it may be a sign that you’re not doing work that is fulfilling to you, that you are not self-actualized. Self-actualization is achieved when we are successfully fulfilling all of our needs.

Maslow created a hierarchy of needs “Hierarchy of Human Needs;” the basic needs like breathing, food, and water are on the bottom and self-actualization is at the top. In order to be completely fulfilled, one must achieve self-actualization. When this occurs, many positive characteristics emerge. People become more accepting of themselves, more spontaneous, self-reliant, and independent. They gain a stronger sense of integrity, as well as an increased zest for life and sense of humor. Creativity and curiosity increase, self-esteem improves, and people become more altruistic, humanitarian, socially responsible, and adaptable to change.

What I find most interesting about this list is that the majority of successful entrepreneurs I know embody these traits. By stepping out of the world of traditional employment, they became more self-actualized and, in turn, more able to handle the challenges of entrepreneurship.

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison

Thinking like an Entrepreneur

For most people, the toughest part about leaving a job is the concern about a stable income.   We live in a culture that trains us from childhood to follow the rules, work hard, know the right answers and teachers will reward you with good grades. These lessons groom us for the employee mentality.  Be at work on time, work hard, maybe you can get a good “grade” resulting in the reward of a raise. By virtue of our jobs, we live around set schedules of when to sleep, eat, go to work, take a break, go home and take vacations.  It is a very structured life.  Step out of the job world and you are suddenly free of the schedules, the structure, the expectations of employers and co-workers.  The very ambiguity sends some would be entrepreneurs back to the perceived security of the J-O-B.  With the recent trend of downsizing, furloughing, and layoffs, there is no longer security in having a job. (Was there ever?)

Why not consider starting your own enterprise?  Use your skills and talents in a way that is not only personally satisfying but also fills a need in the marketplace.  One of the advantages is the ambiguity; when you don’t know what’s coming next, you are pushed to be creative, to stretch your imagination and to live outside your “comfort zone.”  If you try out an idea, a service, or product and you don’t get the results you want, you get to improvise, improve the design, or create something different.  It’s wonderfully empowering to use your own skills, talents and abilities to turn an idea into a product or service that serves others and brings you income.  Not ready to leave  your steady job?  That’s okay –  you can always start a business on the side and see where it grows!  Just remember to focus on thinking like an entrepreneur.

“You can do or be whatever you want in your own life.  Nothing can stop you, except your own fears.  Don’t blame anyone else…you have the power to make the decision.  Just do it.”            – Nola Diamantopoulos

“Victory always starts in the head.  It’s a state of mind.  It then spreads with such radiance and such affirmations that destiny can do nothing but obey.”  –Douchan Gersi

Dreaming or Doing?

Inside all of us are dreams unrealized and wishes looking for ways to become reality.  How do we move our brilliant inspirations into action?  The first step is to imagine what our ideal work life could be; the second step is to move toward  that vision.  You can daydream forever but to reach your goal of a fulfilling work life, action must be taken.  Sometimes we know what we need to do to move forward in the direction of our dreams but we just can’t seem to take that first step.  Why?  Maybe we become overwhelmed by the possibilities or by the challenges of making changes.  Or maybe we just need more information to decide which direction to take.  Then there is the insidious often underlying obstacle:  fear.

You know that pesky inner critic that pipes in and says stuff like;  “you can’t do that because…” or “that’s a stupid idea” or “you don’t have what it takes”?  That is fear talking.  Inertia kicks in and we damp down our yearnings and convince ourselves that we are okay staying with the familiar, safe, and standard pattern of working.  (Not that it is any of those things given our current economic climate).  What if instead, we listened to the voice of our hearts, our brilliant ideas, our yearnings, and put real action into creating the career of our dreams doing work we are passionate about?

What is one thing you can do today to support your vision of an ideal work situation?  Is it starting your own business?  Working in a non-profit?  Being an independent consultant?  Working part time and writing a book? Owning a bed and breakfast?  Being a travel photographer?  The opportunities are endless.  Just taking action in the direction of your vision can kick you out of inertia, help you overcome your resistance, and silence your inner critic (for a while anyway).  It may be two steps forward, one step back for a time but once you get some momentum going, as Dr. Seuss said; “Oh the places you’ll go!”