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Find Your Anchor And Don’t Let Go

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The last two mornings I have woken up at 5:30am to swim outdoors in the cold, wind and rain. I’m not complaining. In fact, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not what you call a morning person, so when I wake up even before my alarm goes off to do something, that’s love.

6am: our team is responsible for uncovering and covering the pool this week. The weather is icky, but I don't care, I'm excited for the workout to begin . . .

Physical activity grounds me. I spend lots of time strength training, pole dancing, stretching and doing cardio.  These things trigger my happy buttons: I know exactly who I am, what I want and where I’m supposed to be when I’m using my body. Everything makes sense in those moments and that’s important, especially when I can make little or no sense of what’s going on in other parts of my life. Everyone has something that keeps them grounded. My dad, who also likes to wake up AFTER the sun makes its appearance, will get up enthusiastically at 4am (or earlier) to catch a chartered boat to go deep sea fishing, the ocean anchors him.  My Ex routinely gets up when it’s still dark to design video games—he is anchored to his creativity.  My daughter is compelled to stop and ask if she may pet any dogs she sees out walking with their owners, animals anchor her.

Without an anchor, without something to ground us, we may get by and even thrive when circumstances and people around us are working in our favor.  But what happens when those circumstances and people we have come to depend on for our happiness are not working with us anymore or they disappear? Things can feel pretty out of control in those situations and we can feel completely lost.  We all face challenges, but even on the toughest days, as long as we stay connected to our anchor, it will pull us out of bed and remind us that there is something on fire within us, something we want to show up for no matter what.  In those moments when we feel the most lost, holding fast to our anchor will keep us on our path no matter how slow going and directionless it may feel at times.

What anchors you? If you have lost connection to your anchor, grabbing hold of it again is as simple as asking yourself what activities, places or things make you feel peaceful, powerful and/or capable. When do you feel most in your element? What are you doing? Who are you with? Where do you go? Your anchor is the thing that doesn’t necessarily make any practical sense to anyone else, it may not even make practical sense to you.  That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.  Practicality is not a requirement of an anchoring activity, but the function the anchoring activity serves–to keep you grounded in something solid and real, something that is truly yours–is extremely practical and necessary because it keeps you sane, satisfied and strong.

7:15am: Just finished my workout, it's still cold and rainy out, but I'm happy and content!

 

No One Has To Change But You

November 16, 2010 3 comments

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. ~Maya Angelou

This weekend I showed my 7 year old daughter, Sara, how to put her hair up into a ponytail. This is a skill I had avoided teaching her because of her extremely low tolerance for making mistakes, her preoccupation over her physical appearance and a low threshold for frustration—favorable conditions to fuel the perfect tantrum. Over the past few weeks, I had become completely fed up with her attitude and drama. Her temper was out of control, she was disrespectful, mean and totally unpleasant to be around. While I was feverishly researching ways to fix my daughter’s behavior, I had flashbacks to several unpleasant exchanges I had with her recently–she wasn’t the only one who was losing it. I was highly reactive to Sara’s volatile emotions and instead of staying calm and neutral, I bought into her emotional experience and spiraled down into an angry and frustrated place with her. Bad choice.  I’m sure if asked to assess my behavior, my daughter would probably say that my temper was out of control, that I was disrespectful, mean and totally unpleasant to be around. I knew there was no way I was going to help my daughter manage her emotions if I couldn’t get a grip on mine. So that’s where I started, where it always has to start: with me.

I used all the information I gathered about behavior modification for Sara and applied it to myself. When my daughter argued that she would never learn how to put her hair up properly, that she can’t do anything right, I didn’t take the bait.  When my daughter blamed me for everything from the texture of her hair to the ponytail elastic falling out of her hand and onto the floor, I met her anger and frustration with emotional neutrality and patience. Admittedly, it took an enormous amount of focus and commitment to stay calm and neutral, but the results were mind-blowing.  After about 20 minutes, with very little drama, my daughter had learned how to put her hair up into a ponytail by herself and she was very pleased about that. More importantly, she learned that her assumptions that she can’t do anything right and that other people are responsible for her successes and failures were completely false.  She would have missed out on those lessons if I hadn’t reigned in my own incorrect assumption that my daughter needed to change her ways without me needing to change my own approach and behavior.

This isn’t a happily ever after ending, it’s an ongoing process.  It requires conscientious and quality effort. I will still be challenged to keep it together when my daughter loses it, I will screw up again, I’m certain of it, but I’m also okay with that because I know I will learn something valuable that I can use to make the next challenging situation better. I can always choose to change course when the path I’m traveling isn’t taking me where I want to go.  It’s hard to teach that concept to others unless I’m practicing it myself.

It’s crazy, but common, to expect other people to change their behavior–something we have little to no control over–to make us happy. The truth is the only behavior we have to change to be happy is our own. Fortunately, it’s also the only behavior we have 100% control over. That doesn’t mean we don’t influence others with our behavior, in fact, when we modify our own behavior for the better, it will often be met with better behavior from others.

Feedback: Separating the Useful From the Useless

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

How can you tell when you are giving yourself constructive feedback or just maliciously abusing yourself verbally? Easy.  Constructive feedback may or may not sting when it is served up, but you do recognize the truth in it and it motivates you to make improvements.  Destructive criticism just makes you feel bad and you feel completely uninspired to make any improvements because the comment has no nutritional value—it was made for the sole purpose of making you feel like crap.

Here’s an example that I often come across when working with overweight and out of shape individuals who want to become healthy and fit:  they notice that they have excess body fat (fact), they get winded when they climb a flight of stairs (fact), their clothes are too tight (fact). So far just facts, but then they start dishing out comments like I can’t control what or how much I eat (fiction), I’m lazy and disgusting (fiction), food comforts me (fiction), I can’t lose weight (fiction). They are sliding into useless self trash-talk at this point.  It doesn’t help them and the verbal abuse is only a habit that they’ve practiced over and over and over again, but the great news is that they can create a new habit at any time. And so can you.

The next time you find that you are berating yourself, back way up to the facts and if they are facts that you would like to change, put your time and energy into finding a solution. You have the power to change anything in your life and the quality of feedback you give yourself is key to making the adjustments needed to get what you want. Remember that the point of constructive feedback is to help you see where you can exploit your potential and make the necessary improvements to help you express it.

Pole Dancing: It’s Not Just For Strippers Anymore

September 7, 2010 2 comments

I keep forgetting that not everyone has the same frame of reference as I do when it comes to pole dancing.  As someone who absolutely adores the art, I feel that I have a small responsibility to let people in on what I know a about it.  And the first thing I want people to know is that pole dancing is not just for strippers anymore.  I am not oblivious to the fact that the pole is a preferred prop for many performers working in the gentleman’s clubs, and is often referred to as a stripper’s pole. But as my friend and pole instructor, Minda, once said, strippers use chairs as props, too, and no one is calling the apparatus we all sit on a stripper’s chair.  Of course, the reason we don’t refer to chairs as stripper’s chairs is because we have found other uses for them beyond being instrumental during a lap dance.  Humans are pretty resourceful and clever that way.  It turns out that we have also figured out uses for a pole that go beyond using it for a prop to grind on–not that there’s anything wrong with that, what ya’ll do in the privacy of your own home, strip club or spring break is totally your business and no one else’s.  I don’t judge and, before I go further, it’s only fair to mention that some exotic dancers also happen to be highly skilled pole dancers.

For a growing number of us (including professional women, housewives, mothers and media moguls . . .) who practice pole dancing, it means something more than prancing around a prop wearing a naughty schoolgirl uniform.  For starters, it’s an outrageous upper body and core workout.  I’d have to do a fair amount of weight lifting and abdominal work to get the strength and definition I get from pole dancing.  If I wore platform heels during a practice, I’d also get a good leg and butt workout.  Pole dancing has borrowed elements from the aerial arts (static trapeze, silks, hoop, etc.) so for those of us who like the idea of climbing on things and hanging upside down up in the air while making pretty shapes with our bodies, doing pole work is pure playtime.  It also reminds me a lot of being a kid playing with my friends on the monkey and hanging bars on the school yard, when we encouraged each other to try new tricks–the more challenging, the better (my favorite was the “dead man drop”).  Because of its physical and challenging nature, pole dancing is a positive way to release stress and tension. It’s hard to focus on what a jerk your boss is when you are inverted on a pole supporting your entire body weight with just the crook of your elbow of one arm and the opposite hand of the other while balancing in a straddle.

For some examples of the athleticism and art that can be expressed using a pole, check out these video clips of two guys performing a Chinese pole act and Jenyne Butterfly performing a strong and graceful dance on the pole.

I’m not saying that pole dancing can’t or shouldn’t be sexy.  In fact, that is a big draw for many women who to take it up in the first place (who doesn’t want to feel sexy?)! Pole dancing, like other forms of dance, absolutely has a sensual element inherently built into it.  Look at the Rhumba, the Tango (both have racy histories, by the way) or any of the other latin ballroom dances—Hot!  And these dances are performed openly—more like brazenly flaunted–in front of families, dignitaries and Brooke Burke.   These forms of dance require strength, conditioning and dedication to master, just like pole dancing.  Those of us who are drawn to dance, sports or any physically demanding activity know how good it feels to be in our bodies and fully focused on the activity we are performing.  We come alive, we are fully present in the moment and we are compelled to give our best effort. Whether we are elite or recreational athletes, we learn something very valuable from our participation that impacts the rest of our lives: we learn how capable we really are.  Pole dancing is just one more way that we can discover this and once we do, we are in pole position (pun intended) to achieve our non-athletic goals, too.

Want to know what else pole dancing can do you for you? Check out the details for the Comeback Diva workshop Minda Ruggles and I are leading in San Diego this month if you’d like to learn what pole dancing can teach you about setbacks, recovery and achieving your goals.

Take a Vacation

May 4, 2010 2 comments

I had a hell of a week. Lots of excitement for sure and some pretty major disappointments sprinkled in for good measure (including a stomach virus that landed me in urgent care and some news that really just bummed me out). Thankfully, I was scheduled for a vacation this weekend.  How did I know so many months ago that I would totally need one? I knew I was pretty smart, but this was pure genius.  So, off on vacation I went with my fun and supportive girlfriends.  Thank God for girlfriends.

I stayed up late, I slept in and I took a nap. I got in trouble with hotel management by using the pool umbrella as a pole to get my aerial acrobatics on (I have a penchant for snapping souvenir photos of me doing aerial tricks on objects that could pass for a pole . . . ). I took 3 showers in one day. A cute inebriated guy approached me by the pool and kept asking me the same 5 questions over and over again, thinking they were brand new questions (normally, I’d have walked away from this sort of thing, but, seriously . . .what else did I have going on at that moment?  He was amusing, so I let myself be amused.).  I ate sushi. I danced.  I giggled and talked girl-talk with my friends.  The sweetest housekeepers cleaned my room and left me extra bottles of water while I was being served breakfast downstairs. I met a new friend. I lounged by the pool.  I had a blast.

It was the exact combination of events that I needed to take place in order to downshift from the week I had just come off of. Whatever heaviness followed me to the resort had evaporated by the time I left.  Blowing off steam is good. If you’re about to blow your stack, schedule your vacay now, stat.  Some of you may have trips planned for this summer, but that’s not the same as a vacation. A vacation is all about you, just you doing what you want, when you want, how you want and respectfully telling anyone who doesn’t like it to bugger off.  A trip usually involves dependents or some family member you are somehow obligated to bring and it most likely includes some manual labor (for example: if I’m cooking, it’s a trip, if I’m taking care of children, it’s a trip).   Trips are fine and even fun, but they’re no vacation.  Take a vacation.

Cleaning Up the Mind Mess

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

A man is what he thinks about all day long ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

No one will ever accuse me of being a neat freak.  I derive very little pleasure from the act of cleaning, and it sits fairly low on my general priority list. At some point, however, the stacks of paper piling up around my work area, the kids’ toys overrunning the house and the general chaos and disorder resulting from not managing my stuff really gets to me.  Eventually, cleaning up becomes the more attractive option to just being irritated at the mess and stepping on small sharp LEGO pieces that hurt like a &*%#@!

A messy house is bad, but a messy head is worse.  This week I had a pile of crappy thoughts that were really getting in the way of me bringing my best self forward.  They were so distracting and painful that I had to do more than just swear at my mind LEGOs.  There are times I look forward to cleaning up the mess in my head, and, at other times, it seems so daunting—like taking on the task of cleaning out a house inhabited by hoarders.  This week it felt like a chore.  I had somehow recently convinced myself that I was too busy to tidy up my thoughts on a regular basis, but I know way better than that.  I know my mental hygiene is at least as important to my well-being—if not more so—as my dental hygiene.  It would never occur to me to just skip brushing my teeth, in fact, as I think about it now, I’m thinking ew, gross.

Before I knew anything about mental hygiene, I would have had a crappy thought like, I am not good enough, hooked-in to that stressful thought, sought evidence to support it and spiraled down into a funk with it. It’s the mental equivalent of seeing a pile of garbage, choosing to lie down in it, piling even more filth on top me and complaining about all garbage surrounding me.  It’s totally insane. I will most likely never completely avoid crappy thoughts (master meditators back me up on this one), but that’s okay because I have learned not to believe every single thought that pops into my head—especially those icky ones.  Just catching the thought gives me power because I know that once I’m aware of it, I can challenge it.  By questioning the thought, I see its blatant flaws and eliminate the suffering that is caused by believing a lie.  Do I really believe the thought I’m not good enough? No, I really don’t.  In fact, I can find tons more evidence to support the far better feeling thought, I am the best me there is.  It’s true. I’m the bomb when it comes to being me.

Thankfully, both my house and my head got cleaned up this weekend, and I know if I want to keep things clean, maintenance is required. I’m so on it. Going through my thoughts one by one, I keep the helpful ones and replace the ones that don’t serve me in any way.  Pretty soon my mind is tidied-up, organized and I have a nice place to spread out and get on with the work that only I can do in the way only I can do it.  This is way more fun than wallowing in filth.

Spring is just around the corner. If you’re planning a major house cleaning, and you notice some clutter collecting in the corners of your mind, consider a head cleaning, too.  You may spend anywhere from a few moments to many hours in any room of your house on any given day, but you occupy your headspace 24/7—creating a hospitable environment there makes all the spaces that you occupy outside of your head more inviting, too.

You Are The Best There Is (Part 2)

September 20, 2009 2 comments

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. ~George Bernhard Shaw

In last week’s post, I invited you to go out and be exponentially more you. Some of you may have gotten right on it and  signed up for that martial arts class, spelunking club or quit your job, moved to Africa and are currently pursuing a career as an animal tracker (I actually know someone who is an animal tracker in Africa, pretty cool, huh?!).  For those of you who are unsure about how to proceed in discovering your unique talents and gifts, no worries, I have the perfect tool for you to use.  It costs nothing to very little, it’s really fun and you have the ability to do it your whole life.  It’s called playing.

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I promise you this: if you are not enjoying your life at least 90% of the time, you are not playing enough. Before your analytical, rational, logical party-pooper left brain starts discounting the value of play-time, let’s keep ol’ lefty happy with some cerebral facts about play:

  • Play readies the player for the unexpected or unusual
  • Play encourages effective problem solving
  • Play enhances social connections, awareness and cooperation
  • Play is essential to creativity and innovation
  • Play helps us develop trust and coping skills
  • Play helps us make sense of the world
  • Play helps us transform ideas into reality

Also, let’s not forget that playing is just plain freakin’ fun!  That happens to be my most favorite reason to engage in play, but if your left brain still needs something more academic and scientific to wrap itself around, it can learn even more about the benefits and necessity of play from The Nationaol Institue For Play (I love that hardcore scientists are studying play!).  You can also watch this great TED presentation given by Dr. Stuart Brown.

Now I want to address your creative, fun-loving right brain, the part of your brain most in touch with who you really are at the core of your being.  Go back to a time when you were having a blast, for some of you, this may mean going back to childhood.  You can also think about the last time you were so engaged in an activity that you completely lost track of time. Go there now.  What were you doing when you were having so much fun? Were you alone or with people?  If you were with people, who were they? what were they like? Were you indoors or outdoors? Were you using your mind or your body, or both?   Really nail this scene, because this is a huge clue telling you where to best invest your time and energy and it’s definitely a clue showing you what your natural feeling state is: joy and fun.

When you are feeling exhilarated, inspired and free you know you are on the right path. This does not necessarily mean you become a professional martial artist now that you enjoy playing with martial arts (but then you never know!).  The vitally important take away you get from playing is that you learn how you feel when you are on—what it feels like to stand in your power (a very yummy sensation).  You can use this feeling to gauge how effectively you are utilizing your unique talents and gifts in any area of your life. For example, do you feel on when you are engaged in your current work?  If not, figure out why–is it the tasks involved that turn you off? The field you have chosen or the work environment?  If you don’t feel playful at work, in your relationships, in your body or with your finances, you definitely need to play more.  Through play, you will be inspired to take the right actions for you and then when you do act, your actions will feel effortless and will have a positive impact on you and everyone your life touches.

You can start playing right now. Do something that’s fun for you! Share a funny joke you recently heard, take a long lunch and go test drive that exotic automobile you dream about owning one day, flirt with that super cute barista at the coffeehouse, fantasize about all the cool things you will accomplish now because you are mastering how to be more you by fully engaging in play time.   If you need just one more piece of evidence to get you inspired to play more, look around at any serious non-players you may know and ask yourself if you aspire to be more like them or if you aspire to be more like those who approach every thing they do with a sense of playfulness. Go find examples of both and compare notes–nothing is more powerful or more convincing than discovering and clarifying what you truly want in life.  Find what you love to play with and then play at least 90% of the time.  Your mission in life will become clearer, your relationships stronger  and the world becomes an amazing playground for you to explore.  Have fun!

I love learning what other people do for play, so please post the ways you play and what you get out of it—I can’t wait to be inspired by you and your playful shenanigans!