Listening to the radio is becoming obsolete as podcasts, audio books, and downloaded or streamed music are preferred sources of audio news and entertainment.
Nonetheless, it’s very likely that each of us still tunes in to one particular “channel” fairly often; that is, the station with the call letters WIFM—What’s In it For Me.
Our ego’s survival demands that we regularly turn our proverbial dial (attention) to WIFM. Doing so allows us to consciously and subconsciously assess whether experiences and relationships will help us get our needs met.
Tuning into WIFM serves a valuable purpose then…as long as it’s not the only station we listen to, or we don’t linger on it for prolonged periods of time.
I was reminded of the concept of WIFM recently because I feel like we’re witnessing the tuning away from that “station” as people are advocating for issues and ideas much bigger than their personal interests. In a word, selflessness is taking root on a mass scale.
This excites me a lot! The way I see it, this collective “channel change” is the catalyst for powerful transformation. When people become passionate about working towards something bigger than themselves, a powerful sense of unity and oneness builds.
By default then, the ego diminishes allowing space for an individual to prioritize others’ needs as well as their own.
My personal experience and observations of others has convinced me that, this shift is fundamental to making a person feel that they are thriving, not just surviving. Undoubtedly, the former is what we deeply desire.
The problem with maintaining the thriving vibration, if you will, is that feeling inspired can wane over time for a variety of reasons. One reason is that we get distracted and resort to old patterns of thinking or behavior, such as tuning into WIFM.
To combat this common tendency, it is essential to turn the dial to WSIM instead. This channel, “Wise Storytellers Inquire for Meaning” requires us to question the stories we tell ourselves, particularly the ones about other people.
Just as the ego feels weaker (while the soul strengthens) when we concern ourselves with others, our often unproven ideas about people erode when we choose to get curious about them rather than just accept fabrications blindly.
Indeed, WSIM isn’t an easy-listening station; it requires discipline and a commitment to questioning deep-seated conditioning of beliefs. The beauty of its programming though is that it can greatly impact “listeners” by helping them gain self-awareness through the questioning of their stories.
To the extent that self-awareness often spurs inspiration to think about others’ well-being, WSIM is integral to thriving while WIFM is helpful for mere survival.
I think we can agree that collective thriving is our shared goal.
Hopefully, you’re choosing podcasts and audio books that contribute to that ideal. Now it’s time to also adjust your radio dial so that you’re tuning for a final call letter that amps up Meaning, not “Me.”
There’s no time like now to amp things up! Whether you’re coping with a loss, or seeking support and effective tools to develop a better relationship with your mind (which affects everything), please don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to helping you tune your dial for thriving.
While walking our puppy, a neighbor observed that I was waiting on my four-legged friend to do some serious sniffing before we continued on our way. He smiled at us and playfully asked, “Who is walking whom?,” to which I laughed and replied, “He definitely likes to think he’s in charge.”
The neighbor’s question lingered with me long after our encounter. It stayed with me not because I was concerned about our dog’s habits; rather, it prompted me to ask myself, “Who is leading whom?” in the context of my thoughts.
In our current climate of extreme uncertainty, it is painfully easy to fall prey to anxiety-provoking thinking. Entertaining just one “What if…” thought can send us down a rabbit hole of potential doom and gloom that inevitably causes the release of stress hormones and makes us feel completely untethered.
Fortunately, an antidote to this viral mind activity exists—exercising the art of discernment.
Just as many people are advising that we limit or make good choices about the news we consume these days as an essential element of self care, it is equally important to make good choices about which thoughts we take for a walk, if you will.
By being selective about the thoughts we give significant energy, we can cultivate thinking patterns that serve us well. Consequently, how well you practice discernment over your thoughts determines “Who is walking whom” in your mind.
In essence then, it’s important to put a leash on your thoughts as they ultimately can affect your overall well-being!
It’s often easier to be discerning about more mundane topics, such as what is your favorite comfort snack. For example, while recently indulging in a food that makes rare appearances in our pantry—Trader Joe’s organic animal crackers—my teenage son and I extolled the virtues of these delights, which we deem simply the best animal crackers around.
They are, in our opinion, so superior that if for some bizarre reason we were offered a large quantity of complimentary animal crackers of any other type, we strongly agreed that our reply would be an automatic “No, thank you.” That’s remarkable discernment!
Our other family members enjoyed a good laugh about our discerning taste in animal crackers, but the moment proved quite poignant for me. Beyond sharing a silly, heartwarming exchange (and special snack) with my teenager, I was inspired to connect the significance of my neighbor’s dog-walking comment with the power of discernment.
Granted, thinking extensively about animal crackers may not correlate to strong discernment to you, but it certainly can be more valuable to choose lighter thoughts over troublesome “what if”-type of thoughts to help maintain overall health.
So, enjoy a discerning walk—with your mind—and you’ll be able to tell your neighbors who walks whom.
If you need support around leashing your thoughts, contact me! During this time, I’m offering limited free coaching sessions. Let’s see where a walk together takes us.
These days, ordinary language can take on a whole new meaning.
For instance, in current conditions, our typical greeting, “How are you” has much more potency and is likely posed with greater care and curiosity.
What’s more, I believe that what we’re really trying to gather when we ask “How are you” is, “What’s your bandwidth?”
To be clear, this interpretation is not referring to Internet speed, although that is certainly a legit concern at this time.
Rather, “What’s your bandwidth” better captures the essence of our routine check-in question because it suggests that we need to conduct an honest and thorough self evaluation, instead of just throw out a catch-all descriptor word or phrase, such as “Okay,” “Not bad,” “Have been better.”
And, whereas “How are you” elicits words as a response, “What’s your bandwidth” seeks a numerical response.
In keeping with the saying, “Numbers don’t lie,” it’s likely that we gain a clearer sense of how someone is “doing” if they take stock of their energy, stress, thinking patterns, responsibilities, grief, degree of personal needs being met, fears, nourishment, etc. and put a number value on it, on a scale of 0-10.
The benefit of getting to the truth of “How are you” is that it facilitates connection more easily and is more likely to conjure up empathy, which arguably, is one of the most important of human qualities, particularly nowadays.
So, if you run into someone at the grocery store on your rare outing beyond your neighborhood, and you learn that they are a “4” that day, that number response is more likely to make you empathize than if they reply with an unenthusiastic, “Okay.”
The “4” might even motivate you to check in with them later on, which is support that is less likely to develop from a rote response.
As someone who typically prizes words more than numbers, I surprised even myself with this idea. Learning that Brené Brown developed a number tool to use in her own marriage probably inspired me to entertain it.
More significantly though, given all we’re dealing with, the usual exchange involving “How are you” now demands deeper understanding and sincerity.
An added benefit of discovering (and sharing) what your bandwidth number is, is the increased likelihood that we begin to offer compassion to ourselves. This is HUGE because when we practice self-compassion, we begin to heal.
Then, more really amazing things can happen: as we pursue a path of healing, the undermining “inner critic” in our mind loses power over us. Consequently, we are not so hard on ourselves. What follows is renewed energy and spaciousness. From these qualities, creativity elevates and we are able to solve problems more effectively.
That’s quite a ripple effect from just quantifying personal bandwidth!
The process is not linear, of course as our number differs depending on our circumstances. Extreme fluctuation reduces over time, however, as we engage in that crucial beginning step—self-compassion.
We’re witnessing many different ripple effects because of the Coronavirus, but the one I just described is more subtle and thus, more difficult to observe and track.
Nonetheless, it is powerful and well worth initiating.
This chain reaction starts with a number—the one in you.
So, let’s get it rolling…”What’s your bandwidth?”
Want to share your number with me? Or, need help figuring out your number and would like support unpacking it? Contact me…I am holding limited, free virtual “Office Hours” and would love to serve you!
As I pondered what I can possibly offer at this time when everything has likely already been said about the new landscape we face, I thought about Byron Katie’s famous words,
“There are no new stressful thoughts. They’re all recycled.”
What makes our current, collective thoughts “recyclables,” according to Katie’s theory, is that they are rooted in the F-word…Fear.
No doubt, Fear is a very effective motivator. For proof, just look at how well we cleaned out the grocery stores!
Many of us are probably very familiar with Fear being a motivating force in our life, if not the primary force.
Since our minds crave the familiar, it’s rather easy for us to have Fear driving the bus, so to speak, even though it brings us great dis-ease.
Regardless of what our minds prefer, in this case,
Familiar + Recycled (Thoughts) = Stagnation.
Ordinarily, I’m all for recycling. In this scenario though, I’m more in favor of moving our “recyclables” to the trash.
This will create ample space for actual new thoughts, ones that ideally are rooted in the S- word…Strength.
Our minds are stubborn, but given all the difficult decisions coming down from business and community leaders, clearly we’re learning to deal with unfamiliar territory.
Fortunately, getting familiar with the unfamiliar is an essential part of effective mind training, according to renowned British therapist, Marisa Peer.
So, our ability to revise the formula above by replacing “Familiar” and “Recycled” thoughts with Refreshing and Inspired ones will contribute to more Progress:
Refreshing + Inspired (Thoughts) = Progress
As with many things in life, it’s the invisible, underlying variable (energy!) that makes these secret formulas true.
Thus, we must trash the F-word, and up-cycle our motivating force to the S-word!
Even Katie wouldn’t question this thought.
Who doesn’t need extra support right now?! Should you want some help with trashing recycled thoughts, don’t hesitate to Contact Me. I am available for virtual coaching sessions.
On a recent family ski trip, I saw the sign pictured above at the entrance to a chairlift.
Initially, it incited fear, especially because I was expecting to ski alone as my family wanted to head inside.
Fear was quickly replaced with intrigue though, as I realized that the message has significance way beyond skiing.
In just four simple words it expresses the (harsh) truth about life—that hardship is inevitable and no one is exempt.
This interpretation of the sign is admittedly heavy. It didn't weigh me down though because it omits the necessary “BUT” that completes the truth.
That is, “No Easy Way Down” is begging to be followed by another four simple words: “But, You’re Not Alone.”
Combined, these two phrases express the FULL truth (about both life and skiing) but for some nonsensical reason, we tend to keep the second phrase a big secret.
That’s just foolish..the secret is what allows us to find a path on the no-easy-way-down “mountain!”
How often do you hear that someone got through a really difficult time or overcame a major challenge by closing him/herself off from others, managing the situation entirely by him/herself, and refusing any support
Our culture may lead us to believe that going “it” alone is a sign of strength and fortitude, but that attitude is precisely what will land us in a snow bank along our personal ski run.
Sadly, when the secret “BUT” remains hidden from our consciousness and we face life’s inevitable struggles, such as arriving to the top of a very intimidating ski trail, our mind is likely to catapult to “Doomsday Mode.”
In this mode, the mind fabricates thoughts associating our difficult circumstances with being alone. This tendency is a terrible trap, a “mindfield” if you will, and we must be one step ahead of it.
One proactive way to suppress Doomsday Mode is to have an accountability partner.
An accountability partner is someone you make a commitment with to have regular check-ins. Often, this partner serves as a support system to help stay focused on a particular project/goal, but we can apply the concept to our emotional life as well.
Having an accountability partner for emotional wellness makes Doomsday Mode less potent, thus diminishing the chances of getting caught in the ever-debilitating “I’m all alone ‘mindfield.’”
Apparently, all of this was instinctively very clear to my thirteen year old son even when he was overcome with skiing fatigue. Upon observing me pause after reading this powerful sign, he decided not to go in with the rest of the family and instead, he turned to me and said these four simple words: “I’ll keep you company.”
At once, my heart melted and my confidence in my ability to get down the mountain soared, all because of the message behind his words: You won’t be alone even though there’s no easy way down.
Now go hop on your proverbial chair lift knowing the best four simple words (even a child knows them ;). You just might discover that they lead you and your accountability partner to the Truth.
Looking to feel supported?…Maybe this could be your sign: Please join me for a free gathering on Tuesday, March 4th!
The disappointing stats about how well (or, not-so-well) people do at upholding new year’s resolutions made me think of the Staples advertising campaign that features the “easy” button.
How great would it be to be able to press a personal easy button to help stick to aims we’ve set for ourselves!
In theory, it’s awesome. In reality, it’s weak at best since, as the numbers reveal, developing new habits is anything but easy.
The idea of having a button to help navigate through life is, however, a concept that has great merit.
And if I were to design a button that displays just a single word that I think would have a meaningful impact on people, I would have it read “remember.”
Simply said, we need reminders—constantly, because our brains are wired to default to conditioned survivalist patterns. So, even when we are motivated to adopt new ways of being/thinking/behaving, if they aren’t implemented with amazing consistency, over time we will easily forget how to integrate the newly learned habits.
Fortunately, science offers the great news that the brain is highly malleable; it has the ability to re-wire and thus, we can override forgetfulness to bring about the changes we list in our new year’s (or anytime) aspirations.
Enter the “remember” button.
It is the mechanism by which we can minimize the tendency to resort to default (READ: undesired) habits. Essentially, once we tap our personal “remember” button, we create an opportunity for the brain to welcome new input/stimulus instead of rely on its usual course of action.
As you might imagine, the “remember” button isn’t an actual button you wear. Rather, it is a personally-designed technique that you practice often to create space in your brain.
It may sound like a foreign concept, but I bet you’ve witnessed it in action before…not by a human though.
I’m referring to when a dog twists and shakes its body and head vigorously, a.k.a., the “shake-off.”
As I’ve recently learned, a dog’s shake-off is considered a re-set. The shaking motion releases stressful energy so that the dog can proceed from a much more centered, refreshed state. In other words, space is created in the brain!
With the shake-off, dogs are able to activate their parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that cues us to slow down and relax sensation in the body) on demand.
This is highly instructive for humans because the ability to re-set allows us to remember better. If we can engage our parasympathetic nervous system on demand, it is less likely that we will be flooded with stressors that cause forgetfulness, thus pulling us back to default patterns.
Basically, if we want to forget less, we need to “shake” so we remember more.
Your “remember” button or version of shaking will likely look very different from a dog’s, but as long as you have a go-to technique that activates your “slow-down” system, your brain will be more available to adopt new and improved messages.
Doggone it, once you develop the use of your personal “remember” button, you just might find that it’s easy to shake off what’s between you and your aspirations!
To help you forget unhelpful default habits, here are some “remember” button ideas:
—Recite “I am breathing in (and inhale); I am breathing out” (and exhale) at least 5 times.
—Close your eyes and count to 10 silently.
—While inhaling, stretch your arms out from your sides to the ceiling/sky, hold at the top for a few seconds, then bring them back down slowly to your sides while exhaling, at least 3 times.
—Hold one hand on your belly and one on your chest for 20 seconds.
—Clench everything in your body from your fists to your toes, hold it all tightly and then release everything with a lion’s breath (big sigh and stick out tongue).
—Gently massage your face and neck.
—Wrap your arms around your chest in a tight hug.
—Mimic a dog and literally shake your body (not too vigorously).
Tell me which one(s) are just right for you, I’d love to hear!
And, if working with a “remember” button is foreign territory for you but seems worth exploring, let’s chat…if a dog has the ability to re-set, so should you!
It was in high school home economics class that I first learned the acronym CAYGO (Clean As You Go). It has stuck with me to this day partly because my husband follows CAYGO religiously…I actually marvel at how he can whip up wonderful meals or freshly baked treats and leave the kitchen sink and counter spaces as if he was never there!
The benefits of CAYGO-ing are not to be underestimated; they allow a cook to have easy access to tools they need to use multiple times, they ensure that work space is always available, and perhaps most importantly, they reduce stress by minimizing clean-up duties following a cooking experience. Consequently, the consumption part of the culinary creation becomes even more enjoyable!
As we enter the height of a big cooking/baking season, I’ve been pondering how helpful CAYGO-ing can be. I realize that that it has great application beyond the kitchen/cooking context, particularly to our own thinking.
In fact, we can use CAYGO on our thinking about the loaded phrase that we’re all exposed to this time of year: "The Holidays.”
The Holidays should be a simple, innocuous, NEUTRAL phrase. Depending on our association with it however, a whole host of loaded thoughts and feelings can emerge upon hearing it.
For some, The Holidays might be interpreted as “The most wonderful time of the year” while others might immediately link the phrase with “The most stressful time of the year.”
Here’s where CAYGO comes in. If we take a few extra moments to Clean (our thoughts) As (we) Go, it’s quite possible that we could process The Holidays with a more objective, open-minded viewpoint instead of get caught up in thoughts like,
“I can’t wait to see which of Uncle Jim’s comments and behaviors make heads roll at the family party this year! Or,
“Cousin Becca is hardly merry and bright with adults…maybe she’ll opt to sit with the kids again during dinner.”
While your thoughts related to The Holidays may not involve Jim’s or Becca’s specific triggers, certainly your personal experiences shape some association with the phrase. Even if the association is a positive one, it is not entirely “clean” because it is connected to some expectation, which is a precursor to stress.
Since our life experiences and belief system are integral to how we interpret things, it is very difficult for us to consider perfectly neutral concepts with a perfectly neutral perspective. Arguably though, that approach is the precursor to inner peace.
If we follow this logic, it seems that CAYGO-ing is a pathway to peace of mind. The philosophy encourages us to refrain from piling up in the “sink” our biased thoughts about things and to scrub away loaded thinking so that we have ample “counter” space in our head and heart.
The benefits of CAYGO-ing in our mind are just like those of CAYGO-ing in the kitchen then: with less stress, we are able to focus better on what we can create and offer one another.
Whether or not you find yourself preparing something in the kitchen duringThe Holidays, consider CAYGO-ing in your mind. It takes great diligence, but it could be just the thing that helps us appreciate Uncle Jim’s and Cousin Becca’s gifts.
Speaking of gifts, consider giving time and energy to developing CAYGO of the mind and other powerful tools, to yourself or someone you know. I have a couple spots available in January for either coaching sessions or The Grief Recovery Method (a unique process that helps people deal with the pain of a significant loss).
If you’re willing to receive, I’d love to help you get more clear in 2020! CONTACT ME for a gift that keeps on giving long after “The Holidays.”
My family welcomed a puppy into our home and our hearts this week! It’s been wonderful and challenging.
Also this week, I heard for the first time Michael Franti’s newly released song, “This World Is So F*%#ed Up (But I Ain’t Ever Giving Up On It).” Like puppy rearing, this song’s lyrics are wonderful and challenging too.
Although puppy training was probably the last thing on Franti’s mind when he wrote this song, some of the lyrics apply to the task brilliantly.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to hear the song to understand the link; the connection is all in the parentheses. That is, the latter part of the song title, “(But I Ain’t Ever Giving Up On It”) is EXACTLY how we approach puppy training.
Our new fur baby is picking up on all that we’re training him really well, but there are times when he regresses. In those moments of regression (READ: frustrating moments) we never consider giving up on his eventually “getting” it.
We just continue to love him and stay diligent with his training.
I believe this is the same message that Franti wants us to take away from his powerful song, albeit in reference to how we treat each other and the planet (which of course includes puppy training ;).
Interestingly, despite the strong language and emphasis on the first phrase of the this song title, I think the more potent part is the second phrase, marked by parentheses. (And not just because it reminds me that we refuse to give up on set backs with our puppy’s training).
The structure of this title made me wonder, “Where in life do we bracket or make secondary what is most important while we put great emphasis on things that can easily capture our attention but may not be where we should focus our energy?”
Hmm…. Food for thought.
Whether or not you like Franti’s new song, or challenging things like puppy training for that matter, I hope you will tune into this song title and challenge yourself to question whether the first phrase or the parenthetical phrase resonates with you more.
It’s a relatively simple exercise; however, just like puppy training, the aspect you choose to emphasize versus what you make parenthetical can yield very different outcomes.
Go out and punctuate wisely…it makes a difference! Our puppy is proof.
If you or someone you know would like support with discerning how to punctuate certain aspects of your/their life, contact me! There’s no better time than before the holidays to clarify what is parenthetical.
Together, we can make challenging experiences as wonderful as a well-trained puppy.
In my household, some highlights of crisp fall days are football and freshly harvested produce. They complement each other well…fresh apples, especially in desserts, and soups made from locally grown vegetables offer comfort when the playing and/or watching of games has been exhausting.
With football and fall produce on the brain these days, these two things became a catalyst for problem-solving when I was having “a moment” recently.
You probably know what I mean by “a moment”…those times when your mind and body have hit maximum capacity for the day, yet there are still many hours to go, and of course, these hours require you to be “ON”—mentally and emotionally available for others.
On this particular occasion of feeling completely tapped out, it was approaching dinner-prep time. Cooking is not my strong suit, so this is hardly a stress-free time of day for me.
So, per my evening routine, even though I was devoid of energy I dutifully entered the kitchen and started pulling out ingredients. I fought my mind and body, trying to suppress and ignore my true feeling state, which by now had now evolved from exhaustion to the ever-unhelpful state of anxiety.
My mind became hyper-active, replaying thoughts about not having the bandwidth necessary to adequately tackle “everything.” This cycling of stressful thinking created a new sensation in the body—overwhelm. It showed up as a faster heart rate, jittery tingles in my limbs, and tightness in my chest. What a great recipe for creating a meal to be delivered with love—HA!
Ordinarily, I would have labored on with the task at hand, convincing myself that my responsibility to feed hungry loved ones ASAP was paramount, regardless of what was going on with me. This time, however, I was (wisely) moved to respond to my body’s cues, and I did what any talented quarterback would do in a critical, time-sensitive moment of a football game…I “called an audible.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with this American football term, it means that a quarterback decides to call a play that is different than what the coaches had planned. Typically this happens because the quarterback notices that the opposing defense changed their formation at the last minute.
In my scenario, the defense—the host of powerful physical sensations surging in my body—was definitely gearing up to sack me. The “sack” would have been my being overcome with disappointment in myself and regret after I inevitably would have unloaded my mess of emotion on my family when they had little to do with it.
Instead of let the defense barrel over me, I briefly took stock of how unstable my body was, and called in a game-changing play: “The Just Lie Down” play. That is, I ceased efforts to make dinner, walked to a room that had a rug, and lay down with my legs and arms slightly spread apart.
Doable in football…definitely not. Effective in real life…absolutely! I simply stayed on the floor with my eyes closed for about five minutes, which was all that was necessary to allow all of the feelings and charged energy to move through and leave my body. It was an amazingly restorative experience, and here’s why:
While I was lying down, I envisioned that all the difficult emotion that was not serving me was being pulled down into the earth. Following a teaching of very wise indigenous cultures, I consciously released all the dis-ease of that moment into the ground so that Mother Earth could absorb my negativity and transmute it into beautiful, delicious, and useful creations, such as fall produce!
Of course, calling an audible will look different depending on the person and the situation, but I highly recommend lying down if that is available to you. Admittedly, the most critical step is being able to first tune in and respond to challenging feelings and/or physical sensations in the heat of a moment.
As hard as it is to develop such discipline, the payoff is well worth it…choosing to not give in to patterned behavior prevented me from ultimately transferring my baggage onto others. How satisfying and uplifting that is!
By the way, if it crossed your mind that my “audible” should have been to simply order food to be delivered for dinner that night, I agree that, that would have been a good call to score the touchdown of getting everyone fed.
I believe that it wouldn’t have led to winning the actual game though, which was to regulate my system so that I wouldn’t succumb to a possible interception by the defense later on, i.e.: take out my emotion on a family member as soon as I got triggered by some innocuous comment, which was very likely to happen.
Whether or not you are a football fan, I encourage you to be an attentive quarterback who calls effective audibles when the defense is preparing for a blitz.
Who knows…maybe by changing your usual game plan you’ll feel like a Super Bowl champion and celebrate with a hearty fall soup and a slice of apple pie. Thanks of course, to your head coach, Mother Earth!
FYI, there is a “play book” that can assist you in developing the ability to call audibles when you most need them; it is a practice called “The Work.” You can learn about this special practice at a workshop happening in Westport on November 7th. I look forward to playing with you there!