Category Archives: goals

North Star navigation

Happy Tuesday, peeps. It is dark as I’m writing, and I am getting through the DST transition, even though it is not typically my best week of the year. At least I am being kind to myself and others. That goes a long way.

In only 24 days I will head to Arizona for a weekend event with two favorite authors, Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert. In honor of that event, I downloaded the audible version of Finding Your North Star, by Martha Beck to give it a re-listen. Years ago I read the book (many times, and annotated it) and then later gave it to a friend who was in a place of transition.

martha beck

Martha Beck’s Finding Your North Star found me during  transition 15 years ago.

Martha’s wisdom is amazing, and since I am in another place of transition in my life, the audio provides just the right level of humor and perspective to help guide me in this next journey. I am working with a coach from the Handel Group, and that homework has been helpful as well.

Martha makes a distinction between the “essential self” and the “social self” in terms of helping us know our core interests and desires. I remember at that time it was a huge discovery for me, the fact that we have these different parts of ourselves that work together in our lives. When we ignore the essential self (aka our soul) in favor of doing only what the social self wants (more ego-driven, people-pleasing), we end up unhappy and unfulfilled.

On the other hand, when we use the faculties of the social self, like pushing ourselves sometimes when we are in a difficult place, in order to achieve the dreams of our essential self, we can create the lives we want. I think there are actually a lot of “selves” that exist within us, and Handel method refers to them as “character traits” that we can identify and then evolve.

A couple of weeks ago, I identified a trait I will refer to as “Mary the Martyr” as a voice talking in my head. She’s the one who tells me I should be grateful for what I have, that it’s greedy to want more. She’s the one who sacrifices for everyone and does not value her own wants and needs. I thought I had rooted her out of my life years ago, but she made an appearance when I worked on the dreaming exercise. Effectively she blocked my dreaming process for a bit.

Her voice sounds a bit like family members (parents perhaps) and she was pretty certain about what she was telling me. It was funny when I actually named her, and began to recognize how she asserts her influence in many areas of my life.  There are certain qualities I like about her: generosity toward her loved ones, a desire to protect the people she cares about, and a sense of independence. She never wants a hand-out and believes she should work hard, but she also has difficulty receiving.

When navigating toward our North Stars, our true purpose in life, it can be difficult when these familial or societally-programmed voices start interfering with the journey. But in recognizing those as not our essential selves, but rather the social selves we evolved to keep us “in a tribe” then we are able to see whether these serve us. It can be a little painful to wake up to this realization, and know that we have been putting dreams on hold.

slaying dragon

When slaying a dragon, recruit some help! (photo credit link).

Sometimes we must find different tribes that support our new journeys. But this is possible, and we must create this support for ourselves. It can take the form of authors on our shelves or people we admire. We do not even need to know all of these “virtual” supporters in person. The web makes this process much easier than it used to be. But the internet sometimes induces other problems, like the tendency for comparison, which is not always healthy.

In any case, navigating toward our North Stars is a scary and exhilarating process. It makes sense to get as much support as we can muster. There is a Hero’s Journey part of the process, and while we may be okay with slaying a few dragons by ourselves, having a posse can make the journey a lot more fun and interesting.





Wanting from a place of abundance

There is an exercise recommended by Brooke Castillo, who produces the Life Coach School podcast, on “wanting from abundance” that I tried this morning as I was considering a dream I had last night. That one went into my handwritten journal. Not ready to interpret that one for y’all yet.

When most people are asked what they want, they immediately jump to a list of what they lack. They start listing off things like a new car, maybe a different job, perhaps other things that the would put on their Christmas list.

But the exercise she has people do is to list 25 things they want, where more than half of those things are what they already have. I am sharing my list with you as an example:

  1. Time to write in the mornings (check)
  2. A caring and wonderful husband (check)
  3. Two cats (check)
  4. A dog (someday)
  5. Cozy place to live (check)
  6. A home of our own (someday)
  7. Time to camp and be outdoors this summer (check – planning on this)
  8. Personal laptop for writing (check)
  9. Enough money so I don’t worry about day-to-day necessities like food, utilities and clothing. (check)
  10. Health care coverage (check)
  11. Travel to the U.K.; travel to Spain (someday)
  12. Time planned with my hubby to do fun stuff (check – upcoming long weekend trip to Arizona 4 weeks from now)
  13. Work outside a corporate environment (someday)
  14. Opportunities to practice my Spanish (check)
  15. Ability to travel to other countries for work (check)
  16. Ability to express my ideas and connect with similarly-spirited people (check)
  17. Ability to sleep 8 hours every night without struggling with insomnia (work in progress)
  18. Live in a safe neighborhood (check)
  19. Access to good yoga classes (double check!)
  20. Close relationships with friends and family (want to put more time into this)
  21. More time to read (define more…)
  22. Healthy body (check)
  23. Plans for our summer vacation (work in progress)
  24. Clean air to breathe every day and clean water to drink (check)
  25. Ability to work from home on occasion (check)
  26. Enough money to pursue my creative passions instead of working full time at a corporation (work in progress)

Okay, that was more than 25. Once I got going, I started thinking of even more things. 16 out of the 26 are things I already have. Some are things I am working on, and a few I have an actual plan sketched out to get them.

What I really love about this exercise is that we want from ABUNDANCE instead of a scarcity mind-set. We acknowledge that many of the amazing things we already have in our lives are also things we want, things we are grateful for. Imagine if I took some things OFF this list! Goodness, realizing the abundance and privilege that allows me to live this glorious life makes me feel rich, fortunate and happy.

When you think about what you want today, consider the things you already have that make your life splendid. Consider not just on what you want someday, but what you want (and have) today. Your entire energy and vibration will change. And perhaps you will start to attract possibilities, opportunities and ideas to add a few of those items from the list that you do not yet have.

Cheers & happy Friday!



Embodying a new self

I have written before about the idea that there is no “better” you – that self-acceptance and self compassion are the key to any big changes we want to make in our lives.

Paradoxically, I think we all grow, develop and change over time, and we do become “better” at certain things. It is not that we become better people. I hold the belief that all of us, just by virtue of being born, are worthy of love, compassion and self-regard. However, we strive to become more of who we are at the core, at a soul and spirit level, that identity is typically muted or hidden in an effort to be more acceptable to others.

Right now I am reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza and it is blowing my mind. The title is provocative to me because it goes against the advice we are typically given: just be yourself. While I agree this usually means we should not try to be “someone else,” most of us still yearn to grow and change and evolve to a “next version” of ourselves.

breaking the habit

We yearn for enlightenment, for peace, for a sense of ease in our being. But Dispenza explains how our habitual thoughts become encoded by our neuro-chemical and physical body over time. Our mind and body work together to create our reality, and re-create what we have known and experienced usually in the past. It is only when we become aware of our thoughts, and how they create emotions, which are “coding” for what they become in the body, that we can actively change the reality we are creating.

Dispenza uses the field of quantum physics to challenge our previous assumptions about a Newtonian universe in which there are physical causes and effects, and thus explores the notion of potentials. I really enjoy his explanations of how we can create changes in our lives to move from thinking to doing to being. Though I am only half way through the book, the insight has already exploded my mind in terms of the possibilities.

I have had great skepticism for the self-help idea of manifesting, though I have encountered it plenty of times in the literature I read. I must admit – I am a questioner and anything that is too “woo woo” for my researcher brain is typically dismissed as fluff. But as I consider the neuroscience behind the principles that Dispenza explains, now I understand the theoretical basis for how this may work.

My experiences with meditation, and understanding experientially how my thoughts create my feelings, and how feelings lead to action (or non-action) these concepts are leading me to wild new ideas about how we can create the lives we want. I still have not yet moved to the stage of practice and implementing these ideas fully, but I am sure to experiment with these as I embrace changes in my life going forward.

Hasta luego, amigos!

Getting unstuck

Do you ever have times when some idea or dream emerges into your consciousness out from where it was hiding? You are surprised to find it there, buried in the soil of unconscious distractions and everyday life, and you gasp. Wow, have you been there all along? Why did I lose sight of you?

I have been working on my coaching homework while working here in Mexico this week. Yesterday I traveled to Guadalajara with some colleagues and I spent a good part of the day interacting in Spanish, my second language. I had good conversations, and made a few decisions that were important to advance the work in my department, and to bring some relief to an over-worked colleague.

At 8 p.m. I gracefully exited the people-interactions in the evening to get some time to myself. Then I wrote a big long email to my hubby with some thoughts on what had kept my brain churning on Tuesday night. Well, it’s always a confluence of factors, not usually one issue that does this to me. Somehow I tend to do this more when I travel than when I am at home.

Perhaps that is because in our regular and routine lives, we don’t necessarily give ourselves the space to “upset the apple cart” and think about bigger things. At home, there are always the domestic chores to complete, the bills to pay, the usual day-to-day concerns that seem to get in the way of really allowing ourselves to dream big.

Getting away can dislodge some of that detritus in the mind, clear away or at least temporarily suspend some of our resistance. It is our brain’s resistance to change that keeps us stuck sometimes, not any actual real danger or threat.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day with one of my direct reports, a colleague who reminds me a little of my younger self. She is a hard-worker, very conscientious and a bit anxious too. Over coffee and quesadillas we told stories and got to know one another better, and I coached her on a couple of points I thought may help her confidence.

It occurred to me later that I was preaching what I try to practice: an awareness that our thoughts and beliefs are not real. They are just sentences in the mind, and sometimes we have “loops” that we play on auto-pilot, old ideas that actually no longer serve us.

When we step outside those thoughts, and realize we have the power to change them, and therefore create a new reality, it can feel threatening. Letting go of these worn-out ways of thinking requires us to step into the unfamiliar. Eventually, we may surprise and delight ourselves with our accomplishments. But for now, our primitive brain urges us to crawl back into the cave, stay safely ensconced in our old beliefs. They are what kept us safe in the past, and so that is evidence enough to keep re-running them.

So in getting unstuck, we must get comfortable with some discomfort. This reminds me of the experience I had years ago when training for a marathon (2011). That’s what the training plan is about – you must get used to those feelings of fatigue and those thoughts of wanting to quit in the last few miles.

You can become comfortable with discomfort. And then in a couple more miles you notice: the feeling has passed and you are fine again. This is how yin yoga is for me as well – stay in a slightly edgy position for several minutes, and you notice how every feeling is just a vibration in the body. Rather than fixed and stationary, these vibrations are dynamic and ever-changing.

That is how I would describe my personal explorations now. As I begin to dream again, I begin to see my life differently. As I get unstuck, the discomfort of change comes up and admonishes me to go back into the cave. But this time, I will venture out. My soul beckons for something more, some evolution to the next version of myself. While my ego may beg for protection, and whine about the unfamiliar, my soul knows better.

I am ready to dream again.

Do you have a few minutes?

Happy February! To those of you who live in northern climates, we are three fifths through the winter, mas o menos.

Somehow when we get to February I always feel a surge of optimism. Spring is not so far away now, and those of us who get a little “cabin fever” this time of the year start noticing more light in the evenings.

Last February I started a habit of daily meditation. I had been meditating before that, and developing some consistency. But last year, I fully committed to a minimum of 5 minutes per day. It was a do-able goal, and I count my yoga sessions as part of my practice, so with 3 classes a week, that made the goal easier as well. This weekend I will celebrate an entire year consecutive days of meditation.

It has changed my life, particularly since I have struggled in the past with a.d.d. Meditation has helped me calm my mind and become less reactive to the “bouncing” thoughts. I can observe them and not follow them. I notice when I am caught in a story that I am spinning, and start to question whether that is even true. I hold less judgment about my mind, and more curiosity.

To those who have been thinking about starting a practice, I encourage you to start small. Literally commit to only 2 minutes the first time, focus on your breathing. It may not be easy at first! But then add a minute a day, and see how this changes the quality of your days overall. It may take a few weeks before you really start to notice benefits, so give it at least 30 days.

People used to tell me I needed to have at least 15 minutes for it. That was a big barrier. I simply could not imagine how I would fit that in every day. Now I average a lot more than that. But if I only fit in 5 minutes in the morning, and then get 10 minutes on a lunch hour, I still do it. It is not always easy, and sometimes I feel “too restless” to want to do it. But those are the times I am most likely to benefit, I now realize.

Last fall I read Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Goleman and Davidson). For a clinical researcher like me, I loved learning about experiments, past and present to demonstrate the value of meditation. The authors actually critique some of their early studies, the bias and the lack of proper controls. They review the field and conclude that yes, even with some flawed studies in the beginning, reliable science is beginning to emerge on the benefits of meditation.

If the idea of silent meditation is not your cup of tea, there are many guided meditations available at the Insight Timer app that I use. Jon Kabat Zinn has a book called Mindfulness for Beginners with some guided meditations that I really like also. Another resource that was great for me about 2 years ago when I first wanted to commit to practice was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

For those of you who have a regular practice, I would love to hear how you got started. As I like to say about sleep, doing more of it is like a super-power! If only I had known when I was younger. But I know now. So I will continue to encourage people to try it, and see what works for them.