If It’s Good For Me, Can it Be Good For You Too?

Before we act, most of us try to consider how our actions will affect the people we care about. But do we spend too much time agonizing unnecessarily? I think so….

But I have good news: I’ve learned that if something is good for me, it’s good for everyone that I’m in relationship with. “What ?!?” You may be saying “How can that be true?”

surprised guy

 

 

The first time that I heard my spirit make this bold statement, I was doubtful too. At the time I was considering ending a friendship with a woman who had become very needy and overly-dependant on me. She was fairly negative and so I found myself frequently playing the role of the cheerleader when we were together. I’d spoken to her several times about how our friendship felt unbalanced and heavy, but no shift had occurred.

When I thought about ending the friendship, I worried that without someone cheering her up that my friend might become even more pessimistic and maybe even slide into a depression. During a meditation my spirit helped me see that by cheering her up repeatedly over a long period of time, I was actually preventing my friend from developing the skills that she needed to shift and cheer herself up.

What was best for me was to no longer carry around the weight of someone else’s negative thinking. And what was best for my friend was to experience the full weight of her negative thoughts without me intervening and buffering her from feeling the negativity that she surrounded herself with.

I ended the friendship and a few months later heard from a mutual acquaintance that my (former) friend had started seeing a therapist to get help in changing her perception of herself as a victim. Yeah!  My spirit’s teachings had been validated for me.

Since then I’ve heard many clients’ spirits give this same sort of advice, and it has always been  accurate. Sometimes during a public lecture I will announce that what is best for each person is also what is best for everyone that they are in relationship with. Immediately hands go up, as audience members challenge me, offering scenarios that they think will disprove that rule. And my spirit has always been able to demonstrate how the best action for one person was also the best action for the others involved.

Here’s what’s so great about this: when trying to decide the best course of action, your job is no longer to assess what’s best for the other people in your life. You only need to figure out what is truly best for you.

Now when I say “What is best for you” I don’t just mean what feels good in that moment. I mean sitting quietly and feeling what your heart is guiding you to do when you decide it’s time to honor yourself. When you evaluate the situation from a perspective of being self honoring, you will nearly always end up with an action that honors everyone’s journey, not just your own.

People are in our lives for a reason. Usually we are learning similar, compatible lessons from each other. So if I’m trying to create better boundaries n an area of my life, I will likely attract someone into my life who has poor boundaries since this will give me a chance to practice setting boundaries and enforcing them. The boundary that I make may feel uncomfortable to the other person, but I have no doubt that such an action is what’s best for both of us.

So, the next time you’re struggling with how to handle a difficult situation, stop trying to figure out what will be best for the other person or what will keep her happy. Instead take some time to focus inward, asking yourself what is best for you. The answer – the action that will promote your inner peace and your personal growth – will be the same for you and everyone that you are connected to. It may not appear so at first glance, but trust in the perfect balance of the Universe and you will see it demonstrated before your eyes.

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Noticing When the Work is Done

The other day I saw a dog at the dog park who had black dirt all over his front paws and his nose. His owner explained that her dog loved to dig, and that when given a dog biscuit, he would dig a ridiculously big hole in the back yard to bury the small treat.

“It’s really crazy!” the woman said “How Max’s treat is smaller than an egg but he digs a hole big enough to bury a cow!”

I laughed as I pictured the dog frantically digging, throwing dirt out behind him without paying attention to when his task had been accomplished.

dog digging

But as I drove home I had a sobering thought: Am I like Max, the frantically digging dog?”

I confess to putting my own head down and not looking up for long periods of time, working away without any planned way to measure my progress. I don’t throw dirt behind me, but I probably work more than I need to. I wonder what would happen if I took a break occasionally and enjoyed my progress instead of just putting my nose to the grindstone and not looking up until the end of the day.

I pondered this idea for the next few days, and concluded that my tendency to work voraciously for long periods of time is something that I justify by thinking that I’m good at delayed gratification. But is that really what I’m doing? Or am I just plowing through most of my day in order to get to the few parts that I think will be fun? And what am I missing along the way by just “getting it all done”?

While these thoughts were percolating in me, my youngest son Justin and I were in the kitchen making dinner. He asked, “Mom, do you remember the last year that you drove Joey and I to school, before we got our own cars? I was just thinking about how we were grumpy sometimes in the morning and so you made a CD of happy, current pop songs and played it on the way to school each day. That really helped; I liked starting my day that way.”

Without knowing it, Justin had helped me get clarity on this idea of enjoying the moment versus plowing through it.

The mornings prior to me making that CD were pretty miserable. My oldest is decidedly not a morning person and many school days began with frustration and impatience – mine and the boys’! I realized that I was trying to quickly get them in the car and dropped off at school to get that unpleasant job done. But the 7 minute car ride was becoming torturous as I had to be the referee while they bickered and grumbled. I noticed that in anticipation of the bickering I was getting in the car prepared to be miserable. I made the CD in order to keep myself cheerful so that I could help them shift into a positive place before they started their school day.

Surprise – that one simple change made the car ride enjoyable! Now the 7 minute ride was something to enjoy in and of itself, not just a means to an end. We actually had some great conversations in those brief car rides, and it turns out that my son has positive memories of his last year of being driven to school!

kids in car

So today I’m grabbing on to this new awareness and stopping several times each day to see if I’m just plowing through a task, rushing through an activity that could actually be enjoyable.

And I’m stopping when I notice that I’m frantically digging away at something that is actually finished. It doesn’t have to always be perfect – sometimes just getting it finished is good enough.

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Healthy Boundaries – the Power of the Pause

I think it’s safe to say that we all have trouble with boundaries. Clients frequently ask me how they can improve their own boundaries so that they won’t feel bulldozed by their loved ones. They also want to know how to avoid being a bulldozer themselves.

bulldozer

 

Respecting other people’s boundaries is tricky. Not because we’re all insensitive oafs and don’t care about over-stepping, but because we each define healthy boundaries differently. I know that I’ve rolled over my friends’ boundaries on more than one occasion, and it was never out of a disregard for their feelings. In fact it was usually done in an attempt to help. But in my attempts to give assistance I’ve probably given a few headaches too, as my friends were unsure how to tell me to slow down, back off, and keep my rapid-fire suggestions to myself.

How does this happen? I think it comes from assuming that each person sees the world similarly to the way that we see it. If in my view of the world people should not ask their friends to hire them, but through your eyes this is perfectly acceptable, then you’re likely to cross over a line with me that doesn’t even exist for you. That’s how it happens….

So how do we avoid crossing over the boundaries of others and gently defend our own?

My suggestion: Slow down and pay attention to your feelings. Now don’t roll your eyes like that! I’m going to get more specific.

What I’ve learned is that when I’m on a mission – to finish a project, to arrange a meeting with someone, to cross something off my to-do list – I can become rather near-sighted.

thick glasses

 

I only seem to notice the goal in front of me. In my intense focus to get “what I want” accomplished, I can fail to notice the energy of the person in front of me at a time when it’s most important.

If you approach a friend with no agenda in mind, you can usually feel when something’s bothering him. But when you’re focused on accomplishing something, it can interfere with your ability to feel his energy and notice if he’s taking a step back emotionally.

Since it’s unrealistic of me to suggest approaching others with no agenda (we do have things to get done each day) then the alternative is to make it a point to slow down periodically and take a read of how the person in front of you feels. And while you’re at it, take notice of how you feel.

This is the best way to assess a person’s boundaries, and to notice when your own have been violated. The emotional compass that is standard equipment in every human is a valuable instrument. Remember to use it and life will get drastically easier.

If you take a moment right now I bet you can remember a time when you suggested something to another person and felt them suck in their breath or hesitate in some way that told you that they weren’t comfortable with your suggestion. Maybe in your mind you were offering to help a colleague get her project done, but in her mind you were trying to take credit for her work. You don’t have to know how she interpreted your suggestion; you only need to know that the energy between you shifted, and not for the better.

First, stop and replay the last moment in your mind, because sometimes your mistake is obvious once you replay the tape! If it’s not clear where you mis-stepped, ask. I am SO appreciative when someone asks me why I suddenly shifted in a conversation. I may feel awkward at first about being honest, but I so appreciate that the other person cared enough to notice my discomfort and ask me about it.

Likewise I’m grateful when I find the courage to notice my own apprehension and ask to pause the conversation for a moment. Giving myself a moment to reflect on why I’m uncomfortable is important. Usually I’m too flustered to comprehend and offer a complete explanation, but I usually say something like “Something feels not quite right about that idea. Can I sit with it and get back to you later today?” Then I get alone and feel my way to my truth about the situation.

As I read over this I am struck by how it sounds pretty basic – pause and notice when things feel “off”. So if it seems better fit for your kindergartener to read, then give it to him. But as basic as these suggestions may seem, it’s taken me years to figure out the importance of the pause when things feel “off”. Give yourself permission to pause, and tap into your own awareness.

 

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How More Acceptance Leads to Increased Happiness

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how often my clients criticize themselves. No matter what we’re discussing, they seem ready to pounce on the mention of anything that can be construed as a fault. Sometimes I feel like we’re each walking around like a cartoon character with a piano overhead, waiting for it to drop and smash us flat.

piano falling

 

Perhaps we feel that if we’re constantly on guard, being hyper-vigilant about pointing out all of our weaknesses, then no one else will feel the need to do so.

When I asked my spirit about this in meditation, She said that all humans have a fear that something is inherently wrong with them. And each time that we’re given evidence that seems to validate this fear (“You’re too quiet, too heavy, you’re not that funny, you’re too demanding”) we experience the shame of feeling that maybe we aren’t very loveable. Then we store this fault, this reason for not being fully loved, in our memory so that we won’t have to feel that unpleasant shock again. We believe that if we keep a ready list of our faults, then if someone mentions them again we won’t be so traumatized.

This is a woefully inadequate plan.

I’ve learned from my spirit that keeping a list of our faults makes us defensive, because our “issues” are always front and center for us and so we assume that they’re highly visible to everyone else too. In our defensiveness we push others away, thereby validating our fear that we’re not loveable (See all the people backing away from me?!? I knew that I was unattractive to others!)

The solution? Practice acceptance of yourself and it will lead to others accepting you too.

How does this work? Because when you are being kind to yourself your energy is soft and gentle, and people will feel safe being near you. Think of someone that you’ve known who is very accepting of others. Remember how you let your guard down whenever you’re around that person, as if their acceptance rubbed off on you.

 

grandma

 

It’s time for you to be that super-accepting person for yourself.

Imagine what your world would be like if the people around you practiced more self acceptance, more self love. If everyone was kinder – with themselves and with others.

I recommend that you lead the charge, being the first in your group of friends to make an effort to be accepting, of yourself and of everyone around you.

Listing your faults is easy. Are you brave enough to practice self acceptance?

The next time you begin to announce one of your faults to the world, ask yourself: “Is this statement necessary, truthful and kind?”

That was the litmus test I gave to my boys when they were young. I asked them to run their words through this filter, and if they passed through, then they could speak them freely. And if their statement did not pass this test, then they should ask themselves their real motivation for saying it.

Once they each got into the habit of speaking more kindly about the other, they also began speaking more kindly about themselves. This practice brought increased happiness into my house, as my boys learned to be aware of their motivations and to be kinder to themselves and to others.

Try it.

You can always go back to beating yourself up next week.

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What motivates you?

What’s your motivation?

All of our actions are motivated by thoughts – thoughts that prompt us to act.

I’ve learned that in every moment we’re being motivated by one end of the emotional spectrum or the other; everything is inspired by either love or fear.

It’s easy to see the difference when we look at extreme examples of each of these. If someone is holding a gun to my head then I’m clearly acting from fear. And if I smile and bend down to pick up a puppy then it’s clear that I’m acting from love. But what about the less obvious cases?

Me holding Molly, 9 weeks

Something as simple as going to the store for groceries can be motivated by fear:

“I’m behind schedule and I need to go to the store now in order to cook something by dinnertime!”

Or motivated by love:

“I want to go to the store now so that when my boys come home hungry they’ll smile when they walk in the door and smell dinner already cooking.”

The resulting action is the same – I’m going to the store either way. But I’ve learned that if I pay attention to my motivating thoughts, and change them into positive, loving ones, my day is filled with so much more gratitude and happiness. And I didn’t have to change all the day’s events to bring about this happiness – what a relief!

It’s SO much easier to change your thoughts and feelings than to change all the circumstances. All that’s required is paying more attention.

Start noticing your reasoning. Stop each time you begin a new activity and ask yourself why you’re doing it. If your answer sounds like it’s coming from fear-based reasoning, see if you can re-frame your motivation. And if you can’t find a positive reason for doing what you’re about to do, consider holding off until you can.

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Let’s use our trip to the grocery store as an example Last month I had gone to the grocery store three days within one week, and it was time to go again. Good grief, I thought in exasperation, feeding two boys and their friends can feel like I’m running a restaurant! I was getting ready to leave when I noticed my resentful attitude.

I sat down on my sofa and got determined to feel better about the grocery run. It took me a few minutes, but I finally came up with feeling appreciative that some people couldn’t buy food, and that others had to walk for miles to get food for their families. All I had to do was get in my car and drive less than a mile. And I knew that the grocery store would be filled with plenty of food and that I had enough money to buy what we needed. Ok! My attitude was readjusted, and I went from resenting a third grocery run to appreciating that I could accomplish getting food in less than 20 minutes. Ah, a much better feeling!

Shifting your emotional motivation can take effort, but it’s always worth it! Starting today, make it your intention to feel happier. Be determined to act from gratitude, appreciation and humility. And notice how much more often you’re smiling.

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