As the month of June comes to a close, I realize that almost half the year is gone. As Michael Altshuler says, "The bad news is TIME flies. The good news is you're the pilot."
So the question is, how will you navigate the remaining 6 months of the year?
This is a good time to pause and reflect on the first half of the year, and chart your course for the second half.
To live an intentional life, one where you deliberately create the life you envision takes planning. Making time to realign with your vision for your life provides an opportunity to assess, where you're been, where you are now, and then you get to decide where you are headed.
Why is this important? Let me share with you the 5-C's: the key reasons why it's worth your time to pause and reflect now, instead of waiting until the end of the year.
1. Celebrate. We often set goals and when we meet them, we're off and running to the next one without taking a moment to celebrate what we've just accomplished (sound familiar?). Checking in mid-year allows you to honor and acknowledge the successes you have had so far, both big and small. Make a list of all the things you can think of and then go back and review your calendar to add things to the list you may have forgotten. It may surprise you how much you've already done. Cheers!
2. Clarity. When life is busy it's sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. You may not remember why you're doing what you're doing because you're stuck in the busyness. Making space and time to step out of the busyness allows you to see things more clearly. It gives you an aerial view; you get to see the bigger picture and remember your why for your life. Being clear on your vision for your life makes it so much easier to make decisions by asking, "does this align with my vision or not?"
3. Core Beliefs. We all have a set of core beliefs that determine the rules we live by. Sometimes we're aware of them, sometimes we're not. Assessing the year at mid-point allows you to ask, "Are the choices I'm making, aligned with the life I say I want?" In answering this question you get to see where you may be sabotaging your own success and identify hidden limiting beliefs that may be keeping you stuck (to learn how to break through limiting beliefs, see my most popular blog post, http://bit.ly/1jUnDkR). Then, you get to create new beliefs that serve your current vision for your life and move you towards it.
4. Consistency. Developing key habits and activities to support your goals is one of the most important elements in your success formula. My coach is constantly saying consistent actions bring consistent results. As you review your year so far, notice whether you have been consistent in taking the steps necessary to move you forward. This includes actions that help support a healthy you like eating well and regular exercise, in addition to actions that support better life balancing.
5. Community. Take stock in your community. Who supports you? Who are your encouragers? I have an accountability partner that helps me stick to taking the actions necessary to move towards my goals. I also have a coach and belong to a mastermind group. Yes, my life is busy but having this support system in place has yielded greater returns on my investment of time than I could have ever imagined. My coach holds the vision that I have for my life and continues to believe in it even when I get discouraged. She motivates me to get up when I've fallen and to try again. She gets it because she's been there. And having a group of like-minded individuals to serve as my personal board of directors keeps me on purpose. They have been my biggest cheering squad and also call me out when I'm making excuse to play small.
I will be spending this weekend reviewing 2014 and charting my course for the coming 6 months. I recommend realigning with the vision you have for you life at least twice per year. I make time for this activity quarterly. I've learned alot in the process and feel more and more like the leader in my life rather than feeling like life is leading me.
How often do you make time to assess where you are in life? Leave a comment and let me know below.
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
- Booker T. Washington
Last month I celebrated a birthday. I have created an annual ritual of taking the day off (birthdays really need to be personal holidays, don't you think?), to allow some time for reflection in addition to celebration. This year the process has continued for a full 4 weeks.
I thought about how much I have accomplished so far in my lifetime. And although I've achieved many milestones, what I'm most amazed by is the woman I've become in the process.
It is the variety of experiences I've had, the wins and the losses, that have shaped who I am today. As I thought about the past year and prepared for this new year of life, I discovered themes that have helped me get to where I am today.
Here is the list of life lessons I've learned that have been key to my success:
1. Practice reframing. It is easy to get discouraged when life is throwing challenges your way. I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. One of my strengths is an ability to see the positive in negative situations. This has served me well; it allows me to find those aha moments that lead to wisdom. And, it greatly reduces my stress. The best part is it is a skill that anyone can learn. I teach my clients to recognize when they are looking through a negative lens and how to replace it with a positive filter.
2. Making mistakes are part of life. This is par for the course. As long as you are breathing, you will experience errors in judgment. It's not a matter of if, but when and how often. Accepting this truth can save you from endless hours of beating up on yourself after the fact. It is empowering to know that one mis-step doesn't define who you are or determine the end of your story. What helps you to move forward is a willingness to begin again.
3. Change happens, adapt. We are creatures of habit, and change whether felt to be positive or negative can be stressful. We get stuck when we resist change. It is inevitable that change will come, sooner or later. Find ways to increase your capacity for being flexible. It will serve you well when the unexpected occurs and the best laid plans fall apart.
4. Inner wisdom trumps rational thinking. Listening to my inner wisdom has never steered me wrong. The top five best decisions I've ever made were due to following my heart and a sense of knowing. And when I haven't listened, the consequences taught me the importance of letting my head be guided by heart instead of the other way around.
5. Receiving help is as important as giving help. I was born a caretaker. There is this natural tendency to want to offer help. I value this quality and yet recognize that it's become so familiar that it is uncomfortable asking for help. In the medical world, there is an unspoken rule that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I've spent the past few years unlearning this myth and taking action to get support by hiring a coach and joining a mastermind group. In this new year of life I plan to practice accepting help when it is offered, and asking for help when it is needed.
Okay, I promised five life lessons and yet I can't end this piece without mentioning one of the most important lessons (consider it a bonus): you get to define success on your own terms.
This one has been huge for me. These days success is more about how I feel and how aligned my life is with what is most important to me. My focus is shifting from what I am doing to who I am becoming.
I think David Frost says it best, "Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."
I hope this list gives you a starting place to consider your own life lessons for success.
Leave a comment below and share what one life lesson have you learned that helps support your success?
Ah, the dreaded to-do list.
I created them all the time. On post-its, little scraps of paper, or sometimes in my planner (depending on which one I was using this week).
You can spend an awful lot of time creating lists and yet, nothing seems to get done. Or at least that's the way it feels.
When the to-do list is long or filled with unpleasant tasks, it's easy to feel a sense of overwhelm. You feel stuck. There's no way it will all get done. You could waste a lot of time worrying; or, you can regroup and create a new game plan.
Consider the following 5 practices to help you regain a sense of control and be more productive.
1. Breathing. No, this doesn't require any deep breaths or other breathing exercises. It is simply paying attention to the natural rhythm of your own breathing.
When we feel overwhelmed, it is often accompanied by anxiety. This leads to more shallow, rapid breaths. It's almost like we're holding our breath, literally afraid to exhale. Tuning in to the rhythm of your breathing connects your mind with your body and launches a calming process within your body.
Try it now: simply notice the place where you can feel your breath the most - maybe as the air enters and exits your nostrils, or as it moves across your slightly parted lips; you may feel it best at the back of the throat or just sense the movement of your chest or rise and fall of your belly with each breath.
Now, pause for a moment to notice how you feel. Are you feeling calmer? More relaxed? Breathing slower? It's just that easy. You just have to remember to breathe. Practice noticing your breath the next time you're feeling overwhelmed and watch what happens.
2. Making Decisions. When you're hanging out in the land of overwhelm, it's hard to know what to do next. And that can make it hard to know what to do when you reach a choice-point.
When you avoid or delay making decisions it stalls your progress and keeps you stuck. I remind the busy professional women that I work with that indecision is actually a decision. You are giving up your control to someone else (anyone else).
It is common to hesitate making decisions for fear of making a mistake, or disappointing someone. But, once you become more familiar with making decisions, you will feel more comfortable with the process.
Start with small decisions that are low risk. What are you going to have for dinner? What time are you going to go to bed tonight (yes, it's important to have a scheduled bed time; more on that in a future blog post)?
Even when you feel you need more information to make a decision, decide when you're going to make the decision (I learned this from my amazing coach, Christine Kane - thanks Christine!).
3. Taking imperfect action. This is another one I can thank Christine for (one of the many benefits of having a coach).
For those of us who consider ourselves perfectionists, it can serve to paralyze us. We either spend an excessive (and unnecessary) amount of time on a task or we delay starting it or completing it because we're waiting for it to be perfect.
Once you decide what needs to get done, breathe, and take action. It doesn't have to be perfect. Most of life is an iterative process. And, the side benefit is when you take imperfect action, you learn and grow while moving forward towards meeting your goal.
4. Celebrating your successes. Especially the little things...these often get completely overlooked.
I know for me, I would sometimes spend so much time focused on all that had to get done, that I couldn't see how much I'd actually accomplished.
I'll let you in on a little secret. Okay, are you ready? You can't get everything done. And, everything that is on your list, probably doesn't need to be there (again, that's for a future post).
Take a few moments at the end of each day, to write down what you accomplished. Include things that involved making time to take care of yourself (exercising, preparing a healthy meal, taking a warm bath). Now, celebrate by giving yourself a pat on the back. Say, "I'm proud that I accomplished "x" today.
Making this practice a regular part of your daily routine will help to boost your confidence and fuel your energy to take action on what needs to get done.
5. Correcting course. This one has been one of the hardest for me, personally. I would often find myself stuck because I was unwilling to admit that the plan I created is no longer working and needs to be changed.
There are times when I'm in the car using Waze to navigate to my destination when I'll hear a little sound followed by a swirling circle as the program indicates it's "recalculating". Our lives are the same way.
There will be times when we make a poor decision or head down the wrong road. But fortunately we have the capacity to recalculate - reassess where you are - determine your destination (it may be a new one) - and re-chart your course.
Practicing the 5 strategies above will serve you well when you're feeling stuck. Consider ways to trigger your memory to use these tools when you most need them. Print them out and post them on the refrigerator. Or, set a reminder to pop-up with one or more of the practices listed.
I hope you find them helpful you pivot as you get unstuck and move forward (while breathing a little easier). Let me know how the practices help you and what tips you have for remembering to use them.
Leave a comment below.
Are you leading your life or is life leading you? This was the question posed by my coach, Christine Kane at an intensive three day retreat.
Hmm...I'd never been asked that question before. My mind automatically replied with, "of course you're leading your life; who else would?" My heart responded, "everyone else will lead your life if you don't step up to do it."
Wow! I didn't expect that and yet the thought stayed with me throughout the three days and beyond. I realized that I had turned over the reigns to others long ago. When was the last time that I felt like I was charting my own course? There was no immediate answer.
Coach Kane urged us to - Be the C.E.O. of Y.O.U.! But how?
I've spent some time reflecting on this question since the retreat (I celebrated a birthday last week which prompted more active reflection too; milestones like this are a great time for reflection). So, here I am looking at the road ahead and asking, "where do I want to go?"
Simply asking the question is empowering. Here are 5 key elements I've found to help me figure out how to show up as the leader in my own life:
You can step up from wherever you are to lead your life. It takes courage and heart. Find support. Ask for help. And most importantly, trust in your own ability to show up for your life.
Share one thing you plan to do to step into leading your life. We'll hold space and cheer you on!
"Life has become too busy. I need to slow down." I heard myself silently repeat these words all too often throughout my week. Each time I said them, I acknowledged that something needed to change, yet nothing did.
As I sat down for the umpteenth time to create a plan to better manage my time, I had a revelation. I am the common denominator throughout the periods of busyness.
I realized I didn't need another time management system to learn. I needed to learn the art of self-management.
While I said my intention was to slow down and create more space in my life, I continued to take on new projects, volunteer for tasks and committees, etc.
The question I really needed to answer: "Why was I (sometimes unconsciously, sometimes not) keeping myself so busy?"
As I reflected on this question in my meditation, I started to notice how uncomfortable I was with "down time". Even when there were no deadlines to meet, I found myself on my laptop checking email, researching ideas, and surfing the net. It would be one thing if this activity led to greater productivity and results; unfortunately, that wasn't generally the case.
When I wasn't busy, there was a sense of dis-ease as difficult emotions emerged: sadness, loneliness, and disappointment just to name a few. Working had become a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with these feelings.
Once I recognized and accepted this truth, I had a choice: continue to do things the way I always had and get the same results; OR do something different. I decided to do the latter.
So, how do you both slow down AND manage the difficult emotions that arise?
It's important for you to open your heart and mind in this process. Be gentle with yourself. When you prioritize taking care of you, your life shifts in positive and unexpected ways. And you give others permission to do the same as you model being present for your life. This is the key to balancing your life.
Your loved ones will thank you.
Your future self will thank you.
Leave a comment below and let me know what helps you to slow down.
Uplifting Women in Medicine