Summer is here - a time of vacations and a slower pace of life. It's so easy to be present on vacation. Time pressures are relaxed, schedules are more flexible, and there is less sleep deprivation.
While vacationing in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, I was enjoying a brisk walk a block of the shore. The sky was a brilliant blue, soft white clouds were slowly drifting by, and the breeze was cool and comfortable.
I was appreciating my walk outdoors, catching glimpses of the ocean between houses. Suddenly, I was caught in sun shower. I felt a sense of immediate dread and a bit of panic.
What was happening? I wondered why I had gone from feeling calm and peaceful to being gripped with fear in a matter of moments. I didn't care if I got wet...the rain actually felt cool against my skin.
My eyes darted around quickly scanning the area for a temporary shelter. I urged my partner to walk faster so we could get out of the rain. As she lovingly and firmly grasped my hand she reassured me that all was well.
"All is well." I knew that to be true and a bit of the anxiety eased. With, curiosity, I explored what had just happened.
The rain was falling hard enough that between the water and the humidity, I couldn't see through my glasses. And, I couldn't see without them (I'm legally blind without corrective lenses).
I was in an unfamiliar environment and without my sense of sight, the sense I rely on most heavily, I felt vulnerable...unsafe.
That recognition allowed me to be gentle and kind to myself as I navigated what felt like a big challenge.
The rain passed soon enough and my heart returned to it's previous rate. What did I learn from this experience?
1. The fear and anxiety that gripped me so suddenly were not really due to a change in my external circumstances. It was triggered by a series of thoughts about the changing conditions (the rain is here, I can't see, if I can't see I'm not safe). I didn't need for the rain to stop to make me feel at ease. I was reminded that we can change our experience simply by shifting our thoughts. We can choose how to respond to life in each moment.
2. I don't need to be in South Florida walking along the beach to appreciate a beautiful blue sky or other natural elements all around me. Appreciation can occur wherever you are. Find the beauty in daily life.
3. An affirmation can provide a lifeline to hold onto as you find your way back to safety. In this case - all is well - reminded me that I was really okay in this moment. And while our mind may wander into the past or leap into the future, we can only ever be in the present moment. Life is richer when are mind and body come together in the present so we can be here now.
Happy Independence Day!
In addition to the cook-outs and fireworks celebrations, today is an opportunity to give thanks for the freedoms we have in this country and the men and women who keep us safe.
This year, I'm also taking time to pause and think about my personal freedom. The question that came up during this reflection time: How free do I feel to be myself?
I thought about the times when I feel most comfortable in my own skin. What allowed me to relax into who I am and show up as me - flaws and all? What things blocked my authenticity or caused me to shrink?
After spending some time with these questions, here is what I learned:
1) Remember that you are human. This may sound silly yet it is so easy to forget that we are only human. The times when I shrink and play small are the times when I think I need to be perfect and am not measuring up to an impossible standard. Reminding myself that I am human allows me to be kinder to myself and reset my expectations to something more realistic.
2) You are different on purpose. I grew up hearing people say, Michelle is different. I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking that something was wrong me so I worked hard to be more like everyone else. I now see the error in that way of thinking. What makes me different is now embraced and celebrated. What shifted? I now see and appreciate the value of my own uniqueness. I am the expert in my own experience and I get to share those gifts with the world.
3) See the beauty in yourself. So often we look in the mirror and automatically scan for what is wrong - hair out of place, unwelcome forehead pimple (don't you hate those), too many bulges in places that shouldn't bulge. What if instead, you look until you see the beauty in your eyes, in your smile, in the gentle curves of your body that frames the inner strength that has brought you to where you are today. Take a moment to really look into your own eyes, see the real you behind the veil, and say simply, I - love - you.
4) You have the right to choose. Fear of failing is one of the biggest obstacles to making choices that honor who we are. Falling down is a part of the process. The mis-steps we take sometimes shift the path we're on, leading us to incredible places we never could have predicted or imagined. You always have a choice in how you respond to life. If you don't like the results you're getting, you have the right to choose again - make a different choice. Remember this when you're feeling stuck; you get to re-decide. Knowing that you have choices gives you the freedom to try new things.
5) You are not alone and can ask for what you need. I really get into trouble when I forget this basic fact. Fear of being alone and feelings of isolation can impact the decisions we make. Feeling alone is a mindset. We often withdraw into an inner world, alone with our negative thoughts that convince us that no one cares and we don't matter. But, this is simply not true. The truth is at time we make a choice to be alone. What's the antidote? Reach out and ask for help and support. I've learned that it is unfair to expect people to read my mind. You may be really good at helping and supporting others. How good are you at accepting help? This takes practice. Identify a circle of support. Talk to friends and loved ones. Find a coach, counselor, or mentor. Practice, practice, practice asking for what you need and remember, you are not alone.
So today, I am celebrating feeling more free to be myself than at any other point in my life. How about you? What helps you feel free to be you? Leave a comment below.
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.
"What would I do without my calendar?"
If you're like busy people, you live and breathe based on your daily schedule, filled with errands, appointments, and to-dos.
But, I wonder if there is one very important appointment missing from your calendar?
Where do you find time for you? Do you regularly make it onto your schedule?
Most people respond no to this question. Somehow there is a belief that the time you need for yourself will magically appear on your calendar. The truth is, you won't find the time if you don't make the time.
So what's the problem with not having any time to yourself?
This bumper sticker I saw walking through the parking lot says it all.
This is the secret fantasy you may sometimes have of leaving it all behind and just disappearing for a while. What really lies underneath this feeling is wanting and needing some time just for you.
We take care of so many people in our work, in our families, in our friendships...but where is the time to take care of you?
I strongly recommend scheduling "My Time" appointments with yourself every day.
This creates some built in breathing space in your day. It's an opportunity for you to be with your own thoughts and to check in to see what's up for you. It is a gift you give to yourself.
So how do you do this?
Okay, there is enough here to get you started.
Are you ready to take the challenge?
Schedule time for yourself daily for the next 30 days. Leave a comment below and let me know what name you have given "your time" and share any obstacles that you think may get in your way.
There is a community here ready and willing to support you!
"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?
Uplifting Women in Medicine