"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?
You have so much on your plate. You're not quite sure when (or how) you'll get everything done.
There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. You're drowning in tasks. You're looking forward to the time when life slows down (when was the last time life actually felt slow?).
So many of us find ourselves inundated by an overwhelming, never-ending list of things that need to get done. And we somehow think we can do it all on our own.
So why don't we ask for help? Maybe if we had an easy button for asking it would be easier. We need a "Help button".
Most people don't ask for help because it feels hard. But that doesn't mean that people don't want help. Just think about the number of self-help books on bookstore shelves, many of which end up on the best seller list.
In my experience, there are 5 common reasons that stop you from asking for help:
1. Shame keeps you from asking. Shame pulls a cloak of darkness over your life. It keeps you isolated and feeling alone, ensuring that you will not get support or ask for help. The way to release shame is by shining the light on it. Confiding in someone and speaking your truth out loud removes the power that shame holds over you.
2. You don't know what to ask for. When you're feeling overwhelmed by life circumstances you may not know what you need help with. Here is where clarity can help. Pause long enough to write down all that you are holding. Determine which tasks and situations you are certain you can take care of and identify the ones where receiving help may bring them to resolution faster.
3. You feel you should be able to do it all by yourself. The operative word here is should. It is inherently filled with judgment. We are usually our own worst critic. When you judge yourself harshly the chance of asking for help plummet. Get another opinion and reassess your expectations of what you can accomplish in a defined time period. You may find that what you expect of yourself is just a tiny bit unrealistic (can anybody relate?).
4. You don't want to bother people. This was a big one for me. As I think back, it is pretty hypocritical since I was generally the one rushing to help and assist others. Women especially are hard-wired as caregivers and nurturers. When you dare to ask, you will likely find there are a long line of people only too willing to offer help. Allowing others to help you gives them an opportunity to practice generosity.
5. You secretly fear letting go of the struggle. The idea of addiction to struggle was introduced to me this weekend by my coach, Christine Kane. It is common to be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. What would it be like if you asked for help and suddenly your life didn't feel so hard all the time? With this one, I recommend taking baby steps. Start by asking for help with a small task and work your way up to larger more complex situations.
Until we get a that Help button, working to uncover the truth underneath our reasons for not getting help can bring about some relief and maybe a lighter load. At the very least, you may discover that you're not as alone as you thought you were.
Leave a comment below and let me know which of the above reasons you most identify with, or add your own to the list.
5/30/2014 2 Comments
BALANCE. It’s a word that's used often in our culture. Many of us are constantly seeking it. But what does it actually mean?
What would it feel like to live a balanced life? What would you do if you could free up just one hour each day to focus on yourself?
It is possible. Life feels better when you strategically align the life you live with the person you are becoming.
Living an authentic life leads to a balanced life.
In September 2012 the New York Times ran a story on straightening out the work-life balance, When the Work-Life Scales Are Unequal. Many of us work 40-60 hours per week (or more) and that doesn't include the work of parenting or personal and family commitments.
I've come to believe that “work-life balance” is a myth. Think about it, is your work really not a part of your life? It may not feel like it, but the reality is you are living your life (although maybe unconsciously) while you are working.
I used to think that balance was something you found and then life was good from that point on. Now I know better. Finding and maintaining balance in your life is a dynamic process…balancing.
What feels balanced to you in this moment may not feel as balanced one week from now. The process of balancing requires many subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, shifts in our internal and external world.
It's like practicing the tree pose in yoga. It looks like you're perfectly balanced and yet there are many tiny movements and adjustments required to maintain the pose (Unfamiliar with tree pose? Learn more with this 2 minute video from Yoga Journal). Take a minute to attempt the pose - you'll see what I mean.
Now I use the term life balancing. It's not something that will magically happen. I work daily to create habits and rituals that support balancing my life. It takes some time and effort but the return on investment is Big (yes, with a capital B).
Here are 3 things that are helping me to move towards feeling a greater sense of balance in daily life:
1. Set the intention. When I deliberately focus on cultivating balance in my life, the conditions that allow me to feel more balanced seem to appear. Energy follows your attention. When you are paying attention to how much balance you sense in your life, it raises your awareness and helps you to know if you're on track. Remember as you pay attention to be kind to yourself in the process. What you learn will help you to know what may need to change to create more balance and harmony in your life.
2. What is my vision for my life? Asking this question regularly has helped me clarify what it is I'm wanting out of life. The focus is not just on what I want to do. It includes how I want to be; how I want to show up in the world. Having a clear vision helps me in making decisions that support and move me in the direction of my vision.
3. Practice making decisions and maintaining healthy boundaries. Fear of making the wrong decision has paralyzed me at times...leading to no decision and inaction. This only creates more stress and throws you way out of any sense of balance you may have had.
I have learned that not making a decision is passive action; you are allowing someone else to determine what happens rather than stepping up to lead your life.
This lesson has been invaluable. I now practice making more decisions, giving myself permission to make a mistake knowing that it's an opportunity for learning...not the end of the world.
I also practice saying, "No" more often. This is simple and yet it feels so hard. I've recognized there are times when I don't say no because of fear of disappointing others or wanting to avoid conflict. I now ask myself if taking on a new commitment, responsibility, or task will move me closer to my vision or away from my vision. This has helped tremendously in being able to clearly say no without feeling guilty about that response.
Life balancing is a key component to thriving. And, it is possible.
Health and well-being are not simply the absence of disease. Love, joy, energy and a sense of purpose are some of the ways I define well-being, along with creating enough space in my life to show up and be fully present with the experiences I am having. This is my motivation for balancing my life.
I'm interested in hearing what gets in your way of balancing your life and what's helped you to overcome those obstacles. Leave a comment below.
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!
Uplifting Women in Medicine
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