A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”
One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”
Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.
That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.
To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?“
To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).
So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.
When I was a child (decades ago) we were taught in school that the United States was created to be the “land of opportunity.” A place where you could live free from persecution for being different or believing in a different God, and achieve your dreams of building a business which would provide you flexibility and financial security. People worked hard but also enjoyed a nationwide observance of Sundays off, a week at Christmas, and summer vacations where we drove cross-country and played together as a family.
Things sped up, and now we are a Country obsessed with being operational 24/7, sleep/rest be damned. With society on the whole working longer hours, having too many obligations and distractions, and entire generations of families that live for their measly 1-2 weeks of paid vacation, it’s no wonder high blood pressure and depression are on the rise with both adults and children.
In case you didn’t know, the US is the “only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday” according to USA Today. “By law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation. Austria, which guarantees workers the most time off, has a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. The average private sector U.S. worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays. One in four Americans does not have a single paid day off.”
Don’t even get me started on how many children are not afforded enough play time compared to the “olden days” – with school times starting earlier and running longer, homework averaging two hours a night for most middle-school kids, and four hours for high school, and then there’s an average of four to ten hours a week spent on team sports involvement or music/dance study – it’s no wonder kids have little time to actually stand outside and simply play.
All of this is tragic to me. But clearly my weekly blog and virtual soapbox is not going to change this. But what change I can encourage is that of personal time management to allow play time to be a part of your, and your kids’, weekly schedule.
One of the fundamental aspects of my business Dane Life Fitness is to help my clients carve out time where they can be artistically creative (using the right sides of their brains) or regularly play with their children (or adult friends), whether it be a card game or biking together, etc. Just some time spent on a weekly basis where they can let go of all the mental issues that stress us out (and the physical results therefrom). This play time is essential to a healthy internal and external life, as well as providing huge benefits to the core function of a family.
So whether or not you have paid vacation time, I challenge you to pick up an artistic hobby, a group sport or activity, or at least plan (and achieve) a weekly trip to the park to play catch or frisbee with your kids or adult friends. I also suggest you find a way to take at least one week a year to do something that is not just visiting relatives in another state (unless you find that relaxing). You need to get away and decompress. Your kids need do that too!
So enough staring at a computer screen – GO PLAY!
As the year winds down and the holidays rear their busy, caloric, stressful heads I want to take a moment to remind you to be accepting and compassionate – OF YOURSELF! Clearly all of us should be accepting and compassionate of others, but I find that so many people can give love and compassion to others but NOT to themselves. Therefore, this time of year that type of person is even tougher on themselves which leads to more stress and less enjoyment of what should be a wonderful time of year. Is that you?
The most typical topics that we you might beat yourself up about are:
- I didn’t reach my goals
- I didn’t get in shape
- I’m still at the same dead-end job or relationship
- I have to buy so many gifts and have no money
So listen what I am yelling at you right now: STOP IT!
If you didn’t reach your goals because you didn’t try, okay, so now you must see that inactivity and/or indecisiveness clearly doesn’t work. So find stronger motivation and perhaps an easier goal to reach (i.e., the first step towards the total end goal) and come January, get off your ass and start moving towards that goal!
If you didn’t get in shape because you didn’t stick with healthier nutrition and an exercise regiment, again, nothing will change until you do. But you are human and not alone in this – so stop beating yourself up about it. Just follow this blog, join a gym, find a trainer, or whatever it is that will MOVE you (pun intended) toward your fitness goals in the new year.
If your job still sucks the life out of you, and/or a relationship has run itself into the ground with no hope of revival, then decide if you’d rather be exactly where you are NOW one year from now, or somewhere else. If you can’t bear the thought of still being STUCK this time next year, then again, get off your ass and do something about it. There’s ALWAYS a choice that can be made and implemented.
Lastly, as for the dreaded cost and stress of holiday shopping – I know for a fact that most of us would really rather spend quality time with our friends just sitting around being together, drinking wine, playing cards, watching a movie, having a meal, etc. Same goes for fun or funny homemade or gag gifts that break no one’s bank. A token present or little joke gift to remind someone that they’ve got a friend who cares is really the best gift of all. No one wants a gift when the giver has stressed themselves out over it or incurred debt. The only person who truly demands a certain amount of money spent or certain high quality of gift is usually YOU, the giver. Otherwise, they’re not a person you should be hanging with anyway.
So do what you can to be happy and not bah-humbug this holiday season, and get your ducks in a row to hit the ground running come January. Remember, you’ve got me in your corner – I’m always happy to help keep you motivated!
Despite all the sappy love songs and common sayings like love is all you need, love is the answer, or love concurs all, love does NOT always work. I’ve studied, analyzed, and introspected a lot of problematic relationships from my family to clients, to my own journey of trial and error relationships (until I got it right with the man I married). What I’ve found is that no matter how strong the love and attraction to another is, if they are not the right fit for who you are, then the relationship at best will be filled with strife for many years, and at worst will be doomed. This is especially true for that annoying adage opposites attract. While opposites may be attracted to each other, the fundamental differences in how those “opposites” communicate, relate, and view life often makes for a very dysfunctional relationship.
Clearly I am slightly generalizing, and there are many relationships that do succeed despite having vast differences. But there’s no denying that two people on the “same page” about important life and family issues will have a higher likelihood of long-lasting success, or at the very least, less stress and strife (which is what we all want).
The biggest relationship road block is that of your “inherent personality.” There are two types of inherent personalities in humans – the “generous” type who wakes up and thinks about pleasing those around them; and the “self-focused” type who wakes up and thinks about what they need to make themselves happy first. Obviously some of us, either by nature, or life’s lessons, evolve to balance their generous vs. self-focused tendencies, which is the goal in my opinion.
But when a couple is together with one person being the “generous type” and the other being the “self-focused” type, you will likely have one person always feeling disappointed and underappreciated, and the other always feeling that they can’t ever please their partner, that nothing they do is good enough. Either way resentment blossoms for both and poisons good communication and intimate feelings.
I have come up with a list of seven issues/items that I have feel are critical for a couple to have in common if they are looking for a solid, happy, “till death do you part” partnership. They are (in no particular order of importance):
1. Communication Style.
Example: if one is a talker and the other never wants to discuss anything, you will have a huge communication problem, and likely lots of hurt and annoyed feelings.
2. Family Background.
Example: when one is from a large and very close family and the other is an only child — resentment can rise up due to a seemingly intrusive amount of time spent with their family.
3. Views of Children.
Example: you want 2, they want 6. You believe in strict discipline with specified manners, and they like it spontaneous with no apparent boundaries.
Example: you’re a weekly “Christian” church-goer, and they’re Jewish and/or non-practicing or non-believing. Faith is huge to some and not sharing it with their mate can cause heated debates.
5. Humor & Joy.
Example: they laugh everything off with their dry wit, and you are serious in most things and don’t handle teasing well. You LOVE small intimate dinner parties, they LOVE going out and having loud tailgate parties. Once again, passion and humor for life is best when shared.
6. Approach to Money.
Example: you make it then spend it, they impose unrealistic budgets and/or want to save it all. This is one of the top two reasons couples break up. The other reason…
Example: One of you prefers frequent spontaneous interactions, while the other needs the lights off, and only when you’re feeling completely ready (which often doesn’t happen). Remember that the top three issues couples fight about are sex, money, children!
Hopefully you have several of these in common with your mate – but most dysfunctional relationships have only one or two, or even none. The more of these issues that you two agree upon, the less likely you are to have chronic fights, or major incompatibility.
Of course I’m not saying dump the person you’re with just because you do not meet eye-to-eye on a majority of these issues, I’m just saying that if you are hanging on to a detrimental union where you’re not likely to ever find common ground on important life matters, then perhaps you should realize that love doesn’t always work – it isn’t always enough. Love yourself enough to know when it’s time to stop torturing each other. Remember this too, no one is WRONG, they may just be wrong for you.
Who’s got baggage – and I’m not talking about luggage as you head out on a trip – I’m talking about unresolved issues or relationships that you tote around for days, weeks, and even years? You know, those feelings of anger, depression or disappointment about something or someone that you just haven’t gotten over?
Do you chronically complain to your friends, family, and co-workers about said issue, while never do anything to resolve it? Do you re-hash conversations and actions, constantly poking at the internal scabs? Are you in a relationship or friendship that drags you down, yet you remain intent on fixing what probably cannot be fixed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. But the more important question is what do you do about that baggage? It’s simple my friends – deal with it, or dump it.
Staying stuck on hurt feelings or problems results in only one thing – staying stuck. By choosing to deal with your feelings or a problem (i.e., face them, find a solution, and take action) you will bring a slice of peace to your life which reduces stress and puts you in a healthier state of being. If the situation or person is something/someone that simply can’t be dealt with – then just dump it or them. As harsh as that sounds sometimes the best solution is to walk away and remove yourself from the detrimental situation or relationship.
The excuses that will blast into your brain at the thought are normal fears because change is scary, and finances, when involved, are always a valid concern. But ultimately (forgive the trite adage) where there’s a will there’s a way.
Start slowly if you need to; take small situations and just deal with them or dump them. Have a heartfelt conversation to clear the air, or start saying NO when facing something negative that you tend to involve yourself with out of habit. Stop being afraid to simply state your feelings and needs.
As for “dumping” a person, obviously that’s tricky but with positive motivation behind you it’s not as hard as you think. I’m not taking about simple evading tactics (not answering calls, texts, or emails), I’m talking about letting a person know that your relationship/friendship is not functioning on a healthy level, and if they’re not willing to meet you half way to fix it, then you are no longer going to participate in that relationship.
A lot of this comes down to your willingness to just LET GO. So many of us are “control-freaks” who simply refuse to let anything go even when it’s not working. We’re certain that somehow someway we can get it right. We don’t want to be quitters after all. Yet sometimes the best choice is to quit, to walk away, let it go but not see that action as a failure. It took me many years to learn that, and now I just let the crap go and/or walk away when I realize I’m swimming against an unrelenting current.
For those of you who find it hard to not focus on the problem – work on shifting your focus onto something positive that you can control, like exercise, nutrition, or just filling your time with only people and environments that have a positive affect on your life. I am well aware that all of this is easy to say and not necessarily easy to do. But nothing worthwhile is, and I can attest first hand that with practice it gets much easier.
So take stock, and if there’s something dragging you down – deal with it or dump it.
By now you should all know that negative effects of prolonged stress on the body. I’ve written about it frequently, it’s discussed regularly on Oprah, Dr. Oz, and the like. But for those of you living in a constant state of stress, I thought it time to revisit the issue, remind you of a few important stress-facts.
The kind of stress I’m addressing – that of situational, circumstantial, environmental and relationships – starts in the head (emotional). If not dealt with quickly and thoroughly, it moves into the body where if left unreleased, ricochets around your insides like a pinball! A mind/body under stress releases Cortisol. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have numerous negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Chronic digestive and intestinal issues
- Repeat muscle spasms (lock of the muscles) in the neck and back
- Serious weight gain or loss
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
Increased abdominal fat, which can in turn result in higher cholesterol, heart attacks, and strokes
So for those that counter with there’s no way to change my current situation or circumstances to alleviate the stress, I say: think again. Not to sound like our founding fathers, but “where there’s a will there’s a way.” If you have enough motivation, you can overcome – and change – anything.
So what’s stopping you?
Think on your situation for a while. Look at what fears (because it always comes down to fears) are stopping you from changing/ending your stress. Hopefully by next week you’ll come to terms with what’s keeping you imprisoned by stress and you’ll be open to positive approaches to dealing with it.
Next week I’ll discusss tools and strategies that you can utilize to reduce your debilitating stress.
Remember: stress kills!
What’s the difference between being blunt or tactful? When you are being honest are you tactful in your delivery or are you blunt? Do you make a conscious decision when to invoke either choice or is your personality simply always tactful or always blunt? Well, let me be blunt … I recommend using both at the same time.
The dictionary defines tactful as: a sense of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others, so as to avoid giving offence; having skill or judgment in handling difficult or delicate situations. Blunt has a much, well blunter definition: lacking subtlety; straightforward and uncomplicated.
Here’s why I prefer to be blunt as long as it is colored with tact. Blunt is quick, straight to the point, and usually honest. I do not have to candy-coat or tiptoe around the issue and hope that the person got the gist of what I was trying to say, and then hope further that they interpreted it with the sentiment that I intended. That’s way too much soap-opera delivery for my taste.
But unlike some people who get labeled as brutally honest, i.e., their truth tends to hurt, I feel that if you deliver your honesty with compassion and respect (tact) you will not be brutal and ideally you will helpful.
Being too tactful (without bluntness) has it’s own set of problems. This approach often results in a wishy-washy delivery of what you think the person wants to hear. Inside you’re thinking I wish I could just tell them they’re being silly or blind. How much time is wasted in your life having misdirected communication because you’re trying to be tactful. If someone asks for your opinion, or are in a position to offer helpful wisdom or advice – do it quickly, compassionately, and be succinct!
That leads me to my other favorite word when it comes to communication between people. Succinct means: marked by brevity and clarity; concise. Succinct also goes hand in hand with blunt, as both imply quick or brief. (Ah, the beauty of something put simply, clearly, and honestly makes me smile.)
So the next time you need to be honest about something of importance to you or another person, be tactfully-blunt and your life will move on quicker and be the better for it.
“Money makes the world go around.” “Time is money.” These are adages we hear frequently. Almost everything we do equates in some way to the saving of money or the saving of time. Was one of the factors behind the choice of your current car it’s gas mileage, or it’s speed (because it would get you where you need to go faster – saving time)? Do you shop at Food For Less instead of Whole Foods because you get more groceries for your dollars, or are organic co-op produced foods more important to you?
Think about how many decisions and choices you make daily that meet one of these two criteria – money or time. Now ask yourself, how much are you worth? Is there a price? Equally as important, what is your time worth?
Robert Kiyosaki who wrote the popular book series Rich Dad Poor Dad asks this question. If you have a $10 error on your credit card statement, and it takes 30 minutes or more to dispute, was that worth your time? If you were paid $20 hourly, you just lost $10-20 fighting that $10 charge. What else could you have been doing with that time that might have netted you income (or much needed time for you that has no price tag).
Unfortunately, many of us focus on time or money as external to our personal value. Are you as valuable as your spouse, children, or parents? The answer is you and your health are invaluable. You cannot put a price on them. So why then, do you often put yourself last to the wants and needs of those around you? There’s a reason flight attendants instruct parents to place the oxygen mask over their faces before placing it on their children. It’s because without you, the rest of your family is lost. So when you make a choice that negates your own well being, you are negatively affecting those around you.
I’m speaking primarily to all the “super” women out there who take care of everyone else’s needs above their own. The quality of your life may be suffering by your insistence to do it all, be it all, and yet not expect and insist upon proper reward for your hard work. If it’s not in money, it needs to be in reciprocation of time off, emotional support, or sharing of responsibilities/chores.
Spouses need to be equal partners in sharing the load. Children need to learn to handle chores and responsibilities and appreciate what they are given. Family and friends need to return favors, initiate get-togethers, and offer their shoulders to lean on when it’s your turn to need support.
So the next time you feel resentment that you aren’t appreciated enough by those around you, look within. Do you value what you do and who you are? If you do, insist upon that from others. The famous quote from the movie Jerry McQuire suddenly has much more meaning: “Show Me The Money!”
When was the last time you drove in your car in complete silence? No radio. No cell phone conversations. Just the ambient noise of the world around you. Do you ever sit in silence in your own home (and being asleep does not count)? Stop and think about how much noise surrounds you, surrounds us all, all the time.
I am amazed how often friends of mine leave their TV’s blaring while we try to converse in person or on the phone. I believe they are truly oblivious to it, unaware that the noise is a distraction, unaware too, that they are talking louder to overcome it. Likewise, in the car: having background music is one thing, but commercials that air louder than the last song, are frequently not turned down. The driver seems indifferent to the intrusion of the radio into our conversation.
Are you guilty of any of these examples? Worse yet, do you find comfort in having noise around you when you are alone? Do you need the TV to be on when you are home – just to give the illusion that you are not alone? Remember, being alone does not equate to loneliness.
Recently I took a long hard look (or should I say, listen) to how much noise assaults us on a daily basis. It is one thing to volunteer for this noise abuse. We control our radios, televisions, and streaming internet. But how about those gas stations with video screens blasting commercials at you while standing at the pump? The gas station in my neighborhood has the same commercial loudly playing from one screen for both sides of the pump island. The problem is that these commercials are not in sync so there is a 1-2 second delay from one side of the screen to the other. This results in a confusing barrage of unintelligible noise that no one pays attention to. So what is the purpose? Surely this method of advertising does not result in sales!
Why is a Life Coach addressing this, you may ask? Because how on Earth can we sort through the jumble of questions, worries, and responsibilities slam-dancing inside our heads, with so much grenade-like noise disorienting us on the outside? With so much to get done, both individually and globally, how can we focus with the volume (pun intended) of chaos that constantly bombards us.
When I was studying acting, a director assigned us to memorize lines and rehearse scenes while standing between a television and radio (with both electronics turned on, of course). The goal was to maintain keen focus while surrounded by distractions. That is a great tool for an actor. But most people are not trained with this skill, and furthermore, this is not a skill to employ when you need to reduce stress, relax your body and mind, and think clearly!
In the next week I challenge you to make some quiet time for yourself. If you live with one or more people, especially those with children, you cannot imagine how therapeutic a brief period of time spent in silence can be. Find a time when you can be alone, or at least a room where you can isolate yourself from distracting sights and sounds, and just BE. You don’t need to do this for long – I’m not suggesting a meditation session (although that is a rewarding experience). Just a few minutes where you can feel yourself breathe. Listen to the “softer” sounds around you, the noise of your home or yard.
Also perform this silence test while driving in your car. Do not be surprised if you start talking or singing to yourself. We are so conditioned, addicted if you will, to having noise around us, that when forced into a situation of silence, we fill in that space without even thinking about it.
For a real challenge, take a walk in the wilderness, or in the still of the early morning. Do not wear an iPod, do not engage in conversation if you have a walking partner. Just walk, observe the sights and sounds of nature around you.
My attack on noise may seem trivial to you, but I assure you on a global level noise pollution is staggering and its impact is hugely detrimental. On an individual level it is just one more way for you to get distracted and lost from achieving your goals and being happy. If one person at a time can make their world a little quieter, then soon the entire world will be a little quieter. Then maybe we can all get more positive changes done!
For those of you who have read Dickens’ quintessential novel Great Expectations you should understand, as the Hero Pip learned repeatedly, that having expectations leaves you open to disappointment. Yet I repeatedly encounter clients who suffer from angry or hurt feelings because they had imposed expectations upon a loved one, or made assumptions about a situation, only to experience a completely different end than anticipated.
To me, having expectations is akin to hoping, dreaming, imagining – more fantasy than reality. Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in the positive power of hoping, dreaming, and imagining, but only for the purposes of motivating, inspiring and planning. Once a solid dream or hope has been focused into proactive action, then you are truly on your way to achievement. However, you still cannot expect that these plans will turn out exactly as you planned. There are too many variables out of your control. But a solid plan (which in a way carries within it’s structure an “expectation,” albeit as a minor role) has contingencies built in, so ultimately you can, and will, succeed in achieving that which you had hoped, dreamed or imagined.
The most rampant misuse of expectation is assuming a specific reaction (or action) from another person. This is where you set yourself up to fail and suffer emotional distress. Raise your hand if you have ever said or did something nice for someone with the expectation that they would return the favor. Okay, now raise your other hand if you were disappointed by their response. Did they react less enthusiastically than you expected? Did they not treat you or comfort you as wonderfully as you had them? Did you feel ignored or underappreciated? Now the bigger question: has this happed to you repeatedly and/or frequently?
Look at any situation where you felt hurt, angry, or betrayed. Did you possibly place expectations upon an individual that in reality were contrary to how they operate? Think about this – there are two types of “inherent personalities” in this world (the two extremes, that is): selfish personalities and generous personalities. Some types wake up in the morning and immediately think about what they can do for their family and friends to make them happy. Others’ first thoughts are what they can do this day to make themselves happy. This does not mean that inherently selfish types cannot learn to balance their tendencies with acts of selfless consideration and thoughtfulness. Likewise, inherently generous martyring types can temper their selfless habits and learn to pay equal attention to their own needs.
Where your understanding of these two types is important is knowing that if your spouse is inherently selfish and you are inherently generous, then an expectation that he/she will treat you (or respond to you) exactly as you would treat or respond to them is a recipe for serious disappointment. Conversely, the inherently selfish type may often suffer from feelings of chronic guilt because he/she never seems to satisfy their inherently generous loved ones.
The solution is two-fold. First, look at the person you are dealing with and honestly examine how they operate. For example if you are dealing with someone who is overly-excitable and tends towards short-fused, emotional outbursts, then expecting a calm and rational response to certain situations would be foolish on your part. If you are hoping to elicit a strong emotional reaction or instant decision from a loved one who is slow-pondering and indecisive, be prepared for serious frustration.
Next, and most importantly, whenever possible, examine your expectations and see if your intentions are less about what you are giving and more about what you are hoping to receive. Sometimes we operate on “auto-pilot,” acting and reacting out of what seems like a need to help or give to another, when in reality, we are really wanting to receiving something we need (emotionally). If you can resign yourself to either (a) focusing strictly on the “giving” and not expecting a specific (desired) reaction or result, or (b) be more straight-forward and ask for what it is you truly need, then you will may indeed sidestep this “great expectations” vicious circle.