Home » Blog » Coaching

Tag: Coaching

Should you treat yourself for “bad” behavior?

Here’s a question: what drives us to do things that seem self-defeating or self-destructive?

Now obviously, this isn’t a question that has a single simple answer. There are lots of reasons why we do things that aren’t in our own best interest. Some of which are more obvious than others.TreatYourself

We might be numbing ourselves to avoid feeling discomfort, or honoring a hidden agenda of self-protection that is in opposition to our stated goals and “best interest”.

However, I think there’s another common reason why we do this that’s less talked-about: you might be forcing yourself to do too many things you don’t want to do and not allowing enough time to do the things you really want to do.

In Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, she introduces the idea that we each have two selves inside of us the “essential self” (the wild, untamed, impulsive, child-like part of us) and the “social self” (the grown-up, responsible, law-abiding self).

You can watch her describe these two selves and their relationship in this hilarious video. (It’s one of my favorite things on the internet).

The idea is that as we go about or grown-up, responsible, adult lives these two selves come into conflict with each other.

The social self tells us to get up or we’ll be late for work when our alarm goes off in the morning but our essential self is tired and wants to go back to sleep so we compromise and hit snooze for 10 more minutes.

At 11 am the essential self wants to buy a cookie but we’re on a diet so our social self buys us a grapefruit instead.

By 3 pm the essential self is ready to pack up and head home for the day but the social self tells us firmly that we aren’t allowed to leave for two more hours. The work day isn’t over yet.

If you are like me, your natural inclination is to follow the rules, to march along to the dictates of your employers and institutions, and to brush off your essential self’s desires all day long.

Particularly for those of us who are high-achievers, setting aside the social self’s dictates in order to follow the essential self’s whims can feel intensely dangerous and uncomfortable.

Our academic and professional success seems to have hinged upon our ability to set aside our own needs and wishes in order to dedicate ourselves to achieving someone else’s priority (a teacher, a boss, a parent).

However, there’s a hidden cost to treating our essential selves this way. 

What happens is I get home at 6 and I’m exhausted but I haven’t had any fun yet today so my essential self stages a revolt. Instead of going to bed, which would be reasonable under the circumstances, I find myself watching silly videos on YouTube until past my usual bedtime.

At the end of the night neither self is happy.

The social self is spiraling in a guilt trip and envisioning how dreadful work will be tomorrow when I’m tired. The essential self isn’t satisfied because the fun it got wasn’t what it was really craving and it’s busy sulking about how the only time we get to have fun is when we’re too tired to have fun anyways.

The solution, as best I can figure, is to treat your essential self to the real fun it craves during the day when you have the energy to play.

Maybe you need to pull out your journal at 3pm and noodle for a bit when your essential self feels ready to call it quits.

Maybe you need to go for a walk outside on your lunch break instead of eating at your desk and then returning immediately to work.

Maybe you need to take every second Friday off in order to let your essential self roam free for a day.

Only your essential self can tell you what you need to do.

But if you have a history of “self-sabotaging” behaviors and nothing you’ve tried to date has worked I’d encourage you to try consulting with your essential self and identifying some treats you can give to yourself throughout the day.

Until your essential self is satisfied there’s always going to be a war going on inside you. And it’s so much easier to get on with things when both your selves are on the same side.

Much love,
Jessica

 

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I make a (very) small referral commission from purchases made using my links. This does not affect your price.

Sometimes you just need to make a little space

Sometimes you just need to make a little spaceI reorganized my room this past weekend.

It wasn’t a project I’d planned, but one thing led to another and suddenly there I was with a tape measure in hand, dreaming of a way to increase my floor space and to make more room for my writing.

That was Friday night.

By the time I went to sleep on Friday I’d reduced the problem from a $5,000+ problem to a $500 problem which only required replacing just a few pieces of furniture and buying some new shelves.

But what I realized when I woke up on Saturday was that I probably didn’t need to acquire any new furniture to make my new dreams a reality… I just needed to be a little more creative with the furniture I already had.

Because here’s the thing — I’ve lived with this same furniture in this same apartment for more than a year and it wasn’t until yesterday that a video opened my eyes to a new vision of my living space.

Having that dream allowed me to believe in the possibility that I could live in my space differently.

For over a year, I’d just tolerated “the way things were” because I couldn’t imagine a better solution.

And once I had, it took me a night of sleeping on it and an hour’s labor to move the furniture around and create a room that feels very different to live in. A room that is much better suited to my needs.

It is not lost on me that this is exactly what we do in coaching — we look at where your ideas about what you are capable of might be narrower than reality or where maybe you are unable to see some new possibility.

We break your rules about how your bed fits into your bedroom and test your unquestioned assumptions about relative dimensions (metaphorically speaking, that is).

We do this so that you can rearrange the furniture of your life and create a new space (a new life) to live in.

I’ve written before about my troubled relationship with rules, and it’s because they cause exactly this kind of perceptual blindness that I both love and hate them.

After all, rules are good — the help us eliminate decision fatigue which makes life simpler and more convenient.

However, rules also have an unfortunate tendency to become artificial limitations on what we believe is possible — exactly the way my bed had become an artificial limitation on how I could use my room because I had assumed (without measuring or verifying!) that it simply wouldn’t fit any other way.

So this week I want to give you permission to dream about the things that aren’t working so well in your home or your life right now. If you had a billion dollars, infinite free time, and a magic wand that could create anything, how would you want those things to be different? What would your ideal solution be?

The trick is to dream without rules or limitations, as much as possible. To really let your creativity run wild.

If you can’t think of anything better, try looking online for inspiration. You might just find your answer is a random video about furniture that transforms seamlessly from a desk into a bed and back again.

Once you’ve hit upon an ideal solution, keep puzzling out ways to downsize it until it’s something that fits within your budget (for time, money, and energy!).

How might you create the ideal effect, but do it unexpectedly?

Perhaps you don’t need a bigger desk in order to create more space for your writing — perhaps you just need to move a nightstand next to your desk so you have more space to store things.

Perhaps you don’t need a smaller bed — you just need to make some measurements and discover that your bed fits in the room in an unforeseen configuration.

Perhaps you discover that you already had everything you needed to make your wildest dreams come true and that the answer has been there all along — wanting only a vision for a better future and a little applied creativity to make it a reality.

After all, as Marie Kondo writes in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, “The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right. I can’t count how many times people have complained to me that they don’t have enough room, but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left with only the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own.

So, perhaps the answer is just waiting for you to put aside your assumptions and see it.

Much love,
Jessica

 

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I make a (very) small referral commission from purchases made using my links. This does not affect your price.

You have to be willing to wobble

By Frode Inge Helland [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by Frode Inge Helland [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Someone clever once said that “fear is excitement without the breath” (either Fritz Perls or Robert Heller, according to Google).

There’s a lot of truth to that statement — and I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week in that place, suspended between terror and exhilaration as I begin the process of finally, officially launching my coaching practice.

Which is to say that it’s been a great week. It’s also been a hard week, and in many ways an exhausting and stressful week.

For reasons which also have to do with things besides launching my coaching business, I’ve been living on the ragged edge of excitement.

I notice in myself the urge to flee the discomfort of standing balanced on the knife edge between fear and excitement.

I notice the urge to stop breathing, to hold tight to the breath I have as I power through and through and through until I reach the end of this discomfort.

Until I break free into the light.

But there is a wiser part of me that knows that this discomfort won’t pass quickly — that I will have to learn to breathe, to find my balance in this delicate place.

What I am trying hard to remember is that balance is an act of movement.

We think of balance as a moment of perfect poise, a place of stability — and this does occasionally happen momentarily when we balance. But what thirteen years of ballet taught me, is that real balance is a hundred million tiny adjustments as one tips left, right, front, and back. The wobble is an essential part of any balancing act.

True balance has more to do with allowing the wobble, than achieving a perfect, motionless moment.

Anxious. Happy. Scared. Delighted. Thrilled. Restless. Exhausted. Resting.

I’ve been wobbling all week, but I haven’t collapsed out of balance. I’ve just been teetering, teetering, teetering…

It would be easy to forget that this is what an act of balance looks like.

It would be easy to call my week of teetering “failure” and to tell myself that I should be managing to live my life more gracefully. But I think we do ourselves a disservice when we forget the the balancing is in the wobble.

In fact, the best way to guarantee you’ll fall out of your arabesque is to be unwilling to wobble.

The best way to fall out of balance is to hold tight, to stop breathing and tense up. We think that rigidity equals stability but in fact the opposite is true.

In trying to achieve that moment of perfect stillness, we lose the loose the willingness to wobble that is, paradoxically, the very foundation of our stability.

So if you, too, are struggling to maintain balance in the face of it all I’d like to invite you to notice your own willingness to wobble.

And if balance is feeling elusive, here are a few things that might help.

  1. Remember to breathe. It can be easy to think that holding onto the breath will increase stability, but in truth this never works. You can’t balance if you’re rigid. When you are truly balanced the balance moves with the breath — the breath becomes the rhythm that settles you toward stillness.
  2. Keep your focus. It’s much harder to balance if you don’t keep your gaze softly focused on a target. If you feel yourself beginning to topple, resist the urge to look wildly around for a way to save yourself! Remain calm. Remain focused. Breathe. You might need to set an intention to keep you focused in the right direction.
  3. Practice. You’re going to wobble. You’re going to fall off balance. The important thing to remember is that this is a part of the process… and that you’re going to get better with practice.

Much love,
Jessica

Searching for my natural rhythm

What would your life look like if you didn’t live by any rules?

What would it be like if you moved fluidly from moment to moment instead of planning and scheduling your whole life out in advance?

Does the possibility sound tantalizing or does it sound a little weird, a little wild… perhaps even a little bit dangerous?

The thought of living life without rules always seemed a little dangerous to me.

Without my rules what would I do and who would I be? I didn’t have answers to those questions.

At the same time, I would read about people out there in the world — breaking the rules, doing their own thing, doing it differently. And I would wonder, why can’t I be brave and bold like that?

The answer, of course, was fear.

You see, our brains use certainty to make us feel safe — we mistakenly think that when we finally achieve the moment of absolute certainty that we will have finally achieved our deepest desire.

But it isn’t true.

The more afraid we are, the harder it is to be brave because courage always involves an element of feeling unsafe — and for those of us who are highly sensitive (i.e. me!), doing the brave, bold things that make us feel unsafe can seem impossibly scary and hard.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be brave, those of us who are sensitive, and easily startled, and quiet. It just means that we move through the world differently — and that our courage looks different too: quieter, more inward looking, more slow, more steady, less bold.

Life will never be certain. We’ll always be winging it, and always when we feel certainty beginning to creep in, the tides will turn and something will fall apart.

It’s a simple fact of physics that all systems tend toward chaos and I am convinced that this is no less true of a human life.

The only way to create certainty is to work relentlessly against the tide of the unknown, a levee perpetually threatened by rising waters.

To live like that seems to be exhausting and ultimately unsustainable.

When we pin our hopes of happiness on safety and certainty — we set ourselves up for disappointment.

And yet, I do not think that this means we should despair.

Which is why I’ve begun an experiment in what I have decided to call “lawless living”.

By which I do not mean to suggest we should live illegaly, but rather that in choosing to live “lawlessly” I have chosen to remove the structured rules that used to shape my life.

When I’ve written about this before I’ve called it “cancellation” — the cancellation of all the things I put on my own to-do list.

But with lawlessness I’m taking it deeper — beyond the level of things and tasks and to-dos — all the way down to the level of identity.

Because here’s the ultimate truth: there aren’t any rules to live by.

There are only the rules you create for yourself: the behaviors and patterns you cling to because you think that they make you a “good person” or keep you safe or make you of service to others, or [insert your reason here].

And often it is those exact same rules that keep us feeling stuck and miserable and uncertain of what we really need to do.

Because the opposite of a “good person”? It isn’t a bad one. The opposite of always trying to be good is showing up as someone who is more authentically you.

It’s about finding your natural rhythm — the ebb and flow of tasks and to-dos and emotions and choices that you naturally return to when you free yourself of rules and return yourself to you.

It’s about living a life that’s less “good” and more you  — because that is kind of the secret to everything:

More happiness
More rest
More laughter
More courage
More compassion
More love

It’s all already there — locked up inside of you.

Much love,
Jessica

P.S. If you’d like to read more about finding your natural rhythm, check out this post from Martha Beck which landed in my email inbox recently

P.P.S If you think living lawlessly sounds brilliant but scary and you’d love some support in exploring what lawless living might look like for you, I invite you to work with me as one of my private coaching clients!

Permission to break the rules

Here’s how it happens. It starts when everything is humming along smoothly.

You’ve identified your goals, you’ve broken them down into next steps, you’re plugging away, you’ve got your self-care dialed in and everything is rosy.

Your schedule is full, but not too full. You’re feeling energized, excited. You’re having fun.

And then there comes a moment when it starts to shift.

Maybe it starts at work. Maybe your job becomes a little more stressful than it was before. Or maybe the shift starts at home. Maybe you get sick or someone you care about gets sick or maybe a friend asks you to help them with a project you hadn’t planned for.

Slowly, insidiously, the “extras” creep in — until before you know it, you’re not humming along smoothly at all. Instead, you’re running on a treadmill that just keeps going faster and faster and faster and things are suddenly not so rosy any more.

Or at least that’s how it happened to me.

Cue new year, new goals, fresh energy, and bright plans. Cue increasing work stress, an extra course I signed on for, and a radical commitment to show up differently in the world in 2016.

Lights, camera, action, and… epic fail.

I started off 2016 with the very best of plans and intentions. I was looking forward to taking big, bold actions and really showing up in the world in a more courageous way.

But, as usually happens when one makes a grand plan, a combination of unintended consequences and unforeseen circumstances conspired to help me fall flat on my face.

It wasn’t so much that I’d made a bad plan (in fact, I think it was a great plan!), it’s that plans never work out they way we expected them to when we made them.

My mistake was not in planning, but in failing to ditch the plan immediately when it first became clear that it wasn’t working. My mistake was that I struggled valiantly on.

I grappled with stressful deadlines all day at work and then came home to coach clients on the phone. I stayed up late writing blog posts and beat myself up for letting my meditation practice slip when it was pushing 11 pm and the choice was between meditation and rest.

My failure was my choice to engage in the struggle. And I’m going to admit that the results were less than pretty.

Due to heightened stress at work, I became less able to handle the stress of a packed coaching schedule outside of work. As my time filled up, my commitment to the routines and practices that replenish me waned, and as my ability to care for myself faded I got angry.

I got angry first at “everything” outside of me, my job, other people’s demands, and so on. I numbed my anger by staying up late catching up on TV shows I stopped watching years ago.

I transferred that anger to myself for “making bad choices” and for “not taking care of myself”.

And finally I got really upset with “the rules” — the systems and structures that I had created in my life. Systems and structures which I had put in place to support me suddenly began to take on an ominous and gloomy feeling.

In the end, I did the only sensible thing I could see to do. I took a page out of Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, and wrote myself a freaking permission slip which read “Permission to break the rules”. And then I cancelled everything I had “committed” to.

I cancelled sending out my weekly newsletter last Friday. I cancelled keeping up with the telecourses I’m taking. I cancelled some of my available coaching hours. I cancelled everything that felt stressful and aggravating and horrible in my body.

I spent some evenings watching TV, yes — but when I’d watched an episode or two I went to bed instead of staying up until the wee hours. I went to bed before 9 pm some nights and I slept a few ten hour nights.

I started exercising again. I started meditating again. Because I was going to bed so early I actually started waking up in time to meditate in the mornings before work (which I have never before managed to do).

Suddenly I can breathe again. I’m writing again and exercising again and meditating again. I’m sending out my newsletter on Monday instead of Friday and you know what? I gave myself permission to break all the rules but in the end, I’m only three days late.

If there’s a lesson in this, I think it’s that there’s no shame in quitting. Sometimes the only way to start moving forward again is to stop trying so hard for a while. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you need is to stop everything you’re doing, so that you can get really quiet and tune in to what it is that you’d actually like to be doing.

I think we get so muddled in the rules that sometimes we wind up missing the forest for the trees. We tell ourselves painful lies about how we should be able to keep our shit together when we feel like we’re falling apart, about how we should be able to handle our situation gracefully, and about how it’s bad of us to skip our meditation or our physical therapy exercises or, or, or.

The kinder, more honest truth is that sometimes life gets ugly and murky and we don’t handle it as gracefully as we’d like to. And that’s perfectly OK too, as long as we’re not telling ourselves a story about how we’re bad people because we fell flat on our face and scraped our knees and now we’re feeling a mix of anger and shame and the petulant need for a cry.

So if you’re like me and you’re off to a shaky start in 2016, I humbly invite you to write yourself a permission slip that reads “Permission to break the rules” — and then go ahead and cancel everything.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens next.

Much love,
Jessica