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Forging your own bumpy brilliant path

Making decisions can be hard, but it’s even harder when they’re not your decisions to make.


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Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

~Naomi Shihab Nye


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Toxic Taunting Takes its Toll

Most of us will remember our elders counseling us, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.”  Well I am here to tell you that their advice was dead wrong. Sticks and stones may break a bone or two but the damage done by words can be a lot harder to heal, particularly when we’re directing these taunts at ourselves.  Sometimes the self-inflicted name-calling is obvious and spontaneous, like when we drop a glass and a voice inside our head yells, “Stupid, pay attention!” Or it can be a little more premeditated like when we’re trying on an old favorite pair of jeans and the voice declares, “Wow! You’ve really turned into a Fat Ass.” The chastising can also be subtler, like when we’re having a hard time getting motivated to clean the hall closet and it goads us, “Don’t be so lazy. You can do it.”

At just about any given moment of any given day the odds are the little voice inside our heads is providing us with this unsolicited color commentary of our life so often complete with this type name-calling and character defamation.  Now I ask you, if I followed you around all day talking to you like this, calling you names, mocking every other move you make, I bet–best case scenario–you would tell me to bug off, worse case scenario might be you’d test the old adage and see what a couple of sticks and stones might actually do to my bones. Both these reactions would be understandable, even defensible and yet our actual everyday response turns out to be what is most incomprehensible. Instead of acknowledging this voice for being the internal ignorant bully that it is we do the opposite by condoning it.  I have heard my clients and others defend their voices by sharing: “It replaces my parents’ guidance”;  “It motivates me”; “It tells me what I deserve to hear.”

For a variety of psychological and sociological reasons, we have convinced ourselves that we would be unsuccessful, unmotivated, unlovable people if it weren’t for the habitual haranguing by this inner voice.  But this is simply not true. When a client asked, “Who would I be if I didn’t have this voice keeping me in line?” I replied succinctly and factually, “Happier!”  The truth is, for most of us, this voice will always have a presence in our lives as part of our ego structure, but if we could, even for a moment allow ourselves to just hear that voice but not listen to it, to acknowledge it but not sanction its message, to observe it but not believe it, we would in all honesty be happier. Because, in the end, although it is true that sticks and stones can break bones, name-calling can break your spirit and no orthopedist can fix that.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE

For the next month, I invite you to begin to notice that name-calling voice inside your head. Notice how often it appears and what effect it has on you.  I invite you to consider no longer encouraging this voice or defending it as a necessary component of your success. I invite you not to accept its opinion as truth.

For those of you interested in exploring this further, I invite you to check out the following books.

Taming Your Gremlin, A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way, Rick Carson

Soul without Shame, A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, Byron Brown


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The Journey

One day you finally knew

What you had to do, and began,

Though the voices around you

Kept shouting

Their bad advice‚

Though the whole house

Began to tremble

And you felt the old tug

At your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

Each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

Though the wind pried

With its stiff fingers

At the very foundations‚

Though their melancholy

Was terrible.

It was already late

Enough, and a wild night,

And the road full of fallen

Branches and stones.

But little by little,

As you left their voices behind,

The stars began to burn

Through the sheets of clouds,

And there was a new voice,

Which you slowly

Recognized as your own,

That kept you company

As you strode deeper and deeper

Into the world,

Determined to do

The only thing you could do‚

Determined to save

The only life you could save.

~ By Mary Oliver


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Achieving Your Full Potential

It’s common practice out here in San Francisco for most supermarket clerks to offer you assistance in getting your groceries to your car. They ring you up, bag your items and inevitably say, “Ms. Mahoney, do you need any help out?”  Not once have I said “Yes” to this kind offer. But more importantly for what I want to explore here today, is that for a long time I never even considered giving anything but my habitual response of  “No, thanks” as a viable reply.  The truth is, I didn’t really even listen to the question because like in so many situations in the past when I was offered help, I knew well in advance that I would automatically turn down the support. Like when I moved and a neighbor offered to carry a box up three flights of stairs or when my friend offered to bring me chicken soup to help defend against a lingering cough. In both of these instances, and many more to be sure, I didn’t consider myself as having the option of saying yes.  Iinstead the only thing I knew to say was “No, thanks.”

I know I am not alone with my challenge in engaging support. In fact, it is one of the most common issues I see among my clients and workshop participants. When I ask them, “Who is going to support you through this process?” or, ” What kind of support are you going to get in order to make these changes in your life?” they often draw a blank. When pushed further to identify some kind of support system or network, they insist that they don’t need any support, that they are accomplished, independent people who can do this on their own.

Sound familiar to you??

In a society that places such high value on independence, many mistakenly view asking for or accepting support as being weak or burdensome but it is neither.  In fact, it is in asking for support that we show we’re strong enough to admit the need for help and clever enough to seek it out.  Furthermore, when we accept support we give the gift of allowing others to help us the same way we have helped them. Think about how honored you felt when your dear friend asked to cry on your shoulder during her divorce.  Or how flattered you felt when your selfless mother called YOU for advice.

It is my belief, and the belief of many wiser thinkers before me, that only when we allow ourselves to ask for and accept support from other people, to actually give up our addiction to independence and replace it with a commitment to interdependence, that we can truly reach our full potential and in doing so allow others the opportunity to reach theirs.

Learning how to engage support, especially after years of habitually denying yourself this abundant resource, is challenging but not impossible.

I invite you once a day, for the next month, to practice engaging support in the following two ways.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE

Asking for Support

Each day there is something we wish someone could help us with but we don’t ask for that help because we fear we will be perceived negatively. For the next month I invite you to challenge yourself and each day ask someone for support.  It can be as small as “Can you pass the sugar?” to as big as “I could really use a kidney, might you have a spare?

Accepting Support

On a daily basis we are offered all kinds of support that we habitually say “No, thanks” to because we feel that this is what we’re ‘supposed’ to say. For the next month I invite you, each day, to accept the support you are offered.  It might be a kind gesture of “Can I grab you a cup of coffee?” to something along the lines of “Let me watch your kids while you have a night out with your husband.” Whatever it is, I invite you to say, “Yes, Thanks!”

The further we have strayed from our community roots and extended families, where a village helped raised its children and you could grab a cup of milk from the neighbor’s cow across the way, the less we find ourselves asking for and accepting support from other people. I invite you to challenge yourself each day for the next month by opening yourself out to these opportunities. Perhaps before you know it, you’ll find yourself saying, “Yes, thanks!” to the question, “Kirsten, can I help you out with your groceries?”


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What’s so great about being HAPPY!

Some days I just wish people, tv, Facebook, self-help books and every magazine I see would just stop telling me to BE HAPPY! You know, I like being happy as much as the next person, I really do BUT sometimes, honestly, sometimes I want to feel OK being unhappy.  In fact, just this past Saturday, I woke up feeling in a bit of a funk and I decided to lean into it.  I put on a movie I knew was going to make me cry and I went from there. I watched, I cried, I journaled, I cried,   I had some friends over for dinner, I cried. And you know what, I liked it. I liked leaning into my sadness, embracing it, letting it flow, letting loose something that clearly wanted to be released.

Did I feel better?  Not so much that day, my nose with a little sore from blowing and my eyes burned a bit from so many tears but the next day I felt a little lighter, used fewer tissues and breathed easier.

Sounds like a good day to me.


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Learn how to Manage Your Stress!

Insight Out Life Coaching

presents

“Manage Your Stress, Manage Your Business”

Life can have its stresses but it doesn’t have to be stress-FULL.

Manage Your Stress, Manage Your Business discusses the three steps you can take
to help manage your stress and create a more sustainable action plan for your future.

BENEFITS

· Learn how to recognize stress before it’s too late
· Discover a healthier way to process your stress
· Practice tools to reduce stress

OBJECTIVES

1. Recognize stress- notice how it effects all aspects of our lives
2. Manage stress- Assess, Acknowledge, Act
3. Reduce stress- Practice stress reduction tools and exercises

LOGISTICS:
Location:  San Francisco Small Business Adminstration
Date/Time: Tuesday, March 8th from 6:00- 7:30

SOUNDS GOOD, HUH!

Well it’s even better than you think because it’s FREE! FREE! ALL FREE!

Follow this link to register:  I WANT TO MANAGE MY STRESS

PS: Although this workshop is geared towards business owners, ALL of the principles and the tools we discuss pertain to everyone so feel free to attend even if you aren’t a business owner.


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When Life Gives You Lemons–Make Margaritas

Recently I attended our semi-regular Ladies Night. This group of women actually started getting together over eight years ago. Back then it was to pay weekly homage to the official Bachelorettes who paraded themselves across the TV screen in search of true love, or at least a modeling contract. Since then there have been many marriages, quite a few babies and a handful of broken hearts, on and off screen, so now we find ourselves gathering only about four times a year.

As it turns out, I almost backed out of this last Ladies Night. Still recovering from a heartbreaking miscarriage, I was feeling raw so I emailed and said, “I’m going through some stuff today, so I might not make it.”  In the end, I showed up, as did most of the usual women.  We drank wine, ate delicious homemade food and talked…and talked…and talked. It wasn’t too long into the evening when it became clear that any one of the other women could have sent my same email. As we went around the room and told our stories, down to the last of us we were each going through some serious stuff.  The details of each story were different.  There were tales of money worries, job challenges, issues having kids, issues not having kids, love and loss. As we each poured out our experiences into this container of support you could feel the heaviness lift, our hearts and spirits rise and our energies replenish.

After we all shared, we couldn’t help but laugh at how “messy” we all were. We made jokes and feigned competition for the honor of winning “The Most Screwed-up Life Award.”  As we parted that evening, way past our school-night bedtime, we hugged and hoped and held close the wish that tomorrow might feel even just a little less messy for each of us.

The undeniable truth is that life is freaking messy! One day things are going great and a voice inside your head cheers, “You go, Girl! You got this covered!” Only to be blindsided the next day with bad news from your doctor, a conflict at work, a fight with your spouse, a toddler who refuses to wear pants, or a much-needed vacation derailed. So we have a choice, when life sends us those curve balls that nail us when we’re not looking, we can stay home and try and figure out why we don’t control the universe and everything that goes on in it (I wish us much luck with that one!) or we can grab a bottle of wine, find our Bachelorette buddies and have some good old-fashioned ‘Girl-we-got-this-covered’ talk!

PRACTICAL PRACTICE

Because life sends us enough “stuff” to deal with, I invite you to take the next month to not think of yourself as something else you need to do or work on. Instead, I invite you to acknowledge and accept yourself as being the most amazing, kick-ass, wonderful, special, intelligent, perfectly messy person that you already are!


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Don’t Worry, Be Unhappy!

Encouraging being unhappy may seem like an unlikely offering coming from someone who purports to help people live more fulfilling, joyous lives but stick with me here for a few moments and I’ll show you how being unhappy could provide your key to contentment. Many people, including myself, sometimes feel burdened by messages from the popular media implying we are only one positive affirmation or funny joke away from everlasting happiness. We are told with the right dosage of such things as positive thinking, regular exercise and expressions of gratitude we can unlock the secrets to our bliss.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit I feel attracted to the notion that I may have unlimited control over my emotional ups and downs. I am drawn in by such pronouncements as, “Change your thinking, change your life.” In the end, however, I find myself feeling more trumped than triumphant. My original sadness is often compounded by my sense of failure to apply these simple offerings successfully, resulting in my happiness slipping that much further from my grasps.

It’s not just me, either; I have seen this same behavior in my friends, colleagues and clients. A friend once describe it as “double dipping,” feeling bad about something and then feeling bad that you are feeling bad about it–quite the vicious cycle to say the least. My sense of what is going on isn’t just that we don’t like feeling unhappy, it’s that we feel that it is wrong to feel unhappy or angry or sad and that we will be punished in some way for it. One client even articulated it as such. She lamented, “I don’t want to be sad because then I will just attract more sadness.” The fact is, sad things happen, marriages break up, homes go into foreclosure, we lose our jobs, people die. Having unhappy feelings about these things is only human and natural and, in the end, healthy!

As part of the beautiful spectrum of emotions, feeling unhappy, believe it or not, plays a critical role in teaching us about ourselves. It would be like removing the color red from the rainbow simply because it wasn’t as pretty or made you feel as good as the color purple. In continuing with that same analogy, we wouldn’t even have the color purple if it wasn’t for the red, and we wouldn’t appreciate the elation of happiness if it wasn’t for the depth of sadness.

PRACTICAL PRACTICES

To cultivate an appreciation of the benefits of unhappiness, for the next month I invite you to embrace your unhappiness and the unhappiness of those around you. Feel free to engage in any of these offerings or create some of your own.

  • You know how it happens, when you’re watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and you’re trying not to cry? Well, next time you’re watching a sad movie or television show or reading a heartbreaking novel and feel like crying, go ahead and let those tears flow.
  • When you’re feeling unhappy take a moment to get to know your feelings. Notice how it feels in your body. Does it affect your posture, your tone of voice, the way you walk? Do you feel heavy? Is there a sense of emptiness or stillness?
  • The next time you’re consoling a friend and find yourself about to tell them affectionately, “Don’t cry, it will be OK,” you might say instead, “Feel free to cry as much as you like, it’s good for you.”
  • Instead of reflexively reaching for that remote control or telephone or some such diversion to distract you as soon as you feel those telltale signs of unhappiness, grab a journal instead and write about your feelings. See where it takes you.

And not to worry… for most of us the time we spend honoring our unhappiness will not lead us forever into the depths of despair. As the seasons change, so will our feelings. When the time is right the storm clouds will pass, the sun will come out and there will be rainbows with their cornucopia of glorious colors for us to appreciate all that much more again.


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Finding your balance one step at a time

We often make things much more complicated then we need to even when we’re searching for simplicity. Nigel Marsh, shares how eating a pizza might be your first step to getting on your right track.


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