Happy No Matter What

It’s 6:33 am. I’m sitting at my desk. I’ve been up for over an hour. I’m hoping to get some work done before the baby and my three-year-olds wake up. Then it’s time to get them dressed, fed and off to school. There’s a mountain of books next to me and one on the floor open to the chapter I was reading before the baby woke up from her nap yesterday. I have a pile of bills in front of me. I’m flanked on each side by baby paraphernalia, a swing to my left and a play gym to my right. A Music Together CD is in the computer.

Work-life balance.

A lot of working moms strive for it.

I picture my children, well groomed, sitting quietly eating a hot breakfast at the kitchen table. I look amazing as I finish up a call with a client, holding the baby on my hip with one arm while dolling out pancakes with the other. All the laundry is clean, neatly folded and tucked away in its appropriate drawer. When it’s time to go to school, the twins bring their plates to the sink, wash their hands, put their coats and shoes on and scurry off obediently to the car…. You get the idea.

In other words, when I think about work-life balance I resist reality.

It’s 7:00am now. Everyone’s awake. I step into my bedroom – there are kids sitting on the floor in various stages of getting dressed, a baby sitting in a swing waiting for a diaper change, a husband pulling a shirt over a giggling girl’s head, laundry everywhere – some of it dirty, some of it clean. My husband and I struggle to get the kids fed and off to school. I notice the oatmeal sticking to Alice’s hair as I load her into the car. I spot a huge hole in Anthony’s Buzz Light-Year shirt (the only one he’ll wear these days) as I strap him in.

Then I realize something. My life is crazy. It’s busy. It’s messy. And it’s incredibly out of balance. Nor will it ever fit into mutually exclusive compartments like “work,” “life,” “health,” “spiritual development,” or “recreation.” I hold the baby most work days after all. And I can thank life in general – work, family, my health, all of it – for my spiritual development. On most days being with my family is recreation…

The point is, when I’m not worried about creating balance in my life I can see and appreciate it and love it for exactly what it is: a wonderful, messy, out-of-balance, crazy, happy life.

What are your thoughts on “work-life” balance?

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Jan.19.2011

How to Feel Important

I confess. I’m a total nerd. I love to read vintage self-help.

In 1937, Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. It became an instant success, one of the best selling books of all time. You can still find it at your local bookstore.

Reading the book confirmed my suspicions – How to Win Friends and Influence People, is a book about approval seeking for approval addicts.

Everybody wants to feel important. Carnegie says it’s one of the greatest of human needs, up there with food, sleep, and sex. While the need for food, sleep and sex are easily satisfied (some of us might beg to differ), the need to feel important, he argues, is not.

Carnegie knew what many of us won’t admit out loud:

We all want a fan club.

I’ll save you a trip to Barnes and Noble and help you kick start your fan club. Here are Carnegie’s six steps for winning friends:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is, to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in the terms of the other person’s interest.
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

These are all very lovely suggestions. I think genuine interest in others is a good thing. Remembering names is always an effective strategy when attempting to make friends.

I can’t help but notice though, amidst all the discussion about winning friends and influencing them, Carnegie doesn’t say much about…

Why so many of us rely on other people to feel important.

I have a client for example who mentioned difficulty at work. She was spending a lot of time worrying about a coworker. The client, a very charming person, admitted feeling frustrated because she just couldn’t seem to win her over. When I asked why it was so important to win her over, she said:

“If I can’t get her to like me then I would be open to the possibility that something might be wrong with me.”

Many of us go out of our way to please, please, please. All for the sake of getting the approval we never seem to give ourselves.

As author and coach Brooke Castillo points out, “when we aren’t giving ourselves enough love and approval, we look outside of ourselves to get it.”

Our need for approval comes from our own disapproval.

Some call it the inner dictator; others the critical voice. I’ve heard it called the critical storyteller. At any rate, recognize the little (or not so little) voice in your head that loves to criticize.

Trust me, unless you’re aware of it, you’ll believe everything it says. The inner dictator can be darn right mean. Here are some things mine says to me:

  • You loser! What were you thinking?!
  • You look fat, why would you even consider leaving the house like that?!
  • You’re too loud. Nobody likes you.

And so on…

How often do you talk to yourself in ways you would never talk to your friends, coworkers, family or even your worst enemy?

The good news is you can start giving yourself approval instead of seeking it from other people.

Once you recognize the voice of your inner dictator, stop believing it! Speak to yourself the way you might speak to your own child, your best friend, the love of your life.
Once you start approving of yourself, you’ll see that you never really ever had to look outside of yourself to feel important. You laugh because you really do think it’s funny. You speak up when you disagree. You say no to other people and yes to yourself. You teach others how to treat you.

The result? Your relationships become more authentic and you can finally focus on your true work in the world.

Be your own number one fan.  More fans will follow, I promise (and you won’t have to memorize a single name).

If you liked this article, please join me for my upcoming free class!

 

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Jan.18.2011

A Modern Day Princess

I’m planning on running a half marathon in July. Running a marathon was never something of interest. Women who run marathons are not like me, I used to think. A completely different breed of woman. I filed them away under women who “camped in.” The same type of woman who carries a  mountain bike over her shoulder as she navigates a tricky section of trail. Athletic women. Outdoorsy women. The kind in Athletica catalogues.

I’m a girl’s girl. I like to buy shoes, get my hair done. I try to keep my toes pedicured at all times. But something is happening to me. Last month, for example, I caught the end of the New York City Marathon. To my complete and utter shock, I was riveted. I mean, it’s just a bunch of people running, right? On another occasion I was watching Survivor. This particular season was shot in Nicaragua. One of the rewards was  “volcano surfing“  down the side of an active volcano. Another was a zip line adventure over the jungle. I was jealous.

So maybe I’m not so different. Maybe I am one of THOSE women. Or maybe I’m a new breed – a modern day princess.

As a life coach one thing I know is I don’t have to fit into a neat and tidy package. I can run a half marathon and still sport gorgeously pedicured toes.

I can surf down an active volcano wearing a pink bow in my hair, if I want to.

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Jan.11.2011

The Dictator, the Wild Child and the Watcher

In my work with weight loss clients, I teach a tool called the dictator, the wild child and the watcher. The dictator is that voice inside your head that scolds. She says things like “what were you thinking, you fat slob.” Or worse. She has your best interests in mind, she thinks, but will stop at nothing to make sure you behave. There’s another voice inside your head called the wild child. The wild child loves to have fun. She also has your best interests in mind, she thinks. She wants you to be free, free, free! She says things like “Oh just eat it, you had a long day and you deserve it.” She and the dictator are constantly at odds.

I tell my clients to hold out the palms of their hands and picture them – the dictator, four inches tall, standing in your left palm, the wild child, four inches tall, standing in your right palm. Look at them. What do they look like? What are they wearing? What are they saying to you? Now notice, if you are neither the wild child nor the dictator, who are you? You have assumed the role of the watcher. The one who observes these two. Who offers them both compassion.

Who doesn’t buy into either of their crap.

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Dec.30.2010

Fat is Not Your Enemy

It’s just a neutral thing. It doesn’t make you any less of a person to carry excess weight. When you look in the mirror and you see fat, how do you feel? It’s not the fat that is making you feel that way, it’s what you make that fat mean. It’s what YOU say to yourself about that fat. Afterall, fat is just fat. Nothing more. Neither good nor bad.

Please do not wage a war against your fat.

I learned that Isabelle Caro, a French model, is dead from anorexia at age 28.

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Dec.29.2010

Indecision is the Antonym of Resolution…

… I know because I looked it up.

I suck at resolutions. I usually make them then forget about them in few weeks.

But not this year. Here is the big epiphany: In order to get what I want, I have to know what I want. And isn’t a resolution really just an intention?

Gretchen Rubin offers some excellent tips for creating awesome resolutions. Check it out.

I’ll be sharing my resolutions soon! What are yours?

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Dec.16.2010

When the Body Says No

Yesterday I was feeding the baby when I experienced a jolt of pain shoot through my back. I had to lay there helpless for a few minutes. Today my back was still sore. I had to take some ibuprofen just to get through the morning.

I have to listen to my body. Even though I love my bootcamp classes, the workouts might be too much too soon.

I’m taking a break.

See, moving more is not something I do to lose weight. All militaristic references aside, those bootcamp classes are a gift I give to myself – the gift of feeling proud, the gift of health, the gift of feeling stronger, the gift of fitness. If I don’t listen to my body, then it would be me trying to beat myself thin. And that’s not the kind of example I want to set for my children. It’s not how I take care of myself.

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Dec.14.2010

A Simple Cure for Holiday Overwhelm

Peace is more than just a feeling. It’s the mental and physical frequency where you’ll find all your real power.—Martha Beck

Here are a few items on my holiday to do list:

• Buy Christmas presents
• Wrap presents
• Take kids to see Santa
• Order, write and send Christmas cards
• Put up Christmas lights
• Decorate house
• Go get Christmas tree
• Decorate Christmas tree
• Buy ingredients for Christmas cookies
• Bake Christmas cookies
• Plan Christmas dinner
• Prepare handmade gifts for family

I wouldn’t say I’m a scrooge. I love doing all of these things. I want to do these things. It’s just… Well, thinking about all of it makes me crazy, moody, bossy and yes, even a little bitchy. I admit it – every December I feel complete and utter overwhelm.

This isn’t a piece about simplicity during the holidays. If you want to read about that try this excellent article by Terry DeMeo.

This is about gratitude.

I know many of you are familiar with the research on gratitude. Sonja Lyubomirsky, for example, summarizes the benefits of being grateful in The How of Happiness:

“People who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic, and more hopeful and to report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. They also tend to be more helpful and empathetic, more spiritual and religious, more forgiving, and less materialistic than others who are less predisposed to gratefulness. Furthermore, the more a person is inluced to gratitude, the less likely the less likely he or she is to be depressed, lonely, envious, or neurotic.”

As the research would have it, the key to happiness is gratitude. It seems so damn obvious, but I recently realized I’ve been doing it all wrong.

You see, some time between thanksgiving turkey when, like every other year, I reflexively inventoried all the things to be grateful for and dressing my kids to see Santa, I learned how to practice real, live, non-bogus gratitude. Actual gratitude, that is. Not theoretical gratitude.

What’s the difference between actual gratitude and theoretical gratitude?

Actual gratitude is a verb – you feel it. It’s delicious. It makes your heart sing. It makes you want to break out into spontaneous song and dance. You begin baking cookies for everyone you know.

Theoretical gratitude is a noun. It’s an inventory you do in your head. “These are all the things I should be grateful for…

So this season, if, like me, you are inclined to feel extreme overwhelm at the thought of all there is to do during the holidays, I recommend one simple little cure. Actual gratitude. Get out of your head and into your heart. Really dive in and enjoy everything you have to be grateful for until it literally makes you stop everything you’re doing and smile.

Once your heart is singing with gratitude, stop and notice what happens next. I bet you don’t even notice that you forgot to prepare homemade lemon strawberry jelly for your sister.

May your holiday be filled with love, light and GRATITUDE.

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Dec.8.2010

Self-Care is the Missing Ingredient

“I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.” — E. B. White

I had the great pleasure of interviewing the magnificent Jennifer Louden for the final segment of my series of self-care. Jennifer has written several books including my very favorite, The Woman’s Comfort Book. I couldn’t wait to get her take on self-care and she did NOT disappoint. Check out the interview to learn why Jennifer sees self-care as the missing ingredient in saving the world!

More about Jennifer:

Favorite self care book: Mary Oliver’s poetry
Favorite self care practice: Witnessing my thoughts
Favorite self care food: Boy choy
Favorite self care role model: My dogs
Favorite self care song: There is so Much Magnificence by Steve Gold

To recieve her free Find the Good Booster Pack which includes her e-course about self-trust click here. To check out The Comfort Cafe, click here.

Want More?

To see more from Amy’s Self-Care series, click here. To sign-up for her free e-course titled I Don’t Need Your Approval! How to Overcome Your Inner Approval Addict, click here!

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Dec.8.2010

Working out is hard…

Yesterday I participated in a boot camp class. It was baby boot camp, but these ladies are no powderpuffs.

It was hard.

I love to help my clients shift their expectations when it comes to moving more. I tell them to make working out a gift to themselves. Instead of looking for immediate results, make whatever you do for exercise something you enjoy. The body wants to move, I tell them.

I haven’t exercised for nine months and that class was hard! It reminds me that sometimes, the things we do to be better don’t always come easy. My body hasn’t moved like that for a long long time. But it is still a gift.

I love this quote by Brooke Castillo in If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight:

“People who exercise regularly are communicating to themselves and the world how they should be treated. They are making a statement that they are willing to give themselves for the sake of giving health and care without so much regard of what they will ‘get out of it’ in terms of losing weight or looking good. Give yourself emotional strength, the ability to overcome excuses, motivation, pride, and the emotional commitment to state that you matter.”

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