Uncategorized

Self-help: less talk, more action

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with self-help.

A part of me is a straight-up self-help junkie. I devour all the books, podcasts, and conferences that I can get my hands on. I love the teachings, the inspiration, and I work hard to incorporate the things I learn into my life.

But then there is the other part of me. The part of me that honestly finds all of it to be just a little too much. The buzz words, the psychobabble … I just can’t. Nothing brings out dramatic eyerolls from me quite like phrases such as ‘speaking my truth‘, ‘holding space’, or anything that references ‘leaning in‘ and ‘authenticity‘.

Newsflash, ‘speaking my truth‘ sounds like an overblown way of saying ‘here is my opinion‘. And ‘holding space‘ is basically a fancy version of saying you are ‘being supportive‘.

Perhaps I am just triggered by everyone’s authenticity and need to lean in to the discomfort and get grounded. (insert eyeroll here)

Seriously. It is a little too much sometimes. And don’t even get me started on yoga teachers who tell me to ‘breathe into my side body‘. Like, come on … who comes up with this stuff?!

K, rant over. Promise. (And to my yoga teacher, I’m sorry you had to hear it this way and I really do love you)

The bottomline is, psychobabble aside, a lot of this stuff has changed my life. And like anything, I don’t need to love it all. I can take what I like and leave the rest and that is exactly what I do. Besides, what do I care if someone says ‘holding space‘ or ‘being supportive‘? The intent and message is the same so I try to mind my own business and keep my eyerolls to myself.

Anyway, lately, with all of the covid-19 happenings, along with social isolation, I have found I have been consuming even more self-help material than usual and becoming more aware of what works for me … and what doesn’t. One of the things I have realized is that my frustrations with the self-help world have less to do with annoying buzzwords, and more to do with feeling inundated with information but then not understanding how to effectively use most of it.

When I look back, one of my biggest problems along my quest for self-improvement has been to do with goal-setting. When I really gave it some thought, I realized I was putting a tonne of effort into making goals, but then very little effort into making sure I actually accomplished them.

It is great to write out lists of dreams and cut apart magazines to create brilliant vision boards but if all I am doing to follow that up is sitting on my couch and drinking chardonnay out of a mug … I probably shouldn’t be terribly surprised if my big dreams don’t come to fruition, you know?

I’ve written on the topic of accomplishing goals before but one thing I was missing is how important it is to be aware of the steps we are actually taking to achieve them. We can visualize our dreams, manifest, and ‘speak our truth‘ all day long but unless we are actually following that up with action, we aren’t going to see a lot in the results department.

When I sat down and really looked at my daily habits and routines and asked myself, ‘Are these taking me in the direction I want to go?’ … I found the answer was an overwhelming, ‘not really’.

I mean, sure, I would write … for a few days. But then I would get discouraged. Or distracted. Or busy. And it would fall to the wayside.

I would eat healthy for a couple of weeks. But then friends would visit from out of town. It would be someone’s birthday. Or some sort of holiday. And I would fall off the wagon.

Everything I did was so willy nilly. So half-assed. And I realized that unless my big dreams involved some sort of certification in Netflix-watching, I wasn’t making any consistent moves towards my goals. My actions were not in line with my desired outcome.

That is when I realized the importance of what I have affectionately dubbed ‘goal-stepping‘ – the act of taking concrete, measurable steps every day to ensure I will reach my goals. (I also figured I might as well get on the buzz word bandwagon and invent one. If you can’t beat them, then join them, right?)

I think that one of the places that we get stuck when going after goals, at least where I do, is in the overwhelm. Let’s face it, when approaching a daunting goal such as starting a business, writing a book, or losing 50 lbs, it can be hard to know where to start, let alone maintain the motivation to keep at it. Add in multiple big goals and it gets even worse. We might take a couple of cracks at it but then it gets hard and all of a sudden a mug full chardonnay seems a heck of a lot easier, and pretty darn appealing.

The way I tackle overwhelm, and my #1 goal-stepping technique, is something I have adapted from the numerous self-help champions that I admire such as Rachel Hollis and Mel Robbins. I take 2 minutes every morning and write out my goals (I do my 5 year goals). Then I choose ONE small thing I can do that day that will take me a tiny bit closer. Depending on where I am at and how I am feeling, some days it might be as simple as writing an email to my Publisher, other days I might set the task of writing a chapter. Giving myself one task, rather than overwhelming myself with several, makes me so much more effective and able to accomplish much more overall. Whether the day allows for a small gesture or a giant leap, either way, I am taking one step in the direction I want to go.

The beauty is, oftentimes, that one step leads to another. (#goalstepping)

And here is the deal, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes, I find myself back on the couch, working towards my Netflix certification. We will have bad days, bad weeks, or sadly … sometimes even bad months. And that is okay, cut yourself some slack. But then, dust yourself off and get back at it. After all, you are the only person who is going to get yourself where you want to go.

So, keep your eye on the prize but don’t fall victim to overwhelm. Use all the psychobabble and buzzwords you like, but don’t forget the action! Do one thing everyday that will get you a little bit closer to your goal(s). It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. When we approach things in small measurable tasks, it is amazing what we can accomplish.

You know what they say … How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So go ahead, take one tiny bite each day. I promise it will be a gamechanger.

And I’ll be here, holding space if you need me 😉

life, Uncategorized

Overcoming Myself

So I was recently asked to speak at a women’s conference. Now when I say I was asked to speak … I mean on stage, for almost an hour, all by myself … in front of 200 women (and women can be judgy!).

I know, I know. What the hell was I thinking?!

And here is the real kicker, saying I was asked isn’t entirely accurate. I actually offered to do this. You see, I just helped a friend organize her very first women’s conference. I have always been a sucker for a good event but this one was AMAZING! It was inspirational, it was moving, it was uplifting. Women danced, cried, and laughed. And when it was done, I said “Gee, that was cool. I think I want to speak next year!”

After all, I have always dreamed of public speaking. Now, I am known to be a bit impulsive. I tend to jump into things, guns a’blazing, without a lot of thought. But, this was going to be a LONG way down the road (a whole year! That’s a long time for someone with ADD!) so it didn’t really feel like a big deal. I mean, why the hell not, right?! I had lots of time to figure it out and more importantly, lots of time to bail if it got too scary.

So when my friend called me and said “Let’s do another event! Do you think you will be ready to speak in a few months, rather then next year?” …. shit got real. All of a sudden, this very far off thing that I would have plenty of time to bail on … was right around the corner. And all of a sudden I had to get very serious about this public speaking dream I had.

The whole concept of me speaking at an event isn’t totally uncanny. I mean, let’s face it, for those of you that know me, I always have LOTS to say. In fact, it can be difficult to shut me up. But … what the heck would I even talk about?!

Now initially, I had planned to talk about overcoming fears. After all, I was about to overcome a few of them with this whole public speaking thing. The big one being fear of rejection. But then something else came to mind – the topic of accomplishment or success.

A bit of an odd topic perhaps as I am certainly not the most accomplished individual in my peer group. At least not by traditional definitions. And I am certainly not claiming to be an expert on success/achievements. Lord knows I have a long way to go before I can start advising people on anything other than how to make darn good nachos or how to binge-watch the entire first season of the Mindy Project on Netflix in record time.

BUT there have been times in my life that I have been darn near unstoppable. I have set my eye on a goal and let NOTHING stand in my way. It’s like I suddenly hit the ‘Christine sweet spot’. And then, of course, there have been times when no matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to find my way around hurdles, muster up the motivation, etc.

So, over the last little bit, I have been paying attention and examining what things I do that facilitate my seemingly unstoppable successful moments … and what things I do that have me running into the same brick wall over and over again.

And what have I discovered? What is the recipe for my my ‘sweet spot’? Well, the first thing I realized is … there is a big difference between determination and desire.

When I look back on the goals that I have accomplished in my life, they all have one thing in common – I was bloody determined that nothing was going to stand in my way. Not money. Not people. Not circumstance. Nothing. There really wasn’t even a question of ‘if’ I was going to attain my goal. There was no other option.

Whereas, there have been times in my life that I have not been successful. Where no matter what I have tried, I just couldn’t get on top of things. The reason being? I only ‘kind of wanted’ to achieve whatever the goal was … I wasn’t determined.

For example … I want six-pack abs. I would love to be able strut my stuff in a bikini and hear people gasp over the washboard that is my stomach. How bad do I want it? Well according to how often I eat nachos and watch Netflix … not that badly. You see, I come up with excuses, injuries … all sorts of bullshit that prevent me from achieving my 6-pack goal. Because the bottom line is, I have not made up my mind to do it. I’m just not that into it. Let’s just say it’s in the ‘wouldn’t that be nice’ category.

So what’s my point? Well, for me, realizing the difference between determination and desire allowed me to let go of some of the shame and guilt that I was attaching to some of these ‘failures’. And now, the first thing I do when writing down goals, creating a vision board, etc., is ask myself “Is this something I want? Or is this something I WANT?!” When I am honest with myself, I can either move forward guns a’blazin’, or I can take a look at what might be getting in my way. Which brings me to step 2 in ‘Christine’s recipe for success’ …..

You gotta unpack your luggage. Here’s the deal, sometimes what is holding us back from going after a goal isn’t a lack of dedication or resolve. Sometimes it is good old fashioned self-sabotage. Maybe we think we don’t deserve good things. Maybe we have a fear of failure or success. Maybe we think we aren’t smart/talented/attractive enough. Whatever it is, it is a bunch of b.s. We all have these sorts of messages bumping around in our heads (usually from childhood), and they prevent us from going after and achieving our goals. And just like the pile of laundry currently taking over my couch … ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have to deal with it.

How you deal with it is up to you, try journaling, go see a counselor, talk to friends … maybe even try interpretive dance! Just don’t (for the love of Gawd), avoid these things. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, trying to avoid crappy thought patterns or feelings is just like trying to avoid the border patrol while entering another country. First of all, good luck. Second of all, when they do catch you (and they will!), it is going to hurt so much more. Approaching these things head on is so much better. So unpack the crap, figure out where it originated, deal with it, and leave it in the dust where it belongs so that you can move forward with your goals. Which brings me to my next tidbit …

The power of visualization. Now this one is a big one for me because it helps me in two areas – getting very clear about what it is I am after, and getting my brain in ‘the zone’. One of my favorite speakers of all time (Mel Robbins. She is amazing!) brilliantly stated “In order to create what you want, you have to be able to state what you want.” Basically, you need to get specific. The more specific and detailed you are about your goal, the more likely you are to be able to achieve it. Now I have found this to be so true, and it is particularly important when dealing with broader goals such as ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I want to be a better mom’. It is pretty hard to achieve something if you aren’t even sure what it looks like or you have no idea where to start. My favorite visualization technique (also courtesy of Mel) that I use to get around that sort of thing is to work backwards. For example, if I visualize myself at a 10/10 in the ‘parenting department’, what does that look like? Well, for me, I see someone who has an unplugged mom/kid date once a week. I see someone who eats family meals together, who is involved in their kids schooling/activities, etc.

Now I have something to work with! My goal is more defined and I have some steps that I can actually take to help achieve it (plan an outing with my son, call and make an appointment to talk to his teacher, and get the whole family involved in a meal plan/dinner schedule.)

The other beautiful thing about visualization is, the more time we take to imagine ourselves where we want to be, the more our brain gets in the zone to actually make it happen. There is lots of research that says, when we visualize doing something, it activates the same areas of the brain as if we were actually doing it so in essence … visualization is as good as practice!

BUT, as hunky-dory as this all sounds, there is a big possibility that we will hit roadblocks when going after a goal. Which leads right into one of the most important pieces of all ..

FAILURE – it’s going to happen. At least sometimes. One of the biggest reasons people don’t succeed is that they give up when they first meet failure. They throw in the towel and say things like ‘It wasn’t meant to be.” or “I’m not talented/smart/good enough” etc.

What a load of crap.

Almost every wildly successful person in the world failed multiple times before reaching success. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school 3 times. Oprah was told she didn’t have a future in television. Micheal Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Imagine if they had all given up when they first tasted failure?! And I get it, it can be hard to wrap our heads around examples like that. I mean, come on, it’s Oprah! But we are surrounded by countless ‘real life’ stories like that too. Ask your family, ask your friends. I guarantee you that the people you respect most in the world, have failed. Probably a lot. So, get cozy with failure. Get okay with the idea. Replace the word with learning. And for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t give up.

Oh yea, and don’t forget to count your successes too. Sometimes we get so caught up on the big end goal that we lose sight of the small wins along the way. It really is about baby steps and each step we take, no matter how small it seems, is a step closer to our goal.

Which brings me to my last key ingredient(s) – accountability and empathy. Here is the deal – we are responsible for our lives. No one else. Every decision we make either adds or takes away from our dreams and our happiness. But we’re also human. We are going to mess up. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to falter. And that is okay. It is important to be kind, loving, and forgiving towards ourselves , while also taking ownership for where we are at and where we want to go. It is a bit of a balancing act between offering ourselves a little grace … but still holding ourselves accountable for what we want in our lives. After all, the only person responsible for our happiness, is us.

So …

Define your goal – get clear about what it is you want.

Unpack your luggage – stop lugging that stuff around. Get help if you need to.

Use visualization – not only to help you get clear but to help train your brain.

Get cozy with failure – it is learning.

Celebrate the successes – Rome wasn’t built in a day, baby.

Be accountable – but gentle.

And work effing hard – no one said it would easy.

But it is worth it. I truly believe that when we are willing to put in the work, we can accomplish anything we put our minds too.

There you have it. Christine’s recipe for success. If you want my recipe for nachos I am willing to share that too. They really are the best.

In the meantime, I’m going to go visualize myself giving a speech …. alone, on stage, in front of 200 women.

Something tells me I am going to have to unpack some luggage first.