Befriending Fear to Create True Happiness

Befriending fear is the first and crucial step to creating the happiness you want. While it may seem counter-intuitive to finding happiness,  looking at the ugly stuff creates a clearer vision for true happiness.

Believe me, I am good at avoiding this ugly stuff myself. However, what I have found is that if I do step over this step and try to jump straight into finding what makes me happy, it often crumbles like a house with a bad foundation. The foundation of truth is crucial.

Telling the truth about what makes you nervous about your future. Is it the fear of failure, fear of not knowing, fear of hard work, fear of swallowing your pride, fear of success, fear of asking for help? All of these, if continually avoided, can stop us from creating a life of happiness and fulfillment.

The reality is that these fears are completely normal. Expect to have these fears and concerns. Make friends with them because they aren’t going away. They will be with you throughout your life at different points.

While I have experienced all of these, my frequent visitors are fear of asking for help, not knowing, and success. These will often paralyze me and keep me trapped into what is familiar and comfortable. I even had these fears visit as I am creating my upcoming webinar – I Got the Degree – Now What?

Oprah defines “COURAGE as not the absence of fear, but having fear and acting anyways.” To be powerful is not in getting rid of the fear, but befriending it so you have power over it.

What does it mean to be Friends with Fear? I know that seems a bit crazy, but it is incredibly useful. First, you have to shift your thinking that it is your enemy or shouldn’t be there. Fear is a normal and healthy emotion and filled with helpful information and gifts. Just like your friends brings something of value to the relationship, so does fear. It is just a matter of finding out what that value may be.

The value could simply be a reminder that you are stepping out of your comfort zone or to pay close attention. Or it could it serve a deeper purpose like a red flag to self-reflect and see if there is something you may need to consider.

In the last few weeks, I have experienced a lot of fear – the kind that feels like a knot in your stomach. I have even had a few sleepless nights. It wasn’t until I stopped avoiding it and befriended it, that is has finally allowed me to breathe deeply and fully. This fear was here to have me look at what I have been doing – playing it safe rather than going after what I really want.

Recognizing that it’s time to go after my dreams, the fear doesn’t magically go away, but it isn’t controlling me anymore. It now sits in the passenger seat rather than the driver seat. With courage, I can take the steering wheel and drive toward my dreams. And fear can ride along to remind me that this unfamiliar road is the path to my purpose on this planet.

What is fear telling you?  What can you learn from your fear if you stop avoiding it?

If you would like to know more or register for my upcoming webinar -
I Got the Degree – Now What?
Click here.

A Lesson of Sandusky Trial – Speak Your Truth

This week has been filled with reminders for me to Speak My Truth.  On Monday, when Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of nearly all of his charges of sexual abuse, I was incredibly proud of the immense courage it took for the young men to stand up and speak their truth, especially in such a public setting.  They were heard and believed.  As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I am proud to see that they stood strong against the defense’s questions and were believed by a jury of their peers.  What an amazing reflection of the power of Speaking Your Truth.

On the other side of this case, you are met with more and more suspicion of Penn State administrators not speaking their truth.  While we don’t know exactly what they knew or didn’t know, it seems to be that they knew more than they had said.  They chose to keep themselves safe and comfortable, rather than speak their truth and keep the young men safe.  It is not easy to speak your truth, especially if it may not be believed or may cause upset or conflict.  But if it’s the right thing to do in your heart, then it needs to be done. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

It takes an incredible amount of courage, because often we are trying to avoid the conflict or drama that may ensue with speaking our truth.  Well…that is what I am usually avoiding.  Even though I know that speaking my truth and saying what is there for me is the best thing I can do to truly relieve my suffering, I still find myself swallowing my words and suffering in silence.

This last month, I have found myself in many moments where I have wanted to speak my truth at work, in my relationship or in life in general, but have said nothing, sat in silence.  Many nights and weekend it look like me laying on the couch doing absolutely NOTHING, struggling between calling on a friend to seek support and Speak My Truth  and wanting to avoid the feelings just under the surface.   I didn’t want to look at them and I know I didn’t have the time to do it.  But the feelings still lingered.  I could numb them out for a while, but they always remained just under the surface waiting for the next trigger to re-open the wound.

So finally in the last few days I have been willing to do some exploratory surgery on this wound hiding under the surface.  Yes, there were tears and ugly feelings that surfaced.  However, what was revealed, as usual, that my fears and judgments about the situation and Speaking My Truth is what was creating most of my suffering and paralysis.  If I can show some compassion for myself, for my silence and the situation, I have more freedom and courage to explore and address the pain.

While it often takes something to deal with the aftermath of Speaking Your Truth, because the wound is now exposed and needing attention, it is the only way to truly begin to heal.  The band-aid of avoidance just isn’t doing it anymore.

I want to thank the young men of the Sandusky trial for their courage to Stand Up and Speak their Truth.  I hope that it inspires more people, as it did for me, to stand up and speak out in whatever ways they have been silenced.  We all deserve to live a life filled with more power than pain.

Make Yourself Happy – Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself!

Do you find yourself saying “Should” often?  I should be doing better in school.  I should be finding a job for the summer.   I should be thinner.  I should be happier.  I should be a better friend.  I should be a better…fill in the blank.

If we put “should” in front of something we want to change, then it removes any opportunity for choice and inserts a lot of guilt and shame that we aren’t already there. We are “shoulding” all over ourselves and our lives, making a big mess. Once we can clear the “should” out, we can begin to find our own path instead of following the path others want for us.

Once the “should” is out of the way, we can see what we really want, what will make us happy. Our own path may contradict the norm, in fact I can almost guarantee it.  It takes extra courage and strength to follow your own path, to buck the system.  It may not make the family thrilled, it will likely be questioned by those around you, but you are the one who is living your life, not anyone else.  It is up to you to follow your own true path, and make you truly happy.

The best way to find that path is to listen to your inner wisdom, that quiet voice inside that knows your deepest desires and knows what’s best for you.  You may call that voice your gut, your intuition, your soul, Spirit, God, Goddess, or the divine within.  Whatever you may call it, it is important to listen to that voice.  For the purposes of this article, I will refer to it as intuition.  Our intuition is speaking to us all the time, but we may not always be listening.

So how do begin to listen?  Well, first we need to learn why we don’t.  In this society, we are taught to ignore our intuition because it’s just a feeling.  It’s not reliable to make decisions.  We are told to rely only on our logic and the physical evidence.  However, intuition is more than a feeling.  It takes in additional information beyond what our logical minds absorb.  It reads the energy and mood of a situation.  It taps into something bigger than ourselves to guide us in the direction we need to go.  Even if it is counter to our logic, we need to practice trusting our intuition and moving forward from that space.

There are many strategies to listen to the inner wisdom.   Listening to your intuition requires a sense of silence, a few moments where the committee (the chatter in your mind) is quieted enough for the intuition to be heard.  You may already have a few you use: journaling, meditating, prayer, or yoga.

Here is a suggestion that I use all the time. In order to quiet the committee, I take at least 3 long deep breaths. Sometime more if the committee is extra chatty. In that quiet moment, I ask my intuition one of two questions, “What is in my best interest?” if I need to make a choice or  “What do I need to know right now?” when I am experiencing a lot of drama or confusion in my life.  Sometimes it helps to write down the question and then write whatever answer arises.  Whatever strategy you use to listen and follow your true path, do it and do it often.

Once I began to trust my intuition and listen to it more closely, I have found myself to be happier and more fulfilled in life.  It requires courage and strength to go out on your own, but the satisfaction from making your own decisions and following your heart is priceless.

New Year’s Resolutions: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

With the beginning of the year, people often make New Year's resolutions, or at least consider it. If you did make some resolutions and you are anything like me, you've probably already broken your resolutions. That is not only common, it's expected. We stick to our new year's resolutions for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, but by February, we can't even remember what the resolution was.

What if you could actually have your resolutions stick? It requires taking a different look at resolutions. It takes looking at the good, the bad and even the ugly :)

The Good Stuff – Resolutions by themselves aren’t bad. They actually come from a good place, a place inside us that likes to start fresh, to start newly. That feeling shouldn’t be dismissed, but celebrated that it reminds us that we want to grow and change.

The opportunity to start fresh is important to recognize and take advantage of. When we do look at how we want to grow and change, it’s important to pay attention to see if it’s something we truly want, or what we think we “should” have. We can often get caught up wanting to change to be like someone else, instead of being our true selves. Be sure that whatever resolutions you make, it’s something that YOU really want and you stay true to yourself.

The Bad Stuff – We often make resolutions that we know we can’t keep, setting ourselves up for failure. One way that we set ourselves up for failure is by focusing on the doing, rather than on how we want to feel, successful, healthy, powerful, happy, loved, etc. We think that if we do this particular action, we will feel a particular way. For example, I have made lots of resolutions where I won’t eat chocolate so I can lose weight and feel healthy. It’s ridiculous because I know I can’t give up chocolate completely. I usually last about a week before I have a piece of chocolate in my mouth.

However, what if we flip the resolution on its head and make a resolution not about the action, but about the feeling, what we truly want. If I focus on being healthy, I have more flexibility in the actions I can take. I can eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise or not eat chocolate. You can take little steps or big steps. You get to choose. More choice means more power. More power means more success.

The Ugly Stuff – What can make resolutions most dangerous is how we treat ourselves after we break the resolution. We can judge ourselves harshly; maybe even call or label ourselves unreliable, weak or even worse. When we make promises, like resolutions, and don’t keep them, it can be difficult not to judge ourselves. However, it is crucial to have compassion and patience when we don’t live up to our promises. Remember we are human. As humans, we make mistakes, lots of them.

When we are trying to change a habit, it’s especially challenging because the old behavior is so automatic. Even as I am writing this, I am scarfing down a chocolate, chocolate cookie, after making a resolution to be healthy. I have to forgive myself for eating the cookie and start again. If we practice patience and compassion, our resolutions will be much easier to maintain in the long run. The resolutions will stick around and become more automatic.

If you have made resolutions or goals for this year, or still considering, remember you will be more successful and much happier if you stay true to yourself, focus on your true desires and practice patience and compassion. Good Luck in 2012!

Reflecting back on 2011- Preparing for 2012

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different from 2010? It is an important question to ask and ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? . If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition.

When I reflect on the year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly hangs on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s important to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. It’s also important to consider, if we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important as the ugly stuff.

When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write it down. You can be more thorough and visually see your year on paper.

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – professionally, personally, financially? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad Stuff – What disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not so pleasant surprises? What mistakes did you make that you learned from? Try to bring some compassion and forgiveness to these moments, so you can let go and move on. If there are some lessons to learn from these experiences, be sure to take those with you into 2012.

The Ugly Stuff – What were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? The important part is that you have survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to bring up the memories, the feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson, the gift, in these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that they don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

Reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011 will give you the opportunity to celebrate all your successes, learn the important lessons, and let go of any excess baggage to make 2012 the best year ever!

Gratitude Lists – Top 10 Reasons to be Grateful

Having yesterday off to give thanks, I felt compelled to sit down and make a Gratitude List to remember that I have an amazing life, even when things don’t appear so amazing.

Stopping to recognize what’s good in your life can shift your mood, your attitude immediately. If you are being grateful, it is impossible to be disappointed or complaining simultaneously. If you are ever wanting to shift your mood or attitude, then pause and be grateful.

You to can make a gratitude list. You can wake up each morning and write a list of 5 or 10 things. This can start your day in a positive way. Or you could write your list just before bed and be grateful for the day you had. It’s a powerful tool to use and choose how you want to show up in your life.

Enough about why it’s important or helpful – here is my list.

My Gratitude List – Top 10

1. My mom’s health – Just last year at this time she was in a coma – now she is fully recovered and healthy. What a miracle she is!

2. My family’s love and support – I have made big life changes over the last few years, including quitting grad school, and they have supported my decisions all the way.

3. My sister’s sense of adventure – My sister is currently living in Thailand, teaching English and traveling throughout the Southeast. What an inspiration!

4. My boyfriend’s love – It shows up even in the small stuff. I was feeling ill yesterday after dinner and he sweetly took care of me.

5. My breath – With each deep sigh, I am reminded that I am still here on this planet, able to take action, achieve my dreams and fulfill my purpose.

6. My job at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center – The opportunity to run their Girls’ Leadership Program is just a perfect melding of my passions and talents. I love the program and the people I work with.

7. Opportunity to Write – I love the opportunity to have my words make a difference for people. What a blessing to inspire and motivate with the written word.

8. My past traumas and pain – Now this one may seem odd to include, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of healing that I use on a daily basis. They have truly been gifts, just wrapped in ugly paper.

9. My friends – Too many to name here – I am continuously amazed and inspired by my friends who support me, encourage me, kick my butt when needed, but most importantly love me unconditionally.

10. My relationship with the Divine – I haven’t always had a close relationship to the Divine or God. I have spent many years developing this relationship, deepening and strengthening this bond that now seems unshakeable. I know that this investment has allowed me to surrender and fully thrive in this world, and live this amazing life.

REFLECTION
What are you grateful for? What would be on your gratitude list?

What’s a Better Answer – Yes or No?

We are taught when we are younger, ask and you shall receive. In a world where we are never enough, asking and receiving does nothing to satiate that hunger to have enough, to be enough. The grass is always greener on the other side, despite what we have achieved and received.
When we always get what we want for, we are never enough. The “Yes” from others can reinforce a lack within ourselves.

When we are told “No,” we are given a wall, a barrier. The “No” is an opportunity to question whether we want it and how much we want it. We are forced to question ourselves. The “No” is a mirror to look inward and determine what we really want.

  • Is it something we really want or something we think we should want?
  • If it is something we truly want, are we willing to go around the barrier, maybe even break through the barrier to get it?
  • Are we willing to demand what we want and do what is necessary to get it? Even if it means transforming yourself?
  • Are you willing to let go of your pride, your judgments, your perception of yourself for what you want?

All of that is behind the “No” – your growth, your opportunity to look within and know yourself.

So encourage more “No” in your life…and know yourself.