7 steps to saving yourself

7 steps to saving yourself instead of waiting for a fairy godmother.I actually wanted to title this post “Save me!”. Because I think, at some point, a lot of us wish for that.  Someone to just come and save us from our circumstances, from our mistakes, from ourselves. Ideally, someone who can give us what we need, without wanting anything back, or making us feel obligated or guilty or ashamed.

Likely, these feelings come up because we’ve let things get to the point of overwhelm.  We’ve probably had hints or straight-out messages that something isn’t right, but when we receive these messages, we get stressed out because we can’t figure out how to fix things in 10 seconds, so we just keep on keeping on. Until finally, we’re pushed to the breaking point or we get shocked into realizing we’re just not happy, maybe by a loss or a shakeup or a breakdown. All of a sudden, we’re lost. We need help but we can’t ask for it because we don’t know how. We’re always the ones helping everyone else. We get angry, because how can we need rescue? If only someone we don’t know that well would come along, see exactly what they need to tell us, tell us this magic information that allows us to have an aha moment and actually follow through, and then that person flies skips disappears out of our lives as quietly as they came in. But that only happens in books or movies or books made into movies.

So, how do we save ourselves?

1. First things first. Breathe. When we are stressed, feeling overwhelmed, and trapped, we forget to breathe from our diaphragm. Shallow breathing keeps us in flight or fight mode. As soon as we take even one deep breath, we relax. Things don’t seem as dire. We give ourselves back some space.

2. Sit with your feelings.  Literally, sit down, close your eyes, take deep, slow breaths, and let your feelings come up.  Don’t try to push them away. Just let them come and go. Anytime you feel overwhelmed, concentrate on your breathing: think ‘inhale’ on your inhalations and ‘exhale’ on your exhalations.  Once you’ve calmed yourself, let the feelings drift in and back out.  What this is doing is two-fold – you are showing yourself that you can have these feelings without being controlled by them, and you are also accepting that you have these feelings with no judgement.

3.  Write down your issue(s).  You can use MS Word or a piece of paper or a journal.  The feelings might come up again while you write.  Let yourself feel them, but continue writing.  Remember to stick to the facts.  Don’t write down that you are stupid or a bad person or useless.  Those aren’t facts, those thoughts are you beating yourself up for living life.   There are good times and there are bad times in life.  Every single person goes through these times.  Your worth is not defined by your mistakes or your failures.

4.  Now, write down the worst thing that can happen in your circumstances.  Think back to other times in your past when things seemed bleak and what the outcome was.  You obviously came out safely, so acknowledge that the chance of making it through this situation successfully are high.

5. Write the best possible outcome you can see happening.  How could you get to this outcome? What would you need to know?  What would you need to do? Who would you need to talk to?  Make a plan.

6.  Talk to someone you trust.  A friend, a mentor, a parent or family member, a partner.  Tell them as much as you need to about the situation and your plan.  Let them help you – they can be your champion; they can give you ideas that you may not have thought of; they can connect you to the right people; they can be your safe place to be heard and understood.

7. Take action on your plan.  Sometimes, your plan may simply entail having reminders in place to meditate, check in with your trusted person once a week to vent and debrief, or use methods to stop your negative thoughts.   Sometimes your plan will be more complicated and involve other people or organizations.  It may take a while, but taking action means you are taking control of the situation instead of it (and the associated feelings) being in control.  Guess what that means?

You did it!  You’ve become your own saviour; no fairy godmother needed.

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If you’d like some support with this, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

The one thing you need to know

The one thing you need to know is that you are enough. I woke up floating in space.  Seriously.  One minute I was in deep sleep, and the next I was staring up at stars in space.  I sat up and looked around.  I was still in bed, but it wasn’t anchored to anything. I figured I must be dreaming, so I pinched myself.  That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?  I didn’t have a spinning top or a something to read so physical punishment it was. Nothing changed.  I very carefully manoeuvered to the end of the bed and peered over. More stars and more space.  All of sudden, this voice comes booming out at me, making me jump back.

“You are enough!”
“Uh, what?”
“You are enough.” The voice was a little quieter.  It didn’t sound masculine or feminine.  It wasn’t coming from any one direction, more like all directions.
“Okay?” I was more than ‘enough’.  I had a prestigious job, nice things, lots of friends, I could travel wherever I wanted, I was a favourite uncle.  What was this…entity talking about?
“I’m not talking about your achievements or your material possessions or your social skills, Sam.  I’m talking about you.  Who you are, right in this moment and in all moments. Your strengths, your bad habits, your issues, your self-improvement goals don’t have any impact on this fact.”
“Well, great. Thanks.  Can I get back to sleep now?” Really, what was the point of this?
“What do you think when good things happen to you?  How about when bad things happen to you?  Do you think good things are due to your talents and skills, and the bad things are due to external factors that are out of your control?”
“Yeah, for the most part.  Sometimes, I make mistakes, but generally, I’d say I agree with your statement.”
“What if I told you that the complete opposite is true?  That the good things are due to external factors out of your control and the bad things are due to you?”
I was prepared to scoff, but, for some reason, I stopped and I thought about it.  What if all the shit things that have happened to me were my fault? Due to my personality or my actions or non-actions. My best friend in college sleeping with Mara; not getting that job in New York; everything that ultimately led me to scrap starting my own company.  And what if all my accomplishments were due to random luck?  My relationships? My life?  What if that was true?
“It’s not.  But it wouldn’t matter if it was.  All the good and the bad in your life don’t define who you are. You are who you are.  That’s it.”
“That’s it.  Just…me.”
“Yes.  You are Sam and you are enough.”
And with that,  I was back in my room, still sitting up in my bed.  I felt utter relief.  I’m not sure why this weird conversation got to me.  I don’t feel bad about myself, or inferior.  I think my friends would actually describe me as really confident.  Maybe I’ve been feeling like I have to constantly prove myself, show people that I’m worthy of the great salary, the promotions, the attention (professionally and personally). Now I’m feeling like it’s ok.  I don’t have to try so hard.  I can enjoy what I have so far, and take some time to figure out what I really want going forward.  Like maybe I don’t need to grasp for the next rung on the ladder or keep pushing for more just to get more.  Maybe I don’t need to keep certain people at arm’s length, just in case.  I’m enough.  I grabbed my phone and set a daily reminder for myself.  I have a feeling it’s easy to forget this kind of a realization.

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Have you ever been told you are enough?  Have you read it somewhere and dismissed it?  There is no one in this whole world just like you. That means that whatever you are is enough.  Nobody can say otherwise, because what’s the comparison marker?

How are you going to remember this important fact?  Please do it now – journal about it; write a post-it; set a reminder on your phone; make some art.  Don’t ever forget you are enough.

Have I got your attention?

Have I got your attention?  A post about paying attention and avoiding the general trap of default thoughts or behaviour“Hey, what are you doing out here?  You must be cold.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“I can see your goosebumps.  Here, take my jacket.”
“Ok, I get it.  Chivalry isn’t dead.  But, if you give me your jacket, then you’ll probably get cold.  How does that make sense?”
“I insist.”
“Why?”
“What?”
“Why?  Why do you insist?”
“Well, I don’t know.  It’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s the right thing to do to force your jacket on someone who doesn’t want it?”
“What? No! That’s not what I meant!”
“That’s what you said.”
“Listen, is this some feminism thing?”
“Are you serious? No, it’s a logic thing.  But, since you brough
t it up, would you have offered your jacket to a male friend?”
“It depends on which friend.  I mean, my jacket would never fit Josh, the way he works out.”
“Matt…”
“Ok, fine. I wouldn’t have offered my jacket to a male friend.”
“Because?”
“I guess, I’d assume they were fine or could handle it.”
“And yet, you couldn’t give me the same consideration.”
“…”
“What?”
“Well, now I’m feeling kind of dumb.”
“Don’t feel dumb.  It’s just a matter of listening, or of paying attention, maybe.  You figured I’d be cold, I said I was fine. It ends right there.”
“Makes sense.  So, can I have my jacket back?”

Are there situations where you fall victim to default thinking or behaviour because ‘that’s the way it’s supposed to be’?  Or because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’?  Are there times when it makes sense?  What opportunities for growth or innovation could you be missing out on, if you just do or say the typical thing?  Are there things or people in your personal life or at work that could bear more attention?

Choose your own adventure

Choose your own adventure www.theredelevator.comYou’ve just got some bad news.  You didn’t get the job or the promotion you really wanted.  The love of your life doesn’t love you anymore.  Your business is officially failing.  Do you:

A) Shit on yourself?  You feel like the world is against you.  You weren’t good enough for that job anyway.  Why would she still love you? You’re obviously not marriage material. Why did you think you could succeed at your dream?  Now, what are you going to do to pay your bills?

or

B) Believe that better things are on the way for you?  You weren’t meant to get this job/promotion.  You’ll figure out what’s next.  You’re heartbroken, but you know that you’ll find the person who’s right for you when it’s the right time. You’ve experienced what’s not working, now you need to explore new ways to succeed in your business.

Please note: I’m not implying that person A doesn’t realize at some point that there are good things that come out of losing out on the job/promotion or the love of their life, and learning what not to do in their business.   Nor am I implying that person B skips along in sunshine surrounded by butterflies every day, and won’t feel anger or frustration or sadness or loss.  I’m simply asking about your initial reactions, thoughts, and feelings.

If you choose A, please skip to “I’m going to give it to you straight”.

If you choose B, please read below.

You know that acknowledging the bad, letting yourself feel your feelings, accepting the situation,  analyzing the whys and coming up with solutions are the steps to come out the other side better than you were before. And during that process, you are allowed to smile, laugh, feel good, have a day off, and take care of yourself.  Feel free to give yourself a pat on the back and stop reading here. Go and check out my facebook page for some interesting articles!

I’m going to give it to you straight:  getting down on yourself doesn’t make things better.  Worrying doesn’t motivate you to get out of your bad situation. In fact, it does the opposite – it keeps you there, viciously cycling through what he said, what she did, how this and that happened and what should have happened instead.  It takes you a lot longer to push through the feelings of shame and embarrassment to where you are able to look at things clearly.
Do you scoff at those people who say that the Universe wants them to succeed?  Do you think that people who think things are ‘meant to be’ are deluding themselves? Have you ever kept up with those people to find out what happened after they went through their bad situation?  Have you found that, in fact, they are happier and more successful?  They got an even better job/promotion, they met and married the most fantastic person or their business made seven figures last year?   What do you put that down to?  Good luck? Actually, it’s due in large part to their positive attitude. Their belief that they deserve good in their lives and they will get it. I’m not saying you have to start believing in the benevolence of the Universe or in destiny, but you do have to start believing in yourself.   It’s likely you generally do, or you wouldn’t be here, but do you realize that even initially assigning blame to yourself or your personality instead of your behaviour or your thinking means that deep down, you don’t believe you deserve all the good things that you want?  When things are going well, you are confident and sure.  But when things go sideways, you get lost for a bit.

Instead,  stop for a moment and acknowledge that what’s happened really sucks.  You really wanted the job, the girl, the business to be profitable by now.  Rage, cry, get drunk, watch Love, Actually on repeat.  Feel your feelings.  You are allowed to feel bad.  Just don’t make any permanent decisions here.  Once you get those feelings out of your system, notice how much lighter you feel.  You’re ready to accept your situation for what it is.  An impermanent occurrence.  Figure out why it happened.  Be realistic and honest with yourself.  Understand that not everything is under your control, but that now you get to make decisions about the things that are under your control.  Namely, what you’re going to do next.  What are your next steps to getting that promotion?  Is it possible to talk things out with your loved one?  Who can you ask for help with your business?  Make a plan and implement.  And while you are going through this, take care of yourself.  Talk to friends, go out and let off some steam, feel good about your progress and the good things in your life.  The next thing you know, you are moving up, moving on, and moving forward.  And the next time something bad happens, you’ll choose B because you know you deserve good things and you know how to get them.

Photo credit: S. Bailey

How did I get here?

How did I get here? A post on disconnectionLila Duchesne was one of those people who didn’t remember her dreams.  She was unable to commiserate with her friend who couldn’t figure out why she kept on dreaming she was naked at work or join in dream analysis discussions with her colleagues.  She just fell asleep at night and woke up in the morning at her alarm’s insistent beeping with blankness in the hours between.  It didn’t use to be like this.   She used to have vivid dreams about flying and fantastical creatures.  She’d once had a philosophical conversation with a tree where she seemed on the cusp of understanding the meaning of life until the alarm dashed her hopes.  But in the middle of college, her dreams just stopped coming, and 20-odd years on, nothing had changed.   She was musing about this on her way to work because just last night her mother had reminded her that she used to have such a wild imagination when she was a child, always acting out little skits for ‘her audience’, making up songs about people and singing each person their own special song to make them feel better, and she used to draw out all her dreams, papering her room with the drawings.  Her mother had kept all the drawings as a reminder of her “little artist”.   Lila sighed and shook her head now, thinking that she should probably visit her parents.  It was obvious her mom was missing her.  All of a sudden, she felt an arm across her chest, pushing her back onto the sidewalk.

“Hey, Lila!  You almost walked in front of that bus!  Didn’t you see the light change?”  It was her co-worker, Steve.

“No.  Thanks for saving me.”  Lila was feeling a little shaken.  She was usually so cautious.

“Can you imagine if I hadn’t been late leaving my place today?  You’d be splattered on the front of the bus and the road too, probably.  I’d have to write your obituary.  ‘Lila Duchesne, 43 years old, a senior financial analyst with Fastech Industries, a Fortune 500 company, leaves behind her dog Samson, and …”

As Steve enthusiastically went on describing her life and death, Lila felt like she’d just done a sidestep, like, if this was a movie, everybody would be paused, and she’d be looking at herself from outside her body.  I’m 43 years old.  I’m a financial analyst.  How did I get here, how did I get to this life?  I’m Lila, the girl who could run faster than all of her friends, the girl who couldn’t wait to get up and see what adventures she could embark on.  What happened?

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When this happened to me, it wasn’t dramatic like Lila’s situation at all.  I can’t even remember what triggered it.  It was just a little shift and I thought to myself, I’m a software training team lead. I felt momentarily unreal; like I was reading about somebody else in a book.  It was rather neutral too.  I didn’t feel dismayed at the realization, so to speak, it was more like a quiet jolt. And wouldn’t it make a great blog post if I could say that was the moment I realized I wanted to do something else?  Nope. I shifted back into myself and continued working.  But, I do think that it was a catalyst to thinking about what was out there for me.

Have you ever had this happen to you?  Where you suddenly and temporarily had a bird’s-eye view of your life?

What realizations or home truths came about as a result?

If this hasn’t happened to you (or you’d like it to happen again in a more controlled fashion), what could you do to manufacture this shift process to gain knowledge about yourself?  I sometimes have daydreams about being interviewed on a talk show (doesn’t everybody?), and when I start talking about how I got to where I am or did what I did it gets me seriously thinking about why I made the life choices I did.  Other times, I’m watching a procedural and I wonder how I’d behave if I was being questioned in court.  How would I explain my actions?

Now it’s your turn.  Let me know your story in the comments!

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Do you want even more helpful questions?  Click on Work With Me to find out more about what I offer and contact me for a complimentary chat.

The dangers of momentum

Your father travels extensively for work.  When he’s gone, you miss him, and you try to learn things and do things that you think will impress him and show him how smart and capable you are.  When he comes home, you are beside yourself with excitement, and yet, while he’s affectionate to your sister, he seems to be disappointed when he sees you and rushes away before you can share all your new skills and abilities. Time goes on, and you get older, with the same thing happening every time your father comes back from his work trips. 

Finally, one day,  your father decides you are ready to go with him on his next voyage. This is what you’ve been waiting for since you can remember!  You are happy and you rush around getting ready, studying up on what you’ll need to know for the trip, and having important talks with your father (well, really, he lectures you for hours about where you’re going and what’s required of you, but you’re still having serious work meetings).  As excited as you are, in quiet moments, you feel insecure, and not a little frightened.  You have always been a sickly child, and you’ve learned how many diseases there are where you’re going, how violent the ‘savages’ are, and how there won’t be anyone else with you except your father, who doesn’t have any patience with fear or caution.   You’ll miss your mum and your sister, and the friend you and your sister have grown up with.  They know you best and have always been there for you, no matter what.  But, every time you have these thoughts, you tell yourself to “Buck up!”.  After all, your father knows what he’s doing.  He wouldn’t have asked you along if he didn’t think you could handle it.  And you know what you’re doing too.  You’ll be fine.

A couple of weeks before you and your father leave, there is a night where you meet up with your friend in the garden and she tries to kiss you, but you don’t know what to do.  You’ve never thought of her that way.  And you don’t need these distractions!  You don’t have room to think about anything but the trip.  She’s upset, and tells you that she has a feeling about you.  A feeling that if you go on this trip, you won’t come back.  You’ll die.  You step back in shock.  What is she talking about?!  Obviously, she feels rejected, but it’s quite mean of her to try to scare you about the trip.  You walk away in anger.   That’s the last time you see her until the day before the trip.  She’d fallen quite seriously ill shortly after your meeting in the garden, and you want to make sure you leave on good terms with her.  When you visit, she seems like a different person. But you talk to her, tell her you are leaving and that you hope she recovers soon.  She asks you to kiss her.  You do. And then, in a very different way than before, she tells you you are going to die.  This time, it has the pronouncement of truth.  You can feel it in your bones that she’s right.  You take your leave of her, but stop in the entryway of the house.  You can’t get the…the knowledge out of your head.  But, you’ve done all the preparations, you’ve had your heart set on this trip, you can’t back out now.  And yet…no, you are going to go.  You’ll be fine.

For those of you who watched the first season of this show as avidly as I did, you’ll recognize that I just described the story of a minor character that was told in flashbacks of one of the main characters (Don’t worry, no spoilers!  You learn he is dead quite early on in the show, and his character is only used to flesh out the backgrounds of two of the main characters).  I did use a little artistic license, as we don’t really learn the thoughts of this minor character, and also to add/subtract some details.

I thought his story was a good example of the dangers of momentum.  He was primed to his fate since he was a child.  The only son of a great explorer, and his father finally pays some attention to him.  Regardless, the true knowledge of his death should have stopped him, but his momentum, which was made up of many things (his father’s behaviour to him, his thoughts about his father and himself, his urge to prove himself once and for all) kept him going to his ultimate doom.

And really, isn’t that what keeps us going with degrees that we realize we don’t want to complete, with jobs we dislike, with relationships that we know aren’t good for us?

“I’ve almost finished my degree!  I’m not going to stop now when I’m so close.  I’ll figure something out after I’m done”.  

“I’ve worked my way up to this position for the past 5 years.  I can’t have wasted all that time for nothing.   So what if I dread going to work every day and my boss hates me?  I’ll suck it up and just deal”.

“She’s fine.  We know each other’s likes and dislikes.  We have our routine.  It’s easy.   Every guy looks at other women and wishes he was with them instead.  This is normal”.

We worry about what other people will think.  We distract ourselves with going out, buying things, drinking, eating, and other activities.  We conveniently forget the stuff that makes us uncomfortable; the things that makes us face our own truth.  And when we do have cause to think about where we are in our lives, we convince ourselves that changing would be too huge and too scary and it would mean we’re going backwards while everyone else is going forwards.

So, let’s break it down:

  1. Big change is huge and scary.  Even when you want it, it’s still risky. Are you just going to stand still forever?
    Answer: No.  The rewards of change are exponentially greater than the effort it takes to make the change.  In other words, change is worth it.
  2. Are you really going backwards if you stop doing something that makes you miserable?
    Answer:  No.  You are really ahead of everyone else.
  3. If you continue along the same path, will the (supposed) approval of others give meaning to your life and fill your heart with joy?
    Answer:  No.  Living for yourself will give you the satisfaction and fulfillment you’ve been missing.
  4. Do your knowledge, experience, skills, and abilities get erased once you leave the degree, job, or relationship?
    Answer:  No. Everything you’ve learned up till now contributes to who you are and can be used as you move towards a better future.

Whatever thoughts, stories, and (other people’s) opinions make up your momentum, don’t let it pull you along.  If it seems too hard to step out of the world for a moment and let all criticism and judgement fall away, try this trick:  What would you tell a good friend who was in the same position?  Then, take that good advice, one step at a time.   We don’t have someone to foretell when we’re going to die, so shouldn’t we stop and take stock and make sure we choose the path we’re on?

 

On a personal note…
I do realize the irony of me writing about the dangers of momentum when I rather stalled in writing for my blog (though I have kept up with posting on my social media sites).  I can offer the very valid excuse of purging, packing, and moving, and then settling in to my new place, but that just takes care of August and a bit of September.  I thought about forcing myself to write, but I didn’t want to have sub par posts.  Even though I did feel like I was sinking my business before it even really began.  After all, how are people going to get to know me if I don’t show up here? And that was the problem.  I got into the mindset that every post had to be perfectly written, perfectly helpful, and perfectly show who I am and what I think.  It took an email from another business owner about procrastination that made me realize the trap I’d fallen into.  Now, that I’m back, you can look forward to more content, on a more regular basis in the new year!  Happy Holidays!