Month: December 2013

Roadblocks in Goal Setting

So the last post was about creating a road map to setting your goals, making things easier for you to do the things you want to do by just doing a little bit of upfront work. There is another side to this though, we haven’t talked about the things that might get in your way. This happens to us time and time again where we are ready to do something and then out of left field – WHAM! We are stopped in our tracks because something comes up, someone objects to our forward motion, or life just happens.

Sometimes we can plan for these things and sometimes we can’t. Bills roadblockare predictable and we know in advance we will have to pay them but sometimes paychecks aren’t as reliable as we would like them to be, especially if you are on commission or part-time. Sometimes unexpected expenses come up, someone gets sick or the car breaks down. These things can really take the wind out of your sails.

Sometimes we are our own roadblock. How many times have you heard someone say “My diet starts on Monday,” or “I’ll won’t put off my paper until the last minute next time.” That all sounds like bologna to me, and if you are honest it will sound like bologna to you too. Roadblocks are a fact of life; they take us off guard and hinder our motivation to reach our goals. But they don’t have to keep you from getting to where you want to be!

Its all a question of priorities. Where are your priorities? Is your goal your priority or someone else’s? That is an important question because I guarantee that the only goals you will reach and sustain are the ones that you own and are at the top of your priority list.

If roadblocks have been a problem for you, despite great intentions and planning you can’t seem to make it all the way to your goal then here are some things to thing about.

  1. Decide who owns this goal. Like I said before, if this is important to you then we are on the right track. If this is someone else’s idea then do some soul searching and see if there is any part of this you can get behind. Maybe you don’t want to lose weight but you do want to live a healthier lifestyle. You don’t really care if the kitchen gets remodeled but you do want to cook more at home (and a new grill and range makes that a lot easier!).
  2. Identify what could get in your way. If you are trying to get better about keeping your books at work and having better accounting, then late nights might be a problem that would keep you from staying at work and getting it done. If you want to reduce your carbon foot-print by riding your bike to work, rainy days might really discourage you from pedaling for 4.3 miles.
  3. Make a plan for those roadblocks. When you have a solid list of the things that might get in your way, make a plan for what you will do when they come up (because they will). You can schedule an hour towards the end of the work day, during business hours to work on the accounts and books, assign other staff to take care of the other end-of-day tasks. When it rains be sure you know where the bus route is and grab the bus instead of driving or have a carpool worked out with co-workers.

The key to success with goals is planfulness and intention. When you plan ahead and you are invested in what you are doing, you will definitely reach the goals you set for yourself. And goals can be contagious! Once you reach one you can’t wait to set the next.1


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Taking the Guesswork Out of Goal Setting

goal-settingWe all have things we want to be able to do in our lives, and sometimes we end up getting to where we want to go. If we work hard, have a direction and remain focused things generally work out the way we had hoped. But not everyone is organized and focused, not everyone is able to maintain drive to get to where they really want to go. If you are that person sometimes things can seem overwhelming and you seem to constantly get distracted by life that your goals never seem to get any closer.

What if you created a road map for yourself? Took the difficulty of focusing right out and just followed the steps laid out for you? The good news is that this is actually pretty easy, but it does take some insight and some ability to look ahead. And then you will need to stay committed to it too; you need to follow your map. But here is how to make one.

  1. List what your goal is and when you would like to achieve it by. Be specific about this, if your goal is to worry less say something like: I will be ok with last minute changes to plans by the end of May 2014.
  2. Outline what qualities or skills you need to develop to make that a reality. If your goal is more task oriented, outline what steps you need to take to get things done. Following the example, you might need to develop flexibility, better communication regarding spontaneous changes, and better relaxation techniques.
  3. Write yourself a recipe for success. Give yourself deadlines when you would like to have developed your skills or complete your tasks by. When you pace yourself and are constantly checking in about when things should be moving along, a big goal seems so much more manageable.  You may want to have 2-3 great ways to relax by the end of January, be comfortable and effective in telling others that you are stressed or anxious by mid March, and be more flexible by May.
  4. Share your goal-map with someone who can keep you on track. This is like a workout buddy or an accountability partner. This should be someone you can count on and someone who is invested in your success! Find a time to check in every week or two weeks so they can give you encouragement and help you meet your goal.

By following this process you are taking the fuzzy edges around the things you know that you want for you life at some point in the future, and you are trimming them away, defining things and framing a new lifestyle for yourself.  When you start your outline process you will see how much more you can achieve and how doable your goals really are.1


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Out with the Old, In with the New

It is amazing what we can learn about life by listening to our bodies. I have been working on breathing a lot lately, especially when it comes to helping people deal with issues around anxiety and stress. When we get really worked up and our worry, our anxiety, starts to run the show then deep-breathwe don’t allow our body to fully exhale. The body hyperventilates and the breath is shallow. When that happens the inhale becomes rapid and short and the body doesn’t take in the oxygen it needs.

All of that is to say that when we breathe the way our bodies naturally breathe best (the kind of breath that occurs in deep, restful sleep) we are exhaling fully, emptying all of the air and breathing deeply to fill the lungs with fresh oxygen. When we take in that fresh oxygen we are giving our body another opportunity to sustain life, another opportunity to move forward. The complete exhale makes room for that deep inhale, that full opportunity, to happen.

What would it be like to draw a parallel between our breath and the way we look at life?

When we exhale fully we are letting go, shedding the air that no longer serves us, the air that has completed its task. When we let go we are freeing ourselves up for new and full opportunities. Sometimes it is difficult to do that, scary even. What if we aren’t able to take in enough air? What if we start to feel lightheaded and uncomfortable? There is something about holding onto the air we already have (as used as it may be) that is comforting. We want to hold onto it because it is familiar and it gives us the illusion of fullness.

If we don’t let go off that used, hot air, then we can’t fully take in the new, fresh air around us. Just the same, when we don’t let go of the things that no longer serve us, the stuff that is used, we aren’t able to fully pull in the opportunity to start again. To breathe in fully is the same as moving forward to new opportunities in our lives where we can be refreshed and fulfilled. By keeping old air in that space is to deny ourselves of the full opportunity to move forward.

Where in your life are you holding onto old, hot air that has already served its function? Are you wanting to feel better about your work performance but can’t let go of the comfort of letting others take the lead? Are you wanting to take your relationships to a new level but are hesitant to move forward? Are you wanting to start a healthier lifestyle but find that letting go of certain creature comforts is overwhelming?

For every space in your life where you feel afraid to fully let go of the old things that no longer serve you, consider what you have to gain by exhaling fully and inhaling the new possibilities. Is it worth the temporary discomfort to potentially move yourself to a new, fresh place? A place you have been wanting to go but have been hesitant to go there?1


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They are driving me crazy!: How to deal with Holiday Conflict with Family Members

Graphic from The Family Stone. A must-see family conflict flick!

With Thanksgiving over and family tucked safely back into their dwellings, some of you may be missing family already, while others may feel a slight sensation of relief that the whole Thanksgiving business is over….or a large sense of relief.  Not that we don’t love the holidays, (or our families) but sometimes, amongst other things, conflict between family members can cause stress and anxiety to pounce up unexpectedly.  While many of us hope for the idealistic family holiday, ala the picture of Jimmy Stewart surrounded by his family and friends at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, we do have to remember that even in that movie this came after a lot of conflict and soul-searching (Clarence didn’t get his wings for nothing!).   Family Conflict can come from a variety of places including unspoken & unresolved family events (Thursday’s Blog) and personal symptoms of holiday depression (Psychiatrist James Cattell called this in 1955 “Holiday Syndrome.” Next Tuesday’s blog) but can also come from our past creeping up on us like Scrooge’s “Ghost of Christmas Past.” 

Family Conflict can occur between family members that are decidedly different or remarkably the same, but either way, one thing is certain, and that is that in some way, the person that we are in conflict with is touching an emotional part of us that may be raw and aches to be protected.  Do you have unresolved conflict with your dad and suddenly your brother-in-law is acting just like him? Your family was a mess and your cousin’s perfect family shows up and you can’t understand why you can’t stand them? These events are mirrors of our past that challenge us to deal with our stuff.  Sometimes even very admirable characteristics in others hit a place in us that is vulnerable and we can become confused when we don’t understand why we are having such a reaction that seems so visceral.  This can be a result of them awakening in us parts of ourselves that either feels undeserving of what another has, not accepting of a piece of ourselves, or a misunderstanding of what that person represents in our lives.  When this occurs we react as if attacked (even if no danger of attack is present) in our flight, fight or freeze reactions, basically laying us out our adrenals as if we had been punched in the stomach.  This could also come from a feeling of lack, or a thought that we could never have  for ourselves what they have and that in accepting this part in ourselves we can feel decidedly weak, inferior or more vulnerable.

We can be reflecting pools for one another and when we look across the tables at those we love, those we have struggled with; we are looking at our own teachers, our own struggles, our own path. We have particular strengths and weaknesses for a reason and examining those as an integral part of what makes us “ourselves” can help us appreciate the ones that have been put on our path with us.  It also helps us accept ourselves as we are as well. 

Questions to ask when these feelings arise:

What particular behavior of theirs is driving me crazy? (Or does their entire person represent something or someone…and who or what is that?)

Does this behavior remind me of anyone?

What have I been told about this particular behavior and by whom?

Do I have any judgments surrounding that behavior?

Is their behavior a direct cause of something I did or is this due to them going through something unbeknownst to me OR are they acting just as themselves and I have the issue with their behavior?

Oftentimes if we can find the source of why someone is actually getting on our nerves we are better able to cope.  We also can learn a bit more about ourselves and learn to examine those areas which may seem a bit vulnerable….or at any rate, enjoy the Thanksgiving stuffing and avoid flying drumsticks. 

Finding Your Own Version of Normal

The more I spend time with other people, watching family interactions, or watching movies, I find that we all have our own definition of normal.

Family #1
where-credit-is-dueThis family knows that things are right on track when the oldest two kids are fighting with each other, the babies are crawling all over Mom and Dad hollers from the couch for everyone to settle down. The house is a general wreck because the baby’s toys are everywhere and Mom can never seem to get the kitchen fully in order. Dad has a “man cave” and when he gets home he retreats there for 20 min to pull himself together for the tornado that is home. Regardless of the chaos, you can feel the love (maybe not between the older two) and there is a lot of support for each other.

Family #2
family-room-lWhen you walk into their house everything is spotless, the house is well maintained and everything, while not new, is in its place. The children pick at each other when the adults aren’t around and make faces when Mom or Dad is in the room.  Mom and Dad never yell, they have a look that the kids know means trouble. It is quiet and orderly and instead of bear hugs and sloppy kisses, the children get a pat on the back and a soft kiss on the cheek. There is little to no physical contact but everyone still orients toward each other and there is a sense of safety.

Family 1 and 2 could not be more different, but neither way of interacting is wrong or better than the other. Each of our families have their own version of what normal is. We as individuals also have our own version of normal. Maybe you know your anxiety is normal when you have acid reflux as a symptom but when you start to feel tense in your chest and shoulders you know this is something serious.

By understanding what our usual is we are better able to notice when we have drifted off course and we are more likely to know what to do to fix it.

Where do things get weird for you? Is it in your family interactions? In you own stress levels? Is it your self-esteem?

Identify what the problem is likely to be. Then outline what your normal response is, the one that lets you know that this is your usual and you can handle it. Finally take note of whether or not you are drifting off course or if you are on target, if you are drifting see what needs to happen to bring yourself back to your version of normal.1


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