As the new year begins, there is the flush of a fresh start, the inspiring hope and excitement that things can and will be different. Unfortunately, that inspiration of change soon fades into quickly forgotten self-promises. Quickly followed by our “inner mean girl” who berates us and tells us know once again, we’ve failed. Ugh!
The Pain of Unkept Promises
We’ve all been disappointed by others when they say they are going to do something and don’t. But nothing compares to the feelings I have when I continually let myself down or break a promise to myself. It sends me right down that rabbit hole of personal criticism, self-loathing and guilt.
What is a promise? It’s a commitment to ourselves or to others to do something. We keep a promise through our actions. Interestingly, while we may keep promises to others, we frequently break promises we’ve made to ourselves. We all know how that feels—not good!
One Simple Action
Now, we could see a therapist to figure out why, sit for hours in self-reflection, or read dozens of self-help books (Yes, I’ve done all of them and yet still struggle with this.) Rather than focus on a big promise (like a New Years resolution) that I’ll achieve some far-off goal, I’ve shifted my perspective and simply promise myself to do one thing at a time. Just one simple action which moves me to the next action and the next to achieve the result I desire and keep the promise I made to myself. Simple, slow, focused and all small acts.
Continual actions form habits, good or bad, and become grooved into our brain and life. So it follows, those same habits become our life and lead to results (either what we want or what we don’t want). Consider a daily habit you no longer even think about, something like brushing your teeth. You don’t consciously debate whether or not you “feel like it”, “it doesn’t do any good anyway”, or all those other excuses you tell yourself instead of simply doing the task. That habit is simply a part of your life.
Self-care is a promise we make to ourselves, one essential for our well-being. So, we must make it a daily habit in our life based on that promise.
A Self-Care Exercise
Here’s an exercise to keep a promise to yourself–a promise of supreme self-care. Make a promise to be kind to yourself every single day. This promise requires you do something nice for yourself each day. It needs to be something that delights you, lifts your spirits, soothes your soul, or nurtures your body. (For example, it could be a luxurious bubble bath or something as simple as going to bed earlier to get enough sleep.) Such simple acts of kindness, self care and gentleness will do more to lift your spirit than you can imagine…plus its a great way to practice keeping promises to yourself.
Share your new self-care habit with our blogging community, or how you keep promises made to yourself.
Share how this exercise has worked for you to inspire others.
I was profoundly awed by one woman this week. With little fanfare, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. The stats were impressive–over 103 miles, 53 hours, 23 knot squalls and 3 foot waves. This was her 5th attempt at 64 years old, 35 years after her first attempt when she was 29 years old. Amazing!
To achieve her goal, the challenges were formidable. Sharks, jellyfish stings and other sealife issues, hallucinations, tongue swelling, and nausea were just a few. Yet she did it! She trained. She researched and found successful shark deterrents, she wore a specially designed, thin-nylon “jellyfish” suit and applied a special face cream to prevent bites and stings. She also had a team of five boats, several divers, physicians, and kayakers along on her quest. Then she looked out over that expanse of ocean, dove into into the water and began swimming.
When Diana finished, she shared her three messages, “One, never give up; two, you’re never too old to chase your dream; and three, it looks like a solitary sport, but is it a team effort.”
How inspiring for everyone—especially those of us sixty and older. After hearing of her feat, I’m applying her lessons to my life and my dreams. Are those dreams lingering from my twenties still possibly attainable today? Yes, definitely. (Fortunately, they don’t entail water.) Can I identify the obstacles and figure out ways to overcome them? Yes, with research and continually seeking answers to issues as they arise. (Interestingly, I don’t even consider age an obstacle.) Are there people who can be part of my “team” to help me achieve my goals? Absolutely! Some I already know and others I will meet along the way. My determination factor could be kicked up, but I find that one small step forward generally leads to another and another.
Diana Nyad also had a mantra to get her through all of the physical, emotional, and mental challenges along her journey. Her mantra “find a way“.
What dreams linger just below the surface, waiting for you to get going? I encourage you to dive into your dream.
As I stand looking out to my ocean, I’m diving in. I am going to definitely “find a way”. Stay tuned!
Recently I voluntarily transitioned from a wonderful 30 year career to a “I don’t quite know what yet time” in my life. I am fortunate because I made this decision consciously in my time. It wasn’t thrust upon me, as is often the case in these precarious, changing times. However, it has landed me into what author/life coach Martha Beck calls “Square One—Death and Rebirth” (from her book, Finding Your North Star)
I thought I was prepared, given all the transition, career and midlife change books I’ve read in the past couple of years. Add in many in-depth conversations, several workshops, and other random sources of information, I thought I had it covered. Not quite! I had not anticipated the range of emotions I have felt. It’s quite the emotional cocktail–a shot of uncertainty, splash of eager anticipation, and a dash of fear. The good news–I honestly know these feelings are temporary and I’m already moving through this period. Here are three suggestions I have if you’re going through such a transition time.
- Simply be present in the day. This is the first time in years where I wake up to a full day with nothing planned. At first it was overwhelming. Now I actually am present with myself, tuned into what I’m feeling, and trying on ideas and what feels good to me. I also learned it’s OK if I really don’t want to do much or accomplish anything. I’m trying new recipes, lingering over my morning coffee, and aware of the summer light as it changes through the day.
- Be comfortable with not knowing. I’ve had to let go of my identity as a professional woman, consultant, speaker, and trainer. My role as a mother has shifted as my sons are grown with full lives of their own. I feel naked, yet wonderfully free to try on new roles or varied identities.
- Simple self care is essential. Get enough sleep–at least 7 hours a night. Prepare and eat good food. If you like, have a glass or two of wine. Breathe. Throughout the day, take several deep, slow breaths, being conscious of the flow. Move your body, preferably outside doing something you enjoy. I happen to enjoy running, walking, tennis and golf. Find something you enjoy and move!
Remember, this period doesn’t last forever. It’s a threshold from the old into a completely new place in your life. There’s magic in this time!
As a lifelong procrastinator, I finally have fully embraced the mantra “do it now!” I had a habit of putting things off until the last minute for many reasons. At no time is dealing with procrastination more relevant than in our “bonus years”. At this fabulous time in mid-life, I am so grateful for each morning, particularly when I reflect upon those for whom their life ended far too soon. So, putting off the important things in my life was a luxury I no longer could afford.
Here are my 3 challenging issues and keys to help you do what’s important now, with less procrastination.
Issue #1: I thought everything should be done perfectly or it just wasn’t good enough for others or myself, so I put things off and not get started on projects. I’d get so close to the deadline and find myself running out of time and say, “well, I just didn’t have enough time for it to be perfect.” It somehow justified I couldn’t possibly have done it perfectly.
Key #1: I realized “perfection” simply doesn’t exist….there will always be something better at some point in time, and someone else’s definition on what’s perfect. What might be a perfect meal or perfect experience is only so at that moment…it’s relative to timing and how I experience it.
Action: Now, I ask myself—Does this truly give me pleasure now or will it in the foreseeable future? Is this result fine for the situation, the amount of time and the amount of energy I am willing to invest? Is it really that important?
Issue #2: I thought I had all the time and energy in the world. Everything felt unlimited to me.
Key #2: I truly believe I do have “enough” time and “enough” energy to live a full, valuable life. However, it no longer feels unlimited today where there are more years lived than years ahead for me. (Ok, let’s not get into the philosophical or spiritual perspectives at this time—that’s another conversation entirely.) I have come to terms with the fact I have a finite amount of time left on this planet. I also know I have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else.
Action: Now, I am more aware of what I’m doing, who I’m spending time with, and how I feel throughout the day’s activities.
Issue #3: Scrambling and sliding into a deadline to finish something gave me an adrenaline high and I really believed I did my best work under pressure. (After all, I received many “A’s” on term papers, written during those infamous “all-nighters”! )
Key #3: I still love the feeling, but have found ways to experience “the highs of life” in other, healthier ways. I also know I do not do my best work under pressure—that was flawed, outdated and just bad logic!
Action: Now, I’ve learned that pre-planning, setting a reasonable schedule to get things done, and allow for time to review and revise along the way, I have saved money, have had better things show up, and had time to truly enjoy the process.
Simply start from right where you are! Something small, a baby step, move in the direction of your dreams….right now!
This year, unlike in the past, I deliberately decided NOT to write out resolutions, set goals or intentions for the year. It just makes me feel bad in mid-January. So, I made it really simple this year. It’s actually a technique I learned from Mother Nature and years of gardening.
If you don’t want weeds, plant and take care of what you love and these plants will crowd out the weeds.
In life terms…for me, this means do more of what I love doing and it will crowd out what I don’t like. Simple, right? Easy, not always. A few simple steps to consider.
1. We need to really know what we love (that is, what brings us joy and energizes us). This includes people, activities, and our environment. (Not what we’re “supposed” to love or enjoy, but what truly energizes us and makes us “better” for the time and energy spent.)
2. Add them to our life and on your schedule. Make a commitment on your calendar. To say, we don’t have enough time makes no sense. To make something happen or get done in my life, I HAVE to put it on my calendar. Important things must be on your calendar, not just your to-do list. For some reason, it took me years to figure out things don’t leap from the to-do list to the calendar and seem never to get done.
3. Just do it. For example, I love to run, yes, simply run outside, listening to my music. But I don’t like getting started, that first mile is awful for me. So, I schedule my runs for the week, get dressed to run and I head out, listening to my ipod. I focus on what I love in that moment, my music. Soon, I’m past the first mile and truly loving the run. The other day, the weather was rainy, so I just put on my rain jacket and went for a run in the rain…..all good, even enjoyed that first mile because it was so different and invigorating!
One more example. I love the feeling and the look of a pedicure. In the past I didn’t do manicures because they don’t last (see above, I garden!). In my desire to do more of what I love, I decided to get my nails done with that new gel process (it doesn’t ruin the nail bed as with acrylics and it lasts). Now I have doubled my pleasure of lovely nails. I see my fingers all day, they make me smile. Also, that wonderful hour of feeling pampered is nice too.
Wishing you a year filled witn more of what you love and all that energizes and brings you joy!
Join Nancy and Cherryll as they talk about how “You are the most important person in your life.”
In times of major transitions, we impatiently want to leap ahead of ourselves and onto the next thing. Often without much thought. In my experience, this rarely works….the best forward movement in these times seems to be by small turtle steps. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Most of us have moved through our lives like that rabbit….hopping along and moving quickly. We dart around to get where we need to be, avert possible disasters, and react to the immediate situation.
Now consider the turtle who slowly moves ahead and arrives (in the story at least) well before the rabbit shows up. Another thing about the turtle, she has everything she needs with her. Aren’t we really more like a turtle at this stage in our lives as we move forward with all we need, including self-protection? It simply requires slower, smaller steps along the way.
I am learning this “turtle step” business. Before, I would add to my ever-expanding “to-do”list—write book, run 1/2 marathon, lose 20 pounds, and take vacation. Could I do any of these in one giant leap? Of course not. Plus each of them is overwhelming in magnitude and would stress me out. I either sat frozen in place or darted around like a crazy rabbit!
When I break the big stuff down to one small thing at a time, it feels inconsequential, but surprisingly it gets done. And that leads me to the next small step and then the next…and before you know it, I’m there.
So, wherever “there” is for you….start with a small step. And before you know it, you’ll arrive at your destination.
Well, it’s raining this week in northern California. I love the rain. The smell of rain–fresh and clean. The sound of rain tapping on the garden shed outside. The feel of rain as chilled wet drops hit my face. Even the taste of rain….now that’s pure and refreshing! Watching rain as its hits the ground, it seems to bounce up. All my senses are at play when it rains.
While many find rain inconvenient to our busy lives, I feel more alive. It reminds me we live in a natural world that simply ignores those previously calendared (outdoor) events. It heightens all my senses and puts me more ‘in touch” with what is around me. I notice cloud formations and where the sun is or isn’t. I am more focused on my driving and my surroundings when I’m outside during a rain storm. I feel more alive, more connected to the world and to life through my senses.
How alive and aware are you of your surroundings? When you enter your home after being gone for several hours—-how does your house smell? Look around your rooms and notice the pictures you hung years ago. Do you still like them? What about the taste of a fresh apple—-can you tell the difference between a Gala and a Braeburn?
Our senses guide us, enrich, and enliven our world, our life and our spirit.
“If you atrophy one sense you also atrophy all the others, a sensuous and physical connection with nature, with art, with food and with other human beings, “Anais Nin observed.
I encourage you to come alive and experience your day fully with your senses. If you don’t like how your home smells, buy candles, potpourri or simply open a window! Rearrange your pictures, putting them in different rooms. Wear that cuddly red scarf a friend knitted for you (and you’ve never worn) when you take a walk in the rain. Soak in a bubble bath tonight. Besides, if there was something you were saving (like those candles, nice soaps, clothing, new recipe to try), today’s the day—after all, it’s raining!
Aside from dressing in the morning, how much attention do you pay to your body? Sure we notice stiffness, or pain when we move. However do you notice when everything is working well? Do you appreciate the softness of you skin, the strength of your bones and muscles, or even how efficiently your body regulates your temperature to keep you comfortable?
I know I spend far more time on my head and in my head than I do the rest of me. We are sensual beings and should be enjoying each sensation as we experience it. Instead we think about the past, worry or plan the future and spend far too little time in the present. I realized this as I drove through the Santa Cruz mountains early Sunday morning. The highway was deserted and peaceful, oh perfect…a time to plan the day or reflect on past events. The present drew me out of my head as I viewed the coastal fog drifting through the trees that were floating silently like islands in the sea. The sunlight formed magical shafts of light that illuminated the deep, dark forest surrounding me. Even with all this beauty around me my mind kept racing ahead to plan the day and I had to drag it back to enjoying the moment.
I have made a pact with myself to be more present this year. I can’t change the past or the future, I can live in the present. Today notice each of your five senses; the sight of a beautiful sunrise, the sound of a Mockingbird, the smell of a baby’s skin, the luxurious feeling of fur, or the taste of a sour lemon. Enjoy it all, enjoy the moment…it will never come again.
After college I worked for a typewriter company selling ancient pre-computer writing devices. At the ripe old age of twenty seven, I retired for the next 18 years to rear my two children. At age forty five, I began thinking about rejoining the adult world and took a look around to see what that was all about. I realized the working world had changed and my skills were as ancient as the devices I used to sell. What’s a girl to do?
Many opportunities that were once an option no longer exist, while new possibilities abound. I took some time to look back, way back, to find a thread of an interest that has always been there, undiminished by time or circumstances. I heard that you should do what you loved as a ten year old. Hmmmm? I jokingly told a close friend “all I really loved as a ten year old was to play with my friends and have fun”. “That’s it!” she said, “That’s exactly what you do best, you are doing what you were meant to do!” WOW, it’s true! That is how I run my business, my life, and what my workshops are all about. Maybe there is something to the idea.
Give it a try. Think back to a time in your life before the world had an impact on you and remember what you loved…