When Every Setback Feels Like a Failure

 

Raise your hand if you start emails with apologies.

“Sorry it took me so long to reply…”
“I’m sorry your email got lost in the pile…”
“I’m sorry to have missed your thing…”

I’m resisting that urge big-time today. Something happened to offset my commitment to put my thoughts to paper (screen) every other week and I desperately feel the need to apologise for it – like I’ve failed.

I can logically see that yes, life happened in a way that focused my attention away from my plans: I was in a small car accident – no injuries other than my car, but it still turned my world upside down if even briefly.

To be honest, my thoughts were mostly focused on self-indulgent musings about why such a thing happened (the awkward part of believing that we create our own reality) and wracking my brain for the lesson so that I could move on. (As you can imagine, that part hasn’t quite sorted itself out yet.)

Now that I’m back to the land of the living, I find I’m beating myself up for not having done all the shoulds I let fall to the wayside for a few weeks.

Do you ever feel that way?

Like when you set out every morning with the best of intentions for how you’ll eat well and meditate and exercise, only to find yourself at the bottom of a bag of chips by the mid-afternoon.

Or when you write out the agenda of what you’re determined to accomplish in a day and get lost on Facebook for an hour before you even get started.

Or when you decide to recharge the love in your marriage only to be triggered by that thing he says as he walks in the door.

So you feel like you failed, and why do you even try, and you’ll be stuck here forever.

Where did that come from, the belief that a setback is a failure? More importantly, what can you do to get over it?

Two words: perfection paralysis

To loosely quote my friend Casey, that’s the way we freeze our lives to maintain the high standards we set for ourselves in response to high standards society sets for us.

Here are 3 ways to defrost that need for those perfect standards and move forward:

1. Stop trying to do it all at once! (aka take baby steps)

Rather than revamp all your eating habits overnight, take one thing from that list the health coach gave you and do that for a few days before you attempt the next one.

Take one task you want to accomplish today and break it into the 3 steps it actually requires, and let that be your agenda.

Rather than expect rainbows and sunshine, avoid going down the rabbit hole of negativity by giving your man a smile and offer him a fun little piece from your day.

2. Get in touch with your own perfection

Sit quietly, breathe into your belly and open yourself up to the light and love waiting in there (possibly hiding quite deeply) for you to feel it.

This may take a few tries to get…this stuff can be subtle and quiet, especially as compared to the loud and persistent voice of your inner critic and whip-slinger who is always ready to lynch you for the slightest transgression.

Put on a timer for 10 minutes to keep you from getting frustrated or trying too hard. Do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.

3. Set the bar from the inside

Again, get in touch with that perfect you.

Listen to your body for clues as to what you need, as to what standards you want to adhere, as to what the first next step is.

And here’s the key…possibly even the hardest part: when you’ve got your answer about that step? Take it!

I’ll bet you know at least 3 women who get stuck in perfection paralysis. Send this to them, using any (or all!) of these share buttons.

How to Overcome Resistance Before It Overpowers You

 

Many of the health-based conversations I have lately revolve around motivation. Actually, it’s not just with health. We’ve got so many reasons why we can’t find the energy to improve our eating habits or our self-care routines or our parenting or our relationships or our work.

Excuses run rampant through your head and stuff happens in your life which stops you from moving forward with your best intentions.

Like when you make a conscious decision to eat more vegetables, cut out the sugar and take a proper break for lunch. Then the usual reasons come flooding in, “reminding” you why you need eat at your desk, and grab a slice of banana bread every afternoon.

You have too much to do and there’s a bonus attached to finishing that contract…it takes time to actually cook the squash and beets and greens you finally remembered to buy…your kid’s hockey schedule changes at the last minute…an email alerts you to a crisis that needs your immediate attention,…

How many times do you blame your boss or a colleague for the amount of stress at work, or your husband for the lack of intimacy in your marriage?

Even in my woo-woo circles, people seem to love hearing that Mercury Retrograde is in full swing, because it offers a cosmic reason why every type of communication and forward motion they attempt gets derailed for days or weeks at a time.

When you weed through the tangle of every possible reason you can’t or don’t move forward, it usually filters down to some form of resistance.

Resistance is the current catchword that practically gives us permission to stay stuck where we are.

We post about it in our favourite groups, so our friends can nod knowingly and send us a virtual hug and some sympathy – “Yeah, been there, know what you’re going through, sister!”

Now you feel heard and understood, but you’re no further ahead in the face of your frustrations.

What if resistance weren’t a bad thing? What if it had a purpose other than making you feel that the Universe is conspiring against every effort you try to make?

What is resistance anyway?

Let’s start by doing a little physics lesson.

A resistor is a passive component in an electrical circuit that converts electricity into heat, which dissipates into the air. A resistor impacts how easily electricity can flow, depending what it’s made of; a metal tube has little resistance, a piece of plastic, a lot. When passing through a material with high resistance, the current has to work much harder to get through it. (The technical definition of resistance is the voltage needed for 1 amp of current to flow through a circuit.)

Electrical resistance is valuable. You actually make practical use of it; without it, the appliances in your house wouldn’t work.

It takes so much energy for the flow to get through the little filament in a standard lightbulb, that the wire heats up and gives off light. The element in your kettle and oven work the same way. The volume control on your TV has a variable resistor that lets more or less sound out when a little or a lot of resistance is applied.

What does that mean for you?

Apply the same principles to the flow of movement you want to create in your life, like when you’re trying to eat better.

First and very important point to repeat: a resistor is a passive component. Like the rain, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not the Universe’s way of trying to derail your efforts. It’s just there. It’s the nature of the resistor and your level of opposition to it that causes the issues, and determine how hard you have to work to get around it.

So, you’ve decided to cut out sugar. Inevitable circumstances happen (as described above) which make it harder to plan and get around the shortcuts.

* The self-denigrating voices start in your head, “I can’t do this…I don’t know what to eat…I hate kale…it’s too much work…I’ll never look like Kate Moss no matter what I try…”

* Your mother’s voice nags in there too, “Just eat smaller portions and you’ll be fine…have you seen all the weight Betty lost on her diet…”

* The associations start to surface: the need for a cookie or a big plate of pasta after an argument, the need for a drink after a hard day at work.

Those parts of life come up. They just are.

You can choose to fight those facts and listen to the voices, you can let them derail you – not to mention increase the pain of the pressure they inflict by beating yourself up about it. Like with the electrical resistor, the energy you use to let these circumstances antagonize you will only get dissipated.

All the effort you would have put into the doing of the improvement gets diverted in any number of ways.

Functionally an electrical resistor will

  • slow the flow of current, that is, make it seem like no progress is being made, like when your pants still don’t fit;
  • adjust levels, or make the goal harder to meet, like when the excuses for why you can’t accomplish this simple goal get the better of you, “I don’t have time…I’m too tired…it’ll never work…”;
  • divide voltages, that is, distract you from your original intention and/or split your focus, like when you finally decide to go ahead and eat Paleo, only to come across a great article about the virtues of veganism and your best friend raves how the Mediterranean diet changed her life;
  • terminate transmission lines, in other words, stop you in your efforts altogether, like when you cheat on the second day and give up completely.

Great for the electrician who places a particular component into his circuit to achieve one of those specific electrical effects, but how can this have a purpose for you?

Could it be that the Universe places those resistors in your life for a specific reason as well?

Going back to the cosmic example will make this point easier to understand. As frustrating as it can be, Mercury Retrograde has a purpose in your soul’s journey. It forces you to stop what you’re doing, take stock and re-evaluate whether those are in fact the steps you want to be taking. Its energy could even make you look backwards and force you to see (and shed!) some of the baggage that’s still dragging you down around this particular movement.

What if, like with Mercury Retrograde, you could look at those circumstances as a need to slow down and re-evaluate?

Is your time worth more that the overall quality of the food you eat?

How can you set yourself up to weather sudden changes in the day?

Do you need to recognize the voices in your head as your ego trying to steer you clear of failure?

Is it time that you released your mother’s “helpful” comments into the compost of no-longer-serve-you items?

If you can’t avoid stopping for food as you rush from A to B, is there a wiser choice you can make? If not, can you swallow a side order of compassion with the chicken nuggets?

 

The other term that comes to mind as I let the word dance around in my head is resistance training, AKA strength training. This is the practice – with weights, machines, straps and certain yoga poses – whereby you contract a muscle against an external force to improve strength, tone and endurance.

What if you use the resistance that shows in your life up as the means to strengthen your resolve and your efforts? That is, sometimes we need to be reminded that life changes, big projects, enriched relationships take a certain amount of effort and work.

The pride you feel from saying no to the fries or the cookie on offer provides an energy boost to your stamina for doing better yet again tomorrow. The more you exercise the buy-&-cook-more-vegetables muscle this week, the more efficiently you’ll flex it next. The relief of saying No, that is when the pressure to say to say Yes is lifted from your shoulders, you’ll be able to stand that much taller in your resolve and your needs.

Strength training also improves bone density, your circulation, blood sugar balance and coordination – it impacts more than just the muscles doing the direct work. Using your energy to lean into, work through or push past the hindrances that show up in your life will have an overall benefit to your entire being. Balance, flow and peace of mind can only follow when you move with life as it happens rather than fighting it.

 

Slowing down to work with the resistance that shows up in your life gives you the energy necessary to shine brightly and speak loud & clear through the flow of your personal current.

Let me put this another way: the root of the word resist is sistere, Latin for “to take a stand”.

When faced with resistance, you are being called to (again) take a stand for who you are, your values, your priorities, and how you want to move through life.

 

Stop fighting it!

Go with the flow!

 

Need more concrete help moving through the many faces of resistance in your life? Here are some suggestion to help you withstand a few of them:

 

How do you get past the resistance that blocks your efforts? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Don’t hold this idea back – let it flow to your friends so they can shine more brightly too:

I credit Wikipedia and explainthatstuff.com for a bit of a physics refresher.
Thanks to emedicine.com and nerdfitness.com for details about strength training.

How to Connect your Body & Mind

 

When big things are happening in my life, when I feel the most busy and in danger of the to-do list being in charge, the most effective way I know of getting back in control is to sit in silence for 10 minutes each morning.

It took a certain amount of discipline – ok, let’s be honest, a good deal of conscious effort – to start getting up early for this, but it has been worth it. If nothing else, I love that the house is all mine, that the time is all mine, that the quiet is all mine to enjoy and use as I need & desire.

This is something I do before I get dressed or check my phone/email/Facebook or my to-do list; before I even think about making breakfast or lunches. I spend 15-30 minutes getting clear on who I am in this moment, and rewiring the disconnect between my mind and my body, before any of the outer world starts its inevitable invasion. As soon as I get up, I meditate.

This isn’t something that came to me easily.

Every time I tried, in a yoga class or because I knew I “should”, I would get squirmy and my ever-chattering mind would take me down rabbit holes of whirring thoughts & worry. I figured, “I’m just no good at it,” and gave up on myself far too quickly.

Of course it wasn’t working. Those occasions were so few and far between that I never got any real practice. How many times have I explained to my kids that skating or drawing or swimming or guitar or spelling gets better the more you do it. As with any of those activities, the more often you try, the better you get, the more it evolves with you, hence the word practice for meditation, for yoga, even for professional services. It’s about the repetition, as much as it’s about testing out different techniques, stretching your limits and honing your skills. If one way doesn’t work, try something else.

My homeopath directed me to a website that got me over the hump. It had straightforward explanations and a simple guided audio to follow for 8 days. (headspace.com if you want to give it a shot – I’m not trying to sell anything here, just sharing resource that’s free and effective.) Their analogy of thoughts in relation to self, like the clouds covering the sky, was the lightbulb I needed to understand and be able to follow. The blue sky is there regardless of the size, shape, density or colour of the clouds blocking it from view.

It took quite a few tries – religiously practicing every day for 10 minutes – before I got past all the clouds (thoughts in my head) to the blue sky beneath them. What I discovered there was the most remarkable place of grounded, open, strong and vulnerable beauty.

I was in touch with Me, my soul, my being at its very core; my power.

Sometimes the contact is fleeting, other days I can sink into it fully. Even if I never get there at all on a given day, knowing that it’s perpetually present in me is enough to fuel my day. “I am here!”, no matter how good or how shitty things might get later on.

Now that’s the other remarkable par: days don’t get too bad anymore. This shift was entirely unconscious and so subtle it took a while for me to notice. It seems that knowing my truth is there and constant, the rest of life’s ups & downs don’t hold the same barbs that would get me caught up in drama or anxiety. I am better able to ride those waves of life with more flow.

In the 2 years since I truly started a meditation practice, it’s grown and evolved to include prayers to the natural universe for support (usually while I walk); petitions for concrete help when I need it; pulling Tarot and other cards as inspiration, motivation or a theme for the day’s mantra. I also nourish my soul and enrich what has come out of meditation with affirmations and journal writing.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time for myself, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing how to stay focused despite the emotional whirlwind that is your life right now. (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

What do you do each day to connect the different parts of your self? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone else who needs permission to focus on herself before the day gets away from her? Send her this post using any (or all!) of the buttons below.

Better Eating Habits Made Easy

“What the hell do I eat?!?”

Freeze frame on the woman in my office.

Deer in the headlights. Panic stricken.

A little over an hour ago, she walked in with a smile on her face. We exchanged pleasantries then she proceeded to tell me how the inflammation/hormones/lack of sleep is affecting her body and her life.

She walked me through a typical day, we talked about when things started to go awry, then we dove beneath the surface. We explored the ways her life situations contribute to her symptoms. We focused inward, listening to her body’s clues about what it needs.

Through it all, she followed my lead and answered my questions with curiosity and that raw honesty you bring forth when you’re committed to doing what it takes to fix this thing once and for all.

Then we got back to the practical side of things. The lifestyle shifts and food suggestions that will reduce her symptoms and help her body rebalance. This is when I explained how ___________ (gluten, dairy, sugar, refined food,…) are part of the problem and she’d do better to do without.

That’s the moment when the deer stepped onto the road. “There’s nothing left to eat!”

You’d think I’d just told her we needed to cut off her arm.

It’s the first reaction, isn’t it?

Regardless of what the doctor or the naturopath has explained, or despite test results that show a clear sensitivity to certain foods, a wall goes up.

Before you open your mind to the possibilities the changes present – among them feeling better! – the first thought is that there’s nothing left to eat.

It’s like when you take the same route home from work every day, then one day there’s a construction detour. Do you happily trust the detour signs to get you where you need to go, or do you go into panic mode because your routine has been sideswiped?

Resistance is the ego’s way of making sure you stay safe. Its definition of “safe” being “familiar”. If there’s one thing we all resist more than anything else it’s change – stepping out of the ol’ comfort zone and into the unknown.

Resistance also smacks of your inner teenager rebelling when she’s told No.

When it comes to food and eating habits, treading into the zone of resistance and rebellion is par for the course. Your brain, your gut and your emotions are hard-wired together more tightly than that tangle of string in your kitchen junk drawer. Pleasure, punishment, associations, comfort, control all balled up with fears and skewed needs for love and attention.

So, even if you’ve made a conscious decision to change the way you eat for the sake of your health, it takes a bit of time – and potential backsliding – to sort out the knots and get some new habits in place.

Sure I could jump in and give you a list of ways to replace the poor choices for better. You could browse the cookbooks at your local Indigo or Google x-free recipes and find more ideas than you’d ever have time to use.

Before you can go there, though, you need to make friends with that rebellious teen. Settle the panic from the inside so you have more success on the outside.

Rather than run with a list to the health food store, grab your journal and ask yourself the following 3 questions:

1. WHY are you making these changes?

The first response here might be “because the doctor/naturopath/osteopath told me to”. Maybe you’ve seen a friend have success with a particular eating style. Maybe you’re just trying the next thing on the list of trends that may fix your “thing” once and for all.

Which gets to the next layer of response: fixing your thing. Do you want to lose 15lbs, sleep better, have more energy, stop being in pain after every meal…?

Sure, those are all part of why you’re cutting out some of your favourite foods. Now look at why those things are important to you.

How will your life improve or be different after those pounds are gone? How will your parenting, marriage, career shift once you’re feeling better? What parts of your life are you putting off because of these issues?

2. WHAT’S preventing you from making the changes?

Perhaps it’s the practical steps that have kept you stuck. “I don’t know what to eat.” Fortunately, this one’s easily rectified thanks to books, the internet and professional advice.

What else is holding you back from getting closer to your health goals? I usually phrase this with clients as: What are the benefits to staying in this state?

Benefits to being fat, tired and in pain – is this woman insane?!?

Breathe into that question. Sit with how it makes you uncomfortable. You may even want to put it on the backburner for a day or two. Then come back to it. Gently.

Does the added weight keep you connected to your late father? Help you establish your place in the family or at work? Does your pain get you special attention? Does the lack of energy allow you to keep playing small?

There’s no judgment in what comes up here. No shame in understanding your motivations and beliefs.

Only once you see them can you determine if you still need them or if you can pack them up and send them on their way.

3. How do you want to FEEL?

What’s your dream solution?

How would you feel, how would you look, if the health issues were cleared?

How will you feel when those shifts in your life actually come to fruition? What are the actual sensations in your body when you’re living the life you want to be living?

I’ll bet there are variations of expansiveness, lightness, groundedness. I’ll also bet there’s a sense of safety, of feeling well in your own skin.

Whatever those sensations are, hang out with them and describe them to yourself or a partner until you know them in detail – the colour, the temperature, the texture, the image they remind you of. Notice how you sit and stand when you feel that way. Notice how you speak when you feel that way – both the words you use and the timber of your voice.

Let these sensations in your body become familiar. Let them permeate you with how safe & comfortable you are in that state.

Give the way you feel a name: Grounded Expansion. Blue Angel. River of Calm.

Now, set that as your intention. The Why of the changes you’ll make – dietary or otherwise.

Use it as your touchstone when the voice of panic creeps in to sabotage your efforts, or when your friends try to twist your arm to accept one small piece of fudge cake.

Ground back into your intention. Your safe zone. From there you can build new habits to help create and sustain that way of being on the outside. From there you can decide if, in this moment, a piece of cake to bond with friends is more important than the integrity of your digestive tract.

Holding the intention of who you want to be and why you want to be that person opens the door of possibility wide enough that the necessary changes no longer induce fear. They become almost effortless.

If you still need help with the details, by all means, get in touch. I’d be only too happy to guide you.

In the comments, tell us what your biggest block is when it comes to changing an eating habit. How did you overcome it, or do you still struggle with it? When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone else who’s stuck making necessary changes to her eating habits? Send her this post using any (or all!) of these buttons.

A Healthy Expression of You

 

I’m so glad I embraced that new tradition of coming up with a Word of the Year. It has so much more staying power and room for possibility, rather than resolutions for things you’ll jump into whole-heartedly for 3 weeks, then let fizzle out and gather dust with those last few Christmas ornaments you keep forgetting to pack away.

For 2015, I chose Trust. It held a place of honour on my first-ever vision board (unless you count my adolescent bedroom wall). It underlay the decisions I made in work and life. It peppered my parenting. Trust allowed me to take a step back from the worried, need-to-control-every-outcome-in-my-life thoughts that spin around my head at 3 am.

A year based on Trust opened the space for more possibility and best of all, those possibilities showed up!

  • As deep connections with new colleagues and clients;
  • As more clients (aka more income);
  • As fewer stress-based knee-jerk reactions when the shit hit the fan;
  • As fewer inner battles around eating “good” food and steering clear of the stuff that does me harm;
  • As professionals trusting me to be the person they needed to flesh out their projects – a reflection of my own trust in having the ability to step up and be that person;
  • As fewer arguments, more ease and fun, with my sons;
  • As a more honest look at who I am and what I want/need.

As magical as the power of commitment to a word is, there’s magic in the discovery of the word in the first place.

How to Choose a Word

There are plenty of business and life coaches around with tools to help you find your word for the coming year. Some of them are based on core feelings, some on core values…or a combination of the two. (If you want a specific reference, let me know and I’ll send you some links.)

In the end, it comes down to being aware of what you say, what you write, which topics draw you in as you read – notice the words and themes that come up often. It’s the way that your soul gently invites you to explore what’s most important for your growth and healing over the next 4 seasons.

This is how it’s transpired for me in the last few weeks:

I’ve given a lot of attention to stepping away from letting the list of shoulds dictate my day, and moving towards decisive action.

Small moments of dishonesty – “white” lies, omissions, denial – mostly to myself – have been coming out of the shadows and tapping me on the shoulder for appraisal.

I noticed ways in which I held myself back from saying what I fully needed to say to a client, in a supervision group, to my child, to my husband. …Or let it out in a passive aggressive way.

I noticed ways in which I shied away from giving all I could have in a situation – food for a pot-luck, donations, gifts.

During an energetic medicine session, my throat became tight at the same time as the practitioner started coughing.

In part it was all about doing over not doing, saying over holding back. But as I sat with it, really let it all sink in as I journaled about it, the word came out loud and clear.

Expression

Perhaps it could be seen as an extension of the trust I built last year. Where trust required a bit more surrender, expression requires a verb. It’s the movement, the action, the saying of the words that come up when I trust myself. Expression is a fully honest manifestation of me – poured forth into a safe container held by people I trust to receive it.

I have a feeling it’ll prove to be the “master class” for what I learned about over the past year. As I prepare to commit to its development through 2016, I recognize it will also come with a more expanded sense of responsibility, as who I am is more openly expressed.

Regardless, I’m already excited about the magic it will create in my health, my relationships and my life.

What do you need more of in 2016? Would finding a theme word help you achieve it? Let’s find out: write your word here and open the possibilities for yourself!

Want accountability and moral support as you explore? Tell two friends (by using the share buttons below) and get them to join you.