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.

I Know What to Do, I Just Don’t Do It.

 

I get it.

There are only so many hours in a day. You only have so much creative energy and only so much will power. You’re keeping the family happy, you’re effective at work; how can you be expected to be consistent with positive food changes?

You know perfectly well that to lose the weight, heal your digestive woes, calm the allergies, you’ll have to cut out an entire grocery list of foods & additives, squash a lifetime of bad eating habits, and probably eat more vegetables.

The theory’s all mapped out in your head, but you just can’t seem to put those good intentions into action.

Instead, you use what precious little energy you have left at the end of the day to beat yourself up about everything you should be doing while mindlessly inhaling a pint of cherry chocolate with a salt & vinegar chaser.

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? You start by taking stabs at your poor food choices, until your mind inevitably points out how you haven’t been feeding the kids so well lately, not to mention all the other bad parenting moments you’ve had this week, …how did you think you can be an effective parent with everything else you’re dealing with? What were you thinking? Did you really think you could manage it all?…Is this boat you’re in all your fault because you chose the wrong man in the first place?…And now you’re going to be a fat, lonely slob for the rest of your life!

How stupid are you?!?

STOP THAT!

Right now. Just stop. Take a breath.

We’ll look at the mindless junk food habit next time; for now, let’s talk about the self-flagellation.

Would you talk to anyone else that way? Would you tell a friend what an idiot she is for eating ice cream or getting divorced? I’d wager not.

It’s time to stop being so tough on yourself and try a bit of tough love instead. You know, set yourself straight in the kind way you would with a small child you care about.

Another good theory, but it’s where you get stuck in the follow-through.

It comes down to perfection. That habit you have whereby, if you’re not going to do something to the letter, the way the experts and the health nuts do it, you’re not even going to bother.

Tell me, if the boss handed you a list of what she expects you to accomplish over the next 6 months, and told you to get it all figured out tomorrow, you’d freak out, right? You’d quit your job, or report it to the higher-ups. If, however, she explained the big picture of the goals she wants to reach by the end of the year, then gave you the first pieces to start on, it would be simple, doable.

Same goes with how you nourish yourself.

Consistent, positive food changes require awareness, small steps and a hint of tough love.

 

If you’ve given even half the thought to all the possible solutions you’ve googled, there are likely a few options that stand out, whether you want to admit it or not. Trust that wisdom. Chances are there’s a reason you zoned in on them.

 

Of all the things you know you need to do to get your body back to its happy place, pick one.

Just one. It will likely be complex in and of itself.

For example, giving up dairy is one thing you know might help your digestion.

 

Break it down further:

Become aware of when and how you eat it: notice through the course of a few days and/or write down all the foods you normally eat that contain some form of dairy – milk, cream, ice cream, yogourt, cheese, whey powder, butter,…

Now choose ONE of those, and replace it: instead of the milk/cream you use in a day, put almond milk in your coffee, coconut milk in your porridge or your soup, have tomato/vegetable sauce on your pasta… after a few days, even a week, move onto to replacing the cheese, and so on…

In the same way you would track the metrics and such of how your work project is progressing, you can understand how well these changes are helping (or not) by observing your body, your energy, your moods.

Notice how you feel after a meal without the usual ingredient.

Notice if any of your symptoms calm. Maybe nothing happens after a week of no milk, but eliminating the cheese then makes a difference, …does it improve more when you reduce your dairy sources even further?

What happens to your appetite, your hunger and your satiety?

What happens to your cravings?

Has your sleep improved? Your energy?

Notice where you still get stuck.

Have you run out of ideas? Do you lack motivation? Would you kill for a piece of cheese?

Get help if you need it.

 

Every journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. Same applies to self-care habits.

Pick a habit to change.
Trust yourself to stick with it.
Notice what happens.

 

What do you KNOW you have to change and where do you get stuck? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone who’s been lacking consistency in her food habits? Send her this post using any (or all!) of these buttons.

The Secret to Moving Forward

 

In the previous post, I told you about my friend, Sharon*, with the chronically sore wrist and upset stomach; how she’d asked me what I meant exactly by “listen to your body” and “talk to your wrist”. A few weeks later, I followed up with her and hit upon an important key for any kind of healing to work.

Sharon told me how she’d decided to try energetic healing; Reiki being one and another she’d heard about at a conference. She was comfortable with the concept of Reiki, allowing whatever emotional release or images or realizations to come up. The other technique, done over the phone and quick-acting was also touted as clearing blocks from generations of stuck emotions; this she had a harder time believing.

Was it the distance? The speed? The idea of having her great-grandmother’s frustrations lodged in her wrist that caused her to doubt?

It ultimately came down to the fact that she experienced shifts with Reiki and had no “proof” of the other thing working, other than the practitioner saying that she was “done”. Yet, in neither circumstance was there a moment when she consciously “heard” the exact nature of what’s irritating her body, nor a clear solution.

So, she brushed off any effectiveness. During our conversation, though, she kept saying that her stomach and wrist were feeling better, relating it more easily to new meds than anything else she’d tried.

Reminds me of a story that Louise Hay tells in one of her books, about a visually impaired woman who’d recovered her sight after working with Ms. Hay. She walked around for a week saying, “I can’t believe I can see,” and not surprisingly, by the end of the week, she was back to square one.

Like this woman, Sharon doubted the power of the energetic work.

That’s right. It comes down to faith. It comes down to trusting the process, whether you can see the end results or not.

 

Whether health-related or not, this is the same kind of resistance that holds us back when anything new presents itself in our lives. (Read here about the pain of transition.)

You fear the part you can’t see yet – what it’ll be like to live on your own or in a new city; what it’ll be like once your business takes off or your pain is healed. We get so used to how things are now. No matter how much we want them to change, or, no matter how much we feel our world’s coming to an end when the change is unexpected, we have a hard time projecting ourselves into the unknown territory on the other side.

We fear the unknown.

I get it. I was so scared of what splitting up would do to my kids, I was temporarily willing to fold myself back up into the unfulfilled ball I needed to be to stay in that marriage. I was so afraid of walking away from the support and old-slipper comfort of my life in one city, I fleetingly considered ending a second marriage to avoid having to move away.

My friend, in healing her wrist and stomach, will be letting go of the traumatic end to her own marriage. Staying locked in a place of “I have been a victim” has been the driving definition of her life for 8 years. By walking away from it all – by trusting the potential offered to her by her recent energetic sessions, she is saying yes to herself. She is saying yes to a part of herself that she has yet to discover. How exciting!

How scary.

No wonder she’d rather doubt and hold back.

As I learned by following the suggestions of healthcare practitioners over the years, as I learned by embracing life as a divorced mother, as I learned by opening myself to the possibilities of a new city, at a certain point, you have to trust where the road is taking you.

Consider that these changes in your life might be the answers to requests you made of the universe months or even years ago. You never know.

It’s quite possible that in signing up for the energetic work, Sharon was in some way listening to deepest needs.

How and What to Trust.

* When you ask for help, trust that what shows up is what you need in that moment.

When you choose to hire an expert, or read their book, or follow their blog, trust that she has the expertise and experience to get you where you need to go on this leg of the journey. She’s been where you are, she knows how to get you through.

Trust that she holds a vision of what’s possible for you, even if you can’t see it yet.

When you come upon a new experience, trust that is has gifts for you even if you don’t see them in the moment.

* Trust that you are safe.

Trust that your support system (the professionals, your friends, your family, your gods/angels/spirit guides) and your inner knowing all have your back, and will get you through this, no matter how long, no matter how hard.

* Most importantly, trust yourself.

“I can’t…, I don’t believe…, this never works for me,…” these are words of doubt and resistance; they will only become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Trust yourself to stay open to what happens. Even in listening to your own body’s wisdom, trust that wisdom…and trust your body’s capacity to heal.

Trust yourself to use the tools you’ve been offered. In any kind of healing – health, marriage, business, parenting,… – there’s always homework, action to reinforce the lessons and insights. Don’t question the validity of the exercise, simply trust that there’s a reason you’re being told to do something, even if it’s not immediately clear to you.

Trust yourself to do the work.

When you want and need to move forward into the unknown of your life, resistance will rear its fear-drenched head. Take a deep breath and trust.

* not her real name

What has held you back from moving forward with your health and your life? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Any of your friends lost in the mud of transition? Send her this post using any (or all!) of these buttons.

How to Stay Focused When Everything’s Falling Apart

 

Life is hectic, there’s no getting around that. It’s not enough that you have to be fully present for work and get meals prepared. To say that you’re overwhelmed by the worry and responsibilities from your world feeling out of control is an understatement.

If someone asks you to make one more decision, you’re sure your brain will actually break.

How can you stay focused on what’s important when you feel it’s your job to keep everyone and everything from falling apart?

Meditation definitely lays the foundation and giving your emotions space of their own helps to clear the cobwebs, but being the cerebral person that I am, I realize I also need to harness my over-thinking mind.

I don’t do sudokus and memorize poems (though as I just turned 50, these may not be such a bad idea). Enriching my mind means mindset, more than my actual thoughts, and then applying it to the practical needs of my day.

Here are two steps to staying focused throughout your day:

1. Embodied Affirmations

The other day, I wrote of affirmations being part of soul nourishment, but as I think more on it, I realize that affirmations are words that emerge from the soul, which you can then digest through your mind and body.

Let me explain.

I’m sure you know that affirmations are statements you repeat to yourself, as a tool for shifting beliefs you hold, by “recording” new messages into your inner monologue. They’ve become part of the mainstream, though get a bad rap when they have no apparent effect.

The power of affirmations comes in the follow through, as part of a more integrated approach to creating lasting change.

It’s not enough to simply say the words to yourself. In order for your mind to actually assimilate them, you have to feel the truth of the words and take action as if they were true. That is, you have to embody the words.

Using affirmations in this way works for health issues, work problems, relationships,… Let’s look at the example of a poor eating habit, such as grazing when your stress & emotions get out of hand.

An affirmation to shift that habit might look like, “I eat only when hungry.” or “I plan meals that nourish me adequately throughout the day.” or “I breathe through pain & stress with ease.” Repeat in the mirror every morning, or when the urge to open the fridge hits, and you can eventually say them in your sleep, that is, without conscious thought. This part is valuable to a certain extent, as the words then drop down into your subconscious, like the coloured beads in Inside Out.

However, if you connect those words to your body, you start to become them…they become a part of who you are.

Ask yourself: What does hunger feel like in my body? How does being adequately nourished feel? What does getting through stress with ease look like?

With the answers to those questions clear in your mind (and body), imagine yourself getting through your day fully nourished and dealing with stress. Now use those sensations: feel the dropped shoulders, the unclenched jaw, the air filling your lungs as you say the words.

Once I started to integrate my own desired mindset shifts with the rest of me, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude that repeating words alone never did for me.

2. Embodied Plan of Action

The next part is to walk the talk.

Ask: What steps can I take to live as such today, even if the urge still strikes to inhale every cookie in the house?

Having said (& felt) the affirmations, take 10 minutes to pay some concrete attention to the actual food you’ll eat through the day. Plan what to defrost or buy, and list what you have available for nutritious snacks when you need a break.

Planning is the perfect way to keep your mind clear for ANY part of your day (some people prefer to do this the night before). Take 10 minutes to go to over the priorities on your list of endless possibilities – the things that you absolutely want to get done by day’s end – work-related, home and personal.

Using the same principal to help make those choices, ask “How do I want to feel in my body at the end of the day?” or “How will I feel tonight knowing X is done?”

Focus-enhancing bonus: Allot a specific amount of time to each task.

Having a set time helps to maintain boundaries, so your mind is free to focus fully on the task at hand, creativity & ideas & efficiency flowing more easily. Using a timer gives you a protected space to function, without the worry of everything outside that container getting in the way.

Give one of these a try – embodied affirmations OR the embodied plans. Come back here after a few days and let us know what shifted for you.  When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention despite the whirlwind. Next time, I’ll be discussing choices for the kind of breakfast will get you through the day ahead.  (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

Know a frazzled friend who could use some of this grounding advice? Share this post with her by using any (or all!) of these buttons.