Change

Intentional internal change is not like a lightning bolt or an explosion.

External change, the kind that can alter our lives in an instant, can happen like that, loud and fast. However, when we are trying to create change within ourselves, it is rarely sudden, and is more like a long, slow build. It never really reaches any sort of peak; more accurately, it becomes.

I wanted to type “it simply becomes” there, but it is anything but simple.

Internal change comes from consistency. It comes from developing a pattern of listening to, nourishing and respecting ourselves, our minds and our bodies. It comes from seeking out, encouraging, feeding and creating the right kind of energy, from being aware of our consumption at every level. It comes from changing our inner dialogue; unlearning the patterns created from our past and external influences, and learning how to hold an internal conversation that builds ourselves up rather than allowing the inner critic to step in and tear us down.

Consistency is not an overnight action. It is methodical and practiced. It is based in habits. It usually includes a few starts and stops. It requires patience, perhaps most especially with ourselves, because the little ways in which we stretch ourselves can feel really big and uncomfortable.

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And then, something happens.

It happens quietly. You work towards a thing slowly. You practice. You fumble and start again. However, after some time, you suddenly realize you’re not just working towards that thing, you are a person who does that thing. It may still require effort, but rather than negotiating with yourself, weighing your options, or much internal debate, you now just do the thing.

You can know what you want to change, but without a foundation of what might seem like trivial details, changes made with little to no support can be quick-lived and unsustainable.

If you are looking for true change, identify and work on those small things you can commit to consistently; when building a new default by design, there will be trial and error. If you fail, simply start again. There are times where difficulty and challenge can be an indication that perhaps that particular practice or habit simply wasn’t meant for you. But, if you feel a pull in that direction, it may just mean you need to give yourself a bit of grace and try again.

Small changes really do lead to the big ones; how you do the little things is how you will do the big things.

 

Factory Settings

speakers, music, sound, default, factory, settings, beginning, unlearning, progress

What is your default state?

For me, my default state used to be overwhelm. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Stress.

As strange as it might sound, I look back and realize I was comfortable there. I knew these states intimately; they were like a cozy, well-worn sweatshirt. I wrapped myself in them, and ironically felt that they protected me. I don’t know that I ever realized I could change what I believed to be my automatic responses and reactions, much less wanted to. I’m quite sure I would have told you I couldn’t change where I was at, even if I tried.

I never recognized that I could improve upon those places I automatically went to.

I believed it was simply part of who I was.

These states of being were a part of my story, something that I never thought to question. I believed they were intrinsically woven into my character, simply the way I was hardwired.

And I was damn proud of who I was.

Thankfully, I learned to ask questions. Through self-development, self-discovery and self-evaluation, and learning from a whole lot of external sources about how to focus on the internal ones, I discovered that unlearning these behaviors might actually serve me, and my family, better.

Now, I am damn proud of who I am, but even more proud of who I am becoming.

Those states of overwhelm, frustration, stress, anger and anxiety still linger around, showing up and knocking on my door from time to time; I haven’t been miraculously cured overnight. Sometimes, those deeply rooted default reactions bypass all the good intentions in a zero-to-sixty flash. I’ve noticed that this is especially true when I haven’t been focusing on myself and my needs first; when I haven’t been filling my cup before filling others.

Yet, there are times where I catch it in time, and that’s where I can see my progress. It’s taken a few years of focusing and committing to a different state of being to move myself beyond these mindsets. It’s a daily practice that I still fail amazingly well at. However, in those moments where I do manage to catch it, I glimpse what is possible and that gives me the fuel to keep working persistently toward new default states, creating my own factory settings.

Writing in Pencil

There have been several significant times in my life where I have had to make the decision that I wasn’t traveling down a one-way road, writing in permanent ink. I have found myself in situations that were built upon my own decisions and choices, and because of those decisions and choices, I was resolute in seeing them through with little regard to how congruent they felt.

I believed I had written my story and was fated to simply see it through until I hit “The End”.

I’m a bit stubborn like that.

On those one-lane roads to lord knows where, I also had moments where I pulled over, looked at the map a bit differently, and found there was another route. It was rarely well-paved, or well-lit, but paid out tenfold in the experience I gained in learning to navigate.

I realized I had a completely new chapter to write.

The value is rarely in the ending; the real worth is found along the way. And it might be that a new route takes you to another you never would have found yourself on if you hadn’t veered off in the first place.

We’re all just telling ourselves a story. We become quite well-versed in what we think the next page should say, and often times we just keep writing the same chapter. But what if we challenged the writer? What if we asked ourselves to write bigger, write bolder, write more intentionally? What if the story was happier, stronger, more confident? What would we write then?

I want to encourage you to write. But don’t stop yourself from writing for fear of starting the wrong chapter or concluding with the wrong ending. Don’t limit yourself to writing small. And when you get to a place in your story that doesn’t feel right, never be afraid to start a new chapter and change your course.

Nothing is permanent. We’re all just writing in pencil.

pencil, notepad, writing, drafts, stories, erasing, starting, beginning, new, paper

Direction

Compass, wood, direction, path

There are times when I feel a bit lost in the pursuit of growth. The more podcasts, articles and books I consume, the more ideas I am given.

Note that I did not say, “the more ideas I have.” There is a difference.

There are times when the waters that seemed so clear become muddied.

Seeking inspiration, knowledge or education is not in any way a bad thing, but without a solid foundation you can lose your voice when you’re relying too heavily on external direction. By listening to every message, trying to apply what works for each person that inspires you, and following the path that this woman took or that man followed can lead you to a junction at the intersection of lost and confused.

To help mitigate the noise, I have been journaling more lately; sometimes I write around a certain topic or idea, and sometimes it is more a capture of a stream of thoughts. One of the more clarifying topics I’ve been focusing on is who I want to be in five years, when I turn 40. Envisioning that woman – who she is, what she values – holds power and importance to me. It has helped to identify the goals I want to pursue and how I want to pursue them.

A step in the journaling process that has helped me define the woman that I am becoming is in defining my core values.

In order to know what you want to chase, you have to know what is important to you; you have to have a good handle on what you value.

You might think, “Well, that’s easy, I know what’s important to me.”

But do you, really?

If you don’t know your values, you are more apt to vacillate between options, to become torn between decisions. You’re more apt to make decisions that don’t align with the direction of your growth.

For example: You’re invited to go out Saturday night with a group of friends. You know that you want to get up early and have a productive Sunday. The arranged time to meet is later than you’d like. You know the invitation comes from a good place, and you’d actually like to get together with the group.

If you don’t have your personal principles in place, you’re more likely to fold.

And then, when Sunday morning rolls around, you sleep in. You crawl out of bed with a headache. You got in much later than you would have liked to, you had one or two more drinks than you would have normally, and as a result you have zero ambition.

Worse yet, the guilt creeps in. You start beating yourself up for being weak, having no resolve, not being as productive as you could have been. The inner critic starts chirping.

Having solid values established allows you to gauge your response to any situation to align with what you ultimately believe is most important. Making time for your friends can be important; building community and connection could be a core value you honor. Does it, however, come before a promise or commitment you have made to yourself? That depends on your hierarchy of values.

For instance, in the example above, weighing your decision against your core values would have better aligned your response to the invitation. If your higher core value is connection, community and friendship, you wouldn’t necessarily have felt so guilty the next morning. Or, you might have recognized that, while there is importance in those values, committing to yourself is of utmost importance; you might have suggested an alternate time or plan. You might have agreed to go out, but not been swayed from leaving early or having only one drink. Or, you might simply have said no.

I have a friend who does this admiringly well; she communicates her values, and those closest to her respect this. Those that don’t she has had to learn to give less energy to; ultimately, they don’t have her best interests at heart.

Creating core values creates a hierarchy of decision-making and refining tools, and depending on what your core values are, every decision you make is either working towards or against who you want to be. Basing your decision-making process on your core values allows you to create goals that resonate with who you are.

Defining your core values can be more complicated than it may seem on the surface; they may be buried under years of conditioning, of upholding the values of others, of trying to meet certain standards or fitting into a certain mold.

Distinctly defining your core values can help you focus, cut through the noise, and ultimately choose the voices that definitively align with helping you grow and be successful in your pursuits.

 

 

 

 

 

Through

Less than two years ago, I had no goals. There was not one thing I was working towards for myself.

Reading this, there are definitely those of you who are thinking, “How could she not have a single goal?”

However, I know that there are those of you who are also thinking, “Goals? How about just getting through today? That’s my goal.”

That was once my goal too. So maybe I had a few, but they weren’t the type I’m talking about now.

It’s only in hindsight that I realize how important it is to have defined personal objectives. It was a revelation for me, as someone who had unconsciously resigned herself to being the champion of her family’s goals, that as a mother I could chase things other than my career, my marriage and motherhood.

Not that these are unworthy goals. In fact, two of my biggest goals now center around being the best partner I can be in my marriage and being the best mother I can be to my children.

That’s how growth works. It works in all of the places. It affects who you are and the vision of who you want to become. Goals help us define our self-worth and value. They force us to grow. They give us something to work towards. In the absence of growth, life rolls over us like a wave, and we become more like a boulder in the tide, being worn down by the currents.

Goals can be challenging to define. You have to go where your joy takes you; it can take you a number of places before you figure out where you gain the highest sense of fulfillment. There’s a period of discovery involved. Sometimes, you have to throw a number of things at the wall before one or two stick, and curate your way through this process. You’ll likely have to ask for help, and build a community of support.

Growth is challenging. Growth is hard. Growth makes us question our beliefs and our values.

But, we can do hard things.

So many of us choose the comfort of discomfort because we know it, rather than working towards something better, because it is unknown.

And then, when we figure out what might be missing in our lives, this desire to reach for something more despite the fear of the unknown, we’re met with the likes of the inner critic and self-sabotage; fears, worries and doubts crowd in on us, making us question our drive, our determination to step out of our safety zone. We can get stuck.

Having goals is almost more terrifying than not. Because we could fail. We will have setbacks. We might embarrass ourselves. We could be the only beginners in a field of experts.

I have days where I falter; days where I don’t believe in myself, where I question why I’m still pursuing this blog, when there are thousands of better writers out there than me. There are days where I fall back into old patterns, and let the negative inner voices echo around my mind.

But, I also have days where I am successful, where I can see just how far I have come since I began, since I made a choice to start, as imperfect as it was. Days where my words impact someone enough that they feel compelled to reach out and share that with me, which fuels me more than I can say.

And, on the days where I have those setbacks, it’s that much easier to get back to even. My mindset shifts are becoming habit, and the muscle memory is becoming stronger.

This is a journey. There is no quick fix or cure-all. There is no over or under, no around. No short cut. There is only one way, if you want to get somewhere different than here, and it’s through.

Direction, Road Sign, Traveling, Driving, Road, Mountain

 

 

Unmasking


I’ve been thinking about anger quite a bit lately.

I think it’s a fair assessment that I used to be a fairly angry person. While I still have my moments – my fuse can still be short and thin – I don’t necessarily identify with the woman I once was, who wore her anger like a shroud.

I experienced a situation last week where I took a bit of a different approach to anger. I could have let a bad situation fester, swell and ultimately ruin my day. I didn’t want that, but I was having a hard time releasing it. Or, rather, allowing it to release me.

However, I chose growth. I sat with my anger; I recognized it, and questioned it (thank you, Brene Brown).

The anger that I was experiencing was unreasonable, I could see that. So I asked myself, what is this anger, and why, exactly, am I so angry?

It took awhile – it could have been minutes or an hour, maybe even two – but when it hit me my breath left my body in a huff and tears pooled in my eyes.

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It wasn’t anger. It was hurt.

The hurt was tied to a situation that left me vulnerable to a few of my biggest insecurities.

While I’ve been working through this journey of self-discovery and growth, I’ve started to understand why I used to feel easily incensed, consistently angry and hardened. I used my anger as a shield; I used it to disguise what I was really feeling, and it in turn allowed me to turn a blind eye to things about myself I was not yet ready to recognize.

Have you ever taken the time to sit with your anger, and let it tell you what it is masking? Have you taken the time to understand your reactions to situations that arise that bring out emotions before you simply allow them to consume you?

Anger isn’t about anyone else but ourselves. It comes from within us, and it tricks us into thinking something was done to us, that it is about others and their actions or their words. But, if you sit with it and turn it over, it will reveal itself as something else altogether, and it is always trying to tell us something from within. That message is usually a challenging one to hear, because it most likely speaks to our greatest insecurities about ourselves. If you can open yourself to the message, you can use it as an opportunity for strength and growth, not pain.

Diving into your anger, and then peeling back the layers to reveal what it truly is – such as fear, anxiety, hurt or sorrow, which are difficult emotions to connect with and understand – will help you understand yourself, your thoughts and your actions. If you make a practice of it, that practice can help you identify and change your patterns. It will help you to address difficult conversations, and circumstances. It can provide a foundation of strength, and of empathy.

So I challenge you to question yourself. What was the last thing that made you honest-to-goodness angry? And what might it have been, instead?