Getting Called to the Mat

When you find your voice, you’ll have to decide to use it.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll inevitably find others who have something different to say.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you, and you’ll have to defend it.

And it likely won’t do anything to change their minds.

But…

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, and you will support these people.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, and they’ll support you.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, they’ll support you, and those who haven’t yet found their voices might just find the courage to build theirs.

Your voice is your passion; it comes through in many different forms. It will work for you in different ways, if you let it. It will challenge you. It will challenge your perceptions and your views. As you grow into it, it will strengthen you. Things will grow from it.

Growth comes from challenge. Power comes from growth.

When you’re called to the mat, you have three choices: step forward, stand still, or step back. There will always be critics in the ring. You have to choose who your voice matters more to; those who are simply loud for the sake of being loud, those who are there, saying nothing at all but listening, and those who raise their voices with you.

wresting, ring, mat, knockout, man, match

Passing Go

monopoly, passing go, playing, board game

Two months ago, I jumped into a fitness challenge. I joined a gym with a three-month commitment. I signed up with a team, forcing my hand in accountability.

I have never belonged to a gym; my experience has been, at best, an intermittent affair with the gym at work. I have never taken fitness classes. I have never lifted weights with any real intention or direction. I have never shared space with people who push themselves so physically.

Up until about two weeks ago, I was the only person, and in some cases the youngest person, in my classes using pastel dumbbells; the 2, 3 and 4 pound weights. Week after week, in a series of movements, there were my two pastel dumbbells in a sea of black dumbbells in the mirror reflecting back at the class.

To say I have pushed myself out of my physical comfort zone would be an understatement. Not only was I in a new environment, I was carrying around the symbol of a beginner, and – in my head – the symbol of someone who is weak. There were moments where my internal critic’s shouts echoed off the walls of my own head, mocking me, trying to make me uncomfortable. That’s her job after all.

Without that discomfort, though, there wouldn’t be any growth. Without pushing past that unease, there would be no success, no fulfillment, no satisfaction of accomplishment. And that critic, the one telling me that I was weak, that everyone was judging me with those pastel dumbbells as not working as hard or pushing myself enough?

She was full of shit.

The truth is, no one gave a second thought to me and my pastel dumbbells.

There aren’t any pastel dumbbells in the mirror that belong to me now, but I will be the first to encourage and applaud the woman who walks into the next class and picks them up. That is, if I even notice her; what I have realized is that the serious ones, the ones who are working the hardest, are wrapped up in their workout and focusing on one thing: themselves.

Everyone who is inspiring you to grow started somewhere, were beginners at some point. It takes courage, self-worth, self-value, and passion. It takes believing that the journey is better than any momentary discomfort. It takes grit. It takes keeping your focus and your energy in your own lane.

And it takes being able to step out of your own comfort zone and tell your inner critic to take a muzzled seat.

I launched this blog after thinking about it for months. I consumed a variety of opinions on what a blog should look like, how a blog should be managed and found that there were already plenty of people talking about the things that I wanted to talk about. I could have worked myself right into inaction. This blog isn’t perfect, there are people out there doing it better than I am, and I’m happy with that because if I had waited until it was perfect I wouldn’t be in this space at all. I’m here and being in a space where people are doing it better than I am both pushes me harder and assures me that I have room to grow.

If my value in this space was wrapped up in other people’s validation or approval of it, I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I’m here for me. I’m here for the women who have reached out to let me know that my words have had an impact on them.

Without starting, you’re only guaranteed one thing: you’re not going anywhere. Your internal critic doesn’t want you to pass go; she is extremely comfortable and content with where you are. She wants you to think that it’s everyone else that you have to prove yourself to. She’s banking on your not being able to overcome the discomfort of judgement.

One of the most fulfilling actions you can take is the first step in proving that she’s wrong.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Narrowing the Focus

hallway, blurry, tunnel, vision

When I first heard the term “vision board”, I definitely did not have an instant connection with the term; bear with me if you – like I once was – are a bit of a cynic when it comes to these sorts of things.

The term vision board feels uncomfortable to use, but I’m ignoring that part of me that still identifies with cynicism and pushing forward with this post because as uncomfortable as I am, I know there is value in this tool.

What we focus on expands.

There’s plenty of research to prove it, just ask Google.

I’ve just recently completed my second vision board, which is focused on what I will be working toward for the last ninety days of 2018. It holds visual cues that speak to me. This board is my action plan. It emphasizes those areas of my goals that I want to keep in highest priority right now, and every time I look at it, I’m reminded of these goals. Each time I am distracted by outliers and peripheral topics that could pull my attention away, I can reflect on this board. Each morning, I will see this board and have these things in my consciousness.

I feel it’s important to note that neither of the times that I have built out a vision board were solo endeavors. The first was an informal gathering with close friends. This most recent was, while still relaxed, led by a life coach among a mixed group of women that I knew well, as well as women I knew peripherally. The event left me drained in all the best ways possible; doing this sort of work with a group of like-minded women leads to inspiration and self-discovery that can’t be replicated in an individual setting. While I did a bit of work on the front-end of attending, there was also work that happened in the space with those women that grew from sharing and connection.

My first board was a bit haphazard in its organization; because I am narrowing my focus specifically for this board, I laid out the images here a bit more intentionally:

  • Space for things that make me feel calm, slow me down, and make me appreciate my environments more like textures, art, cut flowers and citrus scents. Activities that enhance my daily life such as yoga, expressing myself creatively, reading, and getting a massage.
  • Gratitude and presence, and defining my goals with early morning journaling.
  • Travel.
  • Growing in my expression and passion for yoga, where I find both self-care and stillness of mind. And finally achieving the headstand I have been chasing.
  • My marriage and my relationship with my children. An exceptional marriage is an attainable goal, it is the foundation of the family pulse, and I want to create habits around quality time and communication.
  • My writing. I want to continue to inspire women, so I have added quotes and images that instill inspiration in me to do just that.

vision board, goals, progress, focus

To cover off a bit on the logistics, for those of you who might be interested in pursuing the creation of a board of your own, I picked out a linen push pin board for my project (shout out to HomeGoods), but you could use anything from poster board and glue to a cork board and pins to a wall and some tape. Photos and quotes can be found nearly anywhere, however my favorite way to develop my thoughts are to use photos. Photo stock holds its structure, and it is more aesthetically pleasing to me. I use Pinterest, Google Images and Unsplash to search out quotes or images; I simply screenshot them, upload the images to Walmart’s Photo Center and have prints within an hour. You can add any sort of embellishment or paper to dress up your board. It’s yours – make it speak to you.

Our goals and our dreams are not concrete, finite things. They can simply be ideas that we are drawn to, that speak to us louder than most. They are seeds. We choose which to water, not knowing necessarily what they might grow into, only knowing that there is something there.

You can have one or multiple boards. You could build a work board, a home project board, a goals board, a family board, a happiness board. This specific board, for me, signifies checking off the last couple of boxes for 2018, while simultaneously building for 2019. To use an analogy I heard recently, I want to start on the 20th Floor on January 1st, not in the basement. I want to come into next year knowing where my focus is, creating energy around the things I am working towards, and having habits established that support bigger and braver action.

PS If you’re local and interested in either attending or pulling together your own vision board workshop with some friends or colleagues but need someone to guide you through, True Edge Coaching can help.

 

 

 

 

 

Harnessing

There is a special energy that arrives in September.

The kids are back in school, routine is re-established, and there is a seasonal shift in the air that marks a season of change.

I started to think about tackling several goals I haven’t gotten around to in my Year Compass, but that was making me feel a bit overwhelmed. So, I took a step back and asked myself, “If there was one thing that I could accomplish that would make me feel great about closing out this year, what would that be?”

Of course, more than one thing that came to mind, however, I forced myself to commit to focusing on one in particular. Doing three things half-assed, or even three-quarter-assed, doesn’t allow me to do any of those things at 100%. So, I’m committing to one thing, to ensure that I am not wasting reserves of willpower or spreading that willpower too thin.

I’m harnessing my energy.

I’m harnessing that renewal of energy I have felt since the start of September and focusing it in one area because although the pull to spread out my energy to accomplish multiple goals is strong, I know that it is not sustainable.

There is just over a quarter of 2018 left. What one thing could you look back on in December, and be fulfilled by committing to now?

camera, lens, focus

Stuck

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately. Some days have felt like a much heavier dose than just a bit. This hasn’t lasted for just a couple of days, or a week. It’s been at least a month; maybe more.

I blamed it on a number of things; the end of the school year, grief, our move, summer, the moon. So many transitions were happening, and I gave myself allowances, time to let my world stop turning so fast.

I think, however, I gave myself a much wider berth than I needed. I expected the dust to settle exactly where I had left it, but I slid back into older, more well-worn tracks.

I haven’t had much energy. I have found it hard to get motivated. I haven’t been able to settle into a positive mindset. I’ve been overly irritable for no reason.

I haven’t however, done any of the things that sparked so much for me prior to the transitions. I haven’t opened my planner since the end of May; my journal, even before that. I haven’t met with my Accountability Ladies in as many months. I’ve stopped following as closely along with the groups I was finding so much inspiration from, and instead I’ve been doing an inordinate amount of mindless social media scrolling. I’ve blown through far more than my fair share of light, chic-lit beach reads, and haven’t opened a single self-development book. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been drinking again, and not in the mindful way I had been so conscientious and successful in for so many months.

I haven’t been listening to myself; in some instances I have tuned out completely. I haven’t kept my own personal goals and interests front and center, with everyone else’s. It’s led to some personal confusion, and a lot of noise in my own head.

I got stuck. I landed right back where I was before I began this journey.

Car, Stuck, Old, Broken

It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the every day of life; it’s also easy to get stuck in old ruts when you’ve become unsettled, even when you were doing so well blazing new paths.

You can get caught up in being stuck, and not even realize that you have stopped moving.

The first step to getting unstuck is recognizing that’s where you’re at.

“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given,
If all you do is stand in one place.”
~ Lord Huron

Busy vs. Important

Too many times we sacrifice the latter for the former.

It’s easy to mistake, busy. Busy masquerades as important; it carries urgency, an air of significance.

busy, rushing, walking, fast, commuting

Busy often parades itself around as productive. Busy gives us a false sense of status.

Busy is glorified, sensationalized and held on a pedestal. My rote response to “How have you been?” is typically “Good. Busy.”

Busy is expected. The ability to be in the constant state of busy will never subside.

The problem with busyness, however, is that it distracts and robs us of what’s important. There are countless ways to be busy; there are numbered ways to do what’s important.

Busy makes life blurry.

Busy carries no purpose. Busy is easy, busy is comfortable, busy is familiar. Busy is understood.

“How have you been?” “Good. Busy.” And we all nod in understanding.

We have made busy a way of life.

Important, however; important is a challenge. Important is doing the hard work, and it can be uncomfortable. Important is an investment.

Busy is easier, but busy is shallow. Busy adds stress, but never value.

If you find that you’re in the rut of busy, take a few minutes and think about those things that would encourage you, and your family, to thrive.

Write it down. Contemplate it. Work focusing on those key ingredients into actions on your daily To Do list. Be intentional about chasing important.

For me, important includes things like connection, gratitude, passion, growth, movement, self-care, and being outdoors.

Find some clarity in this blurry, fast-paced, ever-evolving life. Downgrade busy. Remove its mask and look at it in the eye for what it is.

Let’s bring emphasis back to important.