Tag Archive | embracing change

The Third Option: Opening Yourself to Solutions

There is always a solution.

One of my primary jobs as a therapist and spiritual counselor is to be that objective person who can see what I call the “third option”.

What is the third option?

three flowersThe third option is that other possibility for moving through a tough situation. Perhaps there are several “third options”, but when we are feeling stuck, we tend to see our situation in rigid, black or white terms. For example, someone who feels stuck in his or her career may only be able to see two limiting options: “Stay here and suffer, but at least I’m getting paid,” or, “Quit my job and be unemployed because the economy is so bad.” This is a good time to look for those third options!

Why is the third option so hard to see?

In the above example, you may be able to quickly see that there are certainly other possibilities than those mentioned. But, when we are in the middle of our own stuck place, it can be hard to see third options! Our own circumstances trigger our emotions, which keep us from being able to see other possibilities. Can you guess which emotion is most prominent in our example above? You are correct if you guessed fear. Fear is one of the biggest blind spots we have as human beings. It keeps us from seeing beyond the two walls that feel like they are caving in on us! Fortunately, our fears are seldom accurate; so having an objective viewpoint can help us see other choices that are there, closer than we may perceive.

A close second to fear in why we’re sometimes not able to see the third option is that often they are wrapped up in things we may not want to do—and those might just be the action steps that would support us the most! Let’s face it: Our problems are here to stretch us, and stretching pulls us beyond our current state of flexibility…and comfort. That means that 99.9% of the time, we will have to do something we’d rather not. The plus side is that it often feels great to do just that!

How can we learn to open ourselves to the third option?

When we find ourselves feeling stuck, the first thing we must do is to recognize the potential (and need!) for growth. This will help relieve the worry and fear, and allow us to take a step back from the situation and see the bigger picture.

Next, brainstorm possible solutions. Remember how we learned to brainstorm in elementary school? Everything goes! Write down all those potential solutions, even and especially the silly ones! Have fun trying to think of ways to resolve the situation.  Make sure that list includes those options that you think you would never do. You might just come up with something you would do after all!

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • If I were my best friend, what would I tell him/her to do?
  • Since I can’t control the other person(s) involved, what can I change about what I am doing?
  • Am I waiting for something to magically motivate me to change?
  • If I were run by my soul instead of by my ego, what would my soul tell me to do?

There is always a solution, and we can find it when we step back and look at the bigger picture!

Self Forgiveness – How Do We Do It?

Many people around the world are observing Lent, the 40 days leading up to the Easter experience. Regardless of our religious affiliation, this is a time of year loaded with possibility and new beginnings. What could you do (or not do) for 40 days that would support the positive changes you want to make within yourself, to support your spiritual awakening? Here are a few thoughts on Lent…

Breathe. Reflect. Release. Renew.

Now that we are in full swing of the Lenten season, what have you released for this time?  Are you spending your energy staying away from chocolate or sugar?  Or have you decided to release something that will make even more of a difference to your Soul?  Even if you have no investment in the traditional Lenten season, how about ditching guilt and resentment towards yourself for a while?

It is so much easier to forgive other people, isn’t it?  I mean, we don’t have to live with those people (not the easy ones to forgive, anyway), so why should we hold a grudge against them?  But our own selves?  We have to see our own thinking and behavior every single day!  That starts building up after a while.  And if we find out we have been wrong?  Watch out!  We pull that guilt hammer out and start hitting ourselves with it so quickly!

How do we release these regrets and resentments directed at ourselves?

First of all, find out what you need to forgive about yourself.  Acknowledge it, understand it, label it.  This helps us have something more concrete to release rather than it being an abstract, generalized ideal.  For example, seeing times when I have been impatient with others over time is much easier to forgive than trying to forgive myself for being a “bad person”  over all.  “Bad person” doesn’t teach me anything, nor does it give me new choices for my behavior.  Impatience, on the other hand, I can grasp, and it has the alternative of being patient.

Secondly, speaking of patience, be patient as you transition from the old behavior that you are releasing to the new behavior.  You might have heard the saying, “A habit wasn’t created over night,” meaning that it won’t be changed overnight either.  You have acknowledged, understood and labeled your behavior, now let yourself practice the new behavior, with a gentle and wide learning curve.

Finally, during this transition, add energy to the positive choices you make, and quickly pass by the times you fall into the old behaviors.  Yes, see that you missed your desired mark, but move on quickly!  Don’t let that old hammer have time to resume its flagellating!  Take time to feel  gratitude toward yourself for your new behavior.

Forgiveness is not just about stating that we are suddenly just peachy about ourselves.  It is about making changes, with compassion, and moving into a new way of being with ourselves.  Enjoy your chocolate–give up the guilt!

Keep It Simple, Keep It Spiritual

Ahhh, the New Year is upon us, and all the new light and hope it brings! Do you feel uplifted and refreshed at this time of year? If so, it is because there is Universal energy that pours onto us every year!  It gives us that push to better ourselves each new year, and is why so many of us create resolutions.

My motto about New Year’s resolutions has always been: Keep It Simple; Keep It Spiritual.

Keep It Simple:

Ask yourself the following questions for each resolution you want to make.

1.     What is my goal? (Keep it simple, realistic and attainable.)
2.     What would keep me from achieving this goal?
3.     What do I have to give up in order to make this goal happen?
4.     What do I have to begin doing in order to make this goal happen?
5.     What would support me in achieving this goal?
6.     How can I break this goal down into manageable steps?
7.     What is a good first step toward this goal?

This process will help you narrow down your list before it becomes overwhelming and ultimately unachievable.

Keep It Spiritual:

Every year brings ample opportunities for each of us to courageously grow, change, love, forgive, help, and to be kind and generous. Why not commit to an open heart, or listening more to your intuition? With a resolution like that, everything else will follow!

For 2015, keep it simple and spiritual: Commit to yourself, to your conscious awakening—which includes a greater awareness of not only your true self, but of those around you who need more (or something different) from you!

Happy New Year!

Perfection Schmerfection

Last month, I had the pleasure and honor of co-leading a women’s retreat, with the theme based the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD. What a powerfully moving and insightful experience for all who participated!

In reading and preparing the materials for the retreat, I had many opportunities to revisit my own perfectionist issue. Such a delightful activity to spend time on (not), especially since this issue already presents itself quite frequently. Half of my preparation began with, “God, You are funny, aren’t You?”

Yet, as a therapist, I tell my clients so often, “The only way to the other side is to walk through it”; and I am no different in striving to free myself from old thought patterns. So I embraced the process and here’s what I was reminded:

Nobody cares if I do it right or wrong. I just need to do it. And “it” can mean anything from speaking from my authentic Self, playing a game, singing a song, listening, supporting, or being supported.

“Perfection” is a made up thing in my head. What I think is “perfect” may be stodgy to someone else—and maybe to that person I am aiming to please in a given moment. There is no such thing as perfect. It is a black and white thinking fallacy in a world made up of beautiful shades of grey.

The question to ask is “Am I doing what feels right to me?” I shared this in the small group I led. This is the measuring stick to replace the perfectionist concept. Am I in tune with myself? Am I okay with me right now? That is what will bring the greatest peace of mind.

The more I stuck with these understandings as the retreat process unfolded, the more space Spirit had to move in and through the materials, my co-leaders, and every woman participating. We danced together in love, joy, and gratitude throughout the weekend. We were in the flow of the best kind of perfection—hearts open to our Higher Selves.

Journaling to Support Your Soul’s Evolution

Journaling is a tool that is always on hand!

Process journaling is a tool I often use—and support my clients in using—even though most of us (myself included!) don’t like taking the time to do it. And it does take time and effort! But so does brushing our teeth every day, but we (hopefully) find time to do that twice a day. Just as brushing teeth is an important part of our physical hygiene, journaling as part of our emotional, mental and spiritual hygiene just makes sense.

Journaling’s benefits include helping you to get out of your head (versus letting thoughts spin around in the hamster wheel of your mind); allowing you to better focus on the facts of a situation, versus the emotional content and potential projections by you or another; and helping you attune to your own intuition by letting out the clutter and listening for what remains.

Unless you’re excited about writing a little every day (and a rare one you are, if that’s true for you!), when is it a good time to journal? Besides “anytime” as the best answer, other times include when you:
• Have a question about what to do
• Have been triggered by a person or situation
• Had a dream that stood out to you
• Need help prioritizing your day
• Need to forgive
• Wand to understand a character trait/pattern in yourself
• Want to understand a character trait/pattern in someone else that drives you crazy (why?)
• Your mind is racing and you don’t know what to do

Building writing time into your schedule, making it a priority in your life, is a must for serious spiritual seekers wanting to learn more about who they are. Here are some tips for setting up a writing practice:

1. Have two journals: One for processing with pages you can tear out and burn, shred, recycle; one for recording your insight, understandings, intuitions.

2. Ask a question about the subject, and write your answer. For example:*
a. What emotions am I feeling?
b. Who or what pushed my buttons? Who was upsetting me today?
c. Does this always happen to me? Is this a pattern in my life?
d. When has this happened to me before?
e. If I was guided by my soul, rather than being run by my ego, how would I handle things differently?

3. Did you receive your answer? You may not right away. Set aside your journal for now. Resume tomorrow.

Whether you prefer using a phone app, keyboard, or good, old-fashioned pen and paper, writing down your insights each day is guaranteed to support your awakening. Taking time to write will help you assimilate new understandings, support the changes you want to make, and help you remove blocks to reaching your spiritual goals.

*Questions partially modified from Jane Elizabeth Hart’s amazing little book, Spiritual Power Tools: Support for Your Soul, © 2004, 2009.

Sherlock Your Changes

The Easter energy of Spring brings new life, and new life brings changes!

Change happens. Sometimes we change because we want to; sometimes we change because we have to. When dealing with a change that is out of our control, one of the best approaches is to Sherlock it.

“My name is Sherlock Holmes.
It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

You know Sherlock. He’s the odd, people-challenged character who sure knew how to solve mysteries. Don’t some changes feel like mysteries to you?

Recently, my favorite yogurt brand changed the consistency, flavor and protein content of their product, and I wasn’t happy! I will use this silly example to walk you through the process of moving through a change that is out of your control so you can get a feel for the process. If it can work with yogurt, maybe it will transfer to any bigger change you may be dealing with!

“…[W]hen a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation.”
Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

1. What is the change that is happening around you? Describe the facts. What exactly is different?

This company changed the protein content of my favorite yogurt went from 15 grams of protein down to 12! Plus, the consistency is more watery, and the flavor tastes watered down as well, but it’s cheaper!

2. Now you get to expand a little. How do you feel about this change? Are you angry, afraid, sad, or frustrated? Let it out, and include why you are feeling the way you do about this change.

I feel really disappointed about this. I counted on those 15 grams of protein in the mornings when I didn’t have time for a larger breakfast. I would eat it at work as well, but now it isn’t satisfying as it was before. I don’t understand why they made these changes, and I feel angry. I feel especially frustrated because the only other comparable yogurt is at a grocery store that is inconveniently located!

3. What about this change is in your control? What about it is out of your control? (Keep to the facts here, too!)

I can control whether or not I continue to purchase this brand of yogurt. I don’t have control over how it is made. I can write an email to the company, voicing my dissatisfaction, but I can’t control whether or not they do anything about my dissatisfaction, either.

4. What would be the best way for you to manage this change? What steps are you willing to take to make the necessary adjustments?

I can consider other options, such as trying a different brand of yogurt, or making the trek to the other grocery store. I can also find other sources of quick proteins for my food intake needs, like protein bars.

“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four

Now it’s up to you what you decide to do. You can always choose to continue with emotional responses, such as disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness. If that’s the route you take, be sure to also answer this question: “For what good purpose would it serve for me to continue feeling (frustrated, sad, angry, hurt, etc) about this change?” That can be an eye-opener, and can lead to your choosing not to hold on to that reaction any longer than you need to.

“What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Cardboard Box

When you have completed the process and made your adjustments, kick back like Sherlock (or perhaps in your own, healthier way) and feel good about solving the mystery of change.

“Let me run over the principal steps. We approached the case, you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which is always an advantage. We had formed no theories. We were simply there to observe and to draw inferences from our observations.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box