The holiday season is typically seen as a happy time of year when stress, worries and anxiety magically give way to happiness, love and a sense of good will to all. While this is a nice thought, it is simple not a reality for most people. The holiday season is one of the most stressful over the year as people struggle to find the right gift, host the perfect party or create the best ever holiday season.
Top this off with having to interact with relatives and family that may you may not have the best relationship with and you definitely have a recipe for increasing, not decreasing, stress.
Stress can cause significant emotional as well as physiological responses. People under stress may have several of the following symptoms:
Difficulty sleeping, relaxing, concentrating or focusing
Anxiety, irritability, atypical anger or irrational types of behaviors
Feeling overwhelmed or experiencing racing thoughts
Having difficulty staying positive
Feeling lonely, unhappy, isolated o
Coping with stress can include both mental and physical options. These can include:
Learning breathing techniques to allow you to take control of your physiological responses and relax. Yoga is terrific for this.
Increase your physical activity in a structured exercise, walking or weight training program to boost energy levels and positive brain chemicals associated with exercise.
Learning relation techniques such as progressive relation to enhance your ability to stay calm and to get to sleep.
Make time every day to do something you enjoy. Make this a priority not sometime you do if you have time.
Find someone to talk to that will help you manage your stress.
It is important to identify what is causing you to experience stress and then plan a way to minimize or eliminate that source of stress. To get started stop and reflect on what is happening that is causing you stress. Once you have identified the source you can then start to develop a plan to enhance your ability to cope, manage and thrive even in times of stress.
What causes you stress and what are the strategies or techniques that you use to cope and manage?
I have been on the planet for 20,340 days – almost 56 years. What a blessing to be part of life for so much time. And a reminder that I am likely more than halfway through this time here on this green and blue ball.
This is not meant to be morbid. Rather, it is just a reality check. Time goes by. We don’t get any of it back; each moment matters. When we are reminded that the supply of days isn’t limitless, we start to see greater value in each one. We become more committed to living life intentionally and without regrets. I call this “no-excuse living.”
We change our priorities as we are confronted with the end of something; time with a loved one before they travel or are shipped out to time in the Service; time with our friends before we all graduate; time with our kids before they move away to college and move on with their lives. Each of these impending endings or changes forces us to look at time differently. We become more aware of it and how we want it to slow down or we want more of it. But we get what we get. A day, week and month for you is the same amount of time for me. Its value, however, is in how we use each moment of time.
I remember one Christmas when my mother asked my father for only one thing – more time. He bought her a clock. She wasn’t impressed. He was only joking. What she wanted was for the family to make more time to do things together. She was blowing the whistle and trying to get us to stop and appreciate our time with each other. She was stating what she wanted for her family. No-excuse living.
I am reminded of the days of our lives (pardon the pun for the Soap Opera watchers) as I see older people. My grandparents always seemed to value each moment; they made an event out of each holiday, each dinner and any time we were all together. There was nothing that had to be done other than to be with each other, seated around the table, sharing stories, loving the food (we’re Italian – it’s all about the food), and just being in the moment. Then for days after we would reminisce about the event, planning the next one. No-excuse living.
What I realize is these are choices. We choose how to show up to each day of our lives. We can choose to make life grand – an event – or we can allow ourselves to get pushed and shoved through life, based on what others want for us, disappointed and bitter. A no-excuse life is one that takes ownership for life – for how it is and how we want it to be.
Be more aware, more present and more connected to each moment.
Put fewer things on the to-do list. Do each one better.
Spend more time with the important people in your life. Call your friends and family. Have meals together.
Turn off the electronics and talk to each other.
Know your talents, strengths and passions and build your life around the true you and don’t let others dissuade you from your dreams and adventures.
Listen to others, but always trust your instinct and self-knowledge to choose what is right for you.
We choose what is important in our days; none of these happen unless we choose to make them happen.
A great life is about memories and moments, not stuff. Our days are not limitless – we only have a certain number of them to bring our best to life and to be thrilled by it. We should therefore value and respect each day – and treat them like gold. We can’t afford to waste them. I am amazed that I am already at day 20,340. And seeing this number makes me more intentional about each one of the remaining ones – however many there might be. This reminds me I want to live more of my purpose and more of my potential. This changes how I approach each day. No-excuse living.
How will you treasure and value each of your days? How will you commit to no-excuse living?
The happiest people I know have something in common: they are whole-hearted in how they engage in their lives…whole-hearted in relating with others, in work, in meditation, and in play. They have a capacity to give themselves thoroughly to the present moment.
Yet for many, it’s challenging to engage with this quality of presence. Take this personal ad for example. It says:
Free to a good home, beautiful 6-month old male kitten, orange and caramel tabby, playful, friendly, very affectionate, ideal for family with kids. OR handsome 32-year old husband, personable, funny, good job, but doesn’t like cats. He or the cat goes. Call Jennifer and decide which one you’d like.
How often do we find that in our relationships, rather than loving presence, we have an agenda for someone to change, to be different? How often do we find that our insecurities prevent us from being spontaneous, or whole-heartedly engaged with friends? You might think of one important relationship and ask yourself: “What is between me and feeling fully present when I’m with this person?” Notice the fears creeping in about falling short, the urge to get your needs met, the sense of “not enough time,” the wanting for your experience together to unfold a certain way! This same conditioning plays out in all aspects of living, and it is well grounded in our evolutionary wiring. We need to manage things, to feel in control. We try to avoid disappointments, to prevent things from going wrong.
While we have this strong conditioning, if it runs our life, we miss out. Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence, psychologically, on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.” Unlived life happens in the moments when we’re not whole-hearted, the moments when we’re busy scrambling to get somewhere else, or holding back to avoid what might be painful. Unlived life is the relationships where we really don’t allow ourselves to be intimate with each other, the emotion that we don’t let ourselves acknowledge. Unlived life is that passion we didn’t follow, the adventures we didn’t let ourselves go on. Unlived life, while it happens in an attempt to avoid suffering, actually leads to suffering.
What I’ve noticed in myself, and when I talk with others, is that in order to be completely whole-hearted, there is a need for giving up of control. By letting go of our usual ways of holding back and protecting ourselves,we free ourselves to express our full aliveness, creativity, and love.
If we experiment with this letting go of control—if we engage wholeheartedly with each other and in our activities—our sense of being enlarges. More and more we discover the innate curiosity and care that leads to giving ourselves fully to this moment, and then this one, and again…this one. Rather than racing to the finish line, we choose, with all our heart, to be here for our life.
Happiness is eating a delicious chocolate bar. It’s a physical pleasure that lasts a very short time. What if you could find something akin to happiness, only deeper and longer lasting? Kind of like a permanent orgasm? Would you want some? Joy dives deeper and lasts longer. It’s a spiritual experience that comes from within. Joy is like an amped-up shade of happiness that doesn’t depend so much on senses or outer experiences. Bliss is the ultimate harvest of spiritual life. It’s an experience that transcends the physical and according to wisdom traditions, it is our true nature. If you want to find that path through the shades of happiness and joy to bliss, how do you get there?
One way to begin is to experience joy is through cultivating your inner sacred space. I call this place the secret garden. It’s a good place to plant seeds that can be cultivated and grow into a harvest of bliss. Some essential tools that help to dig deep and tend the inner garden include the hard work of self-inquiry, a regular meditation practice, a dedication to pay attention to and act on the guidance of your inner gardener – that higher, wiser part of you that is Divine – and a yearning to get rid of inner junk and pests that stand in the way. This junk is often old stuff from the past, including attitudes and habits that may have served us well at one time, but now just get in the way and hold us back. It’s time to let go of these and grow into the new life that’s waiting. One of my favorite ways to cultivate bliss in my secret garden is through consciously choosing guiding values.
Values are like seeds. They may include peace, kindness, generosity, joy, determination, patience, and more. When we choose the seeds we want to grow more of in our life, we can begin to cultivate them both inside during meditation and also through actions in our daily lives. Will the seeds you plant today lead to joy?
Christiane Northrup wrote one of my favorite books, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. In the early years of my practice as a nurse-midwife, I referred to that book more than any other. And I now feel that her more recent book The Wisdom of Menopause promises to be as oft-cited and referred to in the coming years.
In The Wisdom of Menopause, Northrup writes, "At midlife more than any other time we have a renewed opportunity to reinvent ourselves and fuel our lives from spirit."
Like her, I believe that midlife can inspire some huge spiritual awakenings. For that reason, I’ve drawn on Northrup’s book—and from another instant classic, Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self—to put together the following list of ways to foster a spiritual awakening in middle age.
Six Steps for Giving Birth to a Mid-Life You Love:
Begin a Daily Physical Practice. Over centuries, yogis discovered this truth: we begin to know reality through the body. We cannot transcend it. We can learn to listen to its messages, not ignore them.
Heart-thumping work-outs are a great form of cardiovascular exercise and stress release, but the daily physical practice I’m asking you to adopt is a quieter, more meditative form: you could begin a yoga practice, learn tai chi or simply get outside for a 15-minute walk every day.
Honor Your Body’s Messages. Our culture does a pretty good job of teaching us to ignore our body’s cues—from hunger to using the bathroom. We learn very early to control our bodies as a strategy for getting along in life. We learn to deny the body’s needs rather than learning how to respond to them in a caring way.
But one sure sign of wisdom is an ability to pay attention to things that others ignore. In mid-life, developing this ability with respect to our bodies allows us to appreciate that they are capable of sending us profound and meaningful messages that when acted upon will improve our quality of life. So I’m asking you to pay more attention to the signals your body sends.
Practice Exquisite Self-Care. As we begin to hear our bodies’ messages, another amazing change takes place: we begin to have more appreciation for them. We experience a new level of respect for our bodies and we want to keep them strong and healthy.
For example, when we compare the symptoms of fatigue with what we know our bodies can do when they’re well-rested, it becomes easier to focus on getting adequate sleep. The same is true of eating well, getting exercise and making time to connect with loved ones—as well as for quiet contemplation. We experience pleasure in caring for ourselves in this manner, and so I’m asking you to commit to caring for yourself.
Appreciate More. The key to a happy life—at any age—is to be happy. Having a satisfying daily life is way more important to most people’s sense of personal fulfillment than achieving some lofty goals like winning the Pulitzer.
How do you have a satisfying daily life? Look for things to appreciate. They can be small things like the way the light plays on the leaves, or the way your cat purrs when you rub that special spot, but when you get in the habit of looking for things that please you, you will find them.
If in a day you find more things to appreciate than to find fault with, you will feel happy and satisfied by the end of it. String together many similar days and you will have had a happy and satisfying life.
Decline Opportunities to Undermine Yourself. There is always a way to meet someone else’s needs without sacrificing your own.
I often get questions from my coaching clients about how to achieve this. It can be challenging, but it is possible to be true to yourself and your priorities and at the same time stay connected and be kind to those around you.
When you speak from a place of alignment with your priorities you will most likely meet with acceptance and support from the people in your life (try it and you’ll see).
But if you don’t, it will be easier for you to let those relationships go—or you may be surprised to see them simply fall away. This has been my experience and the experience of many of my clients.
So be clear about your priorities. Embrace mid-life as a time to be comfortable with asking for what you need to live your best life.
Follow Your Bliss. There really has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s "Follow your bliss."
My clients are often stymied when I ask them what they really want. They have deferred their true desires for so long that they are almost unaware that they have any. But given proper encouragement, a long list is usually revealed quickly.
And the benefits to exploring your true desires are profound. As Stephen Cope says, "True mastery can only be built upon the energy of real interest. This satisfying new connection with real interests may be accompanied by a sense of enhanced personal power—an experience of acting in alignment with the deepest self."
So I’m asking two questions: Do you know what brings you joy? And is there something you’d truly love to do, but you’re afraid to commit yourself to it because of fear of failure?
If you know what you want, I’d like you to start carving out more time to do it, even while you keep your "day" job. Connecting with your bliss for even small amounts of time will yield huge benefits.
And if you don’t know what brings you joy, start asking yourself every day, preferably first thing in the morning "What do I really, really, really want?" The answer will reveal itself to you in time.
I hope you will follow the above steps. If you can, you will be well on your way to embracing your own "Mid-Life Project" with the happy outcome of giving birth to a life you truly love.
One of my coaching clients is struggling with clutter. And although I don’t advertise it as a service, I actually love to declutter and organize.
So I offered to help her—and started the conversation by stating that I wouldn’t try to compel her to give up anything she didn’t want to let go. At the same time, I did share with her the thoughts that I will share with you now.
You imbue everything you own with a certain kind of energy. Things that are loved, used and appreciated have strong, vital energies. Clutter, which is anything unwanted, unloved, or unused, can diminish your energy.
To move from chaos to clarity, please consider having around you only things that are useful or bring you joy. When let you go of everything that has no real meaning or significance for you, you literally free up energy to achieve your goals and dreams.
Also, consider creating space in your life to receive the gifts that await you. When we let go of the things that no longer serve us we are saying, "I believe the Universe is an abundant place. I can let go of things and know that if I need them in the future they will come back to me easily and effortlessly."
In short, when you fill your home only with things that you love or use well it becomes a place of refuge, a place that supports and recharges you.
You can create your own peaceful haven by following the steps below.
9 Simple Steps to Take You from Chaos to Clarity:
Set your intention. Decide which rooms you most want work on first. Plan to work on that room and only that room until it is complete.
Gather your tools. A timer, garbage bags, boxes, and a magic marker. Label the boxes "Give Away," "Throw Away," and "Put Away." Line the "Throw Away" box with a plastic bag.
Set your time and go. The "15-minute sprint" is a powerful tool when decluttering. Plan to take 15 minutes a day to declutter one area in your home. If, after 15 minutes you feel inspired to do another, get a drink of water and go for it.
But don’t plan to do more than that. Again, we want to avoid burnout and overwhelm.
Start at the entrance of the room—a room that will soon become a peaceful haven. Then, work your way around. Don’t skip anything: just deal with whatever comes next.
When you look at anything in the room, ask yourself "Do I love this?" and "Have I used it in the past year?" If the answer is yes to either question, keep it—either by leaving it in place or putting it in the "Put Away" box. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a place for everything right now. By the time you finish, you will.)
If the answer to both questions is no, let the thing go—into the "Give Away" or "Throw Away" boxes.
When the "Throw Away" box gets full, pull out the garbage bag, close it, and put it in the trashcan. Put a new bag in the box and keep going until the timer goes off.
When the "Give Away" box gets full, close it up and put it in your car. The next time you are out, drop the box off at your local thrift store. Or post an ad to Free cycle. (When I use Free cycle—in many areas, this community clearinghouse operates as a Yahoo group you can easily join—the items I want to give away are usually gone from my porch within 24 hours of posting my add.) Now grab another box, label it "Give Away," and get back to the room.
When the "Put Away" box gets full, take the box in your arms and, as quickly as you can, go around the house and put the items where they belong. If they don’t have a clear place, put them in the room where they logically belong. Soon you will have a place for everything and everything in its place.
When the timer goes off, put away all the boxes (empty of course!) as fast as you can.
After you have completed the nine steps—celebrate! Letting go of what no longer serves us and opening ourselves to new possibilities are two of the most challenging skills to learn in life, and you’re well on your way to becoming a master.
Keep at this and you will reap the rewards that life offers to all those who let go and open up: peace, clarity, and abundance.
Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there. – Byron Katie
I love Byron Katie. I really do. I had a read a ton of literature on happiness – from academic studies to the Dalai Lama – and nothing helped me let go of my stressful thoughts like her simple process called “the Work.“
Earlier this year I had a pretty challenging phone conversation with my father. He wants his grandson vaccinated, but my husband and I have decided not to vaccinate our son.
We made this choice after a lot of thought, and for some pretty compelling reasons, but after sharing with my father the evidence behind our decision, he held to his belief that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
So my father—seemingly out of the blue—called and insisted that we vaccinate our son. As we talked, it quickly became obvious that I was not going to convince him that I was "right", nor was he going to convince me that I was "wrong".
He was frustrated and angry. I was upset, too. I got off the phone and wondered how we were going to feel better if we were not going to be able to agree.
Then I remembered Byron Katie. And I decide to apply the work to my stressful thought, “My dad should accept my views about vaccinating my son.”
To do the Work you ask yourself four questions. I list them now, along with the answers I gave to them at the time of my story.
Is it true?
Yes. I am an adult and the mother of my son and my father should accept my views about vaccinating. He doesn’t have to agree with me on the issue, but he shouldn’t argue with me about it.
Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
How do I react when I think that thought?
I am sad and angry and resentful that my dad is imposing his views on my parenting. I am fearful that he will withhold love or respect if I don’t do what he thinks is best.
Who would I be without that thought?
I would love my dad. He is an amazing father and grandfather. There are so many things that I love and appreciate about him!
After going through these questions, you do what Katie calls “the turnaround.” You try to imagine yourself in the position of the person you have judged, or whose situation causes you distress.
It is sometimes challenging to do this, but you will have huge awakenings when you can. In fact, you will often find that you have also transgressed—or are also suffering—in some manner similar to people or situations you have judged.
I realized that I was being as obstinate as I judged my father to be. I wanted my dad to accept my views, but I was not able to accept his. Immediately I felt a shift in my perspective and I could see how my dad was expressing concern for my son’s well being.
And I saw that I didn’t have to agree with him on the vaccination issue to appreciate his concern.
Shortly after I realized this, I e-mailed my dad, explaining how grateful I was that he shared my desire that my son be healthy. It took another few hours, but soon he wrote back saying he respected my position and appreciated the respect I had shown for his motives.
And by doing the Work and sharing my appreciation we were all able to find peace.
Hope is not just some ephemeral emotion. Nor is it the abstract one-size-fits-all concept put to work in poetry and political campaigns. It’s actually a deeply felt Neurochemical stance that our minds take toward our current circumstances—a stance that alters our outlooks and our actions, as well as the life paths that unfold before us.
Clinical psychologist Rick Snyder of the University of Kansas has developed what he calls the "hope theory." This theory assumes that human behavior is primarily driven by the pursuit of goals and suggests that hope comes out of a synthesis of two components that are vital for meeting our goals successfully. In scientific literature these components—actually two types of thinking—are called "pathways" and "agency" thinking.
Pathways’ thinking is the organizational aspect of hope. It grows out of our perceived ability to identify the necessary paths for achieving a desired goal (i.e., how to get from point A to point B). "Agency" thinking drives us along these pathways, and grows out of our perceptions of our ability to use them to achieve our goals (i.e. what compels us to act).
Hope theory is significant because it recognizes the individual as the primary source of the energy and planning that moves us from dreams to desired outcomes. What’s more, it provides an explanation for the fact that in numerous studies, whether or not a person has hope has been shown to play a significant role in whether they produce favorable outcomes from the situations in which they find themselves.
This research dovetails with other findings that higher levels of hope not only lead to achievement of goals, but an increased sense of well-being. According to clinical psychologist Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hopefulness is not just a reflection of optimal functioning—it actually produces it, both broadening a person’s mindset so that novel and creative responses are more likely and building resiliency to prepare for the future.
Hope arises precisely within those moments when fear, hopelessness or despair seems most likely. Perhaps you’ve just lost a job or a relationship, and your future prospects seem grim and your initial reaction is to shut down. But it is in those dark moments that it is most important to turn to hope. Because without hope, we’re much less likely to find a way out.
But what if you’re having trouble finding hope? For most people having hope is like breathing, it just comes naturally and they don’t even have to think about being hopeful. For others, though, it may take some practice. However, like any skill it will get easier and yield better results with time.
So if you’re having trouble believing you can find a way out, here is a way to help you develop your "hope muscles." Before you start, though, keep in mind that "hope theory" suggests that the quality of a goal—its likelihood of being met—depends on whether one can be reasonably happy and hopeful about the outcome.
Goals that are too easily achieved (like watching television all day) do not lead to developing suitable pathways or require high levels of agency for achieving them and are not likely to lead to happiness. The same is true for those who set unreasonable goals. Snyder believes that goals should be challenging, yet achievable in order to lead to high levels of hope and an ultimate sense of satisfaction and happiness.
With that in mind, here are four steps to help you practice your hope skills:
Set a goal and imagine new opportunities that will allow you to meet it. This is called possibility thinking and is a key to making progress.
Work slowly but steadily toward your goal. (Even if the "new opportunity" mentioned above hasn’t shown up yet!)
Talk with people who seem hopeful about their future, a counselor or a coach. Sometimes you need another perspective to see smart new opportunities and these people are just the ones who will help you find them.
Treat yourself well. Hope flourishes—and everything looks better—when you are taking care of yourself.
The moment you choose to hope it literally opens you up. It removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows you to see the big picture. You become more creative, unleashing and achieving your dreams for the future.
It is inevitable that every one of us will face serious challenges—to our health, to our prosperity, to our sense of wellbeing—in our lifetimes. Whether we’re looking at the world stage or our lives, it’s essential that we choose hope over fear. The more we exercise hope today, the better equipped we’ll be to survive and thrive in our darkest moments. And you know what? It just feels better.
A child can always teach an adult 3 things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.Paulo Coelho
Not long ago, my friend Colleen was at a yoga workshop where the instructor was preparing to leave for a week-long trip to Italy. Someone else in the class said, "You are so spoiled to get to go there." And Colleen replied, "No. She is not spoiled: she is creating and living her dream—manifesting it."
If you’re like me you probably heard some envy behind the "spoiled" remark. I interpreted it to mean that this classmate wished she could be on her way to a really cool trip to Italy.
I mean, who wouldn’t?
Of course, I know that "envy" has a negative connotation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, we should learn to embrace envy—to pay attention to it as a strong signal from our deepest selves. Envy is simply desire clouded by the belief that we can’t have what we want.
But we can have it. If we think of envy as a gift we haven’t opened yet, we can learn to open it and see the thing we really want.
Back in February 2001, I wrote in my journal that I envied someone with whom I worked. She had spent years of her life working as a medical missionary in Haiti and I envied the circumstances that seemed to make the travel and service possible for her.
At the time I thought that a medical mission would be impossible for me because it would be irresponsible to leave my good job—with no guarantee that another job would be waiting for me when I got back—to do volunteer work in another country.
But then I had an epiphany: The envy I felt for my colleague helped me focus my desire on living and working abroad. I decided to commit to my dream, and I had an incredible adventure working with Doctors Without Borders in Mexico.
What I learned is that envy is a form of ignorance. It comes from an ignorance of ourselves and our ability to achieve any outcome we want if we just set our minds to it. Envy reveals something that we don’t know about ourselves and need to know in order to achieve our own perfect happiness.
At its heart, envy is desire—a sign pointing in the direction of our dreams, a sign we need to pay attention to on our journey. It may not always point us in the direction of Italy, but it always directs us toward any great big dream that we think is unattainable, but really isn’t.
When I asked Colleen if she thought there was an element of envy in the statement "You’re so spoiled…" she agreed. She also added that there was no malice in the statement, just wistfulness. And I believe the sense of wistfulness—really, powerlessness—associated with our desires is another misunderstanding.
Envy is a form of power. I want us to see envy as a manifestation of our desire—of wanting something—and associate that feeling with power. Rather than feel wistful about what you want, get excited. Be like the child and demand with all your might that which you desire.
I recently wrote about the power of your story in anticipation of meeting 12 women for The Power of Your Story event I was hosting. All of the women were truly amazing and I would love to write about each one of them. Today, with her permission, I will tell the story of one of them.
Patricia Alcivar is the most inspiring woman I’ve ever met – and I’ve known a lot of inspiring women. She is an incest survivor and left her family to live on the streets of NYC when she was 15 years old. She developed a friendship with a trainer who became the first person to believe in her and her talents and taught her to box.
She worked hard and eventually made it to the first ever Women’s National Amateur Boxing Championship. She says, “I had just come from a recent loss at the NYC Golden Gloves when I really should have won. It was a complete robbery, but my trainer taught me the valuable lesson of never ever giving up no matter what. We trained harder and went to the Nationals and fought each of the 3 opponents with skill and determination to get me into the finals.”
For the final championship match she was paired against Leona Brown (better known as “Little Tyson” for her sheer ruthlessness), who had just won every one of her previous matches in this competition with a knockout. Patricia’s friends could barely hide their concern for her safety and doubt for her ability to win.
At the weigh-in her opponent “talked trash” about her and even shoved her, but Patricia remained calm. As her friends complained and criticized the other player’s behavior, Patricia felt calm and centered. She didn’t know where her clarity came from, but she told her friends with utmost confidence, “Don’t worry. I got this.”
And she did. She handily beat “Little Tyson” with her skill, talent and extraordinary determination. That performance led her to be the first woman in history to be voted athlete of the year by the USOC (United States Olympic Committee). Patricia is currently training as a professional for the world championship title. My money is definitely on her to win it.
Patricia’s story is a profound testament to what can be achieved when you realize that negative events and circumstances don’t define you, but you define you. You always have the ability to choose your response in any situation.
But what if you don’t feel you have Patricia’s level of determination to achieve your goals and dreams? What can you do to develop the ability to choose your response and define your story for yourself?
The answer is simple, though it can be tough to put it into practice. You can become aware of your inner voice.
When you heed your inner voice (or what some call a “gut feeling”), you strengthen your intuition – your best guide to creating a life you love. And when you honor your intuition, your awareness will change in a myriad of amazing and unexpected ways
If you listen to it, your intuition will first make you aware of an astonishing number of so-called coincidences. Things will start to “fit” in ways you never dreamed they could. Soon these coincidences will seem less like coincidences and more like signposts—turning points in the road to a desired destination, whether or not you know what that destination is. And then, after a while, you will experience life as a constantly unfolding miracle in which everything you need is ready at hand right when you need it—and sometimes even before you know you did.
That’s not to say that you’ll enjoy everything that happens, just that as time goes by the challenges and crises of your life will come to seem like the necessary training for the challenges you must confront on the way to your best life.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is that, if you give your challenges the proper attention, they can help you focus on what you do want. Three months after my son was born I felt I needed to return to work. My work as a midwife required that I spend 24-hours shifts in the hospital and I didn’t want to be separated from my nursing infant for such extended periods of time. When I thought the financial necessity of returning to work required an unwanted separation from my child, I felt awful – I knew I didn’t want that.
The realization of what I didn’t want helped me form the desire for what I did want: I decided I would work in the hospital and bring my son with me. At the time it was absolutely unprecedented for a mother to bring her baby to work, and I had to work hard to convince the administration of its feasibility, but I did it and my child (and my husband who cared for him while I was seeing patients) came to work with me for over a year and a half. And I have to say that it wasn’t easy to juggle caring for my own child and caring for my patients, but it was worth it. Just like drawing something by drawing the space around it, you can find out your best life by paying close attention to your feelings—especially the ones you don’t want, or don’t feel you have a right to listen to—as you observe the life you have.
More importantly, though, your intuition can find in the challenges of your life all the evidence you need that you’re ready for something greater. As I wrote in my "Providence Moves" article, almost 10 years ago I knew I wanted more from my life but it took a little while before I figured out that it was living and working in remote Mexican villages. Did this seem impossible for a while? Yes. Was I scared to commit to that path? Absolutely. But as I looked at a life that was otherwise satisfactory I felt such a strong sense something was missing that I saw how much greater the life I really wanted was, and that if I chose, I could make it happen.
It may take some time before you hear it, too, but when you finally get the big thing your inner voice is trying to tell you, you will also hear it say, “Don’t worry. I got this.” It may be too small for you to hear it easily. It may be crowded out by all the other messages competing for your attention. But you can become aware of it. And using its wisdom is a great way to create your own powerful story.
But what do you do about those competing messages? What can you do to meet the challenges with openness for what they have to teach you about your life and what you most want? As I said, it takes some practice. But practicing your intuition is a lot more straightforward than you might think.
Try this exercise: take five minutes today (and every day from now on) and find a comfortable, quiet place to sit and think.
During this time think about what has happened in the day that most challenged you and ask, “What was that supposed to teach me? Can I find what was good and necessary about it?”
Then allow your intuition, your quiet inner voice, to offer the answer. When the 5 minutes is up, write your thoughts down. If you do this every day you will be astounded by how many people and situations show up in order to give you answers. More and more you will hear your inner voice saying, “Don’t worry. I got this.”