Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Sweet Dreams March 16, 2010

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I belong to a professional development group of coaches. We get together for weekly meetings led by a facilitator/instructor and work on our coaching skills, discuss business development issues, education and certification. The group has been meeting for several years and I have been a part of it for over a year. During that course of time, some members have joined and some have moved on – but the core group of seven has remained intact.

There are weeks when, my schedule feels particularly full or I may be feeling more tired or less focused. It is not uncommon for me to think on one of those evenings that maybe I will have to miss the group but other than once or maybe twice in the last year (when I was travelling or on my son’s birthday) I believe I have shown up for every meeting. And you know what, I am always damn glad I did. Last night was one of those nights.

I had been feeling exhausted and needed to take a little pause before an evening session with a client to just clear my head and refocus; I had even considered a brief nap – but to do so I would have had to miss my group. Knowing from past experience that I am always grateful when I go – I joined the group a couple of minutes late and did my best to be present and focused in the moment. At the beginning of the group when we were all discussing what we needed from the group that evening – I said that I hoped I would walk away with “an unconscious focus” (focus without a lot of thinking).

As the group began one member started to coach another around an issue that was very resonant with something I am dealing with in my life. As I listened to their coaching session I began to feel myself slip into the sleep that my tired old bones were definitely needing and I did indeed fall asleep for a few minutes. I awoke shortly before they wrapped up their session and just in time to hear a very powerful visualization exercise. Moments later when giving my feedback on the bits I had heard, I realized I had gotten exactly what I had wanted at the outset – unconscious focus.

Sometimes the universe can work in mysterious ways. You know the old, “ask and you shall receive” idea. Envision what you want – put it out there – and wait. The returns are not always that immediate and obvious – but I do believe that being clear and expressing not only what we want but what we need is the first step to getting it.

 

Just Another Monday? March 15, 2010

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As I sit here pondering where I want to go with this blog today, my mind is a pulling in many directions, and despite my efforts to land in several other seemingly more interesting thoughts, I keep coming back to the same place. I am finding my thoughts keep landing on the fact that it is Monday, and a new week is beginning. There is always the temptation to think, “Ah yes, Mondays, I know what these look like”, but the reality is that no two moments are ever identical. There will be routines and familiarity in the tasks that I confront but every moment is brand new, each second providing the opportunity for something different to happen.

I think we forget about that sometimes. There is such a strong tendency to pull familiar things together so that we can know and regulate and master our moments that I think we often miss the opportunity that is present at all moments. There is a necessary efficiency which comes with routine and similarity, a parsing out of our limited resources that allows us to conserve our energy for the big stuff and just sleep walk through the daily bits, but I wonder if we are wasting it. I wonder if, we were more engaged and present as we move through our days and tackle both the mundane repetitive tasks and the new experiences if life wouldn’t be just a little bit more interesting.

I am definitely drawn to novelty, and though I find comfort in the familiar, I prefer the challenge of the new. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the present, the known, the awareness of what I do have and the comfort in what I know. I think what I am really after here to the extent that it is possible is the idea of being present in the moment. To not take the moments of my day for granted even if they seem like I have lived them before, because every second is unique. Being mindful, aware and present provides the opportunity to see things as we never have before. So, yes, it is another Monday, but we have never had this one before…

 

Breathe… March 12, 2010

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Have you ever taken a yoga class, been in a massage or been working with an exercise consultant when they say to you, “Don’t forget to breathe”? And you realize that until they mentioned it you were actually holding your breath. It’s funny isn’t it? I mean really, how much more basic to sustaining your life can anything be? (Well, maybe if heart function had a voluntary aspect to it that could be a contender, but most folks I know can’t stop the beating if their heart at will.) It’s pretty straight forward – and mostly unconscious, but because we can have an influence over this basic function, I think that many of us don’t realize the power of it.

Taking a moment to notice, slow and deepen our breath at times can be an incredibly soothing and rejuvenating. It’s not like we are going to really stop breathing if we don’t focus on it but taking the time to focus on your breath can very healing. Think of the times when you are feeling sad, angry or overwhelmed in your life and you pause to take a couple of deep breaths to cleanse and clear your mind. Ever notice how effective that is?

When I was in high school, I took a number of yoga and exercise classes with one particular gym teacher who talked a lot on deep breathing. The simple technique of breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose and then blowing the air out of your lungs through your mouth was what she told us to do. While you’re breathing, you were encouraged to feel your chest expand with each inhale and to use your belly to push out all the air. Using your powers of visualization – we were encouraged to feel the breath coming into us and going to all the parts of our body – targeting areas of pain and stress. And then with each exhale let the breath take any tension and expel it with it. Simple, focused, deep breathing – after just a few breaths you are in a different space – body and mind relaxing and quieting all the time.

Being mindful of this simplest of life functions and the power it has to renew and refresh us is a great little tool to remember is always at your disposal. A few moments of quiet deep breathing can be like a mini-meditation that you keep in your pocket. So next time your life begins to overwhelm remember to just breathe, not in the unconscious way that you do all the time, but in a purposeful, relaxed way, it only takes about three and you will be amazed by the results.

 

Hey, What the Heck Do You Think You’re Doing!?! March 11, 2010

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Do you know where you want to be; not necessarily in terms of physical space and time but in terms of your plans for yourself? Have you identified a life that you want to be living that is different from the one you are living now? Do you know what it looks like? Surprisingly, not everyone has the vision of where they want to be, they know that their life as it is in this moment is not their ideal but they have not really considered the life they do want to be living. Having that sense that there is something missing from the picture but no real picture to pull you forward can be a pretty disconcerting experience. How can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you want to be?

Having the vision to project ourselves into the future and see what our lives could look like is an incredibly useful tool. It’s worth our time and consideration isn’t it? Living each day, one at a time, dealing with the present is also important but it doesn’t preclude the value knowing where you want to be. We each owe it to ourselves to spend some time considering and envisioning our lives as we want them to be. It provides a sense of direction and purpose that without such consideration can get lost in the day-to-day existence that we all must exist in.

You owe it to yourself to take some time thinking about where you want to be – because once you have articulated that picture, you breathe life into your dreams. There may be many goals, some short-term and some long  – and of the long-term goals there may be different tiers to be considered, separated by time and goal markers along the way. You don’t have to know all the details, or exactly what paths you will take to lead you there. It is not fixed and inflexible – your dream is fluid and adaptable, able to accept revisions and adjustments along the way while still holding onto to its integrity and truth. If you don’t know what your dream is – you owe yourself the time to consider it. To try to flesh out the picture of where you want to be – and make it tangible; draw a picture of the elements that you want, write a list of your desires, make a collage of the images that symbolize your vision, there are as many ways to do it as there are dreams themselves.

We all have to start somewhere. For some the picture is clear while others will have to struggle with it a bit. Consider all the arenas of your life that will be impacted and take the time to dream. We can live relatively contented lives without a master plan, but identifying the things that truly inspire you and pull you forward is the first step in a life of fulfillment, purpose and passion. You can always edit it later, but for now just let yourself play and dream. If nothing else the experience can be liberating, and the possibilities are endless…

 

Got Armor? March 9, 2010

There is a concept that we work with a lot in coaching which revolves around our “Inner Critic” or “Gremlins”. Intuitively we all know what that means. They are those voices inside our heads which are quick to chime in with their negative criticisms and self-defeating rants. None of us seem to be immune from their punishing voice, no matter how self-aware we may be. At times they are an active tribunal of punishing judges who deliver their harsh verdicts without ever giving us a chance at a fair trial and sometimes if you want to move forward you simply have to confront them.

The first step is recognizing the sound of their voice. At times it can be difficult to tease out the sound of your critic amongst the myriad of thoughts we may be having as they are masters of disguise, but it is possible. It requires a training of your inner ear to listen not just for the sound of our harshest critics but to the messages that they are spewing. If there is someone in there telling you “you can’t do it” no matter what “it” may be – likely we are on the trail of one of the little troublemakers. Adjusting your thought process to be aware of their presence is the key to vanquishing the little varmints.

How you choose to work with them is a whole other step entirely. You may use some creative visualization exercise to toss them away, or send them to bed. You may develop an inner armor to shield yourself from their negative blows. Or simply develop counter messages which you use to overpower the negative ones that they are tossing at you. Given the abstract nature of the entire conceptualization the only bounds here are those of your imagination. In my imagination the gremlins often take on the look of those “cold germs” in the pharmaceutical ads who meet their end when the subject takes whatever medication is being hawked in the advertisement. Whatever works for you, there are no limits.

The amazing thing is – that a simple mental exercise can have a pretty profound effect. Changing “the voices in your head” from those of a harsh personal critic to a supportive champion has a real impact. After all, even for those of us who are strongly impacted by those around us, we spend the most time listening to ourselves. So treat yourself with a little kindness, champion your own self and work toward recognizing and transforming the enemy within, you deserve it.

 

It’s So Simple – I Missed It! March 8, 2010

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This past weekend was, here in New England the first real taste of spring. The temperatures rose into the mid-50’s and after what feels like an eternity the sun shone bright in the beautiful blue sky. The sounds of hammers and children’s laughter peppered the air as the warmth-starved inhabitants found reason to get themselves out into the day. It seemed everyone was outside – except me. Despite my great intentions to take a long walk and enjoy the outdoors yesterday, I was (for the most part) in my house doing “chores”. Actually, there was one particular chore which ate up the bulk of my hours – setting up a new desktop computer for my kids (and myself).

After allowing myself to sleep in a bit I went up to my third floor with full intention of “conquering the beast”; coffee, eyeglasses and flashlight in hand. I figured at worst I would spend a couple of hours getting the new machine configured and linked in with the new printer and then I would be able to go play for a little bit before returning home to finish the more mundane weekly tasks that also crowded my list. But it just didn’t pan out that way. Despite my best efforts, and some minor successes, I descended hours later defeated by the technology that is supposed to make my life run more easily. As I struggled to understand the cryptic instructions – hopeful that if I tried just one more time I would be successful – I pondered the irony of the task I was tangled in.

Computers are no doubt an excellent tool to allow us to do a myriad of things in our lives, like write this blog for instance. They certainly have the ability to make our lives easier but in so many ways they do quite the opposite. Whether it’s struggling to install new software, weeding through virtual junk emails or waiting endlessly on hold for technical support, they can be major time-suckers – and what is meant to be simple is often rather complicated. Now, don’t get me wrong here – I have most certainly bought into the computer age – hook, line, and sinker. I love my computer – if “love” can be used in this context – but sometimes the promise of the ease it will offer doesn’t outweigh the simple alternatives for the use of my time.

By evening, I certainly wished that I had mapped out my day a little differently. Given that the reward of completion with regard to getting the computer set-up eluded me, I wished I had given up earlier and gotten myself outside more. The promise of simple had outweighed one of the simplest things of all, a walk in the warm air. Next time I am faced with a similar choice – I will choose the simple, renewing path – the chores and tasks and technology aren’t going anywhere, they will be here to frustrate me for many years to come and the first days of spring are never meant to be ignored.

 

Get Your Mojo Workin’ March 4, 2010

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Mojo – you know it when you got it – and you feel it when you don’t.  When you are on – you feel energized, attractive and confident. Your step carries a certain swagger, bounce and lightness. If people are looking at you, you don’t mind ‘cause you know they are doing so with interest and attraction. But when it’s not on – it’s as if a light has been shut-off inside of you. “Nothing to see here…” The low energy light is on and nothing of significance is being emitted. Though there may be times when we are all happy and willing to “fly below the radar” I think most of us prefer the positive vibe that comes when our “mojo is working”.

Now I can’t say for sure that it is all our choice as to whether we have it or not – but I know we have an impact on the final outcome. There is many a day when we awake and look in the mirror and the face staring back at us is that of a tired, low-wattage soul. The weight of life can be a heavy burden at times and finding that place in ourselves where we are feeling light and energized just feels like one more piece of work. But I can say from personal experience that tapping into that well of excited energy is not as daunting as it may feel.

It’s almost like hitting a simple reset button on our energy-meter. “Okay that’s not looking so good, let’s try this again, “click”, lights on.” Finding that place inside yourself where the switch resides isn’t always an easy task but once you’ve found it, it seems to stay where you can access it again. Not everything in our lives is going to support our feeling energized every day – there are a lot of drains out there and they are seemingly unavoidable, heck, there are even days when it is preferable to fly lower than others but if we want to, most of us have the ability to control this internal light if we want to.

So take a minute as you start your day today – to find that effervescent force. Take it in, turn it on and put it out. Take a moment to find that magical amulet that gets you going, it’s in your virtual treasure chest somewhere, you just have to discover where you last set it down. ‘Cause when your mojo’s workin’ life doesn’t just happen to you, but because of you.

 

Good Morning March 3, 2010

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I awoke very early this morning, which is my new routine as I try to squeeze everything I can into my days lately. But today, I actually have to leave the house early for an appointment. It was still dark outside when I stumbled down the stairs and began the morning routine of shower and tea. I was thrilled to see that once again the weather forecasters got it wrong – and the snow that they had predicted for the overnight has still not arrived. As I often do, I took my mug out to the porch with me and spent a little time in the quiet dawn of the day.

It is a beautiful morning. The sky was just beginning to brighten the crimson ribbons illuminating the low thin clouds and grey-blue-black sky. In the distance a cardinal and a robin sang the sweetest of bird calls to offer the only sounds that were noticeable. The temperature is definitely cool, but it isn’t too cold outside today, it’s pleasant actually, hinting toward warmer days and the advent of spring.

I just sat there quietly taking it all in – the beautiful sky at sunrise, the bird song and the stillness of the pre-dawn moments. I was thinking about how nourished it makes me feel to just notice these quiet moments, the simple gifts of nature and the quietness of my pre-active breathing. My time is limited though, I really do have to go but just wanted to share my gratitude for this quiet start to my day and hope that I can carry that stillness with me through the activities that lie ahead. Wishing you a peaceful start to your day and calm silence and beauty that you can find wherever you are today.

 

Bridging the Great Divide March 2, 2010

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Remember when we were on the young side of the generation gap? I do and I can swear it was just a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? Somehow despite all my protestations to the contrary I seemed to have slipped over to the other side lately. What happened? In some ways it seems like only yesterday but I have a feeling it’s been creeping up on me for a long time. My mom, who I used to see as “the adult” is now pushing 85 and most definitely in the older adult category these days. My children who were once innocent babies are now growing into young men (well, they’re teenagers anyway – so that’s headed in the right direction at least.) And I am in my late 40’s – squarely planted in my grown-up world with all of the trappings and responsibilities of adulthood around me.

Yesterday, I was driving my son to school when he made the comment, “Mom, do you even remember what it was like to be young?” Ouch! It may not be crystal clear but I am trying.  I am trying very hard to remember that time in my life when all I really wanted was to hang-out with my friends, away from school and the outdated notions of what my parents thought would be a good use of my time. I thought somehow that I would escape the great divide but I am afraid it’s here all the same.

So now the new challenge begins – to view my children’s experience with an open mind while still establishing the parameters that from my vantage point feel necessary and important. As I am often reminded, my primary function of instilling values in my children and giving them the tools that they need to function in the world is mostly done. Now it is becoming their turn, to take what they have learned and go out into the world to see what they can make of it. It is hard – my impulse to hover is strong, but my wish to see them continue to become the wonderful, independent young men that they are is stronger. My hope is that we can ride through these next years with a mutual respect and understanding that will position us in the future to have close relationships that continue to grow and strengthen.

 

The View from Here March 1, 2010

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Sometimes the little things in life bring the big things into focus. They move you out of the “here and now” and bring you face-to-face with the bigger issues. Why are you here? What are you working toward? What’s the reason for it all? Never far below the surface – the “whys” of what we are doing each day are right there giving meaning to the daily challenges and causing us to have to assess our actions. Is what we are doing on a daily basis actually aligned with our long-term goals and aspirations?

Taking in the big picture can provide clarity and direction when the little daily bits seem absurd and mundane. For those of us who are parents, life provides a whole new level of seemingly absurd tasks and responsibilities and a constant reminder of what we are working for. Something as simple as grocery shopping takes on a whole new meaning when you are bringing home food for your children rather than just taking care of your own appetite. Desires for them to grow strong and healthy, to have the proper nutrition to fuel their physical and mental needs and to feel cared for and taken care of – trump our wish to just snuggle up with a good book. (Though sometimes, giving-in to the need for a break may result in other creative alternatives to the nourishment question.) Nonetheless, our priorities become adjusted to take in our hopes and dreams for our children in addition to and beyond our own.

Sometimes the big picture can get out of focus or conflicting needs necessitate the need to prioritize our use of our resources. It is constant work, though for some it may flow more easily. I think the answers to the big questions rarely ever change but how we respond to the little everyday challenges often do. Being in alignment with the end goal can help to provide the added energy and clarity of judgment needed to get you through all of the little challenges and obstacles and provide the energy you need to wash that one more load of laundry, or do that last errand before calling it a day.