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When we are young, we spend a lot of time dreaming. Nothing is off limits. Everything is possible! We might entertain dreams of being President, flying through space, or checking out groceries. All of it is equally intriguing, and it never occurs to us that we might not be able to do anything we want.

Then it happens. We’re sitting at our desks, full of hope and dreams, and the teacher asks the question. It is a question that seems innocent enough, but for some, it is also a question that pursues us relentlessly for the next twenty years.

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“Never doubt th…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Ready to take a risk but feeling a little uncertain? Take a deep breath. You can do this!

 

For a quick confidence boost, find a quiet spot and pen and paper. Without overthinking it, recall the last time you felt truly confident. It doesn’t really matter what you were doing, although recalling this will show you an area where you are strong. What matters is how you felt when you were doing whatever it is what you were doing. What does confident feel like to you?

 

If you are having a difficult time articulating what confidence feels like, try asking yourself the following questions:

 

  • Are there other feelings that confidence resembles? Is it a combination of happy and self-assured? Is it the absence of another feeling? If this is the case, try to identify what is replacing the other emotion. For example, if confidence feels like not feeling doubtful for you, perhaps it feels like self-assurance and competence.

 

  • Where in my body do I experience confidence? You may feel it in your head, your heart, your solar plexus, or somewhere else entirely. Perhaps you feel creative, imaginative, silly, or generous. Whatever it is, write it out! The more detail you can give it, the easier it will be to recall later. Research suggests that your brain does not distinguish between the experience of a feeling and the memory of one. The greater your recall, the more confident you will feel in the moment.

 

  • How do others react to me when I am feeling confident? This question allows you to consider how your behavior may change as a result of your confidence. Many people find confidence attractive or reassuring, which is why the confident suitor—not the cocky one!—usually gets the girl. 

 

  • If I had to sum up this feeling in one word, what would it be? Remember this word as it will become your anchor word. By that, I mean that it will provide a link to the feeling that you are exploring.  

 

Now that you have immersed yourself in the memory and sensation of confidence, sit with the feeling for a minute. It’s okay if your doubts creep in here and there. You can push them aside by firmly stating, aloud or silently, the word that you identified as your anchor word. Take a few deep breaths, enjoy, and go get ‘em!

 

Happy Journeys!

According to a recent Harris Poll, only a third of Americans consider themselves to be very happy, down from the last national poll by two percent. Although the numbers appear to be related to social conditions and also to one’s age (older people are happier than younger), gender (women are happier), and race (Hispanic Americans are less happy than Black and White Americans), expectations also appear to play a huge role in how happy people are overall. One of the statements researchers asked survey respondents to agree or disagree with was, “I won’t get much satisfaction from the things that I do anytime soon,” which almost half of 2,345 respondents agreed with.

 

Unfortunately, the researchers failed to follow up on this question. I found myself wondering, “Is it that people are doing things that they believe will never make them happy (i.e., wasting their time on things they dislike), or are people doing things they don’t want to do to build toward the future (i.e., taking that horrible statistics class in pursuit of the awesome career to come)?”

 

I soon realized that if the latter were the case, people would probably be more optimistic about the horrible statistics class being worth it in the end. The statistics having spoken for themselves, I can only conclude that Americans are still unhappy about doing things they don’t want to do, and that this is (still) the major source of their unhappiness—outside of those things that can’t be changed. Over a third also said that they were not participating in the hobbies or pastimes that they actually DID like doing, the combination of which is a recipe for unhappiness.

“The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to chase it yourself.” – Some wise person, circa 1881, usually attributed to Ben Franklin

 

It would appear that happiness is a choice that results from knowing that at some point, there will be a pay-off. To be happy, your actions should support your goals. This means that if you are unhappy, you can do one of two things to fix it: 

 

Choose to do something different. You can either do more of something you like to do or less of something that you don’t. Try this simple exercise, courtesy of gaiamtv.com to clarify what you’d like more of in your life. Then get to it! Or……

 

ImageChoose to think something different.

“Okay,” you say, “but I have to go to my crappy job.”

“I have to take this crappy course.”

“My crappy car is the only car I own!” 

 

Okay, maybe so. But instead of reveling in the craptastic nature of it all, think about the paycheck you’ll be getting on Friday, the degree to come, or the places the car will take you. It could take you to the next interview, or it could take you to your best friend’s house. The choice is yours.

Happy journeys!

A Note About Coaching….

Recently, I’ve seen a flurry of activity surrounding the coaching profession, and I wanted to take a second to address this with you, my readers. You may have noticed that a number of TV programs have started hiring coaches to host: A&E’s Monster In-Laws and VH1′s Why Am I Still Single come to mind most immediately.  Sometimes the coaches will call themselves “experts,” as there seems to have been some sort of recent consensus that experts are somehow more palatable to the general public. I am not fond of this trend. You will know why by the end of this post.

First, a word about what coaches do and what they do not do. Please, if you’re considering hiring a coach… or an “expert”… please remember that a coach is an investment in yourself. You would not randomly choose a career, a university, or even a gym membership, and you should not randomly choose a coach, either. We have different specialties, different approaches to coaching, and frankly, you get more bang for your buck with some than others. The easiest way to find out who you’re hiring and what you’ll be getting is to ask questions. Interview your coach. Anyone who has put in the time and effort to become a good coach won’t mind, and in fact, will appreciate that you are already invested enough in the process to ask questions. Additionally, most coaches offer a free session so that the two of you can see if there’s a good fit and for you to see for yourself the benefits of coaching. Use this time to your advantage!

 

There are a few warning signs that you should look out for in the initial session and beyond. If you run into any of these issues, please act immediately on your own behalf. A conversation with your coach may be helpful. If nothing changes, it’s best to kindly and firmly move on. If you’d like, you can explain to your coach–in writing or otherwise–why you’re discontinuing coaching services. A written notice can also be helpful if, for example, you’ve paid for several sessions that you won’t be participating in and suspect retrieving payment may be an issue.

Watch out for these warning signs:

  • The coach can’t, or won’t, answer your questions. There is absolutely no good reason for a coach to avoid being questioned. If you ask a question that she doesn’t have an answer for, a good coach will tell you so and will go find the answer!
  • Coach talks more than listens. Unless you’re in a workshop or seminar, you should be doing the majority of the talking. The coach’s job is not to babble, or even instruct, but rather to smoothly direct you to previously unexplored places. 
  • Coach runs the show. This is probably the biggest screw-up a coach can make. A coach who has been trained properly hears, “sit back and stay out of the client’s way” upwards of a hundred times during training. It is not our job to tell you what we’re going to be doing today or give you assignments, unless you’ve previously indicated that you’re open to such activities and welcome them. This is your journey, and the coach should be along for the ride… not the other way around.
  • S/he fails to ask what you would like to accomplish or what your goal is… for the session and overall. Coaching is not counseling. You are there for a specific purpose, and we need to know what that purpose is before we begin. A good coach will start out every session by asking two things: what is on the agenda and what you’d like to accomplish with the session.
  • Bored, distracted, or sleeping. Either the coach just isn’t that into you, the coach just isn’t that into coaching, or he didn’t get enough sleep last night. Regardless of which, the session’s a waste of your time.
  • She tells you how. Coaches don’t tell you what to do, or even how to do it. They might offer suggestions or engage you in an exercise that leads you to your own solutions. They do not, however, connect the dots for you. We pride ourselves on letting people do their own work. That way you can be proud of your own accomplishments.
  • It’s all about the coach. Your coach has a long list of accomplishments and goes on and on about them in excruciating detail. I highly doubt you’re paying her to be her rapt audience.
  • You feel unmoved. While some sessions have more activity than others, you should walk away from a session feeling different than you arrived. You should feel challenged or see things from a different perspective. If there’s no change, there’s no progress.
  • Your coach has no training or credentialing. You can always do a sample session (I hope) to figure out if your coach has amazing natural ability, but keep in mind that there are specific coaching techniques, training, competencies, and skills that your coach may not have if he or she hasn’t become proficient in not just what he is coaching, but also the art and practice of coaching itself. Make sure you’re getting what you paid for.
  • You ask about ethics, and your coach is clueless. Most coaches adhere to a specific ethical code and they can discuss at great length what that code entails. If your coach answers vaguely or sounds confused, this should alert you that he or she probably has little training, at least in this particular area.
  •    Coach constantly cancels or reschedules. This     usually indicates that the coach is having some sort of personal problem or just isn’t the right fit for you.

  •    The coach assumes an aura of authority. Your coach is your equal and will tell you so if you come to rely on his or her assistance too heavily. A good coach has boundaries and will work with you as a peer and not as a parent, boss, or authority.

Finally, a word on experts. While I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who are experts at their craft, I do not feel that the word has the same connotation as the word “coach” does. If you do, indeed, hire an “expert,” be clear on what his or her role is and what your role is in the…. experting… process. You may find it very different from the coaching model.

Happy journeys!

What Dreams May Come….

“That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within our self.”–Paracelsus

Image courtesy of Google images.

What are your dreams trying to tell you? Are you listening? 

Dreams have been a source of fascination throughout humanity’s history; yet only recently have we begun to understand exactly what purpose they serve. Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, asserted that dreams were unconscious wishes, fears, and urges that surfaced when the conscious mind was at rest. Jung built on Freud’s theory, suggesting that the language of dreams is symbolic and that the unconscious mind uses universal symbols to bring unconscious messages through to the surface of consciousness. Campbell built on Jungian theory even further, proving the connections between symbols through time and across cultures by identifying themes common to mythologies the world over. These themes also manifest themselves in dreams, weaving stories for the conscious mind to decipher upon waking. But how? Read on for tips that you can use to immediately begin decoding your dreams and using their wisdom to gain access to your own inner truths.

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” — C. Jung

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” — Virginia Woolf  

  • Begin with intention. Create a physical and emotional environment conducive to nurturing dreams. Turn off the television. Spritz your pillow with a mild and pleasant scent. Lavender is said to encourage peaceful sleep, or you may use a scent that you find personally soothing. Make sure the room is cool and quiet. Then simply relax. As you drift off to sleep, you can invite your unconscious mind to reveal its wisdom to you and mentally affirm your intention to remember your dreams. Or you can just say the word “dream” to yourself as a mantra. The intention will be understood. 
  • Consider using a journal. Have fun choosing a journal and a pen. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, but reserve it for dreams only. This signals your subconscious that your dreams are important to you, which creates more opportunities to write. If you’d prefer, you can use a handheld recorder to record your dreams and write them down later. I do encourage you to take the time to write your dreams out eventually. Your mind will analyze the content differently as you’re writing than it does when you’re simply recalling it aloud. If you decide to keep a notebook and pen, also consider a lamp, bright nightlight, or free-standing flashlight for those nights when a dream just can’t wait until the sun rises. 
  • Phone a friend. Beyond writing your dreams, describing them to an objective third party can sometimes prove enlightening. “What does it mean when my boyfriend’s driving me somewhere, and as we’re going, I start to feel like I’m slowly going nuts?” my sister asked one morning. “It’s like he was driving me… oh…. crazy.” Enough said. 

Image courtesy of google images.

  • Combine intuition with common symbol interpretations. You can find a million websites that will tell you what each symbol means. Scan some of these, but keep in mind that you are your own best resource. If you frequently dream about flying or falling but you enjoy skydiving in your spare time, your dream may mean something completely different than it would mean according to dreammoods.com. The emotions and thoughts you encounter in dreams can reveal quite a bit about what the symbol means for you. Pay attention to emotional cues and what seem to be randomly occurring thoughts.
  • Put the pieces together. Like any good puzzle, your dreams need you to take the pieces and link them together to get their points across. Once you’ve contemplated what the symbols mean separately, consider how they relate to each other. Your unconscious may present a number of symbols to reinforce the same message. Considering symbols in context can also show you specific areas or times of your life that the dream pertains to.
  • A few cheats. Following are a few simple and common elements of dreams. Use them to guide your analysis and to provoke further insights. It may also help to create an index of your own interpretations for later use. This can act as your own personal pocket guide to your dreams. It can also help you in interpreting others’.

BEING CHASED: Anything behind or to the left typically represents your past, just as anything in front or to the right typically represents the future. Being chased often represents that your past is catching up with you in some way, or it could represent that a memory is trying to resurface. 

HOUSE: The house represents your perception of your life as it is. Rooms within the house indicate various aspects of your life. Below ground rooms (basement) represent the unconscious, and rooms typically represent the aspects of your life associated with the activities that take place within those rooms. Social gatherings represent the people within your life. Note how you feel and your attitude toward the house. Are you trapped? Do you feel safe? These reveal important clues about how you perceive your life overall. 

WATER: Water represents emotions and the unconscious. Pay attention to emotional content and the appearance of the water. Is it deep, or is it a drizzle? Is it clear and clean or cloudy and polluted? These provide important clues into your emotional state. 

VIOLENCE: Keep in mind that characters in your dreams may represent others, but they may also represent some aspect of yourself. Violence indicates a desire to control or an anger toward something or someone. If someone else is acting in a violent manner toward you, you may be feeling victimized or a sense of shame or powerlessness associated with that person. Pay attention to surrounding clues. 

FREEZING or BEING IMMOBILIZED: Symbolizes a feeling of powerlessness. Incidentally, this also occurs when the conscious mind awakens before the brain allows the body to awaken. While not a pleasant sensation (it can sometimes cause a heavy feeling on the chest and the sensation of not being able to awaken), this is the brain’s way of preventing you acting out your dreams, which sleep walkers can attest is not a pleasant sensation, either! 

These are just a few common elements of dreams to get you started. I hope they will inspire you to look deep and access the wisdom of your own sleeping mind. Sweet dreams! 

Image courtesy of google images.

Next time you find yourself in the office or in your car, take a second to look around and notice the space that surrounds you. Would you describe it as cluttered or clean, organized or chaotic? Take a stroll around your home and note the state of each room. As you look around, close your eyes and feel the energy of the room around you. What does it feel like? What words would you use to describe the space? Make notes of your impressions for each room. After noting your impressions, take a look at the descriptions below to see how your space reflects on your life. Keep in mind that the words you used to describe these spaces may very well also describe the aspects of your life that they correspond with.

Image courtesy of Google images.

  • LIVING ROOM: Your living room is the room you show to the world. It is your persona and reflects your social life. Clutter in this area represents a blockage in your social life or relationships. They may be neglected completely or, on the other extreme, overrunning other areas of your life. If this room is very cluttered, consider what you are hiding from–or hiding from others.

  • KITCHEN / DINING ROOM: These rooms represent the areas of your life in which you nourish yourself and others. Family is particularly relevant here. This is the hearth, where families meet and break bread together. A lack of dining space or an unused kitchen may reflect a lack of connection amongst family members. Clutter and mess can indicate disagreements or discord within the family unit. 

  • BEDROOMS: Your bedroom is your sanctuary and is reserved for those with whom you are most intimate. A messy bedroom may indicate a need for greater self-care and may reflect discord within a relationship. A couple’s bedroom that reflects only one partner indicates a lack of balance within the relationship in general and a need for compromise. A sparsely decorated or personalized bedroom can indicate intimacy issues. 

  • BATHROOM: Your bathroom reflects your self-awareness and attitudes toward yourself, as well as your emotional self. An overly cluttered bathroom may reflect self-criticism or perfectionism. A messy bathroom may indicate depression or moodiness. Your bathroom probably doesn’t look wonderful if you consistently find yourself feeling like sh…. well, you get the point. Consistently messy bathrooms may also be indicative of  people with patterns of emotional repression. 

  • OFFICE SPACE: A cluttered office space may indicate indecision, lack of focus, or time management challenges. On the other hand, a pristine, sparsely decorated office space can indicate a lack of passion for work and possible complacency within one’s career. The absence of personal elements may also indicate introspective tendencies or reflect a person who values their privacy highly. 

  • STORAGE SPACES: If you have four or five closets crammed full of barely or rarely used things, you may be clinging to something in your past. Note what you’re hanging on to for further insights on what exactly may be holding you back. Crammed closets may also represent hidden aspects of your life.

  • CAR: Your car represents the transitional spaces in your life. Is your car full of files from work or fast food bags? You may have a tendency to drag your work home with you or be missing out on important opportunities to connect with and nurture yourself and your family connections. If your car hasn’t been maintained properly, it may indicate a stubborn, resistant, or complacent attitude that is impeding your progress. 

Please keep in mind that these descriptions do not apply to every single case. Some people really can’t stand living in an organized space, and that’s just who they are. However, if you’re not one of these people and the above exercise causes you to pause and wonder what to do next, please keep reading. There are ways to turn the tide! And although cleaning out the spaces associated with the more troublesome areas of your life won’t fix everything, the act of cleaning them out can instigate change on a deeper level. Following is a simple plan to create inner space by clearing your outer space.

Image courtesy of Google images.

  • Identify which spaces need the most attention. Where do you feel least settled with the clutter? When I did this exercise, I started with the foyer. The foyer represents beginnings in your life. Reducing clutter here can create momentum to move to and through other areas of your life. Also, it’s just nice to walk in and not be bombarded by clutter!

  • Chunk your progress.  You don’t have to try and de-clutter an entire room in one day, and it may not be advisable to try. In fact, if you’re working in a room that represents a particularly challenging area of your life, you may set yourself up for failure by trying to move through it quickly. Listen to your own intuition. You may need to do a small corner one day and a larger section the next. Take baby steps. This will allow you to be cognizant and mindful of the changes that you’re making. 

  • Remove everything from the chunk of space you’ve targeted. You read that right. Take everything out and move it to another area. Once everything’s moved and you’re left with what was there when you moved in, you can clean the space thoroughly. Really look at it. Ask yourself what a guest would notice about that space. You’ll likely notice things that would have otherwise escaped your attention. Thoroughly clean the space to your satisfaction. In the next step, this empty space will be recreated with intention. 

  • Redecorate. This is probably the most difficult step. By this time, you have a lovely, clean space in one area of the room and a pile of what used to inhabit that space in another section. Looking at your pile of “stuff,” pick out what you would like to put back in this shiny, new space. Realize that everything you put back in this space represents what you value enough to put there. Thus, everything you put back should be cleaned thoroughly and carefully considered before it’s placed. Refrain from adding anything that you have to justify putting back. 

  • Image courtesy of Google images.

    Redistribute. You now have a small pile of things that have been kicked out of the space you’ve just intentionally recreated. These things can either be moved to another space for now, trashed, or donated. Choose wisely! 


  • Enjoy your space! This kind of mindful cleaning can be extremely gratifying because of the immediacy of the results as well as the exercise in mindful self-awareness. I encourage you to be consistent about reclaiming your space. By doing so, you create intention in your life and in your space, and this intention will yield results, sometimes in surprising ways. By clearing away the old, you make way for the new. 
Happy Journeys!

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