A client asked me to coach her so she could get more clarity about whether or not to move from her home into a condo or an apartment. Within the first session it was apparent that she had never loved owning a home, that she had many mixed feelings about the responsibilities of home ownership, and that she’d once been very happy when she’d lived in an apartment. As the coaching progressed she gained greater awareness of the reasons for her mixed feelings about home ownership. Still, she sat on the fence.
I expressed curiosity about her fence sitting, despite real evidence that she’d not been a happy homeowner and she had had a positive experience with apartment living. She told me that one reason she was still undecided was that she feared that she was overlooking something important about homeownership. Fear was a factor keeping her in your home.
My client had lived in her house for over 20 years, long enough to discover the real value of home ownership. I asked her where that concern was coming from. She told me that many of her friends were urging her to stay in her home, and were cautioning her against selling her home and moving to an apartment. One friend was particularly adamant about the value of owning a home.
Apparently my client was surrounded by friends who placed a high value on homeownership. Their perspective was that owning a home was preferable to apartment or condo living. Because a number of those friends were saying the same thing, they were people she loved and whose opinions she trusted and respected, and they often shared similar values and viewpoints, she began to question her own perception of homeownership.
After some discussion my client agreed that she’d really had ample time to discover the hidden joys of homeownership. It was clear to her that unlike her friends, homeownership is not high on her list of values. She even admitted that she’s not a “traditional” homeowner. Her perspective on home ownership, unlike the positive perspective of her friends, was that owning a home was a lot of work and cost a lot of money. She had been stuck sitting in indecision because she questioned her own values and perspective about homeownership in the face of strong opposition by her friends.
It’s easy to be swayed by the opinions of others if you aren’t clear about your values. Are you living according to your values? Are you even aware of what they are? Many people are not. And, sadly many people are living out the values of important others, wondering why they aren’t very happy. Coaching is a great option to get clear about your values and needs, to discover what floats YOUR boat, and to put your and what really matters to you into perspective. Get a coach and get on with YOUR life.
Internal clutter. We all have it. It shows up as negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, faulty thinking and limiting perspectives. Most of us are unconscious about the variety of clutter that runs the show in our brains.
You’re probably noticing that I’m including myself when I talk about mental clutter. The first therapist I worked with told me that I had a black cloud over my head. She was referring to the array of negative beliefs about life and what I could expect from it that I had laid out before her.
Upon reflection I was able to identify that I had inherited many of those beliefs from my father who has always been a glass half empty kind of guy. I remember him referring to “the malevolent universe” when talking about the state of our world. Little did I know that being exposed to that type of perspective and other pessimistic beliefs colored my view of our world as a scary, dark, unpredictable place. When my therapist shared her observation with me, she made me aware that toxic internal clutter was blocking me from being able to trust and experience feelings of joy. She opened a door for healing and developing a new perspective.
When I can’t seem to get traction in my life, when I get caught up in self-doubt, self-criticism and feeling uncertain and shaky about aspects of my life, I remind myself that I need to check in with the voices in my head. I examine my thoughts, the beliefs that are surfacing, my current perspectives regarding my purpose, my performance, and my journey. Invariably I discover that I’ve slipped into old ways of thinking. Bringing those monsters into awareness is essential before I can change them and make my way back to being fully connected with my best self.
If you find yourself struggling, check for mental clutter. What messages are playing in your head? How are you viewing your reality? Like attracts like. Negative beliefs, self-talk and perspectives attract more of the same.
Bring that clutter to light. Notice it. Don’t judge it. Internal clutter is a choice. But, you must first notice it and its effect on your feelings, behavior and view of your life and the world. Bring mental clutter to light and you’ll be on your way to a better life. Awareness first. You cannot expel energies you haven’t identified. It may not be pleasant process. But, it’s a step in the direction of positive change.
Are you dragging your feet about getting a task done? What’s the barrier to forward movement?
Recently I observed myself dragging my feet about taking action to begin the legwork to shift my business from a hands-on organizing/feng shui model to a coaching/writing model with hands-on organizing and feng shui as components of coaching and writing. I was committed to the shift, but could not make myself take steps to move forward to put my vision into reality. My plan was to offer my services as a coach who can move clients from stuck to moving and then thriving. And, there I was. Stuck!
By chance while on a road trip with my husband I told him that I was considering experimenting with group coaching as an alternative way to offer coaching to people who can’t afford one on one coaching. My husband is a therapist, so I asked him to describe how he ran group counseling groups, thinking that perhaps that information could help me develop a group coaching process. I was delighted to discover that there is a distinct possibility that the group counseling process could work for group coaching.
As we talked, I noticed that my energy level around jumping into action to integrate coaching in my business skyrocketed. It was such fun to explore the possibilities of group coaching, to consider doing more than one on one coaching. With that conversation the prospect of integrating coaching into my business shifted from a scary, daunting task to a creative opportunity.
I had been stuck because something about the task at hand wasn’t motivating. The thought of doing just one on one coaching as the main activity in my business did not float my boat. I was trying to get started on creating something that wasn’t quite the right fit for me, but it wasn’t until I reached out for support from Bob that I gained clarity about that. By making a connection with Bob, a knowledgeable resource, and exploring a new possibility with him, I was able to expand my vision for my business. When I did that my creative juices kicked in, and I was off and running.
My learning from this experience? Sometimes the task I’m trying to make myself do with no success is not the right task to be doing. When I get stuck reaching out for information and support can get me going again. I learned that I am more likely to take action if I can find a way to view a task as a creative challenge. When the work I need to do meets some of my basic needs, like having fun and being creative, I am more likely to engage in it.
When you’re stuck, stop and see if you can determine the barrier to action. What is blocking forward movement? Be curious about your inaction. The awareness that may emerge could shift your energy from stuck to moving.
How well do you know yourself? I have done lots of self-help exploration, therapy and coaching, and I am amazed that I can still discover things I don’t know about myself. For example, I’m at the beach with my mother. I just happened to schedule our trip on the week of the East Coast Surfing Championship. So, there are surfers everywhere! It’s been such fun to watch the surfing, see the surfers hauling their boards to and from the water, cramming boards into elevators, and riding bikes with boards in their arms.
As I’ve observed the surfers I’ve noticed similarities among surfers, and have become fascinated with deciphering the “type” of person who is drawn to surfing. What I’ve seen so far is that males dominate the sport. Most are young, slender, physically fit (great bodies!), medium height, and they have great balance and persistence. This is a sport dominated by young, athletic, focused, independent men who are not deterred by being knocked down by waves. They keep getting back up over and over again, perfecting their technique. Surfers are not quitters. They fall. They get back up. I wonder how this translates into the rest of their lives. What effect does that level of commitment to their sport have in their personal and professional lives?
“Amy has pneumonia.” What!? My invincible sister-in-law, Amy, had pneumonia? I couldn’t believe it! I’d just seen her two days before and she seemed just fine. What happened was she’d finally tipped the scales from chronically doing too much to REALLY doing too much with no break.
Amy is the owner of a very successful preschool daycare program, and a dedicated wife and mother who almost always puts everyone’s needs before her own. Recently she’d not only been running her daycare, which requires anywhere from 60-80 hours of her time per week, and taking care of her home, family, and personal business, but within the last few months she’d developed plans to double the size of her daycare, gotten a loan, and searched out and worked with an architect and a contractor to renovate the space that would make expansion possible. That expansion also required that she and her husband move to a new home. She found a home, purchased it, and moved in. Because Amy has the organizer gene in her family, she also coordinated the move, did much of the moving of smaller items into the home, and did most of the unpacking and setting up the new house. Is it any wonder that Amy crashed?
Amy is a woman with high drive. There is no doubt about it. When I’d asked her how she’d been able to get so much accomplished in such a short period of time during our visit the weekend before she was diagnosed with pneumonia, she said, “I just keep going.” Her automatic response when there is a lot on her plate is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, making the next decision, taking the next action. And, she gets a lot done. But at what price?
When I spoke with her while she was recovering from pneumonia, and remarked that she’d seemed fine when I saw her, her response was, “I just kept feeling like something was off. And, I started feeling worse and worse, but I had no idea I was so sick.” Even then, she kept going. It wasn’t until her daughter said, “Mom, we’re going to the urgent care center,” that Amy had a clue that something was really wrong. Her drive to get things done, to do the responsible thing, had blocked her awareness that her body was sick and needed attention.
High drive is the trait associated with people who are successful in business and life, and is revered in our culture. But, as Amy’s story relays, it’s demands can block healthy awareness of your physical limits. It took something as serious as pneumonia to make Amy aware that she had to stop and realize what her drive was costing her.
If you recognize yourself in Amy’s story, which unfortunately I do, it’s time to pause and take stock of what your drive is costing you. Is it affecting your health, your mood, your relationships? Perhaps it’s time to take back control from the tyrant of high drive so you can not only avoid a nose dive into illness, but make space for more peaceful moments and pleasure in your life.
What started as a determination to pull up all of the poison ivy that had invaded my flower beds ended up being a 2.5 hour marathon of pruning and weeding. Once I’d conquered that annoying invader of my gardens, a task I’d been avoiding for months, I felt ready for anything! I had no idea that that three leafed plant was blocking my motivation to do some serious work in my garden. Once it was gone, I had my garden back, and I could see so many possibilities for making needed improvements.
What most surprised me was a new awareness that my beloved butterfly bush needed a significant pruning. As I looked at it with its luscious bright purple tubular flowers, I noted that the weight of the branches was bending the bush almost in half. It looked like a burdened soul carrying a very heavy weight. Since feng shui has taught me that the energy of things around me affect my energy, like the off-putting energy of the poison ivy, I overcame my reluctance to cut off branches laden with flowers. I was all over that bush!
This past year I have been carrying some very heavy burdens, like caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. That bush reminded me of how I felt many times when I was juggling too many very weighty balls and feeling so weary. I definitely did not want anything in my yard or home to hold the energy of being burdened. As I chopped off more and more branches the bush began straightening up. When I was done, it was standing tall.
The lesson of the butterfly bush is that if I release some of what I’m carrying by saying no more often, lowering my sometimes unrealistic expectations, and asking for more help instead of trying to do everything myself, I too can stand tall, reaching for the sky instead of gazing at the ground.
What began as a determination to eradicate an unwanted plant ended up as a valuable reminder that I do have choices when feeling burdened by responsibilities. I can choose self-care and letting go. What obligations can you release today to lighten your load so you too can look up and see the sky?
Some people assume that since I’m a professional organizer I have many sophisticated systems for keeping my life in order. As I observed myself capturing “to do” items yesterday I smiled to myself and thought, “Oh, if they could see me now!”
My current system for making note of action items that I want to be sure not to lose sight of is anything but sophisticated! I always carry a small pad around with me. When I promise to do something for someone or a task I need to do pops into my head, I jot it down on a page in that pad. I then rip out the page and stuff it in my purse. Because loose papers in my purse almost always catch my eye and bug me, they get removed from my purse when I get into my car. The items that will be done from the car stay in a section of my console where I put reminder notes. The others are put in my lunch bag that gets emptied out every night. From the kitchen counter my notes are then transported to my desk where I take action on them.
Now, this system would not work if I had a purse full of all kinds of loose paper. Those reminder notes would just join the sea of paper and be lost. It would also not work if I weren’t pretty systematic about regularly clearing papers from my purse on a daily basis. It also helps that I am visually hypersensitive, meaning I see EVERYTHING, particularly things that are out of place! Those loose papers really bug me which spurs me to move them along to where they can be acted on.
The systems you use to keep track of the multitude of tasks you must do to keep your life running smoothly don’t have to cost much nor do they have to be sophisticated. What’s most important is that they work! For now my floating reminder system works. How do you keep track of the action items that come at you as you move through your day?
One reason we get stuck and fail to make positive progress toward our goals is because it’s so easy to get off track and be totally unconscious of the fact that we jumped the rails. For example, I recently was working effectively and efficiently in my office when I encountered a computer problem. Because I hate to have anything not working properly, I began trying to solve the problem. You know how that goes. It’s like going down a rabbit hole–many twists and turns, much time wasted, and still no resolution.
At some point along the way it hit me that I was wasting valuable time and not making progress on tasks I wanted to get done that day. When I weighed my options I realized solving that problem at that moment was a choice, not an imperative. With that hit of awareness I was able to change course and get back to work. Had I remained unconscious about the time I was wasting, as many people do, especially people with ADD/ADHD, I could have lost the opportunity to get an enormous amount of important work done.
If you are prone to such side trips, getting caught up in things that are not top priority, becoming aware of when you are off track and aware of the ways you can be lured off track is imperative if you want to be productive. I got back on track because I have a good time sense and a strong drive to accomplish my goals. My sense that time was slipping away as I worked to fix the computer problem got my attention and made it possible for me to pause long enough to become aware of the choice I had regarding the focus of my efforts.
Another way to create the opportunity for awareness is to set an alarm on your phone to go off every 20 to 30 minutes. When the alarm sounds, consider it a cue to pause and notice whether or not you are doing priority work. If you’re off track you can then shift back to work that will make it possible for you to reach your goals.
A lack of awareness that you are drifting away from priority work leads to being stalled in your efforts to move forward and eventually to being stuck. You choose. Stalled and stuck or aware and moving toward your goals!
A great way to develop awareness of priorities, of what derails your efforts to be productive, and ways to keep yourself on track and moving forward is to work in partnership with a coach. For a limited time I am offering the opportunity to experience the benefits of coaching with micro-coaching at a very reduced rate, three 30 minute sessions for $75. If you want to get unstuck and move toward completion of a task or make progress to achieve a goal, email me at debbie@RockScissorsPaperInstitute.com to let me know of your interest in coaching.
At the risk of putting a few of you off because of the religious reference, I offer you a lovely poem I found among my mother’s papers when I was clearing out her desk. It’s so interesting that these words were a comfort to my mother, that she too probably struggled with the never ending pull of things to do. Of course, she was a mother and that comes with the territory!
I hope you find these words give you permission to take your foot off the gas pedal and take time for more pauses, quiet and reflection. The best inspiration and guidance comes through in the quiet moments!
Slow me down, Lord.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations–slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend,
to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to sink my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
©1992 Creators Syndicate
Being stuck can show up in many ways. Following are some common stuck scenarios I’ve encountered in my 15+ years working as a professional organizer:
One option for getting unstuck is to partner with a trained coach. Coaching is a learning/action process for helping people take action to meet their goals. When people are stuck they have difficulty identifying their blocks to taking action. Their thinking can keep them paralyzed and unable to plan the steps out of their stuck spot. Addressing what seem to be insurmountable challenges with a caring, knowledgeable partner can transform an overwhelming challenge into a shared adventure of learning, awareness and action.
Are you stuck? Are you curious about whether coaching could help, but don’t really get what it’s all about? Consider micro-coaching with me. For a limited time I am offering three 30 minute coaching sessions for $75. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience coaching at a greatly reduced rate. Your investment of time and money could take you from stuck to action!