Self-Awareness; Recognizing the Seeds of Growth

Imagine you are driving on a dark and relatively isolated highway. You have a two hour drive to reach your destination and you feel relaxed, perhaps even singing a favorite song.  With a random glance at the dashboard you suddenly notice your engine is running hotter than it normally does and the needle seems to be moving up as you watch. You know cell phone reception is sketchy in this area and you are also very aware that you are not mechanically inclined.

Chances are you no longer feel relaxed and the singing has stopped completely. A variety of emotions are surging through your body – uncertainty, worry, confusion, frustration, fear – but other than that, nothing has really changed from a moment before. Your car was already heating up when you weren’t aware, so that has not changed. The only difference is that you now know about it. Although you’d love to go back to your relaxed and happy state and deal with the problem when it actually becomes one, you probably cannot – because you are now aware of this potential cause for concern.

When it comes to self-awareness, we are talking about learning things about yourself that sometimes you wish you didn’t know. It might be how you react to certain foods, how different emotions affect you, or a certain boundary that is a deal breaker when crossed. What’s amazing is that you can go through a good chunk of your life not noticing this tendency until suddenly this detail is brought to your attention in a way that cannot be ignored. Like the slowly moving engine needle, nothing has changed in that moment – except your awareness.

Noticing is the starting phase of self-awareness; the first step to ‘tuning in’. Unfortunately, for many, this is where they put on their blinders.

Unlike the car situation, when it comes to self-awareness it is often easier to ignore the information you have received. Rarely does it indicate an immediate break-down is pending, so pretending nothing critical will happen if you turn a blind eye is relatively easy. Awareness, however, is a funny thing. It does not happen accidentally. When you become aware of something about yourself, even though it might seem trivial or unexciting…it is time to sit up and take notice.

The warning in the car might cause you to keep a closer eye on the needle; begin watching the signal bars on your phone; and keep an eye peeled for gas stations. It might also produce a spontaneous dialogue with your Deity or prompt you to begin planning what you will do should your car break down.

This happens because you notice the warning, accept it as real and prepare to take necessary action. Chances are, even if your car does not completely overheat, you will have it checked out by a mechanic before beginning the drive back home.

In the self-awareness situation, you might notice it, “Gee, as soon as I took a bite of that shrimp my lip started to tingle – that’s never happened before,” perhaps laugh about it with others, “So if I stop breathing and maybe puff all up, call an ambulance and tell them it was the shrimp, okay?” then, when a full blown reaction does not occur, let it go as if it never happened.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  Aristotle

Self-AwarenessWhen it comes to self-realization, unless you are a consciously making an effort to be self-aware, you are well advised to pay attention to the sign-posts. Recognize that by the time the information surfaces to your conscious mind, the seed has been sitting deep within you germinating, establishing roots and getting ready to blossom. If you ignore these signs now, the next message will be undeniably more uncomfortable.

In many cases, this new awareness will not be life threatening, but connected strongly with happiness in relationships, general health, personal fulfillment and overall life satisfaction.  If you try to continue living the way you did prior to knowing this information, you will experience things like; increased stress, greater defensiveness, bigger overreactions and less self-control.

The more you know and understand the person you are today the more you can appreciate who you are becoming. What’s important to understand is that you do not need to wait for the car to break down to pay attention. The seeds are already planted and growing whether you notice them or not.

When you embrace the understanding that self-awareness is an on-going and necessary piece of your life, you open the door to a beautiful new exploration of self. All kinds of wonderful things can come from self-awareness; better communication, enhanced emotional intelligence, less stress, fewer over-reactions, a stronger voice, clearer intuition, improved health, greater self-control and a real love for personal development.

So take off your blinders and begin asking yourself why you do the things you do, notice how emotions surface in your body, make a note of repeated patterns or habits and be willing to explore things that seem to strike a chord deep within. Any one of these things will help you on your self-awareness journey and strengthen you for what lies ahead.

You do not need to know everything about yourself, but you do need to remember that when the needle starts to move it is time to notice, accept and begin looking at how you can embrace it (or at least explore it), rather than burning up your energy pretending you had no idea.

Sign-posts from the Universe

A number of years ago, I was feeling a pull to expand my horizons and writing was what kept coming to my mind. My kids were quite young and I really wanted to do something while staying at home with them. At that time I’d never even heard the word ‘blog’, so I thought the only way I could ever become a writer would be to sign up for a course or find myself a mentor.

One day I noticed a flyer for a long distance writing program that looked intriguing. I read it over, but it said I’d have to send in a writing sample so they could do an assessment and see if I would qualify for their program. I did not have the time, energy or burning desire to be assessed so I threw the flyer away.

A few days later I was tired and needed a moment to sit and drink my tea. I asked the kids to play quietly until I finished going through the mail. On this particular day they obliged. In an effort to delay my ‘stolen moment’ a few minutes longer I carefully went through the ‘junk’ mail in the pile. I chuckled when I came across the flyer from this same institution.

Later that week I was leaving the grocery store when a strong wind blew into the entrance way, sending advertising they had in holders along the wall, flying into the air. Only one piece floated right up and onto my groceries… it was the same flyer yet again.

A week later I sent in my application for assessment and my path as an author had begun.

The point is, often what you write off as weird or a coincidental can be something bigger at play – like the energy of the Universe helping you along in your journey.

In my case, I learned a lot of great information by taking that course and while I can’t really attribute the books I have written to that program (it was, after all, about writing for children) I know it changed the way I viewed myself and with it my ability to write.

So what signals has the Universe been giving you lately? Little messages that you’re on the right track…gentle nudges to move out of your comfort zone…ridiculous coincidences that simple can’t be written off as chance.

These sign-posts are there to help. Perhaps if you aren’t already doing so, it’s time to take notice.

Shifting Your Perspective, Because What You See Is Not Always What You Get

Gazing at a mountain while sitting comfortably on your deck, strolling down a road, or looking out from your hotel window, it appears peaceful and serene.  Hiking along that same mountain’s trail, losing your way, or camping there through the night, it becomes a very different place.

The mountain doesn’t change, but your perspective does, and with that change comes emotions that colour the experience for you. Anger, fear, embarrassment, resentment, jealously, grief …tend to bring dark colours that make it hard for us to see anything positive in that moment. If we can detach from the emotion (not turn it off, but simply see ‘around it’) we can get a better look at the situation and deal with it in a more satisfying way.

Below are some tips that might help you consciously shift your perspective – simple little questions or ideas that can help you take a step back from the emotion and perhaps choose a more positive response as a result. They will not all work for every person, in every situation – especially when the emotions are really strong, but with practice some of them might hit the mark and allow you to see the beauty of the mountain even when the situation seems quite ominous.

Conscious perspective shifting questions/thoughts:

  • What could be funny about this situation when I share it later?
  • If I had to share the moral of this story with someone what would it be?
  • If I knew I was dying tomorrow would I act differently?
  • How would I handle this if I was a robot or Data from Star Trek?
  • 20 years from now will this really matter?
  • If I had to justify my ‘opponents’ actions, what would I say?
  • What’s the most important thing in this situation and are my actions saying that?
  • What if our roles were reversed – how would I respond?
  • Can I change my judgment to curiosity?
  • How would I respond if my friend came to me with this situation and asked for help?
  • Would I deal with this differently if it was my friend (rather than my child, my spouse…)?
  • If this situation was being taped for a Reality TV show, how would I change my behaviour?
  • If I knew the person I’m dealing with would die tomorrow, would I talk to him/her differently?
  • If I watched this on TV would I laugh at it…or have ideas for the person to try… or recognize that things will get better in time?

Hope you’re having an awesome summer (or winter if that’s more applicable for you)!


You’re Perfect – Now Let’s Fix You!

If I’m perfect just as I am, why do I need to personally develop?

It seems like in the last number of years there has been a boom of programs being offered all geared at helping people self-improve, personally develop, remove blocks, overcome limitations or grow into their potential.

At the same time we are hearing messages all around us about how our uniqueness is what makes us special, that we are perfect just as we are and that the pieces that make us stand-out are the things we should celebrate and fully embrace.

This is an interesting contradiction and one that I have spent much time pondering.  You see I am one of those people who offer both acceptance and celebration of who you are right here and now, as well as programs that will help you bring out the best in yourself and grow to your full potential.

How can this contradiction exist without cancelling each other out?

To explain this apparent contradiction, I liken it to the birth of a child. A newborn child is perfect from the moment she comes into your life. There might be things about her that you would like to change (like perhaps sleeping more), but we recognize that these aren’t deficiencies – just preferences.

As the child grows she remains perfect – her silly moments,  her tantrums, and even her ability to push her parent’s buttons might not make her fun to be around  at times, but they are a piece of who she is and do not make her any less perfect.

At the same time as we recognize this, we also acknowledge that unless something is getting in the way of this child’s development she is going to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In other words, this child is expected to grow and to change…this doesn’t make her any less perfect now, it simply suggests that growing, and the change that comes with it, is part of living.

How can we be perfect and yet need to personally grow?  Just think of that newborn baby and the answer becomes obvious.

So embrace your personal development, be open to learning, unblocking and advancing yourself….knowing all the while that you are still absolutely perfect, just as you are.


Inner Wisdom or Inner Critic…How Do You Tell the Difference?

Get out of here fast!

Take out your keys and go quickly to your car.

These messages might sound similar – yet one feels urgent and produces fear, while the other feels important and suggests a guided action.  Both messages feel like they’ve come from inside our heads – so what’s the difference and why is it important we understand them?

Take out your keys and go quickly to your car is likely a message from your inner wisdom. Everyone has inner wisdom (although many ignore it) and with practice can turn up its volume.

Your inner wisdom might warn you of a potential problem, nudge you to move out of your comfort zone, guide you towards a chance encounter, or suggest a way you can build relationship with another. This wisdom can come to you as a voice, a thought, a picture, a feeling or even a dream.

Your inner wisdom in its simplest form provides guidance, helping you to recognize what’s right or wrong for you, providing necessary warnings and gently prodding you to grow to your greatest potential.

Get out of here fast! Especially when accompanied by thoughts like What were you thinking coming to this place at night or way to go now look at the mess you’re in, is a message from your inner critic and while it could be argued it’s trying to protect you the drama and emotional turmoil it creates will make it harder for you to do your best work.

This voice brings up failings from your past – both real and imagined.  It might tell you not to try something for fear of failure or make you doubt what you are already doing.  It will often sound snide (sometimes like somebody you know) and tends to criticize, condemn and complain.  The Critic is not something you have to live with, but without awareness will become a regular part of most people’s existence.

The reason people mix this voice up with their inner wisdom, is it too will point out potential problems, suggest new ideas and sound like it’s trying to help you fix relationships. It usually presents itself as a thought or voice in your head however it can surface as a picture or feeling as well.

Recognizing the inner critic:

  • Uses words that are judgmental, harsh, condemning, insulting, hurtful…
  • Brings up past mistakes, builds on them and makes you feel bad for trying something new
  • Exclaims, sounds snide, digs for things that will arouse your emotion
  • Says things in ways that instills fear, uncertainty, embarrassment, etc.

“You’re a terrible person – look how you hurt his feelings!”

“What makes you think you could do this right? You screw up everything, why would this be any different?

“You left the cat out again – you are a terrible owner, it’s a wonder that cat’s still alive!”

“The roads are icy and visibility is poor, it you drive in this you put your life at risk just for a meeting!”

Recognizing your inner wisdom:

  • Uses non-judgmental language and is unbiased towards the outcome
  • Information is given like an observation or suggestion – like something to note rather than must do
  • No sense of urgency or emotional attachment
  • Doesn’t make you feel afraid or even concerned – in fact, often comes with a calm sense of certainty

“His feelings look hurt.”

“Give him a hug.”

“Move the report away from the cup of coffee.”

“The cat is outside.”

“Look out the backdoor.”

“Don’t go to the meeting.”

“Switch lanes.”

Recognizing the difference between these two voices will help you reconnect to your own natural guidance and use it to help you really excel in life.

So the next time you hear a voice in your head, listen to how it’s talking to you.  If it’s emotional, critical or biased towards an outcome (i.e. don’t go!), then it’s likely the inner critic and is not there to help.  On the other hand, if this voice is calmly providing an unemotional message without any judgment or concern, it’s likely your inner wisdom and well worth taking notice.


Positive Procrastination – Tips for Helpful Side-tracking

Tip 1 – Ask yourself if the side-tracking is something you would want to do if you were “free” to do whatever you wanted that day.  If it seems like something you would do if you had more time, energy, freedom…then go for it.  Just be sure you aren’t creating an unhealthy habit that you really don’t enjoy, but have become addicted to (i.e. living on social media sites or spending hours in your email  inbox).

Tip 2 – When you have a big/important project and feel the urge to side-track, ask yourself if this new task is one you can just walk away from when inspiration strikes or if it is something you will have to take time to finish or clean up before moving back to your original task.

If so, and you still want to do this task, break it into tiny pieces that will allow you to work on the task without overwhelming yourself with a second project.  For example if I suddenly feel the urge to clean out my supply closet, I will limit myself to one shelf at a time, one file drawer, or one folder box.  This way the moment I’m struck by inspiration I can get right down to the task at hand and not have a huge fritter mess to clean up first (or afterwards).

Tip 3 – Set a time limit for the side-tracking.  Tell yourself you’ll take 10 minutes to play with your kids, throw the ball for the dog, ride on your exercise bike…or whatever the new task is.  Then for 10 minutes go and enjoy it guilt free.  If 10 minutes is over and you are having so much fun you don’t want to quit ask yourself how much more time you need.

Amazingly you’ll often receive an answer.  You might sense 5 more minutes are required, find your kids get side-tracked themselves, notice the dog has lost enthusiasm for the ball, or you’ll suddenly get a huge inspiration and practically run back to your desk to finish your original task.

You can’t put an amount of time on how long it will take your right brain to kick in, but just being aware of the amount of time you are allotting and then fully engaging for that amount of time will often make it happen.

Tip 4 – Use the side-track as an opportunity to multi-task.  In other words while you walk the dog, cut the grass, do the dishes… gently think about the original task and see what arises.  Talk aloud if you’re an auditory (and can do so without embarrassing yourself too badly), or just daydream about it.  Creativity is inspired by a body in motion…use the motion to help you do your initial task.

Tip 5 – Listen to your body. If you’ve tried the above and still feel a strong resistance to going back to your original task, it’s time to take a closer look at the picture.  Ask yourself how important completing this task is, if it has to be done today, or if there could be a bigger reason you don’t want to do it?  The resistance could be telling you something important about your life path, your relationship, your job, or even about the task itself.  I’ve had situations when I can’t seem to focus on a task only to find out the next day that I had misunderstood and didn’t need to do it (or was doing it wrong, etc).

Every once in a while, look back at all your side-tracking situations and see what it’s done for (or to) you.  Has it helped you feel more fulfilled and complete more tasks?  Then my guess is you are tapping into your intuition and only good will come from listening.  On the other hand if you now have the neatest desk in the world and 1000 new friends on Facebook, but have still not completed a task you’ve identified as important that you do, perhaps it’s time to call a fritter a fritter and in the famous words of Nike “just do it”!


Procrastination, Is it Frittering, Fulfilling or Freeing?

When I was going to University I was asked to write a paper on frittering as it relates to students.  I had never heard of frittering before, but listening to my Prof share a brief description, I realized I had been doing it for years.

It turns out frittering is that thing we do when we really don’t want to complete a task that we know we have to get done. The thing we are avoiding could be anything; studying for a test, filing our taxes, writing a letter, phoning someone, washing the dishes – anything that we know we have to do but really don’t want to.

The fritter is the thing we do instead.  It too can be anything; cleaning out a closet, organizing our desk, creating a “to do” list, baking, exercising…anything that we normally wouldn’t look forward to doing, but suddenly seems really appealing.

Sound familiar?

Learning about fritters in my first year of University was a true gift, as it taught me to be aware of them and to refuse to be sidetracked by them once they were identified. This saved me a lot of time and while my closets and desk weren’t as organized as they would have been if I had allowed myself to fritter, my marks happily reflected my new found focus.

In the years since I graduated from University, I have remained conscious of fritters and while I have been known to participate in them every now and again, I have done so knowingly (although guiltily).

Recently my understanding of fritters was challenged when I found myself explaining to a friend how frittering sometimes helped me access my creativity.  As I spoke, it became clear to me that fritters aren’t always something to be avoided. Or perhaps more clearly, that not every side-track is a fritter.  The more I looked into this, the more I realized I had hit on something I needed to share with others (especially those I have counseled not to fritter)!

As a result I took a closer look at procrastination especially as it applies to “home-office tasks” and came up with three different categories that require very different calls to action:

1. Fritters:  As mentioned above, this is using your time to do other “unnecessary” tasks in an effort to avoid doing something you have deemed as important.  It is called a fritter because it eats up your time that would be better spent on something else.   Social Media, checking email excessively, surfing the web or watching TV can fall into this category even though they don’t always fit the defining factors outlined below.   To me, a definite fritter, (and one that I avoid if at all possible) are tasks that suck up my time without giving much in return.

Fritters can involve anything, but the defining factors are:

  • the need to do it tends to come on suddenly – in other words until the deadline was looming for your necessary task, this new item didn’t feel very important
  • it’s something you would resist doing normally (or at least not look forward to)
  • there’s a need to justify it afterwards (i.e. that closet has been bugging me for a long time…)
  • once your important task is complete you no longer feel the need to do the fritter

2. Fulfillment: Earlier this year I wrote an article on how important it is each of us figures out what fills us up so that we know how to recharge our batteries.  Even a dedicated and focused person cannot run on empty, so sometimes when something appears on the outside to be a fritter, it can really be a necessary and important fill of the tank.  In this case it makes sense to participate in the side-track so you can be at the top of your game and be working from a place of strength. Then…on a week-end or whatever your off-time is, dedicate some serious energy to creating more balance in your life on a regular basis.

3. Freeing Creativity:  The right brain and feminine energy associated with it has long been undervalued by much of our society.  As a result many of us have been led to believe a task will best be completed by using a linear focus [decide what you need to do > develop a plan > do it > celebrate that it is done].

But what happens when despite our best intentions, focus does not come? I experienced this myself recently when I sat down to accomplish a specific task with an expected outcome and found myself staring at a blank sheet of paper. In the past I would sit there, continuing to stare and feeling my frustration rise along with gentle urges to do something else. Since this side-tracking to me felt like fritters I would shove them aside and continue to stare.

Today I recognize these urges as my intuition suggesting things I can do to help free my creativity.  For me these urges might be to put on some music, dance around the room, phone a friend or walk my dog, but they can also be urges to go play with your kids, re-pot a plant, play a musical instrument, exercise (jog, yoga, stretches…) or meditate.

So, if you are struggling with creativity and fulfillment and like me have been avoiding all side-tracking as fritters, you might want to do a re-assessment of the situation.  There is more to being side-tracked than we have been led to believe and it is possible, that focus is not always the way to fix it.

Positive Procrastination – Tips for Helpful Side-tracking

Are You Too SORE to SOAR?

Most women are more than willing to admit they are darn good multi-taskers. Because women used to be the gatherers, we are apparently wired to see everything that has to be done in one quick scan of the meadow.  Unfortunately this means we sometimes race around trying to tackle everything only to wear ourselves out and perform below our potential. 

I refer to this situation as being SORE, because it often results in us Spinning in circles; Feeling Overwhelmed; Reacting; and Reaching Exhaustion.

This can be frustrating since the reason we are multi-tasking in the first place is there is so much to get done… yet being SORE is negatively affecting our achievement. 

So what’s my answer?  When you recognize this is happening, take a moment to re-center yourself (using tools like deep breathing, stretching or a grounding/mind quieting exercise) and remember that you are capable of doing of a lot of great things – but not all at once.  Once you are centered (or at least close to it) consciously switch from SORE to SOAR:

Simplify – jot down (or mentally create) a list of the things that must get done and choose one of them to focus on

Optimize – focus your attention fully on that task, allowing yourself to optimize your energy, increase your performance and feel more relaxed (this is where delegating can sometimes come in)

Achieve – continue this task right through to completion without allowing other things to side track you. Unless it’s an emergency, kids, spouses and phone calls can be asked to please wait until you are finished the task at hand

Reward – make a point of rewarding your accomplishments with little pleasures or in one big celebration.  At a more relaxed moment, create a list of little things you enjoy that can be your reward for each and every task accomplished. This can be listening to a favorite song, sitting in a garden, enjoying a piece of dark chocolate or cup of tea…. Sometimes, because of time constraints it makes sense to shoot for one big daily or weekly reward to celebrate all the little successes – like; an uninterrupted bubble bath, a night out with friends, watching a movie or reading a good book – guilt free! 

What’s amazing is that when we SOAR we actually get more accomplished and feel better about ourselves in the process.  So just because you can make lunch, sweep the floor, listen to a teleseminar and keep an eye on the dog playing in the yard…when you feel yourself getting SORE it really is time to make some changes.

Why Parenting is So Challenging and What You Can Do to Lower that Hurdle!

Life is all about personal development – learning new things about ourselves, our relationships and our environment and then applying that knowledge to our lives. When we are done personally developing…we are DONE!

Parenting, is all about personal development. Forcing us to recognize our gaps in knowledge and fill them in. It is not gentle, nor is it quick. In fact it is hugely challenging.

This audio shares why I think parenting is so challenging and how knowing this information can help a keen parent use it to their advantage. Enjoy! (approx. 30 minutes)

Fill’er Up! Learning How Self-Care Can Keep You Going

One of the simplest ways to help people become better at looking after themselves, is to help them take stock of what fills them up.  Like a car at the gas station, we need regular refills of positive moments in our lives if we want to be able to keep trucking day after day. 

Things that fill you up are things that: 

  • You enjoy doing
  • You feel stronger after doing
  • Make you feel good about yourself as a person
  • Create a sense of happiness or contentment deep within 

Examples of things that might fill you up: 

  • Connection to others – quality time with partner, kids, family, friends (important you feel allowed to be your true self with these people), volunteering, being of service, giving to others
  • Movement/exercise – dancing, swinging, yoga, running, aerobics, sex, biking
  • Music – singing, drumming, listening to music, playing an instrument, chanting
  • Touch/energy work – massage,  foot rubs, Pranic Healing, Reiki, Reflexology
  • Quieting the mind – relaxing baths, meditation, daydreaming, Tai chi
  • Belly laughs – with a friend, a child, watching a show
  • Artistic expression – writing, drawing, painting, sculpting
  • Being out in nature – walking, tree hugging, sitting by water, horseback riding
  • Animals – petting a dog, grooming an animal, playing with a kitten
  • Excitement – Riding a motorcycle, flying an airplane, driving a race car

The type of things that fill you up, how much you need to reach the full mark, and the amount of time you remain “full” for, will be different for every one of us.  So take some time and explore a little.  Once you find something that fills you be sure to build it into your life so you can fill up on a regular basis and not risk the chance of ever running out of gas.