purpose


It’s the middle of the summer.  The heat wave is just beginning for many of us.  Our pace becomes slower.  Our energy is sapped easily.  Sometimes our patience runs a little thin.  The effects of the summer weather on each of us can be a metaphor for what happens to us when we overextend ourselves.  How often have you found yourself at the end of a full and busy work week dreading how much you have to do on the weekend?  The demands on your time seem never-ending; the to-do lists seem to get longer; our compassion seems to wane.

The effects of the summer heat can be neutralized by following some hot-weather guidelines:  dress in light colors in loose-fitting clothing; stay in air-conditioning; eat smaller meals; drink plenty of water; stay away from alcohol and spicy foods; etc. 

Well, the effects of overextending yourself can be neturalized as well by refreshing yourself.  Take frequent breaks. Keep your sense of humor active.  Prioritize your to-do list so that you can let the lower level tasks float to the next list.  Give yourself at least one energy boost a day.  You decide what your own energy boost is.  It could be taking the dog for a walk; sitting and having a glass of iced tea; calling your best friend for a chitchat.  We each have our own  list of energy boosts.  Sometimes we just forget to use them.

So, listen to your body when you start to get overextended.  Refresh yourself.  Your summer heat wave can use a breath of fresh air!

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We are all familiar with walking down the street and coming to a crossroads with a stoplight and the direction of “walk, don’t run” flashing when it’s our turn to cross the street.  What a wonderful saying for our journeys through life.

How often does it happen that before you know it, a day has passed and you don’t remember the feelings or impact your actions or experiences have had on you?  You have gotten a host of things done off your to-do list and start preparing your list for the next day.  Maybe a sense of accomplishment is felt, but what was your experience of this day?  What opportunities did you miss or what challenges were skipped because of racing through that checklist of “productivity”?

I do not discount how busy our schedules can be and the errands and chores that require attention on a daily basis.  But, consider this.  We all have been driving down a city street, noticing and trying to avoid the vehicle that weaves in and out of traffic to get ahead of everyone else.  How many of you are aware that more often than not you catch up with the hurried driver at the next stoplight?

The point is that we get nowhere fast when we race through life.  We miss the nuances, the beauty, the life lessons, the seeds for wisdom whenever we hurry, destined to repeat the same mistakes, miss the important messages, and feel drained of energy.  There is no finish line to cross, no person to beat, no stopwatch to monitor.

Life truly is not a race to be won, but a journey to be enjoyed.  Make sure you see all the sights:  Walk, Don’t Run!

In this post, I will address the concept of personal power.  Some may call it “acting your age,” “being assertive,” “taking care of yourself,” or “being empowered.”  I like to name it “keeping your power switch turned on.”

How many times throughout the day do you say or do something that isn’t what you wanted to say or do, and later wished you could have or would have said or done something different?  Confusing?   Let’s look at two examples and see if either applies to how you, at times, relate to others.

You have a girls’ night out once a month.  The weekend before your scheduled get-together, you go see a movie with your husband and really don’t like it.  The girls’ group plans to see a movie for this month’s night out, and the popular pick is the movie you just saw.  When asked if that’s a good pick for you, you tell your friends, “Sure, I’m game.”  Inside, you are irritated with yourself that you didn’t speak up to share your opinion.  You go to the movie and suffer silently.

Or, your supervisor likes to tease his employees when they make mistakes.  You find his behavior embarrassing and distasteful.  You make a minor mistake on a report; your supervisor teasingly says, “Way to go, Einstein” in the presence of your co-workers.  Your face gets hot; you see red; you stand up and shout, “Shut up, you are so ignorant,” and bolt out of the room.

What happened with each of the women in these scenarios?  Let’s take a look.  The first woman denied her reality by squashing her opinion and passively going along with the crowd, even when she did not want to.  Now, if she had spoken up, she may have indeed still seen the movie again, but she did not even give her voice a chance to be heard with her friends.

How about our second scenario?  On the surface it may look as if the woman kept her power switch turned on by yelling at her supervisor, but the opposite is true.  She, too, turned off her power switch by reacting with anger.  She really wasn’t in charge of herself during that time.  Therefore, her power was shut down.

Both women had abandoned their powers of choice and became reactors. What triggers this reactivity that leads to an either-or, fight-or-flight position?

It is fear…irrational fear.  “I’m afraid they won’t like me.”  “I’m afraid others will think I am weak.”  “I’m afraid she’ll get angry with me.”  “I’m afraid she won’t be my friend anymore.”  “I’m afraid she’ll think I’m stupid.”  And on and on and on.  You fill in the blank.

When you go into reactive mode, you limit your choices to only two…neither of which are usually from your power switch turned on.

Often, a good way to tell that you have turned off your switch is when you find yourself obsessing about and replaying the scenario well after the interaction/event has occurred.  In the replay in your head, you may be thinking of things you wished you would have said or done; possibly reliving the uncomfortable emotions you felt at the time; or, planning a way to “get even”.  In short, you are not finished with the scenario long after it is over.  This is a sign that you did not deal with the issue at hand with your power switch turned on.

If you deal with an uncomfortable scenario with your switch on, you will be finished with the scenario at the time it ends or shortly thereafter, after a brief replay for a quick assessment of your behavior.

The secret is to silence the irrational fear before you decide what to do.  A simple formula to do that is to say or do nothing when challenged interactionally.  It’s important that you buy yourself some time to get your emotion in check and keep the power on.  You can do this by counting to ten, leaving the room for a while, going for a walk….anything that will help your thought processes diminish the draining energy of fear.  Once you are in charge of the fear, other choices will come to you on how to handle the situation.  You then have the power to choose how to respond from a variety of options.  And, when you do respond, your presentation will be more empowered and you will be more equipped to handle however the person responds or reacts to you.

By keeping your power switch on as an adult woman, you can:

• Keep your energy high

• Respond with confidence

• Lessen self-doubts

• Keep grudges from forming

• Respect yourself and others

• Interact with self-assurance

Balance … what a great word.  What do you see when you say that word to yourself?  It often changes, based on our own life experiences and needs.  Here are some of my visualizations:  a teeter-totter; the scales of justice; a person on a high wire; even the bubble in a carpenter’s level.

Whatever you see, connect your visualization to your sense of self.  You can feel a sense of balance as you focus on your breathing as you visualize:  inhale through your nose (fill your belly) and exhale through your mouth, taking twice the time it took to inhale.  Do this three times as you are viewing your mind’s picture of balance.  This is a simple exercise to start to right the ship when you are feeling yourself off-kilter.

Balance of the self takes into account these life areas:  physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.  Each area requires attending to in order for us to maintain that delicate state of balance as human beings.  Let’s look at each one of these.

Physically, take care of yourself.  The simple prescription is to eat right and exercise.  Although you can subscribe to a weight management program like Weight Watchers or work out at the local gym, the formula simply includes eating in moderation and moving (walking, swimming, etc.).

Mentally, stay active.  Use your brain cells.  Learn something new every day.  Have an opinion (whether you share it or not).  Studies show that the theory, “use it or lose it,” applies to those cells under our skullcaps!

Emotionally, be sure to be the adult you are when you are experiencing and/or expressing your feelings.  As adults, emotions are kept in appropriate perspective so we don’t overreact in situations.  Keep in mind that emotions are to be used as messages to the self, from the self, about the self.  They are not to run the show and dictate our thoughts and behaviors.  They are to be used purely for information about the self.

Socially, it is important that we have connection with other adults in our lives.  We are social beings.  That said, we don’t have to be social butterflies.  But, we do need to have that adult interaction regularly.  This can be met by contact with coworkers, family members, friends, and/or more formal social groups (bowling league, softball team, book club, etc.).

Spiritually, we have a need to know what life is all about; what our purpose is; where we are headed; why things happen the way they do; etc.  This life area is personal.  Each of us defines what spirituality means, whether it is participating in an organized religion, feeling a connection to the universe, or defining your higher power internally.  Throughout our adult lives, we will experience our personal spiritual journeys.

Balance.  What a great word.  Know that we can all get there.  Staying there requires daily maintenance of these major life areas.  So, take care of you … the enrichment balance brings to life is immeasurable.

As the winter slowly moves forward, each day that passes takes us a day closer to springtime.  Many of us have this attitude about winter.  We get caught up in the waiting for the next season (planning our spring cleaning or even the summer vacation to Disneyworld or Las Vegas).  We skip over today and the wonders, joys, surprises, and awareness of the present.

Yet, all we truly have is today.  Of course, it is wise to plan ahead to some extent; but not to the exclusion of living in the now.  To fully experience life, all of our senses deserve to be in touch with what is connecting us to the present.

Only in the present moment can we truly see the possibilities for growth, change, self-improvement, etc.  If we are focused on the future or mired in the past, we will miss the life lessons that open the doors to a sense of peace, contentment, and accomplishment.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to discover and live your purpose in life if you are disconnected from the now.

If you struggle with staying in the moment, here’s a simple way to start being in touch with your now:  Use your five senses to identify what is presently occurring for you.  Right now, what do you see?  Right now, what do you hear?  Right now, what do you smell?  Right now, what are you physically touching?  Right now, what do you taste?  By answering these questions, you force yourself into the now.  Once you get practice doing this exercise, add another question:  Right now, what am I feeling?  You’ll find yourself connecting more with you and your experience of life in the now.

So, embrace today!