This week I have been reminded that when people act out in prejudice, discriminatory, and outright ignorant ways…they are being driven by fear. It may be fear of themselves, fear of uncertainty, or such a deep fear they don’t even realize it exists within them. My response will either give fear more power and promote separation or provide the antidote and guide us towards unity. It doesn’t mean I accept behavior and ignore the consequences of their actions…it means that I generate something that is impossible to exist in a state of fear: love. When we respond in kindness, patience, understanding, and generosity we promote a strand that connects us a human beings and reminds us that we are all the same perfectly imperfect and beautiful being that is.
If someone asks you how your week is going, what are you most likely going to focus on? Too often we get caught up in the things that we didn’t do well, the tasks we didn’t complete, or simply the daunting things piling up in front of us. And sometimes, all of those things start to sound like a negative committee in our head that is communicating that we are not good enough or working hard enough to celebrate exactly who we are in this moment.
What if you paused today and simply asked the question: “What did I do well this week?” There is something powerful about this question because it holds the answer to where our strengths are found. Through examining this question, we can reveal what we do automatically, and sometimes with little to no effort. Herein lies the key to what really makes us strong.
Now for those of us who have a particularly loud inner critic, this exercise may prove to be more complex and require careful attention to avoid the desire of focusing on deficiencies. However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be on your way to a stronger you:
- First, gather your writing paper/pens (this is better than the computer to decrease the likelihood of distractions).
- Next, sit and allow yourself to feel calm. This will look different for everyone, but do what works for you. It may include abdominal breathing, remembering self-compassion, smiling, soothing music, or even just thinking positive thoughts. Whatever works for you, take as much time as you need. Being calm and present is the most important part of this task.
- After you feel calm and relaxed, reflect on your week and think about all the events from the past 7 days. You may want to jot down certain names/places/things that happened.
- When you have brainstormed for a minute or so, begin documenting the things that you did each day that you enjoyed, brought you satisfaction, made you smile, and/or you want to repeat.
That’s all. Don’t worry if you had one great day and then one really crappy day….you are focusing on the positives. If you woke up early one day, had a good workout, connected with a friend over dinner, and noticed a beautiful sunset, then you write it down. However, and this is VERY important, if you find your mind wandering to the day that you overslept, had a conflict at work, ate all junk food, or argued with your partner; take a deep breath and focus on listing out only the things that you feel good about. Sure, maybe you had a crap day for the most part, but can you find something that was positive? Maybe it was the fact that you got up and dressed that day? Or maybe it was that you decided not to go bed angry. If you sincerely look for the best parts of your day, I believe you will find it.
Every day we do something that supports us, that makes us feel whole, that motivates us to try again the next day; but we can get so caught up in the one or maybe five things we did ‘wrong’ or not quite good enough that we overlook and even forget the small awesome moments. Please do not think any act was too small….if you smiled at even one person one day; that is something work celebrating and acknowledging.
The whole exercise should only take a few minutes and the most time-consuming part may be the getting to calm but it can be incredibly powerful to consciously acknowledge all of the good things you did this week. And as with any exercise, you will need to repeat it often to reap the full benefits. So start today, see how you feel, then try it again next week. Hopefully with a few intentional exercises of highlighting your own strengths you can start to recognize that you really are stronger than you realized and that you have incredible potential to become even stronger.
Be happy, be healthy, be strong.
Here’s the deal, we have a ton of stuff that is expected of us each and every day. Some times it comes from our own internal ‘to-do’ lists and often it’s a mixture of responsibilities that come from work, family, and this thing we call life. As I was working through my own tedious tasks today I couldn’t help but notice that none of my important items had to do with me, my well-being, or pretty much anything that made me feel light inside. So I paused for a minute, jotted down a few things that I could (and would) do before my head hit the pillow tonight.
I list 21 items below but the idea is not to do them ALL today or maybe even all this week, but it’s a great start. I simply wanted to write them down so I could work through a little every day. It’s not an exhaustive list and I encourage you to add or adapt your own actions, but hopefully it will give you a nudge (if you need it) of inspiration to pause and pay special attention to your best resource, YOU!
Pick 1 or 2 or however many you think you can realistically do today and feel free to repeat the same list for tomorrow. I truly hope and believe that any one of these actions would improve your overall sense of well-being, feeling of peace, or even relief (even for a just a moment). I do offer a bit of explanation with a few of the items, but mostly that is for comical benefit. I tend to use humor as a primary coping mechanism (hence, all the smiley faces all the time)!
- Smile. 🙂 See…it’s already working!
- Forgive yourself for something (could be for getting frustrated easily or maybe it’s just easing up some of that negative talk within your own head…)
- Hug yourself (or someone else). If you need instructions on hugging yourself: take your left arm and place it on your right shoulder. Then take your right arm, place it on your left shoulder. Now squeeze. I know, sounds silly, but works every time!
- Trust yourself. If this seems too daunting, then start by asking yourself what it means to ‘trust yourself’.
- Write out a gratitude note.
- Replace a complaint with a positive statement. Note: the more you practice this one, the more you notice those around you who could use the practice!
- Slow down (yes, this is vague…it is supposed to be as only you know what that means for yourself. Take it as literal as you like 🙂
- Hold the door open for the person behind you or perform any other random act of kindness.
- Say good morning (to everyone)!
- Tell someone you love them (this could be yourself as well….if you choose self, I recommend saying it in front of a mirror. It has more impact when you see yourself saying it).
- Choose to be happy today (the whole day).
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes. No talking, just listening. Can be done with eyes open or closed, your choice.
- Embrace change. Again, figure out what that means for you to ’embrace change’.
- Let go of something that no longer serves you.
- State a dream of yours out loud (doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it).
- Write out a definition of ‘love’ without using a dictionary. Describe what it feels like, looks like, and how you know it exists.
- Practice patience.
- Stretch your body (arms, legs, whatever makes sense for you).
- Listen to your body (instead of a clock) to tell you when you are hungry and tired.
- Take 5 deep breaths.
- Smile. Listed twice because it’s just that awesome!
Will these things change your life? Probably not. Will they lighten your heart? I surely hope so. Be intentional today and move yourself and your well-being to the number one item on any of your ‘to-do’ lists!
Practice patience. That’s the inspiration card that hangs above my computer at work. I stuck it there because I need that kind of ‘in your face’ reminder every day. I often feel like I’m running around, trying to beat a clock somewhere only to find my patience dwindle and be replaced by an excessive supply of worry or stress. It happens in the grocery line, it happens when I am driving home, when I’m waiting for someone, and most of all it happens within myself. It’s that internal chatter, telling me to ‘hurry up’ and ‘do this faster’ or ‘I can’t believe how long this is taking.’
The reality is that I’m not even sure what it means to practice patience. How do you practice something you don’t even feel like you have most of the time? I meet people who make patience look effortless. I’m sure you know some of these folks too. They are the people who smile at the ‘slow-talker’ who is taking forever to tell a story. They are the ones who drive without a hint of frustration behind the guy who has changed lanes 3 times without a blinker and cut them off at least once. They respond to a hurried apology with “Don’t worry, take your time.” And they tell you they had to wait at the doctor’s office for over an hour without even flinching. Who are these people and what drugs do they take to make them so damn calm and patient?
My old perception would be that these people just don’t care and have no ambition. I would see their lack of concern as aloof and unengaged. My newer outlook realizes that these individuals are more present than I could even comprehend. They are totally in the moment and able to appreciate exactly what is happening versus worry about what may happen 30 minutes from now. They have figured out how to practice patience and make it work for them. I realize that when I’m around one of these more evolved persons of patience I tend to relax more and feel more calm. I don’t always understand it, but I can’t help but soak up their sense of peace and wonder if I will ever feel that easy about deadlines, long lines, traffic, and all the other nuances.
As I figure out this whole concept, I found a quick way to measure my patience. I just have to stop and ask myself if I am being completely present in this moment. If I’m worrying about how long this is taking or when I’m going to be done or how fast the line is moving….I’m not able to take in what is happening right now and what it is that I’m feeling and even more, what’s really triggering that feeling and creating this sense of urgency. Instead, I’m 3 steps ahead and robbing myself of a moment of reflection and insight. Granted, I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about being present in the grocery line as the lady in front of me piles up her 30 items in the clearly marked “express lane” but I’m starting to lean in to this idea that if I’m there, I should be present. I’m going to try this out for a while and see what happens. Lucky me, I have plenty of opportunities to practice!