Mirror, Mirror

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Self-reflection (picture credit:  wallpaperup)

“If only you can see how others see you” – me

One of my unique gifts is that I see the best in others. Always have, always will. This sometimes gets me into trouble because it makes me vulnerable to being taken advantage of when my trust is misplaced. However, this is one of the skills I value the most, since as a coach, I provide a positive and wise reflection of others.

Reflection, whether it comes from external sources or is directed inward, is so incredibly important.

It’s really important.

Did I say it was important?

I believe reflection is the primary method by which we gain self-awareness not only in terms of how others view us, but also with respect to how we view ourselves and the world.   By having an understanding of both our inner and outer world we can integrate the two and understand how one affects the other.   The better we understand that relationship, the more successfully we can navigate our world.

For example, I know there are times that I carry my emotional baggage just below my consciousness. I can become bristly and edgy without realizing it, and then become confused when others do not respond to me in the manner that I expected. Of course, I might blame them because I felt I was approaching them with openness and positivity, not realizing that my garbage was bleeding into the interaction. Knowing the limits of my self-awareness means that when I don’t get the response I expected, I have to wonder if I’m bringing my baggage into the interaction. Hmmm!

In other words, I need both external and internal reflection to understand the me:world interface.   My reflective practice is key to helping me become better at understanding myself. Being open to the verbal and nonverbal feedback of others, without judgment, also helps me to understand how I’m influencing the world.

Others often say they don’t have time for a reflective practice. That’s the equivalent of saying that I don’t have time to talk to my spouse or partner every day. YOU are the most important person in your life, and if you fail to listen to yourself, then you are cutting off the most important person in your world. If you did that to your partner, don’t be surprised if your relationship fails. If you do that to yourself, don’t be surprised if you fail, or at least struggle. A lot.

Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to give yourself 15 minutes per day?

You deserve it.

It’s important.

You’re important.

You should see the glorious person that I see in you.

 

 

Closing Doors

“When one door closes, another opens”

I love this statement because it reminds me to look forward toward possibilities rather than back on past losses. Usually I think of this phrase relative to big things such as jobs or relationships. However, this concept also applies to the small events that happen in our lives every day.

Recently I wrote about my minor injury. While starting my convalescence right before the 2 week holiday break, my computer also decided to take an extended vacation as well. So there I was during the break, bum ankle, a computer vacationing at Disney Land, cumulatively spelling disaster for this energizer bunny. My family will tell you there was a lot of pouting and off-couch rebellion during my convalescence. I definitely was not a little angel.

Normally when faced when the usual bumps in the road of life such as delays, repairs, reversals, injuries, mistakes and mishaps, I fume, storm, and fight back (sounds suspiciously like a temper tantrum). But I am more circumspect regarding setbacks these days (don’t worry – not even close to achieving angel status). What should I do instead? How can I better manage my frustration? What can I learn by sitting quietly? What should I do/not do? What in my life needs attention that I have been ignoring? What am I focusing on that I should be letting go of?

Setbacks, large or small, at minimum are invitations to reflect and regroup. They’re not an indictment of our quality or qualifications as a friend, potential mate, person or professional.  They’re not a sign that the universe is against you and your chance for happiness. Rather, they are an opportunity to stop, find a positive perspective, and reflect on life and the direction it’s heading. Viewing setbacks or delays as a wonderful gift and opportunity not only will make you feel calmer but more powerful and optimistic.  In other words, all those little frustrations are actually gifts.  It’s just like Christmas, every single day!

What is your most frustrating, recurring delay or problem?  How can you approach it as the gift that it is?  Within, you might find a lovely surprise.

A Case for a Daily Reflective Practice

We all have our routines each day: brushing our teeth, dressing ourselves, exercise perhaps, making our coffee. Those routines are largely around caring for our physical selves.

Some may also have a cognitive routine, such as reading the paper, watching the news, reading their book, or a relational practice, such as checking in with a loved one or playing with the dog.   Many have a spiritual routine, such as prayer, meditation or even enjoying being outdoors, or an environmental routine such as tidying the kitchen, checking the weather, closing a window.

In other words, our lives have many facets, and I imagine that few of us actually attend to each domain on a regular and frequent basis. Fortunately, each domain probably does not need daily attention – I’m not going to check my checking account balance every day – but perhaps our routines merit some consideration. For example, we all attend to our physical health every day. Why not our emotional/psychological? Isn’t that equally important?

I never really gave a reflective practice, one where I check in with myself on a psychological, emotional and spiritual level, much thought until the last few years. I was fiiinnne, until I wasn’t. Now I find that some kind of reflection at least 3-4 times per week is not only SOP but also necessary for my psychological well-being. It’s not so much I need my happy-exercise. I find reflection is also important for my learning and processing.

In the old days, I was pretty much in my head 24/7, thoughts whirling constantly.   Now I try to stay present with my mind clear most of the day, with periods where I am still and quiet, and just invite thoughts to enter. Some thoughts I will reflect upon, others I will discard. That reflection time allows my inner thoughts, ideas, and connections to be recognized and processed.

Modern best practices also incorporate reflection into the education process. Part of my education was recent enough to include reflection but part was not. Though the content was vastly different in each case, I do feel that reflection does impact my ability to learn, process and integrate both academic and personal lessons alike.

Those personal lessons may not necessarily come in the form of books and lectures these days. But my life lessons are equally important: What did I learn about myself/others/our world today? How do those lessons impact me or others? What can I do differently or better? What’s a more constructive or productive perspective? How can I help?

I know in our busy lives we don’t have time for one more thing on our To Do list. But I argue: What is really more important than psychological and emotional housekeeping and maintenance? You don’t want your physical (house), financial (bank account), or physiologic (your body) homes crashing down upon you. They each deserve your time and attention. And so does the inner you.

Travel and Transitions

Flying the friendly skies

Flying the friendly skies

I’m weird in the sense that I love things that most other people hate, such as the part of travel that is the trip itself.  Long lines, bad food, crowds, cramped seats, delays, etc.   Admittedly these are not my favorite parts of the trip, but the travel portion of the trip brims with possibility and change.

Like with any other transition, whether moving to a new home, starting a new job or relationship, trips connect one experience to another.  Home to vacation, or possibly to off-site work.  When I make the mistake of simply indulging my impatience to get to the next phase, I miss out on what is a potentially a gratifying and rewarding experience.

Take the waiting for example.  I don’t love waiting.  I’m actually an impatient person so you’d think the getting-there-2-hours-early –to-wait-in-line routine would drive me nuts.  Most of my life, it has.  But what I do love is giving up control of my experience to something so basic and simple as waiting.  There is no one asking me to solve problems, nothing demanding my attention, no guilt about not going to the gym.   There I am, alone in the security line with a hundred other people.  I am just being.  Observing. Sensing.  Letting my mind wander.  Checking in with how I feel.  In short, waiting becomes a meditative experience where I practice letting go of control.  Recovering control freak that I am, I need all the practice I can get.

No matter how many times I’ve been to a certain airport (or one that feels exactly like it), the airport experience is always new.  Different time of day, size of crowd, mood of crowd, restaurants, shops, menus, etc.  Inevitably the plane will then take me to a relatively unfamiliar city which will undoubtedly be different from my home town.  No matter how sleepy or quiet, the visit will be an exploration of land, people and culture that will be filled with the unexpected.  Even driving across my own state brings regional accents, foods, and practices that makes me re-examine what I take for granted.

Besides the landscape and culture, one of my favorite parts of travel is the close proximity to strangers.  I know, you’re probably ready to institutionalize me.  But I have a tendency to put my head down and forge through my day.   Travel makes me stop and look around.  When I put my head down, I forget to appreciate the mystery and wonder of each person that walks by and that we’re all connected in this beautiful world.  People watching, chatting with strangers, eye contact however brief, are all reminders of this invisible but precious connection.

I have much to learn still about myself and our world.  Travel to whatever destination requires that I stop and be open to whatever comes my way.  This state of openness means that I receive new information (from within or from without) that I may be otherwise closed to.  What better way to learn than that?

Moving Is Not Fun

Moving paralysis

Moving paralysis

But.  Parts of it are

First of all, this move has been a piece of cake compared to the last one where we were buying/selling with two preschool children at home.  That was a nightmare, and it took me more than 10 years to get over that trauma.

Second of all, this one hasn’t been easy in the same respect that every move is fraught with expense, headache, worry, stress, and just plain old hard work.

But.  There is something delightful in the exploration that is a move.

  • Cleaning out 16 years of accumulation – I started this 6 months in advance of putting the house on the market and worked on one area of the house at a time every weekend.  I sorted through the range of treasured mementos to pieces of junk.  I walked down memory lane with almost every item, and the purge was liberating.  Thousands of items donated to Goodwill (my tax write-off made it even better) and I’m sure thousands more into the trash or recycling.
  • Packing – We downsized to a house 1/3 smaller than the old one, so eliminating what wasn’t strictly necessary was important.  Here was an opportunity to prioritize and decide whether I’m keeping that old XX because I need it or for sentimental purposes when I have never used it.
  • Unpacking –Putting my old stuff into the new space requires that the context for every item is now new.  This vase used to decorate the bathroom; now it’s under a light on a bookcase in the family room.  Now my dirty laundry will have to be lugged down two flights of stairs – maybe I should put my closet in the basement?
  • New neighborhood – It’s not like we’ve moved 1000 miles away, we’re just in a different part of town.  But it’s the city.  Not the suburbs.  It has a completely different feel here.  Plus it’s by the river.  City by the river.  That rings so nicely.  Finding a grocery store with the stuff we want, good sushi and Indian food (forget the good Chinese food), a strong cup of coffee, the hardware store, all of it an adventure involving a new route, a new store/restaurant, and different clientele.    My ideation strength is singing.
  • New view – My commute is now less than 3 miles compared to 12.  I drive through the prettiest parts of the city instead of the freeway.  Each time, I deeply exhale.
  • Doggie homecoming – Being out of the house we’re showing means I get the dogs back.  They won’t be able to manage the stairs in the new house most likely due to age and logistics of the Walker hound and greyhound, respectively, so they won’t be sleeping with us for the first time.  They will have an adjustment too but the walks by the river will hopefully compensate.
  • Feeling different – We left behind a 1997 transitional home and are now in a 1940’s cottage.   Old wood floors, thick walls, wood paneling, musty basement.  It’s been too busy to really feel settled in yet, but I believe our new surroundings will make me feel like a different person.   I can’t wait to find out.