Self-Reflections on Happiness

Self-reflection is a humbling process and with only a few weeks left in 2017, I surrender and welcome whatever comes.

Something begins to change when you get closer to what really matters in life and love. You understand more and more just how much you have to be grateful for, even when life throws you for a loop. You begin to appreciate just how big the little things truly are and you finally get it — you get that happiness isn’t something you chase, it’s not somewhere you one day get to as if it were your final destination. Happiness, real happiness is something you create.

Truthfully, being happy isn’t easy. It requires a whole lot of you; it demands work. I will be the first to attest, something happens when you make the conscious choice to avoid numbing out. When you dig deep and work at it every single day. You realize that happiness isn’t so elusive after all. That in fact, it’s right there in your own two hands.

Happiness is an interior process and comes without validation from others. For me, this is a lesson that must be revisited every single day. I have found that the more time I spend alone, the more comfortable I become in my own skin because I can truly get to know myself. This arms me with more patience to accept myself as I am, wherever I am in my journey, on a daily basis.

And here’s the thing, we never have to push ourselves. We don’t have to try new things. We don’t have to get uncomfortable. There is no law that says we need to change things up in order to be happy and fulfilled. But regardless of what we choose, life will change around us and eventually make changes within us. The real choice is whether we want to open up to new possibilities or wait for the world to tell us what those possibilities are. So why not stand up, claim your power and chart the course for yourself? I mean, what if it actually works?

The Truth About The Truth

Here’s the truth about secrets, they hurt. And if they’re the type that slowly eat away and consume you, they will have a huge impact on your happiness and well-being. If nothing else, they’ll take energy away from your real purpose, whatever it may be. Secrets can do irrevocable amounts of harm, no matter what it is or who keeps it. It’s all completely relative. What the world needs more of is empathy, not judgment over who has the most pain or is entitled to it.

This year, I learned this devastating truth about the secrets we keep the hard way. And this lesson came at an enormous cost. Earlier in the year, I found myself keeping a coworker’s secret and ended up living in an indescribable nightmare for several months — I sacrificed myself, rode the downward spiral and walked hand-in-hand with the addiction that I was helping them hide. This decision didn’t serve me in any way, but it also didn’t serve the team or the individual that I was protecting. Looking back, I regret not saying something sooner. Maybe fewer people would have been impacted, maybe I would have had more peace of mind and less sleepless nights, maybe this person would have received the help they needed sooner.

In my role as a Chapter Advisor, the majority of my time is spent with risk-management. I’m in a constant process of identifying, assessing and controlling risks/threats to the chapter’s functioning and public image. But at the end of the day, the hard decisions and tough calls that I need to make are ultimately for the safety and well-being of the 80-100 collegiate women in the chapter and any future new members. And as you can imagine, not every choice that I make is favorable. But it never comes from a place of bad intention and it’s never a quick decision. Even when faced with a hard deadline, that deadline exists on the outside. I’ve learned that my inner instinct doesn’t work on timelines; it speaks loudest when I am willing to get quiet and sit with it. So, my first response to any tough decision is to pause and access patience.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for me has been the realization that somehow by choosing to be true to myself, I need to also be responsible for the reaction of others. That’s an incredible amount of pressure and nearly impossible to execute. As you’ve heard me say a hundred times before, the truth will set you free — but first, it will make everyone else around you incredibly uncomfortable. And I take responsibility for the fact that I’ve recently made a lot of people uncomfortable with my truth. I’m just thoroughly disheartened and disappointed by the lies and the rumors.

Here’s the thing, sometimes the right path isn’t the easiest one. And taking this path was not an easy choice; it wasn’t as simple as drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper, picking a side only when I was sure the great outweighed the not-so-great outcomes. It involved hours of hard conversations and talking myself off the ledge, it took energy away from the things that are actually important. And taking it to the source didn’t work, because no one was willing to listen. You can’t forcefully change anyone who’s not willing to see an issue in their actions. And no amount of positivity from a single individual can combat the toxic, negative energy from an entire group.

It’s really easy to point the finger, blame, criticize, spread rumors and talk shit. But in doing that, you’re really avoiding personal responsibility. No matter how good we may be at convincing ourselves of things, the moment we take the stories we tell ourselves as pure expressions of absolute truth, we are likely to lose touch with what is actually happening. In times of pain and discomfort, we’re most likely to lie to ourselves — we tell ourselves certain stories about why and how things unfolded, in an attempt to justify our position, to justify being right.

We cannot live our lives as authentic, truthful human beings until we live our life with honesty and integrity. Sure, some people will reject us. Some people may ridicule us, or even worse. As much as it pains me, I’m learning that it’s so much better to be authentic than popular. Why does growth have to fucking hurt this much?

Season of Giving

During the holidays, we shift our focus towards others with gift-giving and material objects. Why not start by being generous and kind to yourself instead? You have a lot of love in your heart; give some of it to yourself. Because we spend most of our lives trying to be good enough for somebody else and more often than not, we end up leaving ourselves last. We sacrifice our personal freedom to live according to somebody else’s point of view.

Why not put yourself first, maybe for the time in your life? Taking time for yourself is never a selfish practice. And learning how to love yourself unconditionally is the best gift you could possibly give yourself this holiday season. Once we learn to express ourselves authentically, we have infinite power to give to others.

I’ll admit, I’ve been overextending myself for others and not spending enough time taking care of my own needs. I accept where the choices I’ve made have taken me, but I aim to make more balanced ones from here on out. We get what we give and presence will always the best gift. Honor and celebrate the ways you can be present and show up for yourself. To truly give, you need to take care of yourself first. There needs to be a healthy balance between self-interest and sacrifice.

Mental & Emotional Purging

When the relationships we’ve worked hard to build for many years aren’t giving us the joy they once did or a sense of community and energy anymore, what do we do? What if it feels downright toxic and negative to be around them? Look at the relationships in your life and be honest about those that are purely negative. Can you let go of them entirely? Can you minimize your involvement?

Last week, I cleaned, organized and completely rearranged my physical environment. Now it’s time for the emotional purging; letting go of the things that will not serve my highest good in the upcoming year.

I’ve spent over a decade helping improve the lives of others through informed and inspired coaching, but I have no idea how to “raise the bar” for myself — at least, not in this moment. Truthfully, I’m afraid of standing in my own power because this means standing by myself. And what I don’t want you to know about me is that I’m terrified of being alone, I afraid to speak up and not be heard; the mask that I wear is orphan, the mask I wear is insignificant. But despite this, I’ve grown far too comfortable with being by myself; reaching out for help is often painstakingly difficult. It’s hard to be the person that everyone looks up to, because in the on-going attempt to “look good,” I always end up self-sabotaging.

My work has always provided a deep sense of security that I lack in other areas of my life, but it has always been just enough — never more, stagnant. This month has brought some unexpected disappointments and my first instinct was to try and control what was happening, to attempt to rearrange the world to feel better. But then I remembered, sometimes gifts and miracles are buried within things we don’t understand.

And this morning, just one simple statement shifted my entire perspective, “You’re in transition.” Today, I honor the space between and feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity to gauge my own bar from a brand new perspective. Raising the bar for myself in this transitionary period may not be the huge leaps and bounds that I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean the steps are any less meaningful or significant. Instead of fighting the discomfort, I need to let life unfold — as painful as that sometimes can be. Transition is awkward, but what is mine will come to me. How it will come is none of my business. My business is simple, show up and learn to let go of any outcome or expectation and be gentle and forgiving during the process.

Never be willing to compromise your peace of mind. If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive! And as you release yourself from the weight of negative relationships or toxic environments, you can be free to grow in other directions and with other people who will nurture your spirit. You will breathe easier, feel stronger and lighter. All you need to do is have the courage let go and make space for what you wholeheartedly want.

Worst Sick Days of 2017

One step forward, two steps back.

Sadly, this has been my reality for the past few days. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been sick every year around the holidays. It’s like clockwork. This time around, I know it’s completely stress-related. I’ve been running on fumes, battling extremely high levels of stress and anxiety for over 8-months. And finally, when I get a chance to breathe and the huge weight is lifted from my shoulders — BOOM! My body shuts down, completely worn out from this fight-or-flight living.

At one point, I found myself thinking, “Why does my body always let me down when I need it the most?” And that thought stuck with me for quite awhile. It’s a rare occasion when I get sick, but why does it happen when I really don’t have the time to rest and take care of myself properly? Perhaps, it’s my stubborn resistance that always let’s my body down. Because when sickness hits, it comes with full and unrelenting force. And in those moments, I have two choices; either continue fighting it, making myself miserable with the constant chatter in my head or embrace it, letting the healing power within work its magic. And I always choose the former.

That terrible feeling of not being productive has been consuming me. My body needs to rest, but the mind doesn’t like to rest; the mind wants to move, it wants to feel powerful and productive. Despite feeling extremely lethargic and barely able to function, I got a lot accomplished this week, including a huge cleaning project at home. Closets and drawers were emptied, furniture was reorganized and clutter began to clear out. But I’m not sure if that’s something to be proud of. I was so excited about getting back to work on Friday. Movement makes you feel better, right? Wrong. Exercise doesn’t create energy, it expends it. I went home from work, feeling the worst that I’ve felt all week.

Until I accepted my resistance to rest completely, I couldn’t start the healing process. So, I gave myself permission to rest — to be in bed and sleep for as long as I could and not feel guilty. If I read a book or binged on Netflix, I didn’t feel guilty for not wanting to take care of errands. And the more I gave myself permission to do so, the more I settled into feeling my sickness and allowing my body to heal.

Once we are on the other side of illness and are aware enough to put the pieces together, healing can provide plenty of time for personal reflection, so that we might see our typical patterns and choose to re-enter the world with a new perspective and with meaningful focus. As Danielle LaPorte once said, this week was all “finish line fatigue, letting go hangover.” And at this point, I think I’ve purged out every last yucky bit of 2017; I’m ready for the new year.

Totally Legitimate Feelings (12/5/2017)

I refuse to walk into the next year with a heavy heart, so I feel the need to purge the last remaining negative feelings that are weighing me down. Because I‘ll admit, I’m holding on to quite a bit of resentment. 2017, while you had your share of extremely wonderful moments, I can’t help but feel extremely humbled by the multitude of ways you kicked my ass. I spent most of the year feeling completely overworked, overlooked and under-appreciated both professionally and personally. I’ve kept my head down, nose to the grind and gone above and beyond what was expected, but it always feel like it was never enough. Truthfully, I felt like a failure every single day.

But sometimes you learn that the disappointments in life are truly blessings in disguise. Having nothing will allow you to appreciate everything. It’s failing miserably over and over again that will allow you to succeed. Failing is one of the greatest things in the world, as it reminds us how imperfect we are. It reminds us how much we need to learn in order to become the people we truly wish to be. Because sometimes the life you’re leading is so far from the life you are meant to be living that losing everything is the only way you can make it out on top. The moment you realize that not even loss itself can stop you, that sadness, despair, anger and fear cannot hold you back, is the moment you become perfect. Perfectly flawed, but perfect nonetheless.

Today, I acknowledge that the biggest failures in my life have become some of my greatest assets. After experiencing a number of major disappointments this week, I immediately turned my heart towards gratitude and found the strength to stand in my power to advocate for my needs and set important boundaries.

Whenever we’re getting our ass handed to us, we always like to say “karma is a bitch,” to make the sting feel less harsh. But karma is really a mirror of both positive and negative energies. I truly believe that whatever we put out into the world is exactly what we get back. And there’s no timeline for the return. Keeping this in mind, I know my time will come and the hard work will eventually pay off. But in the interim, I need to keep my heart open, free from resentment and honor the legitimacy of all of these feelings, even the negative ones.

Exercise is Not Punishment

Thanksgiving has come and gone; how are you feeling?

Happy and successful for sticking to your commitments and not derailing your healthy eating habits? Or miserable because you completely missed the mark and went on a binge for the whole holiday weekend? I’m guessing it’s the latter, so you’re hitting the gym harder than usual and vowing to eat kale until Christmas. But feeling guilty is only a trap that keeps you caught in that vicious cycle of shame.

Perhaps there’s a better conversation to be had, because I’m sure there’s quite few of you dedicated souls that stuck to your healthy eating habits and feel bad because you missed out or felt left out while everyone else enjoyed the holiday with carefree abandon.

Okay, I know this idea of negating our bad eating habits with exercise seems to come from a place that makes sense. To avoid weight gain, calories-in has to equal calories-out. To lose weight, calories-in has to be less than calories-out. And if we eat more calories than usual, we start to devise ways to bolster the “calories-out” side of the equation so that we avoid gaining weight. In that sense, yes it seems logical. But obsessing over that logic is making us crazy!

Exercise is not punishment! Moving your body should never be done as punishment and you do not have to earn your food. And losing weight does not change negative body image. Less will always be more — less judgement, less shame, less self-criticism, less worry, less stress. Stop being your own worst enemy. Abandon the guilt and move forward with a positive outlook that doesn’t criticize your mistakes and shortcomings, but builds up your self esteem.

Dear Tribe, I Love You

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Proust)

Surround yourself with people who truly get you; find your tribe, love them hard. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for my amazing tribe! One picture could never pay tribute to the HUGE extended family that I have created for myself through the years. If you’re reading this, you are likely part of that tribe and I thank you for that. No matter how big or small, your presence in my life has created an impact.

Dear tribe, I simply love and adore you. This note of gratitude is for you…

Thank you for making so many ordinary moments, extraordinary. Thank you for always giving me the extra push I need. Thank you for telling me the truth, even when it hurts. Thank you for talking things out with me. Thank you for meeting me halfway. Thank you for being compassionate. Thank you for thinking of me as often as you do. Thank you for making time for me. Thank you for your full presence. Thank you for knowing when something is wrong with me. Thank you for making the extra effort to understand me. Thank you for not acting, judging, or treating me like you know me better than I know myself. Thank you for being willing to be wrong. Thank you for supporting my decisions. Thank you for being loyal, even when we are apart. Thank you for being there through good times and bad. Thank you for knowing that I can’t always be strong. Thank you for facing problems with me. Thank you for going out of your way for me, even when it’s not convenient. Thank you for actually wanting to be there for me. Thank you for walking the talk. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for encouraging me when I stumble. Thank you for using caring words. Thank you for accepting me just the way I am. Thank you for making me feel comfortable in my skin. Thank you for simply enjoying my company. Thank you for valuing my time. Thank you for supporting me in making myself a priority. Thank you for sincerely loving me. Thank you for helping me love myself more too. Thank you for all the little things you do that make a big difference. Thank you for being patient and forgiving when I step on your toes. Thank you for not expecting our relationship to always be easy. Thank you for giving me the solitude and space I need.

Thank you for being YOU. And most importantly, thank you for your unconditional love and the blessing of allowing me to learn from your process.

Thanksgiving Gratitude

Sometimes you have to go through the worst to arrive at your best, because our most significant opportunities are found in times of great difficulty. Knowing that no part of the journey is ever wasted is an incredible blessing.

Today, I am grateful for my beautiful tribe, the chosen family of friends, colleagues and a truly loving significant other. Thank you for your full presence, for accepting me just the way that I am, for being there through the good times and bad, for making the ordinary moments extraordinary, for always meeting me halfway, for believing in me and supporting my decisions, for your encouragement and kind words, for knowing that I can’t always be strong and never failing to show me compassion in my weak moments, for giving me the extra push that I need, for going out of your way even when it’s not convenient and for all the little things you do that make the biggest difference in my world.

This year, I feel especially grateful for my real family and the lessons in compassion and forgiveness that I am continually immersed in through my interactions with them. In these lessons, I’m slowly finding a true place of peace and dynamic healing that I never imagined possible. It’s allowing my heart to be open and appreciative for the hard things, the heartache and trauma. Everything happens for a reason and dwelling on things that occurred in the past or imagining scenarios that may or may not have happened is fruitless and painful. I’m learning how to let go and have faith. Because family is precious. And although we cannot choose our families, they are the people we can usually relate to the most. Unconditional love is not easy to come by and life is short.

So take every opportunity to express love and gratitude to those around you. Tomorrow might be too late, so just do it now. Thank people, hug them, tell them you love them and let go of old baggage that doesn’t matter anymore. We’ll never regret telling people that they matter and mean something to us.

The more we express our gratitude, the more reasons we will find to be grateful. Without running away from discomfort, frequently turning our attention to the many things we have to be grateful for will multiply our reasons for expressing gratitude. Making it a habit is one of the best tools we can learn to bring about joy and fulfillment in our lives.

Time is precious and there is never enough of it. It’s our most valuable commodity; we can’t afford to not fill the time we are given as consciously as we can. Count your blessings and enjoy time spent with the ones you love today. Let’s begin the holiday season with an attitude of gratitude and continue to cultivate this positive mindset year-round.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Slow Down for the Holidays

Scheduled to the max, rushed to the point of distraction and we still can’t seem to get it all done. Our obsession with productivity may make us efficient, but is it worth it?

The holidays are a time of celebration, spending time with friends and family, reflecting on the passing year and slowing down before another busy year begins. It’s a time for gratitude and compassion, things that are impossible for us to embrace if our cups are full. We can’t take the time to be sensitive to others and truly care for them when we are in a constant hurry. So, I’ll say it again — SLOW DOWN! Sometimes it’s hard to be fully present in the moment when we’re overwhelmed and stressed about gift giving, tons of parties to attend and juggling our loved ones through it all. It helps to step back and take it all in.

You have a decision to make this holiday season — to slow down, or not to slow down. Instead of viewing holiday enjoyment as procrastination or even a burden, consider it as an opportunity to refuel. The healthier your state of mind as you enter the new year, the more effective you’ll be. Give your mind the rest it needs. Power down, take a break and enjoy the company of friends and family — your brain and body will thank you! Let your presence be your present this holiday season.