We can't watch a tree grow or see how children change and learn on a daily basis. When things happen slowly, we just see the day to day and don't see the small increments that happen all the time. Go back and watch a video or look at some pictures of a child in your life even from just one year ago. They often barely seem like the same person.
This same thing happens with relationships. The really big problems that relationships face rarely just happen over night. Once a relationship or a marriage gets to a bad place, something has been ignored or swept under the rug for too long. Perhaps it's mutual communication that needs improvement. Perhaps you are taking each other for granted. Maybe there are intimacy issues. Perhaps there are external pressures on the relationship that neither of you is addressing, dealing with or seeking compromises on. All this adds up and one day you come to the realization that you are miserable.
Don't ignore your inner voice. Don't let things fester in the hope that they will pass. Address the things that make you upset or concerned. It's not always easy to do but, there is a clear benefit to knowing that you and your partner both realize there is an issue. Without that, there can be no progress. When you commit to this level of openness you make it that much more difficult to wind up on that path to being disillusioned and dissatisfied with your relationships and your life.
I have been spending a lot of time on Quora lately. It's effectively a social media site but, one based solely on the premise of asking others anything on any topic and then having people provide answers to your questions. I enjoy looking through the questions, picking out ones I like, and answering them.
Today I answered the following question:
When is the last time you were truly happy?
It's kind of a sad question that implies that happiness is fleeting and elusive. Here is how I responded since I think that it's relevant in a broader sense.
I’m happy most of the time. I have made choices in my life that have made that possible. More on that in a moment… Beyond that I’m very fortunate to be healthy, which to me is the foundation that all happiness is built upon.
Just a year ago, I tended to be unhappy most of the time. The reason for this is that I had just struggled through a bunch of interviews to land a boring and dead end job with a company that I had little respect for and a role that was mind numbingly boring. Why did I do this?
I was ultimately let go from that job a few months later…most likely because my disdain for it was glaringly obvious. This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten fired but, since I’m in my forties, I was at a crossroads and had to decide if the answer to losing this job was simply to find another one like it.
I opted to go a different route. My focus was on creating a new path for myself. I got my coaching certification. Working with and helping people is something that I truly enjoy doing. The shift is now for me to fit work into a broader lifestyle vs. what I was doing before and working to eek out small moments of happiness on the weekends.
We all face choices in our lives all the time. Sometimes we’re not able to make the right ones because of pressure or uncertainty in ourselves. Just know that the choices we make or the ones we fail to make are what keep many people in a perpetual cycle of being discontent and unhappy with their lives. Take a step back and see where and how this might apply to your life.
Break the cycle. Create your own happiness.
Do you ever get distracted? Silly question?
Happens to me all the time. I should.... Whenever I start a self monolog like that I'm either already on a tangent or about to drift off onto one. Truth is that we generally have an endless amount of "I should" things rattling around our heads at any given time. Going from an 'I should' to an 'I need to' will hopefully make the universe a little smaller. That's been helpful to me.
The other day I moved doing my taxes through this virtual funnel from should to need... Then I did my taxes. It seems to me that the answer if to drown out the noise and create some laser focus on what needs to get done. That may still be a pretty unwieldy list of things but if you break it down further and prioritize the 'need to' list, you'll be able to effectively plow through it one thing at a time while retaining your sanity and minimizing your level of overwhelm. Multitasking is overrated anyway according to new research on the topic.
With that, you and I both have things we need to do, so I'll keep this blog entry short...
I've been thinking a lot about ways in which people complicate their lives. Then I happened to see a documentary on Minimalism on Netflix. A simpler life is what I had been striving for when I left the corporate world. I have in large part been able to achieve this although it's all still a work in progress. What I realized though is that there are a number of traps that many of us fall into that don't serve to make our lives easier but instead actually make our lives more complicated.
The dots all sort of connected for me at that moment. I realized that relationships play a key role in this as well. When we are stuck in unhappy relationships that are out of balance, they become just another weight on us that keeps us from creating our own happiness. The reasons can be manyfold but bottom line is that if you are not happy in your relationship or marriage, then you should either try to fix it or consider moving on. Stagnating and doing nothing doesn't fix things.
Most people (myself included) have a great ability to put off things that are difficult or uncomfortable. So much in the same way that we clutter up our lives with stuff we don't need, relationships can be very much the same way. It's that connection and the fact that a simpler life isn't just purely about downsizing and rethinking the possessions we have and covet but rather a wholistic approach to all aspects of our life that made me think that relationships can be as much part of this as anything else. I'm using the term relationship loosely and it also encompasses friends and family that we interact with regularly. I'm sure you can think of people in your life that complicate your life and are hard to get along with.
Much in the same way that we clutter up our garages and closets, we do the same thing with relationships. Neither feels good. I'll be focusing more on this in the next few weeks and working on a program to help break this cycle.
The way we as individuals view the world is purely our own. Nobody sees us in the same way that others do. We have the broadest insight into who we are of anyone out there. How is it then that we can often be so wrong about ourselves?
Here’s what I mean by that. We have a certain view of the world, things that we like, ways in which we handle situations, opinions on what qualities a president should have, what makes us happy in our relationships and so on. What isn’t as clear is that we have a very strong and ingrained set of beliefs about ourselves. It could be positive things such as I’m a dependable friend or I’m a good listener. The problem is that we can also have beliefs about ourselves that are immensely limiting. Anything that starts with “I can’t _____” or “I’m not good at _____”. Sound familiar? In most cases no one other than ourselves has told us this. It’s a belief that we have about ourselves that perhaps no one else shares. The damage that this does is it hold us back from being our best selves. Self limiting beliefs are in some way a kind of protective layer that keeps us on a very narrow path and there is some security and comfort to be found in that. That’s about the only good thing I can say about this.
A good starting point is too realize that we all have these kinds of potentially damaging self imposed limitations. Once we acknowledge that we can start to look for them and then question why we have them in the first place. Perhaps some beliefs we have are well founded and have been properly explored and that’s the conclusion we’ve been led to through trial and error. More often than not though, these beliefs are purely random and have some foundation in our past or our overall satisfaction with who we are and where we are in life. I invite you to take a close look and write down 4 or 5 beliefs you have about yourself and really dig into them and why you have them. Don’t look to justify the belief (we’re very good at that), but rather where the belief came from in the first place. Ask yourself if it is truly valid. When possible, find a way to challenge yourself and the belief.
Like I said above, many times our beliefs keep us safe in some fashion. The best versions of ourselves invariably lie outside of that comfort zone though. Don’t let a self limiting belief trap you. Try it out. See what happens. Let me know about your results.
What? Only 3 ways? Well, the MOST stressful aspects and not all of them. I’m sitting in my tiny house* in upstate NY listening (no TV) to the election coverage and it seems hard to believe that this election season (v-e-r-y long) is coming to a close. It’s been a tricky landscape to navigate for the last few months. There are all sorts of ways that this election has been particularly stressful. Here are my top 3…
What have you struggled with? What are your concerns? What would you like to have more clarity on? Please leave a comment or send me a note. I would love to hear from you.
Everybody is good at something. We hire experts to do stuff for us based on what’s going on in our lives. Things we have trouble doing ourselves and things we need help with. You don’t hire a landscaper to steam clean your carpets or go to the dentist when you sprain your ankle. Why is it though that when going through a divorce, which is often one of the most perilous times in our lives, that we rely solely on a lawyer to guide us through the entire process? Lawyers are good at what they do (hopefully). They give legal advice. This is typically only one of several needs that we have when divorcing.
I remember when I was contemplating divorce back in 2008 and how hard that was to work through on my own. Friends and family can be a huge help and source of support but they are generally not neutral and fielding their advice, suggestions, etc. is often not what we specifically need either. Although no doubt well meaning and intended to benefit and help us, not what we really need and in some cases, only serves to confuse us more. Getting clear focus is really the goal. Reassessing and reasserting what we want and need can’t effectively be achieved in our circle of family and friends and it is also not the role of our divorce lawyer to try to sort these things out for us. I struggled with this when I was getting divorced. Ultimately I made my own decisions and got through the process but had I had access to a divorce coach, it would have been hugely beneficial to me at the time.
We all have a clear understanding of what a divorce lawyer does but what exactly does a divorce coach provide? Here is a good article on this topic: 3 Things a Divorce Coach Can Do for You. Just as the lawyer is a neutral party in regard to the legalities of getting divorced. The divorce coach is also a neutral party to the divorce process. Divorce coaches don’t deal in legal matters though but rather provide a sounding board for all the stressful thoughts and emotions that come along with divorce. It’s best to be able to think clearly during the divorce process since so many decisions need to be made. Good divorce coaches don’t provide advice but rather give you a forum and guidance to help you with the decisions that need to be made. They help you hone in on what’s important to you through careful listening and questioning to help guide you to your own solutions.
Often, when placed into these fight or flight situations though our reptilian brain kicks in. This is a clear recipe for poor judgement as well as acting and doing things that are most likely not in our interest. The notion of being able to take the high road in a divorce is made more difficult by us succumbing to this very natural instinct. Again, lawyers are not equipped to deal with this but coaches are trained specifically to ask the questions that help us refocus on who we want to be and what we want to achieve. Oh, and divorce coaches are a lot less expensive than lawyers, so there is that aspect of it as well.
Everyones situation is different. There is a lot at stake. Your wellbeing and if applicable, that of your kids, hangs in the balance. It’s not a situation anyone wants to be in or go through but divorce does happen and I understand what it feels like when your world feels like it is caving in. Let your lawyer provide the services that they provide and consider hiring a coach help you see things more clearly.
Professional coaching is still a relatively new thing. Everyone seems to be familiar with sports coaching. Sometimes when I tell be that I'm a coach, they ask "What sport?" This to me is kind of indicative that there are still a lot of open question on this topic. Here are few things that are helpful to know about coaching:
1) Coaches are trained professionals and have some form of certificate or credential. There will be those that simply call themselves a coach much like some people think they are a 'carpenter' or 'plumber'. This is unfortunate, but as with most people you consider hiring, it's always a good idea to get that person's credentials. The ICF (International Coaching Federation) is the governing body for coaching. They monitor and give accreditation to various coaching training programs. It's a good idea to ensure that you a coach you are considering got their training from an ICF recognized institution. Since coaching is an ongoing relationship that will likely last over months and potentially years, it's in your best interest to find a good one and one that you are very comfortable with.
2) Coaching has a number of different specializations based on your individual needs. Some examples of these are:
- grief coach
- career coach
- transformative coach
- executive coach
- health and wellness coach
- divorce coach
- life coach
and likely many other versions. Some coaches are more well versed in some of these areas based on both their background and specialization they have either sought out or organically acquired expertise in. The burden isn't on the client though in regard to what they need specifically. A good life coach can help with a multitude of these. Just know that if there is a specialization need, there is a likely a coach out there that can accommodate that need.
3) You don't need to find a 'local' coach. Coaching is not like getting your teeth cleaned. Coaching can be done very effectively remotely over the phone or even on Skype. This is of a course a personal preference. If you prefer to be sitting across from the coach you are working with, then you should seek out someone locally. Distance has no impact on the efficacy though, so don't let that deter you.
4) Coaches can be a great complement to other professionals you are working with. Great examples of this are supplementing your divorce lawyer with a coach that specializes or has background with divorces. Let the lawyer do what they do best and don't try to have the lawyer fill the coaching role as well. Another great example is that of a personal trainer. This is the person that creates your exercise plan at the gym. They aren't usually well versed in the broader picture of your personal goals which may well include health and wellness, but isn't limited to just that. Try to think of ways that a coach can help supplement the people who are already helping and assisting you in some other capacity.
5) Coaches don't tell you what to do. The fundamental role of a coach is not to dictate or prescribe some sort of plan for you. The emphasis is solely on you as the client and what YOU want to do. There are coaches who employ a 'blended' approach where they are both a coach and also part consultant or subject matter expert. For the most part though, a coach is there to guide you through that process; discover the things that are holding you back from being your best self; ask questions and use tools that will help you reframe your perspective and outlook. This can be really powerful since we all tend to go through life with a number of preconceived notions that very often we are not even aware of. A coach is there to illuminate those areas where we may hold self limiting beliefs and challenge us to move beyond those.
Find out more:
I've always liked Mayim and view her as a bit of an outsider in Hollywood. Most actors don't have PhD in Neuroscience for starters. She's carved her own path and survived the dreaded child actor curse that has afflicted so many that entered into the spotlight at an early age. Having divorced a few years back she is now a single parent of two boys. I recently came across this video which really resonated with me since it mirrors so much of what I hold to be true in my role as a divorced father. Jarring camera changes aside, this video is really solid and thought provoking.