Finding And Following Your Own Truth

Lately the readings that stick to me, the interviews that get me thinking, the issues that stand out most seem to point to the same thing: finding and following your own truth is essential for leading a meaningful life. It starts with getting clarity on what is important to you. My journey through the years has revealed what’s truly important to me, often in retrospect. Each choice I made along the way was shaped in part by society and also based on my personal wants, needs and ethics. My history and personal story is different from your history and personal story so our paths are very different. Yet because we are all humans on this planet earth you and I share many experiences and are shaped by similar forces.

We are all socialized beginning at birth. What matters to your parents and caretakers and educators typically becomes what matters to you. As you take work positions in the world what matters to the leaders in your organizations becomes what matters to you or at least your work livelihood. So much so that you might be doing work that really doesn’t matter to you but the paycheck does. Or you might be are working in a field that you care about yet the company you work for doesn’t share your values. Are your truths more important to you than your position? Perhaps this is the first you have even thought about this.

It is not unusual to be 40 or 50 years old before you realize that you have been following someone else’s script for how you want to live your life. You went to school, got a job, got married, bought a house and a car and had children. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong about any part of that. If you were making those choices for your life because they were aligned with your values and truths then bravo. Unfortunately for so many of us we went along with the social norms and didn’t question whether these decisions were aligned with our own personal truths. We never even thought about what we value and find is true for ourselves.

There are so many ways to live your life. For me, thinking about what is compassionate for me, for others, for the environment, and for all the creatures on our planet sets the focus of my way of living. I am in no way perfect in my implementation, yet I strive to do the right thing in line with my personal code. Being of service is part of my DNA and yet I know that not everyone else shares that trait. The beauty of your individual life is that your own history has built who you are. As your experiences accumulate you develop your own lens from which you view the world. You make choices that in turn lead to other choices and if you are awake to what you are doing, you learn about your own personal truths.

If you haven’t given this much thought, it is not too late. It is never too late to make adjustments to your life. Take some time now to figure out what is true and right for you. Here are some questions to consider and some different wording to spur you on. What drives you through your day? How are your actions shaped by personal beliefs? Are you going about what society has shaped you to believe but don’t care about? What are your personal ethics? What issues do you consider critical enough that you want to live by them? Are you passionate about certain causes? Passion is a difficult word for many. You needn’t be passionate or have causes to be aligned to your truths. Your truths can take so many forms. They might be passions. They might be causes. Or they might be everyday axioms for how you want to live. Perhaps it is important that you enjoy the people you work with, receive compensation in line with what you provide, create deep connections with a life partner or friends, or share your talents with others.

There are tons of ethical and personal issues, but it can be difficult to adhere to strict codes on everything. Figuring out what’s most important to you is the first step which may feel hard enough. The more difficult part might be living by those tenants. Often it is easiest to implement your truths when you are on your own, but among others and at work it can be very difficult. For instance I have clarity on my choice to not eat animal products. At this point the truth is easy and embodied in me. And yet when I go out into the world, the restaurants don’t necessarily offer food choices that align with my truth. Depending on who I am dining with I don’t always have the ability to choose an establishment that has my food options. I usually can come up with a salad and bread at most restaurants though I often feel uncomfortable among the other diners because my choices stand out as different. That isn’t easy and yet I don’t waver because the vegan life is my truth.

Perhaps you do certain things because you feel you have no choice. Remember that you do have many different choices throughout your life. Determine which choices are essential to living your truth and you will have a clearer path ahead. It takes courage to stick to your personal edict. However it is freeing when you do make choices and take actions that are aligned with your own truth. You will feel more centered, complete and at peace.

xoxo Rachel

Organizing Your Life For Greater Fulfillment

September is the back-to-school month, the reboot moment, the get your ducks in a row time. Though I have to admit that I love to organize, I am not raring to go at the start of September. It takes me some time to ease into that “get back into action after the summer” approach. The unusual warm spell we have been having lately doesn’t help. Nonetheless, around this time of year, whether it is clothes in my closet, papers on my desk or files on my computer, I enjoy getting everything in order. Even more I love to organize my thoughts and actions—and that’s the stuff that really drives life. Not surprising that I’m a life coach. Life coaching is all about organizing your life from the inside out. You can pick any aspect of your life and organize to make your life more fulfilling. Here are some organizing themes to get you started.

Organize Stuff
This is the work of professional organizers and Feng Shui masters who know that a physically cluttered world will clutter your mind. Going through all your belongings and making chaos more functional can have huge ramifications on your everyday life. Think about all the little frustrations you encounter in your day-to-day. Like when you can’t find something you need or when it takes you twice as long to do something because your materials aren’t organized orderly. You can fix this with or without professional help. Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and her TV show and videos are all the rage. Check her website for more info.

Organize Around Time
Days can go by so quickly that one of my favorite recommendations for organizing is around your time. Organizing helps to make your time more efficient. For instance, you can organize your activities in your working day to maximize your energy level. Try blocking out chunks of time in your calendar for your most concentrated thought work based on your own body. I always find I am most successful at writing in the morning so I keep that scheduled on my calendar. You can also organize your time by day-of-week. Maybe you find that you are most excited about working on tough projects on Mondays and prefer light work on Fridays, so schedule accordingly.

Organize Using Goals

A great rule of thumb that helps to organize your priorities in life is to consider short, mid- and long-term goals. I like the 3-3-3 rule. What are the three short-term goals you have for the day, the three mid-term goals for the week and the three long-term goals for the quarter?  You can substitute months and year for mid- and long-term if that suits you better. Then organize your activities for the day, week and quarter to help you meet those goals. Make sure that you revisit and revise your timing based on your outcome. For instance I review my goals on Mondays and if I haven’t completed something from last week, I get it on this week’s calendar. As you can tell, I rely heavily on a calendar to organize my life. It is a structure that works for many people so you might want to give it a try.

Organize In Your Own Style
Being organized doesn’t mean that you must stay in the bounds. While having an organizing principle will help you to get things done and help set a direction, you shouldn’t feel constrained by it. Treat these as guidelines not rules. Unless you find rules easier to follow. There are huge individual differences when it comes to following instructions. Some prefer detailed rules and regulations while others are more rebellious. For instance, I keep open and unscheduled time on my calendar and I am not rigid about getting something done at a particular time or day. Get to know yourself and follow what works best for you. Some people love to have post-it notes everywhere and a large calendar on their wall for visual cues.  Others prefer electronic calendars and audible reminder bells. Find what suits you best. If you struggle with getting organized on your own, ask for outside help. Whatever approach you take, being more thoughtful and organized in how you go about your days will help you to stress less while you enjoy life more.

xoxo Rachel

The Comparison Monster

It can happen in an instant when you are around other people or on social media: the comparison monster shows up. Monsters typically aren’t very nice and the comparison monster is no different. The comparison monster lives in most of us and rarely offers very positive information. The monster loves to remind you that you aren’t as smart, creative, talented, beautiful, serene, mature, youthful, wealthy, flexible, thin, tall, strong, or whatever as someone else. Lately I have noticed that the comparison monster also comments on how others choose to live their lives; what big choices they make compared to your choices. “She lives in the city. Maybe I’m supposed to live in the city too.” “He travels to exotic places. Oh, I never do that. I should be more adventurous in life.” “Wow, I forgot to have kids!” Not very helpful at first glance.

Then a good friend visited and during our conversation about retiring and what to do when you aren’t working full time, I had a big realization. It occurred to me that one of the biggest reasons why comparing yourself to others is useless is that what one person likes to do is often very different from what another person likes to do. Why be envious of their life if you aren’t even sure you want it? Well that sounds rather obvious, but the negativity of the comparison monster rarely lets you off the hook so easy. The comparison monster is adept at making you feel bad when you see someone else doing something awesome. But just because someone else is doing something amazing doesn’t mean that you should do it too. Instead you can use the comparison monster to motivate you to figure out what you really want to do. Perhaps the comparison monster does have some value.

When you find that you are negatively comparing yourself to someone else, ask yourself if what they are doing really holds any meaning to you. If yes, then consider how you might seek a similar path. And if no, then find a path that gives you meaning, regardless of the other person’s choice. When you hear the comparison monster saying, “You aren’t as talented as she is,” thank Mr. or Ms. Comparison Monster and then ask yourself, “How can I discover and nurture my own talents?” It is usually the case that when you have a strong reaction to something or someone, there is some piece of truth you can glean from your reaction. The trick is to look for what is important to you and not try to live up to some external reference point.

The understanding that we all don’t like the same thing was further reinforced this past weekend when I got together with a group of friends to celebrate the Autumn Equinox (a week early due to schedules). While discussing how the seasons affect us it became very clear that some people like the dark, some people like the light, some people prefer the hot summer, others prefer the cool but not cold fall. Viva la difference. To each their own. Mind your own business. Everyone has two eyes, but no one has the same view. These expressions all speak to the same notion. Just because someone else is doing something and is happy doing it doesn’t mean that you are right, wrong, good, bad, better or worse for not doing that same thing. You are just uniquely you and best served by finding your own way in life. Don’t let the comparison monster run your life. Acknowledge what it has to say then decide for yourself if it has anything truthful to offer you as you create a life of your own choosing.

xoxo Rachel

What We Can Learn From Kittens

Animals have a way of focusing your attention. They are needy and yet they also provide so much love and joy. Pure joy—that is what I have been feeling much of the time while spending time with our new kittens Rose and Calla. Although it is sometimes difficult for me to focus on my writing when they are bouncing all over my office and me, I appreciate all that they offer. Kittens have very essential needs to attend to—not that much different from the needs we all have. Yet we often leave our own needs unattended. Kittens know a thing or two about living life to the fullest. So I thought I’d riff on the parallels between kittens (probably puppies too) and humans and what we can learn from them. Whether you are lucky to have kittens in your life or not, there is so much they can teach us.

Playtime—Kittens are pretty amazing in their ability to find play on their own. You can buy lots of fancy toys, but a simple string will do just as well. Or they can always play with their own tail. Kittens love to play with each other if you are lucky to have siblings like we do. In their high energy state, they love to tussle with one another, wrestling and running and jumping into each other. Yet they know to keep their claws retracted when they are play-wrestling and they like to lick and kiss afterwards. We could do a better job of playing hard then loving.

Kittens are just as adept at playing alone as they are with others. They’ll even grab a ball and throw it in the air themselves to play some more. So too can we find ways to be playful with others or by ourselves. Obviously I find it fun hanging out with the kittens and playing with them. But there are so many ways to find fun and play with people. Andy and I are learning to play golf and we regularly hit balls at the range for a quick burst of play time. Throwing balls is a simple yet underrated play activity. Recently I threw balls with Andy in the pool for added fun. Of course there are plenty of other sports and outdoor activities that are fun to do with partners like tennis, hiking and volleyball. Finding playful activities to do on your own is also important. Although many solitary activities seem low energy and serious like journaling or meditation, there is no reason why you can’t find play in those activities and other solitary endeavors. Dancing is a playful activity that I love to do alone to my favorite tunes. And swimming is awesome.

Cuddle time—Our kittens love to cuddle up with each other. The comfort and joy of cuddling is another activity that we humans can enjoy just as much. Cuddling in my mind usually includes comfortable clothes and really soft blankies and pillows. Kittens have built in soft fur blankies—perfect for cuddling. Fortunately cuddling is wonderful on your own or with others. For solitary cuddle time I love to snuggle under a soft cover and read a good book. Snuggled on a comfy couch in front of TV is lovely alone or with a loved one. If you are lucky your cats or dogs might join you too.  My kittens are snuggled on my lap right now making me have to type with one hand while keeping my other hand around them to keep them from sliding off my lap. And they are purring loudly. Which brings me to purring.

Purring time—Kittens show their appreciation through the vocalization of purring. We could learn a lot about expressing our love so overtly. You don’t have to purr, but it is wonderful to speak aloud to your loved ones to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Exploring time—Kittens are curious by nature and they tend to look to higher ground as their points of interest. Whether they are climbing up our high bookshelves or jumping up to windowsills, kittens love adventures. And they are amazing jumpers. They naturally get to know things thoroughly using all of their senses. They see, smell, touch, taste and listen to everything around them. You don’t need to jump like kittens jump (though if sky-diving is your thing, go at it) but testing your limits can be a good thing. Whether you are innately adventurous or not, you can stretch your capabilities and explore your world around you one step at a time through your senses.

Sleep time—Of course sleeping is a skill that kittens seem to have perfected from day one. Whether taking a quick cat nap or settling into a long deep sleep, kittens are sleep experts. I am not nearly as advanced as they are but I certainly do try to get ample sleep. Part of their method for getting a good sleep I believe is that they play so hard. After running around and leaping high into the air or bouncing off of every piece of furniture in the room, they are plum tuckered out. We could all benefit from some hard exercise for more sound sleep. A key difference is that kittens can play hard and immediately zonk out while we humans are better off getting exercise well before we go to bed. It helps if you are running around playing with your kittens who tire you out like mine do. May we all learn some helpful skills from the wonderful animals who cohabit our world.

xoxo Rachel

Be Your Own President For Life

I joined my first book club in the early 90’s in New York City. It was an interesting group of young professional women about my age who met once a month to discuss a book. The club was organized many years before I joined as an investment group that somehow morphed into a book club. A friend told me about the group but warned I couldn’t join until someone died or moved away. Strange I thought but she said it was because they maintained the size of the group to 12 people, one to host each month of the year. Within a year someone moved away—thankfully they didn’t die—so I was able to join. The leader of the group dubbed herself “President For Life”. I’ve always laughed at that idea but then I got to thinking that president for life is a great idea for your own life. I mean, shouldn’t you be in charge of your own life forever?

Being your own president in life isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Although you might want to be the leader of your life, so many people and events impact your days in unanticipated ways. When you were a kid, parents and teachers probably had a larger leadership role in your life than you did. Other people throughout your life no doubt have had a big influence on your choices. But at the end of the day, I hope that you feel like you are the key leader in your life. If not, why not start now? Here are a few ideas for how to be the president of your life, the top dog, the big kahuna, the one in charge. If nothing else, these are a couple of ways to explore what is true for you and you alone.

Get to know yourself better than anyone else. This may or may not be a stretch for you. Some of us are very inward focused and that comes easily. For others who are more outward focused, getting to know yourself may feel uncomfortable. If you spend much of your life attending to the needs of others because of your role or your natural tendencies, it may feel selfish to focus on yourself. It is not selfish to get to know yourself. It is an essential step towards leading a life of your own choosing. There are so many ways to explore who you are on your own through personality and style assessments, self-exploration books and workbooks, journaling, and meditation to name a few. So much is available on-line these days for free and don’t overlook your library as a great resource. I set aside time each month for regrouping and thinking about who I am and what I want from life and I encourage my coaching clients to do the same. You deserve some self-attention.

Plan some alone activity time. One of my favorite recommendations for building creativity is also a great way to learn about what you need to be in charge of your own livelihood. Set aside some time periodically where you are by yourself in nature or at a museum or a movie or some other activity that calls you outside of your home. When you spend time with yourself instead of with someone else you are creating an opportunity to listen for your own reaction to your experience without interference from others. When you are with others, so much energy and focus naturally tends towards how the other person is reacting. Give your full attention to how you are experiencing the moment. What seems important to you and what is no longer important? Often we get stuck thinking and doing things that we have always done because at some point in the past we really wanted to do that thing. But what we like, what we want and what we need changes over time. Watch your reaction to experiences now and see what you learn about yourself when there is no one else around to shape your reaction.

Question everything that you do. Asking why is a very helpful exercise in life. You might find that there are many things that you do because they help and serve other people. That is perfectly fine and wonderful. And there is likely a deeper “why” in that. When you help others you are probably getting something out of it yourself. Being of service is a wonderfully fulfilling part of life for many people. Being of choice and aware that you are choosing to be of service is a way to honor that you are the president of your life. When you aren’t aware of the reason for doing something, you are letting go of your leadership reins. When you question why you are doing something and you don’t have a good answer, it is time to put on your president hat and take charge. Either find a meaningful reason for doing it or consider dropping it. If you hear yourself saying, “that is the way I always have done it” or “I have always wanted to…” then it is time to consider making a change.

Leadership is about clarity. When you are clear about who you are and what you want and need in your life, then you are able to make plans and preside over your life with purpose. You have the power to create the life you want and be your own president for life.

xoxo Rachel