Summertime!! Time for some Summer Goals!

 Photo by  Clem Onojeghuo  on  Unsplash

As we roll into another summer, it struck me that I often start out each summer with lots of exciting ideas of all the fun activities I want to do. But, pretty much every time, by the end of the summer, the opportunity to do all those fun things has come and gone and I won't have done any of these fun things.

I’ll have put them off and put them off, until it’s September and there’s no way I’m going to devote time to them.

Here’s an example of how this happens. At the beginning of the summer, I’ll tell myself I’m going to go roller skating. I really like roller skating, it reminds me of my childhood in that fun, carefree kind of way, and I even own roller skates! (Yes, the ones with four wheels, or “quads” for those in the know.) I also want to support roller rinks because they’re going the way of the dinosaurs and print media.

 Photo by  Josh Edgoose  on  Unsplash

Photo by Josh Edgoose on Unsplash

Every year, I say I’m going to go. Do I ever? No. 

At least not for the last few years. Sometimes I even make a plan to go with other people that inevitably falls apart. Or I never even make a plan because I’m always preoccupied with work (of which there is always more!), other people’s events, being lazy, or sleeping.

This year, I’ve decided to take a different strategy. 

Since I’m extremely into goal setting, I figured why not use goal setting for fun things (or not-so-fun, but still important things that are, say, health-related) that I tend to procrastinate on?

For updates on my progress and actual proof that I’m achieving my
Summer Goals, go to my Instagram and check out the
Highlighted Stories labeled
🎯!

Well, one obvious reason is that it’s such a dorky – and seemingly un-fun and uncool – thing to do. But this is me, after all, so why the hell not?

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to focus on. There were lots of discrete activities I wanted to experience this summer, but I wanted to figure out what my overarching mission was with these Summer Goals. As I reflected on it, I figured out that everything I wanted to do fell under 1 of 3 subgoals:

  1. to have more fun
  2. to take care of my relationships, and
  3. to take care of my health.
 Photo by  MI PHAM  on  Unsplash

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

For now, I've narrowed it down to the following 18 specific sub-subgoals (a nice #18for2018, if you will!):

Have More Fun | Take Care of My Relationships | Take Care of Myself

  1. Do 1 outdoor activity per week (can include: hiking, camping, working, journaling, drawing, walking outside)
  2. Take a road trip
  3. Go to archery once
  4. Go roller skating once!
  5. Take a pottery class
  6. Make another cork board
  7. Do another printmaking project
  8. Paint or draw something once
  9. Give 3 high-quality hugs per day (with consent, of course!) 
  10. Call my parents once a week
  11. Send a postcard to someone from any / all of my trips 
  12. Send a handwritten letter to 1 friend per month
  13. Do 1 phone date per month with a friend
  14. Do more physical activity (can include a light, at-home workout, my physical therapy exercises, doing a weekly tap class in the summer, doing a fun workout class)
  15. Eat at least 1 fruit and 1 vegetable per day 5 days out of the week (I know, this is kind of a sad goal)
  16. Go to the eye doctor (I haven’t been in over a decade!! 😱)
  17. Donate my clothes and things that I don’t use or love anymore
  18. Wear clothes that make me feel good, instead of simply picking up what’s lying around

I’m really excited for these goals and am hopeful that having specific benchmarks will help me have more fun, strengthen my relationships, and improve my health! I also anticipate adding additional sub-subgoals going toward these 3 meta categories, but I didn’t want things to feel overwhelming and turn into something NOT FUN, so I’ve left it here, for now.

Curious how this is going to go?? Me too!

For updates on my progress and actual proof that I’m achieving my Summer Goals, go to my Instagram and check out the Highlighted Stories labeled 🎯!

If you want to do your own Summer Goals project along with me, drop me a line at cynthia@embracechange.nyc! We can hold each other accountable!

Advice Can Be The Worst

Over the past month, I’ve had the great pleasure of talking to a lot of new folks with big dreams and lots of questions. It was exhilarating and fulfilling and I loved it.

As I spoke to these folks, I realized I could see myself in their position – eyes and ears wide open, trying to absorb every piece of advice, intensely scribbling down notes.

Here's how I am with advice. I can be very easily swayed and, sometimes, thrown off by it. “You should start a Facebook group.” “You should be a certified vendor with the City.” “You should join this networking organization.” Ahhhhhhhh.

Almost everybody has an opinion about what you should do (or, worse, what you should already be doing), especially when you’re transitioning into something new.

 Photo by  Oleg Laptev  on  Unsplash

Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

The “shoulds” can be endless! It gets incredibly overwhelming incredibly fast – particularly for those of us who are more deeply affected by what others say. Some of us take the advice and feedback of others very seriously. I happen to think it’s a great quality of depth, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness.

But it can also lead to a spiral of self-doubt, insecurity, and stuck-ness. Put another way, for some of us, it’s challenging to integrate what we’re told, what we hear, and what we absorb from the outside without losing ourselves in the process.

Since I am one of these people, even now, when others give me advice or feedback (solicited or not), the rational part of me knows that these are all simply potential opportunities to grow and improve. But, I often hear them first as criticisms (“Shit, I should have known this,” “Why didn’t I already do that?”). I immediately feel defensive, ashamed, and start questioning.

 Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

On the one hand, I know I need to keep asking and keep my eyes and ears open wide because I want to get better. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean I ultimately act on every single piece of advice and feedback I get – I still reflect on it and weigh it against all the countervailing factors. Each person is the expert on themselves and their life.

Of course, as I was having all these conversations this past month, I was living on the other side of all this. Which is why I’m also writing this as a reminder to myself that the way I say and frame things to others is important.

I need to take care with my words, tone, and nonverbal communication. 

Which is why this post might also be a bit of atonement for those rushed and pressured conversations I had with folks recently. Where I didn’t have the luxury of time to ask all the contextual questions and have the deeper, exploratory conversations I’d normally have. Where I was doling out pieces of advice practically assembly-line style. Granted, I had spent a lot of time preparing the nuggets of advice ahead of time, carefully choosing the most widely applicable and generally useful ones. Realistically, though, I can only hope that the ones I shared with each person and the way I shared them will actually help more than hurt.

I would never want what I say to someone – especially someone who’s in this brave, but vulnerable, position – to send them into a spiral of self-doubt, insecurity, and stuck-ness. I know all too well what that feels like.

 Photo by  Isaiah Rustad  on  Unsplash

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

For those of you who are like me in this way: Let’s not forget that whenever we get advice or feedback – solicited or not – it’s always ultimately up to us what we decide to do with that. We can choose to incorporate it, in whole or in part. We can choose to reject it after considering it. We can choose to reject it flat out. We can choose to table it, recognizing that timing is always a relevant factor.

The bottom line is:

Always remember that it’s your choice what you do with advice –
including when it comes from me. 

When You’re Unsure

 Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Do you ever feel like you’re moving through life in a fog?

Or stumbling around in the dark, unsure of where to step or whether you’re actually going around in circles? This happens to me every so often, and I suspect that it happens to everyone at some point or another (whether we want to admit it or not).

I’ve been in one of these phases for the last few weeks. It got so bad that I started questioning and second-guessing every decision I was making, wondering if it was a step in the “right” direction – whether it was the “right” thing for my business – or not. It’s the perfect opportunity for self-doubt and negative self-talk to swoop in and take over.

It’s definitely not fun, constantly wondering if you’re doing the right thing or not.

As if part of you is micromanaging the other part of you. Things feel stunted, lurching, like stop-action clay-mation (but less cute and entertaining because it’s your life!).

 Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The funny thing is, a few weeks ago, I went on this kick of urging my clients to listen more to their gut, to tune into their intuition, and use that as their ultimate guide.

Ever heard the saying, “We teach best what we most need to learn?” Well.

Clearly, I was preaching something that I was having a lot of trouble applying myself! It happens. Part of us knows, on some level, what we need to be doing. But another part of us resists for whatever reason. So how do we clear that resistance and regain some feeling of confidence, coherence, and flow?

The short answer is, I can’t tell you. Because it’s different for everyone. But you probably know. So it becomes a matter of excavation, maybe confronting some difficult issues, digging up some stuff, and then trying some things. And it ain’t easy. I know.

I’m lucky to have had support during this most recent foggy period. And lucky to have a sense of what I need to do in these times of confusion: Journal it out, dumping all my thoughts out on paper, no judgments or filters. Hold on tight to my meditation practice. Listen to music that I find soothing. Consult with a few trusted colleagues (as opposed to my old default – talking about it ad nauseum to anyone who would listen, which always left me feeling more confused and unsure than before).

But the most important thing was reminding myself that I had to pay attention to my own feelings and watch my instinctive reactions to things and TRUST THEM.

Many of us – especially women and people of color – are socialized to second guess ourselves all the time. I had let that socialization hold me back from freely following my internal compass. I was letting the what if’s and self-doubt hold me back like a sticky web.

So the next time you feel this way, ask yourself, what do I need to do to support myself in this time?

What can I do for myself? What can I ask from others?

And what does my intuition tell me?

 Photo by  Tachina Lee  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

If you can’t hear your intuition at first, don't panic. Ask yourself, what can I do, where can I go – to find it, to reconnect with it, to amplify it? Sometimes the answer is to do certain helpful things. Other times, the answer is to do less.

Regardless of what you choose to do, or not do, remember that nothing is permanent. Not the good things, not the bad things.

So, if you’re in a bad patch, hold on. Because this, too, shall pass.

I'm so tired!

Last week someone asked me how I was doing and my response was, "Things are going really great!! But this week has been so packed and I'm tired. I just need to get through till Friday." I felt happy as I responded. But then I realized that this has been what I've been saying to people for a few weeks in a row now.

The thing is, I honestly do feel like things are going really well. But every week, I tell myself that next week things are going to let up (schedule-wise, demand-wise, energy-wise). Inevitably, once I get to the next week, I'm repeating the same thing to myself: "Just gotta make it through this week!"

 Photo by  nikko macaspac  on  Unsplash

What's happening?

I thought I had permanently left behind that feeling of being in a rat race, of constantly running from meeting to meeting, commitment to commitment. And for a while I had. I felt much more balanced. But, of course, nothing is forever. Things are always changing. So we have to keep adapting too.

This is one of those times when I need to recalibrate. If you feel that way too, here are 3 things to try to better sustain yourself over the long run:

  1. Schedule yourself a REAL BREAK. If you've been working full-speed since January, you need a vacation! I myself was reminded of this when a few people mentioned that they were taking vacations at the end of February or early March. "Oh yeah," I thought, "It probably is time for a vacation..." So put something on the books for yourself ASAP if you haven't already. I always recommend longer vacations rather than a long weekend or 2.
  2. If you truly cannot schedule a vacation soon, or if you need something to sustain yourself in the meantime, you may need to strengthen your boundaries. Those of you who know me by now can probably predict what I'm about to say. You need to Say No more. For some of us, it's simply a matter of reinforcing our boundaries, but for others, we need to readjust them to better protect our time and energy. For others of us still, we need to define the boundaries in the first place! Whichever it is, use this worksheet to help you!
  3. In the meantime and for always, start or continue your Gratitude practices. My favorite Gratitude practice to recommend to busy clients is: Before bed, write down 3 things from your day that you are grateful for (you don't have to even use full sentences!). Here's a worksheet to help you with that. And another version of this that I recently heard of is from Gretchen Rubin's podcast, Happier: Keep a running list (on paper or electronically) of all of your favorite things.

That's it! Try 1, 2, or all 3 of these tips to regain some control over your time, energy, and sanity in an otherwise busy time.

Now please excuse me as I go work on these myself...! :)

Until next time – hang in there!

What About Self-Love?

Valentine's Day brings to mind images of romantic love, chocolate, champagne and other things that sometimes (okay, often) cause me to roll my eyes. So I usually avoid thinking about that day altogether. But, as a friend pointed out to me recently, the holiday is actually a perfect time to think about self-love.

I'll admit, self-love isn't a concept that I used to be familiar with, so I'll start with the best definition I've been able to find, which comes from Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D:

Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.

 Photo by  Clem Onojeghuo  on  Unsplash

You all know that I'm all about taking action, so you can guess which part of the definition I tend to focus on. When I think about self-love, I immediately think:

What actions can I take, what practices can I adopt, what routines do I need to reinforce, in order to strengthen this state of self-love? What can I recommend to my clients to help them build, sustain, and protect their self-love?

I've come across a ton of suggestions for what to do to practice and strengthen self-love, but we're all busy people prone to feeling overwhelmed. So I want to make this as easy as possible for all of you. Here are 3 ways to practice self-love this month: 

1. Take care of yourself how you would take care of others.

So many of us martyr ourselves for others: our families, friends, clients, colleagues, causes. To paraphrase something I once learned (and that I often need to remind myself of): to want to give to others is human, but to over-give is neurotic. Be sure that you are taking care of your basic needs, rather than always putting others' needs and wants first. This might mean letting yourself sleep more, cooking a nice meal for yourself, making sure that you exercise, taking a bath, scheduling enough "alone time" for yourself, leaving work at an earlier hour. Commit to doing at least one of these things for yourself this week. If you want or need more self-care ideas, check these out!

  Tim Dawson  on Flickr

Tim Dawson on Flickr

2. Treat yourself with compassion.

Along similar lines, start treating yourself with more compassion in your daily life. We all make mistakes and poor decisions. We all have blind spots and areas of vulnerability. That's okay. We are human. And we are all doing our very best, given our circumstances. You are no exception ;-) So it's important to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes and compassionately analyze what happened so that we can do better next time. The next time you find yourself beating yourself up over something you could have done differently or better, try journaling to shift the thoughts in your head to being more loving and compassionate to yourself.

3. Say no (those who've been to my Stop Settling in Your Career workshop will recognize this one!).

There are a million things in the world that you could do with your precious time. But only a small set of those things will actually move you closer to your big goals in life. Before you agree to the next assignment, request, or task, take a moment to think about whether you want to say yes because you feel pressured to (hint: it usually starts with, "I should..." or "I have to...") – or because saying yes will benefit you physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, or spiritually. If you feel pressured to say yes, give yourself permission to say no. Practice saying no the next time you find yourself in this situation!

There they are: 3 ways to give yourself some much-deserved self-love this month!

Give them a try and message me on Instagram or email me at cynthia@embracechange.nyc to let me know how it goes!

Sending love :)