Redefining Roadblocks

There’s something about encountering a roadblock that makes you want to curl your upper lip into a snarl. You’re on the route you want to go, to the place you want to be, and then….

BAM! Full stop. Can’t go that way. No can do.

Some roadblocks are small and not a big deal. Other times, they are. Huge.

When you’re driving, you can consult Google Maps or Siri or some other all-knowing navigation system. But what do you do when the roadblock appears not on a highway or street, but in your life, on the path to your goals?

Roadblocks are a part of life, happening whether you expect them and deal with them like a pro…or not. I used to see roadblocks as a sign of defeat or inadequacy, so I’d often do all I could to avoid bumps in the road–which, in the mantra “go big or go home,” often leads to the latter option. When I did go big and it didn’t pay off, I worried I wouldn’t find an alternate route to my dreams.

Now? Roadblocks are my teachers, guides, reality checks, and rescuers. I throw out the welcome mat to them. Here’s why:

Roadblocks test your resolve and desire.

When your car hits potholes, you find out just how good your suspension and tire pressure is. When you hit one of Life’s potholes, you find out just how committed you are to the direction you’re headed. Your commitment level may fall into one of these categories:

  • Zero interest. You’re done. Congrats, you’ve discovered the path you were on isn’t for you. A valuable insight–to get to sooner than later–so you can get on with your life.
  • You’re still committed. But also bummed out, burned out, and/or stressed out.  These feelings are normal when you hit a wall. Uncomfortable for sure, but not a terrible place to be. Even doubt, worry, and fear can be useful…as long as that heaviness doesn’t persist long enough to hold you down permanently. Consider why these feelings arose and tune into the mind chatter that’s accompanying them. Maybe this is your opportunity to deal with an unsupportive belief or story about yourself. Because if you don’t now, they’re sure to show up down the road too.
  • You are all in, no matter what. No roadblock will shut you down! You’re a rock star. This commitment level is reinforcing your passion and your path. But before charging ahead, evaluate if the roadblock you’re facing could have been avoided by a different strategy, execution, or attitude. Slow your roll before taking immediate action–take time to reflect on the journey up until now, adjust your plan if necessary, and only then act upon the resulting action step.

Roadblocks force you to think, reflect, question, and brainstorm.

When you encounter a literal roadblock, you consult your smart phone’s or car’s map for an alternate route. When you hit a roadblock in life, you also need to take the time to evaluate the situation. Maybe you didn’t think much about the direction you were going and a deeper dive is in order. Have things changed that, in turn, ask you to reevaluate your wants, goals, and vision for your future?  Perhaps now’s a chance to get clear about your motives, why you started down this road in the first place and what you hope to get out of it. Will it serve your heart’s and soul’s purpose or needs? Or did your pursuit originate from a “should do”?

Roadblocks provide opportunities to learn, grow, and discover.

Like some of the most memorable and pleasurable road trips, unexpected detours may end up being the best part of the journey. And if they aren’t, you at least learn something about yourself and your travel companions along the way. The discovery might be that the “detour” is actually your true path. The lesson could be that the direction you were going was right but the timing wasn’t.

Metaphorical roadblocks test your flexibility and coping skills. Ask yourself questions. Listen to the answers. Brainstorm alternatives. The trick is to use roadblocks to your advantage so that when you finally get up and over them (which you will!), you’re an even better version of yourself because of the experience.

How to Keep High-Vibe Around Negative People

You wake up in an awesome mood, get ready to take on the day with a song and smile, and leave your home with a spring in your step. Then, something happens. You can’t quite peg when it started, but your energy sags to the floor, your smile fades, and irritation has replaced joy. You morphed from a spirited soul into a prickly sourpuss. What happened?

People, usually. Everything is made up of energy–that includes us–and whether you realize it or not, you’re affected by the energy of those around you. Ever met someone and felt immediately at ease? Or stood next to a person and felt a kind of force field around them that made you want to run in the other direction? In both cases, you were responding to that individual’s energy.

smiling-french-bulldogIn order to do something about negative vibes, you have to be aware that your energy and well-being are being adversely affected. If you suddenly have this uncomfortable energy and you don’t know why, ask if it’s even yours. Who have you been spending time with? What was the positivity level of the topics and how did the conversation make you feel? Although it doesn’t matter as much to identify the source as it matters to notice the shift in energy, being aware of when and how you encounter negativity can help you avoid people who are repeatedly downers. On the flip side, it’s valuable to notice who makes you feel really great!

Let negative energy go. It sounds much simpler than it is in practice, but once you’re aware of your energetic downturn, stop it in its tracks. Sometimes slapping a smile on your face can jolt you out of your fledgling funk, but other times, more action is necessary. (See below.)

Employ negativity zapping tactics. When you sense negativity, or know you’ll be entering a potentially negative environment, you can use the techniques below.

  • Visualize a bubble of white light around you. See it as a protective shield that will block any negative energy. This imagery isn’t “magic” but what it’s doing is putting you in the frame of mind that you have control over how others affect you…or not.
  • Imagine your heart energy radiating around you 360 degrees. See its radius growing farther and farther, past the room you are in, the building, the city/town, the state, until it’s bigger than Earth. When your light energy is this expansive, any problems or negativity seem dwarfed and powerless in comparison.
  • Have one of these uplifting essential oils handy: Peppermint; lavender; lemon, orange, or grapefruit. Depending on the essential oil company’s guidelines, you can apply a drop to pulse points, warm a few drops between your hands and inhale the fragrance with deep breaths, or add a drop to a glass of drinking water. Note: Citrus oils make your skin sensitive to the sun, so exercise caution if ingesting or applying the oil to your skin. 
  • Speak up. If someone is dumping their bad day on you, you can let that person know in a kind way that you aren’t in a place where you can take on their issues. Or you can change the subject to something more uplifting. Or you can listen to their concerns without taking on their energy. If an energy transfer does happen, take some time to revive yourself. Blocking energy drains energy, so practice self-love.

Getting Back to Happy

Have you ever gone through a vibrational rough patch? When you experience low energy or emotional numbness, not just for an hour or a day, but for several? That happened to me a few months ago. I couldn’t seem to shake the funk I’d been dragging around for so long, I was concerned it had become part of me. It ticked me off, actually, because I wanted *so badly* to get back to being happy. I kept saying, What’s wrong with you? Come on, get happy! BE HAPPY!! Berating myself into happiness wasn’t working. As you’ve probably experienced in your own life, that never works.

How do you get back to happy? 

I commanded myself to walk to a nearby park, even though all I wanted to do was lay in my bed. It was a bright day that sharply contrasted my mood. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I wanted that too. I took a seat on a step leading down to an expansive pond, and turned my face to the sky, looking for answers. Looking for a way back.

What do you do when you’ve temporarily lost your joie de vivre?

The pond rippled from the wind. It was beautiful. Effortless. Everything was going with the flow. The twigs, patches of pollen, multi-colored leaves, and ducks were going with the flow of the water. Not resisting. Not second guessing or asking why. Just going with it. The grass and tree branches were bending with the breeze. Allowing nature’s abundance. None were saying, No, that’s not good enough. No, that’s not the right way. No, I don’t want that. 

Seeing all the raw beauty and noting its effortlessness grounded me into the present. The dialogue loop in my head shut off, taking all my concerns with it. I was thankful for the warm kiss of the sun through the chilled air. I was thankful for my sunglasses that allowed me to easily gaze at the sky. I was thankful for the punctuations of laughter and gleeful yelps from children in play. My focusing in on what was right before me brought me into a state of gratitude. And I remembered…

Life is a bowl of cherries

Photo by Kristin Rath

Gratitude is the way back to joyfulness.

Gratitude isn’t about guilting yourself into thankfulness for the things you *should* be appreciating, but about what you can appreciate in the moment. Whatever it is. The sun, the sky, the soft blanket around you, a really great cup of coffee, breathing. My mom has said to me–when I’ve griped about some minor thorn in my side–“Well, at least you have two legs that work. Not everyone does.” Not always what I wanted to hear, but she’s right. That was indeed something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is the answer. It can lift you back to what’s really important.

How could I have forgotten this simple but powerful practice called gratitude? We take things for granted. It’s just human nature. The trick is training ourselves to consistently bring our focus back to what we have and what’s going well in our lives, instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what isn’t working.

Gratitude is a gift. One that we can conjure up in an instant and gift to ourselves and others in a moment. And it doesn’t cost us anything. Rather, it gives back to us in the form of joy, peace, love, compassion.

In gratitude, we raise our vibration. With gratitude, we can get back to happy. Even when it seems impossible.

What can you be grateful for, right now?

Mind Your Monkeys

worried monkeys

Photo by Patrick Nijhuis

I have a mind that never shuts off. It’s like a 24/7 news station, giving me up-to-the-minute warnings, analysis, investigative reports, predictions, and reviews. This is great for brainstorming and multi-tasking. Not so great for relaxing and re-centering. It can become quite a jungle up there. I like to call my virtual wild kingdom of ideas, movement, and chatter Monkey Mind. If you think you’ve heard that term before, you’re right…I snagged it from the Buddhists. Don’t worry, I cleared it with them first.

When life throws me a challenge, my monkeys tend to call out in protest, a little like this:

Monkeys:  Who do you think you are? You can’t do this!

Me:  Why not? Other people have.

Monkeys:  Yeah. Smarter, better looking, more charismatic, more talented people.

Me:  That’s so mean!

Monkeys:  Look, we’re just telling you how it is, sugar puff. [Nods of agreement all around.] You’re a nobody in this world and you might as well face it. It’ll take you too long to master the skills or gain experience, and frankly you’re too old to start now.

Me:  No! I can do this! I believed in myself yesterday. [Pause.] At least I think I did.

Monkeys:  Well, that was Head in the Clouds Day. This is Come Back to Earth and Deal with the Hard Truth Day.

Photo by K.C. © 2013 Kristin Conroy

Here’s a hard truth: I can’t banish my Monkey Mind permanently. It’s part of my personality, inherited from a long line of overly active-minded ancestors. I can, however, keep the uprisings to a minimum. I’ve succeeded in taming my monkeys from wild, screaming primates who fling poo to civilized primates who drink tea and discuss the meaning of life in hushed tones.

I used to listen to my monkeys, mistaking their rants as gospel. I didn’t even know I had a Monkey Mind until a few years ago…I thought I was just crazy. I used to let them run the joint, allowing them to feed me a diet of self-doubt and anxiety that kept me from attaining groundedness and balance. It wasn’t until I accepted the presence of my Monkey Mind that I was able to do something about it. 

I know there are others like me out there with Monkey Minds because…well, I’ve met some of them. And that usually means there are many more I haven’t met. Therefore, I’d like to share what helps me soothe my vine-swinging mind primates, just in case you are one of those special people. I learned to be the zookeeper of my monkeys. I not only have to show them who’s in charge but take care of them as well. Make sure they get sleep, love, playtime, mental stimulation, and proper nutrition. I highly recommend practicing yoga. Find the kind that works for you. It’s not only beneficial for your body, but makes you feel mentally lighter and more focused too.

The biggest effect on my monkeys, however, is eating real food. Real food means food that’s minimally processed and originally sourced from something other than a box, bag, or can. Dark leafy greens especially make my monkeys sit down and shut up. Believe me, there’s a difference between forking in the good stuff and indulging in too much crap. I’ve tested this theory out more times than I’d like to admit. Eating well keeps your monkeys stay cool, calm, and collected. Take a gander at my recipes page for good eatin’ ideas.

Photo by Dominic Morel

Photo by Dominic Morel

Another significant part of the primate training process is keeping things in perspective. A Monkey Mind distracts you from focusing on what really matters in life. Monkeys have short-sighted vision, seeing only the fleas on the neighboring monkeys’ backs instead of the beauty of the jungle and the opportunities it offers. When my monkeys are in a frenzy and giving me directions to the loony bin, I arrange a sit-down with them:

Me:  Is worrying about this important to my happiness?

Monkeys:  Huh? Ummm…no.

Me:  The happiness of my friends and family?

Monkeys:  Hmm…I guess not.

Me:  Will focusing on this help me achieve my dreams or goals, allow me to grow or evolve, or effectively solve the problems of the human race?

Monkeys:  NoBut, but…

Me:  No buts, monkeys!  Answer me!

Monkeys:  [Sighs all around.] Noooooooooo.

Me:  Ha! I thought so.

In this case, as is usually the case, I’ll then kindly ask my monkeys to return to their cages to do some Sun Salutations.  Now, this doesn’t mean I can avoid things like bills, chores, errands, annoying work projects, or dealing with difficult people. But comparing these “problems” to the grand scheme of life prevents me from having a panic attack or tantrum because of the misplaced focus of my near-sighted monkeys.

It’s a challenge to live with a Monkey Mind, but when you’re in control, you can live a happy, balanced life. I encourage you to focus on experiences, not things.  Focus on love and appreciation, not being right or perfect. And by the way…perfection is for crazy people. Forget about trying to get there, have that, or wanting others to be that. You and your melon full of monkeys have no use for perfect because…it doesn’t exist.

So in conclusion:

  • Be aware of your Monkey Mind and accept it. It’s part of your charm.
  • Know your monkeys. What sets them off and what calms them down.
  • Be master of your monkeys. Otherwise, they’ll master you.
  • Enjoy life! Laugh fearlessly, love infinitely, give of yourself fully, grab opportunities firmly, learn voraciously. Do things that scare you so you can grow. You only get one chance to live this life. So make it count!

 

5 Steps To Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions Into Realities

Pen and PaperAccording to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (December 13, 2012), 45% of Americans usually begin the year with New Year’s Resolutions, yet only 8% are successful with their goals.  That’s…depressing.

I don’t believe the problem lies with the people who make resolutions, nor in the resolutions themselves.  I think it’s in the planning and execution.  So let’s plan for success and take those goals from paper to reality!

How to Turn Your List of Resolutions into Realities

1.  Prioritize it.  This is not supposed to be a TO-DO (or NOT TO-DO) list, but rather a list of goals, which take effort, time, and determination to accomplish.  So don’t set yourself up for failure and discouragement by listing every single thing you want to do or stop doing.  Perhaps choose one goal for each major category of life: Health/Wellness, Family/Relationships, Work/Career, Spirituality/Growth, and Finances.  Or if one area needs a lot of work–or is most important to you–focus all your resolutions to fit that need. 

2.  Reword it.  Spend some time wording your goals so that they inspire you and put the focus on what matters.  I’ll use a few common resolutions as examples:

  • “Lose 10 pounds.”  First off, I don’t like this one because it puts the focus on weight and what you look like on the outside.  You could lose 10 pounds and be miserable because you starved or deprived yourself.  This is usually why the weight comes back because nothing really changed…the goal was merely to attain a specific loss of weight.  What if you reworded “Lose 10 pounds” to “Feel amazing in a bathing suit”?  See how the focus is now on self-esteem and inner results?  Interestingly, being happy and healthy on the inside will show up as the outer results of weight loss you wanted in the first place.  

Some other examples of rewording:

  • “Quit smoking.” vs. “Choose to put my health before my habit.”
  • “Get organized.” vs. “Organize my physical and mental space so I can be productive and balanced.”

3.  Plan it.  Now that you have a descriptive and inspiring list of goals, you need to plan for success!  Wearing a bathing suit with confidence is a great goal, but what does that look like?  Are you going to plan out healthy meals for the week so you don’t cave in for junk food when you’re tired and hungry?  Will you commit to yoga/spin/dance/boxing classes and lift weights to get the long, lean, sculpted physique you desire?  If you don’t brainstorm how you can accomplish your goals, you’re likely to abandon them.

  • Think outside the box.  So you want to “Be stress-free” (which you might have reworded to “Find my Zen every day” in Step 1!).   Taking yoga and getting massages are wonderful ideas.  But go further by getting creative.  Eating immune-boosting, nutrition-packed foods will keep you healthy and at your best.  As a result, you’ll reduce your stress levels as you’ll be more equipped to handle what life throws at you.  Also, what makes you happy, content, peaceful, calm?  Reading a great book?  Taking a stroll in the park?  A long bath?  If you figure out what those things are and add as many of those activities to your daily life as possible, you’ll experience more “happy” and less “crappy.”
  • But be realistic.  Can you realistically spend an hour communing with nature or reading a book each day?  Then don’t make that declaration.  Instead, keep your happy list in mind and sneak them in whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Take that best-selling book out when you’re faced with standing in a long line (that would normally stress you out!) or spend 5 minutes sitting outside in a sunny spot on your lunch break.  Even doing a little bit of what makes you happy is infinitely better than doing none at all.

4.  Theme it.  It’s likely that you can find a theme that embodies all your resolutions.  Unearthing a theme that connects with you and is rich in meaning is a powerful tool in living the life you imagine.  It should resonate with you, make you feel something, propel you forward, support you in your journey toward this year’s goals.  Here are some examples of themes and what they can represent:

  • The Year of Letting Go – Letting go of things that don’t serve you–insecurities, fear, bad habits, destructive relationships, negativity–so you have room to welcome in all the good things that are possible.
  • Just Do It – Saying yes to relationships, job opportunities, experiences, adventures.  Taking action, taking charge, taking control.  Doing instead of only thinking/hoping/planning.
  • Love and Light – Associating yourself with inspiring people, feeding yourself positive messages, looking for the joy in life and reflecting it, opening yourself up to love from yourself and others.

Hold your year’s theme in your mind as you go about your daily life.  You’ll find your actions will start to follow your theme, and therefore, contribute to achieving your resolutions.

5.  Memorize it.  Once your resolutions are focused, powerful, planned, and themed, it’s time to commit your goals to memory.  The more they are a part of you, the more likely you’ll see them to fruition.

You can do it!

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