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life-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

When You Don’t Have a Plan, You Just Have to Trust Life

Lessons from years spent journeying without a clear destination

I felt so adrift. So lost. I could barely string sentences together, let alone thoughts. But I did know one thing. I had to get out of town. Fast.

My mother had died a few weeks earlier. Amid the relief that she was no longer burdened by the disease that had ravaged her body was something else. A profound sense of loneliness. You see, I was alone. The term orphan tends to be associated with children. But I felt orphaned at 51.

I had to get out of town. It almost didn’t matter where, as long as there were mountains. Somehow mountains felt comforting. They reminded me of childhood years spent in Switzerland. So I decided to move out west, to British Columbia. I had no real connections there. I kind of knew a couple of people in BC, and had some good friends down the coast in the US. That was it. I sold or gave away half of my possessions, and shipped the rest out west. To start my new life.

My loved ones thought I was nuts. They understood my decision in one sense  – they knew I was devastated. But not in another.

“Why are you going somewhere you know no one?” they asked.

I had no answer that eased their concerns. I just had my instinct that this was the right thing to do.

This wasn’t the first time I’d pressed the fear buttons in my loved ones. I’d been moving home, city and country for much of my adult life, so they knew this was my MO. This one worried them more, though, fast on the heels of my mum’s death. They were worried that I was isolating myself at a time when I needed comfort. I couldn’t fault their logic, but it was still something I had to do.

My new life — phase one

I arrived in Vancouver, and moved into an apartment in the most exquisite location. Across the road from the ocean, and right next to Stanley Park. The latter is a 400-hectare, natural West Coast rainforest, surrounded by ocean. It was such a relief to be there. I spent much of my time walking beside the ocean, and in the park. The wet sand and forest grounded me. And I REALLY needed to get grounded. I’d spent the previous seven years on high alert. Caregiving for my ailing mother. Working full-time to keep us afloat. Dealing with my father’s death. Dealing with a volatile family member. Dealing with my dog’s death (he’d been my anchor for many years). Dealing with my mum’s death. It had been a lot. And it left me reeling.

The water and trees helped me in other ways, too. They helped me start living some important spiritual concepts I’d long understood. It’s one thing understanding a concept. And quite another living it. Being in the moment had always made sense to me. I could see how much easier it would make life. But I’d never managed to stay in the moment for any length of time. And this despite a daily meditation practice.

As I sat and watched the waves come and go, I noticed how every wave was different. Yet the same. Different in their force, their colour, their direction. The same in their essence. Water. No matter what was going on to and around the waves, water remained water. If you touched it, you got wet. I saw that water was what it was, and changed from moment to moment. What did this mean to me? It meant that I, too, was what I was. A human. And that everything about me changed from moment to moment. So, the present me wasn’t inevitably the past me. Nor was the future me inevitably the present me.

Spending time in Stanley Park with old-growth trees made me more aware of myself, and my energy. The majestic beauties that surrounded me, some over 600 years old, gave far more than they took. They shared their lives with everything and everyone within their range. They cleaned the air around them, and provided oxygen. They cooled the temperature. The most positive energy emanated from them. As I stood with them, they accepted me as one of them. I could feel their wonderful energy washing over me. And wanted to send them the same in return. I found I couldn’t do this right away. My energy had to vibrate at the right frequency for them to receive it. When, at last, I succeeded in sharing my energy with them, I was overjoyed. I thought I’d “cracked it”. I hadn’t. There were days when I had nothing to offer the beautiful trees. So I pushed aside my ego, and did what I felt drawn to do. Deeper meditation, and allowing myself to clear out my grief as it arose. This worked. And from then on, I shared my more youthful energy with the old-growth trees to give them a boost.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I’d taken myself off on my own to heal. To heal from the years of loss, and being on high alert. My cortisol had got stuck in the ‘on’ position from it all, making it hard for me to sleep for any length of time. I had to take the time to decompress. But had no idea what that looked like, or how long it would take.

After a year in BC, I started to notice that something was afoot. It felt as though another new beginning was coming my way. Which made no sense at all, given the recent start of my new life. I put this feeling down to another phase of grieving, and thought no more of it. Until I started to notice something else. That I kept on running into European holiday-makers everywhere I went. We’d always have a good conversation. Somehow, our chat turned to what we each liked about different countries we’d visited or lived in. One day, a German couple asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

“You seem to like much more about Europe. Why are you living here?”

A month or so later, I found myself sitting in front of a travel agent, who asked me another question.

“So where would you like to go, and when?”

This time, an answer came right out.

“I’d like a one-way ticket to London. And I’ve no idea when.”

“What do you mean you don’t know when?”, he replied, with a confused look on his face.

“Well, let’s say three months from now. That’ll give me enough time to sell all my stuff.”

“OK”, he replied, still looking confused.

I hadn’t planned to go to a travel agent. I found myself there one day. I’d been walking down a street, and caught a red sign out of the corner of my eye. I carried on walking. 30 seconds later, I turned around, walked back to the red sign, and walked in the door beneath it. It was a travel agency. So I just went with the flow.

Three months later, I had sold or given away almost everything I owned. I was 53, and heading off on another adventure. This time with only four cartons and two suitcases in tow.

My new life — phase two

I arrived in the UK knowing two things. That it was great to back amongst friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And that I didn’t want to live there.

The UK was a stopover so I could catch up with people, and get organized. I needed to update my British ID so I could wander freely around continental Europe. I also need wheels to facilitate the wandering. I had no firm plan, other than to start by meeting up with a friend who was travelling in Germany, and go from there. After five months in the UK, I headed off one sunny winter’s morning across the Channel.

I wasn’t drawn to spend more than a week in Germany. The language barrier was a real issue for me, despite having university-level German. I couldn’t communicate with ease, and that wasn’t what I wanted at the time. That piece of understanding ruled out a lot of places I’d been interested in exploring. Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for starters. It also ruled in two countries. France and Switzerland.

My years spent in Switzerland as a child had left me pretty fluent in French. I knew I’d be able to understand and be understood in either country. I was drawn to France, in particular. This was odd as I knew no one there. When I left Germany, a destination had come to mind. Lyon, the second biggest city in France. This, too, was odd because I didn’t want to live in a big city. But I went with my instinct.

I loved Lyon. It was beautiful to look at, and welcoming. It had a very strong sense of itself, which I found compelling. I sub-letted an apartment in La Croix-Rousse area of town. This sweet neighbourhood atop one of Lyon’s two hills was wonderful. My apartment was in the eaves of an old building from Lyon’s silk-making heyday. It was a space where the silk was manufactured, and the silk-workers also lived. All the ceilings were high enough to accommodate the Jacquard looms… except for my attic space. There, the low beams threatened my six-foot tall frame, often getting the better of my head.

Lyon helped me get a clearer sense of who I was. I guess that’s why this city with such a strong sense of itself had called me. Living my life in French contributed to my self-understanding. When I talked with the locals, the person they saw standing before them wasn’t the one I saw. On hearing my slight accent, the conversation always turned to where I was from, and what I was doing there. When I told them my story, their responses always contained the same word. Courageous. Standing before them was a courageous 54 year-old woman.

After nine happy months in Lyon, I moved on. I’d reconnected with my childhood friend in Switzerland, and wanted to live closer to her. So I moved to Gex, a small French town near Geneva. The scenery there was so beautiful. Gex was nestled in the foothills of the Jura mountains, and opposite the French Alps. And Mont Blanc. This snow-capped peak rose with such majesty across Lake Geneva. Especially when made pink by the rising sun.

Yet it was the Jura mountains that had a special place in my heart. They were lower, and full of rolling green hills, lakes and rivers. As a child, I’d spent many happy times in the Jura, hiking, and picnicking by lakes. My childhood bedroom window also looked out on them. They were the last sight I saw before sleeping, and the first upon waking.

Gex and I were not a match made in heaven. I left there after a couple of months, and moved in with my friend in Nyon, Switzerland. Nyon had been a lovely town when I lived there before, but had now grown. It was also full of ex-pats. In the couple of months I spent there, I heard French spoken only a handful of times. English — and ex-pats — had taken over. Without a work permit, I couldn’t stay for more than a few months in Switzerland, so I knew I’d have to move on. Again.

Switzerland gave me another piece of my puzzle. Because I’d loved living there as a child, I’d always thought of returning, and settling there. But, just as the child was gone, so was that Switzerland. The past is the past. The present is the present. And this present didn’t marry up with that past.

My love of the Jura drove me to seek my next location within its terrain. I opened Google Maps, and randomly picked a town. Salins-les-Bains. When I looked at photos of it, I was hooked. It seemed perfect. A few days later, I visited it on a snowy day with my friend’s son. As we descended towards the town, we rounded a bend, and our jaws dropped open. It was in the most exquisite setting. And I had found my next stop.

Salins-les-Bains had been an important town for hundreds and hundreds of years. You could see this in the buildings. It was a key religious centre, located as it was on the pilgrim route between Rome and the UK. And it had salt. Salt was so valuable back then, it was called white gold. The salt also had healing powers. Salins became a spa town, frequented by people from all over France taking cures. It was still a spa town, but an economically-depressed one. Much of its once-glorious architecture was falling into disrepair.

This small town was good to me. Its healing powers went beyond the spa. The landscape was so beautiful, it filled me with joy every time I set foot outside. I spent much time walking, hiking, and taking photos. The air smelled sweet, and was full of more butterflies than I’ve ever seen before. Everywhere I looked was bursting with beauty. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the cost of living was inexpensive. I started thinking that I’d found my home.

Then, one morning shortly after my 55th birthday, everything changed. I’d woken up to a new world. A world in which I finally understood who I was, and why I’d been the way I’d been. My life finally made sense to me.

And I knew who I was in the world without my mother by my side.

You see, this had been the purpose of my journey. Figuring out who I was in a world without my mum. We’d been extraordinarily close my whole life, but not in a mother/daughter way. We’d been the closest of friends. Life partners, in a sense. We spoke to each other more than we spoke to anyone else. We shared a sense of nonsense that no one else understood. We had a lot of fun together, and a lot of tears. When she died, I was adrift, stuck in a small boat in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by fog. Until I wasn’t any more.

My destination was never a place. It was knowing who I was, and loving myself unconditionally. That’s why I didn’t have a destination in mind when I set out on my adventure. How could I see a destination that I didn’t know existed?

Once I understood this, my self-imposed isolation ended. I started to miss my loved ones, and wanted to be around them once more. And, given where the largest concentration of them lived, that meant another move. Back to Canada. Back to Toronto, the city I’d fled from when my mum died.

My new life — phase three

I arrived back in Toronto at the end of last year, almost four years after I left. I knew immediately I’d made the right decision. It felt right, and I loved having so many of my friends around me. I settled into a new neighbourhood, and reconnected with the city in a new way.

Old city, new outlook. Old city, new life.

Much has happened since my return. My new life — phase four is on the horizon. This phase is the ‘happily ever after’ one.

But that’s a story for another day.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

life-is-waiting-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Hey, your life is waiting!

You think things are pretty good. Your life is pretty good. Your work is pretty good. Your relationships are pretty good. You know where you’re at and what’s going on. In fact you know this so well, that you hardly have to think about it any longer. Day in, day out, you go through the motions, doing what needs to be done, saying what needs to be said, thinking what needs to be thought, feeling what needs to be felt, seeing what needs to be seen.

You do what’s expected of you. You’ve always done what’s expected of you, that’s your way. You’d rather fit in than stand out. You’d rather do things for others than do things for yourself. You’d rather admire others than admire yourself. People know what to expect from you – your behaviour, your beliefs, your values, your rules – and they like this about you. Your life is predictable – everything that’s within your control is, anyway.

From the outside, your life looks great. You’ve got it all – the job, the home, the car, the relationship, the family. You’re the archetypical success story!! From the inside, your life looks good enough. But is ‘good enough’ good enough?

If you’re living a life that’s good enough, you’re existing, not living. When you’re existing, you’ve limited yourself – it’s as if you’ve created a box for yourself and live inside that. It can be perfectly OK inside your box, but you’re playing it small in there. You’re not living to your full potential. You started living in your box the minute you started wanting to fit in. And you started wanting to fit in when being yourself – your true self – was rejected in some way. Fitting in meant you had to become the person others wanted you to be – the person who does what’s expected, who has a predictable life.

You’re not meant to have a predictable life. Machines are meant to be predictable. Humans are not. Humans are wonderfully unpredictable – that’s our essence. You’re not meant to have a predictable life. You’re meant to have a wonderfully unpredictable one.

Having a wonderfully unpredictable life doesn’t mean it’s completely chaotic. It’s actually the opposite. When you decide to stop existing and start living, your life is on your terms. This means that you have to establish what your terms are. Once you have your own terms for living anchoring you, there is nothing you can’t do.

So, how do you go from merely existing to living fully? You grab your life with both hands and redesign it, that’s how!! Here are nine steps to help you do just that.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that right now all you’re doing is existing. You cannot make changes in your life if you don’t acknowledge and accept that something is wrong. The impetus to change comes from knowing that the way things are now isn’t right.
  2. Give yourself permission to put yourself first and do this work. You’re not used to doing this, you’ve been putting others first forever. Now it’s YOUR TIME.
  3. Get clarity on yourself and your life. Discover who you are and why you’re here (this post can help). Discover what you believe in, what your values are and what your personal rules are. Then create your life vision. It’s much easier to do this with the end in mind, asking yourself how you want to have lived your life by the time you die. So write your obituary of your well-lived life – that’s your life vision.
  4. Get passionate about your true self and your life vision. You’re going to need to generate some serious energy and excitement about these to get you started on your new path. And energy and excitement haven’t been in demand in your life for a while, so here’s how you can generate it. Close your eyes and picture your new, meaningful life. Picture yourself living to the max – feel the excitement and energy rising in you and boost it even higher with your mind. Sit with this energy for a couple of minutes and allow it to fill you up. Repeat this exercise every time you need an energy boost.
  5. Summon up your courage – you’re going to need it. Living life to the max will have its scary moments – they’re how you know you’re really going for it. Before you say you’re not courageous, that you were born without the courage gene, stop. You are – everyone is. You just have to summon it up by tapping into how passionate you are about your true self and your life vision. Are you really going to let ANYTHING get between you and that wonderful life? It’s natural to feel scared when you’re doing something you’ve never done before. But don’t get paralysed into inaction by that fear. Use your passion energy to keep you moving forward, to move past what scares you. Summon up your courage.
  6. Plan how you’re going to move forward towards your life vision. You know where you’re going, now you need to know how you’re going to get there. Plan out your action in MANAGEABLE chunks. Each step should be challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so challenging that you can’t achieve it. If you fail at any of your steps, it will kill your momentum – and you need this to keep you on your path.
  7. Act on your plan. All the vision and planning in the world isn’t going to get you living your new, meaningful life – only action is. JUST DO IT!!!
  8. Hold yourself accountable. In order to keep moving forward, you need to inspire yourself to do so – it’s human nature to get distracted from what we’re doing and start something else. By holding yourself accountable, you’ll keep connected to your vision and your plans. Here are a couple of tactics to help you with that, both are courtesy of world-renowned high performance coach, Brendon Burchard. For the first one, take your vision and break it down into three questions that, when asked, will keep you true to your vision. Ask yourself these three questions at the end of every day. My three, based on MY vision, are: 1) Did I live fully today? 2) Did I love fearlessly today? 3) Did I make a difference in someone’s life today? For the second tactic, take your values and choose the three words that best reflect who you are and how you want to live. Create a reminder on your phone so that these three words flash at you three times every day. I’ve created three repeating calendar entries for mine. Using these two tactics to check in with yourself daily will help keep you accountable and moving forward.
  9. Celebrate your successes as you go along. Don’t wait till the end – celebrating each success as it happens keeps your momentum going. I high-five myself every time I finish a step – this both entertains and energizes me. Find what works for you!

If you take all of these steps, you’ll understand something important. That you’re responsible for your own happiness and life. No one else can make you happy, or your life, fulfilled. Only YOU can do that.

So grab your life with both hands and don’t keep it waiting for a moment longer.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

struggling-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to turn struggling to your advantage

You’re so strong and competent. You take change in your stride. You know that change is good for you – after all, change is growth.

Struggle isn’t a word you use. Competent people like you don’t struggle. They succeed. There may be bumps, even hurdles along the way. But no struggle. Struggling is for people who aren’t strong.

On the outside, everything looks fine, even though people ask you repeatedly if you’re OK, if you need help. They know you’re going through a lot right now, hence their questions. You say you’re good, even though things don’t feel quite so good on the inside.

You may not realise it, but you’re pretending to be fine. You don’t want to admit that you’re struggling, because, if you do, you’re afraid that you’ll collapse.

You’re right to be afraid of collapsing, but not for the reason you think.

You won’t collapse because you’re struggling. You’ll collapse because you’re DENYING that you’re struggling.

Change IS hard. Change IS painful. When you don’t acknowledge and accept this, your feelings of pain and fear go deep inside you. Just because you don’t appear to be struggling with change, it doesn’t mean that you’re omnipotent. It just means that you’re in denial.

There’s only so long you can remain in denial about how hard something you’re doing is. Eventually, your pain and fear will find a way of expressing themselves – how and when THEY want, not how and when you choose to let them. Your pain and fear may express themselves as tears, as anger, or by making you sick. Tears and getting sick are how mine usually come out – whenever the auto-immune disease I have gets active, I know I’m denying something.

When you’re struggling with changes you’re making in your life, you have a choice.

You can allow yourself to express your feelings of pain, as and when they arise. You can admit to your friends when they ask how you’re doing that you’re struggling. If you do this, your feelings will pass and you can continue to move forward with your changes.

Or you can save face and continue to deny them, pretending to your friends that all well. You can get well and truly stuck, unable to move forward with your life changes. And become more sick.

Feeling and expressing the pain and fear behind your struggle is good. It allows you to keep moving forward, to keep growing, to become even stronger. This is how you turn struggling to your advantage.

Everyone feels pain and fear when they’re making changes – even I do, and I’ve changed enough in my life for three lifetimes. But not everyone admits it. If you weren’t allowed to make mistakes or to show your emotions in the past, you’ll find it hard to acknowledge your fear and pain. That’s because they feel like failure to you. Admitting that you’re struggling with change feels like you’re admitting that you’re weak. My way of denying that I’m struggling is to focus on all the good that’s coming from the change, and to ignore the rest. Sure, there IS good coming from the change. But there IS also pain.

Struggle is strength. It’s a sign of growth, that you’re making some important changes to your life.

Accept and embrace ALL of the feelings that come with this – the joy, the gratitude, the fear, the pain. And you’ll come to love how struggling makes you stronger.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

limitless-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Learn how you can stop playing it small – and become limitless

I know you. You play it small. You limit yourself in some way.

You limit how high you climb at work. You limit your personality. You limit the kind of work you do. You limit your love life. You limit your influence. You limit your visibility.

You don’t do it consciously – it’s the result of something else. Of not wanting to be different. You limit yourself because you don’t want to be different.

In other words, you play it small because you want to fit in.

This behaviour often started as a child, because being different wasn’t encouraged or even welcome. If being yourself – i.e. different – wasn’t welcome, how did you feel? You felt afraid and ashamed of who you were. So what did you do? You decided to be the person you needed to be to fit in. And this meant you stopped being yourself.

When you stopped being yourself, you felt good… at first. What a relief it was to fit in! You quickly learned who you needed to be in all sorts of different situations – as if you were an actor in a play. Which is exactly what you were. Except that you were never off-stage. You could never be yourself. You became absorbed with playing your roles – often The Perfectionist and The Good Person – and became so adept at them that you forgot your main role. Being you.

You were so busy playing roles for other people that you lost yourself completely.

You cannot be self-confident or have self-worth when you’re not being yourself. Which is why you play it small. You don’t have the courage of your convictions – they’re probably not YOUR convictions, anyway. So you stay under the radar and play it small.

I know you. Because that was me, too.

It’s scary when you stop playing it small. You feel exposed, naked even, and ungrounded. The foundations on which you built your life – being afraid and ashamed of who you were – have crumbled, and it takes a little while to rebuild your new ones. Your new foundations are very different. They’re based on your full ownership of and pride in who you truly are. Not that ego-based pride of being better than others. That real pride of being happy and satisfied with who YOU are. Your new foundations make you glow from the inside out, they make you feel safe, secure, limitless. And enough.

When you stop playing it small, you are enough.

Here’s how I stopped playing it small.

  • Acknowledge that you have a void inside. Notice and accept your void. If you don’t, you’ll continue to feed it until it gets so huge you can’t ignore it any longer. It’s much harder to fill a huge void than a regular one (I know, I had to).
  • Decide to stop pretending to be someone else. Take a stand to be yourself. It won’t happen all at once, but you’ll start to notice when you’re really not being yourself – this will help you catch it sooner the next time.
  • Start getting back in touch with your feelings. The only way to be someone else successfully is to squelch your own feelings. A good way to reacquaint yourself with them is to write a feelings journal every day. Don’t censor or edit, just let out whatever wants to come out.
  • Understand who you really are. Dig deep into what’s important to you (things like values, causes), what you love doing (go back to before you were 8, when you were still you) and what you’re truly good at (your natural skills and abilities).
  • Stop beating yourself up. Learn to manage your inner critics – those voices in your head that tell you you’re not enough.
  • Find your voice. Describe yourself – the REAL you – in a few sentences. Who are you? What do you do?
  • Learn how to manage whatever life throws at you (even rejection). Turn the key life truths (acceptance, letting go, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion) into daily habits.
  • Learn how to save yourself (because no one else is going to). Understand what it takes to put your own health and well-being first, and do it. You cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first.
  • Create your own roadmap for your life. If you’re not following your own roadmap, you’re following someone else’s. Make sure it takes the WHOLE you into account – who you are, your dreams, your desires.
  • Take action. Dreams are great, but they remain just dreams until you take action. How you spend every minute of your time should reflect what’s on your personal roadmap.

What’s the opposite of playing it small? Living large.

I’m living large. Will you join me?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

boundaries-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Why being yourself and having boundaries go together

For most of my life, I’ve had trouble with personal boundaries. Both with stepping over other people’s boundaries, and with allowing others to step over mine.

In my particular family dynamics, there was no such thing as personal boundaries. Walls, yes, but not boundaries. I had to do what I was told and wasn’t allowed to question anything people in positions of authority said or did. This led to my boundaries being crashed endlessly.

Back then, I didn’t have the awareness to know what was going on, just that it didn’t feel good. That having no voice and being made to go along with things I didn’t agree with sucked.

Boundaries are lines that define you. What you’re willing to do, and not do. What belongs to you, and what belongs to others.

Part of being yourself fully is deciding where your boundaries are. That’s why it feels so bad when someone else decides this for you.

Boundaries are crucial in all your interactions – with other people, with animals, with organisations. They’re a matter of respect. They’re being violated every time someone invades your privacy, or tells you what to do or how to behave. If someone’s presence or input is uninvited, it’s disrespectful.

Boundary setting comes from deep within. It’s based on your beliefs about what’s right for you in your life. You get to define how you behave, how you respond to someone else’s behaviour, what’s your to do. You also get to maintain your boundaries. And that means learning to say NO.

Whenever I’m feeling frustrated or angry, it’s because I’ve not maintained my boundaries. I’ve not said NO when I should have. This tends to happen when I rush into something, or when I feel sorry for someone. I’m suffering the consequences of my failure to say NO right now. I’m looking after someone’s dog, an incredibly needy, inactive dog, whose presence in my home prevents me from living my life. I love dogs, but don’t have the bandwidth right now to deal with a dog whose modus operandi is so different from mine.

You can learn to say NO in response to someone asking you to do something that’s not right for you. And you can learn to say NO in anticipation of someone offering you unsolicited advice. e.g. “I’d love to share something with you and just want you to listen – I’m NOT looking for any input about it.”

If you don’t maintain your boundaries, you cannot fully be yourself. Your ‘you-ness’ is compromised by every failure to say NO. If being yourself is important to you, then boundary setting and maintaining must also be important to you.

It takes courage to say NO. It also takes strong guiding principles. The reward is your freedom and a more joyful life.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Do your heroes inspire you or dumb you down?

It’s human nature to look for inspiration all around us. Our inspiration comes from many sources – from people we know; people we don’t know, some of whom are famous; nature.

Inspiration is one of our main fuel sources. We can be inspired to follow a calling – to become a doctor, a musician, an artist. We can be inspired to up our game at something – to become a better chess player, better entrepreneur, better writer, better footballer. And we can be inspired simply to be a better person – the best possible version of ourselves.

Being inspired means being moved so much by the actions or expertise of another that we change something meaningful about our own lives.

You see, inspiration ALWAYS has meaningful consequences. It helps us define who we truly are in some way. It helps make us more ourselves – the unique beings we are.

Now, there’s another force out there that masquerades as inspiration. Hero-worship.

The cult of celebrity is all about hero-worship. We are not inspired by these celebrities, we are not changed by them in a meaningful way.

We imitate them.

When we hero-worship, we want to be just like our ‘heroes’. To dress like they do. To take the same selfies as they do. To wear the same make-up as they do. To talk like they do.

And this has dangerous consequences.

Hero-worship causes us to lose ourselves completely. By dressing or acting or sounding JUST like these celebrities, we become clones. We are no longer unique individuals.

Hero-worship has the opposite effect on us to inspiration. Inspiration elevates us, helps make us even more amazing and unique. Hero-worship dumbs us down, helps make us like mindless sheep – we become all the same, no longer unique.

As such, hero-worship can only be viewed as a destructive force in society today. We may say that we don’t really admire the object of our hero-worship, that we just find him/her amusing/stylish/glamorous. Even if this is true, by imitating or putting our attention on people who don’t inspire us, we end up being dumbed down by them.

We are not dumbed-down clones. Each and every one of us is an amazing individual. An amazing individual who is surrounded by endless, life-transforming inspiration.

Inspiration is present in the individual acts of love, kindness, tolerance and courage we see every day. Inspiration is present in the expertise of those at the top of their games.

Let’s be inspired. Let’s be inspiring. Let’s be amazing. Because that’s who we truly are.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

Photo credit: Sarah Blick

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How to take action when life hits us hard

When we’re in a bad place, we have a choice.

We can distract ourselves to lessen the pain. Temporarily.

Or we can take action to alleviate the pain. Permanently.

Most of us choose to distract ourselves. In a shopping mall, with shiny new things we don’t need. With food, usually unhealthy salty and sugary snacks. With drink, whatever takes our fancy. With drugs, ‘legal’ and otherwise. With work, the longer the hours, the better. With sex, not intimacy.

I used to be a master of self-distraction. Work was my chosen poison. I would take on complex projects with impossible deadlines and bury myself in them. The more hours I spent at and on work, the fewer there were left to do anything other than eat and sleep.

This approach worked for me for years… until, one winter’s day, I imploded. There was simply no more space inside me to bury the pain. I knew I had to make a decision.

I could either choose to distract myself more effectively and deeply (drugs and booze, anyone?).

Or I could choose to start alleviating the pain.

I chose the latter. I knew this was my only real choice if I wanted to be healthy and happy. Which I did.

I looked at EVERY aspect of my life to see what needed to change to get to the root cause of the pain.

I took action, and started to make the changes in my life that needed to be made.

I found my path out of the pain. And continue to work on it, every day.

Here are some things that have helped me and others work through our pain.

  • Find solace in nature. Nature just allows you to be, with no judgement and no expectations. It gives unconditionally. There is such peace to be found in nature that it can only help you to find the peace within you. Nature is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in friends. Your true friends are a bit like nature. You feel held and supported when you are with them. If you don’t feel this, they are not true friends.
  • Find solace in meditation. A meditation practice helps you get out of your head and into your heart. And your heart is a much kinder place to be! When you find the type of meditation that works for you, it’s another gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in animals. Animals have much to teach us about how to live fully in the moment. And this is the secret of happiness. You can walk a dog along the same route every day and he will never get bored. For him, the route is new every day, it’s full of experiences (smells, tastes, sights, sounds, sensations) that weren’t there the day before.
  • Find solace in therapy. Therapy can really help some people get to the point where these other forms of solace really work. The key is finding a therapist who fully resonates with you.

Distracting ourselves is NEVER the answer to feelings of pain. Distraction is denial and ALWAYS leads to more and deeper pain.

We should choose to grow, to alleviate the pain permanently. This is the ONLY route to happiness. Such personal growth isn’t easy. It takes courage, diligence and patience.

And you’re worth it.

Image credit: Sarah Blick

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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How to stay grounded during times of change

I’ve been going through a lot of change of late and have been feeling a bit lost. Not because the change is unwelcome. Not because I haven’t known how to move forward.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost because I’ve not been very anchored.

Anchoring yourself is hard at the best of times. But when you’re moving a lot, like I am, it becomes much harder. I was recently talking to two dear friends of mine who are travelling around Asia right now and they confirmed this. After a couple of months on the road, they’re feeling in strong need of some anchoring.

As a concept, anchoring is hard to explain. It’s not about staying still and putting down roots – although that IS anchoring.

It’s more about finding some constancy when you’re constantly moving.

It helps if you think of a boat. It anchors to stay safe and secure when briefly stopping somewhere before moving on again. A house, on the other hand, roots itself to one place and stays put. Its rootedness also helps keep you safe and secure, but in a different way.

So, how do you anchor yourself?

Here are some possible ways:

  • By creating a routine. Routines can help you feel connected to a place, even if you’re there for a short time. My travelling friends eat in the same restaurant for most meals, that anchors them.
  • By spending time in nature. Nature is grounding, it anchors you just by being itself. I get maximum anchoring from walking barefoot on wet sand, dewy grass or forest floors.
  • By creating a ritual. No matter where I am, I start the day with a cup of mega strong, black tea. The tea reminds me that, even if everything around me is constantly changing, some things in my life remains the same.
  • By meditating. A regular meditation practice can really help keep you grounded. In itself, and as a ritual.
  • By making time to connect with loved ones. There is nothing that connecting with our loved ones can’t help resolve! Deeply, not superficially.

If you’re feeling really unanchored, you may need to do all of these. A lot. It’s worth taking time to do this, even if you’re busy. You might find that some of these work better than others at a given moment. I recently found myself creating more and more routines in response to my unanchoredness, and that started to feel too rigid. I finally realised that I’ve not been spending enough time in nature – I’ve been living in cities for the last 18 months. So I’m amping up my nature time.

We humans are community-oriented creatures at heart. So when we stray from that life, even for something exciting like exploring new places and people, we often feel a little lost. Then we feel guilty for feeling lost, for not appreciating the new experiences we’re having.

Instead of feeling lost or guilty, anchor yourself and those new experiences will again start to feel wonderful.

 

photo credit: Final Anchorage 2 via photopin (license)

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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10 steps to help you take action when you’ve hit rock bottom

This is where a lot of life changes begin. At rock bottom.

Rock bottom is a deeply personal place – no two rock bottoms are alike. It doesn’t matter how you got there, just that you did. Many of us don’t take action until we hit rock bottom. We’re willing to put up with a lot of discomfort, even pain, rather than face up to what’s right there in front of us.

That something is wrong with how we’re living.

And that we need to do something about it.

Here are 10 steps to help you take action when you know you’ve hit rock bottom.

1.    Thank yourself for realizing it

Change cannot happen until you realize something’s wrong. Most people are unwilling to face up to this, and, with their heads down, carry on as they have been for years. You, on the other hand, have been courageous enough to realize that something’s wrong. So take a moment to thank yourself for this – it can do a lot for your self-esteem.

2.    Accept that you can’t go on living like this

After thanking yourself for noticing that something’s wrong, you need to take another courageous step. You need to accept that this way of living has to stop. It’s one thing thinking that something has to stop; it’s another believing it with every cell in your body. This is what acceptance looks like.

3.    Figure out how you got to this place

Before you can move forward with purpose, you need to understand what you’re moving away from. So it’s worth spending time figuring out how you got here. How have you been living? What have your priorities been? Are you proud of what you’ve been focussing on? You need to answer these sorts of questions so you have a good idea of what lies behind the life that led you to rock bottom.

4.   Figure out who you really are

As adults, many of us believe we know who we are. We equate our age with our level of knowing, not realising that the discomfort we’ve felt for much of our adult life is caused by a disconnect between who we think we are and who we really are. In order to figure out who you really are, you need to ask yourself some questions, and some of the answers to these lie back in your childhood. These three questions have helped a lot of people figure out who they really are:

What’s important to you? Are there any personal qualities you want to be known for? What do you value above all else? What qualities in others do you admire?

What do you love doing? Go back to your childhood, from as far back as you can remember until you were about eight. During this time, you were really you. After this age, you were being moulded by society to be a certain person.

What are you truly good at? The things that come naturally to you, rather than the things you’ve learned to master.

5.    List the changes you want to make

When sitting at rock bottom, we may see a lot of things that we want to change about our lives. To exercise more. To eat healthier foods. To deepen a relationship. To drink less. To have more fun. To start a spiritual practice like meditation. To spend more time with loved ones. To work less. To learn to love ourselves. To declutter. To move house. To change job. To leave a relationship. Etc. Whatever your list is, make sure that you document it now, when you’re at rock bottom, so you don’t forget anything important.

6.   Prioritize your list of changes

In order to take action and make changes in your life, the changes must be manageable. Trying to do a list of 10 things at the same time is a recipe for failure, so you need to prioritize them. Start with the ONE thing that you want to change most. Then your top five things. Then the rest. And do them in that order, without starting a new one until you’ve fully succeeded in making the change above it..

7.   Make a plan of action

This is how you turn your fantasy – a changed life – into a reality. Most intentions to change fail because people are unable to take action, so this is a really important step. Take your number one change and decide how you’re going to make it happen. What specific things are you going to do? How often? With what goals in mind? For example, if your number one change is to exercise more, list the types of exercise you’re going to take, their frequency and where you want to get to in the end: hiking 5 km every weekend (goal: 20 km hikes); walking vigorously for 30 minutes every day; rowing twice a week (goal: racing every weekend); etc. Do this for every item on your change list, but only when you’ve succeeded in making the change above it. Be sure to keep your goals achievable – you don’t want them to discourage you.

8.   Be accountable

There’s nothing like monitoring your progress to keep you moving forward. Maybe you’d like to have someone with whom you check in every week to discuss how you’re getting on – someone who will lovingly kick your butt if you need it. Or maybe you’d like a tool like a change log where you document the specific things you’ve done every day to make your change happen. Or maybe you’d like to combine these two, showing your change log to your person every week. It doesn’t matter which accountability system you choose, just make sure you have one. It will dramatically increase your chances of success. (Check out stickK, which uses a Commitment Contract with a Referee or financial stakes to maximize success.)

9.   Have a support system

As you make changes in your life, you will have set backs. This is guaranteed (see this blog post for why). So you really need to have some people cheering you on from the sidelines – people who will be there for you, no matter what. It’s so easy to get knocked off course when things don’t go well. And, after all of the courage and effort it’s taken to get to this point, the last thing you want is to be knocked off course.

10.  Celebrate your successes

Every time you reach one of your goals, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back! One of the biggest momentum boosters comes from recognizing how much progress you’re making as you go along. Celebrate in any way you want – you might want to ‘phone someone who didn’t think you could do it to tell him/her that you succeeded, or to treat yourself to something you love, or to go away for the weekend. You’re rocking those changes, so acknowledge it!

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Why Persistence Matters

Because life is one step forward, two steps back.

Here’s the thing.

When you start to make changes in your life, you feel good. Not just because you’ve been courageous enough to take action and make some changes. You feel good because you notice some real improvements. Maybe you lose some weight. Maybe your face looks less pinched. Maybe your heart feels lighter. These things – tangible evidence that what you’re doing is good for you – encourage you to keep moving forward. Your resolve is strong and you know what you want. What’s more, some of your previously held truths about yourself start to fall away – as if you’re re-wiring yourself into the person you want to become.

Until one day, that is.

That’s when the self-doubt begins to creep in. Out of nowhere, you start questioning what you’re doing and how you could be so naive as to think that YOU could actually change. After all, aren’t you that same, fearful person you were a few months ago? Haven’t you always been like this?

These doubts may be so disruptive that you stop doing the things that were behind the improvements you saw in yourself. You stop exercising, or meditating. And start eating and drinking crap, and stressing yourself out. Your mind is working overtime.

Your mind. It can be a very useful thing, your mind. But it can also be a very destructive thing.

You see, your mind is where fear lives, along with all of fear’s sidekicks, like self-doubt, pity and despair. Your mind likes to be in control of you – in fairness, it’s used to being in control of you – and it uses fear to maintain this control. So when you go and do something fearless like making life changes, your mind fights back.

Because your mind likes you in your place.

It’s a bit like in Star Wars when the Empire struck back. The Siths didn’t like those pesky Jedis trying to be a force of good, so they fought back to put them in their place.

Now, this is a good moment to remember who won that battle, in the end. The Jedis did. Their persistence paid off. So, if the Siths represent your mind, what do the Jedis represent in you?

They represent your heart.

Without getting all woo woo on you, this is an important point. Your mind is where fear and its sidekicks self-doubt, pity and despair live. And your heart is where love and its sidekicks joy, happiness and self-belief live.

It’s your heart that drives all life changes.

The more you follow you heart and make your life changes, the stronger your heart will get. The stronger your heart gets, the less your mind will be able to knock you off course by making you fearful. Your mind will keep trying, of course, introducing whatever doubts and questions it can to keep you enslaved to its way of life, but its effect on you will diminish.

With your heart in charge, it controls your mind. You can then use it to help you make your life changes. Minds are great at planning, analysing, and creating systems and processes, all of which you need when you’re taking action.

One step forward. And two steps back. Persistence is the only way forward.

Just remember. You are a Jedi knight. And the force is strong in you.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).