Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Meandering" on the Path to Success

On her weekly radio show yesterday, one of my coaching gurus (Cheryl Richardson) was offering encouragement to a woman who's been feeling aimless and unsuccessful in her job hunt. Cheryl said something that really struck me: "This is a period of re-evaluation and inquiry for you. It's OK to meander for a while. Your meandering has a purpose. Just embrace its messiness."

I quickly ran to Webster's to get an exact definition of meander: "to wander casually and aimlessly without an urgent destination; to ramble." And what does rambling mean? It's "a leisurely excursion for pleasure." So Cheryl encourages us to let ourselves wander aimlessly while we're exploring new possibilities and to focus instead on pleasure. Hmmmm...very interesting. 

This is exactly what I've been feeling guilty about doing all this week, as my workload has slowed down and we here on the East coast have been snowed in. Right before hearing Cheryl's validation of the idea of meandering, I'd decided to reframe my slowdown in paying work by calling it a "spiritual retreat"--a time of reflection and reassessment, a "sabbatical" to check in with myself and consider what I truly desire...inner questioning that will help me prepare for deciding my next moves both professionally and personally.

And so I meandered through the last 2 days pondering these dilemmas:
1) Professionally: How to busy myself with administrative, research, and marketing tasks as I wait for some new projects coming next week (while keeping at bay any anxiety about the reduced income)
2) Personally: How to put more pleasure into each day as I endeavor to stay positive, present, and patient while waiting to hear from a man I started seeing 2 weeks ago to let me know when we'll have our 5th date

I should tell you right now--I've never been good at waiting!

But, lo and behold, I'm feeling more at ease and at peace about all of the above than I would've thought possible! The reason: I've given myself permission to "embrace the messiness" of it all. Yes, there will be slow periods, times of uncertainty, chunks of time when I have less to do than usual, and uncomfortable phases when I can't predict what's coming next (which are hard for me because I'm such a "doer" and a planner-- someone who likes to be productive and thus struggles a bit with the idea of unstructured time without a "to-do list.") 

Normally, being "aimless" isn't my M.O. But now, at age 61, after 31 years of being self-employed, I'm thinking it's OK to give myself a taste of semi-retirement. And, as a dating coach for 10 years, I'm learning to take my own advice about relaxing and wandering and exploring more in the dating world. Have no expectations or sense of urgency about a certain man. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Just have fun meeting and learning about men, without attachment to the outcome or worries about whether he's "the one". 

I think we could all benefit from giving ourselves permission to meander. All I know is that it feels liberating...and kind of exciting at the same time. I sense that the Universe will have more pleasant surprises for me when I don't try to plan or control everything along the way! :-)


Friday, January 16, 2015

What Is Self-Love Anyway?

To expand my dating coaching abilities, I often research other coaches. This week, I've been listening to male and female coaches give advice to women about how to find the right guy. And a common theme has emerged: In order to attract true love, you need to love yourself first.

Makes sense, right? But, what exactly does that mean? Well, different coaches describe it differently. I've heard self-love defined as:
- Valuing yourself and your needs and desires
- Putting yourself first to create your own happiness
- Cherishing yourself by treating yourself the way you want others to treat you
- Being kind and gentle and nonjudgmental with yourself
- Speaking up and telling others what you like and want without guilt
- Respecting and honoring your own boundaries (not settling for less than you deserve)
- Seeing the Divine within yourself

If someone asked you right now, "Do you love yourself?"...what would you say? If you feel you DO love yourself, how do you know? How do you show it?

We might answer these questions by starting with how we know we're NOT being self-loving--like when we let others disrespect us, when we try to "earn" love by giving too much to others just so they'll like us, when we stay with someone who mistreats us, or when we're afraid to ask for what we want because deep down we don't feel we deserve to get it.

Haven't we all done one or more of these things at some time when dating or in the various relationships in our lives? Not very loving behaviors by anyone's definition. 

So now, let's turn them around. Being self-loving would mean you:
- respect yourself enough to say "no" to people or situations that compromise your integrity
- give only as much as feels reasonable and comfortable for you, not because you fear the other person won't like you unless you give more
- end relationships or spend less time with people who treat you badly
- ask for what you want, coming from a place of abundance and a strong sense of self

I feel most self-loving when I'm making a point of:
- doing things I love just for the joy of it
- listening to my intuition and following my heart (rather than that voice of "should")
- pampering myself with good food, the hot tub at the Y, movies I enjoy, being out in nature, buying and/or arranging flowers for myself, reading books/magazines/websites I'm learning from, spending time with my kids and/or my dearest friends, or just doing nothing guilt free
- acknowledging myself for things I'm proud of
- cutting myself some slack (i.e., not judging myself too harshly) for my mistakes

Self-love is not about boasting because it doesn't matter that others give you accolades. The only thing that matters is that YOU acknowledge yourself and feel good about you. We're all works in progress. Nobody is perfect. And we learn the most when we mess up.

How about you? What's your self-opinion? Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your best friend? Is your self-talk kind and gentle or harsh and critical? Do you love you just the way you are--or do you constantly focus on your faults/shortcomings? 

Start being self-loving today: make a list of all the things that are unique and wonderful and lovable about you. The things your friends notice and remark upon. The qualities you take for granted rather than taking credit for. 

The most-precious gift I got this Christmas was a little ceramic pig (a favorite animal that I collect) from a dear friend, filled with tiny pieces of paper listing the things she loved, admired, and respected about me. I know I could've written the very same things about myself if I took the time to give myself an inner hug--something I think we could all benefit from doing!