It’s All About Perspective

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When I was growing up, my mother used to say to me, “You resemble your father’s side of the family. You have short legs and a long torso”. She was so confident in her opinion, and because no one else contradicted her, I came to accept her view. In my mind, I was a person with short legs and a long torso. Done deal. But about 15 years ago I had a reality-changing moment that upended my long-held belief.

I was working with a personal trainer who I really trusted because of her background as a dancer and her focus on strength, flexibility and balance. As we were working on some leg exercises, she said, “I need to adjust the equipment because you have long legs.” I looked at her in amazement, so much so that she stopped and asked me what I was thinking. I told her my mother’s version of my legs and she laughed.

She said, “Karol, I work with people of all shapes and sizes and I can tell you from experience, you don’t have short legs”. She then stood next to me in front of a mirror and with her hands, showed me the distance of my waist to my knees and my knees to my feet. By having me focus on the visual image in front of me, my trainer helped me shift my perspective and drop an old belief about my body.

Over the years clients have also come to me with ingrained beliefs about who they are. They have said “I’m not smart or strong or beautiful or deserving of love”. This perspective deeply affected their self-esteem and confidence. Of course sitting opposite them I saw such a different picture. With time, self-examination and support their view of themselves did eventually change. When that happened they shifted into an updated reality, one that made them feel happier with who they were.

How about you? Is there a perspective that needs changing in your life? If so, here are some questions to consider.

  • What messages were you given about your intelligence, looks or capabilities?
  • Who did you learn them from?
  • What phrases do you automatically say to yourself about any aspect of who you are?
  • Is what you believe really accurate?
  • When is the last time you got a reality-check about your perceptions?
  • Who could you turn to for a reality-check?

When you do get feedback, take a moment to write, text email yourself what you have heard so that you can refer to it anytime you need a boost.

“Why not use your mentality, wake up to reality” is from a Cole Porter’s song, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and I think it captures the shift in perspective I am talking about.

By the way, here is a recording of Frank Sinatra singing, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, who in my opinion is one of the finest interpreters of music and lyrics there has ever been. I’ve Got You Under My Skin

The Right To Be In the Room

The room was filled with a variety of men and women and bustling with energy. I had been invited to talk to them about how good communication skills could increase the visibility of their businesses. During my presentation I laid out a series of actions steps ranging from speech crafting, to customization of topics, to where they could find speaking opportunities. The audience was enthusiastic and very invested in making their businesses a success.

At one point, I asked if anyone wanted to receive on the spot coaching for a particular visibility issue. A woman raised her hand and shared that she had recently completed a 3 year training program and received certification as a health coach. She went on to say that prior to this she had worked in the health care field and after her children became of school age, began her training.

After asking what kind of support she needed, I began coaching her on how she could funnel her passion into a variety of presentations topics. At some point during our coaching, she seemed to freeze and I could tell she had checked out. When I asked her what she thinking, she said, “I don’t have enough experience to talk about what I do. I just graduated and there are people who have been doing it a long time and I haven’t.”

As I switched to my therapist hat, I took a moment and then said to her, “You have a right to be in the room.” I paused again and said,.”You have the right to be there. You may want more experience speaking, you may want more experience coaching clients, but you have the right to be in the room.” As she stared back at me I asked her a series of questions about her background in health care, the amount of hours that went into her training program and all the life experience she had being a mother and spouse. We figured out together that it added up to quite a lot.

As a therapist and coach I have repeated that phrase to many of my patients and clients. They want to write books, ask for a raise, start a new business or simply let themselves be seen and noticed. They feel ashamed because they can’t “just do it” no matter how much they want to. Most of the time it’s due to the negative beliefs they have about who they are and what they have to offer. When they share those beliefs with me, I never dismiss their fears no matter how illogical. However, I do ask them to explore what is really holding them back.

In my experience, people shift when they understand where their fear started, challenge it’s validity and get support for a new way of thinking. Only when their outdated view is understood and dismantled, can they catch up to who they are in the present. And when that happens, the relief I witness is palpable. Not only do they discover that have the right to be in the room but also get to take up as much space as they need.

Here are some questions to consider when you find yourself wanting to shift your perspective:

What would you notice or feel if you had the right to be in the room?

How would you be standing, sitting or speaking if you had the right to be in the room?

What is one step you could take today if you knew you had the right to be in the room?

Who is one person that would support you if let yourself believe you have the right to be in the room?

Remember, when you are ready there are lots of rooms out there waiting to be filled and you too can be the one to fill them.

Have any thoughts about the right to be in the room? I’ve posted this article on my public Facebook page. Please feel free to share your comments.

The Cookie Verses The Real Meal

In my book, Find Your Inner Voice, I shared the story of my client Diane, a successful woman with her own business. Diane told me she wanted to have a serious relationship yet continually dated men who readily admitted they did not want any commitment. There were elements of excitement and intensity when she was with them but she always felt let down when did not hear from them again. Diane started to realize that dating these free spirits only provided her with the illusion of romance.

As we explored Diane’s confusion about relationships, I asked her to try a simple technique I had developed over the years. (Actually the technique can be used with any type of relationship, whether it’s friends, business or romance). I asked her what her body craved when she was really hungry and wanted food fast. She instantly said, “Sugar cookies. Nothing seems to taste as good as those cookies when I just can’t wait any longer.” I then asked her how she felt after she ate them. She said, “Really energized, and then I crash and feel like I can’t move.” She acknowledged that depriving herself of food for too long caused her to grab the most convenient food available and that her body paid the price.

I then asked Dianne what her ideal meal was and right away she said, “Homemade lasagna. You know the kind, as it comes out of the oven with the cheese melting on those layers of pasta and tomato sauce?” Diane said when she ate that homemade lasagna, she felt really happy and content. So I encouraged her to consider applying the cookie or lasagna standard, when it came to dating.

Whenever Diane was considering going go out with someone, she was to view her dating choice as if she were choosing her next meal. She was to ask herself whether the man she was going out with was a sugar cookie or a dish of that sumptuous homemade lasagna. In doing so, she would become very conscious about whether she could connect to him emotionally or was he just a delicious sweet treat?

Over the years, other clients have used this technique and shared with me their version of Diane’s food choices. Whatever the food, using this technique helps them quickly decide if the relationship they are contemplating is one that will be beneficial to their well being.

When it comes to relationships, choosing your version of sugar cookies is not about being good or bad. If that’s what you want, go for it. Just pay attention to how you feel along the way. But if you really want something more substantial, those fast food choices will never satisfy you the way a nourishing meal can.

Next time you are contemplating any type of new relationship, consider asking:

Is this new business partnership a quick fix or one that will sustain your vision?

Is this new friendship, filled with neediness and drama, one that will make you feel supported in the long run?

Is this possible new romance one that will emotionally nourish you or leave you wanting more?

Have any thoughts about the cookie vs the real meal technique?

Have It Your Way

I was walking my dog around the neighborhood a few weeks ago, and we passed a local playground which looked fairly empty. Suddenly my eye was caught by movement and I saw a little girl, maybe five or six, jumping and running around. On a bench nearby, her mother sat watching her with a baby nestled in her lap.

Just as I was about to continue on with my dog, the little girl started climbing up the stairs of a wooden jungle gym that had large cut out peep holes and a slide at the very top. She made her way over to the slide, sat down and then paused to look towards the bottom. It looked like she was getting herself ready for the journey ahead.

I found myself holding my breath as I watched her because she looked so tiny and the slide itself was not on the small side. All of a sudden, she flipped over onto her stomach and pushed off sliding to the bottom feet first. When she landed she ran excitedly over to her mother and then dashed off towards the swings. As I headed back home, the image of her coming down the slide made me smile and I admired her for doing it her way.

This experience made me think about all the times we do things the way we think we should, instead of trusting ourselves to do the things the way we want to. Over the years, I have listened to many patients and clients who want to take a leap of faith and do things differently. They often see-saw between staying where they are, comfortable yet bored, or honoring the call within. The good news is that when they take the time to honor what they want, and receive support, they become very clear on what steps they need to take next.

Here are a few questions to consider when you are feeling the need to do it your way.

What have you been drawn to?

Think of all the different activities, classes and sports you have participated in throughout your life. What about them sparked your interest?

Who has an impact on you?

Is there a teacher, coach, therapist, business leader or inspirational figure that you admire? How come? What qualities do they have that appeal to you?

What is calling out to you?

Is there a book to be written, a business to start or a change in your personal or professional life that is preoccupying your thoughts? How is that registering with you?

How can you cultivate your inner calling?

Consider the resources available to you now that will help you find clarity. What person, class, book, group or association can provide you with the knowledge and encouragement you need?

Sometimes when you decide to makes changes, you can feel like you are on your own. Look for the people you admire, the qualities of life that are important to you and the support you need. After all, there is more than one way to slide towards what you want.
 

Self-Care for Self-Repair

In this last quarter of 2013, I have found myself in the middle of a huge self-care challenge. After pushing very hard in my career for many years, while simultaneously caring for an aging parent, my body finally said, “That’s enough”.

I have been forced to slow down and not in a graceful, please take a seat kind of way but in a screeching, skidding, stop dead in your tracks way.  And while I   continue to work with my patients and coach my clients in communication skills, which has been very fulfilling, there has been no space or energy for that next book, or even that next push in my career.

It has been very humbling.

As many of you know, I am a body-mind expert, someone who believes in listening to what our bodies have to tell us. And my body certainly was chatting up a storm last year, but I was distracted, caught up in some big projects and dealing with the aftermath of caring for my mom. I didn’t ignore my self-care but I squeezed it in an usually when I was beyond exhausted.

Consequently, I have had to carve time out to regain my vitality.  And that process has involved a daily, sometimes moment to moment conversation with myself about what I need to do to heal. There have been numerous talks with friends and health practitioners who continue to encourage me to take the time I need and to be kind to myself. And as frustrating as it has been, I know I need to because there is more life to be lived and I want to participate.

So through my own experience and listening to the issues of others, I want to share some thoughts on how to keep or get your own self-care on track.

1. Transitions: Allow more transitions between events and activities in your life. By creating time to transition from one thing to another, you give yourself more time to; feel what you need to in that moment, address what you need in terms of self-care, and keep yourself from living life in a state of chronic stress.

2. Components for healing. In my experience, it often takes more than one modality to heal from emotional, psychological and physical stress. If you have been feeling frustrated or stuck in your process of healing, instead of blaming yourself, it may be time to try something else. Take a look at other methods such as coaching, therapy, a new doctor, meditation, acupuncture, a different type of exercise or nutritional guidance as possible options.

3. Emotional messiness is part of life. There will always be deep feelings to experience as we live life.  There is loss, excitement, mistakes and unexpected joys, to name a few. We continue to evolve as human beings till the end of our lives and there is no such thing as being perfect. Cultivating acceptance of where we are, which does not mean giving up, does make the journey easier. And to be honest, as I have run out of steam, this has been my biggest challenge and one I will keep you posted on.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or comments on self-care and how it has affected your self-esteem, please feel free share them with me via email or in comments, including what has worked for you and your own experience with reaching your limit.

www.karolward.com

Short Cut or Short Changed?

My epiphany happened over the kitchen counter as I was staring down at the blouse I was ironing on a towel. I was running late and didn’t want to stop and take down the ironing board because I thought it would take too much time. But, as I looked at my still wrinkled top, I realized I would have to use the ironing board anyway and that this wouldn’t be the first time I had had this experience.

For a long time, whenever I was headed out and noticed I had a wrinkle in something I wanted to wear, I would put a towel down on the kitchen counter and iron there because I told myself it would take less time than setting up the ironing board. Where I got this idea, I’m not sure but I have to tell you, it never worked. Almost every single time, I would find myself struggling to get my blouse straight on the towel or keep the towel from bunching up. I would inevitably take down the ironing board and do it the way it should have been done in the first place.

There are times when bypassing the usual route provides us with opportunity to leap forward on the path we are traveling. I love those moments, those times when we say to ourselves, “Go for it!” There is enough self-confidence to skip over the usual analysis, take action and fill in the details as we go. How do we tell when to take a short cut?  In my experience, it’s when our internal response to the potential decision has more excitement, than fear. We believe in those moments that no matter what, we will be “all right”.

But what about the decisions that short change us when we move too fast? My ironing choice kept short changing me in the long run. The blouse needed more time and attention that I wanted to give it and ultimately I knew it. But I overrode that knowledge because I was invested in a false sense of speed. It is that that knowing, that sense of really knowing that something requires more time, more patience to really be what you want it to be that keeps us from short changing ourselves. And a way to recognize it is to look at our habitual patterns and the upcoming decisions we need to make.

Here are a couple of ways to explore whether you are ready for a short cut or causing yourself to be shortchanged.

Is there a long established pattern of behavior that hasn’t changed over the years? If so, this usually means there is a deeper exploration needed of why you may be short changing yourself in achieving or healing something you have long desired.

Do you feel that you have been holding back your creativity, expertise, or knowledge because of an outdated sense of self? If doing things the same old way feels like you are moving at a snail’s pace, it’s time to take a short cut by asking more directly for what you want.

Do you feel a sense of anxiety, nervousness or conflict when you imagine taking action in your career, relationship or health? These feelings indicate that premature action will short change the result you want and that a deeper examination is needed of why you feel the way you do.

Do you feel excitement, happiness, calmness or joy when you picture yourself in the future being who you want to be?  This means it’s time to speed up the process and start taking the short cuts you need by getting support from friends, colleagues and experts who can get you there.

My ironing epiphany let me know, that taking the time to achieve a wrinkle free look, required an attention to detail that ultimately let me look and feel more confident. Who knew that my kitchen counter had so much to offer?

If you have thoughts or comments you want to share on Short Cuts or Short Changed?, please feel leave them on my blog, (no email information will be shared) or post them on Facebook.

Overwhelmed?

Whenever my schedule is too packed and I am running late, I find it very easy to blame others for my predicament. I fume at the cab driver who, in my mind is deliberately driving slowly; I get annoyed that people are not going up the subway stairs fast enough; or stand impatiently in the elevator that is packed, in my opinion, with too many people.

However, when I am more in charge of my life, when things are running smoothly, none of this bothers me and life is good.

What affects my perspective so strongly? It all has to with whether or not I am feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed makes me feel stressed, behind schedule and unsure of what action to take next. At different times, many of my clients feel exactly the same way and are looking to find answers to why it occurs.

In my experience, when we feel overwhelmed in some area of our life, it’s usually because we are under-supported. A system is not working, a schedule issue has to be addressed, an emotional concern needs attention or a physical problem has to be resolved. Whatever the area, if it is not attended to, it usually continues to show up and slow us down. That’s when the wave of being overwhelmed rises and we find ourselves feeling out of control.

Being under-supported can be a chronic pattern that has continued to be ignored for years or it could be caused by a series of current events that get added into your already overloaded schedule without the time, foundation or space to support them. Whenever this happens to me or any of my clients, I always consider two questions.

1. What area of life needs the most attention right now?
Make a list of 5 things that are pulling your focus, list them in order of priority and start with the first one and only the first one. Yes, it’s hard to imagine that focusing on one thing will have an effect on the others but it does. You will feel relief, satisfaction and a sense of momentum in completing what needs to be done. This creates energy and allows you to take on the next item.

2. What needs to be taken off your plate?
Often we want to do something when we are feeling overwhelmed-take on something new to address the problem, learn a new skill, buy a new product or read up on a new perspective. All of these are great ideas when we have the capacity to absorb the information. But being overwhelmed means we have reached capacity and need to lighten the load. We do this by taking a hard look and what can be taken out of your schedule in order for you to address the most important things on your list of priorities.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are three common areas to look at where you may be under-supporting yourself.

Time: What activities do you want to participate in and what activities do you have to participate in? Make sure there is good balance between the two. Continue to monitor where you want to put your energy. Use your body as a gage to see if you feel anxious or calm when accepting an invitation or taking on new projects.  

Health: Keep checking in with yourself to see if you are operating in your life the way you want to be. Are you making habitual, short term choices for health situations that may require deeper examination? Are there physical, nutritional or psychological changes that need to occur so that you will operate more optimally in your life? Create the time to feel better.  

Rest: When we rest we acknowledge that we are human and not machines that can be productive every minute of the day. We need to rest more often than we think and when we do, we provide ourselves with the space to rejuvenate our bodies and clear our heads. Give yourself a 10 minute break to close your eyes, look at nature or listen to music and see how it feels.  

 

Body-Mind Believers

I had a wonderful year end dinner the other night with a special group of women. During the year, we meet on a regular basis to offer support and encouragement both persoanlly and professionaly. We share of variety of interests and a singular belief in the importance of the body-mind connection.

Over our dinner we had an impassioned discussion about the the lack of information that is presented to public around weight and body image issues. Each of us in our practices, a registered dietician specializing in eating disorders, a holistic counselor who uses nutrition to heal chronic health issues, a movement specialist who uses body awareness to help women reclaim their bodies and myself, a therapist specializing in the body-mind connection all have witnessed the pain our clients go through when they are disconnected from their emotional selves. We understand the pain and punishment women go through when they put themselves on another diet or exercise program that inevitably fails.

Our unified goal is to help people make the important connection that there is no avoidance of feeling when you are trying to heal your physial state. I know personally that making the body an ally instead of an enemy is one of the most powerful ways you can change your emotional state. My group of friends and colleagues are determined to get that message out to the world by helping our clients heal. Through teaching, speaking and writing we will continue to offer information and hope to those who are looking for a different way.

We are body-mind believers.

Oprah’s Pain-What lies beneath?

Oprah has publicly shared her recent weight gain along with her feelings of embarrassment and anger towards herself. Her public acknowledgement is that she did not make herself a priority or include herself on her to do list.

I hope that Oprah takes the time to understand what lies beneath the weight gain. Besides healthy food choices and exercise, when we gain substantial amounts of weight, it is mainly because of emotional pain. As long as there  are no known medical problems,  gaining weight  has to do with the management of feelings.  Anger and embarrassment might be the surface responses and they certainly are legitimate to feel.

But what lies beneath the weight gain?  What does the weight represent emotionally?

In my experience as a therapist, an inside out approach to weight management is the only way to heal  the yo yo weight gain/loss cycle. Discovering what is eating you and then making choices to work through the emotional stuckness is what will allows you to take the actions you need.

My message to Oprah and anyone else struggling with weight issues is, before you take on another diet or exercise plan, get a take on your life. Take the time to understand, and accept what is out of balance and then with great compassion, ask yourself what it is you need to provide the best self-care in mind, body, and spirit. That is the only way to heal what lies beneath.