Big Fat Juicy Goals: 20 Things to Keep In Mind While Pursuing Your Goals

Mindshifting Goals

“I can’t believe she finished!”

I said this to myself after seeing the Instagram photos of yet another smiling, happy colleague of mine clad in her cap and gown graduating with her PhD. from our university. And this particular colleague had started after me.

My next thought was , “I need to finish this dissertation now, because I’m so over this shit.”

We all set goals. Whether its losing weight, earning more money, getting out of debt, finding a life partner, writing a book, or running a marathon.  Goals are an expression of our deepest desires.

One of my life goals is getting a Ph.D.

I’ve had this goal since about the age of 15. And when I got accepted into a doctoral program, I was so excited and saw it as a fulfillment of one my life’s goals.

When I first started the program, it was with the intention of  being a professor which meant writing books and teaching classes at a university. But while finishing up my coursework in grad school and experiencing up close and personally the politics, intellectual bullying, sexism, classism, and racism, I was  turned off and I no longer wish to pursue such a career full time. But nonetheless, I am still pursuing the degree. One big reason  is just for the sake of finishing something that I started.

In pursuit of this goal,  I have pulled several all nighters this week and managed to have accomplished more in this week than I have in the past few years. Why? Because I was fed-up and made it non-negotiable. It’s amazing what you can do when failing is no longer an option.

At this point, I am determined to finish this dissertation and graduate in June 2018. Anything else is unacceptable.

It is totally easy to set a goal, but it is the showing up everyday that counts.

Here are 20 things to keep in mind while you are in pursuit of your big, fat, juicy, exciting goals:

1. In order to accomplish your goals, remember why you started

The bigger and more ambitious your goal is, the harder it is to achieve it. That is the nature of the beast. But with a continuous source of motivation, you can achieve any goal, no matter how big it is. Remembering why you started can be a huge source of motivation, especially on those days when it feels like you have no energy to do anything. If you keep something around that reminds you of why you started, you’d be surprised of how it can push you when you’re funning on fumes.

2. In order to accomplish your goals, remember who you are

Now, this one may sound arrogant or cocky, but you are a bad ass. And you have done incredible and wonderful things before. There have been times before when people have counted you out and you surprised them. You can do the same now.

3. In order to accomplish your goals,  remember that if it was easy everyone would do it

Your goals are hard to reach for a reason. The fact that they are hard to reach makes them worthwhile in the first place. Not everyone can run a marathon. Not everyone can get a PhD. Not everyone can lose 100lbs. This is what makes your goals special. And more importantly, this is what sets you apart because you are not “everyone” and you can do it.

4. In order to accomplish your goals, you must be willing to do whatever it takes

Whatever it takes means, whatever it takes. Les Brown has a saying that I really like. “You must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have.” And that may mean spending money to invest in your future. Or foregoing sleep to pull some all-nighters.  It may mean restricting your food take or being uncompromising with your schedule so that you are using every second to get you closer to your goals. Whatever, it is. Do whatever it takes. Be uncompromising.

5. In order to accomplish your goals, remember that failure is not the final answer

The truth is that sometimes we fail. And we fail hard. Failure can bruise the hell out of our ego and make us feel like shit. I know this personally. You know this, we’ve all been there. But that is no where near the final story. Failure is just one step on the road to your goal.  DO NOT throw away your goal because you have failed a few times. Just get up, dust yourself off, and move forward. Standing still is not an option for you. And just in case you needed, extra proof. Here, here, and here are all proof that stopping after a failure should be the last thing you do.

6. In order to achieve your goals, you need accountability

Accountability happens when someone is aware of your goals and they make sure that you do what you say you are going to do. In other words, they do not let you off the hook.  We all need accountability and often times, it is the difference between success and failure. Having accountability helps to foster the “whatever it takes” mentality that is crucial to your success. Find someone who will hold you to your word, especially at the times when you feel like you don’t have the strength.

7. When achieving your goals, remember that you are your biggest obstacle

Another reason why you need accountability in order to reach your goals is because you are your biggest obstacle. There is something about where you are now that is comforting to you. And subconsciously you want to stay right where you are. Because of this you may unintentionally sabotage yourself. I’ve seen it a million times, both personally and with my therapy clients. You know what it looks like. You are making huge progress in your goal and all of a sudden, you stop. And the irony of self-sabotage is that it usually comes about right when a major breakthrough is coming. Again, if you have someone you can hold you accountable, they can point out when you are in fact sabotaging yourself.

8. When pursuing your goals, dismiss naysayers

No matter how big or small your goals are, someone is going to tell you that you cannot do it.  They will tell you that you are not being realistic and that you are foolish for wanting what you want. Do not believe them. You have the power to create your own reality and they have the power to do the same for their life. Your life is your own. And no one gets to tell you what is possible for you.

9. Celebrate small victories

Depending on how big your goal is (and I hope its really big), it may be awhile before you can finally cross it off your to-do list and count is as a complete accomplishment. Because of that, you have to be sure to celebrate the milestones along the way. In order to keep yourself on track, you have to acknowledge and celebrate when you get shit done. Decide beforehand how you will commemorate crossing certain thresholds. And do it!

10 When pursuing your goals, anticipate setbacks

Not everyday is a good day. Michael Jordan had off days and he lost a lot of games. but he is still considered the greatest. You will have bad days and somedays you may take 3 steps forward and fall 2 steps back. But the important part is that you keep moving. Knowing that it wont be a straight shot helps.

Keep Moving Toward Your Goals

11. Pursuing your goals, helps you build character

Let’s be honest. Nobody likes a wimp who melts when things get too tough. Perseverance is a very attractive quality. We like to be around people who are disciplined and who have the fortitude to show up everyday for the things that they believe in. Going after a big fat ambitious juicy goal allows you to develop these transferrable skills.

12. Always be learning while pursuing your goals

Sometimes Plan A doesn’t work. And then you try Plan B, and that isn’t much better. Plan C is a bust. And Plan D is just a hot ass mess. The point is to keep learning from each of these plans and keep fine tuning your plan until you find the right one. Do not personalize your plan failure, assess what went well and amend the part that failed. Turns out, Plan W works like a charm!

13. When working on your goals, keep everything in context

This big ambitious goal of yours is one aspect of your life. There are other areas in your life that are probably working just fine. Once you meet your goal, things will improve because you will get the results that you want, but your life will not magically transform and you will not become a magical super hero fairy. Do not fall into the trap of magical thinking that says you have to put your life on hold while you are pursuing your goals. That is false. The pursuit of your goal, is a part of your life but it should not be ALL of your life.

14. When pursuing your goal, always use positive self talk

Bullies suck. Don’t be one. And bullying yourself makes you a bully. Talk to yourself in way that encourages you to be your best and want to perform at your peak. When you talk badly to yourself, is another form of self-sabotage.  You create a hostile mental environment which pushes you further away from your goals because you are fighting against yourself. When speaking to yourself be encouraging and kind. This doesn’t mean to let yourself off the hook, but you can hold yourself accountable without all the negative talk.

15. Your goals are not the end all be all, they are merely stepping stones

I see this all the time. People fight tooth and nail to get to where they want to get. And then the experience feels a bit….anti-climactic. This happens when people forget that their goal is not the end all be all, it is a stepping stone for something else. You want to lose weight so that you can move better, be healthier and prolong your life. You want to write a book because you want to share your knowledge with the world. You want to run a marathon to build your character and sense of accomplishment. Your goal helps you live more fully. It is not your reason to live.

16. Your goals must have deadlines

Give yourself a delivery date and etch it in stone. If you are not dead-set on the end date, you will always put the work off until tomorrow. I know this personally. This is how my PhD goal has become spread out over years and years. I did not have a sense of urgency. You must have a sense of urgency that lights a fire under you and kicks that butt into gear! Create clear, specific, non-negotiable deadlines.

17. Surround yourself with visual cues/triggers that keep your goals forefront in your mind

Whatever it is that reminds you of your goal, whether its a picture, a number, a quote or a mantra, keep it close to you so that you can look at it to remind you of why you started and why you are going through all the trouble. Sensory cues and triggers can also work to remind you that you need to be doing certain activities during your daily practice.

18. Work on your goals first

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Pay yourself first.”  It means that you should put your savings on autopilot before you start paying bills and buying non-essential items. If you wait until after you pay everyone else to start saving, you will never have enough money. You can apply the same concept to your goals and your time. Set up your schedule so that you are working on your goals before anything else. Work on your goals before you leave the house in the morning. Write. Exercise. Train. Meditate. Record.  Whatever. Just work on your goal in a meaningful way before you do anything else.  This is your best energy. Use it on you. Because if you wait to have energy after you do everything else with your day, you will not be able to show up for yourself a lot of the time.

19. When you are pursuing your goals, remember that you are your own competition

It is very easy to compare yourself to people who have already achieved the goals that you aspire to. But when you compare yourself, you only create a false sense of inadequacy. Remember that you are your only source of competition. The only person that you are measuring yourself against is the person you were yesterday.

20. When pursuing your goals, you will surprise yourself

When you have a whatever it takes mindset and are relentless about getting what you want, and you begin to manifest the results you are seeking, you will surprise yourself. You will be able to do things that you have never been able to do. This will feel amazing!

 

Alright, Abundance Seeker, as always I hope this was helpful.

If you have some big fat juicy life-changing ambitious goals that you haven’t been able to accomplish but are burning with a desire to do so, check out my Goal-Getter 90 Day Individual Session Program.   We can work together to shatter them!

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10 Ways To Be Happy Even When You Have a Super Crappy Job

Don't let your crappy job rob you of your happiness

Most people I know hate their job.

And even those who don’t exactly hate their job, admit to resenting it in some way. This is so messed up because we spend so much of our lives at work. Our jobs give us money and we need money to live. I recently read a statistic that said the average person will spend about a quarter of their lifetime on this earth at their jobs.  I know, bananas!

So why exactly do we hate and resent our jobs so much?

Truthfully, there are tons of reasons, more than I could ever begin to name.  But here are just a few possible reasons why you hate your job.

1.  You, an adult, literally have to ask for permission to take time away from the job to handle important life tasks and responsibilities.

2. You, a perfectly reasonable person, have to spend inordinate amounts of time with people who are sometimes not very reasonable, or friendly, or bright, or professional, or kind.

3. You, a person with much to offer the world, is often “supervised” by people who are not as talented or insightful as you.

4. You, a creative person, have to reign in your talents and prioritize the boring unexciting demands of your job routine instead of the all the ideas that race around your mind.

5. You, a person with relationships, hobbies, and interests, spend at least 40 non-negotiable hours of your peak productive time a week meeting the demands of your employer while your needs and desires sit on the back burner.

6. You, a person with material needs and obligations, never seem to make enough money at your job. If things arise  in your life that require more cash than you have on hand, you cannot negotiate with your employer to pay you more just because you need it.

Any of that sound familiar?

After many years of working for myself and pursuing independent research in a doctoral program,  I took a job with a large organization so that I could relocate back to my hometown of New York City, a move I’d been wanting to make happen for awhile. I couldn’t move my practice to NY straight away because of state licensing issues and I wanted so badly to be back in New York that I just couldn’t wait for things to sort themselves out.

So I took a job in the meantime while I figure out my next steps.

On very good days, I am thankful to have stable employment with great benefits which currently allows me to keep a roof over my head and food in my tummy while being in my most favorite city in the world. On these days, I am proud of the interesting work I do and for the opportunities and challenges that encourage my growth and development.  

But on bad days, I am resentful of both the large and small indignities of my job and plot how quickly I can leave it.  And I am not alone. To say that most people at my job don’t want to be there is an understatement. And while I am totally grateful and the job has its perks, it’s been a very long time since I’ve worked a full time job. There are supervisors, “chains of command,” office politics, and job hazards to deal with.  And I have to admit that it has been a bit difficult readjusting. Personally, what’s been most difficult is not really owning my own time and no longer being able to do with it as I please.

In the five months that I have been working there so far, I have found a handful of coping strategies to help me maintain my sanity and stop myself from completely succumbing to negative thoughts and bitterness. And I’m sharing them with you here, just in case you are allowing your job to rob you of your happiness:

1 Bolster yourself with your morning commute

I take two different trains during my morning commute. It takes about 45 minutes on the subway followed by a 15 minute walk. So all together I have an hour between  the time I leave my front door and the time I am walking through the front door of the office. In that hour I usually listen to audiobooks on self development, business, politics, and any other subject that I’m super interested in. I’m a very mental person and I love ideas. So beginning the day with a surge of ideas get my brain moving and I am reminded of how big the world is and that my job is a temporary place. Other times I listen to music to psych myself up, like my own soundtrack or theme song. I choose to listen to songs that build me up, and remind me that I am not my job.

2 Don’t seek validation from your job

I have much to offer. And so do you. But my job description calls for me to contribute only a small bit of my knowledge and gifts at work and there is little to no room for me to veer from that.  Also, the higher ups do not see, nor are they interested in my full potential. Not only is this  incredibly frustrating, it can be downright demoralizing. But at the end of the day, the only thing my employer owes me is pay for the work that I do. That’s it. Full stop. Expecting more only leads to disappointment. Your crappy job is your way to put food on the table and a chance for you to work out challenges and pushing yourself. It is not the source of your self-esteem or validation of your worth as a person.

3 Take ownership of your actions (wherever you go, there you are).

I know of many people who work in an office environment in which their coworkers are not very pleasant, are super competitive, and dismissive. My current work environment is one of these places. There is a deeply ingrained dysfunctional work culture that regularly takes down those at the very top and absolutely crushes those on the bottom.  It is not fun. It can feel dehumanizing. But worse, it can make perfectly lovely and reasonable people begin to act like the very sour coworkers that they despise. This is how culture works and recreates itself.

If you have a similar work work environment, be conscious of this. Fight against adopting the personal destructive habits of an unhealthy place. Because the only thing that you will have to show for it is getting further ingrained in an unhealthy work culture that drains your spirit and your humanity. This sucks, don’t do it.

Instead be mindful of your thoughts and actions. Call yourself on it when you find yourself behaving and thinking like others around you. Remember, your abundance comes from within.  And sometimes you have to guard it at all costs.

4 Manage your work space well at your crappy job

Maintain a neat and orderly physical work environment to the best of your ability. Walking into a chaotic office or trying to find things under a heaping, unruly mound on your desk makes an already undesirable situation almost insufferable. So don’t do this to yourself. I have found that disorganization and overwhelm can  be a very slippery slope.

Awhile ago, I read this book on work space organization and it completely changed the way I thought about how I arrange my desk and work space. Set up your space to accommodate your most redundant and essential tasks.  And if you’re a visual person, like I am be sure to have inspiring pictures, desirable colors, and quotes in your view so that you can see them when you need some momentary inspiration. I for one, have a bunch of yellow accents on my desk because that is my happy color.

Part of managing you work space is paying attention to your physical presentation. Be neat and take pride in your appearance. Look good for yourself because when you look your best, you are closer to feeling your best. Maintain your work clothes. Be sure to buy cuts, colors, and accessories that flatter you and accentuate your physical assets while detracting from your problem areas.

And if you have time and want a laugh, check out the video below. Its an oldie but goodie, insanely hilarious and over the top but I think it has some takeaways that we all can use. The extremely snide narrator points out Barbara’s sloppiness, disorganization, and lack of preparedness throughout the course of a day from the moment she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. Poor Barbara.  Don’t develop a reputation for being like Barbara at work!

And aside from your personal and physical appearance, be mindful to manage your relationships with others. Be purposeful about setting healthy boundaries and expectations. Show others how to treat you by exhibiting the behaviors you expect from them.  Try not to let the poor behavior of others rattle you too much. Make extra efforts to be professional and courteous with such people. This is not always easy and you won’t be able to do this 100% of the time, but be purposeful and make the effort. This is super important for both your immediate mental sanity but also in the long run. You know that you are not destined to say here, so rise above those that are.

5   Perform your crappy job to the best of your ability

Your job is crappy. You are capable of so much more.  Prove to yourself, your coworkers, your supervisors and the universe that you can not only meet the challenges in front of you with grace and style, but you can exceed them.  Take pride in the work you have now even if it is not exactly what you want to be doing.

And once you have mastered your crappy job,  be on the look out to develop new skills and be more efficient. At the very least, the more efficient you become the more room you free up in your mind for things you actually want to be thinking about.

But by all means, do not allow your crappy job to stagnate you. In nature, if you are not growing, you are dying. If water does not flow, it becomes stagnant. So move, grow, and thrive.

6  Develop a rich life outside of your crappy job

Work. Home. Sleep. Repeat. Work. Home. Sleep. Repeat.

This is no way to live and you owe yourself more. The less developed your life is outside of work, the more you look for your crappy job to fulfill your inner needs. That will not end up well. You are a multifaceted beautiful piece of work and you deserve to shine and grow in multiple arenas.

Develop yourself.

Host dinner parties. Train for marathons. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Join a club. Play the saxophone. Sing in the choir. Learn a language. Write a novel. Start a YouTube channel. Go talk to that interesting looking person who you see every morning in the train station. Make connections.

Do interesting things that give you something to look forward to and provide you with the opportunity to channel your energy, develop new skills, and use different parts of your brain and body.

7  Make allies (or at the very least try not to make enemies) at your crappy job

I don’t care if its the receptionist, the janitor, a person who works in another department. The guy who sits in the next cubicle.  The person who occupies the highest level job in the building. Whomever. Make friends and play nice with as many people as you can at your crappy job.

If this is exceedingly difficult to do, find someone with whom you can at least exchange smiles. Even if this is infrequent. A friendly face is worth its weight in gold.

Do your best to minimize hostility in your workplace. Go the extra mile to form and maintain relationships. You don’t have to be best friends with folks, but at least try to remember names and exchange greetings. Once in awhile, volunteer to do things so that others don’t have to do them. Bring in food to share with your coworkers. Give compliments. Thank them. Be helpful. Allow them to shine. Be empathetic. Treat them like human beings.

When conflict does arise, make sure to address it directly and professionally. Do not hold grudges and make sure you show that you have moved past it once the issue is resolved.

8  Take time off from your crappy job

Go on 2 week long Caribbean vacations if you can. If you can’t do that, go on week long vacations. If you can do that, go on a weekend road trip. And if you can’t do any of this stuff, take mental health days. If you can’t do that, go on walks during your lunch breaks.

9  Plot your escape from your crappy job

When I was a little kid, I was really interested in stories about escaping slaves. I would read about how they didn’t just wake up one day and run away. They did not take their freedom lightly because they knew if they escaped haphazardly, they could be captured. And being captured meant being beaten or even killed. In other words they would make their situation worse if they did not plan well. So they did things to help ensure their success and survival.

They did their best to save food for the journey and gather information. Escaped slaves were selective about who they shared their plans and waited until the time was right.  They learned how to read the stars for guidance, and make connections.  And perhaps most important of all, they had specific destinations in mind.

You are not a slave and neither am I.   But I do find this metaphor helpful. We can plot your escape too. Life is too short to work a crappy job for very long.

So figure out what your specific destination is and make a plan for yourself on how to get there. Learn new skills in your current job that will serve you well in your next destination. Learn how to read the signs so that you will know when it’s the right time to move on. Lay the groundwork so that you will be ready when the right time comes along. Make connections with people who are also moving in the same direction or may already be there.

10 Save money (invest in your future)

Your time is your life energy. It is very precious and irreplaceable. When you work a job, you exchange your life energy for money.  For a great perspective on this, read this book.

Respect your earned money.  Save it. Spend it on things that improve you and bring you joy. Invest in your future. Make sure you are taking advantage of any discounts that are afforded you because of your job. Some employers provide discounts on gym memberships, commuter benefits, savings club cards, access to credit unions, etc.

So those are my tips for getting through a crappy job. I hope they were helpful. In the comment section, please share what helps you get through your job. I’d love to hear from you.

And also, if you need some assistance figuring out how to move on from your crappy job, please be sure to check out my available coaching programs to help you make your next breakthrough.

The Essential Guide to Starting Your Life Over, Getting Unstuck, And Getting Out of Your Own Way

Starting Over in Life

Today, I am writing this post while sitting in my very own living room in New York City. This time last year, I was living in Chicago and would not have been able to predict this at all. I wanted to move but was not exactly sure how I was going to make all the pieces fit together. All I knew was that I was starting over, no matter what.

Have you ever reached a  point in your life where you thought, “How did I get here?”

I have too. That’s where I languished mentally for about a year.

I did not like the mind-numbing monotony of my life.  There was nothing exciting or interesting to look forward to in my immediate future. Basically, I was in a deep rut. I had allowed my world to get too small and I was suffocating in it.

What I needed was a change of pace, an adventure,  and some fresh new energy. Also, I had conquered all of my immediate challenges and was in need of new challenges and fresh obstacles. And thinking the same thoughts over and over was mentally exhausting.

When my  mom passed away a few years back, I had promised myself that I would not let myself languish too long in any one place, physical or mental. So I decided that I needed to shake things up. It was my life and I was the only one responsible for how I felt and my happiness.

I needed a do over. I needed to hit the reset button.

So, I decided to leave Chicago, my adopted city for more than a decade and return to my hometown, New York City. I left New York at the age of 17 to go to college and never returned. I had gone out into the world and  put together a comfortable life for myself.  My past accomplishments made me proud. And now  I was ready to come back home and start the next phase of my life.

But moving to New York and creating a new life for myself was no easy feat. Deciding to do it was the easy part. I had to make things happen. And starting over is never easy.

Step 1–When Starting Over, Take Stock of Lessons Learned

Even though I had decided that moving back to NYC was in fact what I wanted to do, I did not want to discount or minimize the things that I accomplished  in Chicago. I started a business and had some really transformative relationships. It was in Chicago that learned how to maintain a household and save money. I learned how to get jobs and leave them with connections that could help me in the future. I learned how to drive and earned a master’s degree.  In Chicago, I had learned all these major life skills through trial and error.  And I’m grateful because I can use these skills in New York, where the stakes are a bit higher.

Before embarking on a new phase  and making dramatic changes, be sure to take stock of all the things you’ve learned in your present life phase and think about ways that you can build on this foundation in your next phase.

Step 2–When Starting Over, Honor What You are Leaving Behind

In addition to taking stock of the lessons that I learned, a part of me was really sad to leave. I love Chicago. I love the people I met. At one point, I never thought I would leave. And if I’m being honest, there was even a little part of me that tried to sabotage the move because Chicago was just so comfortable for me.

And even though Chicago no longer fit the life I wanted I was so thankful for her because at one point she was everything I needed. You will never hear me speak ill of her! But life is about growth and movement.

Step 3– Sketch It Out

But deciding to move was not enough. I was looking to do a complete life shift, so I had to imagine a new life for myself. Location was just one aspect. But I also had to think about: what type of experiences I wanted to have, what type of people I wanted to be around, how I wanted to feel. Sometimes we get so focused on what we don’t want that we don’t make enough effort imaging and naming  the things that we do want. Vision board anyone?

Starting Over with A Vision Board

I got busy naming and claiming the exact neighborhood I would live in and what my apartment would look like and how much my rent would be. Next, I looked up the activities that I knew I wanted to participate in. Then, I made a budget that allowed room for all the things I wanted to do.   I even named the organization that I would work for.

In order to get the life I wanted, I knew that I had to design it. Because if I wasn’t purposeful, I could end up in the same old rut that I was breaking away from. So I needed to be intentional, like an artist making decisions.

Step 4– Make Small, Gradual Moves

Knowing that I was going to be moving to NYC, I knew that I would undoubtedly be moving into a smaller space. So I slowly started to get rid of things. Books, dishes, clothes, housewares.

I also sought to re-familiarize myself with my hometown. After all, I had not lived in NY for many many years and never as an adult. A few things I did:  visit family more,  joined email lists of organizations that held the types of events I planned on attending after the move. I also reached out to my network to see if anybody knew of any job opportunities. I started watching YouTube videos about NY culture.

Step 5– When Starting Over, Make Some Big Moves

Starting Over By Closing My Business

About six months after I decided to move, I closed down my physical office space. I had not made any definite plans. I did not have a job and I certainly did not have an apartment. But somehow I knew that closing down my business would bring me dozens of steps closer to my real goal. And it was super scary. Yet I knew that it sent the right signals to myself and the universe that I meant business and there was no backing down from it.

I also spent one whole month in New York staying with family. While I was there, I really imagined how my life would look on a daily basis. I reached out to people I hadn’t seen in years. It was a lot of fun and my mind really started to see this move as a real thing.

Step 6– Be Singularly Focused About Starting Over

When you are committed to starting your life over, you have to be singularly focused. I for one am very susceptible to succumbing to multiple attractive projects at the same time. But to undertake something as big as relocating and changing your lifestyle, you have to concentrate on the monumental task at hand only, even if other things fall by the wayside. I admit that this is why I was away from the blog for so long. I was getting my ducks in a row and brainstorming and figuring everything out. Some days, it was all I could think of. That meant that other things had to fall by the wayside. But the goal of starting over was more important that anything else at the time so it was given priority over everything else.

Step 7– When Starting Over, Do Not Give Up 

Starting your life over takes a great deal of perseverance. And I was firm on two non-negotiable parameters: I had to have a job and an apartment before I moved. Even though I had tons of friends and family in NYC, it was very important for me to be self-reliant. That meant that I wasn’t going to put anybody out or be a burden or inconvenience.

Finding jobs and apartments in Chicago had been relatively easy, but finding them in NYC appeared impossible. I had begun sending my resume off to several jobs in late 2014 and did not land a job until late 2016.

And there were some pretty bleak times. Like the time I had managed to get a phone interview through a college acquaintance. I was interviewed by 2 women and the interview lasted about an hour. I felt pretty good about the interview when I hung up the phone. In the 90 seconds it took me to walk to my kitchen, pour myself a glass of water and walk back to my living room, I had already received an email from them notifying me that I was not selected for the job. Damn, that’s how y’all feel?

Or going apartment hunting and seeing super expensive teeny tiny walk up apartments with no light and that reminded me of elevators or cells. Or finally finding an apartment that I thought was perfect for me only to be rejected because the landlady preferred another couple.

But I kept at it.

In the end I got a better paying job with a better organization than the one that rejected me in 10 seconds. And I also ended up finding and securing a rent stabilized apartment in a better location, for a better price with all the amenities I wanted. It was almost spooky how much my job and apartment matched the original sketch I imagined when I first made the decision to move.

Starting Over in a New Apartment

The moral of the story  is not to give up. Just focus on putting yourself out there and moving toward what you want with steadfast determination. The rest is not up to you.

Step 8– When Starting Over, Build the Life You Want

Starting Over with Family

Life does not simply unroll in front of us like a plush red carpet. We have to actively pursue the things we want.

A major reason I moved back was so that I could spend time with family. And huge part of my vision included long leisurely walks in Central Park and all around Harlem. So I got busy making sure I was doing those things.

Starting Over in NYC

I moved 6 months ago and I am still adjusting. Driving a car here still scares the daylights out of me. And the non-stop pulse of the city is both exhilarating and exhausting. I’ve set up some of my life rituals- my Sunday walk in Central Park with a cup of coffee and an audible book. Exploring fancy neighborhoods where celebrities live. I found a hair salon through trial and error.  I’ve made a few new friends.  But there is still much that still needs to be done. And I am excited about all of my new challenges.

Are you considering starting over too? Do you need to hit your reset button and need some help?  Please look into my Jumpstart Your Life in 6 Weeks Program.  Or consider another program. It might be just what you need.

No Sugar, No Flour- Day 30

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(Please note that this is an account of a personal experience and not an endorsement or recommendation of any sort. This should not be mistaken for health care advice. And I urge everyone reading this to consult their physician or registered dietitian for nutritional advice because I am neither.)

Many in my self-love challenge community know that this year my self-love practice is focused on my physical health. I want to be healthier in general and lose a considerable amount of weight in particular.

In January and February, I focused on being more active and going to the gym.

While I knew I needed to radically change the food I put in my mouth, to some degree I felt really stuck and overwhelmed. I would make a commitment to myself to eat better and then it seemed as if my self-control would betray me almost without fail.

And I would feel really awful afterwards. And every day was a struggle– knowing I should do better, but not knowing how to make it happen.

Then I heard a neuro-psychologist talk about the addictive properties of certain foods, namely flour and sugar and the way they affect the brain. She argues that certain people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of these foods than others.

And the solution to this is total abstinence from flour and sugar.

For those in the back, I’ll say it again: She advised a lifestyle change in which people don’t eat any foods that contain processed refined sugar or flour of any kind because it’s the flour and the sugar that addict people and trick the brain into thinking that you need more and more. Some experts have even gone so far as to label sugar and flour to be drugs, or even worse, toxic poisons.

This completely changed the way I thought about food.

Now it’s not like I thought pop-tarts, cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes, or doughnuts were good for me. I mean, I wasn’t delusional.

But I didn’t quite know how eating those types of sugary, doughy “foods” leave my brain craving more and more until I felt powerless to control the cravings.

In other words, the more of those things I ate, the more I craved those things.

The solution it seemed was to completely eliminate all of those things from my diet.

Now, I cannot express to you just what a big deal this decision was for me. I mean, virtually ALL of my favorite foods had flour or sugar in them– preferably both. And it took me a couple of days to process this information. But I eventually knew I had to at least try it.

The first thing I did was make a list of all foods I wouldn’t be able to eat, if I were to adopt this lifestyle. Including all the foods I listed above, I’d also have to eliminate- cornbread, crackers, noodles, sweet potato pie, bread of any kind, syrup of any kind, honey, virtually any kind of box cereal, any kind of boxed food in the grocery store, many salad dressings and many many more things. So really quickly, I knew that I would be cooking almost every meal I put in my mouth.  Manufacturers put sugar or some type of “syrup” in dang near everything.

The second thing I did was start to compile interesting recipes that did not include flour or sugar, so that I didn’t wind up eating the same thing over and over. (If you follow me on Pinterest, sorry for the recent overload of butternut squash recipes.)

What I Ate

Since March 1, 2016,  I have not had any flour or refined sugar.

I found a no flour, no sugar food plan that dictated 3-4 meals a day with no snacking in between, broken down as follows:

Breakfast: one serving of grain/or starchy vegetable, one serving of fruit, one serving of dairy, and one serving of meat or protein

Lunch: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies

Dinner: one serving of protein/or meat, one cup cooked veggies, one cup fresh veggies and one serving of a grain/or starchy vegetable

Snack (optional): one serving of dairy or meat/protein with with one serving of fruit

So here’s what my food has looked like for the past 30 days:

My usual breakfast is one cup of skim milk, 1/2 cup plain oatmeal (not the sugary instant kind), 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter, a banana, and a few chopped walnuts. But sometimes, I’ll have scrambled eggs and potatoes with yogurt and a piece of fruit.

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Honestly, the first day that I had this breakfast I really missed the sugary oatmeal, so I was not in love with it. But funny enough as the weeks have gone by, my bowl of oatmeal is my favorite meal of the day.

On days that I have a lot of writing to get done I will have a cup of coffee right after breakfast or lunch as well. Since I can no longer have sugar and limit my dairy to 1-2 servings a day, I lighten my coffee with a bit of coconut milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It gives the coffee a creamy texture, and a nutty flavor and it is very very good.

Four hours after breakfast, I have my lunch.

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Lunch example–One cup cooked string beans, One cup fresh mixed veggies, 4 oz of roasted salmon

Honestly, I’m still getting used to a meal with no starch or grain. This is my least favorite meal of the day because of that.

I have dinner five hours after lunch and one some days I REALLY feel the absence of a grain/starch.

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Dinner Example–One cup of steamed cabbage and carrots, one cup of roasted winter veggies, one cup of fresh kale and red onion, and 4oz of tilapia

Dinner is usually very filling and satisfying.

Four hours after dinner, I usually have a snack because I don’t like to go to bed with an empty stomach and depending on when I had dinner on some days, it has been as much as 6 or 7 hours.

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Half a cup of cottage cheese and half a cup of unsweetened apple sauce

The Result

Getting though the first 7 days was very difficult. I’m not even gonna lie. It took a whole lot of effort to eat on a particular schedule and to plan out my meals  in advance simply because I wasn’t used to eat. Further I was not at all used to not snacking between meals.  But by day 3, this part got easier. I just fell into a routine.

By about day 4, I started to have really intense cravings for certain sugary and doughy foods. It was kind of ridiculous, honestly. And I had a headache for like 48 hours straight. I was irritable and began to notice how advertisements for these foods were EVERYWHERE.

But…

Almost immediately after cutting out the sugar and flour, my body started to feel better. I was able to move more. I woke up each day feeling a bit lighter. Honestly. I didn’t realize just how bloated I had been.

By day 14, I had noticeably more energy.

My vegetable variety has increased a great deal. In the past 30 days, I’ve had avocado, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red peppers, yellow peppers, habenero peppers,  string beans, squash, white potatoes, cucumbers, red beans, and romaine lettuce. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many different vegetables in such a short period before. I don’t know why, but that felt like a big accomplishment. LOL.

And I lost 10 pounds.

So I’m planning to continue. I’m going to take it one day at a time and continue to monitor how I feel. I’m hopeful.

I’ll keep you updated!

The Backlash from ‘Formation’ and What It Means for Black Women’s Mental Health

Beyonce Formation

Everyone knows how much I loves me some Beyonce.

So last week when she dropped a unexpected new single with a video, performed in front of the whole country during the superbowl half-time show, AND announced a tour that would be coming to Chicago all within a matter of 48 hours I was in awe.  It was all so… well… Beyonce.

Beyonce literally changes the game every single time she drops new music. And it is wonderful to witness.

On top of all this Beyonce magic, the song itself seems like it’s on par to become a Black girl’s national anthem. “I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros”….. ” I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.” She said these lines surrounded by images of a drowning post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Black Lives Matter movement imagery, and Black cultural tradition symbolism.

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I immediately recognized “Formation” as Beyonce’s personal protest anthem: the media has not been very kind to Blue Ivy’s natural hair or Jay-Z’s wide nose and full lips. And American political systems historically have dehumanized and devalued black lives. Here was Beyonce, I admit unexpectedly, taking a stand against this hatred of her family and her community.

And to add gas to the fire of Beyonce’s protest song, the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary happily coincided with the 5oth anniversary of one of the most revolutionary Black protest movements in recent history–The Black Panther Party. So Beyonce used her platform to pay homage to the Black Panthers by dressing up in the black leather, black berets, and afros that were the uniform of the Black Panther Party and perform her protest anthem during Black History Month at that.

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But the backlash to this celebration of self has been swift by people all too eager to ignore the demands of respect.

A politician in Canada has publicly considered banning Beyonce from entering Canada. The UK has banned her song and video from the radio and television. Rudolph Guiliani dismissed her performance as anti-police, unprofessional and disrespectful. And other’s derided it as divisive and evidence of “cultural decay,” whatever that means.

Beyonce’s response? A simple, “I wanted people to feel proud and have love for themselves.”

But how does wanting people to feel good about themselves get interpreted and vilified as a political controversy worthy of being banned?

The answer: Very easily if you’re a Black woman.

To be a Black woman is a beautiful thing. But it also means that you are constantly mocked, under-appreciated, and copied without recognition by mainstream society. You are a caricature. You are told that you are too dark, too big, too loud, too bossy, too domineering. You are told you that you should be more like other women. You are told that we should be loyal to others, but not to expect loyalty in return.

And all of these messages serve to make us feel less than. When little black toddlers are misaligned in the media for having “too nappy hair” and being “ugly” physical features, we know the world devalues us very early. It is psychological warfare and the toll it takes on your mental health is costly.

But if we are to love ourselves– and we absolutely must–we have to know that we are OK just as we are. We cannot alter ourselves enough to make other people appreciate us, nor should we. We know from history that this strategy simply doesn’t work. Those of us who have tried to lighten our skin, surgically alter our bodies and faces, educate ourselves into respectability know that this never compels those that devalue us to see our worth and beauty.

We cannot wait for other people to “get” us because they never will.  We must be ourselves right now.

To me this is the lesson to take away from Beyonce’s “Formation.” Name and claim your worth.  Know your worth despite what others say.  Celebrate and appreciate yourself. Even those things that you have been taught to be ashamed of.

We have to continue to create environments, cultural products and perspectives, and support systems that validate ourselves and our work.  This is how we protect and promote our mental health.We create healthy, inclusive, and affirmative spaces to protect us from the onslaught of mainstream media and values.

This is our task and no one will do it for us.

How to Face Reality (Even When You Don’t Really Want To)

How To Face RealitySometimes life is scary. And we don’t want to face reality.

Maybe it’s your finances, or your health, your relationships, your children, or your financial situation. Maybe it’s all of these things wrapped up into one great big ole overwhelming package.

So what do we tend to do?

Avoid and ignore it. We don’t go to the doctor or balance our check books. Allow ourselves to stay in relationships even when we know we shouldn’t. We won’t face our emotional issues even as we self-sabotage.

We just close our eyes like we’re on a scary ride at an amusement park.

Instead, we pour our precious life energy into–hours in front of the TV or Facebook, food, sex, gossiping, seeking out drama, temporary relationships, daydreaming without action– anything that will take our attention and time away from confronting and dealing with what is happening right in front of us. We let our power slip right through our fingers hoping to feel better momentarily. And we do feel better.  At least for awhile.

Meanwhile our problems  just keep getting bigger and scarier. Because when you ignore something it does not simply go away, it usually tends to get worse.

Eventually the problems get so big that a crisis happens and ignoring them is no longer an option. We are forced to deal with them all at once whether we want to or not. Except now we are in crisis mode,  only able to manage the emergency: An illness. A foreclosure, repossession, or  bankruptcy. A job loss. A family crisis.

But if we made a habit of facing reality regularly, we might have been able to mitigate the damage. We may have even been able to prevent the crisis in the first place. Or at the very least we could have had a better plan in place for when the shit finally hit the fan.

It is your duty to face reality. Love yourself enough to face reality square in the face.

Here are my tips on how to face reality (even when you don’t want to):

Take an honest assessment of your life

Have a day (or four) of reckoning. Brace yourself.  Play some relaxing music. Get some alone time. Take out a notebook and a pen and think about each of the main areas of life- health (emotional and physical), wealth, social, family, work.  In your notebook, create a separate page for each of these areas. Now write down the reality of your current situation in each of them. In each of these areas, reflect on what’s working for you and what’s not. Think about the things that are going really well. And think about why they are going well. What have you done consistently to grow these areas so well? Then think about what’s not going too well.

Ask yourself:

  1. What have you tried to do to help the situation?
  2. What more can you do?
  3. What areas seem most urgent?
  4. What have you been “meaning” to do, but never quite done?

And remember that this is not about perfection. No part of your life will ever be perfect. This is about being aware and doing what’s in your power to improve and/or make plans so that nothing catches by surprise later.  This is about being proactive about your life.

Identify your regular escape mechanisms

Now listen. I love escapism just like anybody else. It feels really good.  But unfortunately I also know what happens when I spend too much time in escape mode and finally wake up one day and have to figure out how to get out of the hole I created for myself while trying to escape. Escapism, like all things, is best in some form of moderation. Sure, have that cupcake. But you probably shouldn’t have 10, because you will have to face the consequences of that sooner or later. Sure, check in on social media. But you probably shouldn’t spend 20 hours a day, 7 days a week mindlessly hanging out there because that’s time that you could be investing in other things that can grow your  life.

And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy things. I’m simply saying excessively seeking out pleasure while not handling your duties and obligations is a form of escape which ends up backfiring in the end.

What are your escape mechanisms? What are you avoiding? Keep track of how many times during the day you seek to “escape.” This can be an eye-opening practice in and of itself. How many times, you know you “should” be doing something else, but just can’t bear to face it.

Sketch out a new reality (your new destination)

Part of the reason that we don’t want to face reality reality is because doing so makes us feel helpless and overwhelmed.

But that’s just the beginning. You don’t have to stay in that state of overwhelm.

The next step is figuring out what to do next.  Perhaps you need to change some of your behaviors, or use your time more effectively. Try to do those things. If you are not able to them on your own, don’t give up! Figure out out how you can make such changes more likely. Maybe it means hiring a coach or therapist to help you figure out your next steps. Or, maybe it means putting some things on autopilot. Perhaps it means finding an accountability partner.  . Love your life enough to at least try to make things different. No one else will. This is your job.

And you can’t get  there without knowing where you want to go.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. In the comments below please share something that you were trying to escape from in the past but finally faced. Or what your favorite forms of escapism are.

And if you need some help in facing our reality, please be sure to check out my Jumpstart Your Life 6 Week Coaching Program. 

Why I Became a Therapist Part 2: Rebuilding Myself

 

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In Part 1, I shared  how I was far away from home and felt really alone during my first semester at college. There were thousands of young people around me yet I felt isolated and ignored.  I was very confused and my whole world was turned upside down.

After many many days of feeling really really bad,  I decided that I just could not go on that way. Something had to change.

So I took all the courage I could  muster and went to see a student health counselor.

A therapist.

Now perhaps you, like me, grew up in a community in which people did not see therapists. And if they did, they certainly didn’t talk about it.  Seeing a counselor or therapist was essentially an admission that you were crazy or even worse weak.

That’s why I didn’t make the decision to go see a counselor lightly.

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SU counseling center

But unfortunately the experience did not make me feel any better. In fact it made me feel worse. The therapist that was assigned to me was not very empathetic and I never really felt like she cared. Perhaps it was unfair to compare her to the adults who nurtured me and made me feel like things would be OK.  I never warmed up to her. There was always something missing and we were never able to build a working rapport. We just couldn’t relate to each other and I felt even more alone.

I went to two sessions and never went back.

Introspection and Self Work

Since therapy didn’t work for me at the time, I knew I had to figure it out myself. The first thing I did was buy a journal. And I wrote in it every single day. Because I didn’t have much of a social life, I had a lot of time to reflect. My first task was to think of things that made me laugh or put me in a good mood. I wrote a master list for myself so that when I was having a really bad day I would flip to that page and try several things until I was in a better mood. This was the beginning of my coping tool kit. I learned how to self-soothe as an adult. Next, I wrote out all my frustrations, hurts, and hopes for the future. Since I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I expressed myself to my journal and that helped a great deal.  It was very therapeutic. And I began to look forward to it.

Connection

Once I realized that I needed to find a new center of focus, I sought out people to connect to. I knew I couldn’t get through the next four years without any friends. I thought to myself that in a place of thousands of people, surely I could find one person to be my friend. And I did.  I found more than a handful of like-minded folks. People who had similar interests. Some were a little older than me who were able to show me around and invite me to events, and others were right in my dorm. I began volunteering at a few youth centers off campus. It was nice to have people look forward to see me coming. And I joined a student organization and met even more people. It still wasn’t like home but it was so much better than feeling like crap in my dorm room.

Permission

Sooner or later it hit me that I was out on my own in the world. After I grieved for the loss of my old reality, I began to see all the amazing opportunities in front of me. And I gave myself the permission to take advantage of it by doing things I . I cut off all of my permed hair and went natural, something I had been wanting to do for a long time but wasn’t allowed to do when I lived at home. And this was like 15 years ago before it was as common as it is today. In fact, I remember one of my new found friends crying as I did it because she thought I was crazy. I majored in African-American Studies, even though my dad wanted me to be an accountant.  I formed relationships with some very wonderful professors  in the department who helped me so much more than the student counseling office. They invited me into their offices and homes.  And because of their influence I studied abroad in Zimbabwe.

 

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Me in Africa with my baby locs

I lived in Africa for a year and it was really life changing. And not in a gross “Oh look at the poor black people, I’m so fortunate” kind of way. But it was life changing because of 4 main reasons

  1. It really drove the point home to me that people live differently. And the things that matter to me don’t necessarily mean anything to anybody else. And that’s OK. They have their own issues to worry about. And that means that everything ain’t about me. Nobody cares (in a good way). Though I saw that when I first went away to college, I had taken it personally and experienced it as rejection. When I got to live in another country with a completely different culture, I realized that the world was a big place. Bigger than I had ever imagined and it was silly of me to expect to be treated the same way in all environments.
  2. But people are essentially the same all over. For example, people argue in Shona language about the same things that people argue about in English.
  3. Being flexible is so important. Electric power rationing was a way of life. Whole areas would be without power, sometimes advance notice would be given and other times not. People just dealt with it.  I remember one night I was sitting in a popular cafe where there was a live band playing. All of a sudden all the power went out. Everybody started laughing and clapping. The band went on playing and the waitresses came around and placed lit candles on each table. It was a  very sweet moment. And I think about it often as a reminder to be flexible and not to get stuck on Plan A if it doesn’t work out. Sometimes Plan B is kinda fun even when it wasn’t really expected.
  4. I saw that I could survive far away from home on the other side of the planet. It was confirmation that I could do anything that I wanted to do.

Now, stay tuned for the third and final installment of journey to be a therapist.

Why I Became a Therapist Part 1: My Personal Self-Love Journey

After I have worked with a client for awhile, I usually get asked one question sooner or later: Have you always had such a positive disposition?

The answer to that question is a resounding NO!

I developed coping skills to deal with life’s challenges as I became an adult. Coping mechanisms that I still use to this day.

In this series of posts, I will share the life experiences that forced me to develop these skills and how I went about building them for myself.

Here’s the first part of my story:

Around the way girl in Harlem

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I went to pre-school with a group of kids from my neighborhood. Most of whom later went to the same Catholic school which was 5 blocks away from my house. Or the public school which was only 2 blocks away. I went to the Catholic school from 1st through 8th grade. My friends usually had an older sibling or two who was friends with my older brother. Similarly, their younger siblings were friends with my younger sister. I also went to an all-girls Catholic high school in the Bronx with some of the same girls.

So if you’re paying attention there are some people with whom I was schoolmates from the time I was 2 years old through 18 years old. And our families knew each other. We all went to church together. Teachers knew me before I even got to their classrooms because they had worked with my brother and he was terribly smart, so they assumed I was smart too. And thankfully, I lived up to those expectations. On top of that, I joined the choir and was really fortunate to belong to community organizations in which I got even more friends and excelled. Even though I had ups and downs just like everyone does, my over all childhood and adolescence experience was overwhelmingly positive.

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I’m telling you all of this because I want you to get a  picture of all the support in my childhood and adolescence. I was a well adjusted kid who was smarter than average in my community. I succeeded without even trying. I had friends. I had boyfriends. Adults put me in charge of things. My peers respected me. It was kind of plush. And I had no reason to suspect that my life would not just keep getting better. By this time, my brother had already gone off to college and he was having the time of his life. To this day, we tease him about how great his time in school was.

So when it was my turn, I was super excited because I knew there was no where to go but up.

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So I went off to school…

College Bound

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But college was really really hard.

Hard emotionally. Hard academically. And hard socially. And I floundered in all those areas. Some more than others.

Like many young people who grew up in somewhat sheltered communities, I was largely unprepared for the world when I went out on my own. I know that sounds funny given the fact that I grew up in the South Bronx and Harlem in the 1980s. In some ways I had a lot of worldly experience. I learned important street smarts like  how to assess danger in people and situations really quickly and how to get myself out of a sticky situation.

But in some other important ways I was in entirely new territory. I was very similar to almost everyone whom I had ever known.

I went to a huge school (Go Orange!) And now instead of the close knit community that I came from, there were literally thousands upon thousands of other smart and talented young people. Young people who had their own belief systems and who came from all over the country.  It was a very isolating experience for me with many low points.

  • like that time my roommate just stopped talking to me out of nowhere and never spoke to me again
  • or that time a football jock, who later went on to play in the NFL, called me ugly when he didn’t think I overheard him while I was minding my business in class.
  • or when I got two D’s my very first semester even though I had never gotten anything but A’s in high school

And these were just some of the many occurrences during my very first semester. It shook my confidence. At that point I had formed an identity solely based on being successful and liked by others. But when the environment changed  and I didn’t get the feedback that I had always gotten all my life, I felt like shit. Who was I if I wasn’t  excelling and well-liked? What could I possibly have to offer?

And in hindsight, each of these experiences was clearly not the end of the world. By any means.

They simply bruised my ego. And I didn’t have the coping skills to deal with them. These experiences made me doubt who I was. I had no frame of reference. I felt like a loser and I was deeply ashamed. I honestly felt like I had nothing to offer the world.

And even worse, I felt like I didn’t have anyone who I could talk to about it. The people back home were rooting for me. They were excited that I had a chance that many would never have and they were deeply vested in my success. Not only could I not let them down, I couldn’t even let them know I was struggling. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

My  mom was very supportive in her own way. But she didn’t really have a frame of reference either. And we didn’t have a language to communicate with each other about it. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable enough to share just how emotionally hard the experience was for me. And  my mom was real old school. She came from the “just suck it up” school. In other words, “You got problems? Well so what. So do I and everybody else. You got food, a place to live, and family. So whatever you’re going through can’t be that bad. Get over it.”

To be fair, my mom was trying to teach me resilience. A very valuable skill. A tool I also use to this day.

But in that moment I needed a little bit more. I could get it together enough to go through the motions, but I couldn’t stop feeling  like shit. I felt so bad about myself every single day. And it was painful.

So since I couldn’t talk to anyone, as a very last resort, I decided to go  to the student counseling center and the experience was absolutely awful.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I talk about why I didn’t go back to counseling for 15 years later and how I finally got through this tough time.

How to Move Past Fear and Get Busy Doing What You Want to Do

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A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my thoughts on the new Shonda Rhimes book,  Year of Yes.

Her book inspired me to think about the way I could take action and improve various areas of my own life.

But what was really remarkable for me was her realization that she had slowly made herself miserable by denying herself some really awesome experiences because of fear.  Fear. Even though hard work had allowed her to reach amazing and historical professional highs, fear kept her from enjoying it.

And her story completely resonated with me. Because I know exactly what that feels like–being trapped by my very own thoughts telling me that I am not good enough. Telling me that it is not “realistic” to go after the things that I truly desire. That was my way of life for years. And I too was miserable.

Fear sucks. It has the power to paralyze. Fear has the potential to make each of us shrink. Fear has the power to imprison.

But we were born to be free.  And the worse part about the prison that fear creates is that it can make you  think that you are simply being”realistic” by not living.  “Realistic” is what you want it to be. Staying in place out of fear is not “being realistic.” It’s being trapped and miserable.

The essence of life is growth and movement and change. Don’t let fear stop you from living.

In order to truly live a life of abundance, we simply cannot be ruled solely by fear.

Here are some tactics to help keep fear in its place so you can be free to go after what you really want:

1. Feel the fear, and do it anyway

You might think that there are some among us who are braver than most. And this might very well be true. But when we look at the word brave, it doesn’t mean that absence of fear. The definition of bravery is more along the lines of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’ve heard some of my favorite actors/comedians say that they still s get the bubble guts right before a performance. They feel the fear and do it anyway. They push through it. They don’t let fear stop them in their tracks.

Sometimes we simply have to go through an obstacle in order to get to the other side.  Don’t stop. Go through it.

2. Assess the risk and make a plan

Whenever you are afraid of something, ask yourself what is the absolute worst that could happen.  90% of the time, the answer to the question is embarrassment.  Or judgment from other people. So essentially, what that means is that you value other people’s opinion more than your own. And you’re willing to be a slave to other people’s opinion.

Well, that really does not sound fair to you at all. Love and believe in yourself enough to know that you are worth more than living a life in a cage because you give other people’s opinion so much power.

And sometimes the worst that could happen is far worse than embarrassment. Sometimes there are really dire consequences that can happen if you try something new and things don’t work out the way you hope they will. And honestly, I can’t tell you whether it’s worth it or not. You’re the only one who can decide that. But I do want you to consider what is it costing you not to do it in your decision making process. What will happen if you don’t try it?

Either way, make a plan for the worst case scenario. If you can do that and you are OK with the consequences, move forward. Due your research. What happens to other people when they do it? Figure it all out.

By the way, the worst case scenario very rarely happens.

3. Practice visualizing success

One thing that really successful people do is practice visualization. If you don’t do this already, cultivate a habit of imagining your success in your head. Here’s how to do it. Pick something you are very afraid of– public speaking, starting a business, accepting an invitation, etc. Now visualize yourself being successful in that endeavor– you deliver a speech with no problems and the audience is giving you a standing ovation; your bank account balance is overflowing from income made in your business; you are enjoying yourself with at the event. Within the visualization, concentrate on your mannerisms and your stance. Concentrate on your breathing. Do this daily as a habit. Set a deadline and do it. That’s it. You have to do it.

4. Build a Fear Response Team

A support team is on every single list that I give. Because I think it is that important. We are inherently social beings and we need other like-minded supportive to help us. Keep people in your circle who simply will not allow you to succumb to unreasonable fear. This may be really difficult to do because unfortunately, there are many people who will simply endorse the fear that keeps you small and trapped. But you can find like-minded folks who will encourage you to grow and expand while providing support.

5. Inch by Inch

You don’t have to face your deepest and darkest fear right away all at once (though many have used this tactic successfully) in order to conquer your fear. You could also tackle it inch by inch. Break down the fear into smaller pieces and set deadlines on when to accomplish them.

OK. So these are my tips for fighting fear.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What is a fear of yours that you would finally like to conquer and move on?

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