The Importance of Boundaries

boundaries-2I have spent the majority of my life feeling like it was my job to help everybody and fix their problems, even if at my own expense.  This characteristic has not only gained me many interesting, if not sarcastic, nicknames over the years, but also several wounded wild birds, a beakless parakeet named Shaq, a one-eyed cat, a hedgehog, a cross-eyed kitten, an abandoned iguana and the somewhat adorable need to peel acorns for the squirrels as a small child.

As I grew up, these tendencies followed me into most of my friendships and relationships.  I refused to see peoples negativity, and instead always chose to focus on the good things hidden deep underneath of the surface.  I felt, in many ways, that it was a gift that I had been given, and wore my compassion proudly, like a badge of honor.  Although there is certainly nothing wrong with compassion, what I failed to realize in my youth, is that without my own boundaries in place, I was much more likely to end up hurt and confused without a clear understanding why.

Brene Brown said that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”  Over the past few years, I have done a lot of deep digging, not only to extricate the source of this need to save everybody but also to start to find healthier ways that I could use this gift of compassion to benefit others without beating myself up in the process.  As I have looked back through the scenarios mentioned in the first paragraphs, I began to notice that in many of these instances, my compassion backfired.  The birds would inevitably fly out of their shoebox nests in the middle of the night and scare the crap out of me, causing a whole-house effort to catch them and re-release them into the wild.  The parakeet constantly bit at me with it’s half-beak as I tried to convince it to climb on my hand, the one-eyed cat hated me, the hedgehog was terrified of me, the iguana tore my screened-in patio without remorse (and with no intention of paying for it when my lease ended) and the squirrels were probably bored as all Hell all throughout the winter due to my odd compulsion.  I began to realize that:

  • The need to save everybody/thing (without them asking) began from a place of selfishness.  By saving others, I was able to make myself feel better.
  • 99% of the time, I was putting in my two cents where it wasn’t necessarily solicited.
  • By being irrevocably there for others, no matter how many times or in what ways they hurt me, I was actually hurting us both by supporting their negative behavior and therefore, discouraging their growth.
  • That there are other, more positive ways to be present for people (and animals) through their times of struggles.
  • By giving my energy away to those who would rather do without it, I wasn’t saving any of that love and compassion for those around me who really did want it.

I set off to find balance, and I am just now at a place where I feel like it’s starting to settle in.  Of course, I want to remain open and compassionate to others who need it, but I have also begun to put boundaries into place that are unshakeable.  I’m realizing that to be supportive does not mean dealing with other people’s abuse or negativity.   It means living from a place of good intention and teaching others to shine out the brightness that they have within them…IF they want to be taught.

I have made a few very hard decisions in the past months, some of which, unfortunately, have caused me to close the door on relationships that have proven to be toxic to me in this moment, with the promise that if/when they choose to get healthy in their own boundaries, I will gladly reconvene.  I feel freer, lighter and more alive, not being weighed down by the energy of trying to save somebody who doesn’t want to save him/herself.  I think there is a misguided, yet well-intentioned belief in Spirituality (of all faiths) that in order to be “good” you must be a doormat, but that is not true.  You do good by teaching the weak to be strong, by teaching the sad to find their happiness, by teaching the poor to focus on all the things they have to feel rich about and yes, by searching for the good in everybody, even when they can’t see it for themselves.  The best way you can do that is to be a living example of strength, happiness, richness, and kindness and by putting up boundaries that teach other people how to treat you, with the unspoken understanding that they can teach others how to treat them as well.  It doesn’t mean that we have to turn our backs on people the first time they hurt us, but it does mean having open and honest conversations about how we are feeling when we have been hurt to avoid the same thing happening throughout the course of our relationships.

Just like everything else, our boundaries or lack thereof are a byproduct of the beliefs we have picked up along the way and what we have come to “know” about ourselves and our roles.  This doesn’t mean you are destined to be the doormat forever.  It means that right now, in this very moment, you are being given an opportunity to create healthier and happier boundaries within your existing relationships.  Start teaching others how to treat you now, and you may be surprised to find that you begin to attract much more positivity, love, joy, and honesty into your life.  Cheers to that!

To learn more about life coaching visit my website or call me at 561-951-7045 for a free consultation.

Release Your Fear, Free Your Mind: A Jedi Mind Trick to Turn Your Thoughts Around

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Let’s get real for a moment…there is a LOT of really scary shit going on in the world right now.  No matter how much you try to avoid the news, or social media, or your doomsday neighbor, you can’t really tune out of what’s happening around us.  Whether it be the myriad natural disasters occurring across the world, this crazy dude that wants to blow up the Universe, the largest security breach in American history, or whatever else is eking its way into your personal reality, let’s face it…it’s tough not to be afraid.  I had a client ask me yesterday how it was possible to be so joyful in the midst of all of this chaos.  Well, I don’t know if I have the answer for that, but I can certainly share my own process of staying sane.

Yoda (who in my book is the MAN and should run for president) said that “Fear is the path of the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  Smart fella if you ask me.  When we allow these fearful occurrences to dictate the contents of our mind, we start a downward spiraling process that is difficult to turn around.  One fearful thought leads to another which leads to another.  This energy shows up in the way we interact with the world, sparking more of the same in those that we encounter.  YOU are the only person who can stop that fear in its tracks, and I’m hoping this little trick will help you do just that.

Our response to fear is natural, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give it control.  When I notice myself getting sucked into the drama playing out on my TV or the fear being perpetuated on my Facebook feed, I take a moment first just to acknowledge it.  “Shit, Jillian…you are freaking out right now! Time to shut this crap down!”  I try to be compassionate with myself about it, rather than judgmental.  After all…it IS scary when so many unknowns are catapulting towards you.  I turn off whatever media is on or gently extract myself from the conversation at hand. I sit quietly and take a few deep breaths.  I repeat out loud to myself, “The only thing I have is this moment, and in this moment I am here, I am safe and I am happy.”  I try to remember that my fear will only draw more fear to me, and so being afraid is counterproductive.  The best way to combat fear is joy and love, and so I begin to remind myself of all of the things in my life at this very moment that I have to be joyful about…positive relationships, my goofy children, a job that I love, my breath, my yoga practice, my favorite tree in my back yard, my dogs, my spiritual connection with my higher power, etc.  I come back to my breath and typically, I notice an immediate difference.  My breathing is softer, calmer and more even.  I feel more centered and safe.  I am reminded of the multiple reasons I have to choose to be happy rather than bind myself in fear.

So why does this work?  I believe it’s because we are creating space between the trigger and the response.  Rather than allowing that first negative or fearful thought to spiral out of control, we are giving it the acknowledgement that it needs and setting a new course towards a more positive orientation.  The first few times you try it, it might feel fruitless, but, as with all things, practice makes perfect.  Try, try and try again, and hopefully sometime very soon, you will find yourself moving into calmer waters quicker than you thought possible.

We are all in charge of the energy we give to fear, because that energy starts a ripple throughout the entire Universe that must reverberate back to us.  Even taking baby steps to try to release your fear makes a huge impact on the collective whole of humankind.  You are a powerful being…use that power for love, kindness and good.  May the force be with you.  (Yes, said that, I did.  Mmm.)

To learn more about life coaching and how to start the process of turning your negative thoughts around, visit my website at http://www.jillianarenacyi.com

Open to Grace

17In Yoga Teacher Training, we are taught that opening up to grace is an integral part of our practice.  It’s that moment in a yoga class where your teacher is instructing you to settle into the space around you, let go of thoughts, worries and to-do lists that might be sabotaging your relaxation, and let yourself become present and aware so that you can receive your yoga practice.  In a dimly lit studio, sprawled out on your mat, with no disturbances other than the gentle sound of you and your neighbors breathing, soft music playing in the background of your thoughts, this can be a relatively easy and safe space to do just that…to completely let go.  After all, that’s why you are there in the first place, right?  What happens, though, when you’re not on your mat?  Opening to grace feels a lot more difficult to do when you are in the throes of your day to day activities, children arguing in the background, a pile of bills arriving in the mail, stacks of paperwork to get through at the office, a lawn to mow, and the mountain of laundry spilling out of your clothes hamper staring at you every time you enter your room.  However, these are the times when opening to grace is absolutely the most important.

Grace is defined by dictionary.com as “simple elegance or refinement of movement”, but to me, it is so much more than that.  It is a willingness to surrender to the truth that we are each going through exactly the things that will help us to become the best versions of ourselves, even (especially) in the moments where it feels completely the opposite.  It is the ability to find strength in our struggles and to participate fully and completely in all aspects of our lives, good, bad, scary, exciting, or otherwise.  It is the knowledge that our perception of what is happening in our lives is so much more important than the situations themselves, because the situations are impermanent.  It is the power to stand strong through the storms, holding firm to the knowledge that calmer waters are ahead of us and that there is an important lesson for our soul within each and every moment.  How amazing would it feel to bring the same peace, calm and quiet that you find on your mat, or out in nature, or in your bath (or whatever it is that you do to connect to this space) into the daily situations that are a natural part of life?  Well, you can, which is pretty good news.

Take a minute to inventory what’s going on in your life that’s stressing you out or causing worry or fear.  Write it all down.  Read it back to yourself without any judgement.  Instead, maybe you can find a little curiosity.  What is your soul trying to help you to learn by these difficult situations?  For most of us, our difficulties often become repeating patterns, causing us to feel like something is wrong with us or that we are just destined to always have this particular issue in our lives, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  These moments that challenge us are opportunities for us to get know ourselves better.  For example, if you are somebody who is constantly struggling financially and worried about how to pay the bills, this might be your soul telling you that your job is not in alignment with what you really want.  It may also be an indication that you have some limiting beliefs around money that need to be acknowledged and explored so that prosperous energy feels welcome to flow into your life.  If you find yourself struggling with relationship after relationship, perhaps it is your soul trying to urge you to look in a different place, or to learn to love yourself first so that you can openly receive true love back.  Maybe it is an indication that you subconsciously don’t feel worthy of love and so you are inadvertently pushing it away.

Remember, we attract the energy that we put out…like attracts like.  Therefore, it’s not what we WISH we believed or what we WANT to believe, but the actual beliefs stored deep, down within us, that are shaping our realities.  It can be scary to dig down and unearth them, but consider for a moment, a diamond.  My dear friend and colleague, Amy Lombardo, put this in such great perspective for me.  Diamonds are formed way down in the Earth’s mantle (about 100 miles deep), and start as chunks of coal.  It takes a tremendous amount of heat and pressure to create this sparkly gem, but once the work has occurred, the diamond is pushed to the surface naturally for all to enjoy.  Your thoughts are like these diamonds.  YOU have that same sparkly gem deep within in you, just waiting to be exposed to the heat so that it can emerge and shine brightly out to the world.  When you can accept that knowledge and open to grace, knowing that you have a deep well of untapped potential within you and the power to change your reality, the world opens back to you.  Your sparkly gems are naturally pushed to the surface and the Universe responds by shining back.

Where in this very moment can you open yourself to grace?  Where can you replace fear with curiosity, and hopefully learn something about yourself through the process?  Start right now.  The more that you practice this the easier it becomes.  Opening to grace is not something that needs to be confined to your yoga mat.  It is accessible in each and every moment to help you come back to center, find your calm and elevate yourself towards all of the possibility just waiting to be discovered within you!

If you need some help unearthing your spark, please visit my website HERE to learn more about transitional life coaching and my 12-week program, Ascend to New Heights.

 

Ripping Off the Band-aid

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Jim Morrison…you’ve got to love him.  Not only was he excruciatingly gorgeous with a voice and stage presence that could melt the polar ice caps, but he said some pretty brilliant shit as well.  We may never know if it was the many hits of acid speaking or if it really was his Indian spirit guide, but whatever the source of his words, they were undeniably insightful and still hold impact and validity today.  How many times have you caught yourself gripped in the ruthless hands of fear?

We live in a society that is largely ruled by fear.  From the time that we are born we are conditioned to be afraid of things.  Some of it is necessary to our survival, such as not touching the stove or sticking a fork in the electrical socket, but many of the other things that we are taught to be afraid of can thwart our growth in so many ways.  We are taught largely to listen to others which causes fear of our own inner voice.  We are taught to follow the norms of society which can lead us to fear the decision to carve out our own authentic paths and follow our dreams.  We are taught to compare ourselves to others, which births the fear of never being enough within ourselves.  We are taught to fear being without material possessions, which causes feelings of greed within us.  We are taught to fear the things/people/places which we do not fully understand, which can prevent us from educating ourselves about the different cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations and physical landscapes that surround us in this amazingly diverse world.  In short, our fear begins to shape us from our initial breaths on this Earth and continues to shape shift as we experience the world.  But what if we could change that?  What if we could look closely at our fears…stare them straight in the face, stand up boldly and move bravely into them?  What is the worst that would actually happen?

Take a moment to think back on all of the things you have been afraid of in your life and write them down.  We’re going to use them in a minute.  Yeah, I know, it’s a big list, right?  When I think back on my fears what I notice is a progression.  When I was in my early 20’s I had been through some terrible relationships (I mean like surrrrrrrrrrriously, abusively bad) and I swore I was done dating.  Then I met Josh.  I was terrified of him because I knew I really liked him.  Then he asked me to marry him and I became afraid of that.  What if it didn’t work out?  Then we got married and decided to get pregnant…new biggest fear as my belly expanded and my whole world threatened to change.  Eight and a half months pregnant, we found our first home, closing ten days prior to the birth of our son…#freakingout.  Here comes Jacob…motherhood became the thing I feared the most because I had no idea how to do it.  Then Josh lost his job.  New mortgage, new baby, no job…does it get more terrifying?  I swore we were doomed…until Josh decided to start his own business (which of course scared the crap out of us both as well).  Suddenly, another baby was on the way.  Jocelyn was born and I quit my job to stay at home with them…this became the scariest decision of my life, but I did it anyway.  This progression continued on and on, presenting me with new fears along the way, until finally one day, I realized that it wasn’t the situations themselves that were terrifying me, but my reaction to them.  I started to look back at this long laundry list of fear I had been carrying around with me and realized that as each new fear had arisen and I had moved through it, the fear for that particular event had dissipated and morphed into a new fear.  It dawned on me that there will always be things to be afraid of, but it is up to me whether or not I let the fear have control.  I have a choice in each situation to square up against my fear and challenge it, and so do you.

I am happy to report that moving through my personal fear has led me to a 10-year (this July) marriage to my best friend and the most amazing guy I know, 2 kick-ass little kids who challenge me to grow, expand and be a better person each day, a beautiful home that is my sanctuary, my husband and I each owning our own business and the fortitude to keep moving through fear as it shows up.  That’s important to acknowledge by the way…I still get afraid.  All the time actually.  Life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies.  My husband and I argue, my kids can act like little shits, my home needs repairs and our businesses fluctuate through good and bad times (and the bad times can be REALLY scary), but we keep on keeping on anyway, moving forward with the knowledge that this too shall pass and that we can look our fears in the face and move on anyway.

So where does fear show up for you?  Go back to your list.  If you didn’t write it, do it now.  Take a close look at all of these places that fear has popped up in your life from as early as you can think of.  First off, see if you notice any patterns.  Are your fears largely based around one particular area?  Money?  Relationships? Your Career?  Self-esteem?  Now, notice any of these situations where you faced your fear and moved forward anyway?  What was the outcome?  If you haven’t had the opportunity to face any of these fears, guess what today is?  That’s right, your opportunity.  You don’t have to dive in headfirst, but think of a way that you can start to move into your fear slowly.  If your fear is primarily surrounding relationships, maybe today is the day you finally make that online dating profile (don’t worry…you don’t have to go live until tomorrow).  If your self-esteem is taking the hit, maybe today is the day to buy the dress you’ve always wanted, even though your head screams that you’re not feminine enough to pull it off.  Tomorrow, rock it.  Each day take baby steps to move into your fear.  You will likely find that the further you go, the less powerful it becomes.

Interested in life coaching with me? Visit my website HERE, or join me on FACEBOOK to keep up with classes and events I have coming up.  Learn about my 12-week coaching program, “Ascend to New Heights” by watching THIS VIDEO INTERVIEW

 

Meet Your Inner Critic…And Knock That Punk Out

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A couple of weeks ago, my husband walked in to my bathroom to find me sitting on the floor, head resting on my knees, sobbing uncontrollably.  Though his first impulse was probably to hightail it out of there, luckily I have the best hubbers EVA, so instead, he sat down next to me and cautiously asked if I was okay.  My answer…”NO, I’m NOT okay…I’m fucking awful!  Just awful!”  So there…glad that you asked?  As I started to list off all of the reasons I was doing so terribly, I began to come to the realization that all of the rage that I was feeling inwardly, I had been projecting outward to him and my kids for the past couple of weeks.  This, of course, just made me sob harder and feel worse because now, not only was I feeling awful, but I was also an asshole because I had been treating others awfully.  Geesh.  No pressure.  You know what, though?  The realization was SO freeing, because it allowed me to take a big, hard, necessary look at myself.

All of us are guilty of this at one point or another.  When we are feeling any type of disdain towards ourselves, we project it out onto those closest to us.  For example, think of a time where you felt guilty or angry at the way you had talked to your kids.  Next thing you know, you’re tearing into your spouse about the way that they are talking to the kids or over-disciplining or looking at them funny.  If you don’t have kids, think of a time where you were at work feeling underappreciated.  Suddenly you see a co-worker getting praised and you unconsciously start recognizing all of the things that co-worker has done wrong in the past few weeks.  I even made cupcakes for the manager’s birthday party last week…she didn’t bring shit, he can’t even remember to put the toilet seat lid down…eww…but they seem to think he’s so freaking smart, she’s such a suck-up, etc.  Maybe you don’t feel like you are making enough money and coincidentally you suddenly feel the need to lash out at your brother/sister/spouse/parent/friend for the way they are handling (or not handling) their finances.  You begin to judge what’s happening in other peoples lives, rather than peek under the hood and find the source of the discomfort within yourself.  Pretty shitty, right?  Yeah, I felt that way too.

As I melted down in my bathroom that day, I was flooded by the reality that I had been a real bitch the past couple of weeks.  I let everything out…all of the ways that I was angry, disappointed, aggravated, annoyed and disgusted with MYSELF, and each release allowed me to see how this feeling was being reflected out to those around me.  Hubbers would come home and tell me something positive that had happened in his day and I would respond by completely invalidating him in one way or another, simply because I didn’t feel positive myself.  My kids would be laughing and playing and being silly and I would get aggravated at how loud they were being, because I didn’t feel joyful.  All of this happiness was completely accessible to me, but I had allowed my own inner thoughts to essentially create a prison that kept me from enjoying it.

Now, it should be said that I am naturally a person that has big expectations of myself, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting big goals.  What I realized through this purge, however, was that I was putting up all of these big expectations without having any compassion for myself or acknowledgement that I am human.  Then, when I didn’t make a deadline or get the result that I was so attached to getting, I was feeling like a failure and thus began my old pal, Inner Critic, chattering away and reminding me of all of the ways I wasn’t good enough.  Man, when that voice gets started, she just doesn’t SHUT THE FUCK UP!  If we choose to listen to that voice, we can end up on a serious downward spiral, that only we have the power to stop.

Give yourself one day to really pay attention to the voice in your head.  What does it say to you?  Does it compliment you in that pretty dress or tell you that you look like a fat slob?  Does it pat you on the back for your witty remark or does it insist that you shouldn’t have made that stupid comment because nobody thought it was funny?  Does it cheer you on as you hit obstacles and keep moving towards your goal, or does it use these obstacles to discourage you by reminding you that you should have played it safe or that you should quit while you’re ahead?  A good way to gauge the volume of your Inner Critic is to really start to listen to it.  If the things this voice is saying to you are things you couldn’t imagine saying to somebody that you love, chances are that you shouldn’t be saying them to yourself.  The more awareness you bring to this voice, the more opportunities that you have to redirect those thoughts to a more compassionate voice within you.

Don’t be like me…don’t vomit your emotions onto your husband through a two-hour barrage of tears because your Inner Critic got so loud that you couldn’t shut it up!  Beat your Inner Critic to the punch.  Seek them out before they seek you out.  Pay attention to the thoughts in your head and demand compassion from yourself, way more than you demand perfection.  What I have found through this entire process, and the reason I’m sharing it with you, is that I am lighter, happier, freer and filled with gratitude at the amazing things in my life.  I know for a fact that I will never let my Inner Critic get that loud again because I love myself and I love the people around me and I love that they love me too!  That’s a whole lotta love.  You should get on this love-train.  It’s a fun place to be!

Learn more about me by visiting my website HERE, or join me on FACEBOOK to keep up with classes and events I have coming up.  Learn about my 12-week coaching program, “Ascend to New Heights” by watching THIS VIDEO INTERVIEW

 

A Mile is Made of a Whole Bunch of Inches

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I was on the phone earlier today with one of my best friends in the world who always acts as a supportive sounding board when I need to vent, freak out, or just bitch about life in general.  Here I am, deep in the throes of complaining about the areas of my life that aren’t moving or progressing quickly enough, when I almost landed my heel squarely on top of an inch worm meandering along the top of my coffee table.  He looked up at me with his squishy little inchworm face as if to say, “Listen lady…get that roadblock out of my way…I’m trying to make some progress here!”  I moved my foot and marveled as he slowly and steadily continue his trek across the tabletop.  “Pete,” I said “I think I have just been given a sign from the Universe!”

Later, my mad Google skills came in handy as I researched the significance of this little guy showing up (I’m all about Spirit Animals).  I found my way to an awesome website on the subject (aptly named spirit-animals.com) and the quotation box at the top of the page informed me that this adorable, tiny, green worm was telling me that “Transformation is at hand.  Just one more small step and you are there.”  I knew I liked him!  This little fellow showed up in my life at the perfect moment to help me see the error in my thinking.  Instead of seeing all of the things I haven’t been able to accomplish yet, I needed to shift my focus to all of the steps I have taken to move in the direction that I want to be going. Well played Universe.

At some point or another, we are all guilty of thinking this way…probably more often than we might even be aware of.  How many times have you mentally beaten yourself up because you haven’t lost the ten pounds, or eliminated sugar from your diet, or run the marathon, or expanded the business to reach another 1000 customers, or paid off all of your credit card debt, or perfected your dance steps, or become a rock star, or performed life-saving surgery, or kept up with your laundry for an entire week, or cooked the perfect chili, or planted a vegetable garden that actually grows???  We could go on forever and ever, but you get the picture.  The vast majority of us are CONSTANTLY making ourselves feel like we are less than enough, instead of acknowledging that the process of transformation takes a balanced combination of time, belief in your vision, and perseverance.  That’s not to say that miracles don’t happen and you can’t go from picking up the guitar for the first time to overnight rockstar, but again, for the vast majority of us, it’s going to take a little more than that…and that’s OKAY!

We tend to get into this trap of thinking that because we aren’t yet experiencing the reality of the end result that we want, nothing is happening. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every step that you are taking in the direction of your end goal is getting you closer to reaching it… whether it feels like it right now or not!  Think of our little friend the inchworm…if he had gotten so focused on reaching the end of the table how overwhelmed would he be feeling? Probably just enough to stop moving, let out a tiny, exasperated inchworm sigh, and completely give up trying to get there altogether, which would have likely led to my heel landing on him and squishing him right into the table.  It would have been a tragedy for the little guy!  It’s not that nothing is happening, it’s just that the things that are happening might not be lining up with our perfect time frame, causing fear, self-doubt, and anxiety.  

If you happen to find yourself at that intersection of fear and doubt, practice patience with yourself.  Instead of focusing on all of the things you haven’t done, make a list of all of the things you HAVE done!  Put any silly thing that you can think of on there!  Emailed a person that could potentially help you reach your goal, landed your first gig/client/class/etc, daydreamed for twenty minutes on all of the amazing things you were eventually going to create…maybe you just got out of bed and showered even though you were riddled with all of this anxiety!  List them ALL, big and small, and refer back to this list every single time that doubt starts to creep back in.  

If you feel like you actually haven’t done ANYTHING to start working towards the goal, then now’s the time to do that.  First off, set one!  Then, make a list of all the steps you will need to take to reach it, and start taking them one inch at a time.  When the overwhelm starts to creep in, just take a deep breath and go right back to focusing on the one task at hand.  

The fact is, if you do nothing, you are sure to remain where you are.  If you start moving, you have nowhere to go but forward.  Don’t let yourself get squished to the table by the big heel of self-doubt.  Nobody wins that one.  And if you need help getting motivated, ask for help!  Reach out to your friends, family, mentors, teachers, counselors, coaches (I happen to know a pretty good one), and anybody else who inspires you to dream big and move into your greatness in every capacity!  You are the only one who can take the first step!

Learn more about me by visiting my website HERE, or join me on FACEBOOK to keep up with classes and events I have coming up.  Learn about my 12-week coaching program, “Ascend to New Heights” by watching THIS VIDEO INTERVIEW

The Unlikely Life Skill I Learned From Being a Smoker

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First off, no, that is obviously not me in the above picture, but I’m apt to believe it may have become a pretty accurate depiction of me had I continued to smoke.  Hehe.  Pretty sexy huh?  So yeah, I was a smoker for a pretty long time.  I know, I know…save your judgement.  I get it…it’s gross…but I have to say, at the time I sort of liked it.  Throughout my years as a smoker, I learned a few things, some more enlightening than others.  For one thing, phone conversations are far easier to endure when you have something to preoccupy you (I hate the phone).  For another, smoker’s cough is really unattractive, smelling like an ashtray is a great way to discourage people from intimate conversation, and if you want to spend a lot of money on a whole lot of nothing good…smoking is a good way to achieve this goal.  However, I digress.  As the title suggests, there was one incredibly valuable lesson that I did learn from smoking.  Let’s start with a little story, shall we?

When I was 19 my head was pretty much as far up my ass as it could possibly fit.  I had gone through a series of really shitty events that left me feeling out of touch, out of place, out of friends and looking for a way out of my current state of being.  In other words, I was pretty freaking miserable and totally lost.  So, imagine my excitement when my friend mentioned that he was taking a road trip cross country.  This was a great idea, barring the fact that he had no car to take aforementioned road trip.  Enter Jillian and her ruby red Hyundai Accent…my way out of reality surfaced right before my eyes and we set off barely two weeks later.

Now, aside from the excitement of being on the road blasting Allman Brothers CDs with the windows rolled down, a Hyundai Accent packed to the gills with my life’s belongings, proved to be pretty tight quarters for two pig-headed, opinionated kids with their heads up their asses.  Needless to say, within a few weeks, road trip buddy and I were starting to feel a little overwhelmed with our close proximity to one another.  We found ourselves smoking more cigarettes than usual, however, being that we were on an extremely limited budget with no source of income and no timeline in place for this marvelous adventure,  this wasn’t going over so well on our wallets.  Road trip buddy made the executive decision to buy loose tobacco and rolling papers, and save our very convenient, pre-rolled cigarettes for special occasions.  Now of course, he, being the initiator of this marvelous idea, was naturally in charge of what and when these special occasions were.  How very convenient.

Fast forward another week or so.  Ruby red Hyundai rolls into Denver with two clueless kids sitting in the front seat…arguing.  To this day I can’t recall what we were arguing about, but I assume it was probably something very important, like where we should eat lunch or whether we should set up our tent or sleep in the car that night.  (I mean, the big decisions you have to make when you’ve shirked all of your responsibilities to gallivant across the country are just never ending).  Long story short, road trip buddy gets especially aggravated and dips out for a few hours, leaving me sitting in the parked car, more than a little annoyed, in the middle of an unfamiliar town.  I reach into the glove box for a cigarette and what do I find?  Apparently he has decided that this is some sort of special occasion, because he has taken all of our pre-rolled cigarettes and left me only with a bag of loose leaf tobacco and some rolling papers.  Only problem…I can’t roll a freaking cigarette to save my life!  Of course I have no trouble at all rolling other things (snow balls guys…I’m talking about snow balls), but my cigarette rolling skills are definitely lacking.

15 minutes pass and turn into 20 and then 30…no sign of my friend or my Marlboro Lights.  I try to bum a smoke off of passerby, only to be met with dirty looks (it could have been the dirty, bedraggled, slept-in-a-car-last-night look I was sporting…or maybe I smelled from lack of showering…I guess I’ll never know).  I finally grab the papers and the tobacco and try desperately to roll cigarette after cigarette, each of them falling apart in my clammy, nicotine-deprived hands.  I mean, wtf, right?  30 minutes turns into an hour and I’m getting more and more pissed. A desperation takes hold as my aggravation mounts.  I roll and roll and roll and fail and fail and fail, each failed attempt making me feel like more of a total loser.  Finally, when I am just about to give up, one of my pathetic attempts actually ignites enough for me to take a large, glorious inhale into my panicky lungs.  A wonderful sensation fills me, but it’s not from the nicotine.  It is the feeling of success.  Dipshit (I’m sorry if you read this…you know I adore you) has still not returned, but now I’m motivated.  I spend the next 2 hours rolling cigarette after cigarette after cigarette, and each one gets looking a little bit more like the real thing.  By the time I see his figure walking down the sidewalk, I have a whole bunch of them strewn across the dashboard and a shit-eating grin on my face.  However, he doesn’t need to know exactly how well I’ve done, right?  So before silently gloating and lighting one up as he opens the car door, naturally I stash a little supply in various hideaways in case this ever happens again.  Needless to say, he was more than a little surprised and I didn’t go without a smoke for the rest of our trip.

So, while this may not be the best example (it kept you reading though, right), I learned a very valuable lesson that day.  I was at a very low point in my life where I was pretty set to give up on anything and everything that wasn’t working out for me, because, to tell the truth, not much was.  I had thrown my hands up in the air in pretty much every area of my life and determined that I just wasn’t good enough or deserving enough or smart enough at anything to succeed.  Road trip buddy inadvertently did me a huge favor leaving me in the car that day, yearning for just one drag of a freaking cigarette.  He gave me a choice to either accept the situation as it was presented to me or to take charge, persevere through the obstacle, and change the reality of it.  So often, we forget to do this.  We get so overwhelmed or discouraged by the perceived problem or roadblock in front of us, that we don’t even try to seek an alternate solution within ourselves.  We accept that this is our fate and we just have to grit our teeth and bear it, rather than digging deep and remembering that we have the tools and solutions to all of our obstacles within us.  In the Yoga tradition, this perseverance is called Tapas.  It is the ability to stay the course even if things feel a little daunting or uncomfortable (what a gift it might have been had I chosen to apply that Tapas to quitting right then and there, but that is to ponder another day).  It is a choice available to all of us, and when we choose to keep working towards whatever the goal may be, even through the obstacles or the not knowing what the outcome will be, this is where we find the antidote to the obstruction…in my case, the nicotine to my hankering.

Ironically, this perseverance was much needed as well when I decided to quit smoking 10 years ago.  Although this story may seem insignificant to some, it has stuck in my memory as a moment where I was able to move through a feeling of powerlessness to emerge triumphant.  Learning how to roll a cigarette…a habit that has no value or significance in my life today…who knew how much it would influence me?     I have used the memory of this day over and over and over again to remind myself what I am capable of if I just stay the course, even through the uncertainty and discomfort.  Something that simple and unimportant.

Dig deep for a moment…if you feel powerless, find that one, tiny thing that you have done that made you feel triumphant…even if it seems small and insignificant.  You never know…it could be the one thing that encourages you to find your power and persevere for years to come.  You’ve got this!

If you need help finding your personal power or feeling unstuck, I’d love to help you start living your most brilliant life.  Visit my website HERE or follow me on FACEBOOK HERE