“Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a ‘nervous system’, to coordinate its actions” ~ Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft
Are systems really that different than goals? On the surface they sound similar, don’t they? Yet how many goals have you set but never achieved? How does that make you feel? Like you’ve failed and are always starting over, right? In contrast, systems for life are daily habits, routines, processes, or practices you implement to support your intentions. And day-by-day, you reach your desired result in a much softer way.
For example, perhaps you set the goal of losing weight by a certain date. You may achieve that goal, but soon the pounds creep back on. Why? Going on a diet implies that at some point the diet ends. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, is a system of healthy eating and exercise that is ongoing and has lasting results.
Over the years, I’ve focused a lot on setting and achieving goals, developing small measurable steps and developing a buddy system. All of this is important, but it’s not effective if my strategies to achieve these goals aren’t successful ones.
What does it mean to develop systems for life?
Let me give you another example: Imagine that you want to go to the gym at 6am three times a week and you commit to doing that. You prepare your gym clothes and shoes the night before so getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. Your gym bag is ready and your water bottle is full and available.
It looks like you’ve set yourself up for success, right? But what if you decide to stay up late because you want to read 10 more pages of your book, or your friend calls and wants to talk about her ex one more time? Will you be successful at getting up when the alarm goes off the next morning?
And what if deep down you hate the gym? How long will you be able to sustain your commitment? When you associate displeasure with exercise, you unintentionally train yourself to stop doing it. If you force yourself to do it you end up using your limited supply of willpower. So what happens as a result? When you’re tempted to eat junk food you give in, negating the good that you accomplished at the gym.
How much better to create a system for being active every day at a level that feels good, while experimenting with different methods of exercise until you find the one you love. Maybe it’s something as simple as using a pedometer to count your steps. Before long your body is trained to crave that psychological boost. It builds a natural inclination for challenges that gently nudges you toward becoming more active. 10,000 steps today…12,000 steps tomorrow. That’s a sustainable system!
Don’t get me wrong. Goals are fine for getting a project finished. But they have their limitations…
- Goals remind you that you’re not good enough. You’re starting from that negative state and basing your happiness, not on the present, but on a future, which you may or may not achieve.
- Goals make you feel guilty when you don’t achieve them.
- Goals foster a yo-yo of short-term results, instead of a steady flow toward long-term progress, because as soon as the goal is achieved you revert back to previous practices.
- Goals make you feel powerless when you have setbacks. When you have systems for life you know you can pick it up again tomorrow when you feel better.
- Goals make you focus on one thing while de-emphasizing others things you’re committed to. Consequently, you’re more likely to miss out on opportunities that could be far better than your goal.
The interesting thing is that if you never set another goal, but have a variety of systems for living an excellent life, you’ll still achieve what really matters to you. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can mindfully enjoy the moment, while making improvements at the same time.
If you’re having trouble sorting out which system you need to implement first, feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.
People who are tense suffer more pain and are more prone to injury. This takes a toll physically and psychologically! Stuntmen, gymnasts, firefighters and even the elderly are taught to soften the body, tuck and roll when they fall. Skydivers are masters of softening their bodies to land without bruising or breaking a bone. They’re taught the “banana method”.
You may not be a skydiver but all of us occasionally trip. Softening your body into a curve makes your deceleration last as long as possible to minimize injury. Even when you’re just tripping over a curb, if you land stiff-armed you’ll likely break something. Tuck and roll to your side if possible, or if you’re falling face first let your elbows bend in a push up motion allows your pecs to take the force of the fall.
We carry so much tension and stress from daily life in our muscles and tissue and so it’s not surprising that we often suffer from aches and pains. Plus as we age, we lose flexibility, becoming more prone to losing our balance and falling. While learning to safely fall takes months of practice under the direction of a skilled trainer, there’s a lot you can do on your own to learn how to soften your body on a daily basis. You’ll find yourself becoming more flexible and at the same time relieve stress and tension.
It’s no mistake that a ball is round. Rounder objects handle stress better. When you learn not to be rigid but to soften the body you’ll stand up under stress better. This is well-illustrated by what engineers have learned about designing airplane windows.
Airplanes at first used square windows since that was the norm for homes and autos. However, when jets began flying faster and at higher altitudes, two planes fell apart in midair. Why? The sharp corners of the square windows were natural weak spots where stress concentrates. When subjected to repeated pressurization, the corners cracked and gave way.
Curved windows, on the other hand, have no focal point so it distributes the stress. Circular shapes are stronger and resist deformation, and can thus survive the extreme differences in pressure between the inside and outside of the plane.
What does that mean for you? Instead of letting everyday stressors make you rigid in your thinking and physiology, learn to soften the body and roll with the punches both literally and figuratively.
Here are three simple ways to soften your body…
- Slow down your frenetic brain by practicing deep breathing exercises. The brain mimics what the body is doing, so if you slow down, your chaotic thoughts will start to cool down too.
- Actively soften the body. Pay attention to what your body is saying and move it until it relaxes. Stretching exercises, yoga, and improving your posture will help. Daily practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques to stretch and soften your body will help you increase your awareness.
- Practice mindfulness in daily tasks. Quiet your mind by learning to be present in each moment instead of multi-tasking. Whether you’re walking or washing dishes, or eating, be mindful of that one simple thing.
Somatic coaching is a superior way of creating a greater self-awareness. I invite you to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype, so we can talk more about it.
And if you’re curious on how to enhance your overall health and wellness don’t forget to download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It will help you identify the areas that most need your attention right now and what you can do to bring balance to your life.
“Our sensations are the original language of the body.” ~ Amanda Blake
Is your body talking to you?
Are you listening to its whispers?
Or do you wait until it screams?
Learning to slow down and listen to your body isn’t just about feeling the aches and pains of over exertion. It involves discovering how you actually feel emotionally about something.
Your emotional health and physical health are intertwined and inseparable. Your emotions are experienced and stored in your body. And they are manifested through body sensations. Breathless, clammy, fuzzy, hot, heavy, dizzy, queasy, or shaky are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re angry or stressed. Energized, full, expansive, smooth, and radiating are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re joyful and confident.
It’s within your body that you’ll discover the key to unlocking your emotional intelligence. In other words, emotions live inside your body, changing your physical experience and causing you to believe and act in particular ways. One moment you’re happy (emotion) on top of the world, so you’re feeling spacious and light in the chest (body sensations). Then someone says something that makes you feel anxious (emotion). It feels like your world is caving in, your shoulders slump and you feel deflated and dull (body sensations).
Conversely, by changing your posturing, you can alleviate these body sensations and alter your emotional experience. If you’re feeling shy and uncertain, you can breathe deeply, soften and straighten your spine, lift your head and look people in they eyes. The more you practice this, the more it will be your natural response and your emotions will change to feeling more confident and self-assured.
The concept, embodied cognition, says every thought/ideal is connected with an emotion which, in turn, has a physiological response in your body. Reflect on how the energy of shyness makes you feel small and act withdrawn. Sadness feels heavy, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Anger feels hot and stormy. Excitement feels energizing.
Tune into your emotions and identify each sensation as you experience it. Honor the messages that your body is sending you about your feelings. Don’t try to over ride them. Suspend any judgment of them. Simply observe them for what they are.
Do you want to become more balanced and centered? Here are some simple ways to get better acquainted with how your body responds to emotions. Observe what body sensations and emotions manifest as you do each of the following:
Regular exercise. It’s been proven to reduce stress, boost your “feel good” endorphins, enhance your self-confidence, sharpen your thinking ability, ground you, and inspire creativity.
Now add another dimension to your exercise sessions – an emotional one. Are you feeling anxious? Channel your anxiety into the physical act of exercise and release it. Invite all of your feelings, whether you view them as positive or negative, to come through your movement.
Improve your posture. Sitting in a slumped, helpless position invites thoughts and memories to manifest. Sitting in an upright, powerful position invites empowerment thoughts and memories.
Eating healthfully for your body type. Everyone has a unique biochemistry which greatly influences brain chemistry and emotional state. What you choose to fuel this system will be determined by your metabolism, blood type, genetic history, and activity level. Of course, we all have basic needs for fresh, nutrient-rich, whole foods.
Deep breathing. It improves your physical health and helps you remain calm under stressful situations. Also Alternate Nostril Breathing can help you achieve balance and harmony.
The key to controlling your emotions is developing an awareness of exactly WHERE you feel them, HOW they feel in your body, and in WHAT healthy ways you can process them. Somatic Coaching can help you become between attuned to what your body is telling you. Contact me and let’s schedule a session that will transform you life.
And if you need help listening to your body, make sure to click here to download your free copy of The 7-Point Wellness Assessment – Create Change Through Awareness.
Would you like to fully develop your potential for leadership? The principles of Aikido (The Way of Harmony or Peace) can help you. Aikido is a unique form of martial arts that emphasizes the blending of energy, rather than resisting it or attacking. It lets you peaceably deal with conflict by taking the energy directed at you and neutralizing it or diverting it. Aikido helps you be extremely calm, focused, and effective in the midst of chaos. In the process you learn to handle yourself around others with confidence and it gives you a powerful presence as an embodied leader.
Aikido heightens your sense of the mind/body connection. It strengthens your capacity to find and maintain a sense of calm while staying vigilantly aware. You develop an alert relaxation that appears to be very still but is highly engaged with your surroundings. With practice, you can become very stable AND ready to move with 100% of your power at will.
What principles of aikido serve business leaders best in today’s high-stress, high-demand world?
Be balanced and centered. If you feel like you’re under attack, you’re out of balance and are possibly operating from a place of disrespect or distrust. Instead of giving in to the fight or flight response or freezing up, you can use centering and breathing techniques that promote emotional calmness and mental alertness that enable you to respond gracefully to even the most stressful situations. The loss of a centered mind results in loss of balance as you instinctively start to fight for control. A centered and balanced mind doesn’t need to fight, control, or dominate.
Be calm. Many business leaders get caught up in reacting emotionally to everything, living in drama so that they’re always putting out fires. You can deepen your mind’s capacity for calmness. If you feel calm, you can maintain calm under any circumstance. Aikido teaches you to get closer to your attacker and move in the same direction as he is, which may seem counterintuitive, but is a very powerful life skill for diffusing tense situations.
Be fully present and aware. Too many people are disconnected or distracted from the here and now because of worrying about the past or the future. Or they’re so busy thinking of what they’ll say next they aren’t listening to what’s being said. By becoming fully aware of the other person or of the situation, without being attached to a preconceived outcome, you can build a harmonious relationship with what’s happening. By doing so, you get out of your own way and develop the ability to access your intuitive self. You learn to succeed by surrendering.
Be open and adaptable. The fear of losing control in actuality spins a person out of control. Let the situation unfold without resisting. Rather than letting your mind lead you, learn how to lead your mind. Become comfortable with not knowing everything, which in turns opens you up to creative solutions that are best for everyone on your team.
Be proactive and responsible. While it’s easy to make excuses for why something doesn’t work, an embodied business leader takes responsibility, provides guidance and support as he or she start influencing others to do their best. For those who are painfully shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in social situations, the principles of aikido teach you to assert yourself in relationships without being aggressive. You learn to successfully lead a person, so that he or she willingly follows. This is an invaluable skill for you in your role as an embodied leader.
You have the tools to deal effectively with conflict within you. You just need to find them. Just as silence is always present even if there’s a great deal of noise going on around you, you can experience silence if you shut out the distractions and listen for it. In the same way, you have the capacity for peace and calm under all stressful situations. You just need to learn to access it.
When you achieve peace, no one is going to take it away from you. Only you can give your peace away. With that simple understanding, you know that conflict is not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. By modeling your peace, you can diffuse sticky situations and improve not only your life but the lives of those around you.
Would you like to learn more about how a complete body/mind approach can help you excel in life and business as you step fully into your embodied leadership role? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a somatic coaching session with you in person in Ashland, Oregon or via Skype. And don’t forget to get your free copy of “The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment”, so you can build your life on a solid foundation.
It feels so good to deeply relax! Do you find that these moments are all too rare for you? Does the idea of relaxing at a deeper level seem illusive?
While there are no specific guidelines for how much relaxation a person should incorporate into their lifestyle, making time to unwind and enjoy life is an important part of maintaining good health.
To get the most benefit from your periods of relaxation, strive to achieve deep relaxation via the body, via the mind, and via the soul.
1. Deep Relaxation via the Body:
Deep relaxation, like meditation, exercise and deep breathing, when practiced regularly, is shown to have many potential benefits, such as, improved mood, decreased blood pressure, alleviated stress, anxiety and pain, and improved immune and cardiovascular systems.
You can achieve deep relaxation of the body by practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here’s how:
Create a relaxed, uninterrupted atmosphere by putting on loose clothing, playing soft music, dimming the lights, and shutting off the world around you.
Sit in a comfortable chair that supports your head and back. You can also do this exercise lying down if you’re trying to get to sleep.
Taking a few deep breaths, close your eyes and clear your mind. As you breathe in slowly, visualize what’s making you tense. As you slowly breathe out, visualize that you’re releasing those feelings. Imagine that all intruding thoughts are clouds sailing over you, so they move on and don’t fill your mind.
Progressively tense and relax every area of your body. As you proceed, think about how you would describe the relaxed state. If you can associate the relaxed state with a color, word, or image, you’ll attain deep relaxation more quickly in the future.
- Make a fist with your right hand, tightening the muscles of your hand and forearm. Count 10 seconds. Then allow your hand to open and your arm to relax as you count 10 seconds. Do the same with your left hand and arm. Feel the difference between the relaxed state and the tense state. Repeat.
- Make a fist with your right hand, and bring it up to your shoulder, tightening your upper arm. Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat with your left arm. Allow tension to flow out through your fingertips. Repeat both arms.
- Now focus on your head. Raise your eyebrows as high as you can, hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Allow your forehead to become smooth. Repeat. Next bring your eyebrows together, as you frown deeply. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat. Next, purse your lips into an ooh (like a monkey sounds). Hold for 10 seconds. Fully relax until your mouth falls slightly open. Next, clench your jaw tightly. Hold 10 seconds. Release. Relax fully. Repeat.
- Raise your shoulders toward your ears, allowing your shoulder and neck muscles to tighten. Hold for 10 seconds. Allow your shoulders to drop. Feel the tension flow down and out fingertips. Relax for 10 seconds. Repeat. Next, press the back of your head against the chair, tightening the muscles in the back of your neck. Hold 10 seconds. Relax 10 seconds. Focus on the relaxed feeling and allow it to spread throughout your neck. Repeat.
- Move your focus to your upper back, mid-back, and abdomen. Begin by pressing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, releasing any remaining tension. Next arch your lower back just enough to tense the lower back muscles. Hold 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Tuck your abdomen in tightly. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Breathe deeply a couple of times to release any remaining tension.
- Finally, focus on your buttocks and legs. First, squeeze your buttocks together, hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. You can choose to work on your legs separately or together. Bring your legs straight out in front of you and point your toes toward your face. Tighten your calves and thighs. Hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. Repeat. Allow tension to flow down your legs and out the bottom of your feet.
Once you complete the Progressive Muscle Relaxation routine, scan your body for areas that still feel tense. Repeat the tensing and relaxing for that muscle group. Allow yourself to stay in the relaxed state for a few moments. Open your eyes. How do you feel?
Note: When tensing the muscles, don’t over tighten a muscle to the point of pain. If you have an injury, consult your doctor or therapist to determining the best method of tensing and relaxing that muscle group.
2. Deep Relaxation via the Mind:
Making time to find enjoyment is also an important element of relaxation. Get out of your mind often and distract yourself from your worries by making room for leisure and play. After all, laughter is good medicine! It decreases pain, helps your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and reduces anxiety.
We’ll discuss Deep Relaxation via the Soul in an upcoming blog post. Many people have found that they relax more fully if a coach guides them through the steps, rather than trying to do them from written instructions. If this is true for you, contact me and we can arrange a session that works for you.