Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Mindfulness

Mindfulness provides access to powerful inner resources so we can change the way we see and ultimately experience difficult situations. We’re empowered to participate in these situations – and interact with the world at large – as we work with what arises instead of trying to escape.

Self-Transformation – What’s the One Activity That Gets the Best Results?

Self-transformation is a life-long journey meant to be explored with curiosity and enjoyment. Use these five steps to find YOUR path and avoid getting lost.“Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world.” ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

When you’re working on self-transformation, what is the one activity that will get the best results, in the least amount of time? Is it meditation? Joining an exercise group? Hiring a life coach? Actually, the best activity you can choose to do is getting to know yourself REALLY WELL! I agree with what Steve Maraboli said:

“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.”

When you think about getting to know yourself better, consider that all functioning systems work in predictable ways. If you press on the accelerator, your car goes faster. (If it doesn’t, you know to look further for an underlying problem, such as lack of fuel or a clogged fuel line.) Most actions have reliable consequences, once you learn the system. Your mind/body/spirit connection works similarly. Once you know how all of your systems work optimally, you can accelerate your self-transformation as desired.

However, self-knowledge can be challenging, because we are often unaware of crucial Parts we bury in the dark corners of our consciousness, our Shadow Self, and we are not consciously aware of their ongoing and profound impact on us. Everything we do — the way we communicate, make decisions, engage in life and with others socially — is under the influence of these deeply buried Parts.

This can result in fooling ourselves. When a new opportunity opens up, we may dismiss it because we think, “That’s for someone else, not me” – meaning “I don’t have enough education, experience, time, etc.” Whereas, what’s really happening is that a subconscious Part of you is saying things like, “I’m scared! I’ll mess up and be humiliated. I don’t deserve success; I’m not good enough.” We can convince ourselves that lack of education is the rational explanation, without ever being aware of the internal disharmony going on.

How do you bring your Shadow Self out into the light so self-transformation becomes possible? It doesn’t happen over night. So please be patient and compassionate with yourself. If you’ve made some New Year’s Resolutions, you may want to put them on hold, because you’re only going to frustrate yourself trying to attain something you’re not ready for. Integrate your Parts first and then self-transformation will naturally follow.

Your personal journey to self-awareness is unique to you. Go at a rate that is sustainable for you. Sometimes you’ll push yourself; sometimes you’ll have to back off, especially if you’re dealing with a past trauma. My 4-Step C.A.L.M. Process can be very helpful at times like this. When the pain becomes unbearable, rest and circle back around to it at a future time. The important thing is to keep stepping forward toward deep and intimate self-knowledge, always without judgment and with loving acceptance.

Self-awareness is a life-long journey meant to be explored with curiosity and enjoyment. Through the process of increasing self-awareness and self-knowledge, the Parts of you in the shadows will emerge gradually. Here are five practical suggestions for moving forward:

1. Break your routine and quiet your mind. Getting out in nature is an effective way to disconnect from a hectic pace and reconnect with yourself. Meditation is another useful skill.

2. Daily practice mindfulness. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of practicing mindfulness DAILY! It’s one of your most vital self-awareness skills.

3. Recognize your patterns and rituals. These are the things you do on auto-pilot. Some will serve you and some won’t. Self-awareness is the key to doing more of what’s working.

4. Listen to your body. You are a somatic being. You can’t disconnect your body from your mind, thoughts or emotions. Treating yourself holistically is a way to obtain balance and harmony. Use my Assessment Tool to gain more clarity.

5. Keep learning. When you learn a new skill, you can more easily see the narrowness or expansiveness of your comfort zone and personal boundaries. Then you can use the PERMA Model to tweak them to be more in alignment with your purpose.

If you want help to peel back the layers to greater self-transformation, consider joining our 3rd annual Bring Forth the Leader Within Retreat. Make plans now and enjoy the early bird discount!  And if you can’t wait to get started today, you can always contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Set Mindful Intentions. Add Sustainable Actions. Create Lasting Change.

You can learn how to turn mindful intentions and sustainable actions into your Recipe for Lasting Change, as you answer these six very important questions.“Integrity is when your good intentions meet your actions — on a consistent basis.” ~ Amy Chan

Have you caught yourself saying, “I intended to __, but I just didn’t get around to it”?  We’ve all done it. In the 60’s and 70’s there was even a wooden Round Tuit coin created to help us end procrastination. It didn’t work so well. I find that setting mindful intentions work much better. But that’s not the whole story.

To get to the bottom of the problem, it’s important to identify what stops our intentions from becoming reality. We all have the same amount of time, so we can’t really use “not having enough time” as an excuse. If you’re like most people, there are 5 basic things that get in our way:

  1. You lack clarity on what your intended results were meant to be.
  2. You had insufficient planning or no planning at all.
  3. You lacked knowledge or skills.
  4. You became sidetracked or distracted, with too much information.
  5. You gave up because an obstacle arose and you didn’t seek an alternative method for achieving your intention.

Do any of those reasons describe what you go through? I’ve discovered that my practice of mindfulness reinforces my ability to set intentions and follow through with the action required to create a lasting transformation in my life. But this skill didn’t come to me overnight. I’ve been practicing for a number of years. Now, however, each time I set mindful intentions, it’s a lot easier to make them become reality.

How can you set mindful intentions that overcome the five previously mentioned obstacles?

Don’t kid yourself that setting mindful intentions will magically create lasting change. That is only half of the process. Without follow up actions, your mindful intentions will not serve you. As a quote from E.F. Schumacher reminds us,

“Our intentions tend to be much more real to us than our actions, and this can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding with other people, to whom our actions tend to be much more real than our intentions.”

Let’s take a trick that great writers use…in any good story, writers answer the questions: Why, Who, What, Where, When, and How? (Yes, I rearranged the order of questions they normally ask. When you set mindful intentions, Your Why should always come first.) We can apply those same questions to our Mindful Intentions + Sustainable Actions Recipe for Success. Here’s how:

Find Your Why. Why are you here? What one thing energizes you, challenges you, and helps you live up to your full potential? When you clarify this, you blow the door to possibilities wide open!  

Find Your Who. There are some things you’re skilled to do; other things you can delegate to more experienced persons. Don’t be afraid to share your vision with others. The synergy you create together will be phenomenal!

Find Your What. Take baby steps to get you from point A to point Z. Perhaps it’s something you’re working on internally. Maybe it’s a skill you need to learn. Choose three important goals to work on and tell an accountability partner that you’re going to have them done by a certain day. By the end of a year, you’ll be amazed at how much you accomplish!

Find Your Where. Start from where you are right now. Don’t compare yourself to where anyone else is, because we are all at different stages of growth on our journey through life. You are enough!

Find Your When. Waiting for a better time or for everything to fall into place is a mistake. Your time is NOW, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article! Keep asking yourself, “What one thing can I do right now that will inch me closer to my desired results?

Find Your How. Get very specific with outlining your tactics — what step to be accomplished by what date. Track your progress in even small things, because it’s so easy to forget what you have accomplished. Take inventory of all of your resources — monetary, emotional, physical, and spiritual — and spend them wisely on things that really matter. You can do this!

Now I’m going to throw in an extra point that ties together the preceding ones.

Find Your Zone of Genius. When the above items are aligned, the struggle will end. Instead you’ll greet each day with excitement and anticipation. Each day will be a celebration of who you are. You’ll fall in love with life all over again. That is the reward for matching mindful intentions with sustainable actions. It’s magic!

If you’re still searching for your zone of genius, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you achieve the life you deserve to live.

How to Approach Life So You Live Life to the Fullest

Learn how to approach life so you get the most from it, with the best results and the least amount of cost – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual – to youYour approach to life is influenced by so many factors – your genetics, upbringing, culture, beliefs, values, and more. As a result, everyone has a unique approach to life that is either slightly or vastly different from your own.

Some people go through life doing just enough to get by. They’re the make doers who are perfectly happy making do with whatever happens. At the other extreme are the perfectionists who strive to do everything perfectly no matter how complicated the process is.

In the more sustainable range are the following:

  • Simplifiers (who do everything the easiest way possible even if adding that little extra would produce better results).
  • Optimizers (who look for the best solution even if it’s more complex and increases the odds for complications).
  • Maximizers (who never cease to educate themselves and learn from others so they can excel at what’s important). 

Actually, a balanced life involves all of the above, except for perfectionism, which only brings you stress from having unrealistic expectations of yourself. The trick is to know how to approach life on the terms that serve you the best in your present circumstances with the least amount of cost (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual). The good news is that you can choose to alter your approach to life whenever it suits you.

But how do you know which approach is the best at any given time?

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase about “knowing when to pick your battles”. Some things just aren’t worth fussing about. While others things matter a great deal. Often you don’t know what you’re dealing with until you’re well into the project. That’s why it’s so important to be flexible, resilient and adaptable.

However, as a general rule of thumb, whenever possible choose simplification, because it maximizes and frees up your personal energy. You’re not worn out from one task, so you have plenty of energy for the other activities that the day brings you. 

Doing things simply makes it easier for not only yourself but for everyone involved. And it’s a huge time saver and keeps your stress level down. It’s best to avoid complicating something if there’s no need for it.

If you can simplify, streamline and document any system, you won’t have to expend the time and energy to re-figure it out in the future. This kind of simplification pays off in a big way. It even allows you to delegate tasks to others knowing that they’ll do the work to your satisfaction.

By simplifying your daily life as much as you can with supportive routines and habits, you have the luxury to optimize, or even maximize, the things that really matter to you. Instead of doing it so-so, you can truly master what you’re passionate about.

This principle works in all aspects of life and business. Just get started doing what needs to be done, step-by-step, and when you have the luxury of time, come back and master what’s really important. Over time, you may find that what you thought needed careful, meticulous attention doesn’t really need it, while things you neglected need your undivided attention.

When you’re mindful about reviewing your day, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and you’re tuned in to your own feelings and those of the people around you, you develop the flexibility and creativity to make course corrections in your approach to life as needed.

If you feel like you need to make some adjustments in your approach to life, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to partner with you as you discover new ways to live life to the fullest.

Alter Your Relationship with Time and Feel in Control Again!

If you feel like you’re always racing against the clock, pulled in a million different directions, alter your relationship with time and gain control again.“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” ~ Anthony Robbins

Does it seem like you’re always racing against the clock, being pulled in a million different directions at once? Those feelings cause many people to try multi-tasking, but that only splinters your attention further and you don’t get the satisfaction of doing your best for each project. It can make you feel out of control.

To restore harmony, sometimes all it takes is one simple change in your routine. For me, that means making my bed every morning. It sets the tone for the day and helps me develop discipline, which spills over into other areas of my life. Need another example?

I found a story online about an art director who settled only one issue in her life, which gave her back her control. It all began when she needed to dress for an office meeting. What should she wear? She pulled clothes out of her closet, first trying on this, then trying on that. You can relate, right? In a panicked state she made the wrong decision and felt paralyzed as she entered the meeting room late. She swore “never again” and promptly went out and bought an office outfit to last a year – 15 identical silk white shirts and a few black pants – a simple fix with a life-changing result.

It doesn’t take much to flip your relationship with time. Time is your friend. The time you get to spend on this Earth is your most precious gift. And just like a bank account, your time is limited, so learn to spend it wisely, in ways you won’t regret.

Of course, some of your life is governed by the clock – like getting up when the alarm goes off, getting to work on time, or honoring your various appointments. It’s good to have realistic schedules with blocked out times for important activities. That’s how you remain organized and highly productive.

However, if you have something scheduled for every moment of your time, it doesn’t allow time for mindful reflection or processing what has already happened.

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” ~ Charles Richards

Remember that people at the end of their lives never say, “I regret that I didn’t spend more time at work” or, “I wish I’d spent more time worrying about what might happen”. In your own case, what do you imagine you’ll look back on and regret.

The good news is that if you begin living mindfully from this moment onward, you won’t have so many regrets. You can think of time in two ways:

1) A linear flow as the clock ticks away – this allows you to schedule your life in relation to others. When you feel pressured to work on someone else’s timeline, your state of mind can be adversely affected if you haven’t learned to regulate your emotions.

2) A rhythmic pattern that allows you to expand as needed toward excellence. When your mind is in a positive, relaxed state, you can perceive time as spiraling out from your intentional focus. In this state, time no longer controls you.

It’s beneficial to use both modalities of time. Be linear when you need to be and mindfully choose to unplug from that stream to experience time on your own terms. The more you turn on these natural, unpressured moments, the more mindful you can become of your intentions, your choices, your desires, and dreams. As a result, you’ll see that 90% of what comes your way doesn’t serve you. It’s okay to say “no” to honor your bigger “yes”.

The ultimate goal is to maintain an ever-present awareness of where the center of your attention is focused, avoiding distractions. If you’re new to centering yourself, don’t be discouraged that your thoughts drift away to something else. Practice rhythmic breathing as you focus on your center and it will become easier.

If you’re not sure what your next step should be, join me and my friend, Nando, at our Women in Leadership Retreat.  We’ll help you outline a plan of action that supports your big “yes”. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

Healing the Father Daughter Relationship: 5 Steps to Forging Healthy Friendships with Men

Learning to heal the father daughter relationship is vital because it influences your self image, emotional growth, mental health, decisions and attitudes. My relationship with my father was…well…it was very complicated. When I was really little I adored my dad. I thought he was the best. As I got older, I learned that my father could be difficult to be around. My new story as an adult is that my father did the best he could. But the truth is it took me a long time getting to a healthy perspective about our father daughter relationship.

While a mother has a great deal to do with nurturing and helping daughters discover who they are, the father daughter relationship is extremely important too. Why? Because fathers shape their daughters in the following ways:

  • our academic performance,
  • our career path and financial wellbeing,
  • our communication skills,
  • our self-esteem and confidence,
  • our body image and sense of self,
  • our behavior and attitudes,
  • our mental and emotional health,
  • our social traits,
  • who we are,
  • how we experience the world,
  • whether we feel safe or not,
  • how we handle stress,
  • how we relate with men platonically,
  • who we date,
  • how soon we have sex,
  • whether we have successful romantic relationships or not.

When a father actively engages in his daughter’s childhood, promoting her scholastic or athletic achievements, he encourages her self-reliance and assertiveness. As a result, she’s more likely to graduate from college and enter a higher paying, more demanding job. A close mentoring relationship with her father makes a girl feel secure and supported. There’s nothing she can’t do.

But what if that’s not the reality of your father daughter relationship? Maybe your father has been absent emotionally or physically. Does that mean you’re stuck with a lot of baggage that slows you down forever? By no means! You CAN move past it.

Firstly, it’s important to be aware of the kind of relationship you have had with your dad. Whether it was positive or not, acknowledge the hurt, loss, disappointment, yearning and longing for something different. By acknowledging your feelings, you can begin to grieve and become more at peace with what was. You can now turn things around by deliberately co-creating healthy relationships in your adult life.

“Slender at first, they quickly gather force
Growing in richness as they run their course;
Once started, they do not turn back again,
Rivers, and years and friendships with good men.”
~ Sanskrit poem ~

Five steps to begin healing the father daughter relationship…Healing the father daughter relationship is vital because it influences her self image, emotional growth, mental health, decisions and attitudes.

  1. Acknowledge the type of relationship you have had with your father.
  1. Be kind and compassionate toward your younger self that might still be hurting. Anger, numbness, indifference often hides a great amount of hurt that you might not want to feel, so create a safe space for you to process through these emotions mindfully. Never ever say, “I’m stupid for feeling this way”. You have a right to your feelings. Be patient with yourself as you sort through them.
  1. Allow yourself to grieve. Tell yourself that you deserved better, because you did! Mourn what you missed. But don’t get stuck in what should have been. Focus on learning to feel worthy of being loved, supported and cared for. Look for the positive things you did receive from your father. If nothing else, you are alive today because of him, so you can be grateful that you have the chance to use your life in a kinder, more expansive way.
  1. Look around you for healthy male role-models. Yes, they are out there often camouflaged as our co-workers, neighbors, or dear friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You have the chance to create your own supportive family of “fathers” and “brothers” to turn to for advice and help. However, be mindful of the boundaries they and their families are comfortable with. You can become a part of your male friend’s life without giving the appearance of “taking over” attention that should be given to his family and other friends.
  1. Deliberately surround yourself and co-create healthy friendships with the opposite sex. I understand that this might be challenging depending on the kind of beliefs and values you and your partner might have but I can’t recommend this one enough. Even though I have one of the most loving and supporting partners I could have ever asked for, I value my close friendship with other males.

As adults, we get to choose whom we want in our lives. A healthy mix of male and female friends adds richness and fullness to our experience. Your father daughter relationship is just one of the indicators of a life well lived. Take the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to see how you’re doing as a whole. Click here to download your free copy


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