This month it’s all about the LOVE. Loving yourself, loving what you do, loving the people around you. Losing love or letting love go. Igniting passion. Discovering your soul mate or just plain soul. Reconnecting with best friends and siblings, or unearthing long buried hopes and dreams. It’s all about finding your heart’s desire.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi
For me, it’s exciting to see people identify something that’s been missing in their lives and then watch them go after it. I get thrills by association! It also inspires me to take action in my own life. When I hear, for example, that a friend has had a story published, especially if it’s one I helped workshop, I see what’s possible and it fuels my own desire to write more, stay disciplined with my craft, and succeed—a loaded word, I know.
When I met my main squeeze more than two years ago, I was embarking on a brand new chapter in my life. I was nervous, but excited to be going back to school and launching my own business. I had enthusiasm in spades, and even though there were a lot of unknowns, I had a vision and a plan. Whether it was confidence or chutzpah or blind faith that was carrying me forward, I’m not certain, but I do know that my passion and excitement was attractive to my fella.
Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.” ~Carrie Bradshaw
It wasn’t always like that (and to be fair, I’ve had my share of doubts and anxiety since). I went through a difficult, and at times dark, couple of years to get to that point. In rapid succession I’d left the comfort and security of a decent paying job—an effort to steer my work life in a more creative direction and find “the joy” again—only to find myself half way across the country in support of my mom as she battled cancer. Losing my mom was hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. But then, after uprooting my whole life for almost a year, I gambled big on a long shot opportunity, only to experience the single most profound disappointment of my career. To say I was completely and utterly lost would be an understatement. I was floundering. Personally and professionally. And I did for several months.
When I finally did find an anchor—starting with a long hard look at what I love—I was able to imagine a new direction for my life. It hasn’t been easy to let go of old expectations and out-dated definitions of success. It’s like saying goodbye to the “perfect” boyfriend: on paper the guy seemed like an ideal match, but the timing wasn’t right or the distance got in the way. Looking back, it’s easier to see how maybe there were other things that would have come between the two of you eventually, just like I can see now that holding myself prisoner to ancient ideas about what I should be doing by this point in my life prevents me from discovering and exploring any of the wonderful and crazy new opportunities that are coming my way.
When I stay true to the vision I hold for my life and career, even as it evolves, even when it scares the pants off me, I’m happy. I recognize the person I was when my man and I met and fell in love, and know that she exists in me now in spite of the additional challenges and fun that have come my way. And I realize that holding on to that vision and being okay with who I am right now are vital to charting my future course, and to finding connection with others. In the words of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw: “Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.”
My very first coaching partner, Wanda Sealy, taught me a variation of this exercise. Give yourself some uninterrupted time in a quiet space—for practicality’s sake, you may want to set a timer for 30 minutes—and imagine your perfect day in as much detail as you can muster, from the moment you wake until the minute you fall asleep. While it may be tempting to picture yourself on vacation or winning the lottery, it miiiiiiiiiight be more useful if you ground your fantasy in your perfect everyday.
- Where do you live? What city or town or remote cabin in the woods?
- What are you physical surroundings like? Did you decorate yourself? Shabby chic? Urban contemporary? Do you own your home, condo or pup tent?
- Are you married or in a relationship? Do you have roommates or a family?
- What is your routine on this ideal day in your life? Do you have lunch with friends? Who are the people you feel lucky to see and be surrounded by?
- What kind of work do you do? Do you drive or take the subway or rollerblade to get there? Do you own your own business?
- What about your job or daily life satisfies you? Are you at the head of the table in some boardroom or making life and death decisions in the ER? Are you on location in Africa or South America? Are you connecting with clients one-on-one?
- Are you a mover and shaker? A trendsetter? Are you happy working behind-the-scenes and out of the spotlight?
- Are you at home with your kids? What does parenthood look like on your ideal day? What are the biggest rewards?
- Does working out, playing sports or being outside figure into your perfect day?
- And what about your after work or evening plans? Do you cook dinner? Are you out on the town? Social butterfly or homebody? How does the night end?
Let your imagination run wild. Reset the timer if you’re not finished. And when you get to the end of your day, make some notes. Some information will be pure fantasy and fun, but you may discover some obvious discrepancies between your ideal day and your real life that you hadn’t considered. If you dream of living by the ocean, but you’re landlocked in a city, for example. Or you crave social interaction and teamwork, but you currently work alone from home. Identify one or two aspects of your perfect day that could become a part of your real life everyday—whether it’s something as simple as having a clutter-free office or a regular date night with your significant other, or as bold as making a major career move or relocating across the country—and share your wish with someone, even if it’s just those of us who are reading this site. Saying something out loud to the world has a way of setting things in motion!
No matter our level of fitness or comfort, most of us are pretty quick to find something wrong with our bodies. We’re used to drawing comparisons to the people around us and honing in on what we consider flaws or imperfections, while others might view those same qualities as what makes us uniquely beautiful or attractive. It’s so much easier to see the things that we’d change about our appearance and miss the things that are stunning and one-of-a-kind.
Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” ~Brené Brown
Part One: Make a List
Make a list of the 10 things you love most about your body. Make it specific. I love the way my feet look in strappy sandals. I love my new bangs. I love the freckles on the bridge of my nose. You get the picture.
Over the next three days, while you brush your teeth in the morning and again before you go to bed, recite the list to yourself. And believe it.
Part Two: Take a Hike
Take yourself out for a walk or a run—around a lake or around the block, on a track or on a treadmill. Create a playlist of love songs (you can start with the ones on this page) for inspiration and motivation as you get your sweat on. Or give yourself a mantra to repeat as you walk, for example:
- The secret of attraction is to love oneself. (That one comes from Deepak Chopra.)
- My body is in better shape than my mind thinks.
- My body is my vehicle in life; I choose to fill it with goodness. (Find more like this on GaiamTV.com.)
Don’t stop there…over the next week, lace up those running shoes and get out the door at least twice more, mantras or music in tow. And then repeat as necessary!
Not even sure where to start? Create a mind map! What’s that, you ask? A mind map is an exercise that can help crystallize your thoughts and ideas, identify and define your goals, get your creative juices flowing, and restore your sense of purpose. Here’s what you need:
- a notebook or a few blank sheets of paper
- a pen or a pencil
- coloured markers or pencil crayons.
Mind mapping begins with a central idea or theme—in this case, you’re brainstorming around the questions, What do I love? What makes me happy? What are the best parts of my day? To start, write the words “WHAT I LOVE” in the centre of your page and draw a circle around them.
The next step is to add rivers, roads, or branches (whatever image resonates most) off the main idea. To make things easier, try categorizing the different areas of your life—I might start with themes like HOME, CAREER, FRIENDS, FAMILY, ADVENTURE, WELLNESS, and CREATIVITY, even paring it down to just four or five segments. Keeping it simple gives your imagination room to play, and you can always add another branch.
Once you’ve identified the important areas of your life and added them as branches on your map, you can start adding keywords. Again, keep it simple. Just one word per branch, although each keyword may trigger more connections, inspiring you to add more and more branches. Keywords may be anything from physical needs (SLEEP, EXERCISE) or comforts (CONDO, CAR) to feelings (STRONG, CALM, INSPIRED) to destinations (VACATION, COTTAGE, ITALY) to people (SPOUSE, CHILDREN, BFF). Again, the broader your keywords are to begin with, the more room you create to drill down.
If you’re enjoying the exercise and want to get fancy, or for those of you who prefer visual references and associations, assign colours to the different categories and themes, or add images, drawings, collage, etc. There are many cool examples of mind maps on Pinterest if you’re feeling stumped!
What’s the point?
Once you’re finished, put your mind map aside for a day or two before coming back to it. When you look at it again from a fresh perspective, notice those things that really pop out or catch your eye. Are there things that you really love, that you took time to carefully draw and explore, that aren’t actually a big part of your day-to-day? Like you work in finance, but you’ve always loved music. And then consider how you might bring more of whatever-it-is-that-you-love-but-is-suspiciously-absent-from-your-life into your life. If you really are an accountant with a passion for the musical arts, do you play an instrument? Would you like to learn? Would it be fun to join a choir or start a band? Can you make a regular date with yourself or a friend to see a live show or go to the symphony? Ask yourself what’s possible, given your schedule and budget, and then imagine how doing that thing for yourself (taking a class, going to a museum, seeing your family, buying a blender–whatever it is!) will make you feel. What will it add to your life? How will doing or seeing or sharing something you love change or improve the status quo? (And then do it!)